A collection of horror, mystery, and science fiction tales, with contributions from fellow writers, James Darko and Dexter Lynch. If you wish to contribute, I'd be happy to showcase your writing. Just send me a message. The stories are free to read and always will be. Some are better than others (I'm speaking only for myself), but I can't give all my best ideas away for free, ha ha. Feel free to share any stories, but please be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
CORKSCREW (A Wes Archer Story)
Genre: Crime/Mystery/Suspense (A Weston Archer story)
Daniel Skye (Randy
History is comprised of victims and villains. But for
every villain, there are myriad victims that lie in their wake.
The metropolis of Carter City is infamous for its
villains. But the city has an even higher ratio of victims. This city claims
55,000 souls a year; taking its average citizens and reducing them to
casualties, listings in the obituary column.
Wes Archer has crossed paths with a legion of villains in
his fourteen plus years on the force; each more sadistic, perverse, or
diabolical than the last. However, Archer has a secret weapon in his arsenal.
He has the darkness growing deep inside of him; malignant
and irrepressible. It bubbles to the surface where he can feel the darkness
coalesce with flesh.
Call it a gift; call it a curse. One things for sure,
it’s a hell of a tool for catching crooks and killers. Archer possesses the
ability to assume the emotional point-of-view of other people, particularly the
ones that chill and disturb him.
And this secret weapon is the only reason he’s still on
the force. That and his ninety percent conviction rate. But every now and then,
a case falls into Archer’s lap and it throws even him for a loop. A case so
bizarre, so senseless it can’t immediately be processed or digested.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012.
were hooting, no crickets chirping. The night was eerily quiet, motionless. With
the fireworks ban in full effect, the pyro maniacs were forced to take their
hijinks outside the city limits. The ban ensured that the working class could
get a good night’s sleep.
moon had reached the beginning of its cycle and was barely visible to the naked
eye. The outskirts of the city were shrouded in darkness; the perfect cover
needed to commit a heinous crime.
Russo had a gentleman caller that evening. She wasn’t even aroused. She just
wanted some company, someone to keep her warm and safe. But what was sweet
little Beverly afraid of?
the prettiest of girls have minor imperfections. It’s the minor imperfections
that help remind us we’re no different than the person next-door. But the same
couldn’t be said for Beverly. Call it an exaggeration, but Beverly was flawless
for her age. Wide blue eyes and shoulder-length sandy brown hair that was her
natural color. Look her over and you wouldn’t find one wrinkle or blemish. Her
arms and legs were smooth and radiant and lacking any unsightly spider veins. She
was slim, trim, and athletic. Beverly’s favorite way to stay in shape was
jogging. She could cover a three mile stretch without breaking a sweat. For
fifty-two, she was still a knockout.
night stand had finished his scotch and waved his glass around for a refill.
Beverly stood in the doorway, her robe untied. She wore a tight red corset that
captured the curves of her upper body perfectly and seamed black stockings
connected to a garter. “Do I look like the barmaid?” she asked.
he could respond, a thunderous crash grabbed their collective attention. Beverly
ran from the doorway and crouched behind the bed, hiding near her date. He
rolled from the bed and urged Beverly to dial 911, but the lovely damsel was
crippled by fear.
intruder appeared from the hallway, sharp object in hand, a ski mask drawn over
cutter glistened under the dim bedroom lights as it ripped across her date’s
throat. Blood spurted in quick jets, staining the white curtains of her bedroom.
Beverly stumbled to the corner and sunk to the floor; sobbing, screaming,
one maddening slash of the razor, her screams were silenced. But her assailant
had only just begun…
* * *
Wes Archer broke the antique lamp on his nightstand
trying to reach the phone in time. It was three in the morning and Archer
hadn’t slept a full night in two weeks. The criminals of Carter City wouldn’t
let the poor bastard rest for more than a few of hours.
“Thirty rings,” his lieutenant proclaimed. “That must be
some kind of record for you, Wes. You never heard of an answering machine?”
“What is it now, Morris? Who got shot this time?”
“Not shot; carved up with some kind of blade. Maybe a
razor or a box cutter. No way to be sure. The killer was smart on this one. He
took the murder weapon with him.”
“What makes you think the killer is a he?”
“It usually is,” Morris chided. “Dale Craven is waiting
for you at the scene. You got a pen handy so I can give you the address?”
“You made me break my mom’s lamp. You know any good
antique shops because you’re getting me a new one for Christmas.”
“Christmas is over five months away.”
“Good, that’ll give you plenty of time to find the right
* * *
Dale Craven, Archer’s partner, was waiting with doughnuts
and two steaming hot cups of coffee when Wes pulled up to the scene.
Craven is thirty year’s old but with his youthful looks
he appears twenty-one. Craven, a thrill seeker gets his kicks by engaging in
skydiving, bungee jumping, and hanging gliding on his off days.
“Give me all the gory details,” Archer said as he accepted
his coffee and scarfed down a few fresh doughnuts.
“Two victims,” Craven explained. “One male, one female.
The killer hacked them both up pretty good. The bodies are on the second floor
of the house in the master bedroom. There’s a ton of blood so watch your step
and don’t touch anything until forensics gets here. That’s what Morris said.”
“Lieutenant Morris can eat a bag of dicks,” Archer said frankly.
There’s not enough time to document the history between Mitch Morris and Wes
Archer. Their story could fill an encyclopedia. It’s a love-hate relationship.
They both love to hate each other, and yet they always maintained a bizarre
mutual respect for one another.
“You know you can be really grumpy at four o’clock in the
“Just lead the way,” Archer said, sipping his coffee.
The master bedroom, that one of the several officers’ was
photographing with a camera, was drenched in blood. The other two officers were
standing in the doorway, hands pressed over their mouths to stifle the vomit.
Even the coroner looked queasy.
“Is anything missing?” Archer asked, unfazed by the
amount of blood.
“If there is, it’s not noticeable. This wasn’t your
standard robbery. I’m guessing the guy here probably had his share of enemies.”
“Don’t be too sure,” Archer said as he examined the
scene. “The girl was the real intended target here.”
“What makes you say that?” Craven asked.
at the blood splatter patterns, the damage to the soft tissue. The male
victim’s jugular was severed; he bled out fast. The female victim has more lacerations.
Seventeen to be exact. Whoever did this, they probably knew the girl. They
wanted her to suffer. There’s a chance the killer assumed she was going to be
alone this evening, and had to improvise a bit.”
eye,” Craven nodded with approval.
say I have two. Got an ID on the victims?”
Russo and Calvin Uris. No relation. They’re not married. We’re not sure if
they’re dating, but we’ll know soon when we contact her family. Beverly worked
down at Vanacore Industries, the pharmaceutical company. We’re not sure about
Calvin. We’ve got officers looking into his background as we speak.”
signs of forced entry?”
window was broken in the cellar. The killer must’ve gained access from there
and cornered them here in the bedroom.”
Miss Russo saw this coming a mile away. Maybe that’s why she had company this
evening. She wanted a little protection. Looks like her plan backfired.” He
turned to the officers amongst them. “Boys, I want you to find out everything
you can about these two. I need a full report by this afternoon.”
do,” one of the officers assured him.
else I need to know?” Archer asked Craven.
other murder scenes I need to investigate?”
slow morning,” Craven shrugged.
Archer nodded. “I’m going back to bed then. Don’t call me until they have the
a pleasure,” Craven muttered as Archer walked off alone.
Thursday, July 5, 2012.
Archer slept for eight solid hours, a new personal
record. The crime scene, though it was gruesome, had not prohibited Wes from
snoozing. The sight was something he had grown accustomed to over the years.
Seeing slit throats and pools of blood was equal to reading about it in the
morning paper or watching it on TV.
The job was a job like any other. One day it’s a murder.
The next day it’s a bank robbery or a carjacking gone awry. The day after that
it’s a murder-suicide. The days add up to months, the months add up to years.
