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"Punchinello"


Chapter 1
Punchinello Chapter One

By Brett Matthew West

Like a beacon, the Daniels' house lingered ten glorious steps away at the cobblestoned intersection of Cassandra Boulevard and Forsythe Street. The sight of the blue Victorian filled Punchinello with admiration. Overcome with strong emotions, he clapped his hands together in sheer delight. With a boney finger, he brushed chestnut bangs, that draped over his forehead, out of his eyes. A happy expression lit the upturned corner of his puckered lips. For a moment, Punchinello stood in eerie silence. His lengthy sojourn at an end. He'd come to murder the sheriff and stake his claim to fame.

Out of the blue conversations with himself commonplace, Punchinello said, "No more hiding, Brock. It's time for confrontation."

Poikilothermic, The cold-blooded assailant chafed to get his hands around the sheriff's throat. Eighteen wasted years gnawed him. He felt like the fat and juicy rats that climbed the steel bars of his cell in the North Annex of the Columbia Creek Work Farm. His debt would be collected in the spilled blood of the lawman who'd placed him inside the catacombs of the penal colony. Punchinello longed to garrotte the life out of his arch nemesis. But, that was not his intention. Punchinello had something far worse planned.

The thought of watching the sheriff's eyeballs explode out of his head made Punchinello laugh out loud. "Soon, Brock, soon," he vowed, "you will suffer intense indignation for every hellacious moment I was locked up; all nine million, four-hundred-and-sixty-thousand, eight hundred of them!"

Mentally, Punchinello danced the Watusi from where he stood to the structure's front door. His knees bent, Punchinello shifted his weight to his right leg and extended his right hip. Meanwhile, he bent his arms and glided them to the same side. He shifted to his left and swung his arms in that direction. Then he repeated the process...back and forth, back and forth. While he sashayed, he pointed his hands upward and bobbed his head. Punchinello stopped dancing. His blind hatred for the sheriff returned.

"I know every single move from this point to the end regardless of how the climax plays out, Brock. I've rehearsed them at least a hundred thousand times. Have you?" He snarled. Silence answered his veiled threat.

In the bright light of the noontime sun, Punchinello stared across the two dirt lanes of Cassandra Boulevard. He knew very little traffic ran through the small town. He darted his steel grey eyes from window to window. Every crisp detail etched into his mind. Unbeknownst to the sheriff, Punchinello had been there before. He remembered a hummingbird feeder hung on a rusty nail in the far corner of the front porch. He noticed an Avengers box kite dangled precariously above the eave, just out of reach of the iron gargoyle that adorned the roof. No doubt, Cody's kite. Little boys liked their action figures, and the young peckerhead was no exception. Punchinello shuddered. How he loathed well-manicured lawns. It would warm his frigid heart to set this one ablaze.

"Good things only come to those who wait, and time is all I have," Punchinello told himself.

What pleased Punchinello the most was the distraction he observed in the cozy den of the residence. In Punchinello's world, diversions were such convenient inconveniences. For a brief moment, he beheld Ralph Steiner, Channel 13's meteorologist. The weatherman graced the idiot box. A stylish toupee precariously covered the climatologist's receding hairline. Steiner swaggered like a peacock in heat flashed its plume. The camera lens captured his prance. Punchinello imitated Steiner's movements.

Steiner's arrogant big timbre resounded. He smiled at the newscaster and stated, "Two hundred miles to our north, a series of early morning tornadoes ripped a swath of destruction through the Denrock neighborhood of Dalhart. The cyclones tore the roof off the Brownstone Retirement Home."

Steiner looked at his esteemed colleague. He knew his story well. Robert Trumby epitomized the positive fruits of dedicated labor, Raised in the Highland Oaks Projects of Waco, he rose above his circumstances to become a product of the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. He was also a two time winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for News Reporting. Thereafter, Trumby earned his stripes at small TV stations across the Lone Star state, as well as Arizona and Southern Utah. His time put in, Trumby fast approached the end of his illustrious career. Steiner was pleased the seasoned newscaster would go out on top of his profession.

Trumby inquired, "Was anybody injured in the storm, Ralph?"

With a slow head shake, and expressed empathy in his voice, Steiner replied, "Unfortunately they were, Robert. Eighty-six-year-old Hilda Hoolihan was pronounced dead at the scene and six other residents of the facility were hospitalized with life-threatening injuries."

"That's chicken noodle soup to my ears. Yum! Yum! Make sure you throw some delicious croutons on top," Punchinello cheered.

In no hurry, Steiner sauntered to the news desk and reported, "But, the news isn't all bad, Robert. Ten local impoverished families became the proud recipients of shopping sprees to Estelle's Boutique last night in Channel 13's Clothe-A-Child community service project that I speakhead. Each of them received a hundred dollar gift card to purchase new clothes for their disadvantaged youngsters. Appreciative hearts abounded."

Contemptuous, and condescending, Punchinello mocked Steiner's remarks, "Aww, ain't that sweet you pompous ass!" He decided he did not like Ralph Steiner, and, as he did with all others he despised, Punchinello placed the weatherman on his list of those to delete.

Trumby looked into the camera and said, "Channel 13 would like to thank our local sponsors Hayden Feed and Seed, Tori's Motors, and Davis Farm Equipment. Their continued support helps make Clothe-A-Child a huge success. Be sure to visit them today and say thanks." He picked up a stack of papers, tapped them together on top of the desk and grimly announced, "in other news, the Astatula Assassin remains at large."

Punchinello mouthed Trumby's alert. He gyrated like the world famous Italian conductor Tuscanini brought an orchestra to an intense crescendo with his baton. His slender wand twirled with large downbeats. Precise indications set the tempo. Articulation relayed the maestrom's vision. A choppy hand motion ended Punchinello's performance. Genuflected with his arms fully extended behind him, Punchinello shivered as a cold chill raced down the middle of his spine.

"You are so good!" He praised himself.

Exasperated, Sheriff Daniels straightened the rigid collar of his fresh-starched uniform shirt. Beth had ironed the garment before she made their lunch. The lawman was flustered by the sea of folders scattered on top of the table where he labored. He picked up the remote control unit. Ambidextrous, the scepter felt smooth in his hand. As the eminent sovereign of the house, the device afforded him dominence. He aimed the clicker at his wall-mounted Emerson. Swigging his half-emptied glass of iced tea, he depressed a button.

The sheriff returned the remote to its rightful location and groused, "Bye-bye boob tube. Always the same ole same ole, but never anything informative.":

Punchinello beheld Beth Sorenson as she strutted past the kitchen window. Her tank top exposed bare shoulders. Passing by, she snatched a platter off a Formica-topped counter and held the plate in her hands. His mouth watered. He imagined carving the angelic features of her face to shreds with his serrated hunting knife. The thought brought elation. He chuckled. Maybe he'd gut the doe.

Evil intentions filled Punchinello's mind as he slithered across Cassandra Boulevard. He disappeared behind the cherry blossoms that lined the front yard and momentarily hesitated to smell their almond-like aroma. Afterwards, he resurfaced in the back of the dwelling. Soda apple weeds overgrew the cellar door. Punchinello yanked them off. A splinter appeared in his forefinger. He plucked the agitator out with his teeth and spat it on the ground. A drop of blood appeared. Punchinello licked his finger. He noticed a simple padlock secured the hasp that sealed the subterranean room.

Punchinello grasped the hasp. In disbelief, he asked, "Daniels you brain-dead imbecile, is this the best you can do to keep carnage like me out of your casa?"

Punchinello gained entry with a lock pick and illuminated a halogen flashlight. He surveyed his surroundings and palmed folded laundry in a basket on top of the dryer. The sensation made him feel like a scrote. Punchinello tingled. He almost creamed his drawers. Silently, he eavesdropped on the conversation that came through the closed door. Once upon a time not so long ago he'd been a famous murderer. Soon, the headlines would scream he was again.

Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of this incredible picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 2
Punchinello Chapter 2

By Brett Matthew West

END OF CHAPTER ONE:

"Daniels, you brain-dead imbecile, is this the best you can do to keep carnage like me out of your casa?" Punchinello asked.

Punchinello gained entry with a lock pick and illuminated a halogen flashlight. He surveyed his surroundings and palmed folded laundry in a basket on top of the dryer. The sensation made him feel like a scrote. Punchinello tingled. He almost creamed his drawers. Silently, he eavesdropped on the conversation that came through the closed door. Once upon a time not so long ago he'd been a famous murderer. Soon, the headlines would scream he was again.


