Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. Each week, a group of dedicated bloggers add a section to their wip using either a word or a picture for inspiration. This week, the word is BEAT. This post is a little longer than usual, but I promise it won’t disappoint.
For those of you following the story called, Hello Again, a paranormal/romance /suspense, Bill has left Shirley and Charley to go into the reservation’s town and see what he can learn about the triple tornado that devastated the area the previous day. He’s made it to Sintulata, and has spent most of the day helping the chief and his people.
Here’s today’s tale:
Bill and a few of the boys at the station had always referred to mobile home parks as “tornado magnets” and once again, they’d lived up to their name—the homes here either can-openered or tossed around like Matchbox toys. Some could be repaired and reset on their pilings; others would have to be replaced, but Mother Nature wouldn’t beat the owners down. No, they’d pull up their socks and put their lives in order once more. Prairie dwellers were a hardy, resilient bunch.
The biggest problem and the one that would take a while to sort out involved the infrastructure—roads, rail, and communication networks, all seriously damaged or destroyed. It would take weeks to get everything back to normal.
“Thank you for your help,” Emile said, looking every one of his seventy-five years. “We will get through this. Most of the men have returned from checking the outlying farms. So far, we’ve lost a lot of animals, but no people.”
“That’s good news.”
Bill had just finished speaking when a Honda motorcycle roared to a stop no more than ten feet from them.
“That’s my grandson, Leo. I sent him north.”
The young man, around eighteen years old, pulled off his helmet. He was pale, far whiter than he should be considering the heat of the day and the exhilaration of the bike ride.
The teenager hurried over to them, tears streaming down his face.
“What’s wrong, Leo?” Emile asked.
“Grandfather, it’s awful. I just came from the Caron farm. They’re all dead.”
“Who’s dead?” Bill interrupted.
“Francis, his wife, Aimée, and Jim. It’s like something out of the Zombie Apocalypse. They’re just lying there—the birds…”
The boy shook uncontrollably, the image he recalled too disturbing to put into words. It was amazing he’d managed to drive his bike back to town.
“What happened?” the old man said, deflating in size and stature with each word. “Were they caught outside in the tornado or did that ramshackle house collapse on them? I told Francis it wasn’t safe after that last storm.”
“Neither. It’s horrible,” the boy said, his face growing paler at the memory, and Bill’s stomach clenched. “They were lined up in front of the house—someone shot them. There’s a gun lying there near Jim’s hand. I didn’t touch it, I swear.” His words came out quickly, all jumbled together, barely recognizable. “The house and barn are gone—burned to the ground.”
“Son of a bitch,” Bill swore before he could stop himself.
Murder-suicide; just what I don’t need right now.
“Where’s the Caron place?” he asked, eying the clouds, thoughts of Charley and Shirley flashing through his mind, but he pushed them away. There was a crime scene to secure, and he’d better get it done before whatever was moving toward them arrived. At the very least, he needed to lock up that weapon.
“The Caron’s live up on the northern edge of the reserve, maybe twenty miles north of Shirley’s place,” Emile answered.
He turned to the boy. “Leo, how’s the road between here and there?”
“Torn up in a couple of places, but you can get by with an ATV.”
“Can you come back with us?” the old man asked.
The teen looked less than thrilled at the prospect, but nodded.
“Good. Hook up the gator to my ATV and we’ll all go. We need to bring the bodies back. We can’t let the coyotes get at them,” Emile said his voice strong, belying the devastation he’d felt at the news. He was the chief and these were his people. They needed him strong.
Bill had always admired the old man, but now he’d shown himself more than worthy of that respect.
Ten minutes later, Bill sat in the passenger seat while Emile drove the ATV, Leo leading the way on his motorcycle. Here and there they skirted sections of the road, but within half an hour, they pulled into the farm yard whose buildings were smoldering ruins. The fact that there was absolutely no sign of tornado damage bothered Bill. Someone had deliberately torched the barn and the house.
“Stay back here,” Bill said to Leo, the buzz of the blowflies loud, still recognizable over the angry call of the carrion birds scattered by their arrival, indicating this would be a far from pleasant sight.
Bill led the way to the bodies already bloating in the heat. Each one was face down in the dirt. No doubt they’d been kneeling, probably praying and begging for mercy.
Mr. and Mrs. Caron had taken a bullet in the back of the head, up close, but what startled Bill was the fact that the third body had as well. Not the usual placement of a self-inflicted gunshot. You had to be a serious contortionist to pull off something like that.
Using his phone, he snapped a picture and then reached for the gun in the dirt, surprised to find it wasn’t even a real weapon but a first class replica of an old Smith and Wesson.
What the hell happened here?
He turned to Emile, his gut churning. “There’s no suicide here. These people were murdered. What can you tell me about them?”
Emile looked down at the bodies and shook his head. “The boy’s been troubled for some time. Went into the city to find work—found drugs instead. His father and uncles went to get him only a few weeks ago. There was quite a scene, but the boy’s only sixteen, still a minor.”
“Was he selling?”
The elderly man shrugged. “There were rumors, but no one could prove anything.”
“Okay.” Bill walked around the front yard, stopping when he spotted what appeared to be motorcycle tire tracks in the dirt.
“Leo, did you drive up here?”
He was certain he knew the answer, but needed to check.
“No, sir,” the boy’s voice was barely a whisper.
Bill snapped several pictures of the tracks and the crime scene before helping Emile put the bodies into the bags.
Leo stood over to the side, his stomach not at all ready for what he was seeing. The poor kid would probably have nightmares for months.
“What do you think happened?” Emile asked as they placed the last body in the gator.
“This was an execution—probably the parents first and then the young man. They might’ve been looking for drugs or money, but considering they burned everything to the ground, I’d say they were pissed because they didn’t have whatever they wanted.”
“Do you think it could be that motorcycle gang that bothered Shirley?”
He nodded, “But I hope to hell I’m wrong.”
Emile pursed his lips and shook his head. They boarded the ATV and headed back to Sintulata. By the time they arrived, lightening was visible in the distance. After placing the bodies in the hospital’s basement morgue, an area two floors down that, while it had no power, would stay dry despite the impending storm, Bill saddled the spirit horse.
“Why don’t you stay the night?” Emile asked. “You’ll never make it back to Shirley’s before the storm hits.
“I know,” Bill answered, “but I have to try. If those guys are the same ones, they’ve got a bone to pick with her. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to those two women. I’ll be back tomorrow. We’ll get the rest of your injured sent to Regina, and I’ll have a forensic team sent out to look at the Caron place.”
He mounted the horse and turned west, giving the animal its head.
As if it knew how important haste was, the horse flew over the field.
Thirty minutes later, a good fifteen minutes from Shirley’s house, Bill stared in horror at the horizon ahead of him. Lightening lit the sky and thunder shook the earth, but it was the plumes of smoke in the distance that stilled his heart and stole his breath.
I know–hell of a place to stop, but … please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales.