Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Genre: Crime Fiction/Murder Mystery

Part Seven
By Daniel Skye

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014.
Captain Frost had come clean about his family history. About the son that he had never spoken of. The son he had disowned.
Declan Frost. The kid with a head full of bad wiring. Wiring that could never be repaired. No amount of therapy could’ve brought that boy back to normalcy. Not after drowning cats in the lake and hanging wounded animals by their legs from trees and hurling knives at them.
Frost couldn’t lock his own son away. He never would’ve been able to live with himself. So he cut him loose at eighteen and prayed that Declan could hang on to some semblance of sanity.
Shannon Reynolds’ email service provider confirmed Declan’s involvement from the series of private online conversations he had with Shannon, including one in which they arranged a meeting to smoke pot in the basement of the school. That placed all three of them in that basement the day that Shannon and Molly Henderson were murdered there.
The emails had been deleted by Shannon and it took the service provider a few days to recover the lost messages, but once the police had them and Declan’s email address, they were on their way.
Declan’s final email to Shannon included a set of numbers at the very end that appeared to be a code of some kind, one that the geniuses of Carter City PD had yet to crack. Turning the numbers into letters didn’t give them anything to go. There were too many digits for the number to be an address or phone number. It wasn’t a social security number, a bank account number, or a serial number either.
But Declan’s email address was linked to several other online accounts, most notably a knockoff eBay site that had his home address on file. 868 Whitman Boulevard, one block over from the Bellmore Café.
“There are no houses in Whitman Boulevard,” Archer pointed out on the ride over.
“It’s not an apartment. It’s a real estate office. He must rent out the upstairs apartment.”
“Real estate office? Ugh, don’t tell it’s one of Nino Vanzetti’s offices. I can’t stand those smug bus bench advertisements and those jowls of his.”
“Yeah, I’m afraid it’s one of his. But he probably won’t be there. He owns three of them in Carter City alone.”
“As long as Declan Frost is there, I don’t care who else joins the party. I just want to nail this bastard and get Valerie back in one piece.”
* * *
          Declan Frost had allegedly been using the alias Green Ghost, but the name the papers gave him was Copycat.
          His first murders mirrored the heinous crimes committed by Wes’s brother, Aaron. His second victim, Ellen Frost, his own sister, was an homage to the Vulture, a killer that had crossed paths with Archer not too long ago.
And now, he was taking a page out of the Gravedigger’s book. He kidnapped Val Reed and at that very moment, probably had her buried alive in a makeshift coffin, struggling for air. Wes had to find her before it was too late. Before she ran out of oxygen.
The clock was ticking as they pulled up along the curb and barged into the real estate office.
“The apartment upstairs,” Wes said to a secretary whose desk was closest to the front door. “Who rents it?”
“A young man named Declan. But I don’t believe he’s in. May I take a message from you?”
“No, but you could give us the spare key for upstairs,” Archer said, flashing his badge.
Not a second later, the key was in his hand. The secretary asked no questions as they walked around to the back outside and ascended the grated metal staircase to the second floor.
Archer knocked once, shouted past the door and gave Declan one chance to surrender. When they heard no movement on the other side, they drew their guns to be safe and Archer used the key to open the door.
Sprayed across the walls with thick red paint were pentagrams and skulls and the name GREEN GHOST scribbled on every wall. The foyer led down a narrow hall with a kitchen to the right, small living room to the left. And a bedroom and bathroom at the end of the hall.
The kitchen, living room, and bathroom were clear, but the bedroom door was closed, locked.
“On three,” Wes said. “One…two…three!”
          Wes kicked the door and Dale moved in first, his gun raised. The chair tipped and Declan Frost’s feet dangled in the air, the noose taut around his neck.
          “Oh no you don’t,” Wes said, removing the serrated knife from its sheath tucked away in his boot. Some cops carry a backup gun, he carries a backup knife. Some people call it crazy, Wes calls it old fashioned.
          He used the knife to cut him down and his body fell to the floor with a heavy thump. Dale pulled the noose from his neck and Declan coughed, sighed.
          “Nice try,” Dale said, pulling Declan to his feet and pinning his wrists behind his back.
