Authors: Robert Boren
“No, let’s just split. Pull the car around.”
Chet stepped over the body and left out a door on the other side of the room. The picture went black.
“Wow,” Howard said. “Who the hell was that?”
“We can search for her name. Remember it?” Scott asked.
“I just found it on my phone,” Bailey said. “Another unsolved one. The woman was snatched not far from where the Black Dahlia was taken. Her body was dumped in a gravel pit up in a place called Rolling Hills Estates.”
“I know where that is,” Scott said. “It’s by the coast, on a hill called Palos Verdes.”
“Interesting,” Howard said. “Before or after the Black Dahlia?”
“Before,” Bailey said. “Mid-1946. You think Chet and the Torso Murderer were there long enough? They’re about six months apart.”
“Lots of jobs there after the war,” Scott said. “I know my dad looked around there for a while.”
“Can we go upstairs now?” Howard said. “I’m getting hungry, and we should check on Kerry too.”
“All right, Howie,” Scott said. “I guess five hours is long enough.”
“Can we watch some of the other movies later?” Bailey asked.
“How about tomorrow,” Scott said. “I’m itching to find a new playmate.”
Bailey’s eyes lit up. “For real?”
“Yeah,” Scott said. “Let’s go make plans.”
The three of them went back upstairs. Kerry was sitting in the kitchen, watching the door. He looked terrified.
“What’s the matter, Kerry?” Howard asked.
“Scary noises down there,” he said.
“It was just movies, Kerry,” Scott said. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Horror movies?” he asked, eyes wide.
“Definitely,” Scott said, with a twinkle in his eye.
“I’m calling Sherry,” Howard said. “I’ll be out in the living room.” He sat on the couch and took his phone out of his pocket.
“Yeah, this Howard?”
“Yep. How’s things going at my place?”
“Nothing to worry about,” she said.
There was silence on the line.
“Something’s wrong,” Howard said. “What?”
“Oh, it’s all right. There was an enemy attack on the RV Park last night.”
“I know,” Howard said. “Scotty told me he talked with you. Who was it that showed up again?”
“Some guy named Kurt, and another guy.”
“What was the other guy’s name?”
“I don’t know,” Sherry said. “He didn’t say. Some black guy.”
“I don’t remember a black guy with the group.”
“Oh well,” she said. “When are you creeps coming back here?”
“Won’t be too much longer. You okay for a little while longer?”
“What’s a while?” she asked.
“Couple weeks,” Howard said.
“Okay,” she said. “I gotta go. Customers.”
“I’ll talk to you later, Sherry. Thanks.”
“Save it. See you. Sooner the better.”
Howard came back into the kitchen. Scott and Bailey were making sandwiches.
“You get her?” Scott asked.
“Yeah. We got problems.”
“Why do you say that?”
“She’s hiding something. I asked her the name of the black guy that was with Kurt. She said he didn’t say,” Howard said. “I know these RV types. The first thing they do is tell you their name. She doesn’t want to tell us who he is. The tone of her voice wasn’t right, either.”
“We going back there?” Bailey asked, bringing a plate piled high with sandwiches on it. Kerry followed her to the table.
“I think we ought to make this our new home and forget about that place,” Howard said. “We go back there, we’ll get ourselves killed.”
“You worry too much, Howie,” Scott said. “I agree that we should lie low for a little while. How long can Sherry run your place?”
“I told her I’d be gone a couple more weeks,” Howard said.
“Then we don’t have to decide what to do just yet,” Scott said. “Let’s plan for tonight. We’ve got an empty cell in the dungeon just waiting for a new resident.”
Frank bent over the workbench,
a thin line of smoke rising as he soldered wires onto the cell phone’s circuit board. He pulled back the soldering iron and blew on it. Jake, Terry, and Jerry were watching.
“There, that ought to do it,” he said. He applied power to the motion sensor, and then waved his hand in front of it, watching the cell phone’s output. “Bingo.”
“It’s transmitting?” Jake asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “We’ve got an issue though. We need good batteries for the motion sensors. Batteries we can swap out.”
“I’ve got a few in my bobtail, but not enough,” Jake said.
“How many do you have?”
“Five or six,” Jake said.
“We need twice that,” Frank said.
