|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted February 9, 2013||Chapters:||...29 30 -31- 32...|
serious implications for the priest
A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road
A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis of faith when a killer lures him into the twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
The man invading Sheriff Derek Oleson's personal space jabbed his forefinger into the detective's sternum.
"Dad's been missing for four days. FOUR DAYS. Nothing is more important than finding him. If that means calling in the federal authorities, then by God, do it!"
Derek flattened his lips into a straight line and stepped back. The detective's parry had the effect of halting Matthew Buell's tirade. He slumped sideways against Derek's desk and rubbed his right arm for warmth.
"My department is running a solid investigation." Derek's voice was even, his words precise. "We have nothing, as of yet, to warrant the interest of the FBI."
The coarse laughter of the third man in the room brought Matthew Buell to his feet. Clenched fists telegraphed a warning that his employee, Private Investigator Aaron Noff, chose to ignore.
"Spoken like a politician, Sheriff Oleson."
Aaron leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. "What you need, and your investigation sadly lacks, is clarity. You're asking yourselves, what is motivating this killer? Is he acting out his fantasies... perhaps, exacting revenge? Or maybe he's a sadist who can't get it up without inflicting pain?" He made a quarter-turn with his chair and spoke directly to Fritz Buell's son.
"Here's the part Sheriff Oleson won't tell you, Matt. They've got next to nothing in Debra Padget's murder investigation other than a questionable link to a decade-old pedophile case. The man who suggested the connection is Father Brian DeShano, the only person to have direct contact with the killer." He pursed his lips and made a popping sound. "I'm not surprised they don't want the Feds snooping around."
Matthew shifted his position to address Derek. "Dad considered Father Brian a friend. Without question, he would do whatever the priest asked. Why haven't you examined his involvement more closely? The idea my father was snatched because he knows something about an old pedophile case is ludicrous."
Derek bent forward to inspect the tip of his boots. When he raised his eyes, they were diamond-hard. Instinctively, the P.I. crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"I'm curious, Mr. Noff," Derek began. "How would you track a missing person?"
"Statewide vehicle alert, process DNA from the clothes, and look for witnesses." Aaron's voice rose a notch as he protested, "I shouldn't have to tell you how to do your job."
A slow-spreading flush moved from Aaron's neck to his scalp when he saw Derek's checkmate smile.
Matthew moved to within sight of the two men. "Understand something, Sheriff. I'm not here to impede your efforts. I respect your limitations. But I am, by nature, a deal maker, and when necessary, a ball breaker." He glanced up at the wall clock. "In less than thirty minutes, accompanied by an attractive blonde television anchor, I intend to offer $10,000 as an incentive for finding my father."
Derek turned toward Matthew, planted one leg and rested his opposite knee against the edge of his desk.
"Throwing that kind of money into the mix is dangerous --- ninety per cent of the leads it'll generate are bullshit and a waste of manpower," Derek insisted. "Are you willing to take that risk?"
"I'm going to use my resources as I see fit, Sheriff. What I have is money. Lots of money..." Matthew's voice cracked and he looked away for a moment. "Dad held two jobs in order to pay for my college education. He made me the man I am. And I intend to use everything at my disposal to bring him home safe."
Derek's jaw was tight but his tone was conciliatory. "You may not believe this, but I do understand."
The younger Buell exited the room, but Aaron Noff delayed. "I've been executing a background check on Father Brian," he began.
Derek watched the younger man fiddle with his jacket zipper. He suspected it was a ploy to get a rise out of him, but he no longer cared.
"Go on," Derek growled.
"Are you aware Brian DeShano was a surgical nurse before he became a priest? He dropped from sight when his mother committed suicide. Seems she overdosed when her sexual relationship with a priest was exposed. Sometime after that, Brian entered the seminary. His sponsor was Monsignor Lewis Flaherty."
Aaron recognized he'd scored a bulls-eye. He tipped the brim of his ball cap and swaggered through the doorway. Derek, following on his heels, kicked the door shut. He longed to put his fist through something, anything. Instead, he cleared his mind of emotion and chewed on what he'd just heard.
The news is a game-changer. First step, corroborate the story. Second step, invite Father Brian down to the station for a not-so-friendly chat.
He moved to his desk phone and pushed the intercom button.
"Megan, round up any of the Padget case detectives in house and get them into my office right away."
Fritz Buell's naked body lay on the gurney needing no protection against the cold of the sealed room. His face showed signs of a violent, deadly struggle.
A figure wearing a surgical gown wheeled a stainless steel instrument tray to a spot next to the gurney. Gloves in place, he raised each of Fritz's eyelids and taped them open.
He turned sideways and panicked when he found the tray too low. He ripped off the gloves he was wearing and adjusted it to the proper height. He re-gloved and surveyed the objects he'd assembled.
Separating the edges of the sterile package, he counted the contents and prioritized them. His next act involved choosing a blade. Normally, for an optimal cosmetic appearance, he'd use the thinnest scalpel blade. Since it was unlikely anyone would appreciate such an effort in this case, he chose the standard size ten.
Severing the six ocular muscles of the right eye, he lifted the organ with forceps and dropped it into the specimen container. Next he removed the left eyeball and placed it beside its partner. He packed the empty orifices with sterile gauze to absorb possible seepage from the severed nerves and finished by cauterizing the wound edges. Finally, he stepped back and grinned with satisfaction as he surveyed his craftsmanship.
My best work yet.
He transferred the container filled with Fritz Buell's eyeballs to a fireproof safe, gathered the surgical tools and placed them in a sterile bath. The gown and gloves would end up in a local landfill.
The air in the room thickened oppressively as he lifted his victim from the table and laid him on the painter's tarp. A familiar energy slithered up his spine to the top of his head. The agony of invisible spikes being driven into his skull doubled him over. His hands flailed against the unseen tormenter. As the pain mounted, he screamed, "You're killing me."
The pain stopped.
"I'm following your orders," he whined, "why hurt me?"
A guttural, disembodied voice assaulted his brain.
"You are slipping into pride and arrogance and require a reminder. I control your destiny. Disobey me, and I will punish you in ways the twisted mind of man has yet to conceive."
to be continued
DNA: Genetic marker
Gurney: Wheeled stretcher.
P.I.: Private Investigator
Scalpel: A small, thin knife with an attachable blade used in surgery
Derek Oleson: Granite Mountain Sheriff
Fritz Buell: Missing former employee of St. Matilde's School
Matthew Buell: Fritz's son from California
Aaron Noff: Private investigator hired by Matthew Buell
Father Brian DeShano: Current pastor of St. Matilde's Catholic Church
Debra Padget: Murdered employee of St. Matilde's Catholic School
Megan: Sheriff Oleson's professional assistant
Monsignor Lewis Flaherty: Previous pastor of St. Matilde's imprisoned for pedophilia
Maya: Cliff - Sioux (mah yah)
Thanks to donkeyoatey for us of his artwork, The Alchemist. Fantastic!
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