Sunday, December 21, 2014


Genre: Crime Thrillers/Murder Mystery

Part Three
By Daniel Skye

          Saturday, January 4th, 2014.
          Aaron Archer was serving ten consecutive life sentences for the murders he committed. The papers had labeled him the Devil’s Apprentice. He wasn’t fond of the nickname, but it stuck and eventually became part of his morbid history.
          His tenure as a serial killer met an abrupt end when a streetwise cop caught on to what he was doing and handed him over to the authorities. That cop was Wes Archer.
          Wes turned in his own brother, and got an unwanted promotion to homicide for his efforts. He wasn’t seeking promotion, he wasn’t looking to get into anybody’s good graces. He just wanted to put a stop to it before Aaron killed anymore innocent people.
          His father had disowned him for it. His family had shunned him. His own brother resented him, always asking, “Why’d it have to be you who caught me?” And Wes used to ask himself that same question from time to time.
          Still, he harbored no regret. In his mind, he knew he did the right thing. Even if Adam Archer couldn’t see it, even if Wes couldn’t understand it himself from time to time. He knew he did the right thing.
          But now, Aaron was his only hope for answers. Wes had found himself wrapped up in the immolation of two teenage girls, Shannon Reynolds and Molly Henderson.
Victims of a copycat killer who seemed to fancy themselves as the next Devil’s Apprentice. And Wes knew if a suspect was apprehended immediately, there would be more sacrifices that followed.
          Cozily confined to a private eight by ten cell in Carter City Maximum Security Prison, Aaron couldn’t hurt anybody anymore. Not on the inside, at least. But Wes was unsure of his influence on the outside. And that’s what he came to find out.
          “Leave us,” Wes told the guard who unlocked the door to Aaron’s cell. “I’ll call you when I’m done.”
          The guard nodded, stepping out and closing the door behind him. Aaron didn’t move from his cot.
          “You never sent me a Christmas gift this year,” Aaron muttered.
          “You always throw away what I send you,” Wes said.
          “You got me there,” Aaron shrugged. “So what brings you here? Did dad finally kick the bucket?”
          “No,” Wes said. “That’s not why I’m here. This has nothing to do with family.”
          “I’m not family?”
          “Stop joking around and listen to me.”
          “I’m listening.”
          “We found two teenagers in a high school basement. They were dead. Their femoral arteries were severed, they bled out. And 666 was written across the wall with their blood. Starting to sound familiar?”
          “Oh, yes,” Aaron smiled. “That brings back memories.”
          “There was another message, written in blood. O brother, where art thou?”
          “What do you think it means?” Aaron asked, cocking his head at an inquisitive angle.
          “Stop fucking around,” Wes yelled so loud the guard popped his head in for a second just to make sure things were all right.
          “What are you getting at with all this?” Aaron asked.
          “You know why I’m here,” Wes said. “I want to know if you’re involved.”
          “I have no contact to the outside,” Aaron said. “They won’t even let me call a lawyer anymore. And I haven’t had any visitors lately besides you. Check the log.”
          “I already checked it. But this whole thing still reeks of you.”
          “It’s not me, brother,” Aaron assured him. “Though I wish it was. I’ll definitely be reading up on this maestro and if I think of anything useful, I’ll call you if they let me.”
          “Always a pleasure to see you,” Wes said and yelled for the guard to open up and let him out.
* * *
          Dale Craven was with the arson squad at the apartment complex on the East Side of town. The whole building had been torched.
          Thankfully, the building had been evacuated as soon as the alarms sounded. Only a few people got trapped on the top floor and had perished in the flames. Still, if it had been an accident, there should’ve been no fatalities. The building should’ve been cleared before the fire had a chance to consume the structure.
          The fire had spread fast, a little too fast. And that was Dale’s first clue. It was going to take arson a day at least to do a full investigation. But Dale knew faulty wiring wasn’t the cause. And he wasn’t leaving until he found evidence that proved otherwise.
          The charring, the V shaped patterns that were burned into the wallpaper indicated the fire was started by an accelerant. A faint chemical odor lingered in the air. It wasn’t gasoline. Turpentine.
          The whole building had been soaked in it. Dale cut a charred section of the hallway rug free and bagged it for the boys to check for traces of turpentine.
          All the apartment doors were open now, even the ones that had been locked. Beyond the threshold of one door, the charred remains of a Saint Bernard. Someone had gone away on business or vacation and left their dog home alone, locked inside.
          Perhaps no one else knew the dog was trapped inside. Perhaps none of the neighbors had a chance to save him. But the very sight turned Dale’s stomach.
          “It’s ok, boy,” Dale whispered. “Rest easy. I’ll catch this fucker for you.” He was starting to talk like Wes. And worse, he was starting to like the way he sounded.
