Some things are inescapable.
Nat King Cole crooned “Unforgettable” through the dusty speakers that hung in Michael Chase Adam’s shop. Mr. Adams, divorced father of Whitney C. Adams, was gone on a three-day fishing trip with ‘business associates.’
Which meant he wouldn’t notice the mess until he got home. Even then, he might not venture to the shop until he recuperated his strength from his ‘extra-curricular’ activities.
So, the blood splatter on the wall, most of it behind the saw and drill press, would go unnoticed for some time. Which meant there was no need to clean up.
The song ended, and Otis Redding began to sing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” As the song progressed, the killer’s red rage slowly dissipated into the harmonious melody. “Just sitting on the dock of the bay,” the killer whispered, “wasting time…”
Whitney Adams, daughter of Michael Chase Adams, watched the killer swirl around the shop, with an uninterested look upon her perfect face. She possessed this air that let people know they weren’t good enough to enjoy her presence, much less her company.
Some things are inescapable. Like the gas that follows when you eat a dozen boiled eggs; or that lonesome feeling you struggle with every Valentine’s Day. As Nat King Cole had crooned, certain things are unforgettable.
Like the details in the perfect face of the prettiest girl in class, the lilt of her mocking laughter, the upturned nose as she rejected you, and the final blow of the hammer that ended her life.
Whitney continued to watch as the killer slowly danced across the floor. A bag of lime sat in the corner of the shop. After Otis finished his song, the killer dragged the lime to the pool of blood that stained the floor and dumped the lime on it.
The lime soaked up the blood, and the killer spread it with a heavy bristle broom. “Unforgettable in every way, and forevermore that’s how you’ll stay,” the killer sang, holding the broom like a microphone in a smoky bar.
As the song ended, the killer bent at the waist to Whitney and smiled. Chris Stapleton came on and began to sing Tennessee Whiskey, as the killer walked out into the cold, night air.
I woke to the angry buzz of my cellphone. It sounded like hornets as I patted my bedding in search of it.
“What? It’s Saturday, why are you calling me this early?”
“Sheriff, it’s Angie. You know crime doesn’t care what day it is. I wouldn’t bother you if it weren’t serious.”
“Fine. What is it, Angie?”
“You remember Whitney Adams?”
“Yeah, I think so. She’s Michael and Valerie Adams daughter, right?”
“Yep, she was.”
“What do you mean was? Is she okay?”
“She’s had better days. You might want to come over here. Michael just returned home from um, a fishing trip, and Whitney’s kinda dead.”
“How’s Michael and Valerie doing?”
“Michael’s distraught, um, Valerie left him over a year ago. No one has seen hide nor hair of that girl since she hightailed it out of here.”
“Okay. I’m up. Let me grab a shower and some coffee and I’ll head that way.”
“Thank you, Sheriff Tate.”
I showered quickly, and put on Levi jeans, Red Wing Irish Setters, and my khaki button down shirt. Since my election to Sheriff of Franks County, I kept seven pressed shirts in my closet, each with a badge pinned on. Another two, with badges, hung in my locker at work.
My belt held my Sig Sauer P320, two pair of handcuffs, pepper spray and taser. I took a deep breath and poured me a cup of coffee to go.
Angie was right. Crime doesn’t care what day of the week it happened on. Whitney Adams could testify to that fact.
The Adams residence sat well off Pine Lane, well secluded from any nosy busybodies out on a gossip hunt. Flashing lights let me know I was at the right spot.
I drove down the gravel drive and pulled behind Angie’s squad car. She watched me as I got out and strolled toward her.
“Hiya, boss man. About time you got here.”
Angie was a good three inches taller than me. She’d always been taller than me, even when we went to school together, and she never passed up an opportunity to rub it in my face.
“One of these days you’re going to grow a little. Then, we’ll be the same height.”
“Bite me, Angie. Don’t forget who approves your hours and recommends you for a raise to the city council.”
“Okay, boss man. Relax, breathe, unclench your sphincter.”
We both chuckled. Angie was one of my oldest, if not dearest friends. She stood 5’10 and was an ebony-skinned goddess. Or that’s what people said about her. I couldn’t care less about her skin tone. Angie served in the Air Force as a sniper on a high-speed security force squad and had deployed six times to various hotspots around the globe.
She was tried in the fires of combat and survived. Angie returned home after her last deployment and became a deputy. I returned home shortly after her. I ran for sheriff and to my surprise won handily.
“Inside. Two deputies are with him. Whitney is in the shop, it’s kinda messed up. You might need a mask.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
I walked to the shop and slid under the yellow ticker tape. One of the forensic techs nodded at me and went back to checking the scene.
“Dear Lord,” I muttered from the doorway. The local medical examiner turned and waved me in.
“Yeah, it’s as bad as it seems, son.”
Whitney sat in a mid-century chair. Railroad spikes were driven through her thighs and feet. Her blue eyes had blowflies crawling over the pupils. The right side of her head was bloody, her blonde hair caked red with blood.
“What killed her, doc?”
“A single blow to the head. I assume that blood-caked hammer was used to deliver it.”
“Why all the-“ I gestured at the spikes.
“I don’t know, son. It’s good to have you home. I’m not sure you remember me, but I taught science back when you went to school here.”
“Doctor Perkins. I remember you, sir.”
“Congratulations on winning the election. I’m sorry this is your first case here.”
“Ah, it’s alright. I better get to it.”
“Yeah. Come by later and I’ll have some details for you.”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you later.”
Angie stood by the front door and waited for me. She nodded at the shop and said, “pretty gruesome, huh?”
“Yep. Let’s go see Michael.”
Together, we walked into the house. Michael and two deputies, I hadn’t met either of them since my election, sat in the living room. The deputies nodded when we walked in.
“Mr. Adams, that’s all the questions I have for now. I’ll let my boss take over from here.”
“Yeah, alright Jimmy. Tell your family hello for me.”
I walked around and sat across from Michael. Angie sat next to me on the white couch.
“You. I heard you had returned home.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Michael. You have my condolences.”
“Which loss, Tate? Valerie? She never got over you, did you know that? All I ever heard from her was that I didn’t measure up to your greatness. Or are we talking about my dead daughter?”
“We’re talking about your daughter. Did she have any enemies?”
“I already answered Jimmy’s questions. If you want to know my answers, go get with him.”
“Well, I can see you’re not in any hurry to find your daughter’s killer. So, I’ll leave you to your belligerence.”
“How about you take that badge off, boy. Drop that weapon, and we’ll settle up. You can show me them fancy moves the Army and FBI taught you.”
I stood to my feet, Michael leapt to his feet and balled up his fists. Angie stepped between us.
“Boys, there’s no need for this. Sheriff, you better get back to the office. I’ll take care of it from here.”
“Sure thing, Angie. Let me know if anything goes awry.”
Michael pushed past Angie and pointed at me. I turned at the door and locked eyes with him.
“I owe you for the grief you’ve caused me, Tate. I’m coming for you, and I’m going to make you rue returning home.”
“Sure, Michael. Anytime you want it, you come on down to the station. I’ll have a cell open for you.”
Then, I walked out to my truck. From the corner of my eye, I watched as a grey Buick Regal crashed onto the curb, and the brakes squealed as the driver brought the car to a sudden halt.
Valerie Adams rushed out of the car and toward the shop. One of the deputies, Jimmy, I think, stopped her short of the yellow tape.
“My baby,” she shouted. “What happened to my baby?”