(Revamping the blog. Please excuse the odd headings. Working on it!)

Writing History & Mysteries

When I'm not delving into historical research, I'm planning a character's demise.

The Milk Carton Murders

BLURB: Dave Robertson, a reporter for the Lamont Weekly Times, is the first to admit his quirks put women off.  He’s clumsy at times. Then there’s that annoying voice in his head. Doesn’t everybody talk to themselves once in a while?

“Not like you do Davy―or should I say, not like we do?”
When three small coffins are unearthed near the Wiscoy Creek during a routine dredging operation, it’s the last thing Dave expected to be reporting on. Pinned to the skeleton’s clothing are pictures from milk cartons of missing girls. Dave is stunned to find out that one of them is Sally―a foster child his parents had cared for through the Friends of Foster Families (FFF) program. Granted, he couldn’t remember much from his past, but he could swear that Sally was returned to her parents.
Dave’s brain chatter becomes more intrusive when Sally’s remains are found. He worries his problem may be more serious then he thought.

Cold case files reveal the girls disappeared over 20 years ago.  Knowing his house was the last place he saw Sally alive, he can’t help but suspect his dad. Dave's inner voice reinforces that suspicion.

Police investigator, Pepper Black, allows Dave to tag along on the case if he holds back publishing the photos of the insides of the coffins; she thinks he knows more than he’s telling. An exclusive, and keeping one step ahead of Pepper, is incentive for Dave to hold back the photos―not to mention how hot Pepper looks with all her CSI gadgets hanging off her belt.

But how can he write the biggest story of his career if his father turns out to be the killer? If the voice in his head would shut up and let him remember, he might figure it out before he loses his mind and his dad is charged with murder.

Here is a recap of the Weekend Writing Warriors 8 sentence snippets.

 (1) 2013 Feb 17
Herbert Wilde squatted down alongside the CSI waiting for further instructions.
“Well this is it gentleman," said Pepper, “you ready?”
It was a question that didn’t require an answer.
 Pepper lifted the coffin lid.
 “Shit,” Dave said.          
“I ditto that,” said Sheriff Nazzaro.   
The first thing everyone noticed was the clipped section of another milk carton pinned to what seemed to be another female skeleton.
The piece of milk carton that Dave could clearly see read, MISSING April 8, 1990, from Albany, NY, Lisa Appleton.
(2) 2013 Feb 24 
SETUP:Up to this point, Dave, a small town news reporter, thought he was on a routine assignment about storm cleanup at Wiscoy Creek. No one expected three coffins to dislodge from the embankment. Dave recognizes the picture on a milk carton piece as a girl from his childhood when his mom & dad served as foster parents. 
Italics below is the "voice" Dave hears in his head.
Dave stood there, frozen in memories. It couldn't be Sally. His father said she had been placed elsewhere by the child services people.
That's what daddy Hal said, Davy. I wonder what the hell he really meant by placed elsewhere, don't you?
No time now for inner psycho babble. Dave popped the memory card out of his camera and put in a new one. If the sheriff wanted his pictures, he could have them, but he wasn’t getting everything. Dave wanted some close-ups of Sally―if it was Sally. Poising to steady himself, he snapped the shutter.
SETUP:Dave’s dad worked in the printing department of the Wiscoy Dairy before he retired. When Dave was younger his mom & dad were foster parents. Dave had gone away to college and was working as a journalist for a newspaper in Chicago. When his mother died 5 years ago he moved back home to take care of his dad and works at the Lamont Weekly Times. When Dave sees the Wiscoy Dairy milk carton piece with the picture of “Sally,” he is confused. The picture is right, but the name says Samantha Briggs. He pulls some old photos from the attic in which Sally is wearing a blue gingham dress. He puts the SIMM card from his camera in the computer and sees the girl in the coffin is wearing the same dress. Dave already told his dad what they found at the creek. He tries again to ask his dad some questions.

“She didn’t stay with us long did she?”
“No —couple months. She was a tough one Sally was, couldn’t ever accept her parents weren’t coming for her—they were gone. Dead. She became detached. Kept insisting her name was Sammy, like if she could pretend she was someone else everything would be okay. She was a difficult child to take care of—just couldn’t adapt.”
 “Sammy? I don’t remember her using the name Sammy,” Dave said.
“No? Well maybe I’m thinking of a different one. That could be—yes. Your mother and I did care for a lot of kids over the years.”
“Do you remember her last name? I’d like to see if I could find her. See if she turned out alright, had a good life.”
“No, no I don’t remember. Don’t waste your time. You’ll never find her anyway.”
“Why do you say that, dad?”
“Well, because they’re girls, David. Almost impossible to find girls.”

