Mystery and Crime Fiction posted August 31, 2013 Chapters:  ...43 44 -45- 46... 


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A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

Taku Moon

by Writingfundimension

"When a disturbance really gets going, say into what we call a diabolical siege. then you get phenomena like materializations, de-materializations, teleportations, levitations -- of both people and objects...'     Ed Warren, Internationally Renowned Demonologist 

**********

PREVIOUSLY: Two elderly members of St. Matilde's Catholic Church have been murdered. The Detectives of Granite Mountain Sheriff's division struggle to sort through a confusing assortment of clues. Further complicating the investigation are indiciations the present day events may be linked to a decades-old scandal involving Monsignor Lewis Flaherty, a pedophile priest.


**********

Sheriff Derek Oleson paused to observe the black fly make its way across his desk. It's movements were sluggish, its vigor paling with each moon. Winter's approach portended annihilation of the insect's brief brush with life. Because it was not cursed with this awareness, the fly approached a scattering of crumbs with much the same enthusiasm as its first meal.

Zigzagging across a paper surface, stopping now and then to rub its antennae, it naively made its way forward. Whether it sensed the watcher's scrutiny made little difference. If forced to, it would escape and find another route to its destination.

In Derek's desk drawer was a flyswatter. Fruit flies descended like a biblical plague during the apple harvest, and the swatter was put to good use. But with the first frost, they ceased to be a problem. The larger species of fly would die next. He decided to leave the doomed creature to its devices and concentrated on two reports in front of him.

Fritz Buell's preliminary autopsy report revealed he'd not been drugged like Debra Padget, the first victim. The only contusions on his body were caused by his abduction from the graveyard. Derek surmised he was in a state of shock from the rape and easily succumbed to strangulation, thereby eliminating the need for a paralytic drug. The rape and post-mortem removal of his eyeballs pointed to a brutal rage toward the male victim. "Or, in the killer's mind, greater culpability?" Derek theorized.

He flinched at the sharp raps on the door of his private entrance. Through its peephole, he recognized Detective Skeets Epstein. Derek asked him to avoid the outer office after his meeting with newswoman, Danika Martin. The detective's frown hinted at the meeting's outcome.

Skeets offered no comment until he was seated across from his boss. "The lady showed, Derek, but you're not going to like what I learned." Derek's immobile features masked his concern.

"There's a leak at the morgue," Skeets continued, "and it's not one of ours. Danika claims that Matthew Buell's private investigator has an inside source. Extra, un-taxed cash would be tempting. I'd be willing to bet Matthew's money is juicing the information flow."

"She tell you how much they've got?"

"From what I could gather, just about everything. Which leaves us with zip for a bargaining chip. Though she promised to hold back the information on the mutilations, I don't trust her, Derek."

"Do you think she's covering for Paul Newstead by claiming it's Matthew Buell's P.I.?

"She's capable of juggling two men if it serves her purposes. My gut tells me the hired hand is jockeying for fame with a side of sex in exchange for information. But I think Newstead's out of the picture, following his demotion."

Derek locked his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. "We may end up being grateful for the FBI's presence after all."

"How's that?"

"They trump the press every time. At their word, Miss Martin will find her well of information bone dry."

"It's ridiculous that we have to depend on outsiders to get the local press to behave," Skeets said. "I miss the days when reporters like Neil Guthrie looked at himself as part of a team with the community's well-being uppermost. I hope his ghost haunts Danika Martin's dreams."

"He'll have to get in line." Derek retrieved the two autopsy reports and slid them across to Skeets.

"What are these?"

"The first item is Fritz Buell's preliminary autopsy findings. Beneath it is Debra Padget's final report. Read paragraph four of the coroner's preliminary findings on Fitz Buell."

Skeets read and re-read the paragraph, placed a finger to mark a spot on the page and looked up. "Fritz Buell's torso had three lacerations on the stomach giving the appearance of inverted crosses?"

"Keep reading," Derek responded. "It gets better."

"Likely to have been caused by the claws of an animal due to the distinct tearing nature of the wounds," Skeets read aloud. He hesitated before asking, "Do you think the killer used an amputated claw gained through some kind of freaky ritual?"

"I'd be inclined to agree with you if it weren't for the copious amount of fresh animal feces found inside the pocket of the Fritz Buell's Cassock. The Coroner's adamant the excrement was deliberately placed. Dr. Bloomquist's exact words were: 'It's ludicrous to think an animal happened upon the body before you did and decided to crap on it.'

Skeets rolled his eyes. "Sounds like Bloomquist. Crass but succinct. Are we dealing with two different killers, then? I don't recall any of that kind of abuse with the first victim."

"We missed something." Derek grabbed his pen and twisted the cap. "I went back to Debra's report and found an obscure item buried in the final autopsy report."

"Every member of the Task Force reviewed that report at least a dozen times," Skeets insisted. "What could we possibly have missed?"

"Her stomach contents revealed she had a foreign body present. It's composition? Cat hair, rodent bones and fibers resembling string."

Skeets shot forward and planted his elbows on the desk. "Holy hell, Derek, are you telling me the lady had a hairball in her stomach?"

"I'm telling you that extricated from our first victim's stomach was an object consistent with the common hairball. And yet, nowhere in Debra's house were there signs of a cat."

