Deadly Rites by Sean E Thomas by Sean E Thomas - Read Online

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Summary

Priests are being crucified on inverted crosses in Alaskan churches. On the surface, it appears priests are killing priests. As Sergeant Robert Sable starts his investigation, he finds a similar trend across the lower forty-eight states heading straight for Alaska. It seems that Alaska now has another serial killer. Sable must sort out the suspects and clues to find the killer.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611603309
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Deadly Rites - Sean E Thomas

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endeavors.

Prologue

God commanded him. Fathers Jacob Abram and Nash Logan would pay for their sins before dawn. Avenger heard the faint rumble of an impending storm. A distant lightning strike subtly illuminated the kitchen window. He could almost feel the energy from the lightning.

Avenger looked around the kitchen—it was simple—no frills. He mixed the GHB powder he’d crushed from tablets into two wine glasses, leaving a third one empty. He poured white zinfandel into each of the glasses and swirled it to ensure mixing. Over the last several years, he’d become adept at calculating the strength of the drug necessary to incapacitate his targets. When gamma-hydroxybutyrate wasn’t available, he used Ketamine.

He never thought of them as victims. They were the guilty, predators and pedophiles. At one time, he’d been an altar boy subject to the whims of a sadistic parish priest. Now, slowly but surely, he’d evened the score with all who went against God’s code. It was more than revenge—it was justice. He was the Avenger, protecting the future—the children.

Scanning the kitchen, Avenger ensured his fingerprints and DNA had been removed. He’d been meticulous, not just in the kitchen, but in his bedroom and work areas. It would be as if he were a ghost fading into the night without a trace.

He carried the wine tray to the rectory’s living room. Lamps scattered around the room fought the darkness of night. Fathers Jacob Abram and Nash Logan leaned back in their easy chairs and smiled at his offering. Both men were tall and thin, with gray hair and receding hairlines. With the drugged drinks on the outside edge of the tray, he offered one to Abram and the other to Logan.

Abram took a sip. A little bitter for zin.

What do you expect from the cheap stuff? Avenger asked. He took a drink, savoring the subtle fruity taste of the wine.

Collections were down again, Logan said.

As well as attendance, the Avenger said. We need to start jazzing up the services or we’re going to lose more.

I agree, Logan said. To bring in the youth, we need to make it more exciting. Maybe a guitar player.

Sure you do, Avenger thought. You want more children to molest and rape.

He’d taken numerous pictures of the pair with young girls as well as boys. He’d leave those next to their bodies.

The priests downed their drinks and Avenger collected the glasses.

Fix another, Logan said.

Sure, Avenger said. Not a problem.

Bring the bottle, Abram said.

Avenger walked to the kitchen, put on rubber gloves, washed the glasses, and placed them back on the shelves. He looked around the kitchen to see if he’d missed anything. The wine bottle and corkscrew. He took a towel and wiped them, even though he’d wiped off his prints earlier. He looked out the window and saw the lightning flashes, which were followed by a louder rumbling. The storm was closer now.

When he ambled back to the rectory, he found the priests slumped over. Avenger took off the rubber gloves and slipped on latex gloves, a shower cap, face mask and goggles. He sighed. It was time for the gruesome part of his work. Avenger lugged each priest to the chapel. The sound of his footsteps was deadened by deep, plush red carpet as he carried them to an ornate altar. He looked over his shoulder even though he knew the nuns were away on retreat. Behind him stood rows and rows of empty pews made from solid red oak and upholstered in a fine dark red fabric. He recalled they had been a major expense for the church.

Abram wore the cassock with cincture, so Logan would take center stage. Avenger slipped outside, dragged the pieces of a rough wooden cross inside and assembled it. He laid Logan on it. He lifted a large spike and placed it between the radius and ulna above the man’s right wrist. He drove the spike in with a small sledge hammer. The strike echoed throughout the empty chapel. Clank, Clank. Clank, Clank. Though unconscious, Logan whined and grunted with each strike of the hammer. Avenger then dealt with the left wrist. Blood flowed from the wounds and soaked into the carpet, melding with its color and leaving a dark burnished stain. Avenger now nailed the feet. He’d done this so many times before, it was almost routine. He untied the cincture from Abram and used it to tie Logan’s feet to the cross. The feet always needed extra support.

