Blurb for “Murder Most Foul” a detective/mystery
When two dismembered torsos wash up on the banks of the local river in the small industrial town of Pleasant Valley, residents are horrified. Between contradicting statements, police ineptitude, lust, lies, manipulation, incest, the motorcycle gang The Devil’s Disciples, crooked cops, and a botched crime scene, everyone becomes a suspect.
The young beautiful Jackie Reeves, a registered nurse, believes the killer is a man from her past. She contacts the dangerously handsome FBI Agent Walker Harmon. An arrest is made, but Harmon and Jackie believe an innocent man is being railroaded by local cops. How far will these lover’s go to solve this heinous crime before anymore killings. Determined to find the truth, Agent Harmon and Jackie are forced to run a gauntlet of deep trouble and turmoil, which marks them for death.
1. Undaunted and short on patience, the agent stared at the fat jerk sitting before him gleefully puffing on a cigar, most likely homegrown in Detroit, Michigan, not Cuba. “I attend the Kingdom Hall on occasion,” he said.
“Well most of us like Malloy. He’s helped rid this town of criminals. He was a volunteer firefighter, and his wife cooks for the annual policeman’s ball. Hell, Malloy even coached volleyball for the kids when he wuz younger. Now a person who does that ain’t all bad,” the chief declared.
Barstow’s sudden burst of energy to safeguard his fishy friend, picqued Harmon’s interest. What had Malloy done? He decided he wasn’t leaving until he had the full, sordid story.
“So you and Malloy are pals, and he did something he couldn’t get out of, and you tried to salvage his job, but the big shots said, ‘No!’ Is that how it went?” Harmon asked.
“Yeah, Malloy did somethin’ real stupid.”
“I’m listening,” Harmon replied.
“The rumors of Malloy allowin’ his friends and family members to snoop through the cornfield, and photograph the area after the victims were removed, was true. Everyone is curious about this crime. Nothin’ this big ever happened in this town before, and the pictures were for souvenirs, you know. Then after the limbs were removed, he brought in a back hoe, and tore up the whole damned crime scene, involving Thomas.” The chief growled in disgust.
“Yeah, that was stupid,” Harmon said. “So Malloy’s unethical conduct was the reason the disciplinary board was in session?”
“Yep, they made their decision this mornin’,” the chief said. “He’s out. There was nothin’ I could do for him.”
“You’d think a cop with over twenty years’ experience would demonstrate better reasoning then destroy evidence. Unless he’s covering his own tracks,” Harmon said realizing what he was implying. “Do you believe Malloy committed the murders?”
“Now, I didn’t say that. A lot of officers were on this case, so a lot of mistakes happened. We never dealt with this type crime before. Many might have made the same mistakes Malloy did.”
Dismissing the chief’s excuses for Malloy’s incompetence, Harmon demanded an answer. He was tired of being duped by the local cops and wanted the truth, and wanted it now. Standing and placing both palms on the chief’s shiny desk, the agent looked the chief square in his squinty brown eyes and said, “Cough it up, Chief! There’s more to it then that. If there were numerous mistakes made by officers other then Malloy, why was he the only one kicked off the force? Now spit it out! What the hell did Malloy do?”
“All right, all right!” the chief whined, “Malloy screwed the dead girl three weeks before she was killed–and got caught!”
The Agent was speechless. Walking to the window overlooking Main Street, he stared vacantly. Hadn’t one of our witnesses suggested something like that? But–with the crisp wind howling, the citizens dining in the local cafés, others window shopping for Christmas or starting their shift at the town’s businesses–this seems unreal. How can such a seemingly sweet country town be so full of bad apples, savage murders, police misconduct and corruption, evidence tampering? This town is certainly no Mayberry, thought Harmon.
2. Unbeknown to the killer, his actions set off a chain of events that turned Pleasant Valley upside down, terrified some into moving elsewhere, and left everyone asking, “Why?”
Someone not living in the county, but also disturbed by the carnage was F.B.I Special Agent Walker Harmon, from Columbus. The type person capable of committing such savagery weighed heavily on the mind of the thirty-four year old bachelor who promptly contacted Sheriff Brown.
“It is imperative we meet and discuss my suspicions of Terry Jenkins,” Harmon urged.
“What the hell is goin’ on? What could you guys from Columbus have to say about Terry Jenkins?” Sheriff Brown asked angrily.
“Sheriff, I received a copy of the psychological profile performed by a State University Criminologist concerning the murders. The profile exactly matches Terry Jenkins.”
Snapping at the Federal Agent, the sheriff said. “I also received that psychological profile and, in my opinion, it fits a lot of people in this hick town, most especially Vernon James. I have my men on the case, and we’re gettin’ closer to solvin’ this crime.”
“Sheriff Brown!” Harmon beseeched. “We must join forces. Can you divulge the caliber of the bullets killing the victims?”
“No, I can not!” he said.
3. “One moment please, while I contact the case agent.”
While on hold, listening to classical music, Jackie watched for suspicious characters. She felt the killer, even it were not Terry Jenkins, must be somewhere nearby watching her every move. With this in her mind, her wait seemed interminable, but then she heard, “Special Agent Walker Harmon here. May I help you?”
Mesmerized by the deep, masculine voice on the other end of the telephone, Jackie again went mute, her call briefly forgotten.
“Hello…are you still there?” asked the sensual voice.
“Yes…I’m here,” she whispered.
“Who’s calling, please?”
“My name is Jackie Reeves and I want to report Terry Jenkins as the Pleasant Valley murderer,” she blurted out.
“Terry Jenkins?” he asked, sounding startled. “How are you acquainted with Terry Jenkins?”
“We attended the same High School, here in Pleasant Valley.”
“Does this man work at the wild animal park and petting zoo?”
“Yes. I went there regularly until they hired Terry, then I never went back. I avoid that man.”
“What made you call the F.B.I., instead of your local authorities?”
“I just talked to Sheriff Brown and he told me he and Terry are cousins. He won’t listen to anything I say.”
“Cousins? Hmm! I’m glad you telephoned, Miss Reeves.”
“Okay, but what should I do now?”
“You’ve done all you can for the moment,” he said. “Give me your address and phone number, and I’ll keep in touch.”
“Do you believe Terry may be involved?” she asked.
“I can’t answer that, Miss Reeves. But I’ll come down to Pleasant Valley as soon as I can. I will contact you when I arrive.”
“I understand,” she agreed, hanging up. Someone’s concerned, at last! And it’s someone who sounds personally interesting too!
4. Getting nowhere with the sheriff, Agent Harmon contacted Doctor Ling by telephone. The doctor informed the agent persons most often drawn to Satanism, “are individuals usually despondent and confused. Persons easily lured by the promise of free sex and drugs. Persons of broken homes or loners, don’t feel they fit into society, have few friends, and/or can’t keep relationships with the opposite sex.”
The profile stated the perpetrator would prefer driving a truck, and be a hunter, fisherman, gun enthusiast, or camper, having a varied employment history, show behavior changes after the murders, had a sexual relationship with the female victim, was careless and left something behind at the crime scene, and was either divorced or remarried.
Doing a background search on Meyer, Det. Snyder discovered Meyer was abandoned at a local Laundromat at the age of six by his mother, went from foster home to foster home, lived an unusual lifestyle, subscribed to mercenary magazines, hated his mother for deserting him and marrying a black man, but later came to respect his stepfather more than his mother.
Doctor you have described exactly the man I believe is the killer,” said Harmon, realizing the doctor’s depiction fit Terry Jenkins to a tee.
As the investigation progressed, many discovered the profile also fit Vernon James.
When the doctor’s latest theory was released to the media, Jane and Dan Frey and Randy Miller, felt Terry was the person sought, but Sheriff Brown refused any statements concerning his cousin.
5. Terry Jenkins’s employers at the animal park and petting zoo, believed he fit the shoes of the killer, and grew leery. Intentionally intoxicating him at their home, Jane and Dan Frey directed the conversation around to what, if anything, Terry knew about the homicides.
“Oh, yeah, I knew Lorena James,” Terry bragged, drunkenly. “I met her at the Fall Festival. Her and Shaun Weland got whacked with a .22 in the cornfield near the burger place.”
Alarmed by Terry’s knowledge of unpublished facts, the middle-aged couple immediately conveyed their fears to Agent Walker Harmon, who assured them he had other alerts too and would arrive soon.
The next day, Harmon drove directly to Jane’s home, locating her and Terry feeding the animals. The two of them strolled along with Terry, while Harmon questioned him about his relationship with the victims.
Terry chose his words carefully, but lied, “No, I didn’t know the dead girl until I saw her picture in the paper.”
“Now, Terry, I know you and Lorena James had a tryst. Did you ever take Lorena into the cornfield for some hanky panky?”
“No, sir! I only know Lorena’s daddy, Vernon James. We sometimes fish together, but I barely knew Lorena. Heard she got around a lot though,” he said, head down, tossing food in a trough.
6. Harmon, in a sort-of rosy haze, snapped out of it in another block and drove to the coroner who had performed the victims’ autopsies.
Inside, he greeted his fellow professional with a smile. “Thanks for speaking with me, Doctor Bruce.”
“Please come in.” Bruce removed his plastic gloves and blood- splattered apron, and washed his hands at the nearby sink while nodding Harmon onto a stool.
Seated, Harmon asked, “What was the official cause of death?”
“The worst case of butchery I’ve seen since the military,” the veteran doctor replied.
“I’ve worked with the Bureau for eleven years, and I’ve witnessed the worst mayhem a man can see. But I must understand the breed of person I’m up against.” Harmon explained.
