Detective Greg Warren stood over the limp body laying beside the back entrance to McGregor’s Bar and Grill. Dirty and bloody, it was hard to believe that this was once a man. He stooped down beside the body so that he could shine his light on the man to get a better view. The beard on the man covered the premature wrinkling of a face that had seen a hard life. Warren tried hard to recognize the man but the dim lighting in the alley made it difficult to make out many features.
“We better get him to the morgue so that the ME can examine the body,” he said to the uniformed officers standing behind him. “It looks like he was beat to a pulp by someone.”
As Warren moved aside, the ambulance pulled up and the EMTs brought out a gurney. The techs carefully placed the body on the gurney and lifted it into the open van. The interior lighting illuminated the man and showed him to actually be someone who was probably in his early 30’s. Warren froze as he finally got a closer look at the victim.
“Stop! Hold up for a minute.” Warren pulled open the back door of the ambulance and got right in. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be.
But it was. Lying on the gurney was the body of Luke Joseph, a classmate of Warren’s from Shelbyville High. Warren hadn’t seen the man since high school graduation, a graduation that Luke Joseph had been tossed out of due to various behavioral issues at that event. Luke Joseph had been the high school bully and his actions finally caught up with him on that day.
How had Joseph’s life come to this? Was the killing part of something that had gone wrong with someone from the small town of Shelbyville, Kentucky? Or was this possibly the result of Joseph’s involvement with thugs from Louisville or perhaps St. Louis? Warren had a lot of questions and no answers.
“I’m riding with the body to the county morgue,” he said to the emergency medical technicians. The men nodded and simply closed the van’s door. Greg Warren was known to be a driven, impulsive man so it was not unusual for him to get heavily involved in some of his cases. And although the med techs didn’t know it, this particular case was personal to him.
Warren once again illuminated Joseph’s body as the ambulance made its way to the county morgue. He tried to remember the man but had trouble bringing back any specific memories about Joseph. While in high school, Joseph had kept to a small group of friends and was aloof in many ways. What had he done to get toss from his graduation? Warren couldn’t remember.
The ambulance entered the Shelbyville County morgue and parked at the back ramp. The techs removed the gurney and wheeled the body into the morgue receiving area. After filling out the necessary paperwork for the body, the EMTs pushed the gurney back to Examining Room #1 where they left Warren and the deceased Luke Joseph. Warren continued to look at Luke Joseph’s face, all the time wondering what kind of life this man had had since high school.
Warren was still deep in thought when the examining room door opened a few minutes later. Medical Examiner Robert Prescott came in, fully gowned and read to work on the body. He stopped a short distance into the room, surprised to see Greg Warren in the room at 10 PM on a Thursday night.
“Don’t have cable Warren?” the cocky ME asked as he walked up to the detective. “Can’t think of any other reason why you would be here instead of at home on a week night.”
“Sorry to impose Rob,” the detective replied. “But this one is personal. Went to high school with the man.”
“Any idea what happen?” the ME asked as he started to look at the body on the examination table. He pulled off the dead man’s shirt and pants while extending his visual examination from the face to the man’s full body.
“Not really. Just looks like he was beaten severely.”
“That he was.” Prescott continued to examine the body while taking notes on his initial visual impressions of the corpse. “Look, Greg. Why don’t you go home for the evening and come back mid-morning tomorrow. It will take me a while to do an autopsy and tox screen. I’ll be able to tell you more in the morning.”
“OK Rob. I know you need some time to do your work.”
Warren was back in the morgue at 10 AM the next morning, anxious to hear what Rob Prescott had found out about Luke Joseph. He caught the ME yawning in the reception area while making coffee.
“Learn anything more overnight?”
“Actually, I learned a lot. Grab yourself some coffee and let’s have a talk about the departed Mr. Joseph.”
Prescott proceeded to outline what he had found in his examination. Luke Joseph had suffered trauma to his head, chest, and back. The bruising was severe with some open wounds being present particular in the face and upper chest. In addition, Prescott’s tox screen found cocaine in Joseph’s blood and an alcohol level of 0.22%, well above the intoxication level.
“Joseph was so drunk when he left the bar last night that he probably had trouble seeing his attackers much less defending himself.”
“Rob, you used the term ‘attackers’. Do you believe Luke Joseph was attacked by more than one man?”
“Yes, definitely. Joseph’s body has bruising patterns on it that show finger marks from the hands holding him. Two different sets of finger patterns are in the bruising. One is from large hands and the other from much smaller hands.”
“Wow. You surprised me with that information.”
