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Friday, March 9, 2018

Behind the Masque (Prologue)

Abernathy Estate, Detroit suburbs, Spring 2008
         Kyle Abernathy sat alone in the darkened drawing room, watching the flashers of police cruisers and ambulances outside the window. Dozens of people poured in and out of the mansion, tracking muddy feet all over pristine carpets. The noise was deafening; cops wandering around, feet stomping through the halls, raised voices, and the sounds of people vomiting outside the half-closed door. It was horrible and it wouldn’t be over with anytime soon; a violent crime had been committed, here in the Abernathy’s safe haven. The police had a job to do and it didn’t matter that he, perhaps more than most, paid their salaries; they would do it with or without his consent.
         The door opened and a tall, lanky red-head walked in. Her navy business suit was glued to an athletic shape and she walked with a purpose, the lights from the hall glinting off her badge.
         When the officer reached for the light switch in the room, Kyle frowned.
         “Leave them off,” he said, so soft and quiet that she might not hear.
         “Mr. Abernathy, I’m sorry, but I have to ask you some questions now.”
         He didn’t like this cop. She smelled of sweat and hard work and had eyes that were narrow and dark, as if hiding something. It was easy to tell when a person had secrets since he had a ton of them hidden away. Her voice was gruff, not very feminine. It was irritating. Women should act and sound like women, not construction workers.
         “Where’s Jackson?” he asked.
         “Detective Jackson has other cases to handle. I’ll be lead investigator for you…”
         “He’s too busy to help my family? Doesn’t matter, I suppose. You already have the person responsible in custody.” He looked back toward the window. “How bad is it?”
         “No one has told you?”
         “Of course not. I was out of town and received a call that I had to come back. They said it had something to do with my mother. It was a shock to return and find cops swarming my estate. All I know is that my mother is dead. How did she die?”
         “Your mother was tortured before he killed her.”
         He didn’t respond for several long minutes, then said, “I heard talk, Detective. My mother was barely recognizable and when I see trained police officers losing the contents of their stomach all over my carpeted floors, I can only assume it was very bad. What did he do to her?”
         “I don’t think you need all the gory details, Mr…”
         “Look, Officer…” He leaned over to get a look at her badge. “…Higgins, I want to know everything. I can handle it. Now tell me what he did to her – all the details, if you will.”
         She swallowed, tapped her pen on her notepad, and then said, “Her back was whipped, right down to the bone. Her fingernails were ripped out and as if that wasn’t enough, he…he…”
         Kyle watched Officer Higgins catch her breath at the memory.  “He what?”
         “He skinned her. I’m sorry, Mr. Abernathy, truly sorry.”
         “And the guy who did this?”
         “He worked for your gardening company. After finishing with the matriarch of the manor, he sat down and called 9-1-1. We found him sitting next to the body, covered in blood.”
         “Thank you, Detective, that will be all.”
         “Mr. Abernathy, I have some questions…”
         “Which I’m sure will be answered shortly. Right now, I want to be alone.”
         The police officer nodded and left the room, shutting the door. Kyle turned back to the window and smiled, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ring coated with blood. It bore the crest of the Abernathys and was passed down from one head of the household to the next. Mrs. Abernathy had worn it for years. Kyle had ripped it from her cold hand hours earlier as she lay dying in the basement. She hadn’t said a word; just tried to cough out a retort, but nothing could get past the bruised lips. It was atrocious, but partly sensual, the way her too skinny, ribs showing, wrinkly body swayed back and forth from the hooks embedded into her back. She reached for him, but fell short of the mark. He wanted her to die; the old bag held on for way too long. Eventually, it happened and the light left those sagging eyes. Now the legacy was his.
         He spun around in his chair, unlocked the desk drawer, and dropped the ring inside. Once the murderer was convicted and sentenced to a life in prison, he could safely wear it. When he returned his attention back to the window, they were carting his mother’s corpse away.
         “Goodbye, mother,” he said.
         After they loaded the body, he stood, straightened his tie, smoothed out his black pants, and then walked to the door, ready to go have a talk with the irritating detective.

Buy Behind the Masque at amazon.com

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