Deputy Richards was a hardened man. An officer for twenty-three years, you better believe he had seen a thing or two. I’m talking about the type of stuff that keeps most folks up at night. Rapists, pedophiles and murderers have all entered the man’s life throughout his career. With that said, nothing could prepare him for the brutal killing of a little girl.
She was laid out in the dirt, not far from Miller’s Road. The girl had been slashed up and down her body and her inside removed, stacked neatly in a pile next to the corpse. It’s one of those horrors no person should have to endure witnessing. Richards was a tough man, but this heinous crime nearly brought tears to his eyes.
Deputy Wilson had been the first on the scene. He approached Richards, shaking his head. He had just finished photographing the crime scene and knew the images would never leave his mind for as long as he lived.
“You know who she was?” Richards asked, popping a cigarette into his mouth.
“It’s Michelle Bradshaw, seven years old. Preacher Oscar Bradshaw’s little girl.”
“This makes what, three children in two weeks? All slashed, organs stack beside the bodies.” Richards took a deep drag of his cigarette. “She suffered.”
“It’s just terrible. These killings are senseless. And in a God fearing county like this one. It makes you wonder why such evil exists.”
“Did you notify the family?”
“Mitchell is there as we speak. As much as I hate to have seen this, I am sure as damn don’t want to be the one to tell parents that their child was murdered. Especially a man who preaches the gospel. I mean, I go to his church for fuck’s sake. This will kill the man.”
“None whatsoever. We’re expanding the search area and questioning those who live around the scene, but it’s just like the others. There’s nothing to go on, no lead.”
Richards stared at Michelle, unable to fathom the terror the child felt. The pain. He wondered how many more there would be before the person is caught. Police work can only take a case like this so far. He knew this. What he needed was beyond the confines of what was legal.
“Fuck this. It’s time we call a council meeting. Meet me at Bucky’s in a couple hours. Get on the phone and call our people up.” He tossed his cigarette on the ground. “We need to stop this immediately.”
Bucky’s Tavern was a small watering hole in town, ran by Bucky Lewis. It was the home of many drunks, soul drained husks plopped on barstools abusing their livers. It was a seedy joint with its regulars, but today it would serve a different purpose. The sign read closed, but inside were eleven men and women from the town, all sitting in chairs waiting for the meeting to begin.
Richards had a beer in his hands. Fuck it he thought, after the day he had? Finding the Bradshaw girl had rattled him to his core, and he had to wonder if he’d ever shake the shock of what he had seen over the last few weeks. “Dear god” he prayed in his head, “Don’t make me live this every day.”
“So let’s get started” Phil Leeks ran a store in town and at seventy-two he was the oldest one on the council, thus giving him a leadership role in this rural democracy they have built.
Oscar Bradshaw, father of the latest victim, was a member of the council, and when he heard that there would be a meeting held regarding the death of his little Michelle, he made damn sure to show up before anyone else. Oscar had an opinion on who the killer was. He knew who it was and he would convince these men and women of this.
“I know who killed my little girl.” There was a hush over the room. All that could be heard was the sounds of a slight draft. “It was Lynette Watson.”
“The witch?” Shirley asked, as everyone shook their heads.
“That be the one. Lives up in that secluded trailer. All the young bucks in town sneak into the woods around her house to watch her dance nude in the moonlight. Such open blasphemy makes me sick.”
“Hold on a minute.” Richardson spoke up, Oscar looking at him like a confused dog. “How do we know that Lynette Watson killed all those kids?”
“Tell me, deputy, am I right in saying that all these killings were ritualistic in nature?”
“I reckon you’d be right. We suspected Satanism early on, after first victim.”
“I also know that the killer is Lynette.” Charlie stood up as all eyes fell on him. “Just yesterday I saw Michelle in town, stopped and said my hellos and all, and as I was walking away, I saw Lynette speaking to her. She was on her knee, whispering into her ear.”
“You watched the whore of Satan speak to my child?” Oscar slammed his fist on the bar. “I swear, for a God fearing county y’all certainly like to ignore the influences Satan has on our children.”
“It’s got to be Lynette.” Shirley turned to Richardson. “Is there any chance that the killer is an outsider, some drifter moving through?”
“I’m afraid not. Whoever it was who killed these kids was trusted by the victims, right up until the end. It’s obvious. Michelle was found off in the brush by Briartown. She sure as damn wouldn’t ride with a stranger to Briartown, now would she, Oscar.”
“No, I raised her to fear strangers, to prevent shit like this.” Oscar burst out in tears as Donnie pulled his face into his shoulder.
“I still don’t know. Lynette? She seems so harmless.”
“Goddamn it Deputy Richardson, my daughter is dead, and that whore is the killer.” Oscar got his composure before continuing. “I say we put it to a vote.”
“Very well then.” Phil banged a small gavel on the table he was sitting at. “We all know the drill. We will take a vote by show of hands whether we find Lynette Watson guilty of murder. If she is found guilty, she will be visited by the council and sentenced swiftly. So, can I see the hands for guilty?” Everyone in the room, except Richardson, had their hands raised. “Well then, that decides that. Lynette Watson is hereby found guilty of murder.”
“This is insane.” Richardson interrupted. Phil shot him daggers, but allowed him to finish. “We are basing a woman’s life on whether she spoke to the deceased. Surely I’m not the only one who sees that this doesn’t hold water.”
“She was seen speaking to Michelle.” Oscar was quiet and somber as he spoke. “You said it yourself. The killer is a local. Ritual murders, there’s only one witch in this county. Her name is Lynette and you dare stand in the way of the council from carrying out justice. Need I remind you that you have no more power than any of us on this council? She was found guilty so get your shit together because we’re heading over to the harlot’s house now.”
Lynette was in her living room watching TV when she heard a commotion outside. She lived in seclusion, so this alarmed her and sent her flying to the window. Outside her trailer were a group of people holding pitchforks, machetes and torches.
She opened the window. “What’s this all about?”
“You have been found guilty of murder by the council.”
“Murder? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“You killed my little girl.” Oscar yelled, gripping his pitchfork tight.
“You think I had something to do with those kids? I’m innocent.”
“You’re a witch, a whore of Satan.”
“I’m Wiccan. It’s a peaceful religion. We don’t sacrifice girls.”
“You can come out.” Phil hollered, “Or we will drag you out.”
Richardson held his torch in hand, conflicted over what was to be done. If she was indeed the killer, well then she deserves this, but if she is innocent, this would be a grave injustice. But the council had decided. Since replacing his father on the council, he made sure to be careful not to ruffle some feathers and he wasn’t going to start now.
Lynette slammed her window shut and slowly backed away, sobbing. She knew what the council was capable of. The front door crashed open and as the council piled in. Oscar came at her full force, plunging the pitchfork into her abdomen. Lynette screamed in pain as a hammer smashed her nose in. Blood exploded everywhere, seeming to throw the council into a frenzy, even Richardson.
Shirley used plyers to rip Lynette’s right eye out, then she spit into the bloody socket. A knife jammed into her neck as her screams drowned in blood. Oscar turned to Richardson.
“Don’t just stand there, light this sanctuary of Satan up.”
Richardson lowered the torch, setting small fires all around the living room. The council left Lynette dying on the floor, stood outside and watched the trailer go up in flames. Justice had been served.
That is until three days later when another body was found near Bosna Pond. The little boy’s insides were piled neatly beside him.