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To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.

 - Winston Churchill

Chapter Eleven


Detective Wood was convinced the two earlier disappearances were murder, and the disappearance of Eddie as well. Of course, he had no evidence to even prove that any of them were dead, much less that they were victims of foul play. Yet somehow he knew. He also felt that the cases were related.

It was beginning to look like this was some sort of serial killer, because nothing fit or formed any sort of pattern. None of the men involved were particularly rich, none had been obviously robbed, and all had lived quiet lives. Wood could find no connection, and no reason. He only hoped that the killings weren’t totally random, or they might never be solved.

People weren’t supposed to be horribly murdered in small country towns. That was big city style crime. Detective Wood sincerely wished that such things would stay in the big city where they belonged. He wasn’t prepared to match wits with a serial killer, particularly when the Sherriff had him racing the clock for a solution.

There was also a side to Detective Wood that worried the killings might stop. While any reduction in crime was the stated purpose of his profession, such a thing would mean that the murderer might never be caught. The ambivalence disturbed him, and gnawed at his conscience. Was his career and reelection of The Sherriff more important than the lives of the people he was sworn to protect?

He stared out the window of his office, a real office, not a cube or a partition, and wondered how much longer his name would be on the door. He saw his old partner, Joe Gwyn, come into the station. Wood tried to appear casual as he left his office to talk to Gwyn. In truth, Wood had lingered at the station a bit, hoping to run into his old friend and mentor.

“Hi Joe; how’s life?”

“Good afternoon, detective Wood, sir. Life is just fine and thank you for asking sir.” Joe stifled a laugh, and there were a few chuckles from the others in the station. Ever since Wood had made detective, his old partner had teased him mercilessly about the promotion. Both men knew who was more experienced, and street smart. Wood had learned his trade, largely at the hands of Gwyn, yet it was Wood who had passed the tests and been promoted.

“Give me a break Joe. You might think about taking the tests and bucking for detective yourself. Hey, I could help you study. It’s not like I don’t owe you.”

Gwyn shook his head. “I wouldn’t take your job, especially at my age. Too much pressure. Too much responsibility.”

“Right. Like when you pulled that lady out of her burning car last month, or those car thieves who shot it out with you.  No pressure or responsibility there.”

Joe Shrugged, “I did what I had to do, and then it was over – not like what you do. My work doesn’t go home with me. It also doesn’t follow me around. Look at that case you’re working on right now. We both know what’s going to happen if you don’t come up with something soon.”

Wood nodded, and said nothing.

“Oh, so that’s it. Worried about your job kid? Well don’t. You’ll figure it out.”

“That’s just it, Joe. I can’t. I don’t see it. I don’t even know where to look any more.”

“Look for the links, kid, look for the links. A crime doesn’t just happen; it’s a chain of events.”

“So what do a street hood, a farmer, and a store keeper have in common?”

“How would I know, detective Wood sir? I’m only a dumb country sheriff.”

“Well, let’s pretend you were a detective.” Wood suggested.

Joe rolled his eyes, “I have a hard enough time pretending you’re a detective.”

Jimmy and a few of the other deputies laughed. Wood glared at them in annoyance, which only made them laugh harder. Joe shook his head abruptly, and the laughter stopped immediately. He then looked at his old junior partner, and asked, “So what do you have?”

“More questions than answers. I have three missing men that are probably dead.”

“Then you didn’t ask the right questions, or the right people.”

Wood protested, feeling a bit like a rookie again under the sharp eye of his old tutor. “I talked to everyone that could have possibly known anything.”

“All of them? Anyone who might have anything to do with the victims? Dig, kid, dig. “

“Joe, you know how small Bole is. It’s not like there are that many people I could have missed. I covered all the bases.”

“If you asked and still don’t know, then somebody lied. So ask again.”

“So you’re saying start over.”

Gwyn shrugged, “I’ll tell you one thing; you won’t solve anything sitting around here. Go out and burn up some county gas, and wear out some shoe leather. Ask around, check with friends and family; see what the victims have in common. Once you find it, the rest is easy.”

“I thought the same thing; but there is no pattern.”

“All the victims come from Bole, don’t they?”

“Of course, but that doesn’t mean much.”

“Maybe not; but it’s a start. They all went to the same school, probably shopped at the same stores, maybe had some of the same friends – and enemies. Something links them.”

“Right now, the only thing that links them is that they have all disappeared or been killed.”

“Maybe we got ourselves a psycho.”

Wood groaned “Just what I need.”

“Hey look on the bright side. People love psycho cases and always want to hear about them. If you solve the case, you’ll be famous, write a book, get rich, and move to Hollywood – probably marry a movie star.”

“If I solve the case.”

“Yeah, there is that.”