Blast From The Past
BLAST FROM THE PAST
In the control room of WJBT the most recent addition to the New Foundation Broadcasting Company, Neil Frazer was busy selecting music to place in his play list on the computer screen. Digital technology had made things much easier than they used to be, he decided. Oldies were his thing and he could still remember spinning 45-RPM platters on a turntable. Now all he had to do was select MP3 files and drop them in the queue. “Yes, things are different now,” he whispered as he reviewed songs he had heard a thousand times. He never grew tired of them. “Sometimes, I wish I lived back in the old days.” He knew those days were gone forever.
When he finished selecting songs for his show, he had sixty-eight mp3 files in the queue. What really amazed him was that twenty of them were pre-recorded commercials. He would cut in every now and then to say a few words. Sometimes, he even told a joke. He was the Internet’s most popular radio personality.
Sometimes, he would take a few calls from listeners just so he could stay in contact with his audience. Neil considered that a wise thing to do.
After playing the theme song Wild Weekend by the Rockin’ Rebels he settled down prepared to enjoy another six hours of oldies. This had been his routine since he moved to this small Nebraska town three years ago. Surrounded by cornfields at the outskirts of Peebles, he thanked the Internet for his worldwide popularity.
The phone rang. Glancing at the clock on the wall above the studio window he saw that it was twelve o’clock, midnight: The witching hour.
He flicked a switch on the control panel that routed the call to his headset.
The voice sounded like that of a long time smoker. “Hey, man. How come you never play any of James Bare’s stuff?”
“Who are you and where are you calling from?” Neil asked. Didn’t these jerks think it was impolite to come on his show, with a worldwide audience, and not even introduce themselves?
“Marcus Foley and I’m callin’ from Chicago, you know, that windy city. How about it, Man? Can you spin a little Bare for the listeners out there? Are we on the air?”
“No, we’re not on the air yet and I’ll tell you why, Marcus.” Neil monitored the computer screen as the software finished a commercial and then selected Sherry by the Four Seasons. Neil always screened all his calls, or had someone else do it. Before he put them on the air he had to know whom he was talking to. It paid to be careful. The only other person in the studio with him was the engineer and she was quite busy. Lisa Barrett was an eye stopper if there ever was one, he whispered silently.
“Why not?” Marcus asked not giving him time to even think up a good reason. “You only play that old stuff that nobody wants to hear anymore.”
“That’s not true, Marcus.” Neil said weary of this man’s attitude already. He was glad it was a private conversation. He would have to tell him about all the people out there that did want to hear what he played. “My show has one of the highest ratings in the world. Why, I even have fans in China.”
“Then, why don’t you like Bare?”
“He’s a one-hit-wonder. He’s a criminal who was never brought to justice and we don’t play rap. We play oldies. It’s as simple as that, Marcus.”
“Hey man, don’t call Bare a criminal. He didn’t murder those women. They never proved a thing.”
“Cause they never caught him,” Neil countered. “He left the Midwest before they could catch him. Nobody knows where he is.”
“I know where he is,” the voice on the phone replied.
Neil felt as if someone had dropped a hammer on his big toe, or slapped him on his head with a baseball bat. “What do you mean, Marcus? Are you a friend of his or just a loyal fan?”
“So, where is he?”
“Somewhere safe,” Marcus boasted and Neil thought he might have heard a little pride emanating from his voice.
“So what does this have to do with me? What is it that you want?”
“You said it yourself. You have the most popular show in the world. Bare just wants you to interview him so he can tell his side of the story. How would you like to interview the most wanted man in the world, Frazer?”
Neil felt as if he was being led down a cattle chute and a brawny lad with a big hammer was waiting for him at the other end.
“Well, how about it, Neil? This interview can make you even more famous.”
Neil did not want this conversation. He had not asked for it. This stranger was interrupting his routine and he resented it. “No deal,” he said trying to sound firm even though his voice quivered a little. “I don’t do news, interviews or help criminals evade justice.”
“You’ll be sorry, man. Bare wanted to give you first choice. Now he’s going to be pissed.”
“Sorry,” Neil said. “Like I said, I don’t help criminals or play rap music, not even one-hit wonders.”
“You’ll be sorry you let this one slip through your fingers, Neil. When opportunity knocks—”
“You have a great day, Marcus. Good luck in your endeavors.” Before Marcus could respond, Neil pushed a button and the line was silent.
