Strung Out On The Trinity

April 6, 2010
The sun wasn’t even touching the horizon when the phone rang. Bonnie looked out the window to see the very beginning of dawn brushing the sky before the day began to heat up. She rolled over in the cool sheets to retrieve the insulting device. She checked the name on the caller ID and flicked it open.
“H’lo?” She answered groggily.
“Bonnie, we need ya down here right away, we got us another one. No time to explain. Meet us down by the river,” the voice on the other end replied. Even with the lack of precise location, by the tone of his voice, Bonnie knew exactly where she would be headed.
“I’m headed down your way, Jack.” Bonnie heard the click of Jack hanging up his end and the dial tone as the line went dead.
Not again, damn it. Not again! Bonnie knew what it had to be, what else was down by the river that could possibly be important enough to wake her at—she checked the digital clock by her bedside and read its artificially blue glow—five in the morning? Bonnie hauled herself out of bed and quickly readied herself. She had a feeling this was just the start of another long, sweltering, terrible day as one of Fort Worth’s finest.

As she drove, Bonnie ran over her mental checklist:
Gun? Check.
Badge? Check.
Pad and pen? Check.
Coffee? Mmm, mmm! Check.
She sped through the streets of the city, lights blinking red, blue, red, blue, and siren roaring. Bonnie watched as the buildings passed and blurred together. A person not used to city life would be surprised by Bonnie’s fellow early morning commuters. Bonnie, though, was Fort Worth, Texas, born and raised.
Bonnie contently sipped her coffee, allowing the pre-dawn pick-me-up to circulate through her and wake her mind from its state of bleary confusion. She was mentally preparing herself for what she was about to see. Thoughts of the others flashed through her mind. The faces—void of life—eyes—open in terror—bulging from sockets, mouths gasping soundlessly—airlessly—for breath, necks torn and red, and bodies stiff in death. She knew that, yet again, there would be no clue as to what had transpired there except for the rope burns around their necks.