          He passed the bag along to arson and booked from the scene. He met up with Wes back at the department.
* * *
          “I’m sorry you had to see that,” Wes said after hearing about the Saint Bernard. “If it’s any consolation, talking to my brother was no picnic either.”
          “What’d you find out?”
          “I found out Aaron doesn’t have anything to do with it. And if he’s lying to me, he deserves an award for the convincing act he pulled. We’re dealing with a legitimate copycat who has no affiliations that we’re aware of. It’s likely that our guy is acting on his own.”
          “So why emulate your brother?”
          “That’s what we’re going to find out. What do you have on the apartment complex?”
          “Turpentine was the cause of the fire. Someone poured a shitload of it around the building, lit a match. Arson confirmed it with a simple test.”
          “Why that building? Why the East Side?”
          “A lot of unanswered questions,” Dale shrugged his shoulders.
          “Well, I know someone who usually does have answers for me.”
          “Not that scumbag.”
          “He may be a scumbag, but he’s my scumbag.”
          “You run along,” Dale said. “I’ll sit this one out. Someone still needs to talk with Molly and Shannon’s parents and ask them a few questions. I guess I’ll go do that.”
* * *
          Ever since the ESB took over Elm Street, Toad was forced to move his drug operations. If anyone was looking for him, they’d find him on skid row. This area was even more dreaded by police officers than downtown Carter City. Skid row was where you ended up when you wore your welcome out downtown and you had nowhere else to go.
          He pulled up next to the shelter that Toad was standing in front of and rolled his window down. Toad approached and asked, “You want the usual?”
          “I’m clean,” Archer said.
          “For now,” Toad said.
          “So you live here now?”
          “Nah, but my customers do.”
          “You’re shameless, Toad. But you hear things I don’t. What do you know about the fire on the East Side?”
          “I’m assuming it wasn’t an accident based on the previous fire. But that’s all I’ve got for you. Arson isn’t my specialty. And I don’t know any firebugs.”
          “What about the Mechanic?”
          “I heard he was in town,” Toad said. “But the guy’s a legend. No one knows what he looks like. But I heard someone paid him big bucks to be here.”
          “Beats me. But it wasn’t the ESB. I would know if it was. And it wasn’t anyone on skid row or anyone from the downtown area. I’d know too.”
          “And what do you know about Shannon Reynolds and Molly Henderson?”
          “I don’t know any Molly’s,” Toad said. “But Shannon Reynolds rings a bell. I think her boyfriend used to buy weed off me.”
          “His name?”
          “Calvin Woods,” Toad said and Archer was off to find him.
* * *
          Calvin Woods wasn’t home when Archer arrived, so he waited patiently. Two hours later, Woods came walking down the sidewalk, skateboard under one arm. Archer rolled down his window and exhaled a thin cloud of smoke. “Cigarette?” he asked Calvin.
          “My momma taught me never to accept gifts from strangers,” Calvin replied.
          “Your momma’s a smart woman. I bet you don’t take after her.”
          “And just who the fuck are you?”
          Archer flashed his badge. “That’s who the fuck I am.”
          “What do you want?”
          “Information about Shannon Reynolds.”
          “I was just at her parents’ house, expressing my condolences. I just found out a few hours ago. I’m just as shocked as anyone else.”
          “We have a mutual acquaintance,” Wes informed him. “Says you used to buy weed off him.”
          “Is that a crime?”
          “As a matter of fact, it is.”
          “So arrest me.”
          “Not yet. First, tell me about Shannon.”
          “She was a sweet girl. But she was strange. She marched to the beat of her own drum, did what she wanted. I think she might’ve been seeing someone else.”
          “What makes you say that?”
          “Molly mentioned some mystery man she was chatting with online. It was supposed to be some super-secret. She never saved their conversations, Molly said. She always deleted the emails to be safe.”
          “So how can you be sure?”
          “I can’t,” Calvin said. “I just know what Molly told me before she was killed.”
          “If you think of anything else, I want you to give me a call,” Archer said, handing him his card.
* * *
          By the time Wes returned to his desk, he was spent. And so was Dale Craven. Three hours of talking with grieving fathers and crying mothers is enough to wear anyone out.
          “We need to get access to Shannon Reynolds computer,” Wes said. “And shit, I need to call Valerie and make plans for dinner.”
          “Better hurry, it’s almost eight o’clock.”
          “I’ll never get reservations now,” Wes sighed. “I hope she likes Chinese takeout. Or greasy diner food.”
          “You’re so romantic,” Dale laughed.
          Wes was actually about to join in, but his expression changed when Officer Foley approached and he saw dinner with Valerie go out the window.
          “Guys…it’s Captain Frost’s daughter…she’s missing. They found this at the scene.”
          He held out an evidence bag and Wes could make out the symbol through the transparent plastic. It was a pentagram.

To Be Continued Soon With Part Four!

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