A Blade in the Dark…Chapter Fourteen…unedited…

I drove back to the Hendricks house. Lilly bit her bottom lip. Her green eyes narrowed, and she breathed through her nose and out of her mouth. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know she was livid.

There were no vehicles in the driveway. Lilly smacked her lips and ran her pink tongue across the edge of her top lip. She wiped her mouth and rested her eyes upon the front door. 

“Doesn’t look like anyone is home,” she said, as she took in the scene. 

“Let’s find out.”

We stepped out of the car and walked to the front door. Mrs. Hendricks opened the door and gave us an insincere smile. I pulled out my badge and showed it to her. 

“I know who you are, detective.”

“We’ve got a few more questions, if you don’t mind.”

“No, of course not. Please, come in. My husband is away at the church helping Rev. Caster.”

“I see.”

“Would either of you like tea?”

“No, thank you. This will only take a moment or two.”

Mrs. Hendricks sat on the couch and folded her hands. She swallowed and gave me another insincere smile. Lilly gave her one back.

“As you can imagine, Mrs. Hendricks, we’ve gone and asked questions of a few people. We were surprised to hear of Ana Marie’s medical condition.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Hendricks said in a low voice, “I didn’t think that was pertinent to your investigation. I’m so sorry if that inconvenienced you from solving this case.”

“Yes ma’am, there seems to be many people who think things are not pertinent to our case. How long had she suffered from Osteosarcoma?”

She got it when she was two. She would cry when I turned her to her left side. We took her to the hospital, and they diagnosed her with bone cancer.”

“Was it high-grade sarcoma?”

“Yes, it was. What does that have to do with her murder?”

“I don’t know yet. Who was her doctor?”

“Dr. Jarrod R. Livingstone Jr. He’s one of the young cancer doctors at Fredericksburg Memorial Hospital.”

“Were the treatments working?”

“She had Ewing’s Tumor, and Dr. Livingstone planned to do surgery-to remove the tumors-but given her age, he wanted to make sure that his decision would not negatively impact her life. She was only two.”

“Okay. We’re going to go talk to Dr. Livingstone. We’re almost done here. How are things financially? Any money troubles? How were you guys making it with the medical bills?”

“That’s a pointed question, detective. Not to mention our personal business.”

“Yes ma’am it is. If you don’t feel like answering my question, that’s fine. I’ll go run your financials. If that doesn’t turn anything up, I’ll get a subpoena and then have you bring them to me. It’s all in however you want to play it.”

“We’re in the middle of a purge, money is tight. We’re trying to get the heavenly body to notice our plight, and Ana Marie was taking-it was costing more than we expected to treat her sickness. I..I loved my daughter…but..”

Lilly flew from her chair with such quickness it almost flipped over. She was in Mrs. Hendricks face before I could stop her.

“Who killed her?”

“I don’t know…”

“Do not lie to me! I swear on everything holy, I’ll…”

“Hold on, Lilly. Let her talk.”

“My husband took her to Rev. Caster. For prayer he said. I never saw her again.”

“And of course you couldn’t say that, right? No, you had to pretend to be upset, get people’s attention. Have people feel sorry for you.”

I look Lilly by the arm and led her to her seat. She was emotional, more emotional than I’d ever seen her, and it was getting in the way of Mrs. Hendricks telling her story.

“Chill,” I whispered to Lilly. She glared at me but said nothing.

“What happened next?”

“Rev. Caster was supposed to pray the prayer of healing over her. She was supposed to get better.”

“But something happened, right?”

“Yes, Rev. Caster said that the heavenly body had taken her spirit. The earthly husk had vanished. I believed it until you showed up here saying those horrible things about what happened to my little girl.”

“You pathetic, wisp of a woman,” Lilly snapped. “You let your husband take your daughter to an imbecile like Caster?”

“He said the heavenly body would heal her. I thought she would come home whole.”

“Where did Caster take her?”

“To our holy temple, for the ritual.”

“What ritual? Where is this temple?”

“It’s our church, The Assembly of Unhindered Communication. You’ve been there correct?”

“Yeah, but why the church?”

“Where else would they take her?”

I was about to ask another question, when Lilly’s phone began to ring. She stood and exited the room. That left me and Mrs. Hendricks alone. Confronted by her role in the death of her child, Mrs. Hendricks broke down into loud sobs. Snot bubbles dropped from her nose, as she rocked back and forth crying and saying, “Dear God, what have I done?”

Lilly appeared in the doorway and tilted her head back. I nodded and cleared my throat. Mrs. Hendricks had calmed down, but the tears still flowed freely. She looked at me, her eyes red from crying, her lips trembled, but she stayed silent.

“Ma’am, we have other business to attend to. Are you okay? Do you need someone to talk to?”

“No, detective. I’m okay.”

“Okay, if you need any help, reach out to me.”

“I will.”

We left her sitting in the living room, a pillow pressed to her face, her sobs following us out to our car. Lilly sat in the passenger seat and strapped herself in. I got in and started the car.

“Tammy has news for us. We need to go see her,” Lilly snapped. 

“Okay,” I replied, as I backed the vehicle out of the Hendricks driveway. 

It was a day of bad news, and I feared we were only getting started. Lilly said nothing else as we traveled to the morgue. That was fine with me. I wasn’t feeling all that chatty myself. A few cars were in the parking lot when I pulled in. Lilly and I got out and walked toward the entrance. Tammy waited for us at the desk.

“Hello, detectives. Follow me.”

We followed her to her office, and she motioned for me to shut the door. She sat behind a cheap looking desk, a silver desk lamp with a pliable neck craned over the paperwork spread out on her desk. 

“I hope what I have doesn’t spoil your appetites, but it did mine,” Tammy began. “Let’s start with the Osteosarcoma. It was advanced. Ana Marie may not have lived much longer, and if she had, it would not have been a normal life.”

I sighed. If there was anything worse than a child riddled with cancer, I did not want to witness it. Tammy continued, “then, there’s the rape. I found three semen deposits. Each belonging to a different assailant. One belongs to Timothy Laskin, another to her father Michael, and the other is unidentifiable.”

“The assistant pastor and her dad raped her?”

“Yes, that’s what the test shows. Here, I made you both a copy of it.”

“What kind of sick world do we live in?” Lilly’s voice cracked under the strain of her emotions. Neither Tammy nor I knew what to say.

“And of course, the death was brought on by a single stab wound to the heart. The blade pierced the lower part of the heart and was shoved clean through to the top. She died quickly.”

“Excuse me,” I said, as I stood and walked outside. I dialed Rankin’s phone number, he answered on the third ring.

“What’s up?”

“I need a favor, Rankin. You and Manson go pick up Michael Hendricks for rape. Have the other two detectives pick up Assistant Pastor Timothy Laskin on the same charge.”

“You and Lilly can’t…”

“Lilly isn’t fit to pick them up. I need your help, don’t make me beg.”

“I’m not. We’ll bring them in.”

“When you do, put them in the same room. Make sure they’re handcuffed.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Lilly and I are at the morgue. We’re leaving in a few moments. Give me a call if there’s any issues.”

“Will do, Konan. Maybe that little girl will get some justice after all.”

I didn’t say anything to his remark, there was no need to. There’s no justice for the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl. I’ve lived all around the world, and I’ve seen boys dressed as girls and sold as  sex-slaves. By ten, they’re older than their years, their childhood destroyed, and nothing in life meant anything to them. There’s no justice. The most we can hope for is that when we catch them, something equally horrific happens to them in prison.

Leave a Reply