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The apparition that ghosted the Daniels' furnace room received his nom de plume because of his appearance. Jan Klaassen. Vasilache. Kasper. Vitez Laszio. At one time or another, depending on what part of the world he struck in, Punchinello had been labeled them all. Drunk in court, he escaped remanding in Vancouver. The Northwest Mounties latched onto the rubric and he accepted the pedestrian nomenclature. Like those of his victims, the name branded his memory banks.

Punchinello recited the list backwards and forwards and slantways and sideways. No one understood his reason for the bloodshed anywhere he committed higgledy-piggledy. Not Spokane. Not Las Vegas. Not Modesto. Not Charlotte. Not Toronto. Not Madrid. Not Athens. Not Atlanta. Not even Timbukto. Nowhere. Nor would they in this podunk villa known as Astatula. But the pattern lurked.

No other killer was as intimate with his prey in tenacity, violence, and the frequency in which Punchinello slaughtered them. Some of their ground up body parts he planted in flower pots and used for fertilizer. Punchinello's encounters were unsophisticated pieces of a discombobulated puzzle. The capitulation of life was something to congratulate his vanquished for. Punchinello envied their expiration. As he liked to say, "Let he who is blind, see." To Punchinello, the most deluted people were the ones who ignored what they knew.

Punchinello possessed large cheekbones and a prominent aquiline nose. He referred to the cudgel in his hand as his "problem solver." The anti-social chameleon clutched the shillelagh tight. It was his weapon of choice.

Beth entered the room. She overheard the sheriff's complaint and responded, "At least our little hamlet allows you to work at home, Brock. That's got to count for something."

Marked Astatula Assassin, the folder the sheriff hunted swam somewhere within the sea of files on the table. He twirled a paper clip around the tip of his finger and smiled back at her, "That's a luxury I do not take frivolously, Beth."

Placing a cup of hot java in front of the sheriff, Beth wondered, "How did the killer come to be known as the Astatula Assassin?"

"Because of the savage manner in which the Assassin's first two victims were butchered, Jim Kearney, the editor of the Gazette, pinned the pseudonym on him," the lawman patiently explained.

"Well, trip the light fantastic and let's have a frigging party!" an excited Punchinello exclaimed. He realized how loudly he'd vocalized and placed a finger over his mouth in a shhh motion so as to not give his presence in the house away.

"I take it you haven't found what you're looking for yet," Beth stated.

"No, but I will," the sheriff replied. He ruffled through the folders again. As he did, he commented, "Seems to me the newspaper enjoyed record sales the first day the headlines about the Astatula Assassin broke. Some people have told me the edition is the only mullet wrapper they ever purchased."

Punchinello pressed his ear tighter against the door and boasted, "Wait until they read tomorrow's headline, slimeball."

"Can you pull yourself away from what you're doing for five minutes to eat?" Beth asked.

Hungry, the sheriff assured her, "I can if those hot pastrami sandwiches are ready."

Beth sat one on rye bread in front of him. "Yes they are. So enjoy."

Offended, Punchinello chirped, "What about me, I don't get one?" He vowed, "You'll be a whole lot worse than chopped liver before I'm through with you, missy-poo."

Sheriff Daniels located the folder he stalked. He picked it up off the table and quipped, "Clipped together inside this little widget are controversial comments pertaining to the Astatula Assassin. These crop up in the scandal sheet on a daily basis."

"I'll give you plenty of controversy. Right up aside your claptrap!" Punchinello swore. He itched for action and smacked his cudgel twice against the outstretched palm of his hand.

Beth noted, "It seems everybody in town provides you with their opinions about what actions you should take to make Astatula safe again and solve these murders. And, the sooner the better."

"That's what they pay me to do," the sheriff replied. He tossed the file into the garbage can beside his chair and took a bite out of his sandwich, "Mighty tasty."

Pleased with her significant other's satisfaction, Beth beamed, "Thanks, Brock. But, back the stallions up a moment, Cowboy. Didn't Cody cut those clippings out of the newspapers for his scrapbook?"

"I gave the little munchkin a week to put them away. He hasn't done so. Therefore, as I see the situation, he'll never miss them. And, I don't need the ominous reminders," Sheriff Daniels told her.

Punchinello smiled. "I didn't think you had it in you to lay the law down with Cody like that, Daniels. Glad to see some people still know how to properly parent their children." Then, Punchinello reflected, "Aah, whatever happened to the good old days when you and I were his age and knew we'd better toe the line or a lick or two would soon follow?" Punchinello returned to the moment and finished his thought, "But, I'll do worse than snip, snip, cut, cut when I get my hands on that putrid mamby-pamby. My wood chipper's been silent too long."







Author Notes This is Evan by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of this remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 3
Punchinello Chapter 3

By Brett Matthew West

END OF CHAPTER TWO:

Pleased with her significant other's satisfaction, Beth beamed, "Thanks, Brock. But, back the stallions up a moment, Cowboy. Didn't Cody cut those clippings out of the newspaper for his scrapbook? You know, the one he keeps on you."

"I gave the little munchkin a week to put them away. He hasn't done so. Therefore, I can only surmise he'll never miss them and I don't need the ominous reminders," Sheriff Daniels confided.

Punchinello smiled, "I didn't think you had it in you to lay the law down with Cody like that, Daniels. Glad to see some people still know how to properly parent their children." Then, Punchinello reflected, "Aah, whatever happened to the good old days when you and I were his age and knew we'd better toe the line properly or a lick or two would soon follow?" Punchinello returned to the moment and finished his thought, "But, I'll do worse than snip, snip, cut, cut when I get my hands on that putrid mamby pamby. My wood chipper's been silent too long."


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Like a rapscallion caught in the act of doing something he shouldn't do, Sheriff Daniels chewed his bottom lip and flashed an innocent who? me? grin. Beth studied his mischievousness as the sheriff extended his long arm. She noticed the muscles under the sleeve of his pressed uniform shirt rippled and his Fraternal Order of Sheriffs ring scintillated in the light of the overhead chandelier. He brushed the unpaid utility bill aside and picked up a fudge square from off a gobbler-shaped platter in the middle of the table. Caressing the fragile treat like a newborn baby, gentle and easy, he imitated an airplane and he flew the delicacy towards his mouth.

A gleam sparkled in his eye as the sheriff nodded and said, "Pilot to bombardier, look out below!"

Beth threw her head back. Raven hair cascaded down her slender shoulders. Her robust guffaw demonstrated how much she enjoyed the sheriff's unique sense of self-indulgence.

He took a bite of the creamy fudge. A macadamia chip wedged between his two front teeth. "I'll be castigated!" the sheriff exclaimed. He dug the lodged sliver out with the nail of his index finger and recounted, "I've heard it said all members of the human species start to die the moment they're born, and Lionel Simmons was no exception to this peculiarity."

Engrossed by the sheriff's declaration made seemingly from out of the blue, Beth's ears attentively perked up, as did Punchinello's. Her aqua eyes focused on the lawman and she replied, "What does that mean, Brock? Tell me about him."

"Yea, Daniels. Clue me in on your astute observation," Punchinello agreed. He wanted to open the door, and plop right down in the middle of their conversation, but refused the temptation.

The sheriff settled in his chair. He recalled their recent sojourn to Galveston. There, they leisurely strolled the famous Strand's Historic District, rode a horse and buggy through the downtown area, and shared shrimp scones at the Mosquito Grille. Odd man out, Cody devoured a cheeseburger. Fascinated with the Brown Pelicans feeding along the bay, the boy drizzled mustard and ketchup down the front of his new, white, souvenir shirt. From high above, the birds sighted their targets, plunge-dived to stun their prey, and scooped the fish up with their oversized beaks. On the drive home to Astatula, their ears burned listening to the youngster talk about the excitement he witnessed.

Sheriff Daniels drew a deep breath and began, "Lionel Simmons was a complete waste of a human life form. Over the progression of eleven years he cruelly raped, tortured, murdered, dissected, and consumed parts of his victims' cadavers. Simmons claimed the flesh tasted like boiled srirachi chicken. I sure wasn't going to find out firsthand if the barmy cuckoo yanked our chains or not."

"Sounds like a smashmouth paragon after my own heart," Punchinello sighed.

Beth scrunched her face and squeezed the nostrils of her nose tightly together, distorting its shape. "That's disgusting!" she proclaimed. Unable to resist, she teased the sheriff, "You, who brazenly rounds up rattlesnakes to grill over the flame of an open campfire, wouldn't consume the delightfulness of a human corpse?"

