It was a rainy, dark fall day in Wrigleyville, an upscale north-side neighborhood. The rain violently splattered onto the concrete of Waveland Avenue. Although a big city, in this neighborhood crime generally amounted to alcohol related offenses such as DUIs, bar room brawls, and public intoxication which was usually festive Cub fans oblivious to the limits of celebrating. This day was different.
“911? There's a body in my alleyway, behind a dumpster. I'm behind Waveland Avenue, 1269 West. I think he's dead! He looks like my neighbor...don't know his name. I'm checking for his pulse right now, but nothing,” reported an elderly resident who was walking her dog.
At 10:02 a.m. an ambulance appeared on the scene, minutes after the initial phone call. The paramedics confirmed no pulse, and then called the coroner for an official ruling of death. The scene was then turned over to Lead Detectives Ann Wilson and Rich Stephanski. By 11:00 a.m., the 1200 block of Waveland was declared a crime scene. The detectives yellow-taped the area while uniformed officers coned off the street.
Due to the relentless rain, both detectives wore raincoats and carried traditional black umbrellas. They hurriedly moved in to investigate, fearing the rain might wash away the evidence. The victim appeared to be a young white male without identification, dressed in a gray wool cable-knit sweater and blue jeans. He was clean shaven with dirty blonde hair.
Ann took several pictures of the surrounding area and body with her Olympus digital camera. Her partner lifted the shoulders of the body to have a better look at the victim's face. Rigamortis began to set.
“Ann, check this out. His throat has been slit. This sweater is soaked with blood. The wool acts like a sponge. Maybe we’ll find some blood in there that isn't his,” Rich said.
“Let's move the body into the meat wagon,” insisted Ann as she motioned for assistance from two uniformed cops.
“Looky what I've found,” yelled Detective Dan O'Leary from across the alleyway. “Is this a human tongue?”
The detectives surrounded him for a closer look.
“Good work, Dan,” praised Ann. “It's definitely a tongue. The tendons are hanging off of the thicker end, like it was ripped out of the vic's mouth. Look at the tip. It was intentionally split.”
Detective Wilson crawled into the back of the 'meat wagon' and unzipped the body bag. She took her pen and pried the victim's mouth open. “What do you know...We have what looks like a tongue and a victim that’s missing a tongue.” Ann glanced back. “Coincidence?” She had a hard time seeing through her soaked grayish brown hair that was pressed against her small face. She had to keep putting her umbrella down in order to take more photographs of the scene.
Detective Stephanski took the bag and held it towards what little light the day provided and replied, “Yeah, the tip is definitely cut. Think this guy could have had a big mouth? Maybe his death is a message?”
Thinking along the same lines, she nodded her head at the possibility. Rich and Ann had been partners for three years. With exception to an occasional spat, both worked well together.
“Could this be Mafia? Colombian cartels slit throats. Plain old serial murder?” Ann offered.
Rich shook his handsome blonde head. “It could be, but something about this doesn't add up. This guy looks like someone from this neighborhood, not a godfather. What a strange way to die. Can I have the camera? I want to see if anyone in the crowd might recognize him.”
“Good idea,” Ann responded as she passed him the camera.
Despite the heavy downpour, concerned neighbors steadily filled the sidewalk. Rich approached the growing crowd on the other side of Waveland.
“Listen up,” Rich yelled. “A man was killed over there, in the alley. I'm hoping one of you can identify him. On my camera screen, there are a few pictures of him dead with his throat slit. Do not be alarmed. We need your help. Step up one at a time, and I'll show you the pics.”
Rich stood on the sidewalk and asked a uniformed cop to hold his umbrella while he fidgeted with the camera. After showing the same five pictures over and over to at least thirty people, a young and attractive woman approached. She was brought to tears upon viewing the dead man’s photos.
“I think that's my boyfriend...he didn't come home...Rory...Rory Schanck,” sobbed the woman.
At forty-eight years old, Ann had much more experience at playing the sympathetic cop than her brusque partner. Upon hearing the woman’s outcry, she stopped what she was doing and ran across the street before Rich could make matters worse.
“Rich, do you mind? Miss, could you step across the street with me for a moment. I know this has to be difficult,” Ann asked, putting an arm around her shoulder and an umbrella over both of their heads. Ann could see the relief in Rich's eyes once she poached his witness. They both knew each other's strengths, and comfort was not one of his. She, however, had mastered the ability to console. Although it was all an act, her 'bedside manner' was envied throughout the police department.
