The Devil's Freight

Discussion in 'The Drivers Lounge' started by RickyRicardo, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “Well, Billy, I can just ‘up and disappear.’ I’ve done it before and I intend to do it again. But before I get into that and make my proposal to you, let me describe what I have been doing during the last five hours in addition to making Jud’s burial arrangements.”

    Isaac called an old country lawyer in Somerset whom he knew to be reliable. If he was annoyed by the early hour of the call he didn’t allow it to show; quite the opposite in fact when he learned of the fees he stood to collect.

    The old country lawyer was in good stead with an auctioning agency equipped to handle farm and estate sales and he agreed to contact the agency as soon as they were available that morning.

    The items available for immediate auction were Isaac’s house, barn, assorted buildings and equipment, including the Ford coupe and the entire one hundred sixty acres it all rested on.

    Proceeds of the sale were to be forwarded to another, not so country, lawyer in Louisville who had the ability to transfer the funds to an out of state account designated by Isaac.

    A man in Georgetown was called next. This man had shown a strong interest in Isaac’s horses over the past year, particularly the two Thoroughbreds in his stable. Isaac made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The rancher promised to be there at four o’clock with cash for both Thoroughbreds and the three Arabians.

    He next contacted all of his truck drivers with the exception of Billy and a driver currently unloading in Indiana who was due to return early afternoon. He informed each of them that he regretted having to terminate their employment. He told them they could come by and collect whatever was owed to them in full. He also told them they were free to keep their assigned tractor and trailer and become independent truckers if they chose to do so. He would sign the titles over free and clear and give them recommendations to his current customers. He knew one of them would be going full blown outlaw but that would be his choice.

    Isaac’s final telephone call was to yet another attorney, this one in Roanoke, Virginia. He informed him he would be taking residence soon in his home remotely tucked away in the Shenandoah mountains.

    Isaac gave Billy recap of his morning, omitting the location of his hideaway for the time being.
    “How many took the truck?” Billy asked.

    “Everyone except Simmons. He said he was going to work for his father-in-law where his wife has been wanting him to work all along. It pays less but he will be home every night and keep peace in the family. Something to be said for that.

    “What I have to offer you is confidential. It doesn’t go beyond this porch. I trusted you with my life yesterday but I still have to make sure we are clear on this,” Isaac told him.
    “Yes, sir, of course.”

    Isaac picked up an unmarked business sized manila envelope, bound with a thick cord, from the smooth plank floor at his feet. He held it loosely in his hands as he offered Billy his proposal.

    “To put it simply, I want you to come with me. I need a good man and you’ve admitted you have nothing to hold you back, no one to miss you. I have Samson, of course, but he’s not as versatile as I would like. Besides, he doesn’t exactly blend in to a crowd, which is sometimes necessary in certain types of work.

    “I’ll pay you well. You’ve proven to have the skills I need and I will teach you more as we go along. You will be paid well, along with meals and a roof over your head.”
    Isaac paused to let that sink in before handing Billy the envelope.

    “If you would rather not go with me, the Diamond Reo and the trailer are yours. The envelope is yours regardless of what you decide. You’ve earned it.”

    Billy untied the cord securing the flap of the envelope. He couldn’t hide his astonishment as he peered inside. He had seen hundred dollar bills before, but never that many at once, not even delivering a COD load of hot whiskey. The stack of bills was tightly wound with a rubber band and he didn’t need to count it to know it was more than he would have expected to earn at one time in this lifetime.

    “I don’t know what to say, boss.”

    “Just say yes.”

    And thus a partnership was born.
     
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  2. RacerX69

    RacerX69 Retired Gear Jammer/IBEW Retired/Wingnut

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    Ricky, you have made me come to like the villain in this story. That is such a great talent, being able to write a story so well that the reader is moved to have these kinds of feelings about the characters.

    Nice work so far.

    I eagerly await the next chapter!
     
  3. Mrclean091

    Mrclean091 Member

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    Hey racer. With that said you may wonder who the villain is. Besides the boy... Everyone is a villain. Only Isaac we see as being abused in earlier times.
    Yes I like Isaac too. Strange huh.
     
  4. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    SEVEN



    Steve Whalen was enjoying the view from his back deck while drinking his second cup of coffee when his cell phone rang at exactly eight-thirty Saturday morning and spooked the white tail doe a mere fifty feet from where he sat. He no longer wondered how he might spend his day, for the weekend dispatcher wouldn’t be calling him for an idle chat.

    “Detective Whalen here,” Steve answered.

    “Mornin’ Steve. I hate calling you at home on Saturday but this sounds like it could be bad,” Shawna said. She was a part time dispatcher with the Hatchet County Sheriff’s Department.

    “Don’t ever hesitate to call me, Shawna. What’s going on?”

    “Willy Davis is over at the Interstate Plaza and there’s a dead guy in a truck.”

    “Interstate Plaza?”

    “You know, that little shopping center on 224 out by the interstate, has a Dairy Queen out front?”

    “Huh, long as I been here I never knew it had a name.”

    “Most people don’t. Anyway, Willy is pretty much freaking out and I figured you would be interested.”

