Monday, December 29, 2014


Genre: Crime Fiction/Murder Mystery

Part Five
By Daniel Skye

          Monday, January 6th, 2014.
          Augusto Hernandez of the ESB was dead, shot twice on his front porch. So was Hector Cardona, shot three times in his own bathtub.
          Damien Delgado had pulled the rest of his crew off the street. No one was going to be selling dope on his watch.
          The rounds from the gun that killed Hernandez didn’t match the rounds that killed the Darsky’s before their house was torched. And the swelling rumors of the Mechanic loose in Carter City seemed to make the arrow point in his direction. Dale Craven just wished he knew which direction that was.
Herb Blackwell, the owner of the apartment complex on the East Side, was also found dead in his home. He was murdered, strangled with a wire. The same as Jason Briggs, the buildings superintendent.
          And someone had used plastic explosives to blow up a department store in downtown Carter City. The Firebug, as the Daily Buzz liked to call him, was stepping up his game.
          All in all, Sunday had been quite a day for Dale Craven. Now it was Monday morning and he’d yet to hear back from his partner.
          Wes Archer was MIA and Dale was hoping he’d turn up soon, alive and well. Archer was infamous for this behavior. Dale knew that he fancied himself as a lone wolf. That he marched to the beat of his own drum. But it wasn’t like Wes to turn off his phone and just ignore everyone when they were in the middle of several major investigations.
          “Any luck?” Lieutenant Morris asked Dale that morning, the fluorescents illuminating the deep scars on his face. His appearance was startling and made some people uncomfortable, but Archer and Dale didn’t bat an eye when they faced him. They treated him with respect and dignity when others couldn’t even look him in the eye.
          The scars made him appear older than he was. His face told the tale of a man who had been to hell and back, and shared no regrets.
          “None,” Dale told him.
          “Well, just keep trying his phone,” Morris said. “And in the meantime, I need you on the Copycat case. Captain Frost has got a match burning under my ass on this one. He wants his daughter back in one piece. Find her, Dale. You’re my only shot with Archer out of the picture.”
          “I’ll do my best,” Dale promised.
          “I’m going to need you to try harder than that,” Morris said. “Ellen Frost’s life depends on it.”
* * *
          Wes Archer had consulted Ray Frye on the getup. Ray suggested an all-black ensemble. Archer had the black boots covered. The black jeans and shirt he acquired at a thrift store, along with the Cannibal Corpse hoodie, again at Ray’s suggestion.
          “Trust me,” Ray said. “You’ll fit in with this.”
          Back at Ray’s apartment, Archer changed in the bathroom. When he stepped out dressed head to toes in black, Ray held something in his hand and Archer held out his palm to except it.
          It was a sterling silver ring with a pentagram in the center. A donation from his own personal collection “This will help you look the part,” Ray had said. “But if you really want to look the part, you shouldn’t show up sober.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “The Satanists that frequent skid row, they’re all dope fiends and crystal meth tweakers. You show up sober and they’re going to know you’re not one of them.”
          “Very true,” Archer said, nodding. “You got any pot?”
          “I don’t think pot will do the trick,” Ray said, wandering off to his bedroom. He returned with a brown shoebox and lifted the cover, removed a syringe. “But this might work.”
          “I can’t,” Archer shook his head. “As much as I want to, I can’t risk it. I’ll get suspended. Maybe even fired this time.”
          “You’re doing this to find the captain’s daughter, right?”
          “Yeah, so?”
          “So if you find her alive and well, I think the captain can forgive you for this one.”
          “You know, sometimes I can’t believe you work for the county.”
          “Sometimes I can’t believe you’re a cop,” Ray said.
          Archer sighed. “Just give me the syringe.”
          Ray passed the syringe to Archer and removed a blackened spoon and a balloon of heroin from the shoebox. “By the way, the password is Daemon. It’s an archaic spelling of demon. Make sure you pronounce it correctly or you’ll give yourself away. You want me to write this down in case you forget?”
* * *
          He waited for dark. And then Archer returned to the belly of the beast.
          Skid Row.
          The home of “Cultus Satanas.”
          The Cult of Satan.
          Stoned, Archer ignored common sense and disregarded Ray Frye’s advice to hoof it or get a ride from someone else. He drove his Jeep from Ray’s apartment and parked several blocks away. He walked the rest of the way. He couldn’t afford to be seen pulling up with the CCPD license plates showing.
          There was no marquee. No fliers or posters advertising the meeting. But Ray was like Archer’s snitch Toad. He knew things about Carter City that average citizens wouldn’t even converse about. And he knew where the meeting was going down.
          Cultus Satanas follow the same basic ritual. They meet every night at an old meatpacking plant that was condemned years ago by the board of the health.
          Basically, it’s a gathering of posers and wannabes all hopped up on meth and coke or covered with track marks. The group did have a few legitimate members, disturbed individuals that scared even the rest of the group.
