|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted January 23, 2014||Chapters:||...51 52 -53- 54...|
A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road
Napha Moon, Part II
A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
Hundreds of Rosary beads hung from nails on every wall of the room. Above the bed's headboard was an inverted, ornate crucifix. Skeets recognized it as the one that had gone missing from Debra Padget's home the night of her murder.
Derek's radio crackled, and he grabbed it up. "Tell me you've got our Perp, Langston."
"Sorry, Sir. The garage and aparment are empty. But you need to see this place. It's... well, you'll know what I mean when you get here."
A stunned Skeets protested, "Boss, I tell you there were two people in that apartment. I.. I saw them with my own eyes."
Derek holstered his weapon with more force than usual. "They got past us somehow. Nothing to do now but go over these buildings for something we can use to get the murdering bastard once and for all."
On his way out the door, he added, "At least we now have a name: Edward Fucking Pearce."
Detective Skeets Epstein stood at the foot of the bed, hand on his Glock, studying the impaled rosaries lining the bedroom wall. Thus far, the raid of the suspected killer, Edward Pearce's, home had been a total bust, and Skeets was desperate to find evidence of any kind to vindicate his decision to push the panic button.
Except for a pile of bedding, there were no articles of clothing or anything to indicate the gender of the room's prior occupant. But it was the only bedroom with an attached bath, and Skeets reasoned, likely the one used by the suspect's mother. Father Brian had indicated Gertrude Pearce was a member of St. Matilde's, and Skeets knew that most older Catholics have a strong belief in the power of intercessory prayers to the Mother of Jesus.
He felt a visceral contempt for the malignant mind behind the staging of the holy objects, and a certainty it represented an utter and complete contempt for the woman who owned them. Panic gripped his insides at the thought Gertrude Pearce may have met the same fate as Debra Padget and Fritz Buell.
Did you know your son was a monster, Mrs. Pearce?
He knelt on the floor. Using his flashlight, he scoured the carpeting beside the bed. His heart sank when he found a large, dark stain. Sniffing a corner of the surface revealed the source of the bleach. He popped upright, causing C.S.I. Brian Lopez to gasp in surprise.
“Sorry, Lopez. Didn't mean to startle you,” Skeets said.
“What are you doing here, Detective?” Lopez asked. “Thought you'd be over at the apartment where all the action is going on.”
“I'm following the Sheriff's orders. He wants you to search this room first.” He scrambled upright and pointed to an area just beyond the edge of his foot. “Start here. There's a stain on the carpet that's been scrubbed with bleach.”
Two other CSI's entered the room, nodded a brief acknowledgement of his presence and fanned out to begin their tasks. Skeets put a hand on Lopez's shoulder to get his attention. “Did I hear you right? They found something to incriminate the bastard over at the apartment?”
“All I know is they found a body in a freezer in the garage. Doctor Bloomquist is on his way... though he's pissed as hell having his dinner party with some political mucky-mucks interrupted. I'm sure everyone within shouting distance will feel his wrath.”
Just when you think you've seen the worst...
Sheriff Derek Oleson walked the perimeter of the room without touching any of the objects. He was no homophobe, but the phallic sculptures and sexually graphic photos taped to the wall made the hair go up on the back of his neck. His hands were clenched in his pockets, and bile rose in his throat.
This isn't helping.
Derek made a conscious decision to shut down his emotional reaction and force his mind into investigative mode. He closed his eyes. When he felt calm, he re-opened them. Eyes darting from one side of the wall to the other, the realization dawned it was the same boy, at different ages, in all the pictures.
He moved in for a closer look at a photograph of the boy, now a teenager, lying against a stack of pillows. Long, black hair was pulled forward and formed seductive curls just above the nipple line of his bare chest. He had high cheekbones, a slight hook in the curve of his nose, and looked to be Native American. With a sickening thud, Derek registered the strong resemblance to one of his homicide detectives.
