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Return To Forever

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Tangible Spirits

Annabeth Penelope Gambrell

The Sword: A Murder Mystery

Synopsis: 

Ixora Ishikawa and James Anthony Nicholas Taylor III are detectives in the small, quiet town of Tylerville, Texas. Humdrum country life comes to a screeching halt when a teenager is found stabbed to death with a Scottish Claymore. It is up to Ishikawa and Taylor to find out who is responsible... But what other things will they uncover in the process?







Ebook : 

Chapter One: The Edge Of The Blade

My name is Ixora Ishikawa and I work for Tylerville Police Department. Although we aren't a huge city like Dallas or Houston, we get our share of big city crime. Don't let anyone tell you that country life is simpler than city life because it isn't. We had more arrests per capita for drug possession than any other small town I can think of and don't even get me started on our sexual assault numbers.
My job is to investigate those crimes and bring those responsible to justice. I've worked my way up in the food chain in other police departments to find myself being hired on as a detective. I usually find myself in other cities more than in my own since I get sent to a lot of seminars as a representative for my little hamlet. I'll be the first to admit, other than the small time crap, Tylerville is the most boring town on the face of the planet and I welcome the getaways.
The last murder took place while I was still in high school and there hadn't been one since. Tylerville prided itself on its serenity, seeming to forget about the rest of the crap going on. Their selective memory seemed to omit the drug arrests and other assorted crimes that happened. A few people weren't blind though and insisted the town get a police department instead of letting the county handle everything.
Another reason for the inception of the police department was the fact the little burg had decided to incorporate as not to get absorbed by the city to our south but it took a while to get it done. There were many clashes over what direction the town should take. Many people wanted to maintain the small town charm while others wanted chain stores to move in and create new jobs closer to home. The most of the people who wanted change were young while the ones who wanted it to stay the same were older.
The older folks had even opposed the police department being founded until a rash of robberies changed their minds. The county was overwhelmed with other things and could send Tylerville little help at the time. This opened their eyes and caused them to rethink the idea. Even then, it took a lot of voting and fighting to actually get the ball rolling.
The police department itself was barely three years old when I was offered the job as a detective. I had no reservations about being based out of such a drab little town and it was better than the big cities I had been in. I wasn't there though because I was in Dallas, at an in-service to continue my education.
It had just ended when my cell phone went off, interrupting a very awkward conversation about where I was from. The man that was laughing at me pointed at it, still chuckling at the operatic metal that emitted from my phone. "That's a creepy ringtone," He commented. "Is that your boyfriend? Does he wear black too?"
I hated that everyone had to make it an issue that I was rather Gothic but I can't really help it. My naturally pale skin and page boy cut pitch-black hair didn't help matters either. Since I'm half Japanese and half American I really had no hope of getting anything but what I had. At least the gods had been kind enough to give me a D-cup chest and height closer to my six foot seven father's than my four foot ten mother's.
I also got my mother's last name though my father was an American. My mother was too but she had been born in a Japanese internment camp to Japanese American parents exactly one week before the internment camps were ordered closed. My grandparents made friends with one of the soldiers and they would often visit one another. It was on one of those visits that the soldier's son became enamored by my mother.
Long story short, they married and the soldier's son took my mother's name. It was customary in my mother's culture for such a thing to happen. They had five sons before I came along on my mother's thirty-seventh birthday. Being the baby made me tough and able to handle myself, especially with five hulking jocks for brothers that treated me like I was another boy.
One good thing I got was a curvy build, looking more like a nineteen-sixties go-go dancer than a cop. I often got surprised looks when people would find out I was in law enforcement. My build wasn't the only thing that threw them off either. I drove an antique sports car more suited for racing than police work, making people often do double takes.
I narrowed my eyes and growled. "Funny." I pulled my phone from my belt. Truthfully, no one ever called me, just the department when I was needed. Otherwise, my phone was a glorified MP3 player/Internet device that rarely got used between cases.
