Darkest Fear Page 27

“Time and hope,” he says, “sow the seeds of despair.”

The father of two has been missing for three years. The young premed college student has been missing for twenty-seven months. The newlyweds were married almost two years ago this weekend. To date, not a trace of any of them has been found. Rarely does a week pass when the families don’t get a call from their tormentor.

When I ask him if his victims are alive or dead, he is coy. “Death is closure,” he explains, “and closure stops the sowing.”

He wants to talk about society, how computers and technology are doing our thinking for us, how what he does lets us see the power of the human brain.

“That is where God exists,” he says. “That is where all things valuable exist. True bliss can only be found inside of you. The meaning of life is not in your new home entertainment system or sports car. People must see their limitless potential. How do you make them see? Right now imagine what these families are going through.”

His voice soft, he invites me to try.

“Technology could never conjure up the horrors you are now imagining. Sow the seeds. Sowing the seeds shows us the potential.”

Myron’s heart pounded in big thuds. He sat back, shook his head, started reading again. The crazed kidnapper ranted on, his theories feverishly demented, sort of Symbionese Liberation Army by way of Ted Kaczynski. Stan Gibbs’s column continued into the next day’s paper. Myron hit the link and read on. During the second day, Gibbs opened with some heartbreaking quotes from the family of the victims. Then he questioned the kidnapper some more:

I ask him how he has managed to keep these kidnappings out of the media.

“By sowing the seeds,” he repeats yet again.

I ask for an example.

“I tell his wife to go to the garage and open the red Stanley toolbox on the third shelf. I tell her to pick out the black pliers with the bubble grip. Then I send her to the basement. I tell her to stand in front of the Mission chair they bought the previous summer at that tag sale on the Cape. Imagine, I say, your husband tied naked to that chair. Imagine those pliers in my hand. And finally, imagine what I’ll do if I see anything about him in the newspaper.”

But he does not stop there.

“I ask her about the children. I mention their names. I mention their schools and their teachers and their favorite breakfast cereal.”

I ask him how he knows these things.

His answer is simple. “Daddy tells me.”

Myron fell back. “Jesus,” he uttered.

Deep breaths, he told himself again. In and out. That’s it. Think it through. Slowly now. Carefully. Okay, first off: Horrible as this is, what does it have to do with Davis Taylor né Dennis Lex? Probably nothing. The worst sort of long shot. And again, horrible as this is, Myron knew that there was more to the story. More—and in a sense, less.

The Gibbs columns drew weeks’ worth of nationwide attention and criticism—until, Myron remembered, it all blew up in the most public way possible. What had happened exactly? Myron hit some keys and clicked the mouse. He started a search of articles where Stan Gibbs was the subject. They came up in date order:


The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which in recent weeks has been denying the allegations listed in Stan Gibbs’s columns, took a new tack today. They demanded his notes and information.

Dan Conway, a spokesman for the FBI, began by saying, “We know nothing about these crimes,” then added, “But if Mr. Gibbs is being truthful, he has important information on a possible serial kidnapper and killer, perhaps even harboring or aiding him. We have a right to that information.”

Stan Gibbs, a popular columnist and television journalist, has refused to reveal his sources. “I’m not protecting a killer here,” Mr. Gibbs said. “The families of the victims as well as the perpetrator of the crimes spoke to me under the strict condition of confidentiality. It’s a cry as old as our country: I will not reveal my sources.”

The New York Herald and American Civil Liberties Union have already denounced the FBI and plan on backing Mr. Gibbs. The judge has ordered the case sealed from the public.

Myron read on. The arguments on both sides were pretty standard. Gibbs’s attorneys naturally wrapped themselves in the First Amendment, while the feds equally naturally countered that the First Amendment was not an absolute, that you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and that freedom of expression does not include protecting possible criminals. The country also argued the issue. It played well on CNBC and MSNBC and CNN and a bunch of other cable letters, lighting up the phone lines like a radio giveaway. The judge was about to render a verdict when the whole story exploded in a way no one expected.

Myron hit the link:


Reporter accused of plagiarism

Myron read the endgame shocker: Someone had found a mystery novel published by a tiny press with a minuscule print run in 1978. The novel, Whisper to a Scream, by F. K. Armstrong, closely mirrored Gibbs’s story. Too closely. Certain snippets of dialogue were pretty much copied verbatim. The crimes in the novel—kidnappings with no resolution—were too similar to what Gibbs had written to be dismissed as coincidence.

The plagiaristic spectres of Mike Barnicle and Patricia Smith and the like rose from the grave and would not disperse. Heads rolled. There were resignations and hand-wringing. For his part, Stan Gibbs refused to comment, which didn’t look good. Gibbs ended up “taking a leave of absence,” a modern-day euphemism for getting fired. The ACLU issued an ambiguous statement and retreated. The New York Herald quietly retracted the story, saying that the matter “was under internal review.”

After some time passed, Myron reached for the phone and dialed.

“News desk. Bruce Taylor speaking.”

“How about meeting me for a drink?”

“I know this is out nowadays, Myron, but I’m strictly hetero.”

“I have the ability to change you.”

“I don’t think so, pal.”

“Several women I’ve dated started out hetero,” Myron said. “But one date with me and whammo, they switched teams.”

“I love it when you’re self-deprecating, Myron. It’s just so real.”

“So what do you say?”

“I’m on deadline.”

“You’re always on deadline.”

“You buying?”

“To quote my brethren during Passover seders, why should this night be different from any other night?”

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