I had just eaten an 8th of shrooms. The Reeder Bros had me staring into the flames, asking what I saw. At first it was just shapes and vivid colors that came in waves and this happened for maybe thirty minutes. I thought that would be it. I kept asking them what I was supposed to see and Bunny just said, ‘that’s up to the spirits, not us.’

He punted but what the hell, I just kept staring into the flames…

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…Then I saw an image… I couldn’t make it out at first but it looked like it was being sculpted in the flames. I could see a vague outline of a person and the harder I looked the more the person materialized. The flames on the outline were fading into the background while the person moved to the foreground…

Then I saw him… Let’s just call him the Grim Reaper because he looked exactly the part and I had seen him before, except last time I saw him he was wearing a white hood but still had the scythe.

When I was a kid I used to have this recurring dream…  I had it at least once a week for about 4 or 5 years. I dreamt that my family and I lived in this little house. There was a netting on the backdoor which led into the kitchen which led into the living room. I’d see the Grim Reaper coming from the back yard, wearing white and carrying his scythe, then my mom or someone would start shouting, ‘It’s time. He’s coming. He’s coming.’  We’d all run into the living room and kneel down in front of the couch as if we were praying. Remember I told you my mom was religious, she had this big cross above our couch. So we’d kneel there as just wait…

I’d hear the back door creak open. You never heard his footsteps, it was as if he was walking on air… then once he walked into the living, all we could hear was ‘tap, tap, tap,’ his scythe repeatedly tapping the floor.  You could just feel his presence, it was black and cold… that’s the only way I can describe. I honestly don’t know what the hell that description means but that’s the feeling I got when he was behind me.

I could feel his breath rolling down my back and  I would cringe. He never breathed through his nose, it was always his mouth. We weren’t supposed to look up and see his face otherwise we would die. So we would just stay there, on our knees, shaking. I could always hear my mother mumbling a prayer, asking him to take her instead of us. I always felt like he hovered over me the longest. I don’t know if that’s true but it felt like it.

In every dream, I knew what was coming, but every time I managed to experience a deeper level of fear than the time before. One time I remember being so scared it was like my life was sucked out of me temporarily because my bones grew cold and it felt like they had been washed in liquid nitrogen. They felt brittle, as if they would explode any second. I grit my teeth to keep quiet long enough for the reaper to leave and as he walked out I couldn’t control it anymore. I squeaked…

…The tapping stop.

Fuck.

Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

Silence…

…Then I felt him right behind me. My body was riddled with goosebumps. He got in real close to me and I felt his warm breath on my face, but once the warm breath hit my face it turned into icicles. I didn’t budge. I just closed my eyes and kept saying, ‘it’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real.’ Much to my surprise the reaper spoke. It was the only time he ever uttered a word. The interesting part is, I don’t even remember what his voice sounded like. I’m not even sure he said anything, but I felt his words in my heart, if that makes sense. He communicated to me and said…

‘VENIO AD VOS’

… That was it. He left. ‘Venio ad vos ,’ what the fuck does that mean? For days I tried to dissect what it could mean. I even asked a few people but no one knew. Was it a threat?  Was I about to die? Every night I went to sleep, I fully expected not to wake up… that was the last time I ever saw him. Over time I just forgot about it.

When I was in prison RJ would bring me books to read. Prison was college and graduate school mixed into one. I learned so much from RJ and he opened up my world to ideas I never even considered having been raised in Richmond.

One day he showed up with a handful of books and the one that caught my eye was  Tancredus by Kenelm Henry Digby. The book was beat up and pages were practically falling out and RJ gave me two weeks to read it and write a book report about it. When I finally cracked the book open, I quickly realized I wasn’t smart enough to understand half the shit in the book. It was a mixture of old English and Latin. Somehow I stumbled through the book, taking notes of what I could understand, then on page 328 something caught my eye and I perked up. It’s been awhile since I felt that kind of fear but it all came rushing back.

I posted the page for you to see, look at the 10th line of the last paragraph…

Those words ‘VENIO AD VOS.’ I was shaking. I kept on reading and reading trying to figure out what it meant from the context. It’s not like I had access to google, being in death row. So when RJ showed up for our next meeting I asked him what the words meant, he didn’t know but said he’ll look it up which he did. Venio ad vos is Latin and it means…

‘I’M COMING FOR YOU’

So when I saw the Grim Reaper’s image in the flames I froze, all I could think of were his words to me years ago ‘Venio ad vos’,… I’m coming for you…

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I told the Reeder brothers to pull me out of my mushroom trip. There are a few ways of doing this, the easiest being with the use of Benzos but RJ told me I had to embrace the full experience, cutting it short was cheating myself of knowlege. Later that night I couldn’t sleep. I just kept seeing him again and again, then I heard a knock outside. I sat up, scared to shit. I grabbed my gun… was I going to do battle with him tonight? And why’s he knocking on my door? Is he real?