"This phone only goes off when there's been a crime." I gave him a sideways look.
"Oh... I... I..." He sputtered. "I didn't know they had those in Tylerville."
I quickly snapped a photo of the man's face with my phone for his expression was priceless. He continued to sputter a lame apology but it was useless. I quickly saved the photo and answered the call. I fought the urge to smile as the man in front of me started to blather another, more earnest apology and I quickly shushed him.
"This is Ishikawa. What's up, Jant?" I asked even before the person on the other end could say 'hello'. I knew who it was because I knew the number by heart.
"You need to get back to Tylerville as fast as you can," Jant said, his silky smooth voice making my toes tingle in spite of the urgency of his tone.
"What happened?" I walked towards the exit of the convention hall without a good-bye to the man who had been laughing at me. Jant's tone was enough to put a fire under my ass, just like his voice was enough to send heat through my veins. I knew it was more than just the usual stuff we dealt with.
"Someone's been murdered. Get back to town now," Jant said firmly.
My blood ran cold. I was unable to believe my ears. "Wait... A murder? Like a shooting?"
"More like a stabbing," Jant replied.
"A stabbing?" I repeated.
"Yes. You have to see it to believe it," Jant said. "Just hurry."
**
**
I got back to town about an hour later and found the three story house where the murder had taken place. I double checked the address before I stopped my car in front of it. I got out, the sound of someone wailing reaching my ears as I approached the house. I walked up the drive and scanned the area, stopping when I saw the woman through the front sliding glass door.
She was still dressed up from going out, probably on a date. My first instinct was to think it was someone very close to the victim because of how distraught she was. I noted her hands were stained with blood, my next thought being the hope she didn't mess up any of the evidence. I know that was kind of cold but crime scenes are really delicate things, you see.
One thing out of place or evidence left by a distraught family member could really impede things. Precious time could be easily wasted eliminating what had happened during the crime and after. It also was not good to pull in people who weren't even involved because rumors could fly and ruin reputations. In a town as small as Tylerville, it could be truly devastating.
I entered the residence through the glass door and quickly located where all the action was happening. It seemed the murder had taken place upstairs and I walked to the staircase. I climbed the stairs as I reached into my jacket and pulled out a pair of latex gloves. I put them on as arrived on a mezzanine level and I took a look around to see what I would be dealing with.
To my right were the doorway of what appeared to be a teenager's bedroom from the mess it was in and the epicenter of activity. The first thing that attracted my attention was the unit photographer and the obscenely bright flash of his camera as he snapped pictures of the victim. He must have heard my displeased hiss and he looked at me. "Oh. I see you've come out of your coffin, Ixora."
His pudgy body blocked my view of the victim so I looked around the room instead, which wasn't that big but a comfortable size. It was almost like it had been built to accommodate the roaming habits of a teenager. That is to say, it was little more than a place to sleep between school and going out with friends. It probably would have been rather nice if it was clean but it looked like a pig sty to me.
"Piss off, Frank." I hissed as I walked into the room and I put my foot down on a dirty dinner plate. I kicked it aside as I gave Frank a dirty look he couldn't see. I really loathed Frank Monaco. He was middle aged, fat, had a bad comb-over, sloppy and looked like a guy that would be caught jacking off in a van in front of the local elementary school.
Something about him seriously gave me the creeps from day one and I had never been able to shake the feeling. I was pretty sure he had bodies buried in his backyard or something equally nefarious. How he had become a forensic photographer was beyond me. Some of his shooting angles made me wonder if he even knew what he was doing.
"Right back at ya," Frank turned to me and smirked as I stepped gingerly over another plate. He treated my dislike for him as a big joke but it wasn't. I knew somewhere he had a dirty secret and it was only a matter of time before it came out. His smirk faded a bit as he motioned to the victim, "Have you ever seen anything like this?"
I turned my attention to the bed and looked at what appeared to be a young man no older than seventeen that was very naked with a sword shoved in his chest. His bed was soaked in blood and, I noted with a bit of chagrin, there were several semen stains on the sheets. Whatever the boy had been up to when he ended up like he did it probably wasn't good. He would have been very attractive if he had been alive and made me wish I had seen him when he was still drawing breath.