Alone now, except for the engineer in the control room, he felt a surge of terror pass through him like a bolt of electricity. Was Marcus a publicity seeker? Could he really know where Bare was? How long had it been since Marian, his wife died?
Bare killed her, slit her throat after repeatedly raping her and left her body in their bedroom for Neil to find.
He had been seen entering and leaving the house. A neighbor, who was a member of the local Street Watch program, knew exactly who he was. Using binoculars, she had written down a description of him, his license plate number and information about his vehicle, a forest green Chevrolet Blazer. He had the facts fixed in his mind and his story would be stone solid for eternity.
It wasn’t the first time Bare had been seen in the area where a woman had been brutally slaughtered. After killing seven women, one of them pregnant, Bare disappeared.
And was never heard from again, until tonight.
Remembering Marian, Neil recalled his vow of revenge. Was this an opportunity to fulfill his promise to her or was it a fleeting shadow that would lead him nowhere?
The mystery of why a guilty murdering stalker thought he could clear his name confused Neil. Did he know that he had murdered Neil’s wife and if he did know, why would he select Neil to help him. Neil wanted more than anything to kill him, not help him. And yet, there was a plausible explanation.
Bare didn’t know who Neil was, did not realize he had killed Neil’s wife, or he was just plain crazy.
Neil thought Bare might be stone-broke, desperate and thought that his lies, once spread to the world might generate sympathy and public support for his cause. It wouldn’t be the first time a criminal had used the media to get off the hook, he surmised. Now, Neil was glad he had used his influence to help find the killer. His money had bought time on many national radio shows offering a hundred thousand dollars for Bare’s capture.
As the grief for the loss of his wife subsided a little he had used all of his energy to turn up the heat hoping to drive Bare out into the open. That had happened over four years ago. By now, Bare might have forgotten about him, except he doubted it. They were mortal enemies.
Desperate for vengeance, Neil had little doubt that Bare was using Marcus to get to him. Bare knew Neil would never give up until he was behind bars waiting for the executioner to come visit him.
Who, in fact, was Marcus Foley? During the ten-minute phone conversation Neil had been aware that his voice sounded vaguely familiar. At some point, he thought it all was a prank bestowed on him by an angry fan. Or, maybe Mary Tyler Morse had resented his numerous fan letters. Maybe she had set him up. She couldn’t do that, he admired her so much and wanted her to go out with him, except the bitch wouldn’t even accept his invitations or answer his letters. He’d been sending them to her for thirty years and her secretary had stopped answering them so long ago he couldn’t remember when it happened.
Neil felt stupid, or at least, ignorant. He hadn’t gotten Marcus Foley’s phone number so he could call him back. At the time, he hadn’t wanted to call him, didn’t want nothing at all to do with him, except now he thought there might be some advantage to finding out more about Foley. He might lead him to Bare, if he played his card’s right.
The phone rang. A red light blinked on the control panel. Neil pushed the button and adjusted his headset expecting to hear Marcus Foley saying, “Hey man, you can’t pass up the opportunity of a lifetime, can you?”
Then he glanced at the computer screen that listed information about each telephone call and saw that it was coming from inside the station. He sighed and relaxed not knowing if he should be disappointed or not. “Hello Lisa. How is my favorite engineer doing?”
“It gets lonely in that control room,” she said. “So, I thought I would walk down to the cafeteria and grab some coffee. Want some?”
“The usual, black.”
“After you finish taking calls, why don’t we get together and chat?”
Neil knew what she meant. Looking up at the control room where she stood looking back at him he flashed a smile at her and blew her a kiss. Dim lights from computer screens and electronic equipment illuminated her pale face and her dark, long hair shone like silver while her blue eyes sparkled.
“I shall return,” she said dropping the receiver into the cradle.
“Obviously,” he said blowing her another kiss.
He had been enjoying her company for several months and Neil longed to make some kind of commitment to her, except he feared losing her the same way he lost Marian.
While Neil waited for her to return with the coffee he selected a few more MP3 files he would need for tomorrow night’s show. Engrossed with selecting the right files, he nearly forgot about the computer that controlled the telephone communications. When he finally scrolled down to the bottom of a long list of calls that had come into the station he sat back in his seat and stared at the screen. The last two calls had come from inside the station.
