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Authors: John L. Evans

Deliver Us From Evil

BOOK: Deliver Us From Evil
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Deliver Us From Evil
John L. Evans
(2012)
Rating:
*****
Product Description

Mystery surrounds the case of twelve-year-old Danny Novak, who vanishes without a trace from an outing at Camp Sierra, a Catholic boys' summer camp, high in the San Bernardino Mountains.

SBPD Homicide Detectives, Steve Farrell and Gregg Juarez focus their investigation on three possible suspects: Father Frederick Reiniger, a German expatriate, with a history of child sexual abuse, and the last person to see the boy alive; Jack Kramer, a camp counselor and athletic coach; and seventy-year-old Willie Groda, a caretaker, who has served eighteen months in an Arkansas prison for abducting a young girl.

This is a fast-moving story of lies, lust, revenge, corruption. It tears away at the Catholic Church's infallible facade; it lays bare the passion and desires of its tightly-drawn, complex characters. A taut, suspenseful tale that reaches a surprising and shocking climax...

 

DELIVER

US

FROM

EVIL

Also from John L. Evans:

Time for a Killing

Tales of Hollywood - A Memoir

Murder in Monte Carlo

Deadly Intentions

Vanished

Ten Sunset Plaza Drive

The House on Lake Street

Fatal Obsession

Blood Money

Anatomy of a Killing

Prescription: Murder

To Catch a Killer

A Deadly Affair

A Question of Murder

Dead of Night

Eyes of a Killer

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

A Novel

by

John L. Evans

This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are

 

the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual

 

persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

 

© 2012 John L. Evans. All Rights Reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or

 

transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

 

 

“Most people never have to face the fact

 

that at the right time and the right place,

 

they’re capable of doing anything…”

 

CHINATOWN

 

Robert Towne

--1--

“I remember we used to love to drive up to Half Moon Lake. That was before my husband and I were divorced. Mark and Danny were always begging us to take them there. I always thought of the lake as being so beautiful. It was that deep azure blue and the way the water would sparkle in the sunlight, like glittering diamonds. It was always so cool and peaceful there. The nights were always clear, and we’d look up at those millions of stars. But that Monday, that Labor Day, as we drove along in the police car, the lake seemed so different to me. It had started to rain. It wasn’t beautiful at all that day. Now, it seemed dark and foreboding. And, of course, I knew the reason why. Call it a premonition, call it what you like, but I had this horrible feeling. My son, Danny had disappeared, without a trace and I was afraid they would never find him again.”

11:45 a.m. Shortly before noon. Labor Day. September, 1999. Half Moon Lake was a long, narrow, crescent-shaped body of water nestled high in the San Bernardino Mountains. Located about ten miles from Big Bear Lake, as the crow flies, the lake had been selected as the site for Camp Sierra, a Catholic Boys Summer Camp. On a clear summer day, the lake was blue, pristine and surrounded by Jack pine and tall fir trees; towering mountain peaks rose in every direction.

Carolyn Novak, who was in her late thirties and attractive, had received the telephone call from Father Reiniger about nine o’clock that same morning. His voice was calm and at first he seemed to be evading the issue. Finally, he got to the point: “Mrs. Novak,” he said, “I certainly don’t want to alarm you, but we
do
have a problem. Something has happened. It seems your son, Danny has turned up missing. Two of the other boys woke up this morning and found Danny’s bed had not been slept in. I’ve already contacted the police in San Bernardino, and they are on their way up here. As I said, Mrs. Novak, the boy is missing, but I’m sure we’ll find him. We’ve already started a search. In the meantime, can you come up here to the lake right away? Can you do that, Mrs. Novak?”

For a long moment, Carolyn felt as if she were paralyzed. She couldn’t speak.

“Are you there, Mrs. Novak?” Reiniger cut in.

Finally: “Yes, Father, I’m here. I can’t believe you’re telling me this. Are you absolutely
sure
Danny is missing? This just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“I don’t think I’d worry about it, too much. The boy is bound to show up. He may have taken it upon himself to go for a walk, a hike, and simply got lost. It’s not that unusual for a young boy to do that.” Reiniger paused. “Can you come up to the lake, Mrs. Novak?”

