Jake watched from the opened front window as the screaming woman lapsed into whimpers as she tried to dial on her phone. As he panned the neighborhood he could see from the window, he noticed another person panning the area with more than her eyes. A camera was in her hands and she was recording every movement.
He heard the front door open. Jake watched as Mary stepped down the walkway leading to the street. He watched as she bent forward slightly and peered at a box that was lying in the middle of the walkway. She turned away from the scene and walked back inside.
Jake glanced at his sister as she passed by without acknowledging him. He was fine with that. Turning his attention back to the theatrical production happened in front of their house, Jake noticed something about the woman holding the camera.
She was a soul-sucker. A flash of her eyes made Jake’s hackles rise to the ready. The righteous always knew when the demonic were close. This woman with the camera was evil.
Well, more evil than the neighbors Jake had met or already knew about. The camerawoman was more evil than his sister, but not by much. Jake planned to keep his eye on her. Maybe an opportunity to purge the demon inside the woman would present itself soon. Jake hoped so.
A few of the neighbors were coming out of their houses to see what the ruckus was about. The exotic imp with the video camera moved out of Jake’s view and didn’t return. Jake turned from the window and walked to his room. No noise from Mary’s room. Maybe she was napping. Or dying. Either would work for Jake.
Jake sat on the edge of his bed and gathered his thoughts and his boots.
Jake let the word roll comfortably around in his head. The comfort came from the familiarity of the dreadful, fascinating horror stories that had made his father famous. Or infamous, depending on one’s reception to a love affair with body parts.
The Sinclair children had grown up surrounded and embraced by their father’s popular horror books. The “Necropieces” books had been different. Reviewers had remarked there was a distinctively different and personal tone to this particular series. Only the Sinclair children knew why.
Morris Sinclair’s hobby of collecting pictures of death was familiar to them. No one outside of the family knew—not Morris’s agent, publishing house or the general public.
Jake thought about this as he tied the rough leather laces on his hiking boots. Why had no one in the family told someone about Morris? Was it because the evil of the parent was entwined in the DNA of the child? Were all the Sinclairs doomed to evilness that was beyond their control? Was darkness part of their genetics, a part that could never be excised or exorcised?
Standing, Jake quietly stomped a few times to settle his feet into the boots. The last time he’d hiked had been four years before in the foothills of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains Although he wasn’t going into mountainous terrain this time, he knew there were valleys and hills and loose rubble out in the desert behind Rubicon Ranch.
He packed a few water bottles, an energy bar and other items. He tried not to look too closely at the other things he was dropping into his backpack. The disruption from these items was bad for his soul. The story from the knife and twisted twine screamed too loudly in his mind. He needed to bury them deep in the desert.
He had thought about finding a landfill and tossing them in with the rest of the trash. He decided against the idea when he saw the closest landfill was two hours away—the high desert would have to do. He didn’t want to be gone that long from Rubicon in case anything interesting happened. Interesting in relation to him, though, since he didn’t care about the other residents in the area.
Images raced across Jake’s mind. A knife. Blood. Twine twisted around flesh. Flesh twisted around twine. He had sanction from higher up for his actions. In that aspect he was not afraid. His actions were in line with his golden path. It was a sacred purpose but if he was caught with these incriminating items, the police would not call his god as a character witness.
The house was still silent. No sound came from his sister’s room and she was not in the living room or kitchen as Jake walked toward the utility room. The silence was heavy, but its weight didn’t bother Jake. He was used to it.
He slipped out the utility room’s back door and gently closed it shut. He didn’t want his sister to know where he was headed. It was unlikely Mary would miss him. He knew she did not want him around so she wasn’t going to seek him out. If he never came back, it would suit his loving sister just fine.
Looking left and right, Jake smiled slightly. He looked again to the left and wondered how it would play out the next time he ran into Melanie, their skittish neighbor. All he had done was smile and the woman had taken off like a gazelle chased by a hyena.
“Their” neighbor. He liked the sound of it. For years, Jake’s rootless wandering with the ministry had worked for him. He didn’t mind not having one specific place to call home. For a long time, he liked being a righteous ramble, a road warrior and traveling cleric.
Not so much anymore. Over the past year, Jake felt the urge to settle and stay somewhere, anywhere. Now he could see the opportunity opening up for him to nestle right here in Rubicon Ranch. It was his kind of place. It amazed him how quickly he was becoming comfortable with planting his own personal cross in one place.
The sun was slowing descending in the west but the temperature was still high. The heat was nothing new to Jake. He’d been in hotter places and, unless he was able to redeem himself, he’d be headed to the eternal heat of hell. Although he’d made great strides recently to atone for his past, there was more to do. The far past and the recent past were merging in Jake’s mind. So much to do; so little time left.
Walking behind the no-man’s land between the Sinclair house and the old man’s house, Jake jumped a little when a rodent ran like the devil in front of him. So, even the ritzy Rubicon Ranch had its share of rats. The thought made him smile again.
