Happy New year! May 2023 be a year of personal and spiritual growth, peace, and love for each of you. To kick the year off, here’s a gift sample from The Divine Meddler. Enjoy the read!
From The Divine Meddler
Strong, chilly winds blowing off the lake did not cause Richard Brock’s trembling. Still in his pajamas on this Texas dawn, he leaned against Franklin Abbington’s boathouse door, as if to contain the horror within. But flashing red and blue lights told him he had summoned the whirlwind with his call to 911.
Houston County Sheriff, Cyrus McCoy, strode toward Richard. Middle-aged, gray at the temples, he looked like he had seen it all. He would soon discover he had not.
“Mr. Brock, you told the 911 operator there was a dead body in your neighbor’s boathouse,” McCoy said after introducing himself — as if he needed an introduction. Everyone in the small town of Raider, Texas, knew the Sheriff of Houston County, having re-elected him for years.
“Frank and Cam are out of town, and…”
“Frank and Cam?”
“Sorry, I’m… I’m upset. Franklin and Camilla Abbington. Anyway, I couldn’t sleep because of the wind. When the lake’s riled, it gets like that. Constant banging woke me. My bedroom is right there.” He pointed a shaking finger toward his house. “Their boathouse door was slamming open and shut. I thought their son Beau would have heard it, but apparently not. I got up and went to shut the darn thing myself so I could get some sleep. Then I saw, I saw–her.”
He shuddered and wiped his face with his hand. “It’s awful. I’ll never forget it. Poor girl.”
McCoy led him away from the boathouse, while the police cordoned off the area with yellow crime scene tape. Officers began searching the grounds in the dim light for evidence. In the most reassuring voice he could muster, McCoy asked Richard if he noticed anything else.
“No. I just ran home and called it in.”
“Does anyone else besides Mr. and Mrs. Abbington live in the house?”
“Like I said, their son, Beauregard. He comes and goes at all hours when he’s not on campus. Ask me, he’s a spoiled only child.”
“Craigmore College. I think he’s in his second year.”
“Do you have a key to their home? We’d rather not break down the door.”
“Sure. I’ll get it. Then can I go home?”
Cyrus nodded. “Yes, but stay in town in case we have more questions.”
After the police secured the boathouse, Cyrus McCoy entered and immediately recognized the dead teen. He moaned. She was Becky Skalney, Lou and Sally Skalney’s only daughter. He knelt next to the girl’s body and wished he could cradle her back to life. She was so young, too young to die such a death. She’d been such a happy child. Over the years, he had watched her grow from a toddler into a beautiful young lady, and an ache lodged deep in his chest.
He and Lou had been friends since high school and had spent many pleasant weekends hunting and fishing together. When Lou went into construction after graduation, McCoy worked for the Abbington Piano Company, making wooden hammers for their grand piano line. After a mind-numbing year of doing the same thing every day, Cyrus joined the sheriff’s department, where no day was the same.
Now Lou Skalney’s daughter lay on her back on the boathouse floor, her head resting at an unnatural angle. Blue eyes with dilated pupils stared unseeing at the ceiling. Her corduroy jacket was open, and her blouse looked like someone had pulled it out of her jeans. The bottom buttons, ripped off, had landed in front of a chair in the corner. Seems there was a struggle, but with whom? And why here?
It looked like the Abbingtons had converted the boathouse into an outdoor entertainment center. A bar dominated the room, with club chairs and end tables situated here and there. A fishing net, decorated with shells, a bamboo fishing pole, and assorted fishing lures, hung from the wall behind the bar.
He noticed strands of blood-stained hair caught on a splinter jutting from the edge of the bar.
Were the tall stools that lay scattered on the floor collateral damage from a struggle? If she had fallen or been pushed against the bar, striking her head before falling, would that account for the blood? Hitting the side of her head when she fell could result in her awkward head angle. Why was she in Abbington’s boathouse at this hour? Where was Beauregard Abbington?
An officer poked his head in the doorway. “House is empty, Sheriff.”
McCoy called the station and told the desk Sergeant to check the DMV records for Beauregard Abbington’s license and put out an APB to haul him in for questioning.
Cyrus reckoned Becky must be about 17. The thought of telling Lou and Sally their daughter was dead, made those dull, hammer-making days look good, but he would do it himself. He did not want a strange police officer telling them their worst nightmare had come true.
Grateful for police procedures that checked his rising emotions, McCoy called the medical examiner and the county’s homicide liaison officer for Raider, Detective Charles Yockel.
After the experts arrived, were briefed, and the crime scene preserved, Cyrus left to do what he most dreaded.
At 7:48 a.m., Cyrus pulled his cruiser far into Skalney’s driveway. A raised voice and Sally’s cries greeted him as he approached the side door. It sounded like Sally and Lou had already discovered Becky had left the house sometime in the night. Lou was vowing to bring Becky home after he “beat Beau senseless.”
McCoy banged on the door and called, “Lou, open up! It’s Cyrus.”
Sudden silence, then footsteps. The door opened, and Lou stood in the doorway, wearing jeans and his pajama top. His hair stood on end, and he had yet to shave. His face crumpled upon seeing his friend standing in his uniform at the bottom of the steps.
“What happened to Becky?” Lou’s voice croaked.
“May I come in?”
Lou turned and walked silently into the kitchen while Cyrus followed. Sally, still in her bathrobe, stood next to the kitchen table, eyes wide, hands clutched against her chest. Both Skalneys stared at McCoy as he gently as possible told them what had happened.
Sally screamed and sank into the nearest chair. Lou stared, open-mouthed, at Cyrus and pulled a chair, with a shaking hand, from the table and dropped into it. Cyrus took the opposite seat and waited while horror made its first inroad into his friends’ hearts.
