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Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth the Lord

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Jack was watching, of course.

 

He was ALWAYS watching. His cameras were everywhere. His listening devices were everywhere. The VCTF was full of them, as were the homes of Samantha’s teammates and friends, crammed full of his beautiful gadgetry, all of it cunningly placed, allowing him access to every person, every place, every time of the day or night, just like any god worth their salt should be.

 

When Samantha was in the VCTF’s headquarters, his monitors were mainly set to show the Command Center, Samantha’s office, and Malone’s office. That was where most of the chatter about his case went on. He had secondary cameras in the bullpen near Grant and Brubaker’s desks, in Fraley’s office, and in Alvarez’s morgue.

 

Samantha and Malone were closeted in Malone’s office, working on an endless pile of paperwork for the cases the VCTF had closed in the last three months. Grant was on the street—no surprise there, the detective had exceedingly itchy feet and never sat around when he could walk, run, tackle, or dive through windows. Fraley was formatting a new set of hard drives in his office. Jack didn’t mind the hacker as much as he minded Grant or Malone. Fraley was no threat in garnering his Samantha’s attentions, and his computer expertise was impressive enough that Jack felt a grudging sort of admiration toward the man. Not that that would stop him from killing Fraley if he ever got in the way … but he was the last person on the team Jack felt compelled to bother with.

 

The real action today was in the morgue, where Alvarez was attempting to analyze the Physical Evidence Recovery Kit from his most recent masterpiece. Jack chuckled at the woman’s obvious frustration as she shoved her chair away from her microscope and cursed ripely. He turned up the volume on the monitor in time to hear Brubaker walk in and ask: “…pissed off the Great and Powerful OZ?”

 

“This PERK from Jack’s latest crime scene. I’ve analyzed it ten ways to Sunday and I keep coming up empty. There’s no DNA. No hairs or fibers of any use. Nothing.”

 

Jack grinned and lit a cigarette. It was always nice to keep the peons guessing.

 

“How is that possible?” Brubaker asked. “Is he cleaning up after himself?”

 

Jack snorted. As if the man actually cared.

 

“Either that or he walks around sheathed in latex. I can’t get anything– not one viable print, fiber, blood drop or skin tag. Well, it won’t be me that cracks this case, that’s for sure.”

 

Jack didn’t particularly mind the medical examiner either, not like he minded Grant or Malone. The truth of the matter is that he took very little notice of her outside of what she found relating to his case … and since he only left behind the evidence he WANTED them to find, it was wholly unnecessary to watch her fume and fret. She lacked Samantha’s ethereal beauty and razor-sharp mind, though she did have enough sass that he occasionally found himself amused by her sarcasm. She might prove an interesting diversion for him one day, but, like Fraley, she offered very little in the way of actual entertainment value … and as she was no real threat to him, he saw no immediate need to bother with her. He tuned back in to the conversation half-heartedly as Brubaker began talking.

 

“Don’t you think it’s a little strange that we’ve been chasing this Jack character for six months and the only one who’s seen, heard, or talked to him is Sam? There’s been no trace of viable DNA at any of the crimes scenes– all eight of them. Isn’t that a little odd to you?”

 

Now THAT was an interesting question. Maybe there was more to Brubaker than he had originally thought—that is if the man was going where Jack thought he was with this line of thought. He found himself leaning eagerly forward, wondering exactly how the lawyer was going to justify the can of worms he was about to open up. This was turning out to be quite the conversation.

 

Alvarez got it, too—she was no slouch in the intelligence department—and her face turned thunderous. “Nathan, if you’re going with this where I think you are, so help me God I will open you up on one of these tables myself!”

 

An entertaining thought, Jack smirked, popping a Cheeto in his mouth.

 

“Look, all I’m saying is--” Brubaker began, holding up a fending hand.

 

“That Sam made Jack up?”

 

“I’m saying we have no real proof that he exists.”

 

Jack licked his lips in anticipation. So, the worm had turned. Some of Samantha’s colleagues were evidently tiring of his antics … all ready! How very interesting. And how soon would they start getting mistrustful … getting careless … once the imminently logical Brubaker mentioned his newfound theory? Now that was a REALLY interesting question. How long before Samantha was left alone? Well, as long as Malone was around the answer to that was ‘never,’ but he had plans for Bailey Malone, Samantha’s dark knight in tarnished armour.

 

“We have a trail of dead bodies scattered across half of the U.S!” Alvarez was shouting. “Do you want to pin those on Sam? What the hell makes you so sure that Jack doesn’t exist? Give me your evidence.”

 

“Give me your evidence that he does. Give me one irrefutable piece of evidence that will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jack is stalking Sam. Do it and I’ll drop this whole thing.”

