As morbid as it sounds, I want to fill you in on some danger zones. Places I’m convinced are hot spots for either murder or victim disposal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
3. Dumpsters in Back Alleys
I’d recommend avoiding creepy alleys in general, but don’t go near the dumpsters. This was a lesson Batman and his parents learned the hard way.
Some people find boating or tubing down the river relaxing. Maybe it is. But keep an eye open for dead bodies. I mean, have you done a tally of the corpses pulled out of rivers on Dateline? It’s unsettling.
3. Jogging Trails
I’m sure you saw this coming, but jogging trails top my personal list of dead body hang outs. I’m not sure if people get murdered while jogging or if they just drop dead from the sheer craziness of it all. Maybe it’s just a prime dumping ground after the deed is done. But if my carcass ever turns up on a jogging trail, tell the police that I was murdered elsewhere and dumped. I’d never visit a place like that on purpose, because I have no desire to find a dead body.
The marshal takes a step back. “What do you mean, I’m not on the manifest?” His brow furrows. Either there’s simple explanation, or he should get an Oscar for the innocent act he’s playing.
“Your name’s not listed.” You cut a glance at his prisoner, Mara, who keeps her eyes trained on the floor. “She is, but you’re not.” You scan the list once more. “The marshal who’s listed in the seat next to her is Toby Scott.”
Marshal Durland’s shoulders relax. He steps toward you, and you swallow the building lump in your throat. “Toby asked me to trade assignments with him at the last minute.”
But why wouldn’t they have updated the manifest? The weight in your gut says all is not well in Whoville.
“Let’s see your credentials.” Griz steps beside you, arms crossed. Thank goodness, you’re not the only one who finds this fishy as the day is long.
The marshal fumbles, then pulls out a leather wallet-looking thing. He lifts the flap. The ID looks legit enough, but as well-thought out as the murder appeared, you guess a good deal of planning went into it. If Marshal Durland–or whoever this person was–had set this scheme in motion days ago, he would’ve had time to get a phony badge made. Fourteen year-olds got fake IDs all the time, for crying out loud.
You glance at Griz. He seems level-headed, but his eyes narrow, mirroring your own suspicion. “Take a seat next to the convict, marshal.” Distrust drips from every word.
“What do you plan to do?” Durland brushes back his jacket, revealing a pistol in his shoulder holster.
The passengers let out a collective gasp.
“You threatenin’ me?” Griz takes a step forward, clearly unintimidated. The way that network of scars crisscrosses his face, he’s probably seen worse than an air marshal with a 9mm.
“Please don’t flash your weapon.” Jessica steps behind the marshal, using her most soothing flight attendant’s voice. “You’re frightening the passengers.
Durland lets his coat drop and conceal the hand gun. “I’m just doing my job. Don’t interfere.” The marshal stuffs his badge into this pocket. When he pulls his hand out, a scrap of paper flutters from his pocket to the floor. He quickly moves his foot to cover it, but Jessica beats hims to it.
She unfolds the paper, and her eyes widen.
You extend a hand, and she slips you the sheet. It’s a handwritten blueprint of the airport in LA. You tilt the map for Griz’s inspection.
The old cowboy puffs out a breath. “Looks like you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Durland.”
Clue #7- Marshal Durland has a map of the LA airport.
Well, the end is in sight! Thank you all for sticking with me. If you haven’t had a chance, comment on the older Murder at 30,000 Feet posts to be entered in the $50 Amazon gift card drawling at the end of the mystery. 🙂
You step into the aisle with the marshal. He clears his throat. Passengers chatter back and forth, not seeming to notice that Durland has something to say. He raises a hand and tries again to command the crowd’s attention.
When you glance to your right at Mara who sits in wrist shackles beside Griz. The old cowboy catches your eye and raises his brows. You shrug. If the group won’t kill the noise for a law officer, no chance they’ll listen to you.
Griz stands, sticks two fingers in his mouth, and lets out a shrill whistle. The commotion dies. Marshal Durland casts a sheepish grin to Griz.
With all eyes on him, the marshal speaks. “Is there a Sam Collison here? We think he might have information on the crime and would like to speak with him. If he saw something, he could be a huge help.”
You bite your lip to mask a smile. Smooth move, Marshal. If Sam is looked at as a helper instead of a suspect, there would be less likelihood of panic, and he might be less on edge and more prone to come forward. You scan the faces in their seats. Heads shake. Passengers glance at one another with lowered brows. They seem genuinely confused. No one steps forward. Sam might be a really good actor. Or maybe he isn’t the killer at all. But what are the odds two people were out to kill the same man?
Jessica, the flight attendant steps up behind you and hands Griz a Dixie cup of something dark and fizzy.
You grip her arm. “Do you have access to the passenger manifest?”
“Sure.” She shrugs. “How else am I supposed to do my job?”
