top of page

Term Limits by Steve Powell

Chapter 4

He took the 4:08 local train to Grand Central.

After he’d killed Mrs. Thompson, as he walked to her car in the driveway, he peeled off the outer pair of surgical gloves that he’d worn inside the house. Once he reached her car, he removed the disposable black jumpsuit he was wearing over his street clothes. As he took each item off, he put it directly into a garbage bag that he had placed inside his backpack. Once inside, sitting in the driver’s seat, he closed the door and somewhat awkwardly removed the surgical shoe covers he had on and the odor eater shoe liners he had placed inside the shoe covers. He put those in the backpack too. Then he drove her car into the nearby town of Ridge and parked on a residential street near the train station. Before he left the car, he tossed the key into the center console and adjusted the seat to its backmost position. He removed the second, inner pair of surgical gloves from his hands and carefully placed them in his backpack. Holding a sanitary wipe in his cupped hand, he opened the door and stepped out carrying his backpack. He closed the door with his hip and walked east, away from the train station. He wore khakis, a blue button-down shirt, a navy blue windbreaker, a Yankee’s cap and dark sunglasses; all commonly found in stores like Walmart and Target.

He continued east for several blocks then circled around and made his way back to the station, eventually approaching from the west, the opposite direction from the victim’s parked car. Using the second half of a roundtrip ticket he purchased days earlier, he took the 4:08 local to Grand Central. He got off the train in Fordham and walked to a car he parked nearby about six hours earlier. From there he drove west.

Five hours later, he made his first stop. He went to the drive-thru window of a McDonald’s then pulled into the parking lot to eat. After he finished eating he dropped the second pair of inside-out surgical gloves in the half-full brown trash container in the parking lot. He gassed up and drove for another few hours. For the second stop, he pulled into an all night service center on the highway. He bought more gas and then parked. Before he went inside, he put Band Aids on the tips of his left thumb and left index finger. Then he went in and purchased three different newspapers, touching the middle one, USA Today, with only the covered thumb and index fingertips. Holding the papers under his left elbow, he casually slipped his left index finger and thumb into his right hand and, with a practiced motion, tugged the Band Aids free. While he waited in line at the checkout counter, he slipped the crumpled Band Aids into his pants pocket. When his turn came, holding only the outer two papers, he dropped all three onto the counter and asked for a bag. Then he went to the Wendy’s inside the service area and bought a burger, a chocolate shake and a large cup of coffee. He ate in his car and read one of the papers. After he finished eating, he turned off the reading light and slipped on a fresh pair of black surgical gloves. He folded his disposable jump suit into the unread, untouched USA Today and disposed of it in the Wendy’s trashcan next to his car. Then he dumped the entire milkshake into the trashcan, over the jumpsuit and the paper, but kept the cup.

At his next stop he tossed the backpack. During the subsequent stops he got rid of the shoe covers, the remaining latex gloves, the Band Aids and all of the fast food garbage he had accumulated along the way.

She was his fourth kill and the smoothest so far. Fourteen hours after her death, he was approaching the Indiana border. In the past five days, he hadn’t really spoken to anyone other than to order meals, buy newspapers or check into and out of motels. He’d been totally unremarkable.

He pulled into a rest area and slept for a few hours.

Chapter 5

Sean Ready was the Special Agent assigned to the Thompson case. Ready was thirty-seven years old and had been with the Bureau for fourteen years. He was 6′2′′ and weighed 195 pounds. He kept his hair short to make it easy to care for, and dressed like an agent: dark gray or navy suits, white shirts, subdued ties and black shoes and socks. He actually looked more imposing than he felt. Though tall and fit, he was not exceedingly strong, at least not by Bureau standards. His strength was his mind. He loved a puzzle and the more complex it was, the better.

The Thompson murder was quickly shaping up to be one of the most difficult cases he’d ever encountered. And because it was such a high profile case, it had the potential to ruin his career. Ready had plenty of successes, so there wasn’t a lot of upside. If he found the killer, he was doing his job. But if he didn’t, he’d quickly be replaced, presumably by someone who could.

The local chief, John Mountain, had done everything right so far but knew he was in over his head. He was also mature enough and smart enough to know he was better off away from the cameras. That was for the Feds, for Special Agent Ready.

Ready and the chief were pretty clear on how the murderer got away from the Thompson residence. Once they’d found the car, the Summerset and Ridge police had the sense to not do more than a perfunctory search. They assured the FBI’s forensic team that they hadn’t left any new prints or disturbed evidence. The Feds’ team impounded the car and towed it away in an enclosed tow truck so that, to the extent possible, any internal or external evidence that the driver left behind might remain intact.

But after the car, there was nothing. The murderer left Mrs. Thompson’s Mercedes on a residential street, so there were no closed circuit videos of him parking or exiting the car. The train station in Ridge had surveillance cameras in the station and on the platforms just outside the station, but not at the ends. The killer could have easily avoided the cameras, if he took a train. Agent Ready doubted he had; it left too much to chance. It seemed more likely he had gone to his own car. But if his car was somewhere else, presumably in Ridge, how did he get to Mrs. Thompson’s house in the first place? So far, none of the neighbors remembered seeing anyone unusual around the neighborhood, though most reported seeing the usual steady stream of innocuous, largely anonymous walkers, runners and bikers. With the winding roads, the hilly wooded topography and four acre zoning, a runner or biker could easily have cut into the Thompson property unseen, from either the front or from the twenty-eight acre conservation area that abutted her land.

Agent Ready knew he had to let the local police and the field agents try to track down leads. His job wasn’t to gather evidence. It was to direct the search and interpret the evidence. There was no sign of robbery. So, unless Mrs. Thompson caught an intruder right as he came in and he panicked and killed her, then left without taking anything, it seemed likely that this was something more. Who would want to kill a seventy-something year old woman? Her son, the senator? Not likely. A lover? Ready guessed it was possible. She was clearly worth a great deal of money. Maybe some gold digger had tried and failed with her. Or maybe the murder was politically motivated. By virtue of his longevity and power, Senator Thompson’s name frequently came up in conversations about potential presidential candidates. Could his mother’s murder somehow be tied to that? Any number of angry constituents or lobbyists or even foreign or domestic terrorists could be trying to strike out at the senator by killing his mother, a much easier target.

Ready realized he had nothing. He needed to find about more about Mrs. Thompson and her son.

Term Limits is available in paperback and ebook

bottom of page