CHAPTER 18: The Star reversed

Makinen woke with a start. He had started the night watch as usual but the tension of the previous nights was gone. Everyone knew that Jones had to be hiding. At three, James had come in for a cup of coffee. After drinking half the cup, he had slowly collapsed in stages while sitting on the couch. It took ten minutes from when his eyes first closed until he completed laying in a fetal position on the sofa. Jeffrey placed a blanket over James. He and the rest of the VFW gang finished off the watch.

Lori’s lips changed from a slight pucker to a grin as she backed away from the startled sleeper. She saw Jim’s innocent aspect as he slept and had to bend down to kiss his cheek. The startled man and smiling girl looked at each other, enjoying the momentary intimacy. Their smiles changed to worry as they remembered what was happening to them. What would happen next? Where was Billy Jones?

* * * *

Henry woke in his easy chair to the red glow of the morning sun. He moved his tired body in stages. Each limb woke in its own time and way. His left leg woke to an ache from a break when he was twelve. His knees crackled and popped as the arthritic joints moved. The back straightened in sequence as each vertebra fought to align with its neighbors. A good five minutes after his eyes opened, he hobbled his aged, crippled body into the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee.

As the aroma of brewing coffee filled the kitchen, Henry fought his boiling anger at the gruesome deaths of his friends and tried to probe for the next actions of Billy Jones.

By the time Henry stepped behind his office desk, he was coolly and calmly in control. It was the aloof control most people associate with

Scandinavians. People living in the far North all seem to have a reserve, a control foreign to the passions of the people of the warmer climates. The control is mistaken as a lack of feelings. The harsh endless cold of northern winters is unforgiving of any mistakes made in passion. The survivors learned to control their emotions. But the emotions are only controlled. Nature knew that in times of distress, passion and emotion could mean survival. The rest of the world only vaguely remembers the passion of the Northern Peoples in the form of a few words and stories left over from the time when the Vikings swept through Europe, North Africa, and Eastern Asia. Now their descendants waited and studied as their passions grew, waiting for the time of release.

At his desk, Henry studied the accumulated paperwork. The tox screens and final forensic reports were in from Billy’s first victims. Henry found no new useful information there. He did find some grim pleasure when he read the revised FBI psychological report. He easily found the patchwork phrasing and sentences the behavioral psychologists used to repair their original report to match Billy Jones’s profile. The one thing that caught his eye was the statement that Billy would run and hide. He would only start his killing again after he established his life in another location.

When Henry saw in technical gobbledygook those words, he knew they were wrong. Billy had moved here because of his family. Jefferson was his son. He had murdered for pleasure but also for some warped sense of family. Jefferson had said that Jenny resembled his mother when she was Jenny’s age. He had killed all the others except Al for some obscure family-related reason. Pike was Jenny’s pimp. Kawalski was a partner with his son. Frank was Billy’s brother-in-law. Al had been in the way. In the way? In the way of what? Did Al see something? Was he in the wrong place? Where was Al before he disappeared? The school parking lot. Who or what was in the parking lot at the time Al was murdered? What was Billy doing? Henry somehow knew Billy wouldn’t leave until his son was gone. Henry knew the psychologists were wrong again. Billy wasn’t finished here.

Henry reviewed the trophies, the missing body parts, trying to find a link there. He sent police to every place Billy was known to frequent to interview everyone he had talked to. By the end of the day, the Governor had pulled the highway patrol out of the investigation. The neighboring counties had also claimed their deputies. They all thought Billy Jones had left the area. The station almost felt deserted after the bustle of the last few days. All that were left were a few BCA agents, the county deputies, and the local town police.

Henry talked to Vernon and all the others left on the task force before the end of the day. He told them that no matter what anyone else said, Billy Jones was still out there. Frank Jenson and Al Gallea had been killed when they confronted Billy alone. No one was to go after Billy without backup.