Glancing at the stained glass windows overhead, Avenger sighed. Although the light outside was minimal, the rendition of Jesus on the cross was spectacular. He picked up a small plaque and nailed the coup de grâce at Logan’s feet, upside down. It read, For the Children.

Avenger picked up the sledge, walked over to Abram, placed the weapon in his hand and forced his fingers over the handle. He strode back to Logan and drove a large combat blade deep into the man’s heart. Though unconscious, Logan grunted.

Avenger threw a rope over the beam above the sanctuary, dragged the inverted cross up and tied it off. Blood ran from the wounds and pooled on the floor. To finish the tableau, he pulled the knife out, placed Abram’s hands around it and laid it on his chest. Slipping an envelope from his pocket, he poured the contents over Abram—the photographs of their evil deeds. One last look. For the Children was now the right way up.

Returning to the residence, he did one last walk through. All his files, clothes and possessions were in his car. He walked to the phone, pulled out a recorder, dialed 911 and prepared to play a synthesized voice.

911 Operator, state the nature of your emergency.

Click. HELP! He’s trying to kill me.

What’s your address?

HELP! He has a knife. Avenger let the phone drop, strode from the rectory and slipped out into the night. Another priest dead, another to be convicted of murder. His trail of bodies led back and forth across the United States. So far no one had linked the deaths.

So many priests to judge and so many guilty to kill.

As he walked into the night, lightning raced across the sky in brilliant, blinding flashes followed by the drumming rolls of thunder. He stood, stretching his arms in the air, waiting for it to strike as it had so many years before. Maybe this time the lightning would strike him dead—but it didn’t. The Lord still had a job for him—the avenging angel—and would ultimately choose the time and place of his death. Sheets of rain engulfed him, washing the stains from his soul, readying him for the war ahead. Reaching his car, he paused for a moment, his hand on the door handle. Feeling the cold, cleansing power of the water running down his face, Avenger smiled. The world was now cleaner and purer.

Chapter 1

The phone rang loudly, pulling Sergeant Robert Sable from a deep sleep. He grabbed at the phone and slammed it down without looking at the caller ID. Then he reached over to the other side of the bed. It was cold and vacant. He realized he wasn’t in Sue’s house…not that she’d have been sharing his bed anyway. The phone rang again, demanding to be answered. It had to be his soon-to-be ex-wife. He turned over and folded the pillow over his ears. He’d have to change his number. As he started to drift back to sleep, his cell phone chimed in tune to Flight of the Bumble Bee and vibrated. He pulled himself up, ran his hand through his white thatch of hair and looked at the caller ID. It was his boss, State Trooper Captain Carl Owen.

What’s up? Sable groaned as he looked around his one-room flat. Though he had a home in Chugiak, he avoided it; it was too full of memories of a violent shootout and the resulting stench of death. The flat was simple: a small kitchen, table, bed, one closet and a TV he hardly watched. It was all he needed at this point in his life while awaiting his divorce from Sue Lake.

I got a case that needs your finesse, the gravelly voice said.

You know I have no finesse. Get Johnson or Johnson. They’re up on rotation, Sable said, looking at the clock. It was 3:17 a.m.

Bill Johnson’s on scene. Wayne’s at a pile up-on the Glenn.

But I just put my last case to bed two hours ago.

Okay, I’ll put it this way—I need your investigative prowess. A priest killed another priest at Saint James’, Owen said.

Sounds like an open and shut case—

Call McCabe and get your damn ass to the crime scene.

* * * *

As Sable and his partner, Aaron McCabe, entered Saint James Church, Colt Stevens, the chief CSI, sat on his haunches inspecting a small sledge and a bloody knife. His assistant, Ashoka Kalidasa, took photographs of the priest inverted on a hanging cross. Both were dressed in bright all-white forensic suits.

It’s about time you showed up, Stevens said. He unfolded himself to his five nine height. His black silver-streaked hair was hidden under a paper cap. Didn’t you set your alarm? You two must be on Tlingit and Cherokee time.

Sable ignored the apparent racist remark since Stevens was part Athabascan. He and McCabe signed in and slipped on protective garb.