I shook my head to clear out the unprofessional thought and tried to concentrate on the weapon used in the murder. You really don't see too many sword deaths in 21st century Texas but anything is possible. I walked closer to the bed to get a better look at the sword and decided that it was an antique and very much real. I heard the sound of the coroner's gurney and knew they would have to remove the blade for it to be tagged as evidence.
"Are you ready for us in here?" Eric, one of the coroner's assistants, poked his head in the door.
I looked around at the scene then to Frank the Snake, "Has all the evidence been collected?"
Frank nodded, "Yeah. It's being tagged as we speak and I just took the last picture. Jant found something and told me to take a picture of it just in case it was important."
"Great," I said. I looked at Eric, the assistant closest to me, and pointed at the sword. "I don't think Coroner Rodgers is going to have a problem finding cause of death."
"Me either," He said. He then frowned, "I don't think we can get him in the van with that thing poking out of him much less on the gurney."
"I'll give you a hand," Said Jimmy who was at the other end of the gurney. He was Eric's identical twin brother. They were rather nerdy looking dishwater blondes that were much stronger than they appeared. They both were quite pale and their blue-eyes were so light, they were almost white.
They moved to the side of the bed once they got the gurney off to the side. "You hold him down Jimmy," Eric pointed to the young man's shoulders. " I'm going to pull this out slow so I don't damage anything else."
Jimmy nodded as he took the position he was told to. "Yeah, Corner Rodgers will be mad if we gouge the wound."
"On three, " Eric said." One. Two. Three!"
I can't describe the noise the sword made as it was pulled it out of the young man but it was enough to send Frank out of the room. I smiled as I heard the prick throwing up in the adjoining bathroom. I loved the fact I could be so detached as others stared at me with what could only be described as reverence.
"That thing must have gone all the way to the floor," I whispered to myself as I realized how much effort Eric had used to dislodge the weapon. I was half tempted to get down on my hands and knees just to satisfy my morbid curiosity.
"Yeah. It did. I took a look for myself;" Jant came into the room from the adjoining bathroom and nearly scared the shit out of me for I didn't know where he had been hiding. He was one of three crime scene investigators in the Tylerville police department and considered the second scariest person on the force next to your truly. James Anthony Nicholas Taylor The Third stood six feet four (exactly six inches taller than myself) and weighed at least two hundred and thirty five pounds though he didn't look it. He looked like he weighed a lot less thanks to his muscular body.
He was our sole Crime Scene Investigator and a bonafide genius. He was well educated and had a sort of verticality that made it possible for him to work with both our department and the county. I still wasn't sure how it all worked but it did. The downside of it all was he was always moving around and leaving others to wonder if he even slept.
The truth of the matter was he barely did. He had a disorder that made it impossible for him to sleep longer than five hours at a stretch. He was impervious to sleeping pills and could only sleep once he was totally exhausted. Even then, he confided in me, his brain never really shut off and made deep sleep impossible.
In spite of that, he was one of those guys you would dream about but never think of ever meeting in real life. He looked like he should have been a male model or even a male stripper with the kind of body and good looks he had. His type was the kind that was idealized on the covers of romance novels but he was real and close enough to me to make me swoon.
I had pinched myself so many times after I had been introduced to him I caused several bruises to my upper arms. The man was a walking breathing dream and it was hard to remain composed when were we in the same room and just not because he was drop dead gorgeous either.
You see, we have a relationship outside of work and we have to keep it quiet. There was a rule about fraternization between officers. We weren't supposed to do it, particularly with those we worked closest with. He was off-limits... But that didn't stop us.
I'm pretty sure Police Chief Dawson would not like it if he found out what Jant and I did after hours. He surely would either fire us or split us up. Being together was something we couldn't help though, an instant spark of attraction bringing us together. At first, I thought it was one-sided but soon found out I wasn't the only one who felt something when we met.
