Michael pulled up the database he'd been working on since high school.
The failure of the Law to do anything about the man who abused him made him all the more determined to get justice on his own. His prized movie poster of "Underworld" with Kate Beckingsale in her leather-clad glory hid a secret from his parents and sister. If he let the poster hang down, the backing held a dry-erase board, which showed the relationships his abuser had with everyone else he could identify.
Nate Stenman was every bit the family man and pillar of the community he purported to be, but this was the age of the Internet. Over two years, Michael spent hour upon hour learning everything he could about him from publicly-available sources. He collected data, turning it into a web of connections, always looking for something he could against him. Not much happened until Michael turned sixteen and got his driver's license. At that point, he started more intrusive methods, including active surveillance.
Michael staked out the Stenman's home whenever he could get free for a few hours. He would drive to North Milwaukee when he was supposed to be at a friend's house studying or working out or after leaving Angel at the mall with her friends. Michael took pictures and watched for young kids coming to the house. He didn't see much; Nate spent time working in his garage on warm summer nights, and the drapes were closed inside the house.
Michael needed a way in if he was going to find anything. He started jogging through the neighborhood and playing basketball at a local park. Michael eventually caught the eye of Nate's fifteen-year-old daughter, Natalie, a tall and thin redhead with braces and freckles on her nose. He had grown up into a good-looking young man, and his body was in top shape after all his running and martial arts training. Michael started to notice Natalie hanging around the basketball court, cheering for him as he played with his shirt off.
He walked her home after a game that went into the evening, and they hit it off. He asked her out, taking her to McDonald's and a movie. He turned that into a second date. The two talked on the phone every night. Michael didn't pick her up from her home because he didn't want her father to recognize him, and Natalie wasn't allowed to date until she was sixteen.
Instead, they met elsewhere over the summer. A few weeks later, she invited him into her home while her parents and younger sister were gone for the weekend.
Michael had ordered the spy cameras in the mail and had the equipment in his backpack when he arrived. Billed as "nanny-cams," one device looked like a book, and the other a small figurine. The lens was tiny and difficult to spot, while the recorders were motion and voice-activated. When Natalie was in the shower, he slipped out of her bedroom and went downstairs to Nate's office. He planted one of the cameras on the shelf behind his desk, pointing it at his computer, and put another in the garage shop. The cameras would record up to fifty hours of audio and video while he was gone, and all he had to do was go back there in a week and swap out the batteries and the memory cards. All of this was illegal, immoral, and inadmissible in court; it also had him taking advantage of an innocent girl who liked him a lot.
Michael didn't care once he started listening to the recordings.
Michael had read everything he could find in the library and on the Internet about what made pedophiles and child abusers tick. He knew that unless you were abusing a child in your house, you probably had a long time between actual times with one of your victims. From his talks with Natalie, he didn't think her father had abused her. No, her Daddy liked little boys. His perfect suburban family couldn't give him what he needed.
That's why he had a porn stash.
Michael almost skipped through the part where he removed a panel from the side of a bookcase, reaching in to retrieve a small box. Inside was a VHS tape that he put in the television in the corner of his office. Michael watched in horror as the television showed a dark basement and a bed. Nate opened his slacks and started whacking off to a home movie showing the coach raping a young boy.
Michael nearly broke his laptop, knocking it to the floor of his bedroom as he stood up in shock. All that rage he'd repressed came forward, and it needed an outlet. Michael wanted to beat the shit out of Coach Nate, but the two had a history. He'd be a suspect, and he might get caught. That would destroy Angel. After taking some deep breaths, he calmed down.
Instead, Michael rewatched the video closely to see where in the garage Nate stashed the porn. Then, he called the State Police tip line from a payphone. "Wisconsin State Police, Detective Adams," a man said after Michael's call was transferred to the right division.
"I discovered a friend's father has videos showing young boys getting raped," I told the man. "I don't know what to do!"
"It's all right; you're talking to the right person about this. What's your name?"
