Here is the 2nd chapter to Angel Maker from The Sheriffs of Robertson County series. This was a hard chapter to write. I kept ending it one way, then changing it. I had to be careful not to reveal too much at once. I shortened it by a few pages, moving them to the next chapter. We’ll see what happens with those pages.
And may I note for those of you familiar with police procedures in real life, forgive me for any absurd. This is fiction, after all, and we must have a wee bit comedy, drama, and stupid shit. 😉
Anyway, enjoy. And your feedback is always welcome. Leave a comment, email me, or PM me on Facebook.
THE SHERIFFS OF ROBERTSON COUNTY: ANGEL MAKER
When anyone saw a huge dust cloud pillowing in the air on Route 1 they knew damn well to stay off the road or move their asses to the side until the bullet whizzed by. Robertson County Sheriff Dorian Storm’s police cruiser threw rocks and dirt as the dusty gravel road crackled under the car’s revolving tires. The only person allowed to drive fast enough to kick up a sand gale like that on family-oriented Route 1, folks knew to steer clear of his path because a tragedy was at hand and one did not need to see flashing lights and hear a siren to know it.
Children watched as Storm torpedoed by, a hand canopying their eyes to shade them from the shimmering sunlight lest they miss the electrifying scene of good guy trailing bad guy. Old ladies in their church attire stopped packing the grandkids into their cars, some making the sign of the cross and silently praying for the officer, or the victim, whichever came to mind first.
On this poignant Sunday morning, Storm left his breakfast hot on the table and sped the ten miles to St. Theresa’s Cemetery to the scene where a missing little girl turned up dead. Maybe for many people a dead person isn’t an emergency, misfortune maybe, but emergency, not usually. But to Storm every murder was an emergency – especially the murder of a child, for every minute wasted slacking off a killer gets further away.
The third child in a couple of months, Hope Roseland was the second female victim, and the second child found at St. Theresa’s. On a Sunday, earlier in month, seven-year old Vincent Moorhead, the second victim and the only male victim, was found in the same cemetery atop his young mother’s grave. Nancy Moorhead was killed in an auto accident in June and buried in St. Theresa’s. Shortly after her death her son disappeared and 72 hours later he showed up dead on his mother’s grave dressed in white clothing which had angel wings sewn to the back. His face and hands sparkled with glitter and a blue plastic rosary wrapped around his small hands.
In late May, the first victim, eight-year old Faye Clemens, was not found at St. Theresa’s but on the stoop of Grace Baptist Church in Marksville where the family had attended church. Her body displayed in the same fashion – an angel costume complete with wings, glitter-sprinkled skin, clutching a pink plastic rosary. Faye’s mother, Ruthanne, died of brain cancer and left Faye in the care of her step-father who adopted Faye when she was a baby. The Clemens family lived in Janice City, and Ruthanne drove to Waco to work at a hospital where she had been a pediatric nurse. The family was originally from Plano, Texas. Ruthanne’s husband, Lee, buried her in Plano and he and Faye were planning to move back to be near Ruthanne’s family and had put their house up for sale. Then Faye disappeared on a Thursday.
“They all disappeared on a Thursday,” Sheriff Storm said to himself.
His cell phone rang breaking his thought process.
“Storm,” he answered.
“Where are you?” Detective Alan Keith asked.
“Can you believe this shit?”
“No. I can’t,” Storm said.
“Hear from the FBI?”
“No and I don’t want to. Let’s get this bastard. Find anything?”
“Figures,” Storm said.
“See ya when ya get here,” Keith hung up.
Storm made a right onto Starry Road which lead to the cemetery entrance when his phone rang again.
“Yeah, Storm,” his patience thin.
“Just a heads-up, Sheriff. State Police phoned,” Gloria Espinosa, the Sheriff’s executive secretary informed him. “They have two units en route to St. Theresa’s. 10-54, twenty minutes.”
“Thank you,” he disconnected the call.
Gloria Espinosa had worked for Storm for the past three years. She learned firstly and quickly that he was a man of facts only with no time for needless, idle chatter when work had to be done.
Usually the calm, genteel sort, even-spoken and a little mysterious-seeming, Storm rarely raised his voice in anger. Always in command of himself, even his movements seemed controlled. However, when his sentences came quickly and abruptly riding on unmistakable changes in character, it was best not to test his patience.
Storm’s life centered on his life with his wife and three children. He looked forward to spending time with his closest friend, Detective Alan Keith, having family barbecues, fishing, hunting, and keeping rural Robertson County crime-free. His fellow law enforcement associates always knew they could count on Storm to have their backs.