Prescott took a small sip from his coffee and then continued. “You know, this murder has some similarities to the one we had in North Shelbyville last week.”
Warren stopped writing notes and looked up at Rob Prescott. “What murder?”
Prescott stroked his chin before responding. “We had a body come in from North Shelbyville on the 13th. The corpse had bruising in the face, chest and back just like this one. But more importantly, the bruising also showed some of the same type of finger patterns on the body. Some from large hands, others from smaller ones.”
Warren gave the information some thought before asking his next question. “Any ID on the North Shelbyville victim?”
Prescott took another sip of coffee and then replied. “Yes, the man was Harold Elliott from Lancaster. 32 years old.”
Warren’s face turned white as he sat in disbelief. Could the man be “Biff Elliott” from Shelbyville High?? Another classmate? If so, then all of this just could not be a coincidence.
Harold “Biff” Elliott had been the Shelbyville High football team captain while Warren attended the school. He was part of the popular crowd at Shelbyville High. Conceded and arrogant, Biff was a bit of the bully himself. Perhaps that is why he got along so well with Luke Joseph. They travelled together in the same circle. They were “amigos” and even called each other by the name. Warren finally was remembering some details about the two men.
Warren’s mind was racing as he turned back to Rob Prescott to ask one final question. “Did you find anything else in your examination of Luke Joseph and Harold Elliott?”
Prescott nodded and put down his coffee cup. “Yes. Both corpses had one other unusual condition. Both men had hair removal on the right side of their heads, with cuts and bleeding on the scalp. The appearance on both bodies was very similar.”
Warren dropped his head into his left hand as he closed his eyes. Oh my god. Chills went up his spine as he got faint from the thoughts going through his mind.
“You OK Greg?” Prescott got up from his chair and walked over to Warren. The police detective looked ill.
“I think I may know who did these murders. And they may have one more person on their list to kill before they’re through.”
Rob Prescott watched inquisitively as Greg Warren talked on his cell phone to the Shelbyville County Police. He couldn’t make out much of the conversation but he did hear Warren say “just do it” and “trust me on this”. When the call was done, Warren thanked Prescott for his examination work and took off toward his car.
The drive to the Bufford farm just outside of town only took slightly more than 20 minutes. The old farm was dark but Warren approached it nonetheless. With his gun drawn, Greg Warren entered the unlocked door of the main house and tiptoed up the stairs.
A dim light was on in the corner bedroom and the door was slightly ajar. Warren opened it slowly as he looked around. A voice from inside the room softly called out to him. “Come in detective, I have been expecting you.”
Warren turned on an overhead light and entered the room. A small man was sitting in a rocking chair and facing the front window of the room. On the bed beside him was a large man with blood stained clothes. Warren quickly realized that John Bufford, “Little John” as he was called by his family, was dead. His brother Sam continued to rock on the chair beside him.
“Why did you do it Sam?” Warren asked even though he already knew the answer. “Why did you kill Luke Joseph and Biff Elliott?”
Sam Bufford continued to rock as Warren waited for a reply. “You know the answer Greg. It should be clear to you. Joseph and Elliott tormented John and me all through high school. They got their kicks out of punching us, making fun of John’s learning disabilities. They even cut off parts of our hair, calling it ‘scalping’ to make fun of our Native American heritage. And all the rest of you just stood around and did nothing about it.”
Warren looked down in shame as the words ate into him. He couldn’t deny Bufford’s claims about his passiveness to the bullying.
“Sam, I understand your anger toward us but why kill John?”
Bufford shrugged as he continued to rock in the chair. “Had to. John would have been tormented, possibly even raped in prison after our trial. The other inmates would have called him retarded and abused him. I had to protect him from all of that.”
Warren looked at Sam with a mixture of pity and disbelief. “It’s over Sam. I have people at JT Lawrence’s house. You won’t get to him.”
JT Lawrence, the last of the ‘Three Amigos’, was the leader of the three man gang in high school. Good looking, popular, and a con-artist with adults, JT was now a councilman in the Shelbyville County government. Warren was sure that he was the last of Bufford’s targets.
“Too late Greg. Lawrence has been dead since this morning. John and I killed him to finish this work.”
Warren dropped his head in frustration as he watched Bufford continue to rock. What could he have done to prevent all of this from occurring? What should he have done? He knew that the answer to those questions were back in the past. 16 years in the past.
Bufford stopped rocking, turned around and faced Warren. “Take me in Greg. You still have your duty to the county to perform.” With that, the man approached Warren, his arms extended and ready to be cuffed.
Author’s Bio: Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He enjoys creative writing and is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.