“I’m Looking For You”

The first time she heard those four words, it awakened her from a sound sleep.

“I’m looking for you.”

As she rubbed her eyes and let them adjust to the darkness, she scanned the room.  “Hello?” she said.

She wasn’t scared even though she had lived alone for many years.  The voice sounded familiar and as she tried to shake herself into reality, again she said “hello?  Who’s there?”

After a few minutes, she shook her head and lay back down as she said “it was just a dream.”  She never remembered her dreams and this one would be forgotten in the morning.

As predicted, the next morning she got up, fixed a cup of coffee and had forgotten the dream but something was gnawing at her.  She thought she could almost touch the remnants of the dream but it didn’t quite come into focus.

She read somewhere that if you didn’t remember your dreams, it meant that you weren’t in touch with your soul.   She laughed as she thought “I’ve been out of touch with my soul for so long, I’m not sure I even have one anymore.”

By all accounts, she was a bit of a recluse and to the neighbors the reason was unknown.  They’d see her now and then, driving out of the neighborhood and she’d wave but never stopped to talk.  Her solitary life seemed to be what she chose and it suited her although she often thought that she was wasting her life.  She knew she should “get out and live” but she was just too comfortable within the confines of her self-imposed tomb.

Part of her daily routine was walking through her house, touching things as if trying to sear them into her memory or perhaps, wishing to erase them.

As she reached the third bedroom she rarely entered, she heard the voice.  “I’m looking for you.”  This time she wasn’t asleep.  She turned and was startled to find no one behind her.  Again, she said “hello?”  Again, no response.

This continued for weeks with no explanation and she started to question her sanity.  Along with the information she read about souls she had also read that “if you think you’re insane, you probably aren’t but if you think everyone else is insane, you probably are.”

“Whew!” she thought.  “So far, so good in the insanity department.”

She had never been one to entertain the idea of Karma or sending something to the “Universe.”  Bad “sends” would bounce back and smack you in the face and good “sends” would pat you on the back.  She called bullshit on those ideas but she did believe in signs.  Signs, such as finding a dime and a penny or finding a bird feather in a most unlikely place.

Bird feathers have different meanings, depending on their color and size and even where they fall.  They’re supposed to be sent from angels, according to what information she could gather.  Dimes and pennies are also supposed to be signs from angels.

“What are these angels trying to tell me?” she wondered.

Suddenly, she thought “they’re telling me that my Prince Charming is looking for me!  That’s his voice!  He’s looking for me!”

She had spent so many years alone, thinking that was how it was supposed to be and how it was supposed to end but these “signs” had given her hope.  Every emotion she ever had was dead but they say hope is the last to die.

“Tomorrow,” she said.  “Tomorrow, I am going to get dressed up and walk uptown.  The angels are sending me messages.  What better reason than to find my Prince Charming?  What better reason than to find my destiny?”

That night, just as she was about to fall asleep, she heard those words.

“I’m looking for you.”  She smiled and whispered “I know.”

The next morning, she got up with a renewed enthusiasm.  She got dressed and for the first time in as long as she could remember, put on make-up.

There was a lightness in her step as she made her way uptown.  She found herself smiling at people as she passed them on the way.  A park bench she had never noticed seemed to beckon a brief rest.

There were many little shops that she had never frequented and she noticed “welcome” signs hovered over every door.  “Why have I never wanted to discover what little treasures these stores might hold?” she asked herself.  “Maybe later,” she thought.  She had a different purpose today.

He was there.  She just knew it.  All she had to do was find him…or maybe just go back to the bench and wait for him to find her.

Before she realized how long she had been gone, darkness began to fall.  Disappointment also descended as she hadn’t been approached by her Prince Charming.

Her enthusiasm had waned and hope was beginning to fade.  As she started the long walk home, she cut down an alley which was a known shortcut.

Halfway down the alley, she heard “I’ve been looking for you.”

A slight glimpse of a dark figure was all she saw before he slashed her throat.

 

Kkeut.

Tommy’s Dog – Chapter Four

Mama felt bad after telling Tommy that this had to be the last time he could see the dog but she knew it was for the best.  While she waited for him to come back home, she got out some old photo albums and started flipping through the pages, now yellowed and crumbling with age.

