Authors: Parker Francis
There’s another conflagration brewing today fueled by a serial arsonist and an ugly confrontation between an ultra-conservative minister and the scientist responsible for a renowned archaeological survey known as the Topper Site, which has uncovered proof of the oldest humans ever found in North America.
Mitchell is pulled into the growing violence, working with the sheriff’s department to calm the growing storm as a media frenzy leads to massive demonstrations, and arson turns to murder. Caught in the middle, Mitchell becomes a target for the arsonist, and must save himself while helping to save the town from being destroyed for the second time.
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Bring Down the Furies
BRING DOWN THE FURIES
by Parker Francis
Flames flickered, then flared brightly. Within minutes, the fire was visible throughout the interior of the handsome plantation. The moon had slipped behind a bank of black clouds as if unable to face the inevitable destruction, but the growing inferno illuminated the night with a devilish hue.
Glaughtner’s men had already foraged through the deserted mansion, dumping foodstuffs left behind by the fleeing residents of the stately home into an abandoned wagon they’d found in the barn. Hams and sweet potatoes were piled along with greens, preserves, oil paintings, and bottles of wine. He felt sure the wine wouldn’t survive the forty-mile journey back to camp.
He watched his men cheer as the fire sizzled and popped its way into the entry hall and dining room beyond. Rippling shadows sidled over the yard. Flames blossomed, sending out torrents of heat. Glaughtner’s face flushed, but he welcomed the heat. The night had grown increasingly frigid, a light rain only adding to their misery.
He stood mesmerized, watching the flames consume curtains and furniture, the smoke billowing through broken windows. Something exploded inside the house, sending fragments flying in all directions. Glaughtner stepped back several paces, unwilling or unable to turn his back on the conflagration. Not yet. Not before the first flames broke through the roof of the three-storied mansion.
When it finally did, the small band of men cheered even louder. Some of them singing and dancing their little jigs. Bottles of wine were passed from hand to hand. It didn’t take them long to break into the spoils, he thought, but they had earned their rewards.
The wind shifted direction once again. Sparks and soot and pieces of burning debris flew through the night air. The acrid stench of smoke assaulted his senses. A nearby pine tree suddenly burst into flames, adding to the unholy spectacle.
Glaughtner remained fixed on what he’d created, his eyes glowing red in the reflected light of the fire. “Oh, lord,” he murmured to himself. “Forgive me. I do love it so.” A rush of pleasure shot tendrils of heat through his body, warming his limbs, his very loins.
“Captain, the men are going to drink themselves to sleep if we don’t move on.”
The speaker was a sergeant from Pennsylvania.
“You’re right, sergeant. I think we’ve done more than enough damage here,” Glaughtner said.
The sergeant nodded in agreement. “These Carolina bastards won’t forget us for a long time, that’s for sure. We left our mark on them.”
Glaughtner gazed one last time at the flames devouring the house before turning away. “Gather the men and let’s ride,” he told the sergeant. “I think Uncle Billy will be proud of our work here tonight.”
Allendale, SC – Day One
The pass flew over the receiver’s outstretched hands, hit the defender in the back of the head, and bounced crazily away.
“You dummy,” one of the players screamed at the defender. “That could have been an interception. How many times do I have to tell you to turn around and find the ball?”
The defender, a boy of no more than twelve years old, grinned and flipped his teammate off before retreating to his position behind the defensive line.
The offensive team huddled up, listening intently to the quarterback who punctuated his play calling with hand gestures toward the opposing team. As I watched the play unfold, I kept an eye on the motel across the street, watching for the familiar white Cadillac and the man I’d trailed to Allendale.
“Hup one. Hup two. Hike,” the quarterback yelled.
I guessed he was one of the oldest players on the field, possibly thirteen or fourteen. He stepped back from the center, the ball in his left hand where he made a convincing pump fake to a freckle-faced boy streaking down the right sideline. When the defenders turned to look for the pass, he tucked the ball under his arm and squirted through the line. He feinted right, causing one defender to collide with his teammate. He cut to his left, broke an arm tackle and raced down the field to the makeshift end zone.
Watching the young quarterback brought back memories of my high school glory days. The cheering crowd rocking the wooden stands. My teammates pounding me on the back. The rush of adrenaline and the feelings of triumph that engulfed my seventeen-year-old brain. I led my team to the state finals in my senior year, throwing for over 1,200 yards and running for eleven touchdowns. Of course, I was lucky to have a future Pro Bowler as a receiver, but like the young speedster, I always had a good set of wheels. Even in college, I was one of the fastest guys on my team, even though I ended up playing defensive back.
But you still have it, Mitchell, I thought to myself. And if DeAngelis decides to make a run for it, he doesn’t stand a chance. Because I’m still fast. Also because Ricardo DeAngelis is nearly sixty years old.
At that moment, the Cadillac pulled into the motel parking lot. I turned back to the field where the celebration was still in progress, clapping my hands like a proud parent, one eye watching the Caddy.
From my position on the far side of the field, I had a direct view of the front of the Allendale Budget Lodge. The motel looked like it may have been built in the fifties or sixties. A faded pole sign advertised AIR CONDITIONING – TV IN EVERY ROOM. A single row of eighteen rooms faced South Main and the field across the street. The Caddy had parked at the far end in front of number eighteen.
