Trevor Howard, the sheriff of Teton County Wyoming, is contemplating an explosion of cocaine addiction, four structure fires and the murder of a six-year-old boy in his jurisdiction. The boy had a wooden cross penetrating his heart indicating a possible religious connection. Trever has the idea of hiring a young woman deputy with experience in undercover narcotics investigation. Simultaneously, Doctor Abe Anderson, Trevor’s best friend, meets Heather Cutler, acting in a play as the red headed demon of seduction. Abe falls in love with her and even more with his first experience with cocaine. Trevor is usually a confident police officer but these crimes, coming all at once, leave him feeling deeply troubled. Before it’s done his whole life, friendships and family will show him how terribly he has underestimated his greatest fears.
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)|
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As she glides on the stage, dressed in a transparent red dress, the audience sits in stunned silence. The material is so sheer, Abe can see through it, to the curvaceous outline of her body. Underneath, she wears what looks like nothing, but must be a skin colored leotard. She looks naked. Abe feels a flight of hummingbirds in his stomach,
Nancy, sits with her hands folded, enjoying the play. She doesn't hear Abe's heart or read his mind.
Abe concentrates on the angel's face, her eyes sparkling emerald green. She raises her head in that way that drives men wild, her lips full and red, curved. Abe imagines himself kiss her. It makes him feel silky inside.
Her movements are gentle, like a wind.
The actor on stage is transfixed, standing slack jawed and gaping.
Abe hates him for knowing her.
She holds out her delicate hand; the long slender fingers tipped with red.
Abe wants to kill the man as he touches her.
The play is a story about Hell, a takeoff on Dante's Inferno. Some local playwright wrote it. Heather plays the demon of seduction. Abe touches her name with his fingers, then looks up on the stage, not wanting to miss her for even a second. He thinks that his reaction might be the result of the amphetamines he took, but he dispels the notion, that had been over thirty minutes ago. No, it is her; she is the reason his heart is pounding.
Nancy reaches out for his hand and he feels himself grow cold. Why does she have the knack of picking the right moment to make him feel like a heel?
Abe is suffocating in his marriage. He squeezes Nancy's hand and smiles, just to get rid of her. He pretends he is absorbed.
Heather speaks for the first time. "Come my lover, I have been waiting for you for a long time." Her voice is breathless and husky. She turns and looks at the audience.
Abe believes she is looking at him.
"I've been waiting for you too," she says to the audience. "Come into the sweetness of my eternal fire." She opens her arms and twirls. The transparent dress dances around her. "I have so many things to tell you," she says. Her body is small boned, her arms supple and dainty. The costume floats about her, reaching her mid-thigh, showing off a luscious view.
The sight of her body makes Abe moan. Her red hair and mystical body transcend him, move him to another time and place far away. All he can do is sit here and not make a fool of himself. If he moves, he will do something stupid in front of the whole town. He wants to run on stage, and tell her he loves her, but the people in the audience would never understand. They don't do things like that.
Heather's body is thin, but the muscles in her thighs, are tight and hard. Her face is small, and centers around dark eyes. Abe needs to meet her. He knows that better than anything he has ever known. Just get close to her for a second. Abe grows anxious thinking of Nancy. He must get rid of his wife. Then he will be free to do what he wants for a change.
As the lights come on, the curtain sinks for the intermission. Abe blinks at the brightness, feeling a dull thunder roll in his head. He closes his eyes and rubs the lids.
"Want anything to drink?" Nancy says, touching his hand.
"No thanks," he says. "You go ahead."
"I'm going to get a Coke." She hesitates, looking back. A concerned look clouds her face. "You okay, honey?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he manages. "You go ahead." He watches his wife slide past the other people in the row. She wears a white pleated skirt and a matching white and gold jacket. Her long blond hair falls to the middle of her shoulders. She is slim, with a wonderful body just beginning to sag a little with age. He watches her gold-tipped dolphin ear rings wave back and forth as she walks up the aisle.
Abe isn't fooled by the appearance of his wife. He has lived with her for too long for that. He knows she is an unemotional woman. Once he knew she got nothing out of sex, he went dead inside. Abe suddenly tenses, feeling the depression return. He considers taking another hit, but he knows it is too soon. He decides to arrange a fake call from the hospital. That wouldn't be uncommon. Nancy is used to it. It would free him for the rest of the evening. He stands and walks up the aisle waving to a few people as he goes. Margaret Hobson and her husband Bob are here. They are drowning in five children. Clair Smith flirts with Tommy Jones, whose wife is pretending to concentrate on the program.
"Great play, huh?" Iris Johnson, a large woman with three children stops him, patting Abe on the back. She laughs through a mouth full of candy.
Abe nods, and brushes past. Best thing to do at these functions, is pretend you don't see people.
Walking outside with his phone, Abe steps over a glove someone dropped. The late November air is cool. His nose is cold. At night in Jackson, everyone wears a coat, even in summer.
Traffic is moving on Broadway one story below, but the streets are deserted.
