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Chapter Three: The Detective

Detective Steve Parker folded his handkerchief and began to place it back in his hip pocket. He thought better of it and simply held the soiled cloth in his hand, crushing it into his fist. He had been a County detective for ten years and a patrol deputy for six years before that. Sure, it was a Podunk town in a backwoods County. Yet he had seen his share of pain, suffering and death. But nothing like this.

He was the only County detective and was summoned to the scene by the patrol deputy who had been sent there by dispatch. A call had come in from one Mr. Slater who said his wife had not come home at the expected time. He told the dispatcher that his wife had been helping prepare for a ladies luncheon at the First Baptist Church and if maybe a patrol deputy could swing by to make sure everything was okay. A patrol car happened be in the neighborhood and so the deputy cruised past the church and into the parking lot. The single automobile in the far corner caught his eye and as soon as he saw the crumpled form of Mrs. Slater lying next to the car he called for backup. By the time Parker arrived the two deputies on the scene had passed through various stages of shock. The first man had managed to compose himself enough to provide a few details. He met Parker several yards away from the car and as they walked toward the scene he began to fill him in. When they came within sight of the bloody mess at the edge of the parking lot, the patrol deputy politely looked the other way and paused his narrative while Parker vomited on the pavement.

"Has anyone called the M. E. yet?" Parker asked as he spat to one side.

"Yeah." The deputy kept his eyes trained away from the bloody crime scene. "They'll be here any minute."

"You touch anything?" It was a dumb question but something every detective in the world asked every time they arrived on a crime scene.

"Just checked to see if she and the baby were alive or dead. Both dead when I got here." The deputy's voice sounded strained. "This is too strange."

"Yeah? Disgusting for sure, but what do you mean, strange?"

"I don't know" The deputy give a quick shake of his head. "I've seen some pretty messy crime scenes and car wrecks but this is, well, I don't know, it's just strange. Her neck for instance."

Parker nodded but did not reply. He paused a moment to light a cigarette before he advanced on the gory mess before him. He stayed several paces back from the two bodies - the woman and her child - while he finished his smoke. He savored the harsh bite of the tobacco as he carefully studied the scene. Then, careful to watch where he placed each step, he moved closer and squatted down near the mangled head of the dead woman. He could feel the bile rising in his throat again but was able to fight down the urge to vomit. In a town where the worst crimes usually involved too much liquor, a few bruises and a bloody nose, Parker was unused to such gore. He struggled to compose himself and trained his eyes on the pavement beneath his feet for a few moments before looking back at the body before him. His flashlight played along her contorted face and locating what he thought might be an entry wound.

"Almost looks like she was shot" he turned to the deputy who stood several paces behind. "Shot and, maybe, took the top of the head off." He paused a moment. "I see what you mean about her neck, though - looks like, some sort of animal did that."

"Looks like." The deputy turned his head slightly. "I don't see how it could be. There's other things that tear a person up that way."

Parker keep his eyes on the deputy for a long moment and then turned back toward the body. He glanced up at the car. He stood and skirted the pool of blood surrounding the woman and her child and shown his light along the vehicle.

"In any case, I don't think that's a gun shot either" he said. "That hole in the roof of the car has some blood around it, but -" He glanced down to make sure he was staying away from the bloody pool and moved a bit closer. "No - this is not from a gunshot. There is plenty of blood but no brain matter like what you would see with a head wound made by a firearm."

At that moment several County sheriff cars pulled up along with the medical examiner in his private car. The newly arrived deputies jumped out of their rigs and strode quickly forward. The pace of each man slowed and then stopped altogether as the scene registered before them.

"Shit!"

Parker looked at the deputies a moment before speaking. "Get the lights set up. Let's get moving on this."

The new arrivals were what passed for crime scene technicians in the County. They were tasked with taking crime scene photos, dusting for finger prints and scouring the area for evidence. Once they had finished with the lighting and photography, the baton was temporarily passed to the medical examiner. The team would wait for him to complete his examination before they concluded their work.

M.E Trey Collins, may have hesitated as he moved toward the crime scene but once he began his examination he was all business. Unlike Parker he was familiar with all manner of blood and gore. The same drink that brought Parker to one domestic violence dispute after another often placed the shattered remains of drunk driving victims on Collins' examination table at the local hospital.

"Local wounds to the neck, evidence of severe pressure - abdomen eviscerated -" he leaned forward "- obviously not a gunshot wound to the head" he said as gently canted the woman's head with a gloved hand. "More like a sharpened steel shaft or something of that sort, you know, serrated from the look of it." He glanced up toward the car roof. "That would explain the hole in the car along with the absence of splatter, you know, brain matter and other debris." Collins turned the woman's head the other way as he continued. "It appears the weapon was pushed through the left orbit then used, it seems, to cut from left to right above the other eye and severing the top of he head." He withdrew his hand. "The top of the cranium along with associated matter remains affixed by skin on the left side of the head." He paused a beat, "Likely the abdominal wounds were produced by the same weapon."

"Hm." Parker shook out another cigarette. "Take quite a bit of strength to drive a metal blade through a human head, puncture a car roof and then slice her head like that. That tells us something. Right handed too, maybe." He lit the cigarette before continuing. What about the baby?"

"What about it?"

Parker could feel anger churn his belly. "What the hell do you mean? I'm asking what happened to the baby - a little boy not an it."

"Well, he was ripped out of his mother's belly." Collins shrugged and stood up. He stretched with his fists in the small of his back before continuing. "Anyway, a cursory look doesn't indicate any problems with the baby. It's just that whoever did this killed the lady and ripped a living baby out of her, leaving the child to die." He paused a moment and shrugged. "I'm guessing she was about eight months along. That baby could have lived. We'll know more once we get the two of them on the table for an autopsy."

Parker rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and wondered why the world's evil had suddenly found its way to his small town. His own wife was eight months pregnant. Maybe that's why this horrific murder was particularly troubling. Something was bugging him. It wasn't like him to puke - over anything really.

Later, the ambulance arrived and took the two bodies away; the lights brought in for the evidence team, the photographs and the medical examiner were gone as well. Only Parker and the deputy who had been first ion the scene remained. The detective stood in the dark parking lot a few feet away from the bloody pool, hands in his pockets. He was looking at the hole in the roof of the car but not really seeing it.

"Detective?" It was the deputy. "I chased a couple of reporters away before they had a chance to get near this - I figured that was the best thing to do at this point."

Parker nodded. "Won't be able to keep them off this forever, but, thanks, that's the best move for tonight."

The deputy shrugged. "Well, unless you need me to hang around until the tow truck gets here, I'm going to head back to the station and start writing up my report."

"No problem." Parker didn't bother to look his way. "I'll wait for the truck."

After the patrol car had driven away Parker continued to stare at the hole in the car roof. He switched on his flashlight and, glancing down to make sure he stayed clear of the coagulated blood, he stepped toward the car. He placed his feet carefully as he turned around with his back to the vehicle, looking toward the dark wooded area at the edge of the parking lot.

"So this is where you were standing when it happened" he said out loud. "Someone came out of those woods with - some kind of weapon - and committed bloody murder." He looked down the ground in front of him "And then they cut your baby out of you. Why? Why do such…"

He was startled out of his reverie by the sound of the arriving tow truck. Parker stood silently by as the driver winched the car onto the flatbed. He offered a silent wave as the truck pull of the parking lot. He gazed for a long while toward the darkness of the forested area that crowded the parking lot. Finally, he turned and walked to his car and made his way home.

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


THE END WAS NEAR
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