Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
“Thank you Jerry.
“I’m standing here outside the apartment building at 366 Benson Street, where 33-year-old Randolph Farley was brutally murdered today. Police have cordoned off the area, and so Channel 7 was not able to gain access.
“Police have declined to comment at this time, stating it’s an ongoing investigation, however, sources tell me Farley was first stabbed, and then shot to death inside his apartment late this afternoon.
“This makes the third such murder in the last two weeks.
“Yesterday, we were shocked to report the murder of eighty-nine-year-old Edna Bellows, also killed in her apartment after coming home from Mortinos. And as we’ve been reporting on in the past, 17-year-old Chad Bronson was brutally murdered just 11 days ago, his body recovered three days ago.
“I spoke to police regarding the possibility of a serial murderer in the area, but again they declined to comment. They did, however, not deny my assertion.
“We will bring you breaking news as it happens. In an exclusive report, I’m Lisa Krunk, live for Channel 7 Action News.”
Jeremy took a big drink of tomato juice and continued to enjoy his snack.
The rest of the news was boring stuff, but he watched it anyway.
He finally finished his snack, shut off the TV, cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed.
Sunday, August 14th, 11:45 AM
HANK HAD CALLED AMELIA and said he wanted to drop by and update her on the case. She was expecting him by noon, so she went into the sitting room to wait.
She stopped in front of the fireplace and looked at a picture on the mantel. Jenny and her father. It’d been three days since Jenny had called, and she hadn’t heard anything since.
She gazed at the picture for some time, her mind racing back to when Jenny was young, and Winston was alive. She had it all. A successful husband, a beautiful daughter, and her life was all she’d dreamed.
She sighed. How things change.
She’d met Winston when they were in university. She was a freshman, and he was a senior. When he’d first talked to her, she couldn’t have imagined they would end up together. He seemed a little wild and carefree, and she was much more studious and serious. Perhaps that’s what attracted her to him. He was a lot different, compared to the staid upbringing she’d experienced.
They were married just after she graduated, and soon Jenny came along. Precious little Jenny.
She touched the picture, and sighed again.
She was startled from her thoughts by the sound of the front door knocker. Lilia was off, so she adjusted her skirt and went to answer the door.
It was Hank. He was holding a bouquet of flowers, and wearing a big grin.
“Come in,” she said.
As he stepped inside, he handed her the bouquet. “These are for you.”
She smiled and took it from him. It was a beautiful bouquet, bursting with asters, yellow and pink carnations, and lavender daisies, arranged in a lovely crystal vase.
“They’re beautiful,” she said, as she took them. “Thank you. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Lilia’s off today,” she said, “so come into the kitchen and I’ll make a pot.”
They went into the oversized kitchen. Hank took a seat at an elegant, oblong table of beautifully polished oak. A bouquet of fresh cut flowers sat in the middle of the table, putting his feeble little bouquet to shame.
He propped his elbows on the table and watched her as she prepared the coffee.
She produced a pair of mugs, set them on a small serving tray with cream and sugar, and brought it to the table.
While she waited for the coffee, she removed the dazzling centerpiece and replaced it with the flowers Hank had brought.
When the coffee was done, she filled the mugs and sat across from him.
Hank brought the coffee to his nose. “Smells great,” he said, as he dumped in two spoonfuls of sugar and lots of cream.
She prepared her coffee and stirred it thoughtfully. Finally she said, “Jenny and I used to sit here a lot. Just drinking coffee, chatting and laughing.”
“And you will again soon,” Hank said.
Amelia sighed wistfully, and gave Hank a weak smile. “Yes,” she said, “I’m sure we will.”
Hank leaned forward. “Amelia, I guess you’ve heard about the last two murders?” he asked.
She looked up and nodded.
“I just want to assure you we’re not at a dead end, like the media suggests. There are a few facts we didn’t release to the public.”
Amelia gave him her full attention.
Hank continued, “For example, we have reason to believe all three murders are linked. And we believe we’ve found a common thread.”