And the years harden you. If you can withstand those first few years, you can
Now thirty-six years old, Archer joined the academy at
twenty-one. By twenty-two, he made it onto the same force as his father, Aaron.
is happily retired now, but he was the reason Wes became a cop. No, he didn’t
want to follow in his dads footsteps. He did it just to spite him. Sort of an
“anything you can do, I can do better” statement. Wes never saw eye to eye with
his dad and wasn’t satisfied with the prospect of living in his shadow. He
wanted an identity of his own.
haven’t spoken to each since Wes made homicide.
worked the beat for the first few years, moved his way up to vice. By
twenty-eight, he was promoted to narcotics. By thirty-one, he made detective in
homicide. It was a piece of cake. All he had to do was sell his own brother
down the river.
that’s another story for another time.
showered, got dressed, and made it down to the station by two o’clock. He found
Craven at his desk, filling out tedious reports and stopping sporadically to
rub his sore wrists and crack his knuckles.
swear this paperwork shit is going to give me arthritis,” Craven moaned. “You think
I can get workmen’s comp for that?”
responded to Craven’s attempt at humor with some muffled grumbling and asked
for a rundown on the Beverly Russo case.
got half an hour?” Dale asked as Archer seated himself in front of Dale’s desk.
“We got info on the male victim. It’s Calvin Uris, a bouncer for a local
nightclub. He and Beverly were not married and they were not an item, as far as
both the victims’ families are concerned. Calvin was thirty-four years old and
had a few enemies that were looking into now, though his family believes nobody
hated him enough that they would want him dead.”
what’s the story with Russo?”
lived alone and had few acquaintances. But no enemies either. At least none
that her family or neighbors are aware of.”
our officers questioned all of Beverly’s neighbors?”
nobody heard anything last night? No one heard the glass of her basement window
shatter or see anything strange? No one heard a car screech away after the deed
no witnesses. They were all sound asleep, didn’t hear a thing.”
did Beverly do for a living?”
was employed by Vanacore Industries, that big pharmaceutical conglomerate off
of Route 316. Several officers are in the process of speaking with her manager
and coworkers. We’ll see what their investigation turns up. In the meantime,
Morris wants to see you.”
for the warning,” Archer sighed as he got up and started marching down the
hallway. Halfway to Morris’s office, he turned back. “Hey, Vanacore
Industries–that’s the company that Dalton Meeks worked for, right?”
Meeks. He went missing two months ago. I think his boss reported him missing
after he didn’t show up for work.”
maybe this place is worth checking out ourselves. I’ll get back to you when I’m
through with Morris.”
* * *
At age fifty-eight, Morris was two years away from
retirement, though he still didn’t want to let go. This job was all he knew,
and yet in all his years of service he had never risen past the rank of lieutenant.
But he never let this fact trouble him. As long as Mitch
Morris could do his part, he was satisfied. And at that moment, the thought of
retirement was the furthest thing from his mind.
Archer entered without knocking, approached Mitch’s desk
with caution. He didn’t flinch at his appearance as others had in the past. He
had grown quite used to it.
His face is a virtual roadmap of scars. Like the scar
above his left temple from when a bullet grazed it during a botched drug raid.
Or the layers of scar tissue that have formed over his cheeks from when a
crazed suspect attacked him a jagged bottle. Or the faded horizontal scar
across his throat from when his own brother cut it with a straight razor.
that’s another story for another time.
know why I called you in here?” Morris asked.
technically you didn’t actually call me in here. You told Craven that you
wanted to see me.”
you want to be technical? Well, technically I could suspend you for the last
three drug tests you failed. Technically, there’s enough heat under your ass
right now to make you spontaneously combust. The Captain, Internal Affairs, and
the DA are all looking at you. The only reason I’m keeping you on the rotation
is because you’re great at what you do. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”
what is this? Is this a ‘straighten up and fly right’ speech or is this a
‘you’re fired’ speech or something else?”
is a chance to turn things around for yourself. Beverly Russo was just an assistant
for Martin Vanacore, but she had one powerful acquaintance. This acquaintance
of hers happens to be chummy with the DA. You solve this case, your problems
with the DA go away, and with that, your problems with Internal Affairs and the
Captain most likely go away too.”
problems with you?”
those will never go away.”
got up to dismiss himself, but couldn’t overlook one fact. “You said Russo was
and I know what you’re thinking. And if I were you, I wouldn’t go barking up
the wrong tree. Martin Vanacore is a very well respected businessman in Carter
City. He’s not some deranged killer.”
know how they say everyone is innocent until proven guilty? With me, everyone
is assumed guilty until proven innocent. I’ll find Russo’s killer, no matter
who it is.”
Archer received a small parting gift from his stay in undercover narcotics; a
dependency to heroin.
