Bug Out! Part 11: Motorhomes on the Dark Road (9 page)

BOOK: Bug Out! Part 11: Motorhomes on the Dark Road
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“Some think a clan did those murders?”

“Yes, some do,” Heidi said. “Others believe there were separate, unrelated people involved with many of them.”

“When did he start?”

“Conventional wisdom says 1935,” Heidi said. “Most investigators think he killed twelve people between 1935 and 1938 and then disappeared.”

“That’s too old to be related to recent clans, isn’t it?” Trish asked.

“Well, the story is getting more interesting as I’m digging in,” Heidi said. “Other investigators believe he killed thirteen more people, as late as the early 1950s, and as early as the 1920s. There’s even one investigator who believes the Torso Murderer was responsible for the Black Dahlia murder.”

“What? That’s California.”

“I understand,” Heidi said. “The investigator who came up with that was ridiculed for it, but he stuck to his guns over the years.”

“This reminds me of the Nighthawk Road Killer,” Trish said.

“Oh, you’ve done research on that one?”

“Yeah,” Trish said. “Those murders started in the late 40s and ran until a few years ago. Obviously not just one person. Wonder if there’s any relation between those and the Torso Murderer?”

“I doubt it. They’re pretty far apart, and it doesn’t appear that the Torso Murderer went past the 1950s,” Heidi said.

“You’re probably right, but it’s still worth looking at,” Trish said.

“Was Chet ever a suspect in the Nighthawk Road case?” Heidi said.

“He was brought in for questioning,” Trish said. “Nothing came of it.”

“How about Howard?”

“I couldn’t find anything about him,” Trish said. “Or Scott.”

“If Chet was questioned, there may have been surveillance done,” Heidi said. “See if you can find anything on this site.” She underlined one of the URLs on a slip of paper and slid it over to her.

“Okay,” Trish said. She focused on her laptop.

***

Jake was digging around in his bobtail. Terry and Frank were with him.

“What are you looking for?” Terry asked.

“Electronic eye hardware,” Jake said, climbing out with two boxes. “And sensors for auto-opening doors. The electronic eye box has a hole in it, I’m afraid.”

“Bullet hole?” Frank asked.

“Yeah,” Terry said. “We got shot up on the way out to Gabe’s place.”

“That’s right, I remember,” Frank said. “Seems like such a long time ago.”

“Sure does,” Jake said, bringing the boxes out of the truck. “I’m glad the electronic eye is the one that’s shot up. This is obsolete technology now.”

“It says
wireless
on the box,” Frank said. “Doesn’t look that old to me.”

“Oh, yeah, and it works, too. I had one in my store for a while. The only problem with these is that you need to mount both the light and the sensor, and they can’t be more than about twenty feet apart.”

“So we’d need a fence or tree on either side.” Terry said.

“Yeah,” Jake said as he opened the box. “We lucked out. Nothing damaged. The bullet missed everything except for packing material.”

“How about the other one?” Frank asked.

“This is a replacement for commercial automatic doors,” Jake said, holding up the box. “I’ve got more of them in the truck, but they present a challenge.”

“What’s that?” Frank asked.

“They aren’t wireless. They send a signal to activate the door motor, but only over a wire. We’d have to either run a lot of wire or come up with a wireless solution to make this work.”

“Sounds like something Frank could figure out,” Terry said.

“How many of these do you have?” Frank asked.

“At least ten,” Jake said. “Had lots of people buying them, so I kept them on hand. Some of them might be shot up. I’ll have to take a look.”

“Interesting. I might be able to rig these to send a message out over LTE,” Frank said. “We’d need phones with removable batteries.”

Jake grinned. “I’ve got some obsolete phones that have removable batteries,” Jake said. “I used to sell them to construction companies, because you can drop these suckers over and over and they still work. Heavy duty, with a multiple battery setup. Bought way too many of those. I almost left them at home.”

“What makes them obsolete?” Terry asked.

“They’re big and heavy, and to charge them you always have to pull out the battery and put it on a separate charger. People just want to plug in their phone these days. I’ll grab one so you can look at it.” He climbed back into his bobtail and rummaged around.

“You’ve got an idea, Frank,” Terry said. “I can see it on your face.”

“Yep,” Frank said. “Don’t know if it will work or not though.”