          “Where’s the girl?” Archer asked. “Where’s Val Reed?”
          “Trapped inside a box with a limited supply of oxygen. By my calculation, she’s got an hour left.”
          “Where the fuck is she?” Wes said, holding the edge of the knife to his throat.
          “Go ahead, kill me if you want,” Declan said. “The Green Ghost has promised me immortality in this life or the next.”
          “What’d you say?”
          “I said the Green Ghost has promised me immortality–”
          “You’re not the Green Ghost?” Archer asked, perplexed, his brows arched at a quizzical angle.
          “I wish,” Declan sighed. “I’m just one of his followers. The Green Ghost has many followers, and they all know who you are.”
          “Where’s the girl?” Wes asked again, pushing the knife a little deeper.
          “How’d you find me?”
          “The emails you sent to Shannon Reynolds led us straight to your address.”
          “Then you read the last email I sent her. You saw the numbers.”
          “Yeah, so? What about the numbers?”
          “They’re GPS coordinates. Good luck to you.”
          Declan wriggled free from Dale’s grip and ran for the door. Archer tried to cut him off, but was met with a fist to the jaw. Wes toppled back and he moved for the bedroom door again. Just before he could cross the threshold, Dale stopped him in his tracks with a roundhouse kick to the back of the head.
          “I was wondering when you were going to bust out that Tae Kwon Do shit,” Archer said, picking himself back up.
          “I don’t like having to resort to that,” Dale sighed.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure a roundhouse kick is against standard procedure. But I won’t say anything if you won’t say anything.”
          “Deal,” Dale smiled. Then it was right back to business. “You got GPS on your phone?”
          “Then go. I’ll handle this schmuck. You go find Val.”
* * *
          Archer felt like he was slowly awakening from a coma. The nightmare was almost over. All he had to do was find Valerie before it was too late. The clock was ticking. The sand was trickling down the hourglass.
          Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
          He punched the numbers into his phone and the coordinates led him to the old Chemical Bank on Skid Row. The bank had been closed since 1996, but Archer understood the significance.
          Declan Frost was hitting close to home by sending Wes down this route. This was the spot where Wes caught Aaron red-handed. Where he discovered his brother was the coldblooded killer the police had been hunting for two years.
          Wes drove around back to the abandoned parking lot. He grabbed a shovel from the back of his Jeep and ran towards the square of green past the lot. According to his phone, this was the spot.
          He saw where the ground had been dug up and the dirt had been filled back in. He dug the shovel into the ground, tossed some dirt over his shoulder, and repeated the process.
          Even in the cold of January his body leaked sweat as he refused to pause once. He just kept on digging until he heard the head of the shovel scrape the top of that coffin.
          “Help! Help me!” Val screamed from inside the coffin.
          “Hold tight, Val! I’m coming!” He used the head of the shovel to bust the lock. He tore the lid off the coffin and Val Reed gasped for air. He helped her out of the shallow grave and she breathed a sigh of relief.
          “I knew you’d find me,” she said, still regaining her composure. Her voice was quivering slightly, but the worst was over. She was safe now in Wes’s arms.
          “Thank God you’re all right,” Archer said. “I’m never going to let this happen again.”
          “Good, because if I get kidnapped a third time and used as bait, I’m leaving you,” she said with a weak smile. She was still shaken up, but her sense of humor was intact.
          “Val…I love you.”
          “I love you too,” she said, gripping him tightly. “Now please get me home. I need a shower after being locked in that box for two hours.”
* * *
          Wednesday, January 17th, 2014.
          Firebug AKA Seth Cambridge was dead.
          The mafia hit-man known only as the Mechanic was dead.
          Copycat AKA Declan Frost was going to be serving consecutive life sentences in CC Maximum Security.
          But something didn’t sit right with Wes and Dale. The gangs being targeted by the Mechanic. The fires started by Seth Cambridge. The murders committed by Declan Frost. The Green Ghost. They were in fact connected, but there were still pieces to the puzzle missing.
          That day, sitting at their desks, they weren’t expecting company. But when Officer Foley wandered over and said, “You’ve got a visitor, Judy Blackwell,” it peaked their interest.