He pulled his cap lower on his head. To anyone watching, he appeared to be a casual hiker taking a shortcut behind the neighborhood. With his expensive-looking clothing and gear, no one would assume he was a person to be feared. No one would think he was casing each house he passed.
How many were guilty of crimes against heaven in this place his father called home? How many others were as wretched inside as Morris? The backs of the houses didn’t give him answers to those questions, but he did notice a serious lack of security at almost every house.
He passed the ninth and final house and strolled into the desert. The heat was not abating as he dropped off the footpath and made his own beaten trail into the arid land.
A dog barking froze him in place. “Shh,” he whispered and the wind carried his command. The dog stopped. “Hmm,” he grunted in surprise. I have the power, he thought.
The dog’s voice echoed again, this time with a high panicked pitch. Okay, maybe I don’t, Jake thought.
“Oh, crap,” Jake quietly said to universe. He couldn’t dump the things he wanted to get rid of so close to Rubicon. That stupid dog would probably dig them up.
His cap was pulled down low and covering his black hair, with hiking boots and shorts and a nondescript pack on his back, and he had swiped a pair of black-tinted shades from his father’s desk. He wasn’t disguised; instead, he was creating a physical ruse. He’d done it before with no problem.
Because of his dress and bearing, Jake looked younger than his actual age. He purposefully walked with a slight lilt in his step. A young guy out for a hike, that’s all he was. His height might give him away, but as he veered back on the footpath, he passed two joggers who were taller.
“I’m telling you, I heard that big policeman say they found another body part. Somebody put it under that old canoe that’s been on the east side of . . .” Jake strained to hear but the jogger’s voice faded away as the pair walked further down the trail away from him.
Jake veered off the footpath once again. He wasn’t ready to run into any type of law enforcement before his time. He didn’t need to learn more about what the police may or may not have found out in the desert. He just needed to get his business taken care of and get back to the house. Someone was coming within view of him; someone was off the beaten track, just like Jake.
He stopped and stooped, pretending to adjust the laces on his boots. With his head down, no one could see him looking straight ahead through the dark sunglasses. He watched as a cute little policewoman looked around, her eyes on the ground. She had not seen him. Yet.
He needed to get on the move again. With the police swarming like locusts, he would have to go further into the desert. In his dune-colored garb, Jake more or less blended into the dune-colored background. He took off his sunglasses and tucked them into his pocket so that the glint of metal wouldn’t alert anyone to him. Moving backward, his back pressed against a small knoll and he squatted down and spent a few minutes observing the officers mill around the canoe. He stood up and slipped away.
Walking, walking, walking. He walked at a fast pace until the sounds of people faded and disappeared. The silence of the desert was complete. He walked miles before he found the perfect spot to rid himself of the knife and twine.
It was good enough. The spade he’d brought bit into the hard ground. After digging a small hole, he dropped the items in and spread a small layer of white powder over them. The animal deterrent would last long enough to offend most desert animals. Not dogs, though. If anything, dogs seemed to be attracted to it.
Covering the items with the dry desert ground, he placed a few rocks on top. Good enough, he thought again. It was in heavenly hands now.
The sun was dipping lower as he sprinted back across the desert. He passed landmarks he’d left in a Hansel and Gretel fashion so he knew he was going the correct way. A few minutes later, the footpath appeared and he saw a few people in the distance.
Taking the same track back to his house, he went behind the neighbors’ houses. Hurrying, he sprinted behind the last few houses and quietly slipped back into the Sinclair abode.
The house was no longer silent. Jake heard voices in the living room. He quickly changed out of his dusty garb and into clean jeans, t-shirt and socks.
Two police officers were sitting with Mary. Everyone turned to face him as he stepped into the living room.
“Jake, this is Deputy Midget and Lieutenant Frio. Officers, my brother, Jackson Sinclair. He’s the family’s religious reprobate.”
The officers stood up and looked at Jake, stone-faced, as Mary continued.
“I looked for you but you weren’t in your room when the officers showed up. I was afraid you’d been kidnapped, brother,” she said with a Sinclair smile. “So, I thought it was best to let the officers search the room.”
“Sir, we’d like you to come down to the station and answer some questions,” the large police officer said to him. Jake was uneasy as he answered.
“Ask your questions here.” Jake knew what “down to the station” often meant – it was a trick to get the suspect closer to a jail cell.
“Sir, it would be best to come with us, under the circumstances,” the officer responded as he stepped closer to Jake.
“These circumstances,” the deputy replied as his partner held up an evidence bag.
A large meat cleaver, spotted with dried blood, stared back at Jake. He looked at his sister and her face was as unreadable as always.
“They found it under your bed, Jake. I told them anyone could have put it there since you left the back door unlocked when you disappeared earlier,” she said as she shook her head. “But it is strange, isn’t it?”