Here is another portion of Pray to the Shadowman. I hope you enjoy it. Just remember, this is a rough draft and not the final product. If you have suggestions or comments, please feel free to do so! I welcome them all!
All excerpts from Pray to the Shadowman, copyright 2016 by Wendy Siefken.
The next day John walked into the squad room with two hot cups of coffee in his hands. Dan already seated at his desk, looked up when John sat the cup down in front of Dan.
“Two creams and one sugar, Connie at the coffee shop says you owe her a dinner.” John said as he walked over to his desk to sit. They had a few minutes before the Lieutenant Clark would be calling them into the briefing room to give out today’s duties.
“You want to tell me what that is all about?” John said looking at Dan with a smirk on his face. “I thought you and Connie weren’t speaking anymore.”
“Well, we kinda made up. Who knew women could be so fickle?” Dan asked with a sour look on his face.
John laughed as he sat down.
Lieutenant Robert Clark came through the door just then and headed to the briefing room.
“I guess it’s time.” Dan said as he got up from his chair.
Together they walked into the briefing room with everyone else to receive their days duties.
“Today we are going to be concentrating on the Durbin case, John, Dan, you two will be canvasing the neighborhoods to talk to neighbors and see what they know. I know the local P.D. did it yesterday but I want to see if we can shake lose any memories today. Chris you will be checking with CSI to see if we have any hits on the DNA yet. I know it’s pretty early but maybe we will get lucky and have at least have one hit.” LT Clark stopped a moment.
“The kids are being identified as we speak. Shannon, I want you to check with the coroner and see how many we have names on so far. We will have to notify parents or next of kin. I will need you to look up in the Missing Children’s Data base for further info.”
“The rest of you will hand out warrants and do the regular rounds.” LT Clark said as he looked at the two remaining detectives.
“We have quite a few agencies working together on this case so everyone be on the lookout for any new leads. O.k. let’s get out there and keep those streets safe.” LT Clark said as he closed the file in front of him, heading towards the door.
The chatter in the room broke the silence left behind by LT.
“I never did like canvasing neighborhoods. You just never know who will be behind that damned door.” Dan said as he got up.
John flipped his notebook closed, stuck it in his jacket pocket, and headed out for the day with Dan.
John and Dan had been partners for almost eight years and each had their duties they covered before the car left the garage. Maintenance of the vehicles were the mechanics jobs but checking that all their gear was in place and full was their duty. The last one who used the car was supposed to cover this but it was still better to check when coming on shift before going out instead of finding out when in need of an item, it was gone.
John drove over to the Durbin neighborhood and parked just up the street from the house. John and Dan each took a side of the street and began the arduous task of knocking on each door in the block.
The third house down, John knocked on a door where the paint was pealing, blankets hung over the windows and weeds grew up through the cracks in the porch. John stepped back to look across the street to see Dan walk out of the first house, finishing his notes as he moved to the second house.
Just as John as ready to move on to the next house, thinking this one was empty, he heard shuffling from behind the door. He heard chains rattle and locks slide back, the door opened a crack showing a short gray haired lady peeking through the door.
“Hello?” she said in a small quavering voice.
“Hello ma’am, My name is Detective John Casey and I would like to ask you a few questions please. May I come in?” John asked politely.
“Can I see your badge first?” she asked.
John pulled his badge out from his pocket and held it up for her to see. The little old lady pulled up a pair of glasses that hung from a chain around her neck, up to get a better look at it. Satisfied, she stepped back, opening the door wide to allow John to step in.
The house was small, unlike the rest of the mansions on the block with a small garage to the right of the house. The inside of the house was clean and filled with overstuffed furniture. Doilies graced the back of the couch and the chairs. John could see knickknacks on shelves on the wall and in a hutch in the corner. She sat in a chair that looked rather worn; it looked to be her favorite place to sit. A cup and saucer sat on a coffee table next to her as well as a book with a slip of paper sticking out of the top.
“May I get your name please ma’am?” John asked pulling out his notebook and flipping open to a clean page.
“My name is Mrs. Harriet Fosterman. I have lived in this house all of my life: She said rather proudly.
“Mrs. Fosterman, I would like to ask you about your neighbor Frank Durbin What can you tell me about him.” John said,
“Frank? I don’t know of any Frank, but I know the Durbin’s, Corbin and Ruby. They are such nice people. I heard they moved to Florida a few years ago. I think the weather here became to harsh for poor Ruby.” She said as she picked up her cup.
“Can I get you something to drink Detective?” Harriet asked with a look of surprise on her face, realizing she hadn’t offered him something when they had first entered the living room.