          Foley sent her over. She was a short woman in her forties with horn-rimmed glasses, her brown hair tied in a bun.
          “Afternoon, Miss Blackwell,” Wes said.
          “Afternoon, gentlemen,” she returned the greeting. “Herb and I were in the process of a divorce. That’s why I haven’t changed my last name yet. But I thought you guys should know something. Something that might answer some questions about his death. Herb was a stubborn man, difficult, but he was my husband. I loved him and he deserved better than what he got. I want to help you find the man who was really responsible.”
          “Who are you referring to?” Dale asked.
          “Nino Vanzetti.”
          “We have it on good authority your husband was murdered by a man named Seth Cambridge,” Wes said. “The same man who burnt your husband’s apartment complex to the ground.”
          “Seth Cambridge might’ve killed him,” Judy said. “But I believe it was Nino Vanzetti who gave him the order.”
          “What makes you say that?” Dale asked.
          “Two months before my husband was murdered, Nino approached him, looking to buy him out. He wanted the property so he could bulldoze it and put in a strip mall to rent out the individual stores. My husband refused, and he paid the price.”
          “We’re going to need more than that,” Wes said. “And that’s coming from someone who hates Nino Vanzetti.”
          “Vanzetti’s been rumored for years to have ties to organized crime,” Judy said. “His business is often used as a front for illegal activity or laundered cash. And what about the other properties that burned? The restaurant? The house in the West Side? The department store? Imagine the profit Vanzetti could make if he bought and sold these properties, or built on them?”
          “She might be onto something here,” Dale said. “A prison pal of Seth’s did mention something about a real estate scam Cambridge was working. This could be it. And if he really has ties to organized crime, he could’ve arranged for the Mechanic to target the local gangs.”
          “It’s not enough,” Wes said. “We need a confession. Call Nino in and we’ll see what he has to say.”
* * *
          They didn’t have to lean on Vanzetti hard to get him to confess. He gleefully confessed to his involvement.
          He hired the Mechanic to target the local gangs and drug dealers in Skid Row and the downtown areas in an effort to clean up the streets that surrounded the property he was hoping to acquire. He had made it a point to tell the Mechanic to waste Archer’s friend, Toad.
          He paid Seth Cambridge to torch those buildings and murder Jason Briggs and Herb Blackwell. Judy Blackwell just happened to be overlooked as Vanzetti assumed she knew nothing.
          He found Declan Frost with help from a friend and funded his little sadistic operation after seeing his potential.
          He even went as far as to track down the Gravedigger in Florida and give him an open invitation to Carter City.
          The Gravedigger. Declan Frost. Seth Cambridge. Cultus Satanas. The Mechanic. He confessed to his involvement in everything, his jowls ballooning and jiggling over his white shirt collar. And not once did Vanzetti break his smile.
          “Why?” was all Wes had to ask.
          “To see you suffer every step of the way,” Vanzetti said. “To put you through the mill. To make you jump through hoops. To punish you for your sins.”
          “My sins?”
          “Does the name Martin Vanacore ring a bell to you?”
          Wes remembered the name. He had arrested Vanacore for orchestrating the murder of his secretary.
          “He’s my half-brother,” Vanzetti explained. “And because of you he’s behind bars.”
          “And you’re soon to join him,” Wes pointed out.
          “It was all worth it,” Vanzetti smiled. “Every last second of it.”
          In the end, Vanzetti was pleased they had caught him. It gave him the chance to gloat. He didn’t care about the money or the property or spending the rest of his life in prison. He did it all to see Archer in misery.
          “I couldn’t have done it alone,” Vanzetti added. “Not without the Green Ghost.”
          “Spill it,” Archer said. “Who is he?”
          “You know,” Nino grinned. “You’ve known all along. He’s family. He’s your brother.”
* * *
          That night, Wes Archer took the last ride to Carter City Maximum he’d ever take. He was walked to his brother’s cell in solitary and told the guard to wait outside for him.
          “Evening, brother,” Aaron said from his cot, not bothering to glance up from the paper he was reading. “What brings you here?”