It was six o’clock and there was one final name on the list of Billy Jones’ acquaintances to be interviewed, Pastor Tom Peterson. Vernon was processing paperwork at a desk down the hall and Nancy was still at dispatch. Henry told them both where he was going and to contact him immediately if anything happened.

Peterson’s wife answered the door.

“Hello. Mrs. Peterson?” A small nod was the reply. “I’m Deputy Sheriff Henry Hakanen. My office called earlier about asking your husband some questions … about one of his parishioners.”

In a small voice, the woman replied, “Oh, yes. I remember the call. My husband has not been feeling well. Do you have to talk to him?”

“I’m sorry, but it is very important that I speak to him.”

She paused to think and with a slight nod she said, “He’s in his office. I’ll take you there.” She turned and walked to the back of the house. Without looking to see if Henry was following, she continued. “He’s not been feeling well. I’ve talked to the district office. Reverend Sharpton talked to Tom yesterday. The district is making arrangements for Tom to visit a retreat in Arizona for a few months. We’ll be leaving before the end of the week.”

By the time she finished her ramblings, they were standing at a closed door. She looked up at Henry then knocked on the door. “Honey, Deputy Hakanen has stopped by to talk to you.” She turned to Henry and whispered, “Go on in. I’ll wait for you in the living room.”

Henry entered the darkened room. A small desk lamp at the table was the only illumination. Henry stood in the doorway waiting for his eyesight to adjust to the dark. A voice from a chair in the corner rambled in a strange cadence.

“Mr. Peterson.” After a pause Henry repeated in a slightly louder voice, “Mr. Peterson.”

“Who is that? Did God send you? Have you come to bring judgment on those sinners, Lori Waithe and James Makinen?”

“I’ve come to ask you about one of you parishioners, William Jones.”

“Who?”

“William possibly Billy Jones.”

“Oh, yes, Billy Jones, a true man of God. Deacon Shermon told me how strong a Christian brother Jones is. You know, he tithes every paycheck. I stopped by his home once. He had his bible in the living room. We talked and prayed. He fixed us this beautiful little lunch. We talked about God’s wrath and the coming tribulation. It was joyous … What was it you wanted to talk about?”

“I would like to find out more about what Billy Jones said to you.”

“Oh, yes. Billy Jones, a wonderful man of God. Did you know I felt the hand of God touch me when I prayed for damnation on those sinners, Makinen and Waithe?”

“We were talking about Billy Jones.”

“I felt God’s hand touch me. The power threw me across the sanctuary. I woke with the red vision of God’s judgment in my eyes. Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Thank you, Lord, for your blessed vision! Would you bow your head in prayer with me? Thank you, Lord … Thank you, Jesus… “

Henry looked at the kneeling man and backed out of the darkened room.

In the living room, Henry asked his wife, “What happened to him?”

“It started when the congregation walked out on him during his Sunday sermon some weeks ago. Then a few days ago, he came back from praying at the church with a dazed look on his face. He’s been talking about God’s judgment since then. He’s spent most of the last two days shut up in his office. He won’t come out and he won’t let me turn on the lights or open the curtains. He just sits in there praying for judgment and damnation.” She then quietly started to sob. Quick intakes of breath were followed by a nearly inaudible moan.

Henry touched her shaking shoulders whispering, “I’m sorry. Would you want me to call someone for you?”

The penitent head shook ‘no.’ Henry let his hands rest on her shoulders for a minute, then left the stricken home.

* * * *

_The room seems to be bathed in greater darkness when the lamp turns on. The single spot of illumination fails to hold the blackness at bay. Mysterious shadows from the light accent the tendons and veins of the hands, making them into talons that scratch at the deck of cards, turning over the next._

_On the foreground of the card, a man and a woman are chained. A large figure is perched on the post they are bound to. Curling goat horns come from the large figure’s head and bat wings sprout from his back. A pentagram is etched on the creature’s forehead. His right hand is raised in greeting and his left hand carries a lighted torch. A closer look at the two in front discerns that a set of horns issue from their red hair and tails come from behind their backs.

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