"And, just why wouldn't you, Daniels?" Punchinello demanded to know.

The sheriff blurted out, "No, I would not, Beth!" In a split second his indignant response faded. "Besides, I've got much more pressing matters to be concerned about, like who the culprit is behind these recent attacks in our little villa."

"That's the least of your problems, Daniels. Why fan the fires of a good challenge?" Punchinello contended.

"If I knew the answer to that mystery, I'd bottle it and live a life of carefree prosperity," Beth assured him. "Did any evidence exist to indicate Simmons' sufferers were still alive when he feasted on them?"

Sheriff Daniels dunked the remnants of his fudge in his coffee and replied, "None we ever ascertained."

Beth sparkled. It is apparent her mind is ablaze with questions. "Did Simmons have any family?" became the first.

Sheriff Daniels interlocked his fingers and stretched his massive hands out in front of him. His knuckles popped. "Simmons was the second oldest of five children. There were three girls and two boys. All of them were illiterate, and he bore the fruit of the maladjusted family."

Eager to hear the sheriff's story, Beth inquired, "What about his parents?"

Sheriff Daniels considered his response. "Both of them were meth addicts. Simmons' father was also a heavy bourbon drinker. He was no stranger to Knob Creek. In addition, the paranoid schizophrenic was alleged to have been divested of attention by his doddery, club-footed, mother. But, that's not all of his story."




Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your amazing picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 4
Punchinello Chapter Four

By Brett Matthew West

END OF CHAPTER THREE:

Sheriff Daniels considered his response. "Both of them were meth addicts. Simmons' father was also a heavy bourbon drinker. He was no stranger to Knob Creek. In addition, the paranoid schizophrenic was alleged to have been divested of attention by his doddery, club-footed, mother. But, that's not all of his story."


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Beth re-positioned herself in her chair.

Sheriff Daniels continued his story, "Perceived repressed, Simmons conveyed an unhealthy desire for animals he gathered. These included carrion annihilated by traffic. He enraptured himself by dissecting and exhibiting their remains on shelves in his family's toolshed."

"Why wasn't I invited to join the fun?" Punchinello asked.

A strong woman, the grotesqueness of the details the sheriff relayed to Beth did not faze her.

Sheriff Daniels considered his illustrious career and stated, "You know, there've been other murderers I've brought to justice. But, none of them have ever compared to the Corpus Christi Cannibal...until now."

Offended by the sheriff's comment, Punchinello reminded him, "You are forgetting moi, Daniels."

Beth flashed a reassuring smile. "I have no doubt you'll capture the Astatula Assassin as well, Brock. There's not a lawman this side of Texas better than you."

The sheriff drank from his brandy snifter. "Once, Simmons decapitated a feral piglet he trapped. He chopped the critter's head right off."

In anger, Beth slapped the table with the palm of her hand. A loud thwack resonated throughout the house. "That's sadistic! It's idiots like that you'd like to do the same thing to."

"Oww, tough talk, and from such a fine lady. Maybe you'll get your chance to smack me," Punchinello smirked. "Somehow, I seriously doubt that will happen though."

Sheriff Daniels laid it on thicker than the black strap he wore around his waist, "Not contented with what he'd done, Lionel Simmons nailed the porker's body to an oak and impaled its shell on a palmetto in the woods down the lane from where he abided."

Beth covered her face with her delicate hands and asked, "How insane can some monsters be?"

"Oh, there's plenty more, Beth. Simmons father was a physicist and taught Lionel how to whiten animal bones with hydrogen peroxide and water because bleach damages their surfaces. And, when he reached puberty, Simmons admitted he was a limp wrist," the sheriff confirmed.

His revelation stunned Beth. She questioned, "A limp wrist? That may not be politically correct, but you mean he came out of the closet?"

Sheriff Daniels looked Beth squarely in her shining eyes and said, "Indeed he did. It was at this same time Simmons developed fantasies about the domination of two-legged males. Up to this point he had gratified himself with animals." The sheriff slowly shook his head from side to side and continued, "To celebrate graduating high school, Simmons committed his first violent murder because he wanted to know how it felt to kill somebody."

Derisive, Punchinello scoffed, "Ain't that a clean pile of poo?"

Sheriff Daniels reiterated, "Nineteen-year-old Mark Stevens, an indigent at the homeless shelter, became his sacrificial lamb."

"Well, the homeless do make easy targets," Punchinello mused.

Having previously read about Simmons' capture in the Astatula Gazette, Beth was familiar with this portion of the case. "Didn't Simmons bludgeon Stevens to death with an aluminum baseball bat outside the Half Acre Bar in Houston?" she asked.

Sheriff Daniels made a swinging motion with his arms as if he just smacked a homerun. "Batter up! And, he dissected Stevens in the crawl space of the house he lived in. Eventually, Simmons was murdered by Josiah Masterson, a fellow inmate in the Texas State Prison at Huntsville."

"Obla-debla-da," Punchinello leered.

The eerily similar crimes committed by the Astatula Assassin brought Simmons' memories back to the sheriff. The lawman could never completely erase those vivid images from his mind. Nor, did he want to. He suffered recurring nightmares, and many nights lost much needed slumber, because of them.




Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 5
Punchinello Chapter Five

By Brett Matthew West

END OF CHAPTER FOUR:

The eerily similar crimes committed by the Astatula Assassin brought Simmons' memories back to the sheriff. The lawman could never completely erase those vivid images from his mind. Nor, did he want to. He suffered recurring nightmares, and many nights lost much needed slumber, because of them.


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Sheriff Daniels returned to thoughts of the Astatula Assassin and declared, "Peculiarly, the deceased have been unassuming small business owners including Marcus Washington and Darius Noles, the proprietors of the Farmhouse Buffet."

Beth drew her thumb across her neck. She removed their dirty dishes off the table and loaded them into the Amana, stating, "There went one of our favorite diners right down the proverbial craphole." Then, she asked, "Brock, do you think we have a copycat on our hands?"

Sheriff Daniels replied, "I've considered that possibility. Noles was missing three fingers on his right hand when his body was dredged from the Salt Fork. So, to answer your question, I'm not sure yet what we have."

Beth confirmed, "I know you well. And, that's just enough to keep you in hot pursuit of the absurd mythical needle in the haystack that sews these murders together."

"Believe me, Beth. No one wants this barbarian more than I do," Sheriff Daniels empathetically remarked, "The morbid degenerate needs to be stopped."

"Can I get an amen for that?" Beth asked.

Opening the basement door ajar, Punchinello smiled broadly and announced to himself, "It's show time!"

Before he could make his move, the doorbell rang. Punchinello stayed hidden. This wrinkle had been unforeseen in the grand scheme of his master plan. Beth waltzed across the foyer and opened the door. Buzz Cochran, the sheriff's boon companion, entered the residence. He joined the sheriff.

Sheriff Daniels greeted Buzz Cochran with a friendly, "Prompt as ever. Isn't that just like somebody who graduated from Duke University? Won the distinguished Rankin law award and still wearing your insignia all these years later, I see."

"We are here to discuss your re-election, are we not?" Cochran asked.

In the basement, Punchinello cursed, "Damn you, Daniels! I'll have my revenge yet."

Deputy Fred Taylor strutted into the house like he was the star attraction the others should bow down to. The lifts he wore in his Tony Lamas, that lit up the room, made him an even six feet tall. His cropped hair styled on the right, tucked behind his left ear, and was shorn to the crown of his head.

Punchinello glared at Taylor, who remained reverently silent. None of the others noticed his presence. Punchinello closed the basement door and Deputy Taylor intertwined with the meeting of the minds seated around the table.

Sheriff Daniels picked up a piece of paper. "I want that feather in my cap," he said in return to Cochran's question. "After all, Astatulan voters demand someone they can trust to enforce their laws."

"Brock, you are no rookie to the world of politics," Cochran reminded him. "Need I ask how the projected poll numbers look today?"

Sheriff Daniels responded, "According to the Crosby County Registrar, I hold an eight point lead over Anthony Schivanni. You know, the retired Police Captain from Dallas. And, Mary Ellen Morrison has three percent of the vote."

Beth commented, "That's mostly her garden club and their associates looking for their fifteen minutes in the spotlight. On the other hand, Sciavanni seems to have become rather popular in the short time he's been in Astatula."

Sheriff Daniels reiterated, "This race is getting closer than I'd like for it to be. It's also the first time I've been in the middle of a decidedly challenged re-election campaign. I want to make a statement so consummated and profound no one ever questions my leadership abilities again. To do that, I need to stop the Astatula Assassin. So, let's get to work wrapping up this election, shall we?"

