Mystery and Crime Fiction posted July 23, 2012 Chapters:  ...12 13 -14- 15... 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Detectives face a critical deadline

A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

Owaka Moon, Pt. 2

by Writingfundimension

Previously: A man who claimed to be responsible for the murder of Debra Padget is eliminated as a suspect. Sheriff Derek Oleson calls a meeting of his team of detectives working the case in order to regroup and focus their efforts on finding the real killer before he strikes again.

**********


Twelve hours lost, evidence deteriorating and a killer inflamed by publicity. Sheriff Oleson suppressed the urge to thrash Chet Lapinski for insinuating himself into his case with a false confession. His people had wasted precious energy, and pinned their hopes on a man who was one shoe shy of a pair. As much as he wanted to charge Lapinski with obstructing a police investigation, he kicked him loose to focus on finding the real killer.

Due to a department leak, the Sheriff's office was under the jaded scrutiny of the press who'd already disclosed a fissure in his camp.

As case commander Derek felt there was a gun to his head, and his instinct was to use the power of his office to raise some hell. But first, he needed to find out which of his detectives he could still trust.

He drained the remnants of a soft drink, then squeezed the aluminum can between his fingers, watching the veins of his hand swell with the sudden influx of blood. Dropping the mauled object into a trash can, he turned to find an emptied hallway.

A check of his watch indicated enough time to duck into his office before the Task Force meeting. He tucked his legs beneath the chair,  drew a notebook from his pocket and laid it flat, using a paperweight to prop it open.

This was Derek's first time alone since leaving the crime scene, and his fingers frenetically responded in urgent need to download impressions and feelings into a private file. When his watch alarm beeped, he forwarded the file to his home computer.

The detective always slept fitfully for the duration of an investigation; it was just the way he was wired. The list was his version of hot milk when sleep eluded his grasp and thoughts nudged him toward panic. And it offered the additional benefit of scrubbing his mind of impediments to a fresh perspective.

Now he felt ready to turn his team's disappointment to determination.

**********

Senior detectives, Epstein, Jolly and Morales huddled at one end of a conference table. To a man, their faces showed strain, their body language that of a trio of coyotes converging on a fresh carcass as they compared case notes from the canvass of the victim's neighborhood. Little of interest came up, certainly nothing obvious, as most of the people interviewed were in a state of shock.

Detective Enrique 'Rick' Morales rubbed his knuckles across the Sheriff's Department patch on his sleeve and spoke with firm conviction. "This perp blends into the background like a cockroach hiding in a dark corner. He's gonna' be a bitch to profile."

Ron Jolly wrote B.I.T.C.H. across the top of his pad and underlined it three times. "I'm in total agreement. He slipped in and out without leaving any trace of his presence except for the communion hosts and weird body painting. I think it's a pattern he's bound to repeat..."

"Unless we catch him first, Ron," interjected Sheriff Oleson from the open doorway of the conference room. Skeets Epstein had seen the knob move, so he was prepared for the sudden entrance. But the other two detectives were taken by surprise.

"Dammit, Boss, would you quit with the ninja moves, already?" Ron blurted to cover his embarrassment at being caught flat-footed. Epstein laughed to the point of choking, which only drew a menacing look from his colleague.

Derek's blue eyes glittered with mischief. "What can I say, Ron? You  should know by now I'm a man of many talents."

Ron gave up a smile in response. "Yes, Sir, that ... you ...are."

Sheriff Oleson claimed the seat at the head of the table, put on his reading glasses and opened a file he'd brought with him. Head lowered and eyebrows arched in perfect imitation of a perturbed professor, he queried, "Where's Jana?"

Morales, who often partnered with Burke, perceived the remark as a criticism of Jana's professionalism and rushed to defend her. "She's only just finished with the Darcy Shaw interview!"

The older man accepted the obvious loyalty behind the words, so he chose to let the remark pass.Taking one of the crime scene photos from the top of his neat pile of papers, Derek walked to the 'evidence' board and placed magnets at the four corners of the picture then stepped back.

The victim looked like a sleeping drag queen. "What we know so far," tapping his finger on the photo, "is that Debra Padget had no known enemies. She was confined to a wheelchair and relied on the charity of neighbors and friends. It's likely she was conscious, if only briefly, during the attack and aware she was about to die."

He paused to allow everyone present to absorb the impact of that terrible thought before continuing. "Here's our preliminary data." The room was silent except for the sound of a marker sliding against board as Derek listed the bullet points:

   1. Confined to a wheel chair
   2. Any number of daily visitors
   3. Comfortable but not wealthy
   4. A lifelong Catholic
   5. Former employee of St. Matilde's
   6. No children - one surviving relative (Darcy Shaw)
   7. Niece claims the victim often left her doors unlocked
   8. Early estimate of T.O.D. between midnight and 3 A.M.
   9. No signs of sexual assault
 10. Smothered with a pillow after injection of a paralytic drug
 
11. Face painted, body posed
 
12. Lips sealed by a communion host taped to the skin
 
13. Money left untouched, religious objects removed from home

Sheriff Oleson asked over his shoulder, "Any thoughts?" The words were lost in the sound of a door opening. Detective Jana Burke entered the room and hastily seated herself.

"Sorry I'm late. Father Brian came to the station looking for you, Sir." She pushed a folded sheet of paper across the shiny surface of the table in Derek's direction. "When I told him you were in an important meeting, he scribbled this note. Insisted I give it to you right away."

Derek picked up the note -- what he read made his gut twist a little tighter:

Sheriff

I need to speak with you as soon as you're free. I believe the killer is going to kill again VERY SOON. No matter the time, call me!

Father Brian

 

**********



Recognized


The optimal time frame for solving a case is within the first forty-eight hours.

Terms:
Perp: Perpetrator
T.O.D. - Time of Death

Owaka: Lakota Sioux for battleground

Thanks to Tillom for the use of her artwork.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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