Sunday, December 14, 2014


Genre: Crime Thrillers/Murder Mystery

Part Two
By Daniel Skye

          Friday, January 3rd, 2014.
          Valerie Reed had finally returned Archer’s calls and agreed to see him again for dinner.
          Archer had made reservations at a fancy, pretentious French restaurant at Dale Craven’s suggestion. He couldn’t even pronounce the name of the place, but he managed to play the role of the gentlemen to a T.
          He arrived ten minutes before Val and pulled her chair out for her when she arrived. He ordered the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu and let her order her food first.
          He asked every question he could throw together in his head and never once steered the conversation towards himself. As far as Wes was concerned, the entire evening was about Valerie.
          “I must admit, it was exciting,” Val said at the end of dinner. “Being used as bait by a psychotic serial killer to motivate my boyfriend into catching him. What do you have in store for our next date?”
          “I can’t say sorry enough about all that,” Wes told her.
          “It’s fine,” she said. “I’ll recover. And I got one hell of a story out of it so my editor is pleased. Speaking of which, what are you working on now, if you don’t mind me asking?”
          “Arson case that may be a homicide. I can’t discuss it any further until I know more.”
          “Gotcha,” she smiled. “So where to now? My place or yours?”
* * *
          Wes spent the night at Val’s and went straight to work the next morning. Dale noticed he was wearing the same clothes, but didn’t draw any attention to the fact. He was happy his partner had managed to patch things up with Val.
          What Dale wasn’t happy about was the deceased married couple they found in the remains of a two-story house that had been set ablaze.
          Arson confirmed it was no accident. There was no gas leak or faulty wiring responsible. The couple had been shot in their beds and gasoline was doused all through the house.
          Wes thought this could be the work of the mysterious Mechanic that Lt. Morris had mentioned. But the couple had no connections to the mafia or organized crime. They weren’t witnesses to a particular crime. They weren’t under protection. They were nobodies. Average citizens.
          That’s what made Wes wonder if they were dealing with some other maniac. Someone besides the Mechanic. The Mechanic was an experienced hit-man called in for big jobs. Someone wouldn’t waste his time or skills on a couple of average citizens if they didn’t have something to gain from it.
          So if this was the work of the Mechanic, what was there to gain here? Dale had seen to it that the boys rounded up all information they could on Louis and Betty Darsky.
          They were married. Never had any children. Owned a prime piece of real estate on the West Side of Carter City. Louis was an accountant, his wife was a secretary.
          “We’ll have to interview their employers and coworkers,” Wes said.
          “Leave that to me,” Dale said. “I think there’s someone else you should be talking to."
          “What if the Mechanic didn’t have anything to do with this? What if it was someone with a personal grudge against the Darsky’s who hired someone else to torch the place? Perhaps a local gang did the dirty work.”
          “Are you suggesting the ESB might be involved?”
          “I’m just saying you should have a chat with Damien Delgado. It wouldn’t be the first time. And you are familiar with his crew.”
          “You mean Vernon Keene? The last time I saw that kid, he tried to slash my face with a broken beer bottle.”
          “That just means he knows you,” Dale chuckled.
          “Everyone’s a fucking comedian,” Wes muttered and left Dale to his business.
* * *
          Archer took a ride by himself to downtown Carter City and cruised past the arcade. Archer’s snitch, Toad, had stopped selling there since the ESB took over the neighborhood.
          And if he was going to find Damien Delgado or Vernon Keene anywhere, he’d place his bets on downtown Elm Street.
          Sure enough, he saw Keene leaned up against a brick wall on Elm, talking to two kids who were no older than thirteen or fourteen. He saw the quick exchange of money and drugs between Keene and the children. Then he sent them on their way and pocketed the cash.
          Wes pulled his Jeep along the curb and got out. He walked around the front of the vehicle and Keene got ready to bolt as soon as he saw him.
          “Relax,” Wes told him. “I’m not here to bust you. I’m homicide, not narcotics.”
          “So what do you want this time?” Keene asked.
          “Information about a fire on the West Side.”
          “Can’t help you,” Keene said. “We’re not freelance gang. And Damien doesn’t let us go into business for ourselves. We’re not for hire. And we don’t have any beefs with anyone on the West Side.”
          “Thanks for clearing that up.”