“Yes, Father. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Very slowly, Carolyn hung up the telephone, and as she did so she gazed into space; a fixed hypnotic stare. Her face was pale, damp, fearful. Her eyes were wet with tears. How could this be happening, she murmured to herself, over and over again.

All at once a sense of determination flooded over her. She grabbed up her purse and a light raincoat, and went directly to her next-door neighbors, an elderly couple, Tom and Angela Pierce. Quickly, she explained what had happened, that Danny was missing, and would Tom Pierce take her up to the lake? She felt she was too distraught to drive. Pierce was more than happy to oblige and it was just when he was backing out of his driveway, that a black-and-white police patrol car had pulled up behind him. Father Reiniger had called the Alta Vista Police, and they had sent a car over to take Mrs. Novak up to the lake.

Alta Vista, a suburb of San Bernardino, was a small bedroom community, typical of the numerous tract home sites strewn about Southern California. The homes (probably built in the ’50s) were modest, one-story, wood-framed affairs, neatly-kept, and as Carolyn gazed out from the rear seat of the squad car, soon disappeared, to be replaced by row upon row of orange groves. It was when they had reached the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, that the rain began to fall. It was a soft, gentle rain.

About an hour and a half later, the uniformed officer and Mrs. Novak had arrived at the beginning of Half Moon Lake. They drove along the narrow, winding road that would eventually take them to Camp Sierra, which was located on the eastern side of the lake. The police officer had little to say and the only sound to be heard was the constant flap-flapping of the windshield wipers. The lake was a dappled gray color; the mountains were shrouded in mist; the evergreen trees and shrubbery glistened with raindrops; the rain had let up somewhat. There was even a faint ray of sunlight.

Carolyn Novak was preoccupied, contemplative; her mind was crowded with many thoughts. She was thinking back to two or three nights before, when Father Reiniger had called her on the telephone. He’d told her, he and the camp counselor, a young man named Jack Kramer, were to spend the Labor Day weekend at Camp Sierra. They were going to close up the boys’ camp for the winter, and they were looking for a few volunteers. Would Mrs. Novak allow her two sons, Danny and Mark to join them? She had explained that her older son, Mark, seventeen, could not, as he had just started a new job with a downtown drugstore. But her twelve-year-old, Danny, would be available. After Mass, that Sunday, Carolyn and her son went to a small, nearby café for breakfast, and then she’d dropped him off in front of the rectory. That was the last time she’d seen Danny Novak.

 

 

Camp Sierra, the Catholic Boys Summer Camp and Retreat, hugged the eastern shoreline of the lake. When the property was purchased by the archdiocese, five years earlier, there were just two buildings standing; a large, three-storied Victorian house and a small bungalow-cabin that sat right on the shore. It was the home of seventy-year-old Willie Groda, the camp caretaker, who lived there all-year-round. Immediately after the purchase, the archdiocese had built a dining hall, and four or five wooden cabins, to house the boys. The dining hall was surrounded by a wide, wooden-planked deck which overlooked the lake. It was on the deck that Carolyn first spotted Father Reiniger. He was in deep conversation with a tall, handsome man, whom Carolyn would later find out, was Detective Steven Farrell, who was handling the case of the missing boy.

As Carolyn leaped out of the patrol car, and Father Reiniger joined her, her first words were: “Father, did they find him? Did they find Danny?”

Reiniger grasped her gently by the arm. “No. No, Mrs. Novak, they haven’t. But as I told you on the phone, I’m sure he’ll turn up soon.” He turned toward a line of a half-dozen vehicles parked alongside the dining hall. “Lieutenant Palmer and three of his deputies, from the Big Bear Lake Sheriff’s Substation, plus a group of volunteers arrived about an hour ago, and are out searching the area. I’m sure the boy just wandered off and possibly got lost.”

Carolyn Novak was visibly distraught; her eyes well-up with tears. “I hope nothing has happened to him, Father. I couldn’t bear it if something has happened to him!”

Reiniger turned to face the tall, Victorian house that stood on a slight rise, close by. “Danny and the other two boys were to sleep in an upstairs bedroom of the ‘main house,’ (as it was referred to.) I am going to go and check out the house from top to bottom. Chances are, I’ll probably find Danny asleep somewhere, in one of the rooms.”

