Tuesday, May 15, 11:00 a.m., Bobby Jones, Session II had been written across the top of the notes. Jon said, “We left off talking about how your success hasn’t filled the emptiness.”
“I believe I said hole, but yes.”
Jon flipped back to the previous page, “Ah, here it is, yes you did. I stand corrected.”
“It really doesn’t matter. I’m probably too anal about details, but, if I weren’t, I’d have been caught long ago.”
“I should probably back up. Before the first kill, I spent close to three years getting ready.”
Jon pulled out his poker face. “The first kill?”
“Yes, I’ll get to that, but you need to understand I’ve been very careful.”
Jon wrote furiously. He noted the time, the cold facial expression, the posture, and lack of hand gestures. The man before him redefined calm.
“The first thing I did was get a hold of a social security number. It was easy. The young man stopped needing it when the leukemia did him in a week after his third birthday. I set up an offshore account in his name and filled it with five million dollars. From that account I built his credit rating, which is excellent. No major purchases mind you – a TV here, a washer and dryer, a Honda Accord. All were donated to various charities anonymously.”
“Do you mind if I record our sessions? It is entirely…”
“I don’t mind at all as long as you remember that it’s all confidential.”
“Of course it is.”
“I’d be very disappointed if it wasn’t.”
The tone was even, and Jon couldn’t be sure if it had been intended as a threat. He let it go and retrieved his digital recorder from his desk. “Please continue, and yes, it is all confidential.”
“Good. Anyway, I used the account to set up two other offshore accounts as backups. It was these accounts that I used to buy my first secure email account. Free accounts wouldn’t do. From there I set up another account. Each account served only one purpose.”
“I had one account that I used for my ghost’s Twitter account. I had one for Facebook, another for LinkedIn, and – the last one was the key – it was for the phone. Later, once Foursquare came about, I created another for that app.”
“Did you use the same boy for each of the accounts?”
“No, I used a combination of a dead Russian composer’s first name and a lesser known painter’s surname. The name isn’t important. What I’m trying to say is, I built a detailed footprint for my ghost. I have thousands of Twitter friends, four hundred people who know and like me on Facebook, and a hundred or so business contacts on LinkedIn.”
Jon, no longer needing to take notes, lightly tapped his pen on the pad until Bobby stopped and looked at him.
“Am I making you nervous?”
“What? Oh, sorry, childhood habit,” Jon said as he set down the pen. “Please go on.”
“I know the intimate details of hundreds of people, and they, me, or at least, they think they do. It is all a smoke screen, but that isn’t so impressive; the clever bit is how I choose the victims.”
“How many people have there been?”
“I’ll get to that. You wrote a paper at Harvard about serial killers. The part about there being rules really impressed me.”
“Yes, the rules are very important to people becoming serial killers.”
“You said, and I’m only paraphrasing, it was because they wanted to get caught. I thought that was crap when I read it, but now I’m not so sure.”
“Interesting,” Jon said as he grabbed the pen and made a note for later: Wants to get caught?
“I decided that I needed rules, but I definitely did not want to get caught. The first thing I wanted was a signature. I didn’t care much about using some exotic weapon, as that was a lot of bother and rather limiting, but there had to be a thread that tied them all together. I decided on a tiny brand.”
“Like on cattle.”
“A branding iron?”
“Yes, but much smaller. I flew all the way to Malaysia and found a very old artisan who could make it.”
“What does it look like?”
“Not right now, but I’ll show you eventually. Suffice it to say, it’s unique and, if I do say so myself, very 21st century.”
Jon wrote down 21st century and looked up. When he did, Bobby continued, “So I had my mark, but I needed a method to choose the victims. I considered picking people from social media, but I thought that some clever math guy with a computer would find the connection. I love the show Numb3rs – do you watch it?”
“I’ve heard of it but never seen the show.”
Bobby seemed disappointed but only for a moment. “Well, anyway, I put a lot of thought into victim selection and couldn’t come up with anything elegant and artful. I was starting to think I might never get around to killing anyone, which would have been a shame. Then I saw a sea shell in a shop in the Florida Keys.”
“Why did you go to the Keys?”
“It was a hard winter in New York, and I was cold.”
“The sea shell reminded me of the Golden Ratio and all of the examples in nature. That was going to be my method. I had to use the number 1.618 somehow.”
