Sins of the Father Chapter 20

Elijah was coming back from the bathroom when he heard voices coming from the conference room. Deputy Rosie hadn’t let him look in the conference room earlier. He stopped just outside of the door. A tall man with graying hair was yelling at the Sheriff. The Sheriff looked really pissed. When the man stormed out of the conference room, Elijah scuttled back to the Sheriff’s office before the deputy noticed he was missing or the Sheriff saw him listening at the door. 

Six murders? There had been five murders? He knew about the first lady at the flower shop. He’d had to sit by her body. He’d sat by her until he couldn’t stand to look at her anymore. Then he had drawn the tarp over her body. It had been hard. The tarp was thick and heavy and he’d had to grab it tightly between his thumbs and the sides of his fingers. He told himself that he was doing it for her, to give her peace from prying eyes, but the truth was he couldn’t stand to look at her, and face what he had done. What was his father doing? Why hadn’t he left town? He always left town after he gave into his impulses, but this time he had stayed in town and continued to kill. He never killed this often. It had only been a few days. Had he killed a person a day? He should have known that his father would never let him go. Now, Elijah was responsible for those people his father had killed. He was always responsible. Even though his father did the actual act, Elijah didn’t do anything to stop him. Now, Drake was missing as well. He was probably dead, too. His father never kept anyone alive. He’d kidnapped Drake to punish Elijah. Elijah would have to live with the knowledge that he had gotten Drake killed. If he had done as his father told him in the beginning, those other people would be alive. He wouldn’t be sitting here playing a stupid video game. He wanted to throw the video game at the wall, but he didn’t want the deputy to know how he was feeling.

He pushed his fists into the pockets of the brand new hoodie Drake had picked out for him. He looked at his new shoes. They were expensive and they would last a long time. He had two other pairs back at the Sheriff’s house. He’d never owned more than one pair of shoes at a time in his life. He’d never needed more than he could wear or carry. If his father had extra money, they spent it on food or a place to stay. The first thing Drake did was buy stuff for Elijah to make him happy. He didn’t need three pairs of shoes or more than one hoodie, but Drake wanted to make sure he had everything he needed. He didn’t need the video game, but Drake thought having one would make him happy. No one had ever cared if he were happy, or not. Maybe, his mother had, but his memories of her were fuzzy. He remembered that she had died, but how she died was a mystery to him. When he tried to remember that part of his life, his brain seemed to shut down. He began to sweat and tremble, and he found himself shying away from really remembering her. His father always kept him safe, but he never cared if he were happy or not. Drake was the first person to care about how Elijah felt about things. He had to help him.

There had to be something he could do. Rosie was sitting in a chair near the Sheriff’s desk. She was reading a magazine, and wasn’t paying much attention to him. Maybe, he could slip out. He could figure out a way to get to his father. He could convince him to leave. If Drake were alive, he would convince him to let Drake go. Then, they would leave town together, and continue traveling like they always had. As he prepared himself to sneak out of the office, he realized that he had no idea where his father was. It wasn’t like he could call him. What could he do? Wander around town until his father happened to come by? Someone would see him and probably report him to the Sheriff long before that. He realized there was absolutely nothing he could do.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 19

It was late afternoon. Surely, the police had found his latest scene by now. He’d done everything but call in the directions to the place. Powering on the burner phone he had purchased on his last visit to Grand Junction, he dialed the Sheriff’s cell number. He wanted to make sure he dealt with her directly, and that she understood what was at stake. She had to know that he wouldn’t stop until he had his boy back. She picked up the call after the first ring. She was anxious and waiting right by her phone. He smiled. That was good. She was getting to ready to bargain with him.

“Sheriff Rhodes.”

“Hello, Sheriff. Did you get my message?”

He could hear her take a deep breath on the other end of the line. Her breath shook a little as if she were trying to calm herself. That was good. She was close to losing it.

“I’ve still got your man, Sheriff, and he’s not looking too good.”

Drake, in fact, was asleep on the couch. He was pale and bruised, but he was holding up. He was a pussy, but his will to survive was strong.

“If you hurt him, I swear I’ll…”

“We both know you won’t do shit. You do what I say and you’ll have your man back safe.”

He could have said “safe and sound” but he was pretty sure that Drake was no longer sound. He was having a hard time dealing with what he had done. The man supposed he was having a hard time with his conscience. While Drake had killed that couple, he was weak inside. He didn’t have the strength of character to deal with his choices. He didn’t think that Drake would ever be the same person again. He’d wanted the Sheriff to pay for taking his boy, and now she’d pay every day of her life—when she looked at her man and saw what he was truly capable of.

“I’m going to give you some directions. You’re going to meet me at midnight. You’re going to bring my boy with you but no one else. If I think that you have anyone else with you, I’ll kill your man and come take my boy anyway. This way, we both get what we want.”

He proceeded to give the Sheriff the directions. She was repeating them, so he knew she was relaying them to someone else. That was fine as long as she was alone when the time came. If she wasn’t, he’d break Drake’s neck and go after his boy himself. He’d kill everyone in the town until he had him back. And he’d start with the Sheriff.

When he hung up, Drake was awake and staring at him.

“Why are you doing this?” Drake asked.

“She took my boy. I want him back.”

“Why?”

“Why? Are you stupid or something? He’s mine. I’m not leaving him in this hellhole. He stays with me.”

“So you can turn him into a killer, like you did me?”

Anger lanced through him. He slammed his fist onto the table. Drake jumped at the sudden crack. He charged Drake and hauled him off the couch. Drake flinched away from his raised fist.

“Listen to me, asshole. My boy ain’t a killer. He never will be. I keep him out of my business, and I made sure he’d never do what I do.”

He wanted to kill Drake so badly, his fist began to tremble. He stared into Drake’s pretty-boy blue eyes. He didn’t really need Drake. He could kill him now and leave. He could meet the Sheriff alone and take his boy back. No exchange. He’d kill the Sheriff and save his boy. Drake had begun to tear up. Fuckin’ pussy.

He shoved Drake back onto the couch, but the prick wouldn’t shut up.

“How did you make sure?”

He drew ragged breaths in to calm himself. He couldn’t afford to lose control now. He’d made a deal and he was going to stand by his word. Wiping the sweat off his head, he turned to Drake.

“What?”

“How did you make sure that Elijah wouldn’t….do what you do.”

He bristled at Drake using his boy’s name.

“I made sure he couldn’t use his hands.”

Drake began to look a little ill. “His hands?”

The man sat down. They had a couple hours until it was time to go. If Drake wanted a chat, they’d have a little chat. Maybe, it would keep him from killing him.

“The men in my family have a sickness. My father had it. I have it. For all I know, my granddad had it, too, but I never met him. I know that Elijah probably has it. My dad started taking me on what he called his trips when I was about Elijah’s age. My dad worked a lot, so I didn’t see him very often. I looked forward to those trips. Just him and me. No women around to interfere. We’d go into the city, and find a whore. Dad would take us to a cheap motel room, the kind that didn’t ask too many questions and rented their rooms by the hour. He’d get the whore nice and relaxed and then he’d finally relax himself. He’d give in and put the woman out of her misery. That’s what he used to say. That he was putting her out of her misery. She wouldn’t have to fuck strange men for money, or worry about where her next fix came from.”

“So he was an altruist?”

The man snorted. “Fuck no, he wasn’t no altruist. He was a black-hearted killer. He couldn’t look what he was in the face, so he had to make up a reason to kill that would help him live with himself.”

Drake looked surprised.

“What? You think just because I kill, I don’t know fancy words, like altruist? When my dad was working, I had a lot of time to myself. I liked to read. I would steal books from the library, and take them home with me. I’ve probably read more than you. Ever read The Gift of Fear? That book taught me how to get people to trust me, and how to alleviate their natural-born fears. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Stephen King. Thomas Harris. I learned a lot from reading.

“Killing isn’t about helping people. It’s about control—absolute control. When I walk down the street, I choose who will survive and who won’t. Didn’t you feel it? Back at that cabin. I gave you the power and you took it. You held that couple’s lives in your hands. You held my life in your hands. You held your life in your hands. Do you remember what that felt like?”

Drake shook his head, clasping his hands between his knees. He began to rock like that.

“It didn’t feel like that at the time. I didn’t feel like I had any choice.”

“We always have a choice. Your mind just tricked you. Our will to survive is so strong our minds will make us think we don’t have a choice, when we actually do. You could have turned the knife on me. You could have turned it on yourself. You made a choice”

He could see Drake begin to tremble. That was what was wrong with society. People couldn’t live with their choices. For a moment, he had admired Drake. He had acted out of self-preservation. He had done what he needed to do to survive. What made him a pussy was his fuckin’ conscience. Drake had to believe he was a good person, but sometimes to survive you needed to be bad.

Drake cleared his throat.

“What does that have to do with Elijah?”

There was that name again. If Drake knew the boy’s name, it meant that he had trusted him enough to talk. When he got him back, he’d have to remind him of the value of silence.

“My boy is just like me, and my father before me.”

Drake was shaking his head.

“He is, but I decided when he was born, that I’d never let that side of him come out. I kept him away from the family business, as you might call it. He never goes with me on a kill, and when he was old enough to realize what I was doing, I made sure he could never kill.”

“How did you do that?”

“I broke his hands.”

Drake looked at him, stunned.

“You probably think I’m a monster, but I’m like any other man who is trying to protect his boy. I did it for his own good. He’ll never be able to wrap his hands around another person’s throat. He’ll never be able to hold a knife or a gun. I read a book once about a little girl in China. She had a feet bound to make her more attractive to a Chinese husband. For some reason, that idea stayed with me. I realized I could do the same sort of thing to my son, but with his hands. He’ll never use those hands to kill.”

“He’ll never use them for anything.”

“That’s the price he has to pay.”

