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This is the first of the Demon Chronicles Retro Diaries. It goes back four years to a time when Kevin, Franklin and Marcia first met. It is a tricky, terrible mystery wrapped in a series of missed opportunities and spooky connections. Some questions about the novel series are answered, but even more are asked, so read the books too!
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Take a five volume journey with three reluctant and damaged heroes who are swept into a world of horror, role playing demons, love, more love, stealth and crimes.
Reviews for Volume I
As a former newspaper crime reporter I found the twist Edith reveals at the end of Chapt. 3 to be the most ingenious crime-scene discovery I've ever encountered in literature - fiction or nonfiction. Patricia Cornwell, eat your heart out! (I've no doubt the novel deserves five stars, but I thought it only fair to give it four because all I was able to read were the three chapters.)
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The Demon Chronicles
A Novella about Love, More Love, Demons, Stealth and Crimes
Lovers of Mine Do Fly On Damaged Wings
© 2012 Edith R. Allen, All Rights Reserved
On the first day of the demons, Marcia Landon got out of bed, said her prayers, showered, dressed, put on her makeup, made the coffee, styled her hair and let her dog out into the backyard. She had a short phone conversation with her scatterbrained girlfriend.
At 6:03 AM, an unknown force compelled Marcia to drop her briefcase and take one more incoming call before she left for work. It was her friend, Kevin ap-Rhys. He curtly announced that he and Franklin Marsh were coming over with some news. He hung up without explaining anything.
“Oh wrong! Kevin has no good news to bring over here,” Marcia muttered to herself.
Kevin was a private investigator in addition to some other things. Franklin was a San Francisco Police Inspector who had unspecified dealings of his own.
The terse nature of Kevin’s call meant that he was having one of his bad days. Kevin was generally a pleasant man who would use his posh British accent to get what he wanted from a person. Kevin also had a gift for making difficult people feel the emotions of his choice. At his worst, Kevin was an emotional ice bucket and a very scary man.
Kevin’s call caused Marcia to inventory her Catalog of Major Frets. Diana was an ongoing fret, so Marcia dismissed her with a gut check. Mom’s scattered thinking was not Alzheimer’s, so Marcia removed that fret from the catalog. Her big work project had halted, but that snag only meant that she could blow off work if she needed to.
The doorbell rang. She opened her door to find the wide opening full of Kevin and Franklin. These were not small men. Franklin topped out at six-two, and Kevin, slightly thinner, was the same height.
The extra visitor was a shorter, wider, grayish fellow and a surprise. She reluctantly let them all come in. With them came the scent of things brought up from the bottom of the ocean by the previous night’s violent storm. The smell of broken eucalyptus and wet wool also hovered in the air.
Kevin edged into the living room, and made the announcement:
“I am so sorry to tell you this…perhaps you would like to sit down…”
Marcia insisted on confining their wet wool overcoats to the entry hall. Three good-sized men probably meant 30 pounds of wet, smelly wool in her house. After she took care of that, Marcia said,
“Will you please tell me what’s going on? And no rambling, please!”
“Yes, of course.”
Kevin was clearly agitated and tried to pace, but the three men took up too much space. He took a deep, square breath and shouted,
“Oh this is not good! I can’t...Diana is dead and Walter may have killed her!”
“What? What?” Marcia wailed. She had just held a very brief, fractured conversation with Diana Martin less than an hour ago. So how could she be dead? How did Kevin get here so quickly with Franklin and that grayish fellow?
This could not be a prank. Kevin and Franklin were never prankish with Marcia, because she would beat them if they tried.
“She is dead,” Kevin said. “According to the at-scene coroner, she died this morning at 1AM. Her regular limo driver called the police when she failed to respond to his calls. The police responded and discovered her body. Franklin called me and we went looking for Walter. He was having breakfast and acting as If nothing had happened…”
“Whoa, fellah,” This was the grayish man who had not been introduced yet…or had he? Marcia could not remember if anyone had introduced the man. The grayish man continued. “Then how did this woman talk to the deceased this morning?”
The gray cop looked as if he had spent the night at the Indian Casino with his two best friends: a pack of Marlboros and a flask of whisky. He glared at Marcia and curtly demanded, “What time did you talk with Diana Martin?”
