Read John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice Online

Authors: Michael Lister

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Hard-Boiled, #Religious

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BOOK: John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice
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Chapter Nine
 

When the banging on my door began at just before two in the morning, I hadn’t been asleep long. I had returned to my room from an after-dinner walk around the lake restless and frustrated. I had hoped to run into Kathryn but she was nowhere around, and I wondered if she was with Steve.

I shouldn’t have even been thinking about her, but I was finding it difficult not to, and that made me agitated and unable to sleep.

The truth was Kathryn was just a distraction. The real reason I was agitated and unable to sleep was my mental state. I felt isolated and alone, cut off from the rest of the world. I was homesick for a home I didn’t have and my loneliness opened up a hole inside me that felt as bad as anything I had ever experienced. I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I wanted to scream but didn’t. I needed to connect but felt as though I were the only lonely soul adrift in the cosmos.

I had paced around the small room, mind wandering, bumping into the furniture, before I finally laid down and courted that which eluded me nearly as much as equanimity.

I dreamt I was floating weightlessly in a world of clear, sky-blue water, arms and legs dangling beneath me. Hearing the sound at the door, like the knock of an oar against a boat, I rose to the top, cresting the surface into consciousness.

“Get dressed, I need your help,” Steve said.

In the split-second I saw his face before he spoke, I knew something was wrong, his words and tone only confirming it.

Suddenly, there was nothing between us—no competition, no unresolved conflict, no past at all, only the present, only the task at hand. Now he was just a cop, I, his best hope for help.

Without saying a word, I quickly put back on the jeans, shirt, jacket, and tennis shoes I had donned earlier to walk the lake, silently praying nothing had happened to Kathryn or Sister Abigail.

When I was dressed, he turned and began walking down the narrow corridor, his rubber-soled shoes nearly soundless on the dull tile floor. I followed a step behind him, waiting for him to tell me what had happened and what he needed from me.

“I need to know I can count on you to act like a cop and not a chaplain,” he said.

I nodded.

He turned and looked at me, slowing a step so I could walk beside him, which I had to do with my shoulders at a slight angle for us to fit.

I nodded again so he could see it.

“No matter how you might feel about these people, you’ve got to help me preserve evidence, protect the crime scene, secure statements.”

“Crime scene?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Where?”

“One of the cabins.”

My heart, racing since I first heard the banging on my door, seemed now to stop completely.

“Who’s the victim?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Don’t know yet.”

“What?”

“The cabin’s empty,” he said.

“Then how do you know it’s a crime scene?”

“All the blood.”

When we stepped out of the dorm and into the night, a cold gust of air slapped me in the face, tiny needles pricking my cheeks and nose, tears stinging my eyes, and I heard what sounded like a child screaming, but it was so faint and far away it could have been the howl of the wind.

“Did you hear that?” I asked.

“What?”

With no clouds to diffuse it, the full moon lit up the night, its bright glow casting long, dark shadows on the dew-damp ground. Like the trees surrounding them, the buildings of St. Ann’s were silent, the only sound, the whistle of the wind through the woods.

The airy whine sounded lonely and eerie, and it made the abbey feel desolate, the dark woods around it disquieting, and I realized how different it seemed now from earlier in the evening when it had nurtured and inspired me.

Wordlessly, we walked past the chapel and down the hill toward the cabins and the moonlit lake beyond, our breaths visible the brief moment before we walked through them.

“Which cabin?” I asked.

“It’s not Kathryn,” he said.

Relief washed over me—followed immediately by gratitude, then guilt.

“How’d you discover the—what are you still doing here?”

“Fell asleep. Something woke me—a scream, I think. When I came out here, I saw the door to the last cabin open and the lights on inside. It’s supposed to be empty, so I walked over to check it out.”

“From where?”

“From where what?”

“You woke up and came out of where?”

“Kathryn’s cabin,” he said.

I nodded, but didn’t say anything. I was shivering now, feeling as cold within as without as I tried unsuccessfully to still my shaking body.

As he stopped in front of the last cabin on the right, I came up beside him and waited. The door was now closed, the lights off, no sign of violence visible.

“I turned off the lights to keep from attracting any attention while I went to get you,” he said.

“That was smart.”

“I’m a good cop.”

“I know.”

He nodded, his expression one of gratitude, though he didn’t say anything.

“You seen a crime scene lately?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Well, this is a bad one,” he said. “So be prepared.”

“I am.”

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s do it.”

Chapter Ten
 

The musty old cabin was cold, its damp boards smelling of mildew, its dormant fireplace of charred hardwood and ashes, but those weren’t the only odors. The dank air of the small room also carried on its currents the wet-copper aroma of blood, of life and death—and it was strong enough to let me know it was most likely the latter.

