The city council of Seminole, Florida, had been called together in an emergency session, not just because of the storm, which hadn’t actually damaged the town too much, but because of the shocking murders. Rumors of the killings abounded, and often as not involved details and speculations that were far from the facts, not that many outside of those on scene knew any of the details. And that made it all the more interesting to talk about, as the police and medical personnel were under orders to say nothing, which of course meant that some did speak off the record about what they had seen to close friends and family who themselves were under no such orders.
And then the police chief himself had been rushed to the hospital with what appeared to be a heart attack. But of course, people often would talk most about what they knew the least about, and already rumors were floating around about hidden booby-traps, some strange new disease, and even, in some places, whispers of voodoo or black magic.
When Detective Harry Rheems received word via walkie-talkie that the chief was down, the younger Dr. James Monroe grabbed his black bag and ran over. He was a psychologist, true, but he was also an M.D.
A spokesman for the police department told the media that there had indeed been bodies found, but that Mrs. MacTavish had not been one of them, and she had not been arrested as a suspect. The police chief was expected to fully recover and be back on the job as soon as possible, and he had been there in the first place because he had been at the station when the call came in and had felt a personal duty to respond. But the police could not give information on the crime scene.
At the sight of the thirty-foot-deep pit, Pierre Bodeaux was intrigued by its existence on his family’s land and saw possibilities in this. How had it gotten there? Who had built it, and why? It was a mystery, one that perhaps old family records could explain, but even if they couldn’t, those records might still come in handy.
“Seminole is not the first such crime scene,” Dr. James Monroe Sr. explained to Detective Rheems. “I have evidence of four other identical scenes. To wit, four bodies found in the garden of an elderly widow, all bodies skinned and bound hand and foot to form a square. Plus, two similar scenes without the binding, each found within a block of local FBI offices.”
Rheems was aghast. “Who or what is behind all of this?”
Dr. Monroe shrugged. “I wish I knew, Detective. I wish I knew.”
“Are you working on this case officially, Doctor?”
“I have been on extended leave,” he explained. “However, once the phones are operating, I plan to call the regional director and return to duty as quickly as possible. Personally, I suspect this latest was aimed at me.”
Harry Rheems cocked one eyebrow. “Isn’t that a rather paranoid speculation, Doctor?”
“No,” explained Dr. Monroe. “Let me explain. One, the first four scenes parallel to this one were all in New England. Two, this crime happened across the street from where I am staying. And three…” He showed the detective the unusual doll.
“Looks like one of them Tater Tots,” said Rheems.
“Yes, but check a catalog,” said the doctor. “They don’t have one like this one, which my cat brought in from outside. But I am willing to bet some of your colleagues spotted a woman somewhat resembling this doll, who was wearing a long black dress and long black veil. Ask around. Someone for sure saw her.”
“Who is she, Dr. Monroe?”
The wheelchair-bound man shrugged. “I would give my right eye to know that answer.”
“I think we should call in the JSA, or that Infinity group.”
“Really, Dan, I think our local police can handle this.”
“Last week we met to discuss the possibility of coming up with a costumed hero of our own, and now we got us something strange going on.”
“Yes, Dan, we do. But details are scant, and to be honest, I heard five versions of this morning’s events — all contradictory.”
“I won’t be able to sleep for a week, at least, after what I heard,” one man stated sadly. “Children dead, maybe as much as twelve, possibly thirteen. Some sort of cult, obviously, is around our town. I personally think the police should round up all them heavy metal freaks and grill them. I bet some of them were involved.”
“Sorry, Steve, but my own son is one of those ‘freaks,’ and he was with me in our basement last night.”
“So, what, if anything, can we do?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Smith, good of you to come.”
“Well, Jones, sitting around my place for a month has left me itchy for action.”
“We may just get it. You familiar with Northern Florida at all?”
“Northern Florida? Seminole country?”
“Yes, Jones, in some areas, but we won’t be going into the nation.”
Agents Smith and Jones, two most unusual federal operatives, were sitting in the Federal Building in Casper, Wyoming. Agent Jones was a stately looking, raven-haired man, and Agent Smith, the younger of the pair, looked more like a rock and roller then a federal agent. Both had thick folders on their desks.
“Seems the Colombians been running some most successful runs into that territory, getting new distribution routes for their… uh, products, and our job is to look into closing a few doors in their faces,” Jones said.
Agent Smith nodded. “Sounds like a stone groove to me.”
“Lawrence? Got time for an old friend?”
Police Chief Durrel looked over and spotted a man in what looked like a white naval officer’s uniform to his blurry eyes. “When they make you an admiral, Delvecchio?”
Dr. Abrams frowned. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Very good, Chief.”
“Chief?” asked Durrel. “Am I an Indian?”
“Funny, Chief,” said the doctor. “Yeah, right. Chief of the Seminole Police Department might make you some sort of Native American. You sure you’re OK?”
“Mild cardial infarction. You seem to be OK now.”
“Mild cardial… I had a heart attack?”
“Very good, Lawrence. You actually paid attention,” said Dr. Abrams. “I told you this was going to happen. I hope those cigars I found don’t mean you’re still smoking.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” said Dr. Abrams. “Your man told me you only chew on them. And speaking of your man, Sergeant Severn wants to see you. And your wife is on her way here, so let me unhook these monitors. Then you can get ready to go back to work, because knowing you… heh-heh-heh… we ain’t gonna get you to stay and rest.”
Durrel nodded. “Oh boy…” he muttered. “What have I gotten myself into now?”
