His clock tells the same time.
There were very few reasons I was excited to head back to Georgia. As various outlets continued to report the news of mutilated bodies, all women, and all naked, washing up on the banks of the Satilla River, I suddenly couldn’t wait. I had always been a sucker for the dark and dangerous; and the sordid, wicked tales of verses carved in blood, washed clean in the brackish waters of the lowcountry proved no exception. I generally dreaded the long stays at the overbearing family compound. The seemingly endless week spent at the suffocating homestead I had married into, where foreigners dwelled who deigned to live with perpetually open doors, a land in which knocking was considered too stiff a boundary to observe. In this place of southern Baptist tradition, a set of Calvary Chapel tapes is considered the antidote to all of life’s problems, so long as you’re on enough drugs to listen to them.
When in Camelot, you pretend to be one of the Kennedys. Or something like that. So, on Sunday morning, it’s customary to attend church at the compound’s personal chapel. I sit uncomfortably next to my Father in Law in one of the ancient wooden pews. Sam continuously refuses to respect our family’s position on religion. Of course, he blames me, maybe because I’m openly secular and believe religion is a personal choice, or, as I’ve often considered, perhaps he’s tortured and resents my honesty. Either way, on this particular morning, the message appears to be of the usual fare: Adam was sleeping, the snake tricked Eve, Eve ate the fruit because she’s stupid and gullible, therefore human birth hurts, therefore women are evil. At last we adjourn, knowing full well that the only good woman is a dead woman, plenty of which have been found along the root littered banks of the river recently.
I mull this thought over, even as we eat and I dutifully (and repeatedly) refuse the meat. The verses. What were they? I decide to take a look at the local newspapers. The Bible verses, which were carved into the twelve women’s breasts and buttocks, many of them the same, are listed in The Florida Times-Union. Most seem to refer to virtuous women, or the inherent dangers of affiliating with women who do not “feareth the Lord.” As I sit reading, Sam walks up, and in his usual fashion, finds it necessary to warn me of my impending doom. “That preacher today made a good point, you know it? Evil disguises itself. And if you can’t recognize evil people, you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” You will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. Proverbs? Horrified, I close the paper and struggle with the realization that Sam has been playing God. All those sins, the many lessons conveyed in the blood of unvirtuous women, were now washed clean by him in the dark, murky waters of the Satilla.
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Exhausted from a long evening spent answering what seemed to be the same questions repeatedly, Jane returned home from the police station to the imposing, Victorian home she had happily shared with her Husband, Ed, until his death last May. Since Ed died, and especially following the horribly gruesome murders of the Matthews family, a family that Jane barely knew beyond her annual contribution to their children’s school fundraisers, Jane had felt uncomfortable living alone in such a large house. The very life itself seemed to have drained from the house when Ed left, and in its place, an uneasiness settled upon its dried, leaf scattered lawn, and its blank, empty windows. Then the break-ins started. Each week it seemed a new house was targeted for random pillaging, and while nothing much was taken, the close proximity in time to the murders was a coincidence which could not be ignored.
As the police sorted the details and searched for motive in the Matthews’ murders, rumors were rampant. Connections to organized crime, the illegal drug trade, and human trafficking were all investigated as potential motives, especially since the Matthews’ sixteen year old daughter, Lucia, was missing, but presumed dead due to what appeared to be a snuff film anonymously posted to 4Chan the morning after the murders. As Jane tried to clear her thoughts of poor Lucia and the rest of her family, she decided to brew a cup of chamomile tea. Her heart literally ached, and she felt as if she may be sick. As the tea pot loudly screamed in the dim lights of the kitchen, Jane poured a cup and headed upstairs to bed.
Back at the police station, line one rang obnoxiously.
“Yes, Jameson, Hi, my name is Janet Simpson. I’m calling because I haven’t heard from my Parents in a couple of days, and I was wondering if someone could run over and check in on them and make sure everything’s alright? I would do it, but I’m out of state and it would take me at least 10 hours to get there.”
Officer Jameson took down the address to Jane and Ed Thomson’s house, and, promised to call Janet immediately with any word. The arriving officers found the doors locked, and everything appeared to be in order. Three newspapers were piled neatly beside the front door, and a cat could be heard mewling pitifully from inside. After repeated attempts to rouse the Thomsons, officers made their way in and immediately noticed the stench. Upstairs in the bedroom lay Ed Thomson, a gun in his right hand, and a wound to his temple. Next to him was his wife of 35 years, Jane, dead with an unfinished book across her chest and a blood spattered cup of tea by her side.
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