“Aw, Christ, this is gonna do a number on Jana's head.”
He forced aside his concerns, and focused on what the implications of the room's contents had for the case. Most of the pictures were polaroids, and he wondered if they might be the original property of the pedophile priest, Monsignor Flaherty. It was just a hunch; but a plausible one that would go toward establishing motive.
Derek heard the sound of a sharp intake of breath behind him. He recognized the man, thanks to his distinctive cologne.
“Why wasn't I informed of this raid in advance, Sheriff?” Agent Dresden Stredwick demanded.
“There wasn't time. Detective Epstein received a strong lead and had to go with his instincts.” Derek faced the Profiler and continued, “Quite natural for him to call me considering I'm in charge of this investigation, and his commanding officer.”
He gestured to the room behind him. “Looks to me like you should be getting your notebook out, Agent Stredwick. I'd say you've got plenty of material here to give an informed opinion on the mind behind these killings.”
Agent Stredwick glared at the Sheriff, his face rigid with rage. “I don't need to be told how to do my job, Sheriff Oleson. I've been doing it at least as many years as you've been solving petty larcenies and locking up drunks.”
Derek closed the gap between himself and the Agent. Eyes colder than blue hell raked the man up and down. “Is that alcohol I smell on your breath, Agent?” he said in imitation of the agent's drawl.
Agent Stredwick's face blanched, and he stepped back. “I had a drink with dinner. Since I had no idea of what was going on here, I didn't see the harm in that.”
“No harm, as you say, in a drink or two off duty, Agent. Though it's my understanding you have a history of alcohol... issues... shall we say? Now, that has me worried because as you point out, I've had lots of experience with drunks. They rarely tell the truth about how many drinks they've really had.”
“This is fucking nonsense,” Agent Stredwick snarled. “You're intimidated by me, and would love to find a reason to get me kicked off this case.”
Derek became aware of the large figure blocking the doorway. Detective Skeets Epstein's eyes danced with humor, and Derek surmised he'd caught most of the conversation. He stepped around the irate Special Agent and approached him.
“I'd like you to assist Agent Stredwick until the rest of his staff gets here. See that he has everything he needs in the way of equipment, will you?”
“Yes, Sir. Where will you be?”
“Waiting for the Coroner to arrive. I think it would be prudent for him to oversee our handling of the body found in the freezer. It's been taped inside a shroud, and I don't want any damage done to potential evidence through improper procedure.”
“Forward thinking, as usual, Sir,” Skeets said. Derek guessed the approval in Skeet's voice was intended for the Agent more than him.
He tapped a finger over the detective's heart. “You went by the book. Skeets. Exactly the way I'd have done it. Thanks to you, we've got a pivotal break in this case. Need I say good work?”
“Not necessary, Sir. Just doing all I can to put a soulless bastard in a cage for the rest of his god-forsaken life.”
Derek nodded in approval. “If you hear any shouting, don't be alarmed. I'm expecting Bloomquist to arrive with both attitude and indignation.” He started down the stairs and stopped. “Get hold of Jana,” he added. “I want her to report to me before she sees what's in that room.”
~~ TO BE CONTINUED ~~
Dr. William Bloomquest: Coroner for Granite Mountain
Fritz Buell: Murder victim
Detective Jana Burke: Homicide Detective and member of the Sioux nation.
Father Brian DeShano: Pastor of St. Matilde's Catholic Church
Detective Skeets Epstein: Homicide Detective
Monsignor Flaherty: Convicted Pedophile
Sheriff Derek Oleson: Head of the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department
Edward Pearce: Murder Suspect
Gertrude Pearce: Suspect's mother
Dresden Stredwick, II: FBI Profiler overseeing the case
CSI: Crime Scene Investigator
Perp: Perpetrator of a crime
Rosary: A five decade circle of bead used for spiritual
Sioux Translation: Napha (evade)
Thanks much to donkeyoatey for use of his awesome artwork: Eve's Seducer
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