"I need that inventory sheet,Chris." said the IRC Sheriffs Deputy to the bald headed,bull necked man in
the purple wrecker who replied with "Uh,okay.I have it here somewhere." as he began rummaging around in the plethora of forms,receipts,clothes,tools
and trash that filled the cabs seat and dashboard.
Looking at the mess with a small shake of his head the officer returned to filling out the incident report on
the one car accident he and the wrecker driver had just got finished with.Writing uninteruptedly for a few minutes he was
just finishing when the wrecker driver let out an exuberant yet not too sincere sounding,,"Yay!I found it." before sliding
out and to the ground to present it to the officer with a gesture akin to a fancy waiter presenting a wine selection to a
patron."Your inventory form,sir."
Taking the proffered paper with a single eyebrow raised quizzically he smiled and began to say something as he
clipped it onto his clipboard when,,"Dispatch to 55." cut the air.Immediately ducking his head into the car window he dropped
his clipboard on the seat and picked up the mic.
"55 dispatch.Go ahead." , "What's your 20?" , " Mikes towing yard on Dixie."
, "Are you still 10-6 with that Signal 4?" , " 10-54 Dispatch.I'm 10-98 and able to be 10-8."
"Proceed Code 1 to woods just south of the cemetary on Old Dixie and Third in Whispering Palms and 10-17 a shallow
grave Signal 7.Probable Signal 5.Locate.Document Scene.Secure area.10-48?"
"10-4,10-26.Next to Tabernacle Baptist?"
"Copy 55.Be Safe.call seventeen.fifteen eleven."
Opening the door and hopping into his car he couldn't help but notice an ancient powder blue Buick Roadster driven
by an old man with steel blue hair and glaringly fiery,crazy eyes biting on an old fashioned pipe sticking out of his clenched
teeth coming in his direction from southward down Old Dixie.It was obvious the original engine had been replaced with a more
modern one that had horse power to spare from the sound and rumble coming from it as it approached,then passed.
Hearing a bit of Journeys 'Loving,Touching,Squeezing' that was left wafting into his open windowed cruiser from the passing
antique as he quickly checked southbound traffic and darted across a now empty northbound lane he fleetingly thought about
how such a song apparently appeals even to someone the age of the person driving it before forgetting about it and focusing
his attention on getting on down the road.
Not taking long at all to traverse the short distance to Whispering Palms he soon peeled off on to 6th Ave and
came to a full stop at the stop sign on 2nd St. since he knew the dixie side of the area south of the cemetary had a large
old two story house on it.
After glancing around he proceeded to the next stop sign where he put his cruiser in
park and reached into his glove box to retrieve a camera and two rolls of film.After triggering a brief string of shots of
the view of cemetary from across the intersection he slipped into gear and slowly crossed 3rd and roll about 100 feet in order
to fire another round to get the way the south boundary of the cemetary abruptly turned from not too well maintained lawn
into full blown pepper tree woods.The branches of the trees on the boundary were very leafy from having been pruned back on
occasion and formed a visual bounary that kept the interior of the scrub almost as unseeable as a wooden privacy fence could.
Panning right to catch the road in his view finder in order to roll forward safely he seen a man step onto the
road further on up the slight hill about 100 feet past where 3rd place t-boned 6th Ave. and begin to walk across it from west
to east.After his camera whirred off a couple of pics he opened his left eye,dropped the camera from his right to get both
eyes on the fellow and stepped on the brake as his mind slipped into neutral trying to absorb the man-less view ahead of his
Staring in amazement he muttered,"Wow,that fella walks fast." before pulling on up and parking on the east side
of the road directly across from 3rd.
Getting out he pondered where to enter the pepper tree tangle before snapping
his fingers and sliding back into the still open drivers door to pick up his mic and say,"55 to dispatch.10-97." which got
back a very quick,,as in she was expectantly waiting for him to inform her when he had arrived,,"10-26 55.fifteen seventeen"
that actually prompted him to look at his wrist watch for a change.Noticing it was two minutes fast he said to himself "As
usual,eh,speedy?Allways in a hurry,ain't ya?.",slung his camera strap over his neck and re-set the time piece back before
pulling out a small blue spiral bound note pad from his left shirt pocket.Flipping through it he found that only the last
two pages were unused.
Patting the shirt pocket he had pulled it out from to assure himself he had a new pad ready
he then reached to a pouch on his belt to pull out a plastic card with a ruled grid pattern on it approximately three inches
long by two and a half inches wide with a fluid ball compass an inch across set in one corner of the end next to a small hole.
slid this between the folded open covers of the pad,wrote his initials,badge number,the date,,call time,code,number and location
on the top line along with #1 followed by the current time.He then faced west,placed his camera to his eye and held the pad
up so it was in lower left hand corner of the view finders frame and snapped a picture of his cruisers roof and the view along
Turning east he wrote a dash then #2,wrote 'entry' and did the same before dropping his camera to his chest
and taking the few steps needed to reach the pepper tree wall where he stepped in.
