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Homeless people are being murdered ......
Angel of Mercy - Part 1
by Begin Again
| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| April 10, 2010 Views: 331|
Thunder rumbled in the distance. Dark ominous storm clouds blanketed the sky. Unable to find shelter, the frail man hunkered beneath a cardboard box, desperately pulling his ragged coat around his body. Taking a long swig from a half-pint of cheap whiskey, he felt the warm liquid greet the gnawing pain in his stomach. Anticpating relief, a lopsided smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
A tall, well-dressed man walked briskly along the pathway, oblivious to the howling winds. His eyes darted back and forth, quickly scanning the underlying bushes. Nearing a dimly lit area of the park, he spotted the collapsing cardboard box. His step quickened, eager to complete his mission.
The homeless man wiped his dirty coat sleeve across his whiskey-laden mouth as he warily watched the shadowy figure approach. Recognition penetrated his stupor. Drawing his arthritic limbs to a standing position, he stumbled, clutching the man's arm.
"Sorry, Gov." His fingers dusted the man's arm. "Hope I didn't do no harm to your fancy threads."
"No harm at all, Jake." The man stepped closer to tall bushes, his face cloaked by the darkness. "Not a night fit to be living on the streets."
"Naw, but the mission was full." Jake swallowed the last of the whiskey, licking the final drops from his lips. "Figure the Man Upstairs will provide what I need."
The man reached inside his trench coat, pulling a full bottle of whiskey from its pocket. Jake's eyes glistened at the sight of the caramel brew.
"Hmmm ... the top of the line you got there, Gov." His body shivered, not from the cold, but with desire to wrap his lips around the liquor bottle, a promise of warmth and escape. His trembling fingers reached toward the bottle. Saliva trickled from the corner of his mouth. "Planning on keeping it all to yourself?"
"Of course not, Jake. You know I always take care of the unfortunate, now don't I?"
"Yeah, but don't usually see ya down here in the bowels at night. Thought you'd be tucked into that fancy mansion of yours." A series of hacking coughs raked Jake's body. Phlegm spewed from his mouth, splattering the man's shoes. He gripped his sides, letting an agonizing moan slip through his lips.
The man extended his arm, waving the bottle at Jake. "Here ... I brought this for you. Take a hard, long swig. Warm yourself."
Greedily, Jake latched onto the bottle. Lifting it to his lips, he gulped the rich liquor. Trickles of alcohol slobbered from both sides of his mouth. "I've done died and gone to heaven, Gov. You're a good man, caring about the likes of us."
"I do care, Jake, I do care."
With one swift movement, the long sharp blade penetrated deep into the homeless man's chest. His eyes flared in surprise. The howling wind muffled the frantic scream as the cold blade found its mark. His body slowly slumped to the ground. A dark crimson stain oozed through the tattered shirt, spreading across the pathway. Jake's mouth opened, but only a last gasp of air escaped.
Kneeling over the body, the man checked for any signs of life. Satisfied, he tucked a tiny silver cross and a white card into Jake's lifeless hand. Making the sign of the cross on his chest, he softly whispered, "I deliver you unto the Lord, my friend."
Lightning zigzagged across the sky. Torrents of rain pounded against Jake's body. Tightening the belt on his trench coat, the man hurried from the scene, disappearing into the darkness.
The yellow crime scene tape flapped in the wind. Slipping underneath it, I gingerly edged my way down the muddy hillside toward the huddled mass of blue uniforms, Whipton's finest. In this trash-strewn corner of the city, the domain of the homeless, loss of one's life was considered a bothersome annoyance to most.
My partner, Senior Homicide Detective Jeremy Slater, stood over the victim's lifeless remains as the Medical Examiner shared her preliminary findings. A tall, dignified gentleman appeared to be having an in-depth conversation with Lieutenant Anita Van Buren. Skittish onlookers, hugging their few precious belongings, gathered in small clumps behind bushes and cement guardrails, whispering among themselves.
"What have you got?" My 230-pound frame dwarfed my partner, but make no mistake, when pressured, he packed a powerful wallop.
Jerry lifted his eyes, taking in my disheveled hair and unshaven face. "Late night, Max?"
Not needing an answer, he shook his head and continued his conversation with Maggie, the medical examiner.