They sat in silence for a while. He was feeling better, calmer. He didn’t have the urge to twist Drake’s head off his neck anymore. He wondered where his boywas now. Probably, with the Sheriff. Was she getting him ready? He hoped the boy didn’t get used to the comforts of having a home. That was not the life that was meant for him. The boy was tough like he was. He knew how to survive. If he had to talk to get by with the Sheriff and her fancy man, then that was what he had to do.

“C’mon. We have to get ready.”

He gestured to the kitchen. Drake got off the couch and went into the kitchen ahead of him. Drake might be broken, but the man knew he couldn’t trust him. He had Drake pack up what food there was in the house into his pack. There were quite a few canned goods. He had Drake put the cans into his pack. He added some spoons and a can opener to the cans, and zipped up the pack. It was heavy, but he was used to carrying a heavy load.

“You got any cash on you?”

Drake looked surprised and slapped his back pocket. The man smirked. He hadn’t bothered with Drake’s wallet. He wasn’t a thief, except when he had to be, but his cash was gone, even what he took from the lady at the flower shop. Drake pulled out a couple of hundreds and some twenties, and handed them over.

“Thanks. I’ll consider this a gift.”

Drake nodded.

“Let’s get moving. You don’t want to keep your lady waiting.”

They left the cabin and headed out to the battered Jeep. He was going to park it in the woods, and hope he and the boy could to it in time. He knew that the Sheriff wasn’t going to come alone, but he was prepared for that. The place he’d found for the exchange was dark. Anyone she brought with her would need flashlights to get to the spot. He’d be able to see the headlights of the cars coming down the track leading to the small clearing he had chosen. It wasn’t perfect. There was high ground around the clearing, but he hoped that the dark would obscure him. He’d keep Drake close until the last minute. As soon as he had the boy, he’d take off running to the Jeep and get as far as he could, before they had to abandon it.

He opened the passenger side for Drake.

“You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?” he asked Drake as he climbed into the Jeep. Drake shook his head.

“Good. We’re almost done. Don’t try to play the hero now. You don’t have it in you.”

He slammed the door, and headed around to the driver’s side. Looking at Drake’s miserable face, he said, “Cheer up. You’re going to be back with your lady before you know it.”

Sins of the Father: Chapter 18

When ATT called with the location of Drake’s phone, she and Hal were ready to go. She had called the School Resource Officer, Rosie, to sit with Elijah. Rosie had the most experience and training working with children, and she hadn’t been on duty the night Andie was killed. She hoped she could watch Elijah without intimidating him like some of the other deputies might. She knew that she had made the right decision when Rosie showed up with dinner for Elijah.

“Thanks, Rosie. All he’s had since lunch are snack foods.”

“That’s okay, Sheriff. I thought he might be hungry, and you’ve got a lot to handle right now.”

Madison nodded and turned away. Her eyes threatened to fill up with tears, but she had to stay strong, for Drake and Elijah. Hal appeared from the weapons room with two high-powered rifles.

“Are you ready to go?” Madison nodded. She stepped into the office to say good-bye to Elijah and then she and Hal headed to her SUV. Ross and James, the other two deputies she had called in to duty were already waiting in Hal’s SUV. Hal held out his hands for the keys to her SUV. Normally, she would have balked. She could drive as well as any of the deputies, but Hal knew the area better than she did. He probably knew right where they were going. She didn’t want to lose time by having to follow directions. Hal pulled out of her parking space and sped out of town. The other deputies were behind them. Hal turned on his lights and headed down K Road. As they passed a driveway, Hal pointed it out to Madison.

“That’s the other murder scene. Kurt just called me before we left. They’re wrapping up the scene, they’ll be with us as soon as the coroner loads the body.”

“What about the other scene?” 

“Harold is still there with two other deputies. He’s waiting on the coroner. Mesa County had to send someone else for that body.”

In a few minutes, they pulled up to the road that led to the cabin where they had located Drake’s phone. Hal killed the lights as did the deputies behind them. He drove slowly on the rutted gravel road. Scrub brush and wild grass surrounded the road.

“There’s no cover. If they’re in there, they’re going to see us coming.”

“I know Hal. We’ll just have to take our chances.”

The cabin stood in a clearing at the end of the road. The cabin was surrounded by several large trees. Drake’s Pacifica stood in front of the cabin. The Sheriff Department SUV’s pulled up side by side, but no one got out of the cars. Hal used the speaker on Madison’s SUV to call out to the cabin.

“This is the Fruita Sheriff’s Department. Any one in the cabin come out now.”

They waited a few minutes and then Hal made the announcement again. Madison couldn’t stand it any more.

“I’m going in, Hal.”

Hal nodded. As he turned off the ignition and slid the keys into his pocket, Madison pulled her gun out and clicked the safety off. She made sure that she had a round already in the chamber. Hal did the same. Using Drake’s SUV as cover, Madison and Hal slowly approached the cabin. The other two deputies were armed with high-powered rifles and came in behind them. They weren’t SWAT trained, but they were both good, steady men. They covered Hal and Madison as they approached the cabin. Nothing moved at the front window. When Madison approached the door, she could see through the peeling wooden screen that the front door was open. Slowly, she opened the screen door and held it with her foot while she pointed her weapon through the doorway. Stepping into the cabin, she stopped, stunned by what she saw. Dropping her arms but still holding her weapon, she called to Hal. The living room is clear. Hal came in behind her. He only paused a moment before the grisly scene in the living room and proceeded to clear the kitchen and the other rooms down the hallway leading form the living room. When he finished clearing the rest of the cabin, he returned to the living room.

Madison stood in the middle of the room. Another message was scrawled on the wall in blood: You’re wasting your time.

Hal was already on the phone calling for the coroner. The other deputies brought in their forensics kit and began processing the scene. Madison knew she should help, but she stood frozen to the spot. She had no way of contacting the suspect, and no idea where he and Drake were. She hoped that Drake were alive, but if the suspect had realized that she wasn’t going to bargain with him, he may have already killed Drake. Finally, she tore her eyes away from the bloody message, and stepped out of the cabin. She needed to follow protocol like anyone else. She went to her SUV and pulled booties and gloves out of her Forensics kit. The deputies already had a kit in the cabin, so she left hers where it was. At the door of the cabin, she covered her boots with the booties and slid the gloves onto her hands.

When she stepped into the crime scene, Hal was on the phone ordering another coroner. How many coroners did they have working on this case now? Three? It was getting out of hand. She knew that the town wouldn’t stay quiet much longer about the continuing murders, and she was powerless to stop it. They didn’t have a clear description of the suspect, nor did they know what car he and Drake were now using to travel. They could be anywhere. The one thing she knew for sure, however, was that they were still in the area. She now knew that the killer wouldn’t leave until he got what he wanted—Elijah. And there was no way she was going to let him near the boy. She hoped Drake would forgive her for not putting him first, as usual. His last words drifted into her mind: Don’t worry about me, just take care of… She assumed he meant that she should take care of Elijah, and that’s what she intended to do.

She stepped closer to the bodies. They were an older couple, maybe in their early seventies. They were tied to chairs. She wondered why the suspect had suddenly changed his MO. He had strangled both Andie and Mandy, now he was using a knife to stab people. There were two clean slices across both their throats. Their faces were contorted. He didn’t know who he had killed first, but it was obvious he had made the other one watch the murder. She didn’t understand what type of person could do this. How could someone be so evil that they would make people suffer so?

It took several hours to process the crime scene, because of all the blood evidence. After the coroner came and took the body, Madison and her deputies secured the crime scene. As the other deputies left the scene to file their reports and return to patrolling the area, Hal and she sat in silence.

“What do you want to do now?” he asked softly.

Madison didn’t know what to do. Until the suspect called them, there was nothing for them to do. She had to laugh at herself. She thought she was going to get the upper hand over him and gain control of the situation, but she was beginning to realize that she had never had control. The killer had been making the rules of his little game from the start. All she could do was try to figure out his next move.

When they returned to the Sheriff’s department, several news vans were in front of the Sheriff’s department. She was surprised that it had taken them this long to get a whiff of the story. She noticed a couple of vans from stations in Denver. Now, that there had been multiple murders, the rest of Colorado was starting to take an interest in their sleepy little town. She couldn’t give an impromptu press conference. She had to prepare a statement. When Hal saw the vans, he turned down the alley and parked at the back of the station. She and Hal rushed into the station before the reporters could realize where they had gone.

Rita met her at the back door.

“The mayor is waiting for you in the conference room.”

“What?”

“He’s been here for a while. I think he’s getting impatient.”

That was all they needed. She hurried to the conference room to find the mayor examining the information written on the whiteboard. Mayor Rodriguez was a tall man with salt and pepper hair and piercing brown eyes. He turned and pinned her with an angry glare.

“We have a serial killer roaming our town, and I had to hear it from the news.”

“It’s not department protocol to alert you when we have a crime. My deputies and I are working the case.”

“Wouldn’t that be cases, plural, Sheriff? How many murders have there been?”

“Six, but we believe they’ve all been commited by the same perpetrator.”

The mayor paled. “Six? There have been six murders? Have you called in State Patrol to help you with the case?”

“No. The State Patrol doesn’t have jurisdiction over these cases. We’re handling it. My men have been trained in evidence collection and scene preservation. We’re more than capable of solving this case.”

“I disagree with you, Sheriff. You have a total of fifteen deputies and six cases to work. You don’t have the manpower. I want you to contact the State Patrol and get some additional men here now.”

“If I feel the additional men are needed, I will..”

The mayor cut her off. “I wasn’t making a suggestion. I appointed you as Sheriff and you’re damn well going to do what I say. Call the State Patrol in now or I’ll do it for you.”

The mayor stomped out of the office. When he stepped outside, he was besieged by reporters. Madison sent Hal out to run interference for him. When Hal returned after fending off the mob of reporters himself, he headed back to the conference room.

