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| Category: || Mystery and Crime Fiction |
Posted:|| May 18, 2014 Views: 1300|
Chapter 60 of the book Along the Jericho Road
Father Brian DeShano is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer pulls him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
Maggie felt a swirling, cold draft at her feet. She looked over the top of her knees towards the floor and gasped. Her feet were in the middle of a thick red pool.
What in the name of God...
Her insinct was to flee, but the clinician in her won out. Just as her finger reached the liquid, it disappeared. But the cold spread upward accompanied by a pervasive sense of despair.
"I can stay as long as you need me, Mrs. Hubbard," Cassie reported on her return.
Maggie felt the effort to respond was beyond her, but with determined effort she managed, "Call the grand-daughter."
"I thought you wanted to wait," Cassie protested.
Maggie placed on arm on the back of the chair to aid her in rising. Shaken and pale, she wanted only to get out of the room. But her duty was to her patient. "I changed my mind. Her grand-daughter, Jana Burke, is a homicide detective. I can't explain it right now, but it's important for her to know what's going on."
Sheriff Derek Oleson felt like he was trapped in the caboose of a runaway train. He believed Edward Pearce was their serial killer. Yet, he knew circumstantial evidence without the holy grail of crime-solving -- DNA -- made for a weak case. The Task Force's hopes were high when they found the suspect's apartment. And finding the body of the mother, Gertrude, was a gruesome piece of good luck. While his detectives sifted through the evidence gathered from Pearce's apartment, Derek sweated the results of the preliminary autopsy on the body.
They had precious little evidence to date in this perplexing case. Derek knew the passage of too much time would make witness memories as scarce as a tulip in March. Unexpressed was his fear that Edward Pearce might already have skipped the area, denying justice to the victims' families.
He checked his e-mails for an update on Gertrude Pearce's autopsy. As he pulled it up to read it, Derek swallowed past a knot of anxiety.
Doc, give me the goods.
The message was in typical Bloomquist style: PRELIM. INDICATES CAUSE OF DEATH TO BE FROM NORMAL CAUSES. TOX ORDERED. NO FOREIGN DNA.
Derek smacked his palm against the desk. His fingers itched to punch in the ME's number and argue his finding of a normal cause of death. The toxicology screen could show a lethal drug dose caused the old woman's death. After all, it was her son's M.O. The effort, though, would be a total waste of Derek's time. He knew Bloomquist had a consummate talent for covering his own ass.
Rubbing a knuckle against the edge of his teeth, Derek mulled over his options. He switched screens to view the initial list of items recovered from Edward Pearce's apartment. The drug paraphernalia and a pink quartz rosary linked Edward to, at least, Debra Padget's murder. They were in the process of testing the latter item for DNA evidence linking it to the victim.
That could takes weeks! Dammit to hell, Pearce could be deep in the Canadian wilderness by then.
Derek crossed to where he had a miniature single-serving coffee machine. The sound of its tiny motor laboring to heat the water was a welcome distraction. He brushed cookie crumbs from the front of his uniform. His assistant, Patty, always had a box of sweets on her desk, courtesy of her daughter's bakery.
The ruby-rimmed, mahogany beverage filling his cup smelled of nutmeg. He sipped it, letting the rich taste of cacao and eucalyptus soothe his anxiety. Cradling the cup in his palm, he returned to his desk.
A blast of warmth from an overhead heating duct and the coffee's temperature produced a light sheen of sweat along Derek's top lip. The easy solution would be to remove his tie or roll up his sleeves, but Derek was fanatical about appearing dignified. He wore his uniform like a priest wears a cross. The clothing was an outward sign of his calling and commitment to the American Criminal Justice system.
His head shot up at the quick rap on his door. Leaning into his elbow, he called out, "Come in."
Senior Detective, Ron Jolly, entered and approached. Placing his fingertips on the edge of Derek's desk, Ron bent forward and said, "Sorry to interrupt, Boss, but I knew you'd want to hear this first hand."
Derek blew out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. He gestured towards the chair opposite him, and Ron perched at its edge.
"I got a call from a friend of mine -- a nurse in the post-operative department at Briggins Medical Center," Ron began. "Agnes Longacre is there following surgery for a shattered wrist. I wasn't even aware Jana's grandmother was injured. Were you?"
"Yes, Jana gave me a brief report on the situation." Where are we going with this?
"I need to preface this by saying my friend is a practical woman with years of nursing experience. She's seen just about everything imaginable, and I've never known her to resort to melodrama."
"Understood," Derek replied.
Ron ran a finger along the inside of his shirt collar. He looked at his hands and then up at Derek."Something unnatural is manifesting itself around Agnes Longacre. My friend went so far as to call it evil."
Derek shifted his feet beneath his chair and moved closer to his desk. "Define unnatural."
"A disappearing pool of blood."
"She'd just undergone surgery, Ron. Maybe her wound was traumatized."
"Exactly what I said."
"Agnes was not the source of the blood. Maggie is adamant on that point. She says it disappeared from the floor when she bent to touch it. Furthermore, the old lady's panicked about someone named Tony. Keeps yelling he's in danger."
"Any other witnesses?"
"No," Ron admitted. He smoothed an eyebrow with his finger. "I know this all sounds crazy. If it was anyone but Maggie I'd say it was bullshit. The fear in her eyes... well... it was enough to convince me."
"How'd you leave it with her?"
"Assured her I'd make a report. I also told her we'd post a guard outside the room."
Derek nodded. "Good idea."
"Maggie claims she made multiple calls to Jana's listed number without success," Ron continued. "That doesn't sound like our Jana." He looked out the window and then back at Derek. "What in God's name is going on, Boss?"
