“Satan’s Song – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 2) is part of the five-book ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’. The book was inspired by a horrific murder in Phoenix, Arizona some years ago. The details in the newspapers of the day stunned me, and my imagination came up with all sorts of scenarios for the gruesome homicide. So far as I know, the murder was never solved… Here is the ‘Prologue’ to the book.
‘Sunday Morning Coming Down!’
The line from the song stayed with her long after the radio was turned off. The words conveyed the mood that held her captive.
‘Sunday Morning Coming Down!’
All of her Sunday was ‘coming down.’ She had talked long distance to her mom in Ohio, had feigned good cheer, and had felt even more desperate when they disconnected. She had read the comics section of the paper, usually an uplifting experience. Not today. She had exercised on the carpet, doing push-ups and deep knee bends. She was energized for only a few minutes, and it hit again.
A heavy depression consumed her Sunday in large chunks, a visceral displacement, much like that long ago summer camp experience … No! She must not dwell on that bittersweet summer camp.
She was lonely, sad, locked within a body and mind that would not push away the black oppression. The blue sky and sun that came to her through the big window in the living room added little relief.
So the day had gone. Sunday had gone.
It had been a mistake to stay in Phoenix. The city was too big, too unfriendly. She missed her family and friends in Steubenville, the familiar and the rote activities she had once seen as shackles.
The irony of the thought brought an obscure smile, and the wonderful memories flashed before her: barbecues in the expansive back yard, leaves on the big trees rustling in the wind; Saturday movie matinees, sitting, giggling, in the middle rows, throwing popcorn kernels at unsuspecting boys; the overnight stay-overs, pajama parties, pillow fights; long gossipy talks about boys long into the early morning; cheer leading at the basketball and football games, flirting with players on the sideline benches; homemade ice cream, cold watermelons, sweet and juicy, on summer Sundays …
On and on the memories flashed, and her black mood deepened, lingered like a soggy wet blanket that clung, would not be loosened and discarded. She was here in Phoenix, in a desert city swirling with an ugly gray smog, indifference, crime. She was in an urban sprawl of people from every conceivable cultural, ethnic, and racial mix. She was in a city that frightened her, a city that spawned a subliminal despair at her core of being. She did not like what she was becoming. This darkness of mood did not fit her personality. She was never one to mope around, to engage in self-pity. She tried always to avoid people like that. She was beginning to turn inward, to dislike herself.
Perhaps Phoenix was only the symptom and not the cause of this recent gloom. Perhaps there were other more subtle stirrings which she could not identify.
Strange, now, in remembering how the city had first excited her. Phoenix had been so different from anything she had known in Steubenville, like visiting one of those desert oases she had read about in school. She had found the southwest lore intriguing Sand entertaining. It had been like living out all the old fantasies from western movies she had seen with her family and friends.
There had been a visit to the Superstition Mountains where she had wanted to search for the legendary Lost Dutchman’s gold.
There had been the trip to Picacho Peak and to old Tucson where so many of the cowboy movies were made.
There had been old Mexico where she had been shocked by the poverty and the primitive conditions, but had somehow been drawn to its quaint and sleepy culture.
She had seen the spectacular Grand Canyon, stood above the majestic shadows and golden hues of its vertical walls, looked in awe across the vast space as the gentle winds touched her face.
She had decided to stay in Phoenix. There was so much to see, so much to do, in this lovely state. Her commitment to stay was nonetheless not quite one hundred per cent.
She had gotten a job and moved into her boyfriend’s apartment at Canyon Way. The Canyon Way Apartment complex was near the lovely Encanto Park, where she quickly made it a daily ritual to bike ride through its lush and placid grounds. Biking had become a therapy for her. It made her muscles relax and made her mind more malleable to positive thinking.
Her new life had been good for a few months. Then the city began to gnaw at her nerves. The transition had been a delicate and imprecise thing to analyze. There were murders, rapes, and robberies reported everyday on the television news. Crime seemed to be evenly distributed among Phoenix’s multicultural mix. There seemed to be anger everywhere, shown through simple senseless acts of vandalism, random mayhem, and overt discourtesies.
For a small Ohio town girl, the big city had created an inner turmoil. Where there had been a quiet pastoral peace, there was now a ‘salad bowl’ madness. It was getting to her, and she was getting to her boyfriend.
Vince had tried to lift the torpid mood he had seen developing over the past weeks but he had not been successful. Now he was getting impatient and cross with her. They had argued earlier in the morning and had settled into a silent separate space for sulking and guilt trips.
Around 7:00 on Sunday evening Della pulled her yellow Diamond Back mountain bike from its place on the small second floor apartment balcony, announced that she was going for a ride. It was a twenty-six inch man’s bike, but Della was a tall girl and preferred it to a woman’s bike.
Bad moods were rare for Della, but a bike ride through Encanto Park would help diminish her funk. The hard pumping on the pedals had a therapeutic effect on her. With the sweat of a strenuous bike ride would come a soothing calm. She needed something to break this ugly lethargy.