SETUP:This is from the perspective of the killer, who has a now old dog named Baxter.
The mutt was just a puppy when it first started, a stray himself--kids weren’t part of the plan. Then one April day everything changed. The love of my life got out of the car, child in tow, and casually came up the walk as if it was normal--as if the child was another Baxter found on the side of the road.
“Adorable, isn't she? You remember her don’t you?”
“Yes, Samantha Briggs, she was sent back home a few months ago so why is she here?”
“You mean Melissa. Her name is Melissa now, isn’t it sweetie?”

 (5) 2013 March 17 
SETUP: Some background. These are cold cases that happened over 20 years ago.
Continuing from last week in the perspective of the killer when he/she reflects back on the day when said killer's mate showed up at the door with a child. 
It turned out to be a simple task to make up paperwork to go along with a child. It was easier to bypass all the middlemen, skip putting the children through custody battles, ignore all the useless paper work, endless meetings and court dates delayed after delays on end. No one working in the system really cared anyway. To the paper pushers, the children were just piles of carbon copies to shuffle around―not people at all. Of course they needed a new name so their wretched parents couldn’t find them. A bit of firm coaxing to instill trust until their past was forgotten to them.  A few forms worded with precision, slipped into files here and there that never got noticed. Broken systems were easy to work around.

 (6) 2013 March 24

SETUP: We'll leave the killer's perspective now and return to Dave's POV.
Dental records were confirmed that the skeletal remains were in fact the girls pictured on the milk carton clippings. Dave's dad went to the senior center so Dave takes the opportunity to go back up into the attic to dig around for old files or photos despite the fact he hates it up there.Like typical attics, everything just got added and pushed back further and further over the years. As if moving back in time with every box he moves, he reaches the other end of the attic by the front window. As before, italics is the voice in Dave's head.
         An old wooden chair layered in grit sat strategically placed by the window—a testament to its years of service as the neighborhood watcher. On instinct, Dave rubbed his hand along the edge of the back. His fingers felt ridged grooves beneath its cover of dust, not carved very deep—he blew. A tilt of the chair one way, then the other, but he still couldn’t read it clearly. He ripped a piece of newspaper from where it was wrapped around some nick-knack or other and found a pencil on a shelf. He laid the paper flat on the chair back and rubbed the lead until the letters appeared, “I am Sammy Briggs July 21, 1987.”
         Dave jumped up with a start, stumbled backward over a box behind him and landed on his tail bone.

         Shit, Davy, bet you weren't expecting that, eh?

 (7) 2013 March 31
SETUP: I thought this week I would try to share a bit about what my rural town looks like. Dave, my MC, is walking the three blocks from the sheriff’s office back to the newspaper. He grew up here and his mom and dad were foster parents when he was a kid. One of the three coffins dislodged from the Wiscoy Creek bank had a milk carton clipping of a missing girl pinned to the remains that turns out to be a girl Dave's parents had fostered over 20 years ago. Other comments by Dave’s dad make Dave wonder if his dad is the killer.
The antique shops, finished with their winter weekend only hours, now ran in full swing. Early spring flowers hung in planters from old style street lamps the town’s work crew installed to replace the tall, steel light poles that extended out over the road. Cement slab sidewalks were ripped out and redone with red brick the year before when utility lines were laid underground—all to give the business district more charm. A lot of effort and money had been invested in the overhaul and the tourists loved the return to the quaint look of days gone by, but how charmed would they be when they found out about children’s coffins floating in the same creek they planned to canoe on? Lamont looked the same as it had last Friday before the storm; it just didn’t feel the same. Dave’s fingers tingled as he touched the ancient wooden door of the Lamont Weekly Times. How many reporters had gone before him and pushed on this same door in the same spot obsessed with a story that ate away at them?  Dave wanted a Pulitzer worthy scoop and now he had it—he just hadn’t expected to be part of it.