"I don't want to say," Michael told him. "I wasn't supposed to be in his office. His daughter thought he had vodka hidden in there, and I don't want her to get into trouble." He started crying to make it seem more realistic.
"All right; we'll call you John Doe for now, ok, kid? Why don't you start by telling me the name of her father."
"Nate Stenman, but Natalie can't know that I called the cops. She'd never forgive me." Michael told him where Natalie lived. The detective walked him through the discovery of the tapes in the office. "The sides of the bookcase are wide, and it looks like a big piece of solid wood. It sounded thin and hollow on the side, though. I played with it and found the side panel just lifted off. Inside were shelves filled with home movies."
"Were they labeled?"
"Only by day, or a person's name. Honest to God, I thought I'd found dirty movies. I put one in the VCR he has in his office and almost threw up when I saw what it was. The kid was maybe five, and he was crying the whole time."
"What did you do then, son?"
"I put the videotape back where I got it, closed it up, and got the fuck out of there. I told Natalie I didn't find anything, but I haven't been able to think of anything else." Michael waited for a few seconds. "Can you do anything?"
Detective Adams was quick to reassure him. "I have to write up the tip and take it to a judge to get a search warrant," he told him. "It might take a while before you hear anything. Here's my direct line." He gave Michael a phone number. "In the meantime, you tell no one what you saw or that you talked to me. If anything gets back to her father before we execute the search, he might destroy the evidence and get away with it."
"I won't say anything," Michael said. He hung up and waited.
The next night, the family had the local news on in the background while making dinner when a crime story came on. "Milwaukee Police executed a search warrant on a North Milwaukee home today, removing cartons of photographs and videotapes. Arrested at the scene was Nathaniel John Stenman, age 42. Prosecutors have charged Mr. Stenman with multiple counts of Possession of Child Pornography and one count of Resisting Arrest." The video showed Nate leaving his house in handcuffs, his head down, as his family watched in horror from inside the home.
Michael never talked to Natalie again.
Once again, Michael got cheated out of the justice he sought. Nate made bail a few days later, then blew his brains out the next morning in his office chair. The investigators screened all his material; Nate was tied to five victims directly, but most of the videos were already out there. Underground websites and message boards traded child porn like baseball cards.
Michael had a photographic memory, a blessing for his school and work, but a curse for his background. He remembered every face of every man who abused him a decade earlier, and he wanted them all to suffer more than he did.
Every week since then, he spent time searching the Sex Offender's Registries for people he knew. Angel's FBI files were far more extensive and helpful to his search.
He felt guilty about swiping the files from her work computer, but she couldn't know what he was doing.
Supervisory Special Agent Dan Robinson had a simple mission for his Task Force. "The Philadelphia police have a suspect in custody they think is the Monster Hunter. Some of you think it's not him. This week, the priority is to find out. I want you digging through his life. You five," he gestured that included Angel. "Find any connections between him and any of the other victims. The rest of you dig into his movements and history. Find something that proves he could NOT have committed any of the other murders we've assigned to the Monster Hunter. Come to me, and tell me if he's our guy. Get to work."
Our group got together to discuss strategy. Since Angel was their forensic accountant, she got to look at his bank accounts. The Philadelphia District Attorney had already issued the warrants, and a few phone calls got the data transferred, along with a few updates. "Our man hasn't said a thing, and he's got a lawyer. The arraignment is this afternoon. We did find his name in our files under another case. His son Billy claimed that he was raped at a church summer camp ten years ago. Kentrell Brown was his camp counselor. The boy didn't say anything until his suicide note told of the assault and named Kentrell as the man who did it."
"Fuck." They had his motive now.
"Yeah. The father took the note to the Philadelphia Police. They took his statement and the suicide note, but it wasn't enough. The statute of limitations was not expired, but the victim never reported the abuse. There were no other complaints, the other camp counselors provided no corroborating evidence, and now they couldn't get the boy's testimony. The State didn't have enough probable cause to arrest Kentrell, much less charge and convict him. They couldn't even put him in the sex offender registry without a conviction, and they couldn't tie him to anything else. The detective recommended getting a civil lawyer and sent him on his way."
