Thursday, November 29, 2012

Part I: Kevin and Franklin's First Adventure

This is a serial mystery thriller. Look for a new installment every Wednesday! Enjoy.

Chapters 1-4

©2012 Edith Allen All Rights Reserved


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, government agencies, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Ay resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living, undead, demonic or dead, is coincidental.  Any governments, nations, government officials or government agencies are fictional constructs built by the author and they bear no relationship to the real thing.

Copyright ©2012 by Edith R Allen
All rights reserved

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Early March, 2012, Rest In Peace Cemetery, Danville, California

Don Padre looked like a young Mafia Don in his black wool  overcoat, the legs of his finely tailored pants breaking exactly where they should have over shoes so fine they had to have been handmade. He favored Venetian tailors for his formal suits and Spanish cobblers for his kid leather shoes. He wore a fedora and arrived in a black Limousine.
 The fog was unrelenting and refused to clear even for the saddest funeral of his career. Every object and person was washed with a bluish cast that enhanced the somber, distressing nature of the occasion.
“It is not the woman who we bury here. It is her godchildren who are suffering in ways that I cannot stand. Those children do not remember a time when they did not know and love her. They loved her so innocently, so unconditionally, yet she did such horrible things to them. She did things that they do not know of. If they know, they will be compelled to get answers. They will not stop prying and searching until they are killed or live the rest of their lives dwelling in uncomfortable truths. They will unleash an enemy so powerful, so horrible that they may die in battle. Three precious lives, poisoned by your existence! Damn you, Diana Martin. Damn you to hell!”
He was an hour early. His hand picked cemetery crew arrived in a Black van. Four men removed a casket from the van and rolled it over to a prepared grave. Then they placed it on a lift and lowered the ornate, heavy box into the ground. The expensive box was just another brutal reminder to those who knew the occupant and understood that she did not deserve such honors.
“They both deserve to be doused with gasoline and set afire!” Don Padre fumed. They deserve the spit that I intend to contribute to their sendoff.”
The funeral procession would arrive within the hour, so there was not much time to get the work done. After the casket was lowered into the grave, the crew used shovels to cover it with dirt. Then they carefully lined the space with the fake green carpet that conceals brutal and rough hewn reminders that the loved one will spend eternity living with the worms and filth of the soil.
“Is all of this going to work?” The Jesuit had also observed the proceedings in silence.
“It will work, Father. If the children go too far in their investigation, and I believe they will, it will be much easier to make things right. If the seven brothers should ever find out what has happened, it will not take great effort to restore these abominations to their proper places. Until then, let us pray that no one discovers the whole truth.”
The Jesuit silently reflected on the situation. “I know that I will eventually have to say something the oldest brother, Alesaner. I cannot lie to him. It would be too great a betrayal. Alesaner will not rest until he finds out what happened to his sister, and he will drag his brothers with him down a path of revenge and self destruction. I must find a way to make this right. Don Padre is right to do it this way, however. It is the only way to know that these monstrous deeds have been confined to one place. But who am I to speak? Am I not an abomination myself? When I think of the things that I have done in the name of the Church, I am simply the other side of their miserable coin.”
“Are you going to say anything over the... the graves, Father?”
“No, no. This is not sanctified ground. If you could ever find a priest who would knowingly say anything, it would be a miracle. Otherwise it would cost a fortune in bribery. There will be enough unwitting preachers and speakers who will speak indirectly for her. Someone will say ‘whoever lies here...” and that will be all. My concern is with the living. The brothers. Especially the oldest.”
“What is Alesaner doing?”
“He was always obsessed with saving her. He persisted long after it was clear that she would not be saved. The younger ones have been ready to move on for a long time, but they will never abandon her or Alesaner until they have...what do you call it...?
“Yes! Closure. A very powerful word.”
“Do not worry, father. Time and God will heal their wounds. They will be compelled to move on with their lives. Bright and shiny things will draw them away from this horror.”
Don Padre’s radio beeped and he picked it up. His senior operative said, “Sir. The funeral procession is about five minutes out. You might want to move on.”
“Yes, Good job.” He put the radio away and turned to the Jesuit. “We should be moving on. I don’t want the children to see us. If you don’t mind, I will only be a moment. I will catch up with you.”
The Jesuit could not help but worry as he turned and walked briskly to their limousine. Don Padre was cutting the time a bit close.
“At least if I am in the car, Sir Kevin will not notice me. He will certainly recognize his boss, however. Come, Don Padre! Finish what you are doing and come along!”
Don Padre approached the grave and looked down. He mouthed the words, “Rot in hell, both of you.” He spat quickly while no one was looking, turned and joined his old friend in the limousine. The car sped away and was gone before the funeral procession arrived.
A second, even grander casket was removed from a hearse and rolled over to the grave, this time to be interred in front of hundreds of mourners who moaned and wailed even as they were getting out of their cars. A preacher carried out the graveside ritual and he did say once “Who lies here...” A choir sang like angels. Mourners dug from a decorative pile of dirt and tossed the dirt on the casket. The sound of grit hitting wood provided finality.
Two handsome young men and a beautiful young woman sat in the front row with the family. One wore the face that battled between hatred and neutrality. One wore the face of loss, disgust and exhaustion. One wore the face of shock, loss and horror. All three had resolved to find out what happened, no matter what the cost.
No one was aware that two bodies were being buried in the same grave and on the same day.