Once past the leafy green overhanging boughs he stopped to let his eyes adjust fully to the much darker light under
the pepper tree canopy before saying,"hmmmm,,a lot darker than I thought it would be." to himself.
Lifting his camera
up he pointed it in front of him and flicked the units light switch.
In the first brief moment that the bright light
blasted stark contrasting patterns of shadows against through and around the the pepper tree tangle which surrounded him the
blacks,grays and greens seemed to kaladiescope into a scene of horror shot through with dark red streaks and blotches.
just the same snapshot quick way as it came the view turned from a group of five cadaverous looking man shapes with club or
machete like objects in their hands poking,stabbing,cutting or swinging them at a sixth man like form stretched out at their
feet back into a view one would expect to find in a pepper tree wood at three thirty in the afternoon on a sunny,hot,dry virtually
cloudless day in Florida.
The Deputy stood frozen for a second as his mind belatedly assimilated then tried to summarily
dismiss the imagery as a fantastic display resulting from the effects of sudden bright light and shadow on eyes that had allready
become adjusted to the inordinate gloominess that he now realized did not exist.
Shaking the puzzled look from his
face he clicked the now un-needed camera light off and breifly plotted a path through the tangled branches before forging
ahead looking for signs of something like a shallow grave.
Working his way into and out of thinnner and thicker clothes
snagging,skin poking patches that occasionally gave way to areas sparsely vegetated due to domination by older growth pepper
trees,the occasional scrub oak or other trees and poulated with the myriad insects Florida is notorious for he wound his way
east and a bit to the south.
Pausing for a moment to swat at bugs and take stock of the damage inflicted
on his uniform and skin he bent forward a bit to examine his shin area where a particularily prickly branch felt like it had
penetrated his pant leg earlier.
After determining the damage was not as severe as the sting of his sweat made it
seem he began to stand back up straight only to suddenly slap his hand to his ear and begin swiping frantically at it while
saying "Getoffame!Getoffame!" like a sixth grader who just had a jar of mole crickets dumped down his shirt collar untill
he realized that everytime he moved his hand he felt a tug on his ear along with a corresponding jerk on his pinkie fingers
Muttering "What the,,?" before slipping the notepad into his left front pocket and working what felt
like either a very thin slightly stretchy thread or a very strong rather thick spider web off his ear then unhooking it from
the hangnail it had snagged on.
Holding it up he examined the curious strand stretched between his hands
untill it he became aware that he was holding a long faintly reddish tinged blonde hair which he then wadded up on itself
and pondered whether or not it had any significance to the as yet unfound body.As he did so his eyes drifted slowly around
and eventually settled to the leaf littered ground about four steps away from his own feet where the pattern of a sneaker
sole was impressed into the fine sugar sand in a rare bare spot.
Tucking the hair into his top left pocket after
taking his notepad out he looked at his watch,jotted down '#3-footprint 1/15:46',stepped to the print,laid the pad next to
it then took a pic before scooping it back up and scanned in the direction the toe of the print pointed untill he spotted
another one a few feet away.
After a while of following the prints from one sandy patch to a scruffed or turned area of leaf to another sandy
patch the on leaf off leaf trail that led him through one extra pain filled brambley tangle of dead pepper tree branches after
another he came out of a particually viscious one,stopped to rub sore spots and said aloud,"It's like following a will'o whisp
through a pin cushion warehouse." before lifting his camera and pad to snap another pic.
Looking through his view
finder he realized this print had overlaid a small,obviously female, bare footed print.
Writing #4 and the time he
then peered through his viewfinder,snapped a shot and realized there was a third set.Not exactly a sneaker sole.More like
an upscale work boot.
Like the first set he was following both new sets pointed generally north but diverged away
a bit to the east.Laying his camera on his chest he put his hand to his chin in a ruminating fashion and asked no one,"Are
they both going to the grave?Or perhaps coming from it?Which set is more likely to be doing so?The double?" before standing
stock still for a brief moment.
Abruptly nodding to himself held the little compass up to get a bearing then said
in a determined sounding voice "Go north young man,go north." as he began striding in that direction as best he could through
the gnarly brittle wooden spaghetti piles that once were living branches.
About six minutes of doggedly keeping to
a due north route led him to cross the same two print trails twice each and noted that the second time they both seemed to
perhaps be heading westerly after which he suddenly popped out of the pepper tree woods into the cemetary.
didn't come out here apparently." immediately preceded him ducking back in and finding the last set he passed which was the
set he had originally came across about twenty feet in.
