Read The Summerland Online

Authors: T. L. Schaefer

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Thrillers

The Summerland

BOOK: The Summerland
11.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



The Summerland


T.L. Schaefer


* * * *


Published by

T.L. Schaefer on CreateSpace


Copyright © 2011 T.L. Schaefer


License Notes

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* * * *




She inhaled his strong, male strength, reveling in the exquisite feel of his hands as he ran them down her body, coveting the taut, supple muscles that almost a year of yoga had wrought. Immersing herself in the simple sensation of being touched by another human being, she arched into his caress, her hands stealing quick, almost reverent touches of his skin. He was warm and human and there. His kiss was simple, direct, hungry. There was no doubt of that. She had the fleeting impression he had been saving himself for this event, then knew it to be true in a blinding flash. He waited for me, her deluded mind whispered, pushing away the last clinging shreds of the woman she had been. She was now Diana, sure that they would come out of this endeavor strong in purpose and deed and go forward in The Way. Pulled under by his kiss, she dissolved into pure sensation, drawing on the well of sexuality that had gone dormant over the past year.

He lowered her to the bed, still testing, touching, caressing her strong body, and looking into her converted mind. He could see it in her eyes. She believed. All that he had waited for, longed for, sacrificed for was finally here. He ran his hands up her lithe, impossibly long legs, sweeping up under the ceremonial robes of green, keeping his lips and eyes locked on hers each and every second, never breaking the primitive rhythm their bodies had begun to exert. His hands tested her, finding her ready and waiting. He shed his own ceremonial garb and began the gradual, steady ascent to rebirth.

Diana felt him enter her, smoothly, seamlessly, as if they were made for each other. His tongue thrust and retreated with the same motion as his body, setting a point-counterpoint rhythm that was as unstoppable as it was earth shattering. He was deliberate and patient, almost too deliberate. Her body cried out for the fast, blistering animal mating her limited experience had taught her to expect, but he continued to set the same languorous, tortuous pace, taking them higher with each thrust.

Time melted into nothing for both of them, each yearning for the ultimate release, the little death. As he approached the summit, his voice rasped out to her, “Diana, come, take me to The Summerland.” His body tightened as he waited with eyes closed, waited those precious seconds for her to come to him. He wavered on the edge of that cliff, awaiting the arrival of his Goddess, until he could wait no more.

His eyes snapped open and he looked at the writhing woman below him, the woman who was begging him to take her there, take her to The Summerland with him, and knew that all of his effort and teachings were for naught.

The sacrifice would be made tonight, as it had been for centuries.
Thine will be done, amen.

As he spurted into her, his huge hands closed around her throat, strangling her to death even as she reached orgasm. He looked deeply into her eyes as he pumped his own legacy into her, waiting for her to take that leap, waiting to see if Diana would come to him here, now. Instead, all he saw was the ecstasy of orgasm as it overcame her, and the understanding that she was, indeed, still a mortal.

With that realization she became a bucking, lunging animal, desperate for each and every breath. Her hands flailed against him, leaving bloody tears up and down his back and flanks. She pried at his hands, beat at his arms, and reached for his face with the curling talons that had become her hands, but it was just out of reach, just as his distant eyes seemed to be somewhere beyond this room.

His body was hard, implacable, in her and above her. She arched, desperate to buck him off, let her have at least one breath. He began to move within her again, thrusting into her as if by this act alone he could justify the fact that he was stealing the breath from her body one exhalation at a time. Her strength waning, she grasped his forearms, dug her fingernails in, and hung on for the rest of her life.

As her body stilled beneath him, he removed his hands and gently stroked the livid marks his fingers had made. He removed himself from her body and began to wash her. At least she had gone on in pleasure, he thought dispassionately. Even at the end, full understanding had eluded her. Still, he thought, all was not lost. A gift to the gods would be made. In one broad stroke he could make an offering and remove yet another unworthy soul from The Summerland.

* * * *

I was so sure she held the key to everything. She held my soul in her hands, then refused to share hers. She refused me her spirituality, the essential part of her that made her woman. She refused me everything. Her selfishness defined her.


Chapter One


Mariposa County Sheriff Bill Ashton looked down at the scattered skeletal remains, stone-faced in his impassive review of the ground before him. The crime scene, and there was no doubt it was one, had been horribly corrupted by both time and the two teenage boys who had stumbled across it in this remote foothill ravine. Empty eye sockets leered up at him eerily.

The victim’s forehead was punctuated by a small, neat hole, presumably a .22 or .25 caliber since he could see no discernable exit wound. He knew what a small caliber bullet could do to the inside of someone’s head, and winced at the picture his mind formed. At least these remains were skeletal. He’d found through long, painful experience that you could be almost clinical in your assessment of a skeleton.

His deputies swarmed over the brushy hillside in the baking afternoon sun, looking for any additional bone fragments that may have been scattered by foraging coyotes or ravens. Until they were finished, his examination of the scene was on hold, except for general observations.

This was a hell of a state of affairs, he thought wearily, relaxing his controlled expression. He rubbed a callused hand over half a day’s worth of stubble, then absently stroked the hairline scar that arched just over his temple and disappeared under the battered cowboy hat he wore. Murders didn’t happen in Mariposa very often, but when they did they usually involved family members or significant others.

