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The Executive Killer
Sharon Webber sat on her couch sipping brambleberry tea from her favorite coffee mug. Snuggling into the crook of the couch, she poured through the international mystery novel that she had attempted to read for the fourth time that morning.
On days like this she didn’t know what to do with herself. Being the chief executive for one of the most prestigious pharmacological companies in the world, it wasn’t very often she had time to herself, let alone time enough to sit down and attempt to read a book.
Going to the kitchen, she refilled her mug with another hot cup of tea. There was a knock on the door. She looked up surprised, not expecting anyone. That was strange. Nobody usually knocked on the door. Most people knew to either ring the doorbell or call before they came. Sharon set her coffee mug down, slipped her feet into two furry animal slippers that belonged to her teenage daughter, Roxxane, pulled on her matching silk robe that her daughter gave her last year as a birthday gift, and walked absentmindedly to the front door.
Sharon opened the door. There was no one standing on her snowy doorstep. No one was outside. Not down the street. There weren’t even any cars parked on the sidewalk. Just as she turned to close the door to the freezing winds, she spotted a brown package just beside her feet. She looked around once more searching for the culprit. She wasn’t all that surprised to find that no one was there. No person in his right mind would be outside at a time like this, considering it was a chilling two degrees out. Earlier this week the local weatherman predicted a blizzard that was expected to hit later in the week. Sharon wasn’t really concerned; this was Illinois after all.
Picking up the box, she closed the door behind her before proceeding back to the kitchen. Though she highly doubted the contents inside the package were deadly, she still took precautions and held the package at arm‘s length from the rest of her body. Why was she being silly? It was probably just an early Christmas present from her sister, Kim, in upper Michigan who had a bad habit of doing things like that. She always sent things early so she wouldn’t end up forgetting and not send a gift at all. But as Sharon examined the pack closely, she noticed right away there was no return address anywhere on the box; this want Kim’s gift. Curious, she grabbed a pair of sturdy scissors from one of the kitchen drawers, cut the firmly positioned scotch tape applied to the outer flaps, and looked inside. She took a yellow-rimmed note folded into six creases. As Sharon unfolded the note, she came across a very hurried, messy handwriting she began to read the note, hands slightly numb due to the chill of winter air that had traveled inside
I have your daughter, Roxxanne. She really is quite the charmer, if I do say so. I saw her today at her lacrosse competition today. She didn’t see me, but trust me, I saw her. See, we’re not that different, you and I. We both have priorities, needs. Yours just happens to be greater- your daughter. If you want her back, safe, meet one of my men on the first of next month at Daryl’s Café. I heard from a little birdie that you are financially….sound to say the least. We’ll make the exchange. The money for the girl. If you’re as smart as I take you for, you’ll come alone. Try anything, and your daughter’s dead, understand? Don’t try to pull a fast one, my boys will be watching.
He heard from “a little birdie”…what was this, an episode off of Sesame Street? If she didn’t know any better she would have thought she was on one of those ABC shows were the victim gets these ridiculous ransom letter and attempts to feign fear. But no, this was real. And there was certainly no director in the background waiting to scream cut when the scene was over.
She rummaged through the box, finding a piece of putrid clothing. Sharon stared in repulsion as she lifted a lacrosse shirt out of the box. Her daughter’s lacrosse shirt. It was covered in warm, browning blood. Sharon stood at the kitchen table frozen with fear and panic. Warm tears fell down her down her cold, numb cheeks, making everything around her blurry and unclear. She tried thinking of every person who knew her and Roxxane. There were too man. Co-workers, family, friends, clients, teachers, their neighbors. Not knowing what to do next, she picked up the phone and called the one person in the world she knew would.
Bill Foster sat at his office computer in New York City, comparing prices on cars during his off period. He was wondering why actually he needed a car since he took a taxi to work in the mornings and walked back home. Everyone knew New Yorkers walked everywhere they went, and if they did in fact use transportation other than their own feet, it was a nearby taxi. Buying a new car would be simply pointless. Bill glanced at the thick manila folder situated on the corner of his desk. The Washington Case he’d successfully managed to avoid for the past two weeks. Before he could reach for the folder, there was a knock of the door. Twisting his black Armani chair around, his secretary came in.
“Mr. Foster, a Sharon Webber is on the phone. Line two.”
Bill’s forehead formed a deep, long crease that had evidently grew deeper over the years. Sharon. Sharon Webber. He didn’t think he would hear that name again. At least not for another couple of months or so. He moved to New York because of her. To get as far away from her as possible.