Buzz Cochran encouraged, "Don't allow any doubts about winning enter your mind, Brock. The people of this town are hard working country folks. They know the job you've done here for the last fifteen years. They'll support someone they know."

The sheriff remarked, "Intensive labor and risk taking. Those are the cornerstones I've built my career around."

He trusted what Buzz Cochran told him and pushed all thoughts of the election from his overloaded mind. He knew the political pieces would take care of themselves. There were much more important matters to confront, like the absence of a pre-pubescent.

"Where's Cody?" he asked. "Shouldn't the little scamp be home from school by now? They only had a half day."

Beth raised a hand to the back of her neck and messaged her muscles. She reminded the sheriff, "Brock, it's only twenty after twelve. Cody will be home soon. This case has really got you tensed up, doesn't it?"

Sheriff Daniels looked at Deputy Taylor and responded, "It's not the case that affects me so much. More so, I feel the Astatula Assassin has placed me in a precarious predicament to test my resolve. Believe me, it's a challenge I unblinkingly accept. I'll nail him to the wall before it's all over."

Deputy Taylor shifted in his seat like the sheriff's comment offended him.

Beth smiled.

Turning his attention to Beth, Sheriff Daniels said, "I promised to take Cody to see that new Aquaman movie down at The Forge Cinema. He's so into that whole superhero film scene."

Beth discerned, "Our little Superboy's been fighting kryptonite his whole life."

Buzz Cochran observed, "I do believe though in the six weeks you've fostered him, the tortoise has come out of his shell some."

"By the way, Brock, thanks for taking Cody to see the movie. He'll appreciate you doing that for him," Beth ascertained. She reached over and planted a kiss on the sheriff's cheek, saying, "Me too."

The sheriff considered Beth's intuitive response. He understood her commitment to the perfectibility of humanity, even if he disagreed with her stance. Although unspoken, Deputy Taylor agreed with him. Boredom settled in his demeanor. He couldn't wait to take his leave.

Bodacious, Sheriff Daniels allotted, "After what Cody's been through, if anyone's earned the right to feel ten feet tall and bulletproof it's that little man."

Headed for the basement door, Beth prodded herself, "I have laundry to put away. So, I'll let you three chitchat."












Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of this remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 6
Punchinello Chapter Six

By Brett Matthew West

END OF CHAPTER FIVE:


Headed for the basement door, Beth prodded herself, "I have laundry to put away. So, I'll let you three chitchat."


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Without so much as a wink, a blink, or even the slightest nod, Stuart Lozenski tarried behind. At least, that was the name sewed on the front of his green-striped work shirt. The extension cord tightly affixed around Stuart's neck and the faucet ensured the custodian of the Astatula Elementary School remained in place. No, Stuart Lozenski wasn't going anywhere.

Slumped over the sink, with trepidation etched on his face, Stuart's eyes bugged out. The spout crammed down the back of his throat, the scalding hot water spigot ran open throttled. Punchinello was well pleased with his classic and inventive hole-in-one. The ghoul knew Stuart's discovery would be a tremendous jolt to whatever unfortunate galoot unearthed him.

Cheerily, the kehua closed the door, flipped a key in the air, and caught it. Overweight, with kyphosis and thin strands of grey hair, he repeated this action over and over as he goose-stepped away from the janitorial closet; a push broom in his other hand. How he loved disguises. They fit him well.

Many dreamy times he had fantasized about this scenario. Twice before he'd played it out in all its shining glory. Sean Peterson, in Tacoma, Washington, a sprite full of vim and aspirations, had been the first matriculated student he'd snatched off a school campus. Trey Miller, in Bangor, Maine, lagged close behind. There had been other opportunities, and now his new target, a charismatic buttercup in Room 117, was a mere moment away.

The old man scratched his head and shoved a pile of dustbunnies into the far corner with his broom. Elation rumbled him to the core. His one-way ticket to Hell purchased a long time ago, the image of the dead did not trouble him. He planned an illustrious body count until that season arrived.

Punchinello listened to the chatter of the students in the classroom. Nobody came or went. Streaks of fluorescent light shafted down the hallway and reflected off the walls. This accomplishment was going to be inconceivable.

Brooding, Cody stared out the window. He recalled a conversation from that morning with his guidance counselor in which he stated, "Smelling the roses is hard."

Theresa Anderson-Silva, a pert twenty-something, replied, "But, doesn't the achievement force you to appreciate the world around you more?"

Complaining, Cody answered her, "Remaining in the moment is even harder."

Cody did not hear his teacher address the class. Instead, he extended his finger towards a jay that perched on the windowsill. The songbird hopped up on his outstretched pinkie.

In a hushed tone, Cody said, "All blue like you are little birdie, you remind me of a Canadian tuxedo."

The jay chirped back at him as if to thank Cody for his compliment.

Mrs. Alvarez called for attention, "Okay class, settle down. Now, can anyone tell us how summer vacation came to be?"

Quickly, three students raised their hands.

Tommy Martin blurted out, "If it's about history, Bowtie can. Bowtie knows everything."

The class nerd and teacher's pet, Marshall Andretti sat on the opposite side of the room from Tommy Martin.

Maria Stapleton asked, "Marshall, how come you always wear a red bowtie? Don't you have any other colors?"

Marshall did not respond to Maria's teasing. A chorus of giggles erupted around the room. Mesmerized, Cody contemplated out the window on the discussion he'd had with his counselor.

Theresa Anderson-Silva suggested, "Allow the sights, sounds, and smells of objects to prevent your thoughts from redirecting to your past."

Cody wondered, "How do I do that?"

Theresa Anderson-Silva responded, "Here's an easy way. Keep a penny in your shoe to remind you to remain in the moment."

Cody scoffed, "A penny in my shoe?"

Theresa Anderson-Silva reiterated, "Yes, Cody, a penny in your shoe."

Though he wore no Argyles on his feet, that was how a brand new, shiny doubloon found its home in Cody's right sneaker.

"Another thing you can do is participate in what interests you without allowing your time to be consumed by anyone else," Miss Anderson-Silva had advised him.

Cody accomplished that all the time.

Mrs. Alvarez noticed Cody stared out the window. She wanted to know, "Earth to Cody, are you with us?"

In a sing-song voice, Marla Stapleton stated, "Naw, he's lost in space a-g-a-I-n."

Bowtie tattled, "Mrs. Alvarez, you promised if you caught Cody not paying attention one more time you were going to give him a detention."

As only a passel of excited youngsters can do, a chorus bellowed, "De - ten - tion! De- ten - tion! De - ten - tion! De - ten - tion!"

Much to her class's dismay, Mrs. Alvarez let their desire pass.

Cody ignored them all. He heard Theresa Anderson-Silva's words, "For self-preservation, Cody, surround yourself with the defense shield that's kept you alive your whole life."

Except for his best friend Matt Cochran, Cody's classmates were not aware of his past in Palo Pinto. That's a topic he had not discussed with any of them. He did not hear Mrs. Alvarez explain to the class how summer vacation from school originated.

Mrs. Alvarez informed her pupils, "Summer break came about because of necessity. In the settlement of the mostly agricultural United States of the 1700s, when our country was being formed, children were needed at home to help plant crops."

Cody's mind drifted over to a squirrel he observed scurry down the trunk of an oak tree near the playground in pursuit of a fallen acorn. Once more, he heard his counselor's voice.

Theresa Anderson-Silva, "I know you're well versed in reading people's body language, that you notice the actions of others, and can quickly ascertain their underlying intentions."

The mental, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse doled out to him on a daily basis by his father, Earl Anthony Schroder, taught Cody small surprises produced unwanted flashbacks. Whatever angered people the most, whatever made them sad, and whatever hurt them the most, Earl Anthony Schroder gleefully spent his time doing.

Cody never forget the day Earl Anthony Schroder told him, "Too bad for you, pissant, it rounds me out."

A brown delivery truck rolled down Cassandra Boulevard, pulled into the school's parking lot, and stopped at the front door. Cody wondered who received the packages? He thought maybe they were the teacup roses the school planned to plant around the outside of the building over summer break.

Cody told his blue jay friend, "I love the aroma of roses. Yellow ones are my favorite."

Not only did Cody think roses smelled good, they helped him learn to see the details in other gadgets. A skill that served him well. The ringing school bell returned Cody from his daydream. Astatula Elementary spewed into a frenzied detonation of ecstatic children racing for the big yellow buses that would whisk them back home. Cody stalled to be the last student out of the room.