A cry further down the rutted dirt road brought the Sheriff’s head up and set his long legs into motion. He charged into the underbrush beside the track and blanched as the second body came into view. These remains, as with the other, had been dispatched by a single bullet hole to the head. If this wasn’t a set of execution-style murders, then he was Mickey Mouse.

Jesus Fucking Christ! What the hell is this?” The totally unnecessary epitaph came from directly behind him and belonged to his esteemed colleague, Joe Whelan, the medical examiner.

I dunno Joe, we may have a small problem here. Looks like two vics with the same damned placement and caliber. But then again, that’s your department, huh?”

Taking off his age-worn Stetson, Ashton absently shuffled it from hand to hand as his faded blue eyes swept the scene, scanning the remote hillside. The detached, ‘cop’ section of his brain noted that death was always unforgiving, no matter how beautiful the landscape it occurred in.

This portion of his county had always reminded him of a living, medieval cathedral, like something you would see paintings of in history books. Black oaks wore a stately velvety coat of emerald moss, their thick, sturdy arms reaching for everything and nothing at the same time. Warring with the oaks for supremacy were the rod-straight bodies of huge Ponderosa Pines, evergreen boughs clawing toward the searing beauty of the sun. Beneath the grandeur of these monarchs, a graceful carpet of purple-blue lupine bobbed playfully in the searing breeze, their feet firmly entrenched in a thick layer of pine straw and oak leaves and red mountain clay.

That living carpet now crackled and shifted beneath each deputy’s feet, concealing and revealing with each movement.

Ashton whistled slowly through his teeth and shook his head. “This looks shitty no matter how you slice it.” He turned to the throng of deputies slowly gathering, “I want the entire cutoff road from Ponderosa Basin to Wawona sealed yesterday. No one but us in or out until we can figure out who the hell is dumping bodies up here. The first victim was one thing, this is an entirely new boat and I will
screw this up.”

He turned to a pasty-faced deputy at his side and directed, “You call everyone in, and I mean everyone. Get all of our reserve deputies up here to do control and containment, and every sworn deputy to do a proper hillside sweep. Now.”

* * * *

The scramble over granite through the thick buck brush and mesquite at ground level was anything but easy. In the end, their unwelcome quarry was surprisingly simple to locate. In the gruesome light of a fading day, five bodies in varying stages of decomposition were located and taped off. Each had been placed just off the roadway, in a loose circle with a diameter of at least twenty-five yards. A neat bullet wound pierced each skull like a grotesque punctuation mark.

Ashton ordered that the entire ten-mile road be marked as a crime scene and blocked the local “free”way into Yosemite.

The newest body appeared to be only days old and was that of a young female. It hadn’t helped the searcher’s already queasy stomachs when Mark Lewis, the county’s newest physician and volunteer search and rescue worker, puked all over his expensive Timberlands upon discovering the last, freshest corpse. Bloated bluebottle flies swarmed the hillside in a touch-and-go pattern; making most of the searchers wonder how they’d missed it in the first place.

From an initial inspection of her body, Whelan had determined the obvious cause of death, and suggested calling in an entomologist to determine how long she’d been exposed to the blowflies and the elements. Late June in Mariposa was roughly akin to a day on the surface of the sun and the days had not been kind to Jane Doe Five. Most of her soft flesh had decayed, obscuring her facial features.

Bill Ashton was in a hell of a pickle, and he knew it. It was obvious that this had been going on for some time, and he had more than a gut feeling that a local was responsible for it. For one thing, the Ponderosa Basin-Wawona cutoff was not an easy road to drive upon or even to locate. It was a rutted wagon track on the best of days and a muddy, sticky mess on the rest. For the most part, only locals knew of the shortcut into Yosemite, and most of them held passes that would get them into the Park free year-round, so they didn’t need to circumnavigate the mess. Ashton just thanked God that those kids had found those bodies now, rather than twenty years down the line.

Absently scratching a long denim-clad leg, he let his gaze rove over the hillside once more, looking at it through the eyes of an experienced LAPD Homicide detective. He scanned the packed clay of the roadway nearest Jane Doe Five. No tire tracks, but then again, he wouldn’t have expected any. It hadn’t rained in almost a month. There wasn’t even any trash up here, it was so remote. He massaged the bridge of his nose and thought about what to do next. He really didn’t want to call the feds in until he at least had a little bit of a handle on this thing, but he didn’t want to endanger any more lives either.

They were damned lucky that Joe Whelan had decided to retire to the foothills five years ago, then assume the mantle of medical examiner because he was bored. A county and community the size of Mariposa didn’t warrant a full-time ME or even a real coroner. Not that they’d needed one up to this point, thought Ashton grimly.

It didn’t take the cranky old ME long to make a determination. Each of the victims was female, aged sixteen to twenty-five years old. He couldn’t and wouldn’t speculate further until he’d done autopsies. To the Sheriff’s disquieted eye, it almost looked like the corpses were gruesome anniversary presents a new gift for each and every year.


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