The Jock and the Madman
There was a funny smell throughout the place. Medicinal. Angie had collected herbs and vitamins of all types, and her apartment smelled like a nutrition store, of all things.
Bruckner left, and returned another day. Left and returned. Stayed a while. Stayed a while. He touched things. Papers. Letters. Gentle rifling at first, then shuffling, and finally shoveling huge piles of flotsam around the apartment. He found newspapers. Hmm. He found receipts, too. Vast numbers of receipts. Volumes of paper slips, a blizzard. He’d need a massive sock to stuff and carry it in.
Wait — this one’s dated March 31st. A couple of days after Angie disappeared. He held it up for closer inspection. A Rite Aid drugstore receipt. Garbage bags. Paint tarps. Room-freshening aerosol spray cans.
He went to Rite Aid, striding up and down the aisles. Looking. Looking. And there they were: Paint tarps. They were clear. Plastic. Just like the one in the bathroom. An image flashed: The killer, snuffing out Angie’s life. Spreading tarps in the bathroom. Cutting her up. Stuffing parts into garbage bags –
All the while, Bruckner kept up a normal life. He called friends, attended church, practiced soccer. “On the way to practice, I’d ride with my teammates,” he said. Along the way, he talked through everything he had seen.
His soccer buddies just shook their heads. “Adam,” one said. “What are you doing?”
“On Monday I’d say, I think it’s Red Colt. Then on Tuesday I’d find out something else, and I’d say, it’s Darryl,” Bruckner told me. “A homeless guy had told me he knew both of them. I just took him at his word.”
Then one day everything blurred, and melted together. Bruckner found a scrap of paper covered in writing, in Darryl’s block style.
THIS IS RED COLT. ANGIE IS SICK, AND STAYING IN NEW YORK. …
A script. Red Colt wrote everything down, part of his obsessive-compulsive behavior, and this was a script for the phone call to the landlord, explaining Angie’s disappearance. So Red Colt had two writing styles: The intricate, filigreed writing for his philosophical musings, and the heavy block pattern when he felt under duress.
Red Colt and Darryl were the same man. His old friend. The eccentric elderly man with ornate manners. Calcium and protein. Connected to Bruckner by the thread of obsessive behavior, drawn so tight it vibrated when either touched it, across time or distance. Bruckner saw it all: Red Colt had killed Angie, cut her up, put her in bags and then pushed them in his cart down to the river. Tied them to a tree, so they wouldn’t bob up downstream.
“From that moment on,” Bruckner said, “I wouldn’t be able to rest until I found him.”
Receipts, plastic tarps, block writing and scripted phone calls. The cops stopped laughing at Adam Bruckner. They started bringing him along on their investigation. He could tap into something they just didn’t have.
“You never find people who work that hard on a murder,” Detective Mangold told me. “Not even when it’s their own family.”
Bruckner led a double life for a while, riding in an undercover cop car all night, prowling railroad tracks and back alleys, looking for Red Colt. Then in the mornings he taught little girls how to play soccer at summer camp.
One day the elfin enigma named Tyson appeared with another piece of clairvoyant information: He’d seen Red Colt, walking down the street. And someone had noticed a wad of money sticking out of his pocket.
Bruckner shook his head. “Who are you talking about? Red Colt is homeless. … ”
He expanded his search, pushing deeper. He knew Red Colt loved to read, so he visited a library. “I’m, ah … I’m Red Colt,” he told the woman at the front desk. “You’ve got several overdue fees,” she told him. “They’re for books at our branch at 6th and Girard.”
“I’m sorry. Thanks very much.”