Dead Silence Chapter 1
Nothing brought the people or the officers in the police station to the TV and radios faster than a big scandal. The whispers and yells came from all sorts of people who were talking about the mayor. The mayor himself—the man of the people—embroiled in a scandal that was caught on tape. Could it get any better than this?
It wasn’t the usual mayor got caught with a prostitute type of scandal that people thought it would be. No, this particular fall from grace was more exciting and gossip inducing. Prostitution was expected. Drug scandal was not.
The mayor was known to be very straight-laced and tough on drugs which made it all the more amusing when he was caught on tape snorting cocaine. The media was having a field day. Supporters, video experts, and anyone that could look and sound professional on camera were being trotted out to over-analyze the video. Even the police were gossiping about it in the station and had the TV blaring on a 24- hour news channel.
Detective Jack Creed walked by a group of officers clustered around a TV. What a bunch of sheep, lapping up the gossip and speculation. He never went in for that sort of gossip. He preferred the cold, hard facts he found at a crime scene over anything on the news.
“The mayor has cancelled his speaking engagement…” The reporter informed the viewers. Jack rolled his eyes. The news stations must really be scraping the bottom of the scandal barrel if they’re talking about something like cancelling a couple of speaking engagements. Of course he was going to cancel. He’d be an idiot not to. Of course, he was an idiot for being caught snorting coke on camera too.
Turning into another--hopefully quieter--room, Jack was surprised to see his partner Jo Boston-Wright and the forensic pathologist, Dr. Jane Russell, huddled together whispering. Based on the anxious frown line forming on Jo’s brow, Jack guessed it wasn’t about the latest shoe sale.
Jack did his best to swallow a rude comment about women and shoes. Instead, he smiled as politely as he could with only one cup of coffee in him and said: “Good morning.”
Jo jumped at the chance to act--if not exactly look-- normal. “Morning. Crazy with the mayor, don’t you think? That’s all anyone can talk about.”
Dr. Russell muttered something to Jo before glancing quickly at Jack.
In Jack’s opinion she was a good doctor. Most competent. But he sensed there was always something just underneath the surface with her. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Maybe she was lonely and she thought he was too, but all those sideways glances added up to more awkwardness than Jack was willing and able to deal with. He had a wife. He may not see her very often but she was still his. He may act tough but he took his wedding vows very seriously...just like he took a lot of things very seriously.
“Did you hear about the video of the mayor going up on that website?” Jo asked.
“Is it free for downloading?” Jack raised an eyebrow. “If I was sitting on a media gold mine, I wouldn’t put it up for free.”
“No, that person is having some sort of bidding war on who gets the video,” Jane said. “They’re opening the bidding war in an hour or so.”
“Jackals,” Jane muttered. “They sense blood and it’s everyone for themselves. Do we know who has ownership of it?”
“We’re trying to get a warrant for the website hosting the video,” Jo said. “They refused to cooperate the first time we asked. They say they’re not responsible for what people put up on their server.” She waved a hand helplessly. “It was a typical ‘get a warrant’ conversation so...we got a warrant.” Jo moved to the laptop sitting on a table and typed in the website URL.
“Kind of basic, huh?”
The simplicity of the website surprised Jack. For something this explosive, for something that could break a man’s career and reputation, he expected something much more big and colorful. A beige splash page with red lettering running across the top: "See the video the mayor doesn’t want you to see! Start bidding now!” Beneath the text was a counter with blue text that was set to all zeroes. Towards the bottom of the page were payment options reading “pay now” and “donate”. The person could enter a certain number or type in their own amount and enter the bidding war. It looked like a basic drag and drop or WYSIWYG website instead of created by someone with any sort of web design talent.
Out of curiosity, Jack continued to scroll through the page. There wasn’t much to be seen other than that same beige color and he was about to give up when he got to the very bottom. In small letters there was something that looked like an e-mail address. The user’s name was “seethescandal” at the website’s address.
“Hey, I might’ve found something,” Jack said. “It’s a long shot but it might be this person’s e-mail address.”
Both Jo and Jane moved around to see what Jack was looking at.
“Well, it’s worth a try,” Jane commented. “It’s the only solid lead we have right now and perhaps the only way to contact them until the warrant arrives.”
Jack did his best to type out a quick letter where he sounded skeptical of the video’s validity. He hoped his bluff would be inflammatory enough to get the person’s attention and force a reply out of them. He knew, however, it could easily lead to a dead end with someone hoping to piggyback on the scandal and make some easy money while they’re at it.
“Do you think it’ll get their attention?” Jo looked hopeful, even if her words were not.
“Here’s hoping!” Jack clicked send. “I’m not going to be pleased if we’re wasting our time.”
The computer dinged once signaling new e-mail.
“That was quick.” Jo glanced at Jack when they saw the screen name “seethescandal” pop up.
“Let’s see if we get lucky.” Jack clicked on the email to open it.
Like others you have asked if the video is real and I can assure you it is. I can show you a sample of the video to prove its validity if you want to meet me some place private.
A few back and forth e-mails later and Jack and seethescandal had agreed on a meeting place at dusk. Under different circumstances Jack would have joked about all transactions being at night yet it didn’t seem appropriate right now.
“I’ll be nearby,” Jo promised as she finished wiring Jack up to record the meeting. She jogged back to the van where she’d be monitoring everything and waited. Neither of them had to wait long.
Seethescandal wasn’t tall and intimidating but small and covered in thick, dark clothing to hide their identity. “Are you Creed?” they asked.
Jack didn’t bother with niceties. Instead, he cut to the chase by asking: “Do you have the video?”
“Let me see.”
“Ah, ah, not so fast! What’s your phone number?” seethescandal pulled out his own smartphone. “I’m not going to give you access to my phone so you can probe it for information.”
Jack frowned but gave his number anyway. The person probably was using a prepaid throwaway phone in the first place.
Noises were the first to greet Jack once the video had downloaded. It was jumbled voices that sounded like a crowd of people talking. Someone’s voice was speaking over the crowd.
“Ohhh, be looking at this…” the voice said. The video abruptly shut off.
“I’ll be seeing you,” seethescandal said before fleeing.
“Hey, wait!” Jack shouted. He thought of following but it was too crowded of an area with too many chances for innocent people to get hurt. He watched helplessly as seethescandal left.
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