Ann took the woman across the street and into the back of an empty ambulance to escape the rain. She found a towel on a shelf. “Here. I'm Detective Ann Wilson. And over there, that's my partner, Detective Rich Stephanski. So you know the victim? Rory? Right? Sorry that we had to meet under these circumstances. Your name is...?”
“Rita. Rita Spencer. My boyfriend...Rory…and I, we live...we lived...right there...1265 West Waveland, on the third level...next to the townhome with the baseball banner in the window.”
While they sat in the dry ambulance, Ann motioned for one of the detectives to come by. She handed him a piece of paper with Rory's name and address on it then told him to run it through the computer.
“Rita, may I call you Rita? Who on earth would do this to your boyfriend? This is not your typical mugging gone bad. What did he do for a living? Who were his friends? Family? I know this is difficult, but we need something to go on,” Ann pleaded.
Rita sat shivering and crying. She shrugged her shoulders and tried to catch her breath as her sobbing escalated into hysteria. Ann quickly deduced that she was a college student by the DePaul sweatshirt she was wearing.
“Rory works or...worked at the stock exchange. He liked to occasionally go out with friends. His family lives in Wisconsin. He has a mom, dad, and a sister. Oh God! You got to call them! Not sure of their number....it was programmed in his cell phone. Schanck from Madison, Wisconsin,” she whimpered, unable to hold back the tears.
“Where did Rory go yesterday? When was the last time you saw him?” Ann asked, still faced with virtually nothing to go on.
“Yesterday. Let me think. He went to work yesterday morning, Thursday, and then called me around lunchtime. He said he was going out with some co-workers for dinner and drinks. I awoke by 5:00 a.m. and he still wasn't home. I left an hour later for De Paul. I'm a Grad Assistant. I was worried, so I called him early this morning and left a voice message.”
“Has he done this before?” Ann asked.
“Uh...Here's his work number and cell number. And no, it is not his normal routine. We've lived together for seven months. This is the first time he never came home.” More tears well up in Rita's dark brown eyes.
“Were you fighting? Did he seem to have a lot on his mind? Anything unusual?” Ann inquired.
“No. Nothing. We were happy,” Rita replied.
Dina Rae is a new author here to stay. As a former teacher, she brings an academic element to her work. Her three novels, Halo of the Damned, The Last Degree, and Bad Juju weave research and suspense throughout the plots. Her short story, Be Paranoid Be Prepared, is a prequel of sorts to The Last Degree, focusing on the James Martin character. Dina also freelances for various entertainment blogs.
The Last Degree is a fictionalized account of how Freemasons and other secret societies set up the world for takeover. Ancient writings foretell a ‘Shining One’ who emerges as the world’s prophet. A murder of a Most Worshipful mason resembles a secret oath. A cop gets too close to solving the crime. Paranoid preppers go underground, preparing for war.
Headlines such as the Norway massacre, meltdown of the European Union, unscrupulous media, animal die-offs, Middle Eastern unrest, and U.S. shrinking power make the plot relevant to present day. The Last Degree is an ode to Christians, Birthers, 2012ers, Truthers, preppers, and/or other conspiracy junkies who enjoy Dan Brown, Jesse Ventura, Brad Meltzer, Alex Jones, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. A sequel will soon be available.
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Dina Rae is giving away five (5) digital copies of her book ‘The Last Degree’ through a Rafflecopter giveaway. If you would like to post the book giveaway, simply copy the code below onto your site. This begins on February 28 and end on March 10. Feel free to post this giveaway during that period.
Tour Stop List
March 1 - Mallory Heart Reviews http://archiestandwoodsreviewsandwritings.blogspot.com/ Review
March 1 - The Cerebral Writer http://www.cerebralwriter.com/blog.html Guest Post
March 2 - This College Dropout http://thiscollegedropout.wordpress.com Review
March 2 – Free Book Dude http://www.freebookdude.com Review (Guest Reviewer)
March 3 - My Cozie Corner http://coziecorner.blogspot.com Review
March 4 - sylv-jenkins www.sylv-jenkins.com Guest Post
March 5 - Zombie ACREShttp://ZombieACRES.com Guest Post
March 6 - The FlipSide of Julianne http://theflipsideofjulianne.wordpress.com Interview
March 7 - Mallory Heart Reviews http://archiestandwoodsreviewsandwritings.blogspot.com/ Excerpt
March 7 - sylv-jenkins www.sylv-jenkins.com Review