Cody's final thought to his departing jay friend before he grabbed his bookbag and left the room was, "Summer is my second favorite time of the year. The day Earl Anthony Schroder died is my most favorite day of all."

The golden ticket in hand, Punchinello remained hidden in the shadow of the far corner of the hallway...biding the fortuitous circumstance.




Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 7
Punchinello Chapter Seven

By Brett Matthew West

End of Chapter Six:

Cody's final comment to his departing jay friend before he grabbed his bookbag and left the room was, "Summer is my second favorite time of the year. The day Earl Anthony Schroder died is my most favorite day of all."

The golden ticket in hand, Punchinello remained hidden in the shadows of the far corner of the hallway...biding the fortuitous circumstance.


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Dressed in capris and a purple tulip-embossed pullover, a venerable spinster stood behind a metal desk checking her end of school year inventory. The red book cart on the side of the counter contained an assortment of books neatly organized in an alphabetical by author manner. These included Bunnicula, The Princess In Black, and What Do You Do With A Chance. All were provided for the younger set's reading enjoyment.

Cody noticed the fuddy-duddy's beehive hairdo. The lightly combed over tangled pile gave him a thought. Cody chortled to himself, "Now, if it was blue you'd look like Marge Simpson."

He handed the librarian a long overdue book and informed her, "I found A Tale Dark And Grimm, Mrs. Truman."

Featuring Hansel and Gretel on the front cover, Cody related well to the premise of the hardback. The eight Grimms-inspired stories contained inside the book taught the wayward wanderers to take charge of their lives and build their own happy ever afters.

Mrs. Truman removed the coke-bottle glasses from her tapered face highlighted by its widow's peak and pointed chin. Sarcastically she retorted, "Amazing! You finally found your missing library book, did you? Took you long enough to do so."

Cody spied her hawk-beak nose. Startled by the honker, he shook his head and replied, "Uh-huh. It was buried on the bottom of my bag all along."

Without intonation, Mrs. Truman informed Cody, "The fine will be one dollar and fifty cents."

Cody fished around with his hand in the front pocket of the jeans he wore and thought, 'Why did you have to wear your tight ones, halfwit?'

Cody had placed six shiny new quarters in his pocket that morning before departing for school. Filching them from the sheriff took some doing.

Sheriff Daniels asked him, "Why the delay in finding the book?"

Cody responded, "I forgot where I put it."

"You didn't look very hard for it either, did you?" The sheriff wanted to know.

Cody's aquamarine eyes cast downward. He stared at his bare feet and wiggled his piggies. "No," he truthfully answered.

Disappointed in Cody's lackadaisical attitude, the sheriff asked him, "You know better than act that way, don't you?"

Cody raised his cornsilk blond head and sheepishly confessed, "Yes."

The sheriff stated, "I'll give you the money to pay your fine. But, your carelessness in not returning the book on time will cost you an extra chore when you get home."

Cody replied, "What's that?"

Sheriff Daniels responded, "I want you to break down those empty boxes out in the garage and carry them to the curb so they can be picked up tomorrow by the trashman."

Cody agreed to the sheriff's terms, "Deal."

A silver-haired stranger strolled into the library. Nonchalantly, he leafed through a Sports Illustrated. His presence returned Cody back to his conversation with Mrs. Truman. She would not admit the fact, but with her glasses removed the librarian could not see her hand in front of her face, and did not notice the person standing there.

Cody wrestled the wampum free and turned the money over to the librarian. He slung his bag over his shoulder and departed the Media Center. Happy-go-lucky, Cody whistled a tune as he dashed merrily along his route. At full speed, Cody almost bumped headlong into Mr. Miller, the school's strict Principal.

"Esteemed gestapo," as the students of the school secretly referred to him.

Annoyed by Cody's absentmindedness, Mr. Miller stated, " Clear the tracks. Freight train coming through."

Transfixed, Cody halted.

Mr. Miller thumped Cody on the shoulder with his clipboard and stated, "Young man, you are aware there is to be no running in the hallways. Repeatedly, you have been informed of this rule before? And yet, and yet, you still perform the forbidden gyrations."

"Yes I do, Mr. Miller," Cody answered him.

"Twice before, in the short period of time you have graced us with your presence here at Astatula Elementary, you have reported to my office for breaking the established procedures of this fine institution. Therefore, Cody, is a third dance with Big Bertha required to get the message through your mule-thick head?" Mr. Miller proposed.

Cody rubbed the dusty seat of his jeans. The admonitions were not forgotten.

"Tetu comme une bourrique?" he asked.

Flabbergasted, Mr. Miller responded, "Yes, Cody, you are as stubborn as a mule."

Cody promised, "I will not run in the hallways anymore, Mr. Miller."

He tromped away from his interrogator and looked back over his shoulder. The silver-haired man Cody saw in the library hastened down the corridor in close pursuit. Cody galloped. His hunter exited the school as Cody snatched his blue BMX Mongoose off the bike rack and mounted the two-wheeler. Cody would never forget the way his elementary school days ended.





Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 8
Punchinello Chapter Eight

By Brett Matthew West

End of Chapter Seven:


Flabbergasted, Mr. Miller responded, "Yes, Cody, you are as stubborn as a mule."

Cody promised, "I will not run in the hallways anymore, Mr. Miller."

He tromped away from his interrogator and looked back over his shoulder. The silver-haired man Cody saw in the library hastened down the corridor in close pursuit. Cody galloped. His hunter exited the school as Cody snatched his blue BMX Mongoose off the bike rack and mounted the two-wheeler. Cody would never forget the way his elementary school days ended.


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The ghost of a lonesome whistle blew in an abandoned train yard on the outskirts of Astatula. Two bindle stiffs meandered past the deserted automobile scrapheap on the north end of the tracks along ripped up rails, weathered crossties, and loose gravel. Lagging behind, the grey-black neared the marshaling area, not far from Sullivan Lake. As he did, the Irish red beard discovered a gruesome sight smouldered on a barbeque grill. Apprehensive, they inched towards their revelation one fretful step at a time.

Drawn by the smoke emitted from the rotisserie, Bartholomew thrust his nose near the disclosure and squawked, "Looky-loo what's we got us here, Jebediah."

A thousand miles from nowhere, sand shifted with the tide, Jebediah replied, "I ain't a-touchin' thems nasty jiggers. Ain't no tellin' where those feets been."

Bartholomew smiled in fond remembrance of the last time he'd been with a lass in County Donegal. That was an eon ago. He asked, "Ain't they purty? Slender as they are, those is dancer's feet if ever I seen 'em." He sashayed forward on his right foot, paused, bobbed his shoulders back and forth, then slid his left foot to where his right one was positioned. He turned to Jebediah and stated, "Maybe even danced to on The Beautiful Blue Danube in their time."

Jebediah tossed his bald cranium from side to side. In disbelief he returned, "I swears, Bartholomew, you's forever yappin' 'bout Yo-han Sebastian Strauss."

Bartholomew cachinnated. From his abdomen he let go a deep belly-laugh that shook his clothes back all around. "It's Richard Strauss. And, back in my day I owned the biggest dance studio this side of Galveston," he boasted. "Why, I've seen those clear, blue sea waves crash and listened to seagulls mew like they sing about in all them songs."

Garrulous, Jebediah remarked, "Richard, Yo-han, they's all the same to me. 'Sides, whos in their right mind fry them up some dancer's feets on a grill? And, what's that red stuff all over 'em?"

Within sniffing distance, Bartholomew examined the tincture, looked up at Jebediah in wide-eyed wonder, and said, "Looks like paprika to me."

Shocked, like he'd been kneed below the belt, Jebediah slapped the palms of his hands to the sides of his face, felt the scraggly stubble, and exclaimed, "Egad! Paprika! What in tarnation does you puts paprika on feets for?"

Bartholomew lampooned an insolent smirk. "Maybe someone's been attacked by the munchie monster?"

They swallowed long sips from brown paper bags in their hands and Jebediah said, "Ain't no Head of no Food and Drug Administration, health food aficionado, or dietician connoisseur gonna likes no one eatin' no feets."

Bartholomew cackled, "Toss in a little salt and pepper, some select spices, chuck in carrots and onions, and voila, Jebediah, feets stew."

The knockabout stirred the coals in the grill with a stick he picked up off the ground. A puff of smoke rose in the air. He blew the vapor away.

Jebediah sulked and a portion of his upper lip raised. "Wells, they mights not be gourmet but theys got a nice texture. And, I ain't 'et in three days and nights. So, I says we dig in, Bartholomew."