“What does she want?” he asked aloud.
His secretary looked down at a small stationary. “She says call her as soon as you can.”
Walking to Bill’s desk, his secretary handed him the stationary memo. He read it over. “It sounded pretty urgent.”
That made Bill fully alert. He knew Sharon was capable of doing things on her own. That was just how she was. She didn’t ask for his help unless he offered it. She always tried solving problems on her own, but when she couldn’t, Bill was the guy she turned to. Besides, even if neither of them wanted to admit it or not, they still had a teenage daughter together.
Noticing that his secretary was still standing in front of his desk, he dismissed her. Bill glanced at the name tag on her chemise. Sara Wheatfield, it read. The ring of the name itself was boring. Reminded him of a young girl he co-wrote a thesis paper with in law school. But her style was far from dreary. She looked to be in her mid twenties, fresh out of grad school. Bill had read her file some months earlier and saw that she had a GPA of 4.7. She had layered light brown hair that laid on her soft shoulders. With her olive green eyes, unusual yet stunning, underlined with black eyeliner, she resembled nothing less than a Persian cat. And that nose. Slightly lengthy. Her cheekbones a little high. Separate, each individual feature was standard and basic, but, with the help of a few cosmetic supplies, gave the impression of a mysterious, relaxed business woman. Today, Sara had on a green Victorian-style tee, jet black skinny jeans, and a pair of suede designer boots. Watching her walk out of his office, he started to wonder why she was his secretary instead of the other way around.
When the door was closed, he twisted back around, picked up the phone receiver, and pushed the button for line two. He talked. “Sharon?”
Bill heard the faintest sound of sniffing. Either she was sick or she’d been crying. He thought he knew which. Something bad happened, he felt it in his bones. He waited. Waited some more. Finally, she answered.
“Bill, I didn’t know what to do . You were the only person I could think to call. I was so, it was just so-”
‘Sharon, calm down. Now, what are you talking about?”
“It’s Roxxane, Bill.”
“What do you mean? Where is she, Sharon?”
No answer. More crying. He didn’t know what was going on but he didn’t like it.
“Sharon,” he said, his voice an octave higher, “where is our daughter?”
“Someone has her. Someone has kidnapped her.”
If he didn’t know any better he would have thought his heart had stopped beating.
“I got this package on my doorstep and it had some random letter in it and Roxxane’s lacrosse shirt.” Bill heard Sharon sniff. “It was covered with blood, and I have to meet the person who did all of this at a café. Bill, they have our daughter. They have our baby.”
Bill slumped in his chair, dumbfounded. He tried registering all of this information. Only one thing stood out. Bill, they have our daughter, they have our baby. He took action right away.
“Sharon, listen to me, okay? Have you called the police? Maybe the kidnapper made a mistake.” Just the sound of the words surfacing from his lips made the whole thing sound absurd. “Who would want to hurt Roxxane?”
“I don’t know who would do this. She helps everyone in the neighborhood. Cares for the elders at the nursing home, baby-sit’s a few kids when she can. Bill, I-”
Before he knew it Sharon broke down in tears again, these fresh batch following in the same path as the ones before them. “I don’t know what to do. I need your help. Your daughter needs our help.”
“Listen, just listen to me. I’m headed to the airport right now. I’ll call you when my plane comes in. I should be there in a couple of hours.” There was a click on the other end as Bill hung up. He sprang from his chair, grabbed his coat, and headed to the airport, unaware of what was to come.
Sharon woke to find herself sprawled out on the living room couch. What day was it? Wednesday. Stretching out on the sofa, she suddenly remembered she had a major client coming to set up an idea proposal. She quickly sprang to her feet to get ready, but snapped back to yesterday, the worry and fear coming back to existence.
Sharon went upstairs, turned on the bathroom light switch in the master bedroom and grabbed a cotton washcloth. She reached for her daily facial cleanser, squirted a dime sized amount, rubbed it in, and washed her face.
Drying her face, she crossed the hall to Roxxane’s room heading for the computer. That’s strange, thought Sharon, the computer’s still on. Sharon once reminded Roxxane to always turn off the computer when she finished to cut down on the bill. Ever since then. She was obedient to the rule. Moving the mouse, she found herself looking at Roxxane’s email address book. It had all of her friends’ names listed in alphabetical order. Sharon clicked out and signed on to GOOGLE. She typed in Recent Illinois Kidnappings and pressed enter. Four sites came up. Sharon clicked on the first one. What came up surprised her. It showed an article on Maxine Porter, one of Roxxane’s closest friends. Grabbing a clean sheet of paper from a nearby college rule notebook and a ballpoint pen, Sharon began to read the article.