          And these wannabes, these followers seemed to be brainwashed. They hung on their leaders every word. Whatever he said, they repeated, muttering in unison. Whatever he did, they mimicked his actions. Monkey see, monkey do.
          And Archer, with his bloodshot eyes and the heroin coursing through his veins, went stumbling down that dark alley and approached the side door, which as he anticipated, was guarded.
          “Password,” the guard barked, demanding to know. He was an obese man with a lip ring, a nose ring, earrings, eyebrow piercings, and rings of sweat around his armpits. Even on a chilly night like this, the man was saturated. Beads of sweat were accumulating on his dense forehead and dripping down to his brow.
          “Daemon,” Archer said, certain he was pronouncing it correctly.
          “Alright, you can enter,” the obese man said. He banged on the door, three quick raps, and somebody opened up on the other side. Archer stepped in and took a look around. The décor wasn’t very welcoming.
          They had drawn on the walls with black crayons and markers, tagged them with graffiti. Archer saw inverted crosses and pentagrams and the number 666 scrawled across every wall, squeezed between other hellish designs and nightmarish depictions.
          This was Cultus Satanas in all their glory. A bunch of teenagers and young adults all huddled around trashcan bonfires, trying to keep warm.
          “You’re just in time, brother,” one of them said to Archer as he joined the gathering.
          In time for what? Archer wondered. But he didn’t ask. Didn’t want to give himself away. If they all knew something he didn’t, acknowledging that fact would be like waving a red flag in their faces.
          The leader, a tall man in a hooded black robe, approached his makeshift pulpit, and addressed the crowd.
          “Hello my brothers and sisters,” he spoke and right on cue, his followers all returned the greeting. “Redemption is upon us. Our savior has promised to usher in a new era. An era where we will no longer have to hide our actions or beliefs from the world.
          The Green Ghost has promised us that the streets will run red with a river of blood. Their blood. The blood of the greedy, the corrupt, the oppressive. Oh yes, my brothers and sisters, it will flow. The Green Ghost, the Devil’s chosen one, has guaranteed us all immortality. Hail Satan. Hail the chosen one.”
          “Hail Satan!” his followers recited. “Hail the chosen one!”
“And you know what we must do, my brothers and sisters, to appease the chosen one. We must offer a sacrifice. He must have his reparations. Expiation.”
“Expiation!” they chanted around the trashcan fires.
“Bring us the girl!” the leader commanded.
The door was thrust open, and the obese man with the rings of sweat around his gray T-shirt drags in a helpless girl by her waist. A rolled bandana was forced between her teeth and tied behind her head to muffle her screams. Her wrists were bound with wire to prevent her from chewing through it should she manage to loosen the bandana.
They laid her on the cold floor, in the center of a pentagram that had been outlined with chalk the way they outline the dead bodies. A black candle sat at each point of the pentagram, waiting to be lit, waiting for the sacrifice to commence.
The leader threw back his black hood, revealing his fiery red hair and his one good eye. The other had been gouged and scar tissue formed over the socket, sealing his eye shut permanently.
          Wes had seen enough. He couldn’t maintain his cover anymore. He yanked the .44 Magnum, his Dirty Harry gun, from the holster and fired a single shot in the air. Most of these so-called Satanists took off like scared rabbits. Only a few remained.
          And after he fired the second shot, all but the leader had evacuated the meat packing plant.
          “Put your hands in the air,” Archer said, getting ready to fire a third shot if necessary.
          “I’ve heard about you,” the leader said. “The Green Ghost warned me of you.”
          “I’m not going to ask you again.”
          The leader threw his hands in the air and winked at Archer with his good eye. “You’re probably wondering what happened here. We all have to make sacrifices.”
          “You gouged out your own eye?”
          “It’s a small price to pay for immortality, don’t you agree?”
          “I agree that you’re a whacko and you have the right to remain silent. I’d interrogate you first, but I know you’re not the man I’m looking for. A sicko, no doubt. But not nearly as sick as the son of a bitch I’m hunting. So I’m going to ask you this once, where is he? The Green Ghost?”
          “In hell,” the man with the fiery red hair and one remaining eye cackled. Then he dropped his arms to the side and lunged forward.
          It took one bullet to stop him dead in his tracks. But the shot hadn’t killed him. Just took out one of his kneecaps.
          The leader wailed in pain, clutching at his shattered knee, trying to stop the bleeding.
          “I can’t believe you’re making me ask this again,” Archer sighed. “Where is the Green Ghost?”
          “In hell,” he repeated and resumed his howling.
          Archer freed the girl, pulling the bandana down and untying the taut wire from her wrists. “Just wait right here for a sec,” Archer told her. “I know you’ve been through a lot and I promise you’ll be home before you know it.”
          Archer turned back to the leader, striking his nose with the butt of his gun.
          “Where the fuck is he?”
          “Just kill me,” he gasped. “I’ll never talk. You might as well pull the trigger and save yourself some time.”
