As promised, not one but two chapters will be posted today, just in time for World Book Day too. If it’s your first time here, I suggest hitting up the archives and catching up. If you’ve been waiting a few weeks now for this, my bad yo. Well enough talky-talk and more of the good stuff.
We were back on the road and Elizabeth was fawning over the two swords. “These are perfectly crafted! Did you say it was your grandfather who made these for you?”
“Yeah, they were a turning gift for me. He said I didn’t need fur to be a wolf.”
“I would have liked to have met him. I assume he has passed on?”
“He passed away when I was sixteen. He was old for a wolf though, so it wasn’t a sad passing. That’s when dad took over the pack.”
“It is ironic, two old beings like him and I and we never crossed paths. Though in fairness to him, I never felt the need to come to New Mexico. Amongst vampires, we consider it sort of the land lost in time. Obviously, I neglected a lot. Maybe if I took a stronger role, this ‘Cactus Killer’ we have now would not be such a problem.”
“Hindsight is always perfect, but we learn from the past. No one is to blame but this psycho for the crimes committed. With some luck today, we may just be one step closer to putting an end to his sick ways.”
“I am glad you entrust me with one of these swords. I feel much safer now if we run afoul a creature similar to what we encountered last night.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt a bit better about it. I’m not one to brag about my abilities in a fight, but I’ve taken down my fair share of drunken (the keyword here) wolves that would normally a lot more gumption than me. It was quite disconcerting that nothing I did even put a dent in that thing. We don’t have a pack of wolves to call at a whim, so hopefully these will do.
When we got to the Elephant Butte police station, we were greeted by a Detective Lawrence. He was a rather chatty guy who asked us a million and one questions about our case and where we were from. Thankfully, Elizabeth used her magic powers of persuasion and soon after, he led us up to the church without another word.
Holy Methodist is exactly what you think of when you picture a southwest style church. It was made out of stucco with curved clay shingles on the roof. Lots of stained glass windows and mosaic tiles covered the walls to give it that Spanish feel. Elizabeth told Detective Lawrence to hang out in the car and we made our approach to the church.
“Can you enter a church without bursting into flames?” I snickered at my own joke and she just stopped. Uh oh…
“I can and will knock you into next week and not bat an eye.”
I know it’s juvenile, but when she said ‘bat’ I started laughing even more. She just huffed and stormed into the church. I quickly decided it would be in my best interest to follow. I also got into the zone; I wanted to see if that musky smell was present here.
Being a weekday, there didn’t seem to be much activity in the church. In fact, it was empty. We walked up to the alter and so far nothing out of the ordinary struck me. I caught the fragrance of incense and old books. That was normal to me.
“Good morning! It is so nice to see young ones come into the church! What can I do for you two?”
An older gentleman came out of the back room and was walking towards us. Again, nothing jumped off at me that screamed suspicious about him. In fact, he looked downright harmless and just how a church leader should look, Godly.
“I wish I could say we were here for the right reasons pastor, but my partner and I are investigating some nasty stuff.”
“Oh no, well that is not good. The fact you are here is a little troublesome.”
“Why do you say that? And can I get your name for the record?”
When I asked for his name, there was no telltale sign of a man with his back against the wall. The man in front of me was genuine, calm, cool, and collected.
“Of course, my name is Pastor Michael Browne. Before I continue on, may I know to whom I am speaking as well?”
“My apologies, I am the sheriff of the small town of Full Moon, Victor Inglewood. This is my partner in this investigation Elizabeth Swansea.” I also flashed him my badge and he smiled and approved.
“Sheriff, if you don’t mind, let us go back to my office. We will have more privacy for a conversation of this magnitude.”
We followed Pastor Browne into his office and he closed the door. Elizabeth and I sat down in the antique wingback chairs in front of his desk. At least we were going to be comfortable.