A burnished shank flashed. Bartholomew plummeted dead at Jebediah's feet. From his earliest years, learned characteristics provided the Astatula Assassin a vengeful mean streak. As a boy he'd been a bully and believed himself capable of committing any act. But, nothing in his youth prepared him to become the Assassin or capable of murdering another person. It was in the rural villa he discovered his life's passion. No one knew his deepest, darkest, secrets as he played out the dizzying lair.

Terrorized, his mouth agape, the victim du jour, beseeched, "Nos, please don't kills me!"

The Assassin drew a settled breath then cursed Jebediah's bad luck. "Roast in Hell!"

He loosened his building anger and felt he was on a carnival ride. Smiling obsequiously, the Assassin esteemed the suspense and savored the melodrama as the scythe flashed again gashing Jebediah's throat. He toppled to the ground straddling Bartholomew.

Soaked with perspiration, the Astatula Assassin converged beside the grill and wiped the blood off the stiletto onto his pants leg. His trusty wood chipper at the ready seemed to underscore the madness of the moment. Pamala Landa's feet were his alone to feast on.






Author Notes The hoboes' language is intentional to help create their characters. Therefore, their dialogue is not nits.








This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your remarkable picture that provides Cody sych an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 9
Punchinello Chapter Nine

By Brett Matthew West

End Of Chapter Eight:

The Assassin drew a settled breath then cursed Jebediah's bad luck, "Roast in Hell!"

He loosened his building anger and felt he was on a carnival ride. Smiling obsequiously, the Assassin esteemed the suspense and savored the melodrama as the scythe flashed again gashing Jebediah's throat. He toppled to the ground straddling Bartholomew.

Soaked with perspiration, the Astatula Assassin converged beside the grill and wiped the blood off the stiletto onto his pants leg. His trusty wood chipper at the ready seemed to underscore the madness of the moment. Pamela Landa's feet were his alone to feast on.



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A melodic chime sounded and a ferocious German Shepherd snarled out a warning. That feature of his doorbell always appealed to Sheriff Daniels and added a touch more security. An enthusiastic animal lover, the alarm also infatuated Cody. The hobgoblin constantly rang the buzzer each time he passed by the gong.

The sheriff opened the front door of his bungalow. His meeting with Buzz Cochran succeeded in outlining a new strategy for his re-election campaign. He expected a handful of fellow law enforcement officials, all close associates. Sheriff Daniels knew his visitor would be one of them.

Smart as the tip of a single-tail, and tough as a nine penny nail, Texas Ranger Justin Carter could easily rise all the way up the ranks in his organization, or so Sheriff Daniels reckoned. Complex problem solving capabilities venerated him to the unit. Fellow Rangers Gil Osbourne, Russell Negron, and Carol Rhodes stood beside Carter on the porch. No slouch herself, Carol was the newest Ranger in the Lubbock region. Captain Osbourne and Lieutenant Negron kept her tightly under their wings.

Closing the door behind him, Sheriff Daniels led the group to the backyard. He offered them patio chairs. Sipping Patron, Buzz Cochran sat under an umbrella and waited their arrival. The Los Diablos Tejanos did not seek to create friends in low places. Those already existed. The shady characters they pursued filled the seedy side of life.

Once the tabs on cold Coors cans were pulled, Carol Rhodes asked, "How's Beth?"

They all knew her well.

Sheriff Daniels replied, "She's upstairs resting. Got quite a goose egg on the back of her noggin."

"Beth tell you anything about who attacked her?" Gil Osbourne wanted to know. The tapered trendils of his horseshoe mustache extended below his jawline. A third hung down from his chin.

Sheriff Daniels knew what Osbourne would do if he got his hands on the perp. But, that would be child's play compared to what the sheriff ached for. With a cool head, he answered, "Only that he had orange hair. Beth told me she didn't get a real good look at him otherwise."

"Ring any bells?" Justin Carter asked.

"Just one," Sheriff Daniels bluntly stated, "and, if he's the one behind this assault it'll be the last thing he ever does!"

The group had unofficially met for about six weeks to discuss the murders committed by the Astatula Assassin and agreed, though no patterns linked the slayings, they were the handiwork of a serial killer.

Seated at a redwood picnic table, Russell Negron noticed a conspicuous absence and asked, "Where's your deputy, Fred Taylor? Shouldn't he be part of this little powwow?"

"He left a while ago to place roses on Elaine's grave. She's interred in Astatula Gardens. Today's their anniversary," Sheriff Daniels responded.

"Such a tragedy," Gil Osbourne stated recalling the events of Elaine's passing.

'What's that?" Carol Rhodes asked. Being the newcomer, she wasn't aware of the situation.

"Granted, Taylor's a fast rising pillar of the community. But, I'd like to see him lose the grudge he's held all these years," Russell Negro admitted.

"Clue me in," Carol Rhodes encouraged.

"Taylor attended one of those comic book conventions over in Laredo. While out of sight, out of mind, Elaine suffered a fatal heart attack," Justin Carter provided the details.

"We tried every way we could to get a message to Taylor. He wouldn't answer the telephone in his hotel suite or his cellphone. We even emailed him, to no avail," Russell Negron added.

"When Taylor arrived back to Astatula, there was a burying party in the graveyard. Taylor drove over to see who'd died. We stopped our proceedings and informed him it was Elaine. Now, Taylor doesn't believe any of us that we did everything we could to notify him, or that nothing could be done to save Elaine although Doctor Morrisette confirmed what Taylor had been told. All Taylor does when the matter comes up in discussion is become enraged. Each their own, I suppose," Gil Osbourne concluded the story. His words painted a clear mind photo.

Sheriff Daniels shrugged his shoulders and said, "My profile on the Astatula Assassin shows he's taken a lot of risky chances."

Itching for action, Justin Carter commented, "Fill us in, Brock. What are we working with?"

Picking up a pad he'd scribbled some notes on, Sheriff Daniels replied, "What I've called Code Name Orange."

Curious, Russell Negron asked, "How did you come up with this profile?"

Sheriff Daniels grinned, "I never give my trade secrets away, nor do I think he's a brilliant killer. But, he is good enough to avoid capture, so far. He's organized and I doubt if we'll find he has any prior convictions. He's probably a family man caught up in some sort of fantasy, maybe even forging a new identity for himself. Most of all, I'm sure he's not through killing by any means."

"You're the resident delineater. Any hypotheses about this crackbrain?" Gil Osbourne inquired.

"He probably hates himself and everyone else. He may be ready to abandon all close ties to causes he's previously supported. He's killed using a variety of methods and knows a lot about how to murder somebody. This includes using different weapons in his attacks," Sheriff Daniels replied. "But, one thing in particular stands out for me"

"What's that, Sheriff?" Carol Rhodes asked.

"He's living dangerously and that makes me believe he may be on a fast track for a self-destructive kamikaze mission. And, if that be true, he could care less who he takes out with him," Sheriff Daniels answered her.

"The question is who's he?" It was Beth doing the talking. She looked at the four Rangers sitting there with questioned expressions on their faces and vowed, "I'm in this for the long haul."













Author Notes Los Diablos Tejanos is another name for the Texas Rangers








This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6 for the use of this remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 10
Punchinello - Chapter Ten

By Brett Matthew West

End of Chapter Nine:

"What's that, Sheriff?" Carol Rhodes asked.

"He's living dangerously and that makes me believe he may be on the fast track for a self-destructive kamikaze mission. And, if that be true, he could care less who he takes out with him," Sheriff Daniels answered her.

"The question is who's he?" Beth articulated. She looked at the four Rangers sitting there with questioned countenances and vowed, "I'm in this for the long haul."


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Punchinello swiveled his head from side to side like a submarine periscope and scanned the boundaries of the energetic school grounds. Reminding him of the National Gallery of Art, the weathered red brick walls were full of graffiti that had been etched onto them over the years. Some of the simple drawings featured names left as permanent reminders those artistes once attended the matriculation center.

Overlain by a thin green slime coating on top, a stagnant puddle filled a deep and wide chuckhole coned off in the far corner of the sand-covered asphalt parking lot. On the ground in front of the doors that led into the school, Punchinello spotted an empty Coke cup and a crumpled Taco Bell wrapper. Like foot soldiers marching in a column, a parade of ants had discovered the remnants of the delicacies contained therein and busily scurried about enjoying their feast.

