The Amateur

I spent the next morning on the computer.

On the Internet there was a list of inmate and prison release databases. I didn't bother with the sex offender databases, but there was still a lot of material. I wasn't exactly sure what to look for. The databases let you look up releases by name or prison number, but not by crime or weapon.

I collected as many email addresses of prison officials, inmate services, whatever I thought might be helpful. Then I composed a letter, asking about releases of anyone convicted of using a high-power rifle, or anyone with a service record that included sniper training, especially if the mental state of the inmate was in question.

I sent the letter to all of the addresses on the list, as a blind copy, so they wouldn't know it was sent to anyone but them. Sometimes people ignore mail sent to large lists, or think that one of the others on the list will answer.

I called the police next. A busy woman listened to my questions about prison releases for a moment and then cut in, saying that this was not the right number for information of that sort, and asked if I would like to be put through to detective Murphy.

"He handles questions like that?" I asked.

"No, Mr. Bloch, but all questions about your wife's case go through his office."

I hadn't mentioned my name. She put me through, but his voice mail answered. I didn't leave a message.