This is the last chapter in the first draft, and will give you an idea of the direction I will taken in draft two. I'm taking one month off to gain perspective and work on other projects. I will then begin posting the second draft. CV
Melvin looked across the desk at his interviewer and paused for a few seconds before saying, “That’s it.”
“That’s it?” I asked. “How can that be it?”
“That’s it,” he said, “because that’s all there is to the story. Louella Harper never published another book.”
“But she still has a manuscript,” I said. “I don’t want to start work on this thing, only to find out that she’s been holding on to this manuscript all these years and is finely ready to publish.”
“If you don’t write this book,” Melvin said. “No one will.”
“What about Ernie Smith? Is he still around?” The truth was I didn’t want to get killed.
“He died about ten years ago. Heart attack, I think. And anyway, as far as I know, he became a legitimate businessman.”
“That doesn’t seem very likely.”
“Well, he never got caught then. All I know is I never had cause to represent him after that. He was a smart man, though lacking in scruples. He ran his funeral home until about 1980, when the building burned down in an electrical fire. Luckily, no one was hurt.”
“Who collected the insurance on that?” I asked.
“He did. I’m told he used the settlement to help finance his retirement.”
“What about Lester Woods?”
“Well, he went into the state psychiatric hospital for a week or two. He went through “the revolving door” as Henry Russell used to say before he died of cancer. Lester moved up to Ohio and started driving trucks again. His wife called me up a few years ago. She wanted to see if things had cooled down around here, if I thought any of the Reverend’s people would come after him, or if the sheriff might try and pick him up. I told her people around here had forgotten about that case a long time ago. I didn’t see any reason for them not to come back.”
“She was worried about Lester. She said he still had nightmares, sometimes about Vietnam, sometimes about being chased by the Reverend. She said one time he woke up screaming, and ran through the house with his rifle in his hand, saying the Reverend was after him. She wondered if bringing him back home would settle him down or only stir up more nightmares. I heard they came back about six months ago. He lives over in Johnson’s Gap. You should probably go talk to him.”
I did go see him a while later, but not before sending a letter to Louella Harper. I needed assurances that she did not plan to publish a book putting me on the losing end of a competition, but I think what I really wanted was to receive her blessing.
Of course, I had no way of asking her. I had no address or telephone number. The people I spoke with who did know her refused to give out any personal information. One person told me, “The reason I’m friends with her is because I don’t give out that kind of information. If I did, I suspect, I wouldn’t be friends with her for very long.”
As it happened, I managed to get a letter to her care of her sister’s law firm. After years of splitting time between New York and Alabama, a stroke caused her to move south full time. Within two weeks of sending the letter, I was surprised to receive an envelope in the mail bearing an elderly woman’s scrawl.
I ripped open the envelope and removed several pieces of card stock bearing her monogram and a response to my inquiry. This is what it said:
Thank you for writing to me and stirring up memories I had almost managed to stifle. When I set out to write a book about Reverend Baxter all those years ago, I intended to write straight journalism—the thing I sought was the truth.
What I found was something different—a collection of individuals seeking to trade their accidental proximity to a serial killer for fame and fortune. People would walk up to me on the street and ask me when the “movie” was coming out, and could they be in it? The Reverend’s next-door neighbor followed me around town like a puppy dog offering to sell me his story. Everyone I met either wanted to broker a deal, exchange an anecdote for cash, or have me somehow bestow upon them a place in history.
Then there was the Reverend’s lawyer, a man who viewed himself as a cross between Gregory Peck and Robert Redford. But if you are looking for a hero, keep looking, because his main interest is in his own self-glorification.
The truth proved elusive, even back then when the bodies were still fresh in their graves. Here are the facts as I know them: The man, Reverend Baxter, did kill at least four of his relatives, and the motive was nothing more than simple greed. He had an accomplice for at least one of the murders, and possibly more. His accomplice was man who ran criminal activities in town. You would be surprised at the number of people on whom those two men took out insurance policies.
Other than that, I am afraid there isn’t much I can tell you. If you go down there, as I did, looking for the truth, I suspect you will find little more than the memories of old rumors. If a novel, is your intention, good luck finding a hero.
In either event, I trust you will brace yourself for the many frustrations that will soon be heading your way. Consider yourself warned.
END of draft one
About This Novel; Chapter 1Chapter 2; Chapter 3Chapter 4; Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7; Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11; Chapter 12; Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16; Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 19Chapter 20 Chapter 21; Blood Cries at the Half-Way PointChapter 22; Chapter 23Chapter 24; Chapter 25Chapter 26; Chapter 27Chapter 28; Chapter 29Chapter 30; Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33Chapter 34Chapter 35Chapter 36