|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted April 7, 2013||Chapters:||...33 34 -35- 36...|
A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road
Book of the Month Contest Winner
A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a world of moral corruption, revenge and brutal murders.
Previously: Fritz Buell's body is found on the Sioux Reservation by Tribal Policeman, Ty Longacre. Detectives Burke and Morales of the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department have been called to the scene.
Detective Jana Burke winced at the sharp crack of each bone. Fritz Buell's fingers gave ground with reluctance. She knew the Medical Examiner's actions were necessary. It was the only way to retrieve the note clenched in the dead man's fist. What disgusted her was his insensitive manner, and the way he wrenched the cadaver's fingers about like a plated carcass.
Doctor Bloomquist lost his argument for prompt dispatch of the corpse to the morgue. Despite indications the body was beginning to decompose, the homicide detectives insisted they needed the note first.
His concern, by contrast, was the accurate time of death. That determination could be off by as much as twenty-four hours if the corpse had been stored at thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. His brutal actions meant to convey his outrage at being superceded.
Fritz Buell's thumbs and first fingers lay mangled. Jana realized it was the ME's intention to break every finger. "Enough," she ordered. Dr. Bloomquist desisted but made no effort to get out of the way. He was three times her weight, but a sharp jab unbalanced him.
"There's no need to get nasty, young woman," he shot back. "Worse indignities await Mr. Buell at the morgue."
"We're not on your turf, doctor. Look around you. I've got plenty of witnesses to corroborate a claim of corpse abuse." Jana drew closer. "Bet you didn't know the victim's son is a multi-millionaire? I'm certain he'd love a target for his rage once he learns of his father's murder."
The ME searched for support and found its opposite. Every face telegraphed hostility. Bristling, he stepped aside.
Tribal policeman, Ty Longacre, observed the conflict between Jana and the Doctor from the crime scene perimeter. Finding the body on reservation land made this, technically, his case. Short-term, he'd chosen to stay in the background enjoying the inevitable drama of a white man's posturing.
Jana inched the paper free. Her partner, Detective Morales, held a clear plastic bag into which she dropped the evidence. Safe from contamination, they were able to spread it flat on the gurney and read its contents.
Rick Morales read it through twice before commenting. "Cursive style. Similar to the note we found at the rectory. The paper is light weight and looks expensive... I'm thinking custom designed?"
"I agree, Rick." She tapped the document for emphasis. "Are you familiar with this Bible quote?"
Her question surprised him, then he realized it was because of his Catholic background.
Here was his chance to impress her. Unfortunately, like many Catholics, his exposure to Scripture was limited to three brief readings at Sunday services. The killer's quote was not one he recognized.
A familiar voice interrupted, "Let me have a look, Jana." The fact the speaker was her cousin, Ty, both surprised and irritated her.
"What do you know about Bible quotes, Ty?"
His grin let her know her prickly attitude amused him. The two cousins fished and camped together in their youth, and Ty knew she could be quick to take offense.
"Six years I took Grandfather Dubry to every single service held at the Beacon Baptist Church. You wouldn't know that since you'd left the Rez by then." Jana flushed at his subtle jab. Though she'd had no choice but to leave the reservation with her mother, her contemporaries were slow to embrace her back into the fold. Taking a job in the white man's world punctuated their concern she'd abandoned their ways.
Jana waved her hand over the paper indicating he should proceed.
He read in silence. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.'
Rick Morales and Jana had Ty hemmed in, which wasn't helping his concentration. Seagulls squawked as they marched toward the smell of meat and a cold wind flattened Ty's jacket against his chest. He strained to tune out all external stimuli.
New Testament language. I know that much.
He closed his eyes and imagined the words on a page. Gradually, the rest of the text became clear.
Popping upright, he announced, "It's from the New Testament. Basically, Jesus is admonishing his followers' tendency to blindness of their own faults. Could be why Fritz Buell's eyes were cut out."
Rick Morales interjected an insight to save face. "The black garment on the body is a priest's cassock and those are communion hosts taped..."
