As promised, here is Chapter One of Angel Maker. This is a draft, of course, and subject to change, but I hope you enjoy it!
If you didn’t get a chance to read the prologue which I posted last month, you can find it here. Read it first, if you have time. It’s the book’s setup.
The Sheriff’s of Robertson County: Angel Maker
July 2008 – Robertson County, Texas
Barely mounted in the morning sky, the sun sizzled; muggy air brewed like heat from a steaming cup of tea. The desert willow trees cast shadows around the cemetery that played heavily with Ramiro’s imagination, showering him with shivers on that sweltering morning. On every morning.
Driving slowly around, he strained to see beyond the lines of tombstones, praying to avoid a ghostly encounter of any kind. Twenty years of working in St. Theresa’s Cemetery, all hours of the day and night, equipped him with many an impressive, spooky tale.
“Yeah, yeah. I know, Linda,” Ramiro talked into his cell phone as his old beat up pickup truck crept along the isolated cemetery road. “I told him that ten times already! Jesus, Mary, Joseph!
“He doesn’t listen. At all. That boy!” His wife, Linda, said.
“Nope. Nope. And…and…what? Wait. Who the hell is that?”
“Who’s where?” His wife asked.
Ramiro brought the truck to a halt and peered out the open window, trying to make out a form through the shade of the trees.
“Wait, wait, Linda,” he turned off the engine. “I have to go. Something’s wrong. I’ll call you later.”
“Be careful, Ramiro,” was coming from the earpiece when he flipped his cell closed and dropped it into his pocket as he exited the truck. Afraid it might be a vagrant of the unlawful element, he grabbed a hoe from the pickup bed. He eased cautiously toward what appeared to be a person lying on the ground.
“Hey! You there! What you doing?”
When there was no response, Ramiro cagily studied the person from a distance then scanned the area looking for other people. He construed that the person lying on the grass was a child, a girl, dressed in a white and gold dress. She was laying on a grave on her back, her head near the tombstone.
“Little girl, you okay?” He said as he cautiously drew nearer. “You asleep?”
Did she move? He crouched down and reached out to the unnatural-looking sleeping child.
“Hey, how’d you get here?” He touched her bare arm to wake her. “Where’s your mommy and dadd…oh shit!” He drew his hand back, dropped the hoe, fell onto his butt and scuttled like a spider away from the youngster. “No. Not today.”
Ramiro fought for control of his shaking body but it was useless as his emotions could not decide between breaking down in sobs or to scream. He heard his own heart pounding. He closed his eyes and turned his head away; then reopened his eyes one at a time. They settled on an old pecan tree. He took a couple of deep breaths in an attempt to secure his nerves.
“Oh, Jesus, Mary, Jo…oh this isn’t real,” he said to the tree. “What’s going on here?” His eyes wandered toward the child but stopped short as his courage failed. He made the sign of the cross as his eyes flitted back to the tree. After a couple more deep breaths, he blinked hard, trying to clear his watery eyes. He gradually turned his head toward the child, hoping she’d be gone. But she wasn’t.
Ramiro knew he had to look at her. She deserved that much from him. A black child of about eight, dressed in a white and gold angel costume complete with wings. She wore a halo, had glitter dusted over her cheeks and a pink plastic rosary in her hand. Her flesh was an ashy color and she resembled a dark marble statue lying there. Despite her appearance, there was a peaceful look upon her face.
Ramiro winced and whimpered a little as he gathered himself. The reality truly hit him when he realized that he knew her.
“Oh, God. Hope!” he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 911.
“Shit! Why does this kind of shit always happen to me?”
“911. What’s your…”
“Listen, I’m at St. Theresa’s Cemetery. There’s someone dead here.”
The operator on the line fell silent for a moment.
“Hello?” Ramiro said.
“Is this a joke?” the operator asked.
Taken aback by her question Ramiro spoke his urgency all in one winded sentence.
“Look this is no joke lady goddamn it why would I call and make a joke like this? What’s wrong with you people!”
“Okay, sir. Calm down. I apologize. What’s your name?”
“Ramiro. I’m the grounds manager at St. Theresa’s,” he started to breathe heavy. “I was making my morning rounds…oh, god, there’s a dead kid here. Send someone.”
“Okay, Ramiro. Settle down. Where in the cemetery are you?”
“Around on the south side of the mausoleum,” he directed.
“Officers are on their way, okay? My name is Rita, by the way.”
“Oh, okay, Rita.”