“Madison, I think he’s right.”

“Not you, too, Hal.”

“Look, I’m not questioning your ability as Sheriff, but on top of the murders, we have a kidnapping case, and the victim is your husband. You’re too close to the case. It’s going to compromise your ability to lead the investigation.”

She turned on Hal and snapped, “How am I compromised? Have I deviated from procedure in any way? Have I bargained with the suspect? I’ve followed procedure from the start. I tried to recuse myself from the case, but it’s gotten too big. We need every man available to handle this.”

“That’s what I’m saying. We don’t have enough people to investigate the cases and keep the town safe. We need help searching the back roads. We need help with Drake’s kidnapping. We need to call State Patrol and CBI. If you weren’t personally involved in these cases, I think you would have already called for back-up.”

Madison had to consider Hal’s words. Should she have called the State Patrol? Her men were pushed to the limit. They couldn’t work back-to-back shifts indefinitely. Also, CBI often handled kidnappings. They had the ability to issue statewide alerts. She knew, though, that once the CBI took over Drake’s case, she would have no control. The killer would realize that his game was over and kill Drake. She couldn’t let that happen. She needed to get Drake back and stop the killer before he did any more harm.

“Please, Hal, give me a little more time.”

Hal sighed.

“It’s not me you have to worry about, Madison. I think you’ve run out of time, but I’ll help you any way I can.”

Sins of the Father: Chapter 17

Drake didn’t recognize the man who stared back at him from the mirror. His eye was bruised and swollen from the man’s fists, and the back of his head ached. His skin was pale and he felt cold and clammy. He probably had a concussion. Slowly, he worked the soap back and forth over his hands and watched the bloody suds pool at the bottom of the sink. Someone else’s blood. He was washing someone else’s blood off his hands. He’d always thought that when push came to shove, he would be a brave man, that he would be able to sacrifice his life to save someone else, but he had learned that wasn’t the case. When that bastard had pointed his knife in his hand, his insides turned to jelly and he had pissed his pants, and then he had done whatever the man told him to do.

The cabin was out in the woods, far from the highway and from neighbors. No one had heard the old couple scream as they’d been tormented in their last few minutes alive. And they hadn’t been screaming at the monster who held him captive, they had been screaming at him as he drew the sharp hunting knife the monster had given him first across the poor old lady’s neck and then across the screaming old man’s neck. The knife had slid across their skin as if he were cutting silk and, then blood had sprayed across his face. Their screams cut short by his knife, their lives trickled away with the rivers of blood that leaked from the slits in their throats.

Going numb, he had slipped to his knees the knife clutched limply in his right hand. As the monster gently removed the knife from his hand, he realized belatedly that the monster had given him a lethal weapon, and instead of turning it on the monster or, even himself, he had meekly cut the throats of the innocent people before him. Now, he stood in the bathroom preparing to take a shower and wash the incriminating blood away. Using the old couple’s battered old Jeep, the monster had driven further into the wood. They had found this cabin which was deserted. Perhaps, it was someone’s hunting cabin. Drake breathed a sigh of release when the monster forced the door open and they found the cabin empty. Drake couldn’t watch another person die.

Making the water as hot as he could stand, he stepped into the shower and let the hot water stream down his face and body. The heat of the water made the wound on his head sting and revealed scrapes and cuts he didn’t know he had. He grabbed the old piece of soap from the soap dish in the shower and scrubbed his hair and face. He scrubbed until the water ran cold, and then stepped out of the shower. He grabbed an old ratty towel hanging on the towel rack and hastily dried himself off. He hated to put on the clothes the monster had stolen, but he had no choice. The monster had taken his clothes. Sniffling, Drake pulled on the dead old man’s faded blue jeans and fraying sweater.

Even if he managed to get out of this alive, he would have to face the consequences of what he had done. He had made a conscious choice—his life or the old couples. He had chosen his own life. He jumped when the monster pounded on the bathroom door.

“You’ve been in there long enough.”

Quickly, he opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom. Drake was a tall man, but the monster met him eye to eye. He also had a good 50 pounds on Drake, but he wasn’t fat. He was hard with muscle. His pecs stretched out the black t-shirt he wore and Drake had felt the impact of those bulging biceps. His eyes were so dark they were almost black. And they were cold, dead. He’d never seen such old eyes in another human being. He braced himself for another blow, but the monster just motioned towards the kitchen.

“Dinner’s on the table.”

The last thing Drake wanted to was eat, but he made himself go into the small kitchen and sit at the battered wooden kitchen table. The monster had found some canned stew. Drake picked at the gelatinous mass thinking of the homemade stew he liked to make for Madison in the winter. The monster saw him picking at his food.

“You better eat.”

Drake began eating the tasteless stew. He felt like spewing it all over the monster’s face, but he continued to choke it down. Even now, when he’d lost everything, he was afraid to act, afraid of the pain the monster could inflict, both physical and emotional.

He watched Drake carefully. When he’d handed Drake the hunting knife, he’d just wanted to see what kind of man he was dealing with. He was ready for Drake to turn the knife on him. He wasn’t nervous. He knew how to defend himself and how to disarm an assailant. He’d expected Drake to at least bargain with him, but Drake had calmly slit the old couple’s throats. For a moment, he had dropped his guard. If Drake had turned on him then, he would have had the upper hand, but he didn’t turn on him. Drake had dropped to his knees. He had been able to take the knife from Drake. He had placed the bloody knife and Drake’s bloody clothes in a Ziploc bag he had found in the kitchen here. He packaged them up carefully like the police would. His own prints were on the knife as well, but he didn’t worry about that. He never worried about leaving evidence behind, because his evidence couldn’t be tracked. He was a ghost.

When they finished eating, he had Drake wash up the dishes while he went to examine the gun he had lifted from the old guy. As a rule, he didn’t like weapons, but he needed a little more insurance than his own fists could offer. The gun was clean, well cared for, a double action pistol. It wasn’t as good as what the police probably carried, but it would do for his purposes. He needed it to keep Drake in line and to show the Sheriff that he meant business. When he was satisfied that the gun worked well, he slid it into the back of his jeans, and covered it with the tail of his shirt. He picked up the knife and began polishing it with a rag.

When Drake entered the living room, he motioned to him with the knife to sit on the brown plaid couch under the window. He could tell Drake was at the end of his stamina. He needed rest. He didn’t have the stamina or the strength of character to withstand what he had gone through. He knew Drake like men well. Drake was as tall as he was, but not strong. While he looked like he hit the gym every now and then, he wasn’t muscular and he wasn’t strong. He was one of those men who liked the appearance of being strong, but he lacked inner strength.

He watched Drake slowly begin to doze off on the couch. He let him sleep. He would need his energy for what was to come. It wouldn’t be long until the Sheriff followed the signal from Drake’s phone to the other cabin. He had turned the phone back on just before they left. He had left Drake’s car in front of the cabin and they had taken the couple’s old Jeep. His burner phone was charging. As soon as it was finished, he would call the Sheriff and set the last part of his plan in motion.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 16

Madison sent Elijah to the living room to get his games, and, then, called Hal.

“Hal, we have a problem.”

“Did you get the picture?”

“Yeah, Hal. Listen. He’s got Drake.”

“Who’s got Drake?”

“The killer, Hal. He wants to trade Drake for Elijah.” “Shit, Madison. Stay put. I’m coming right over.”

“No, Hal. I’m taking Elijah to the station.”

“That’s fine, Madison. Get him ready, but I’m coming. I’ll escort you. Don’t leave until I get there.”

For once, Hal didn’t sign off. She just heard a click.

“Elijah, you need to pack up your games. We have to go into the Sheriff’s department.”

Elijah nodded at her, and began gathering his games. She handed him the GameStop bag and he put them in there. She and Drake hadn’t thought to get him a backpack or anything yet. At the thought of Drake, she felt her throat close up and, for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. If something happened to Drake, she would never forgive herself. How could she have been so careless? She knew that Elijah was travelling with that man and she hadn’t even warned Drake. She hadn’t even thought about it. Now, he had Drake, and there was nothing she could do about it.

“Make sure you put your heating pad in the bag, too. I’m going to change.”

She went into the bedroom and closed the door. The first thing she grabbed was her gun out of the gun safe in the closet. She slid the clip into the gun and made sure the safety was on. She then pulled on her usual black pants, button down shirt, shoulder holster, and blazer. After placing the gun into the holster, she grabbed her badge and her wallet and put them in the inside pocket of the blazer. After pulling on her boots, she left the bedroom and headed to the kitchen. She threw some snacks into a bag for Elijah and then paced around the living room waiting for Hal. Finally, Hal pulled up out front.

She and Elijah got into her SUV and she pulled out of the garage. Hal’s SUV trailed hers as they drove down the drive way and headed into town. At the station, Madison put Elijah on the couch in her office and headed to the conference room where Hal and a couple of deputies were waiting.

“Where was Drake this afternoon?” Hal asked as he began taking notes on the whiteboard.

“He had an appointment in Grand Junction at 2:00 this afternoon. He left at about 1:20.”

“Where was the appointment?”

“I don’t know, Hal.”

Hal stopped writing and looked at her. “You don’t know where he was?”

“No, when he left I realized that he hadn’t told me where he was going, but I thought I would find out about it when he got home.”

“He was driving his minivan right?”

Madison nodded.

“What is it again?”

“It’s a Chrysler Pacifica, 2017.”

“It’s blue, right?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s put out an APB on the Pacifica. I’ll call Grand Junction PD and the Mesa County Sheriff’s department as well as the State Patrol. We’ll find him Drake.”

Rita came into the conference room.

“Excuse me, Sheriff, Deputy. I have a call from Grand Junction PD.”

“Transfer it to the phone in here, please, Rita,” replied Madison.

As Madison answered the phone, she put it on speaker, so Hal could hear as well.