I peeked out… phew… I finally exhaled, it was Martin ‘Bumpy’ Johnson. Everyone calls him Bumpy. I don’t think people even know Martin is his real first name… I don’t think he does either.

I mentioned Bumpy in an earlier post. He’s a detective. A damn good one at that. African-American guy, super smart. He got a scholarship to attend MIT but his mother was sick so he decided to stay local, get a job, and help her out with the bills. Bumpy might be one of the smartest guys at Chesapeake, PD but better believe he’s the least respected. For one he’s a big black guy that doesn’t give a fuck about sports. He’d rather read Tolstoy for entertainment. Now imagine how that conversation goes on monday morning when some of the other guys just want to talk football: There’s real shit going on in this world but all they cared about was Clemson or the Gamecocks.

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Martin ‘Bumpy’ Johnson, 54, Homicide Det.

Bumpy has been more than OK being a pariah. He’s 54 and close to retirement so I get the feeling he’s just trying to make his years, then he’s out, but until then there’s work to do. If you remember, I told you that Bumpy was the detective working on the Jessica Hess murder before he got stonewalled. You can read about it here.

So I let Bumpy in, and off the bat I knew something was wrong. He’s not that good at masking his emotions. I thought maybe it had something to do with Jessica Hess but then he told me he needs my help because I was the only person he could trust. Like I said Bumpy doesn’t have many friends at CPD. He said, ‘It’s summer 2002, all over again.’

Fuck….

There’s a saying that goes, summer time is killing season in the south because that’s when the weather gets hot and tempers get hotter.

Have you heard the story of Quincy Allen? He was 22, at the time, and in the summer of 2002, on July 7th, Quincy walked up to a homeless man who was sleeping on a park bench and shot the man in his shoulder with a 12 gauge. Quincy then instructed his injured victim to get up. The victim took off running and Quincy started shooting at the homeless man, using him as target practice. This was just the beginning of what would become a bloody 4 week stretch:

1.) July 10 – Quincy murdered a prostitute in an isolated alley.

2.) July 10 – Quincy killed a 45-year-old man, drove him to a truck stop where he bought gasoline and burned the body.

3.) August 8 – He had a confrontation with a co-worker. He shot into his co-worker’s car and missed, instead killing the co-worker’s friend– a bullet to the head.

4.) August 9 – Quincy set fire to a car that belonged to another co-worker.

5.) August 12 – Quincy murdered two men at a gas station in N.C.

Quincy was finally arrested in Mitchell County in Texas. You can read about the case here: Quincy Javon Allen: Summer Killing Spree

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Me and Bumpy were part of a task force in charge of tracking down and arresting Quincy. The kid was eventually caught in Texas, napping in his car. When they brought him back, nothing registered on his face– ‘blank face’ is what we called it.

I didn’t see many blank faces working homicide. A lot of the guys we arrested were very emotional or confused and couldn’t explain why they killed their victim, but when I was on death row it was different. I saw a few blank faces… I knew I didn’t belong there but maybe people who looked at me saw a blank face too. Black faces have zero human emotions, that’s why they’re cold-blooded killers.

I’ll admit, that month hunting Quincy was one of the most stressful months of my career. The whole state was terrorized and we had to catch that fucker. It’s rare to have a case where everyone agrees on who the ultimate bad guy is, so in a sense we had a mandate and a long leash.  Quincy was eventually sentenced and was supposed to be executed in 2010 but it’s South Carolina, shit just keeps happening. I believe he’s still alive.

Anyway, so I asked Bumpy what he needed my help with and he told me two bodies have turned up so far. They found the first one in a walk in cooler at the Long John Silver Restaurant on Gramercy. The second body was found in a large bin in Blackwater Swamp… They identified the second body and it was Brody Kirkpatrick… fuck.

Maureen Kirkpatrick use to be one of our informants. She’s really sweet but lived a fucked up life. I guess that’s something I have in common with her. Her bio is the who’s who of personal tragedy so I’ll spare you the details. She used to work at Atlantic Inn on Remount Road… when I say work I mean she was a prostitute and also a dealer.  I talked about Atlantic Inn in a previous post. If you haven’t read that post you can catch up here.

Maureen was a reliable CI and all the information she gave us always checked out. She left the streets when she found Jesus, married some Bible thumper but when he cheated on her she spiraled. I heard she was using but never kept up with her because that’s around the time my own problems came about.