"When did this happen?"
"Six months ago."
Angel knew six months wasn't long enough. "You realize that your timeline takes away any motivation for your suspect to be the Monster Hunter, who has been active for the past six years."
"Yeah. The boss doesn't want to hear it, though. We've got plenty to tie him to this murder. Good luck with anything else, Agent Johnson."
Angel sat down at her desk and started going through the information he'd sent. They had his bank records and credit card statements while our office got his tax returns. She got them all organized in tabs on her computer and went to work.
Angel always worked from the most general to the most specific information, so she began with the tax returns. The deductions showed his wife passed away two years earlier, and she made a note to check his accounts for insurance payments. The father was an over-the-road truck driver, which meant his income varied with his work schedules. There were W-2's from a dozen different companies; Angel made a note to look into why he'd move around so much.
His job would make tracing his movements easier if he used credit cards for food, fuel, and tolls. He was sure to have electronic toll passes, and they could get a warrant for those records. The tolls would give them the best data on his movements, as the credit cards only showed the monthly rollup payments.
Angel went back seven years in his tax records, looking for any signs of suspicious income or expenses. Not finding anything, she went to his credit cards. He had three of them; one business card for his truck, a Visa with his bank, and one with American Airlines. She searched the airline one first; it had the least activity, with annual flights to Orlando and Dallas listed. Neither location was near any of the Monster Hunter crime scenes, so she moved on.
She went to the personal credit card next and saw the charge from last week. "HARRIS MEDICAL ASSOCIATES," the line read, for one hundred dollars. A search showed no other payments to this company. Opening up a browser window, I looked it up and found out it was a cancer treatment center.
I called back my contact in Philadelphia. "Max, does your prisoner have cancer?"
"What are you talking about, Angel?"
"I'm looking through his credit card history, and I found this charge, probably a copay for an office visit last week." She read the information to him. "It's the only one, so it isn't for treatment. I'd bet he went to talk to someone there about a diagnosis."
"I'll look into it. Thanks, Angel." As he hung up, Angel knew in her gut what had happened. If the doctors told him he had a few months to live, the anger he had towards Kentrell would overwhelm his morals and fear of punishment.
He'd dole out justice before he was gone too.
It fit what Angel saw in that basement; raw anger, lack of concern about getting caught, and a stomach unable to handle the mess he was making of him.
Angel continued until lunchtime, going back a year quickly before focusing on specific charges. She printed out every purchase he made on the dates of the other Monster Hunter attacks. Her boss divided a bulletin board into sections for each of his crimes, and Angel attached the information she found. She stopped when a few team members walked in with boxes of New York-style pizza.
After lunch, Angel and her team gathered to go over what they had found. She updated everyone on the news out of Philadelphia about the rape, suicide, and probably cancer diagnosis. "Everything is lining up towards this being a one-off crime of revenge," she finished.
The team went over the information they had on each of the Monster Hunter crime. For half of them, they had enough evidence to show the suspect could not be the killer. It was enough for Robinson to call an end. "I'll inform Philadelphia that their man is not the Monster Hunter," he told them. "Our man is still out there, and he shows no sign of stopping. At four, we're going to meet in the auditorium and get fresh eyes to look at our information. Each of you will take one of the crime scenes to brief out; work out among yourselves who takes what. You'll give everyone a summary, taking no more than five minutes, of the victim, the crime scene, any forensic evidence from it, and any ties to other victims. Prepare a Powerpoint show with what you need. Get to work."
The Task Force members were on the stage with the projection screen behind them. Fifty or so agents of all ranks were in the room with senior leadership in the front. Agent Robinson thanked them all for coming, talked about what would happen, and encouraged them to take notes and ask questions at the end of each speaker. Angel drew one of the oldest crimes, so she was the fourth to speak.