Marcia thought about the time and said, “It must have been between six and six-fifteen. I…”
“No! She died at 1 AM! You need to get your story straig…”
“Look, everyone calm down. This is a shock for all of us!” Franklin Marsh stepped in because his friends were in shock and this new partner was a clown. Franklin knew Diana Martin well, but was not as close to her as Kevin and Marcia. They both knew Diana since they were children. Franklin was in the best position to keep the conversation from blowing up and Marcia from throwing them all out.
Franklin and Kevin often worked together to close out difficult and high profile cases, much to the dismay of Franklin’s superiors at SFPD. Those jokers hated to have loose cannons with spooky pedigrees and grand political influence running around in their departments.
Kevin and Franklin had political influence because the Governor and the Federal agencies were tired of the department’s rare, but devastating propensity for pouring their own jar of stupid into a perfectly good joint operations recipe.
The two boasted a collection of university degrees, FBI reserve standing, international connections, and investigative experience. Kevin and Franklin were freak mutant law enforcement hybrids who were empowered to step over local corruption, interference and politics.
“I’ll make some more coffee,” Marcia said, wandering toward the kitchen with eyes so full of tears that she could barely see where she was going.
Kevin summarized the confusing situation. “Walter says that he stayed over at his mother’s home…”
Kevin suddenly stopped talking and followed Marcia into her kitchen. It was a good sign that they were both retreating to the comfort center of her home.
Franklin turned to his other partner and explained, “He’s in shock right now. He, Marcia and Diana Martin go way back, and they both loved her.
“Well…we have to talk to this woman right now…Lisa is it? She just said that she talked with the victim a little while ago! That cannot be. The victim died hours ago. ”
Kevin came up close to the cop, determined to scare the “bad cop” out of him. He spoke slowly and clearly. He lined up his very white and perfect teeth and showed them. He leaned down and got close to the idiot’s ear.
“George, her name is Marcia. Marcia Landen. She’s my best friend and she has had a terrible shock. She just said that she talked with Diana Martin an hour ago, and she does not lie well. Who says that the on-scene medical examiner was right, that Diana Weston was dead by one o’clock? We need to find out what that phone call was all about, and we need to nail down the time of death.”
“Are you going to give Lisa…sorry…Marcia the details? This is the worst murder I’ve ever seen, and I thought I’d seen the worst when those gang executions went down last year.”
“It’s even worse with someone you are close to. Remember that and show me some of that “talent” that made me put you on this case. Diana was a great woman. Walter is not a sexy suspect for this murder. If his statement checks out, then he has a very good alibi.”
“The best you can do right now, George, is to get Walter’s statement checked out, and soon.” George had a gift for keeping timelines straight. No defense attorney ever tripped him up on a witness stand, even when he gave hundreds of pages of testimony about complicated sequences of events.
“If Walter is the killer, he might take off before we gather enough evidence to bring him in. I have to ask, Franklin, are you sure that Marcia isn’t in on it? That she didn’t fake the call in order to help the Boyfriend?”
“His name is Walter. Walter was Diana’s boyfriend and he was not Marcia’s boyfriend. Make the calls, George.” Franklin left him and headed for the kitchen.
Marcia was weeping. Kevin was man wiping his own tears away and patting her shoulder.
“How bad was it?” Marcia asked.
Kevin was slow to reply. His delicate position kept him from giving out too much case information to a principal in the matter. He had been at the scene and the murder was horrific. He wanted to shield Marcia from the worst.
Kevin decided to tell her some of the facts before the news machine started spewing out detailed lies and cruel truths.
“Some of the first responders could not take it. Some of them had to leave. Marcia, I’m so sorry for our loss.”
People often thought that Kevin had a poor grasp of American sayings. Kevin spoke impeccable British English, but could butcher an American saying or cliché. This time, Kevin was just confusing the subject because the facts were far too grotesque for Marcia to hear.
“But I just talked with her! She hung up after a few seconds, so we barely talked. She’s leaving for Columbia, today and you know how she freaks when she travels!’’