I watched the car door open. A tall man unfolded himself from the vehicle. Ricardo DeAngelis, who preferred to be called Ricky, stood six-foot-four-and-a-half. He was lean and in very good shape for his age. I couldn’t see his green eyes from where I stood, but most of the women he’d bilked described them as glowing with an inner light. That sounded like romantic bullshit to me, but something must have blinded them to the man’s devious intentions. The media had crowned DeAngelis the Heart Throb Bandit, and he’d made a career out of separating lonely rich women from their bank accounts. I’d been hired to find him.
I watched him scan the parking lot, glancing in all directions before unlocking the door to his room. He stepped inside, surveying the lot once more, then closed the door.
Running the length of the ball field, I left the pick-up game behind, surely impressing the kids with my speed as I ran. There was little traffic on South Main Street and I hurried across, moving to the right of the motel where several dozen used RVs sat in diagonal rows. A sign out front announced Bargain Prices for Road-Ready Class A Motorhomes.
Roberta Nesbitt had hired me to find DeAngelis and bring back her grandmother’s broach. Nesbitt was a crusty old broad who started out selling shrimp on the side of the road. Her husband had been a shrimper based in Mayport, outside of Jacksonville. So she knew shrimp, but obviously didn’t know much about men. Her husband left her with two kids and mortgages on the house and shrimp boat. It took her thirty years, but now she owned one of the largest wholesale seafood houses in the Southeast.
Unmarried since husband number one, Nesbitt fell for Ricky’s line, hook, rod, and shrimp net. She even paid for her own two carat engagement ring, spotted him a twenty-thousand dollar loan, and arrived home one afternoon to find her jewelry cleaned out and her white Caddy missing—along with DeAngelis.
She told me she’d like to cut off his balls, but what she really wanted was her grandmother’s broach. I told her I’d find him and see that he did some time, but there was no guarantee he hadn’t already fenced the jewelry. That didn’t make her happy.
Nesbitt had bought DeAngelis an iPhone, which was GPS enabled. Through a contact in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, I received tracking reports from the cellular network carrier, which led me through Georgia to Allendale, South Carolina.
As a private investigator from another state, I had no legal justification for apprehending a wanted man. Hell, even a PI living in Allendale couldn’t arrest anyone. Wrong kind of badge. My intention had been to locate DeAngelis, which I had, then call the sheriff. Let the locals deal with him. Nesbitt’s attorney was prepared to alert the local police and have the Heart Throb Bandit extradited to Florida.
That was still my plan until the door to room eighteen swung open and DeAngelis stepped out. He carried an overnight bag and a slim aluminum briefcase, which he locked in the trunk before returning to the room. I hugged the outside wall of his room weighing my options. I could dash back to my car and follow him. But he might give me the slip. I could tackle him in the parking lot when he returned to his car. Too public. I’d rather do this quietly. Taking him in his room seemed to be the best option.
Nothing in DeAngelis’ file indicated he was violent. All of his crimes had been of the passive variety, walking away with his victim’s savings, leaving behind broken hearts. Even so, I’d tucked my Smith & Wesson into the waistband of my jeans as a precaution. My shirt hung out, long tails covering the gun.
Quickly forming Plan B in my head, I decided to confront him before he returned to the car and detain him until the law arrived. Although he seemed to be in good shape for his age, I didn’t think he’d fight. Everything I’d read about DeAngelis described him as gentle and well mannered. He might try to sweet-talk his way past me, but I wasn’t a gullible old woman. Maybe he’d make a break for it and try to out-run me. Like that would happen. No, he wouldn’t argue with a thirty-eight in his face. Then I’d call the local constabulary and hope they understood why I took the law in my own hands.
Stepping up to the door, I knocked sharply and waited for it to open.
“Just a minute,” a voice called out from inside the room. I’d have to agree he sounded gentle and well mannered.
A few seconds later, I heard footsteps approaching the door and the click of the lock. The door swung open and I instinctively looked up a few inches expecting to see the refined features of the Heart Throb Bandit smiling at me. One hand was on my hip, ready to pull out the revolver.
Through the open door I saw a darkened room; a double bed looking like it hadn’t been slept in, an ugly floor lamp sitting next to a green easy chair with a matching hassock. What I didn’t see was Ricardo DeAngelis.
I heard a soft whoosh before a blinding pain exploded across my knee. My knee buckled under me as the pain burst into pinpoints of light in the back of my retina. I rolled on the sidewalk clutching my knee. Cursing my stupidity. Cursing DeAngelis.
DeAngelis rose from behind the wall next to the door where he’d been kneeling. Through my pain I heard him say, “Sorry about that, my friend.”
He held a length of pipe in one hand and his car keys in the other. DeAngelis stepped over my writhing body and sprinted to Roberta Nesbitt’s Cadillac. I attempted to stand, reaching for my revolver at the same time, but I lost my balance and landed on my ass.
Lying in front of the open motel door, like a discarded pizza box, I watched helplessly while DeAngelis fired up the Caddy and roared away.
Look for Bring Down the Furies, coming soon.