What do you expect? McCabe asked. It’s four in the morning.

It’s usually the most interesting time of the morning. It’s when I get all my good cases.

McCabe sat on the front pew, resting both his arms on its back.

This is a crime scene, Stevens said. Get your damn ass off the furniture.

Sorry. When McCabe stood, he dwarfed everyone.

What’ve we got? Sable slipped on his latex gloves.

Father Nash Logan’s on the cross, Stevens said. The perp’s Father Jacob Abram. He’s already in custody.

It was a priest killing a priest, Kalidasa said in his stilted British-Indian accent. Kalidasa stood five six and his naturally tan complexion seemed darker somehow in the chapel despite all the lights.

Don’t jump to conclusions, Stevens said.

But…

We don’t know that for sure.

Sable steeled himself and walked up to the cross. He shook his head—this sacrilegious crime defied logic. It might be the strangest case he and McCabe had ever been called to. He pondered the placard nailed into the cross. It read, For the Children.

This has to be someone else exacting revenge. Sable gestured to the plaque.

But they found the knife in the hands of one of the priests and— Kalidasa started.

Stop, Stevens said. Document the scene.

I’m done here.

Then help Coleman in the rectory.

Will do.

Bring us up to speed.

We have some sixty photographs of both priests having sex with children. In each case, the child’s face was expertly blacked out. Stevens stood and stretched. Two priests—one crucified—the other with the knife covered in blood.

One priest jealous of the other’s stable? I find that hard to believe, Sable said.

That’s for you guys to figure out. I just analyze the evidence.

Ah, caught red-handed, McCabe said. Murder, molesting children and God knows what.

It’s too pat, Stevens said. APD found Father Jacob Abram unconscious. When they finally roused him, he claimed he couldn’t remember anything. He kept asking for Father Lawrence.

Then why are we here?

Don’t know, Stevens said. All I know is the troopers were ordered to take over. It’s above my pay grade.

Was he under a psycho-active drug? McCabe asked.

Nothing fits. Stevens shook his head. The kill was neat and orderly, so I doubt a psychotropic drug was involved during commission of the crime. And Abram was passed out, so I ordered a complete chem panel and toxin screen.

So you think there’s a third party? Sable asked.

Something smells rotten.

You think it was GHB or Ketamine? Sable took out his notebook and wrote down his observations.

Or Rohypnol or any number of other drugs.

Alcohol? McCabe asked

Passed the breathalyzer with flying colors.

Any witnesses? Sable kneeled and examined the floor.

No, Stevens said.

Several sets of tracks in and out—same size shoes—not Abram or Logan.

That’s what I figure too.

Where are the nuns?

On retreat at Fire Lake. Stevens stood.

How’d you find out so quickly?

APD contacted an office worker, an Amber Jensen. She should be here in a few minutes.

Where’s Davenport? Sable asked.

I’m here. Wallace Wally Davenport hobbled up the aisle followed by a couple technicians pushing a gurney. The rattling of wobbling wheels echoed through the chapel.

Ah, the ME and his entourage arrive, McCabe said, trying to get a rise out of Davenport. The man preferred the term coroner over ME. ME was too fancy.

Get another gurney, Davenport said. I always have room for extra customers in my morgue.

Lay off, McCabe, Sable said under his breath. It’s too early to fuck around.

Too bad I didn’t bring my scalpel. Davenport walked around the body, careful not to step in the pools of blood. Finally, he stopped and felt for a pulse. Yup, he’s dead.

He’s dead, Jim, McCabe quipped under his breath.

When did he die? Sable asked.

Can’t tell until I get a liver temp, Davenport said.

Nash Logan called 911 at 1:30, Stevens said.

Assuming it was Logan, Sable said.

Noted.

McCabe, get your lazy ass over here and help me get the priest down. Davenport limped over to the ropes.

Move aside, Davenport, Sable said softly. McCabe and I can handle this.

After the pair lowered the body, Davenport put in the temperature probe. Rigor’s setting in.

Sable waited for the temperature.

I got a core temperature of 94.0 degrees.

After death, a body loses 1.5 degrees an hour. Sable did a quick mental calculation. So he died around 1 a.m. That doesn’t jibe with the 911 call.