Chapter 1
Late August, 2008, Friday Football Night in Taylor City

The late summer smell of rotting fruit and dried grasses was a signal that California's Chaparral was much too close to the self combustion stage. There was always a slight transition at the end of  August where the smell of death came on and lingered in the air. Beetles and wasps were at work, clearing up the remains of the last picnics and barbeques, They worked on the desiccated corpses of birds and small animals. More small animals than normal had failed to make it to their lairs in time to avoid the kinds of predators that left uneaten and rotting body parts behind.
Franklin Marsh and Kevin Ap-Rhys were both 29 years old. This was a miracle since they were born a world apart, yet at the exact same second, minute, hour, day, month and year of 1979. They had come to Taylor City, California to arrest or kill a man. They would not leave Taylor City until they had completed one act or the other.
The sound of shrilling and shrieking filled the streets after dark. Young children had gorged on overly sweet late summer fruits. They were high on sugar and were terrorizing their neighborhoods. They were aware of the change of season and made themselves ready for anything that could take their minds off of school. 
Older children took on an adult's universal sadness over summer's end. There would be no more skinny dipping at the river or copping feels on late, hot evenings. No parents with any sense were happy about their teenagers going out after dark with a serial killer running around loose. Even parents who had no sense paid closer attention to any kids found wandering around after the sun dipped below the horizon. 
"I sure would like to see some rain and for this heat to die down." A woman said as the store cashier tallied up her massive pile of groceries. "It always takes me a long time to get used to the change, but I like the Fall and Winter."
"Well, I don't get off until midnight," The cashier replied. "and it’s hot when I come to work.”
"Hell, it's dark when I go to work and it's dark when I come home," a man violated the grocery store checkout small talk rule. The cashier did not like to engage in small talk with more than one customer or she would make a mistake. 
A football game was about to start on the north side of town at Roosevelt High. The crowd was roaring at the antics of the school’s moderately talented arts nerds. More of the kids were recruited from the student body just to keep them off the streets and give them something to do. As a result, Roosevelt High’s pre game shows were spawning imitations by schools across the nation. The shows were the brainchild of a community that needed to get its disaffected and pissed off youth off the streets on Friday nights. The resulting spectacle attracted a larger than normal crowd who would be ready for action when The Trojans and the Cardinals mixed it up. 
To the Sheriff, this meant all kinds of wildness, including fights and underage drinking. The lower classes of Taylor City would use the distraction to steal and deal. The higher classes would pretend they enjoyed having a kid  in the pre-game show, on the football team or in cheer leading.
Some adults would come to relive their own high school Friday night careers. They would come to realize that Friday night football was the reason why they still lived in Taylor City since they were pregnant, alcoholics, druggies, crazy or got on Uncle Sam's meal ticket before they had a chance to live anywhere else.
"These days, it's likely to be the girl who goes off to the military while the boy stays home and takes care of the kids," The police chief yelled over the noise. He eyeballed everything while he talked, knowing that anything might happen.
"Yes. And it's just as likely to be the boy who does the cheerleading while the girl tries to get on the team!" The Chief of Police griped.
"Did you  set up a drunk driver check over on Waterston? I know that some of these grown ups are sneaking in with beer and worse."
"Yeah. I put Franklin and Kevin over there. They stocked up on alcohol tests and have a set of games for the drunks to play. They even have a wagon on standby so our guys don't have to keep going back and forth with one drunk at a time."
"It’s odd, having those two here. They are reserve FBI agents! One of them is an Inspector Detective in San Francisco. What would possess them to come down here and volunteer for something as simple as a drunk driver check?"
"They are after someone who has eluded them by setting up in towns like ours. They believe he is here in Taylor City and won't say who he is. I’m happy to have them. These aren't the times for getting into pissing contests between local law enforcement and feds with budgets. But those two are something different. They know how to treat people."
"You’re right. These are not the times to mess with the feds and their money, and you won't get any argument from me. My budget is stretched so tight, I can hardly manage a high school football game. Here! See?" The Chief barged over to a group of pre teens who were clearly out after curfew without adult supervision.
