• Rod Kackley

Cult Killers - Adam King, Private Eye

“We have absolutely no reason to believe this was any kind of a cult, or any kind of an organized activity,” said St. Isidore Police Chief Barry “Lumpy” Doolan. “These are just three sad cases of teenage girls who decided to take their own lives. One slashed her wrists. Two hung themselves.

“It’s also true that several other girls were found dead of gunshot wounds, but those also seem to be the result of suicides.”

Two more questions and he’s outta here. I don’t need this. A radio reporter of all people, in my office. I didn’t know there were any of those left. How’d this one beat extinction? And here he is busting my balls over the worst case I have. What I ought to tell him is if I had a daughter, she would never get outside of our house until we solve this case. But that would shut down the town. I’d be like that cop in Jaws who closes the beaches.

I know there is a sex cult involved in this. Sadomasochism is what it is called. And I am about to bring it down. All I need is some evidence. Like if I could play the guitar and sing, I could be a rock star. If only…

Adam King had done it. The baby boomer, whose life had fallen just short of his dreams, had pushed through all of the barricades he set up for himself and cleared all of the self-erected hurdles that he had been tripping over all of his life. He had made it into Chief Doolan’s office. Adam did not have an appointment. He gave no warning. This was a total ambush. Complete profile in courage.

“Do you have any idea if this latest missing girl, Alice Barnes, could be connected to the suicides of those girls you found in the woods?”

“We aren’t even sure if those cases are connected. This latest one, this girl named Janice, is older than any of the girls who have wound up in St. Isidore Forest,” Doolan said, sarcastically doing quote signs with his fingers in the air over the last three words of his sentence.

Doolan amazed even himself with his ability to lie with a straight face to the media, which in Swinging Izzy came down to one radio station, WSIR, and a popcorn fart of a TV station. Lumpy almost believed his own crap.

Doolan treated Adam with a little more respect than he would give most reporters. After all, Adam was a member of the police department. A reserve deputy isn’t very high up on the organizational chart. But Adam was on the chart, so he deserved a little bit of respect. A little bit.

“Are you even sure this girl, Alice, is missing?” Adam said. “Couldn’t she have been kidnapped? Her car was found in the parking lot behind Fred’s, where she worked. Other employees saw her leave, but she never got home.”

“Adam, if there was anything else I could say, I would say it. Especially to you, you’re one of us.” Doolan almost choked on that. “There is nothing else I can tell you at this time.”

Adam wondered if the overstuffed chairs on his side of the Chief’s desk were purposely lower than Doolan’s chair. The way Adam was sinking into it made him look up at Doolan like a five-year old would look up at his father. If he had any balls about him — brass, tin or copper — Adam would have stood up and faced the Chief across the desk man-to-man. Unfortunately, his courage meter showed there wasn’t much left in the tank.

Instead Doolan stood up and walked around the desk toward Adam whose feet flew in the air as he pushed himself out of the chair. Adam was off balance when he offered his right hand to the Chief, Doolan countered it with a not-so-kind pat and shove on the shoulder, sending Adam spinning toward the door.

“If you have any other questions, please pick up the phone and call,” said Doolan. “Don’t show up at my door like this again, okay?”

It was a question that did not require a response other than a nod of understanding and submission.

So much for my ambush of Police Chief Barry “Lumpy” Doolan.

Adam was driving back to WSIR without even a nugget of new information and his pride barely intact. But at least he had done it. He walked into Doolan’s office without an appointment and started asking questions.

Adam was feeling pretty good about himself when he saw a girl, probably mid-twenties, pretty, really pretty, walking with a tall, middle-aged, white guy.

Adam had seen him before.

But where? Damn!

Adam’s smartphone rang. It was Jason in the newsroom. Adam gave him a condensed version of the twenty minutes he spent with Chief Doolan, and learned that while he was in there getting nothing, the TV station, had finally picked up the story and splashed it on their website, right under the story about the St.Isidore Antique Festival.

That festival should empty out the town, Adam thought with one side of his brain. If you line all the antiques on one side of the town, there would hardly be anyone left on the other side.

What is that girl doing with that guy? Adam thought with the other side of his brain. Did he just push her?

With the other side of his brain, Adam set aside the Antique Festival sarcasm just in time to realize he had run a red light and veered into oncoming traffic.

Thinking quickly with only half a mind, Adam drove the WSIR news cruiser right into the side of the historical St. Isidore Fountain.

By the time the airbag deflated and Adam regained his senses, the young woman and the man were gone. But the memory remained.

Something was not right here.

“Wrecking the news car is not a great way to finish your day,” Jason laughed as he elbowed Adam.

“It’s not a great way to finish anything,” said Adam. And so ended another day in the trenches at WSIR, St. Isidore Radio, for Adam King who was more than ready to head home.

The next day started like most days. Adam blasted out of bed when the clock radio went off jarring him from a blessed few hours in another world that was much better then the one he called home.

