Jacob Maters, a trustee from Parchman State Prison, picked up trash on the side of Highway 8. The temperature had spiked at the end of May, and it brought both heat and humidity. Garbage littered the highway. He wiped his face with a dirty rag.
“Disrespectful curs! Take your garbage to the dump like normal people!”
Down the road a piece he noticed a large gunny sack with a shoe sticking out of it. He kept jabbing loose garbage with a rod with a pointed end. Jacob made his way toward the sack. Two deputies sat in a cool van and watched Jacob pick up the litter. One had his feet propped up on the dash, the other looked through an old Maxim magazine.
Jacob Maters suddenly stepped back and shouted. The deputies drove down to where Jacob stood.
“What is it now, Maters? You run up on a rat snake?”
Jacob pointed at the sack, but no words came out. The deputies got out of the van. “It better not be a snake, hoss. I ain’t in the mood to play your stupid games.”
The driver escorted Jacob to the van and shackled him in. The other deputy looked around the sack before he lifted it. He began vomiting. His partner came down and looked in the sack and covered his mouth.
“Dispatch,” he croaked, “this is 1-7 Kilo. Send a meat wagon and the medical examiner to my location.”
He released the mic and helped his partner to the van. Jacob Maters sat in the back shackled to the floor. He had his eyes closed and prayed.
“God, bless that poor girl’s family. Give them comfort. I hope the person that committed this horrible deed burns in the hottest flames of hell.”
The deputies muttered ‘Amen’ under their breath. There would be no more litter patrol today. Stuffed inside of the gunny sack was the lifeless body of three-year-old Ana Marie Hendricks.
All three men sat quietly and waited for the medical examiner to arrive. In the distance, they could make out the flash of lights and the blare of sirens.
Tammy Bowen, medical examiner for the town of Fredericksburg, Mississippi, arrived with the ambulance. At 27, she had been on the job long enough to have seen the horrendous acts that humanity was capable of perpetuating on each other. However, nothing prepared her for her first case of a murdered child.
Detective Sergeants Thermopolis Konan and Lilly Thompson walked up to the scene. Bowen loved dealing with Lilly but hated dealing with Konan. “He’s an intelligent imbecile. I don’t like him,” she had told Lilly. Lilly grinned and shook her head in agreement with Bowen.
Bowen didn’t know if Lilly agreed with her sentiment or if she just agreed to get her to shut up. The pair of detectives walked up to the side of the ambulance, where the body of Ana had been placed on a stretcher.
“How bad is it,” Lilly asked.
“The worst. A trustee found the body. He is in shambles. They can’t get him to quit praying.”
“That’s great news, what else can you tell us, “Konan asked.
Tammy stared at Konan until he shrugged and walked off. She motioned for Lilly to follow. She lead her away from the ambulance.
“Whoever did this raped the girl, and then killed her. The killer knew what they were doing. They used a blade and pierced her heart. She died almost immediately. Then, they tossed her into a sack and threw her in a ditch”
Lilly shook her head. “The killer wasn’t acting out of mercy. He raped a three-year-old for God’s sake.”
“I know, Lilly. I wasn’t saying it was an act of mercy.”
“It’s always worse when it’s a child.”
Tammy walked back to the ambulance and took a seat in the back. Lilly went in search of Konan. She found him questioning the two deputies. Lilly waited until Konan was finished before she approached.
“Well, have you found out anything?”
“No one saw anything unusual. Highway 8 does not see a lot of traffic. Besides the two deputies and the trustee, there is not a lot to go on. Forensics went through, so now it’s a waiting game.”
“Tammy said that Ana had been raped and a blade was shoved into her heart.”
“At least her family will have closure.”
Ana Marie Hendricks had gone missing three months ago while playing on the elementary school playground. Searches were conducted, and television stations posted her picture every day for the past three months. Until now, it had all been in vain.
Now, they had her body, and someone needed to speak to the parents.
Michael and Beth Hendricks lived near the center of town, in a townhouse built shortly after the Civil War. Konan pulled into the bricked driveway and shut off the car.
“It’d be best if you spoke to the parents, Lilly. I’m not good with um, raw emotion.”
“No worries. I’ve got you,” Lilly said as she got out of the car. She jerked her head toward the two vans that followed them to the Hendricks home. “Do you want to deal with the jackals?”
Konan turned and walked toward the vans. A young blonde female stepped out, followed by a short heavyset man with a video camera.
“Detective, have you found the body of Ana Marie? Do you have a suspect?”
She shouted questions as she shoved the microphone in his face. Konan shoved the microphone to one side.
“You people have no class, no respect for the family. You disgust me, and I have no comment. Be gone.”
He turned and walked toward the house, behind him he could hear the reporter and her cameraman following him. Konan knocked on the door and entered.
Lilly sat on a brown leather couch and held the hands of Beth Hendricks. Michael wiped his eyes and mouth, he nodded at Konan.
“Thank you for finding my daughter, detectives,” he said tearfully.
“I’m sorry,” Konan said. “We need to talk about your vulture problem.”
“What vulture problem?”
“Ma’am, reporters followed us here. They’ve already pieced together that we found Ana. You’re going to have to deal with them sooner or later.”
“What do we say to them, Detective Konan?”
“I would say nothing. You don’t want to give the killer his fifteen minutes of fame. It may embolden him to take more drastic measures.”
Lilly patted Beth’s hand and stood. She nodded to Michael and said, “if you must interact with the media give them a simple no comment. I’m truly sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” both parents said. Michael walked the detectives to the door. He went to open it, but Konan stopped him.
“When we get outside, lock the door. You both need time to process what happened, and you need to grieve. There’s all the time in the world to speak to these people, if you desire to do so.”
Michael opened the door, and the detectives stepped out. Reporters swarmed the house, flash bulbs flared, and questions were shouted. Michael slammed the door shut, and Konan heard the lock turn.
“You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” Lilly snarled. “I’ve never seen so many people worship at the altar of death.”