An unknown adult male kidnapped high school senior, Maxine Porter, at West Brookfield High on December 12, 2006. She was on the lacrosse field practicing for the tournament coming up in a week. One of her friends (who asked to remain anonymous) says, “I couldn’t imagine Maxine going out with someone she didn’t know. I mean, whenever we would go out shopping with our friends, grown men would mistake her for our mother. Sometimes, the guys would go a little too far and grab her waist or something, you know, and the rest of us would pull her away and try to scare off those perverted. Later, she’d laugh it off and say something funny to get us to relax, but I always worried about her when she was alone. Yesterday, she looked kind of off balance. She left lacrosse practice early before I could ask if she wanted a ride. Said she had to go to her cousin’s house to baby-sit. I don’t know anyone who would try to hurt her, besides some of the occasional perverted guys we come across.”
Sharon stared at the computer, astonished. How come Roxxane never told anyone about Maxine? Why hadn’t the school notified the parents? Was this being kept a secret? She read on, pen ready.
Maxine Porter is the daughter of Wendi Porter (known to the corporate world for her help in the 2005 invention of the multi-million dollar tracking device) and Robert Porter (also widely known as CEO of Wyatt’s Oil Co., the largest selling oil ridge in North America). The police suspect that the kidnapper was specially after due to her parents’ occupations. They are still looking for any possible suspects or leads that may help them find the seventeen year old senior.
Sharon quickly searched for the school directory. She shuffled through the contents on the floor, only finding random articles of clothing scattered around. She browsed around the computer table looking under scattered graded papers and thick, dense textbooks. She decided to just give up when she saw a black-and-pink polka dotted notebook slightly showing from under the bed. Picking it up, it wasn’t a notebook at all. It was a printed out email addressed to Roxxane.
“What? That’s impossible.” Sharon said aloud to herself as she saw the name Maxine Porter on the top. It was dated Saturday. Four days before Roxxane went missing. Sitting on the bed, she took the letter out.
Roxxane, its me, Maxine. Please help me. I found this old computer hidden in the corner to contact you with. I think some guys kidnapped me and locked me somewhere dark and filthy. I’ve been here for, I’m guessing two to three days already. I’m so scared, Roxie. Help me. Oh my God, I think they’re coming. I have to go.
Sharon reread the letter. Roxxane must have printed the letter off the computer. Knowing Roxxane, she probably felt like she needed to take action. Tell the police. Call Maxine’s parents.
As Sharon sat on her daughter’s bed letting this shocking information sink in, there was a knock at the front door. Quickly clicking the website closed, she ran down the stairs and opened the door to find her ex, Bill, standing in front of her. He looked exactly the same as he did fifteen years ago; the only thing o ut of pace was his unusual attire (which would have been okay in New York, but useless here) and the naturally graying hair on top of his head. She was once again mesmerized by those same olive green eyes that she used to see everyday when she woke up until she lay down. Of Bill’s overall physique, his eyes stood out the most. She almost forgot he was standing there without much of a coat. It was crazy how after all these ears he still managed to make her weak at the knees.
“Come in.” She took his pathetic excuse her a coat and hung it on the rack by the closet. He sat on the love seat in front of the coffee table; Sharon sat in the single reclining chair across from him.
He got right to the point. “So, what are we going to do?“
“What can we do? Our daughter’s missing. We don’t know who’s the kidnapper. I haven’t gone to work in two days, and I just found out that Roxxane’s best friend went missing right before she did.” She walked to the kitchen and filled a cup with water and placed it in the microwave. “Well, I know one thing. We can either call the police or go looking for her ourselves.”
Bill sat erect, his eyes narrowing, his lips perched. “Roxxane’s been missing for what, two days, and you didn’t bother to call the police?”
Sharon defended herself immediately. She would have phoned the local police station, but they’d say Roxanne would have needed to be missing for approximately a full 24-hour period.
“The police department would have said that there was nothing they could do because there where no suspects and they need concrete evidence. God forbid to forget the eyewitnesses!”
She knew she was probably being a little too sarcastic on that last bit, but then again, maybe not. Having your teen daughter kidnapped and not know if she’s okay pretty much evens it up. Standing, she walked back into the microwave and opened the cabinet. She reached in and grabbed a pack of hazelnut coffee, put the pack in the hot water, and waited, leaning on the counter.
The phone rang from the kitchen phone. Sharon answered it. It was the head supervisor, Ms. Mackenzie.
“Sharon? Sharon Webber? It’s Mackenzie. I was just calling back regarding your absence at work for the past couple of days-”
When was the last time I checked the voicemail? she thought.
“-Ms. Webber, are you still there?” Something in the tone of her voice made Sharon snap back to the conversation.
“I’m sorry, I’m here. I was just thinking about something?”
Ms. Mackenzie sounded slightly agitated. Sharon wasn’t surprised. Ms. Mackenzie was a no nonsense type of woman who was straight to the point and bended rules for no one. Most people would say she was a huge disciplinarian. She’d wear her hair in a strict, tight dancer’s bun, random gray streaks residing all around her head, with matching gray-toned colored business suits and sharp-edged spectacles that dwelled on top of her short, stubby nose. She was misunderstood by many, feared by others.
“Very well, I guess I’ll have to start over. I was just calling regarding your absence at work for the past couple of days. Of course you know that if you don’t call in each day you are absent, your first salary of the month will be dropped by twenty percent. I hope that wont be a problem considering-”
Sharon interrupted, not in the mood to her supervisor’s nagging. “I’m terribly sorry, but my daughter’s missing and I really cat be, how do you say, concerned, about my job this moment in time.”
There was a brief silence on the other end. But not enough for Sharon’s liking. “Yes, well, I’m truly sorry for your loss, bu-”
“What do you mean loss? She’s not dead Ms. Mackenzie. All I said was that she was missing.”
Yes, well if you don’t mind-”
Sharon felt anger rise in her throat. She felt herself losing her temper. ‘You know what, Ms. Mackenzie, you coffee’s ready so if you don’t mind I’m going to have to say goodbye.”
“But Sharon, you’re-” Before she could finish her sentence, Sharon slammed the phone back on the wall receiver.
Turning around, she was startled to see Bill standing behind her. “Who was that?” Sharon pushed past him to the microwave, carefully took out her warm of water, poured her favorite flavor of hazelnut coffee powder into the cup., and turned abruptly to face Bill.
“Nobody, just my supervisor.” She stirred the coffee. “Apparently Ms. Mackenzie was ‘concerned’ about my being absent from work.”
Bill looked perplexed. “Well, what’d you tell her?” He waited for Sharon stopped stirring her coffee.
“What do you think?” I told her about Roxxane.”
“And then I hung up, Bill!” Sharon walked over to him, standing face to face, eye to eye. “What did you want me to say? Oh, I’m sorry Ms. Mackenzie, I’ll be there right away with a box of doughnuts coming up with ideas to make us billionaires while my missing daughter can wait after work.”
If Sharon had turned around she would have seen the hurt look on her ex-husband’s face. But she didn’t. She had too much to think about. The last thing she needed-or wanted for that matter-were people throwing blame in her face, not at a time like this. She grabbed her jacket from the rack and stormed outside, not even realizing she had leopard pajamas on.
Bill sat on the sofa staring at the door. After nineteen years of marriage, he knew better than to follow after Sharon when she was on the verge of blowing her top. No, the best thing was just lay low and wait for things to blow over. Hell. He might as well catch the last fifteen minutes of the football game he didn’t have time to record on DVR.
Reaching for the remote, he spotted a yellow wrinkled note wedged between the remote and a stack of unpaid bills. He read the note intently. Two times. Three times. The front door opened and shut as Sharon stood there, watching him. He didn’t notice.
“It came in the box. Along with her jersey.” Bill heard the distinct strain in her face on the word jersey.
“Why two N’s?” Bill mumbled.
Sharon frowned. “What?”
“There’s two N’s.” Sharon walked over to the couch. “Sharon, our daughter only has one N in her name.”
“I’m glad you’ve just had the urge to figure that out.”
“No, I mean here. The killer put two N’s instead of one. Anyone who didn’t know Roxxane personally would haven’t known that.” Bill looked his ex wife in the eyes. She broke the gaze.
“So that means…”
“That means whoever wrote this note doesn’t know Roxxane personally. ” Bill sat back on the sofa, the cool surface forming to fit his body. “And we need to figure it out, soon.”