Stargazer

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 17 Summertime and the living is easy

Friday June 2nd 2000


Cincinnati


Nearly four months now. Focusing so hard. But the mood music was changing. The two parts of him that made him whole were clearly at war now and it had to be acknowledged and reconciled that a dark period lay ahead. More and more of them were provoking that rollercoaster feeling of revulsion and one or two now had just been a reddish black blur. A black period of fury would hang over him for hours afterward each time he met one.

The “job” in Cincinnati was slave labor in a diner in the kitchen cooking anything deep fried. He had to wear gloves all of the time now, that was the amount of the times he’d burnt them in the first few weeks. His room was rented to him by the owner of the diner in a tenement of flats that used to be a flea bag motel.

He had gone over and over the Stargazer witness interview transcripts when he was first released, something about the boy in the pool. That phrase kept going around and around in his head like a small fairground attraction in his mind. You could go about regular day to day living and always there, sometimes loud, sometimes soft, the phrase would pop up. He would stop and say to himself “but the boy in the pool?, always a question.

That was then though and this was now. He had an ache, an itch that he needed to scratch. When he started shooting in Columbus, he just assumed that his alcohol abuse drove him. But he knew better now.

He knew where he could find one. A bar in East Price Hill was where they came and went. Just a few blocks away from the shithole diner. He’d have to shepard his quarry away from suspicion. He’d need to be more careful. He’d need to take his time. All other tasks would be laid aside now to focus on the job ahead. He had even seen his mark. One of the faggotts from the bar would come in sometimes late at night with his friends to the diner. They never saw him of course, even as he heaved used peanut oil barrels by them. They laughed their faggoty laugh like little girls oblivious to his soon to be focused wrath. The one he chose was red haired, maybe 21 or 22 and slim. He was the most extravagant. That might change soon though. McEvoy listened to the sizzle of the fries bubbling in the oil.

------

......

It was going to be another hot one. Lewis knew the minute he left his front door and the wall of heat at 8:30am hit him. It would be sweaty in the extreme by midday. The call had come in from uniformed in Upper Arlington. They themselves had gotten two calls from two different drivers in vehicles in traffic looking down over Route 270 onto the large drainage ditch below which was covered in graffiti. They both described what Lewis was now looking down on.

A man’s body lay there on full display. There was no mistaking the man was dead and not sleeping, even at a relatively long distance, such was the unnatural way the head lay in relation to the body. And maybe just as striking was the color scheme of the scene. The body lay against one of the few areas of the white smooth concrete pipe that wasn’t covered in graffiti. The body was dressed in some sort of overalls, bright red and almost sparkling clean. The face, drawn out in an emaciated silent scream, was the same color as the off white concrete pipe.

“What a way to start the weekend Tom right?” Marcella mumbled as she stared at the scene. Some scenes had stayed in Lewis’s memory for a long time like unwanted guests. This was getting added to that list.

“What’s that fucking stink?” he replied. “Or am I the only one getting it?”. Lewis held his cupped hand hand to his face like a mask.

The Forensics Crime Scene manager passed by and stopped. “Bleach mostly. Guy was doused in it. This is a weird one Tom. The body’s a bag of bones. Like a concentration camp prisoner. Old healed wound to the back of the head, obvious cervical trauma, could be post mortem though. I dunno. There’s something about this whole scene. I need to get him downtown and get that uniform off him. He looks like he has been out here very purposefully. It’s like he was dressed up in it after he died”.

Christ he’d love a cigarette now thought Lewis. It had been a relatively quiet first 5 months in the Murder Unit in Columbus PD. Only 12 cases so far where they’d normally have 25. Was this the beginning of the flood gates opening?.

———

Erbinger called him on his cell the next day. He wanted Lewis to come down directly to talk about the post mortem of the body in the drain pipe. Erbinger only called this soon if it was something very unusual or someone had fucked up the chain of evidence. For once, Lewis welcomed the coolness of the morgue, an escape from the hot weather Columbus was experiencing currently. The almost ferric smell of the bodies still made his stomach turn though. Erbinger being Erbinger went straight down to business without so much as a hello.

