Mystery and Crime Fiction posted July 15, 2012 Chapters:  ...11 12 -13- 14... 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A predator looms

A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

Owaka Moon, Part 1

by Writingfundimension

Previously:  A man who claimed to be the killer of Debra Padget has been eliminated as a suspect.  While waiting for the coroner's findings and with little in the way of clues, Sheriff Derek Oleson and his team of detectives scramble to apprehend the murderer before he has the chance to kill again.
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Stanley Eitner pulled his red Impala into a handicap parking space near the McDonald's entrance. He didn't realize how fast he was going until his car jumped the curb and he heard the sound of metal meeting concrete. He jerked upright, more embarrassed than afraid, and backed the car up. When he felt its tires bounce on the pavement, he shut down the engine.

Normally, he would immediately inspect the car's undercarriage for damage. But today was not a normal day.

His muscles fought to stay inert as he searched his pockets for a handkerchief. Ducking his head to avoid the scrutiny of strangers, Stan wiped his cheeks and dabbed
 the circles of tears scattered across the front of his jacket. A sob rose to his lips, but he choked it back for the sake of his dignity.

Get moving, you don't want them to find you like this.

Stanley nudged the car door open and hooked his fingers around the lip of its roof to pull himself upright. Intent as he was in his movements, he didn't notice the skateboarder closing in on his car. The boy managed to correct his trajectory at the last second, and let loose a slew of obscenities as he dodged between parked cars.

"What, you got shit for brains?!" Stanley yelled back. His heart rate soared, and he held on to the door frame until his fright passed.

A young woman with a toddler under one arm and two bags of food clutched to her chest approached him from the sidewalk. "I saw what happened. Are you okay, mister? You're white as a ghost."

"I'll ... be ... fine ..." He patted the air between them for assurance. "Just need a few minutes alone to catch my breath. Sorry about swearing in front of your daughter."

The worry lines about her mouth softened into an impudent grin. "Oh, don't feel bad. Her father's been known to lose his cool in traffic and drop the f-bomb, so she's heard worse."

"I appreciate your concern, young lady, but I can manage from here."

The young mother hiked her daughter higher on her hip and conceded defeat. "Okay -- I sure hope your day gets better!" 
 
When Stanley felt some of his strength return, he shut the car door and moved toward the entrance. His legs responded like congealed jello and he feared he would fall before he reached his goal. Dropping down into the padded seat of a corner booth, he had, again, the impression of being dumped on the barren beach of a forgotten island. 

At twelve-thirty sharp, Jim Duffy and George Anderson, both retirees like Stanley, met in the parking lot and came through the door together. They spotted Stanley at their usual corner booth and waved. Jim stepped into line ahead of George, ordering a mocha cappuccino to go with his Big Mac. His companions referred to it as a 'girly' drink, so he always got an extra large just to rub it in.

George and Jim took seats on either side of Stanley. Engrossed in their debate over the merits of Jim's new graphite driver, neither one noticed their friend's stupefied state. The last to arrive was the fourth member of their lunch group, Chaz Bramer. Seeing the evil grin on Jim's face, Chaz braced for the usual trash talking.

"Say, Chaz, need me to give you a reminder call next time?" sniped Jim Duffy.

Chaz gave it right back. "Ah, for criminy sake's, Jim. It's not like you have anywhere to go after this. I'm worthless before noon and you damned well know it. Wait 'til you get to be my age, you'll find out."

"I am your age, you old fart!"

When Stanley didn't join in the laughter, Jim worked a little harder to keep the vein of humor going. He twisted his body sideways, his face contorted into a mock-strain, "Constipation getting' you down, Stan?"

Chet and George snickered, but the humor died on the vine. Stanley remained motionless.

"Hey, Stan," Jim said as he gently laid his hand on his friend's shoulder, "Something bothering you?"

The three men were alarmed when they observed the red blotches that sprouted on their friend's cheeks..

"Something awful has happened to Debra," was all the stricken man could manage.

They all knew the Debra he referred to was Debra Padget. Stanley had been sweet on her ever since their years together at St. Matilde's school where he'd done double duty as basketball coach and history teacher.

Jim quickly responded, "God, Stan, has she had another stroke?"

Stanley slammed a fist on the table, drawing glances of disapproval from a nearby family. "Don't you people watch the news?"

"Hey, take it easy, Stan. We had an early tee time and came straight here from the golf course." The three men leaned in close to Stan as a show of support. "Tell us," George urged. 

"I don't have any details. I called her home at six thirty to see if she needed me to pick up any extra groceries." His prominent Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed vigorously to keep control of his words.

"I was surprised when a male voice answered the phone. Since I didn't recognize the voice, I asked who he was. He said he was with the Sheriff's Department and Debra was not able to come to the phone."

Stanley covered his face with his hands then he dropped them into his lap. His torso bounced like a yo-yo between the table and his seat back. "I asked if she'd been taken to the hospital and the man said … he told me ... 'No, Sir. I'm sorry but that's all I can tell you at this time. The Sheriff will likely be making a statement later today.'

"I dressed and rushed over to her house. There were police cars blocking the street and yellow crime scene tape around Debra's house. I tried to find out something from one of the officers present but he brushed me aside when I admitted I wasn't a relative."

My only thought was to go to the rectory to see if Father Brian had any information. Though I rang the bell a dozen times, the only sound I heard was the barking of a dog.

The concerned looks on his friends' faces worked like the handles of a spigot, filling his eyes with tears. He pulled out his hankie and wiped his cheeks.

"Stan, have you eaten anything today?" Jim's voice was tight with concern.

When Stanley didn't answer, George unwrapped his own burger and put it into his friend's hands. "A stress like this can put you into diabetic crisis, Stan. Eat this hamburger," he urged. 

The distraught man looked at the object in his hands as if it was a moon rock. "I'm not sure it'll stay down, George. I wanna puke when I picture her lying on cold steel while the coroner cuts her body up looking for clues."

"The coroner is involved? What the hell is going on, Stan?!"

"Debra was murdered last night. They --  the newspeople --  say she was tortured and mutilated."

Chaz Bramer's coffee cup hit the table and, like a tower without a foundation, it came to rest on its side, sending brown liquid rivulets in multiple directions.

**********

A man wearing sunglasses made his way past their table. His cane tapped rhythmically on the floor tiles. The hand that held the cane was tattood with a peace sign. He loved playing the role of the flower child who'd tragically lost his eyesight in 'Nam.

He moved slowly and carefully -- just as he imagined a blind person would -- in the direction of the transit bus waiting in front of the restaurant. He avoided touching any of the homeless people who rode the bus to keep warm, not that any of them would come within a foot of him. He was last to enter, and at the top step, he greeted the driver, "Greg, my man, how's it hangin?"

The bus driver crossed his arms, unaware the contempt that wreathed his features was noted and filed for future reference."I ain't your man, Eddie. How many times do I have to tell you that?!"

A mocking smile accompanied the mental picture of Greg lying at his feet, throat slit from ear to ear. Eddie enjoyed his fantasy a few seconds longer, then seated himself behind the  bus driver.

Greg felt his arms grow goosebumps as a blast of cold air hit him from behind. Later he would tell his wife that it felt like he walked into a meat locker.



Recognized


Terms:
Driver: Golf Club
Big Mac: Proprietary name of a hamburger.
McDonald's: Fast food restaurants.
Trash Talking: Goading

Owaka: Lakota Sioux for battleground

A special thanks to Tillom for the use of her artwork.
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