"You've got your note." Doctor Bloomquist's voice shattered the moment. He turned to the CSI team and barked an order. "Load the body. I'll follow in my car."
Jana nixed the order. "You don't call the shots here, Bloomquist. The body will be released when we say it's released." Working on calm, she lowered her voice to address the lead CSI.
"Todd, you have everything you need?"
"Yes, ma'am. We've covered it from every angle. It's okay by me to wind this up."
Ty hadn't moved from his spot beside the gurney. Jana laid a palm on his shoulder. "Appreciate the help, Ty. Do you have any objections to removal of the body?"
"No. We've done our own sweep of the crime scene. I'll send you a copy of our findings -- providing you keep us in the loop." He winked at her and was pleased to see her smile.
"That'd be great. I know you don't have to do that. And I'll do my best to keep you informed. Now that it's clear we're dealing with a serial killer, the Feds are gonna want in. Plus, the dead man's son has his own hired help. From what I've heard about the guy, you can expect a visit."
The seagulls reacted first to the sound of the screeching tires. They rose as a group and flew toward the center of Mullet Lake. Jana groaned when she saw whose vehicle it was. As if conjured by his father's ghost, Matthew Buell had arrived on the scene.
Rick was on the move before Jana had a chance to ask. Matthew exited the passenger side intent on reaching his father. Rick stepped in his path. "You don't want to see him like this. There's nothing you can do."
A solid punch gave Matthew a temporary opening, but Rick recovered quickly. He grabbed the back of Matthew's jacket, pulling him to the ground and pinning his shoulders. He looked up for confirmation the body was on the gurney and covered before speaking.
"Stop! I don't want to hurt you, Mr. Buell."
Matthew's head rose from the grass. The tendons in his neck bulged, and his eyes were wild. "Get off me," he screamed. "This is harassment. I have the right to see my father!"
"Civilians are not allowed inside a crime scene. I'll use force to remove you if necessary."
Jana approached and knelt beside the two men. She nodded to Rick, and he released his hold on Matthew's shoulders.
"Nothing we could say will ease your pain, Mr. Buell. Let us do our job. It's the best expression of love you can offer your father right now."
"C'mon, Matt. Let me take you back to the hotel." Jana eyed the oddly docile private investigator standing a few feet away. His face was white, and he looked ready to pitch the contents of his stomach. She refrained from asking if he'd ever been at an actual crime scene.
Thank God he didn't see the body.
Rick stood up and offered his hand to help Matthew do the same. Supported by Aaron Noff, Fritz Buell's eldest child climbed the slope to his car. He moved as if all the vitality had been leached from his bones.
"All his wealth, and not a single penny of it can change today's outcome," Rick commented.
"Losing his father this way, so soon after his mother, I don't think he'll rest until his father's case is solved. Remember that mother whose daughter went missing two years ago? She called the police station every day until she passed from cancer."
Jana turned to face the Lake. The curve of her neck and the exotic smell of incense that permeated her clothes aroused an old hunger in Rick. He walked away rather than follow his urge to press his body against hers, luxuriating in the feel of her hair against his skin.
"I'm not looking forward to this next part, Rick," she said when she caught up to him.
"You mean the paperwork?"
"No, the interview with my Uncle Tony. He'll be as tight as a freshly dug clam when it comes to sharing information. If you think I'm difficult, wait until you meet the man who taught me all I know."
Book of the Month
Detective Jana Burke: Homicide Detective with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's department and member of the Sioux Nation.
Franklin Bloomquist: Granite County Medical Examiner
Fritz Buell: Elderly parishioner of St. Matilde's Catholic Church
Matthew Buell: Murdered man's son
Ty Longacre: Tribal policeman for the Sioux Reservation and Jana's cousin
Detective Rick Morales: Homicide detective with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department and Jana Burke's partner.
Aaron Noff: Private Detective hired by Matthew Buell.
Tony Buday: Tribal elder, Medicine Man and Jana's uncle.
Sioux Dialect: Conze Chohn-Zay - Angry
Thanks to drmerlin for the great accompanying artwork!
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