Midnight Owl (A Joe Leverette Mystery, Book 1)

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A black shadow was covering the curve-ahead markers on one of the sharp curves in Bearss Hills. He knew how the kids come barreling down the road and this would work just fine.

He picked up the black bag he was carrying and checked for traffic. Nothing. He ran across the two lane road and agilely climbed the tree. The curve would bring any speeder right to this tree so he placed it into the split of the tree and secured it a bit. He didn’t want it to fall too soon.

After he got down and crossed back over the road, a car came roaring along. That was close. He had just enough time to hide behind the trees. Then he heard the wheels screeching to stop, but it was not soon enough. The car crashed into the tree and, just as he hoped, the head fell out of the tree and landed on the roof of the car.

Slowly he crept through the woods to where he’d hidden his car, got in and called 9-1-1.

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?” a male voice asked.

“Some kids just crashed into a tree in Bearss Hills,” he said sounding upset.

“Are they all right?”

“I don’t know. I’m handicapped and have trouble getting in and out of my car. You better send someone,” and he hung up before the man could ask any questions.

Leverette, home in bed sleeping and dreaming about his late wife and son, jumped when his phone rang. He looked at the clock: 3 AM. What now?

He picked up the phone and trying not to sound sleepy, said hello.

“This is Carter at the precinct. There was an accident in Bearss Hills and they need you there,” he said.

“For an accident? Why do you need homicide?” Leverette sat up on the side of his bed.

“We think we found your lady’s head,” Carter said.

“That’s a good reason. Did you call Billingsley?”

“Yes, he said to get you and Marsden down here and then he’d meet up with you at the precinct,” Carter said sounding a little shaken up. He didn’t like the thought of finding a person’s head.

“Okay. I’ll give Marsden a call and we’ll be there as soon as we can. Bye,” He hung up and dialed Marsden. It rang a couple times before he picked up.

“Yeah,” Marsden said through a yawn.

“They think they found her head, we gotta go to Bearss Hills,” Leverette said as he slipped into his jeans balancing his cell with his shoulder.

“Where the hell is that?” Marsden asked, still lying in bed wondering if he was dreaming.

“I know where it’s at. I’ll pick you up. Your place is on the way,” Leverette hung up and finished dressing.

“Hello. Hello. Damn that man,” Marsden said and got out of bed. He was so hoping they would have found the head before the shift was over. Now they’d get to see it, in the dark, in a place he didn’t know. Shit!

He started to dress and felt a very cold chill go through his body. Why couldn’t they find the head during the day? Shit!

Leverette showed up about 15 minutes later and Marsden was waiting, looking out his front window. It was still cold out, even though it was supposed to be getting warm. Damn winter took it’s time leaving!

Marsden put on his hat and coat, then his gloves. He knew it was a lot colder at night and thought about putting a scarf around his mouth like his mother used to make him do when he was little.

He got in the car and was grateful it was warm.

“What do you know about it?” he asked Leverette.

“Not much. A car missed the curve and plowed into a tree. The head fell on the car’s roof,” Leverette answered.

Marsden shivered. They sat in silence and Marsden looked out the window trying to figure out where they were.

“Boy, this road changes names a lot,” he said. “How do you know where to go?”

“Fortunately the crash is right by the canoe dock,” Leverette said. “We used to go there a lot. My son loved canoeing.”

Marsden felt bad. He knew Leverette had lost his wife and son in a car accident a while back. He didn’t say anything more.

The flashing lights on the cruiser were easy to find in the sparsely lit area. Leverette parked next to the cruiser and the two men got out. Marsden only walked to the front of the car and stopped.

Leverette turned and noticed his partner wouldn’t move.

“What?” Leverette asked.

“I’ll wait here,” is all Marsden said as he wrapped his scarf around his neck and mouth.

Leverette shook his head and went to the site of the crash.

“Okay, what do we have?” he asked the officers.

“Looks like they missed the curve. Fortunately they weren’t going too much over the limit. All three got out of the car as we pulled up,” one officer said. Leverette didn’t know him. “Angie, I mean Officer Buckley, saw the bag on top of the car and when she went to grab it she jumped back.”

“Yes, Detective. I did. When I grabbed the bag I felt what I thought was a nose,” she said to him. Before he could ask she added “I had my gloves on, sir.”

Leverette nodded. “And the passengers? Did they see or hear anything?”

“All they said was after the crash they heard something hit the roof. They got out about the time we got here and didn’t touch anything.”

“They said they weren’t hurt, just a little shook up.”

Leverette turned to look at the other side of the road and noticed all but one of the three curve markers were covered with brush. He turned to the officers.

“Did you see these?” he said pointing to the markers.

“Yes, sir. We took a picture of them. When we went over to see them it looked like the tree branches were tied down to them. One must have not been tied good enough so it came off,” the male officer said. Leverette couldn’t see his name because of his overcoat.

“Get the rope to the lab,” Leverette said almost to himself. He turned and headed back across the street to where the boys were standing. Once the officers got the ropes down and bagged them they followed Leverette across the street.

“I know you just told these officers what happened, but tell me now,” he said as gently as he could.

The boys were not only worried about the accident but when the officers whispered to each other about the black bag on the roof they got scared.