During crime downtime, he liked hearing about his associates’ lives – life dramas, birthday parties, weddings, high school graduations, births and milestones. He grieved when they grieved; celebrated when they celebrated. He enjoyed good barbecue, great football, and horseback riding. A stern man with business on his mind and a fan of dark humor, one of his greatest joys in life was doing his grandest to chase off his sixteen year-old daughter’s potential beaus, intimidating them with his badge and no-nonsense, military-like facial expressions.
However, hello and goodbye were often too many words when he was wrapped up in work. Yet, this go around it was worse than ever. Robertson County hadn’t seen crime like this in about 30 years and Sheriff Storm was at his wits end and on the hunt for a child predator along with the rest of the sheriff’s department.
Storm pulled up to the cemetery site. He exited his patrol car and slammed the door so hard Detective Keith wondered how the window didn’t explode.
“Hey, Dorian,” Keith greeted him.
“Alan,” Storm nodded. “Show me.”
“This way,” Keith gestured Storm to follow him.
“So.” Storm placed his hands on his hips, his authority sound. “What we got?”
“Hope Roseland. Went missing Thursday evening. Found here this morning by the caretaker, Ramiro.”
“Again?” Storm said.
“Again,” Keith confirmed. “Poor guy. Was a nervous wreck. He said he started at seven as usual on Sundays. Was driving through here ‘round seven-thirty and found her.”
Keith caught Storm up on the details concerning Ramiro and his finding Hope’s remains.
“Well?” Storm asked.
“Well, she’s dressed like the previous female victim, Faye Clemens. Angel costume…white and gold dress complete with wings. Glitter on her face. Pink rosary. No apparent signs of struggle. No bruising, no wounds. Medical Examiner’s coming. Should be here soon.”
“Um,” Keith took his cowboy hat off and ran his fingers through his hair. “We have the whole place taped off now. Told Father Joe he can have mass this morning but the people can’t come out here and he needs to let them know during mass.”
“Did you tell him to stick around?”
“I told him we’ll have to talk to him after services. I ordered him not to go tellin’ them there’s a dead kid out here.”
“Good. We don’t need panic.”
“I think they’ll know anyway,” Keith said. “You know small-town folk. Got a nose for drama.”
Storm’s attention had already departed as he surveyed the corpse and his eyes combed the surrounding area.
“It can’t be,” Storm said, though it seemed he was talking more to himself than to Keith.
“Dorian,” Keith said. Lost in thought Storm didn’t answer. “Dorian!”
Storm’s head snapped in his direction. He shook his head and shrugged. “What?”
“This can’t have anything to do with the Angel Killer. You know that,” Keith said. “That monster isn’t back.”
“Maybe not, Alan. I mean. Really. I don’t think these murders were committed by the Angel Killer. Could just be coincidence. Maybe they’re attempts at copycatting. Maybe the killer’s a fan. Either case, now there’s two monsters.”
“Well, copycat could be an answer. But why now?” Keith said.
“I don’t know,” Storm shook his head. “If this is an imitator, whoever it is isn’t very good at being cruel. Sends them into eternal sleep with pills. And why kids? Doesn’t try to tack or nail wings to the back. Puts them in costumes instead.”
“Angel Killer’s victims were grown women,” Keith pointed out. “All brown-eyed white women too, if I remember right. This one’s killing kids of both races. Both sexes.”
“Share a similar M.O. Signatures too. Don’t they?” Storm’s eyes narrowed as his mind raced back in time. “Angel Maker…uh, Angel Killer, abducted the women on Thursdays. Usually from right outside their homes or from their garages. They were always dumped in some rural place to be discovered on Sundays.”
“There’s the whole angel thing. The rosaries,” Keith shrugged. “The similarities are too close for comfort, I’ll give you that.”
“Glitter,” Storm gestured toward Hope’s face.
“Angel Killer hasn’t been active since ‘77.” Keith said. “He strangled his victims? I wonder if he had kids.”
“There were seven victims. Two suffocated, the rest strangled. Look how Hope looks,” Storm said. “So peaceful. Like an angel. A real one.” He contemplated, blew out a breath and wiped a bead of sweat from his temple with his hand. “You know, I felt the media had it wrong and I labeled the Angel Killer the Angel Maker when I was a kid. I thought that people couldn’t be angels. So he wasn’t killing angels. He was making them. I fancied that good people became angels after they died.” He smiled at the absurdity of childhood fancy.
“Is it known for sure the killer was a man?” Keith questioned.
“Authorities always referred to the Angel Killer as a he. But, this isn’t him. I hope.”
“We’re going to figure this out,” Keith assured him. “Ya know, Dorian. I don’t think it’ll hurt if we take a look at the Angel Killer cases again. You know? In case there’s any connection. We can get it out of our systems then.”
Storm nodded. “Guess we shouldn’t rule it out. That the cases are connected.” He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his forehead. “Friggin’ hot out here. I’m so sick of the heat. Any more kids been reported missing within the last couple days?”
“Not that I know of. I’ll check. Think he might have already nabbed another kid?”