Shaking his head, the doctor described the autopsy: “The female victim had two, .22 caliber gunshot wounds to the head. The male victim was shot six times with the same weapon in the torso area, but the actual cause of death was loss of blood due to castration.”
“Someone really wanted that boy to suffer. Anything peculiar about the conditions of the bodies?” Harmon asked.
7. Reaching his vehicle, Harmon found several bloody strands of hair stuck to his windshield. He called the sheriff.
Sheriff Brown came rapidly, with another officer. Inserting a fresh stick of gum into his big mouth, the sheriff instructed his man to remove the gore from the vehicle, then, frowning, asked, “Ain’t you out of your jurisdiction, Special Agent Harmon?”
“Not at all. Not after what has happened. But I thought it better if I didn’t announce my arrival ahead of time.” Grinning, Harmon added, “Have you seen your cousin, Terry Jenkins, lately?”
Caught off-guard by Harmon’s knowledge that Terry and he were related, Brown said, “I ain’t Terry’s keeper, and there’s no evidence linkin’ him to the murders or this practical joke.”
“Practical joke?” The sheriff’s stupid remark angered Harmon. “I suppose you call a car-bombing and a human tongue practical jokes as well! I’ll bet any money that hair matches the dead girl’s, and when I solve this case, I’m the only one who’s going to be laughing.” Jumping into his car, Harmon drove to the nearest carwash.
8. “By the way, when I scanned the sheriff’s files, I discovered a suicide, do you remember it?” Harmon asked.
“Yes! A woman came into the Sheriff’s Department and reported her husband’s suicide. Several handguns were removed from the woman’s house and tested. They were all returned to the woman, except the one used in the suicide.”
“Let me guess…a .22 caliber handgun?” Harmon said.
Mocks nodded. “And it disappeared from the evidence room.”
“Did you know Terry Jenkins was a jail trustee?” Harmon asked.
“Yes! But all the documentation is missing. I checked, before I quit. Terry also applied for a custodian job, but was not hired.”
“And what is available to the trustee?”
“Keys to the property room, the gun lockers, the jail, and access to the Law Enforcement Computer…and all its files and records.”
“So a trustee can expunge his own criminal record?”
“Yes. One can do anything with that computer, if he knows how.”
“What’s your opinion of David Weland?” Harmon asked.
“Nuttier then a fruitcake.”
“David told police he had a good relationship with his son, Shaun. What do you think?” Harmon asked.
“There was a lot of animosity between him and Shaun. They were jealous of one another…and Lorena.”
“You mean rivalry?” Harmon said, noticing Sheriff Brown’s cruiser easing up beside them.
Maneuvering his black and gold recklessly
9. Harmon, getting deeper into the local act, contacted Deputy Michael Downs, who found the victim’s limbs. Years earlier, Downs had busted Terry for growing marijuana.
Evicted by his landlord, Terry lived in his vehicle as he did at the animal zoo.
Downs enhanced his undercover appearance by dressing as a hobo. Rummaging trashcans for scraps, he gave a convincing performance.
At midnight, the two professionals met in an abandoned cemetery, southeast of Pleasant Valley. Here, once an area of brick manufacturers, they were surrounded by distinctive buildings, made of a tan, “decorative and functional” brick that professors from Ohio University dubbed “sewer-pipe-Gothic.”
Harmon turned onto the narrow graveled, uphill road, reached the top and exited his vehicle. Surveying the area, he soon spotted the iron fence surrounding the grave of “Victoria,” a wild, black-haired young woman accused of witchcraft in 1798. Legend said she was bound and gagged by the villagers, tied to a wooden chair, and repeatedly dunked.
10. “I love a good fight.” Harmon stood, and helped Jackie by moving her chair back. “I’d better walk you to your car.”
Once Jackie rose from her seat, Harmon helped with her jacket. “A friend dropped me. Someone let the air out of my tires.”
“Not another incident! I’m sorry, Jackie. Being a do-gooder has its drawbacks. Let me drive you home.”
After opening the car door for his guest, they headed for Jackie’s place. “Maybe you can show me the sights sometime,” he said turning on the radio ever so softly. “I’ve heard this area has great waterfalls and hiking trails.”
“The hills are great anytime of the year.” She smiled warmly.
“In the meantime, I’m going to bring you an inhaler…just in case you run into unexpected allergens.”
Minutes later, upon entering Jackie’s driveway, they found her front door kicked in and the house ransacked.
“Do you think Terry did this?” she asked, trembling, while he phoned the police and sheriff’s offices.
“Either Jenkins or someone who knows you contacted me” He scowled at the house and put his arm around her shaking shoulders.
“We’ll get the person who did this, Jackie, I promise. But I’m also going to add an emergency pager to the inhaler, so you can contact me at once, wherever I am. I want you to be safe, so I’m also moving you to The Inn, where I stay, until this case is solved.”
Jackie stayed the remainder of the investigation in Harmon’s double-story cabin.
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