    “Yes, I am, Shawna. Did he give you a description on the truck?”

    “He just said it was a big eighteen wheeler and the guy was dead behind the wheel. Oh, and he said he was already interviewing somebody.”

    “I’m on the way over there, ETA ten minutes. Get Willy on the radio and tell him to not let anybody leave the scene and for God’s sake don’t let anybody touch anything.”

    Steve didn’t bother with lights or siren for the twelve mile drive through the countryside from his cabin to Interstate Plaza for traffic was light to nonexistent, as it was most any other day of the week.

    As he slowed for the right turn into the plaza, Steve caught a glimpse in his side mirror of a black and white Kentucky State Police cruiser coming off the interstate exit ramp behind him.

    When Steve parked next to his deputy’s squad car the state car pulled in on his other side. He was pleased to see the man behind the wheel was one he knew and respected. Sergeant Oscar Hicks was a veteran law man who could very well be an asset here for Steve wasn’t the type to shy away from a helping hand when it was offered.

    “Mornin, Sarge,” Steve said over the roof of his Mustang as the six feet, five inch Kentucky native unfolded from his vehicle.

    “Howdy, Steve. I picked up the radio transmission and figured you wouldn’t mind if I dropped by to take a gander.”

    “No, sir, don’t mind a bit. Let’s go and see what my deputy has uncovered over here,” Steve said, motioning to where Willy Davis, note pad and pen in hand, was talking to two overall clad men who were presumably the operators of the garbage truck that was nosed up to the red Freightliner with the apparently deceased driver slumped back against the door glass at an awkward angle.

    “Are these your witnesses, Willy?” Steve asked, as he and Oscar approached the men standing by the garbage truck.

    “Yes, sir. They said…well, be better if they just told you what they just told me.”

    “My name is Steve Whalen and I’m the homicide investigator for Hatchet county and I’m going to be recording this conversation. Just letting y’all know,” he told them, displaying the small recorder he had withdrawn from his pocket.

    “Well, go ahead,” Steve prompted, for the pair of sanitation workers just stared at him.

    The one with Jimbo sewn above his shirt pocket began speaking. “We don’t normally collect on Saturdays but we had a truck broke down yesterday and had to make up on some stops that got missed. When we got here it was about eight-fifteen so we was already runnin’ late when we seen this rig blocking the dumpster.

    “At first I thought he was just getting a little nap, so I told Bucky here to just pull up to him like this and blow the horn. Well, that’s what we done, ‘cept he never flinched. That’s when I got out to bang on the door, but then I seen his face and I just, I just couldn’t believe what I was lookin’ at.”

    It occurred to Steve then that it wasn’t a random decision that Jimbo and Bucky were standing with their backs to the semi.

    “Did you touch the door or anything else on the truck?” Steve asked.

    “No, sir, I didn’t. I got the hell away from there is what I did. Then I told Bucky to call the police since my cell phone is busted and he called 9-1-1.”

    Steve knew the rest since there were no dedicated 9-1-1 operators in this rural area; all calls went directly to the sheriff’s office.

    “You did good Jimbo. Now I know you boys are already running behind, but you might as well skip this pick up and move on. There’s no telling when this truck gets moved since it’s now part of an investigation. Just give Officer Davis here your phone numbers so we can reach you if we have to.”

    Oscar was standing by the truck cab, slipping on a pair of latex gloves when Steve walked over. “I think one of us ought to go in through the passenger side and hold onto this fella before we open this door. The way he’s positioned, he’s liable to try to fall out otherwise,” Oscar suggested.

    Buddy was slumped back and toward the door, his left shoulder against the window and his head bent forward, forehead almost touching the glass. The source of Jimbo’s distress became clear upon seeing Buddy’s face. His eyelids were open, revealing only the whites as the eyeballs had rolled upwards. A viscous film such as neither of the cops had ever seen had formed on the eyeballs. The swollen purple tongue protruded from his mouth like the fat head of a cottonmouth snake emerging from a stagnant pond.

    “Holy Jesus,” Oscar whispered. “When I picked up the call I was thinking heart attack, which is more common than one might think among long haul truckers, but this isn’t like any heart attack I’ve ever seen. Who the hell knows what this is?”
     
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  5. RacerX69

    RacerX69 Retired Gear Jammer/IBEW Retired/Wingnut

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    The plot thickens . . . . . .
     
  6. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    I have rewritten the last entry entirely but mostly a few style changes so the basic content wasn't affected. I won't be reposting all of it but there will be some overlap to include some additions I feel add to the story.

    Thank-you for your patience.



    “Are these your witnesses, Willy?” Steve asked, as he and Oscar approached the men standing by the garbage truck.

    “Yes, sir. They said…well, be better if they just told you what they just told me.”

    “My name is Steve Whalen and I’m the homicide investigator for Hatchet county and I’m going to be recording this conversation. It’s being witnessed by Sergeant Oscar Hicks of he Kentucky State Police. Just letting y’all know,” he told them, displaying the small recorder he had withdrawn from his pocket.

    “Well, go ahead,” Steve prompted, for the pair of sanitation workers just stared at him.