SETUP: In this week's post Dave Robertson is having a conversation with his boss Marty, owner of the rural town newspaper, The Lamont Weekly Times.  Dave finds some old files in the attic containing photos of the girls whose coffins were recently found at Wiscoy Creek. The pictures are right but the names don't match the ones on the Milk Carton pieces found on the girl's skeletal remains. Dave is meeting Investigator Pepper Black for lunch. She wants him to find old articles on the newspaper's microfilm. He hasn't turned anything over to Pepper yet because Dave thinks his dad might have been the killer. 
As always, the sentence below in italics is the voice inside Dave's head. 
Dave is speaking first below.
"No actually she asked me to lunch--and you'll be glad to know, for my silence on some of the details, I've been promised an exclusive. That and they've asked for my research assistance." 

"That’s not like you to hold back, Dave. What details did you leave out from the article?"

"Sorry Marty, I'm really not at liberty to say, not even to you."

"Well I hope it’s worth it, and someone else doesn't scoop you on it."

"I don't see that happening."

Me neither, Davy, considering you have some of the evidence.

(9) 2013 April 14

SETUP: Dave Robertson and Investigator Pepper Black are meeting for lunch at the Egg Roll in Lamont. Pepper has found something she wants Dave to look at. Remember, Dave’s mom and dad were foster parents when Dave was a kid, and his dad had worked at the printing department at the dairy. Pepper lays out digital copies of the three milk carton pieces found attached to the girls remains, buried about 20 years ago. Alongside it she sets down a copy of an original notice she sent for from the Archives of the Center For Missing Children to see if Dave sees anything different.
As a historical side note of importance, back in the 1980s and the real missing children milk carton campaign, the center sent out the layouts of the children to be printed.
"These three have been confirmed as our victims,” said Pepper, as she slid the digital copies in front of him.
"What about this other one?" asked Dave, pointing to the milk carton clipping he hadn’t seen yet.
"It’s unrelated; I want to see if you noticed anything different about them.
Dave studied the four milk carton pieces; they appeared almost identical--the same in the layout, the size, ink color--assuming the copy was exact to the original. There was however, something different. Working with the newspaper so long, he knew his fonts. "It’s the lettering,” Dave said. “The unrelated one is in Tahoma, our three are Arial. Very close, I don't think the average person would notice that, the differences being so slight―but they are different fonts."

(10) 2013 MAY 4     

SETUP: We last left off with Dave Robertson (reporter for the Lamont Weekly Times) and Investigator Pepper Black looking over old photos of missing children on milk carton pieces from the 1980s. Dave's mom and dad were foster parents to one of the victims and his dad also worked at the dairy in the printing department. To the best of Dave's knowledge, Pepper doesn't know these two facts yet. Pepper showed Dave copies of the three carton pieces from the remains they found in comparison to one from the Milk Carton Campaign. Dave notices the ones printed at Wiscoy Dairy (local milk plant) have a different font than the ones from the actual center. We now pick up with that conversation.

Pepper flipped the carton pieces back around to look. "Damn, you're right---I wasn't even talking about that either; I was talking about the dates."

"I see it," said Dave. "Our three all went missing the beginning of April, different years, but close in days; the 3rd, the 7th, and the 8th." He wondered if they were all the same day of the week.

"Now I'm more curious about the fonts," Pepper said.

Dave vaguely remembered his dad being away during Easter vacation. "I think the dates are significant." 

(11) 2013 MAY 11

SETUP: We’re jumping ahead a little. We’ll get back to the clues on the milk cartons later. Dave wonders if his dad is responsible for the killing of three little girls 20 years earlier that were recently dislodged from the bank of Wiscoy Creek. Dave’s Mom and Dad (Hal) were foster parents when he was a kid. Dave is in the office of the Lamont Weekly Times when Margret, the society page reporter; rushes in with exciting news that she’s just busting at the seams to tell. So of course Dave asks,” what?”
Text below in italics is the voice inside Dave’s head.
"I just got the skinny that your dad is getting an award from the Friends of Foster Families for all the wonderful work he did over the years in the foster care program," Margaret said, beaming, "and the Rotary's hosting it."

Dave missed his mouth with his mug as he stumbled backward coming close to spilling his coffee all over his shirt. "Shit!” He checked his front while he held his mug away from himself.

"I know, right? I was surprised too."

No Margaret, he really means, oh shit! An award for all Hal’s good deeds—how’s that for irony, Davy?

"Well,” said Dave, as he sat his mug on his desk and tried to compose himself, "I bet he'll be just thrilled about it."

"That's what I thought," Margaret said, "your mom too―posthumous of course."