It wasn't long afterward when he asked me out for drinks and the rest was history. It was that very night we ended up in bed together for the first time. Though we had barely met, it was like we knew each other our entire lives. From the first touch to the last, we instantly knew how to please one another.
I know it sounds like a load of crap but it was how it really happened. It was the kind of thing I had dreamed of my entire life and had almost given up on. I was glad I hadn't though being physical so soon left little time to talk about the past. I had brought that up to him but he said it didn't matter, just the future and what we could do together.
I had always been a bit careful in spite of my dangerous looks but he made it feel alright to throw caution to the wind. He convinced me I had spent too much time being that way and I needed to live more. He could be very persuasive and I found myself taking more chances but only with him at my side. He seemed to give me the personal strength I had lacked all my life.
That dynamic and need for each other made working together quite interesting, my presence affecting Jant as much as his affected me. He stared at me for a moment too long then he turned his attention to the sword in Eric's hand. We tried to be extra careful at work, hoping no one would catch on. We would be in serious trouble if anyone found out just how deep or relationship was.
"Now I see why Frank was puking up his guts. You probably pulled it out slowly just to gross him out, huh Ixora?" His hand brushed mine, making my heart jump. He shared my dislike for Frank and we shared a lot of the same distastes and tastes, unlike many whirlwind romances.
It was something that helped us work well together... Both at work and in bed. Having him so close to me made my mind scrambled and I struggled to think. Damn him... He knew even the briefest of contact was enough to kill me. He gave me a smirk, letting me know he knew what he had done... He liked to tease me when he knew I couldn't react.
"I did it actually," Eric smirked and drew my attention back to him. He gave me a sly wink, "But I know Miss Ishikawa enjoyed it as much as if she did it herself."
"Did you?" Jant arched an eyebrow in my direction. He was amused by my notorious morbid tendencies though they were somewhat inflated by our co-workers. We treated it like an inside joke because he knew I wasn't nearly as twisted as everyone made me out to be.
"Guilty as charged my dear," I gave him a terse smirk. "Sorry you had to see Frank throw up."
"It doesn't bother me at all," He leaned closer to the sword and examined it visually. His eyes darted up to me as he realized I was staring at him and I quickly looked away. He returned his attention to the blade, "It looks like something a medieval knight would use, right?"
I nodded, forcing my voice to work, "Uh-huh. Very unusual."
He gave me a slight smirk and whispered, "You can breathe now."
I had a very bad habit of catching my breath every time he spoke to me and he always seemed to notice. I could be a hard as nails bitch to anyone except for him because there was something about him that disarmed me and made me feel helpless. He picked up on it and could use it to his advantage when the mood struck him. I exhaled, trying to relax.
"You don't need your inhaler do you?" He smirked. Something in his eyes when he teased me let me know it was just mere banter. I hated it though, feeling like he was playing with fire when he would tease me so because I was afraid the others would pick up on it.
I narrowed my eyes, "I'm thinking, damn it."
"The mistress is at work," Jant gave me a sly wink.
My nerves of steel had long become jelly just standing next to him so I had to think of a way to get back on target. "What were you doing when I came in here anyway? I hope you were taking care of evidence," I said. My tone was harsh and I hated to talk to him in such a way but I had to keep up my bitchy exterior for everyone else.
Jant nodded, "I've checked everything in here and bagged anything that could help us. The box is on the sink in the bathroom but Eric's holding the last piece we need."
"Please tell me," I started but Jant cut me off.
"Frank didn't ruin any of it," Jant assured me, knowing what I was worried about. "He made it to the toilet before of threw up."
"Good. However, do you have a bag big enough for it though?" I looked at the sword. "We'll need something as big as a trash bag to hold it. Don't you think?"
"Pretty much," Jant reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a neatly folded evidence bag that was the size we needed. "I found the biggest one I could once I saw what we were dealing with here."
"You just have everything in that magic kit of yours, don't you?" I muttered as he unfolded the bag. I cocked my head to the side, "I forgot to ask... Any prints?"
