Friday, December 12, 2014


Genre: Crime Thriller/Murder Mystery

Part One
By Daniel Skye

          History is comprised of victims and villains.
          Lincoln and Booth. Oswald and Kennedy. King and Ray.
          Wes and Aaron Archer.
* * *
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014.
The New Year was no celebration for Weston Archer or Dale Craven.
Their first call of the night was a young woman named Terri Hart. She was pronounced DOA.
Wes was regrettably forced to postpone his second date with Valerie Reed for this case. They had talked briefly over the phone, her and Wes, and Val seemed to understand the situation this time around. But Wes wondered how patient and understanding Val could truly be.
Archer’s career was the kind that makes or breaks relationships. With the kind of strain these assignments put on marriages and relationships, Wes was doubtful that Val would stick around forever.
Their first date had gone off without a hitch…until they ended up in bed and Val saw the faded track marks on the crook of his arm.
He came clean to Val about his past and she had just one simple request: Not while you’re dating me.
And Wes had agreed to the deal.
          Terri Hart was declared missing three days before the CCPD were able to locate her body, buried in an unmarked grave in a small field on the outskirts of downtown Carter City. They found her three days too late.
          The poor girl had been buried alive in a custom coffin that was built to her exact size and specifications. The inside of the lid was riddled with deep scratch marks. She had clawed until her fingertips were raw and bloody, probably screamed bloody murder before she realized how fast it’d make her run out of oxygen.
          “The Gravedigger strikes again,” Wes Archer said. “He went from New York to Florida, and now he’s making his mark here in Carter City. He was last using the alias Sid Hodder. His real name is Charles Gein. Who knows what name he goes by at the moment.”
          “Do we have a full description on this guy?” Dale Craven asked.
          “Yes. Back when he was using the alias Patrick Downey and passing himself off as a Long Island police officer, he was identified be a would-be victim who just happened to be discovered by a group of kids playing truth or dare. The man gave a description, but nobody’s claimed to have seen him since. We know he was using the alias Sid Hodder because the real Sid Hodder was found dead in a restroom with Gein’s prints all over it. Hodder had a place in Florida; the same area where a few of the Gravedigger’s latest victims were discovered. The FBI is under the impression he changes up his appearance.”
          “So finding him is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack,” Dale sighed.
          “The quickest way to find a needle in a haystack: Burn the haystack.”
          “What are you suggesting?”
          “Well, we can rule out populated areas. The Gravedigger’s craft requires an isolated location. And he’d need a fair amount of space to complete his work. So we can rule out business and residential locations. He’d be operating out of an abandoned factory, a warehouse, a workshop of some kind.”
          “I’ll have some of the boys search for factories and warehouses in the area,” Dale said. “In the meantime, how do we break the news to this girl’s parents?”
          “Terri didn’t have any family,” Wes informed him. “She was an orphan who grew up in foster homes, ran away when she was eighteen. She lived with friends for a while, then moved out on her own.”
          “Shame,” Dale said, shaking his head. “Such a pretty girl. Well, she was. How does this sick bastard choose his victims?”
          “He picks them at random, takes his time. He studies them, stalks them for days or weeks, and plans his moves carefully.”
          “You think we’ll catch him before he bolts and moves on to the next state?”
          “If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s burning a haystack.”
* * *
          “You look cranky,” Ray Frye told Wes when he showed up at the morgue with one of those disposable coffee carriers. He had four coffees; one for Ray, one for Pete Drayton, and two for himself.
          “That’s because I haven’t slept since 2013.”
          Ray works as an assistant at the county morgue. He and Wes are good friends and he’s aided Wes on a number of occasions.
          “What have you got for us, Pete?” Wes asked the county coroner that morning over coffee. He was really craving a shot and a beer, but he figured it could wait until his shift was over.