Della walked her bike down the metal and stone stairwell and out onto 19th Avenue. She turned south on 19th after leaving the apartment complex, still walking her bike. After a few blocks she left the sidewalk and entered Encanto Park. From a running start she got on her bike, pedaled vigorously southward and eastward, followed the outer edge of the Encanto Municipal Golf Course. She could hear water sounds from the lake and she felt the cool November wind on her face. She heard the insect noises of the night and thought again about her family and friends in Steubenville.
The night sky was unusually murky, and she wished the city would do something about the poor lighting along the bike path. There had been some talk from city officials that improvements were going to be made around the park but no action had been taken. Della had ridden her bike at night and she felt no sense of fear. The depth of darkness she encountered this night was simply an extension of her mood. She would ride it off.
She stood and pumped the pedals expending great effort, moving swiftly down the meandering path toward the main entrance to the park. When she reached the southernmost perimeter she turned and sped back north along the same path. The sweet smell of damp grass filled her nostrils, reminding her again of Steubenville and home.
She felt the sweat on her face and in the cleavage of her breasts. There was a rather pleasant chilling sensation throughout her body, and she was aware of a mood shift. Her mind was now clearing, and she thought of the wasteful negative stupor of the day. She was young and impatient. She must give her new life a chance. She had a whole world ahead of her. She must not get depressed and take it out on Vince. He really wanted her to be happy. She was eager to get back to the apartment and apologize.
It appeared she had the bike path all to herself. She relaxed. She sat and pedaled easily. Occasionally she just coasted. She was almost back to 19th Avenue. There was approximately one quarter mile left. She had covered nearly four miles in very fast time, and she was coming to the final turn before she hit a straightaway to 19th Avenue. She was just coming parallel on her right with a long row of eucalyptus trees. She heard again the sounds of the lake off to her left and the steady shriek of crickets.
She saw a black blur of movement about fifty yards ahead. Someone was standing next to a tall palm tree, or leaning against it. It appeared to be someone in bulky clothes, maybe someone wearing a large overcoat. That someone was stepping out onto the path in front of her …
There was a quick motion of arm and hand, and glittering particles, like fireflies, appeared in the darkness in front of her. There were flashing movements as the arms made arcing turns of bright, diamond-like specks of light.
Della instinctively steered the bike to the left side of the wide path, a nervous tingle spreading just below her skin. Serious adrenaline now raced through her and a fast rising fear gripped her. The fear lodged in her throat. The flashing movement was coming at her, and she could not turn the bike fast enough to avoid it. Like a video tape moving fast forward, it all happened so quickly. Her warm thoughts of making up with Vince had preoccupied her and slowed her reflexes. The fear and adrenaline gave way to frenzy, her mind splintering with delirious patterns. The panic coursed through her body like a hundred simultaneous bee stings, and the inner surge seized her in a near paralytic grip.
The first sweeping blow caught Della on the neck, lifting and holding her in midair suspension, presenting an odd spectral silhouette against the backdrop of night. Her bike rolled clumsily on and crashed a few feet ahead on the gravel border lining the path.
Incredibly, Della did not appear to die from the initial slash. With a sad reflexive tremble of body, she seemed to be fighting her attacker, like a weak, cumbersome puppet on a string. Her arms reached out to grab, to scratch, to hit, but it was only a slow grotesque enactment, born of an atavistic will to live. It was a primal instinct to survive, a mind-muscle-soul reaction to death.
The attacker was now above her, hovering like a dark cumulus cloud, a gray indefinite shape, spitting angry lightning bolts.
For Della Erlitz, death was most gruesome, but mercifully instantaneous.
The savagery on Della Erlitz body was not finished. Unmindful, uncaring, that death had already come, the killer continued to slash and to mutter incoherent obscenities. The maniacal perversion continued until the young woman’s head was totally severed. The killer then wrapped the head in a thin sheet of plastic and placed it in a tote bag. The body was further defiled by a monstrous craving the sane and civilized world could not hope to fathom.
Finally, the satanic craving was sated. The killer moved the body some seventy feet from the bike path in the direction of the eucalyptus trees. Della’s blood soaked clothes were cut away and piled next to the curled, stiff fingers of her left hand. The killer placed the tote bag over the handlebars of Della’s yellow bike and rode away.
The killer started north on the bike path, stopped to consider a thought, hesitated, then turned around and headed back south.
Passing near the headless body, the killer began to whistle a soft and strangely rhapsodic melody.
END OF EXCERPT.
Should you wish to read more of “Satan’s Song – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 2), please visit my website/blog ‘Home Page’ and scroll down through my books. You will find ordering information after the book.
http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com (My main website – There is also a blog with all my posts, some book reviews, and bio info.)
Other links that might be of interest:
http://www.about.me/brchitwood (A brief bio sketch and further links.)
http://www.thefinalcurtain1.wordpress.com (A blog site where you can follow all my posts)
Http://www.goo.gl/fuxUA (My site at ‘Independent Author Network’ which previews my books and gives links.)
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