Maureen had a son, Brody. I think if he was born under different circumstances he would have been a lawyer, or maybe the next great software inventor but instead he lost out on the life lottery and came out of one of the most fucked up women I know.  He already lost the battle there. He never knew who his dad was and I think he developed resentment or anger towards the world at large because of it.  We would always pick him up for petty shit. It got to the point where we didn’t even bother booking him, we just took him back to his mother’s, not that she was going to do a damn thing about it. He knew about her past, so it was never her place to lecture him. Unfortunately, Brody was a lanky fucking kid, probably couldn’t lift a bag of 5 lbs weight… he was picked on by whoever and got beat up a few times by one of the many guys parading through Maureen’s bedroom. I’m not judging her. She worked with the tools she was given. It’s all she knew. You think you can do better than her? Get reborn in hell and see how your life turns out.

I like Maureen. She’s a kind person… Full disclosure, I’ve paid her for sex a few times. I did it because I was trying to help her out. And yes I was married too, so are you done judging me? You’re probably thinking why didn’t you just give her money and let it be… Look, poor people are proud just like anyone else. They want to work for their money. You think they love panhandling and living at the mercy of your generosity? No fucking way. They want to do a job and do it well and they take pride in that… They take pride in earning their money just like you would take pride in doing your job, so who am I to deny her that? I paid her for sex anytime she came up in a bind, I never just handed her the money and I think she appreciated it. She’s one of the most honest and upfront people I know.

Bumpy came to my house because he wanted me to go with him to deliver the message to Maureen. Brody lived with her, apparently. I thanked him for being considerate and so we went. We tracked Maureen down to a cluster of apartments called The Apartments on Whispering Hills… It sounds all fancy and nice but don’t be fooled, you don’t come to this neighborhood unless you’re a cop or dealing/using.

In any event, Maureen didn’t recognize us… she was high and her place smelled fucking awful. I have HPPD so what I saw wasn’t what Bumpy was seeing– to me Maureen looked wet– completely soaked in water. She left puddles where she sat, everything she touched. The water wouldn’t stop pouring off her. Next thing I know I’m standing in murky ankle high water. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t real. I was trying to figure out what it meant, if anything.

Bumpy broke the news to her about Brody and her response was, ‘Can you spot me a ten?’ My heart broke for her. The reality of what just happened won’t hit her for a few days and when it does… I don’t know, she might have to be on suicide watch.

I looked around the living room and there was a crack pipe and some kind of balloon with a tie… some new drug? I don’t know, I’d never seen it before. Bumpy was ready to leave I told him I’d stay with Maureen a bit longer… truth is I wanted to have a look around before the police got a chance… Bumpy knew that. It’s why he brought me. Bumpy and I have a short hand. He knows that whatever he finds will be logged into evidence at CPD and then, well, who knows what happens to it after that.  Like I said he doesn’t trust anyone there. He’s so hated that someone might steal the evidence just to sabotage him… it sounds crazy but trust me this shit happens. Police departments aren’t beacons for  morality… if you didn’t know now you know.

I went into Brody’s room. It was as shitty as you might imagine. Stuff all over. I took cell phone pictures of a few things that caught my eye:

Let’s address each item:

1.) THE PIPES – Doesn’t take a genius to know he’s a user, much like his mom. Maybe the murder is drug related?

2.) FLIP CELL PHONE  – Brody’s cell phone was in his pocket when they found the body. He had an iphone. At first I thought it was an old phone but it was still in service. He had only 5 contacts but they were all aliases– weird fucking names too: a) Beefcake the Mighty b) Balsac the Jaws of Death c) Jizmak Da Gusha d) Bonesnapper e) Pustulus Maximus — He sent and received text messages on the phone but it was all in code.

3.) GWAR POSTER – Apparently they are a band, never heard of them. Doesn’t seem like my kind of music.

4.) MAKE-UP DRAWER – As far as I know, Brody didn’t have a girlfriend. So what’s a young man doing with all this make-up? I flagged it.

5.) BUSINESS CARD – I found this in another drawer. I found it odd that someone like Brody would have a general contractor’s business card– This is where I was going to start while Bumpy was doing his official police investigation. He can talk to friends relatives, etc, but me, I was going to do the dirty work to keep Bumpy out of the crosshairs of his superiors.

So before I left Maureen’s place I left $20. Yes I know she’s going to use the money to get high but considering what she has been through I figured it was the least I could do. I also left the $20 as payment for the things I took from Brody’s room, that way I’m not just giving her a handout.

I looked up Danny Nguyen and he is the owner of Nguyen Construction.  He’s done a lot of contract work all over the city, mostly commercial but he does some residential as well. I started looking into his business dealings then saw that the Hess Property Development company almost exclusively works with Nguyen. The fucking Hess family! If you’ve been following my blog you know all about them by now.