          “This is about that couple that was in the papers, right? The ones that were shot in their beds?”
          “You actually read the paper?”
          “You surprised, motherfucker? Yeah, I can read and write. Big deal. Look, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The ESB had nothing to do with that. Don’t want to take my word for it? Talk to Damien and the boys about it.”
          “I will if it comes to that. In the meantime, I need you to do me a favor.”
          “You need me to do you a favor?” Keene chortled.
          “Just keep your eyes and ears open. You hear anything, you see anything, and you report it back to me. Got it?”
          “What’s in it for me?”
          “You get to keep peddling your drugs with immunity, for now.”
          “Deal,” Keene sighed.
          “You know where to find me,” Wes said as he drove off in his Jeep and returned to the office.
          It was there that Officer Foley informed him they had another one. “Fire on the East Side of town,” Foley had said. “This time it was a whole apartment complex that got torched. Most of the tenants were able to escape. But the superintendent didn’t make it, and neither did a few people on the top floor.”
          “Wes,” Mitch shouted from his office. “I need a word with you, pronto.”
          “Fuck,” Wes mumbled. “Foley, hold that thought for a second. I’ll be right back. And call Dale for me and find out where he is. Tell him about the fire and tell him to wait wherever he is. I’ll meet him there.”
          Wes walked to Mitch’s office and closed the door behind him. He didn’t bother to sit. He didn’t want to be there any longer than the conversation required.
          Mitch’s face was well known around the department. He had the look of a man who’d been to hell and back, and shared no regrets about it. His face was a virtual road map of scars that overlapped and intersected.
          Mitch had been a lot of things before his tenure as lieutenant. He’d worked patrol, narcotics, done undercover assignments. He was a vice cop for many years and worked homicide for five years before his promotion to lieutenant.
          And at age fifty-six, he was nearing retirement. He knew it, the captain knew it. The only one that didn’t know it were his subordinates. But Wes was about to hear the news. And he was also about to be thrust into a new case that hit very close to home.
          “Belated Happy New Year to you,” Mitch said, making Wes uneasy. Lieutenant Morris never wasted time with pleasantries.
          “Belated Happy New Year to you too,” Wes said. “So what’s this all about?”
          “It’s about the future,” Mitch said. “As you know, I’m fifty-six years old. And I’m not getting any younger. The cap is pushing me towards retirement. And I sort of agree with him. It’s time I step down. With that being said, they’ll have to name a replacement. I want you to be that replacement.”
          “Is this a joke? It’s not April Fool’s Day, Mitch.”
          “No joke. I think you’re just the man for the job.”
          “Get someone else to do it. I’m content with my position here in the department. I don’t like change.”
          “We’re talking about a huge promotion here, Wes. Things like this don’t fall into your lap every day.”
          “And I appreciate the consideration. I really do. But I’m not the right man for the job. Someone else in the department deserves it more than I do.”
          “You mean Dale?”
          Wes laughed. “No. He’s great at what he does, but he’s not ready yet. But there are plenty of other qualified candidates. Officer Foley for example, or Carson Ryder who works vice. You’ll find someone, trust me.”
          “If you really don’t want it, I’ll tell that to Captain Frost. But that’s not all I needed to talk to you about.”
          “Ok, shoot. What else do you need to say?”
          “I know you’re working that double homicide slash arson case with Dale, but we’re short staffed and I have another double homicide that requires your immediate attention. The victims are female. Teenagers. Their bodies were found in the basement of Carter City High School. I hate to use this phrase, but we kind of lucked out with the fact that tomorrow is Sunday. That gives us enough to go in there, comb the scene for evidence, remove the bodies, and get things cleaned up so the school can open again. They’re planning on having a memorial on Monday in the auditorium for the girls.”
          “Do we have any ID’s on the girls?”
          “Yes. Molly Henderson and Sharon Reynolds. They were seniors at the school. Set to graduate this year.”
          “Damn shame,” Wes said, shaking his head. “And people ask me why I drink.”
          “Wes, there’s something you should know about this case…”
          “Well, first we should clear something up. Which case am I supposed to be working on? The new arson case or this one?”
          “Rendezvous with your partner and get working on the Reynolds, Henderson case. The boys in arson and Officer Foley can handle the other case for now.”