His dealer is a slimy snitch named Toad who also feeds
Archer information in exchange for virtual immunity. Toad gets to peddle his
dope, rat on the competition, and all he has to do is help out the local police
Archer paid a little visit to Toad that evening to pick
up his “birthday present” as he likes to call it. Archer sure had a lot of freaking
They shook hands outside of 7-11 and exchanged the cash
and the balloon in one quick motion. Archer pocketed the dope and Toad pocketed
the small amount of cash. As a detective and the man who kept Toad in business,
Archer received a generous discount on each purchase.
“What’s the word on the street?” Archer inquired, making
small talk before they both departed so as not to raise suspicion. As if a man
of Archer’s caliber engaging in conversation with the likes of Toad wasn’t
“You mean besides the murder of Beverly Russo and Calvin
“Where’d you hear about that?”
“I watch the news.”
“I never took you for the CNN type,” Archer chuckled.
“Got to learn about what’s going on in the world
“So you knew the victims?”
“Everyone knew Calvin. He was one of the bouncers at The
Wild Horse. A steady customer, too. Beverly is another story. That woman had a
huge heart. She donated a lot of her time to the soup kitchens.”
“Once again, how do you know this?”
“Look at me,” Toad said, pointing out his ratty
appearance. “I hang out at a lot of those soup kitchens. A free meal is a free
meal. But I can tell you she was scared of something.”
“What makes you say that?”
“A week before her death, she approached me and asked me
if I could get her a gun.”
“But Beverly Russo has no criminal record, no history of
violence. She could easily walk into any gun shop and legally acquire a firearm.”
“I know,” Toad nodded. “That’s how I know she was scared.
That’s how I know she was in trouble.”
“She never said what it was?”
“No,” Toad shook his head. “And I never had the courage
to ask. I just told her I’d see what I could do, and before I could get back to
her, somebody killed her.”
“You know anybody who hated Calvin Uris?”
“He was a bouncer, so yeah, some people hated him. He was
known for taking liberties with a few of the drunks, roughing them up a bit
before tossing them out the backdoor. But I can’t think of a soul who hated
* * *
Friday, July 6, 2012.
Archer woke up on top of his bed sheets and still had his
work clothes on. On the nightstand, a dirty spoon and a used syringe. The
leather belt was still tied around his arm.
He hid the spoon and the syringe in the top drawer of his
nightstand, untied the belt from his arm. There were ten messages on his newly
bought answering machine, all from Dale. He erased the messages and went to the
kitchen, where he made a pot of coffee and called Dale back.
“Were you in a coma?” Craven asked when he picked up.
“I’ve got some new information for you,” Archer said,
ignoring Dale’s question.
“And I’ve got information for you,” Dale said.
“You go first.”
“A wood-paneled station wagon was spotted illegally
parked two blocks from Beverly Russo’s house on the night of the murder. The
vehicle was ticketed and I had our boys pull up the information. The car is
registered to Mark Chapel. Whoever he is, he’s not in the system. There’s no
address on file with his insurance company. The billing address is a PO Box
number. We’re trying to get a stable address through the DMV. Okay, now your
“You know my snitch, Toad?”
“Short guy, black stringy hair, dresses like a hobo and
smells like one too?”
“That’s the guy. Turns out Toad knew Beverly through the
soup kitchens he frequented. He says she was scared. Says she tried to buy a
gun from him.”
“Is his word reliable?”
“Toad knows what would happen if he lied to me.”
“So what do you think she was afraid of?”
“I don’t know, but I have a feeling we’ll find out if we
start at her job.”
“Our officers have already questioned all the employees.”
“Not the employees; her boss.”
“Lieutenant Morris said–”
“Fuck what Morris said,” Archer cut him off. “We’re the
detectives here. It’s our job to weed out every possible suspect. Drop what
you’re doing and meet me at the station.”
* * *
Getting past security was the easy past. All they had to
do was flash their badges. The front desk was a different affair. The
receptionist stonewalled them, made up some excuse about Martin Vanacore being
stuck in a business meeting and told them they were free to wait in the lobby.
But anyone who knows Wes Archer knows waiting just isn’t
his style. He noticed the receptionist was of Latino descent and there were
several family photos framed on her desk. One was of a picture of the
receptionist and an older woman that Wes could only assume was the
“Is that your mother?” Wes asked. The receptionist
nodded. “Pretty lady. Does she live with you?” The receptionist nodded again.