“Hispanic Male, approx early thirties. Body mass index of 16. Looks to have been starved. Estimated time of death about 36 hours ago. Appears to have been bound for a long time given the depth of the abrasions to wrists and ankles. Cause of death is probably sudden cervical trauma causing asphyxia by rendering the victims diaphragm denervated and then the victim is unable to breath”

Lewis put his hand up in a stopping motion. “English please, I am but a humble detective”. Erbinger sighed loudly and continued.

“The killer broke his neck. And this wasn’t from a fall either. There are subtle contusions on the victims face suggesting his face was grabbed and violently rotated. He has other much older injuries too, all obviously non lethal. He has a tibial leg fracture, and a number of right sided rib fractures. Both appear to have been inflicted with a hammer looking at the circular crushing and pattern of the healed skin scars. There seems to have been a distant crude attempt at a tracheotomy that healed whilst the victim was alive. It also looks like leg wounds were left unhealed without medical attention. No evidence of any sexual interference . The entire body was washed with a bleach solution premortem, and then the Reynauds Trucking Co. uniform was put on him. Not so much as a partial on him or the clothes, and I’m told no prints are the scene. I’d hazard a guess that there is nothing on fiber analysis of the uniform when the lab people look at the uniform. I’d advise checking the missing persons files for a “Antonio Hernandez” working for these guys, name tag was stitched into the inside lining”

Lewis took a deep breath in, a small but perceptible twinge in his chest had just occurred. A hammer. Did Erbinger just say a hammer?

“And one last thing Tom. He was placed there. I’ve seen the Polaroids. You know that too I’d guess, having been actually at the scene. It’s like the killer wanted to almost use that piece of pipe to frame the body like a picture. There are no fresh abrasions on him consistent with him falling down the embankment from the highway”.

Lewis slipped the nozzle of the nitrate spray under his tongue and squirted it once. His stomach felt like it had dropped to the floor. The last time he could recall a body being placed in such a purposeful fashion and with a paucity of foreign forensic evidence was in November ’98 with the Stargazer Investigation. Please Sweet Jesus no, Lewis thought.. This isn’t how he thought that horror might re-emerge. But just like yesterday when he came across the body, a dreadful sense of foreboding was beginning to take hold of his mood. The heat building outside needed a summer thunderstorm to break the oppressive atmosphere. But a whole other type of storm instead seemed to be right around the corner.



“C’mon man. We’re one short. We’re getting killed here”.

David glanced up from his kneeling position next to the fountain pump housing and laughed loudly in reply.

“Two good reasons Mark, and you already know these awhile now. Number one, I’m working, and number two, haven’t you heard- I got run over by a truck.”

Mark was one of the typical preppy types that worked as Team Leaders at these camps. They were all mostly trainee teachers and tended to spend two if not three summers doing this kind of thing. David always made sure to get to know them as they passed through. He was doing this now nearly 10 years. Many Team Leaders had come and gone, many children had come and gone. Mark probably just knew him as the “pool guy”, harmless, perpetually in a good mood like always. Almost part of the furniture. They’d have another 20 seconds of this give and take exchange between themselves. Then David would cheerfully relent and join the game of soccer for 20 minutes or so, having a hoot, joking with Mark and maybe the other Team Leaders that were playing.

And of course joking with the kids. Not all of them, maybe just a few. But concentrating on the one. This how it had been with a few already. The veneer of familiarity and the error of assuming people would always behave as you had initially experienced them could prove fatal. First impressions last.

It never occurred to people and kids that an alternative savage and infinitely more dangerous entity might be lurking within their supposed casual friend or colleague. When humans reach seven years of age on average, that’s when most begin to fear real life dangers. Before that it was imaginary monsters, before that separation anxiety as a toddler, stranger anxiety as a baby. But they never fear the friendly pool guy.

