The Sixth Angel: A Murder Mystery
The Ban Hammer
Join Date: Aug 2004
Well, many of you may not know it, but I tend to write a lot. Over the last three years, a friend and I have been working on a murder mystery novel titled The Sixth Angel. It has been through an editor and is now available on Amazon in both eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($10.99).
It has been critically reviewed by a long-standing Idaho journalist, and by a former governor of Idaho:
For those who do, I hope you enjoy it.
A sampling for your reading pleasure:
Harney County, Oregon
Morning’s first light glimmered through a half finger of unfinished bourbon, casting its caramel reflection across a worn table and onto the face of Josh Matthews. He squinted, resenting the pesky intrusion. Uncomfortable and exhausted, he took an inventory of himself. For one thing, he lay crammed into the confines of a couch too short for his six-foot frame. He hadn’t taken the time to remove his gun belt last night, and he groaned as he shifted and felt his handcuffs and holster digging into his side.
The movement brought an answering protest from his legs. His knees were sore, no doubt the product of much prayer before God over the past few hours. To top things off, his eyes ached from tears and lack of sleep. His fitful napping had been punctuated with the memory of screaming voices and the broken bodies of young people crushed by the weight of indulgence.
In short, he’d seen better days—or nights.
Alone in his anguish, he was brought upright by the grinding bleat of the telephone hanging in the kitchen. His eyes tracked to the clock near the door. Six twenty a.m. Twenty minutes past his lifelong rising time of six o’clock.
He scanned the table and growled at the star of golden light pestering him through the bourbon. “I hate you,” he groaned as he strained to take the call. It seemed an impossible distance from his lonely dent in the couch.
“Matthews,” he said into the receiver in a voice cracking with exhaustion. He rubbed his eyes.
The voice on the other end held barely restrained excitement. “Sheriff, it’s Linda.” Linda had worked in the office for sixteen years and strove to keep Sheriff Matthews informed of any major development. “You’re needed up at Marshall Creek.”
Josh immediately straightened. “What’s wrong?” he asked. He already knew it was important because Linda would never have bothered him at home unless it was. His home was his only place of refuge, and she knew it. Her call meant something bad, perhaps worse than last night. There could be no other reason.
“Max just called in. He’s up there right now. Harry Grey called in bright and early to report finding a dead body. He says to tell you that it’s pretty horrendous.”
Josh stood silent while his thoughts raced back over the past several hours. The last thing he needed was another disaster, but it appeared he was not going to avoid it. “All right. Let me get a shower and some coffee. Does Max have anyone in custody?”
“No, not at this time.” The woman’s voice cracked. “Sorry, Sheriff. I know you’re tired.”
“Don’t worry about it, Linda. Call Max and make sure he’s got the scene roped off. I’ll be up there as soon as I can.”
Josh rested the phone on the receiver and leaned on it while he scanned the room. He couldn’t remember a time when the kitchen looked so unkempt. It was a struggle to keep up, and he wondered how his daughter had done it. With her gone from the home so long, he could do little more than care just enough to notice. She had been a force in his life, and he missed her more in that moment than he had since she’d left.
He got coffee brewing, climbed into the shower, and closed his eyes as the hot water washed over his aching muscles. Rinsing the stink of death and vomit from his skin, he felt a bit more relaxed, if not at least clean. He shut off the faucet, toweled himself, and pulled on a fresh uniform. Pausing as he looked at his badge, he forced back a shuddering lower lip and the anguish of the night’s horrid events. An early morning automobile accident out on the highway had taken the lives of a close friend’s twin sons and resulted in the arrest of the driver, a girl he had known from birth. A girl his very own daughter had babysat for ten years.
And now, with that hell fresh on his mind, had come the news that a body had been found deep in the woods. The deputy, Max Shafer, was young but seasoned and knew his job well. He wouldn’t use a word like murder unless it was. However, Josh wasn’t one to jump to conclusions. He would reserve judgment until he arrived on the scene.
With a quick cup of coffee that burned his tongue and a full thermos for later, he left the house and returned to his home away from home—a 1971 Chevy truck he’d been driving since new. It was a bit rickety and slow to start on a cold winter morning, and it was in need of paint and new fabric, but it was reliable and got him around the county in a pinch.
The drive up Highway 395 soon brought Josh back to the previous night as he rounded a bend in the road and crept past the accident scene. A tow truck had at last arrived and the driver was hoisting a crumpled VW Bug’s carcass onto the flatbed. In the dawning light Josh saw the true extent of the damage, and he was amazed that the driver had walked away with barely more than a scratch. He also fully understood why the boys had been killed.
He waved politely at the tow driver and went on his way.
It was a cool morning, and the trees were dipped in dew, sparkling with a million tiny rainbows. The road twisted and turned, and Josh kept a steady hand on the wheel as he tried to focus his mind away from one death scene to another. He had no idea what he would find up in the mountains, and he wondered why a body might be found so far off the beaten path in the first place.
He turned right onto NFD 2820 and pulled over to refill his coffee cup, then waited for a logging truck to rumble by before continuing on. The dusty road wandered east in something approximating a straight line until the turnoff at 3935 to the north. Josh followed the road with a steady determination that echoed his patience in focusing on the task at hand.
A few minutes longer and he pulled the truck in behind Max Shafer’s cruiser, turned off the engine, and stepped out onto the dirt road. He shivered in the shade of the pines and junipers as they cast their long shadows across a thin stand of trees hemmed in by banks of fog hugging along the ridges. Trunks with four-foot diameters and one-hundred-foot heights were not uncommon here, and he leaned against one to adjust a boot and straighten out his gun belt.
“Ugh,” he groaned as he wiped a sticky bit of pine tar from his hand. He looked up into the dizzying heights but held his words. Cursing at the tree would do no good.
Two additional squad cars sat parked in a clearing, telling Josh he was late to the party. That struck him a hard blow. He was known for his punctuality and made it a habit to be where he was needed when he was needed. He did his best to look after the people who’d put him in the office and entrusted him with their safety. When he’d first run for sheriff some twenty-eight years ago, he’d done so on the promise that Harney County would be a safe, satisfying place to live, where a man could raise a family free from the fear that some wayward misfit would come calling yet still hunt and fish and raise a ruckus so long as he didn’t bother anyone else. He had won that first election by just four votes. Every election since had been a landslide. That near unanimous voter confidence caused Josh to take pride in his job. He knew he was good at it, and that self-assurance reflected onto his deputies, who also took pride in their jobs.
From where he stood beneath the towering pine, and with the murmur of his men hunting through the brush, he reached deep for control. Some terrible force had unleashed itself within the boundaries of his county, and although he could not escape the feeling that he had seen this too many times before, he had to focus. Still, he could not shake the sense of betrayal that the county’s quiet existence had been shattered.
“Not again,” he said under his breath.
He paused again to check his attitude, collect himself, and then take a slow look around to commit the details to his mind. Tire tracks, footprints, the mist, shadows, a broken twig, and a red Mustang convertible parked opposite the turnout. Other than an accumulation of road dust, the Mustang was clean. There was a woman sitting in it watching him. Further down the road a man in uniform strolled along, occasionally disappearing behind a tree or a shrub, and Josh recognized the portly figure of Deputy Shaw …
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Last edited by kscherer : 2020-02-26 at 16:28.
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