Marcus Foley had been—or was—inside the station when he called him. The last call had come from the control room. Realizing that Lisa Barrett might be in grave danger his body stiffened and he wanted to scream, except he couldn’t do anything but stare at the control room window where a huge man with big gray eyes, dirty blonde hair and massive arms held a long knife to Lisa Barrett’s throat.
Gears turned and switches clicked. His mind was trying to figure out what to do. The gears needed oiling. He felt numbness in his head. His stomach quivered.
Marcus Foley had been in the building when he called. No doubt about that.
He was the janitor and worked there every day of the week, except weekends.
Because Lisa knew him and trusted him, she was now his hostage.
Petrified, Neil wanted to do something to help her, and couldn’t.
Finally, he leaned forward and pushed a button on the intercom. “What do you want, Foley? Let Lisa go.”
Startled at the sudden interruption, Foley glanced around the room looking for the source of the voice. He looked at Lisa and said something inaudible to Neil’s ears.
“It’s an intercom,” Neil explained. “I’m sure you’ve seen those before.”
“I know what it is, do you think I’m stupid or something? Now, do I get my interview or do I slit her throat? I know how fond of her you are. I’ve been watching both of you every night for a very long time.”
“Amazing,” Neil said as worms rolled around in his stomach and a herd of elephants stampeded across his chest. “A janitor who wants to gain notoriety, now that is something.”
“Cut the crap Frazer or I’ll cut her fingers off, one at a time. Maybe her screaming will convince you to interview me.”
Neil thought for a moment. How could he save Lisa? He had been unable to save his own wife. “So, are you telling me that you are Bare? Is that who you are, a janitor with secrets he wants to share with the rest of the world?”
“You got it. Now, do I get to tell my side of things?”
“Of course,” Neil assured him, “but only because you hold all the aces.”
“What do we do first?”
“Normally, we have a short rehearsal so we’re not so nervous when we go live. You will be live, you know. Millions will be listening to how you killed all those beautiful women. I’m sure not one soul will feel sorry for you.”
“Fine, let’s get on with it, will you? Just standing here looking at you is making me nervous. Tell me what to say.”
“I ask the questions and you answer. Ready?”
“Go ahead,” Bare said.
Neil adjusted his headset, made sure his microphone was positioned correctly and then spoke. “Ladies and gentlemen, audience of the world, we are live in our Nebraska studios where I am about to interview James Bare the notorious serial killer who murdered seven beautiful women in the most horrible ways. He stands over there now in the control room with a sharp knife held to my engineer’s throat. She is Lisa Barrett, a gorgeous woman just like all the rest of the helpless women he has murdered. He has threatened her life if I don’t grant him this interview, tonight. Only you and I can feel the horror, the suspense and the gravity of this moment. James Bare, murderer, I am sure, can feel nothing, not even remorse.”
“Hey man, when do I get to speak? You have to let me tell it my way or we won’t do it at all. I’ll just kill both of you and be out of here.”
“Okay, Mr. Bare. You go right ahead. Forty million people are waiting to hear about how you murdered all those women including my wife.”
“I did not kill your wife, Neil. I’m ready to go live. I want to get this over with and go on with my life.”
Before Bare could respond, the lights in the hallway came on and Neil saw two armed security guards and an army of cops enter the unlocked studio door.
Normally, he locked the door when he was in the studio, except he had left it unlocked for Lisa to bring his coffee. Thinking of Lisa frayed his nerves and caused his stomach to quiver. She was up there alone with that murderer. He looked at her terrified face and wished he could rescue her, save her from the fiend who stood next to her.
“Don’t try to come in here,” Bare warned the cops. Directing his attention to Frazer, he asked, “How did they know I was here?”
“We have been broadcasting live since you walked into that control room with Lisa. I anticipated that you were Bare when you took her. That janitor disguise was almost perfect.
Bare looked at the cops. Their weapons were pointed at him. Picking up a microphone, he spoke to them. His voice echoed from four speakers in the ceiling.
“All I want to do is tell my side of the story. I won’t harm the girl. I’ve never harmed anyone.” Withdrawing the knife from Lisa’s throat as a show of good faith, he continued knowing his voice was reaching millions.