To take from them you had to give to them first. Give them a smile, maybe then a brief breathless introduction, a joke just between you and him at the end of the match. Do this for a few lunch breaks in one camp week, by the middle weekend, the veneer of familiarity was there. Then it just became about a routine, and how to alter it ever so slightly. The boys here all came from troubled backgrounds, doing some offender program in some cases with the older ones. They tended to have a lot of free unsupervised time when they got home.

And now he was getting up, limping over to be the goal keeper, begrudgingly, but still laughing about it. Michael was playing center back, he was about 90 lbs, a little chubby. Time to get to know one another. Being run over was just another story now, a different and new angle. Some stories he told were true, some stories were not. But they believed them all eventually.

David had big plans this summer. The Jewish Star was two equilateral triangles, six points with a center in which he would put something precious, something only on this earth less than a year. Religion was meaningless to him, many things were meaningless to him. The Jewish Star was beautiful though, a million of them in a million dimensions might just be what a real star was, maybe even something that could be made by whatever lay out there.

David day dreamed as the opposition came bearing down and scored as the ball bounced off David’s left knee into the back of the net. Micheal was laughing now, David was laughing now with him. Many days like this lay ahead, many late evenings too. The summer was a busy time for him for work, but it was a busy time for play too. And he would use the whole state as his playground this summer, and by September, all preparations would have been made for his next site.



Friday June 23rd


The man in the Regnaud overalls had been identified as indeed Antonio Hernandez, a one time truck driver from Huntington OH. He had been reported missing in early February, his 18 wheeler found idling with the keys in the ignition the day after a record breaking snowstorm a few miles north of Shelby on a secondary road. The theory initially was that he had been stopped by a drift, gotten out and got lost.

Local cops got suspicious when his body didn’t turn up nearby after the snow melted, but had no leads whatsoever. He had worked with the company for five years, with a clean license. Lewis and Marcella had done the only thing they could do in this situation. They talked to everyone he knew and associated with again and again. They talked to his co-workers in the depot. They talked to his wife. They talked to the guys who loaded the lamb on to his rig at the slaughter house.

They ran record checks against everyone. That brought them back to a ex con in the slaughter house again for awhile, out six years after a four year stretch for assaulting a police officer. They even brought him in for questioning, but his alibi was eventually corroborated by a local prostitute come girlfriend. And he just wasn’t good fit. He had no independent transport or access to a car, and no money to rent one for any kind of elaborate ruse. He was no criminal mastermind, his intelligence only measured just a few points above a base line description for officially having a learning disability. Whoever had done this to Antonio Hernandez had spent months holding him captive, torturing him, knowing not to take it too far, giving the victim enough nutrition and water to survive before killing him. Lewis had no hard evidence it was their Stargazer again, just a gut feeling. But he felt like he needed to reach out to Ware or Johnson. He’d have to make any contact with Quantico informally though; Spietz would not take kindly to reopening a whole bunch of cold cases again, especially ones he had intimated were connected to ex Commissioner Kearney. It was too soon for that.


“How you ain’t jumping in?” Michael asked David.

He was sitting at one of the picnic tables 20 yards back from and to the side, eating his lunch. The sun was beating down mercilessly and the real feel temperature today was 92 degrees, 85 in the shade.

“Hey Michael” David smiled back. It was their little joke. Mike was the boy’s preferred name, only David insisted on calling him Michael. “You know you can’t swim for an hour after eating right” David replied with faux seriousness and frowned back.

“All I had is a banana man” Michael flashed back a winning smile. David made to grab him quickly to startle him and Michael jumped away quickly laughing. David smiled back.

“Get the hell outta here before I get a team leader”. Michael ran off and dive bombed into the pool laughing raucously. This evening when camp ended, the bus would drop him a mile from his grandma’s house where he was staying for the summer. Probably for the summer there to escape the trailer park on the fringe of southeast Cleveland where he lived most of the time with his mom and older sisters. The dusty road that ended in a dead end at his Grandmas house was perfect. He had everything ready.