Jake climbed out of the truck with two boxes. “Here’s two that don’t have bullet holes.” He handed one to Frank.

“I remember these,” Frank said. “We used to give them to our system managers at work. They have that push-to-talk feature.”

“Push-to-talk?” Terry asked.

“Yeah, it was a way to cut down on cell minute charges,” Frank said. “They had a walkie-talkie mode. You had to set up call circles ahead of time, but then when you were in range, you could talk back and forth for free, like you were on a walkie-talkie. Worked great for us.”

“How many spots do you think we need to set up?” Terry asked.

“I can think of five,” Frank said. “We have that much hardware?”

“Probably,” Jake said. “I threw more than that in the truck. As long as they aren’t shot up, we’re good.”

“Good,” Frank said. “How about if I take one phone and one of the motion sensors and see if I can connect them.”

“Sure,” he said. “You going into that workshop under the barn? Saw soldering irons and that kind of stuff in there.”

“Yeah,” Frank said.

“Okay, see you in a little while,” Jake said. “Want to help me rummage, Terry?”

“Sure,” he said. They climbed into the bobtail.

***

“Finally, Sharon Springs,” Hilda said, looking at the sign on the highway. “I can’t wait to get out of this damn car.”

“You and me both,” Charlie said.

“Duchess has had more than enough, too,” Dobie said.

“She need to stop?” Charlie asked.

“How much longer we going to be on the road.”

“Fifteen minutes, give or take,” Charlie said.

“Fine, no problem,” Dobie said.

They got off the highway and cruised into town.

“Look, Howard’s truck stop is open,” Hilda said. “Should we stop and see if he’s around?”

“No, let’s get home,” Charlie said. “I’m antsy as hell.”

“Afraid somebody else will attack?” Dobie asked.

“Yeah.”

“Me too,” Dobie said.

They got on the deserted roads leading back to the park, eyes peeled, scanning the area.

“Oh my word!” Hilda said. “There’s the semi that attacked the park.”

“Looks like we messed up their whole day,” Dobie said, chuckling. “We hit them with Willie Pete?”

“That’d be my guess,” Charlie said. “Surprised they got so close.”

“They probably had to let them get that close,” Dobie said. “To be in range of the small arms.”

They rolled into the park. Everybody came out to meet the three vehicles as they pulled in front of the clubhouse.

“I’ll brief you on the meeting we had earlier,” General Hogan said, surrounded by his kids.

Everybody followed him into the clubhouse. George, Malcolm, Kurt, and Mary came in to listen. The rest of the group went back to the work they were doing.

After the briefing, Charlie and Hilda walked up to Malcolm and George.

“Howard’s place is open again,” Charlie said.

“Oh, yeah, we didn’t brief that part,” Malcolm said. “It’s being run by a friend of theirs named Sherry.
We enlisted her help
.”

“Oh, really,” Hilda said. “Why?”

“Early warning, mainly,” Malcolm said. “I’m holding the contents of the VHS tapes over her head.”

“Wait, she was a participant?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, many years ago,” Malcolm said. “We need to find a working VCR so we can watch the tapes.”

“Well, I’ll sit that one out,” Hilda said. “I want some coffee. I’ll go crank up the big pot.”

She walked to the kitchen.

“So she confirmed that Howard and Scotty are together, I take it,” Charlie said.

“Yep,” Malcolm said. “They’d probably be back here already if it wasn’t for the nuke attack. They got stuck on the other side of big muddy.”

“What are we gonna do about that?”

“We’re trying to find out where their house is. We’re sure it’s in Ohio, but we don’t know where. Heidi and Trish are working the historic angle now, but that’s a long shot. If we’re lucky Howard or Scotty will drop a clue in conversation with Sherry.”

“You trust her?” Charlie asked.

“Maybe,” George said. “Malcolm has more faith in that situation than I do.”

“Why?” Charlie asked.

“I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing suspects and witnesses,” Malcolm said. “I’m a pretty good judge of what they’re thinking behind the mask. She probably looks at us as her best hope for survival at this point.”

“You aren’t going to turn her in?” Charlie asked. “If there’s evidence on those tapes, that is?”

“Haven’t thought that far ahead,” Malcolm said.

“We’re supposed to be telling the authorities about that dungeon when things settle down,” Charlie said. “We agreed to that. How are we gonna hide her involvement?”