          “Toxicology reports won’t be back for another day, but I found a small puncture wound on her neck,” Pete Drayton said. “Looks like she was drugged, knocked unconscious. She probably woke up already buried inside that coffin. And your boys in forensics didn’t find any prints on the coffin that matched the ones we have on file. In fact, they didn’t find any prints at all.”
          “We don’t need prints to know who we’re dealing with,” Wes said. “Though they would be useful in a court of law. But we’ll have plenty of fingerprints on file when we catch this fucker.”
          “The whole department is rooting for you,” Pete encouraged Archer as Dale Craven burst into the coroner’s office, sweaty and shaking.
          Then he broke the news. “Wes…Val Reed is missing.”
* * *
          Once Dale was able to calm Wes down, they returned to the department and Dale went over the information he had.
          “The boys didn’t find much. Shockingly there’s not nearly as much abandoned or condemned property as you would think. The best we could find is an industrial factory on the outskirts of the city that’s no longer operational. The owner’s name is Orson Miller. You want me to talk to Lieutenant Morris about getting a search warrant?”
          “We don’t need a search warrant.”
          “What do you mean we don’t need one? This might not even be the right place.”
          “A good cop always knows.”
          “No, a good cop goes on fact, not conjecture. A good cop waits for a search warrant. They don’t go breaking doors in.”
          “You have your methods, I have mine.”
          “There’s no way I’m talking you out of this, I am?” Dale sighed and rolled his tired eyes.
          “Not a chance in hell. Not so long as that maniac has Val.”
          “We don’t even know if he has her. She’s just been reported missing by her job. Last night was New Year’s Eve for crying out loud. She could be sleeping off a hangover for all we know.”
          “I called her cell five times. She never answered or returned my calls. That’s not like her. Even if she was drinking last night.”
          “So let’s assume this psycho does have Val and he’s holed up in this factory. How do we approach the situation?”
          “With extreme fucking caution. I don’t want to give that fucker a chance to harm a hair on Val’s head. I just hope we’re not too late already.”
* * *
          The factory was the lone piece of property that dwelled on Soap Street and ran for half a block. Located out in Dorchester, the factory didn’t technically fall under their jurisdiction.
          But Wes had his connections in the Dorchester PD and made a few calls to his buddies. Lawrence Wallace and two of his sergeants met Wes and Dale three blocks from the factory to discuss strategy.
          It took more than an hour, but to Dale’s satisfaction, the boys at Dorchester PD had obtained a search warrant.
          “Doesn’t that put a smile on your face,” Wes said.
          “Blow me,” Dale said.
          “If Val is in one piece when we find her, I’ll blow all of you.”
          “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Wallace chimed in. “If this psycho is in there, it’s safe to assume he’s armed and dangerous. He may even have backup.”
          “The Gravedigger never uses backup,” Wes pointed out. He had studied the FBI’s files inside and out.
          “I still won’t take any chances. Boys, you takes the sides. I’ll take the back. Wes, you and your partner take the front. Have your guns out and ready to go at a moment’s notice. And don’t hesitate to put this sicko down if you get the chance.”
          “I can see why you guys are friends,” Dale said to Wes.
          The factory was owned by Orson Miller. Dorchester PD could find no criminal record on the man. The DMV however was helpful on obtaining Orson’s address and photograph.
          Wes and Dale approached the front. He tried the door handle first instead of kicking it in. To their surprise, the door was unlocked.
          “Easy,” Wes said.
          “Too easy,” Dale added.
          The factory was what you’d expect. Empty crates, wooden pallets, row after row of stacked boxes. A forklift towards the back.
          The boxes created walls of a maze that Wes and Dale were forced to navigate. They could’ve knocked the boxes over, but not without giving away their position. In the center of this maze, they found Valerie Reed. She was unconscious, but still alive.
          Standing over her was a man of average height. He had a goatee and his hair was dyed jet-black. The FBI had been right. The Gravedigger was changing his appearance to match the identities he was stealing. But the eyes gave him away.