"What are you kids doing here without your... oh! I see you, Tyler and Beth. Carry on. Just go on in and don't get separated." He walked back to his car and resumed his conversation, his eyes in constant movement over the crowd. 
"That's The Wanderys. They brought some of the kids from their neighborhood. The kids are going stir crazy so the parents are taking turns with them, taking them out for pizza or movie nights. It's better than having them sneak out like we used to do."
"Hell, I still have to sneak out. My kids want to go wherever I go when I'm off duty and I can't just take them everywhere. Since I'm a single father now, my shrink told me to get some 'me' time every week or I'd go around the bend. Since I started, I've come to appreciate having some time for myself, even if I’m at work." The Chief looked at the Sheriff who was turning out to be an interesting fellow. He lived on a thousand acre ranch and did not have to work. The family had enough money to live large for generations.
"You still at that theater group?”, he asked. “They got a little kinky, caused all those people to start acting like witches and vampires or whatever? I wish I'd been here for that." The Chief's tone revealed a longing for some real freaky city action and the sheriff thought he was getting a little homesick.
"No you don't wish that! They were into some real freaky role playing and it got way out of control. They weren't just role playing like Harry Potter, either. Those folk were trying to be devils and dark angels... big shot demons from Hindu and other mythology.  It was something. Some French guy started the group and they took it way too seriously. One of the members killed 14 people, including the founder... the French guy. He was trying to burn the place down when we rolled up on the scene. At least we got him before he could get the gas can out of his car. We never did get anything out of him, either. He plead guilty and went straight to prison."
"Demons? Fallen angels? What kind of nonsense was that? Taylor City is a small town, so how come no one knew all that was going on? I come from Los Angeles, where no one could ever find out what goes on in basements and behind gates. But here?"
"You'd be surprised.  The sickest, most evil things can happen in small towns just like this one. Taylor City might seem like it’s life in a fishbowl, but dirty little secrets are hidden in plain sight. Sometimes a whole family has something to hide and, let me tell you. They can be better team players at hiding something than the Cardinals, who are going to kick our ass tonight by the way. That theater group had a lot of dirty secrets, too. Orgies. Drugs. You name it."
"So the theater group is still going on after all that?"
"No sir! A group from the University took over. They found money to lease the building and they started a real theater group. I joined just to have something to do and I was impressed with the new group. Now we're getting ready to do "Nashville". I like that show. My wife liked it too. We saw it on Broadway when..." he trailed off and glared at a man who definitely did not belong at a high school football game. 
"That's Barry Pepper. Sumbitch! He knows better than to show up here!"
The Sheriff barked orders into his radio and set off a swirl of activity. Barry took off into the evening with two undercover detectives on his tail.  They caught up with him two blocks away, knocked him to the ground and handcuffed him. They pulled Barry up and made him sit on the curb to wait for a patrol car.
“Barry Pepper is on probation for statutory rape, pimping and pandering. He had a couple of under aged girls in his stable, which put him on the sex offender's registry. He’s not supposed to go within a hundred feet of a school activity or facility.”
The undercover detectives were retired deputies who helped on  the football nights. They both remembered the under aged girls floating up from the  bottom of San Francisco Bay just before Barry was to go to trial. With the state's key witness gone, Barry then pleaded to lesser charges, did two years in Folsom prison and was back in Taylor City.
"This violation will send him back for another six to ten years, I hope," The Sheriff said. "Watch the camera over there!" He pointed to a kid with a smart phone camera pointed at the action. "I hope he has an accident on his way back to jail, the bastard." He kept that thought to himself. 
"I've got a lot to learn about this place," the Chief said, shaking his head. "I was hoping for a quiet retirement in a wholesome little town!" He added this in a comical, New York style combination of gripe and whine.
"No you didn't, Chief!" The sheriff laughed. He stopped and stared with a comical, exaggerated look and yelled, "Hey! You! Get over here! What? What? Don't make me have to come after you!"
Friday night football was not just a small town treat any more.  Friday night football was a brave new world of small town law enforcement.