Leverette noticed their apprehension and felt bad for them.

“Okay. Which one of you was driving?”

“I was, sir; my name is Phillip King. These are my friends John Stephens and Michael Clark.” King said and swallowed hard.

“Did you notice anyone in the area before or after the crash?”

All three of them shook their head. They were starting to feel the cold and shivering.

“Is it all right if I go get our jackets, sir?” King asked.

“I’ll let the officer get them for you,” Leverette said and waved one of the officers over and told her to get their coats. He waited until they all put their coats on and continued with the questions.

“You didn’t see the curve markers?”

“No, sir, I wasn’t even going that fast but I guess the road was more slippery than I thought because I couldn’t correct the car in time,” King said.

“Well it’s obvious this wasn’t your fault. Someone deliberately set this up and you just happened to be the one caught.

“Can you tell my father that, sir?” King asked hopefully.

“Sure thing. We’ll let him know everything,” Leverette said and imagined his own son at this age. He wished things were different. He wished they hadn’t died. He missed them a lot more than he let on.

The coroner’s van pulled up and Leverette turned to see who it was. Shit, he thought to himself. Marcie! He should have figured Carrington wouldn’t get his fat ass out of bed.

“Hi detective,” she said in a sing song voice.

“The officer will show you where the head is,” Leverette said without thinking.

“Head? That’s a head on top of my car?” King started shaking uncontrollably.

“Let’s go over here,” Leverette said wanting to kick himself in the ass for not thinking. He led the boys to where Marsden was standing. “He’ll write down what you tell him. Your father’s been called, so he should be here soon,” Leverette said and, hesitantly, walked back to the officers, and Marcie.

Steeling himself for Marcie’s advances he asked Buckley if they’d seen anything else by the markers.

“No. No foot prints, no cigarette butts, nothing,” she said.

Marcie had taken the head down and walked over to where one of the overhead lights were. She put the bag down and opened it.

“Yup,” Marcie said. “It’s a head. We won’t know anything until we get her back to the lab.”

“What time is Carrington coming in?” Leverette asked.

“I don’t know, usually around 9AM. I was going back there and, if you like, you could wait for him with me.”

Not on your life, he thought to himself. “No, that’s okay. I have to get Marsden back to his place,” was all he said.

“You sure?” she said trying to sound sexy.

“I’m sure,” he answered and headed to where Marsden and the others were standing. He thought she must be nuts. Wanting to make out, or whatever the kids call it now, in the morgue?! Fuck no! Not with her or anyone else! Not with her anywhere, anytime! The thought sent a shudder through his whole body.

A mid-size SUV pulled up to the patrol car. The man who came out was huge, not fat, but well over six foot, and quite muscular.

“That’s my dad,” King said still shaking.

“What happened,” he growled at his son.

“Mr. King I’m Detective Leverette,” he said and hoped he could calm this giant down. “This wasn’t your son’s fault. It was set up.”

“How’s that? Set up? By who?” Mr. King turned his anger toward Leverette.

“We don’t know who, sir, all we know is that the curve markers were covered, and...”

“And a head fell out of the tree on my car!” his son interrupted.

“What?” Mr. King went from angry to almost terrified. “A head?”

“Yes, Mr. King. We can’t say much more about the case,” Leverette said.

“The car?”

“Your son wasn’t going over the speed limit. There’s little damage on the front,” Marsden said.

“What about that head? Whose head is it?” Mr. King was visibly shaken.

“We can’t discuss...”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s an open case. I know. Is the car drivable?” Mr. King asked.

“I think it is but we need to take it to get any evidence from the tree that might have fallen with the head. Then it’ll be brought to your home,” Leverette told him. “It shouldn’t take more than a day, two the most.”

Mr. King puts his hands on his hips and lets out a sign. “Fine.”

“Here’s my card if you have any questions,” Leverette said and handed over his card. “You can call me to find out when your car is ready if you don’t hear from us.”

“Okay boys, let’s go,” Mr. King said to the three young men standing there. They got into the car and headed home. John and Mike live next door to each other so they were dropped off first.

Paul King turns to his son and notices how badly he’s been shaken up.

“That must have been horrible,” he says as compassionately as he can.

“I was all right until I heard about the head. We just thought a branch fell from the tree, dad,” Phil said.

“They told you about the head?” Paul started getting upset.

“No, no. We overheard them talking about it. They didn’t know we moved up to where they were standing,” Phil said. “The one detective was pretty pissed that we heard.”

Phil couldn’t stop shaking. His father could understand his being this bothered, but he should have calmed down a little by now.

“Is there something else? I’m not mad about the car, you guys weren’t hurt, and the car’s not bad.”

Phil tried to relax. How does he tell his father? How will his father react?

“Dad, do you believe dreams can predict something?”

“Your mother’s the one who believes all that, shit. Why?”

After letting out a sigh Phil starts his story. “Last night I had a dream that this guy put a woman’s head in a black plastic bag. His face was covered so all I could see were his eyes. He looked me in the eye and shushed me. Then I heard an owl hoot three times. I was so scared I woke up; it was midnight.”

Paul King stares out the windshield. He feels a chill go through him.


“I believe you,” his father said. “Just don’t tell your mother, about either of them.” He glanced at his son and the two of them chuckled.

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