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Chapter Thirteen: The Briefing

Detective Steve Parker sat slumped in a chair in at the County court house conference room waiting for a Sheriff's briefing. He had slept very little for several nights. A few days ago, Friday night the week before, the first gruesome murder had taken place. He had finished up his preliminary investigation and written his report but instead of grabbing a few hours of sleep he had been called to the hospital. That day, Saturday, he had followed up on several tips, none of them of any value. Then Saturday night or actually in the early morning hours of Sunday another horrible murder had been committed. Parker had been on the run the entire time.

The second murder victim, Tammi Stone, had been discovered by the owner of "The Office" bar. He had left Mrs. Stone, an employee, to close up shop at quitting time and had only gone back to the bar because he had forgotten his cell phone. It was when he pulled into the back alley parking lot that he discovered the body of the young woman. Alongside of her he found her dead baby boy.

Parker had arrived even before a patrol deputy and so had been able to examine the crime scene in isolation for several minutes. Once again he found it hard to believe that any human being could complete such a brutal act – the fact that it had happened two nights running, Parker knew, meant the small town and County he lived in would soon be in full panic mode.

Now, on this Monday morning, Sheriff Cliff MacDonald had called a special briefing and had told Parker he expected him to provide something to "the troops" to help them apprehend this butcher. The only problem was, Parker didn't have anything for the troops. He didn't have anything for himself. At first he thought there might be a connection with the two murders that had happened up state a few weeks ago but there was clearly no connection. In the first case a man had shot his wife upon discovering her in bed with another man. He had then turned the gun on himself. No suspects there. In the second case, a man and his girlfriend were at a bar drinking themselves drunk when an argument broke out. The boyfriend got a little carried away and managed to kill his date by throwing her through the plate glass window at the front of the bar, her jugular vein severed in the event. The boyfriend was in jail so he couldn't have had anything to do with the two murders Parker was investigating.

Parker knew the sheriff was demanding action or a least a plan of action so the citizens of the County might rest assured their sheriff was on the job. There was a press conference scheduled for later in the morning and Sheriff MacDonald needed to be able to tell the press that he and his men were hot on the trail of this despicable killer. MacDonald had just won reelection but there was no doubt in his mind that if this serial killer were not caught he would not be reelected - and very probably would face a recall. He didn't want that to happen so Detective Steve Parker, the only detective working for the County, would either produce or he would go down with MacDonald.

Parker opened the Manila file that lay on the table in front of him, He glanced over the notes he had accumulated so far in on the case and silently cursed the famine of facts he faced in the two cases. The only interesting bit of evidence he had acquired had been the strange indentations he found in the pavement at both murder sites. The night of the first murder he hadn't noticed the pock marks at the edge of the blood pool. It was only after he had noticed the gouges in the asphalt at the site of the second murder that he had gone back to the first and discovered the same strange pattern. He lay the two photographs side-by-side on the table. Not much to go on, he thought. But I suppose cases have been cracked with less evidence – just not by me.

He was startled from his thoughts by the sound of the sheriff's deputies filing into the conference room. Parker had been sitting in the room alone for over an hour and had not noticed the passage of time. He felt a stab of fear as he realized he had not really prepared any kind of presentation. He looked at the photographs again before stuffing them inside the Manila envelope and leaned back in his chair.

After several minutes Sheriff MacDonald walked in to stand behind the podium. The conversation in the room quickly dwindled to nothing as MacDonald cleared his throat for attention.

"As you can probably guess, this briefing will not be like a usual meeting." The Sheriff pulled at his left ear, a nervous gesture that surfaced when he was under tremendous pressure. "I don't need to remind you" the sheriff continued "that our fair town and County have suffered a couple of horrible events." He paused while a murmur of agreement rippled through the assembled deputies and staff. "I also don't need to remind you that we have got to find this monster and bring him in." Again the tug at his ear. "Now, rather than my taking more time to state the obvious I've asked Detective Steve Parker to bring us all up to speed on this. I realize the rest of you are patrol deputies and don't spend much time in investigation but this is a special situation. I think Steve will agree with me when I say that every single one of us must be actively pursuing an investigation on these two murders. With that," MacDonald nodded toward Parker, "I'm going to turn this briefing over to Steve and let him tell you what we know about all of this so far."