Disarray abounded from the rusty chain-link perimeter guard with a gaping chunk missing in its middle, to the half-fallen nylon netting that dangled precariously on the baseball backdrop. Even the school's name on the marquee in front lacked some letters. Others were well worn or chipped away.

Punchinello diverted his eyes to the playground. He noticed mischievous and presumptuous jackanapes full of impertinent banter chased each other over the jungle gym in what appeared to be a choreographed ballet.

"You can't catch me!" Levis laughed heartily as he grabbed the top rung of the apparatus and swung across to the opposite side from which he'd appeared.

Scampering on Levis' heels, Reeboks chattered back, "I'm right behind you!"

"You knuckle-walkers look like chimpanzees," Punchinello said to himself.

Not one of the impervious kiddiewinks realized their mortal danger in that instance, or something treacherous dwelt nearby. To Punchinello they were all treasures he yearned to bury in far away places like Long John Silver and the pirates of long ago; preferably alive.

For a brief moment, time stood still as Punchinello's attention was captivated by a little charmer who brushed up against his arm. A sinister scowl crossed his face and Punchinello's eyes glared at the feathery distraction with a burning fire. The delightful redhead was not frightened but seemed fascinated as she handed him a paper rose she'd made in class that morning. Beguiled, Punchinello waved his arm to shoo her on. The calico skirt she wore billowed as the little poppet skipped merrily along her way.

Jocular people seriously irritated Punchinello, especially spawn who thought they held the world in their hands. He wanted to yank out his semi-automatic Roscoe, with its integrated barrel chamber and box magazine, and shoot up the school in a bigger way than Columbine and Marjory Stoneman experienced combined.

Forcing himself to abstain from such an act, Punchinello anchored his gaze on a knackered educationalist in her mid-thirties. Her exhausted expression, inadequate lips, and precarious comportment made Punchinello want to start a donnybrook. Punchinello sidestepped his desire at the last possible moment, chastised himself for his duress, and extricated his entangled compulsion from the bovine attired in purple sweats. There was no attraction for the target, no subtle message to be delivered in her slaughter.

Instead, Punchinello envisioned inflicting bitter hostility on Brock Daniels and all he enthusiastically exalted. Spread with intensity, Punchinello's violent anger and destructive fury verged on insanity. The aspiration raged deep inside him and devoured his being. The assault on Beth in the basement of the Daniels' house was just the genesis.

As Punchinello reverenced Cody's interactions with the old bat librarian and the principal, he decided the boy was a rhapsodic prize worth coveting. Punchinello felt a deep sense of awe and hugged himself with a gesture indicative of a bow. Fancying himself a phoenix, with a nimbus plumage on his head and mesmerizing with the colors of the rainbow, Punchinello felt primed for whatever came his way, there was nowhere else Punchinello pined to be.

The dilemma festered into how to coerce the impressionistic boy into submitting. Should he trick the lad? Maybe intimidate him or resort to violence as he was prone to do? Punchinello knew he could render Cody unconscious by a variety of unscrupulous means. Any way he accomplished the feat, a shanghai in a crowded public educational institution would make Punchinello famous like Bruno Richard Hauptman and Joseph Corbett. Punchinello knew he was the one who kidnapped and murdered the heir of the Coors Brewing Company empire. Their outrageous crimes galvanized him.

As the fantasy overtook Punchinello, and the moment drew near, the flavor tantalized. Surprisingly cultured, Punchinello cycled from the vicious low that previously enveloped him to a soaring high. Battle-scarred, Punchinello bore that dubious distinction frequently and felt like a transistor radio with a bad connection. The static frazzled his mind.

Punchinello had chased Cody down the hallway. Just out of reach, the devious scoundrel slithered from his grasp. A bloodletting would follow.

Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of this remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 11
Punchinello Chapter Eleven

By Brett Matthew West

End of Chapter Ten: As the fantasy overtook Punchinello, and the moment drew near, the flavor tantalized. Surprisingly cultured, Punchinello cycled from the vicious low that previously enveloped him to a soaring high. Battle-scarred, Punchinello bore that dubious distinction frequently and felt like a transistor radio with a bad connection. The static frazzled his mind.

Punchinello had chased Cody down the hallway. Just out of reach, the devious scoundrel slithered from his grasp. A bloodletting would follow.


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Cody considered Matt a birdbrain. He knew his comrade was smart but easily spooked. He remembered how forceful Matt covered his eyes and trembled when they watched Hotel Transylvania. In the movie, Count Dracula operated a hotel for his friends the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. Without abandon, Cody teased Matt throughout the animated flick.

A month and a half had passed since Cody's relocation from Palo Pinto to Astatula. In that short time, Matt became Cody's most trusted friend. Cody recalled the day he earned his stupid sign. The unfortunate situation occurred on the Wednesday of the second week after he began attending Astatula Elementary. Rain fell hard that morning, and half asleep, Cody wore two different colored sneakers to school. In keeping with their millennial generation, Matt walked down the hallway close by his side as only a BFF would do. Since then, the inseparable amigos could not be plucked apart.

Matt noticed Punchinello stared at Cody. Though the dodgy interloper was attired as the school's janitor, Matt did not recognize him. Mounted on the flame-embossed banana seat of his bike, he raised his eyes in Punchinello's direction and asked Cody, "Who's that? Never seen him around here before?"

Cody returned his gaze to Matt. He shook his golden blond head of hair and answered, "Don't know, but I saw him in the library when I returned my book. I thought he was the janitor. Then, he chased me out of the school."

Matt snickered, "Naw, he ain't no Mr. Lozenski."

Cody protested. "That's what the name on his shirt says."

A frizzy carrot top, in bad need of good hair wax, rode up next to them. Short strands that did not align with others to form a defined wave stuck up on the boy's head.

Overhearing the conversation, David Larkin confirmed, "Don't know who that is, but nope, he's not Mr. Lozenski. I've never seen that dude around here before. Good thing you got away."

Cody encouraged, "C'mon! I'd better tell the sheriff. He'll know what to do."

"You tattle anything you want to, canary," Punchinello hissed as the boys scurried down Cassandra Boulevard. They pumped their legs like well-oiled pistons in combustible engines.

Punchinello watched the trio reach a shallow S-curve in the middle of the road that ran flat at the beginning, grew to a steeper center, then tapered off again. The posse disappeared behind a column of juniper bushes with trailing branches. Evergreen, the prickly needle-leaves of the conifers were hard and sharp.

Through gnashed teeth, Punchinello snarled, "By the time you get there, I'll be in another disguise."

Unhurried, Mr. Miller strolled down the hallway toward his office. Being rid of his underlings brought a joyous smile to the Principal's face. He relished the quiet time the end of another school year brought. His mind roamed far away and focused on his upcoming vacation to exotic Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. The exploration of ancient ruins awaited discovery. As he approached the janitor's closet, Mr. Miller noticed a puddle of water seeped out from underneath the door. Curiosity replaced his anticipation. Oblivious, he opened the door.

"My God in Heaven!" He exclaimed.

Author Notes If you have not been following this book you probably will not know what the "My God in Heaven!" refers to. Might I recommend you click on the blue numbers on top of this page and read previous chapters?








This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of this remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


Chapter 12
Punchinello Chapter Twelve

By Brett Matthew West

End of Chapter Eleven: Unhurried, Mr. Miller strolled down the hallway toward his office. Being rid of his underlings brought a joyous smile to the Principal's face. He relished the quiet time the end of another school year brought. His mind roamed far away and focused on his upcoming vacation to exotic Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. The exploration of ancient ruins awaited discovery. As he approached the janitor's closet, Mr. Miller noticed a puddle of water seeped out from underneath the door. Curiosity replaced his anticipation. Oblivious, he opened the door.

"My God in Heaven!" he exclaimed.


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"I'm out of here," David Larkin stated. He popped a wheelie and peeled right onto Forsythe Avenue like a rocket sled on wheels.

Cody and Matt watched him depart then continued north on Cassandra Boulevard. They rode past the Cottom Cattle Company and the Bilby Morgan Horse ranch. In no hurry to get home, they dismounted their bikes and pet Rojo. They had recently discovered the gold-coated Palomino, with a bright yellow tail, in the back pasture of the farm.

Making like a jockey Matt commented, "I wish we could ride him like real cowboys." He pulled an imaginary pistol from the holster on his hip. Firing two shots at Cody, he exclaimed, "Reach for it, sidewinder. BANG! BANG!"

Cody clutched his chest with his hands. He fell backwards on the seat of his pants to the ground and said, "You got me, hombre!"

The friends laughed at their shenanigans. Cody jumped to his feet and pulled a carrot out of his pocket.