"Well, that's just ... swell," said Dave.

(12) 2013 MAY 19

SETUP: The remains of the three girls have been identified through dental records at the Center for Missing Children including Samantha Briggs, the girl Dave knew as Sally when he was a kid. Dave (our MC and small town reporter) and investigator Pepper Black notice the dates on the 20 year old milk carton pieces were all on Sundays at the beginning of April. Last week Margret tells  Randy (newspaper’s layout guy) and Dave that his parents are getting an award for their service the Friends of Foster Families program. 
Words in italics is the voice in Dave’s head.
“It's pretty cool,” Randy said, feeding off Margaret’s energy, “big dinner, black tie, the big wigs come, good PR and all, and your dad will get a kick out of getting a picture with all of them. My dad has his hanging in his den I think."

"Can't wait," Dave answered, with a forced smile.

I don’t know, Davy, I’m thinking they’ll just skip the photo op and get right to the hanging part, most likely by that black tie.

Dave could feel the migraine spreading from his temples. “And when is this supposed to be?"

"The northeastern district award is given every April," answered Margaret, “and this year they’re hosting it in our county.”

(13) 2013 MAY 26

SETUP: The girls all went missing in the month of April, the same month the Friends of Foster Families had their annual northeastern awards banquet. Dave tries to remember what was going on in Lamont during 1985 and '86 when the other two girls went missing. He was getting ready to leave for college but there is one other thing of importance that happened not too long after--the disappearance of a Lamont Weekly Times reporter, where Dave now works. Dave is in Sheriff Clayton Nazzaro’s office along with Investigator Pepper Black.
“We already have some of our investigators working on that,” said Clayton, “looking to see if there were any marital squabbles involving children, any child molestation charges, and property trespassing reports—things along those lines in that time range, especially the month of April.”

“I can see that helping with Rachael from Cuba, New York and possibly the girl from Albany, but what about the girl from Pennsylvania?” asked Pepper. “Unless one parent abducted the child and moved in around here somewhere.”

“I checked our microfilm archives by the way,” Dave offered. “Here are some copies on Rachael McKenzie’s abduction, but nothing on the other two. Inky Dalton covered Rachael McKenzie’s case rather closely.”

“Who's Inky Dalton?” Pepper asked.

Ignatius Dalton, our only unsolved murder—technically missing person, I should say,” said Clayton. “He was an old coot, but a hell of a reporter huh, Dave?”

(14) 2013 JUNE 1

 SETUP: The layouts for each missing child that was placed on milk cartons came directly from The Center for Missing Children (which is a fact, by the way). The Wiscoy Dairy in Lamont was one of the dairies that manufactured their own cartons. Dave’s dad Hal worked there until he retired in the late 90s. The remains of the three girls were among the missing children in CMCs database, but their images were never featured in the milk carton program. So who switched the layouts to put them on Wiscoy Dairy cartons and why?

Dave Robertson (my MC reporter) and Investigator Pepper Black are in her jeep on their way to the Wiscoy Dairy to ask some questions. Pepper asks if he’s ever been away from Lamont. Dave speaks first in the conversation below.
The italics is the "other" voice inside Dave's head.
“I went to college in Chicago to the school for journalism, almost right after I graduated from high school, and worked at a newspaper there for a while until my mother died and I had to come back home.”

“What year did you go away to college?”

He was just thinking about that himself not too long ago. “I left for school in July of 1996.”

Pepper turned and looked Dave in the eye. “Right around the end time for our burials.”

Ought-oh, Davy boy—you know where she’s goin' with this, don’t you?

He might as well just say it out loud, “Well I’m not some crazed killer if that’s what you mean. Is that why you’re keeping me so close?”

 “It doesn’t mean anything, Dave—just making an observation.”

(15) 2013 JUNE 8

SETUP: In case you're just jumping into the story... There coffins washed out of the creek bank during a recent flood. The remains were three girls that went missing 20+ years ago. Dave suspects his dad. Their house had been the last place he had seen one of the girls alive. She was one of many children Dave's parents cared for through the foster program.Dave has blocked memories from his childhood, and the voice in his head goads him to remember. 
Below is part of a conversation Dave is having with his dad. His dad speaks first. As always, the italics is "the voice" Dave hears in his head. (I had to edit down some and mess with punctuation to fit, so I hope it doesn't lose its impact. For those who asked, yes I plan to publish this.)
His father said nothing for a moment, just stared at the blank television. “Dear God, it’s my fault—it’s my fault that she’s there.”