Parker closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed his temples with a thumb and index finger before rising from his chair. He walked quickly to the front and laid his manila envelope on the podium.

"Thank you sheriff."

He stood behind the podium, arms extended and gripping the edge of the lecture as if bracing himself in a high wind.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the fact of the matter is, we have almost nothing to go on." He let his eyes wander over the grim faces staring back at him before continuing. "I've been over every square inch of this, both situations, along with our crime scene investigation unit and we have found almost nothing." He glanced at the array of photos in front of him and then back at the men and women in the room. "I've assembled a Power Point to show you the photos and discuss their significance" he jabbed his thumb at the remote to start the presentation "and as you can see from the victim photos and the crime scene photos, we seem to be dealing with someone using a primitive weapon." He glanced down at the photos before continuing. "Take a look at photo number eight and number thirty two." He looked toward the projection screen. "In the first murder we discovered a puncture hole in the roof of the car. It seems pretty clear it was made by some sort of hard material with a serrated edge. This is confirmed by the nature of the wounds to both victims as well as the damage to the car in photo number thirty two where you see that something the diameter of your index finger punctured the safety glass in the passenger side front door."

Parker paused a moment, allowing the images to sink in.. He could hear gasps and exclamations as the patrol deputies viewed the victim photographs. He felt a wave of fatigue wash over him as he prepared to continue with this presentation. He was embarrassed by how little he really had to say.

"I'm sorry there isn't more for us to go on at this point. We have no witnesses, we have no DNA, fiber samples, fingerprints or anything else," Parker paused for emphasis, "In fact there are really only two leads right now. First, we need to be on the lookout for these two men." He clicked the remote and two police sketches appeared on the overhead screen. "These two men - and you should all have copies to take with you today - may have a connection to the murders. At this point they are just 'persons of interest' who we would like to talk to. If you see these guys, bring 'em in."

Parker waited a moment before continuing. "The other thing I want to show you is this." He clicked the remote. "Take a look at photos forty six and forty seven." He waited a few moments to make sure every eye was on the screen. "Those two photos are selected from several taken of a strange pattern of indentations found at both murder sites. Photo forty seven is at the first murder scene and number forty six shows the same pattern at the second murder scene." He shrugged elaborately before continuing. "The fact is I don't really know what those marks represent. If I were to give you an of the cuff interpretation," again the shrug, "I would say those are claw marks." He waited while the expected reaction rose and fell from the crowd. "I realize this sounds strange but I have looked at these things from every angle, as have our crime scene investigators, and the shape and depth of these indentations represent the sort of thing you would expect from the claws of a large predatory animal."

"Parker," one of the longtime patrol deputies began to speak, ridicule coloring his tone, "are you suggesting we should be on the lookout for a mythological bloodthirsty monster or something?"

Detective Parker waited until the murmurs of agreement had died away before answering. "Pete, I'm not telling you what to look for at all. I'm only telling you what I found. If you disagree with my interpretation, well, that's up to you but unless you can come up with something better," Parker felt anger rapidly rising in his chest, "I suggest you shut the hell up."

The patrol deputy drew a breath and began to rise from his chair in order to respond but was given no chance as Parker continued.

"Now I've got a job to do - as do all of you" he said in a loud voice. "I'll do anything I can to help you and I expect the same from everyone in this room." He glanced at the sheriff. "Now, unless there's something else we need to to hear, I'll be on my way," he scooped the photos and notes together and gripped them tightly as he began to walk out of the room, "because I intend to bring this bastard down."

Chapter One: Slaughter In The Churchyard
Chapter Two: The Guardians
Chapter Three: The Detective
Chapter Four: Checking Out The Church
Chapter Five: Lunch With Connie
Chapter Six: Back To The Scene Of The Slaughter
Chapter Seven: Suspects In View
Chapter Eight: An Unbelievable Story
Chapter Nine: The Suspects Disappear
Chapter Ten: A Plan Of Action
Chapter Eleven: Lily's Help
Chapter Twelve: Another Victim
Chapter Thirteen: The Briefing
Chapter Fourteen: Attack On A Guardian
Chapter Fifteen: The Fury Of The Fiend

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