Authors: Karen Anne Golden
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Cats - Indiana
“What do you mean?” Jake asked, concerned.
“Until Patricia Marston is sentenced to life in prison, I won’t have closure for Gary’s death, but let’s not talk about this now,” Katherine said, quickly recovering. “By the way, why would you know Stacy? Should I be worried?” she asked warily.
Jake gave her an incredulous look.
“Nope. After my wife died, I couldn’t stand being home alone, so I frequented every bar and restaurant in town. That’s how I seem to be the official social register of Erie. Stacy’s had her share of tragedy. Her father was killed in a hit-and-run accident. They never found out who did it. Her fiancé was a marine in Iraq, and then Afghanistan. He died in combat before they could marry.”
Katherine looked puzzled. “What did you just say?”
“Which time?” Jake asked. “I seem to be babbling about negative stuff I really don’t want to talk about.”
“Go back to the part about Stacy’s fiancé. He died in the war?”
Jake nodded. “What’s so sad, he never got to see his little girl. He was overseas when she was born.”
“Something doesn’t gel. Yesterday when Stacy left the classroom, she said she was meeting the father of Angelina. Why would
Stacy lie to me? I don’t even know her,” Katherine said, mystified.
Jake shrugged. “Don’t know. There must have been a good reason though. Stacy’s never come across as a liar.” Jake got up and moved to the garbage can. He threw out the paper cups and plate. “Are you ready to see the sights?” he
asked. “We’ll just walk the streets. There are several historic buildings with vendors inside, and newer pole barns with folks selling just about anything. I know a vendor that sells flavored coffee. Want to go there first?” Jake said with renewed enthusiasm.
“Yes,” Katherine said on autopilot. She was still wondering why Stacy lied.
Jake led the way through the crowd of people. “Does this remind you of Grand Central Station?” he kidded.
“Definitely, but the people dress very differently in Manhattan.”
“But look at you,” Jake said pointing at Katherine’s field coat. “You fit right in!” He hugged her.
Jake and Katherine darted and meandered through a large group that included grandparents, parents and children to get to the coffee vendor. While Katherine bought several different flavors of coffee, Jake chatted to the vendor. Katherine liked that about him. He could strike up a conversation with anyone. A nearby country band played Hank Williams’s “Your
Cheatin’ Heart.” Not exactly Katherine’s favorite song, considering her former boyfriends had all been cheaters, especially Gary.
Several hours passed. Jake and Katherine tried every pumpkin dessert at the festival – pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin roll with creamed cheese frosting, pumpkin whoopie pies, and a slice of pumpkin pie. For lunch they walked to the outdoor food court, which was packed. Most of the fare was food Katherine never imagined would be sold by vendors
in Manhattan. Fried zucchini and green tomatoes, bloomin’ onions with ranch dipping sauce, breaded pork tenderloin, chicken kabobs on a stick, and for dessert, cinnamon-sprinkled “elephant ears” and giant sticky buns with thick icing. Katherine and Jake explored them all, but jumped to the back of a long line for hickory-smoked chicken, which the vendor advertised as the best BBQ in Indiana. Later, they both agreed it was. Sitting at crowded picnic table and eating away, a tall slender man in his twenties walked over. He wore a county deputy uniform, complete with tasseled hat. He spoke to Jake.
“Hey, cousin,” he said, flashing the Cokenberger grin. He had blond hair and light green eyes.
“Hey,” Jake said, extending his hand. “Daryl, I want you to meet Katz.”
Daryl bent down and kissed Katherine on the cheek. “The pleasure is all mine,” he said.
Jake answered in a kidding tone, “Calm down there, Romeo.”
Daryl belted out a laugh, sounding very much like Cokey.
Katz laughed. “It’s nice to meet you. Jake has told me all about you. Did you get the invitation to my Halloween party?”
“Yes, I did, but if we don’t catch this nutcase killing young women, I won’t be able to att
end. Sheriff’s got us working around the clock.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Katherine said empathetically.