          “Just make sure they don’t tamper with the evidence,” Wes said. “So what’s so important that I needed to know about it right away? Besides you retiring?”
          “The girls…they were victims of a copycat killer.”
          “You don’t say…” Wes trailed off, waiting for the punchline.
          “This murderer seems to have a thing for emulating your brother,” Mitch said, delivering.
          “What do you mean?” Wes asked, raising one quizzical eyebrow. He was clearly bemused and Wes Archer didn’t like feeling bemused.
          “Just go to the school and you’ll see what I’m talking about,” Mitch said. “And if this case is too much for you, you just let me know and I’ll pass it off to somebody else.”
          “Nothing is too much for me,” Archer assured him. “See you later, Mitch. Let me know when you actually do retire. There’s usually cake involved and I want some.”
          “You’re a prick to the bitter end,” Mitch said and let out a sigh that was more of a muted laugh. “Just go find Dale and get to work. You’ve got a long night ahead of you.”
* * *
          Dale Craven had finished questioning the bosses, managers, and employees at Betty Darsky’s office. He met Wes out in front of the building and hopped into his Jeep, leaving the department’s vehicle behind for the time being.
          “Foley told me everything about the latest arson case,” Dale said from the shotgun seat as Wes sped like a madman towards their destination.
          He was weaving in and out of traffic when Dale told him, “Slow down. Why are you driving so fast?”
          “Because it’s going to be a very long night,” Wes said. “We’re not going to the apartment complex. Not yet. Foley and the boys will deal with that for now. We’re going to Carter City High.”
          “What for?”
          “Two girls found in the basement by the janitor. Molly Henderson and Shannon Reynolds.”
          “So two girls lose their lives and that’s why you’re driving like a nut?”
          “I’m just on edge,” Wes sighed.
          “Well I’m not and I’d like to get there in one piece,” Dale said frankly, checking his seatbelt to make sure it was snug and secure.
          “Apparently our latest whacko is a fan of my brother,” Wes told him. “That’s what Mitch told me.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “We’re dealing with a copycat killer.”
          “Never a break,” Dale sighed. “I’m never getting that vacation to Hawaii.”
* * *
          The school had put on extra security that weekend. Two men were at the front doors to let Wes and Dale inside. One of the guards was kind enough to lead them through the halls and to the staircase that led to the basement.
          “I’d go with you,” the security guard had said. “But I’ve already seen them, and I can’t bear to see them again. Not like that.”
          The guard wandered back to his post and left Wes and Dale to attend to their business.
          Dale found the switches at the top of the staircase and flipped them all and the basement flooded with light.
          They descended the stairs slowly and saw the blood before they even saw the bodies.
          It looked like an exact replica of one of Aaron Archer’s crime scenes. The girls had been stripped of their clothes, pentagrams carved deep into their chests with an unidentified blade.
          They were splayed out on their backs, the bodies arranged head to head so the top of their skulls grazed one another’s.
          Wes spun around the room, looking for the writing on the wall. He was sure it would be there. Ten feet from the bodies, sprawled against the gray brick wall, were the numbers 666. It had been written in blood.
          Ten feet from that ominous marking, another inscription signed in blood along the gray brick basement walls.
The blood had run down the wall a little, but Wes could still make out what it said: OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
He put on a pair of gloves and examined the girls. The lacerations to their chests were deep and had probably scraped the bone. But Wes determined without the help of the coroner that these cuts were made postmortem.
          The femoral artery of their inner thighs had been separated, explaining the stagnant ponds of blood that had collected around their bodies.
          “That’s it,” Wes told his partner. “That’s how he killed them. Slit their femoral arteries. Call Pete and Ray in, have them do their thing. In the meantime, I want everything dusted for prints and I want every single print run through the system. Tell the boys to be thorough. Then shoot over to that apartment complex and find out everything you can. Come on, I’ll take you to your car.”
          “Where the hell are you going now while I’m out here doing all the work?”
          “I’m going to see my brother, Aaron.”

To Be Continued Soon With Part Three!

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