Author's Note: Usually I write some big thing at the beginning of all my stories, but not this time. The only thing I wanted to mention is that this story IS part of a series. And while usually the stories in the past never really required reading the others, this one really does. It's a direct continuation of the "Part 6", so you could probably get away just reading that one although I might recommend going back even further to the 3rd one as there's a few things in stories #3-#5 that contribute to this one as well.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing really, I'm just glad that you're…"
While a collective sigh of relief was being had by all at the hospital where Mike had been in a coma, the Vigilante Killer himself had been able to listen in from his car due to the bugs he had placed in the hospital room right after Mike had been admitted there. Between the bugs in that hospital room and the few he placed around Agent Foster that they hadn't yet discovered, he had a pretty good handle on anything new going on in the case.
The FBI had actually drastically underestimated him from that standpoint. They found a few of the obvious bugs and thought that was it. That's what the average criminal mastermind would have done under similar circumstances. But they never imagined a person would go even further than that. Why waste the money? Why waste the time?
Money wasn't important to this Vigilante. He had his ways of earning cash, but it always came back to the job at hand. Time? He had plenty of time, and every moment was spent towards planning his next move. That was the difference between him and the average criminal, most of whom were in the business so that they could retire with a wad of cash on some island in the Caribbean. But to the Vigilante, this was his life. The authorities that had been chasing him all these years never understood that, and that's why he's always been one step ahead.
"Ok, we got a list of friends and family of the victim. So let's split up the list and see if we can get them to talk." Foster's voice could be heard through the hidden listening device.
"We already know that he's guilty though, thanks to the evidence in the Vigilante's video." one of the detectives with him mentioned.
The Vigilante thought back to his last victim and smiled. It had been only a few days since he took the life of Raul Forgero, a criminal responsible for many burglaries in the suburbs around Houston. He was arrested multiple times, but the cases never made it to trial and soon he was back on the streets. He landed himself on the map of the Vigilante when he killed a husband and wife that happened to come home during his break-in.
"What? I'm not talking about the Vigilante's victim, but the victim of the original crime. There's a high probability that one of them has been in contact with our killer."
I give him credit, the Vigilante thought. He caught onto the idea that I talk to people close to the victim and get information about the case pretty fast. But he's wasting his time. They won't learn anything from these people.
"Isn't Taylor on that?" came the reply from the unknown subordinate.
"He was looking into that for the last victim. New victim, new assignments." Foster answered sternly.
Foster was a great leader. Good at delegating responsibility. Good at demanding the most out of his men. But he didn't have what it took to catch someone like me, thought the Vigilante as he smiled. As confident as he looked when he was ordering people around, no amount of bravado would put him in the mindset to find that missing link that would sink me.
"Foster, I just got a call from Memorial Hospital and Mike just woke up. Looks like he's going to be okay."
"That's great. One less casualty I have to worry about." Foster was relieved, even though his words might not have made it obvious.
The Vigilante Killer didn't know Mike as well as he wanted to. In the months he was here doing research before planning who his next victims would be, the only mention of Mike Anderson the police consultant was a couple of articles in the Chronicle detailing his involvement in a few cases. But when he found out that they were all written by one of his close friends, he just wrote it off as the usual sensationalism.
Then finally when he hacked into the police department's conference room so that he could meet with the guys tasked with catching him face to face, Mike was there looking uncomfortable just sitting in that room. That's probably what made the Vigilante Killer underestimate him at first. But when he broke the connection, it only took him moments for them to figure out where he had been when he hacked into the meeting room.
How did he do it, the Vigilante wondered. I've made plenty of moves against the FBI and most of them worked because they relied on the fact that by the time the trick was uncovered it wouldn't matter. The FBI had fallen for my misdirection ploy, because they didn't take the time to think. But this police consultant figured the trick out almost instantly, and as a result he came the closest anyone has ever been to catching me. They weren't supposed to discover that hideout until I wanted them to. And now… there are tons of loose ends with no way of tying them off. It's only a matter of time before their ace-up-the-sleeve consultant makes the connections that no one on the FBI had been able to make this whole time.
Fortunately, despite his plans being foiled for a little while, he was able to kill victim #8 roughly on schedule. And now all of the preparations had been made to set the stage for his third and final victim of this city. If he could get through the next couple of weeks, he would be able to disappear once again for awhile until he found another city to work his magic.
But that wasn't why he was here sitting in his car in some random neighborhood, listening to the day to day interactions of Agent Foster with his fellow detectives. He could have done that more effectively at his base. He was here because he had finally tracked down the man he had been looking for all of these years. It was a chase that had taken him from the city of New York where he had grown up, through numerous false leads and finally… to a trail that led him west to Denver and eventually to this very point.
He was sure he had the right man this time. If there was one thing he was it was careful. He didn't make mistakes, especially not one on this scale. When a human life hung in the balance, he had to be sure. Because with just one mistake, suddenly he's no worse than the people he kills. His mistakes weeks earlier almost led to his newfound rival, Mike Anderson, dying in an explosion that would have ultimately been the Vigilante's fault. It was nearly a tragic mistake, and one that he couldn't afford to make again.
It was very early in the morning, and yet it looked like the man he was looking for had yet to come back to his house. He had no other way to track this man, so the only option was to wait in front of his house and confront him when he got home. And when he finally did, he would most likely be tired, giving the Vigilante the advantage. His hands shook violently at the thought that he might soon be face to face with one of the men that was responsible for everything bad that had happened to him in his life. He hadn't felt this emotion in a long time. Anger? Sure, he had certainly been there. But fear? Worry? That feeling of uncertainty that existed because he wasn't sure how things would end? Not in a long time.
Not since "The Incident", as he preferred to call it. He only called it that because he didn't want to remind himself anymore of the details behind it. Giving the event a generic name made it easier to gloss over. He thought about it all the time, but at least he didn't have to relive everything again. Until now, he thought. He reached under his shirt to pull out the charm necklace he usually wore around his neck but hidden from public view beneath his clothes. It was the only possession of his that he treasured because it reminded him of where he came from. After fiddling with one of the plastic charms, he finally calmed down a little.
I'm too nervous, the Vigilante thought. This isn't like me. I've never been nervous before. Even over the past couple of years, killing several people and video taping it for the world to see, I was always able to remain cold and emotionless and get the job done. Every time I interacted with the authorities, I was able to seem confident and determined, choosing my words carefully to get the message I wanted across. How many times had I shot or stabbed a man without a blink of an eye? And yet, after tracking down the man I've been after for years… I can't control myself.
He had been preparing for this moment for what seemed like an eternity. All of the work put in and time he spent, it all led to today. He didn't even know what to say. Years of thinking about what it would be like to confront this man, and he still wasn't able to find the words to use. And part of what scared him was that when the time finally came, he didn't know what he would even do. He didn't know how he would react. Would the stress of the situation drive him to tears? Or would his anger compel him to just kill him instantly?
He had been here all night, and his guy didn't show up at his house. The sun was beginning to rise. People in neighboring houses began their morning routines before leaving for work. There was nothing he could do if the man didn't come home. He could have met him at his job, but that would mean risking being seen by coworkers. But he never came home with anyone. The house was the best place for a confrontation.
I'm running out of time and I have other things I need to do, he thought. He's not home, but I could leave him a message. It was absolutely no effort to find his phone number. And it took only a few moments to mentally conjure up a game plan for the phone call. While he was thinking about the call he began dialing the number and soon the phone was ringing. It kept ringing and ringing until the voice mail message began playing:
"Hi, this is Dan Taylor. I'm not here right now but if you would please leave a message, I can get back to you as soon as I'm available."