Resurrectionists - A Greystone Tale, p.1
A Greystone Tale
Eleven Ten Publishing
BUFFALO, NEW YORK
Copyright © 2016 by Lou Paduano
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Eleven Ten Publishing
P.O. Box 1914
Buffalo, NY 14226
Publisher’s note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Edited, formatted, and interior design by Kristen Corrects, Inc.
Cover art design by Kit Foster Design
First edition published 2016
Other Books by Lou Paduano
Signs of Portents
Tales from Portents (February 2017)
The Medusa Coin (September 2017)
Table of Contents
Kelli Andrews couldn’t sleep. It was the same routine every night: an hour or two of deep sleep…and then the nightmares started. Work, the kids, bills, the never-ending holidays. Plenty to choose from but the best were the mix and match set that spanned childhood fears with the mundane nature of her life.
Emptiness greeted her rousing, the other half of the bed vacant. Marc was missing again. Kelli sat up, rubbing the dreariness out of her eyes. The clock beamed in bright red. Barely 5:00 in the morning, the sky still black. She wondered how long he had been away, if he even came to bed.
She thought this was over, that Marc worked through this. The late nights. The disconnect from everyone and everything. Sleepless nights of channel surfing and roaming the neighborhood. Almost daily since the death of his mother three months earlier.
Kelli persevered, although she had no choice in the matter. Two kids not even in double digits and a job to keep them in their modest yet suffocating mortgage. A breakdown was not in the offering for her, though she could have used a nice stretch in a padded cell, if only for a decent night’s rest.
Death affected everyone differently. She hadn’t shed a tear over the last few months, the loss a blessing after years of suffering from debilitating illnesses and physical pain. But her husband of twelve years took the passing hard.
Things changed a month ago. A reprieve, a return to normalcy—or so Kelli thought. Seeing the empty bed, she wondered if she was trying to convince herself more than anyone. Out of need. For the kids. For herself.
Her ankles popped as her feet connected with the soft carpet. Despite the nightmares, she was surprised how long she had slept without interruption. It showed, her back struggling to straighten, her balance precarious on her trek to the hallway. She preferred the idea of another two or three hours of rest but her bladder won out.
The door squealed upon opening and she held her breath. Waking the kids was not an option, especially with the chance of a little more sleep still in the cards even after a trip to the bathroom. And the hunt for Marc. She would check the couch first. He was most likely passed out, drool running down his chin. There was the chance he was still awake, teary-eyed and lost in memory, the television a distraction from the photo albums that had become a permanent staple of the coffee table lately.
Halfway across the hall, inching slowly like a covert operative, Kelli stopped. A figure stood at the end of the hall—a small shadow centered among the darkness. Matted brown hair and wearing Spider-Man pajamas, her son startled her with his presence.
“Grandma’s here,” he said, his seven-year-old voice booming in the early morning graveyard that was their home.
Kelli shook her head. “What? Quinn, baby, it’s too early.”
Quinn walked up to her. His hand slipped into hers and he pulled her down the hall. The bathroom faded from view, like the nightmares of the last few hours.
Kelli struggled to keep up with the boy’s enthusiasm, her mind even slower to question their destination. They owned a small home, compact and single story. The hallway that led to their bedrooms and the single full bath (which would never be enough for all four of them) fed into the living room, which connected to the kitchen. The sound of movement from the latter caused her to hold back at the threshold of the former.
Quinn looked to her, puzzled, pulling harder. “Come on, Mommy.”
Her confusion didn’t subdue her senses. She recognized it: the sound of eggs frying on the stove and the smell of bacon sizzling on the griddle. It woke her up, the cloud of her deep sleep fading. Her smile returned.
Marc was back. Really back. For good this time. So ambitious, making up for lost time, he set to work making breakfast. A little early—by about two hours—but the effort behind it all bolstered her. Helping to keep her going after the burden of the last few months.
Her delusion ended quickly.
Lily, her four-year-old daughter, sat at the kitchen table. Quinn joined her, smiling and giggling, their plates full of food that would never be eaten. Next to her sat Marc, munching on a slice of bacon.
“What’s all this?” Kelli asked, confused by the sound of cooking while everyone sat around the table.
The confusion ended with her arrival. A figure rounded the corner, stepping into the light, carrying two plates of eggs—over-easy and dabbled with enough pepper to clear your sinuses. A staple of only one person Kelli Andrews knew.
Her mother-in-law stopped, pointing at the empty table chair. “Take a seat, dear. You look pale. Have you been eating enough?”