After a while, Lou spoke, his voice a barely audible growl. “Beauregard Abbington.”
“What about Beauregard, Lou?”
Cyrus slipped a notebook and pen from his jacket pocket and placed them on the table. Lou’s hands formed fists, and he leaned toward his friend.
“You don’t have to take notes. I’ll tell you what happened. Beauregard Abbington killed my daughter. Get out there and get to him before I do!”
Sally placed her hand on Lou’s arm. “Let Cyrus…. Don’t do something we’ll all regret.”
She took a ragged breath. “When we found out she’d been dating Beauregard, we grounded her.” Cyrus folded his hands, ignoring his notebook. Neither had absorbed Becky’s death nor the last violent moments of her life. Reality was yet to shred their hearts.
“How did you discover they’d been dating?”
“The scumbag gave her marijuana. Sally found it in Becky’s room. It all came out then.”
“Way too old for her.” Sally shook her head. “Becky said it made her gag, but everybody was using it. We told her to break it off, but she didn’t.” Sally brought a fist to her mouth and sobbed.
“If only she’d listened to us!” Lou buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking. After he regained control, Cyrus asked, “How did you find out she was still seeing him?”
“I was on a scaffold at H.E.B.’s grocery on a siding job. Saw them kissing in the lot behind the Raider High football bleachers. I ran there, sent Becky home, and told Beau to stay away from my daughter. When he laughed and said Becky wasn’t daddy’s little girl anymore, I decked him. The weasel looked at me from the ground and said I’d be sorry I’d punched him. Lucky I didn’t kill him then.” He made a fist. “Wish I had.”
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Sally said, “We grounded her, except for school. She said she hated us, and we were terrible parents. Becky told me she wanted a more exciting life than I had and called me a doormat. We stuck to our guns, but what good did it do? Were we supposed to stand guard all night?”
She stared at Cyrus as if seeking absolution.
“Of course not, Sal. You and Lou did what all parents would do. Listen to me, this is not your fault.” Cyrus let that sink in and then asked, “When do you think she left the house last night?”
Sally looked at Lou. “I looked in on her just before we went to bed, around 11, didn’t I, Lou? She must have snuck out after midnight Saturday morning while we were sound asleep.”
Lou nodded and leaned toward his friend. “Cyrus, Beauregard Abbington is dirt and his sidekick, Floyd Armbruster, isn’t any better. He did this, and you’d better throw him in jail before I get my hands on him.”
At 4:36 p.m. that same Saturday afternoon, Patrolman Matt Parker observed a car weaving side to side in its lane as it was entering Raider. The license plate number told him he had found Beauregard Abbington, the target of the APB, and a “person of interest.” Matt called it in, flicked on his lights and siren, and pulled the driver over. He cautiously approached Abbington, wondering what the story on him was.
“S’matter officer?” Beau said, blinking up at the cop as he rolled his window down.
“You were driving erratically, weaving in your lane.”
“Nah,” Beau denied in a long, alcohol laden breath.
After checking license and registration, Parker ordered him out of the car.
“Wassa, wha, wha for?”
“Ooooh. I don’t think so.”
“I’m telling, not asking.”
“Aright, aright. Do what you want. Chill, man.”
Beauregard opened the door, lurched out and took two wobbly steps. Parker caught him before he fell, glanced over Beauregard’s shoulder, and noticed the edges of two plastic bags jutting from the space between the driver’s seat and the side console.
“Man, how much booze you got on board? Let’s get you settled where you won’t hurt yourself.” Matt continued a one-sided conversation to keep Beau compliant until he could get him into the squad car.
“Where were you coming from?” Matt asked in a conversational tone. His left arm supported Beauregard while he guided him to the patrol car.
“Fishin’ lodge in Possum Creek.”
Parker opened the cruiser’s door and poured the affable drunk into the back seat.
“Here, breathe into this, will you?” He handed Beauregard the breathalyzer.
“Want to find out how much booze you’re holding, man.” Matt said, as if challenging Beau’s manhood.
“You’d be sprized,” Beau boasted.
Parker watched him take a deep breath and blow into the mouthpiece. A look at the result confirmed driving while intoxicated.
“I’m going to get your car keys from the ignition and then check out your car. Someone can pick it up later.”
Beau murmured “kay” and closed his eyes. Matt shut the door.
When Parker reached the Land Rover, he grabbed the two plastic bags he had seen. One looked to be full of weed, and the other held several blue tablets. After checking the rest of the interior, he opened the trunk but found nothing suspicious. When he returned to his squad car, he woke Beauregard, who was too groggy to resist, as Matt fastened handcuffs on his wrists.
“Sorry man. You blew point one-two on the breathalyzer, and I found two bags of drugs in your car. I’m arresting you for driving while intoxicated and drug possession. Anything you say may be held against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you. Do you understand what I told you?”
“Understand! Course I do. Hear it on TV.”
“This is not TV.”
“Course not. I’ll call Russ…. Russ…. what’s his name… my folk’s pet lawyer.”
By the time Matt parked his cruiser at the station, Beauregard Abbington was snoring. Parker smiled.
Just gotta know how to reel ‘em in, nice and gentle, and you get yourself a fine catch.
For those who follow Christian literature, writer Pat Iacuzzi’s Hope Inspired blogs— http://hopeinspiredstories.blogspot.com/ and https://hopeinspiredsuspense.blogspot.com/ will keep you up to date on the newest, latest, or most prolific Christian writers of today. She bases every blog on her personal interaction with the author.
Stop by https://hopeinspiredsuspense.blogspot.com/ this week where she features The Divine Meddler, and you can enter her drawing for a free copy of my book and a $25 gift certificate.