Meanwhile, Officer Robert Cook was checking on Officer Davison. “You OK, rookie?”
“Yeah. Hey, the nurse told me the chief is here?”
“Just two stalls over. Seems he had a heart attack over you getting a broken leg. Gotta knock that stuff off, kid.”
“I-I’m sorry, sir.”
Cook waved a hand. “Knock it off. You didn’t cause it anymore than I did. Still, you get to sit around here and have pretty girls come to bathe you. I gotta get back to the station and fill out paperwork.”
As he started to leave, he turned back toward the bedridden patrolman. “You, uh… you didn’t see anything odd down in that hole, did you?”
“Yeah, anything — graffiti… oh, odd stuff. Anything like that could be a clue to those killings.”
Davison shrugged. “No, sir, nothing like that.” And he privately thought, And I am not gonna tell you about the woman I thought I saw. I’m not about to let myself be locked up as a crazy man!
“OK, get some rest, Davison. We’ll see you later.”
Robert Cook looked in on the chief and smiled as John Severn nodded to him and came out. “He’s a bit disoriented, but the doc says that’s normal,” said Severn. “How’s our rabies patient?”
“Ready to kick a field goal,” said Cook, chuckling. “You ready to head out?”
“Yep,” said Severn. “But man, oh, man — the paperwork I gotta fill out before clocking out!”
“Come on, I’ll buy you some coffee.”
“Hospital coffee, huh?” drolled Severn. “Can’t wait.”
“So, we got a cover, Jones?” asked Agent Smith.
“Yes,” said Agent Jones. “We’re going in as FEMA personnel. Someplace called, uh… Seminole. Sounds like a nice place. Seems they had a hurricane last night.”
“Well, let’s rock and roll.”
Soon, the two were aboard an airplane leaving from Casper, Wyoming, heading for an airport in Miami, Florida.
“Smith, check out the preview.”
The man known as Smith slipped his headphones on and looked at the movie screen.
“Michael Horse is… Pow-Wow Smith, Federal Marshall, and you’re under arrest!”
“Jesus!” exclaimed Agent Smith. “He gotta do all of Jay Silverheel’s old roles?”
“Didn’t you mention you’re descended from the real Pow-Wow Smith?” Agent Jones asked with a grin.
“Yeah,” said Smith. “Great-grandfather. Heck, my grandfather also used the name back in the ’40s when he became the sheriff of Elkhorn in Red Deer Valley. It’s actually P-O-W-W-A-W, but sounds like pow-wow to whites.”
Jones considered this. “Funny, you don’t look all that Indian.”
Smith grinned. “So my grandmother was white. Big deal.” Smith went back to the thick envelope in his lap. “This case has got more twists and turns than that D and D tournament I went to in college,” he muttered to himself. “Colombians, Mafioso, Acadians… geez, we gonna end up fighting most of the state. Hmm… Cubans, too. Man, the DEA better be happy we were available.”
A shout brought his attention up.
“Look out! The plane!”
“Is that a big bird?”
“No, that’s Superman!”
Smith chuckled. “Never seen a super-hero before?”
Agent Jones glanced over. “Not everyone sees them very often.” Then he turned his attention back to the movie screen. Agent Smith glanced up, saw Clint Westwood stalking across the screen, and chuckled again.
Meanwhile, in the Seminole Police Department, the press had gathered for a news conference. The police department spokesman looked spiffy in a fine suit, his hair freshly styled. This was what David Keith lived for his moments in the spotlight. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press, and thank you for coming today,” he began.
Instantly, attention was focused on him. He grinned. “In light of last night’s storm, I am pleased to see such a good turnout here.” People chuckled. “Now, I know many of you are wondering about certain recent events, so without further ado, let’s get right to it.”
Glancing at his notes, he was pleased to see he didn’t really need them. As cameras whirled, focusing in on the tall, handsome, pale-skinned man with silver hair and piercing blue eyes, Keith said, “First of all, the chief. Yes, he is in the hospital; he had a minor heart attack, but should be returning to duty later today, being the dedicated man he is. I repeat: he had a minor heart attack. I am aware of rumors he was, uh, poisoned, but nothing of the sort happened.”
People looked like they were ready to ask questions, but he held up his hands. “One moment, please. Second, the crime scene this morning. I have heard already this morning some simply astounding rumors. What I know is that four — repeat: four — bodies were found. Not twelve or thirteen, only four, and no, the MacTavish family is not involved. I understand they were not even at home at the time.” Keith sipped some water and, with another smile, continued.
“Next, yes, an officer fell into a hole, apparently an old well that had been covered with some boards and long abandoned. He is well, having received a broken leg with a small fracture, but he will be home within a few days and will be back to work as soon as possible. No foul play is suspected in this situation, which is just an unfortunate event that occurred near the crime scene under investigation.” Another grin at the assembled press. “OK, any questions?”
Some of these reporters were hearing of these rumors for the first time, and that was what they jumped on. Keith responded by pointing out they were ill-founded rumors started by people who didn’t know what they were talking about.
At the hospital, Davison looked at his partner, Green. “I’m glad to see you, pal, but let’s face it. You ain’t no angel in the morning.”
“I’m just glad you’re OK, partner,” Green replied. “At any rate, I got to be getting back shortly. I will tell you this, though. I gotta check out my codes better.”
Davison looked puzzled. “Why?”
“I called in you had rabies.”
Both men laughed. “Great!” exclaimed Davison. “My girlfriend calls me a dog sometimes. Wait’ll she hears about this!”
Meanwhile, a long black limousine was winding its way up Frenchman Road to the main Bodeaux household.