          “I’d rather see you behind bars.”
          “Yeah? Well I’m gonna get a lawyer and sue your ass for police brutality.”
          “Yeah? Take a number and get in back of the line.”
* * *
          Downtown Carter City.
Dale Craven had been out since ten AM and now it was pitch black outside. He had exhausted all his resources. He shook down every petty crook he could corner for information. Hit up every snitch and ex-con in the city. He questioned every potential witness in the Shannon Reynolds, Molly Henderson killings–teachers, friends, students, even the principal.
His search had led him to downtown Carter, where he started questioning potential witnesses of the department store explosion. It was his assumption that the murders, the kidnapping of Ellen Frost, and the fires could all be related somehow. He just had to make the pieces fit.
It was around nine-thirty when he got the call to head over to the Bellmore Café. The dumbwaiter had refused to ascend the shaft from the basement. Seemed to be carrying too much weight. So the chef went down to see what was holding it up. That’s when he found the girl’s body at the bottom of the shaft.
Ellen Frost’s body.
* * *
          “Where the hell have you been?” Dale asked when Archer returned to the department after midnight.
In the end, he got nothing out of the one eyed Satanist who proclaimed the Green Ghost had offered him immortality. He had kept his mouth shut and was going to be spending a long time in Carter City Maximum where he’d probably shoot his mouth off and lose his other eye. At least that’s what Archer was hoping.
He called it in and had the boys book him and escort that young lady back to her home safely. He hadn’t found Ellen Frost as he set out to do, but he did save another life in the process. And that felt pretty damn good.
And he was hot on the Green Ghost’s trail. He could feel himself zeroing in on him.
          “At a cult meeting,” Wes replied. “Catch me up to speed.”
          “Augusto Hernandez and Hector Cardona are dead. So is Herb Blackwell, the landlord of the apartment complex on the East Side. The Firebug upgraded to plastic explosives and blew up a department store in downtown Carter, and we found Ellen Frost’s body stashed in a dumbwaiter at the Bellmore Café. And we might have a suspect in the Firebug case. Seth Cambridge.”
          “How long was I gone?”
          “Crime doesn’t take a break just because you decide to.”
          “Who killed Hernandez and Cardona?”
          “We think it was the Mechanic.”
          “What about Herb Blackwell?”
          “The same man who killed Jason Briggs and the Darsky’s. Firebug.”
          “And how’d you hear about this Cambridge guy?”
          “A fellow pyromaniac who did time with him. Said he confessed to murder while they were sharing a cell. While we’re exchanging notes, what did you find on Copycat?”
          “That’s what the Daily Buzz is calling your brother’s successor.”
          “I guess they’ve never heard of the Green Ghost. And remind me to stomp the crap out of that editor.”
          “The Green Ghost?”
          “Don’t ask me. Just have the boys look into it. It could be an alias. Could be a nickname. Could be some obscure reference from an independent film or some novel that’s half a century old. But if they find something on it, it might get us the lead we need.”
          “Archer!” Lieutenant Morris’s voice echoed down the hall.
          “If I’m not back in five minutes, start making arrangements for my funeral,” Archer quipped.
          He walked to Morris’s office and Morris slammed the door shut. He didn’t even bother to sit back behind his desk or invite Archer to pull up a chair.
          “Where the fuck have you been?” Morris demanded to know.
          “I was working undercover, trying to gather evidence on the Green Ghost case?”
          “The who?”
          “The Green Ghost. I believe it’s the alias the man who took Ellen Frost is using. And I think I’m close to finding him.”
          “Well thanks to you wandering off and playing one man army when you should have been working with your partner, Ellen Frost is dead and the captain is furious. He wants your badge. He’s issuing a mandatory drug test for you tomorrow morning. Don’t give him a reason to fire you. Flush out your system if you’re on anything I don’t know about, which I hope you’re not.”
          “I’m clean,” Archer lied.
          “Good, now for the love of God, get back to work and stick by Dale’s side at all times. Maybe if you nail this guy soon enough, Frost will have a change of heart.”
          Walking back to his desk, Archer pondered how he was going to pass this drug screening. And then it came to him.
          “Dale, do you want me working this case?”
          “Of course,” Dale said. “You’re our only shot at solving this.”
          “Then I need you to do me a favor. I need your urine.”
          “Oh, no. Not again.”
          “This is the last time. I promise. Captain Frost wants my badge and he’s going to get it if I don’t have clean urine to hand in.”
          “Fine,” Dale sighed. “In the meantime, we need to find this Cambridge guy.”
          “We should check with Toad. He told me he didn’t know any firebugs. But if this guy has a record, Toad might know him from somewhere else. He might even be a customer.”
          “Wes…I’m so sorry I forgot to mention it. Your buddy, Toad…he’s gone. They found him in some back alley, shot twice in the back of the head.”

To Be Continued With Part Six!

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