          “The game’s over,” Wes informed him. “Nino Vanzetti is behind bars. He’s going away for a very long time. So is Declan Frost.”
          “It’s far from over,” Aaron said. “The Green Ghost has many followers. All loyal and dedicated to their cause. All hung up on the fallacy of immortality. Promise these lost souls something impossible, make them believe in the impossible, and you’ve truly got them under your spell.”
          “I met your followers,” Wes said. “Cultus Satanas. They’re weak.”
          “Not all of them,” Aaron said. “So you met Declan Frost, my protégé. I taught that kid everything he knows. Showed him the ropes when we shared a cell years ago. I also introduced Cambridge to Vanzetti. Once Vanzetti told me what he had in store for you, I couldn’t resist. I just had to help.”
          “Because you locked me up in this hellhole and I’ll never forgive you or forget you,” Aaron assured him. “Even locked away in here, I can still make your life a living hell. And by the way, Declan was not my only protégé.”
          “I can’t wait to meet the next one,” Archer said, banging on the cell door for the guard to let him out.
          “Let the games begin,” Aaron cackled.

          Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.
          “Good morning, Lieutenant,” Dale said to Wes Archer that day in his office.
          “Cut the crap,” Archer muttered, sipping his coffee. “I hate it when you call me that. Have a seat.”
          Dale took a seat and Wes shouted, “You can come in now.”
          The door opened and in walked a tall, lean man with reddish brown hair and piercing blue eyes.
          “What’s your name, son?” Wes asked.
          “Brandon Chase, sir,” the man said.
          “You’ve been working vice the past six years, is that right?”
          “Yes, sir.”
          “Well, how’d you like a promotion to homicide? My buddy Dale here needs a partner and I think you’re right for the job.”
          “Are you serious?”
          “As a heart attack.”
          “I’m in,” Chase said.
          “Excellent,” Lieutenant Archer said. “Now please excuse us for a minute.” Chase left the room and Dale turned back to Wes after watching him walk out.
          “Him?” Dale asked.
          “Trust me on this one,” Wes said.
          “I unfortunately have to since you’re my boss now. Hey, did you hear the news? The Gravedigger’s book is getting picked up. It’ll be out by the summertime.”
          “I’ll wait for the movie,” Wes quipped.
          “So what’s next for Lieutenant Wes Archer?”
          “I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately,” Wes said, showing Dale the ring he was prepared to give Valerie Reed that evening. “Think she’ll say yes?”


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Genre: Crime Fiction/Murder Mystery

Part Six
By Daniel Skye

          Tuesday, January 7th, 2014.
          Wes Archer had passed his piss test, all thanks to his partner.
          Dale Craven had supplied him with clean urine so Captain Frost wouldn’t have an excuse to take away his badge.
          Frost was fuming after the loss of his only daughter and he wanted revenge any way he could get it.
          But if Dale was going to link these cases together and solve them, he’d need all the help he could get. And Archer was as good as they come, when he was sober.
          In the parking lot, Archer chain smoked cigarettes and drank coffee to try and wake himself up. His eyes were still bloodshot from the night before and even though he’d slept like a baby, he still felt drained of his energy. The unfortunate side effects of heroin.
          Dale Craven exited the department and joined him in the lot, bringing him a fresh cup of coffee. “How much heroin did you shoot up this time?”
          “Too much,” Archer muttered, sipping his coffee. “My tolerance was way lower than I assumed.”
          “Well you know what they say about the word assume, and you’re living proof of that.”
          “I’ll have to crash at your place for the next two days.”
          “My place?” Dale said, sounding unnerved by the proposed arrangement. “Why my place?”
          “Because I’m going to experience minor withdrawals,” Archer explained. “And I can’t be on my own, and definitely not at my place. I’ll feel compelled to do more to make myself feel better.”
          “God help me,” Dale sighed.
* * *
          The death toll was up to twenty.
          There was Betty and Louis Darsky.
          Augusto Hernandez and Hector Cardona of the Elm Street Boys, a gang that resides in downtown Carter City.
          Jason Briggs and Herb Blackwell.
          Molly Henderson and Shannon Reynolds.
          Toad, Archer’s snitch and main drug supplier.