Page after page was filled with pictures of “grandpa,” from when he was a little boy until just before he died.  He had the happiest eyes and he was always smiling.  He had been a wonderful father and how she wished he had lived long enough for Tommy to have really known him.  He was one of those people who leave an indelible mark on your life.

She walked down memory lane as she remembered all the corny jokes he used to tell.  She smiled when she remembered how many times he would push her in the swing he had made from a tire, while telling her stories of old Blue.

She was so lost in nostalgia that when Tommy leaned over her shoulder and spoke, it startled her.  She didn’t even know that he had come back home.

He pointed to a picture of old Blue and excitedly said “that’s the dog!  That’s the dog who hides behind those rocks!”

All mama could get out was “what?”  Tommy repeated “that’s the dog who hides behind those rocks!  I think he wants to play hide and seek.”

Mama said “honey, that can’t be.  That’s a picture of old Blue and old Blue died many years ago.  You know that.  It’s just some dog who looks like him.”

Tommy was adamant when he kept repeating the same words.  Then he said “no, mama.  I promise.  Come with me and you’ll see for yourself.”

Mama said “Tommy, honey.  I just think you want it to be him but you know it can’t be.”  Her heart sank when Tommy looked at her and said “why don’t you believe me mama?”

“Okay,” she said.  “Let’s go have a look.”  Tommy started tugging on her hand as she reluctantly walked out of the house.  When they got to the place Tommy said he saw him, they waited for a few minutes and then mama asked “where is he?”  Tommy looked disappointed and said “I don’t know.  He was here before.”

Mama said “well, he’s not here now and we have to get back home so I can start dinner.”  Tommy said “please, please, can we wait just a few more minutes, mama?  Please?”

Mama was ready to start walking back home when Tommy squealed “there he is!  There he is mama!  See?  I told you.”

Mama looked around but she couldn’t see anything.  “Where do you see him Tommy?” she asked.  Tommy looked puzzled and said “he’s standing right there, mama.  Don’t you see him?”

Mama smiled.  She now knew that the dog was just an “imaginary friend” Tommy had conjured up.  Trying to appease him, she said “yes I see him Tommy but we need to get on home now.”

Tommy started running.  He said “c’mon mama.  C’mon!”  He wants to play hide and seek.”

Mama called for Tommy to come back but he kept running.  She started walking toward him, calling his name over and over until she finally caught up with him.

Tommy said “see?  These are the rocks he likes to hide behind.”

Mama froze.  The “rocks” Tommy was talking about were tombstones.  They were standing in the middle of The Green Terrace Cemetery.

Mama wasn’t sure that Tommy even knew a cemetery was there and he obviously didn’t know what it was, given that he thought the tombstones were just rocks.

Tommy took her hand and said “he hides behind this one.”

Mama sat down and cried.  Tommy asked “what’s wrong mama?”

She said “this is where your grandpa is buried.”

 

It Einde.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy’s Dog – Chapter Three

Mama said “I told you that he probably belonged to someone else and don’t you think that if he wanted to play, he wouldn’t have run away?”

“I guess so,” said Tommy.  But he just looks so lonely and he’s always there.  I don’t ever see anybody playing with him or throwing him a stick.”

He surprised mama when he looked at her and said “would you tell me more about grandpa’s dog?”

Before mama could catch herself she laughed and said “that little dog was something else.  Grandpa said he never left his side.”  Tommy, a bright little boy said “but I thought you said old Blue left and started his own family.”

Mama knew she had been caught and it was time to as they said back then, “fess up.”

She had never wanted to lie to Tommy.  She had long ago decided that should he ever ask where babies came from, she wasn’t going to tell him the tired old story about children being found in a cabbage patch.  But that was going to be a talk about life.  What she was going to have to talk to him about now was death.

“Sit down Tommy,” she said.  “I don’t want you to get upset when I tell you this, okay?  Tommy said “okay.”

Mama said “one day old Blue was hit by a car and he died.  I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to be sad.”  Tommy’s eyes welled up with tears and said “what happened to his family?”

Mama was thinking “oh, boy.  Which is going to be worse, telling him there never was a family or that his family moved on?”

She decided to tell him that the “family” had moved on after he died.  Tommy of course, asked where they went.  Mama said “I think they moved to another state.”