"Further, Bloomquist claims the foreign body had no signs of digestion. Which led him to conclude it got into her stomach post-mortem." Derek tossed his pen onto the desk. "We're talking about an object the size of a golf ball. How is that possible?"

"The killer could have surgically placed it. After all, he used professional-grade tools in order to remove Buell's eyeballs."

"I wondered that, too. But Bloomquist assured me the only incisions into Debra Padget's corpse were made by him."

"Was it forced down her throat?"

Derek shook his head. "No signs of scraping to the lining of the esophagus. Instrument or fingers, one would expect signs of an item that size being forced down her throat."

The air in the room was charged with energy, and Skeets went very still. Derek stared at a spot to the left of his detective's face in a determined effort to resist the tug of wild superstition.

"Bloomquist gave me information not included in the report that he'll deny ever saying," Derek continued. "He swears he removed the foreign object from Deborah's stomach and placed it in a basin for definitive analysis at a later time. Yet, his assistant recalls no such object being present. Bloomquist, himself, searched the lab, but was unable to locate it."

"I don't believe that hairball disappeared into thin air," Skeets was quick to interject. "Bloomquist is covering for his lab's foul-up."

"I don't disagree with you. However, given this latest information, I believe it prudent we proceed armed with the knowledge our killer has strong ties to the occult."

"God help us if the public gets a hint of this, Derek. Do you plan to share this with the Feds?"

Derek skirted the question. "I want you and Morales to go back into the files of those church vandalisms a few years back. Look for anything that correlates with our murders. Also, interview any witnesses. It'd be especially important to hear what they say in light of what we know."

Skeets pushed back his chair and stood up. "Rick is a good detective, but he's acting a bit irrational these days. You putting him with me to get him away from Jana for a while?"

"Jana has to remain available to the FBI."

"Of course. I'll round up my new partner and get started."

"Good." Derek reached across his desk and retrieved the report copies. "Everything we've discussed remains confidential for the time being."

"Understood, Boss. When the time is ripe, I'll be more than happy to give you the podium. You're going to get tremendous resistance. This investigation is heading in a bizarre direction, and I've got a bad feeling it's gonna get even crazier."

**

Derek's private number lit up. He paused from his writing to check the number. When he realized who it was, he opened a small notebook before answering.

"This is Sheriff Oleson speaking."

"Sheriff Oleson, this is Father Frederick Northrup. I was contacted by the Archdiocese of Minneapolis following your inquiry. Sorry it's taken a few days to get back with you. I've just returned from Rome and had some urgent business to attend to first."

"Thank you for taking time out to call me, Father. From what I've been given to understand, you... ah... specialists are spread thin."

"Currently, that is the situation; but things are changing. A batch of younger priests are being trained to take over. I can tell you it's not a moment too soon. I'm not in the kind of shape that handsome young actor from The Exorcist was, and we know what happened to him." His full-throated laugh was pleasant to the ear and Derek started to relax.

"Tell me how I can help you, Sheriff."

"I'm working two homicides here in Granite Mountain with ritualistic implications.There are aspects of each that suggest we're dealing with someone who has a grudge against the Catholic Church -- specifically, St. Matilde's Catholic Church. Additionally, one of the victims had three inverted crosses burned into his abdomen. From what I've been reading, the inverted cross is used in Satanic rituals."

The priest interrupted, "St. Matidle's?  Wasn't that Monsignor Flaherty's parish?"

"Yes, it was. It's now under the leadership of Father Brian DeShano."

"I'm quite familiar with Father Brian. I'm surprised you're reaching out to the Archdiocese when you have an exorcist right in your own back yard."

Derek sputtered, "Why didn't my original contact inform me of that fact?"

"They may not have known. We're a reclusive bunch, Sheriff. One only learns our identity when, and if, a situation is proven to be of demonic origin. That's something you can discuss with Father Brian. Or is there a reason you might not want to do that?"

"I'd prefer to speak with you first. Father Brian has his hands full dealing with the aftermath of the murder of two of his parishioners. I'm willing to come over to Minneapolis for a meeting at your earliest convenience."

"That's not necessary. My sister lives near Granite Mountain. I was planning to visit her the day after tomorrow. My secretary will contact you when the arrangements are confirmed."

"I appreciate your generosity, Father."

"Don't thank me yet, Sheriff. If you're involved with a true demon, then I suggest you get on your knees and start to pray. Your world view is about to be shattered."



Recognized


Terms:

Hairball: A ball of hair accumulated in a cat stomach as a result of licking its coat.
Juicing: Powering
Taku: Sioux for Being/Creature
The Exorcist: A very famous movied based on William Blatty's book.

Cast of Characters:

Fritz Buell: Second murder victim
Matthew Buell: Fritz's wealthy son
Jana Burke: Homicide Detective with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department.
Father Brian DeShano: Pastor of St. Matilde's Catholic Church.
Skeets Epstein: G.M. Homicide detective.
Danika Martin: Television news anchor and journalist.
Rick Morales: G.M. Homicide Detective and Jana Burke's partner.
Officer Paul Newstead: Fomerly a homicide detective who was demoted when he was discovered to be leaking confidential information to a local T.V. newscaster.
Debra Padget: First murder victim

Thank you, donkeyoatey, for the superb accompanying artowork: Eve's seducer.
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