“Let’s hope not.”
“Deputies Miller, Wallace and me combed the immediate area. Wallace took pictures. Nothin’ here, Dorian. Not a shred of evidence to be had. If this one was given sleeping pills too, she wasn’t killed here. Looks like the killer just carried her and laid her here, positioned her hands like that with the rosary and took off. Like before.”
“Whoever’s doing this is taking these kids someplace they’ll be content for awhile. Someplace familiar to the killer. An environment either familiar to the kids too, or maybe a place they’d be comfortable in.”
“Home?” Keith asked.
“Home.” Storm confirmed. “Or someplace a whole lot like home. They’re all well taken care of before they’re poisoned. The killer might be taking these kids right to his house. And it’s a place that would be relaxing. A nice, clean, orderly place.”
“Maybe the priest can help us,” Keith suggested as he crouched next to Hope’s body and lifted the end of the crucifix with his pen. “Rosaries. How many religions use these? I want to talk to the caretaker again too.”
“Where’s the crime scene techs?” Storm asked.
“What?” Storm asked.
“It’s Sunday,” Keith said.
“I don’t care,” Storm said as his hands flew up in the air and hovered there. “What the hell.” He dropped them back down in a swift but controlled motion.
“Boss, you know this ain’t New York City,” Keith smiled, trying to lighten Storm’s mood.
“There’s almost sixteen-thousand people in this county spread out over 850 miles. You see, Alan? This is why they call us hicks.”
“They, who? Besides, hick is short for hillbilly. We ain’t hillbillies, Dorian. We’re rednecks. Remember?” Keith smiled and stood still, hands on his hips, waiting for his friend to get through his tangent.
Storm’s right eyebrow arched as that nerve pulsated near his temple. “Who the hell doesn’t have even one crime scene tech ready because it’s Sunday?” Storm continued. “Is this, or is this not, the Twenty-first Century? You know what? That will change. We need more detectives for this area too. You know, me, you and Brian can’t do all this shit by ourselves just because it’s Sunday.”
“Dorian, we have plenty of detectives.”
“We need crime scene investigators.”
“Brian is a crime scene investigator,” Keith pointed out.
“He’s a detective. We need actual civilian specialists to take control. Specialists who deal with nothing but this. Cops just don’t have time for all this. And fuck it.” His right arm went flying out, then he crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t even know what I’m fucking talking about.”
“Dorian…” Keith started to talk but couldn’t get a word in.
“Fuck Sunday,” Storm said. “Kids are being murdered. From here on out – no more Sundays. And I don’t give a damn who doesn’t like it.”
Storm was right and Keith felt he had nothing to say about it.
“By the way. Where the hell is Brian?”
“He’s off today,” Keith said, then prepared for Storm’s fit.
“What did I just say? And when’s the last time you had a Sunday off?” Storm rarely got loud, even when he was considered to be yelling. But his facial expressions and flying arms always told the truth.
“Well, I don’t have small kids anymore, Dorian. I don’t mind…”
Storm cut him off. “You get on that horn to Detective Brian Jones and tell him to get his ass off that new wife of his and get to work. I’m here. If I can be here, everyone can be here. And he’s a crime…scene…in…ves…ti…ga…tor,” Storm overstressed as he grabbed hold of the firearm fastened at his side and leaned forward for emphasis.
“I already called. He should be here soon.”
“Sheriff, Detective,” Paramedic Justus approached them. Medical Examiner’s arrived.” He looked back toward the vehicle where the examiner was digging out his gear. “We stuck around to help tape off the area,” he gestured toward St. Theresa’s Church across the road from the main cemetery entrance. Despite the long distance they could see the mounting mass of people. “There’s a crowd gathering in the parking lot. M.E. won’t need us to transport. We’ll be going if you don’t need anything else.”
“Nah, nothing,” Keith said. “Go on back to work.”
“Sure? Deputy Miller’s over there. The cemetery’s roped off. But that group’s gettin’ big. Church’ll be out soon too to add to the anxiety.”
“State’s on their way and more deputies are en route.”
Justus nodded, took one last look at Hope Roseland then went back to the ambulance where E.M.T. Walker sat in the driver’s seat waiting for him.
“What the hell was Storm slingin’ those arms around like that for?” Walker asked. “I hate when he does that. He’s always so managed. Like a robot..until someone lights his fire.”
“He’s pissed,” Justus said.
“Glad we’re leaving.”
“I don’t blame him. What the hell,” Justus said. “This isn’t 1900. Murder doesn’t stop for Sunday.”
“Actually,” Walker said, her eyes roving the crime scene as she pulled away, “it seems like it waits for Sundays lately.”
Storm slowly walked away from the corpse, his eyes cemented to the ground searching.
“How far did you guys get?” Storm asked.