Jon began to draw spirals on his notepad as he listened.
“As I said, preparation was key, and now I had my first rule. More of a theme in the end. Now, how to apply it? So, I kept my eyes open and let fate lead the way. A few days later I read a blog post about a phone that had been left in a bar and how someone had picked it up, taken a picture of himself, and then left it at another bar. That night the phone went to three different bars, and then the next day the owner called it and tracked it down. The photos from the phone’s adventure were of people out having a good time, and the owner commented that the phone had had more fun than he did that night. An idea was born. I bought an iPhone 3S and cleared off most of the apps, leaving the phone app, the audio app, and the YouTube app. To the back of the case I taped a simple note, ‘Hello, my name is Travel Phone. 1) Take me someplace fun, 2) Keep me in NYC, 3) Take photos, 4) Give me a charge now and again.’ Then I realized the problem: the phone would travel about, but how would I use that randomness?”
Jon was on the edge of his chair.
Bobby looked at his watch. “We’ll have to continue from here next week. I have to go.”
With that, he was up and gone.
Jon called Kimberly into his office. He rarely did this, but, when he did, it meant only one thing. She had a debt that was long from being paid. Though it disgusted her, she couldn’t refuse his request. The worst part was that it was always during lunch, and she had to live with the shame for the rest of the afternoon before she could go home and wash his musk off her body. She locked the office door as was expected and walked in, unbuttoning her blouse.
He waved his hand. “No, not that. I need you to cancel my lunch reservation and then run out and get me a meatball sub and a six pack of Coke. Here,” he said, handing her a fifty, “get yourself some lunch, too.”
When he heard her leave, he went to the locked closet and pulled out a thick three-ring binder filled with his research. Next he grabbed the stack of newspapers. Each paper had an article about the Tic Tac Toe Killer who was known for branding his strangulation victims with a small tic tac toe board containing an x in the center square. Jon flipped through the papers, one at a time, reading the crime sections and looking for clues. He checked over every murder and accident listed but didn’t see any hint of what Bobby was talking about.
It had been five years since his bestseller. Three years ago, he had set out to write the definitive work on the mind of serial killers. It was to be his crowning glory. Jon imagined movie deals and even more wealth, not that he needed the money. He missed the accolades that went with a New York Times bestseller. Bobby wandered into his life, and he took it as fate. It was the singular sign that his new book would be all that he imagined. It would no longer just be about other famous killers; it would include patient…X. He chuckled to himself at the irony.
Twenty minutes passed. He gathered everything and locked it back in the closet. A few minutes later, Kimberly returned with lunch. The meatball sandwich was fantastic, and the next ninety minutes flew by.
Kimberly showed Mr. Mayer in for his appointment. Jon stood, but he waved him off. “Nonsense, stay where you are, I know my way to the couch.”
“How are you today, Mr. Mayer?”
“I’m better than a goy with a BLT.”
“I do love some bacon.”
“I wouldn’t know, but I hear good things. Let’s kibitz.”
“Go right ahead.”
“I’ve been coming here for a long time, and I’ve learned you are a man of habits. Eating lunch at your desk is not one of them. Something wrong?”
“Not at all. In fact, I’m fantastic. May I tell you a secret?”
Mr. Mayer put his hand over his heart. “I won’t tell a soul.”
“I’m working on another book, and I think I’ve found my ending.”
“Every book needs one. What’s it about?”
“I really shouldn’t say, but it will be even bigger than the first one.”
“Good for you.”
“Thanks. Now, how was your week?”
The rest of the hour covered a checkers tournament, senior center gossip, several detailed descriptions of meals, and a sad bit about the anniversary of his mother’s passing.
The last two patients came and went. Jon took few notes and barely listened. When Kimberly knocked and asked if there was anything else, he said, “Yes, one more thing.” The look in his eye made her shudder, but she locked the door and returned to his office anyway. When he was done, he pulled out his wallet and reached in. Much to her relief, he didn’t pull out bills, which would have been unbearable. Instead, he handed her a dry-cleaning ticket and said, “Be a doll and grab this on your way into work tomorrow.”
One of the perks of success was prime office real estate. He had a full bathroom and a small bar. Jon had pizza delivered and spent the rest of the evening writing up notes from the taped session with Bobby.