Officer Robert Cook took out his walkie-talkie. “Anyone listening?” he said over the radio band.
“Hell, no, Cook,” replied a voice over the radio. “Why would I be listening when one of my men has taken a fall down a hole?”
“No, it’s the Red Tornado,” said Police Chief Lawrence Durrel. “Of course it’s me, Cook! Who else would it be?”
“OK, sorry. Just kinda hard to hear you clearly, sir.”
“All right, whattaya got for me? Not another rabies case, I hope.”
“No, sir. Hole about thirty feet down looks like part of a basement or something. Davison is hurting but conscious, and the land up here looks like… well, the storm probably helped it a bit.”
“OK, we found a fifteen-foot ladder but no rope, so we’re gonna have to wait on the fire dogs. Thanks, Bob.”
Robert Cook put the walkie-talkie away and smiled. “This place looks like backdrop for a story on House of Mystery or some show like that,” he said to Green, who was standing nearby.
“I’m not familiar with that one,” the young officer replied.
“When I was a kid… Hold on a second. Davison, you OK?”
“S’right!” Davison shouted back up. “Getting thirsty, though. Maybe could use a beer right about now.”
“Not on duty you don’t, Davison. And falling into a rabbit hole doesn’t mean you’re suddenly off duty, you know. So watch out for Alice, OK?”
“OK… uh, who?” Davison shook his head. Was Cook talking about that woman? Shaking his head resulted in intense, blinding pain momentarily. His vision became black, with bright yellow spots, white spots, then a bit more clear with blurry edges.
“You know Alice — she fell down a rabbit hole and went to Wonderland,” said Cook. “Hey, you all right, Davison? Gotta stay awake, there, Officer!”
“Ohh… Alice — right! OK,” said Davison. Hmmm… maybe Cook doesn’t know anything about that woman in black other than what he saw from down below. I must’a thought I saw her because my head hurts so much. Davison wanted to believe that.
“So, rookie… oh, yes — television of my youth back on the rez up in New York,” said Cook. “Maybe it was just WUBS that had that House of Mystery show.”
While Dr. James Monroe Jr. checked the house for possible damage, his lovely wife made coffee, and a sleepy child sat at the table, Dr. James Monroe Sr. looked at a booklet called The Tater Tots: Kids from the Potato Patch. “Look like tatters to me,” he grumbled to himself, but of course none of the dolls looked like the one Selene his cat had brought him, nor did he expect to find one like the one under his blanket undetectable by odor, because he had bagged it earlier.
“I’ll be expecting company, Margie,” he told his daughter-in-law. “Like as not, Mrs. MacTavish told them I was here. I’ll be in Junior’s office.”
He turned and wheeled his way out of the kitchen. Margie sighed and brushed some of her auburn hair out of her face as she put a bowl of cereal in front of her daughter Amy. Whatever was happening across the street concerned her, because she was very fond of Mrs. MacTavish, and so was Amy and vice versa. But she was also concerned about her father-in-law; expecting to be involved in a local police matter meant something serious had happened, but obviously not to Mrs. MacTavish herself; that much she could tell. She was worried the old man would go and get himself more than paralyzed from the waist down, and she couldn’t shake the images of him lying on a dirt floor crying in pain, yet still determined to stop someone from doing something.
She didn’t like getting visions like this — very little information, but just enough to frighten her. As it was, fear propelled her to do what she felt she had to. Now she needed to gather more information and see what she could do to ensure her father-in-law’s safety, if she could. The others were all counting on her.
Chief of Police Lawrence Durrel chewed on his cigar and looked around, hoping for something new to focus on, even if it was the sight of his detectives finally arriving so these bodies could at least be covered. He was sure Mrs. MacTavish didn’t like looking into her garden and seeing four bodies in it, not to mention several officers of the law trampling on whatever was left of it. He also wondered whether there were any clues that might have been missed.
He threw his mental hissy fit, then headed into the house through the back door, where he politely knocked and was granted admittance by Sheila Holmes, another veteran cop and a good policewoman who offered him a mug of fresh coffee fixed the way he liked it. She told him she was learning how to make zucchini bread, and four loafs were in the oven, so the boys would be able to have some shortly.