“What do you mean your fault?”

His father didn’t answer.

 Tell me!” shouted Dave. He had never raised his voice to his father before, ever.

Truth or dare time, Davy, truth or dare! I dare you to ask for the truth, all of it—come on, Davy! Don’t you want to know what happened?

Dave cupped his hands over his ears as if that would stop it. 

  (16) 2013 JUNE 23

SETUP: We pick up where we left off in the last post. The voice in Dave's head subsides when he focuses on his dad's health. No matter what, he was still his father. His dad speaks first below.
“Oh hell, David, how do you expect me to act?  How long have you known one was Sally?”

For the first time since he was a kid, Dave lied to his father. “Just since this morning.”

“How did it happen? Do they know who put them there?”

Dave paused, debating whether to continue, but had no choice now. “I want you to know, I found the files in the attic. I know about the letter, and I also know Sally, I mean Samantha, was up there. Why was she in the attic, Dad?”

SETUP: The conversation below is after the above one when Investigator Pepper Black comes to Dave's house to question his dad, Hal.  Hal blurted some stuff out which I won't tell you. This is immediately after that.
 “So you don’t think I killed those kids?” asked Hal.

“Now I didn’t say that; especially since you just planted the seed. You might very well be my killer. As you can see, I’m blunt too,” said Pepper. “I guess it’s going to depend on what you tell me or don’t tell me.”

“I didn’t kill anyone, Miss Black.”

“Well, you’re going to need to do better than that, Hal.”

“She’s a spunky one, David. I’d like that―if she wasn’t thinking of arresting me.”

SETUP: Investigator Pepper Black is still over at Dave's house questioning his father, Hal, on his connection to the murders of the three girls 20 years earlier whose remains were found at Wiscoy Creek. Pinned to each was a piece of a milk carton with their photograph as part of the missing children campaign of the 1980s and 90s. Only problem is they are different than the ones that came from the Center. Hal worked at one point in the print shop at the dairy.
As always, the words in italics is the "other" voice in Dave's head.

“You’re telling me someone who worked at the dairy switched the layouts?" said Hal. “That’s ridiculous. Why would they do that?”

“I don’t think the why is as important as the who,” Pepper answered, “and it would have to have been someone who worked in the print shop; they had to know how to do the process.”

“Well maybe the Center is missing a few of their layouts,” said Dave, “there were over 8,000 children.”

“I know that, and the Center can account for every single one of them,” Pepper said, “and as you pointed out, Dave, the font style on our carton pieces doesn’t match the font that the Center For Missing and Exploited Children used—even the layout style itself is slightly different.”

Two points for Pepper, Davy boy. You better come up with something or poor, old Hal here will be spending his retirement in Attica.

SETUP: Pepper had some pretty damning evidence against Dave's dad last time about his work in the print shop and how the killer changed the milk carton layouts to add his victims.

Dave didn’t like the way this was going. “Okay, two points for you, Pepper, but it seems pretty farfetched don’t you think?”

“Not really—maybe they were souvenirs for him,” said Pepper, “like some serial killers keep something from their victims. This would be so much better. The milk cartons with their pictures would be right in plain sight. He could look at them every day, in every store, and so would everyone else. It would be very gratifying for him.”

“That’s just plain sick!” said Hal.

We pick up a few paragraphs later from where we left off last week. (I'm skipping some key stuff I can't give away in a snippet. Suffice to say Hal is incriminating himself.) Investigator Pepper Black is still over at Dave's house attempting to be casual as they sit on the front porch and she questions Dave's father, Hal.

Dave swung his way up from the glider. Pepper looked dumbfounded as he walked towards the front door of the house; there was no going back now--no way to undo it.

“Dave, I asked you a question,” Pepper demanded, “who is Sally? Why is your dad saying it’s his fault she’s dead?”

“I called her Sally.” Dave paused. “You know her too, Pepper--you found her five days ago in a wooden coffin. Her real name is Samantha Briggs.”

And with that I must leave you hanging on that scene. I plan to publish this one way or another so I can't tell the key parts of the story in the snippets.  Next week we will jump ahead.