“No Ma’am, I’m fine thank you.” John said with a slight smile on his face. This interview could take a while he thought as she settled deeper into her chair.
“The Durbin’s are a respectable breed of people who always donated to charity and never missed a Christmas party.” She said. “A few years ago they hired a handyman who helped them around the house before they moved. He was an odd sort, but I guess Corbin trusted him. His eyes were too close together for my comfort, if you ask me.” She said nodding to herself.
“Ma’am, can you tell me what the handyman looked like or happen to remember his name?” John said with a sneaking suspicion creeping up his spine.
“Well, let me see, he was a young man, about late twenties, I suppose. Dark hair and he had a silly little mustache.” She paused a moment, lost in a memory, “I guess he thought it made him look important, the way he would strut around their property when Corbin and Ruby were away from the house.” She shook her head, tutting at the same time. “I don’t remember ever hearing his name though.”
“Did he have any distinguishing features, like tattoos, scars or anything like that?” John asked.
“Well, there was that one day he came over to my house, just as bold as you please, walked right into my house and asked for a cup of sugar!” she looked at John with shock on her face. “After that I got all those locks on my doors and keep them locked. I gave him his cup of sugar but I didn’t give him the good sugar I will tell you that!” She said chuckling. I gave him that nasty old dirty sugar that I use to draw ants into the ant traps.” Harriet put a hand over her mouth and giggled.
John smiled with her, doing his best not to burst out laughing. He had to keep his professional face on, even with this spunky little old lady.
“And did you see something then?” He prompted.
“Yes, he had a t-shirt on that had a couple of tears in it and I saw on his right arm a tattoo of a skull with a flower below it, oh what was that flower?” she said putting a finger to her chin, thinking. “Oh yes, it was a Rosa acicularis.” She said with a smile on her face.
“I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that name, does it have a common name?” John asked
“Oh sorry dear, it’s normally called a wild rose.” She said reaching under her end table for a book. The book titled “Flowers and their Habitat” She handed it to him saying, “This is what our horticulture group uses when we go on our nature walks to identify flowers and such.” She said proudly.
“Are you sure that Corbin and Ruby went to Florida? Do you ever get any letters or post cards from them?” John asked.
“Why, come to think of it, no I haven’t. They had always been so good about sending out Christmas cards to everyone. I just thought maybe they got busy or something down there.” She said with a look of surprise. “You don’t suppose something has happened to them do you?” she said shaking her head. “Oh I hope not, they are such good people. This neighborhood just isn’t what it used to be and we need more folks like them back again.”
“I will check on them and if I learn anything I will let you know.” John said as he closed his notebook. “I will leave you to the rest of your afternoon Mrs. Fosterman. Thank you for all your help and I appreciate your hospitality.” John said as he got up from his seat on the couch.
“I’m sure glad that a nice young man like you is checking into the Durbin’s.” she said as she walked with him to the door. “I’m glad I was able to help you out. Although I’m not sure exactly what I am helping with. I saw all those police cars and ambulances at the Durbin’s yesterday but no one would say what had happened.” She looked up at John expectantly, hoping he would say.
“Well, Mrs. Fosterman, thank again for your help. I have to get going now.” John stepped out the door and looked across the street to see Dan exiting the second house as well. He could see Dan shaking his head. John chuckled knowing that his partner had probably run into a chatty neighbor as well.
The rest of the morning of knocking on doors resulted in no more information than what Mrs. Fosterman had given him. It did beg the question though of whether or not Frank was really a nephew as first was believed or the handyman the Durbin’s had hired.
Dan and John met back up at the car, climbed in and sat there a moment. Without a word John started the car and put it into gear. No one had to debate any more where they would have lunch. It was a given. John drove through the streets watching the lunch hour traffic as Dan flipped through his notes.
Pulling into the parking lot, John and Dan climbed out of the car, walked into the restaurant and took their usual booth.
“Well, did you come up with anything?” Dan finally asked after their orders had been placed. John watched Dan looking around for Connie.
“I think she has today off buddy.” John said with a smile twitching the corners of his mouth. Dan glared at him as he quickly flipped his notebook open.
The waitress came over at that moment, set two cups of coffee in front of the men and took their order.
Once the waitress left to turn in their order, John cleared his throat and gave the rundown of information he had gathered.
“I got a bad feeling that ole Frank isn’t a nephew after all, and is probably more like the handyman Mrs. Fosterman had mentioned. No one seems to know who or where this nephew came from or recall exactly when the Durbin’s moved to Florida.”
“I didn’t have a whole lot of luck on my side either. I think Mrs. Fosterman had a sister on my side of the street. A little old lady lived there and boy did she like to chat, Kept offering me cookies and tea.” Dan shook his head at the memory.