"I pulled some off the sword but we have to wait for results," Jant replied as he and Eric bagged the object in question. I watched him and my mind started to stray to another kind of sword when he glanced at me again. "Thinking again are we?"
I shook my head, "No. I'm just waiting on you like I always do. What have you found out about this mess?" I cringed inwardly as I realized my tone was again much sharper than I had intended.
He looked a little hurt as he looked towards the stairs, "We have a seventeen year old male. His mother is downstairs with Officer Callaghan. She found him when she came home. She's understandably shaken up. He was her youngest son."
"I see. Have you found anything peculiar?" I asked. I felt a little stupid asking since it seemed the case was going to be a strange one. Something about the sword gave me that impression as soon as I saw it.
"This whole thing is peculiar," Jant replied. "His mother said he didn't answer when she called so she came up here. She was out with her husband when the crime occurred from our estimations. We questioned him too and he said the boy was alone when they left... Pretty anxious for them to leave actually."
"He couldn't have done it to himself," I replied. "Did the father say if he had a girlfriend or any enemies?"
"He's the stepfather actually. He said the young man was quite the ladies' man if you know what I mean. He couldn't give me a certain number of how many girls he suspected his stepson was bedding though."
Jant pointed to a partially open drawer. Inside was an economy-sized box of condoms, "I checked it and it's nearly empty."
"So he was quite the stud," I glanced away from the box. My mind was starting to wander to Jant again because it was the same brand he used. I could focus my attention in any situation as long as he wasn't there but his profound effect on me could make me turn ADHD in a heartbeat.
"He must have been getting his mojo on with a lot of young honeys to need that size box. I'd envy him if I were his age," Jant gave a slight smirk. He snorted, "I was lucky if a girl looked at me in high school."
"You're jealous?" I arched an eyebrow, "Really?"
He coughed, "Well not now. I could live without the being impaled part."
"I don't doubt that," I snorted. "Anyway, did his stepfather give you some names that he knew off-hand?"
"Yeah he did actually," Jant handed me his pocket notebook. "He said its girls he's seen around here a few times."
"Bethany, Jamie and Haley, " I muttered to myself as I handed him his notebook back.
"He said that Haley was the steady girlfriend," Jant pointed at each of the girls' names as he said them. "Bethany… well, she wasn't the steady girlfriend and Jamie only came around when she was hard up for some loving. He also mentioned the boy was being tutored by a family friend for the SATs during part of the summer and the fall. He was suspicious that maybe there was a little more than tutoring going on. "
"You mean like last year?" I asked.
Jant nodded, "Yeah. He said it started about May and ended about October. "
"So it's been almost nine months since she was coming around?" I muttered to myself as I looked at my pager. The date was June 20th. "Why would he mention her if she hasn't been around in that long?"
"He said that the boy had been freaked out by some things the girl had said and done while she was here. It was part of the reason she was let go as his tutor," Jant looked at his notes. "She scared the shit out of him. The stepdad said she could be street rat crazy at times."
"And the other part?" I narrowed my eyes. From what he said, there were other reasons she had to be let go and I wondered if it held any more clues.
"The parents couldn't afford to pay her anymore and he wasn't making progress," Jant shrugged." I guess after spending five months studying for one test with no results I'd let a tutor go too."
"Did the stepfather say what she did to scare the boy?" I had to find out.
"He said she was creepy and liked to play with the swords from his collection," Jant read from his notepad. "The stepfather couldn't remember much more than that but he said the fact the girl walked over two miles one way to tutor him left him feeling unsettled. He said he wouldn't walk that far for anyone unless something was going on."
"I agree. We just have to find out that young lady's name and add it to the list. Maybe someone got jealous;" I took out my notepad and jotted down a few notes from what Jant told me. "Where's the stepfather now?"
"He's calling the boy's older brother in Germany. He's stationed there with the Army," Jant pointed towards the door. He shook his head, "He said the older brother would be devastated."