          Those that had perished in the fire in the East Side apartment complex and the explosion in downtown Carter.
          And last but certainly not least, Ellen Frost.
          Dale Craven was under the impression that all these murders were connected, intertwined. He just needed to connect the dots and prove his theory.
          First, the Darsky’s were shot pointblank range in their bed before their house was torched. Jason Briggs had been strangled before the apartment complex on the East Side was torched.
Herb Blackwell, the landlord, was also found strangled in home, killed hours after the blaze had been extinguished. Maybe it was unrelated. Or maybe somebody didn’t want Herb Blackwell squealing like a pig. Maybe Blackwell knew something that someone else didn’t want to be made public record.
And then there was Vernon Keene of the ESB. Not too long after Keene came forward to say that his sister lived in that apartment complex and offered the services of the ESB, the ESB suddenly became targets of the mysterious hit-man known as the Mechanic.
          Archer wasn’t buying it, but then again, he was as stubborn as they come. He didn’t believe in coincidence. He believed in evidence, hard facts, solid proof. And Dale was offering him none. Just theories and conjecture.
          “There’s something I failed to mention last night,” Dale told him when they were back at his apartment.
          But Archer had made himself at home on the couch and Dale had supplied with a pillow and blanket, and a bucket, in case he needed to spew.
          “Don’t keep me in suspense,” Archer said. “Spit it out.”
          “When we found Ellen Frost’s body in that dumbwaiter shaft, she didn’t have a pentagram carved into her chest. There was no 666 written in blood. Her eyes had been extracted, carved from the sockets with what Pete Drayton believes to be a scalpel. Sound familiar?”
          “The Vulture,” Archer mumbled.
          “Bingo. Looks like our Green Ghost really is a true copycat killer.”
“I wonder who he’s going to emulate next.”
          “Well you stay here and think about it. Work that shit out of your system fast. I need your help on this one.”
          “Where are you going?” Archer asked.
          “To find Seth Cambridge.”
* * *
          Dale Craven took a stroll down to Elm Street to meet with an unlikely source. Damien Delgado, the leader of the ESB.
          He was holed up in the backroom of some pool hall along with Santino Martinez and Vernon Keene.
          Dale walked right in, ignoring the unsavory bar patrons and dismissing the two bikers who grilled him as he walked to the back. He noticed there was a payphone towards the back, which was an odd sight to him considering how archaic and obsolete payphones had become after the rise of cellular devices.
More unsettling sight was the mountain of a man in a black trench coat who was speaking on that phone. Even though he was talking right into the receiver, he seemed to have his eyes locked on Dale.
Dale approached the door and knocked four times as Delgado had instructed him to do over the phone. Keene unlocked the door and waved him inside. “I need you to put the word on the street for me. I’m looking for someone named Seth Cambridge.”
          “Consider it done,” Delgado nodded from behind the desk where he was seated.
          “While I’m here, tell me if you’ve ever heard of the Green Ghost before?”
          “The junkies around here and the Satanists on Skid Row all mutter about him, or her. I say her because it could be anyone. They say the Green Ghost is a legend, a savior, that they’re immortal. It’s probably bullshit if you ask me.”
          “You’re probably right,” Craven said. “But while you’re spreading the word about Seth Cambridge, would you mind asking around about it? These people, they’ll talk to you, not me. I need your help on this one. Before more innocent people have to die.”
          “After what happened to Vernon’s sister, after what happened to those poor, innocent girls, we’d be happy to help in any way.”
          “Good, by the way, the guy outside in the trench coat, is he a friend of yours? He was eyeballing me pretty hard.”
          “Trench coat?” Damien muttered, his mouth hanging open. “Was it black?”
          “I think so. Why?”
          “Because Augusto Hernandez’s mom said a man in a black trench coat came to their door the night Augusto was shot and killed on his porch.”
          Right on cue, three silenced rounds were fired through the door. Two bullets missed Delgado by mere inches. Santino Martinez, who was facing the door, caught a stray bullet to the temple and his body crumpled to the floor.
          Dale had drawn his pistol and had his back pressed against the wall to avoid the next barrage of bullets that he anticipated. Delgado had taken cover and Keene was pressed up against the wall beside Dale.
