This story is by Renette and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
If anyone bumped into John Rathbone and his two spider webs of red orbs, at this moment, they might think he was drunk or stoned. John stumbled along the rims trails overlooking the top portion of the bowl they called Magnum City – his city – the one he’d helped protect for over thirty years. This was his place to ponder a case he was working on or life. He came here three days ago, right after his retirement party. Forty years of service and they’d given him a plaque, a watch, and a sendoff party. He didn’t want any of it. John wanted, no needed to work. It’s all he knew. He didn’t hear, come see us, keep in touch, stay in the loop. Instead – so long, good luck old boy, take a long vacation someplace.
He staggered to his favorite rock, in a dark crevice just behind a large pine, an open cave. Times like this he wished he liked to drink. His bloodshot eyes and tripping feet were not from intoxication but rather lack of sleep and the torment of the case gone wrong.
He did it all by the book, like always, overseeing every detail. What did he miss, not considered? It was personal now; he was off the case, forced to retire. Yes, they could take his office, his badge, make him leave the city even, but they couldn’t force him to stop thinking about the case or the facts he knew. It was impossible to wipe that away.
Should John search for what went wrong, or try to let it go? What was he to do? Who was he now? These questions were the reason he needed a few days of fasting and no sleep. He still wasn’t sure of the answers, but he felt more at peace today. He might be able to function at home.
John spent the next six months walking in a dense fog that settled around him like a comfortable blanket. So consumed with thoughts of what he could have done differently, he didn’t notice at first the lack of invites to lunch or phone calls to see how retirement was going. John refused, at age fifty-eight, to sit in a rocker and do nothing. With no place to go and a lack of hobbies and friends, he turned to writing. The first notes contained nonsense of his thoughts and dull days. He is not sure when the ramblings started turning to intriguing bits of his more unusual cases. He changed enough information to hide the actual case but kept sufficient facts to make a good story.
Munson received a call at 1 AM. He arrived on scene at 1:35 AM. It was a gruesome sight the worst he’d seen in his career. Also the saddest. He followed protocol precisely – everything bagged, tagged and photographed before they transported the body to the morgue. But something went wrong. The corpse and half of the evidence vanished with no explanation. The blame for botching things landed on Munson. It didn’t matter he had an impeccable record with hard cases solved during his years of service. This case appeared to be his undoing.
John developed quite a following online; many readers enjoyed his mysteries. He wondered how his fans would react to this one. He read the opening over again and realized his last case had crept into his story.
Once he posted the story, the questions poured in. Did Munson consider a kidnapping of the corpse? Was someone mad or jealous? Were there any dirty cops at the scene that night? He hated to think about that last question. He knew it happened, but his guys were different. Weren’t they? It was something he should consider.
Munson was pouring over his notes. He had plenty of time because his current assignment entailed wandering around a high school, what the precinct called Kiddy Duty. Keeping his eyes and ears, open he learned a group of kids met weekly at midnight at Dillinger Park. The crime he’d arrived at was like a picture out of the bible. Was it a reenactment? Could these kids be involved? Maybe that’s why the corpse disappeared. But where was the evidence?
John’s career was not pretty as far as the things he dealt with went. Still, John found ways to shine. He wanted to do the same in his mysteries. He often put truths from the Bible into his stories. He was, after all, a religious man and wanted to bring honor to the Lord.
He wrote with abandon. When he went back to edit, he realized he was again deliberating his life and the last case. He needed to talk to someone in the department. It seemed the day he walked away; he’d stepped off the face of the earth. There was no contact from them. They wouldn’t even answer his calls. He remembered a young man he’d been mentoring – Darrel Morris. He’d been transferred out of state a month after Johns retirement. Maybe if John could find out where and contact him, he could get some inside information on the case.
The more digging John did, the more he turned to the stories of the Bible. He found an uncanny connection between them and the last few cases. Perhaps what he was missing was who might be mocking him, and his beliefs.
Munson followed the boys into the woods, keeping himself hidden behind the trees. He heard a familiar voice proclaim,
“See how easily I turn the stories you know into fairy tales, fooling my comrades and Munson with our little show of the crucifixion.”
Munson couldn’t believe his ears. All this time it had been an inside job engineered by someone he knew, someone he considered a friend.
John pondered what he wrote. Darrel did a stretch of Kiddy Duty. Could his young prodigy be playing Pilot?