The Blood of Saints
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by Keith Spence
Description: Two men dead, one a respected investigative journalist, the other a member of the White House legal staff. Both deaths are quickly pronounced suicides, but FBI special agent Mike Saville and US Park Police Sergeant Lowri Pritchard aren't so sure. Seems there are a few too many "coincidences" that link the dead men together. As the two investigations merge in the Nation's Capital, and the bodies and conspiracy theories pile up like DC traffic, Saville and Pritchard will soon discover that the truth is more shocking than anything they could have ever imagined.
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works/The Fiction Works, 2011 http://www.fictionworks.com
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [430 KB]
Reading time: 250-350 min.
Just another hombre muerto, Magdalena Rodriguez thought as she sloshed carelessly through the bloody bath water spilling over the sides of the tub in room 157. The corpse meant extra cleaning duty once the police were finished with the crime scene; her boss was too cheap to hire outside professionals like the ones she'd seen on "Court TV" who specialized in that sort of thing. On the bright side, it also meant a few hours of overtime pay, which she definitely needed.
She'd seen hundreds of dead bodies before, innocent men, women, and children slaughtered on the streets of San Pedro Sula, including her father and twelve-year-old brother, abducted by the Fuerza de Seguridad P?blica, interrogated and tortured as possible subversives, and then dumped in an alleyway two days later with their remains burned, beheaded and castrated.
All because her father and brother had attended a rally for an opposition Presidential candidate.
Nothing quite so dreadful had befallen the man in room 157. She didn't know his name or anything else about him, only that he'd been gracious enough to leave a five-dollar tip on the TV stand the morning before. Today, nothing, but she now she understood why.
She assumed he was naked, although the turbid water mostly covered him from the waist down. Other than his head and part of his bulging, hairy chest, all that was visible were his the two white kneecaps, which jutted out of the water like bleached headlamps, ghostly and pale.
Such a shame because he'd been a handsome man in life. His blond, wavy hair was soaking wet as innocently as if he'd gone for a relaxing swim, and she couldn't help but be aroused by his muscular physique, barely visible above the water line. His eyes were closed, but his face seemed soft and wide, almost cherubic in death.
Were it not for the blood, she would have guessed he'd died in peace. So much blood, on the floor, the walls, the sink and commode. A half-empty bottle of wine and two bloody, rumpled towels lay carelessly on the floor next to the toilet.
Still, the scene was mild compared to the atrocities she'd witnessed back home in Honduras. There, the bodies would often pile up in the streets--left to rot by the regime as a reminder of what could happen to those like her father who disagreed with government policy--until family members came to haul their loved ones away. The mutilated bodies sometimes remained on the streets for weeks, the worse ones unidentifiable to even their own families, who would sometimes claim a corpse, any corpse, just for closure. The stench in the streets was often unimaginable.
The smell in room 157 was not so strong. Either the body in the bathtub hadn't been dead very long, or the bloody bath water had somehow diluted the odor. Whatever the reason, there was no need to hurry. No one could help the dead man now. She finished her cleaning as best she could, then quietly retreated from the bathroom, tiptoeing so as not to further ruin her already blood-soaked running shoes.
Outside a welcome July breeze funneled through her jet black hair. She thought again with sorrow of her father and brother butchered in the street, and then left to report her findings to Belinda Chatwyn, assistant manager in charge of the weekend shift at the Kendall County Country Inn.
* * * *
"She the one who found the stiff?" asked the tall, portly man with the hooded eyes who wore the chocolate brown uniform of the Kendall County Sheriff's Department. He pointed to the attractive, blue-eyed Latino with the maid's outfit seated in the corner of room 157. She reminded him of a girl he'd seen doing nasty things in a maid's uniform on the Internet.
"Sheriff Helm, please. She's new. She doesn't have a--"
"--A green card?" Helm shook his head. "Don't worry, Belinda. You should know better than anybody. I'm always gentle with the pretty ones."
Magdalena Rodriguez sat upright in the ladder-back chair located between the heating and air conditioning unit and the single queen bed in the middle of the room. The dead man's belongings were strewn all over the carpet and bedspread as two uniformed officers rifled through them in search of evidence. She'd been waiting almost twenty minutes for the sheriff to arrive. One of the other officers had begun questioning her earlier but had ceased when informed that Sheriff Helm wanted to conduct the interview personally. She wasn't looking forward to the inquiry, had already been warned about Helm's standard boorishness by Belinda Chatwyn.
"Haven't seen you around her before," Sheriff Helm said, plumping his two-hundred-seventy pound frame down on the bed next to Rodriguez's chair. "How did I miss a looker like you?"
"I only been working here a month. I know nobody in America."
"Maybe you can get to know me," Helm said. "I'll give you some English lessons. Or maybe you're better at French."
Rodriguez said nothing. She fixed her gaze on the scar that covered the left side of Helm's face from the hairline to the cheek. A knife slash. She'd seen them before. The Fuerza de Seguridad P?blica disfigured those enemies they didn't murder, also to intimidate. But she couldn't be intimidated, not by the Honduran Public Security Forces, and certainly not by this ugly, potbellied sexist pig. What had Belinda Chatwyn called him? A "grotesque prick?"
"I have boyfriend in Honduras," she said flatly. "He come to America soon and we get married."
Helm's expression quickly darkened. "Yeah, well, only if INS doesn't ship your ass out of here first." He produced a small notebook and fountain pen from his uniform pocket and flipped to an unused page. "So what do you know about the dead guy anyway?"