Following them he tracked a bit more northward and about
twenty feet west before he noticed a large area which had all the leaves disturbed and scattered leaving the underlying sugar
At rather even intervals around the perimeter of the bared area were fives holes dug that had what
looked at first like dry branches piled up campfire style in them.
Standing still he checked his watch,noted 16:19
and then without moving looked closer at the hole nearest him untill he recognized what was a human skull under a shattered
ribcage with broken bones teepeed over them.
"Ah,ha and eureka.But it looks like five,,not one." he said in a matter of fact tone while he filled in his notes
with '5 holes containing human bones' then began taking photos starting at a fairly thick branch that had a junction of 4
branches varying in length from about 8 inches to a foot,,within three or four inches of each other,,two on one side and two
approximately opposite them on the other which was laying off to his left and panning to the right.
As he clicked
off the final shot of the disturbed area which took in the fifth hole about six feet away from him he froze for a fraction
of a second at the sight of two old fashined leather shoes tucked under the bottom of pantlegs of navy blue fabric framed
in his viewfinder.
Clicking one more he then quickly dropped his right hand off the camera,grabbed the pistol grip
sticking out of his holster,flipped the strap off and brought the 9mm up as he removed the camera from his face to see he
was pointing a gun at thin air.
A look of pure puzzlement plastered itself across the deputies not unhandsome face
as he stared at the empty space then became one of a somewhat emabarrased nature as he slowly holstered his pistol and slid
his notepad into his left shirt pocket in order to pull a pack of Winstons from his right shirt pocket,shake one to the opening
of the softpack and pull it out with his lips.
As he was lighting it with the Zippo he had fished from his right
front pants pocket while replacing the cigarette pack he was startled a little by how bright the flame appeared in the once
again dimly lit peppertree wood.
Glancing up at what little of the sky he could see through the leafy ceiling above
him while pulling a good draw off the now smoking coffin nail.His zippo fell froom shock numbed fingers as the light level
dropped to nothing and two stars twinkled into view.
- "The captain said the forensics team can't get to it untill tomorrow afternoon so secure the area,,bag the
body and put a tent over the site to keep any rain off it and wait for the overnight watch he'll assign to relieve you.10-48?",said
the female voice coming from the IRC sheriff patrol cars radio speaker.
The young officer listening attentively
nodded his head momentarily then swapped to shaking it negatively while silently mouthing an 'awww,,man.' before turning his
voice and speaking into the now keyed on mike he held in his right hand.
"Uh,10-4 dispatch,,but I don't have a tent with
"I'll inform the captain.Standby."
While asking the air "A tent?Who would have thought I would need a tent?" he fished a pack of cigarettes out
of his ruck sak which was sitting on the front seat of his green and white cruiser and lit one single handedly with the zippo
he pulled from his trousers pocket before rummaging through the other stuff on the seat in order to find the clipboard with
his 'incident report' forms.
Grabbing it he pulled his head and shoulders back out of the drivers window and laid it on the cars roof as a blue
ford 4 wheel drive truck came over the hill to the south.Puffing on his cigarette and still holding his mike in his left hand
he watched the truck cabs two cap wearing occupants carry on a rather animated discussion that was loud enough for him to
hear better over the trucks exhaust as it got closer.
"Man,,I'm telling you the truth!" the black capped passenger hollered at the driver who responded with,,"Yeah,well,,it
sounds like bullshit!"
Gesturing to himself the passenger ragingly said,"Do I look like I'm bullshitting you?Is Randy
acting like it's bullshit?He's scared outta his damn mind!I got holes in me for crying out loud!Look at me,,does this look
like bullshit to you?","It looks like ya got your ass kicked is what it looks like to me,Arjay!"
Pointing out the window he exclaimed,,"And it was right in there where it happened!And right after that long haired
hippie freak pointed a long ass knife at me and said there was a reez on my ass it felt like someone dropped a concrete block
on my guts!" right before catching sight of the deputy and his cruiser.
Pulling his right hand back in the window he punched the driver in the arm with his left,flinched and started rubbing
his upper arm while muttering something like 'damn that hippie freak' under his breath before saying in a much louder,plainly
audible voice,"I told you not to come this way!".After the sound of fist thudding into relaxed deltoids came the drivers pained
"Damn,dude!That frikkin hurt!" and he backed off a bit on the gas pedal as the truck came abreast of the officer.
That allowed the deputy to hear the much lower said,"Besides,,you were worried about damn invisible kangaroos or
ghosts not cops.What's your problem?" right before they both clammed up,nodded his way only to look forward again quickly.