Now it was time to tell him that grandpa had died.  “Do you remember grandpa?” she asked.  “Kind of,” Tommy said.  “He was funny and he had grey hair.”  Then Tommy laughed and said “and he couldn’t play fetch very well.”

Mama smiled and said “honey, he’s not with us anymore.”  Tommy looked up and said “where did he go?  Did he get another family?”

“No,” mama said.

“Did he get hit by a car and died too?” Tommy asked.  Again mama said “no, he just got old and sick and he died.”  Tommy looked at her and said “will he come back after he gets better?”

Tommy’s little boy mind wasn’t capable of understand the finality of death and mama wasn’t exactly sure what to say to him.  While she was thinking, Tommy looked at her as if he hadn’t heard a thing she said and asked “can I go play with the dog now?”

Mama said “yes, but I want you to try to find something else to do.  I think you are becoming too attached to that dog and when he goes back home, you’re going to be very sad.”

Tommy stood there for a few minutes and mama said “do you promise?  Do you promise that this will be the last time you’ll go see the dog?”

Tommy reluctantly said “okay.”  Mama said “you have to say ‘I promise’ and let me see your fingers.”  Tommy held out his little hands and said “I promise.”

Mama said “okay, then.  Go see him and tell him goodbye.”

 

To be continued____________

 

Tommy’s Dog – Chapter Two

Mama was still giggling about what Tommy said but managed to say “you know, grandpa had a dog when he was a little boy.”  She turned around and winked when she said “that was before his hair turned grey.”

“What was his name?” asked Tommy.  Mama said “his name was old Blue.  Grandpa was just a little whippersnapper like you when he had it.”

“What happened to it?” Tommy asked.  Mama said “I think he found a wife and started his own family.”  She knew Tommy didn’t know that dogs didn’t get married, start families and move away and she hated to lie to him but she thought he was a wee bit too young to hear that grandpa’s dog had been hit by a car and died a few days later.

She also didn’t have the heart to tell Tommy that grandpa had died the year before.  He wouldn’t understand about death so she had kept him alive with memories and stories, like the dog he called “old Blue.”

Mama said “that dog was so special to grandpa that he never had another one.  He said ‘couldn’t another dog in the county ever take the place of old Blue’.”

While mama was strolling down memory lane, Tommy suddenly interrupted her thoughts and said “maybe I can name that dog.”  Mama looked at him and said “remember?  I told you he probably belongs to somebody and I’m sure he already has a name.”

Tommy said “well, then can I feed him?”  Mama asked if the dog looked hungry.  Tommy said “no, but I thought maybe if I fed him, he would like me.”  Mama said “honey, I’m sure he likes you but I’m not sure we should feed someone else’s dog.”

Tommy said “well, then can I just take him a bone?”  Mama said “I’ll tell you what.  The next time I make chicken, you can take him a bone.  How’s that?”

Tommy smiled and said “Okay.  I’m going to go play with him now.”

Mama shook her head.  She was afraid that in just those few days, Tommy was becoming too attached to the dog.”

Tommy came home that afternoon, carrying a big stick.  “What have you got there?” mama asked.  Tommy said “I was trying to get the dog to play fetch with me.  I called him old Blue.”

Mama didn’t know why but she suddenly got chills.  “What did you say?” she asked.  Tommy said “I wanted him to play fetch with me but I didn’t know his name, so I called him old Blue.”

Mama gently, but sternly reminded Tommy that they had discussed him giving the dog a name.  Tommy said “I know but I called him old Blue and he came walking over to me.  He wouldn’t get real close but he acted like he wanted to play so I picked up this stick and threw it.”

Mama asked what he did next.  Tommy said “he just looked at me, wagged his tail and then ran over and hid behind one of those rocks.”

“Rocks?” his mama asked.  “What rocks?”  Tommy said “those big rocks out next to the woods.”

 

To be continued____________

Tommy’s Dog – Chapter One

Little Tommy lived with his mama in a small but well-kept house at the end of Still Shadow Lane.  It was a little blue cottage style house with yellow and green trim.  His daddy had run off with another woman right after he was born and it was just the two of them but laughter and smiles were abundant.