“So she hung up after a few seconds. I can give a witness that Diana goes crazy when she travels,” Kevin and Marcia were still talking about Diana in the present tense. They both still had a lot of emotional fact processing to do.
“Can you think of anything else that was the slightest bit unusual about the conversation? Do you have anything to add, Marcia?”
Kevin walked over to Marcia’s large kitchen table, sat down with a heavy sigh, and glared at Marcia’s dog. He had the most incredible medium gray eyes that a human could have. His eyes changed to a slightly darker hue when he was angry or upset. Right now, they were darker gray.
“Well, she’s always like this when she travels. We all get these kinds of calls from her and we have talked about it. I get so mad at her when she calls and acts that way!”
“Did she interrupt you or you, her? Did you both ever talk at the same time as you tend to do?”
“Yes. Yes! It was as we were on a time delay or something! It was just a few seconds…the last time I’ll ever hear her voice!”
Marcia sobbed for a few minutes, and then asked, “Do you think that someone else might have been speaking or someone used a recording?”
“I can’t say at this time. I just can’t say, Marcia. I do not believe that Walter did this. We talked with him and he swears that he was at his mother’s home all last night.”
Marcia’s dog was a golden retriever named Duke. Whenever Kevin or Franklin sat down, Duke would come over right away. He liked to lay his heavy head on their feet as if to keep them from leaving. Kevin reached down and ruffled the dog’s fur, triggering doggie smiles and tail wagging.
For several minutes, Marcia sobbed while Kevin left her alone. Franklin came into the kitchen, helped himself to the cabinets and poured coffee for everyone. He even made some tea for Kevin.
The storm deteriorated into a stream of ragged and spectacular cloud formations. The sun bloomed out and slammed closed every few minutes. From time to time, pure yellow sun would pour in through Marcia’s tall glass kitchen windows. She went over and opened one of them. The smell of broken eucalyptus and torn fennel blew in and loaded a healing sweetness into the air.
Marcia pulled herself together and started making phone calls. First, she called in to beg off her job at the Strategic Studies Institute for a few days. She called Diana’s family in Columbia, South Carolina. The SFPD notified Diana’s mother and brother and they were arranging to fly out to California as soon as they could.
This made Marcia a little dizzy. She was extremely confused about time and place. It was seven o’clock in the morning, but everyone else had been working at this horrible situation for about two hours.
Marcia carefully did the duty and invited Diana’s relatives to stay at her place. Fortunately, Diana’s family declined Marcia’s invitation. Martin Family relatives lived all over the Bay Area and her relatives would have plenty of places to stay.
Marcia did not bring up the chill that had come between Diana and her folks. Marcia never understood why Diana and her family were on the outs with each other, and they volunteered no information. Diana’s legendary temper was enough to put Marcia and Kevin off asking nosy questions about Martin family relationship problems.
After taking care of her tasks, Marcia turned to her guests and said she was ready to answer any questions. She tried to stay in control of herself, but the shock was starting to wear off. Confusion and grief were setting in.
The monster in the room was Walter’s relationship with Diana. There was little doubt on first impressions that Walter could show a temper. He could have been abusive with Diana, but could he have been enraged enough to murder her?
Kevin and Franklin were holding too much back, but their expressions spoke volumes: Volume 1 said that Diana was not a victim of a common crime of passion. Volume 2 confirmed that Marcia’s friends were not about to give up the whole truth.
“Why was Mrs. Martin so upset about leaving San Francisco? You said that she was upset,” This came from the grayish man.
Marcia was too upset herself to remember the grayish man’s name…George. He was George and his last name needed a vowel movement. The name was Stcknysksy or something like that.
“It was a routine trip for some work on a network television project, but Diana was always frantic when she traveled. She said a few words about visiting with some people, and then she ended the call. I tried to call back but her number stayed busy.”
“But you’re sure that the caller was Diana Martin?”
“It was definitely her. She did sound a little more left-brain than usual. Wait. No. She was different. She was not herself.”
“So, let me get this straight. Your friend died this morning at about one o’clock. Police discovered her body at about six o’clock. You got a call at about quarter to six. You say that it was Diana Martin, not sounding like herself. She ended the call or something cut the connection. You tried to call her back and got a busy signal. Did you try to call her again?