          Wes had seen his picture before and he knew exactly who he was standing across from. “What’d you give her, Gravedigger?”
          “Just a mild sedative. She’ll be out for another hour or two.”
          “Drop your weapon,” Wes ordered.
          “Would if I could,” the Gravedigger said, lifting his coat and spinning around to show Wes and Dale he wasn’t even armed.
          By this time, Wallace and his men had infiltrated the factory and were making their way through to the center of this box maze.
          “Where’s Orson Miller?” Wes asked as the Gravedigger raised his hands to the air as a sign of surrender.
          “That would be me,” Gravedigger said. “It’s the name I’ve been using for two months now. And Terri Hart wasn’t my first. The real Orson Miller is buried in unmarked grave about two blocks from the city park. Don’t bother searching. You’re two months too late.”
          “Dale, cuff this sick son of a bitch.”
          Dale approached with caution and the Gravedigger complied and lowered his hands so Dale could cuff his wrists behind his back. “Ah, I’ve waited for this moment for so long,” he confessed as Wallace and his men reached the end of the maze.
          “What are you talking about?” Dale asked this lunatic.
          “It was always my intention to get caught eventually,” the Gravedigger said. “I’m going to write a book in prison. Even if they execute me, my work will live on forever. I’ll be a household name.”
          “For all the wrong reasons,” Wes said, shaking his head.
          “All right boys, get this sicko out of my sight,” Wallace told his men. “Good call, Wes.”
          “Yeah,” Dale said. “Good call. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
          “It’s ok, kiddo,” Wes said. “You’re still learning. Let’s just get Val to the hospital and make sure she’s fine.”
* * *
          Thursday, January 2nd, 2014.
          The house was torched beyond recognition. The ceiling had collapsed, causing the second floor to easily give way after being exposed to that tremendous heat and pressure.
          What remained of the structure now were barren walls with nothing attached, piles of rubble, and ash that was still smoldering.
          Wes sipped his coffee and wore a look on his face that screamed ‘it’s too early for this shit’. Dale stood by his side, chugging an energy drink. Wes winced at the sight and wondered how Dale could drink that awful crap.
          “So how are things with Ms. Reed?” Dale asked. “All is forgiven?”
          “She’s not returning my calls,” Wes said. “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”
          “You’ll never know that for sure unless you try to patch things up with her.”
          “Remind me why we’re here again,” Wes said to Dale. “This is a case for arson, not homicide.”
          “The boys found two bodies buried in the remains,” Dale said. “And the fire looks intentional. We won’t know for sure until the boys do a full inspection, but look at the remaining walls. See how the fire burned upwards, causing those charred V shaped patterns to form along the walls? This happens usually when the fire is started by an accelerant like gasoline.”
          “How do you know this?”
          “I read a lot. And when I was a kid, I wanted to be a firefighter. Now I’m a cop instead. Go figure.”
          “So it was a murder,” Wes said.
          “Yes, that’s the short answer,” Dale said. His cell rang and he stepped away from the wreckage to answer it.
          After a few seconds of conversation, Dale lowered his cell phone and passed it off to Wes. “For you. It’s the LT.”
          “Yeah, Mitch, I’m here,” Wes said, bringing the phone to his ear.
          “Wes, we’ve got a problem. We just received an anonymous tip. The Mechanic has made his way to Carter City.”
          “A heavy hitter for the mafia.”
          “How heavy?”
          “The heaviest.”
          “Then why haven’t I heard of him?”
          “He’s not on your radar,” Morris said. “He’s not really on anybody’s radar but the FBI’s. He’s a free agent. Nobody knows his real name, where he lives, where he’s from. The guy’s a ghost. But this motherfucker ain’t friendly like that bitch, Casper. Look, all I’m saying is, watch your back, watch your partner’s back, and if you see or hear anything, let us know.”
          “Will do,” Wes said, ending the call and handing the phone off to Dale.
          “What was that about?” Dale asked.
          “We need to talk,” Wes told his partner. “Got time for a drink?”

To Be Continued Soon With Part Two!

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