by Gary Hoffman
Enjoy this never before published mystery short story.
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” Jake Potter said.
Jake, who was a deputy on the Madison County Arkansas’s Sheriff’s Department, drew an imaginary circle on the rug with the toe of his boot. “Guess not.”
The two men were looking at another murder victim whose right hand was placed on their chest. Their hand had been clasped around a spoon, with the bowl of the spoon pointed towards their face. The handle of the spoon had been jammed into their heart. The chief took several pictures of the body. He then snapped on a pair of surgical gloves and removed the spoon from the victim’s chest. Jake gagged and turned away.
The sheriff turned it over and looked at the back. He then dropped it in a plastic bag and handed it to Jake. “I want you to drive this over to Fayetteville and see if the lab there can get any prints off this one.”
The spoon they had found on the first victim had no prints on it. He was hoping the killer may have gotten careless this time. But like the first murder, there was very little blood, which made the chief believe the killer inserted the spoon after the victim was dead. There were marks on the victim’s throat just like the first murder. An autopsy revealed the marks were made by someone’s hands. Hands that were powerful and were used to strangle the victim. Strangulation was the cause of death.
After Jake left, he spent two hours going over the room, house, and yard where they found the body of Emma Post, a life-long resident of the small town of Wesley. Nothing they were finding made sense. No one in Wesley could remember the last murder before these two. Now there had been two within two weeks. And they both appeared to be the work of some kind of serial killer. Both victims were strangled and had a spoon in their chest.
The first victim was Marvin Mills. He had settled in Wesley after retiring from the Air Force as a one-star general. He had purchased a house there because it was a small town. He always said he enjoyed the atmosphere of a small town, especially when raising children. He had visited the area often, liked the place so well, and moved there after he retired.
Jake went back to his office to mull over what little he knew about the murders so far. His first thought was that there may be a connection between the two people, but he didn’t know of any. Emma worked as a librarian at their library since it opened. He was sure Marvin used the library, but other than that, he knew of no connection. They probably only knew each other on a speaking basis.
There was nothing fancy about the spoons left at each crime scene. They were stainless steel with the words “Made in USA” on the back. They didn’t match the spoons in the victim’s silverware drawers. They could have come from anywhere—anywhere someone could have purchased a set of tableware.
The chief figured the killer must have been strong to have taken Marvin down like that. Marvin kept himself in good shape even after he retired. Walt remembered seeing him out jogging the streets of Wesley early in the morning. Emma would be easy for most anyone to overpower.
Both victims lived alone. Emma was never married, and Marvin was a widower. There were no signs of a forced entry in either case, so Walt figured both victims knew or trusted whoever killed them. Again, he could make no connection. This whole thing was beyond small county sheriff’s department that mainly handled domestic disputes or barroom brawls.
Jake called him from Fayetteville. ”There were a couple of good prints on the spoon, but whoever they belong to isn’t in the system. I had them check all that.”
“Well, bring the spoon and their report back with you. See you in the morning.”
Morning brought them no closer to any answers. They split up and talked to people who lived around the two victims to see if they saw anything. It was an exercise in futility. Two days of relative calm followed, except for the nervousness of the townspeople. The third day, Walt got a call about noon from Cathy at the Lakeside Motel. “Better get down here. Looks like we’ve got another one,” she said.
At eleven-thirty Cathy’s maid entered a room to clean it. Check out time was eleven. She had knocked, but got no answer. She found the man on the floor. No signs of forced entry. His suitcase was opened and set on a lowboy. There were some papers from a take-out dinner on the table by the window.
His registration card listed his name as Larry Kellogg from Flint, Michigan. “Told me he traveled and sold equipment to construction companies,” Cathy told them.
“Any idea where he got the food?” Walt asked.
“No. He didn’t make any phone calls through our system. Maybe he’s got a cell phone,” she said. They found his cell under a shirt on the bed. Walt opened the phone and found the last call was made to a number in Michigan. “Wasn’t Marvin originally from Michigan?” he asked Jake.
“Think he was from Minnesota.”
“Guess we better keep this phone so we can notify next of kin,” Walt said.
Searching the room gave them no more answers. They took the spoon and cell phone when they left.
Since neither of them had eaten lunch, they stopped at Neil’s Diner. When they came in, Neil was sitting at the counter drinking coffee, but moved with them at their table. “Hear you got another one,” he said.
“Looks like it,” Jake offered.
“Something like that is really weird,” Neil said. “I obviously didn’t know the man, but he did call here last night to get his supper delivered. It’s just strange I was talking to him a few hours ago and now he’s dead.”
Walt flipped open the cell phone and looked at the last calls made. “Well, crap. I didn’t go far enough.” He turned the screen towards Neil. “That third number down yours?”
“Did you deliver the food to him at the motel?”
“No, not personally. Bobby Gene does that sort of thing for me. He rides that bike of his all over town like a mad man.”
“Bobby Gene Taylor?”
“Yeah, he’s worked for me for a couple of years now. Everyone said his mind wasn’t sound enough to work for anyone, but he does a pretty good job for me.”
“What else does he do?”
“Mainly washes dishes.”
“He here now?” Walt asked.
“Yep. In the back doin’ his thing.”
“Go get him and bring him out here, would you please? I think we better talk to him.”
The first thing Bobby Gene said when he approached the table was, “’Bout time you got here, Sheriff.”
Walt wrinkled his brow and squinted his eyes. “Well, just have a seat, Bobby Gene, and tell me what you mean by that.”
“Well, I left you enough clues.” He giggled. “I thought you’d figure it out before now.”
“Want to tell me about it, Bobby Gene?”
He giggled again and wiped his upper lip with his hand. “I’m famous, don’t you see? Are the reporters and photographers waiting outside for when you bring me out in cuffs?”
“Famous for what?”
“I’m the most famous serial killer in the world. I wiped them all out.”
“Why’d you do it, Bobby Gene?” Jake asked.
“To be famous. Dishwashers don’t get much fame. Now everyone in the world will know me as the bestest serial killer ever. I’ll bet I’ll be more famous than Jack the Ripper. I saw a show on television once about him.”
“How’d you get to them, Bobby Gene?” Jake asked.
“He means why did they let you in their houses,” Walt said.
“Oh, that part was simple. Everybody says I’m dumb, but that part was easy to figure out. After I’d deliver them some food, I’d go back later and tell them there was a screw-up on their bill, and I owed them some money. Everybody wants money. They were happy to let me in.” He giggled and shook his head. “Boy, this is gonna be great. Me, Bobby Gene Taylor, serial killer.”
“That’s what you use to eat it, right?”
“What’s that mean?” Jake asked.
Bobby Gene looked at him like he was the stupidest person in the world.
“So you killed these people just because they ordered take-out food?” Walt asked.
Bobby Gene giggled again. “No, silly. I wanted to be a serial killer, and they were the big three—General Mills, Post, and Kellogg.”
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