Authors: J. T. Lewis
I jerked awake, groggy. I found myself in the dark, and then noticed the fire before me that was partially blocked by a vision of beauty.
There was a gorgeous woman before me in a white negligee, the fire backlighting the gown leaving nothing to my imagination. I reached up and grabbed her hand, gently pulling this goddess toward me.
No words were exchanged as we curled into each other in a dance of love.
Caressing each other starting at the lips, we progressed to other regions, exploring each other with the passion of newlyweds while demonstrating the practiced motions of a couple long in love.
The lovemaking was gentle at first, gradually building in crescendo as we each strove to satisfy the hunger of the other, the heat building in intensity as we hurled headlong into the point of no return.
Striving for the peak with our whole being, the climax came amid a noisy discharge of ecstatic emotions, the room full of heartfelt moans of joy and release.
Happily covered in a film of moisture from the exertion, I reached up on the couch and pulled a blanket down to where we laid on the shaggy carpet in front of the fireplace.
Covering up my bride, we then intertwined our bodies as we basked in the glow of our lovemaking. Still using no words, we nonetheless communicated perfectly with each other. Looking into her eyes for what seemed like hours, we fall asleep in each other’s arms, the perfect end to a perfect day.
We were still like that when a loud and penetrating noise invaded our reverie, both of us slowly awakening, groggy and confused. Betty was the first to realize it was the phone as she quickly stood, taking the blanket with her.
I groped around for another blanket. Finding one on a chair, I wrapped it around me before groggily following the sound of Betty’s voice.
I could hear the distress in her tone as I heard her say we would be right there. When she turned to me, her face was completely drained of color and she immediately grabbed my waist in a hug.
Returning her embrace I asked her what was going on. She held tight for a few moments longer, looking down with the right side of her face against my chest.
When finally she moved her eyes up to meet mine, she had regained her composure, pulling her shoulders back while releasing her grasp, finally revealing the topic of the phone call.
“They found a hand.”
March 10, 1997
Betty was explaining to me that they had found a hand on the front steps of the courthouse.
I was fuddling with consciousness as I tried to wrap my head around what she was telling me. She then told me we needed to get dressed so we could meet the task force at the Sheriff’s department.
We were both quiet on the trip, each of us trying to make sense of the late night phone call’s revelation. Arriving at the Sheriff’s office, we found the place swarming with various vehicles, most adorned with a star on the door.
Entering the building we were immediately thrown into a swarm of activity with people running everywhere. Allen Vanguard caught Betty’s attention and she grabbed my sleeve to lead me into the conference room he had indicated. Seeing we were the last to arrive, I grabbed a couple cups of coffee and sat down next to Betty and Frank.
Frank had bags under his eyes, as did most of the people in the room. The hum of conversation around us sounded like a beehive ready to attack.
Allen closed the door and got everyone’s attention with a shrill whistle using his thumb and second finger in a circle shoved under his tongue.
“Everybody settle down, we need some focus here,” he said in a loud voice. Heading toward his seat, he flopped down with a loud grunt, laying his notebook on the table but leaning back in the chair without glancing at it.
“As you probably know, a passerby found a severed human hand on the courthouse steps about an hour ago. Finger prints have been taken and we should know if the potential victim is in the system in a few minutes.”
As if on cue, a deputy entered the room in a hurry, heading directly toward Allen. The sounds of sirens started up in the background as the deputy turned to leave. From the sound of it, most of the Sheriff’s department appeared to be leaving.
Allen looked over the information before giving us a name and address. Telling us to meet there in a few minutes, he immediately rose from the table and left the room. Betty mentioned that the address was only a mile away as we got up to leave. Frank opted to ride with us for the short trip.
As we drove we discussed the victim, Harold Longstreet was a name none of us were familiar with. Wolf Run was also unknown to me, but Betty and Frank had both patrolled it over the course of their duties.
Arriving at the scene, I was flabbergasted to realize that this was the house I had stood in front of earlier in the evening, stood in front of in my dream. As Betty and Frank were getting out of the Jeep, Betty noticed that I had made no attempt to get out. I had an uncomprehending look on my face.
“Gabe,” Betty said with concern, “is everything ok?”
Coming out of my trance, I quickly got out of the car, mumbling that I would tell her later.
Two deputies first on the scene had tried to rouse someone using the standard knock and announce. When they received no response, they rounded the house, checking windows and doors as they went. Finding the back door open, they drew weapons and entered slowly, clearing one room before entering another. Arriving in the living room, they had found what they were afraid that they would find.
Mr. Longstreet was lying in a pool of his own blood.
The deputies got busy securing the scene as the road outside filled with strobes of red and blue. By the time we had arrived, it was so congested at the scene that we had to park a hundred yards from the house and walk the rest of the way. Already cordoned off with crime scene tape, we were immediately let in while most of the deputies were held back in the yard.
Inside we found Allen huddling with Sheriff McHenry while the rest of the task force was gloving up to start the investigation. Glancing around, I observed a relatively clean room with well-worn furniture and few lights. Neat stacks of magazines and newspapers filled most of the nooks around the room, making it look more like he was a collector rather than a hoarder. I grabbed a pair of gloves myself and eased over to the body for a preliminary look, taking care where I stepped.
The body was lying on its back about six feet inside the door, the knife still sticking from the bloody chest wound. The right hand was loosely wrapped around the knife, as if he had tried to pull it out before he had expired.