Kelli froze, unable to think. Unable to speak. Her husband grinned, digging into his freshly prepared breakfast.
“Isn’t it great, honey?”
His wife failed to agree. As she stared at the dead woman in her kitchen, she only had one response.
Kelli Andrews screamed.
Detective Greg Loren was late. As usual. The pattern that started by happenstance had grown into the man’s custom. A habit, one more and more in his own control, yet completely out of reach. The same could be said of his personal grooming, to which the bare minimum was completed. A comb to his overgrown hair. No razor to his face. He opted for a ratty T-shirt from the laundry pile rather than make the trek to the Laundromat down the street. Thankfully most of the shirt was covered by the one suit jacket in his closet that didn’t reek of old cigarettes, the reminder almost too powerful for the former smoker. Loren was a mess of a human, the fact more than obvious with a quick glance in the mirror—if he bothered to look at one.
He was late.
At least I remembered to brush my damn teeth this time.
The steps of the Caldwell Courthouse spanned half a block. Roman pillars of stark white separated the entrance, each one engraved with
Except today. Myron Jacobs, a scumbag of the worst degree, was due for his day in court. A day to put an end to his criminal career, thanks to the work of Loren. The detective was not going to let it slip away. Despite being unable to connect Jacobs to the homicide that Loren had tried to pin to him, Loren’s investigation brought to light Jacobs’ drug dealing operation. Loren needed the win, one way or the other. Even late to the show, this was his time to shine.
It ended quickly.
As he reached for the front door of the courthouse along Northern Boulevard, Loren was halted by a familiar face. The door opened before him and the tired eyes of Captain Alejo Ruiz greeted him.
“Hold up, Greg.”
“Ruiz? I know I’m late but—”
Ruiz stopped him, pulling him away from incoming traffic. Loren caught a glimpse of District Attorney Sitwell and her colleagues glaring at him during their transition away from the doors. The pair stopped at a nearby bench, Ruiz’s arms crossing his chest.
“You’re always late.”
Loren grinned, sitting at the bench. He fiddled with his tie, ironing out the massive wrinkles with his fingers. “So it’s a fashionable thing then. Great.”
“No.” Ruiz sighed. “It’s an annoying thing and not great. But today it doesn’t matter. Or maybe it does. What the hell do I know anymore when it comes to you?”
Loren was surprised by the tone that hung on his every word—bitterness. Sadness. Concern. But worst of all, the thing Loren swore he never wanted to hear from those around him.
The fault lay with him. He had not been an easy man to be around lately. Especially one to supervise, on or off the job. His anger ran hot, his moods soured on a dime. The reason—like the gray cloud around him, like the perpetual lateness for every event big and small—escaped him. In fact, the reason for everything seemed to escape him, including their pow-wow outside the courthouse instead of celebrating the conviction of a killer like Jacobs.
“What are you talking about, Ruiz?”
Loren flinched. “Bullshit.”
“Your sense of humor has always sucked, Ruiz, but I don’t see what’s funny about—”
“It’s not a joke,” Ruiz replied. He towered over the sitting detective, blocking the haze of the morning sun.
“I had him dead to rights,” Loren snapped, hands clenched tight to his side. “The evidence was solid.”
He spent weeks on the case, never able to connect him to the death of a young woman from the Knoll. It was an old girlfriend of Jacobs. No murder weapon. No witnesses. Loren was about to lose him. About to let a killer walk. Not an option for him.
So Loren had turned to Jacobs’ other enterprise. Drugs. Tracking down the evidence, nailing down sources—all less than reputable, but with the right incentive they were willing to flip on Jacobs to reduce their own sentences. Most of it was circumstantial…but then Loren located Jacobs’ stash—and his records. All came together to lock the arrest in place.
“The evidence is gone,” Ruiz said, unable to look at the stunned detective. “Misplaced. Lost. Tucked under some rock never to be seen.”
“It was in lockup. You saw it.”
“Then who the hell—?” Loren stopped, catching the concern on his friend’s face. His head fell into his hands. “Dammit. They’re blaming me.”
Ruiz nodded. “They are.”
Ruiz waved him down. “I defended you but that doesn’t mean crap to these people. Sitwell is going over my head. She’s been running her ‘tough on drugs’ platform and this looks to be a swift kick up her backside more than anyone else in terms of public profiles. She has to save face. And you…?”
“I get it,” Loren muttered. “It flows downstream.”