(21) 2013 AUG 4

 “Don’t say anything more. God, I didn’t want to have to say this—Hal Robertson, you’re under arrest for the murder of Samantha Briggs aka Sally. You have the right …”

Her words trailed off until Dave couldn’t hear them anymore. Funny, he did the same thing as a child when he couldn’t cope with tragedy, when he was scared—recede into his own little world, escape where he couldn’t get hurt—and his imaginary friend would be there waiting for him. No wonder he still talked to himself inside his head. There was something part of him was hiding from, something terrible, something that had happened to him and Sally. If he wanted to save his dad, and himself, he was going to have to figure out what that something was.

(22) 2013 AUG 24

SETUP: Last week, Hal (Dave's dad) was about to be arrested by Investigator Pepper Black for the 20 year old murder of one of the girls who was found by the creek. Sheriff Nazzaro shows up at Dave's house after the station is called to send a squad car.

“Pepper,” yelled the sheriff as he slammed the door of the patrol car, “what the hell is this about—arresting Hal for murder?”

“That’s right, sheriff, one of our milk carton victims was living here under a false name and Hal just said himself he killed her.”

“Oh wait a minute, now—he said no such thing!” said Dave. “What he said was it was his fault she was dead and buried by the creek.”

“Exactly,” said Pepper.

“Jeez, Pepper, it’s not the same thing, it doesn’t mean he killed her,” Dave said, exasperated.

“Alright—enough you two!” shouted Nazzaro. “Hal, when you said that, did you mean you killed her?”

(23) 2013 SEP 1

SETUP: In this scene we are still at Dave's house.  
As always, the words in italics is the "other" voice in Dave's head.
“Am I under arrest?” Dave’s father asked.

“No, Hal,” Nazzaro answered, “but that doesn’t mean you won’t be if you can’t explain yourself better than this—right now, I hate to say, I have to agree with Pepper. It sounds like you’re confessing to murder or accessory to murder; I can’t ignore it.”

Dave put his hands to his head and rubbed back and forth to try and make his migraine go away, to make it all go away―to have the voice stop. “I can’t believe this―I won't,” he said, louder than he intended.
You’re as chicken shit as ever, Davy―always hidin' from the truth.

"Just shut up!" Dave yelled. 

"Now David," his father said, putting a hand on his  shoulder, "don't be disrespectful to the sheriff― you were raised ... I raised you better than that."

(24) 2013 SEP 8

SETUP: Last week Dave was having a bit of a meltdown when his dad, Hal, was accused of the 20-year-old murder of one of the girls who was found by the creek-- one of the many foster children that passed through Dave's house as a child. Dave's voice in his head is more intrusive and he is answering it out loud--something he had never done before the bodies were found.  Hal agrees to go to the station to try and explain his side. The Sheriff allows Dave to bring him in his own car. We are a little ahead in the scene after Dave has composed himself, and speaks first below.
As always, words in italics is the "other" voice in Dave's head. 

“Thanks Sheriff, I just want to make sure he has his coat and his medicine. I don’t want the stress raising his sugar level.”

“And don't forget the foster files box,” his father said.

“Are you sure that’s a wise idea, considering?” Dave asked.

Considering you would be handing them evidence to hang daddy Hal with?

“You’re right,” mumbled Dave, “it could convict him.” Dave stopped himself---his father's confused look snapped his mind into focus.

“Pay attention, son," Hal said, "you know the answers could be in that box and I’m not going to be able to have this make any sense without it.”

 (25) 2013 SEP 21

SETUP: Hal agrees to go to the sheriff's station to try and explain his side. He makes sure Dave grabs two boxes to bring along. And just what are in those boxes anyway? Sheriff Clayton Nazzaro and Investigator Pepper Black are asking Hal a few questions. Some of the Q&A in the last few snippets has gotten a bit heated and confusing. 
“Everybody take a breath,” said Nazzaro, “and Hal, why don’t you try starting from the beginning instead of jumping in at the middle expecting us to understand what you’re talking about.”

“Well that’s why we brought the boxes, Clayton,” said Hal, as if the sheriff was blind. “All the files of every child we had are in it—you can’t expect me to remember everything from that long ago, I’m sixty-five for Christ sakes.”

Nazzaro winced, and shook a finger in Hal's direction. “That's not that old, Hal, and there’s nothing wrong with your mind—I know—my mother is your canasta partner.”

“What’s in the other box?” asked Pepper.

“Just random photos from over the years I found in the attic when I went up there to look for my pinewood derby car,” said Dave.