“Ramiro, I’ll stay with you on the line until they get there. Tell me what’s going on. How did you find the child?”
“I always start earlier on Sundays because of church. I check things out. Clean up any messes. Oh, God. What a mess I’ve got now. Anyway, I was driving and I saw a person lying on the ground. Thought it was someone asleep. Maybe drunk or homeless. Checked it out. It’s a dead kid. She’s…she’s dressed like an angel. Another angel!”
“Do you recognize the child at all?”
“It’s Hope. She’s been missing. Oh, Jesus, Mary, Joseph.”
“What’s the child’s name again, Ramiro?”
“Hope…Hope Roseland. Karla Roseland’s girl. Poor Karla…she’s dead too. Only about a month now. Phil must be worried sick. Oh. He’ll die when he finds this out.”
Rita fell quiet.
“Hello?” He asked.
“I’m here. I’m checking for information on Hope. I see she disappeared about 72 hours ago. There’s a missing persons report made by her father, Phillip Roseland.”
“Yes, Phil. They attend church here. Well, they did before Karla died. Phil and Hope haven’t really been back since…since then. But, they did come to the cemetery.”
“I’ve informed the deputies regarding Hope. It’ll be a few minutes more before they get there, Ramiro.”
“Okay. They should hurry up.”
“They are,” Rita assured him.
“Ramiro, did you see or hear anyone else around the cemetery this morning?”
“Was there anyone else around when you first reported to work?”
“No. No,” Ramiro said, taking off his ball cap with his free hand and wiping his forehead with his shirt sleeve.
Rita engaged Ramiro with conversation, trying to ease his nerves. Being a rural region, it always took law enforcement a good amount of time to get to most areas.
“Ramiro, deputies are inside the cemetery heading toward you.”
“I see them now. Thanks,” He flipped the phone closed and took off for the road as a squad car pulled up near his truck.
The small, well-kept, 20-acre cemetery of St. Theresa’s was sandwiched between two unincorporated tiny Texas towns, Janice City and Marksville. Both towns were serviced by the Robertson County Sheriff’s Department, being as they had no police departments of their own.
A ghost town with less than three-hundred adult residents – most retired or single, Marksville was the smaller of the two and rarely saw serious crime outside of some drug sales or bar fights. Murder, however, was unheard of. There were only a few businesses in town, among them was the Lone Star Bar, a Mobile gas station and convenience store, Leanne’s Beauty and Nails salon, and the tiny Grace Baptist church.
Janice City was a larger town, home to over six-hundred adults, complete with two small cafes, an ice cream shop, two mechanic garages, a realty office, a high school and two grammar schools – one public and St. Theresa’s Catholic School. Janice City was going through the incorporation process, and the city council was scrambling to raise the funds for their own police services. On the border of Janice City was St. Theresa’s Catholic Church to which the cemetery was adjacent. St. Theresa’s Cemetery was the land bridge, so to speak, linking the two small towns. All of the town’s teens were bussed over to Janice City for high school.
The two deputies approached Ramiro. In their rural home, Ramiro and Deputies Wallace and Miller were not complete strangers.
“Ramiro?” Deputy Wallace greeted him.
“Yes, thank heavens, Deputy. Come. This way,” he gestured for them to follow.
“Ambulance is on the way,” Deputy Miller added.
“Oh, no,” Ramiro said, shaking his head at her. His voice trembled as he walked faster, losing his breath. “No need. There, ma’am.” He pointed to the still child.
The officers walked to the child and Miller bent down and felt for a pulse.
“No need for that either,” Ramiro said. “She’s dead.” He put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Why does this shit always happen to me?”
“Gone?” Wallace asked.
Miller looked up at Wallace and nodded. “For a while now.”
“This is insane,” Wallace stated as he bent down to analyze the body. “Who the hell does shit like this?”
As ambulance sirens drew closer, Miller stood up and dug out her notepad.
“Come on, Ramiro. Let’s step away from here and talk. I’ve seen you in this cemetery over many years, haven’t I?”
“Yes, uh-huh. Over twenty now.”
“What’s your full name?” Deputy Miller lead Ramiro away from the scene to keep him focused on her questions.
“Ramiro Gallardo. I live in Janice. A couple blocks from the church on the corner of Redbud and Pecan Streets,” he said. “Gee. Who’s doing these things to the kids?”
“I wish I knew,” Miller said.
“Oh, boy. It’s getting late,” he looked at his watch then glanced around nervously.