Chapter 2
Kevin, Franklin and their drunk check

"Kevin! What are you eating now?" Franklin Marsh was shocked at his partner's ability to consume food, any food, in abnormal quantities, yet he had the body of an African warrior. There was not an ounce of fat on the man. The two reserve agents were now deputized drunk check  officers. They sat in a Taylor County police car and waited for someone ripe to come weaving along for them to catch. So far, all they encountered were pushy women and giggling teenagers who admired large good looking strangers. Franklin stood at 6’2” and Kevin was a shade shorter. Franklin looked like an Afro/Asian warrior and Kevin looked like a Cornish warrior. Oddly, it was Kevin who had the most African ancestry.
"It's small town desperation," Franklin mused. Too bad they don't have school as an option. That new University campus seems off limits to them. Sad.”
“But what are you eating? It looks like a small child!”
"It is from that food truck over there. It has vegetables and some kind of flatbread. Quite delicious, I say."
"You will blow up like Henry VIII by the time you're forty, I'm warning you." Franklin was perpetually worried that his new partner would become grossly obese if he ever had to give up his Olympics quality athletic activity. Kevin was known to run five miles before breakfast and do a martial arts workout so beautiful that it was more like a ballet than a deadly and ancient form of combat.
"I burn my food even when I am at rest, Franklin.” Kevin spoke in an upper class British accent and with exquisite grammar and syntax, which made the situation even more surreal. “There is no need for me to suffer from hunger, now is there?" He took another huge bite from the still unidentified item.
"No, Kevin. You need not suffer. Gahh... now you have me talking like a British poobah! Do you think he's here in Taylor City or are you up to something else?"
"Oh, he is here, Franklin. I can smell him. He is drawn to this town because everyone is drawn to this football game. He has business out in an isolated area. Later, he will go after someone attractive, drunk and gullible. If he is observing the game, he will be forced to pass through this alcohol checkpoint where we will see him."
"We’re stuck here! We’ll be forced to let him pass through. We can't just run off after him, so what are you up to, really?"
"Don't worry, Franklin," Kevin pulled a case from his pocket. He opened it to reveal a tiny, matte black box with an antenna sticking out of it. "This is the latest in Global Positioning Satellite tracking devices. This little monster will track that human monster if he drives off a cliff. I have a computer in the car with the latest software, so it won't be difficult to finish up here and track him down."
"So we are that sure, are we? I'm not buying it, Kevin. Come on. What are you up to? And what’s in that thing? It smells good." Kevin broke off a large piece and gave it to Franklin, with a napkin, of course.
Franklin and Kevin had only been partners for a month and were always at odds with each other. They had been competing FBI legends. Kevin came first and was known as the new Sherlock Holmes. Kevin also went into reserve status after his two years and used a small part of his inheritance to start a private security firm in San Francisco.
Franklin joined the FBI a year after Kevin and earned a reputation as a legal prodigy. Both were on the outs with their superiors because neither wanted to spend their entire careers in the FBI.