Bonnie pulled up at the bank of the Trinity with lights blazing; the morning there had turned to flashing blue and red. She pulled her dust-covered red 1965 Mustang rag top up next to one of the cruisers and exited the car. She paused for a moment; the sounds of sirens surrounded her on all sides, there were voices, and, off in the distance where a crowd was being held back by a few officers, she heard crying.
It wasn't too late for her to turn around, she told herself. Bonnie, though, was one of those never-quit types. Even when the bodies of young girls began to pile up—the eldest of which was a mere two years older than Bonnie's 26—even as the reporters started to spread the fear by naming the psycho—now dubbed the Fort Worth Executioner for his method of murder—Bonnie held her head up and convinced herself to keep moving forward. It made her ill with dread that they hadn't caught the monster yet.
And this man was a monster. He was the reason parents in this town were afraid to let their children play out on the streets. The newspapers and TV had run story after story of missing girls turning up dead days after their disappearance. They connected each death to the Executioner and Bonnie was sure children were beginning to think of him as the proverbial monster in the closet, the deadly creature that took pleasure in hiding in the shadows just out of sight.
If she thought about it she could picture that first murder with photo perfect clarity in her mind's eye. In the snap-shot image, nineteen year old Anna Davis lay on her back, dark hair matted and clothing wet from the recent rain. She was still as stone on the bank of the river; her clouded eyes bulged with fear and a silenced scream was evident on the girl's face.
Anna Davis was an out-of-towner. She had moved to an apartment in the area for college. When she went missing, she had been out clubbing with her roommate Angelique Johnson. Angelique had gone to the police, but all they did—all they could do—was placate the poor girl with stories of a one night stand saying that Anna would return. There was no way they could know that she would turn up discarded roadside like yesterdays trash.
Bonnie shook her head to dislodge the horrifying image. The case was getting to her; she couldn’t risk losing herself to the anger and disgust she felt toward the Executioner. She wanted to watch him swinging from a tree, legs kicking, mouth agape, eyes bloodshot, gasping for his last Earthly breath. She had to stop herself; her temper had captured her mind in a vice grip.
Breathing in, breathing out, she centered herself on deep cleansing yoga breaths. It would be a long time after this man was behind bars before she would feel safe—feel sane—again.
Treading on shaking feet, Bonnie lifted the bright yellow caution tape and ducked under. Jack stood over the lifeless corpse holding back, keeping emotion in check. Jack might have been a handsome man—before the job had bled him of his youth and life and joy. Now, at age forty-five, Jack stood before Bonnie in the perfect picture of a retiree, an aged man with silver- gray hair and a drooping, folded face. Jack saw her approach, the corners of his mouth lifted in a tight smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Whadda we got here?” Bonnie asked in an all business voice with a barely audible edge of disgust and terror.
“The Executioner didn't take into account that it wouldn't rain ‘til later today. Dumped the body early enough for us to come up and git the evidence we need ‘fore it's all washed away. Maybe we'll git lucky,” Jack explained to her.
The rain was their worst enemy in the battle against the Executioner. When it rained in Texas, the ground was born again—washed away and refreshed. Like everything else big in Texas, when it rained it poured; everything that could aid in the search for the Executioner ran down to the river and washed away with the passing storm. The problem was that the Executioner seemed to schedule the kidnappings and the executions around the forecast of a storm.
Bonnie felt a quick flash of hope, before reminding herself that she couldn't feel hope; nothing came of hope. It would be too much of a letdown.
“Now, if we could jist find out who she was…” Jack pondered, trailing off. If anything, Jack was a man in the constant search for answers. He was strong-willed and stubborn and, just like Bonnie, didn’t give up until he solved the problem before him. He was the type that loved to solve puzzles, but once he started one you couldn’t stop him if the building was burning down.
For the first time, Bonnie took a look at the victim that lay before them. Long blonde hair surrounded a youthful, heart-shaped face; from her appearance, Bonnie could tell that the girl was still in her early teens. It wasn’t so much the girl’s age, though, that added to Bonnie’s disturbance over the crime; it was the utterly unnerving look on the all too familiar face.
“It’s Megan, this girl’s name is Megan Brown,” Bonnie choked out vehemently. The surprise at how close to home this face hit scared her. The victims usually seemed like faceless strangers to her; not that the other deaths were any less important than this one, but this one seemed almost personal.
Jack peered up at her in shock, “Y’all know this girl?”
“A bit,” Bonnie replied, swallowing thickly. “She and her parents—Will and Shay Brown—live in the apartment across the hall from me. They’re sweet and we hang out on occasion.”
“Do y’all have a way to reach ‘em,” Jack beseeched her. “They ought to be informed of what’s happened.”
“Sure, of course,” Bonnie managed, fighting the urge to hit something with the anger that was building up inside her.
What made Bonnie’s blood boil was how quickly the Executioner had moved while lynching this poor girl. As far as Bonnie had heard, Megan was over at her friend Sue’s house yesterday and had been planning to sleep over. Usually, the Executioner’s victims would go missing for days before turning up. This was getting to be a quick process.
“How could this happen? She’s only fifteen!” The age of fifteen had not been in the victim pool yet; the youngest so far had been seventeen year old Meredith Shaw.
“Maybe he’s changed his taste, he’s evolvin’,” Jack offered.
“This ain’t good; the younger the girl, the less fight they’ll put up, at least the older girls had a bit of a chance—though it wasn’t much.”
“You’re right, we need to catch this sick bastard before he strikes agin,” Jack said sternly.
“Whadda ya need me to do?” Bonnie inquired of her partner.
Jack's brow furrowed in concentration, as if the task was so important he himself needed to be attentive. “Ya’ll gotta be on the look-out for anything of use to us. We ain’t got enough men to cover nearly enough ground ‘fore the rain starts,” he told Bonnie. “Meantime, I’m gonna to talk to the coroner. Maybe we can git some DNA off this stiff”—the term made Bonnie flinch—“I’ll git a blood sample over to toxicology as well; maybe we can git who ‘manufactured’ the rohypnol.”
“Awright, anything. This is the best chance we have a catchin’ him, he might not slip up agiin,” Bonnie consented to the orders and was on her way.

She scoured the scene. What was out of place?, she would ask herself as she walked along. What didn't belong her in the mess that sprawled across the river bank? Everything belonged there; no one could be bothered to clean up after themselves leaving the rocky shore scattered with litter.
She began to photograph the scene before her. She had the method down to a science from years of practice; number, photograph, bag. A neon green shoelace hung helplessly limp on a tree branch, a pile of Jack In the Box wrappers were carelessly tossed by a boulder, and a pair of sunglasses with cracked lenses had been discarded nearby. Bonnie called forensics over to look at a set of footprints that led to the body. She was well awake by now and her attention to detail was uncanny.
She had been photographing a set of tire treads near the crowd of frightened and crying faces when it happened. A lone piece of lined white paper folded into an airplane and thrown in the wind tapped Bonnie's shoulder with such a light peck that she thought at first that she had imagined it. She turned around anyways with a sense of being watched, a pair of eyes that seemed to burn into her rigid back.
She saw the plane. She must have missed it, she told herself. It was a strange thing to say, seeing as she was concentrating with all her might on the task at hand. Nevertheless, she photographed the harmless sheet before unfolding it.
She stopped. She stared. She reread the seemingly harmless note:
Now it’s your turn.

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