“Can I see it?” If Sam Collison is on this plane, you need to find him sooner rather than later.
“Give me a minute.” Jessica steps behind the curtain into her workspace. A minute later she returns and hands you a sheet.
A quick scan of the list yields no Sam Collison. Darting glances between the list and the people in their seats, you mentally check names off the list.
Everyone accounted for.
Someone’s missing. Your heart and stomach switch places.
You glance at Marshal Durland.
He raises a brow. “What’s that look for?”
“Your name’s not on the manifest.”
Clue #6- Marshal Durland isn’t listed on the passenger manifest.
Hmmm. What do you think that means? Does the marshal have a link to Jeff Archer?
Ever watch a scary movie and feel a wash of relief when it’s over, because it was nothing but a made-up story written by someone with a tortured mind. Well, let me pop that balloon of optimism for you. Not all scary movies are completely unfounded.
Ed Gein, a.k.a. The Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul has given me the willies for years. Turns out some of the most well-known psychological thrillers are rooted in his heinous crimes. I’ll give you three, but there are more in case you’re interested in a deep dive into psychopathy.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Although Leatherface is only loosely based off Ed Gein, the skin mask that the chainsaw wielding maniac wears is a nod to Gein. As are the body parts that decorate Leatherface’s home. HGTV had no hand in the killer’s decor, but Ed would have approved.
2. Silence of the Lambs
The serial killer, Buffalo Bill’s obsession with making suits out of his victims’ skin was taken from a page in Gein’s playbook.
Norman Bates’ twisted infatuation with his mother was patterned after Gein. When Gein’s mother passed away, her influence and tight laced ways remained cemented in his mind. Whenever a woman tempted him to step off the path of morality his mother had set him on, he killed her. Not sure if mommy would have approved of murder though.
From grave robbing to recycling human body parts, Ed Gein was one creepy dude. But his crimes show that sometimes fact is more unsettling than fiction.
You step into the restroom. The sight of the body on the floor turns your stomach. What could you possibly find that Marshal Durland didn’t notice. He’s the professional, after all.
The marshal hands you a pair of latex gloves, and you stretch them on. Carefully, so as not to contaminate the scene, you check the breast pocket of Archer’s suit coat. The gash on his neck has stained the material, but you shove that nasty detail into a mental box for later processing.
Nothing in the pocket. You check his pants. At first his pockets feel empty, but a folded slip of paper grazes your fingers. You pull it out and smooth the creases.
You scan the sheet. What on earth?
“It’s his will.” You glance up at the marshal then read Archer’s final wishes aloud.
“If you’re reading this, my lies have finally caught up with me, and he decided to hold me accountable. I’d like my assets to be divided evenly between my children. Their names and addresses are locked in the safe at my house in Bakersfield. Each of my wives can have the houses where they currently live.
All I ask of the person who finds my body is to have the police check into Sam Collison. He’s threatened me many times, and I wouldn’t put it past him to make good on his threats.”
Jeff had signed and dated at the bottom of the page. According to the date, he’d penned these requests just last week.
“Is there a passenger on the plane named Sam Collison?” You hand the document to the marshal.
A line forms between his brows. “Not sure. But we haven’t talked to everyone yet.”
“I think Sam’s the man we should be looking for.”
Clue #5 Jeff Archer’s will implicates Sam Collison.
Thank you all for joining me for week six! Do you think they’ll find Sam on the plane?
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge Criminal Minds fan. The show is amazing on so many levels. One thing I love about it is the way they delve into what makes the murderers tick. Some of the UNSUBs have left a permanent imprint on my mind for one reason or another. Here are my top three.
3. The Inbred- Blood Relations
As far as I know, the inbred is the only UNSUB on Criminal Minds that never had a name. That in itself sets him apart. But at the end of the episode, he escapes and kills a couple in a cabin. They never return to this storyline, so we can only assume he’s still at large in TV Land. Yikes!
2. Billy Flynn- Our Darkest Hour
First off, those teeth make my want to floss immediately. Also, I don’t look at people who own campers the way I used to. They really are homicide vans on wheels.
Floyd Feylinn Ferell- Lucky
The cannibal on this episode gave me the creepy crawlies for days. And that smile when the truth came out was chilling. Would not want to run into a guy like him … ever.
It was beyond difficult narrowing this down to three (four if you count the honorable mention.) Which UNSUBs stand out to you?
Also, now that Criminal Minds is over, do you have any recommendations for comparable shows to take its place?
You and Marshal Durland step away from the woman in the sun hat. Why didn’t she consider taking the silly thing off when there wasn’t a sunbeam in sight and the brim kept whacking people in the face? It doesn’t make sense, but the way this trip is going, it’s par for the course.
“That got us nothing.” The marshal massages the back of his neck.