Wide-eyed, Matt cracked a grin and asked, "Where'd you get that?"

"Don't tell on me, but I filched it from the lunchroom," Cody replied with an equally broad smile on his face, "they'll never miss it."

Cody fed the veggie to Rojo one broken off piece at a time. In the distance he saw heatwaves bounce from the rural route in front of them. When the last bit of carrot was gone, he quickly mounted his bike and said, "Race you to Three Bridges." Off he dashed before Matt could scamper to his two-wheeler.

"Hey, wait for me!" Matt called behind him.

Cody paused at the viaduct's sandstone facing. Carrying the Texas Railroad across the low-lying estacado, the bridges, their spanned archways, and sprawled outlands bordered the muddy Brazos River. Soon, Matt approached.

Cody wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. A crimson red Dodge Charger blew perilously close by them. The car picked up speed as the driver stomped down on the accelerator. Cody guessed the Super Sportster topped out at about seventy miles an hour before it reached a hairpin curve in the road. At the last instant, the driver fishtailed to the left. The maneuver screeched the car's tires. Cody smelled the burned rubber that permeated the air.

A loud, sustained, honk emitted from the vehicle's horn as the driver zoomed across the Talmitch Bridge. Gravel flew from underneath the car's rear wheels. The Charger vibrated and its engine roared, then bolted forward, and veered violently to the right. Cody applauded the performance, and barked three times like a trained seal did when the critter balanced a ball on its nose and clapped its flippers together. To say the least, he was not impressed.

The blond bomber noticed the look of disbelief etched across Matt's face. A siren screamed in protest as a glistening beacon rotated. Deputy Fred Taylor spun the Charger around. In a huff, he headed to the boys' location and rolled down the driver's door window.

"Where are you two scalawags headed?" Taylor demanded. His tone authoritarian.

Cody looked at Deputy Taylor but remained silent. The less he spoke to him the better off he was.

"We're going to see the sheriff," Matt answered.

"You two need to be a whole lot more careful where you ride your trikes before someone comes along and runs you over like I almost did," Deputy Taylor scolded them.

Cody's eyes cut to the bluebonnets that grew along the roadway. Then, he looked up. He knew they had done nothing wrong.

Deputy Taylor glared at him. He pointed a bony finger in Cody's direction as if the act was a warning to the youngster and said, "Especially you, troublemaker. I'm watching you real close, Buzzard Beak. You might have the sheriff bamboozled, but everyone knows the truth that you don't belong anywhere near here. And, when I get the opportunity, I'm gonna run you off where you belong. That's a promise from me."

Without another word, Taylor sped off and disappeared out of sight.

"What's Taylor's problem?" Matt asked.

"It's between us," Cody replied. He heaved a heavy sigh, "Some people think I should have stayed at the Fairwinds Boys Home in Palo Pinto when Earl Anthony Schroder died, not been brought to Astatula. What do they know about anything? C'mon. Let's go snatch some peaches off the trees at Gustoffson's Groves. They should be real ripe by now."

Cody steered his bike back onto Cassandra Boulevard and off they rode.

Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognized face on FanStory.


Chapter 13
Punchinello Chapter Thirteen

By Brett Matthew West

End of Chapter Twelve: Without another word, Taylor sped off and disappeared out of sight.

Bewildered by the deputy's actions, Matt asked, "What's Taylor's problem?"

"It's between us," Cody replied. He heaved a heavy sigh, "Some people think I should have stayed at the Fairwinds Boys Home in Palo Pinto when Earl Anthony Schroder died, and not been brought to Astatula." He kicked a rock at his feet, sent it tumbling merrily downhill like the cascading spiral his life had always been in, and continued, "What do they know about anything? C'mon, let's go snatch some peaches off the trees at Gustoffson's Groves. They should be real ripe by now."


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Deep down inside himself, Cody couldn't help the way he felt. His foster placement with Sheriff Daniels was the only part of his life that ever possessed any real meaning. Exasperated by Deputy Taylor's bubbleheaded harassment, the pugnacious bullock approached the grove.

Cody noticed horizontal rows of wire welded to metal posts and announced, "The end of that fence is what we're looking for. He paused, looked up and observed vertical wires connected to the parallel ones then commented, "Remember that wolf head blanket I wanted so badly. The one we saw at the Apache Native American Powwow we went to on our last field trip."

A raucous caw emitted as a crow flew overhead. After a moment's diversion, Matt recomposed his memory banks. He recalled the blanket well. Full of intricately woven multi-colored threads, both of them had admired the cover. He looked at the shirt Cody wore and replied, "Yeah, wolves are your favorite animal, and that blanket cost a lot more money than we had."

His chest puffed out like an adder, Cody beamed with pride, "It's now on my bed."

Surprised by his proclamation, Matt looked at Cody and asked, "When did Sheriff Daniels buy that blanket for you?"

"Last weekend when we went to the festival," Cody smiled back at him.

He knew Earl Anthony Schroder would never have taken him anywhere fun, or done anything for him. All Earl Anthony Schroder ever did was abuse him. At least Sheriff Daniels never did.

The boys rode on a little further down the road until Cody spotted a wrought iron gate. The wayward wind stopped his bike, dismounted, lowered the kickstand, and encouraged Matt with a hearty, "That'll be easy to climb. Race you. Last one over is a rotten egg!"

Reluctant and indecisive, Matt looked at Cody and asked, "You sure about this? I've heard Old Man Gustoffson is mean and not to mess with him. Everyone knows he doesn't like to have his trees pilfered."

"You believe every rumor you hear?" Cody responded. He'd heard the buzz too, but doubted offenders became fertilizer for newly planted saplings.

Right behind him, Matt sang out, "Boink! Boink! Boink!" as he hopped on one foot like a pogo stick to the ingress.

On the other side of the portal, Cody exclaimed, "All we got to do now is find a good hidey hole."

A magnificent thicket paraded up to the horizon and back. Energized, Matt enthusiastically exclaimed, "Look at all these trees. Bet if we go in there we'll never come out again."

Somehow, that idea appealed to Cody. He could get lost in such a wondrous world. He declared, "Trees aren't like people who try to hurt you all the time."

The explorers bypassed several trees until they arrived at one full of peaches that looked like it had never been pruned. The sandy loam was fertile, offered good growth, and contained no underbrush. The trees hid the ramblers from the huge columned house in the middle of the grove with its Grecian portico, Mediterranean curves, and iron gargoyle that adorned the edge of the roof.

Cody noticed the creature's peculiar rumpled mane and teased, "How'd you like to pet that kitty cat, Mr. Meow?"

Matt's eyes enlarged. He shook his head as if to reply, "No way, Jose! Ain't gonna happen"

Cody spotted what he searched for, and grabbing the trunk of the tree with their arms and legs, the rhesus monkeys shimmied rapidly to their perch. Cody stood in a "Y" of the tree where two strong branches jutted out. From there, he could almost see all the way to Astatula, and the house he knew he should be on his way home to. Matt hung upside down by the back of his knees on a limb.

Drawing a deep breath, Cody asked, "If I tell you a secret promise not to tell no one else?"

Matt replied with a simple, "Yep."

Cody reached for a plump peach that clung precariously nearby. His mouth watered. The cold meatloaf sandwich the school had served students for lunch that day had not settled well with him. A sweet peach or two would go a long way in getting rid of the aftertaste the offering left behind.

Losing his balance, Cody discovered he hadn't stretched carefully enough to grab the fruit and his sneaker slipped off the limb he roosted on, In desperation, he grasped the left arm of the "Y" to keep from crashing to the ground.

"Whoa!" Cody chirped. Saucer-eyed, he stared down at the ground below him, turned to Matt, and said, "I almost fell out of this tree."

Conjuring up memories of his favorite cartoon, Matt cackled, "No kerplats allowed, Wile E. Coyote. I ain't no Road Runner. I'm not picking you up with a spoon."

Undeterred, and more careful, Cody tried again. He plucked the delicacy he craved off the branch at his outstretched fingertips and took a humongous bite. Juice trickled down his smooth chin as he spoke with his mouth full, "Palo Pinto was a nightmare."

Matt swung around the branch he hung on to a seated position. He crossed his arms. Cody hadn't told him much about his past in Palo Pinto before. So, if Cody opened up about that now, he wanted to hear his story.



Author Notes This is Evan, by Lilibug6, selected to complement all my Cody Schroder stories.

So, thanks Lilibug6, for the use of your remarkable picture that provides Cody such an easily recognizable face on FanStory.


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