His mama had carefully hand painted the number 38 on a board and it hung over the front porch from a piece of chain she found on the side of the road.

Mama was always finding interesting things and she was blessed with vision.  She kept a book made of cloth pages and she carefully sewed and labeled her treasures to the pages.  Her findings ranged from smashed real gold earrings to antique pop-beads to a tiny rusted locket.  Her motto was “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Little trinkets weren’t the only thing mama found.

One day Tommy came running home and said “mama, look what I finded!” In his little hand was a badly scuffed, hardly recognizable coin.  “It’s just a penny,” he said.

His mama said “that’s okay.  Pennies make dollars and it doesn’t matter if they’re brand new or a little worn.  Let’s go put it in the found money jar.” For as long as Tommy could remember, mama had what she called a found money jar.

It was an old “Tom’s Cookie Jar” from the early fifties and it had come from one of the stores that her grandma and grandpa had once owned.  Although the lid had long ago been broken, it was a treasured possession.

Any time money was found, it would go into the jar and it was never to be taken out until the end of the year.  When the end of the year arrived, they would take it out, count it and then buy something special with their free money.

Tommy dropped the penny into the jar and then said “I saw a dog today!” Mama smiled and said “you did!?  What kind of dog?”  Tommy said “um…the kind that goes arf-arf.”  Mama giggled the way she did so often when Tommy said something cute.

Mama also kept another kind of book.  In that book she wrote down all of Tommy’s sayings.  She wanted to write them down and when he grew up, he could read it to his own little boy.  Once when he asked her what she was writing, she said “sometimes, men grow up and they forget that they were once little boys.  I don’t want you to be one of those men.”

For the next several days, Tommy came home and told his mama about seeing the dog again.  His mama said “I’m sure he belongs to somebody in the neighborhood.  You know dogs.  They like to roam around and protect their territory.”

Mama asked Tommy if the dog was wearing a collar.  Tommy said “I don’t think so.”  Mama said “well, we’ll ask around the neighborhood and see if anybody has lost their dog but I’ll bet he lives somewhere close.”

Tommy looked at her optimistically and said “if he doesn’t belong to anybody, can we keep him?”  Not wanting to get his hopes up and not wanting to disappoint him by telling him that they really couldn’t afford a dog, mama said “we’ll see but like I said.  I’m sure he belongs to somebody.”

The next day, Tommy came home and said “that dog isn’t wearing a collar, mama.”  She asked him if he was sure and he said “yes’um.  I looked.”

He looked at his mama and said “mama?  Is it okay if I pretend he’s mine and call him my dog?  Just for now?”

Mama smiled and said “just for now but you know it’s just pretend, right?”  Tommy looked down and shuffled his feet.  Then he said “okay.  It’s pretend, just for now.”

Mama tried to change the subject and asked “what does he look like?”  Tommy thought for a minute and seemed to perk up a bit.  He said “he has grey hair, sort of like grandpa.”  Mama laughed and said “grey hair?  He must be an old dog.”

Tommy said “um, I don’t think so.”  When mama asked him why he didn’t think so, he said “he can run faster than grandpa.”

 

To be continued_______________

 

 

The Promise Keeper – Chapter Six

After Nick left The Bar, I sat back down and ordered what was going to be my last beer for the night.  I felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  The lack of information about #8 was most likely was for her protection.

I wondered if she had moved away or God forbid, was in a coma.  You can survive trauma but that doesn’t mean you’re alive.  It just means you’re still breathing.

I knew nothing about her and I knew absolutely nothing about Nick, other than he was a detective and his father was also a “promise keeper.”  I didn’t know if he had a family now or ever had one.  Maybe his family was the same as his friends…beer and cigarettes.

Although never verbalized, it was clear that Nick was unable to keep his promise.  He never got close to catching the Crucifix 8 killer or ever even had a suspect.

All I knew was that Nick’s torment draped him like a sheer robe and laid visible the scars of defeat.

He wasn’t at The Bar the next night, nor was he there the night after.  The third night as I sat on “his stool,” pondering if it really was the end of the story, Nick walked in.  He looked at me and gruffly said “you’re in my seat.” I got up and moved to what had become “my seat,” and asked him if he would tell me more about #8.