“Sheriff Rhodes, this is Officer Peterson from Grand Junction PD. We’re calling about a red truck we found in the parking lot of Omega Tech. It’s registered to a Fred Loyola. He lives in Fruita, Colorado.”

“What kind of company is Omega Tech, Officer?” Madison asked.

“Uhh, it’s some kind of computer company.”

Hal began taking notes on the whiteboard again.

“What about the truck, officer?”

“Well that’s the odd thing. It was left in the parking lot running with the door open. The keys were in the ignition. We’ve checked with Omega Tech, but Mr. Loyola is not in the building. We’re having the truck towed, but we wanted to check in with you guys to see if you could do a welfare check on Mr. Loyola.”

“Thanks for calling, officer. We will do that. We’re working on a missing person case here. The truck may be related.”

Madison gave the officers the information for Drake’s car and his description.

“We’ll call this in to dispatch and have them put out an APB. We’ll secure the truck as a crime scene. We’ll let you know when the truck has made it to the impound lot.”

“Thank you, Officer.”

After Madison hung up, Hal left the conference room to dispatch a deputy to Fred Loyola’s cabin. Madison called Omega Tech to see if Drake had checked in. They had no record of an appointment with Drake.

“So, the appointment at Omega Tech was fake,” Hal said.

“It looks that way,” Madison agreed.

Hal added more information to the whiteboard.

“So the guy lured Drake to Omega Tech to kidnap him and exchange him for Elijah. Did he really think that we would go for that?”

“I don’t know, Hal. Maybe, he’s seen too many cop shows.”

Of course, she couldn’t trade Elijah for Drake. It did happen on cop shows. The cops always showed up with the person they were trying to protect in order to trade for the person the bad guy had, and they managed to have some sort of crazy plan to catch the bad guy and save both the victims. But that was fiction, and this was life. Cops didn’t bargain for the lives of their people, even if it were someone they loved. She had to treat this like any other hostage situation. She had to establish negotiations with the suspect, and try to come to a peaceful resolution. Her heart began to pound, and she put her head on the table. This wasn’t just any hostage situation. The guy had Drake. She had failed him in so many ways throughout their relationship, always choosing the job over him, and she was about to do it again. There had to be a way out of this.

The first thing she needed to do was locate Drake’s phone. Grabbing her notebook, she began to make notes. She needed to call ATT and have them see what cell phone towers Drake’s cell phone was connected to. Next, she would call Drake’s phone and begin to negotiate with the suspect. She’d had training in hostage negotiation while she worked in Denver. She was going to have to use everything she remembered from that course.

Hal watched her while she wrote in her notebook.

“Do you have a plan?” Hal asked.

She outlined the steps they needed to take, starting with her call to ATT. While she was on the phone with ATT, Hal’s phone rang. He stepped out of the conference room to take it. When Madison hung up, Hal still hadn’t returned so she tried calling Drake’s number again. She wasn’t going to sit around and wait for the suspect to call her. She was going to take the upper hand. The fucker needed to know that he didn’t have the power in this situation. He might have Madison by the balls, but she wasn’t going to play his game. Her call went straight to voice mail. He’d turned the phone off, but that didn’t matter. ATT was going to turn it on remotely. He would have no idea that the phone was turned on and pinging to the nearest cell towers. As soon as ATT located the phone, they would be on the move.

Hal stepped back into the room.

“Harold is at Fred Loyola’s cabin. He said it seems secure. He’s checking inside right now and he’ll check in when he’s done clearing the cabin. What did ATT have to say?”

“They’re going to call back as soon as they have the location of the phone.”

Hal’s phone rang.

“Steward here.”

Madison followed the conversation from Hal’s side, but she could tell from the expression on his face that the news wasn’t good.

“Just secure the scene, Harold. We’ll call some people in off duty and send them out your way. Be careful.”

“Another one, Hal?”

“It looks that way. Harold found some tire tracks at the back of the cabin and followed them to the edge of the woods. He found a body dumped a little way in. We’re going to need more manpower.”

Madison had Rita call in five more deputies, with the two at the other crime scene. They could send two to the Loyola place and have three standing by.

“We’ve got to catch this guy, Hal, before he kills anyone else.”

“We will, Sheriff.”

Madison went to check on Elijah. She thought he would be playing his game, but he was sitting on the couch staring into space.

“Are you all right, Elijah?”

He frowned at her, and shook his head. She sat down next to him.

“Try not to worry, Elijah. I’m going to keep you safe.”

Elijah pointed at the picture of Drake on her desk.

“Do you want to know where Drake is?”

Elijah nodded. She didn’t know what to tell him. She didn’t know how he was connected to the man who’d taken Drake. She didn’t want to upset him, but she couldn’t really hide that something was wrong. The longer Drake was gone, the more Elijah would wonder where he was. Taking a deep breath, she decided to tell Elijah the truth.

“Drake is missing.”

Elijah’s eyes went wide with shock.

“We think that the same guy that killed my friend has him.”

Elijah opened his mouth and began shaking his head. His mouth was open in a silent scream. Madison tried to hug Elijah’s shoulders, but he pushed her away. Breathing heavily, he clenched his eyes shut. Slowly, his breathing calmed and he opened his eyes. He swallowed several times, and sweat formed on his forehead.

“You have to get him back.” Elijah’s voice was a harsh whisper as if he hadn’t used it in a long time. Madison was shocked. Elijah hadn’t spoken since he told Drake his name.

“We’re trying, Elijah. We’re doing everything we can.”

“Get him back,” Elijah repeated, as tears began to course down his face. He leaned into Madison and let her comfort him. Even though Elijah had spoken, she didn’t press him for information. He’d likely shut down again anyway, and she wasn’t sure what help he could be at this point. He was a little boy. It wasn’t likely he’d have insight into the mind of an adult man. She was on her own for now.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 15

Madison watched Elijah’s thumbs move over the buttons of the video game. He was trying to teach her how to play a racing game Drake had bought him. She wasn’t very good, but that didn’t matter. Elijah was starting to relax around her. Every time he beat her in a race, he would smile and once he even giggled. At a little after 1:00, Drake emerged from his office. “I have an appointment at a computer company in Grand Junction at 2:00.”

“Okay. Is it a big company?”

“Yeah, it’s a national company. It would be a big account.”

Drake threw his computer bag over his shoulder, grabbed his keys, and rushed through the kitchen into the garage. Madison didn’t think to ask him which company he was going to, but she would hear all about it when Drake got home. After about a half hour of playing games, Madison put on a movie and got the heating pad for Elijah’s hands. The doctor had said to limit how much Elijah used the game and to give him breaks to put heat on his hands. She could tell that Elijah didn’t want to stop playing, but she could see his face relax as the heat from the pad penetrated his hands. They sat in a silence that almost seemed companionable.

Madison’s cell rang. She grabbed it from the coffee table and answered it.

“Sheriff Rhodes.”

Hal sounded breathless. “Sheriff, we’ve got another one.”

“What?”

“We’ve got another murder.”

Looking at Elijah, she went into the bedroom and closed the door. She had promised herself she wouldn’t talk about any cases in front of Elijah.

“What’s going on, Hal?”

“Randy spotted the silver Honda parked by a cabin on K Road. When he went to check it out, he found a murder inside the cabin.”

“Is it like the others?”

“No, there’s blood, a lot of it. We’re securing the scene now, and I’ve contacted the coroner.”

“That’s good, Hal. Keep me posted.”

“Sheriff,” Hal started to speak and then stopped.

“Hal, what is it?”

“I know we said we were going to keep you out of the investigation, because of your friendship with Andie and fostering Elijah, but you need to see this.”

“Hal, what aren’t you telling me?”

“There’s a message written on the wall.”

“A message?”

“A message in blood. It’s addressed to you.”

Madison’s heart froze in her chest. Why would the killer be sending a message to her? Was he taunting the Sheriff’s department, because he kept eluding them?

“Madison, are you there?” Hal must be really shaken. He rarely called her Madison when he was on duty. She was always Sheriff. He thought it bolstered her authority with the other deputies.

“Yes, Hal. I think we should still stick to protocol. Once we catch the guy, we need to make sure the case is air tight. I need to stay away from the chain of evidence. Send me a picture of the message.”

“All right, Steward out.”

A few minutes later, Madison’s cell chimed with a text message. The blood was a glowing red against a white wall. Rivulets dripped from each letter making the message resemble the lettering from a bad horror movie. Madison stared at the message, her eyes taking in the letters while her brain fought to look away.

Madison,

Let’s make a trade.

Trade? What the fuck was he talking about? A trade? Trade what? She heard a soft knock on her door, and she suddenly realized. The killer wanted to make a trade for Elijah, but what could he possibly trade? Elijah slowly opened the door as her phone rang again. She looked at the caller ID. Drake was calling. He was probably calling to talk about the meeting.

“Drake, I need to tell you…”

“Shut up and listen, bitch.”

The voice was deep and harsh.

“You have something I want.”

The room began to spin as she realized she must be talking to the killer. Taking a deep breath, she forced her voice to remain calm. She couldn’t let herself betray any emotion or let the killer get to her. She had to listen carefully to pick up on any information the killer might accidentally give her.

“What would that be?” Her voice was cold and devoid of emotion.

“Don’t fuck with me. You know exactly what I mean. If you fuck with me, then I’m going to hurt you.”

“You can’t even get near to me. If you try…”

She heard a muffled thud in the background, and then someone groaned in pain.

“Madison?” Drake’s voice was hoarse and he sounded weak.

“Drake?”

“Listen, Madison, don’t worry about me, just take care of…”

She heard a curse and another thud.

“Do you understand now?” The man’s voice was low and deadly. It was not the voice of a desperate man; it was the voice of a man who held all the leverage in a negotiation.

“Yes. I understand. What do you want me to do?”