“They’re talking about an internal review,” Ruiz said. “Since this isn’t the first case that’s been blown.”
Loren knew the implication: “the first case that hasn’t been blown by you,” Ruiz really meant. It was the second such instance in the last three months. Both connected to Jacobs and appearances even worse.
Loren didn’t care. He was focused on the review. “Mathers?”
“Will be there in his Sunday best,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz’s look softened; he had the eyes of a father, not a superior. “I’ll do what I can.”
“Ruiz,” Loren said, shaking his head.
The middle-aged Hispanic waved him down. “Stop. I will. But whatever this is lately—whatever is going on with you—it doesn’t play well for you. You want to talk, you know where to find me, Greg. I hope you do.”
Loren turned away. “I’m fine, Captain.”
Loren watched the worried captain depart, his head low and hands buried deep in his pockets. For as much as the DA might have lost face this morning with Jacobs, Ruiz was in worse shape. No surprise, with Mathers ready to jump all over him at the first opportunity.
Something needed to change. Loren needed answers, not only to what happened to the evidence in question, but also about his lack of direction of late. The depression. The anger. All of it.
A shadow fell over Loren—tall and thin, stretching over the grizzled face of the melancholy detective. Loren peered up to see the man whose gray hair had predominantly replaced a thick head of brown. Assistant District Attorney Richard Crowne stared down at him with soft, blue eyes.
“I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“Not at all,” Loren said, shifting to the side of the bench. Richard joined him, knees popping under his tightly pressed pants. “What can I do for you…?”
“Richard. Or Rich, even. The title gets a little overblown.”
Loren smirked. “It is a mouthful.”
“It is,” the attorney agreed. “My business card barely fits my phone number because of it.”
“Not that you need people calling you.”
Loren chuckled. The pair had played the same tune for years. Friends had that effect, though the term was almost foreign to the detective. They were not companions in the traditional sense. More like bound together through a shared experience. The one that seemed to link Loren to more people than he realized.
Richard Crowne lost his wife, Jennifer, three years earlier. She took a bullet meant for her husband and he watched her die. Loren worked the case. The killer ended up with life and no chance in hell at parole. Their time together, going over suspects and finding the one that hated Crowne most of all, cemented their bond.
Loren knew friendship wasn’t the reason behind the visit today. “Is this about the case?”
“You? Here right now? Is it—?”
Richard shook his head. “No. No way. Well, yes. But not the way you’re thinking. Sorry.”
“It’s fine. Take your time.”
Richard cleared his throat, setting his briefcase to the side of the bench. “I heard what happened in there and thought you might need a friend. Someone who understands sleepless nights and empty hallways. When I lost Jennifer—”
“I appreciate it, Richard,” Loren shot back, stopping the man’s sentiment. “I’m fine. Promise.”
“I see,” Richard said. His voice was soft, understanding immediately. Richard stood, reaching for his briefcase. “Greg. If you ever—”
This was supposed to be a good day.
Loren rubbed his eyes, his hands muffling the loud string of curses escaping his lips. He let the words settle in an attempt to find peace in them. Unsuccessful, Loren stood. The Caldwell Courthouse stood in the shadow of the hazy sun, tall and proud like the men behind its construction. Mocking Loren.
The frustrated detective left the steps of the courthouse, scanning the block on Northern Boulevard. Central was three blocks to the east along Evans. Central meant work. Responsibility. Loren turned west, spotting a hole-in-the-wall bar called McDuffie’s.
Responsibility could wait.
Pine Woods Cemetery was not Soriya Greystone’s usual stomping grounds. She preferred to stay away from the dead as often as possible. The concept of the end stirred up uncomfortable memories, a lack of control that she clung to desperately to maintain her confidence, her poise, her true power.
She had no choice in the matter, however. In typical fashion she screwed up and paid for her mistake. Running in the darkness of the graveyard that encompassed eight city blocks, she chased after her quarry. Young and much faster than she imagined, he carried a thin, wooden carving knife with an ornately crafted handle. Thick spirals dug into the wood in the shape of a crest.
It started with a murder. An older man found dead in his rat-infested apartment. Small puncture marks, tightly grouped, littered the corpse. Little blood spatter marked the scene or the body. And no blood left in the body.
Exsanguination. That put it firmly in Soriya’s wheelhouse.
One other detail put her on the hunt for the young man racing through the cemetery: the knife. Out of all the puncture marks, one clear cut ran along the man’s arm—fresh. Moments before his end. The old man, George Newborne, was targeted. It was personal.