“So why don’t you pretend for a second that you’re talking to a couple of
police detectives and I’ll pretend that your mother has papers. I know Mr.
Vanacore told you to lie and say he was in a meeting to stall us. If you kindly
direct us to his office, I’ll forget this whole conversation.”
The displeased receptionist picked up the phone and
mumbled something Archer couldn’t quite make out before she hung up. “Mr.
Vanacore’s office is on the top floor. You can’t miss it.”
“Now that wasn’t so hard.”
lady could call the lieutenant,” Craven said as they walked to the elevator.
“She won’t,” Archer shook his head. “She loves her mom
“You seem to be bothered by that fact,” Craven pointed
out as the elevator doors parted and they stepped in. Wes pushed the button for
the sixth floor.
“I don’t understand family,” he admitted shamefully.
“You don’t understand it? What’s there to understand?”
“The respect, the loyalty, the commitment. The only thing
I’m committed to is my job.”
“I can’t imagine how lonely your life must be.” Craven’s
statement was a bit of an aphorism. Technically, it was true. Archer led a
lonely life, though he would never give Craven the satisfaction by admitting it
As they reached the sixth floor, a silence fell over them
as they stepped out from the elevator. Archer shifted into detective mode as
they walked the hall and approached the door to Vanacore’s office, which was
apparent by the gold plate that had the name MARTIN VANACORE engraved in it.
Vanacore was sitting behind his wide oak desk, palms
together, a cigar burning in his glass ashtray. He wore a flashy pinstripe
Brioni suit that had an immaculate cut, and a silk Armani tie. His polished
leather shoes were handcrafted in Italy and cost as much as the down payment on
a new car. His thick handlebar mustache distracted from the reciting hairline
and made Archer wonder if he used Rogaine only on the bottom half of his face.
The ends of his mustache were curled and looked coated in wax.
Vanacore had the mannerisms of a politician. Every word,
every smile, every gesture seemed deftly rehearsed. He kept his answers short
and vague and never spoke any more than he was required.
Archer was familiar with the type. Rich, industrial men
usually have their secrets. If Archer stuck around long enough, he was sure
he’d find a few skeletons buried in Vanacore’s closet. But he was here to
assess if this man was capable of murder, and so far, the threat was not
He was brash, cocky, smug. He had one of those arrogant
smirks that made you want to reach over and punch him in the throat. But he was
no ruthless killer. Not as far as Archer could tell. Still, he had his secrets
to keep buried.
“Gentlemen,” Vanacore said, standing to greet them
properly. He stuck out his hand but neither man would accept it. “I assume
you’re with the CCPD, here to inquire about Beverly Russo. She was a fine
worker. She’ll be sorely missed around the office.”
“I was thinking we could start with Dalton Meeks,” Archer
said, waiting for a reaction that never occurred.
“Please sit,” Vanacore said, resuming his position behind
“Not necessary,” Craven replied. “We won’t be here that
“So you’re here about Beverly Russo or Dalton Meeks? Or
“So you do know Dalton Meeks.”
“Of course. I employed him for three years. Dalton
disappeared two months ago. Never showed up for work. After his third no-show,
I called the police after he failed to return my phone calls. They searched his
apartment and found nothing. I’ve been waiting for an update ever since.” He
puffed his cigar and waited patiently for their reply.
“That’s all you know?” Wes asked.
“That’s all I know.”
“Let’s move onto Beverly Russo.”
“I hired Beverly as an assistant eight months ago. She
was a smart woman, kept to herself, and had a good eye for detail. Like I said,
she’ll be sorely missed. I can’t express enough grief over her death. The loss
touched all of us at Vanacore Industries in a very personal way. It was like
losing a close family member.”
“Uh huh,” Wes nodded, not buying the sad clown act. “And
where were you on the night of July fourth, the night Beverly and Calvin Uris
furrowed his brow and twirled one end of his mustache. Breathing a cloud of
smoke in their direction, he extinguished the cigar in his ashtray and clasped
his hands together in front of him.
eight o’clock to ten-thirty I was at a fundraiser for the Locascio Cancer
Foundation. Then I had dinner and dessert with my wife and her two friends. She
didn’t feel like going home after dinner so we stopped at a local bar for
drinks. The place was crowded. I’d say they were well over the maximum
capacity. We stayed until closing time and caught a taxi home since neither of
us was in any condition to drive. I’d say we arrived home around four in the
morning and the last thing I remember is my heading hitting the pillow.”
your wife, her friends, the people at the bar and the fundraiser, they can all
corroborate your whereabouts?”