Franklin was an ex-Marine and Lawyer who left to join his sister as a partner in her San Francisco law firm. He was convinced to stay on as a reserve FBI agent when he was asked to serve as a hybrid SFPD Inspector and FBI liaison. His pioneering position was expected to cut the hostility when the FBI and city had to work together on special crimes. 
Franklin had another connection to Kevin that went back to Kevin’s childhood in Botswana. He followed a very strange and surprise filled route that ended in Cornwall. When he got to the bottom of Kevin's story, he returned to his hometown of San Francisco to settle down. Upon hearing that his big mystery was in the city, he contacted Kevin and invited him to join him as an independent contractor with the city.
 Their first special case involved a con artist named Percival Windsor who supplemented his grifter's income by seducing young women and extorting money from their wealthy parents. The suspect slipped up in Utah and seduced an under aged girl. He took her across state lines, raped her, cut her throat and left her to die in the desert outside of Las Vegas. The girl lived long enough for some hikers to find her and get her to the hospital. She died shortly after hearing a local news report that her family refused to pay the man and that  was why he tried  to kill her.
Her mother and father came onto the screen and lied, claiming the girl was a troublemaker. The truth was that her parents had been lying about their financial position all along. Despite their showy lifestyle, they did not have the money to pay off  any kidnappers. They planned to use the girl's sad ending to earn money and to keep their lifestyle going. Now the girl was dead and the parents had to live in the isolated wreckage of their highly publicized wickedness. 
"Her parents refused to pay him knowing he would kill her in cold blood, Franklin," Kevin's normally polite, cultured voice had taken on a bitter tone.
"She survived only to lose hope when her parents publicly lied about her and destroyed her reputation. I want him as much as you do but we must be careful. This is a desperate man who will take any measures necessary to escape. He has military training and international experience with gun running and explosives. He might be working for or with someone. Taylor City hosts some high  value targets who are related to the university and high profit ranching, so he may be after their children. If he tries to run, he could end up on a private jet out of here."
Kevin had another line of work that he never discussed. He turned into something else when he traveled overseas on "business". Franklin tried to find out if he was MI-6, but one contact said that Kevin was a cipher who was best left alone. Many had tried, but none had succeeded with meddling in the young man's affairs.
"What could be above MI-6?" Franklin wondered. "I know  that boy is a spy, but with whom? The Brit's version of the NSA?" He turned and looked at his partner. "Kevin! Is that a sunburn on you? I told you to wear your sun block. You are a grey eyed, nappy haired blond devil.”
"I am a Black man living in America, Franklin! Eye to eye! Hand to hand! Heh!" He did a little James Brown move. 
"I will remind you that I have more African ancestry than you do."
"Your grandfather was a Botswana prince, Kevin, but your father was straight out of Cornwall! You have to wear sun block with those grey eyes and that blond hair or you are going to look like old leather when you’re forty. It's the way of the Wild West, dude."
"Botswana no longer has a royalty, Franklin, but I shall wear my sun block tomorrow, I promise. He finished his meal, wiped his hands and fiddled with his computer. He could not admit to Franklin that his plan was pitiful. It stunk to high heaven.
No way was their target going to leave Taylor City alive. 

