It’s my turn to host Friday Fiction this week, so look below for the Linky tool and the list of great stories for you this weekend.
One of my Faithwriters & Facebook friends, Tim George, posted a quote this week that went, “Faith-based fiction is nothing but pious platitudes and saccharine sweet fluff for people who want to be shielded from the realities of life.” (Note: this is not his opinion, but one he was sharing as part of an ongoing discussion) In many cases, that is what the main Christian publishing houses will accept for printing, but to categorize all Christian fiction or Faith-based fiction as bereft of the realities of life is itself patently unrealistic. Some of us seek to write stories that reflect not just characters trying to live the ideals we believe in, but in a realistic depiction of the world we live in. What encouragement can it be if our characters exist in a universe that lacks the situations real people deal with every day? The reader will think that, “Of course it’s easier for this character to live the Christian life – they live in a world modeled after a 1950s era Disney movie.” Evil exists in our world. The Bible showed it. The “heroes” of our faith through history have needed to live with it. We have to live with it. Our characters have to live with it, if we want our stories to not correspond with Tim’s quote.
This week’s chapter from “Precocious by Consent” is a look at a world that isn’t saccharine sweet fluff (and also offers a bit more insight into last week’s chapter).
Sid looked at the two printouts arranged side-by-side on the desk in front of him. To the left, the Missing Person Report for eleven year old Elena Zazueta, last seen Halloween two years ago. To the right, the report for thirteen year old Rosalie Emerich, last seen Thanksgiving weekend of the same year that Elena had vanished. Early suspicions in Elena’s case had leaned towards non-custodial parent abduction, since her mother had vanished a couple of months before the daughter disappeared.
Rosalie had been classed a runaway, following reports that she and her parents had fought over her older online boyfriend that holiday weekend, after which she had stormed from the house. Attempts to find the boyfriend had gone nowhere, and a ten-thousand dollar reward had been posted by a community group for any information leading to her safe return. They should have noted if that online boyfriend was on Facenet. I bet he was playing her the whole time, just waiting for the occasion when she would be ready to call him to pick her up.
The coroner had almost instantly ruled out either girl for the identity of the body in the grave. The recovered victim was from African heritage, and they were still waiting to see if dental records would identify her. Did you think it was funny to leave us evidence of you being an “equal opportunity” serial killer?
Elena had been taken from Prescott, Arizona, while Rosalie had last been seen in Chandler, Arizona. The search to align the map found under the grave began from those locations, but there were other investigators working that project.
He made a phone call to the Phoenix office, passing along the information that the two missing girls were now believed to be linked to his investigation, and requesting renewed follow-up from that angle with the girls’ families and friends. Maybe if we dispel any romantic notion of two young lovers running away together, or a mother reclaiming her daughter, some of their friends will have something new and useful to tell us.
He hung up the phone, not envying the agents that would shortly be visiting the families. He’d had a similar visit with Lara Schumacher’s parents after learning the girl had been taken by the Facenet Killer. Hope tries to hold on, even as desperation takes over. There’s still a tiny chance she may get away, but we know it’s unlikely. Maybe he just gave us photos of two missing girls just to mess with us, but if these girls were still out there somewhere, he’d have to chance that we’d find them alive before finding this grave, and catch him in his bluff. It’s been a year and a half; if there’s anything left of these girls but bones, I’ll be surprised.
He had another call to make, and checked the note in his smartphone for the number.
The phone rang twice before it was picked up. “Hello?” a muted female voice answered.
“Is this Lloyd Timmons’ room?” he asked.
“May I ask who’s calling?”
“This is Special Agent Powell with the FBI.”
“Oh, hello, Agent Powell. Yes, this is Lloyd’s room. My husband is asleep at the moment, though. Can I give him a message when he wakes up?”
“I was calling to see how he’s doing today, and to ask if he feels up to going over anything he might remember from Sunday night.”
“I don’t know how reliable anything he could tell you today might be. When I got here this morning, he was telling me about his visit with Ilsa last night.”
“Ilsa was a murder victim he investigated a few years ago. When he first became a homicide detective, he started imagining conversations with the victims as some kind of mental aid in the investigation. Most of them, he stops having the conversations once the case is solved, but for some reason, he still imagines talking to Ilsa.”
“So, what was different about this one?”
“Ilsa had the same condition as Katya.”
“Hmm. I see. What was it about his ‘visit’ last night that leaves you concerned?”
“He told me she touched him, and even climbed onto the bed and went to sleep beside him, like a frightened child might with a parent. I’ve never heard him refer to anything but discussions with any other victim, and he never really had a problem differentiating between the fantasy and reality. This morning, he talked about her like she was really here.”
“Have you talked to his doctor about this?”
“He says it could be the pain medication. He said some people have very real-seeming dreams while on it, but that he was going to keep him under close observation for a few days, because it could also be a symptom of head injury from the explosion.”
“Okay,” he said, after a moment’s thought. “I’m going to try and get by to see him today, but I’ll keep it a social visit for now. Is there anything we can do for you while he’s recovering?”
“The kids are here now, and are staying with me, so I think we have things pretty well covered, but thank you for offering. Right now, I think prayer is about the best thing anyone can do for us, so that’s all we’re really asking anyone else for.”
Yeah, I’ve been so impressed with how well prayer has been working on this case so far. “I’ll pass along the request. Don’t hesitate to call, though, if you see anyone that you think looks out of place, makes you feel suspicious, or you just need to have a little extra feeling of security close by. I’ll make sure someone gets there fast.”
“The Sunny Grove PD already has people watching the house and Lloyd’s room, though I don’t really think it’s necessary.”
“Keep my number handy anyway.”
“I will, Agent Powell. The nurse is here to check on Lloyd, so I need to get out of the way. I’ll tell him you called.”
“Thank you. You take care, Mrs. Timmons.”
“You, too, Agent Powell.”
He ended the call and looked around the room. How many of these people believe in prayer? Is it even worth passing along the request?
He spun around in his chair to face his associate. “Got something?”
“We’ve pinpointed the map. It’s an area southwest of Chiriaco Summit, off Interstate 10 east of Indio.”
“How far are we talking?”
“It’s about one hundred and seventy miles from here. There’s a small airport at Chiriaco Summit, so we could cut some time that way, if you wanted.”
He shook his head. “I’m guessing we’ll need vehicles to get from the airport to wherever the map leads us, and I don’t believe at this point we’re going to accomplish much getting there an hour or two earlier.” He drew in a slow breath and released it. “Get the field team ready, and have the local authorities meet us someplace convenient. Let’s shoot for being on the road in a half-hour.”
He unclipped his tie, and dropped it in the desk drawer before calling his wife. Even if traffic was flowing smoothly all the way out of the metro area, they were still looking at three hours out and three hours back, plus whatever time it took to find and collect whatever evidence might be there. It’s going to be another long day.