Vanacore nodded with confidence. He was so cool, so casual that it irked Wes
all the more. He wasn’t going to quit until Vanacore slipped up and shared some
information he wasn’t supposed to.
do you know about a man named Mark Chapel?” Wes asked.
sorry, I’m afraid that name doesn’t ring any bells.” Martin cleared his throat
as he said it and scratched above his right cheek. That was the tell, the sign
Archer was waiting on. Vanacore was guilty of something; he just didn’t know
you sure?” Wes pushed on.
Vanacore nodded again and stood as if to say ‘time’s up’. “Now I’m afraid
that’s all the time I have for you today, gentlemen. If you persist, if you
continue to pursue me as a suspect, then next time I’ll be meeting you with my
attorney. Good day, gentlemen. And please, find Beverly’s killer. It would mean
the world to all of us.”
“That guy’s so full of shit I’m surprised he hasn’t
choked to death on it,” Craven said as they drove away from Vanacore
“He’s definitely hiding something,” Archer said. “I need
to clear my head. You feel like stopping for a drink.”
“It’s barely noon,” Craven pointed out empathically.
“So, you a Mormon or something?”
“I just don’t feel it’s necessary to indulge during
sunlight hours…or when we’re supposed to be on duty.”
Archer sighed and mumbled, “Square.”
“So what’s our next move?”
“First we need to come up with a line of bullshit to feed
Lieutenant Morris for when he questions us about Vanacore. Then we have to
connect the dots between Vanacore, Meeks, Russo, Uris, and Chapel. I feel
they’re all connected; I just can’t put this puzzle together yet. What do we
know about Chapel?”
“There’s nothing on the wire yet about a Mark Chapel in
Carter City. As far as our boys can tell, the man’s a ghost. So what was his
car doing parked a few blocks from Beverly’s house?”
“A lot of good questions, but no good answers.”
“Where to next?”
“The soup kitchens,” Archer said. “If Beverly pitched in
down there, people would know her, remember her. Maybe somebody can give us a
lead, something to go on.”
* * *
The first three soup kitchens were no help. Carter City
had a thirty percent homeless rate so there were a few different spots to
visit. The fourth kitchen yielded some results.
One of the cooks remembered Beverly, said she was always
friendly, helpful, kept to herself most of the time. Said he also knew her
“You knew the man she was seeing?” Archer asked. The cook
nodded. “You knew Calvin Uris then?”
“Calvin Uris?” the cook repeated, confused. “No, Dalton
was his name I think. Short guy, drove a Mustang, seemed to make a lot of
money. He dropped in a few times to visit her and then the visits just
“Thank you for your help,” Archer said, dismissing the
cook immediately to congregate with his partner.
“This is big,” Craven said, barely containing his
excitement. At that moment, he was a bright-eyed kid in a candy store.
“Indeed it is,” Archer agreed. “Dale, I need you to head
back to the station. Dig up everything you can on Dalton Meeks. And have the
boys keep looking for Mark Chapel. They’re bound to turn up something on the
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to bait the hook.”
Archer had riled Vanacore up. Now all he needed to do was
chum the waters and paint himself as an easy target.
First, he paid another visit to Toad and had him put in a
deceiving call to Martin Vanacore’s secretary. Toad pretended to be Archer’s
lieutenant, who apologized for his unscheduled intrusion and assured her that
Archer had been suspended without pay until further notice. He even left
Archer’s contact information and address if Vanacore felt the need to press
And with that move, all Archer could do was track
Vanacore’s movements with the GPS device had planted under the fender of his
Lamborghini when he and Dale had left the parking lot. It wasn’t hard figuring
out which car belonged to him. His spot was clearly reserved and the vanity
plates read VNACORE.
Archer returned to his empty house and waited for Martin
to leave the office, which he did at five o’clock sharp. He made a brief stop
home, packed a few belongings, gathered his wife, and started heading east on
the 134. He was driving out of the city, establishing an alibi for the evening.
Hours past as he waited in the shadows of his living
room, .357 Magnum in hand. He refused to use the service revolvers his
department provided. And he refused to carry a backup piece. He carried a knife
in his boot instead. Some cops call it crazy. He calls it old fashioned.