“Yeah, she had pretty much the same story though; I guess the handyman got around a bit. Seemed to only go into houses that weren’t locked. Scouting the neighborhood is my guess.” Dan said as he flipped through his notes.
“Oh yeah, one did say they had seen a tattoo on our guy’s back one day when he had been out working on the yard. They said it looked like a grim reaper or something like that. It had been a while ago since they had seen it.” Dan said.
The waitress brought their plates over and sat them down in front of them. “Enjoy your meals gentlemen.” She said with a smile as she turned to wait on the next table.
John and Dan put their notes away to eat their lunch. Several cups of coffee later along with empty plates the two detectives once again pulled out their notebooks.
John looked through his notes, nodding. “I guess our next step is to stop by the coroner’s office and see if he has any tattoos like that.”
“Yep, you ready?” Dan asked as he got up from the booth. John and Dan walked up to the cashier, paid their bill, and walked out into the heat of the noonday sun. They were having a warm October week and people were out enjoying the weather while they could. John watched the people walking leisurely by, some carrying jackets in their hands. Smiles were a plenty on most every face he looked at. Knowing where they were headed, John soaked up as much joy as he could before heading over to the morgue.
The county morgue was in the basement of the hospital. John pulled into a parking spot behind the hospital leading down a set of stairs into the entryway.
Once inside the door a short hallway greeted them where a receptionist stood at a desk that took up one wall. A young receptionist sat behind the desk reading a book. Her name tag said her name, “Joy.” John and Dan walked up to the desk before she looked up.
“Can I help you?” she asked, a little annoyed.
“Detectives Casey and Dan here to see the coroner about the bodies brought in last night.” John said flipping open his badge along with Dan.
Joy peered at the badges held before her before reaching under the desk to hit the buzzer that would allow them access through the door.
Dan reached the door first and pulled it open. As they walked down the hallway Dan shook his head and said, “Damn kids, always got their nose stuck in something. At least that one is reading a book.”
John nodded in agreement, “You would think with the name of Joy, she would have been a little more polite.” he said chuckling.
A door at the end of the hallway led to the main room where the bodies were be held and autopsied.
John opened the door for Dan and walked in behind him. A short balding man stood bent over a cadaver on a table, inspecting the contents of something.
“Hi Grant, how you doing today Doc?” Dan asked,
Grant jumped at the sound of Dan’s voice behind him. He pulled the earplugs out of his ears and they could hear music coming through, it sounded like Bach.
“Gentlemen, I saw Shannon earlier this morning and already gave her my report of everything I have found so far.” Grant said in a clipped tone.
Grant had been the coroner for over seven years and in that time he was always very professional and never joked around or kidded anyone. Many thought he didn’t like people, that he preferred the company of the cadavers over live humans. Everyone in the department knew him well enough by now to know that it was just his personality.
“We have some information for you and we wanted to stop by and see you a minute to see what you think.” John began. “We have been informed that Frank Durbin might not be who we think he is. Does our dead guy happen to have a couple of tattoos? One of a skull on his right arm with a wild rose below it and another of a grim reaper like thing on his back?”
Grant looked over his spectacles at John and Dan,
“Well, considering the shape of his arms when they came in, let me check. You do realize that the torso and one leg was the only part of his body that was intact. Right,” Grant asked.
“I do, we saw it yesterday.” Dan said as they walked over to the wall of morgue drawers that took up a whole wall. Checking the paperwork on the clipboard, Grant went over to drawer number 239 and pulled it open. Inside were the contents of the late Mr. Frank Durbin.
The head, arms and one leg had been placed on the table with the torso.
“The remarkable thing I noticed about the wounds to this body and the children that were brought in was that most of the wounds matched.” Grant said as he checked the right arm for a tattoo. The arm had been burned; skin had been removed and was severely bruised in places all up and down the arm. Several of the fingers on the hand had been removed as well.
“What do you mean?” Dan asked.
John looked at Grant, “Yeah, what do you mean they matched.”
“Well, you see, while doing the autopsies on the children I started to notice a pattern of wounds and injuries that had a commonality. Some were different than others but most mirrored each other.” Grant said as he laid the arm back down and rolled the torso over to inspect the back.
