“Crime tip hotline,” I said.
“Is this Benjamin Tucker?” It was a male voice.
“Yes, it is. I need to tell you that this call is being recorded.”
“I was expecting it would be. May I call you Ben?”
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I’m the man you’re looking for. I’m Jack Plum.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m sorry if I sound skeptical, but you’re the third person today to make that claim. Can you give me information or some detail that will confirm you are, in fact, whom you claim to be?”
His next words made my blood run cold. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
I jumped out of my chair, snapped my fingers twice, and pointed to the phone. The dispatcher understood, nodded, and immediately dialed someone to begin a trace of the call.
I took a deep breath. “You have my attention,” I said.
“Is this call being traced?”
“No. All calls are anonymous unless requested otherwise.”
“You’re lying to me, Ben. But it doesn’t matter. I saw you on TV the other night, and I knew when I saw you that the two of us have a destiny.”
The dispatcher had patched into the call and was now listening. She gestured for me to keep Plum talking.
“How do you figure that?” I asked.
“You are the one to write my story. I read your book and it was … inspirational. I knew you were the one. I researched you, and now I know everything about you…and that rich wife of yours. She’s very beautiful … so is Sally Briggum.” The statement scared the hell out of me.
“Let’s leave them out of this,” I said. “Why is it you’ve taken the lives of two women?”
“In due time, Ben. In due time.”
“Will you surrender to authorities? I can make arrangements so you’ll be safe.”
The caller laughed softly. “Please. Don’t insult my intelligence. Besides, I’m not through yet. I’ve only just begun. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been invigorated since finding you.”
“Please don’t hurt anyone else. Maybe we can meet–just the two of us. We can talk–figure things out.”
The dispatcher was violently shaking her head, as if saying, “No! Are you freaking crazy?”
“We will meet, Ben … someday.” He paused. “I have a gift for you … a very special gift. I’m looking at it right now.”
I became nauseous. “What is it?” I asked. There was no reply. The dispatcher motioned for me to keep him talking.
“Jack?” I asked. “Talk to me. Hello? Jack? Are you there?” I put the system on mute, and turned to the dispatcher.
“I don’t think he’s there anymore,” I said.
She looked at her control console. “The line’s still connected so try and get him to talk.”
“Jack? Let me know what you want. I can get you some help. Jack? Are you there? Hello?”
The dispatcher jumped up and I muted the system again. “We have it!” she said. “237 West Bradford–about three miles from here!”
Ice ran through my veins, and I tore the headset off as I instantly recognized my former address. I collapsed in my seat with my face in my hands.
“Oh good Christ!” I cried. “Amanda Jane!”