          “You got a gun?” Dale whispered to Keene.
          Keene nodded.
          “If you have to use it, I’ll look the other way if you know what I mean.”
          Keene removed his Colt .45 from his waistband and cocked the hammer with his thumb.
          They heard a ruckus emanating beyond the door as the bar patrons scattered and cleared out.
          “My employer doesn’t want you dead, Dale,” the Mechanic said from the other side of the door. “He has other plans for you and your partner. I’m just here for the rest of those lowlifes. Step aside and let me down my job.”
          “Eat shit and die,” Dale retorted.
          “Have it your way,” the Mechanic said with delight, squeezing off several more shots, reducing the doorframe to splinters. Delgado could see through to the other side from where he was hiding behind the desk. He drew his gun, quietly, made sure it was loaded.
          Then he fired one shot through the door from his hiding spot, striking the Mechanic in the chest, taking him off his feet.
          “He’s down,” Delgado said, sliding out from behind the desk. Dale kicked the splintered door from its hinges and the three of them stepped out. The Mechanic’s eyes were fixed, staring up at the ceiling fixtures, his body motionless.
          “Nice shot,” Dale said, giving Delgado a pat on the back. “I’m going to have to call this one. You should probably get out of here.”
But the three of them were momentarily distracted by Dale’s radio that was hooked to his belt. “Fire in progress on 873 Whitman Boulevard. Repeat, fire in progress on 873 Whitman Boulevard. Possible 451 in process. Repeat, possible 451 in progress.”
          “Fuck,” Dale said. “That’s the Bellmore Café.”
          “He’s alive!” Keene exclaimed.
          Dale saw the Mechanic sit up and he raised his pistol. The bullet entered the Mechanic’s skull and a splash of blood followed. There was no exit wound. The bullet remained embedded in the Mechanic’s skull, a parting gift from Dale Craven.
          “Son of a bitch was wearing a vest,” Keene pointed out, lifting the Mechanic’s shirt.
          “Hit-men usually come prepared,” Dale said. “I’m just wondering why he was targeting you guys.”
          “Don’t forget Toad,” Delgado said. “He’s not affiliated with us. Maybe he was targeting all the gangs and dealers in the downtown area.”
          “I’m starting to hate that word, maybe. You guys get out of here. I’ll sort this mess out with the boys.”
* * *
          And sort it out he did. The boys were impressed. It’s not every day you bag a living ghost.
          The Mechanic was a legend in the organized crime community. He was the best of the best. The finest hit-man money could buy. And now he was no more. But Dale had yet to figure out his role in all of this. But he certainly remembered what the Mechanic had told him. How his employer had other plans for him and Wes Archer.
          By the time Dale arrived at the Bellmore Café, the fire department had extinguished the blaze and little remained of the structure. Arson was already on the scene and witnesses said the fire was started by an explosion in the kitchen caused by a sudden gas leak. The chef didn’t even smell it until he went to start the pilot light with a match. And then…KABOOM.
          “I wonder if Archer will still think this is all coincidence,” Dale muttered. This sealed it for him. The Mechanic, Firebug AKA Seth Cambridge, the Green Ghost, they were all interconnected. The pieces were starting to fall into place.
          As Dale dug his cell out to give Wes a ring, he heard his radio again. “Officers in pursuit of 451 suspect. Suspect was last seen heading south on Tremont Avenue, heading towards Skid Row, wearing a black baseball cap, a gray hooded sweatshirt, and blue jeans.”
          “You’re not getting away on my watch,” Dale said. He ran to his car, got in, and made a quick U-turn, then started speeding towards Skid Row.
          He found the suspect in question on Beech Street. Dale hit the switch for the lights on his dashboard, but as soon as Cambridge saw them out of the corner of his eyes, he started running faster.
          A few blocks up, Cambridge darted down a nearby alley and headed straight towards the meat packing plant, the same factory Wes had visited the night before. Only this time, Cultus Satanas was nowhere to be found. The factory was empty, cleared out. All that remained was a can of gasoline that seemed to be waiting just for Cambridge. It might as well have been gift wrapped.