Angel's presentation started with the victim. "Manuel Tejas Marciano, age thirty-two, the Bronx. Multiple offenses of indecent exposure and assault, and just finished six years in Rikers for the rape of a fifteen-year-old girl. He was a Level 2 sex offender, living in a halfway house and working at a foundry. This slide is graphic." She moved to the crime scene slide. "His coworkers found him the next morning. Death was by suffocation or burning, not that it mattered. Manuel was found like this, tied to a pillar with a metal funnel placed into his throat, and molten lead poured into his throat. Some of it burned through his chest and stomach, while the rest solidified inside him." She changed slides to show a dusty footprint. "One right footprint made by a Size 10 Red Wing work boot similar to this one. Of course, half the guys working there wore similar boots, six of them in Size 10. Analysis of wear and markings excluded them as suspects. No fingerprints or other forensic evidence, and no connections to any of the other victims. Questions?"
There were none. The presentation went on for thirty more minutes, and then the Behavioral Profiling Unit psychologist took five minutes to give her thoughts. Angel's boss closed the hour out. "I'd ask that each of you think about what you've seen overnight. Please get back to me by the end of the day tomorrow with any new connections or lines of inquiry you'd suggest. Thank you."
Angel went back to the office, where Agent Robinson kicked them all out. "I meant you guys too. Come back with some fresh ideas in the morning."
She texted her brother that she was leaving work, and he said he'd take care of dinner. She got home at six-thirty, leaving her shoes by the door.
Out of curiosity, she checked the tongue of Michael's tennis shoe.
It was a Size 10.
Michael came into the kitchen, which smelled like fried chicken. "How was work?"
"Frustrating," Angel replied honestly. "I was right about Philadelphia. The guy they arrested wasn't our guy. He is the dying father of a boy that Kentrell molested in camp over a decade ago. The boy didn't report the attack, and he got away with it. His son named him in his suicide note."
"Damn." He could see how this kind of situation would affect her. "At least he won't be raping any more young boys."
"Did he deserve to die?"
Michael put his hands on his sister's shoulders and looked into her eyes. "We both know Kentrell worked jobs that would place him in authority over young boys, Angel. The camp thing wasn't a one-and-done; he did this for YEARS and likely abused dozens, maybe hundreds of kids. Those fancy profilers you use will tell you the same thing. It's like cockroaches; if you see one, there are hundreds you didn't see." She knew he was right. "You shouldn't waste one second feeling sorry for that dead bastard in the basement. I feel sorry for the boy who killed himself because he never recovered and the father who will spend the rest of his life in jail to get justice."
"Is it justice?"
"No," Michael replied, and Angel relaxed. "Kentrell would have to die a dozen times, each way more excruciating than the last, for it to be justice. They'll keep creating victims until someone stops them, Sis. That's why you drive yourself so damn hard in your job. I love that about you, but your life needs some balance to it."
She knew he would ask her about her time with Das D, and she wasn't ready for that inquisition. "I'm going to shower and change," Angel said.
"Dinner will be on the table when you come back down."
Angel went upstairs, hanging up her suit and slacks for the dry cleaners and tossing the rest in the hamper on her way to the bathroom. While doing her hair, she thought about what Michael said. It hit her what was missing from her life right now was bringing justice for the young victims. Ever since her assignment to the Task Force, she'd been conflicted. She knew the Task Force had done some good, but her group was more like remoras. They latched on to the Monster Hunter's victims, feeding off the crap he left behind for them.
If Michael was right, the Monster Hunter had done more good lately than she had. She didn't know how she'd feel when they finally got him.
Angel washed her hair as she thought about today. She had to come up with something new by the morning; maybe talking about things with her brother would give her an idea. Angel finished up and dressed in her lounge clothes; a Marquette T-shirt, plaid pajama pants, and fuzzy socks. When she got to the table, Michael had dinner laid out. "Thanks for cooking," he said.
"You can't eat takeout food all the time, you know. I went shopping this afternoon and stocked the fridge."
He only did that when he was going to be around for a while. "No missions coming up?"
"I've made enough money for a while," he replied. "I was planning to put more miles on the Harley before winter hits."