“I don’t know yet,” Malcolm said. “We might be able to work an immunity deal for her. We changed the plans for when we’ll notify the authorities about that dungeon, too.”

“Really? Mary okay with that?”

“Yeah, Charlie, we convinced her. She was worried about anybody that might have been convicted of one of the crimes. I’ve already researched that. Nobody was convicted for any of the Nighthawk Road killings, so we aren’t keeping anybody stewing in jail if we don’t bring this to light right away.”

“Okay,” Charlie said. “Good.”

“I should get back to work,” Malcolm said. “Ran into a good trail in my research.”

Charlie smiled. “Thanks, guys. Talk to you later.”

Malcolm and George watched him go to the kitchen to join Hilda.

“Think he’s okay with this?” George asked.

“Yeah,” Malcolm said.

“What thread are you following?”

“I’m looking at all houses in Cleveland which were in one families hands starting in the 30s or before, and sold to somebody un-related in the last five years. There aren’t that many, believe it or not.”

“So you still believe the historic angle will get us there?” George asked.

“It’s a long shot, but you never know. If we find a likely prospect, think you and Frank can get a satellite view?”

“Sure,” George said, “But what good is that going to do? You can’t see into the house.”

“True, but I might see a Class C motor home parked on the property or nearby.”

***

The film in the projector finished, the end flapping as the take-up reel continued to turn.

“I’m hungry,” Scott said.

Howard laughed. “You can eat after that? Sick, man.”

“You okay, Bailey?” Scott asked.

She turned to him and smiled. “Any more of the Black Dahlia?”

“Well, she’s already carved and cleaned,” Howard said, a distasteful look on his face. “How much more could there be?”

“There’s one more reel in that pile,” Scott said. “I’m hoping it shows how they placed the body, but the camera wasn’t exactly portable.”

“Maybe they had a smaller one,” Bailey said, her eyes on fire. “Let’s watch it.”

“Okay,” Scott said. He got up and switched film reels.

“I’ll watch the beginning, but after that I’m done for a while,” Howard said.

“No problem, Howie,” Scott said, as he flipped on the projector.

“That’s not the dump site. It’s indoors,” Bailey said. “I don’t recognize that room.”

“Definitely not here,” Howard said.

A woman in her mid-thirties appeared on the screen, looking around, scared.

“Relax, this’ll be over in a few minutes,” said a man off-camera. “Please state your name.”

“Gertrude Landon,” she said, her eyes darting around. “Who’s that guy?”

“Don’t worry, that’s just my partner Chet,” the voice said. “He’s going to take part in your screen test.”

The large man got behind her, and a flash bulb went off. “Superb. Hold for another.”

The man put his arms around the woman’s torso. She looked back at him. “Watch your hands, buster.” There was fear in her eyes.

“Relax,” the man’s voice said. “Chet, we need to see her without the blouse.”

“What! No,” Gertrude said, struggling. Chet tore her shirt and ripped it off of her, leaving her in her bra. She screamed. Chet tossed it aside, and worked on her skirt, tearing it while he struggled to keep her under control. She screamed again. Chet put his hand over his mouth, and she bit him hard.

“Dammit,” he cried, pulling on his hand, trying to get it out of her teeth. She let go and screamed again. Then there was pounding on the door.

“Quiet down,” an old woman’s voice shouted.

“Help!” Gertrude cried.

“I’m calling the cops!” the woman shouted.

The other man ran through the frame, over to the door. He opened it and slipped out. There was a heated conversation. Gertrude continued to struggle and yell.

The man ran back into the room. “Shut her up,” he whispered. “I told the old bat we were doing a screen test for a horror film in here.”

Gertrude tried to get a punch in, but Chet caught her hand. “We won’t be able to finish here,” he said.

“I know,” the man said.

Chet put both hands around the woman’s neck and choked her, holding as she struggled. It took several minutes, but she finally went limp under his hands.

“Hold her for a little longer, Chet,” the man off camera said. “We need to be sure.”

He held her for close to a minute, then dropped her, crumpling to the ground. “We gonna cut her up?”

“No, let’s get our stuff loaded and clear out of here, before the old lady changes her mind.”

“You want to kill her on the way out?”

BOOK: Bug Out! Part 11: Motorhomes on the Dark Road
13.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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