"I'm not sure, Ron. Jana left me an hour ago after receiving word from her cousin that Tony Buday had been kidnapped. It's the probable cause for not returning Maggie's calls." He closed his laptop and stood. "I told Jana I'd give her a chance to check out the crime scene and confer with her cousin in consideration of his authority in tribal matters. But we've waited long enough."
"Tony really is in trouble?" Ron's voice was low and tight. "Could he be trying to communicate with his sister psychically? Sort of like twins do?"
Derek shook his head. "Ron, I don't believe in much beyond what my five senses tell me. Easier to keep my focus that way."
"Sure, I get that, Derek. But that doesn't explain those times when you look into the eyes of a punk who's raped his little girl and you feel, you just feel man, that you're looking at a human aberration. He licked his lips and frowned. "My grandmother warned me when I became a policeman that I would see things that would shake my faith in God. She told me never to forget that Jesus was my only rock in the midst of those storms."
"Jesus doesn't put those bastards in jail, Ron. We do," Derek countered. "The rest is conjecture."
Both men started when Derek's inter-office phone buzzed. He punched the intercom and said, "Yes, Patty?"
"Sheriff, there's a man demanding to see you right away. Says his name is Father Fred Northrup and he has urgent information. Shall I send him in?"
Derek glanced at Ron as if looking for an answer. "Father Northrup -- the name isn't one I recognize," he said.
"He claims you expressed an interest in talking with him about Father Brian DeShano," Patty elaborated.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Derek searched his memory.
The diocesan exorcist. Shit, I forgot all about him.
"Give me three minutes to finish up with Ron, then you can send him in, Patty."
Father Fred Northrup, unlike his contemporaries, wore a black suit which enhanced the purity of his white collar. He'd not eaten for over twenty four hours, and was feeling the side effects of his self-denial. He reached down to touch the valise at his feet. It gave him a momentary feeling of strength and comfort.
Sheriff Oleson's secretary faced away from him as she spoke into the phone. Father Fred made no effort to eavesdrop. He'd given her the pertinent details and was content to leave the rest in God's hands. Touching the rosary at the bottom of his pocket, he prayed:
I place my fear at your feet, Dear Savior. It is on behalf of your kingdom that I am willing to draw the Beast's attention.
A foot from his chair was a box filled with frosted, candy-sprinkled cookies. His stomach rumbled a plea to end his self-imposed fast. He gripped his elbows to cover the sound and closed his eyes.
Depart, Demon! A soldier goes into battle with his belly empty and his heart burning to gain the prize.
"Father? Are you alright?"
He turned in the direction of the voice and opened his eyes. "I'm sorry, young lady. Were you speaking to me?"
"I was just saying that Sheriff Oleson will see you."
They both turned in the direction of the detective exiting Sheriff Oleson's office. His eyes locked on the priest's and a current of energy passed between them. Ron nodded and walked away without speaking.
Sheriff Oleson's imposing figure filled the vacant doorway. "Father, please come in. Can I get you anything a cup of coffee?"
"Water would be appreciated."
Derek looked at Patty who stood in the open doorway. "Bring two," he said.
Gesturing to a side chair, Derek said, "I apologize for not getting back with you Father. It's generous of you to take time away from your family visit to come by the station. But the situation I wished to discuss with you has been pushed into the background by a series of extraordinary events over the last forty-eight hours."
Patty passed two water bottles through the open door then closed it.
Derek handed one to the priest and placed the other one on his desk. Father Northrup drained a third of the liquid in two gulps. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, dropped his elbows to his side and looked up. "Do you believe in visions, Sheriff?" he asked in a soft voice.
"Skeptics always equivocate," the priest answered. His lips turned up into a gentle smile. "I'm of the Jesuit order. We have a long-standing history of equivocation."
Derek leaned against his desk and crossed his ankles. "Does this 'vision' have any bearing on my murder case?"
"You'd be the better judge of that, Sheriff. To my mind it has everything to do with this case and something even more important to me -- the state of a man's soul."
"Unless you've seen the location of the killer, Father, I have little..."
The priest's hand shot out from the chair and gripped Derek's arm. His face was red, his eyes round and over-bright. "I've seen the man you seek. I'll help you find him for the sake of the soul I must save."
"Edward Pearce's soul is not worth saving, Father. He's little more than an animal at this point. And animals belong in cages."
The priest bowed his head. Derek could see his body was trembling and felt remorse for his crass response. "I'm sorry, Father," he explained. "I was at a crime scene until late and didn't get much sleep last night."
"It's not Edward Pearce's soul I'm called to save," the priest blurted.
"It's Father Brian's soul God's anxious to preserve."
Book of the Month contest entry
|The book continues with Cephi Moon, Part 1. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.|
Thanks to all you loyal followers of this novel. You've been so very patient with me. This chapter is a bit long, so I, especially, appreciate your forbearance.
Cast of Characters:
Tony Buday: Sioux medicine man and uncle of Homicide Detective, Jana Burke.
Jana Burke: Homicide detective and member of the Sioux nation.
Father Brian DeShano: Pastor of St. Matilde's Catholic Church.
Ron Jolly: Homicide Detective with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department.
Agnes Longacre: Tony Buday's sister and Jana Burke's grandmother.
Derek Oleson: Granite Mountain Sheriff
Edward Pearce: Suspected serial killer
Exorcist: To get rid of by solemn demand.
Jesuit: A member of a Roman Catholic order (Soeciety of Jesus) founded by St. Ignatius of Loyoal in 1534, to defend the papacy and convert heathens.
ME: Medical Examiner
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