He ordered a beer, lit a cigarette and sighed.  “Her name was Angel,” he said.  “She opened the door, just like all the others, because she knew him. As he tried to suffocate her, she fought and begged for her life.  During the struggle, he threw her on the floor and ripped open her blouse.  When he did, he saw that she had a tiny gold cross around her neck.  When he saw it, he paused.”

“She pleaded with him to let her live and promised that if he would, she would never tell anybody who he was.”  She said “please.  My name is Angel.  I’m only 14 years old.  I’m someone’s child.  I’ve never been loved.” He looked at her, put the knife down and said “I’ve never been loved either.”

“He asked her if she would keep that promise and she told him that she would.  Why he believed her, nobody knows.”

He said “we,” then gritted his teeth and said “I…tried everything to get her to talk.  I threatened her with interfering with an investigation.  I tried shaming her by saying…you know that if you don’t tell me, the next little girl’s blood will be on your hands, right?”

“I tried intimidating her with forceful words and further threats of never seeing her parents again unless she told me who the killer was.  I even told her that I would have her tried as an adult which would mean considerable time in prison.  I hated every word I had to say and I hated myself even more for saying them.”

“Although there were certainly legal grounds to charge her, I knew that no judge was going to compel her to testify and no jury was going to convict her if she didn’t.  I was at checkmate and my king had no moves.”

“All she ever said was ‘I promised’.  I told her that I, too, had made a promise.  I promised all the parents of the other little girls who had been killed that I would find the killer, bring him to justice and she needed to help me keep that promise.”

I said “that’s how you got the nickname The Promise Keeper, wasn’t it?”

“It was,” he said.  “But you see, young Josh.  It turns out that I wasn’t the Promise Keeper.  She was.”

 

Kkeut.

 

 

 

 

 

The Promise Keeper – Chapter Five

I listened and watched as Nick talked.  I knew that this was going to be about where the story took me rather than where I took the story.

Something must have triggered a memory in Nick.  Out of the blue, he turned to me and said “did I tell you that my father’s best friend in the army was a Navajo code talker?”  I wondered how that particular memory tied in with the Crucifix 8 murders but I told him that he had never mentioned it.

“Yep,” he said.  “He was assigned to protect a code talker named Samuel. He and other officers were given orders that ‘they must not let the talkers fall into enemy hands’.  At first, my father resented it but it didn’t take long for him to develop a deep respect and admiration for Samuel.  Having learned some words, my father gave him the name Yanaha, which means brave…and brave he was.”

“What got you thinking about this Nick?” I asked.  He words were almost painful when he said “I don’t know.  Promises, maybe.”

“Promises?” I asked.  Nick said “My father promised to protect Samuel at all costs, even if it meant sacrificing his own life.”

I asked him what happened to him.  Nick said “who?  My father or Samuel?” I looked at him and said “both of them.  Either of them.”

In an almost admonishing tone, Nick said “you do that a lot, you know. None of them.  All of them.  Both of them.  Either of them.”

“So, what happened?” I said.  Nick, in his inimitable, eccentric way said “that was my way of saying I’m not going to answer.”

Without missing a beat, he switched gears and continued telling me about the Crucifix 8 murders.  Five more murders, described in graphic detail and each one seemed to tear a little more of his heart out as he talked.  I watched tears start to well up in his eyes when he said “then there was Emmy, victim #7.”

“Her name was Emily Russell but her parents called her Emmy.  She was only 13 years old.  They found her in her room, clutching a stuffed teddy bear.  Suffocation hadn’t been successful and she was still alive when that monster carved a cross into her chest.”

I understood why Nick was so tormented.  How could anyone witness such carnage and not be changed somehow?  It didn’t take a genius to see that he was a broken man.

I asked Nick how the killer kept gaining access to these little girls.  He almost snapped to attention when he said “they obviously trusted him. What does that tell you?”

“It tells me that they knew who he was,” I said.

“Exactly,” he said.  “They knew who he was but we didn’t.  We knew when and where but we didn’t know who and why.  All we could do was warn people to keep their doors locked and never open them for a stranger, yet the killer still kept getting in.  That tells you something.”

