This song makes an appearance in a scene in one of my novels, Angel Maker. Are you old enough to remember this one?…
This song makes an appearance in a scene in one of my novels, Angel Maker. Are you old enough to remember this one?…
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
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:
For any interested parties, here’s a sneak peek to the tentatively titled Angel Maker, the first book in The Sheriffs of Robertson County series. This prologue is done, but still needs a bit more editing.
A police procedural mystery/suspense drama (wish me luck!),The Sheriffs of Robertson County is a romantically titled, but crime-themed, series of books where the stories occur in sparsely populated, rural Robertson County, Texas; the county where I spent my childhood and the last place I’d expect major crimes to occur. Currently, there are two books in the works for this series. Hopefully, County Sheriff Dorian Storm and his associate, Detective Alan Keith, will arrive at squad room near you by early 2014 at the latest. 😉
ANGEL MAKER (THE SHERIFFS OF ROBERTSON COUNTY)
August 1977 – Robertson County, Texas
Eleven-year old Dorian tired of staring at the condensation dripping down his half-filled glass of tea. It was iced tea until a few minutes ago when the ice totally succumbed to the Texas heat. He looked at his father who was engrossed in the local newspaper. Dorian rubbed his fingers around the glass, smearing the dripping water all over the glass. He wiped his hands on his pants and looked out over the backyard. The grass was burnt brown from the sun, dried up and crunchy. Bare patches lay strewn about and red clay and sand dotted the yard.
“What are you reading about, Dad?” Dorian sighed.
Maurice grunted. “Hmm, nothing that would interest you, son.”
“Can we get a swimming pool?”
“No, sir,” Maurice responded adamantly. “No pools.”
The pair fell silent again and Dorian’s attention flittered to his parents’ bedroom window; his feet gingerly followed his interest. He stood there for a moment just staring through the glass.
“Dad, why do they call that guy Angel Killer?” Dorian asked. “The Angel Killer,” he whispered as he watched his mother move about her bedroom.
Maurice put down the newspaper article he was reading on the stock market. First he looked up at the sky, then to a nearby tree where a squirrel was ascending the trunk with a pecan in its mouth. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, meditating on an answer as birds chirped and dry leaves of nearby trees crackled.
“Dad?” Dorian asked again, not looking toward his father.
Maurice’s gaze landed on his son who still stood at the window looking in at his mother who sat at her dressing table fixing her hair. She spotted Dorian and smiled and waved at him then returned her gaze to her reflection.
Dorian was incredibly intelligent for a boy his age. School authorities tried to pass him on to higher grades to match his learning abilities. They tried to bump him from the second to the third grade, then again from the fifth to the sixth, but his mother wouldn’t have it either time. No matter how hard his father pushed for it. She said she didn’t want him to be an oddball; however, he already was.
“Well, son,” Maurice hesitated, searching for the right words. Dorian was just a kid, yes, but he was no fool. “I guess, because he nails angel wings to the backs of all those poor women he kills.”
“Why does he do that? Kill people and do that?”
“I don’t know. I can’t…” Maurice shook his head. “The man’s a devil, Dorian. Evil. Crazy maybe. I don’t know why he does what he does. Maybe he doesn’t know either.”
Dorian’s curiosity often tested his parents’ and teachers’ tolerance, got him in trouble with his friends and siblings, and often disgruntled the neighbors while he investigated all the neighborhood woes and looked for the lost kitties and doggies of pretty girls.
Dorian still gazed at his mother through the window.
“I wonder why he does it. I wonder if the police know why.”
“I doubt they know yet. We shouldn’t talk about this anymore. It gives the monster power.”
“Power?” Dorian said.
“I think it’s nearing lunch time. Let’s go in.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“I am. And your momma’s made egg salad. And guess what? She’s got us some potato chips, son. Isn’t that something? I knew she’d break down eventually and…” He stopped when Dorian’s eyes met his, squinting as he saw straight through his father’s facade.
“You’re glad we’re black, aren’t you?” Dorian probed.
“What? Why would you say that, boy?”
“Because, the Angel Killer only kills pretty white girls, not pretty black girls. I think Momma’s cousin, Harmony, would be his type otherwise. Maybe even Momma. Only that they’re black is what might be keepin’ them alive.”