          Dale, his pistol drawn, walked the alley and approached the door. He peered in and made sure the sides were clear. Then he entered slowly as the smell of gasoline assaulted his nostrils.
          He arrived just as Seth Cambridge was lighting the match. “The Green Ghost has promised me immortality in this life or the next,” Cambridge said. “And it shall be mine. To prove my loyalty, I will sacrifice this life and await the next.” His body was relaxed, his mind seemingly in a calm, serene state as the match burned down to his fingertips, igniting his body.
          He had doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. There was nothing Dale could use to extinguish the fire, no time to summon the fire department. All he could do was stare in horror at this human fireball.
          A single shot echoed through the factory. Seth’s flaming body collapsed and Dale turned back to the door where he saw Archer standing, .44 Magnum in hand.
          “I did him a favor,” Archer said. “Besides, the guy had it coming. Vernon Keene can rest easy now.”
          “Well that was a rapid recovery,” Dale said, astonished.
          “Suboxone,” Archer said. “It’s a big help with withdrawals. I called Ray and he still had some left over. I’m back in business.”
          “And just in time,” Dale said. “After I did all of the work.”
          “You’re forgetting about the Green Ghost.”
          “Let’s just get back to the office.”
          “I’ve got a better idea,” Dale said. “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? I think you owe someone a call.”
          “Ding, ding, ding.”
          “You’re right,” Archer said. “Call me if you need any help.”
          “Don’t ruin this for me,” Dale said. “Working cases without you is like being on extended vacation. It’s not Hawaii, but it’ll do.”
* * *
          Archer was going to call Valerie Reed. But he did her one better. He showed up at the offices of the Daily Buzz with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of twelve roses. He dropped to his knees in front of all her coworkers and her editor and begged for forgiveness.
          She accepted the flowers and chocolate, whispered for him to get off his knees and not to embarrass her or himself any further. They went into an empty room so they could have some privacy.
          And it was there that Wes confessed about his latest relapse. He had promised Val, swore he wouldn’t do heroin so long as they were together. He continued to grovel and plead for forgiveness when she smiled and said, “Well, since we were technically broken up when you did it, I guess it doesn’t count. Now let’s talk about dinner. Or are you in the mood for dessert?” she asked, unbuttoning the top of her blouse.
* * *
          “Hey,” Officer Foley called over to Dale, who was sitting at his desk looking at old files, trying to figure out their copycat killers’ next move. “We found this in the basement of the restaurant before it got blown to pieces. A strand of hair. Not Ellen’s, and not belonging to any of the employees. But the DNA matches Ellen’s. It’s not her hair, but it’s Frost DNA.”
          “What are you saying?” Dale asked, raising one eyebrow in quizzical fashion.
          “I’m saying either Captain Frost offed his own daughter, or it was one of his family members.”
* * *
          The signs were up all around town. Vanzetti Real Estate. The ads were on bus benches and billboards and people were handing fliers out all around the city. Every one of them with Nino Vanzetti’s smug, jowly face. A face that Archer loved to hate.
          But Nino Vanzetti was the last thing on Archer’s mind. It was eight o’clock and he had a nine-thirty dinner reservation to make. Everything was all set and Val was to meet him there at the restaurant after she went home and got ready.
          When Archer got back to his place to freshen up and change his clothes, he noticed the bedroom window was open. And he was certain he’d locked it. Out came the .44 Magnum and he did a full sweep of his apartment.
          He didn’t find anyone. But he did find a photo tagged to the refrigerator door. A photo of Terri Hart with a message that accompanied it, sprawled underneath the photo along the door in what Archer could only assume was Val Reed’s blood.
          The message was simple: You want her, come and get her.
          He frantically tried to reach Valerie Reed several times, but her phone went straight to voicemail each time. This wasn’t déjà vu. It was a nightmare.
          With no luck, he tried Dale, who answered after the first ring.
          “Do I have news for you,” Dale said.
          “So do I,” Archer said.
          “You go first,” Dale insisted.
“I found out who our killer’s going to emulate next…The Gravedigger. And Dale, I think that sicko has Val with him.”

To Be Concluded With Part Seven!