Chapter 3
Percival Windsor and the Abandoned Acre

It was a bright night out in the country, away from the glow of Taylor City. The full moon made the abandoned acre glow as if it was lit from within. Two figures could be clearly seen as they skittered across an open field of wild oats and tumbleweed that had been dried out for months. The field was part of a thousand acres of vineyards and orchards. Hopefully, no police helicopters would come out this way. Probably not, since the Friday football game took up most police resources. 
The two figures moved at a rapid clip until they reached a parked SUV, opened the doors and slithered inside. Then they drove the vehicle back through the field and parked in the center with the headlights glaring into the night. Two more SUVs appeared, drove up the same impromptu road and headed toward the headlights. When the last car was in position, two men stepped out and showed a briefcase. The hosts opened the back of their SUV and stepped to the sides and backward. The weapons and ammunition inside were nothing nice. One or two rounds would take the top half off a person who moved or stepped wrong. 
"Is that a..."
"Yes it is! That gun will turn the top half of you to ground beef so let me do the talking." A well built man had gotten out of an SUV and had stepped into the space between the cars.
One of the hosts said to the other. "You see? This is our reward for setting up this meeting point. It allows a man to prepare for the worst."
"Staying one step ahead, eh?" The other man chuckled. He was nervous and excited. This kind of business was new to him and he had no survival techniques. The problem was that everyone else had survival techniques. The visitors were set up for a battle to the death.
"Hey! You! Get over here!" One of the goons was ordering their host to come over and get into a black SUV. The host was not buying it.
"Shut up! Everyone in the middle! You men put your weapons down and stay on the perimeter. And you stay out of our business. Do NOT open your mouth and try to tell me what to do again! You in the cars! You have 30 seconds to get out here now!" The speaker was a small, well built man. He spoke with an indeterminate European accent.
He got his way when the sound of clicking weapons and heavy bodies moving in the tall rustling grass came from all directions, indicating that the group was surrounded by several well armed people. It was clear that no one in the center of the field would live to get off the first shot.
The guests complied immediately and gathered in the center of the well lit area. "Good,” the well built man said. “Let's get to business. I have the guns. Do you have the money?"
A well dressed older man stepped forward carrying a large case. He opened the case and showed a large mass of bills. "Pour the money out onto the ground!" The older man emptied the money onto the ground. It was all neatly bundled into bricks and did not appear to have any dye packs or explosives mixed into it. 
"Very good. Here are the keys. Take this SUV and leave yours behind for us. Take the weapons. Move now!"
Three men moved to the SUV, got in and drove off. They stopped a short distance away and checked the cargo. Satisfied, they continued on their way. The others got into the second SUV and left the area.
The two men were left standing in the clearing with a large pile of cash. The second man opened the back of the SUV. The two men checked the cash for tracking devices and loaded it onto the motorbike's cargo bin. They drove out with the headlights off and made their way to the top of a rise where they could look down on the roadways and the I-5 freeway. 
"It should be happening soon. The other man said. "There it is!" In the far distance, about two miles away. They could see a tiny ball of fire, then two. They had planted explosives on their vehicle. Apparently the second car was tailgating and was caught up in the explosion.
"Very stupid", the well built man said before he shot his companion several times. He got into the SUV and rode into the night. He returned to the edge of the clearing and called in the "help" with a large remote control device. The help was a collection of remote controlled toy cars that were fitted with high quality radios and speakers. He packed them into the SUV and headed for Taylor City. It was Friday football night, time for a little treat. Maybe an older woman this time.
Two unarmed men had just used an army of remote controlled toy cars to intimidate, cheat and destroy one of the most fearsome arms dealers in the world.