I didn’t need Steve to turn on the light for me to know I was witnessing—at least in an olfactory way—a scene of extreme violence and bloodletting. When the light came on my sense of sight only confirmed what my other senses had already told me, but there was something about actually seeing it that made it simultaneously more real and less believable.

The interior of the cabin was much as the exterior—simple, rustic, unvarnished—except now much of it was splattered with somebody’s blood.

Beneath a bare bulb on the ceiling, a blood-soaked bed with four wooden posts extended out from the right wall to the center of the room. Leather straps like dog collars were fastened to the bedposts. What looked to be arterial spray covered the headboard and the wall above it.

Trying to locate the source of the dripping sound, I turned to look for a kitchen or bathroom, but found neither in the one-room cabin, and I realized it was blood dripping from the bed.

Beside the fireplace on the back wall, a wooden rocking chair held some clothes and books. Candles lined the hearth and circled the bed.

Nodding toward the candles, Steve said, “Looks ritualistic.”

“Would make sense at a place like this.”

Behind me the door slammed shut and we both jumped.

He rushed over to check outside but could see no one.

“Wind,” he said, closing it back.

As we turned back around toward the room, the candles lining the hearth and circling the bed were lit, their flickering flames causing shadows to dance on the floor, walls, and ceiling.

“Wind didn’t do that,” I said.

“What the hell?” he said. “This shit is freaking me out. Voices in the wind, slamming doors, crazy radio static, lights flashing. I think this place might be haunted.”

“Might be,” I said.

“Anyway, I’m thinking maybe we interrupted the guy and he’ll be back, but I need to go search the property in case the victim’s still alive. If the UNSUB went to dispose of the body, he’ll probably be back to clean up. I want you to wait here in case he shows.”

I nodded.

“You got a gun?”

“In my truck.”

He knelt down and pulled a small .22 from an ankle holster. “Here,” he said, handing it to me, “use this. We don’t have time for you to go get yours.”

As I took the gun, something in the far corner caught my eye. Noticing my wide-eyed expression, Steve followed my gaze.

When he saw what it was, he looked back at me with a wide-eyed expression of his own.

“You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me,” he said.

We crossed the room, carefully avoiding the blood. There, opposite the rocker, in the dimmest corner of the room, mostly hidden behind a dresser on the left wall, was a video camera on a tripod, its lens trained on the bed.

“Got any gloves?” I asked.

He shook his head. “You?”

“In my truck.”

“Well, hell,” he said, and reached down and turned on the camera.

When it whirred to life, he pressed the Play button, but nothing happened. I bent over and took a closer look.

“There’s no tape,” I said.

“He must’ve taken it.”

“And not the camera?”

“Maybe he couldn’t carry it and the victim, so he took the tape and is gonna come back for the camera and the other stuff.”

“Maybe.”

“I gotta get out there and take a look around,” he said, turning to leave.

“When you gonna call for backup?” I asked.

“As soon as I figure out what I need backup for,” he said. “You saw what I’ve got to work with. I’m not gonna have one of them fuck up my crime scene. Speaking of which, you better not either.”

As he started to leave, I said, “Be careful.”

“You too,” he said, and quietly walked out and closed the door.

Alone in the room, I took another look around. No other camcorders. No blood-covered UNSUBs cowering in the corner. Nothing that might help me figure out what had happened in here just moments before—except maybe the things in the rocking chair.

As I walked over to the chair, I heard a light tap on the door. Figuring the UNSUB wouldn’t knock before coming back in, I kept the .22 down as I crossed the room.

“Steve?” Kathryn said in a loud whisper. “John?”

I opened the door and stepped outside, closing it quickly behind me.

“Steve’s taking a look around,” I said. “We don’t need to be out here in case—”

“Good, let’s go in,” she said. “I’m freezing my ass off.”

“You need to wait in your cabin. You don’t want to see—”

“I already have,” she said.

Stepping past me, she opened the door and walked inside. I followed her, closing the door behind me.

“Sorry,” she said, “but I got scared. I just couldn’t sit there by myself any longer.”

Unlike many people unused to crime scenes, Kathryn neither gawked nor averted her eyes. She seemed as relaxed as she could be in the circumstances.

“It’s okay.”

“Do you have any idea what happened in here?” she asked.

I shrugged. “A few ideas, but no. Not really.”

“You think it’s connected to what happened to Tommy Boy?” she asked.

“It’s very different, but two deaths in one day at a place like this are more likely to be connected than not.”

Turning to the back corner, she said, “Is that a video camera?”

I nodded.

“So the whole thing’s on—”

“There’s no tape in it,” I said.

She frowned and shook her head. “That would’ve been too easy,” she said.

“I guess so.”

“You want me to put it in my cabin for safekeeping?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“I don’t mind,” she said. “Really.”

“It’ll need to be processed like everything else,” I said. “We need to be very careful not to disturb anything.”

