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 Category:  Mystery and Crime Fiction
  Posted: October 15, 2020      Views: 20
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Chapter 11 of the book Pewter's Homecoming
The State Troopers come to Pewter.
"Chapter 4 - After Homecoming" by teols2016
Five years later, a closed homicide gets a second look.

Previously in "Pewter's Homecoming":

Marcy Sellers starts her junior year as a new student at Pewter Public High School in western Texas. She meets Lily Harvey, who shows her around. A few weeks later, both girls are attacked. The police quickly arrest a suspect, but, five years later, Roland Davis, a lawyer from Dallas, is given a chance to review the case.

Five Years Ago:

Sheriff Darden opened his office door and worked to keep his anger suppressed until it was closed again.

"What?" he asked through gritted teeth, staring down Deputy Charles Morgan, the person who had knocked and interrupted his interrogation of Andrew Mooruff.

"The state troopers are here," Deputy Morgan explained, trying not to show he was nervous.

Sheriff Darden sighed. He would need to interrupt his interrogation for this after all. While his people could collect evidence, they had no facilities to do anything with it. The troopers from the Texas Highway Patrol would see that everything went to the state regional crime lab in El Paso. They'd probably seen to it that some of the crime lab's technicians accompanied them when they got his call for assistance. Sheriff Darden knew better than to keep such a valuable resource waiting.

The two troopers were standing in the station's main room, dressed in their uniforms, each one's attire the color known in the Lonestar State as "Texas Tan". One was older and, like Sheriff Darden, had some gray strands poking through his short, dark hair. His younger partner stood straight, waiting, his dark-blond hair as neat as his uniform. Both men held their straw cowboy hats at their sides.

Sheriff Darden didn't recognize either of these men, but that didn't mean anything. The Texas Highway Patrol had over 2,800 troopers across the state. He'd worked with a few dozen different ones while in El Paso. He composed himself and stepped over to greet his important guests.

"Gentlemen," he said and introduced himself. He learned they were Sergeant Joseph Hillstrand and Probationary Trooper David Tokeman. The career gap between the two men stretched over twenty years.

"Quite a mess you seem to have here," Sergeant Hillstrand remarked.

"Yeah," Sheriff Darden said, waving a hand around at the walls of the small station. "And this place was supposed to be my retirement plan after twenty-five years in El Paso."
The two older men shared a slight chuckle.

"Let that be a lesson for me," Sergeant Hillstrand remarked. He did look like retirement wasn't far away.

"You identify your victims?" Sergeant Hillstrand asked.

"Yeah," Sheriff Darden replied. "The school's principal gave us photos of all the students. The dead one is Lilian Harvey, a cheerleader for Pewter Public High. The coroner's got her now. The other one is Marcy Sellers. She's a new student this year, originally from Eagle Pass. We've informed the parents and the Sellers are at the hospital while their daughter's still in surgery."

"And you have a suspect?"

"In my office," Sheriff Darden replied, lowering his voice a little. "I've been working on him and he's already tripping over his lies."

"A janitor, right?" Sergeant Hillstrand asked.

"That's right. A black little punk who likes teenaged girls. I've dealt with pricks like that before. He's a bit retarded, but it shouldn't be a problem."

"Sounds like you've got a handle on things," Sergeant Hillstrand commented, sounding a little impressed.

Drawing from his own experience, Sheriff Darden was certain the Sergeant wasn't looking to be involved in what was sure to be a big case. Not so close to retirement. The man wanted minimal involvement to achieve maximum success. Sheriff Darden could give him this.

"What we need is physical proof to really nail this guy," he explained.

Sergeant Hillstrand nodded.

"Well, we've brought some boys from the crime lab for that," he said. "We'll have them take what your deputies collected and get it all back to El Paso. We've got a couple fingerprint analysts here who can help you now. If you've got photos of prints or actual latents that you found, they can link up to the databases from their van and get you results in an hour or two."

"Yeah," Sheriff Darden said. "We've got some."

He glanced at Deputy Morgan, who hadn't moved from his spot by his office door.

"Charlie here will get you and the crime lab guys to where you all need to go," he said.

