A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
Moving to the edge of his cushion, Skeets dropped his hands to his lap. "Tell me you remember the kid's name, Father." Beads of sweat dotted his upper lip.
"Edward Pearce. That's the man's name. His mother Gertrude is a parishioner, though I understand she's been confined to the home since her stroke. I tried to call on her once... no one answered the door. I left a note, but never heard back from her.
The phone was in Skeets's hand, and he was punching out numbers, when Father Brian surprised him with another bit of news.
"The Pearce residence is across the alley separating the church property from the homes on the other side of the block. Do you want me to take you there?"
"Absolutely not, Father. The suspect is likely armed. I'm calling for back-up." He scribbled an address on his pad and stood up. "Say a prayer that we find this freak hiding in his house."
With surprising speed for a man of his size, Skeets quickly reached the front door. He paused with his hands on the doorknob and said, "I'll keep you posted -- with some luck, you'll be seeing news of an arrest on the eleven o'clock news."
Detective Skeets Epstein secured badge and weapon from his car. Traveling on foot, he approached the house of the serial killer cutting a vicious swath through the elderly of St. Matilde's parish.
Back-up was on its way, including Sheriff Oleson, his commander. Skeets surmised they'd park down the street and approach the house on foot, gambling on the element of surprise to make an arrest with minimal collateral damage.
Epstein circled the Pearce home in an effort to ascertain who, or what, might be present. Impenetrable yews rimmed the exterior, forcing him to a crouch-crawl around them. He grunted from the exertion and cursed his forty extra pounds. Thick drapes barred him from seeing into most of the rooms. Finally, he found a glass-paned side door which allowed him a glimpse into the kitchen. A candle flame, on its downward slide, was the room's sole illumination. He tried the handle, but it was locked just like the other doors.
Skeets stepped sideways and leaned back against the house. “This is weird.” he thought. “Father Brian said Edward lived here with his bedridden mother. Who'd leave an unattended candle with an invalid in the house?"
The snarling of an animal about to attack came from somewhere to Skeets's right. The hairs along his arms stood up in warning. Can't use my weapon and alert the Perp. He moved away from the sound to avoid a confrontation, but it switched directions with a speed that left the detective confused and disoriented. It sounded close, very close.
He looked around to get his bearings, and found himself in front of a garage that was detached from the Pearce home. A light shone from the second floor apartment. Through the window, behind the drawn shades, two people embraced and kissed.
The half-dozen helmeted figures stalking the perimeter of the house distracted Skeets. He noted their positions before turning back to look up at the window. In the space of seconds, the light was snuffed, the figures gone. Christ, where'd they go?
Derek Oleson had seen his detective hovering near the garage. “What have we got, Skeets?" he asked when he reached his side.
Skeets jerked around to face Derek, and was glad for the darkness masking his surprise. Shit, I didn't hear him. I'm losing it.
The senior detective radiated controlled excitement which had a calming effect on Skeets. He gathered himself and quickly relayed the situation, including all the bizarre sights and sounds experienced since leaving St. Matilde's rectory.
“The potential for the mother being here changes things,” Derek said. He drew his service weapon and moved in the direction of the side door entrance to the kitchen. Head marksman, Officer Langston, came into view, and Derek waved him over.
“Get your men ready to enter that garage. I'll radio you when I want you to move in,” Derek instructed.
“Sir, what about the house?” Langston asked.
“There's a potential complication – there may be an innocent bystander in the house. Detective Epstein and I will enter alone.”
“Understood. We'll get into position and wait for your signal."
“Be careful,” Skeets added. “There's a large animal on the property that's been following me around the house, staying in the shadows."
Langston hurried off, and the two detectives positioned themselves on either side of the door, keeping their drawn guns below the window's line of sight. The candle, earlier observed, had burned down, leaving the house in complete darkness.
Derek turned the handle and opened the door with ease. Skeets felt the force of Derek's scrutiny. “I know the door was locked!” he wanted to say.
Epstein moved with caution through the kitchen, leaving Derek to radio the rest of the team. The house felt to Skeets as if it were a spider waiting for a fly to slip into its web. His senses were on high alert as he followed the strong smell of bleach.
Derek caught up with him, and, together they canvassed the house. When they reached the room at the back of the home, Skeets put out his hand to stop Derek. He put a finger alongside his nose and Derek nodded his understanding. It was here the smell of antiseptic was the strongest.
In a surprising move, Derek knocked on the door and called out, “Mrs. Pearce, this is Sheriff Oleson. We got a call that you might be in some sort of danger. We're coming in to make sure you're okay.”
The bed was stripped, and it was obvious the room was empty. Skeets flipped on the overhead light, and was unprepared for the bizarre scenario it revealed.
Hundreds of Rosary beads hung from nails on every wall of the room. Above the bed's headboard was an inverted, ornate crucifix. Skeets recognized it as the one that had gone missing from Debra Padget's home the night of her murder.
Derek's radio crackled, and he grabbed it up. “Tell me you've got our Perp, Langston.”
“Sorry, Sir. The garage and apartment are empty. But you need to see this place. It's... well, you'll know what I mean when you get here.”
A stunned Skeets protested, “Boss, I tell you there were two people in that apartment. I... I saw them with my own eyes.”
Derek holstered his weapon with more force than usual. “They got away, Skeets. There's nothing to do now but go over these buildings for something we can use to get the murdering bastard once and for all.”
On his way out the door, he added, “At least we now have a name: Edward Fucking Pearce.”
~~ End of Part 1 ~~