“In the middle of all we have been doing this last week, you were thinking of your Boy Scout car?” asked Pepper, dumbfounded.

 (26) 2013 OCT 5

“I was trying to trigger my dad’s memory about Sally," said Dave.

“Trigger my memory—that’s what the car bit was all about?” said Hal, annoyed. “Why the hell didn’t you just come out and ask me?”

“Hal, if you have something you want to get off your chest about all of this, I'm asking; it’s time to let it go,” said Sheriff Nazzaro.

Their playing good cop, bad cop again, Davy—Nazzy with his let-me-help-you-ease-your-conscience shit.

“You're right, they're doing the good cop bad cop thing,” said Dave. Pepper gave him a quizzical look. Too late to take his words backhe had answered himself out loud except no one heard the other voice he was talking to.
 As a side note, the girl in question watched Dave and his dad build the pinewood derby car. It is explained previous in the novel, but not here for the snippet.

(27) 2013 OCT 12

SETUP: We continue the scene of Dave's dad, Hal, being questioned by the sheriff and Investigator Pepper Black for 20-year-old crimes---the murders of three small girls. One of the victims was Melissa Riggs (whose real name turns out to be Samantha Briggs), a foster child in their house when Dave was a kid. Their bodies were recently found when three coffins slide out of the Wiscoy Creek bank after a storm. Pinned to each is a piece of a milk carton with a missing child photo. Back then, Hal worked in the plant that made the milk cartons at the local Wiscoy Dairy. Hal insisted they bring along a box of old "Friends of Foster Families" files that Dave had pulled out of the attic, thinking it would help clear things up. And now the snippet.

Sheriff Nazzaro put the photograph of Samantha Briggs that was sent to them by the Center For Missing Children to the left of the photo marked Melissa Riggs from his dad’s file box, and the milk carton piece to the right.

“I’m not seeing how your foster files help you, Hal,” said Pepper, then she turned to face Nazzaro. “Look closely at the pictures sheriff; all of them are the same girl, no doubt about that—but the photo of Samantha used on the milk carton, and the photo of Melissa from Hal’s file are exactly the same —identical.”

Dave was perplexed; it was true—they were the same pose, dress, hairstyle—duplicates, a reprint. “Maybe the killer made a copy somehow,” Dave said, trying to defend his father.

“Oh come on, Dave, someone else got their hands on your dad’s files to put the photo on the milk carton? This paper clip has been stuck to that photo on the file folder so long it’s rusted to it,” Pepper pointed out, “like it's never moved."

 “I can’t explain it, okay?” Dave blurted out.

“Well I can,” said Hal.
This is the last I'll post of this scene as I can't tell you what Hal says. It is after all a mystery.:) I plan to get it published one way or another and don't want to give away too many clues.

(28) 2013 OCT 20

SETUP: We're leaving last week's scene where Dave's dad is being questioned. I'm leaving a lot of the next part out as it has too many clues to post before it's published (at some point). Let's just say there are other suspects and Dave is determined to help Investigator Pepper Black figure out who those people are. A lot of people worked at the dairy twenty years ago in the milk carton plant, not just Dave's dad. (Remember, Dave and Pepper have a deal, he can tag along for an exclusive for not printing the milk carton photos in the newspaper, and she wants to keep him close anyway, positive he's holding something back.) Below is a conversation between Dave and Pepper. She shows Dave a photo, hoping for a reaction, of what was in the coffin with the one foster girl who stayed at Dave's house when he was about 13. Pepper speaks first.

As always the words in italics is the "other" voice in Dave's head.

"The girl you knew as Melissa Riggs, a.k.a. our victim Samantha Briggs—who by the way, we need to start calling her by her real name—she had a stuffed dog, more teddy bear style construction, made of polyester which is why it survived.”

 Dave didn’t want to look at the photograph, nor did he need to. “Was it yellow?”

“Yes, extremely dirty, but it was yellow—and you knew this how?”

Dave slumped against the jeep, dragged his fingers through his hair, and back again. Please, he thought, no more headaches—focus. “Because I gave it to her; I think I won it at the county fair.”

You think? Oh come on Davy, quit being such a chicken shit, you can remember—or do I have to tell you?

(29) 2013 OCT 27

SETUP: This is much later after Hal's questioning. Dave has boxes he pulled from their attic. One has Friends of Foster Families files, the other two, photographs from over the many years. Dave and Pepper are trying to match pictures of the children in their files with any photos in the box.
As always the italics is the other voice in Dave's head.