She nodded, and looked around the room some more.

“Do you feel that?” she said. “There’s a… presence here.”

I nodded. “It’s palpable.”

“You rarely encounter this kind of concentrated evil, do you?”

“Well, I work in a maximum security prison, so I do actually, but I know what you mean.”

“There’s something truly wicked going on. We’re all in danger. It’s ancient and it’s evil. Sorry, but it’s so strong.”

I waved off her apology and nodded my agreement.

“What’s in the chair?” she asked.

“I was just about to take a look when you knocked.”

“Well, don’t let me stop you.”

Careful to avoid the blood, I crossed the room again, this time with Kathryn in tow. Holding on to my arm, she walked right behind me, pressing herself into me when I stopped at the chair.

Slowly, I sifted through the clothes, Kathryn looking over my shoulder. Stacked on a pair of shoes with socks in them were a pair of women’s jeans, a button-down white shirt, bra, and panties.

“Isn’t that what Tammy was—”

“Yeah,” I said, “it is.”

Next to the neat stack of clothes, a Bible, a book of Catholic rites and rituals, a bottle of holy water, and a rosary looked to have been dropped unceremoniously. With the very tip of my index finger, I lifted the cover of the Bible by its edge and looked inside. Near the bottom corner of the first page an embossed logo read “Library of Father Thomas Scott,” with the initials TDS in the center.

“What does it say?” Kathryn asked.

I told her.

She shook her head. “There’s got to be some mistake. He could never—someone must be trying to set him up.”

“Could be, but we all saw her leave the dining hall with him just a few hours ago.”

“Which is probably why someone thought they could set him up.”

“Possibly, but for what? We don’t even know what we’re dealing with here.” Nodding toward the bed, I added, “That could be his blood.”

If it were possible, she grew even paler. “Oh, God, please no. It can’t be.”

“I hope it’s not,” I said. “My point is, we just don’t know.”

“Yes we do,” Steve said from behind us.

We turned. He was standing in the open door, eyes wide, hands shaking—and not just from the cold.

“Tammy’s dead,” he said, his voice breaking, “and Father Thomas killed her.”

Chapter Eleven
 

The canopy covering the narrow blood-stained path blocked out much of the moonlight, and we stumbled on exposed pine, oak, and cypress roots as we slowly negotiated our way around the lake. Occasional breaks in the foliage caused intermittent patches of the path to be bathed in a pale phosphorous glow that washed out the grass and leaves and made the splatters of blood on them look black.

Steve was in front with a large black metal flashlight he had retrieved from his Explorer. I was following close behind, attempting to step where he had. Kathryn had gone to call for backup and an ambulance.

“How much farther?” I asked.

“Not far,” he said. “Guess I should get my other gun back.”

“I don’t know,” I said, “the weight of it in my jacket pocket feels pretty damn good.”

“Thought you were supposed to be comforted by his rod and staff.”

I let that one go and we walked along in silence for a few minutes.

The wind sounded like whispered voices warning us to turn back, and I could’ve sworn I heard a lonely loon across the lake.

“Was he attempting to hide her down here?” I asked.

“Not when I found him.”

“Why didn’t you bring him back with you?”

“I want to take pictures of the scene just the way I found it,” he said.

“You didn’t have cuffs, did you? How’d you subdue him?”

“Didn’t have to.”

“What makes you think he’ll be there when you get back?”

“You’ll see.”

What I saw was two people unconscious and covered in blood, but it was Tammy’s blood and, unlike Father Thomas, she would never regain consciousness.

They were in a small moonlit clearing next to the Intracoastal Waterway. Father Thomas was slumped against the base of an oak tree, his head hanging down, Tammy, several feet away facedown in the dirt, her naked, blood-splattered body looking black and white in the moonlight.

Though there was little doubt, I had to ask, “Are you sure she’s dead?”

He nodded. “I checked.”

“I’m very sorry,” I said.

“Thanks. We weren’t very close, but still…”

We were quiet for a while, the sound of our breathing joining the frogs and crickets and wind whining though the woods all around us.

After a few moments, he pulled a small camera out of his jacket pocket and began to snap pictures of the crime scene, methodically working from wide, establishing shots all the way down to close-ups. The bright flashes of light added an eerie dimension to the already horrific scene, its intermittent overexposure of the bodies as disconcerting as lightening without thunder. When he was finished taking the pictures, I said, “Can we lay him down now and take a closer look at his wounds?”

“Yeah,” he said, “but what wounds?”

I carefully laid Father Thomas onto the cold, damp ground, wondering if he might not have been better in his previous position, and checked him for abrasions and contusions. Scratches covered his face, cuts and bruises, his hands, and a gash in his head left blood in his hair and a bump beneath.