“Yes. But I was getting ready for work. I was about to leave when Kevin called.”
“How well do you know Walter Jones?”
“I’ve known him since he started dating Diana. I never saw him in person before that. She…she met him in the 1980s, when they were in the Peace Corps. Over the years, she told me a lot about him. When she married Dave Martin, the football player, Walter was out of the picture for a few years,”
She stopped, wept a bit, and then took some coffee. She resumed her statement.
“Walter moved to San Francisco a year ago. He and Diana started dating again.”
“So she knew him for years, but you met him…when was that?”
“Let’s see…this was in late 2010…no…it was in January 2011. It was after the holidays that they got serious.”
“You don’t like this guy, do you?”
Marcia erupted and almost came after that Grayish man…what was his name again?
“Right now, I don’t like anybody!” She yelled. “Diana is dead!”
The Medical Examiner, or forensic pathologist, examines a deceased person and attempts to determine a cause of death. The medical examiner also creates an official record that states whether a death was from homicide, suicide, accident, disease, natural causes or unknown causes.
Even though everyone ultimately dies of heart failure, a medical examiner must try to find the cause of the heart failure.
Forensic pathologists who become medical examiners are broadly educated and specially trained medical doctors. They focus on the soft tissues of the body. They may decide to conduct autopsies, or examinations of the dead that help to determine a cause of death.
Autopsies are essential to the legal processes associated with death.
Forensic anthropologists come in when the soft tissue will not yield up any clues. These examiners are osteologists, or experts who study the bones. Forensic anthropologists attempt to identify the individual through detailed study of the bones and other information about the body. The forensic anthropologist is knowledgeable about many fields of study, including statistics, anthropology, linguistics and much more.
The most difficult task in the world can be to arrive at a verifiable conclusion that a specific wound, condition, injury, accident, chemical, poison, physical attack or other event was the main reason for the heart to fail.
Dr. Bernard Maybach was San Francisco County’s top medical examiner. He was halfway through a simple hike to Yosemite National Park’s Sentinel Dome. He was warming up for a much more challenging hike in a couple of days.
Diana Martin’s body arrived at the coroner’s facility on Bryant Street in San Francisco just as Dr. Maybach came up to Yosemite’s famous butterscotch/vanilla scented Jeffrey Pines. Dr. Maybach’s cell phone vibrated while he was poking at and sniffing the Jeffery Pines. He stopped sniffing, looked at the caller ID, and groaned with frustration. This was his first real vacation in months, and no way was he going back to San Francisco. He just knew that this call would be about the Mayor’s 90-year-old mother-in-law!
Her family surrounded the woman when she died of congestive heart failure and that was not enough for an inquest. The mayor understood this, but the mayor’s wife was giving everyone a hard time.
Dr. Maybach took the call. He listened, asked a few questions, and gave a few instructions. Then he said,
“I’ll be there tonight. No one touches that body until I get there. Do you understand? No one! Get security on that door and God help the idiot who leaks a single snapshot!”
“Sorry, Katherine,” he turned to his longtime companion, “I must go back to the city for a monster of a murder. They must be having a demon convention there…or something!”
“What is it about this crazy day,” his disappointed companion wailed.
At the same time that Dr. Maybach was taking his call, Kevin and Franklin were parking in front of Diana Martin’s condo. They planned to go over everything before the scene took on any more damage. They expected the killer or killers to have been smart, but few people are so smart that they can create a crime scene without leaving and taking. The principle of transference meant that the criminals would leave something behind and take something away.
Evidence transfer can heat an investigation to the boiling point. Evidence transfer can blast freeze a promising investigation and keep it frozen forever.
The conventional wisdom is that time is the truth killer in a murder investigation. The first 48 hours are supposed to yield up case-solving clues, or investigators find it harder to resolve a case. The truth is that murder investigations take as long as they take.
Many cases do get solved after the first 48 hours have passed, but the public is used to the speed and surety that is depicted in television and in the movies.
In reality, logic, puzzle solving, obsession, passion, life and work experience, voodoo, snitches, guilty witnesses, patience, corruption, trained dogs, broken glass, snagged clothing, falling hair, skin flecks, spit, psychics, luck, gossip, brilliance, coincidence, mental illness, and stupidity also play important roles in solving a murder.