My wheels started turning and I said “do you think it was a police officer?  I mean…people trust them.  Or they might trust the mailman.  I know sometimes if a package is too big for the mailbox, they’ll bring it to your door.  Or maybe a FedEx or UPS delivery person?  Or maybe a clergyman?”

Nick nodded and for the first time, had an impish grin on his face when he said “or maybe a reporter.”  Then he got up, threw a twenty on the counter and said “you have your story.”

I quickly said “but that was #7.  We’re not through.  What about victim #8?  Who was she?  There was no mention of her in the archives but I need to hear her story.”

Nick turned, stared at the floor and finally said “#8 wasn’t a victim.  She survived.”

“What?  Wait!” I said as I watched him ignore my pleas and slowly walk out of The Bar.

 

To be continued_____________

The Promise Keeper – Chapter Four

That night I went to the bar and just as I expected, Nick was in his usual place.  Again, I sat one stool away and again, he all but ignored me.  I ordered a beer and after a few seconds of silence while pretending to drink it, Nick turned and said “well, Josh.  Did you find what you were looking for?”

For a split second, although I have never believed in the supernatural or any kind of extra sensory perception, I wondered if Nick was a mind reader. Snapping back into reality, I realized that he was just attuned to exactly what I was.  A reporter.  Reporters are notoriously nosey and perennially hungry for an exclusive story.

I told him that he could call me Scoop.  He gave me disdainful glance, turned back to his beer and said “I don’t like nicknames.”  When he said that, I realized that it was not the appropriate time to ask about his own nickname…”The Promise Keeper.”

I asked him if I could buy him a beer.   Without even a glance toward me, he said “I don’t know if it’s escaped your attention but I already have one.”

I remembered Karen saying that he was a dick.  Apparently he hadn’t changed but his attitude didn’t intimidate me.

I was after his story and the only thing that was going to get me to leave was if he refused or physically removed me, which I didn’t see happening.  I was no novice and I could play hardball with the best of them.  Besides, I was perfectly capable of reaching into my bag of tricks and pulling out my own dick card.

“I guess you want to hear my story,” he said.  “Yes.” I answered.  Without looking at me he asked “why?  Are you curious or is it just a slow news day?  Or maybe you think if you pretend to have some compassion or genuine interest, I’ll open up and we’ll act like we’re best friends. Or maybe you’ve heard that I’m an asshole and therefore, feel suddenly challenged.”  He turned and looked at me with those dead, weathered eyes and said “which one is it?”

I said “none of them.  All of them.”

He turned back around and said “I’ll take that beer now.”  I ordered both of us another round and whipped out my tape recorder.  I asked if he minded if I recorded our conversations and before I even sat it down, he abruptly said “yes I do.  If you can’t remember a conversation, you need to find another occupation.”  I asked if he minded if I took notes.  He looked at me and said “if that’s the only way you can remember anything, then go ahead.”

I was a little short when I said “I don’t have a photograph memory, you know.”  He mumbled “believe me.  It’s a curse if you do.”  That comment led me to suspect that he remembered every single detail about every single little girl and every single murder.  I didn’t need to feign compassion at that point.  I could hear the soul-killing anguish in his voice.

Before we began, he reminded me that the use of the victims names’ was strictly prohibited.  “What about your name?” I asked.  He said “use it. Don’t use it.  It really doesn’t matter to me.  What’s left of my reputation can stand a few more bullets, I guess.”  Then he said “you know that you can find out everything you want to know in the City Hall archives, don’t you?”

I said “yes, I do know that but so much of the information has been redacted and…I can’t find your story there.”  Nick gave a slight “uh-huh” nod with his head, lit another cigarette and began.

With pen in hand, I began to jot down notes as he talked.

“The first girl was 17 years old,” he said.  “Her name was Alma Stewart.  Her father, Sturgeon, worked at the local Jiffy Lube.  Her mother, Kalinda, cleaned houses for extra cash.  She was at home most afternoons and nights but on her one day off, a regular customer called in a panic.  Unexpected company was coming into town and they needed her to come in and do a quick tidy-up.”

“Kalinda agreed and told Alma that she was only going because they could used the extra money.  She kissed Alma on the forehead and told her that she would be back in a ‘jiffy’.  That was a joke among them.  Kalinda would laugh and say ‘all kinds of things can be done in a jiffy.  Not just oil changes’.”