"What can you tell us, Mag?" A thirty-year veteran, Jerry considered every wasted minute, a lost opportunity. I, on the other hand, took life slow and easy, enjoying every succulent morsel, assuming eventually, I'd get my man.
"I make the time of death around midnight. One direct jab with a long, thin blade."
Yawning, I joined the discussion. "Any signs of a struggle?"
"None that I can visibly see. I'd say the victim knew the assailant." Maggie's gloved hand gingerly removed the items from Jake's hand. "What do you make of this?" She displayed the cross and card in the palm of her hand.
"What's the card say?" A sledge hammer pounded against my temples and I bent down to examine the items. Typed across the card were the words 'Welcome into the Lord's House.'
"Maybe if you kept reasonable hours, Max, you'd be able to see clearer." Maggie rolled her eyes at me.
"Don't bother with the lectures, Mag. Until he swallows a pot of black brew, nothing penetrates that thick skull of his." My understanding partner squatted closer to the body, careful not to disturb anything. He examined the discarded whiskey bottle - Jameson Irish Whiskey. "How'd this guy afford top shelf whiskey? Think the Perp used it as a ploy to get closer?"
Maggie's gloved finger tipped the white business card over. "Here's your answer, guys. Whoever killed this guy thought he was doing him a favor. The card says, 'Angel of Mercy.'
"Hey, Lieutenant. You need to see this." The Lieutenant joined us with the unknown man in tow. My eyes questioned whether I should reveal anything in his presence.
"Thomas Penwell, this is Detective Jerry Slater and Detective Max Caldwell, two of Whipton's finest."
Thomas Penwell stepped around the Lieutenant, extending his hand, "Good morning, gentleman."
His fingers tightened slightly around mine, making me wonder if we were in some unknown competition. My eyes focused directly on his steel blue ones. "Thomas Penwell, of Penwell, Jackson, and Stuart?" The law firm was responsible for 95 percent of all court cases dealing with the rich and famous.
"Yes, that would be the correct Penwell." A definite air of pride filtered through his smile. "I, also, donate considerable time to helping the homeless. Our firm has recently donated a sizable sum of money toward the construction of another refuge mission."
Lieutenant Van Buren decided to clarify his presence. "Tom is a good friend of mine. Since he deals with the homeless on a first name basis, he thought he might be able to assist us in identifying our victim."
Everyone's eyes turned toward him.
Stepping near the victim, he took a closer look, choking back a gasp. Shaking his head, he took a deep breath and spoke, "His name's Jake, a veteran of the Vietnam war, suffering from lung cancer. Poor soul. I just served him lunch yesterday." Penwell whisked his fingers across his eyes. "Served his country well. Earned a Purple Heart."
"Thanks, Tom. You've been a great help." The Lieutenant stepped between the victim's body and Thomas Penwell, reaching out to touch his arm. "Do you know if he has any family?"
"Had a sister, but she died in a car accident last year. Guess that's when he kind of lost touch with reality." Penwell started to walk away from the scene, but stopped, turning back to us. "He deserves a funeral. I'll see to the arrangements."
Van Buren watched him walk away before turning to continue our conversation, "So what did you find?"
"Expensive whiskey, silver cross and a calling card."
"A calling card? What'd it say?"
"Appears our Perp thinks he's doing the victim a favor. Calls himself the Angel of Mercy."
"Three homeless bodies in six weeks. Each crime scene had the whiskey. Last two had the silver cross." Jerry scribbled in his notebook.
"The calling card is new. Maybe he wants credit for what he's doing."
"Okay, we've got ourselves a serial killer. Let's get on it. Don't release the information on the calling card just yet." She headed toward her car, stopping on the other side of the crime tape. "Max, you look like crap!"
She was right, but I didn't care to hear it. Jerry poked me in the side, "Come on. Let's grab some coffee and make a quick stop at your place. You can shower and I can make a few calls."
"What'd you think of that Penwell guy?" Something about that guy rubbed me wrong.
"Lieutenant seemed a bit cozy with him, but I thought he was too good to be true." I was pleased my partner's feelings matched mine.
"Okay, let's see what we can dig up on him." The rich man, poor man thread was building in my throbbing head. Penwell had every opportunity to meet the victims.
"Van Buren's not going to like it."
"We're just doing our job, man. She said get on it! That's what we're doing." I gave Jerry a thumbs up and we headed for my car.
Thank you Agnes for the wonderful artwork.
and 2 member cents.
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