Davenport nodded. That’s what I figure and the start of rigor.

We can’t do much more here. Sable slipped his notebook back into his pocket. See you back at the ranch.

I can always give McCabe a one-way ride.

No thanks. McCabe gestured to Sable. Let’s check the progress at the rectory.

As they crossed the yard, Sable looked up at the velvet sky. The thunderstorm was long past, heading north. The moon loomed high among the stars and he shivered at the nip in the air. Rain droplets left by the storm had begun to freeze on the grass. Winter’s coming.

Don’t cuss, McCabe said, stepping up to the door. The nights have been damn cold lately.

What this? Sable asked. I thought you were a die-hard Alaskan.

Six months of winter is too damn long for any season.

Light flooded from the rectory’s open door and they found Kara Coleman hunched over the living room computer. She raised a hand in greeting.

Found anything? McCabe asked.

Put on new covers, she said in a light Hispanic accent. She was a petite, dark-haired woman buried in an all-white forensic suit. And don’t trounce on my crime scene.

How can it be a scene? McCabe asked. There’s no body.

Coleman laughed. Not yet, but if you mess it up, there might be.

What have you found? Sable asked.

Lots of kiddy porn on the computer and in Father Logan’s room, she said.

Have you checked Abram’s? McCabe asked.

Kalidasa’s tossing that room.

Oh, I found a signed confession lying next to the computer, Coleman said. Signed by Jacob Abram.

What’s it say? Sable asked.

I killed Father Nash Logan, she said. "But you got a major problem. It was emailed to the Anchorage Tribune and the local TV stations."

Damn, Sable said. That all we need—reporters nosing around.

The way things are going, McCabe said, this smells like fish left in the sun for a several days.

Agreed.

Corporal Johnson strode into the room. He was the salt portion of the salt and pepper Johnson and Johnson team. Amber Jensen’s arrived.

Show her in, Sable said.

Make sure she wears shoe covers, Coleman said.

All right if we use the office to talk to Jensen? Sable asked.

Sure. I already tore the place up.

Thanks.

I went though the computer. Make sure Jensen doesn’t go near it, she said.

Find anything? McCabe asked.

No kiddy porn or hidden sectors on the computer—only church administrative documents. However, I need to send it to IT to do forensic analysis.

Sable nodded.

Amber Jensen walked hesitantly into the room, tears streaming down from red-rimmed brown eyes. She was a heavy-set brunette wearing sweats. She leaned heavily against the back of a couch.

Are Father Logan and Father Abram really dead? Her voice quavered.

Only Father Logan, Sable said.

How’d he die? she asked.

We can’t discuss that, McCabe said.

Is Father Lawrence okay?

Who’s Father Lawrence? Sable asked.

Father Mathew Lawrence, the other priest here.

Sable introduced himself and McCabe. Let’s go into the office and we can discuss this further.

Jensen nodded weakly. What I am going to do about morning mass? It’s only a couple hours away.

It’s canceled. The church is a crime scene, Sable said.

Maybe Father Lawrence can—

Coleman stopped working on the computer and spun the chair around. Father Lawrence. I found no records of another priest and there were only two bedrooms occupied.

But, but… Jensen took a deep breath. Father Lawrence lives here too.

I think you better check out the other bedrooms, Sable said.

Coleman nodded. They’re next on my list.

Sable gestured to Jensen. Lead the way.

This way. Jensen’s legs almost gave out and Sable grabbed an arm to keep her upright.

As they entered the office, Sable noted Coleman had emptied the file cabinets and already boxed up the files. Each box was neatly labeled. The description included crime scene number, location, what the box contained, and date.

Oh my, Jensen said. All the church records.

They’re part of the investigation, Sable said. The church will get them back afterwards.

How long will that be? she asked as Sable escorted her to a small, highly polished mahogany table surrounded by chairs.

Unfortunately, as long as it takes, McCabe said.

Tell me about each of the priests, Sable said.

They were all excellent priests.

How’d they get along? Sable asked.

I’ve never seen a more compatible, easy-going group. And I’ve worked here for fifteen years.

I need more detail.

They all handled Mass, giving communion, doing weddings and funerals, christenings, counseling, doing paperwork, working with the community, visiting hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and homes.

"What was