“Any new leads?” Jake asked.
The deputy waited for the family of teenagers to vacate the picnic table, then leaned over. He
lowered his voice. “What I’m about to tell you is going to be released to the media in a couple of hours, but keep it to yourselves until you hear it on the news. We found another victim.”
Katherine gasped, “Oh, no, that’s so tragic.”
“The weird thing is this psycho is profiling young women with the same hair style – long dark hair, parted down the middle.”
“Sounds like Ted Bundy,” Katherine commented.
“How do you know about Ted Bundy?” Jake asked, in passing.
“One of my electives at NYU was criminology. We studied serial ki
llers. Ted Bundy preferred women with the same kind of hair style. Hope this killer isn’t a copycat.”
“Me either,” the deputy agreed. “This attack is different from the rest. One of the state park employees found an abandoned car just outside the park entrance. The victim was abducted and
discovered farther up the road. She was either thrown from a speeding vehicle or she managed to jump out. There were marks on her neck like someone tried to strangle her. She must have fought like hell. When an elderly couple came upon the scene, the perp sped off. They found the woman on the side of the road and called 9-1-1. She has some serious injuries, and it’s not sure whether she’ll make it or not. She was helicoptered to an Indianapolis hospital, where she’s in a coma.”
Jake asked, “Did the couple ID the make and model of the car?”
The deputy shook his head, “Nope, but they did say it had Indiana plates.”
Katherine felt like she was going to faint. She remembered Scout and Abra doing the Halloween dance after Stacy and Angelina left the classroom. She asked, concerned, “Do you know the woman’s name?”
Deputy Cokenberger shook his head. “We can’t release the name until the family’s been notified, but she’s from Erie. Well, gotta get back to it. Nice meeting you, Katz. I do hope I can come to your party, but I’ll let you know if I can’t.” He tipped his tasseled hat and walked through a crowd of people waiting in line for the fried green tomatoes.
“What’s wrong, Katz?
You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I don’t have a very good feeling about this. Gut feeling tells me the woman is Stacy Grimes.”
Katherine fished out her cell phone and pressed her contact’s list. She scrolled through the names until she found Stacy’s. She pressed the phone icon but the phone rang and rang, then went into voice mail. She left a message, then pressed the end button. “Stacy’s not picking up. I’ll use my phone app to find her mother’s number.” Searching the directory, Katherine asked Jake, “There’s a million Grimes listed. Do you know Stacy’s mom’s name?”
“Nope,” Jake said shaking his head. “I don’t know Stacy’s mom’s name, but her deceased husband’s name was Rick.”
“Not finding it. Maybe it’s not listed. I might have her mom’s number on file in the classroom. I won’t have a moment’s peace until I find out Stacy’s okay. Jake, can we go home now?” Katherine looked up with concern.
“Sure,” Jake answered. “I’m completely
pumpkined out anyway. Let’s head to the Jeep.”
They barely spoke on the way back to Erie. Jake tried his best to get Katherine to talk, but she just answered “yes” or “no” to his questions. Pulling up in front of the pink mansion, Jake said, “Do you want me to come in?”
Katherine touched his hand. “Yes, please do,” she said. “Can you park in back?”
Jake backed up,
then drove the Jeep to the classroom’s entrance. They instantly noticed that the back metal security door was covered with oozing broken eggs.
“Oh, my God,” she said loudly. “Who in the hell would do such a thing?”
Jake stopped the Jeep and they got out.
Jake said, “We’ve got to get this washed off before it dries and damages the paint. Could you unlock the door, please? I’ll go inside and get a bucket of water and some soap. While I’m doing that, you can look for Stacy’s mom’s phone number. Sound like a plan?”
Katherine nodded and put her key in the lock. She opened the door and stepped down several steps. Jake walked back to the mechanical room’s laundry sink and drew a pail of water. Katherine rummaged in her new desk and found the number for Stacy’s mom; she added it to her smartphone’s contact’s list. A weak woman’s voice answered the phone.