“Be ready to move when I contact you. I want an even exchange. My boy for your man, got it?”

“Yes.”

The phone went dead in her ear. Elijah stood in the doorway staring at her, his eyes dark with fear. He came to stand by her. Even though he was trying to hide it, she could see his body trembling. She grabbed him and squeezed him against her.

“Don’t worry, Elijah. I’m going to protect you.”

He’d had to abandon the truck. His plan hadn’t gone exactly as he wanted. He’d almost missed Drake in the large parking lot of the computer company. He’d circled around the parking lot, but he didn’t know what Drake’s car would look like. A small flaw in his plan, but one that couldn’t be helped. He’d grown more desperate as the clock had ticked closer to 2:00. Finally, during his last turn around the lot, he had spotted Drake’s curly brown hair as he bent in the back of his minivan. When he saw Drake, he’d slammed on the brakes and left the truck without even turning off the ignition. He’d come up on Drake from behind and cold-cocked him in the back of the head. He’d shoved him onto the back floorboards , grabbed the keys out of Drake’s hand, and sped out of the parking lot. Now, thinking back on it, he should have grabbed Drake when he came out of the building, but then Drake would have been tipped off. He would have found out that the appointment was fake and maybe been on his guard. The man shook his head. He’d done what he had to do, for the boy. It was all for the boy.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 14

A couple days after visiting the doctor, Drake took Elijah back to Grand Junction. Drake said he was going to have his hands looked at again. Elijah didn’t want anyone else to look at his hands. They were feeling better since he’d been using the heat packs Drake and Madison fixed for him. He didn’t see the point of having someone look at them again. He was so upset he didn’t even bring his 3DS, but kept his hands shoved in his pockets. As they drove, Drake tried to talk to him, but he turned away and looked at the scenery. He remembered walking along this highway with his father. Scrub brush and craggy rocks dotted the landscape. When they got to Grand Junction, Drake drove to a large medical complex. A large hospital dominated the parking lot, but Drake drove to a smaller building to the side of the hospital. The building was all glass and steel with an asymmetrical roof. Before Drake could come around and open the door for him, Elijah hopped out of the van and walked to the front door. Drake followed behind them.

After they checked in, he and Drake sat on a large, plush couch.

“Elijah, it’s going to be okay. They’re going to take pictures of your hands.”

Elijah finally turned and scowled at Drake.

“I know you’re not happy about this, but Madison and I are trying to help you. We need to know what’s wrong with your hands. Maybe, they can be fixed.”

Elijah shook his head. He knew they couldn’t be fixed. His father had told him that they couldn’t. He remembered going to sleep after drinking a soda his father bought him at the machine down the hall from their room. It was the one of the few times he could remember his father getting them a motel room. It wasn’t a very nice motel. The drapes were ripped and barely attached to the curtain rod, and the sheets smelled a little funny when he laid back on the bed. The next thing he remembered was waking up with his hands throbbing. They felt like two giant clubs on the end of his arms. They were bandaged tightly. He sat up on the bed, but quickly lay down again as the room spun in a lazy circle. His father was no where to be found. Sometime later, he had to use the bathroom. He tried sitting up more slowly. This time the room stayed steady even though his legs were wobbly when he stood up. He shuffled over the puke green shag to the small bathroom. Pain lanced up his arm as he reached for the light switch, but he gritted his teeth and turned on the light anyway. His hands were wrapped in white gauze and tape. He tried to wiggle his fingers under the wrapping and a wave of nausea hit him with the excruciating pain and drove him to his knees. He crouched on the grimy tile and looked at his hands. His thumbs were the only thing he could see on his hands. He could move his thumbs even though it hurt the rest of his hand. With a soft groan, he made himself get up and go to the toilet. Fumbling with his jeans, he was able to open the fly enough to go to the bathroom. By the time he was done buttoning his waistband, sweat covered his face. He’d leave the zipper for later. Dizzy again, he made his way back to the bed. Sitting on the bed, he noticed the food and drinks left on the bedside table, enough to last him a couple of days if he were careful. That meant his father was going to be gone a couple of days following the impulse as he called it. Grabbing a warm can of 7-up, Elijah took a sip and then laid back down.

“Elijah Rhodes.”

Elijah was startled from his memory by the sound of his first name, but Rhodes was not his last name. It was the same name as the Sheriff and Drake. He looked at Drake again, but Drake was already standing up.

“I’ll go with you, Elijah,” he said with a smile and a gentle touch on Elijah’s shoulder.

Elijah nodded and followed the woman in lavender scrubs through a shiny metal door.

She took Drake and Elijah to a room with white walls and a shiny white tile floor. A metal table stood in the middle of the room with machinery surrounding it.

“Hi, Elijah. My name is Hillary. How are you today?”

Elijah looked at the pretty girl. She had bright red hair pulled into two braids. Her nose was covered in freckles. He nodded at her.

Drake cleared his throat. “Elijah doesn’t speak”

The girl’s smile faltered for a moment, but she recovered and smiled at him again.

“It says here that we’re to X-ray his hands.”

Drake answered, “That’s right.”

Hillary looked at Elijah gain.

“Can you take our hands out of your pocket?”

Slowly, Elijah pulled them out of his pockets. He expected Hillary to gasp or act shocked like most people did when they noticed his hands, but she just looked at them critically. She pulled up the sleeves of his hoodie, so that his wrists were exposed as well.

“Okay, Elijah, let’s have you sit on this stool here.” She rolled a metal stool with a black padded seat up to the table. Elijah sat on the stool. Hillary had Drake put on a weird black apron and had him sit back by the far wall away from the machinery. Hillary put his hands in different positions and then she would go behind another wall and turn the machine on. The machine would whir for a moment. She had him turn his hands in all different directions. It only took a few minutes and then he was done. He had thought it was going to hurt, but it didn’t. Some of the positions were a little awkward and uncomfortable, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Drake and Elijah walked into the sunshine and headed to Drake’s minivan. 

“Do you wanna go back to that diner and get more shakes?”

Elijah nodded his head enthusiastically. He wasn’t mad anymore. The X-rays weren’t as bad as he thought they’d be. There was no use being mad at Drake. After lunch, Drake drove Elijah back home. Madison was home when they got there. Elijah was surprised because she usually stayed at work for hours every day.

Drake asked, “Any trouble getting off for the afternoon?”

“No,” Madison said, “Hal and I talked yesterday. We decided it’s better, under the circumstances, if I distance myself from the case. He’s going to be working it and checking in with me every day.”

“That must be hard. I know you want to solve it.”

Madison shot a quick look at Elijah. He looked away and went into his room. He didn’t want to hear about the case. He closed his door and laid down on the bed. He could still hear the murmur of their voices, but he was soon asleep.

It was easier to find information on the Sheriff than he thought. While she didn’t have much information on the internet, her husband, Drake, did. He was some kind of Cybersecurity consultant. The website for his business popped right up as soon as he typed Drake’s name into the search engine. There was no address, but there was a contact form. He had completed the first part of his plan yesterday and today he was back at the Grand Junction library. No one took notice of a man in a plaid shirt and western boots even though the man’s shirts he was borrowing were kind of loud. he wanted to wear his black hoodie and jeans again, but he didn’t want to stand out. Driving around in the red truck with his plaid covered elbow hanging out of the window almost gave him small-town credibility. This morning, as he had driven out of town, one of the Fruita deputies had given him the small town wave—two fingers lifted off the steering wheel. He had reciprocated. He wondered if they were really that blind. Did the just see the plaid shirt and the red truck but not the real man inside? He didn’t know, but he knew he had to move quick. He wouldn’t get away with it too much longer. He typed in the address for Drake’s website. On the home page, he clicked on the link for the contact form. He had decided to use a local computer company as his cover. He used a name from the company’s directory, but he gave the cell phone number of the burner phone he had purchased at Walmart with the money he had stolen from the flower shop. Then he erased the history of the browser he was on and then closed the browser. It didn’t take long for Drake to take the bait. His phone rang fifteen minutes after he submitted the form.

“Drake Rhodes for Richard Lyons, please.”

“This is Richard. How are you, Mr. Rhodes. Thank you for responding so quickly.”

“That’s no problem, Mr. Lyons, and, please call me Drake.”

“Of course, Drake. We’re looking to upgrade our cybersecurity system and I came across your name when I was looking for reputable consultants.”

Drake tried to begin asking technical questions which he could not even pretend to answer. He cut him off and suggested they meet.

“I’d like you to talk with the Director of our IT department. Would it be possible to meet this afternoon?”

“Of course, Mr. Lyons, I am only twenty minutes away from Grand Junction.”

“Good, and call me Richard.”

“Can you be here at 2:00?”

“Of course, I will see you then.”

He smiled as he ended the call and put the phone in his pocket. Putting the truck into drive, he headed over to the computer company to wait for Drake.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 13

After a couple of days of resting and eating, he had finally come up with a plan. He would need to figure out how to get the silver car out of here without being seen, and he would need to figure out where the Sheriff lived. The old man he had killed didn’t have any computers or electronics. He had a radio and an old TV with basic cable, but the news wasn’t saying much. He knew the police were looking for a silver Honda. They even had the license plate. The news had broadcast an announcement about the description of the car, but not a description of him. He had been careful about that.

He’d been wearing his hood up when he grabbed the second woman, so he knew the camera only had a shot of his hoodie. They still knew his size, but not enough of a description to pick him up. He wasn’t about to go walking around Fruita, though. People would be careful of strangers right now, and he knew that there had to be a few people who had seen him and the boy walk down the street. But he still needed access to a computer. Grand Junction was only about 20 minutes down I-70. He had the red F150. No one was looking for that yet. No one seemed to have noticed that the man he had killed was even missing. His decrepit rotary phone never even rang. It worked, because he had checked for a dial tone, but no one ever called the man. If he could get to Grand Junction in the red truck, he could go to the library and use the computers there. Everyone was on social media these days. He would do a search for the Sheriff’s husband and see what came up. It was only about 10:00 in the morning. He had time to do everything today, but he was reluctant to leave. He looked down at his now clean clothes. His black hoodie that he wore all the time over a black t-shirt and black jeans. He realized that he would need to look different if he went to Grand Junction. He still had to drive through Fruita to get to the highway and, even if the news wasn’t broadcasting his description, the State Patrol and the Grand Junction police might have a general description. He rubbed his hand over his bald head. At least, no one knew he was bald. His head had been covered when he walked down the street and when he grabbed that woman.

He walked back down the hall to the man’s bedroom. The man had been a little smaller than he, but not by much. He rifled through the closet. The man seemed to like plaid shirts. He had several plaid shirts. The man picked a bright red plaid shirt. Sometimes, the best way to hide was to stand out. No one would suspect a bald man in a bright plaid shirt. He couldn’t hide his muscles, though. He was a big man, but there were a lot of big men. He grabbed the shirt off the closet and went back to the room he was using. He stripped off his black t-shirt and buttoned on the shirt. It was a little snug but it would do. He tucked the shirt into his waistband and headed back into the man’s bedroom. He needed something else to complete his look. After rifling through the drawers, he found a belt with a large belt buckle. It seems the man had been a rodeo cowboy. He threaded the belt through his belt loops and turned to look in the mirror that hung on the back of the man’s bedroom door.

He looked completely different. And if he exchanged his Doc Martens for that old pair of cowboy boots that was sitting by the back door, his look would be complete. He would be just another country boy. After slipping on the cowboy boots, he grabbed the keys to the truck that were on the counter. He felt exposed, though, when he stepped out of the door. He was used to keeping his hoodie up and shielding himself from the world, but to make this plan work, he needed to walk with his head up. He needed to let people see him. He wished he had a hat, though. He’d feel a little better with something on his head. He’d destroyed the man’s only hat, however, when he’d bashed it with the tire iron.

He started the pick-up truck and drove it slowly down the gravel driveway. He felt better now that he had started on the first part of his plan. This afternoon, he’d finish the second part. When he was finished, he’d only have to wait for the sheriff to come to him. And she would come. She’d have to or lose everything.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 12

silhouette3Monday morning, Madison called Hal to check in on the case. No one had seen the silver Honda or the man fitting the description they had released.

“Maybe, he’s left the area,” Hal speculated.

“Maybe,” Madison agreed. “We need to stay on the look-out, though. We need to start thinking about places he might hide if he is still in the area.”

“I’ll talk to Kurt and some of the other deputies. They would have a better idea. There are a lot of cabins outside of Fruita that are out of the way.”

“Thanks, Hal,” Madison said, “I need to take care of some issues with Elijah. We have to get him to the doctor, and I want to find a psychologist.”

“Good. I’m glad you liked my suggestion.”

“You’re always full of good advice, Hal.”

Hal laughed and hung up. “Steward out.”

Madison called CPS in Grand Junction. With Mandy gone, she needed to see if Elijah had a new case worker. She also needed to get information about getting him medical attention and finding a psychologist. The receptionist put her through to the Director of CPS.

“This is Jack Hammond.”

“Hello, Mr. Hammond. This is Sheriff Rhodes in Fruita. I was calling about Elijah, the boy who was placed with me and my husband.” “Yes. Sheriff Rhodes. I was just going to call you. We need some information about this case. Since Mandy was never able to file her report, the boy hasn’t been officially assigned to you yet.”

“I understand. I was calling to see about taking Elijah to the doctor and I think he needs to see a psychologist.”

“I think we should meet. Are you and your husband available today? I understand you’re the Sheriff and you have a lot to deal with right now, but we need to get everything settled officially.”

“Yes. We’re both available today.”

“Let’s meet at 9:30. Will that work?”

“Yes. We’ll be there.”

Child Protective Services was in a modern, streamlined building that was home to the Department of Human Services. The multi-hued brick building was located in the complex for Mesa County Community Resources. The area was surrounded by large trees that showed a faint haze of green as their leaves began to open. She drove Drake’s minivan, so Drake could keep Elijah occupied. They had brought the Nintendo 3DS games that Drake had bought Elijah yesterday. As soon as they told Elijah where they were going, he had shoved his fists in his pocket and shook his head. Drake and Madison had noticed that whenever Elijah felt threatened his first instinct was to protect his hands by shoving them in his pockets. Since Elijah still didn’t trust Madison, she left Drake alone to talk to him. Whatever Drake said had worked, because Elijah emerged from his room a few minutes later ready to go.

As she parked, Drake said, “Okay, Elijah. We’re here. You can bring your game in, because the meeting might be kind of boring.”

Drake closed his game and stuck it in his hoodie pocket. The lobby of the building was decorated in the same earth-toned hues as the outside of the building. Overstuffed chairs stood in clusters throughout the lobby. There were also bins with children’s toys and books. Elijah and Drake sat on a large couch opposite the window as Madison went to the receptionist’s desk to check in. They only waited a few moments when a tall balding man came out to meet them.

“I’m Jack Hammond,” he said holding his hand out to Madison and, then, Drake. Elijah kept his hands deep in his pocket. Jack kneeled down to look Elijah in the eye. “This must be Elijah. How are you, young man?”

Elijah looked at Jack with solemn eyes, and gave a slight nod.

“I’m going to assume that means you’re doing all right.”

Elijah nodded again and Jack got to his feet.

“Let’s meet in my office. Elijah can wait in the children’s room.”

Jack scanned his card over a black scanner and the door clicked open. Elijah’s eyes went wide when the door clicked back behind him. Drake patted him on the shoulder. “It’s all right, Elijah. We’re right here.”

Elijah stayed close to Drake and Madison as they walked down a long hall with a shiny tile floor and doors along its length.

Jack paused at a double door with a sign that said, “Children’s Room.” The sign was made with sparkly letters and had stickers decorating it.

“Elijah, let’s take you to meet Ms. Jackie. She has a lot of things to do in here. There are video games or you can read a book.”

Elijah pulled his 3DS out of his pocket.

“Ahh, a 3DS. You can play that, too. We have some games in there that you could try out if you want.”

A young blonde woman opened the door.

“Ms. Jackie, this is Elijah.”

“How are you, Elijah?”

Elijah nodded again. “Did you want to check out the DS games we have? We might have some that you don’t have.”

Elijah looked at Drake who gave him an encouraging nod.

Jack said, “We’ll be right down the hall in my office, Ms. Jackie, if you or Elijah need anything.”

Ms. Jackie nodded and led Elijah to a bin full of small cartridges. Drake and Madison followed Jack down the hall to a large office at the end. The office was painted a soothing light gray and had windows looking out onto a greenbelt. Jack motioned towards two dark gray chairs placed at the front of his desk. Jack sat down behind his desk and pulled out a file.

“Elijah seems to be quite comfortable with you,” Jack said.

Madison replied, “I think he is more comfortable with Drake. He and I didn’t meet on the best of terms.”

“As I told you on the phone, I don’t have any of Mandy’s notes, just the original report on the boy. Can you fill me in on what happened?”

Madison and Drake both told Jack about how Madison had found Elijah as well as Madison’s decision to foster him. Jack asked about Elijah’s hands and his refusal to speak.

“He told you his name. I think that’s a good sign. He’s only been with you for two days. The fact that he’s starting to speak is a good sign.”

“Drake has been working with him to develop a relationship.”

“And what about you, Sheriff Rhodes?”

“Well, it’s been rocky. I’ve made some mistakes. I still believe that Elijah is the key to all this. I’ve learned some new information about him that makes me believe that Elijah is much more than a witness.”

Drake looked at her questioningly. She hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to him about what she had discovered. She wasn’t in the habit of talking about her cases at home. Drake had accepted that a long time ago, but this was something he should know.

“We have several witnesses who saw Elijah travelling with the man who we believe committed the two murders.”

Drake looked shocked, but he tried to pretend that he already knew all about it. She loved him for that. She should have told him the minute she got home, but she had decided to leave the case at work and try to separate it from her interactions with Elijah.

“But you don’t know how Elijah is connected to your suspect?”

“No, and I don’t want to question Elijah about it any further right now. Plus, if the Sheriff’s office needs to question him, he needs to have his guardian present. That appears to be me and Drake right now. As the sheriff, I can’t recuse myself from the case, but I can avoid discussing the case at home.”

“Will you need to question Elijah about his involvement?”

“I don’t think that Elijah was personally involved in the first murder. The evidence doesn’t support that, but he may have seen what happened. The Sheriff’s office will need to question him at some point, but, if that is necessary, I will have my deputy, Hal Steward, question him. He’s taken the lead on the investigation. Drake can be the guardian that accompanies Elijah, and we can also seek legal counsel if that is necessary.”

“It sounds like you have this all planned out.”

“I do, Mr. Hammond. When we get this guy, I want to make sure we can convict him, but I want to make sure Elijah is protected as well.”

Jack nodded, and continued taking notes in the file. When he was finished, he gave Madison and Drake referrals for a pediatrician and a child psychologist.

“I think Dr. Roberts, the pediatrician, would fit him in today. He sees a lot of the kids in our foster homes.”

Jack walked Madison and Drake back to the Children’s Room. When they stepped into the room, Elijah was focused on his video game. Ms. Jackie was sitting next to him.

Drake called to him.

“Elijah, we’re finished. It’s time to go.”

Elijah looked up and smiled at Drake. Madison thought that when Elijah smiled, he looked like a completely different boy. The fear that haunted his eyes left for a moment.

Closing his game, Elijah walked over to Drake and Madison. Ms. Jackie followed him.

“Good bye, Elijah. It was fun spending time with you.”

Elijah nodded silently at her.

Back in the car, Madison turned to Elijah in the back seat.