He dials, knowing the number by heart. He tells the answering service to call him in fifteen minutes. That will give him an excuse to escape. God knows he dreads these evenings.
Walking back inside, he visualizes Heather again, those soft breasts and moist lips. She makes him tingle. He must see her. He doesn't want to ask her out or anything like that, that's not his intention, that would be disastrous in a small town. Indiscretion would hurt his practice.
Carl Mendelson stands leaning against the popcorn machine. He owes Abe two thousand dollars. This kind of thing embarrasses Abe. He doesn't care about the money, but he dislikes making people feel bad. Sometimes they hate you if they can't pay. Why does society have to function with money as its primary goal? Why don't people just help each other? Abe knows how Nancy would feel about this reasoning. She wants money, needs it, the more the better. "Money keeps you safe," she says. Abe turns so he can avoid Carl, he doesn't want to hear another excuse and he can't cancel the bill. Nancy would be furious. "You're giving away everything," she would say, her face twisted.
Abe buys some Milk Duds and walks back into the theater. Just to be in the same environment, breathing the same air with this new woman is thrilling. He looks for her, heart pounding. He pops three Milk Duds, and waits for the chocolate to melt. The candy oozes, the caramel. He flattens it against the roof of his mouth, stroking it back and forth.
Nancy is back in her seat, leaning over to talk to Trish Wallace, their next-door neighbor.
Trish has a thing for Abe, and she looks good tonight: red sweater, white turtleneck, long dark hair curled. She looks at Abe, drinking him in.
Abe sits and lips in three more Milk Duds.
"Hello, my man," Trish says, turning her chocolate brown eyes on him.
Abe notices her ear rings, little goldfish.
She holds out her hand for a Milk Dud, tilting her head down, like she's asking a question.
Abe reluctantly gives her two.
Trisha is beautiful, her skin creamy, lips shaded in innocence, teeth white and clean. She is married to Bob Wallace, a local contractor. Trisha is interested in sex. When she talks to Abe, when they are alone, her hands slip, touching him. Nancy knows, but she thinks the whole thing is funny.
Abe offers Nancy a Milk Dud and is relieved when she declines. Nancy smiles knowingly. She knows he is so addicted to sweets, particularly chocolate, he wants them all for himself.
Abe hates her knowing things like that. A man needs his privacy. Women want to know all your secrets. The more personal and embarrassing, the better. If he is injured, or has a rash, or a hemorrhoid, Nancy wants to know every disgusting detail, so she can empathize.
The lights come down and the play starts again. The demons walk on stage with sinners bound in chains. The sinners moan and wail their agonies. "Why did we hoard? Why did we squander?" Abe looks at the program and finds Heather has completed her part. She won't be out again until she takes a bow. He waits anxiously for her.
The phone rings. Abe turns the volume down and holds it up to his ear. He makes sure Nancy can hear. "Doctor Anderson, call your answering service." Abe looks at Nancy and gives her the I'm sorry look.
She squeezes his hand.
He gets up and walks up the aisle. In a few minutes, he comes back and tells her he must go to the hospital. He puts on a forlorn look. She agrees to go home with Trisha. Abe walks out of the Pink Garter Theater thinking the words of Martin Luther King: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last.
The Sheriff's office is quiet. The echo of the dispatcher in the day room can be heard communicating with a distant patrol car. Trevor Howard, Teton County Sheriff, sits behind his desk, his feet resting on the bookshelf, sipping Gator-aid. The ice tinkles as he swirls the liquid. Dressed in his blue Lycra cross-county ski suit, and his Nike Air running shoes, Trevor is ready to run home. He looks at the stop watch. It excites him to think of pounding the pavement. Trevor has spent his life in Teton County, and achieved his dream. He is thirty-four, and has been Sheriff for four years.
The walls of his office show what he cares about: a large picture of the twenty-eight members of the department; a picture of himself and his two best friends, Abe and Rand, standing on the top of the Grand Teton, January 1; a picture a seven-pound trout caught in Flat Creek; a cabinet full of running and cross-country ski trophies. His eyes wander over the police training courses, including the FBI course in criminal investigation, he is proudest of that one. Trevor is well trained and he knows it.
Something is very wrong in his peaceful world, breaking through his serenity like rain. There have been four major fires in the last month, Ronnie Boates, has been murdered. Trevor can still feel the chill of the room where the six-year-old boy was found. He remembers the candles, and the sweat soaked sheets, the long pool of blood, the wooden cross sticking out of the boy's chest. He remembers bending down and touching the pale blue face and neck where rigor mortis was setting in. The boy had not died long ago. His underarms were still warm, corneas clear, lividly settled into thighs and buttocks. The child's bloody mouth was open in a silent scream, the eyes white with terror.