 

Jack laughed full out at Alvarez’s expression and blew cigarette smoke at the screen. Uncertainty was a bitch, especially to someone who dealt in logical, tangible evidence. Alvarez wouldn’t be able to do what Brubaker had asked. There WAS no hard evidence. She’d just said so herself. He was too careful. And everything he DID leave… his black-light notes, Samantha’s roses … were completely untraceable in every sense of the word. Furthermore, he knew damn good and well that anyone with half a brain who followed the press on his case could—and would—use copy-cattery to pull off their own crimes, making every note or flower that turned up afterward even more specious. The only person to know it was him lovingly pursuing his Samantha—the only person who would EVER know with certainty that it was him—was Samantha herself.

 

“Internet traffic,” Alvarez finally snapped, sounding both angry and uncertain. “We have tons of email from Jack, video streams, JPEGS, sound files!”

 

“All of which can be faked,” Brubaker replied calmly, apparently too calmly for Alvarez who looked as if she were going to either scream or cry at any moment. So much for the cool and calculated brunette.

 

“God, Nathan!” she exploded. “What do you want? Are you out to make Sam look crazy?”

 

Jack chuckled. Even if that wasn’t Brubaker’s goal, arguing the point the way he just had was apt to gain him some followers, especially anyone who knew about Samantha’s previous work on his case, the excessive attention she had given to him as she played her own game of cat and mouse. He wasn’t the only one who was obsessed, oh no, not by any means. His Samantha was very clearly, very deeply, very deliberately obsessed with him.

 

“I’m trying to make sure we aren’t chasing smoke,” Brubaker said, so calm and collected that it was nearly maddening. Discord in the ranks was sure to follow. And where there was discord, unity broke down. And the less united Samantha’s teammates were, the more likely it was that they would make very little progress pursuing him. More time for him to play his game … more time to play with Samantha … more time to show his love …

 

As entertaining as the argument was becoming, Jack was starting to grow bored. He turned his attention to another computer screen carrying the security footage of Samantha, cloistered in Malone’s office. He studied her face, letting the argument fade into the background.

 

“Sam already lied to us once,” Brubaker was saying to an increasingly angry Alvarez. “More than once. About her name, her history, her background.”

 

“She was protecting herself.”

 

“She still lied.”

 

“Bailey would never follow up on this if he didn’t think it was crucial.”

 

“Bailey’s so in love with Sam he’d do anything for her.”

 

Jack’s head snapped up. What had he said?

 

Forget the real-time feed. Jack ignored it in favor of the video recordings he made of all his snooping sessions. He slammed down the rewind button and listened to the tape again.

 

“Bailey’s so in love with Sam he’d do anything for her.”

 

 

“Bailey’s so in love with Sam he’d do anything for her.”

 

 

“Bailey’s so in love with Sam he’d do anything for her.”

 

NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

 

Jack slammed his hand onto the desk and shouted the word over and over again. He swept everything off the desk and beat his fist in fury.

 

“Bailey’s so in love with Sam he’d do anything for her.”

 

“SHUT UP!” he roared at the screen.

 

But what was this? He had to lean in to catch Alvarez’s response.

 

“You’re right about that. All she has to do is bat those doe eyes at him and he comes when she calls. He seems to honestly think we can’t see it.” There was more than a note of bitterness in her voice.

 

A blue haze filled his vision. Malone was in love with Samantha, was he? Well, it didn’t take a genius—or a mad man—to see that. But to have the others know it, comment on it, maybe even encourage it … No. It wouldn’t do. It was time to nip that ugliness in the bud, squash it flat, keep it from spreading like poison.

 

Brubaker would pay. He’d pay for ruining Jack’s contemplation of his beloved Samantha for even one moment. He’d pay for doubting Samantha. He’d pay for even noticing the noisome Bailey Malone and his lustful feelings for Samantha. Oh, yes. Nathan Brubaker would pay.

 

Alvarez would have to be punished, too, punished for her sin of envy, punished for the bitterness in her voice when she talked about his Samantha. Alvarez, who hadn’t even been on his radar screen mere minutes before, now needed to pay as well. She was a vicious black widow in his rose garden, a venomous spider to be drained of her poison, drop by drop.

 

Punishments … suitable punishments …

 

Jack’s blood pressure and pulse subsided, heading towards normal again, as he pulled up his computer files on Nathan Brubaker and Grace Alvarez. Homes … pets … spouses …

 

Homes … a carefully controlled “accident” in the home … no, no … in the garage … a carefully controlled accident in the garage to send a carefully controlled message to the carefully controlled Brubaker … YES.

 

Spouses …spouses in houses … the boring accountant spouse and the yapping dog who lived in Alvarez’s grand Victorian house … a house with shoddy electricity … a house with a claw-footed bathtub … a plan to capture the spouse in the house … and drain Alvarez of her venom one electrical volt at a time …

 

Jack turned on his cameras in Brubaker’s and Alvarez’s houses. He had them there too, of course, because Jack was always watching … as any vengeful god worth his salt would …

 

END