The phone rang at nine and it was Dale, who was busy
generating headline news for their case.
“What’s the word?” Archer asked as he lifted the receiver
to his ear.
“I started connecting the dots. Dalton Meeks was not just
an employee at Vanacore Industries. He was an investor, worked with the company
for over ten years.”
“Vanacore said he only worked there for three years. I
knew that pompous bastard would slip up.”
“That’s just the beginning. I phoned Beverly’s parents
again and brought Meeks to their attention. They remembered him. Turns out he
and Beverly were quite the item for eight or nine months. She was even under
the impression that Dalton was going to pop the question eventually. They were
sharing an apartment when he disappeared. She came home from work one day and
all his stuff was cleared out. She notified the police who questioned her on
several occasions, but she wasn’t much help.”
“So things go sour between Meeks and Vanacore. Vanacore
kills him and maybe Beverly overhears something or witnesses the crime, so now
Vanacore has another threat to eliminate.”
“It’s a sound theory. We’re still working on that Chapel
guy. I’ll get back to you with an update in the morning. How’d it go with the
whole baiting of the hook?”
“I’ll get back to you with an update in the morning,”
Archer said and hung up the phone.
The garrote wire slid across his throat and started
carving in. He dropped the Magnum involuntarily and his assailant used one foot
to kick the gun across the floor, just out of reach.
Archer was careful not to use his bare hands on the wire
as it would slice his palms and fingertips. Instead, he called for backup.
Digging into his boot, he retrieved the serrated blade from its sheath and
rammed it deep through his assailant’s shoulder.
The assailant released his grip and the wire loosened
around his neck. He removed it carefully and went for his gun. But he and his
assailant thought too much alike.
A battle for the gun ensued and a single shot rang out
through the neighborhood as one bullet pierced his assailant’s lung. Blood
gurgling in his throat, the assailant tried to speak, but his words were unintelligible.
Archer searched the would-be killer for some ID. And
that’s when he found the pill bottle. Haloperidol. The label on the bottle
belonged to Vanacore Industries.
Archer was familiar with the drug, having encountered a
similar psycho in the past who was partial to it. Haloperidol is used to the
combat the effects of schizophrenia.
The man had no ID or distinguishing marks that gave him
away, but Archer had a hunch as to whose dead body he was standing over.
Once he caught his breath and fixed a glass of bourbon,
he put in a call to Dale.
* * *
In ten minutes, Archer’s house was swarming with cops. A
full forensics team was doing a sweep of his evidence room, dusting for
fingerprints and gathering samples of blood and hair.
“They’re wasting their time,” Archer criticized. “This
guy is definitely not on file. Blood and fingerprints aren’t going to pull up
anything in the system."
“How do you know?” Dale asked, sipping his seventh coffee
of the day.
“Because that’s our ghost. That’s Mark Chapel right there
in my living room, dead as Dillinger."
“You know that for sure? You found his ID?”
“Nope, don’t need it. Call it a sixth sense. I just have
a feeling that’s our guy. So how much do you know about Haloperidol?”
“Haloperidol? It’s a dopamine inhibiter used to treat
things like schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. I’m kind of scared
to know why you’re asking.”
“The guy had a bottle of it on him. Not from the pharmacy
either. This one came straight from Vanacore Industries. It’s got their brand
all over it.”
“Detective Archer,” one of the officers called. “This
piece of shit is still breathing. I think he’s trying to say something.”
“What is he saying?” Dale asked when Wes didn’t respond.
“It sounds like…corkscrew. That mean anything to you?”
Wes shook his head. “Nothing.”
“Get this thug to a hospital,” Dale advised them. “See if
the doctors can save him. If they can, we’ll see who he is and what he knows."
Mark Chapel spent five hour in surgery to repair the
damage Wes had caused. He spent another six hours unconscious while Archer
paced in and out of the waiting room, drank burnt coffee and smoked half a pack
of Marlboro reds.
On Saturday, July 7, 2012, at four PM, the doctors deemed
him fit to be interrogated. Archer knew the phonebook method didn’t need to be
applied in this sort of situation. A man who came so close to death, a man
whose fate rested in the hands of the police–that kind of man wouldn’t play
hardball. Any information he had, he was going to cough it up. That was a
given. That’s why Archer made the call to do this alone. That and he wanted to
see the face of the man who tried to kill him, he wanted to stare deep into his
eyes and let him know he was still breathing strong.