“Dorian,” Maurice struggled to control his temper but his shock was something he could not conceal. “Don’t talk like that! Jesus.”
Dorian looked back in at his mother, studying her.
“Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with it. Look at her, Dad. How pretty. On the short side. Momma can’t weigh no more than a hundred-and-twenty-pounds. Big smile. And her eyes are wide and round and…well, never mind,” Dorian shrugged. “She’s a bit too old I guess. Thankfully. But Harmony, she’s just like those white girls, except she’s…”
“Dorian!” Maurice leaned forward in his chair. “Stop that! What have your mother and I told you about taking interest in those things?” He bolted up out of his seat. The iron chair grating across the cement patio startled Dorian and he shuttered. “Don’t ever talk like that again. Do you want to curse us?”
“Those women weren’t cursed, Dad.” Dorian said. “They were murdered. They’re victims.”
“Victims? Stop it, Dorian.” Maurice strode into the house, huffing like a freight train. “Alice? Alice! We have got to do something about Dorian.”
Dorian took one last look through the window but his mother had left her place in front of her mirror. The room was empty. He walked to the iron patio table and looked at the front of the newspaper.
“Alice, really. Dorian has got to keep his nose out of the adults’ business,” Maurice demanded. “And we shouldn’t let him read newspapers and magazines any longer. No more Time and no more newspapers.”
“Oh, Maurice,” Alice said. “He’s just a curious boy. And too smart for his own good.”
“What? Y’all are driving me crazy. He’s out there with his curiosity all over the monster that killed those women, Alice,” Maurice shook his head, waving his hands, hunting for his thoughts. “Oh, shit it doesn’t matter. I’m just afraid of what these interests are saying about him, baby.”
“They say he’s a child with a conscience, Maurice.”
“A conscience? Are you sure? Because his curiosity about crime disturbs me a little.”
Dorian read the article aloud to himself, just loud enough to drown out the voices of his parents who did not seem to care that he might be within earshot. His father, always judgmental; his mother, always pleading and defending him.
“Waco Woman Found Slain. Last night near sundown, twenty-eight year old Mrs. Dana Caldwell of Waco was found by farmer, Gill Cooper, lying in his hay field in Robertson County. Mrs. Caldwell had been missing for three days and surfaced on Sunday. Like the six previous victims who were murdered before her in a similar fashion, Mrs. Caldwell had been stripped of her clothing and redressed in what looked to be an angel costume. Pale makeup had been applied to her face which offered a porcelain doll-like appearance, and her cheeks and lips were colored baby-doll pink. Her cheeks were sprinkled lightly with glitter as was her chest. Her assailant…” Dorian choked back his distaste, “Her assailant nailed angel wings to her back at both scapulas. As with other similar cases, the victim’s hands were folded together and held a rosary.
Authorities believe the victim was already dead before the attacker redressed and spiked the wings to her back. The Robertson County Medical Examiner said the cause of death is not apparent at this time and is unsure of any sexual assault; however, it is common knowledge that the other women found in the exact same fashion were not sexually assaulted, and it was ruled their deaths were due to asphyxiation. Some of the women were killed by strangulation and others by suffocation.
Dana Caldwell was a Graduate student at Baylor University and just celebrated her three-year anniversary in May with her husband, Carl, who she leaves behind along with her twelve-year old daughter from a previous relationship.
There are a few differences between Dana Caldwell and the previous victims, however. Caldwell was on the tall side, and blue-eyed. Based on previous reports, the other victims were all brown-eyed and shorter than Dana. And according to her husband, she was about thirteen weeks pregnant. The pregnancy has not yet been verified by the medical examiner.”
Dorian looked to the black and white photo of Dana Caldwell then dropped the paper to the table. He wondered how this type of crime found its way into his city-less county.
His mother, Alice, called to him. “Dorian, lunch!”
“The Angel Killer. Why do you get glory while everyone you touch suffers?” Dorian snorted and squinted in judgment. “You don’t kill angels, you make them. Angel Maker.”
~Copyright 2013 Wanda S. Paryla
Click here to read Chapter One next!… https://wandasparyla.com/2013/09/12/sneak-peek-chapter-one-the-sheriffs-of-robertson-county-angel-maker/
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