    The one with Jimbo sewn above his shirt pocket began speaking. “We don’t normally collect on Saturdays but we had a truck broke down yesterday and had to make up on some stops that got missed. When we got here it was about eight-fifteen so we was already runnin’ late when we seen this rig blocking the dumpster.

    “At first I thought he was just getting a little nap, so I told Bucky here to just pull up to him like this and blow the horn. Well, that’s what we done, ‘cept he never flinched. That’s when I got out to bang on the door, but then I seen his face and I just…I just couldn’t believe what I was lookin’ at.”

    It occurred to Steve at that point that it wasn’t a random decision that Jimbo and Bucky were standing with their backs to the semi.

    “Did you touch the door or anything else on the truck?” Steve asked.

    “Hell, no…I mean no, sir, I didn’t. I got the hell away from there is what I did. Then I told Bucky to call the police since my cell phone is busted and he called 9-1-1.”

    Steve knew the rest since there were no dedicated 9-1-1 operators in this rural area; all calls went directly to the sheriff’s office.

    “You did good Jimbo. Now I know you boys are already running behind, but you might as well skip this pick-up and move on. There’s no telling when this truck gets moved since it’s now part of an investigation. Just give Officer Davis here your phone numbers so we can reach you if we have to.”

    Oscar was standing by the truck cab, slipping on a pair of latex gloves when Steve walked over. “I think one of us ought to go in through the passenger side and hold onto this fella before we open this door. The way he’s positioned, he’s liable to try to fall out otherwise,” Oscar suggested.

    Buddy was slumped back and toward the door, his left shoulder against the window and his head bent forward, forehead almost touching the glass. The source of Jimbo’s distress became clear upon seeing Buddy’s face. His eyelids were open, revealing only the whites as the eyeballs had rolled upwards. A viscous film such as neither of the cops had ever seen had formed on the eyeballs. The swollen purple tongue protruded from his mouth like the fat head of a cottonmouth snake emerging from a stagnant pond. The face was devoid of color, blood having drained from the lower extremities, and had taken on the oily sheen of melted candle wax.

    “Holy Jesus,” Oscar whispered. “When I picked up the call I was thinking heart attack, which is more common than one might think among long haul truckers, but this isn’t like any heart attack I’ve ever seen. Who the hell knows what this is?”

    The odor that struck Steve brought back unwelcome memories of his time in Nashville where finding a homicide or suicide victim in a closed up house or apartment wasn’t all that uncommon. Even sadder was the discovery of an elderly person who had died alone of an illness, so alone in life that there were no friends or family members to miss them for days, or even weeks. Despite the cool fall night, the enclosed cab temperature was in the seventies, which did nothing to slow the inevitable process of decomposition.

    He opened the door slowly, cognizant of the unlikely but nonetheless real possibility of an armed, living occupant prepared to ambush him. He once encountered a ten year old boy with a nine millimeter pistol hiding under his bed as his father was being arrested for cocaine possession. The boy’s vigilance wasn’t in defending his Dad but in his reluctance to being shipped to a state facility, for he had no other family. Fortunately for Steve the kid had failed to rack a round into the chamber before squeezing the trigger, a lesson that wasn’t lost on either of them.

    Steve climbed the steps stealthily, ignoring the dead trucker for the time being, while focusing his attention on the sleeper compartment, easing to his feet to peer over the edge of the upper bunk. Satisfied that he was he only living occupant of the vehicle, he focused on the deceased for the first time. He was subconsciously keeping his breathing shallow, an ingrained habit of his former crime scene investigations, but that typically only delayed the eventual inhalation of the dreadful stench. It was a rare cop who didn’t lose his last meal facing this experience for the first time.

    Steve did a cursory scan of the cab for any obvious signs of drug or alcohol use or any firearms, of which there was none, before turning his attention to the deceased.

    There were no signs of a struggle; no torn clothing, no visible bruises or scratches, no blood splatter that would indicate a gunshot wound.

    “Ready?” Oscar asked from outside of the driver’s door.

    “Give me a minute. I have an idea,” Steve answered. Even with gloved hands, he was reluctant to risk Doc Hawkins’ wrath by unnecessarily touching the body.

    Reaching over the inert trucker Steve grasped the shoulder harness, carefully draping it across the body before clicking the lock into lace. He then reeled in the slack before locking the belt down.

    “Okay, Sarge, let’s see what we got here.”

    Steve kept a grip on the harness as Oscar eased the door open, keeping the passenger stationary. Oscar slid his hand behind the driver searching for a wallet in the left rear pocket. When he found none he asked Steve to check the other side; none there either. Nor could one be found in the glove box or overhead storage bins. There was no cell phone either.

    Oscar did have a stroke of luck when he searched the map compartment in the driver’s door, finding the bill of lading for the now missing load of whiskey.

    “This looks like something that might be useful,” Oscar announced.

    “That’s good, because there sure don’t seem to be any clues to this guy’s identity, or anything else for that matter, in here.”

    Oscar closed the driver’s door but Steve left the other door open after exiting the cab, thinking Doc wouldn’t mind the attempt to let some outside air in.

     
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  7. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “This is fresh paper, time stamped with yesterday’s date, and the tractor and trailer numbers match up,” Oscar explained as he marched to the end of the trailer.

    The hollow sound they heard as he unlatched the doors told him what he already suspected. The trailer was empty.

    “I’m guessing there was a load of whiskey in here,” Steve said as he looked over the paperwork.

    “It could be argued that it was legitimately delivered but there’s no way this rig has been to Plano, Texas and back in seventeen hours,” Oscar said.

    “Not to mention the fact of us not knowing who the driver is or even if he is indeed the actual driver.”
    “#### good point, Steve. Once they get the dead guy out of the way we can check the truck’s activity on the Qualcomm,” Oscar said as they walked back to the front of the rig.

    “Well, would you just look at this? Holy ####, I don’t believe it.” Seeing Steve’s confusion, he explained. “As if things weren’t unclear enough already, somebody has severed the cable to the unit, which is roughly equal to removing the hard drive from a laptop. Not only will the information not be available to us here, but the company will have no record of the truck’s movements since the time the cable was cut.”

    Before Steve could respond Willy trotted over bearing his notepad and cellphone with a facial expression that was oddly hesitant and triumphant.

    “Detective Whalen, pardon me for interrupting y’all but I might have something here,” Willy said.

    “Go ahead and tell us, Willy. What is it?”

    “Well, I heard y’all saying you couldn’t find a wallet so I called Shawna and gave her the name off the side of the truck and she got me a phone number. I hope that was alright?”

    “Yes, it was alright, Willy. Now please continue,” Steve said, trying to hide his exasperation.

    “Okay, I called this company, OnTime Transport of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I got ahold of a weekend dispatcher named Doug. He said the driver assigned to that unit is Buddy Hinton, age thirty-six, from Kent, Michigan, which is almost Grand Rapids.”

    Steve was nodding, pleased so far with the young patrolman. “Now you realize at this point we have no idea if we actually have the assigned driver. Right now we don’t have much of anything.”

    “Yes, sir, I picked up on that. I figured they had to have pictures of their employees, or at least of their drivers licenses. Well, Doug tells me he doesn’t have access to that information on account of it’s Saturday and nobody is in HR.”

    Willy hesitated before continued, a sheepish grin forming on his lips. This time Steve didn’t urge him on, as anxious as he was to hear what was coming next.

    “That’s when I told him this thing is on the verge of becoming a Federal investigation and unless he wants the FBI knocking down his door we better have a picture in our FAX tray in an hour or less.”

    For a beat neither Oscar nor Steve spoke or altered their poker face expressions. This scared Willy, who was now convinced he seriously overstepped his bounds.

    “Guess what, Willy,” Steve said.

    “What’s that, sir?” he answered, somewhat fearfully.

    “You spoke the truth.”

    “I did?”

    “Yep. This load originated in Kentucky and was destined for Texas. That makes it an interstate shipment and that’s a Federal offense. And if it is proven that this man was murdered, in conjunction with the theft, that makes another Federal offense.”

    “That’s a fact,” Oscar said. “Y’all are going to have them boys in black suits and dark sunshades swarming like ants around here.”

    Steve groaned inwardly at the thought of circus atmosphere that would ensue with the influx of outsiders to his once peaceful environment. But conversely he accepted the fact that his rural department lacked the resources to be half as efficient as the Feds were capable of being at solving these crimes. Crimes that found their way here by some cruel twist of fate.

    “You did good at gathering that information, Willy. But did you tell your contact to absolutely not notify next of kin, or anyone else for that matter who is not directly involved in obtaining the picture? I’m sure you can grasp the ramifications involved if this is the wrong guy.”

    Willy paled as he hurriedly hit redial on his cell phone, clearly embarrassed over his rookie mistake.

    In the meantime Oscar wrote out a quick note for Willy to ask the dispatcher for the time and location of the truck’s last known movement and to notify him that the Quallcom was permanently disabled. It wasn’t much, but they could possibly gain a clue of the vehicle’s previous location.

    *
     
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  8. RacerX69

    RacerX69 Retired Gear Jammer/IBEW Retired/Wingnut

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    Nice to see you back Ricky.

    And great to read another installment to this fantastic story!
     
  9. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Willy handed his note pad to Oscar as he ended his call. “Doug told me he would print out a transcript of the truck’s movements for the prior week and send it to us ASAP, in case we thought it would be helpful.”

    “Willy, see that pretty blonde with the PayLess tag on her shirt?” Steve said as Oscar began reading what Willy had written on his notepad.

    “Yes, sir.”

    “I want you to interview her and gather up Snipes and Jones and send them around to the other stores, including the Dairy Queen,” Steve said, indicating the newly arrived patrol car. He felt Shawna must have read his mind for he was about to call her for reinforcements.

    “Make sure to ask about any movement of this rig or anybody around it. And get numbers for anybody who was working last night. Matter of fact, get a number from everybody you talk to.”

    “Yes, sir, I’m on it.”

    Oscar Hicks had a look on his face that told Steve a serious matter was about to be discussed, as if this situation was lacking drama already.

    “Riddle me this, Detective. According to our man Doug up in Indiana, the last time this truck moved was when it was parked at this very spot at 1912 HRS last night. The coordinates match this location.”

    Steve gave him a look that said so?

    “These bills were time stamped at the distillery at 1728, which gave him just enough time to drive from there to here.” Seeing Steve’s curious stare he said, “You still don’t get it, do you?”

    A light clicked on in Steve’s eyes. “Where did the liquor go? He surely didn’t have time to stop anywhere to unload it.”

    “Bingo! Unless it got offloaded here, but that just doesn’t feel right.”

    Before Steve could respond the state medical van arrived at the scene. Despite Steve’s initial misgiving, Doctor Eli Hawkins seemed affable enough as he emerged from the van and greeted the two lawmen.

    “Good morning, gentlemen. What seems to be the focus of our attention on this fine morning? Y’all should have seen that large mouth bass you caused me to abandon my pursuit of,” he said, spreading his hands apart at shoulder level about three feet. “I could have fed my numerous grandchildren all weekend on that one.”

    Before anyone could respond he walked closer to the truck, getting a closer view of Buddy’s face against the glass.

    “Oh, I see now. You boys were right to call me,” he said, waving his arm in a motion aimed at his crew. “Come on fellas, let’s get him down from there and take a look see.”

    As Eli and his crew began the removal and examination of the trucker they now called Buddy, Steve and Oscar stepped away, seeking some privacy to continue their theorizing of the missing freight.

    “You don’t think this is related to that deal up in Lebanon Junction a few years ago, do you?” Steve asked Oscar.

    He was referring to a series of thefts that occurred at a truckstop not far from the well known distilleries at Bardstown, where truckers tended to stop for a nap or meal break upon getting their whiskey loads.

    Truckers would awaken to find cargo missing and call the police. After a few months of this a small group of guys, aged nineteen to twenty-six, were caught red handed by an undercover cop. They could have closed the case sooner but were trying to follow the merchandise to its eventual buyers. It turned out the thieves were strictly amateurs and were selling it by the bottle to random acquaintances directly from their homes.

    “That was small time stuff, just kids really. They took no more than would fit in the bed of a pickup truck, sometimes twenty cases or less. Nah, this is different.Something strange is going on here that I can’t put my finger on yet.”

    “I just don’t see that volume of freight being transferred right here without somebody noticing. Maybe our interviews will turn something up, but I’m with you. I just don’t see it,” Steve said.

    “Excuse me, gentlemen,” Eli Hawkins said as he approached. “I presume y’all may have been inside the vehicle already since that is your nature, but I recommend you get back in there and conduct a thorough, but careful search. And I stress careful.

    “Just what are you getting at, Doc?” Oscar asked.

    “Come over here and I will show you,” Hawkins said, leading them to the body, now resting on a stretcher.

    “Is that what I think it is?” Oscar asked upon seeing the snakebite wound on Buddy’s inner forearm, the shirt sleeve having been cut away.

    “If you think it is a snake’s bite you are correct. But what should surprise you is the type of snake that did this. See how close together those fang marks are?Any poisonous snake from this neck of the woods, this entire continent even,will have a considerably wider spread. Without the benefit of an exact lab analysis I can still deduce with some degree of certainty that our little killer was what is generically known as a pit viper, indigenous to India and Pakistan.”

    The wound itself had everyone except Eli enthralled. The pair of fang marks had erupted into what could best be described as purple volcanos with the overlapping diameter of dimes. What was once a creamy yellow discharge had dried into something resembling a crusty sulfur deposit. The surrounding skin was the worst blue-black bruise shade imaginable, fading into a bizarre green tinge along the perimeter.








     
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  10. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Steve shivered at the possibility that the pit viper responsible for this man’s apparently horrible death was holed up in the vehicle that he had just so casually entered and poked around in. The grim look that passed between him and Oscar confirmed the patrolman was reading his thoughts.

    With that in mind Steve marched over to the Dollar General store located across the parking lot from the PayLess. Jeffery Snipes was interviewing a cashier as he entered the store. Steve gave him a curt nod as he passed by without slowing, intent on finding the most protective gloves available for his upcoming task.

    After navigating the narrow aisles jammed with inexpensive merchandise he chanced upon the glove rack near the rear of the store. He chose a pair of rugged cowhide gloves featuring stiff, canvas type cuffs that reached nearly to his elbows. He figured he would wear his windbreaker with the cuffs outside of the sleeves. He briefly considered buying some safety glasses as well but decided odds were low that the serpent would attempt to strike his eyes, although he had nothing to base this on.

    Almost at the register he did an about face to search for the glasses, admitting to himself that his true reluctance to wear them was based on a macho sentiment. Screw that, let’s protect those peepers.

    After selecting a pair of industrial style, hard plastic safety glasses Steve decided on another purchase, this one from the electronics section.

    “Just the man I was looking for,” Steve told Willy Davis as he stepped from the store out onto the sidewalk.

    “Iwas just waiting on Snipes to finish here so I could take him to Dairy Queen with me. I figure there would be a good crowd in there on Saturday morning and we could team up. I planned on letting Jones get the veterinary office and the consignment shop down in the corner which are probably the least busy places.”

    “Good plan, Willy. Here you go, take this with you,” Steve said, handing Willy the digital voice recorder he had just purchased in the Dollar General.

    “Oh, you’ll need to put these in,” handing him a pack of batteries from the shopping bag.

    “Thanks, Detective Whalen. I really appreciate this,” Willy said.

    “If you ever end up in court, it can prove to be mighty handy.”

    “Do you think this could end up in court?”

    “I have no idea where this is going, Willy. But we need to keep our bases covered is all I’m saying.”

    Steve suited up in his impromptu snake hunting outfit before doing a thorough search of the Freightliner using a flashlight for shadowy corners and a patrolman’s night stick for poking and prodding into places he dared not place his hands, despite the heavy cowhide gloves.

    Fortunately, there was no critter to be found, which only added to the compounding mystery.Where did it come from and where did it go? How did it find itself in a man’s buttoned long sleeved shirt?

    By the time the truck search was completed Shawna had emailed a photograph of Buddy Hinton to Steve’s Android. It was taken at his company orientation sixteen months earlier. There was no doubt as to the identity of the snake bit truck driver on the stretcher.

    “I’ve done it more times than I care to remember. There’s no easy way to do it and the outcome is never pleasant,” Steve told Oscar.

    “I know all about it. We had a church van lose it on an icy bridge down near Hazard years ago. The preacher was the driver and the only fatality. His wife didn’t make the trip because she had slipped on an icy porch step and broken her ankle the week before. They had been married forty-six years. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done; facing that woman in her home and telling her that her husband had died so tragically.”

    There was an awkward moment of silence before Steve spoke. “I really don’t know the protocol with the next of kin being out of state. I’ll have to discuss it with the Sheriff. If I have to fly to Michigan, so be it. Whoever this man has up there deserves more than a phone call.”
     
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  11. pilot87

    pilot87 Well-Known Member

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    Well written Story RickyRicardo!.... Interesting read! .. Thank you!

    Americas got talent and so does Truckingboards!... Keep up the great works...
     
  12. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    EIGHT

    He was known simply as Preacher in the obscure rural towns where he showed up unannounced with no fanfare, often during a tent revival week, just drifting in like a predawn fog; one that you see from your window in the morning, never questioning its presence or intentions. Nor does one ever notice the departure of fog. It just isn’t there anymore.

    The Preacher preferred Appalachian towns such as Bent Fork, Kentucky or Sparrow, West Virginia, for their isolation and purity of spirit. He would sometimes venture north into places like Knockemstiff, Ohio or Low Creek, Pennsylvania.

    It was all the same to him, for there were needy people everywhere. But the ones he sought weren’t apt to accept charity from strangers or the government. They would, however, accept a blessing from the Lord, or in this case, one they sincerely believed to be bestowed by the Lord’s representative.

    *

    He sat in one of the metal folding chairs near the rear of the tent that was packed with humanity, nearly all white, poor, and thirsty to hear the gospel as issued forth by the Reverend Johnathan Goode from Waco, Texas. He took his show on the road via a forty year old tour bus that belched thick black diesel smoke wherever it went. The paint was faded from the elements of nature and countless miles but it was clearly pink. It was rumored the old bus once belonged to a girl group from the Motown sixties that faded into obscurity. The disrepair and appearance of the vehicle bolstered Goode’s claim that he worked for the Lord, not for material gain.

    That idealism didn’t extend to his clothing, however. Tonight his white linen suit practically glowed under the spotlights erected on the plywood stage, his shoes glowing as if under their own volition. The rubies in his cuff links matched the one in his tie pin. The jewels on his hands could have financed a new bus with fingers left over. His hair, all his except for perhaps the color, was as perfect as any ever bestowed upon a human being.

    The reverend would probably tell anybody with the nerve to question his flamboyancy that he merely wanted eyes focused on him in order to more effectively deliver his message of faith, love, and hope.

    The man in the cheap suit dropped a wrinkled dollar bill into the offering plate as it came by under the watchful eyes of one of Goode’s entourage. The man noted one of the bouncer looking types would empty the plate every third or fourth row into a burlap sack before sending it across a new row of seats. It was Friday and by the grand finale on Sunday they would be dumping the plate at every row.

    The man they knew as Preacher would begin his work on Monday, the pink bus moved on by then to fleece another flock.
     
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  13. Mrclean091

    Mrclean091 Member

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  14. RacerX69

    RacerX69 Retired Gear Jammer/IBEW Retired/Wingnut

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    So Ricky, what's next for our pal Issac, the intrepid Detective Whalen, and whatever happened to Buddy Hinton's son?
     
  15. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    I haven't forgotten and have actually gotten some work done on it over the past few days. It's taken me longer than I imagined to get my head right; not so much a loss of imagination, but more a matter of staying focused.

    I'm looking forward to being able to get on a roll again, which hopefully is in the process of happening.
     
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  16. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    1. Chapter Eight revision and addition
    2. He was known simply as Preacher in the obscure mountain towns where he showed up unannounced with no fanfare, often during a tent revival week, just drifting in like a predawn fog; one that you see from your window in the morning, never questioning its presence or intentions. Nor does one ever notice the departure of fog. It just isn’t there anymore.

    3. Preacher preferred Appalachian towns such as Bent Fork, Kentucky or Sparrow, West Virginia, for their isolation and purity of spirit. He would sometimes venture north into places like Knockemstiff, Ohio or Low Creek, Pennsylvania.

    4. It was all the same to him, for there were needy people everywhere. But the ones he sought weren’t apt to accept charity from strangers or the government. They would, however, accept a blessing from the Lord, or in this case, one they sincerely believed to be bestowed by the Lord’s representative.
    5. *
      Preacher sat in one of the metal folding chairs near the rear of the tent that was packed with humanity, nearly all white, poor, and thirsty to hear the gospel as issued forth by the Reverend Johnathan Goode from Waco, Texas. He took his show on the road via a forty year old tour bus that belched thick black diesel smoke wherever it went. The paint was faded from the elements of nature and countless miles but it was clearly pink, or once was anyway. It was rumored the old bus once belonged to a girl group from the Motown sixties that faded into obscurity. The disrepair and appearance of the vehicle bolstered Goode’s claim that he worked for the Lord, not for material gain.

    6. That idealism didn’t extend to his clothing, however. Tonight his white linen suit practically glowed under the spotlights mounted on the plywood stage, his shoes glowing brilliantly as if they were electrified. The rubies in his cuff links matched the one in his tie pin. The jewels on his hands could have financed a new bus with fingers left over. His hair, all his except for perhaps the color, was as perfect as any ever bestowed upon a human being and was tended to by his personal stylist.

    7. The reverend would probably tell anybody with the nerve to question his flamboyancy that he merely wanted eyes focused on him in order to more effectively deliver his message of faith, love, and hope.What he didn’t tell them were the true reasons he played the small rural venues such as this one.

      *
     
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  17. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    1. In the eighties, Johnathan Goode was Jeremy Goodlet. He played the big circuit then: Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, New Orleans, Charlotte. He could fill the big stadiums nearly anywhere, but preferred working in the south. His message was better received there. He considered them his people.

    2. Reverend Goodlet was well respected then. The governor of Mississippi once came to meet him at an event in Jackson. The mayor of Chattanooga gave him the key to the city. His proudest moment was dining with the Reverend Billy Graham in Charlotte.

    3. Cocaine was all the rage in the eighties. It was the ultimate party favor. A lot of folks used it, or at least tried it at one time or another. Teenagers, teachers, bikers, gangsters, cops and housewives. Even the Reverend Goodlet would partake in the alluring crystalline concoction.

    4. He had staff members acquire it for him whenever they arrived in town, and being the quasi rock star he was, he often didn’t even have to pay for it. Sometimes delightful young women would insist on sharing the gifts they brought their king and that was a welcome bonus.

    5. The party ended abruptly on Interstate 10 one sunny June afternoon as Goodlet and crew were travelling from their gig in Miami, Florida, en route to a one nighter in Mobile before heading home to Texas for an extended break.

    6. The Florida State Police had other plans for the folks in the million dollar Prevost luxury bus.
     
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  18. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    1. Heads up boss. The voice coming through the intercom was calm and businesslike. The driver wasn’t worried. Not worried about doing eighty in a seventy. Not worried about the two young women who hopped aboard outside of Pensacola. Nor was he worried about the ounce of cocaine that hopped aboard in Fort Lauderdale. The boss could handle it. He always did.

    2. Hey boss, got a copy? A little urgency now as the cruiser closed in tight on the shiny land yacht.

    3. The boss was busy inhaling a fat rail of blow at the moment from a silver serving tray, a gift, ironically, from the wife of the police chief of Arlington, Virginia. She became an ardent fan after he addressed the Christians Against Drugs convention in Washington DC the prior summer.

    4. His new friend Candi squeezed his inner thigh as he threw his head back, face flushed from his rising blood pressure, enjoying the drain of the residue as it made its way down the back of his throat, the coke rush kicking into high gear.

    5. Hey boss! This is ####### serious. Get your ### up here. Urgency became panic in only a few beats of the driver’s heart when he recognized the vehicle closing in on the state patrol car for what it was. The driver wasn’t exactly a choir boy when Goodlet hired him and he knew a Fed when he saw one. The black SUV with the darkened windows was all business as it sped from seemingly nowhere, blue lights pulsing behind grille bars. As unlikely as it was, the former pot smuggler’s anxiety ratcheted up another notch as a second black SUV coming from the west crossed the median a few hundred yards ahead.

    6. By now Goodlet’s other new friend, Cyndi, sensed the desperation in the disembodied voice coming through some unseen speaker and was the only one of the three partiers to realize someone was pounding frantically on the locked door of this secluded chamber of sinful pleasures.

    7. No choir girl herself, and currently on probation, Cyndi was overcome with a combination of déjà vu and claustrophobia at the image of uniformed men forcing their way through that door.
     
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  19. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    1. “You crazy #####!” Jeremy Goodlet screamed as Cyndi swiped the silver tray off the table and onto the floor, the mound of coke swirling through the air like snow spraying from the tips of a downhill skier’s skis.

    2. Candi hollered when the enraged reverend attempted to leap to his feet, hampered by her head, now between his legs and banging on the underside of the table. She had unzipped his trousers but had yet to go any further, which could have been literally a bloody mess.

    3. The distraction enabled Cyndi to dart into the onboard restroom where she hurriedly began emptying the contents of her pockets into the toilet, hindered somewhat by the tightness of her jeans.

    4. Despite the confusion and the new, unfamiliar voice shouting commands from the other side of the door, Goodlet had the presence of mind to surmise his playmates had been tag teaming him; while Candi applied her seductive talents, Cyndi stuffed her pockets. A gram here, a gram there, it all adds up after a while.

    5. Jeremy was said to be screaming, “You thieving harlots!” as the DEA battering ram came through the door.

    6. Celebrity busts generally make the national headlines and this one was no exception. All the titillating ingredients were there: money, sex, drugs, corruption, and a glorified pastor proving himself to be a mere mortal.

    7. But, as somebody once said, this too shall pass, and it did. Plea bargains were struck, stacks of cash where slid across the appropriate tables, evidence was mishandled or lost.

    8. The public either forgot the whole thing or just didn’t care anymore. Some country in the Middle East had attacked another country over there. Oil wells were ablaze and now the media was focused on the threat of rising fuel prices.

    9. Life went on and Reverend Goodlet was back in business, albeit in smaller venues. Dallas and Houston were replaced by Tyler and Odessa and Crossville took the place of Nashville, but he still did okay.

    10. Until the next tragedy struck, one not so easily forgiven. This time it involved children. Jeremy was genuinely outraged and distraught over the revelations of the actions of his employee. He made no effort to pull any strings and watched the man go down hard for his crimes. The molester was killed by another inmate within a year.

    11. The reverend reached out to the affected families, offering consolation and compensation, but to no avail.

    12. Details of his bust years before in Florida bubbled to the surface as the news vultures sought to dig up whatever they could to pile on top of the story, relevant or not, thriving on the misery of others.
      Goodlet had found his own Scarlet Letter, a stain that wouldn’t wash out, an odor that had permeated the sofa.

    13. So he did the wisest thing he could have, considering the attention span of the American public. He simply disappeared.

    14. He may well have had the money to stay out of circulation until his final days but in the end he could never rid himself of his unshakeable desire to preach. Cocaine could never match the rush he got from the crowd. He loved it when he had them rolling in the aisles, when the old women fainted, the young ones confessed their sins, and the truly devout spoke in the mysterious language of tongues.

    15. The name change was merely cosmetic and he doubted it was even necessary. Many of his current clientele didn’t own televisions and few of those that did spent any time watching cable news. Those that attended his revivals loved him as a man of God and that was that. These were literal minded people. They believed what they saw and to hell with any outsiders who would try to convince them otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2014
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  20. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    1. Preacher, wearing his usual nondescript dark suit, dropped a single dollar bill into the offering plate as it came by under the watchful eyes of one of Goode’s entourage. He noted one of the bouncer looking types would empty the plate every third or fourth row into a burlap sack before sending it across the next row of seats. It was Friday and by the grand finale on Sunday they would be dumping the plate at every row.

    2. He sat near the back tonight, as he had every night since the revival began on Monday. He had no interest in the man on stage. His interest was in the spectators and he was in a better position to study them from here. A contributing factor to his seating preference was the meeker folk tended to be back here, whether by choice or they allowed themselves to be hustled back by the more aggressive worshippers was unclear.

    3. A married couple sat in the row in front of him, only a few seats to his left. They were each perhaps thirty years old. A boy he guessed to be seven sat between them. The man had worn the same worn, ill fitting suit each night for the entire week. He was probably married in that suit. The woman was wearing the yellow striped dress she wore Monday and Wednesday. She wore a different one on Tuesday and Thursday and would most likely have it on tomorrow night as well.

    4. The man was missing half of his little finger on one hand and parts of two fingers were gone on the other. He had the worn down look of one who has been walking uphill his entire life, physically and emotionally.

    5. The woman was pretty despite the total lack of makeup and a haircut she may have performed herself. Her gray eyes would be beautiful were it not for the sadness in them and the lines in her flesh emanating from them befitting one twenty years her senior.

    6. If they had a car, they weren’t using it to attend the services; either due to disrepair or a lack of funds for gasoline. One could only guess how far they were walking to and from their home each evening, but they never failed to put a dollar in the plate when it came their way.

    7. Preacher introduced himself the night before by way of an orchestrated encounter by stumbling into the boy as the crowd dispersed from the tent.

    8. “Oh, Lord, how clumsy of me!” Preacher exclaimed as he walked into the back of the young boy, his attention seemingly focused on the Reverend Goode holding court with a throng of admirers a hundred feet away.

    9. The boy’s fall was actually no more than a gentle tumble onto the grass, but Preacher dropped to the ground as if it were a dire crisis, helping the lad to his feet.

    10. After first seeing the boy from twenty feet away several nights ago Preacher was fairly certain he had found a valuable commodity; now after making eye contact from inches away he was dead certain.

    11. “I am so terribly sorry. Please forgive me. I pray you are unharmed,” Preacher said with anguish in his voice.
     
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