......

McEvoy lay on the bed in just his boxers watching the roof fan spin around and around cutting through the dead heat, barely creating a whisper of moving air in the semi lit room. The air conditioning had probably never worked past it’s first few years, and that was more than a decade ago. The sun tried to break in through the small piece of window over the a/c unit but he had rigged an old sheet to half hang and block the early morning sun.

He had let the room go to shit over the last couple of weeks, his mind had been a maelstrom focused on other things. Clothes lay thrown care free all over the floor, the sheets he used to have on his mattress tossed in a heap in the corner. He felt almost like a deflated balloon, utterly exhausted but yet strangely peaceful, his mind no longer racing around and around like the fan. A boy in the pool? What did that mean? He remembered meeting Aaron Smith’s mother that morning. Was it about him? She had cried silently when he left, he had no doubt of this. The boy had been last seen on his way to his swim training. Or was it the boys at those pool parties, Miller and the other one, the younger kid? Like the name of something you can’t remember but is just within your minds reach, this had been bothering him before the run up to the events of last evening. And here it was again, almost torturing him.

McEvoy looked over to the piles of paper and A4 notepads he had been writing on. None of the other boys had been at a pool in or around the time of their disappearance. He was pretty sure he had checked this already but he could be sure of nothing now. Everyone and everything was mixed up, it had been so hard focusing on even simple tasks in the last couple of weeks. He got up, immediately noticing the soreness of his arms and shoulders and walked over to the pile. Lewis had interviewed the Liddell boy’s mother from Lima, that witness statement was buried here somewhere. He rustled through sheaves and sheaves of half written notes of his own as well as photocopies of witness statements Lewis had given him when he was inside. Eventually he found it, in Lewis’s shitty writing shorthand and then a more fluffed out typed version.

Jacob Liddell, interview of natural mother, no new friends, not sure on coach, memory of specific events around that time faded etc etc. Junior all star football player, lots of girlfriends. And there is was, only on the short hand version, not the typed.

“Hung out with friends in park by splashpool” followed by the words Spring ’94 Faurot Park. The boy had disappeared that summer though, the reference to spring was odd. And then what about the others. The two younger boys in ’98 had no mention of pools of any type in any of their notes, he was pretty sure, but again he’d have to check. He wasn’t sure. Was there? His mind was a mess.He caught a glance of himself in the mirror he had bought to hang over the miserable sink he could call his own. His hair was askew, his broad shoulders and chest impressive, time well spent in prison he thought. And below his right ear was a large streak of blood. He had gotten in late last night, thankfully no one had seen or met him. The man-boy had struggled more than he thought he would. This paper trail could wait. He needed to get rid of his own trail first, starting with that weed he’d bought to tempt the man-boy into his car and the clothes he was wearing last night. Possession of the weed alone was a parole violation.

-----------

July 3rd 2000

It was Monday morning and Lewis was getting annoyed. When he’d bought his cellphone first, no one ever rang him on it. In fact for the first few weeks he’d developed a habit of taking it out of his pocket and checking it was turned on. But this morning, it was as if everyone but Jesus himself needed to talk to him.

He had been out on a call out from a fairly busy weekend, finishing up a gang related shooting in Franklinton for the early hours of Monday morning, having been on take for the weekend with Marcella. They’d caught 3 gang related shootings, no doubt all interconnected, and at least one of the calls was from his new murder Captain, Butz. The name might be funny, but the man who owned it was definitely not. He’d left the phone in his car when he went to look at the last scene in Franklinton and then came back to four missed calls. Two were Cincinnati numbers, one was his boss, and one was a cell number he didn’t recognize. They’d all left messages which was even more annoying, because he didn’t realize he had set up a mail box and therefore didn’t know how to access it. Now, back at the office, his desk phone was blinking too, meaning more messages. At least he could actually listen to these.

The first was from Cincinnati PD, from Richie Marks, a murder cop leaving a number for him to ring back. The second was from Ware. The number he left to ring back was almost certainly a missed call on his mobile. The third was Butz, his boss, who was rapidly coming down the office to him, and the fourth was McEvoy. He didn’t leave a contact number, just the name of a diner he worked at that Lewis could ring him at.

This last one puzzled and troubled him a little. He hadn’t really kept contact at all with McEvoy since he’d dropped him off that day in Cincinnati. For someone just released from prison, McEvoy hadn’t been exactly over the moon, quite subdued if anything. They had talked about Stargazer a lot, it seemed to have stayed on McEvoy’s mind, and then a little about AA meetings. McEvoy knew Lewis had previously been through the twelve step program and asked basic questions about it. Lewis couldn’t shake the feeling that McEvoy was just asking for the sake of asking, he barely registered any reaction or reply when Lewis answered his questions. They had parted ways at the storage depot where McEvoy had put his stuff in storage along with his Explorer before going to Lima Prison. They hadn’t agreed to meet again, it had all been a bit awkward. To Lewis or maybe he was just fooling himself to think this, McEvoy didn’t seem to want to meet again. And that really kinda suited them both. So now, ringing him months later out of the blue, Lewis wasn’t sure it was good news.

First though, he had to deal with Butz. Tired as he was, and juvenile as it was, Lewis allowed himself a small smile at his own mental note having to deal with Butz. Some shit, stupid as it was, never got old.

“Please tell me you’ve got something on those three from the weekend. It might have been a slow start to the year but the clearance rate is dipping below 40% if these three go cold.” Butz was just like any other Chief, all about the stats and clearance.

“We got ID and weapons on two and last nights shooter took one in the leg himself, he’s in Grant General. Relax, me and Marcie got this.” Lewis replied.

Butz looked at him over his glasses. He was a big man, easily 240 lbs and not much more than 5’10. He had been parachuted in after Kearney’s death and Spietz’s promotion, from a Vice job in Cleveland. People in Vice always got moved around once they were there awhile. Lewis guessed it all got a bit too cosy dealing with the type of criminals who always thought they could buy you off.

Butz half snorted, half belched. “Great. Have something on my desk by Wednesday. Spietz is busting my balls”.

Lewis picked up his desk phone and held it nestled between his neck and his shoulder while he thought. Who was he going to call back first? McEvoy would be last on that list if he got back to him at all. But Ware or the Cincinnati murder squad? He’d try Cincinnati first. He needed a refresher on the dead trucker guy before talking to Ware, that would be what Ware had probably heard rumours about. He just knew Ware was still paying some attention to events in Ohio.

He dialled the number and asked for Richie Marks. He was on a call out but had a cellphone contact. Lewis identified himself and said it was police business, and got the number. Moments later he got Marks on the phone.

“Thanks for calling back so soon Detective Lewis. It’s a bit delicate but we reckon you might be able to help.”

Lewis was vaguely intrigued.

“Tom’s fine. Is it about that dead prostitute from November ’98?”. Lewis had thought maybe that was why Ware was ringing as well.

“Err Nope, nothing on that. No, we got someone we wanna talk to but we are thinking you might be in a better place to talk to him”.

Now Lewis was genuinely interested.

“Thing is, we got a missing persons report here we think is actually a murder now. 22 year old, male prostitute, last seen June 23rd. In and out with Vice here a couple of times, probably a low level junk habit. Last seen outside a bar he tricked around in South Fairmount. Not a great area I’ll say, well known establishment to the local uniformed. We found a bloody shirt four miles away downriver that a witness says he was wearing the night he disappeared. DNA match to our missing john. No body yet. So we’re thinking he didn’t just run off or jump in Mill Creek or OD. We’ve done the usual trawl, and two red dots have popped on our radar. They both are out on Parole and working a diner a few blocks away from the bar and staying about two miles away in a shit bag apartment lot. First guy is out a year already on a 10 year bit for armed robbery, second I think you know who it is”.