Trevor spent the day dusting for latent prints, vacuuming the body, and the room, for the slightest clue. Every criminal takes away traces of the crime scene and the victim and leaves traces of himself. This is especially true of sexual assault because it brings the victim and perpetrator into such intimate contact. A simple hair, pulled out by the roots, blood, semen, or saliva, can all give a genetic marker. One sample of skin, or body oil, can give all the evidence Trevor needs. But, the ultraviolet light revealed no traces of semen on the body. No pubic hairs were on the buttocks, thighs, or in the surrounding area. Oral and anal swabs were negative. The toilet seat and sink traps were emptied, and saved in plastic evidence bags. After nine hours of meticulous examination, nothing was obvious, and all the samples were sent off to the FBI's crime lab.
By looking at the scene, Trevor got to know the murderer, could feel his presence. Whoever it was, was cruel and heartless, mentally deranged. Who else would bite a three-inch plug out of a child's flesh? The perpetrator walked around the room with the child, as evidenced by carpet indentations. It felt strange to walk in the same place, breathing the same air, feeling the room. Trevor wondered if the killer had terrorized the child, or been seductive and gentle, killing later, when he was done with his madness.
Trevor had no idea who started the fires or killed the boy, but he suspected the crimes were linked. He didn't know who, or why, but he was going to find out, no matter what. He felt a tremendous need to solve the crimes. His friends depended on him, trusted him. He would not rest until this monster was behind bars. No one was going to get away with this. It had never happened before, and it was never going to happen again. He made a silent promise to himself.
The four-hour autopsy was the worst. If it hadn't been for the support of his best friend Abe Anderson, the child's doctor, he never would have made it. He would have passed out like a dead walrus on a cold stone. He remembers the pathologist moving the knife in a Y-shaped incision from the armpits, below the breasts, past the pale nipples, to the sternum. The hole elongated into a gaping wet cavern. The pathologist scooped the slippery organs out of the chest, weighing each one carefully, while golden strands of the child's hair blew in a wind created by an overhead fan. The boy's blue eyes, partially opened, hinted violation. Trevor couldn't stop staring at the child's head, peering into the brain that remembered everything. Who did this to you, Ronnie? Trevor had a picture in his own mind. The last time he had seen Ronnie Boates was when the first-grade class toured the jail. He was a bright laughing boy. "I'm going to be a policeman when I grow up," he said. No, Ronnie, you'll never be anything like that.
The cause of death was determined as asphyxiation, not the stabbing by the cross, that came later, after death. The murderer had held his hand over the boy's mouth, to keep him from screaming. This cut off the oxygen. It must have taken a long time to hold a wiggling child until he died. It must have seemed like an eternity. The boy would have lay still after the first few minutes, but the murderer held on, making sure the child was dead. He or she meant to kill.
When Trevor delivered the news to Bob and Myrna Boates, he looked for the signs that they were criminally involved, but they collapsed in inconsolable grief and despair.
"I should have been with him," the father cried.
"My poor baby," the mother whimpered, curled up in a fetal position, mumbling inarticulate sounds of grief.
Trevor stayed the night with them, calling his sister, Margaret, who came to make coffee and cookies. It was all they could do. When Trevor was alone with Margaret, he cried. It was not fair. The boy was so little. He had no chance to live a normal life.
Trevor drove around town for weeks afraid he would see the parents again. Every time he thought of them, or Ronnie, or saw the family car, he felt sense of shame. This was his fault. Their eyes told him if he had been doing his job, this never could have happened.
The investigative report from Frank Mills, the undersheriff, sat opened on his desk. Frank had found nothing. Four weeks of pouring over this thing and he is stumped. The men from the State Police left yesterday shaking their heads. "Wait for something to turn up," they said. Wait? For what? For another boy to be killed? For another business to be burned?
Trevor was not going to wait. He was convinced the crimes had something to do with drugs. There was drug paraphernalia in the room, used needles and chemicals to mix cocaine. Drugs were involved, in one way or another, he is certain of that. Trevor had done his best to snuff out the drug problem in Teton County, but it had proved much more difficult than he had ever imagined. He was naive. He thought that all you had to do was tell people the truth about drugs, and they would stop. Drugs are killers. Why kill yourself? He could never understand why anyone would want to change their level of consciousness, their perception of life and reality. The world is so good, why change it?
This time he has a new plan. He hired a new deputy who is coming to work tomorrow. This officer, a young woman, has worked for years undercover in Texas. She looks younger than she is, and uses her innocent looks to trap criminals. She has been a major factor in cleaning up the drug problem in a metropolis. She cost plenty, but Trevor was going to use her to find out who was into drugs. If he knows this, he is sure it will lead him to the killer.
He met the officer last month at the Peace Officers Association meeting in Dallas. Holly Webb, a short haired blond, who will draw men in Teton County like flies to molasses. She is twenty-eight but looks eighteen. Trevor told her not to contact him unless she had to, remain anonymous. She was going to pretend to move to town looking for work. A beautiful woman with a cocaine habit, perfect. Trevor told no one about the plan. Not even the Teton County Commissioners knew Holly's real or undercover identity. All Trevor had to do was give this woman time.
Excerpted from "Mystic"
Copyright © 2017 Robert R. Perkinson.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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