"I bet," I sighed. I glanced at the bed then around the room. "I think we've done all the damage we can do here."
"We'll send the results over as soon as the autopsy is finished," Eric said as he zipped up the body bag. "Now, could you two scoot so we can do our job? We need to get this poor kid to the morgue."
"Go ahead," I said with a wave of my hand. I had forgotten them entirely as I spoke to Jant. He had a way of capturing my attention so much, the world fell away. I looked at him, "Let's get that other stuff to the lab so we can get started."
"Not yet," Jant said. "I want to take a look at the stepfather's other swords."
I quirked my mouth, "Why?"
Jant shrugged, "I want to see the collection. Perhaps they'll give me some other clues. Maybe that other girl left fingerprints on them."
"What if the stepfather's cleaned the swords since?" I arched an eyebrow.
"What if he hasn't?" Jant returned the look.
I nodded. He had a point. "Fine. Let's go."
We walked downstairs, stopping in the foyer. The stepfather was still there, comforting the boy's mother. I glanced at Jant and he cleared his throat, "Excuse me, sir?"
"Yes?" The stepfather looked at us.
"Would you mind if my partner and I have a look at your sword collection?" Jant nodded towards me.
"Not at all," He said, slowly taking his hand from his wife's shoulder. He looked down at her, "I will be right back, darling."
She nodded but said nothing. He then looked at us again, "My den is this way."
We followed him down a hallway and he opened a door that led to a man-cave of sorts. The paneling was dark, the furniture covered in dark red leather. Along the back wall was a bar, several bottles of expensive alcohol lining the mirrored shelves? It looked like the perfect place to relax after a long day.
"The sword case is over here," The stepfather motioned to a large built in cabinet. The doors stood wide open, the lock cut off and leaving a huge hole in the one of the doors. The stepfather looked at us, "Really pissed me off when I saw that. I had that thing custom built and fixing it is going to be a pain in the ass."
"I'm sure," I walked closer. Though Jant had wanted to see the collection, my interest was piqued. Some swords looked pretty old and really expensive.
The stepfather moved toward the case, pointing to the empty space in the center of the display. "That's where the sword belongs. It was the prize of my collection. I got it at auction and had it appraised. Turns out, it's a replica of a genuine seventeenth century claymore from Scotland."
"Wow," Jant said. He had come from Scottish stock and was a bit of expert on the subject of old battles. He was third or fourth generation American (I couldn't remember which) but he believed in keeping his heritage alive. "That was a pretty bloody time."
"It's based on a design used in same era as the Glen Coe Massacre," The stepfather continued. "Of course, there's some doubt about the accuracy. Other people think it was modeled after one made for a clan leader."
"I guess you didn't get it at a reputable auction house," Jant looked at him. Jant had also come from money, old money. That much I knew. He had told me a few times that he had grown up going to high-brow events, like auctions and polo tournaments. The life did not amuse him and he wanted to do more than be a rich playboy.
He went to college and got his masters in Forensics in spite of the protests of his family. He hadn't told me much more than that though but I could sense it was something he preferred to keep quiet. I wondered if he had been cut off since he lived in a cheap, sparsely furnished studio apartment. He told me about his place once and recalled he did not have any pictures of his family on his desk at work.
"It would have had some kind of papers," Jant finished.
The stepfather shook his head, "No. I got it at a local auction. They take the leftovers from estate sales. All that shuffling around... Well, you can imagine things get lost."
Jant nodded, "I understand. It doesn't matter anyway. I just would hate to take such a beautiful piece away from you. We will have to keep it as evidence."
The stepfather sighed, "If it helps find who killed my wife's baby then I don't care. Now, if you'll excuse me. I'd like to get my wife to another room before they take his body out."
"May I dust the case for prints?" Jant asked as the man turned. "And maybe a few of the swords?"
He turned back and nodded, "Go ahead."
"Thank you," Jant replied. He turned to me, "I left my kit upstairs so I need to go get it."
"Okay. I'll stay here," I said as I watched as the stepfather left the room then as Jant followed...