Lewis knew exactly who it was. “Is McEvoy a person of interest here really or is this just some loose ends stuff?” Lewis asked.

There was a pause at the end of the line.

“Look, it’s probably loose ends, a nothing. But you know we got to tie them up. We have him working all night the guy disappeared till 3am at that diner nearby, and we have him on CCTV leaving in his Explorer about 3:15am after lock up on his own. We have him pegged on another street cam headed east on Wilmington 2 minutes later, but that’s not in the direction of where his apartment is”.

Ritchie Marks was making sense, but Lewis wasn’t seeing how he personally came into all of this. “So how do I help you guys here?” Lewis asked.

“Thing is, we pinged McEvoy somewhere else too on CCTV when we looked at all this. Buying weed from a well known felon. We figure if we show up, he’ll panic and run or do something stupid. He’ll just see Parole Violation and run. We’ve no interest in any of that shit, but he won’t believe us. But if you just meet up with him informally at the diner, get a story, reassure him that we aren’t interested or can’t prove the weed thing, we can then take a statement downtown at his own convenience. The guy he works for owns the apartments and the diner, no doubt extorting him for a few dollars on his check. If he sees us coming, that situation could get worse too. What do you reckon? Maybe help us out, and maybe help him out too?”.

Lewis knew the Cinncinati detective was right, this had potential to get ugly for McEvoy quickly. He didn’t think he had a choice but to help an old friend. If that’s what McEvoy in fact was.

That phone call dealt with, dead truckers file in front of him, coffee drunk, Lewis reckoned he was ready to call Ware. He had mentioned in his message being in Wichita working on something there, but to call as soon as possible. Lewis dialled the number; Ware picked up on the second ring.

“Returning the call Ed. Hope life finds you well.”.

Ware went straight to the point. “You check the NCIC recently?”.

Lewis hesitated - he had let that slide over the last few weeks. Maybe part of him didn’t want to find something. Looks like that plan had backfired.

“Michael Helier. African American. 11 years old. Missing almost two weeks. Last seen getting off the bus to walk to his grandmother’s house near Medina. Anyone call you from there?”.

Lewis felt a twinge in his chest.

“Tom, you still there?”.

Ware sounded like he was firing on all cylinders, ready to go.

“Yeah, I’m still here. It’s been busy here, regular stuff. Haven’t heard anything from anyone about this since ’98 Ed”. Jesus Christ thought Lewis. This is happening. Marcella had just come into the office. She saw his face and stopped in her tracks.

“I’m flying into Rickenbacker tonight. Can you collect me? I’m booked into somewhere downtown.”

“Sure I’ll pick you up. What time you due in?” Lewis replied. “This is unofficial FBI business right?” he added.

“This is on my own clock Tom. He’s back. I know it. If I can get solid links, I can maybe twist some time out of Quantico. But this is a huge chance if the trail is still hot”. Ware sounded excited at the prospect of coming back to Columbus. Lewis wasn’t so sure this was what he needed right now. They made final arrangements and hung up. Marcella sat down opposite Lewis at his desk.

“Ware” she said simply.

“Yep. Flying in tonight. Another boy has gone missing. Same demographic. One of us has to go with him. Medina. He has the details”. Lewis slipped the nitrate spray under his tongue.

“You want me to go?” Marcella shot him a concerned look. “Plenty to finish off here”.

She knew Lewis hadn’t wanted to be treated like some sort of sick old grandad after his heart attack, but now he seemed genuinely upset.

“I don’t know Marcie. This whole fucking thing coming back now again.” He paused and sighed. “I just thought ... I just thought things had moved on, things had gotten better for me. Now I’m not so sure. I’ll go up there with Ware. Staying here or going there won’t make a difference about that.”

Lewis sat back in the chair. McEvoy would have to wait until Thursday or maybe Wednesday depending on Medina. He was putting in the miles this week. This particular Murder Columbus detective was going on a state wide tour.

......

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.