“Elijah, we have the name of a doctor that can see you today. He’s just going to give you a check-up, okay?”

Elijah nodded, but his eyes grew dark with apprehension.

“It’s all right. Drake and I will be with you.”

Madison called the number Jack had given her and made an appointment.

“They can see us at 1:30.”

Drake looked at his watch. “It’s 11:00 now. How about some lunch?”

Elijah was nodding his head vigorously. Drake pulled out of the parking space and headed back onto the road.

“I saw a diner that looked kind of fun down back the way we came.”

Madison nodded. The diner was only a few blocks away. It was a retro fifties-style diner with silver siding and neon lights. When they stepped into the diner, 50’s music was playing. A hostess seated them in a shiny red vinyl booth. Drake fed some quarters into the jukebox selector on the table. An old Elvis song came on. Madison rolled her eyes.

“C’mon, Madison. It’s Elvis. You have to respect the classics.”

“Don’t they have any Five Finger Death Punch or Nine Inch Nails in there?”

Drake pretended to look shocked. “Those aren’t real names. You made those up! C’mon, Elijah, who’s going to name their band after a punch or nails?”

Elijah shrugged, and looked at his menu. Madison and Drake continued to argue about music while Elijah watched them with a confused look on his face.

When the waitress came, they all ordered large cheeseburgers, curly fries, and shakes. As soon as his food arrived, Elijah began to eat. It seemed like he was always hungry, but Madison hoped that would lessen as he began to eat more regularly. She thought it must have been hard travelling with that man on the road. His clothes were so tattered they couldn’t save them, so they threw them away. They showed evidence of having been mended time after time. She wondered who had taken the time to fix his clothes. Not that man, surely? She didn’t think Elijah could hold something as small as a needle, but she couldn’t see a cold-blooded killer taking time to fix Elijah’s clothes.

When they finished eating, they still had some time left, so they took Elijah to the Mesa Mall. They bought him a few more clothes and a second pair of shoes. When they passed the GameStop, Elijah’s eyes lit up.

“Why don’t you take him in there to look while I call the office,” Madison suggested, “I better check in.”

“What do you say, Elijah. Do you want to get some more games?”

Elijah’s head bobbled up and down in excitement. He’d only had his video game for a day and he was already hooked. While they went into the store, Madison sat on a bench in the middle of the concourse.

“How are things going, Sheriff?” Hal answered his phone.

“Fine, Hal. We have a doctor’s appointments in a half hour. I wanted to check in.”

“Everything is quiet here. I issued a state-wide bolo on the silver Honda, but no reports have come in.”

Drake and Elijah came out of GameStop with yet another shopping bag.

“All right, Hal. I have to go. I’ll come by the office when we finish up at the doctor’s.”

“Steward out.”

Madison stood and met Drake and Elijah.

“Ready to go?”

They walked out to the car and stowed everything but the GameStop bag in the back of the SUV. As they drove to the doctor, Elijah busied himself with his new games. After a few minutes, they could hear electronic music and the sound of explosions. When they reached the doctor, they allowed Elijah to bring in his game.

“Make sure you turn the sound down when we get into the waiting room,” Madison said.

Elijah nodded and muted his game.

The doctor’s waiting room was not very full. A large aquarium sat against one wall near some blue chairs. Orange and blue fish swam among coral. Elijah sat near the aquarium and watched the fish swim in and out of the coral. Madison checked them in and sat near Drake and Elijah. When Elijah’s name was called, they followed him into the examination room. The nurse took his height and his weight. She took his temperature and placed a clip on his thumb.

Elijah looked askance at the clip on his thumb.

“That just tells the amount of oxygen in your blood. See that number, there?”

Elijah looked at the read digital readout. After a minute, the nurse checked the monitor and wrote the number down in his chart.

“You’re fostering Elijah, correct?” the nurse asked.

“Yes,” Drake answered.

“How long has he been with you?”

“Just over two days. He came to us the night before last.”

The nurse continued to take notes in her chart.

“I have a note here from the receptionist. It says that Elijah doesn’t speak?”

“Well, he doesn’t speak very often. He told me his first name, but that’s all he’s said so far.”

“Okay. The doctor will be in to speak with you in a moment.”

The paper on the examination table crinkled as Elijah wiggled around. He jammed his hands back into his pockets and jiggled his foot nervously. Madison fidgeted as well. She felt strange and out of place while Drake seemed calm and relaxed. Finally, the doctor knocked and stepped into the room. Dr. Roberts was a short, round name with salt and pepper hair that stuck up on the top of his head.

“Good afternoon, folks. How are you today?”

Drake spoke up as he had with the nurse.

“We’re doing fine, Doctor. How are you?”

“Good, good, can’t complain. Very busy.”

“Thank you for seeing us on such short notice.”

“That’s okay. It’s important to get kids like Elijah checked out right away.”

Dr. Roberts turned to Elijah.

“How are you today, young man?”

Elijah looked down at his feet and shrugged.

“Don’t worry, Elijah. I’m just going to check you over real quick.”

The doctor put the ear pieces of his stethoscope into his ears.

“I’m going to put this on your back and listen to your breathing. Just breathe normally.”

The doctor lifted Elijah’s hoodie and shirt up and slid the stethoscope under them to listen.

“Take deep breaths now.”

Elijah breathed deeply until the doctor told him to stop. The doctor then moved the stethoscope to Elijah’s chest. He used a scope to look into Elijah’s ears. He also looked into Elijah’s mouth and his throat.

“So far he looks pretty good. He needs to be seen by a dentist for a good cleaning. I can give you a referral if you would like.”

The doctor paused and looked at his chart. “I see here that his hands have been injured.”

Madison could see Elijah tense. He didn’t seem to like anyone to talk about his hands. The doctor asked Elijah, “Elijah, can you let me see your hands?”

His voice was soft and gentle. Elijah looked at him as if gauge the doctor’s attention. He looked at Drake who nodded encouraging. “It’s okay, Elijah. Let the doctor examine your hands. He won’t hurt you.”

Elijah slowly pulled his hands out of his pockets. The doctor touched them lightly as he turned Elijah’s fists so he could see the fingers clenched into his palms. Occasionally, he would touch a finger or a part of his hand and ask Elijah if he were in pain. Elijah always shook his head, but Madison thought he was hiding what he was feeling. When the doctor was finished examining Elijah, he said, “Elijah, do you want to go to the nurses’ station and get a sticker or something? I just need to talk to your guardians for a few moments.”

Elijah slid off the table and rushed out the door as if he expected the doctor to change his mind.

After Elijah was gone, Dr. Roberts asked, “You don’t know how his hands were injured?”

“No,” Drake answered, “Like we told the nurse, Elijah has only told us his first name.”

“His hands are badly injured and inflamed. I would like to get them imaged as soon as we can so we can look at the damage and work on a plan to repair them. He seems to be in a little pain. I think heat will be the best thing for him if he’s aching. Is he able to take care of himself?”

“Yes,” Drake replied. “He can pick up quite a few things between his thumb and the side of his fingers. Sometimes, he drops things, but he is very independent.”

The doctor made another notation, and handed them the instructions for taking care of Elijah’s hands. “The imaging center will call you within the next couple of days to schedule an appointment. You’re also going to be taking him to see a psychologist?”

“Yes, we’re going to make an appointment as soon as we get home. Is there anything we can do in the meantime to help him?”

“I think you’re doing all you can. I think he’ll start talking after a while. You just need to give him time.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

Madison and Drake stood as the doctor left the room. “You’re were quiet during the appointment,” Drake said.

“I know. I did all the talking during our last meeting, so I thought I would give you a chance.”

Elijah was anxious to leave when they returned to the waiting room. As Drake and Madison approached him, he got up and moved quickly to the door.

“What’s the rush, Elijah?” Drake asked with a smile. “We thought you might want to hang out for a while in the waiting room. It’s nice in here with the aquarium and all.”

Elijah flashed him a frown and pulled the door open. As soon as they stepped outside, he seemed to relax. Madison thought she and Drake should probably tell Elijah about getting his hands x-rayed or whatever they wanted to do, but Elijah had already been through enough today. As they headed back to I-70, she turned to check on him. He was already dozing.

She whispered to Drake. “I think we should wait until tomorrow to tell him about his other appointments.”

Drake nodded. “I agree. I think he’s a little overwhelmed by everything.”

To tell the truth, Madison was feeling a little overwhelmed herself, but she didn’t tell Drake how she was feeling. She couldn’t really talk about the case and she didn’t want him to know about her screw-up with the Turners. And now she had to make sure that Elijah was protected. They rode in silence the rest of the way to Fruita.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 11

silhouette3Drake was washing dishes while Elijah helped dry. It was a struggle to hold onto the wet plates, but he wanted to help Drake. When he grabbed a large plate, though, his grip slipped on the wet china and the plate smashed to the floor. Instinctively, he stepped away from Drake and braced himself for a blow.

“Uh, oh,” Drake said. “Can you go get the broom? It’s hanging on the wall in the garage.”

Elijah stared at Drake. He wasn’t mad? Drake looked at Elijah. His blue eyes were serious, but they didn’t seem mad.

“Are you all right, Elijah? You didn’t hurt yourself did you?”

Elijah shook his head, and moved around the pieces of china to get the broom. If his father had been here, he would have cuffed him hard on the ear. He found the broom in the garage and carefully lifted it off its hook. He was starting to like Drake more and more. He’s almost forgotten himself and spoken to him several times. He would have to be careful. He couldn’t afford to slip up. He couldn’t let Drake, or the Sheriff, find out about his father or himself.

He brought the broom to Drake. Drake snapped off the dustpan which was attached to the handle and handed it to Elijah. While Drake swept up the shards, Elijah held the dustpan in place. Working together, they cleaned up Elijah’s mess. As Drake handed Elijah the broom, he said, “We make a pretty good team, don’t we?”