“Mark Chapel, I presume,” Wes said as he entered and
dismissed the doctors for the sake of privacy.
“You presume right,” Chapel nodded. “You got me, happy?
I’m not going to lie or make any excuses. I’ll say this; you’re tougher than
Vanacore led me to believe.”
“Yeah, Martin Vanacore. The guy who paid me to go after
you. I met him years ago when I volunteered for a clinical trial. I was
suffering from bouts of schizophrenia and it seemed like the cheapest form of
treatment. Vanacore knew I was poor and he used that to his advantage. He
supplied me with all the Haloperidol I needed through the years, I just had to
do a few favors here and there in return. It was the only way I could live a
normal life, work a job and be a functioning part of society. I never wanted to
do those awful things. He made me.”
“You’re the one that hacked up Beverly Russo.”
“Regrettably, yes. He paid me extra for that one; he
really wanted her to suffer. But her death was just to cover up the robbery.
That other guy–Uris–I didn’t even know about him until I got there. It was just
the wrong place at the wrong time for him I’m afraid."
“Robbery, what robbery? Nothing was missing from the
“That’s what you think. Beverly kept a bloodstained
corkscrew wrapped in a handkerchief inside a hidden panel in her closet. It was
her insurance policy against Vanacore. I think she was blackmailing him for a
few months until he finally had enough.”
“The corkscrew, was it used in a murder?”
“Don’t look at me. I confessed to everything I did. The
corkscrew is another story. I didn’t ask and Vanacore never told. Who knows
what he did with it.”
“Another officer will take over from here. If you’re
willing to testify, I’m sure the DA will cut you a fair deal. If not, you’re on
your own. And if you can’t afford Haloperidol, best of luck finding a good
attorney to take your case.”
* * *
“You got a full confession?” Dale asked.
“He sang like a canary. Beverly was blackmailing
Vanacore, so Vanacore, who was blackmailing Chapel with his own system, got
Chapel to do his dirty work. It turns out the catalyst was a dirty corkscrew.
Chapel said the thing was stained with dry blood. Beverly was stashing it away
in her closet as an insurance policy against Vanacore. My guess is the
corkscrew goes a long way to explaining the disappearance of Dalton Meeks.
Vanacore kills Meeks in cold blood; Beverly witnesses the crime and absconds
with the evidence. Chapel kills Beverly to retrieve the evidence.”
“Sounds like we’ve got an airtight case. We just have to
find Vanacore and bring him in."
“Well, based on the GPS tracker I planted on his car,
he’s currently sunbathing in the Hamptons with the misses.”
“Should we have the local police do the work then?”
“And miss all the fun? Nah, let’s wait until he gets
“I concur. In the meantime, I suggest we obtain a search
warrant for his property to see if we can dig up that bloody corkscrew before
he gets back from his short-lived retreat. Besides Chapel’s testimony, it’s the
only solid piece of evidence we’ll have to go against him. Vanacore’s been
sloppy when it’s come to covering his tracks. I doubt he properly disposed of
“Partner, I love the way you think.”
* * *
On Monday, July 9, 2012, Martin Vanacore and his wife
pulled up in their Lamborghini and were greeted by Wes Archer, Dale Craven, and
a parade of cops. Wes was holding out a plastic evidence bag with the corkscrew
“Martin Vanacore, you’re under arrest for the murder of Dalton
Meeks, and for the murders of Beverly Russo and Calvin Uris, and the attempted
murder of yours truly.”
Vanacore’s wife stood aghast as one officer slapped the
cuffs on him while another officer read him his rights. Behind that lavish suit
and handlebar mustache was the look of failure, the look of defeat. Archer
waved bye-bye as the officers loaded him into the back of their squad car and
drove away, lights flashing.
how about that drink we talked of before?” Archer said, turning to his partner.
actually late for a skydiving lesson. You know, you should try it sometime. We
could go together.”
never catch me jumping out of a plane. You know, I can tell our personal lives
are nothing alike. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”
Dale agreed. “Maybe it’s not. I’ll take a rein check on that drink.”
won’t hold my breath,” Archer laughed and returned to his vacant house, free
from burden and apprehension…but only for the time being.