“Let’s talk to Trey and Melani.” You shrug. “Maybe they can shine a little light on the situation.”
You start toward the pair of lovebirds. Melani boops Trey on the nose, and he grabs her finger and kisses it.
Your stomach threatens to toss the hoagie you had in the airport terminal. This should be a real treat.
Marshal Durland rolls his shoulders until they pop. “Got a minute to answer some questions?”
“Sure.” Trey nods. “Anything we can do to help.”
“I don’t know how much help we can be.” Melani tilts her chin. “We were here in our seats the whole time.”
“Did you notice anyone head toward the back of the plane after the murdered man?” the marshal asks.
“We didn’t see anyone get up.” Trey glances at Melani. “Did we babe?”
If that were true, how did Jeff Archer get to the restroom unnoticed? You glance at the rows behind the couple. Both Jeff and the killer must have been sitting behind Trey and Melani.
The marshal presses on in his questioning, but your mind wanders.
What if Jessica had something to do with the killing? Something in your gut tells you that the flight attendant and Angie Garret are connected. Both women have ties to Claire Wilson from the photograph the victim carried. Both had a history with domestic violence of some form or other.
Jessica had access to the entire airplane. Had she been accounted for the whole trip up to the point of discovering Jeff Archer?
There were three rows of passengers left to question, then Mara and the cowboy. But Griz had been sitting next to you, sound asleep. And in those handcuffs, Mara couldn’t be stealthy if she tried. Not to mention the fact, she was under the marshal’s thumb until he dropped her off with the authorities in Sydney.
Was it possible Archer had been killed before boarding? Marshal Durland said the body was still warm when he investigated. How long did bodies stay warm?
You pull out your phone and enter the question in your Safari app. Hopefully, Homeland Security doesn’t flag you or put you on a list for such a suspicious question.
The answer appears on your screen. Twelve hours for a body to turn completely cool to the touch. And you’d been in the air two hours before finding him. Technically, he could have died hours before take-off. Your shoulders droop. But if that’s true, the killer could be long gone.
You mind replays the image of Jeff Archer’s body and the gash across his throat. It wouldn’t have taken long to cut and run. You cringe probably not the best terminology. Had Griz been in your row before you boarded? You think back. Yes. He was already seated when you stuffed your carry-on in the overhead bin.
Had he seen something?
Had he done something?
“Anything else?” Trey rubs his hands on his cargo shorts.
The marshals brows raise as he shakes his head. “That should be it.”
The couple ease into their seats, unbothered by the close quarters.
“You sure spaced out there for a minute.” The marshal slides his notebook back into his pocket.
“Did I miss anything important?”
“Not a blessed thing.” The marshal puffs out a sigh. “Get any bright ideas while you were out in la-la land?”
“You know, dead bodies don’t go cold for twelve hours. The murder may have happened before boarding. We should check the restroom again. See if the lock on the door was tampered with. Something. There has to be a clue we’re missing.”
“Worth a shot.” Marshal Durland unfastens the top button of his shirt. And you head for the back of the plane and the compartment housing Jeff Archer’s body.
Clue #3 If the murderer is on the airplane, he or she would be sitting behind Trey andMelani, but the time frame just got wider.
Thanks for sticking with me! Stay tuned for another installment next Friday!
“Well, that got us nowhere.” Marshal Ken cracks his neck.
“It couldn’t be Angie.” You shrug. “I was sitting in the row ahead of her since we boarded, and she never left her seat. Neither did Devon.” You have a knot in your lower back to prove that point.
Jessica, the flight attendant passes into the room housing the rolling refrigerators. The marshal clears his throat and cranes his neck in her direction.
“Do you have a minute to answer some questions, Miss?” He flips to a fresh page in his notebook.
Her brow puckers and her tongue skims her bottom lip. “What would you like to know?”
“Would you give me your full name, please?”
“Jessica Carmichael.” She taps her fingers against her navy skirt.
“How long have you worked for the airline?” The marshal scribbles something in his notebook. Does he notice her nervous body language, too? Of course, he does. He’s the professional, not you. Still, if he doesn’t mention it, you will.
“It would be five years in January.” Her voice softens.
“Would be?” Marshal Ken’s eyes narrow. “You plan on quitting?”
Jessica’s gaze shifts to the stained blue carpet. “This is my last flight.” She meets the marshal’s eye, then cuts a glance your way. “I’ve enjoyed this job.” She gestures to a window with her hand. Lightning rims the bruised clouds in the distance. “Who wouldn’t want to travel the world?” Her shoulders slump. “But what good am I doing here? So many women need my help, and me working on a flying tin can, handing sweaty people pretzels and peanuts isn’t what I should be doing.”
“So you want to help women?” You lift a brow. Such specific goals usually sprang from specific stressors.