“Hello,” the voice slurred.
Katherine wondered what drugs she might be on to cause such slurred speech. “Mrs. Grimes, this is Katherine Kendall. Stacy is taking a computer class from me …”
Mrs. Grimes interrupted, “Ma’am, Stacy won’t be attending your class. She’s in critical condition down in Indy. My sister is coming to drive me there.”
“I’m so sorry. If there’s anything you need, please don’t hesitate to call me,” Katherine said, worried.
“Thank you. I’m hanging up now. My ride is here.” The distraught mother hung up.
“Jake,” Katherine called urgently.
“What is it?” he said, dashing into the classroom with water splashing out of his bucket.
“The victim last night
Stacy. She’s in critical condition in a hospital in Indy. I’ve got to call Chief London.”
“Why are you calling the chief?” Jake asked, puzzled.
Katherine picked up her cell from the desk and called the chief. “Chief London, this is Katz Kendall. I think I have information regarding the Stacy Grimes case,” she said, and then hesitated. “Yes, okay, pull up to the back of the house.” She tucked her phone in her back pocket.
Jake, the chief’s going to be here any minute. I could have told him the info on the phone, but he insisted on coming over. Hand me a rag. That door is a mess!”
Both Jake and Katherine were busy washing the door when the chief drove up his cruiser and parked.
The chief got out and walked over. He immediately noticed the door.
“Damn kids,” he said angrily. “Erie grocery stores aren’t allowed to sell eggs to minors in October. I wonder how these brats are getting them. If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only folks in town getting egg-bombed.”
Katherine rolled her eyes and said, “In Brooklyn we had a problem with spray paint, but can’t remember if my parent’s townhouse ever got egged.”
“So, Ms. Kendall, how do you know Stacy Grimes?” the chief asked, coming right to the point. “It must be important, or you wouldn’t have called.”
“Stacy started my computer class yesterday. She brought her little girl because her mom was sick and couldn’t babysit. Both Stacy and her little girl wore matching gold bracelets. When I admired them, Stacy said her daughter’s father gave them the jewelry, and that they were meeting him in a few minutes,” Katherine explained.
The chief wore his usual
hurry up and tell me
expression on his face.
Katherine took the hint and finished, “Then, Jake tells me the little girl’s father died in combat overseas. So, why would she lie to me? Where was she going? Who was she meeting?”
The chief scratched his beard and said, “Thanks for the tip. I’ll pass the info on to Sheriff Goodman. These multiple murders have everyone on edge, but this time the victim is from Erie. I pray Stacy makes it. She’s the town’s sweetheart, and everybody loves her. I’ve known her mom for a long time, and used to go fishing with her dad.”
“Her mom said she was in critical condition, but I don’t know the extent of her injuries,” Katherine said sadly.
The chief said abruptly, “And you don’t want to know, either. Keep this under your cap, but the doctors deliberately induced a coma so her body can heal. I believe in miracles. If Stacy makes it, I hope she can tell us who did this to her.”
“Definitely,” Katherine agreed.
Jake added, “We need to catch this sick son of a bitch before he strikes again.”
“Exactly,” the chief said, starting to leave. “Now, if you find out any
intel about our ‘eggers’ let me know. I’m off duty now. The wife has a roast in the oven and if I don’t get home soon, she’ll be fit to be tied,” the chief winked. He walked back to his cruiser, got in, and left.
Jake said, “Knowing the chief, I bet he’s not going straight home.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because right about now he’s heading for Indy to check on Stacy.”
“But he said he was calling Sheriff Goodman,” Katherine said, confused. “Is he the sheriff for Brook County?”
Jake nodded his head. “Oh, the chief will call him.
Just sayin.’” Jake threw the rag into the bucket. “We’re done here. Margie will be happy she won’t have to repaint the door.”
“I’m going inside to feed the cats,” Katherine said, leaving.
“While you’re doing that, I’m going next door to see if your neighbor saw anything.”