Chapter 4
The Sheriff, Kevin and Franklin Save the Children

The Sheriff pulled up behind the police car where Kevin and Franklin were waiting to accost drunk drivers. He got out and approached from the driver's side. The car was empty and the two FBI agents were nowhere to be seen. Suddenly he heard scuffling and shouting. He saw Kevin dragging two inebriated kids out of the alley by their collars. Franklin stepped out with three more.
"They had the nerve to hang out in the alley next to a drunk check?" The Sheriff yelled, stepping in to help the kids into the van.
 "Get in there and don't get smart just because I'm here! What happened?"
Franklin answered. "We heard giggling and figured it was a pot party in the alley. I was tempted to leave it alone until I saw more kids coming into the area. Groups of twos or threes would show up about every ten minutes or so, but they would not come back this way. I assumed that some kind of dealing was going on. We rounded up fourteen kids and a very cool bicycle. They’re  in the van and we called it in. Kevin you tell the rest while I clear something up.”
“I took up position at the other end of the alley. When Franklin  and I closed in, we figured we could keep the sting going all night!  We rounded up the two dealers, but they aren't worth much. Your county doesn't even send these kids to jail... Isn't that the mayor's kid? And that one's dad is a Republican congressman. I'm not even going to bother to find out they have past arrests and no convictions."
"Unless they are Black or Hispanic kids?” Franklin had returned. “Look, none of them are worth anything to us, so you may as well legalize pot in Taylor county tonight. That bunch looks like they come from the good end of this place."
Kevin was disgusted. He leaned against the van with his arms folded. 
"Hey, wait! Are you saying it's not like that in San Francisco?" The Sheriff said.
"Of course it's like that in San Francisco! That's why we're disgusted!" Kevin yelled. "These potheads will go to college and run for president. The others will have criminal and prison records so they cannot ever get good jobs. It is sickening."
"It sure is and I'm going to do something about it tonight. YOU! Shut up! You have the right to remain silent," He paused and used his radio to call in some backup. "Yeah, get over here to Waterston and take in some kids." He finished reading their rights to the mass of kids who cringed in the back of the van. Even the two smart mouthed kids managed to shut their mouths. 
"Taylor City is not their parent's fiefdom any more and they should know that now. The university brought in an educated, much more demanding crowd who will change things around here. Are you two still interested in catching Carly Bindermann?"
"Aww... uhm.. no, man!" Kevin yelled, "Does everyone think we were looking for Bindermann?" 
"I didn't say that. There were three cars that blew up over on I-5, about five miles down the road in  County B. It was a professional job from the looks of it. The dogs alerted on explosives and I thought you two would want to get over there. From what I hear, it is the kind of work that your target would be mixed up in.”
“It’s Percival Windsor and he is desperate. He probably worked a deal for cash. A lot of cash.  You think he's going to come after some kid from the Friday football game?"
"Probably not. I think he will come here for a woman tonight. Someone in her 30s. The football night is perfect for him because he's known to work the fringes of large events, away from the center of action where no one will be looking. He's also known to work our last nerve by coming through a checkpoint in disguise. I was sure that he would come through here."
"What if he doesn't?" The sheriff asked.
"Then we try something else until we get him. Right now, he's not expecting Franklin or me because he does not know that we exist. We're two local deputies working a drunk check on Friday night. Now who would be so foolish during the next couple of hours as to go off with a stranger?"
"I used to be able to answer that, you know. We have a lot more of them now, with the university crowd. But for mid twenty to late 30 year olds, I can narrow it down to a group of about sixteen women. They go out to party and drink over at the Bocadera mall on Friday nights. They go to the Blue Lagoon restaurant and bar. Good food, but overpriced. So that is why you're on Masterson with this drunk check. The rich kids and their parents head to that mall and then come right up Masterston to Wild Horse homes. See that glow down there? That's the mall. Behind us, that other glow is Wild Horse. Nice area."
"Where do you live, Sheriff Bindermann?"
"Call me James! My kids and I live on my parent's ranch. I Just built myself a house there and plan to take over the business in a couple of years. We grow the best wine grapes in the state. You know what? Napa has nothing on our grapes down here, we just need to learn how to hype the product."