“I’m going to shoot it straight with you sheriff; I came into a mess here a few weeks ago. The previous leader of this church was always considered eccentric, but his behavior had grown increasingly erratic.”
I had been writing down everything he had said. I didn’t even get to tell him why we were here yet and he was already giving me information. I wish all interviews went like this. “Was his name Rev. Warren Tucker?”
“Yes, that is him. How did you know that?”
“Bibles with his name and this church were found at an assault scene and a murder scene. The crimes themselves were full of weird happenings as well.”
“Would it have anything to do with his obsession that werewolves, vampires, and their ilk are among us? That is the mess I came into sheriff.”
“Oh, I don’t know anything about that sort of thing, but in both cases the suspect used a cactus branch as his signature.”
“Are you sure?” For a man who was so calm a second ago, the mention of a cactus branch sure did spook him.
“I’ve lived in New Mexico my whole life Pastor; I know what cactus looks like.”
“Pastor Browne, what has you looking so flush? I could swear I can almost hear your heartbeat increase.” Elizabeth was right; I had also picked up on that.
“Rev. Tucker used cactus all the time in his sermons. He was famous for using them as an analogy for his followers.”
That was odd indeed. “Can you give me an example of such?”
“Oh sure, he used to compare us to the cactus. He would say much like the cactus survived in a harsh world, it was our job to survive in the desert of life and find water, or faith.”
“That is very interesting.” These notes would make for a great read for the rest of the people back in Full Moon.
“If you would expand on your earlier point, Pastor Browne, you said Rev. Tucker had some delusions of monsters living among us?” It was hard to tell if she was being serious or having fun with him, but it was a good question.
“I found some journals left here when I took over, and yes, he had a very detailed delusion. In the oldest ones he stated that vampires had infiltrated our way of life and by the time you got to the most recent ones, it expanded to werewolves. He was under the impression God had given him a mission to exterminate the daemons.”
“You’ve given me a lot to think about, Pastor Browne. Do you know where he went? Obviously, you took over so there must have been some falling out?”
“I’d been retired for three years and living up in Santa Fe when I got a phone call from an old friend saying this church was in need of a steady hand. I asked what was going on and he said I would see when I got here.”
“Take your time sir, we got nothing but time.”
“When I got down here, Warren was gone. His office was still filled with all of his stuff, but he was nowhere to be found. I wish I knew more to tell you. Even the congregation is at a loss here. One rumor that I don’t know helps you is that the basement to the church has been locked up for years.”
“Rumors can just be that, Pastor, anything worth looking into though?”
“Take it with a grain of salt, but some of the elders swear they heard ghosts down there.”
I didn’t mean to but I laughed a little. “Did you just say ghosts?”
“I know I know, it sounds ridiculous but they swear they have heard strange sounds coming from down there. I don’t have a key to open it to investigate, but if you want to try and open it, be my guest.”
With that invitation extended, I stood up and Elizabeth followed my lead. “I thank you for your time, Pastor. We will take you up on that offer and poke our heads around.”
He extended his hand and we shook. “I truly hope you do not find anything. To do so would be a blight on this church.”
We let ourselves out of his office. Once we were out of earshot, I felt comfortable enough to talk. “It seems we found our man. I glanced at the dates in his journal. The timeline matches with your first murder.”
“Yes, I think you are correct. My problem is how he found out in the first place.”
“Well, maybe the ghosts downstairs can enlighten us.”
We walked outside and found the basement door on the backside of the church, right before the entrance to the cemetery. It was a big wooden door with an old style lock on it. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years.
“A door this thick would definitely keep people out. Would you like the honors ma’am?”
“I told you knock it out with the ma’am nonsense.” That didn’t stop her from gabbing the door and one good pull later, it was wide open. As soon as it opened, I was blasted with the same musky smell that had been at every scene. Elizabeth picked up on it right away too.
I glared into the darkness. “Let’s go tell Lawrence it’s going to be awhile. I think we are in the right place.”