“About fifty feet in diameter,” Keith said.
“I want this entire cemetery raked. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should be traipsing around in here but us. We can’t afford to spoil the scene. Turn over every leaf, every twig, every piece of debris.”
“I plan on it. Well, here’s reinforcements,” Keith said as two Texas State Police squads cruised to a stop.
“Great. State troopers and still no one from crime scene.”
“Should we wait for ‘em, or just get the troopers?”
Storm started to respond as the church bells rang and broke his concentration.
“It’s getting late,” Medical Examiner Cody Summers walked up. “Let me do this so I can get the body out of here. Mercury’s rising by the minute.”
“She’s a girl,” Keith said.
“I said, she’s a girl. Not a body,” Keith said.
“Okay,” the M.E. shrugged. “She’s a girl.” He bent down to inspect her.
“I’ll be back,” Detective Keith said. “Have to get someone over to help Miller and Wallace by the church and the main entrance.” He rushed across the cemetery toward the troopers’ vehicles just as two more deputy patrols approached. He spun around and yelled out to Storm. “Crime scene!” He pointed toward the main gate and the entering crime scene vehicle.
“What’s wrong with this place?” M.E. Summers asked.
“What do you mean?” Storm asked.
“I don’t know. Why are there state troopers here?”
“Because. Robertson County residents love to lollygag around on Sundays,” Storm stated.
M.E. Summers shrugged. “I guess.”
Summers went on with his examination of Hope Roseland’s corpse, taking notes as Storm observed.
“Well?” Storm rushed him.
“Well,” Summers said, “of course, we have a female, black, approximately age seven to nine. Just like the others before her: no apparent signs of trauma or cause of death.” He inhaled deeply and looked up at the sky. “Factoring for heat…whew! it’s hot…she died seven to ten hours ago. Lividity is evident, indicating she died on her back. Check out this blanching on her left calf. Strange.”
Storm bent down to investigate as Keith stepped up next to him and followed suit.
“What is that?” Keith said.
“I can’t tell,” Summers said.
Storm bolted upright. “What was she wearing when she disappeared?”
Keith dug a small notepad out of his shirt pocket. “A purple shirt and black jeans,” Keith said. “Her leg was exposed when that mark occurred.”
“Yes,” Summers said. “The mark’s actually nicely pronounced. Unidentifiable right now, but distinct enough that it might be of some use.”
“So, the killer’s got the kids changing in to these clothes before they die?” Keith pondered.
“Or the killer changes the kids’ clothing right after they die,” Summers added as he took photos of the mysteries mark on Hope’s leg. “Before any blood pooling.”
“We need an image of that magnified,” Storm ordered.
M.E. Summers made a note in his memo book. “I have a feeling the tox screen will come back the same as before. Oxicodone overdose. Extended-release OxyContin.”
Storm glanced at his watch “Caretaker found her at seven-thirty this morning. That’s two hours ago.”
“And?” Keith asked.
“He starts at seven,” Storm shrugged. “Whoever did this came through here well before the sun came up. What time was sunrise this morning?”
“Six-forty, six-forty-five maybe,” Deputy Dwyer answered from behind. “Good morning, Sheriff.” She nodded toward the detective and the M.E. “Keith, Summers. Fine morning to ya.”
“Well, it is morning,” Summers declared. “Fine is yet to be determined.”
“He’s got a good point,” Keith tipped his hat to Dwyer.
“Deputy Dwyer,” Storm greeted her. “How’s your husband?”
“Doing okay. Thanks,” she smiled.
“Good, good. Cancer’s still in remission?” Storm asked.
He remembered, she reflected to herself. “And, thankfully so. Thanks for asking, sir.”
“Good, good,” Storm’s demeanor changed almost instantly, if only for a moment. “Well, tell him we’re thinking of him.”
Dwyer nodded, trying to hold back her emotions.
“I’m done here, Sheriff. Now it’s up to the autopsy,” the M.E. Summers said. “There’s Investigator Jones.”
“Detective,” Dwyer corrected.
“Whatever,” Summers said. “Who knows anymore. One day he’s Investigator, the next Detective. I don’t even think he knows what his real title is. Isn’t that right, Investigator Jones?”
“Call me whatever you like,” Jones said with his mouth full of doughnut as he strolled up carrying a half-eaten chocolate covered long-john and a to-go cup of coffee. “Just as long as there’s a crime scene.” He smiled. “Sorry, Sheriff. I was off today.”
“You’re always off,” Dwyer kidded her younger cousin.
“Jones?” Storm said.
“Get rid of that damned doughnut, will you?”
Dwyer muffled a laugh as she pointed a teasing finger at her cousin and mouthed, Ha ha…You’re in trouble. Then stuck her tongue out.
“Let’s get busy,” Storm kindly commanded.
Copyright 2013 Wanda S. Paryla