“Wait a minute,” Jerry said. “Maybe we ought to get some small solar panels. We could use them to charge up those batteries during the day. They ought to have enough juice in them for the nighttime.”
“We’d have to be careful placing them,” Frank said. “They’d be a tip-off for sure.”
“We could run wire, put them out in the fields a ways from the roads,” Jake said. “I’ve got wire and some small panels.”
“We’d still have to swap out the cell phone batteries, though,” Jerry said. “You won’t get enough juice out of a small panel to keep them both charged.”
“No big deal,” Jake said. “We need to check these things daily anyway. We’ll have to keep the solar panels clean, for one thing. Especially if they’ll be on the dirt.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you what,” Frank said. “I’m going to go get the programming done to receive these signals. You guys can get the motion sensors tied to the phones and the solar panels, and then get them placed. Deal?”
“On it,” Jake said, laughing. “I love doing this stuff.”
“Me too,” Jerry said.
“I’ll need to take off for a while,” Terry said. “I’m up for watch on the roof of the barn.”
“Okay, I’ll catch you guys later,” Frank said. He headed back to the clubhouse to get on the PC.
“Wow, look at this,” Trish said, looking at the screen of her laptop.
Heidi rolled her chair over. “That’s a transcript of the interview that Chet did with the cops, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Trish said, eyes wide, reading through it.
“Late 1947,” she said, eyes still glued to the screen. “Shit, they weren’t asking him about the Nighthawk Road killings. Not at all. They were asking about time he spent in California.”
“Really?” Heidi asked. “What crime were they asking about?”
“You aren’t going to believe this,” Trish said. “He was being questioned about the Black Dahlia murder, and some other murder that happened about six months before that. Somebody named Gertrude Landon.”
“Hmmm, haven’t heard that name before,” Heidi said. “Why were they questioning him about this?”
“It looks like part of it was due to the person he traveled to California with,” Trish said. “Holy shit, they thought the other guy might have been the Torso Murderer.”
“No way,” Heidi said. “I’m calling George and Malcolm over here.” She picked up her phone and called, making comments in hushed tones.
They continued reading while they waited. Malcolm hurried in, George right behind him.
“Let’s see,” Malcolm said. Trish got out of her chair, and Malcolm took it. George looked over his shoulder. “Holy cow!”
“What?” George asked, straining to read the screen.
“Our friend Chet was hanging around with a Torso Murderer suspect, being questioned about the Black Dahlia murder, and the Gravel Pit murder about six months earlier.”
“Gravel Pit murder?”
“You don’t know your LA South Bay history very well, do you?” Malcolm asked, turning to look at him. “Just another unsolved murder, but some investigators thought the person who did the Black Dahlia murder also did that one. The body turned up in what’s now Rolling Hills Estates.”
“You’re joking,” George said.
“Nope,” Malcolm said. “I never subscribed to the theory that it was the same killer. I also never bought the Torso Murderer connection to the Black Dahlia murder. Maybe I ought to re-think that.”
George backed up a little, thinking. “This is interesting, but how does it relate to our current dilemma?”
“What do you mean?” Heidi asked.
“How does it help us find out where Scott and Howard are hiding?”
“It plays right into what I was working on,” Malcolm said. “I’m looking for a historical site in Ohio. We know Chet was from this world, and any trips he took or associations he had with other suspects are likely to be connected to murders. We need to search property records in Cleveland for this other suspect’s name. Rupert Smith.”
“We’ll work on that,” Heidi said, looking at Trish.
“Okay,” Malcolm said. “I’m still looking at sales records on older houses. I’m just about done with Cleveland, but found nothing, so this new set of clues might really save our bacon.”
“Hey,” Jane said, looking over. “See the news?”
“No, what?” George asked.
“Body found outside of St Louis,” she said. “It’s the other missing coed. Amanda Smith.”
“Oh, shit,” Malcolm said, heading for the door.
“Where are you going?” George asked.
“Back to my laptop. I’m on that workbench in the barn.”
“Okay, be there in a minute,” George said.
Terry climbed up on the roof of the barn. Jackson was up there.
“Hey, Jackson, I’m here to relieve you,” Terry said.
“Oh, cool,” he said. “Mind if I hang around for a little while?”
“Sure, no problem,” Terry said, sitting down next to him. “Looks like Jake and Jerry are already getting those motion sensors set up.”