"How about up north along Highway 49? Is that good vineyard country?" Kevin asked.
"Heck yeah! Plymouth is good for growing all kinds of things. That's over there by Apple Hill. You can't throw a football without hitting one orchard or farm all up in those foothills. Except for the bay area and our ranch, that's some of the prettiest land on Earth. By the way.  If you two aren't doing anything tomorrow, why don't you join us at the ranch? We're having a barbecue. I'll get the ATVs out and we'll take a tour of the place."
"I would love that!" Franklin yelled. He and his father loved to look at rural properties. They did not want to own a rural property. They just liked to drive out and look at them. Kevin, however, was serious. He wanted to be a real western man with a real ranch, horses and crops. 
"Here's what I'm going to do. I just thought about a couple of other places  single women might go to.  I'll have one of my deputies make the rounds all night if he has to. What else are you looking for?"
"He will try to pick off a straggler, not a complete drunk, but the one woman who is not quite ready to leave the bar. It will be a high end bar, one that she feels safe in. She will drive home carefully if she does not meet a man of substance and quality. She is married and her children are with their grandparents, not a babysitter. On the Father's side this weekend I think. Her husband is traveling, probably to a conference in Europe, not Asia. She is white, has a graduate degree, is very attractive and well traveled. She will be wearing an interesting piece of jewelry that is designed to be a conversation starter. This will not be the first time she has had a "one night stand" while her husband was traveling."
"Whoa! Are you just making this up, my man?" The sheriff yelled.
"No he's not. He does this all the time and he's usually right all the time. I've never seen anything like it." Franklin stood up for his partner.
“I feel protective over Kevin  even when I know that Kevin is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. I guess, with someone as smart as Kevin, my natural tendency is  to take on a protective role.” Aloud, he said. 
"People this smart are always unfocused about the real world, but Kevin pays attention to everything.”
“When he does that out of the blue, he scares people! He makes people think that he is crazy. He doesn't need me trying to take care of him, but I will help him to hold back on that with strangers." Franklin thought, "It is just going to take time to get used to a smart person who can kick ass, I guess."
Kevin was doing his own thinking. “Franklin acts like a big brother! I admit that he is more experienced in American life and I should respect that experience. It’s odd that I don’t get huffy and defensive about it, though. Franklin just carries a gravitas about him that makes others look up to him. He also saw through my bullshit, but never made a fuss about it.”
"Uh oh," The sheriff yelled and excused himself. He went to the back of the van to yell orders at the backup police. Get those kids over to the jail and book them! Do NOT let the mayor interfere or you can arrest him, too!" the sheriff said. 
"Isn’t that the mayor trying to get his kid out of the van?" Franklin wondered. "I don't believe it."
"He's going nowhere with that," Sheriff Bindermann grinned. "I'm an elected sheriff and he is under a weak mayor city charter. It's time we let him and his cronies know that they can't just remove their kids from a police vehicle and take them home. The real issue is that the Mexican and Asian drug cartels are coming into the area and this isn't just a bunch of innocent kids growing a few buds in the backyard. I have to send a message to the kids who still think they are invincible because of their rich rancher parents."
"This is important to you, isn't it, Sheriff?" Kevin asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"Yeah. It’s an old problem in these transitioning rural communities. A handful of big shots used to call the shots when I was growing up. Most of the big ranchers like my folks never let us behave like that. On the other hand, they didn’t have to deal with the drug culture.”
“I understand.” Kevin said. Now Franklin was squinting at him. He said, “OK, so we were all screw ups in our teens and we each got straightened out by someone, right?”
“Right!” Kevin and the Sheriff yelled in unison. 
They did not know what they were talking about. Events were about to unfold that would take their health, idealism, sanity and possibly their lives. On the surface, Taylor City was a halcyon, friendly little peach of a town.

Kevin and Franklin were about the peel the rind off of a complicated and treacherous fruit.


Part II is here

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