“So when I moved to do the autopsy on our Mr. Durbin here, I noticed all of the wounds that had been inflicted to the children were also done to the body. The only difference between is that there was a black substance in Mr. Durbin’s trachea that wasn’t found in any of the children’s bodies. I had assumed it was only dried blood but upon further examination I found that to be inaccurate since there was traces of iron mixed in.” All the wounds were inflicted ante Morten. Thus, it is my opinion that he felt all of the wounds but didn’t have the ability to scream. As you can see, there is a Grim Reaper on his back here, though it has been cut and burned, the arm on the other hand, is just too damaged for me to find a skull, but I did find a partial of what could be a wild rose.” Grant said as he rolled the torso back into place and slid the drawer shut.
“OK, I think we need to get a DNA sample on our now John Doe to find out who he really is by running it through C.O.D.I.S. From the description of the tattoos and what’s left of the body, I believe this could be our handyman that was hired by Corbin Durbin.” John said.
“I will get on that right away, I hope you don’t expect miracles like on those TV. shows. It’s not going to be done in an hour.” Grant said disdainfully.
John and Dan laughed, “No, we know it will take a bit longer than that to get it done. Just let us know when you get the results alright?” Dan said as they walked out the door.
John drove back through the streets towards headquarters. Both men sat quietly lost in their own thoughts. John knew Dan was mulling over the puzzle of the case as well as he was. Who was this person if it wasn’t the nephew? How did he get in the system listed as a nephew? There were getting to be more and more questions instead of fewer as the day wore on.
A half an hour later they pulled into the parking garage at headquarters. John shut off the engine and sat there a moment. Dan opened the door and looked back at John.
“You are coming?” Dan asked when he noticed John hadn’t moved.
“I just don’t get it, last night we had a couple of boxes ticked as to who was who and where they were. Now, we aren’t so sure. It’s not like we live in Chicago or LA.” John sat staring out the window at the cinder block wall. “How does something like this go unnoticed in Iowa?” John said, finally looking over at Dan.
“I don’t know, but we are sure going to find out.” Dan said, motioning with his head to follow.
John opened his car door, climbing out he noticed someone walking along the far wall of the parking garage towards the elevator.
“Hey Shannon, wait up!” John yelled as he saw her face.
Both men ran towards the elevator doors as she held the doors open for them.
John and Dan stepped into the elevator a little winded.
“We just got back from the coroner. We don’t think the Corbin’s had a nephew named Frank. We are thinking it was a handyman the neighbors had seen around the property before the Corbin’s moved to Florida.” John said, trying to catch his breath.
“Has anyone found out where the Corbin’s are down there?” Dan asked Shannon.
“So far, we haven’t found out anything about them being in Florida at all for the last six years. They had a cottage down there that they used to stay in when they would go down there for the winters. But the local P.D. down there said that it has remained vacant for over five years now.” Shannon O’Neal said looking from Dan to John.
“What the heck have we stumbled upon anyway?” Shannon asked.
“I don’t know but we are going to find out.” John said.
They stepped off the elevator to see Lieutenant Clark sitting at John’s desk, waiting.
John had never seen him sitting at his desk ever in the entire time with the department. This could not be good.
John, Dan, and Shannon walked over to LT Clark.
“Sir,” John said cautiously.
“I will be needing an update on what you found out during your sweep and the visit to the coroner. John, I need to see you in my office.”
“Yes Sir.” John started as LT Clark got up, headed towards his office.
John followed behind him, not liking the feeling of heading towards the principal’s office.
John stepped inside as LT shut the door behind them.
“John sit down. I’m afraid I have some news for you. Your wife called and her brother Neil has been found dead.” LT said as he took his seat behind the desk.
“What? How is that possible? We just talked to him last week!” John said.
“It looks like there was an accident. He had been at the hunting cabin and it looks like an animal attack. We won’t know for sure until the coroner report comes in. I called the local P.D. for the Boise, Idaho to get the results to us as soon as possible. You can take the rest of the day off. I have you scheduled off for the next several days. From what I gathered from Nancy, her parents are gone and it’s just the two of them? Her brother doesn’t have a significant other?” Bob asked.
Stunned, John sat there wondering how this could have happened. “Uh, no sir, that is correct. It was just Nancy and Neil. He had been married a few years ago but she moved to the west coast when they divorced. They never had any kids.” John looked at his boss wondering what had happened once again.
Slowly he got up out of the chair and headed towards the door. He was half way out the door before he realized what he was doing.
“Thank you Sir, I will let Dan know. I’m sure him and Shannon can cover things.” John said absently.
Slowly he walked towards his desk.
“Damn, how bad of an ass chewing did you get?” Dan asked as he looked at his partner.
“Uh, my brother in law died last night.” John said absently.
“What? How the hell did that happen?” Dan asked. “Hey you go on home, take care of Nancy, Shannon and I will take care of things here. I’m sorry partner. Give Nancy my love OK.?” Dan said as he walked John to the door.