His father never talked like that. His father was always the boss. Elijah did what his father told him and that was that. They didn’t work together. They weren’t a team. Elijah often felt like he was a bother to his father, just an irritation. He often wondered why his father didn’t get rid of him. He could travel a lot faster and longer without having to stop and rest or get food. His father was like a machine—never stopping, never sleeping, but always on the alert. Elijah was amazed that he had finally outsmarted him. He hoped his father was far away right now. He thought of his father walking down the highway into the darkness, finally alone. For a moment, Elijah felt guilty standing in this warm kitchen filled with golden light. He was safe from his father, but at what price?

As he was hanging the broom back up in the garage, the garage door began to open. For a moment, he froze. His father had found him. He hadn’t left town, but had tracked him here. He was getting ready to hide when he saw the lights on the Sheriff’s SUV. Even though the Sheriff made him as nervous as his father did, he relaxed when he saw it was her coming home. Drake came to stand behind him at the door and put his hands on his shoulders. For once, Elijah didn’t tense and pull away. He liked the warmth of Drake’s hands seeping into the cloth on his shoulders.

The Sheriff got out of the SUV. Even though she parked her car in the garage, she still locked it. She was careful like his father. She reminded him a little of his father—the way she was constantly on alert, always scanning the surroundings, even when she was at home. He’d noticed that at dinner how she sat so she could face the side door from the garage and the livingroom where the front door was. His father did that, too. If they ever ate in a diner or a fast food place, he always sat so he could see all the exits and his eyes never lost that calculating look as he scanned the place for danger.

The Sheriff was like that. When she looked at him, he felt like she wasn’t seeing him. She was seeing the key to solving her case, but he wasn’t going to help her. This case would have to go unsolved. She didn’t seem nervous or scared as she approached Elijah and Drake. Elijah had heard them fighting when he went into his room and slammed his door. He heard another door slam and the house had gone quiet. He’d finally dozed off and when he had awoken, someone had covered him with a quilt. That was strange. He didn’t usually sleep that soundly, but he hadn’t even known someone was in his room.

Madison came and stood at the bottom of the stairs. She looked sad.

“Hey, you guys, I’m really sorry about this afternoon.”

Drake stepped around Elijah and headed down the stairs. Elijah thought to himself, Here it comes, but Drake didn’t hit Madison. He just hugged her. Of course, Madison was a sheriff and she had a gun. Maybe, that was why Drake didn’t hit her. He had vague memories of his mother and his father fighting, and the fights always ended the same way, with a punch. He turned and headed back into the kitchen with Drake and Madison on his heals.

Drake asked, “Did you eat dinner?”

Madison nodded. “Hal and I grabbed a really late lunch, so I’m good for now. I’m going to go change, and then I need to talk to you and Elijah.”

As he settled in on the couch, Elijah prepared himself to be questioned again. She could ask him all the questions she wanted, but he wasn’t going to answer them. They couldn’t know about what his father had done, or about what he had done. Elijah wasn’t exactly innocent either.

Drake sat down next to Elijah on the couch. “After we talk, do you want to play MarioKart again? I’m ready for another round.”

Elijah wanted to play, but his hands had been aching. He wasn’t used to using them so much, and he thought they were getting tired. He didn’t know how to tell Drake. He didn’t want to bring up his hands, or that would mean more questions, so he just nodded.

“Good. I have to even our score.”

Madison came into the livingroom. She had changed to a large blue sweater and blue leggings. Her hair was down. She had long black hair, but she usually kept it up in a ponytail. She looked completely different. Not like the Sheriff at all.

“Elijah,” she said looking at him. He braced himself to resist her questions. “I’m not going to ask you any more questions.”

He wasn’t sure he could trust her.

“But we need to take you to a doctor. Actually, I want you to see two doctors. One is a medical doctor and one is a psychologist. Do you know what a psychologist is?”

Elijah shook his head. He’d never been to the doctor. His father always took care of him if he got sick.

“A psychologist is someone who helps people with problems they might have. People talk to them and they help them. Would you go see a doctor like that and maybe talk to them?”

Elijah shrugged. He didn’t want to say no exactly, but he wasn’t going to talk to any other adult, either. Madison seemed to accept his answer. He and Drake began playing their game. His hands hurt, so he didn’t do very well. Drake finally noticed that he wasn’t playing very well.

“Are you tired of playing, Elijah?” Drake asked.

Elijah nodded.

Drake shut off his game and turned on the large screen television that was mounted on the wall above the fireplace.

“Let’s watch a movie instead.”

Elijah settled back in next to Drake. Drake got up. “We can’t watch a movie without some popcorn. Hey, Madison! We’re watching a movie. Do you want to join us?”

Madison had gone back into their bedroom, but she came out when Drake called her. She sat on the couch next to Elijah, and grabbed the remote. She went to a guide on the television and began scrolling through the movies.

“How about The Incredibles?” she asked. “We can watch the first one tonight and then the second one tomorrow when we get home from the doctor.”

Elijah nodded. He could smell the scent of hot buttered popcorn as Drake popped the popcorn in the microwave. Drake came out with a large bowl of popcorn and some glasses of juice on a tray. He settled back to watch the movie. He hadn’t seen many movies. Every now and then, his father would get him a room somewhere and he would watch whatever happened to be on, but he’d never been able to just order up any movie he liked. As Drake and Madison settled back on the couch, he began to relax. He leaned back, too, and for a while, even forgot that Madison was the sheriff. For a moment, he could pretend that this was his family and that he was home.

He’d had to get rid of the body and clean up the mess he made. He’d hit the guy at the base of the skull with the tire iron. The guy never even saw him coming and he went down like a bag of rocks. After checking to make sure that the rest of the cabin was empty, he had loaded the body in the back of the pick-up truck that was parked in front of the cabin and drove it around to the back. The lot for the cabin backed up against a stand of pine trees. He carried the body into the thickest part of the trees and dumped him in a small hollow at the bottom of a large pine tree. He covered the body with some branches and leaves and then headed back to the cabin. He now had transportation that the cops wouldn’t be looking for and a place to say.

When he stepped back into the cabin, he noticed some spots of blood on the shiny wood floor. He cleaned up the blood and then scoped out the rest of the cabin. He checked the front bedroom first. A double bed was in the center of the room and covered by a worn quilt. A battered chest of drawers stood in the corner. The drawers were all empty as was the closet, so he figured that this must be an extra bedroom. He thought of the boy as he checked the room. It would be nice to live in a spot like this all the time. No more moving around, no more running. They would be on their own away from people. And without people around, he probably wouldn’t get his urges as often. He could keep the boy from getting any urges himself. He sighed as he closed the door to the empty room. He had to quit dreaming about things that could never be. Someone would probably miss this guy sooner or later. He checked the next room down the hall. A small bathroom with an old claw-foot tub and cracked tile, but at least it was clean.

The last room at the end of the hall was another bedroom. This one looked lived in. The bed was rumpled and the closet was filled with clothes. There was only mens’ clothes in the closet. No sign that he had a wife or anyone living with him. He thought he was safe for now. He closed the door to that bedroom and decided to sleep in the front bedroom. He went out to get his pack out of the car. He needed to do some laundry and take a shower. Then, he would eat and come up with a plan. He knew that the Sheriff had taken the boy home with her. The woman he had snatched from in front of the Sheriff’s office had finally told him what he needed to know. She had died before she could tell him any more. He needed to figure out where the Sheriff lived. He couldn’t go around asking people in the town where the Sheriff lived. People would notice. He had to assume that the Sheriff had gotten a description from someone. When he had an impulse, he didn’t hide who he was other than putting up his hood. He never stayed around after a kill, so he’d never had to be very careful. He and the boy kept moving from city to city. He tried to avoid small towns like this one whenever he could, but they were stranded. He would never have given in to his need to kill if they hadn’t been so desperate for money. He didn’t usually steal from the women he killed. It wasn’t honorable, but this time he had had no choice. He’d only gotten a couple of hundred dollars, but it would have been enough to get on a bus and get out of this god forsaken town.

Now he was stuck here. He’d walked right under the security camera to snatch the last woman. Again, he’d had no choice. He needed to find his boy and that woman was talking to him and the Sheriff moments before they left. He’d kept his hood on, but he was sure the camera had caught him. Probably, every business in the town had his picture by now. He grabbed his pack out of the trunk of the silver car. At least, he had a vehicle that wouldn’t draw attention. The man who owned the cabin had a red 150. He would be able to drive it for a while until someone noticed the man was missing. He was going to ditch the silver car as soon as he could. Shouldering his pack, he went back through the front door, through the livingroom and back into the kitchen. There was a small mudroom to the right of the backdoor. There was a decrepit washing machine that he hoped still worked. Fiddling with the dial, he heard a rush of water. After loading his and the boy’s clothes into the washer and adding detergent, he went into the kitchen to get some food.

The kitchen was stocked with enough food to last a few days at least. He made himself a bologna and cheese sandwich and grabbed a beer out of the fridge. As he sat at the scarred mica-topped kitchen table, he began leafing through the local newspaper, The Fruita Times. It was a small paper, not many pages. He stopped on the Community page when he saw a picture that he recognized. The picture showed a woman with long dark hair officiating at a pie-eating contest. Even though she was smiling, he could tell that she wasn’t quite comfortable being there. Her whole body was stiff and her smile didn’t reach her eyes. Next to her stood, a tall man with curly brown hair. The man was laughing and his arm was around the Sheriff. He looked at the caption: “Sheriff Rhodes and her husband, Drake, officiate at the Fruita Carnival Pie Eating Contest. The Sheriff vows to arrest anyone who tries to cheat.”

The caption was trying to be humorous, but he couldn’t keep his eyes off the Sheriff’s husband. A plan was beginning to surface. He ripped the picture out of the paper and stared at it. He smiled.