“It’s Sunday. Why couldn’t this be Monday? They’ll be coming after church. You have to take this poor kid away before church.” He made the sign of the cross. “Jesus, Mary, Joseph.”
“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen, my friend. We have to tape off the scene. It’s best if we don’t have folks wandering around the cemetery until we check the grounds for any evidence,” Miller informed. “Start from the beginning and tell me how you found the child.”
Ramiro told his story to Miller while Wallace went to the meet the ambulance as it roared up.
Wallace waved his hand. “There’s no emergency,” he said to the driver as she hurried out of the vehicle.
“Oh no,” EMT Macy Walker said. “Dead?”
“Several hours,” Wallace informed. “Another kid. Girl ‘bout eight or so. Been missing for a few days.”
“Well, let me have a look just the same,” Paramedic Will Justus said. “We should check if the county examiner will come get the body or if we should take it. It’s Sunday.”
Justus started toward the scene as Wallace opened the squad car’s trunk and rummaged through, pulling out a crime scene case. He flipped it open – crime scene tape, gloves, evidence bags and markers, camera, etc.
“Fuck Sunday,” Wallace complained. “What fucking medical examiner doesn’t come out because it’s Sunday?”
“What? Crime Scene not coming?” Walker asked.
“Eventually,” Wallace shrugged. “I hope. We have to close off the entire cemetery. We don’t know if she was killed here or not. We can’t have the scene compromised Storm will kill us. You know how this got out of hand the last time.”
“I’ll make the call and see what to do with the girl’s body,” Walker offered.
Wallace caught up to Justus.
“They’re sending other deputies to help out, right?” Justus asked.
“Yeah,” Wallace said. “Man power’s short though. State police is coming. We need help roping off this whole place. Good thing is, the congregation isn’t that large. Hope we can keep ‘em outta here.”
“Macy and me will stay for as long as we can to give ya a hand.” He paused. “Do you think the FBI is gonna come?”
“I hope not. You know how Storm feels about that. The State Police is, as he would say, hindrance enough where getting his work done is concerned.”
As Justus and Wallace walked neared the victim, Robertson County Sheriff’s Detective Alan Keith arrived on scene. He called out as he strode after them, his cowboy boots striking the ground hard, making small dents in the dew-moistened grass and dirt as he hurried.
In his early forties, Detective Alan Keith was a remarkable-looking individual. At six-foot-six, medium build and a hardy cowboy through and through, not only was he Texas big, his heart was just as huge. A daunting appearance was where it ended for the most part especially after he bared a smile which softened his ruggedly handsome face and exposed his sympathetic nature. His best friend, Robertson County Sheriff Dorian Storm, teased that Keith’s compassion often ruled his head and he should’ve been a kindergarten teacher or a veterinarian, not a cop.
“Wallace, hold up!”
“Hey, Alan,” Wallace reached out his hand as Keith caught up to them.
“Hey,” Keith shook his hand. “What-a y’all got here?”
“Dead little girl,” Wallace said. “Hope Roseland. Been missin’ since Thursday morning.”
“Aw hell. Poor kid. Who knows the hell she went through,” Keith said. “I prayed we’d find her alive.”
“Yeah,” Wallace said. “The whole thing’s shitty.”
They stopped next to Hope’s body to assess the scene. Justus bent over the girl, checking for a pulse or any signs of life. And, as he was told, her spirit left hours before.
“Detective!” Ramiro called out to Detective Keith as he hurried toward him.
Miller came up behind him. “This is Ramiro, Detective. He found her body.”
“Ramiro and I have met before. I’m sorry about…” he was cut off.
“Detective, look,” Ramiro pointed to the tombstone. “I just realized now. See?”
All eyes turned to the headstone on the grave.
“Oh, shit,” Wallace whispered.
Detective Keith read the engraving aloud. “Karla Roseland. Loving wife and mother. June 12th, 1978 to June 5th, 2008.”
“Jesus! It’s Hope’s momma,” Ramiro confirmed. “She was left on her own momma’s grave. Who keeps doing this?” He shuttered and shook a moment then broke down with a sob and took off toward his truck. “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, Jesus, Mary, Joseph. Jesus, Mary…” could be heard slowly fading away as he got farther from the scene.
“Fuckin’ people, man,” Detective Keith grumbled. He bent down and fingered Hope’s dress, smoothing an imaginary wrinkle. “Fuckers’ll do anything anymore. Kill anyone anymore.”
~ Copyright 2013 Wanda S. Paryla
Here’s the link straight to Chapter Two: