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Burning Minds Novel Excerpt: Carlisle Inn Crime Scene
The parking lot of the Carlisle Inn quickly became an amalgamation of people and flashing lights. Curious spectators gathered just outside the yellow crime scene tape. The wife and daughters of the victim stood holding each other several yards away from where he lay. A policeman was talking to them and taking notes.
The body of the man was a horrific sight. His entire head was charred beyond recognition, as was the upper part of his torso.
Detective Reginald Barkley stood next to the body and gazed down at the sight. He was a black man in his late fifties of average build with short gray hair, a neatly trimmed goatee (also gray), and little brown freckles on his cheeks. He had been a cop for most of his life, joining the force shortly after his time in Vietnam. He had served as a lead detective for the Franklin City Police Department for nearly twenty years. He had always been a modest cop, never boasting or bragging about his accomplishments. He was also a good cop, a man that believed the law’s purpose was to protect the innocent and maintain order. He held officers that bragged, used their authority for personal advantages, or just outright thought they were better than anyone else, in disdain.
Staring at the body had caused him to become frighteningly unnerved, and it wasn’t really because of the horrible state of the cadaver.
He stared at that corpse and, as the physical image of the poor man blurred into the background, Barkley saw only the outline of rampant death, an evil not seen for so long. He saw flashes of his wife and son, dead and covered in blood. He thought, in one rapid flash, about all the years since they were murdered, all the cases he’d dealt with, all the violence he’d seen.
But these recent crimes, including this one he saw before him, were not random violence. They were not crimes over drugs, hookers, jealous lovers, or young miscreants. They were crimes, or rather atrocities, committed by someone riddled with hate, someone without a conscience. Simply put, a monster was out there.
“Who would do something like this?” a woman said from behind him.
It was Detective Anna Paschal, five-year veteran of the FCPD and partner to Reginald Barkley. She was thirty-one years old, had long blonde hair in a ponytail, cream-colored skin, and green eyes. She was wearing a blue button-up shirt, a black jacket, and black pants, and her badge was hanging around her neck. She had joined the FCPD just after graduating from the police academy, and had assisted in the capture of three wanted murderers during her years since taking the job. She was single, and lived in a studio apartment alone on the city’s west side.
Barkley sighed. “A madman,” he said. “This is not the work of some angry person. This is the work of a psychopath.”
“Do you think this was done by the same person who burned that house down on South Street?” Anna asked him.
“Yes,” Barkley answered quickly. “And possibly even the murders of those three girls.”
“But one was killed with pruning shears and the others, well, they were just desecrated,” Anna stated. “It seems that whoever is did this is obsessed with fire.”
“Doesn’t make a lick of sense, does it? Barkley asked rhetorically.
“No,” Anna concurred.
“Where is the Inn’s attendant?” Barkley asked.
“Over there,” she said and pointed straight ahead.
Barkley looked and saw an officer talking to a lady with short brownish gray hair. He
walked over to them and stopped.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”
Barkley nodded at the officer as the woman walked over to him. She was in her early
sixties and very short. She had a look of despair on her face.
“What’s your name?” Barkley asked her.
“Barbara Wells,” she answered.
“Hi Barbara, my name is Detective Barkley. Now I want to catch this lunatic as much as anyone, and I need to know a few things in order to do that.”
“Now did any suspicious individuals check into the inn tonight?” Barkley interrogated.
“Well we’ve had quite a few check-ins since 6 o’clock,” Barbara said. “And I’m a very leery person. A lot of people look suspicious to me.”
“I understand,” Barkley said.
“There was one fellow, though,” Barbara began, “who was rather odd.”
“Go on,” Barkley said.
“He was very tall with long blonde hair and an English accent,” Barbara recalled. “The strange thing about him was how he was dressed. He was dressed all in black, with a trench coat and gloves to match. I thought it a little strange him wearing gloves when it’s not even that cold yet.”
“What was his name?” asked Barkley.
“John Smith, I believe.”
“An alias,” Anna said.
“Did you see his identification?” Barkley asked.
“He paid with cash,” Barbara said. “We only check ID with credit cards.”
“We need to see the room he stayed in,” said Anna.
Barbara nodded. “This way,” she said.
When they reached the door, Barbara unlocked it and her, Barkley, and Paschal went inside. Both detectives had their guns drawn even though they were quite sure the perpetrator had long gone.
There was nothing unusual about the room itself. The beds were still neatly made and everything else was as it should be. It didn’t look like anyone had even been there.
“I’ll check the bathroom,” Anna said.
She walked to the bathroom and flipped on the light. Again, everything looked pretty normal.
Then she noticed something in the trash can. She slapped on a pair of blue latex gloves and pulled the item out of the can.
It was a picture, mostly melted and burnt. She was able to discern, however, that the woman outside bawling over the horrible murder of her husband was in the picture. She could tell there were others in the picture but their faces were too melted to see.
“Barkley I’ve found something,” she shouted.
Barkley came into the bathroom. “What is it?” he asked.
He put on some gloves of his own and Anna handed the picture to him.
“The wife of the deceased,” Barkley said as he observed it.
“I think it’s obvious this is our guy,” Anna announced.
“We’ll dust the room for prints,” Barkley said, “although we probably won’t find anything. This is a professional we’re dealing with.”
“If this is such a professional then why would he attack someone in a public parking lot?” a voice said from behind Barkley.
Reginald didn’t even have to look. He knew right away who it was.
“Sidney Chambers,” Barkley said without ever turning around. “I figured you’d still be sucking your mama’s tit in some mansion on Long Island.”
“I really don’t see the need for this inhospitality,” Sidney retorted.
He was twenty-eight years old and a federal agent with the FBI. He wore the vintage attire: a white shirt with a red tie, black pants, and black blazer. His face was clean-shaven and smooth, just like a baby’s. He had short, dirty-blonde hair and brown eyes. He was, in all reality, a spoiled brat. He had entered the FBI only eight months earlier, mostly because of his mother’s money and influence.
Reginald finally turned to face the newcomer. He stared the boy down for a moment, moving his eyes up and down Sidney’s body.
Sidney stared back with a stark cockiness.
“I don’t really see the need for your presence here, Sidney,” Barkley declared. “The situation will be contained very soon.”
Sidney scoffed. “Four people have been horribly murdered in your city, detective, all within the last couple of weeks. There is a manic at large and you have no idea of the magnitude of this situation.”
Barkley dashed forward and grabbed Sidney by the collar. “I know very well the magnitude of this situation, motherfucker,” he said vehemently. “And don’t you forget it!”
Sidney was aware of the murder of Barkley’s family all those years ago. He hadn’t meant anything by it, but he still believed it to be true.
Anna put her arms around Barkley and tried to pull him away. “C’mon, Reggie,” she demanded, “this isn’t going to help.”
Barkley didn’t put up a fight with her. He knew as well as she did that this wasn’t the time and place.
He let go of Sidney and started walking away with Anna by his side.
“I see you’re still hanging out with the young girls,” Sidney blurted with a smile.
Barkley was further angered by that trite remark but shook off his feelings and kept walking.
“You have got to chill out,” Anna said as they stepped outside in the parking lot. “You’re going to have a fucking heart attack.”
“I know, Anna, I know,” he agreed, his words slightly strained from his loss of breath.
For the last few minutes his heart had been racing exceptionally fast and he felt like his blood pressure was sky-high.
They kept walking until they reached their brown Crown Vic with blacked out windows, of which they got inside.
“I’m just a little sensitive right now,” Barkley said. He had gotten into the passenger seat.
“I know that, Reggie,” Anna said, “but you can’t let it overwhelm you like that.”
Reginald took a deep breath. He fumbled through his shirt pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes and a Zippo.
“That’s not going to help, either,” Anna told him.
“Maybe not,” Barkley said as he lit a cig, “but it’ll calm my damn nerves.”
“What did Chambers mean when he said you were still hanging out with the young ones?” Anna’s inquiring mind forced her to ask.
Barkley knew this question was coming. He took a good drag off the cig and blew out the smoke. “A couple of years before you joined us there was a young lady who, like yourself, became a detective here upon graduating from the academy. She wasn’t actually my partner, but I took her under my wing and gave her my guidance. Her name was Alexis Chambers. She was Sidney’s older sister.”
“So what ever happened to her?” asked Anna.
“She relocated to another part of the country,” Barkley explained. “For some reason, however, Sidney, who was just a young brat at the time, assumed that my interest in Alexis was sexual. He thought I was just a nigger trying to get her in the sack.”
Anna looked at Barkley as if she was questioning the truth in that.
“No, Anna,” he said upon detecting her thoughts, “I had no romantic interest in her. She was much like myself, particularly in that she took the values of our line of work seriously and was dedicated to serving real justice.”
“I see,” Anna said. “So why do you have such a problem with Sidney?”
Barkley scoffed. “Isn’t it obvious? He’s a smarmy little weasel that has no business in law enforcement. He doesn’t know anything about sacrifice and has never struggled in his entire life. He’s just a spoiled little rich kid with a huge ego. I mean I’ve busted my ass for over three decades to become a lead detective whereas that little punk was handed a position as a federal agent. He hasn’t even given a drop of sweat for society and I, well, I have given everything.”
Anna placed her arm on Barkley’s shoulder. “Then let’s concentrate on you giving to society again. Let’s find this killer!”
He hit the cig again and looked at her. “Let’s find this killer.”