She leaned forward.
“Individually, there’s not much to go on, but collectively there’s enough evidence to give us a good idea of who we’re looking for.”
“Considering the character of the killer, we believe she doesn’t fit his target model,” he said.
Amelia cocked her head. “His target model?”
Hank hesitated. “We believe his targets are criminals, specifically thieves.”
“Like a vigilante?”
Hank nodded. “Sort of.”
Amelia thought a moment. “This Chad . . . Jenny was seeing . . . was he a thief?”
“According to a coworker, a few years ago he’d been involved in a break and enter. Juvenile records are destroyed when the offender turns eighteen, assuming he stays out of further trouble until then. We aren’t sure how the killer would know about his prior record, however, but finding out who knew that information might lead us to a suspect.”
“So, you don’t have a suspect yet?”
Hank hesitated. “No, not yet. But I believe we’re getting close. We know what weapons were used, and it’s just a matter of time before we make an arrest.”
Amelia smiled weakly. “I know it’s in good hands. It’s hard, but I’m trying to be positive and not panic.”
“You’re being strong, but I know what you must be going through on the inside.” He paused. “Trust me, I know.”
She nodded, and they sat in silence a moment. Finally, Hank said, “Don’t let the news stories you hear get you down. Everything will turn out ok.”
She prayed he was right.
Sunday, August 14th, 12:30 PM
JEREMY had been busy, and his task was almost completed. In the shed near the barn, he dug around in an old wooden box underneath Father’s tool bench, searching.
“Ah, here it is!”
It was a metal ring, about four inches in diameter. Like a large and sturdy eyelet that would hold a hook, it circled around and closed the gap, and then bent down at the end with a long screw. Father had used them, screwed tightly into a post, to hold a bull firmly, while he put a ring in its nose.
He held it up and peered at it by the meager light shining through the dusty window.
“That should do just nicely. Yes, that will do nicely,” he said, with satisfaction.
He dropped it into a cardboard box on the floor.
Hanging on the wall was a chain. Not as strong as the one holding Jenny, but it will do. He tightened the chain into a sturdy vice on the bench, and using a hacksaw he cut off a length about fifteen inches long. That should be about right. Fifteen inches. Yes, that’s good.
He found a tape measure and measured the remainder of the chain, seemed satisfied, and dropped both pieces into the box.
Digging in a drawer on the bench, he retrieved a pair of padlocks. The keys were in them. He tested them. They worked perfect. Yes, that’s perfect.
The padlocks went into the box.
He reached up onto the wall behind the workbench and brought down a crowbar. He tested the weight in his hands. He smiled as he dropped it into the box on top of his other needs.
He stood there and studied the contents of the cardboard box on the floor.
“I think that’s all I need. Yes, that’s all I need.”
He picked up the box and tucked it under his arm. The rusty hinges creaked in protest as he swung open the aging door. He stepped outside, squinted at the sun, and then walked up the gravel drive to the house.
He stopped in the mudroom and retrieved a hammer from a hook on the wall, dropped it in the box, and then carried it into the house and up the steps.
He was heading for Jenny’s room.
He swung open the door, and stepped inside.
He inspected the spot on the wall, beside the door, where the hole had been. He’d fixed it up. It looked pretty good now, but could use a little paint perhaps.
He dropped the box on the floor, and picked out the hammer and eyelet. He scrutinized the floor a moment, and chose a spot close to the center of the room. He bent down and pounded the screw end of the eyelet into the floor, at a spot where he knew there was a floor joist. He drove it in about an inch, and then got the crowbar, put it through the eyelet and twisted round and round until the eyelet was drawn down tight, digging into the floorboards.
He tested it with his fingers. Can’t budge it. He sat back on his haunches and smiled with satisfaction.
“That will hold. Yes, that will surely hold.”
Next, he grabbed the long piece of chain and a padlock from the box, and fastened the chain securely to the eyelet. He stood, holding the end of the chain, and pulled and tugged as hard as he could.