“Oh, that’s what they’re doing,” Jackson said. “I was wondering.”
“Cool idea, actually,” Terry said. “They’re rigging some of those auto-door motion sensors up to old cellphones. We’ll get a signal if anybody goes by.”
“Sounds like something Frank and Jerry would cook up,” Jackson said, chuckling.
“Exactly,” Terry said. “I was down there when they came up with the idea.”
“What’s Trish up to?”
“She’s helping Heidi track down those serial killers.”
“Oh, she’s into that?” Jackson asked.
“Yeah, big time. I thought that dungeon would be the end of this place for her. It shook her up at first, but now she’s fascinated by it all.”
The sound of a diesel engine started under them.
“What’s that?” Jackson asked. “The tow truck?”
“Sounds too loud for that,” Terry said. “Look, it’s Gabe on his backhoe.”
“Oh, forgot about that thing,” Jackson said. “Looks like he’s heading for the gate. What’s he gonna do? Dig a new moat?”
Both of them cracked up as they watched. He continued past the front of the park, and out into the field.
“I know what he’s doing,” Terry said. “He’s going to drag the hulk of that semi-truck out of there.”
“Good idea,” Jackson said. “We don’t need cover out there for the bad guys to hide behind.”
“Yeah, that lead lining makes the trailer hard to shoot through, that’s for sure.”
“Maybe I ought to go help him,” Jackson said.
“Suit yourself,” Terry said. “I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Maybe we ought to drag it in here and use it for a fortification.”
“I’ll suggest that,” Jackson said, putting his rifle sling over his shoulder. “Later, man.”
“Have fun,” Terry said. He scanned the horizon in all directions.
“Let’s go, Howie,” Scott said. “It’s dark enough now.”
“Wish we had a smaller vehicle,” Howard said. “That damn class C is a bear to drive around here, and it’ll get noticed.”
“Wouldn’t it be harder to use a car?” Bailey asked.
“Yeah, a car would be tough, but a van would work,” Howard said.
“We’re just gonna have to make do,” Scott said. “It’ll be okay, at least for another time or two.”
“It’s hard to see it in the backyard, at least,” Bailey said.
“Yeah, a couple of times should be okay, unless enough eyewitnesses catch it,” Howard said. “Then we’re liable to have police helicopters looking for it.”
“If we end up having to stay here for a while, we should get a van,” Scott said.
“That garage big enough for one?” Howard asked.
“Yeah,” Scott said. “We’d have to clean it out though. It’s a friggin mess, and there’s an old station wagon in there, too.”
“Really?” Bailey asked. “It doesn’t have any artifacts from the Torso murders, does it?”
“Good question,” Scott said. “It might. We’ll have to take some time out there, after we’ve seen the rest of the movies in the dungeon.”
“We going to take movies of our own?” Bailey asked, eyes wide with excitement.
“Sure, we might as well add to the legacy,” Scott said.
“Yeah, well just remember the danger of doing that,” Howard said. “Your dad had all kinds of that stuff. Film and VHS. I helped him take it to a storage unit, to get it away from the park. We’d be toast if anybody saw it.”
Scott laughed. “It’s not in the storage unit anymore.”
Howard got a worried look on his face. “You brought it here?”
“No, dummy, it’s at the Kansas RV Park, down in the dungeon with the rest of the artifacts.”
“Son of a bitch,” Howard said. “I can’t go back there now.”
“Why not?” Scott asked.
“What do you mean, why not? I’m in some of those old 35 mm films.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” Scott said. “You were a lot younger. You didn’t look the same. I didn’t see you in any of the VHS tapes.”
“I got smarter as I got older, so I’m not on any of the VHS tapes,” Howard said. “Kurt will recognize me on those old films. I’ve known him since that time, dumbass.”
“You’re assuming they watched them,” Scott said.
“Yeah, you’re damn right I am,” Howard said. “This is really bad. I can’t go back to my truck stop now. Not ever. Didn’t you think about that?”
“I didn’t know you had friends that old,” Scott said, deep in thought. “We’re going to have to kill all the interlopers and remove the artifacts.”
“Yeah, right,” Howard said. “How the hell are we gonna do that?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But I’ll think of something. Better call Sherry. Oh, and by the way, she’s on the VHS tapes. Nasty stuff. Use that.”