"Nothing. I come to clean his room, and I knock but I get no answer so I go in. I find him in bathtub and there's blood everywhere."
"Yeah, yeah. We already know all that. So basically you don't know shit, that right?"
"The man's name was Davy Clough," Belinda Chatwyn chimed in from across the room. She had heard enough of Helm's badgering. "He checked in yesterday afternoon and was supposed to check out tomorrow morning." She began reading from Clough's hotel registration card. "Says here he's from Arlington, Virginia. Drives a red Lincoln Navigator. Plate number--"
"Navigator huh? From Arlington?" said one of the officers searching the room, short and lean with floppy hair. "Big city rich boy. Long way from home."
"Probably a drug dealer," said the other officer, who was taller and older with receding hair. "Got what he deserved. Just the way The Duke would've done it."
"Since when did John Wayne commit suicide?" Helm said.
"Suicide?" asked the older deputy. "What you talking about, Sheriff? All that blood in there? Looks like somebody tried to wipe it up with those towels on the floor. I do believe somebody done wasted Mr. Davy Clough here."
"Maybe he was one of those neat freaks." Helm laughed and shook his head. "Sorry, Alfred, but we ain't had a murder in Kendall County in over a year, and we ain't about to have one now. Did you see the slice marks on his wrists? No drug dealers killed Mr. Davy Clough, and neither did his ex-wife or a jealous lover. As much as you'd like a murder case to investigate, I do believe Mr. Davy Clough done killed himself."
Helm cackled like a hyena in heat. Alfred knew better than to argue with the sheriff so he simply returned to his investigation. Not that whatever evidence he uncovered would be considered important. The sheriff had already made up his mind, and when Sheriff Dwight Helm made up his mind, everyone and everything else could be damned.
At least Alfred could count on the medical examiner to be open-minded about the case.
* * * *
Dr. Samantha Burton could not remember having analyzed a bloodier scene. A private practice general practitioner and the county's appointed medical examiner for the past three years-ever since Old Dr. Bailey stepped off the curb in front of that cement mixer-she dealt with death and suffering every day, mostly senior citizens in the final throes of cancer or Alzheimer's.
There had been three murders in Kendall County in the past three years, and all had been gunshot victims resulting from domestic disturbances. The worst of those by far had been Willis Drake, who'd been shot five times in his genitalia at point blank range by his estranged wife Dorothy, a sure sigh of overkill, but given that Willis had been caught molesting Dorothy's nine-year-old daughter with a spatula, who could blame her?
Only Samantha wasn't so sure she had a murder on her hands this time. The tub had already been drained, and underneath Davy Clough's body she'd found a Michelob beer bottle, a paper glass coaster, and, most telling of all, a single edge razor blade, the kind used to scrape windows. Two plastic garbage bags had been found floating in the bloody water by the first EMT's on the scene.. A pair of shoelaces were also discovered tied around Clough's neck, leading Samantha to believe that the victim had tried to asphyxiate himself by binding the garbage bags over his head. At some point he'd obviously changed his mind, either before or after slashing his wrists.
The wrists. Their mangled condition didn't support the argument for murder, either. She counted eight distinct cuts on the right wrist, four others on the left. And while the cuts were deep, they didn't appear to be anything but self-inflicted. She couldn't fully explain the amount of blood sprayed all over the bathroom; perhaps Clough had panicked during the act, which was common with wrist slashers, who often freaked out when confronted with the vast quantities of blood loss and physical pain.
Deputy Alfred Rhodes may have wanted a murder investigation to help spice up his mundane existence, but she saw no clear evidence to give him one.
"So what you think, Sammy?" Sheriff Helm said, slapping Burton across the back like one of his drinking buddies down at the Silver Saloon. "We got a serial killer running loose in Kendall County like Alfred says?" He glared through the bathroom door at Deputy Rhodes, who quickly turned away.
"I think you need to keep your hands to yourself," Samantha said. "I'll let you know when I've finished my examination."
Unlike the majority of people in the county, Samantha Burton didn't fear the sheriff, nor was she disgusted by him. Her husband Ken was Chairman of the Kendall County Board of Commissioners and one of the richest men in the state. He'd made millions in the software industry and wielded a tremendous amount of power over the populace come election time.
Despite their cultural differences, Ken Burton willingly used his wealth and influence to make sure Helm returned to office every four years. Despite his admittedly crude methods, the sheriff had actually done a good job of lowering Kendall County's crime rate, and he also took special care of Burton's business interests, both legal and illegal.
Samantha suspected that the sheriff and her husband had formed some type of unholy alliance, but she wasn't bothered by her suppositions. Her silence in the matter made her just as complicit, and then there was the little matter of her relationship with her husband; she'd stopped loving him for more than his money years ago.
"Think I found the mother lode," shouted a voice from the outer room. "Hey, Sheriff, look what I got here!" It was the younger deputy, and he held a crumpled piece of paper in his right hand.
"Billy, let me see that," Helm said, snatching the paper away. Slowly, he began to read aloud the words, written in large, block letters with a Sharpie? or some other type of magic marker:
TO ALL THOSE I LOVE. PLEASE FORGIVE ME. I AM WITH GOD NOW AND ALL IS WELL.
"Suicide note," Helm said, folding the paper and sliding it down into his shirt pocket. "So now what you think, Sammy?"
Samantha rubbed her chin. "I think the Medical Examiner of Kendall County officially declares the cause of death as blood loss from multiple self-inflicted wounds. Call Barlow's Mortuary. I'll try to run down the next-of-kin tomorrow morning."