“Long as we don’t get any more rabies cases out there,” he joked, but Officer Holmes didn’t get it, and he waved his laugh away. “You’ll find out about it later. Nothing serious — just a misstep of memory on a rookie’s part.”
“OK, got it,” said Sheila. “Say, the hospital has info on that sort of stuff, doesn’t it?”
“What — mental missteps?” said Durrel. “Try the mental health clinic.”
“Rabies, I meant.”
“I didn’t hear that, Sheila. Say, where’s the lady of the house?”
“Right here, Captain, and please be the first to have a slice of my bread,” said Mrs. MacTavish, emerging from the kitchen with oven mitts on, carrying a loaf of zucchini bread on a pan.
“Thank you,” said Durrel. He grabbed a piece of very warm, freshly baked bread and enjoyed the heat, as it was surprisingly chilly outside. “Sheila?”
The female officer nodded, took the tray, and headed for the back door to hand out slices to the other officers.
“Such a nice girl,” said Mrs. MacTavish. “Reminds me of my cousin Charlene’s girl.”
“This is good,” said Durrel. “Hot, but good.”
“Thank you, Captain. You’re a good man.”
“So I tell him — sure, ese, you can hang with los Cubano putas, but don’t expect to be coming back to me after, you dig? Hey, this the street? Yep. OK, Bess, so guess what?”
“What, Angel?” said Bess Joplin, barely listening to her cameraman.
“My Antonio, he drops those so-called friends of his like a… hot, ah… guess we gotta park it here. Looks like we’re the first news crew, and there comes the fire engine.”
“What am I — older than dirt?” said Robert Cook. “Come on, you’ve never even heard of Pow-Wow Smith? Man, that was a network Saturday staple for years!”
“I’m sorry, Officer Cook,” said Green sheepishly. “I don’t remember ever seeing it!”
“I’ll see if I can dig up some tapes. And… hey, what was that?”
“I think I just heard some growling,” said Cook.
“If this is another rabies joke…” said the rookie. “Wha–? Behind us.”
“Ease your gun out and turn slowly.”
The two officers eased their pistols from the holsters as they slowly turned around, and they found themselves facing several skinny, hostile-looking dogs.
“Hey! What you be doing on my property?” a voice called. The officers looked over and saw a man as scraggly and malnourished as the dogs. “This be Bodeaux land here.”
“You are Mr. Bodeaux?” Cook asked as the man in coveralls approached.
“I am, and why you be here, eh?”
“We have a man down a hole here,” Cook said.
“Eh? A hole?”
“Looks to be an old cellar structure or something like that,” Cook said.
Pierre Bodeaux ordered his dogs to stay back, and they sat quietly. He walked over to where the officers were standing. “Sure is a big hole,” the man said. “Ain’t got enough rope to reach down there, don’t think.” He looked thoughtful. “But firemen can come up my road — make it easier to get to him. Mrs. MacTavish OK, eh?”
Cook was motioning to Green to put his pistol away as holstered his own. “She’s fine. I’ll call down below,” he said, nodding toward her house. “What’s the name of your road?”
“Oh? It’s Frenchman Road.”
At the MacTavish house, Chief Lawrence Durrel looked out the front window. “Uh-oh. Looks like the vultures have descended.” He had spotted the news vans. “Mrs. MacTavish, looks like we have to get you out of here now. Can’t wait until we have power. I don’t want those vermin bothering you.”
“Oh, Chief, I’m not worried about them!” the older woman replied with a smile.
“No, but I’m afraid if the press gets to you, the killer or killers might be watching and decide you saw more than you’ve told us about,” said Durrel. “You didn’t see more than you told me, did you?”
“No. No, I didn’t! Those poor children!” Her merry exterior suddenly gave way to fear. “I really did see four children there, didn’t I?” Fortunately for her, Officer Sheila Holmes had reentered the house and was behind her when she collapsed.
“Sheila, I want you to get her out of here,” said Durrel. “Uh… I don’t know, somewhere safe ’til we can get ahold of her daughter.”
“I’ll take her to my place, then, Chief. The press will never look for her there.”
The police chief thought, I wish we had something more to go on. Damn it, who kills children and lays them out like that without leaving a single clue? And where are my detectives?