“The killer you want sits right over there. Neil Frazer is his name. I was engaged to his wife years ago before he stole her from me. He was always jealous of me and hated me because he was afraid I would take his wife back from him. One night while he was on tour, Marian, his wife, called me and wanted me to meet her at a local restaurant. In a quiet corner, she told me a terrible secret. She thought her husband had killed several women. She found mementos, panties, bras and bracelets that were not hers. After much discussion, we decided that she should divorce him. When she confronted Frazer next day, he denied everything and told her to shut up. Some of the clothes had blood on them. Frazer was angry and told her it was just a ruse to get his money and that she would not get a penny of his millions. Apparently, Frazer knew she had been searching through his file cabinets and had found his hidden cache. He told her he knew she was fooling around with me. He called me and asked me to come over. He said he would be waiting and that he wanted to make up for the bad feelings between us. Sensing that Marian was in danger, I agreed.”
Bare stopped to catch his breath and analyze the affect his words had on the others. He warned a cop to step back. They were slowly moving forward anxious to rush the control room and rescue Lisa. He stared at Frazer whom he expected to bolt from the room at any moment. Frazer stood frozen to the floor as the entire episode was broadcast to the world.
“When I arrived,” he continued knowing he had a captive audience, “Frazer was nowhere to be found. The front door was standing ajar. Marian was in her bed, naked resting in a pool of blood that had drained out of her body into the sheets and mattress. Knowing I had been framed, I left that house as quickly as I could. I knew Frazer would blame me for killing his wife and for the other women he had murdered. I went home, packed everything I would need and went to Oregon where I moved from one small town to another always covering my movements. Hoping to return one day and clear my name, I kept track of Frazer and what he was doing. I have proof that he killed those women. It was him that killed the women and his wife.”
Frazer threw his head back and laughed. His boisterous voice echoed from the ceiling speakers sounding like laughter of a mad man.
“You’re just an insane criminal who is using my radio show to acquire favorable public opinion,” he said. “I shall not let you get away with it.” Raising his fist high above his head like a Roman senator making a speech, he demanded, “Bring forth your proof. Let’s see it.”
The studio was silent. All eyes were on Bare.
Bare pulled a briefcase from the floor and held it up so they could see it. “This belongs to Frazer. His wife gave it to a private detective she hired to investigate her husband. The private detective gave it to me. Folks, in this briefcase is enough evidence to convict Frazer of all the crimes I mentioned before. Frazer has been insane for a long time. He even wrote letters to Mary Tyler Morse, the actress trying to get her to go out with him. A doctor who specializes in such things thinks that her rejection of him might be one of the reasons he killed all those women. Strange, isn’t it? And yet, in this briefcase are panties and other things that belonged to women he murdered. We had lab work conducted on the blood found on some of the clothes and it belongs to several of the women. His wife found a journal he had written in his own hand, depicting each murder in grueling detail.”
“It’s all a lie, a concocted story Bare and my wife came up with so they could get all of my money,” Frazer charged. “It’s all a lie.”
“Is it?” Bare stepped closer to the window until his face was almost against the glass. “Lisa will testify in court that you had sex with her a few weeks after your wife died. Before Marian died, she showed Lisa your secret building in the woods near your mansion. You have enough frozen body parts there to make several bodies, except they’re all from different women. How many women have you killed, Frazer?”
Frazer didn’t answer. Pulling a large bottle of whiskey from his desk drawer he poured himself a drink as if he were as innocent as a kitten. Holding the glass as if proposing a toast to his greatness, he said, “Good work.”
Before the cops could react, he dropped the glass, threw the bottle at them and pulled an automatic from a desk drawer. He fired at Bare. Lisa was no longer his lover. She was the bitch detective who had been working against him from the start. Just for good measure, he took a couple of shots at her. Lisa and Bare ducked as the bullets shattered the glass above them.
“Guilty,” Lisa said smiling.
“Guilty,” Bare agreed.
As the cops converged on him, Frazer turned to run to the fire door that would allow him to escape down the hallway and out into the parking lot. As he did so, his foot caught in an electric cord and he fell.
As the cops led him away Bare and Lisa stood watching the procession. “He really was a blast,” she said, “sometimes, when he wasn’t killing people.”
“Yeah, honey. He was a blast, an evil man who lived in a world of music. He was a real blast from the past.”