Carolyn watched as Father Reiniger began to make his way toward the former mansion. The house itself looked like it could have been a model for one of those Thomas Kinkade oil paintings. A wide veranda with an ornate balustrade, carved columns and intricate fretwork surrounded the entire front of the building. The dominant feature of the structure was a circular tower rising three stories high and capped with a cone-shaped cupola. The narrow windows were shuttered; the elaborately-carved front door was framed with stained-glass panels. The once-stately mansion had not been spared the ravages of time. The white paint was cracked and peeling; parts of the wooden balustrade were missing. A huge Jack pine stood at the left side of the house. Carolyn’s gaze was caught by a wide, shiny, metal sheath surrounding the trunk of the tree. The metal barrier was there to keep the rats from climbing into the tree’s branches. The sprawling mansion was reputably the former summer home of oil baron, John Breckinridge, who lived primarily at his ranch in the desert community of Mojave.

Carolyn’s gaze was suddenly interrupted, when she heard a man’s voice directly behind her. “Mrs. Novak, I’m Detective Farrell, with the San Bernardino Police. I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.” She turned to face Farrell, about forty, who was tall, muscularly-built, good-looking. He was brusque, professional, intense, somewhat cocky. He always came across as the cerebral tough guy. “Yes, of course, Detective,” she said.

“But first, how about a cup of coffee? I’m sure you could use a cup of hot coffee.”

“Yes,” she smiled, “I’d like that very much.”

Carolyn followed the detective as he led her to the rear of the dining hall, where there was a long, built-in cabinet. In one corner, stood a large, tarnished, silver coffee urn. He poured the coffee into two Styrofoam cups. “How do you take your coffee, Mrs. Novak?”

“Black’s fine, Detective,” she answered.

In a moment the two of them sat facing each other at one end of a long dining table. “Have you been up here to Camp Sierra before, Mrs. Novak?”

She shook her head. “No. No, I haven’t.”

Farrell paused slightly. “Mrs. Novak, as I said, I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“Yes, of course.”

“How
old
is your son, by the way?”

“Danny’s twelve. He’ll be thirteen in April.”

“Can you give me a physical description of the boy? We may have to put out an APB.”

Carolyn’s gaze narrowed. “Danny has brown eyes and blond hair. He weighs about seventy pounds. He’s about four-foot-eleven-inches in height.”

“Does he have any distinguishing marks? Any scars? Birthmarks? Anything like that?”

“Yes. He has a scar on his left knee. He was running and fell down, one day.”

“When was the last time you
saw
your son, Mrs. Novak?”

She could feel her heart beating a little faster. “Yesterday, I took him for breakfast after Mass and then dropped him off in front of the rectory.”

“That was in Alta Vista?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“What time was that?”

“Shortly before noon.”

“What was he wearing, Mrs. Novak?”

“A white T-shirt, light blue pants, white sneakers, and oh, a blue and white, Dodger’s baseball cap.”

Farrell paused again. “Tell me, have there been any problems in the family? Had he done anything wrong?”

“No, Detective. Nothing at all. Danny has always been a very responsible kid.”

“Any problems in school?”

“No. None at all.”

“Has there been anything unusual about Danny? Any emotional issues? Anything like that?”

She shook her head. “No, Detective. Not at all.”

“Does he do drugs?”

Carolyn was baffled. “Good God,
no
Detective!”

“Did you ever harm your son? Hurt him in any way?”

Again, she shook her head. “No. Never.” She paused. “You ask me these questions as if
I
were doing something wrong.”

“They are just routine questions we
have
to ask, Mrs. Novak.” He shrugged. “Would you say he was a typically
happy
kid, Mrs. Novak?”

“Yes. Very definitely. I know my boy. He was never any trouble,” she said and then smiled a little. “Unlike, my
older
son, Mark.”

“Oh? There were problems there?”

She was slightly evasive. “Mark and I had a difference of opinion over certain things. In fact, I asked him to move out of the house. He moved in

 

with his aunt a few blocks away.”

“Uh-huh. I see. How did Mark and Danny get along? Okay?”

BOOK: Deliver Us From Evil
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