“That was the day Alma was murdered.  She was found in the kitchen, with Kalinda’s apron draped over her head.  It looked as if she had been trying to prepare dinner to surprise her mother when she came home.”

Nick’s words were heavy-laden with what to me seemed like a combination of anger, grief, regret and hopelessness, but he continued.  “A cross was carved so deeply into her chest, it almost skewered her.  It was what we call ‘overkill’.”

“Psychologists say ‘it’s personal’.  I say that half of them are full of shit and have no idea what they’re talking about.  I guess it’s easy to be an arm-chair quarterback and call the plays while you’re sitting in your plush office but when you’re out in the world and witness this kind of carnage, there is no definitive reason for this evil.  It’s just plain evil.”

Downing his beer, his voice trailed off as he continued.  “Kalinda never forgave herself.  The guilt she felt for leaving was overwhelming, as you can imagine.  Over time, fingers were pointed, accusations were made and the marriage eventually failed.”

Nick looked at his beer and said “the children murdered by the Crucifix 8 Killer weren’t the only fatalities.”

Nick took a long drag off of his cigarette and said “I’ll have another beer.”

One thing became clear to me.  The more beer I bought, the more Nick talked.

 

 

To be continued_______________

 

 

The Promise Keeper – Chapter Three

As soon as I got to work the next morning, I opened what I call the cheat sheet.  Spending days, weeks and sometimes months trying to get information was now available with a quick search on Google.

As much as I hated the fact that the internet was responsible for the slow painful demise of newspapers, I admit that I unashamedly took advantage of the vast knowledge attainable on the world-wide web.  Type in a name, click enter and a person’s entire life was laid bare for the whole world to see.

Somehow I knew this curmudgeonly man had a story.  Maybe it was reporter’s intuition.  Maybe it was just curiosity.  Maybe it was because he looked so out of place at The Bar.  Or maybe it was because he looked like a tortured soul.

I typed “Nick Fuller” into the search bar.  I sat back in my chair and whispered “wow.”  I wasn’t prepared for what the search revealed.

“Nick Fuller Tapped To Head Task Force In The Crucifix 8 Murders.”

“Nick Fuller, a 38 year veteran of the Crime Division, aka The Promise Keeper, vows to capture the Crucifix 8 murderer.”

In an interview with the local news outlets, Nick said “this is my solemn promise to all of you who have lost a loved one to this odious, demonic murderer.  I will catch him and I will bring him to justice.”

Further links provided little more information.  Most of the records had been redacted or sealed.  This was more than likely due to the hideousness of the crimes, the ages of the victims and sensitivity to the relatives.

I printed out the information and took it to my editor, Karen Shoemaker. She was quite a curmudgeon herself and had no time for what she called infantile bullshit.  She looked at it and said “oh, yeah.  I remember this.  If I recall, the lead detective was sort of a dick and was absolutely unforthcoming with any information, which made it difficult for us to report anything of consequence.”

I told her I wanted to do a story about it.  Her reply was “this story has been done to death and it’s not really news anymore.”  I told her that I understood, but further pleaded my case.  “I met this Nick Fuller guy and if I can get him to talk, I think his side of the story might be worth telling.  I could interview him, get his story and then use a pseudonym.”

Karen said “you think he wouldn’t recognize himself?  No. That would leave the newspaper vulnerable to a lawsuit and you know that but if you can get his consent, which I doubt, write a rough draft of where you’re going with it and I’ll take a look.”

I went to the archives and started as they say, digging.  The only thing that was revealed in the search was that the murderer carved a cross into the chest of his victims, hence the crucifix murders.  There had been 8 victims, all girls and their ages ranged from 13 to 17.

One reporter had likened the murders to the Boston Strangler in that desperate appeals to remain behind locked doors were ignored.  Like Albert DeSalvo, the Crucifix 8 murderer always seemed to gain entrance into homes.

The idea that these girls perhaps knew their assailant wasn’t lost on me or any other reporter who covered the now defunct case and left us asking “how else could he have gained access to the girls?  They had to have known him.”

Young girls are impressionable and unfortunately in my estimation, far too trusting.  The old “can you help me find my lost puppy” had been used by killers for years.  The love of warm and fuzzy critters is and has always been an excellent way to win the hearts of innocent children.