The detectives in question — Harry Rheems, a tall, affable, moustached redhead, and Joseph Maven, a bald black man — were finally notified they were needed and began preparing for their job via coffee and doughnuts en route to the scene. Neither man felt particularly up to working today, having spent the night in their basements with their families, and neither had slept well. But they were law-enforcement officers, and that fact propelled them forward. They knew nothing of the case at hand, merely that the chief himself had requested their presence, and if he was at the scene, they figured it had to be big.
They had no idea how big this case was going to be.
When Police Chief Durrel found out that the Bodeaux family was actually helping in the rescue of Davison, he had a bad feeling. Currently, seven members of that clan were in jail or awaiting trial. The Bodeauxs were a family with a long and mixed history, with honest, hard-working men and women who sometimes ended up on the wrong end of the law because of involvement with drugs and or alcohol, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly conducts, and other crimes. But the family also a long history of underworld businesses, such as making and selling moonshine, and, in recent years, involvement in the drug trade.
Sometimes someone who was an honest, hard-working carpenter or a similar working-class person was also a dirty drug dealer. Still, help was help, and just because some members of the extended clan and their relations and neighbors in the Arcadian community were criminals didn’t mean all of them were.
Sergeant John Severn was standing near his boss, when suddenly the tall black police chief clutched his chest.
“Oh boy!” Durrel gasped as he fell over.
Severn grabbed his walkie-talkie. “Code blue, code blue! Officer down! We need medics at the MacTavish house now!” He threw his walkie-talkie down and ran to his friend.
A man was sitting and strumming a guitar. “Riding the storm out, waiiiting the fallout…”
His phone rang. “Friendly Ghost Productions,” he said. “Jones! What’s up? … On my way.” The man known only as Smith hung up his phone, put his guitar aside, and prepared to leave his apartment.
“Dr. James Monroe?” Detective Harry Rheems asked the youngish-looking man looking at the roof of his house.
“That’s me. How can I help you?”
“Detective Rheems, Seminole Police Department,” the officer said, flashing his badge. “I would like to ask you some questions, if you can spare some time.”
The doctor wiped his glasses, smoothed back his blond hair, and nodded. “This about my wife’s parking ticket?”
“No, sir. Uh, could we go inside? Too many reporters running around the neighborhood.”
“Sure. My wife is making coffee. Uh, does this concern whatever the hell is going on next door? Mrs. MacTavish OK?”
“She’s fine, sir. Oh, my partner will be along shortly, but coffee would be mighty fine right about now.”
The two men entered the house, and Monroe introduced his wife to the detective. “Oh,” she said. “Dad said the police would be over.”
“He did?” Rheems asked, puzzled.
“Yes,” she said. “He’s a profiler for the FBI. What’s going on? Is Mrs. MacTavish OK?”
“She’s fine. Uh, no offense, Doc, but I guess it’s your father I gotta see.”
“I figured as much,” said James Monroe Jr. “Come on. He’s probably in my office.”
“So what kind of doctor are you?”
“Psychologist, same as Dad, but I work with troubled kids.”
“Hmm… maybe I need to talk to both of you, then.”
Another time, another place:
“Relax. You’re OK now. I’m Dr. Beeks. Can you tell me your name?”
“Durrel, Lawrence Aaron.”
“Very good. And what is today’s date?”
“August 25th, 1987. Who are you, and — what the hell? My hand’s white!”
“August 25, 1987. Got it,” a male voice out of Durrel’s vision said.
“What the #^@% is going on here?!” Durrel shouted. “What did you do to me?”
“Relax, Lawrence. All will be explained,” the lovely black woman named Verbena Beeks stated calmly. “But right now…” She injected him with something that put him into a state of total relaxation.
“Voice sounds odd,” he muttered as he slipped back into unconsciousness.
“Mr. Smith?” the receptionist asked the lanky, tall, slender, red-haired man dressed in a sharp-looking black suit.
“Yes, ma’am?” he answered.
“Mr. Jones is in room 4-D. Go right on in, sir,” she stated professionally. He nodded and headed down the hall.
The location was the Federal Building in Casper, Wyoming, and Agent Smith was pleased to be called back to duty. His layoff had caused him to grow restless, and whatever his partner had called him about had to be more interesting than staying home and watching TV.
He had no idea what they were about to get into.