"Sounds good," Sergeant Hillstrand said. "Let's fry this half-wit."

Moving for the first time, the younger trooper, David Tokeman, nodded.

Returning the gesture with a silent nod of his own, Sheriff Darden turned and headed back to his office.

Andrew Mooruff was sitting where the sheriff had left him, straight and stiff in his chair by the desk. The sheriff liked this. Maybe the interruption had helped and the prick was closer to cracking.

"Sorry about that," he said, taking his own seat behind the desk again. "I had to talk to the state troopers. You know why they're here?"

Andrew Mooruff shook his head.

"They're here to help us figure out who did this to those girls," Sheriff Darden explained. "They're going to take all the evidence we found to the crime lab, where they'll be able to tell us who was in there."

"I was in there," Andrew said, staring at the sheriff with wide eyes.

"I know that."

Sheriff Darden decided to press even harder.

"You know," he said. "One of my deputies found this bloody smudge on Marcy Sellers's breast. Made him sick to look closer, but he did. And, you know what?"

He paused for effect. Andrew said nothing.

"Turns out it was a fingerprint," Sheriff Darden announced. "A bloody fingerprint on that poor girl's chest. You leave it there? You feel the need to play with her even though you had blood all over your hands?"

He watched Andrew consider this. The SOB seemed to be thinking back to what happened in that locker room, perhaps looking for a way to lie about this latest set of circumstances.

"I only touched her to help her out of the water and to do the CPR like Mr. Ericson showed me," Andrew said. "I'm not supposed to touch girls like that."

Sheriff Darden nodded.

"You know how hard you have to press your finger to leave such a clear print on human skin," he asked, "especially for us to find it later?"

Andrew shook his head.

"I was only trying to help," he added.

"Pretty darn hard," Sheriff Darden continued as if he hadn't heard that last statement. "My deputy took a photo of that bloody fingerprint ... a pretty good photo, in fact. The crime lab boys shouldn't have a problem matching it to you."

He knew Andrew Mooruff would have been fingerprinted when he took the janitor's job at the high school, no matter what else about him was overlooked by "Mr. Ericson" and the school's administration. One of his deputies would have collected and run those prints. They'd still be in the state's database, ready for comparison.

"When they tell me it's a match," the sheriff said. "I'll have enough to arrest you for murder. After that, whatever else they find will make it easier for the prosecutor to get the death penalty. And, don't worry. I'll be in Huntsville when they shove that needle in your arm. I'll be there with the parents of those girls, watching you whimper out some pathetic final words before the state gets rid of you for good."

He withheld a smile as Andrew stared in stunned silence. The man looked like he was about to cry.

"Think that over," Sheriff Darden encouraged. "Decide what you'll ask for when you get to choose your last meal."

The book continues with Chapter 4 - Present. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
These chapters are, for the most part, divided into 3 sections: "Before Homecoming", "After Homecoming", and "Present". There will be a couple exceptions to this structure in the last few chapters.

Pewter is a fictional town in fictional and rural Alter County in western Texas.

Cast of characters:

Marcy Sellers: a new student at Pewter Public High School,, starting her junior year. Was raped and left comatose in the girls' locker room after the Pewter Homecoming game.

Lillian "Lily" Harvey: a junior at Pewter Public High and a cheerleader. Was raped and murdered in the girls' locker room after the Pewter Homecoming game.

Andrew Mooruff: custodian at Pewter Public High. Convicted and sentenced to death for the locker room attack. Awaiting execution on Texas's Death Row.

Keith Darden: sheriff of Alter County. Personally investigated the locker room attack.

Charles Morgan: lowest-ranking deputy in the Alter County Sheriff's Department. First to arrive at the high school after the girls' bodies were found in the locker room.

Sergeant Joseph Hillstrand: member of the Texas Highway Patrol. Assisted Alter County authorities investigate the locker room attack.

Probationary Trooper David Tokeman: rookie member of the Texas Highway Patrol and partner of Sergeant Hillstrand. Assisted Alter County authorities investigate the locker room attack.

Feedback, specifically suggestions for additions/subtractions/alterations, is always welcome. Enjoy.
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