Looking at the trucks tag he spotted a guys head with tousled reddish brown hair and terrified looking eyes peep
over the truck bed for a split second then disappear as he pulled a pen from his shirt pocket in order to jot the number down
in the bottom margin of the top form on his clipboard.
Thinking to himself that the young man's eye's had not darted his way even briefly caused him to wonder what the
fellow had thought was in the pepper tree woods that could keep him from seeing a cop a few yards away for a split second
before Lavinas voice crackled out of the radios speakers asking,,"Dispatch to 55.".
Quickly keying his mike he responded
with "55 to dispatch.Go ahead." , "The Captain said do not bag the body and wait for,,uh,,73 to show up with a fly tent and
some visqueen." , "10-4,dispatch,do you have an ETA on 73?" , "Affirmative,55.Approximately 30 minutes.over" , "Copy that,Lavina.Anything
else from the Captain?." , "Negative,55." , "10-4,thanks,55 out." , "Copy 55.Dispatch out.fifteen fifty three."
Reaching back in his car window to hang the mike up he paused as "73 to 55." came to his ears."55.Go ahead 73."
, "ETA at your 20 in approxiamately 10 minutes.over" , "10-4 73."
Smiling since the wait would not be as long he
hung the mike and stood back up to begin filling out the incident form and finish his cigarette.
As he finished putting in the basics a lady on a bicycle pedaled up from the south to say,,"Hello,Officer.Is there
Looking up at the pretty brunette with a sharp smile sitting on a yellow 10 speed he
smiled wide as he dropped his cigarette on the ground and replied while stepping on it with,,"Not now,m'am.","Oh?What happened?When?"
, " I really can't be too open at this point.Do you live near here?" , "Yes.Well,,no.I'm staying with my folks for a little
bit.",she said slightly shyly then continued while gesturing southward,"Their house is up there on the right just past 6th
"Have you seen or heard anything unusual or out of the ordinary recently?" , "Like when officer?" , "Have you been
home all day?" , "Well,,,not exactly,,I've been riding around the neighborhood off and on,,but I have been at the house mostly."
, "Anything unusual?" , "No.Not really.Yet,,there was a sky blue car that went up 6th Road for a bit then came back the same
way before I heard it going into that dirt trail down on 5th Street.It came back later and pulled a maroon Astrovan out of
that trail over there." , "Sky blue,eh?What kind? of car?" , "I'm not sure but it had what looked like black,blue and purple
storm clouds with lightening bolts in the two stripes on the hood.It actually looked pretty neat.I liked it."
else,,Miss,,uh,,what's your name m'am?" He asked while noticing the reaction common amongst average folks when they cease
feeling like a helpful citizen and start thinking a cop might be suspiciously focusing on them,,,her eyes got slightly wider
and blinked quickly a few times as she swallowed and said softly "Jeanette Hass,sir."
Flashing what he hoped was a reassuring smile at the young lady who suddenly looked like an even younger one worried
about getting grounded for some offense he said gently,,"It's okay.Is there anything else you can recall about it?" Not seeming
too assured Jeanette replied,"Well,,the driver looked to be about my age and had long blonde hair.I couldn't tell about the
passenger,though." , "Were they speeding?"
"Oh,no,officer,not at all.They were pretty far away is all."
This being said in a way that told the officer it probally was not true he replied with,,"Just a little uh?That's allright.I
think I would be if I had a car like that." , "He wasn't squeeling tires or hollering like that truck that just came through
here did earlier,officer." , "Oh?That blue pickup?"
Seemingly relieved that the attention was now off the car and it's driver she brightened up a bit and said,,"Yes,sir.About
45 minutes or so after the car pulled the van out the truck came through here and they were yelling for someone named Randy."
"Randy?" , "Yes,sir.I think maybe it could have been a guy I seen walking across that lot where the sand trail
is." , "Going into or coming out?" , "Going into I suppose." , " What did he look like?" , "A redneck,black cap,like a yellowish
western cut short sleeve shirt,levi's and boots."
Pulling out a small red spiral bound notepad from his left shirt pocket he picked up his pen from off the car roof
the deputy made a few notations on the first page of the blank pad before asking,,"Anything else standout in your mind about
that fellow?" , "Well,,he was limping pretty bad on his left leg.And he was wearing spurs." , "Spurs?really?" The young womans
laugh tainted response of "Yeah,,really.And that's exactly what I said when I seen 'em too." was accompanied by an energetic
Saying the word softly to himself while writing it down and punctuating it with a flourish he then continued with
"Okay.Now,Jeanette,,you said there was a path or trail of some sort right over there,didn't you?" , "Yes,sir."
"Wow,Miss Haas,you've been very informative.Thank you very much."