Bruises on each girl’s face revealed that the murderer held his hand over their nose and mouth until they stopped breathing.  The reasoning behind the cross was never determined although it was speculated that it might be symbolic of a cult.

Investigators never found a shred of evidence that could point to even a casual suspect.  No DNA, no hair, no blood, no fingerprints, no epithelials, no errant clothing fibers…nothing.  No common factors such as a family friend or a common acquaintance could be tied to any of the victims.  There was just the old “nothing, nada, zip, the big zero, what

Armed with as much information as I could get, which wasn’t much, I set off for the little boy shot at in the dark” response when it came to the case.

The names of the victims were withheld as I said, because they were minors and numbers were used instead.  I understood but looking at “victim #I, victim #II” and so on, seemed to somehow diminish them.  These little girls belonged to someone.  They had lives that were cut short by a monster and now they were nothing more than a case with Roman Numerals as identification.

As I flipped through the sparse records, something caught my eye. There were files labeled from #I through #VII.  Where was #VIII?  Had the file been misplaced?  Had the entire record been expunged?  Answers, I believed, could and hopefully would come from Nick.

Armed with the little information I had, I set out for what I hoped might just be the interview of my life.

 

To be continued____________

 

 

The Promise Keeper – Chapter Two

That summer, David graduated and received his coveted law degree. Richard flew in to celebrate and was then going to ride home with him before they set off to change the world.  I was going to miss David and we made the keep in touch promise but I knew that after a few emails, our lives would take their own unique paths.

The last time I saw him, he and Richard were getting into his car.  David raised him arm in triumph and yelled “carpe diem!”  I smiled because I knew that if anybody could seize the day, it would be David.

The next morning, the news came over the wire that David had wrapped his car around a tree.  He and Richard died instantly.  I was thinking that I was glad we hadn’t been more than just pseudo friends.  If we had, I would have been devastated.  As it was, I just felt guilty because instead of being overwhelmingly sad, I was thinking that I was glad we weren’t better friends.

About a week after David died, I wandered into The Bar.  Life was going to be different now.  There would be no jokes, no talking about our lives and no talking about our favorite subject…women.

Life is so unpredictable.  You can be on top of the world one day and the next day, you’re gone.  All of your plans and all of your hopes and dreams come to a screeching halt in the blink of an eye.

I needed some element of comfort and intended to seek it in a bottle of brew but for some reason, “old guy” seemed to be silently beckoning.  I brazenly went to the bar and sat one stool away from him.  It took a minute for me to try to start a conversation, which was met with little more than a grunt.

After a few minutes, he said “you lost your friend, didn’t you?”  I was taken a little aback and said “yes.  He wasn’t my best friend but he was my friend and I will miss him.”

Old guy said “people say life is all about love, but life isn’t all about love. Life is all about loss.  With each one, you feel your soul being torn apart and it leaves scars so deep, there can be no healing.”  Then he extended his hand and said “my name is Nick Fuller, not old guy.”

I was embarrassed.  He must have heard me refer to him that way during one of my conversations with David, when I was obviously inebriated.  I offered my sincerest apologies and he halfway smiled as he said “I’ve been called a lot worse but I would appreciate it if you just called me Nick.  And what should I call you?”

I told him that my name was Josh Hamilton but everybody called me “Scoop.”  Nick looked at me through weathered eyes and said “I don’t get the impression that you work for Baskin-Robbins, so that must mean you’re some kind of journalist…maybe looking for that one story you hope will make you famous?”  It was obvious that there was more to Nick that I had originally thought.

“What do you do Nick?” I asked.  “I drink,” he said.  I chuckled and said “what do you do when you’re not drinking?”  He looked straight ahead and said “I think about drinking.”

Night after night, I had seen him sitting at the counter, staring into his beer as if looking for an answer somewhere in that glass of escapism. Something had apparently happened to this beleaguered, battle-worn man whose only friends seemed to be a cigarette and a beer.

I shook his hand again and thanked him for the conversation, coupled with the obligatory “nice to meet you.”  As I left The Bar, I only had one thought. I wanted to know more.

 

 

To be continued______________