Franklin and Kevin always managed to avoid using stupidity or voodoo when they solved their cases. Diana’s murder was a personal, but very high profile affair, and they would allow no interference. It was their investigation unless they messed up in a big way.
“Am I ready for this, Franklin?”
“It’s all right, Kevin. If you can’t take it, just let me know and we are out of here. You hear me?”
“Yes,” was Kevin’s grim reply.
Franklin and Kevin wore their hair so long that the two of them were a fashion statement. Kevin’s hair was a honey blond mass of knaps and curls that he had crammed into a ponytail. Franklin’s hair was a deep brown mass of knaps and curls that he wore in two large braids. Both detectives donned head covers, full paper suits, shoe covers, and latex gloves before entering the condo.
Kevin produced two HEPA masks. He insisted that Franklin put one on and keep it on. He also insisted that everyone else exercise extreme caution. Franklin frowned at this because he and Kevin regularly mucked through nasty crime scenes without all of these preparations. The preparations meant something to Kevin, and he was not talking.
Diana’s condo was a beautiful place she inherited when a suspicious plane crash killed her husband, the legendary football star Dave Martin. The crash happened deep in the Sierra Mountains and generated many questions, but the evidence yielded few answers.
Diana’s four bedroom flat took up the top floor of a mid century apartment building in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights district. Large windows let in views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Diana herself designed the interior to the inch, and Architectural Digest once featured the flat in a giant spread.
Kevin pried through the entrance and living room. He immediately ordered everyone to stop touching things, to sniff nothing and definitely not to taste anything. A hotshot investigator once made a big show of tasting evidence in front of Kevin. That was the day when Kevin earned his reputation for loud grievances that would travel up and down the hallways of a building.
Kevin practiced as he preached: moving like a cat and taking a great deal of time with the details. He peered under tables and squatted down to look at everything from a child’s level.
Franklin spied a couple of chairs that he knew were worth $50,000 each. Curious, he poked around and found more expensive furniture and objects. He made a note to bring in a forensic accountant to examine Diana Martin’s financial and bank records. She was worth about $40 million, but still, something was not quite right.
Kevin would occasionally point out a small item that he wanted collected and labeled. At one point, he stopped, turned in a circle and slowly examined a detail that only made sense to the Kevinverse.
Diana was more than a friend; she knew him since he was a young boy. Franklin kept frowning at their relationship, because Kevin and Diana had been on the outs for the past few weeks. Something happened between them and Kevin would not talk about it.
Now, Diana was dead.
The elegant flat that once graced the pages of Architectural Digest was now a bloody battlefield. Whatever happened went on for a long time. Furniture was bloody and tossed around in every room.
“There is something here!” Kevin shouted, causing everyone in the flat to jump. He pointed at two different walls and then at a sofa.
“This blood has dried at different times. This murder went on for most of the night, not a few minutes. You must collect and label all of this blood properly. You must make a detailed map of all the blood spots and drying times in this apartment. I also believe that all of this blood came from more than one person.”
“How many people, Mr. Reece?” the supervising detective demanded.
Five others called out at the same time, “ohp-Rizz!” Then all of them instantly went back to their work.
“How many people, Mr. ohp-Rizz?” the frustrated supervisor repeated his question.
Kevin never had the chance to answer. His cell phone went off. It was a text from the medical examiner ordering Franklin and him get over to Bryant Street right away.
Both detectives were glad to get out of their protective clothing and into the recently washed and blustery San Francisco air. They had been in the apartment for two hours and on the case for 26 hours. No one had much to say during the drive over to Bryant Street. Kevin and Franklin had recalled the Medical Examiner from his well-earned vacation and he probably wanted a dose of empathy.
Twenty minutes later, Franklin and Kevin walked into an autopsy room that was like nothing they had ever seen before.
The medical examiner shouted, “Welcome to my nightmare! You brought me home to examine body parts from 13 separate individuals. Most of those body parts were sewn to the torso of a woman who was still alive between 5 and six o’clock yesterday morning!”