A Blade in the Dark…Chapter Sixteen…unedited…

At 0745, myself, Lilly, Janko, Manson, Rankin, Tomas, and Wiggins waited in the Murder Room to find out if we’d receive our warrant. The lift’s bell dinged. A plethora of blue-jacketed agents from the FBI filed out. The Special Agent in Charge (SAC) handed Janko the warrant.

“That warrant gives access to screen for fluids and whatever else you need. Let’s go see what secrets we can dig up.”

Lilly, me, Rankin and Manson, loaded into a van and headed out to Lindersmithe. The FBI agents, along with our forensic team, followed in two additional vans. We arrived in time to catch Rev. J.E. Caster getting into his vehicle.

“Hold up, Reverend Caster,” I snapped. “We have a signed warrant granting us permission to look around.” I handed him the warrant. His mouth dropped open, and he reached for his cellphone.

“I need to call my lawyer,” he stammered.

“You need to open this door,” Lilly growled. “Now! Move, preacher.”

He opened the door and we swarmed in. One of the agents stayed with Caster, while the rest of us started looking. One of the forensic techs at the front of the building waved me over. 

“Do you see that?”

“Yeah, that splatter? What is that?”

“Well, I don’t want to get vulgar, but it’s not something you see everyday in the church.”

“This is where they raped her.”

“Yeah, it is detective. Right here on the altar.”

I took a deep breath and let it out. My temper kept rising so I began the exercises my therapist taught me. “List five things you can see…four things you can hear…” The tech continued his search, and he motioned for me to come over. “There’s blood here too.”

“Can you get a sample?”

“Oh yeah, there’s plenty here.”

The tech must have heard how he sounded because her turned to me and shook his head. “That’s not what I meant…” I nodded at him and patted his shoulder. “I know. Just get me something I can nail these fools to the floor with.”

As I walked to the front pew to sit down, someone shouted from downstairs. I drew my sidearm and raced toward the voice. The smell was atrocious. Halfway down the stairs, I had to stop and cover my nose. Lilly stood at the bottom, a cloth over her nose, her flashlight shined on a bloody table. I walked over to her.

“What is this?”

“You see those buckets over against the wall?”

“Yeah, what is that?”

“Those buckets are filled with intestines. This isn’t a church, it’s a slaughterhouse.”

Three deep freezes was on the opposite wall, and I pointed at them. Lilly shook her head and said, “I haven’t checked them. I’m almost afraid to find out.”

“Well, come on. Let’s go find out together.” Footsteps rushed down the steps, and soon agents had joined us. All of us walked over to the first deep freeze, and I opened the lid. Plastic bags of hearts, livers, and other organs, filled the freezer. 

“Oh my God,” the SAC whispered. “What kind of sickos…” I couldn’t remember his name, but I think it was Robinson. “Check the others.” Agents lifted the lids, and the freezers held more organs, blood, and plasma. Lilly picked up an empty bucket and puked. 

I took her by the arm, bucket and all, and led her outside the church. Rev. J.E. Caster was in handcuffs. He sat next to the right, front tire on the ground. He gave me a smile and wrinkled up his nose. 

“Mess around cop, and find out.”

“Say again?” I walked toward him, my mouth a tight smile, my eyes as cold as a blizzard at Dome Fuji in Antartica. He closed his mouth, but I knelt beside him.

“Do you believe in God, preacher?”

Caster said nothing. The agent watching him smiled and turned away. I leaned close so I could look into Caster’s eyes. He licked his lips and looked at the ground.

“You better pray to God, and hope the courts sentence you to an unnaturally long sentence. Because if you ever get out prison, I’m going to call my father’s old connections, and they will make you pay. You will live until I say die.”

The color faded from Caster’s face, and he said, “You’re a cop. You can’t threaten me.” I looked at the agent, and he looked at me and shrugged. “I didn’t hear anything.” He grinned, and I nodded, smiled and said, “Exactly.” Caster looked at the ground and said nothing further.

Forensics pulled blood and semen samples from the altar. The body parts were loaded into containers and transported to the nearest hospital. Our work here was done. It was time to get back, and start working on who committed the murder. 

Rev. Caster lawyered up on the ride back. As soon as he got finished in booking, he was led to the phone. He made his call and was taken into Interview Room #2. 

Lilly and I left the interview in the hands of Manson and Rankin. While they interviewed him, we went to look around his house. For a preacher, he lived in a three-story Victorian home, complete with the huge white pillars and wrap around porch, with an large yard and a white picket fence. His driveway was lined with mature cedar trees. It looked like paradise. The porch was furnished with rocking chairs, gliders, two sassafras porch swings,  and ceiling fans set 24” apart. The only thing missing was an old white man in a white suit,  who answered to the name ‘Colonel.’

As we approached the front door, it opened. A tall woman, whose prime had been thirty years ago, stood behind the screen door. Her face was weathered, like she’d been left in the oven for too long, her eyes were a faded blue. Her gray hair was pulled back into a tight bun. 

She sized Lilly and I up, gave us a tight smile, and asked, “What do you need?”

“I’m Detective Konan, this is Detective Thompson. We’re here, because your boss has been arrested, and we’re here to look for evidence.”

“Rev. Caster was arrested,” the old woman gasped. “Lord have mercy. I will get out of your way.”

“Thank you,” Lilly snapped. 

We waited until the woman rushed by, and then went inside. The house opened into a long, narrow hallway. A dayroom sat to the immediate right, the living room to the left. Both rooms had a large window in it that looked over the front porch and yard. White, lacy curtains hung from curtain rods above the windows. 

Lilly and I continued down the hall to the first of six bedrooms. We cleared the house one floor at a time. On the second floor, we discovered the master bedroom. A California king bed  was pushed into the center of the wall. Spacious closets was on both sides of the room. A Hampton Vanity Desk, with a mirror was on one side of the bed, a large bookshelf was on the other. Bookcases was crammed into most of the remaining spaces. 

While Lilly looked around the room, I checked the study. No expense had been spared in outfitting the study. An antique mahogany desk sat in the middle of the room. I sat in the chair and pulled the middle drawer out. Inside was a skeleton key. I unlocked the other drawers and began my search. 

In the last drawer, covered by various legal papers, an outdated planner, and a host of useless wires, I found Caster’s journal. The journal was unlocked. Inside the journal was writing, but I couldn’t make sense of what I read. Lilly came in and sat across the desk from me. 

“What have you found?”

“A journal, but it’s in some kind of code.”

“Oh,” she said, as she waked over to me and wrapped her arms around me. “Let me see.” I held the journal down so she could see it. She leaned near my ear, her breath hot my neck, as she kissed my neck lightly. Chills rushed over my body, my breathing deepened. 

“Um,” I tried to think of something to say, but my mind refused to cooperate with me.

“I’ve missed you, Konan. You keep working, and let me do me.”

Mmhmm. Like that was going to happen. I spun around in my the chair and pulled her to me. My heart raced as my lips found hers, and for a brief moment of time, we forgot about raped and murdered children, horrible parents, and malicious ministers.

Lilly and I found peace in each other, a port of safe harbor if you will. Let the world rot, I thought as my lips jockeyed for position with hers. For now, I am hers and she is mine. I love her, and she loves me. Nothing else matters at this specific moment in time, and even if it did I would not care.

Our hearts beat as one. And I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I wanted Lilly, and no one else.

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