The left arm was laying straight out from the body, ending abruptly in a bloody stump, a gory meat cleaver lying nearby. Bent metal-rimmed glasses lay on the floor three foot above his prone body.
Lying in the pool of blood surrounding the arm was a card with the word
beaming up at us. Blood had soaked into the edges of the paper, creating a macabre veined look to it that sent an involuntary chill up my spine.
Betty was beside me while Frank took up position on the other side of the body, crouching down to get a better look. Mr. Longstreet was wearing pajamas under a threadbare robe that appeared to have been dark blue at one time. There were no apparent footprints left by the murderer. He would have had to be extremely careful to have avoided blood on his shoes in
“Knife and cleaver appear to be standard kitchen hardware,” Frank stated from his crouched position. “I’ll go check to see if I can confirm that,” he said as he bounced up like his legs were made of springs. He then headed to the kitchen to compare the knives there with the murder weapons.
Betty tugged at my sleeve and pointed toward the door, “the front door hasn’t been compromised, and the lock and handle are intact. Has anyone checked the back door for signs of a break-in?”
“Back door was closed but unlocked when we got here,” Tucker Vance piped in as he entered the room from the bedroom. “No sign of a break-in there, and the front door was locked.” A flashback of the mysterious perp coming from the back of the house gave me a chill as I was reminded once again of the vision.
“You think he knew his attacker?” Betty questioned with a surprised look on her face.
I looked down at the late Mr. Longstreet, wondering just how many acquaintances our apparent hermit had, and how many of those would be visiting in the middle of the night. Another thought entered my head, so I threw it out for discussion.
“Maybe it wasn’t someone he knew, maybe it was someone he thought he could trust,” I offered, having no idea what or who that would be.
“Who could get the old man to open his door and invite in this late at night?” No one commented on the thought, but their looks told me they were thinking about it.
I moved to the outside of the room looking for any additional clues. I noticed some display cabinets that I hadn’t detected earlier, a closer look revealing that these held maybe a hundred or more pocket watches of every conceivable size and design, all of them looked to be antique. I could guess that their value would be easily in the thousands or more. Frank appeared beside me and a “wow” escaped his lips as his eyes landed on the accumulated time pieces.
“I do believe robbery is out as a motive,” I stated flatly, not having seriously considered that as a motivation for the perp until now anyway.
Moving on, I noticed that some of the periodicals stacked ubiquitously in the house were quite old, but as I made my way further around the room it became quite apparent that
of them were recent editions. I hadn’t seen any that were newer than five years old, further evidence that old Harold didn’t get out much and probably didn’t do a lot of entertaining.
Moving to the kitchen and looking into the trash bin revealed it to be full of containers used by the local charity that brought meals to shut-ins; this guy hadn’t had much of any contact with the public for quite awhile.
Having another thought, I made a note to check on the people working at the charity that regularly delivered meals to Harold. It was along shot, but they
be somebody that he trusted and would let in his house at night.
Walking back into the living room, my eyes wandered to the window where I was greeted by a sight that caused me to blink my eyes in disbelief…an American flag.
An old front porch, draped with an American flag
March 10, 1997
I pulled Betty aside, telling her I would be right back; I had a hunch to follow. Looking at me quizzically, she nodded then turned back to the investigation. I left through the front door, pulling up on the crime-scene tape as I walked under it and continued across the road.
The house seemed to be a weather-beaten yellow with what must have once been white trim. Tidy in appearance and well maintained overall, the owner would seem to be someone that took pride in his home, and the flag draped on the porch also attested to the owner’s patriotism.
The lingering scent of cigar smoke as I padded up the steps brought back yet another memory from my dream, as an eerie feeling of déjà-vu crawled up my spine. I hated to bother people when they were sleeping, but if what I saw earlier was true at all, this man may have been an inadvertent witness to this murder.
I tapped on the door three times and waited, getting no response. I was preparing to again knock on the door when I noticed the reflection of a light on the ground beside the house, the shape of window panes clearly outlined in the shadows. Presently the light on the other side of the door switched on and I heard someone fumbling with the lock. The door creaked slightly as it slowly opened a crack, and then continued on its arc as the owner stepped forward.
“Well hello, Gabriel, what brings you to my neck of the woods?”
Before me stood a short African-American man, slight of build but with the bearing of a one who had worked hard for a living and was proud of what he had accomplished.
“Hello, Zeke, I had no idea that you lived out this way,” I said, taken aback a little at knowing the owner.
“You mind if I come in for a moment, I’m afraid I need to ask you a couple of questions?”
Motioning to follow him, he turned and led me into a small but tidy living room with two upholstered chairs and a couch. These were arranged in a semicircle around the old TV set. He held out his hand palm up at a chair as an offering to sit down, which I did, observing pictures of his wife and kids spread out throughout the room.
Ezekiel Green was a fixture around town, having started life in what was called New Town in the old days, always considered at that time
“the wrong side of the tracks.”
Graduating high school in the late thirties, he enlisted in the Marines to see the world. When the Japanese started World War Two, he was stationed in the Philippines and was eventually captured with the rest of his command at Bataan. Forced on the Bataan Death March with his fellow soldiers, he and his buddies survived the ordeal by sheer willpower and propping each other up when the other faltered.