“Bump on his head’s pretty bad,” I said. “Must be what knocked him out.” Glancing back at the tree, I saw traces of blood and hair on the end of a broken branch. “Looks like he hit the tree.”

Pulling out his camera again, Steve took pictures of the spot from various angles.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” he said. “He binds her to the bed and starts to do stuff to her. At some point, something happens—he goes too far, she changes her mind—something, and they begin to struggle. In the process, she gets beaten and cut up pretty bad and loses a lot of blood, but somehow she fights back and gets free. She runs out of the cabin, down the trail, bleeding all the way. He follows her. She makes it here to the clearing, they fight some more, and either he hurts her some more and accidentally stumbles and hits the tree or she pushes him into it.”

“It’s a theory,” I said, “but why run down here instead of to another cabin or a dorm for help?”

“Disoriented, dazed, confused—being half-dead and several quarts low’ll do that to you.”

“You sure you’re okay to work this one?” I asked. “Maybe you should—”

“I’m fine,” he said. “I’ve got to work it. No way I’m turning family over to someone else. Why be a cop?”

“I know, but the case needs someone with some objectivity.”

“Like you?”

“No. Didn’t mean me.”

“Well, whoever you meant, just forget it,” he said. “I appreciate your help so far and I know what you’re saying’s right, but it’s not gonna happen, so just drop it.”

I dropped it.

“Father Thomas is not a young man,” I said, “and he’s spent many years living a very sedentary life. You really think he could catch her if she were running away from him?”

“She had to be weak from all the blood loss.”

“Still.”

“You know how these things work,” he said. “Never an answer for everything.”

“Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to find one.”

He looked over at Tammy again and shook his head. “Still can’t believe she’s dead.”

“I’m very sorry.”

“Fuckin’ raped and beaten and stabbed—”

I thought about that.

“What?” he asked.

“If this is rape or sexually motivated—”


If
?” he asked. “He had her strapped to the fuckin’ bed. She’s not wearing any clothes.”

“But he’s wearing all of his,” I said. “Think about it.”

“Maybe he got dressed before he came out here to throw her body in the waterway.”

“Doesn’t fit with your other theory of her escaping somehow and running out here and him following her.”

“So?”

“So if she was already dead, who knocked him out?”

“Maybe he tripped, dropped her, and hit his head on the tree.”

“Look how far away she is.”

“So he put her down and was going back for something and tripped and hit the tree.”

“With the back of his head?”

“Maybe he turned around to look at her body again and that’s what made him trip. We’ll ask him when he comes to.”

“What about a murder weapon?”

“What about it?”

“Where is it?” I said. “It’s not in the cabin. I didn’t see it on the path. It’s not here in the clearing.”

“He could’ve thrown it in the waterway already.”

“I’m just saying there’s a lot that doesn’t add up.”

“Always is,” he said.

“So you keep saying.”

Sister Abigail appeared at the edge of the clearing and I turned to face her.

“Is he…” she began.

“He’s unconscious,” I said.

She knelt down beside him. “Why aren’t you helping him?”

“Please don’t touch him, Sister,” Steve said. “We don’t want to contaminate any of the evidence.”

She looked up at us in a shame-producing shock. “He’s hurt. He needs help.”

“Which is on the way,” Steve said. “Don’t you think I want to cover Tammy up?”

She glanced over at Tammy, then back up at Steve. “But there’s nothing you can do for her.
Tom’s
still alive.”

“And not withstanding the fact that he killed my cousin,”

Steve said, “I want him to stay that way.”

Her eyes widened. “Is that it? You’re not helping him because you think he killed her?”

“That has nothing to do with it. I’m gonna process the crime scene and conduct the investigation by the book.”

“Because he didn’t kill her. He couldn’t have and you know it. It’s obvious they’ve both been attacked.”

“With all due respect, Sister,” Steve said, “Tammy’s been murdered, not attacked. And all he’s got is a bump on the head and a few scratches.”

“I’m telling you,” she said, “he didn’t kill her.”

“I know it’s hard for you to accept,” Steve said, his voice patronizing, “but I’m telling you what the facts say.”

“The facts?”

“The evidence, the crime scene,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a while and—”

“I’m telling you he didn’t do it,” she said. “And it’s not just that he wouldn’t, but that he
couldn’t
. He’s not capable.”

“That’s what everyone always believes about people they know, but—”

She shook her head in frustration. “Listen to me, please, and be quiet. I’m not talking about morally. I’m saying physically. Physically he couldn’t do it. This is supposed to be a secret so please don’t tell anyone, but Father Thomas is very sick. He doesn’t have long to live. He doesn’t have the strength to do what has been done to this poor girl.”

Steve shook his head in disbelief. “What’re you saying?”

“That you better come up with a different theory to fit your facts, because Tom couldn’t have done this and his doctor will testify to it.”

BOOK: John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice
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