Adam slept to escape. He dreamt to have fun.

He learned in high school that working in radio was all inside work with no heavy lifting, and Adam was sold.

Not long after throwing off his cap and gown, putting his diploma in a box that was long forgotten, Adam enrolled in broadcasting school, ready to be a star.

He never thought his life would wind up stuck in a small town and a small town radio station doing small town things.

Adam had dreams. Adam had goals. Adam had ambition.

Nearly forty years later, he still had all three but they had been watered down with age.

Another of his dreams — one that was more focused — had come true, almost. Adam was nearly a cop.

At least he had a place on the St. Isidore Police Department. Reserve deputy, true, but still a place.

Adam might be in his fifties, but he loved to hit the siren whenever he was allowed to drive a squad car.

Still he had never earned a full-time position on the force. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Yet, even now that he was past the half-century mark Adam was ready to try again to pass that damn physical conditioning test.

Brains weren’t the problem. What Adam suffered from, and it was getting worse every year of middle-age, was a severe lack of brawn.

He just has never been able to do it.

“Never had the upper body strength to climb the rope or do even one pull-up,” muttered Chief Doolan as he watched Adam struggling one more time, one more year to make the force.

“Never gives up, you gotta give him that,” said Sgt. Paul Desmond.

“Showing up only counts for so much.”

“Remember when we put him on marine patrol?”

“And that went great for a day until we realized he couldn’t swim.”

“Guess he forgot to tell us.”

“We figured it out when we had to save him”

Another year.

Another failure.

Optimism fading with his hairline, Adam had decided this year would be his last.

Still, Adam was not giving up his post in the reserve department.

They did let him drive prisoners to and from the courthouse in the squad car with the siren on.

However, the dream of becoming one of Swinging Izzy’s finest never left him, even as he made the one cup of coffee and two pieces of toast that he chewed, drank, and swallowed, every morning on the way out of his three-bedroom, only one, lonely-occupant house.

But, this morning, it didn’t matter how many pull-ups he could do. The dream was alive, again.

Anne rolled over as she heard Adam’s front door slam, his car door open and close and then his beast of four-wheeled internal combustion squeal out of the driveway and down their shared street.

She was naked and alone again, naturally, to paraphrase one of the circa-1970 songs she had done the horizontal bop to years ago with a fellow patient at a psychiatric hospital. Anne sighed and rolled over, sorry that the car across the street — what is that guy’s name? — had pushed her out of the safety of sleep and back into reality before the sun had risen.

It was the time of day when there was nothing to do but think, so it was a very lonely time of day for Anne.

Whenever she woke up a few hours before the sun came up, Anne worried. She fretted about the laundry detergent she had invented, the new suntan cream the chemist was still trying to work out, and whether she was going to be able to pay her four-person crew.

Of course the laundry soap was fine, her chemist would be able to meet the FDA regulations for the suntan cream and there would be plenty of money for payroll. It was set aside in the bank.

But still Anne worried.

That was her way.

But this morning she had something else on her mind. After she drew her mental checkmarks beside each item and put each to rest, she worried about Tim Sheldon.

It’s not like she was in love with Tim. Anne had promised herself and Tim, the former vow being more important to keep than the latter, that she would not fall in love. And while it wasn’t love, Anne had at the very least fallen into comfort and routine and damn didn’t it feel good to have a man beside her and inside her.

She had so missed that feeling. As distant as Tim could be when he was within inches of her, Anne felt better with him than any man she had been with.

Okay. That was an exaggeration right out of the romance books she used for as a substitute for real life some nights. Better put — at least Tim was a man, a life support system for a penis. Could be worse, and it had been, plenty worse.

On the occasions before the sun came up, when she was honest with herself, Anne was afraid it was going to get worse. Tim scared her.

There was something going on inside Tim. She could tell that. But middle-aged crazy is middle-aged normal as far as Anne could tell. But, who’s to say what’s normal?

And if she didn’t have secrets to protect, who did?

But this morning was the anniversary of Anne and Tim not being together for three weeks. He had not called her, but he never did. However, he always returned her calls when Anne left a message on his phone. But for the past three days, Tim hadn't return her calls.

Three times three.

Three calls over three days. None of them returned. Nine messages ignored.

Anne sighed. She knew the truth, the truth that only a dark, lonely morning can reveal.

Tim was history.

It’s not like he was the first to say adios.

But this one never left a note. That’s what bothered her. Anne didn’t mind failure. Each defeat was just a learning lesson for a business woman like Anne.

It wasn’t fun, and she didn’t buy the “what doesn’t kill you…” line or even worse “fail fast.”

However, Anne had always been able to turn defeat into a learning lesson, challenge into opportunity, and spin one victory to another.

But Tim had not even left a note.

Anne couldn’t live with that.

She would find out what happened.

She had to figure it out.

Anne rolled over and went back to sleep.

She was naked.

And, she was alone.


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