Tears glitter in Jessica’s eyes. She blinks repeatedly, as if trying to erase a distressing memory along with the moisture. “My sister.” She shakes her head. A tear whispers down her cheek. “Tawny. She never told us what was happening.”
“What was happening?” The marshal lowers his notebook.
Jessica bites her lip and glances at the ceiling. “Her husband.” Her jaw hardens. “He’d convinced her she couldn’t do any better than him. But if she’d have married a catfish off the internet, he’d have treated her better.”
“What happened?” Funny that Jessica’s sister and Angie share similar story threads. But then, abuse is more prevalent than people like to think.
“You’ve seen Snapped.” Jessica straightens her shoulders. “I used to think those women who stayed with men that beat them and belittled them were crazy. I mean, why not leave when your husband can’t treat you like a human being? Only weak women stay when they know it can’t possibly get better, right?”
Marshal Ken tilts his head, mouth in a grim line.
“But Tawny, she wasn’t like that–not before. She was so strong. You should have seen her when–” Jessica sighs. “It doesn’t matter now. He changed her. But he wasn’t only mistreating her. Tawny found out he had a second family in Miami. He worked in sales and traveled a lot. It almost killed my sister when she found out that her husband had a wife and kids. ‘That other woman.’ That’s what Tawny called her. Until my sister found out that she was the other woman.”
You take a step closer to Jessica. “I couldn’t help but notice that you referred to your sister in the past tense. Did something happen to her?”
Jessica’s chin quivered. “She found out she was pregnant. She couldn’t bear the thought of bringing a child into such a messed up home. Planned to leave Rick–her husband. She didn’t make it out the front door. He killed her–and the baby. She wasn’t very far along, but still, it was a human life.”
You chew the inside of your cheek. What can you say? Nothing will make Jessica’s ache go away.
“My other sister and I are going to start a women’s shelter next month.” Jessica’s lips tremble. “We’re naming it after Tawny.” She pulls in a jagged breath. “No other woman should have to go through what my sister did. And on my watch, I’ll make sure they won’t.”
“That’s very admirable.” Such weak words, but they’re the best you’ve got.
“Where is your brother-in-law incarcerated?” Marshal Ken reaches into his pocket.
Jessica scoffs. “He’s not. Got off on a technicality. There’s been no justice for my sister.” She grinds the words through clenched teeth.
You catch the marshal’s eye. The look on the flight attendant’s face screams for revenge. Could the man in the restroom be tied somehow to her sister’s murder?
“Do you know a man named Jeff Archer?” Marshal Ken asks.
“Never heard of him.” Jessica lifts her chin.
The marshal extends the photograph of Claire Wilson for the flight attendant’s inspection. “Do you know this woman?”
Jessica shakes her head, not bothering a glance at the picture. She has to know something. Why act so cagey otherwise?
“Please, take a look.”
With a sigh, Jessica’s gaze falls on the photo. She purses her lips, recognition sparks in her eye. “I don’t know her name, but I know who she is. When Tawny thought her husband was cheating, she had a private investigator follow him. That’s Rick’s real wife.”
Thoughts churn through your brain. If the woman in the photo, Claire Wilson, was Rick’s wife, who was Jeff Archer, and how did he play into their story?
Clue #3- Claire Wilson was married to Jessica’s brother-in-law.
Thank you all so much for following the story another week! Let me know in the comments if you’d like the Word doc I created to keep the story straight. Who would you like to interview next? Any ideas on who the killer is, or how the passengers might be connected?
Call me crazy, and you’d probably be right, but I love me some true crime television, and Investigation Discovery is my favorite channel. It’s fortunate I don’t have cable, because if I did, I’d spend all my free time watching criminal investigation shows that I’d likely never get a word written. Although, in my defense, some of these shows could be considered ‘research’ as I plan the story lines for some of my upcoming projects. Especially #2.
3. Evil Lives Here
This show comes from a different angle than most true crime offerings. Instead of seeing the case from the eyes of investigators or crime writers, Evil Lives Here focuses on the morderers’ family lives. Although, their families remember happy times, there were always signs that something wasn’t quite right. Personally, I feel that looking at evil people from this point of view helps me see the perpetrators as human rather than just bad and two-dimensional. The episode that hit closest, literally, followed Robert Hawkins. He was the Von Maur shooter in Omaha–just a couple of hours from my hometown.
2. Web of Lies
I enjoy this show quite a lot. As helpful as the internet is for work and communicating with friends, it’s a really good way for murderers to meet potential victims. Seriously, watch a few episodes, and you’ll view the world wide web in a different way.
1. People Magazine Investigates
This show tops the list, since the crimes it covers involve some of the most high-profile murders in the recent past. The episodes are so well-researched and intriguing, that I couldn’t help but give it the spot of honor.
What are your favorite true crime shows? I’d love to hear your thoughts and check out any that I’ve not seen before.