This felt real to me, so I paid Nguyen a visit. Of course he didn’t want to talk and he denied ever meeting anyone by the name of Brody. I pressed him and told him I hoped he had a rock solid alibi because I’d be back. There’s really not much I could do to him because I’m not a detective anymore but if he was involved all I needed to do was get enough information to Bumpy and he would fit the pieces together.

The next week was just a slog, trying to gather information. I was investigating this case and another for Jana Madoch. I wasn’t sleeping well and I don’t believe in Big Pharma, so taking something that would drug me and numb my senses was out of the question. I was tempted to smoke weed but it would interfere with my mushroom treatment.

So about two weeks later Bumpy calls me and wants to meet urgently. We met up for an early breakfast and he told me that the second body was identified as a Sean Hill. Apparently Brody and Sean worked at Atlantic Inn Motel and would host ‘parties’.  Brody was into cross dressing– which explains all the make-up. So now I’m starting to think that Danny Nguyen went to one of this parties and somehow gave Brody his card– what a dumb fucking mistake to make– but this was still an assumption.

I gave Bumpy the flip cell phone the day after I found it and he had been working on figuring out who the contacts really were and some of the coded text messages. He came across something interesting. The contact, Beefcake the Mighty, texted Brody, inviting him to be the ‘entertainment’ for a party. It was guys night. I’ll let your imagination run wild with that one. It looks like Brody went and since that night, Beefcake the Mighty couldn’t stop texting Brody.

Bumpy and I went to Atlantic Inn and start questioning some of the Johns there. We acted like we already knew who this mysterious person was and pretended like we just needed more background info. Anyway it wasn’t long before we heard a name– Dallas Hess. You remember him, Mark Hess’s piece of shit son. Dallas Hess was Beefcake the Mighty, before long we realized that the contacts in the phone were names of the band members of Gwar. (An aside, I tried listening to their music… I just didn’t get it.)

So now this is our first direct line we have to the Hess family. Bumpy thought I should stay home but fuck it… I wanted to see Mark Hess and his family face to face. The Reeder Bros weren’t keen on me going either but I think RJ recognized how important this was for me.

We got to the Hess mansion that’s in Mt. Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston. Their property has to be at least 100 acres. Once we got to the house, they didn’t let us in. No surprise. They had us wait outside and before long, 7 lawyers were at the door. I guess they must keep their lawyers in the basement at all times. We were stonewalled. We assured the lead lawyer we just had questions and that we could come back with a subpoena. All he said was ‘then come back with one.’ — At this point I was fucking hot, then I did something stupid. I’ll admit it. I asked how Jessica Hess was– then I corrected myself and said, ‘oh that’s right, her father probably had her killed too.’ The lawyers didn’t even flinch but Bumpy did. As soon as I said it, I regretted it. My emotions got the best of me. It was a mistake. A bad one. I showed my hand which you should never do, especially when investigating a murder.

Anyway there was no way Bumpy was going to get a subpoena to waltz into the Hess mansion, so we left. Our next game plan was to sit on the property and take account of who comes and goes until we manage to tag Dallas. We wanted to know where he went and who he spent his time with. We already suspected he had dealings with Danny Nguyen but we weren’t sure what the nature of those dealings were. Nothing stays hidden forever.

That night I was doing research, looking into Danny Nguyen. My phone rang and it was Jana. She said she found something on Tara’s case– what? She told me I had to come down to the Amnesty office ASAP. She wanted to know if I’d ever heard of the name Tony Bailey. The name didn’t ring a bell but she said, you probably want to look into this– my mind was racing a thousand miles a minute. Is this the first real lead to finding Tara’s real killer?

I jumped into my car and started driving to the city. I noticed my gas light was on E so stopped to fill up at the Circle K on Beecham St. It’s in the middle of nowhere. When I was done, I put the pump back and as I turned– I saw something in the reflection of my window for a split second– The Grim Reaper– WTF? I spun around and saw no one. Nothing. Like I said it was in the middle of nowhere. I was breathing heavily. I just kept on telling myself that it was the HPPD. ‘It’s not real. It’s not real’.

So I got into my car and drove off, maybe about a mile after that my breaks went out. I tried everything I could to stop the car and it wouldn’t stop. It just kept sped up then–

–WHAM! I smashed into something. I don’t know what. I spun out– I was thrust forward, crushing my shoulder maybe on the dashboard, I’m not sure but I blacked out:

Next thing I know, I’m in an ambulance. I caught a glimpse of my face in a mirror and it was covered in blood. One of the paramedics said I was lucky to be alive. I should be dead– that may very well be but again the reaper failed but then it made something really clear to me– This was no accident, someone wanted me dead and they tampered with my car to kill me. I’ve made someone uncomfortable… Y’all know who I’m talking about. It means I’m on the right track but now I have to get to them before they get to me.

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