The narrator is morning newspaper reporter Gerry Hilliard, who has been covering the murder of Jackson Stone’s wife, Angela.
I woke up, had two cups of coffee, along with cinnamon rolls and a slice of cantaloupe, then left for the office because they wanted an in-depth look at Stone for the Sunday op-ed section. They planned a pro-con debate with the paper’s religion editor, and they proposed to label the package “Stone-Cold Killer?” I thought it was a cliché, but what the editor wanted, the editor got. I faced a noon-Thursday deadline, hence the sooner-than-usual start. As it turned out, that piece never got published because of the call that came in at eight thirty on the police scanner sitting atop my cluttered desk.
“All area units please respond to a possible double-homicide in East Nashville at one-six-nine Evans Street. That’s one-six-nine Evans Street,” the scanner crackled.
One sixty-nine Evans. Why did that address sound familiar?
Then it hit me. I emailed city editor Carrie Sullivan and photo editor Brad Moore the address of where I was headed—the house next to Jackson Stone’s.
The protesters had returned—both groups—and about twenty minutes after Jackson arose, he became aware of them. He turned on the coffee, showered and dressed. He almost put on a tie before the realization hit: No job, no more ties. He poured his first K-Cup—choosing Hazelnut over Mudslide—and went to fetch the paper.
The harried scene outside surprised him. Jackson didn’t know it marked the protesters’ second day on the sidewalk.
“There he is,” shouted a bearded young man holding a sign which read “Put Your Faith In The Lord’s Vengeance, Not Jackson Stone’s.”
Jackson walked between protesters and picked up the paper, shaking his head. As he neared the front walk, a tinny female voice shouted.
“Violence sucks and so do you, Stone.”
“That’s enough,” Stone said angrily, staring down his hecklers. Each set of eyes he met dropped. Jackson cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted.
“Don’t you people have anything better to do? Do you know what time it is? Get out of here before you wake my neigh—”
Jackson froze, his first hint of something very wrong. Struck by the four days’ worth of newspapers on the driveway next door, he stood oblivious to the protesters’ resumed shouting. He crossed the strip of grass between the two driveways and picked up the Sunday paper, looking around.
“That’s odd,” he mumbled to himself. Their cars were in the driveway. They weren’t out of town, otherwise they’d have asked him to get their mail. He checked the mailbox. It was jammed tight with envelopes, magazines, and fliers. Jackson didn’t like that and trotted to the front door, brushing by the protesters who followed him into the next yard. He tried the lock. Nothing.
He sprinted around to the back door. Also locked. A hand to his brow blocked out the sun as he pressed his nose to the bay window and peered into the open kitchen. An open mustard jar sat on the counter beside the opened loaf of bread. He saw a twist-tie on the floor, and a drawer stood open. No signs of movement or life from inside. He pounded the door, then looked inside from another angle and noticed the open door to the basement.
“Herb? Sarah? Anybody home?”
No reply. He banged the door again, smacking harder. After several seconds of silence, Jackson backed up and then crashed his shoulder to the door—once, twice. The third time the door jamb gave and Jackson burst in. The overpowering stench gagged Jackson as it brought back Gulf War memories. He stumbled outside and around the corner of the house.
“Somebody call the police,” Jackson shouted at the protesters. Several did. Jackson pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket and covered his nose and mouth. He used his forearm to push the basement door open wider and looked down the steps. Ohmigod! At the bottom of the stairs lay Herb, a knife protruding from his back. Jackson thought he couldn’t be any more shocked. Dead-wrong. He wondered if Sarah hid down there and descended four steps to look around and saw nothing.
Jackson eased down a couple more steps, halted, and looked. Again, nothing. Stepping around Herb’s body, careful not to touch anything, he turned the corner and stumbled backward.
Sarah’s limp body hung from a noose.
What in the name of God happened here?
Jackson didn’t touch either body or disturb the scene. Moving around Herb’s body to climb the stairs, Jackson noticed the claw marks for the first time. Peering closer at the bloody scratches on the left cheek, something else caught Jackson’s eye, something familiar. What’s that cloth in his mouth?
If you would like to purchase a copy of ‘Vendetta Stone’ you will find a list of stores that carry it in Nashville and other areas, or get it through Amazon or on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Vendetta-Stone-Tom-Wood/dp/1490331522/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375884849&sr=8-1&keywords=1490331522