“Perfect. Yes, that’s perfect.”
He let the chain slide from his grasp as he stood back. He surveyed his accomplishment with great satisfaction, and then packed up his tools, and carried them back downstairs.
Sunday, August 14th, 1:00 PM
JAKE flipped open the trunk of Annie’s Ford Escort and peered inside. The shovel and rope were still in there from her trip to the forest. From the day she’d bravely gone alone, and found a buried body. He shook his head. She’s got spunk, that’s for sure.
He took the items from the trunk and carried them to the garage. The door was already open, so he went inside and dropped them on the floor along the side wall.
He went back to the car, picked up the cooler sitting on the driveway, and set it into the trunk.
Matty came running from the house. “Don’t forget these,” he yelled. He ran over to the trunk and dropped a pair of baseball gloves and a baseball inside.
“Where’s your Mom?” Jake asked.
“She’s coming. You know how women are,” Matty said dryly.
Jake grinned. “Yeah.”
Jake headed to the house just as Annie came out. She had on a straw hat and carried a blanket under one arm, and a beach bag bulging with stuff in the other hand. “Get the door, will you?”
Jake took the steps two at a time, carefully retrieved the key Annie held between her teeth, and locked the door. He dropped the key into his pocket.
“I’ll take that,” he said, as he relieved her of the bag.
The bag and the blanket were packed into the trunk. Jake found a couple of lawn chairs in the garage, dropped them on top of everything else, and then climbed into the car where Annie and Matty were waiting.
He looked over his shoulder to make sure Matty had his seat belt on. He was struggling with it, but in a second, it snapped into place.
Jake and Annie buckled up as well, and Jake twisted the key, pulled the shifter into drive, and touched the gas.
“This is my car,” said Annie, “so please, keep the rubber on the tires.”
Jake laughed as he eased the car quietly, and slowly, out of the drive and down the street.
Their destination was a small neighborhood park a couple of blocks away. They pulled into one of several parking spots.
This popular local spot was situated on about a half acre of land, and was liberally covered with huge spreading maples. A few picnic tables were scattered throughout the area, and Jake noticed with satisfaction there appeared to be no other picnickers around.
Jake and Matty dragged everything from the trunk over to the nearest picnic table. Annie dug out a plastic tablecloth from the bag and tacked it to the table, while Jake lounged in a lawn chair, sipping on a can of Coke, as he watched her.
Matty seemed to have too much energy inside him, as he raced around the park, probably chasing bees and butterflies.
Sometimes they brought a portable barbecue, but today he decided against it. Maybe next time.
Matty was back. He tossed a glove at his father. “Come on Dad. Let’s play catch.”
Jake climbed from his comfortable chair and joined Matty, while Annie dug a John Grisham book from her bag and settled back to read.
In a few minutes, Jake and Matty came panting back. They doused themselves inside and out with cold water, and fell on the grass for a rest.
Sandwiches and salads, and of course, apple pie, were soon spread out on the table along with paper plates, plastic utensils, cups, and paper napkins. Soon, the boys had recovered enough, and were ready to eat.
Matty couldn’t keep still so he wandered around the park, a sandwich in either hand, looking for squirrels.
“Tomorrow I plan to go to the High School,” Annie said. “I want to see if they have any cameras in front of the school that may’ve picked up something . . .”
“That’s a great idea,” Jake interrupted.
Annie continued, “I also want to go to Mortinos and talk to Jeremy. He lives over near the area where I, uh, found Bronson. He may’ve seen or heard something.”
“How about this,” Jake asked, “you go see Jeremy, and I’ll hit the school.”
Annie nodded. “Ok,” she said.
Jake felt a buzzing in his pocket. His cell phone. It was Hank.
“Jake, I’m planning on holding a press conference this afternoon, at three o’clock, in front of the precinct. Do you guys want to be there?”
Jake consulted Annie.
Annie looked at her watch, and then at Matty. “I think we should.”
“We’ll be there,” Jake said into the phone.
Sixteen Years Ago