Dave took the lid off the first box. Inside were old black and whites, a man in a civil war outfit, some tintypes, and photos of both his parents when they were children themselves—even their baby pictures. At least someone had the good sense to write on the backs of most of them who was who. Unfortunately, there was nothing that was relevant to the case. He put the lid back on, pushed it to the side, and pulled the other one in front of him. This box of photographs held more promise, they were in the right time frame. There were a few of himself as a kid.
What? No baby pictures of our little, Davy? That’s weird, don’t you think?  

(30) 2013 NOV 3

 SETUP: How about we take a look at some of the other suspects, shall we? Shelia Underwood was a foster parent 20 years ago and later, a social worker—who seems a bit nuts now. Her husband Jeffery worked in the print shop with Dave's dad Hal at the dairy. Dave hates Shelia but he really doesn't remember why.

Dave and Investigator Pepper Black are at the Underwood's house to ask some questions about the cold case of the remains of the three girls found at Wiscoy Creek. The girls were part of the Friends of Foster Families program. Dave is allowed to tag along with Pepper if he keeps his mouth shut (the reason is explained earlier in the story). Shelia sits in a chair staring out at the yard through the French doors, her husband Jeffery besides her. Dave is standing next to Pepper who speaks first.

“I’m working on a cold case and I’m hoping you can help me with it.”

“A cold case—a cold case of what Miss Black? There’s no alcohol here if that’s what you mean," Mrs. Underwood snapped, "not with the children in the house, if you’re implying we’re up to something.”

Mr. Underwood signaled them, and whispered, “Please excuse my wife, she hasn’t been well.”

“Children ma’am? Well I am here about some children, but they're ones that died about twenty years ago,” said Pepper, keeping her focus on Shelia.

“I don’t understand Miss Black---how can we help you with that?” asked Jeffery.

Sheila tilted her head and stared at Dave a moment, her words spat out like venom, “Why is that boy here? Never listened, always hiding. He was such a bad boy, that one was."

(31) 2013 NOV 10

SET UP: Last week Dave Robertson (my MC) tagged along with Inv. Pepper Black to question the Underwoods. Shelia Underwood seems a bit nuts and her husband answers the questions about their time as foster parents, his job at the carton plant at the dairy and Shelia being a case worker for the Friends of Foster Families over two decades ago. Dave finds out that Randy (who works with him at the newspaper) is their adopted son. He never knew as their last names are different. Dave figures Randy is going to be pissed at him come Monday for dragging his parents into the investigation of the 20 year old case of the three dead girls. This scene is Sunday when Dave goes with his dad to church, something he doesn't normally do, and low and behold Randy is there with his parents. We're skipping the almost brawl in the church isle. :)
As always, the words in italics is the "other" voice in Dave's head.

Dave’s dad leaned over to him and whispered after they had been seated, “This is the first time I’ve seen the Underwoods in church in … well … I can’t remember how long, several years anyway.”

What do you think, Davy---came to atone for their sins?

Dave gave his head a shake to clear the thoughts. “I didn’t realize that," he whispered back, “but then again, I don’t always make it here with you.”

The mass was the usual Catholic format. Now if it was a Born Again worship service, Dave would expect Sheila Underwood to jump up and run to the front hysterically asking for forgiveness, to be saved, and Father Bart would whack her on the forehead to cast out her demons, but no such luck. The sermon was on keeping the children on the path to God–couldn’t get more appropriate than that. It was almost, dare he think, predestined that the Underwoods–the black sheep–would decided to come back into the fold on the day the sermon was about children. Did they understand at all that they had set those children on the path to God in the wrong way? Most likely not.


  1. He won't find her. "because they're girls, Dave." It seems that girls don't mean much to his dad adding another plug to his suspicions. What a terrible spot for someone to be in...especially someone who came to take care of his dad!

  2. The plot doth thickin' ay? Thanks for commenting. :)

  3. I am intrigued. Glad I found you!

  4. Glad you like it so far Mike.

  5. wow, I like this.
    I think I'll enter the week-end writing warriors too. :)

  6. AnonymousJune 02, 2013

    I felt compelled to go back to your previous installments - it's that good! The FBI agent in me is totally hooked!

  7. Thanks guys! I'm glad I can hold your interest.


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