Previous Chapter

Chapter 55 – The Investigation Begins


“No time like the present, I guess,” I replied and led the way to the living room to join Tom.  After taking our seats, I asked, “You ready to get this show on the road?”


“Before we start, Max, I want you to know how sorry we are that we have to have this discussion.”


“Welcome to the club, Dylan, ‘cause I don’t want to have it either.”


“I understand and sympathize with you on that point, but If we don’t, these two people will remain free to continue their crimes and we can’t allow that to happen.”


“I’m well aware of that and that’s the only reason I’m allowing this interview to happen.  The Muellers should be in prison, or better yet, under the prison.”


“The other thing I want you to know up front is that Derek and I usually aren’t involved in cases such as yours.  They’re normally handled by a different unit, but I asked to be the one to do your interview because I thought you might feel a bit more comfortable if you were talking to someone you knew instead of some stranger.”


“That’s a nice thought, Dylan, and I appreciate it, but quite unnecessary since I have an appointment tomorrow morning with a psychologist I don’t know from Adam and I get to do it all over again with her.  It’ll be fun times, I’m sure,” I added, sarcasm fairly dripping from the words.


“Now, though we know each other personally and have socialized on a few occasions, I’m going to call you Mr. A during the interview.  Deputy Timmons will do the same.  We’ll do this in an effort to protect your identity as much as possible, but I don’t expect we’ll be able to keep that quiet forever.  We’ll refer to Tom as Mr. B if we need to, but I expect most of this interview to be just you.”


“You’re welcome to do that if you want, but, quite frankly, I don’t care.  I’d almost prefer you use my real name so we’re not worrying about when the secret slips out.  I’m already dealing with one big secret, I don’t think I can deal with two of them at the same time.  And getting my name out there on this may actually help me deal with the other one.”


“Really?  What’s the other one?”


“Just the one about me being gay.  I’m kind of expecting the shit to hit the fan with my readers when that little factoid becomes more widely known.  But, the more I think about it, if both my name and sexuality come out at the same time connected to this nightmare, the abuse side of the story may overshadow the gay side of the story, especially since I was abused because I’m gay.”


“If that’s what you prefer, then we’ll proceed using your real name, though we’ll use Mr. Sanders instead of Max to avoid the appearance of bias or familiarity.  We’re also going to use words like alleged and supposed because this is just the beginning of the investigation and we have no proof that anybody has done anything wrong at this point.  When I say things like that, I don’t want you to get upset or think I don’t believe you, because I do believe you, 100%, but I still have to work under the presumption of innocence of the accused.  Now that that’s all out of the way, let get started.”


“How do you want to do this?” I asked.


“Well, if it’s okay with you, I’d like you to just tell your story, as best as you can remember it.  With your permission, I’d like to record this interview so nobody can later claim whether certain things were said or not.  This protects both you and us from spurious claims.  If you talk about something we’d like more information on, we’ll just make a quick note to ourselves.  Then, when you’re done, we’ll go back and clear up any of the questions we’ve written down.  Does that sound okay to you?”


“Whatever you want to do, I just want to get this over with.”


“Okay, here goes.”  Dylan started the recorder and spoke directly into it.  “Today’s date is Monday, March 17 and the time is 9:45 AM.  This is Sergeant Dylan Brock of the Sangamon County Sherriff’s Department and I have Deputy Derek Timmons with me as a witness for this interview.  This interview is being recorded with the full knowledge and permission of the complainant, Mr. Maxwill Sanders.  Also present for the interview is Mr. Thomas Wright, formerly a Deputy of the Sherriff’s department.  Mr. Sanders, whenever you’re ready, please begin.”


I looked at the three people in the room with me and as my gaze drifted from Derek sitting across from me to Tom sitting next to me, I caught a glimpse of a small head peeking around the corner from the dining room.  “I’m sorry, guys, just a minute.”  Dylan stopped the recorder and as I stood up, the head disappeared in a flash.  When I entered the kitchen, I found Logan just resettling himself on a stool.  “Um, Logan, I know you’re very interested in the discussion we’re about to have, but it’s not something you should hear.  Would you do me a favor, please, and go to the twins’ room and continue your work at one of the desks in there.  And if you finish your homework, you can watch TV in there also.”


Logan hung his head low and muttered, “I’m sorry, Max.  I know I shouldn’t have tried to listen, but I couldn’t help myself.”  He grabbed his books and things, hopped off the stool and started to slink away.


“Logan, come back here a second, please.”  I knelt so I could look into his eyes as I explained myself.  “I’ve already told you and the others all you need to know.  What I’m going to be sharing with Dylan and Derek will be details of what happened that you guys shouldn’t know about.  You saw yesterday how this is affecting me, I don’t want you to have to deal with things you’re not ready for.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”


“Yeah, I got it, Max.  I’ll go and I won’t cause no more problems, I promise.”


“Thank you, young man.  We’ll let you know when you can come back out and talk to Dylan, okay?”  With a slight nod, he turned and left the kitchen.  I returned to the living room, took my seat next to Tom and waited for the bedroom door to close before continuing.  “Sorry about that, but Logan was trying to listen in and I don’t want him to hear this.”  Dylan leaned back over and restarted the recorder.


“Okay, it all started shortly after my thirteenth birthday …,” I said as I began recounting the story of the three most terrifying and miserable years of my life.  I gave Dylan and Derek much the same story I’d given to Tom just a few nights ago, adding details I thought would be important or ones I’d remembered since my last telling.  I couldn’t help but notice the loss of color in both their faces as they blanched with disgust at what they were hearing.  Tom, thank my lucky stars, never wavered and never relinquished his grip on my hand.  The strength he was feeding me through that contact allowed me to continue the story without hesitation.  Having already heard most of what of what I was telling these newcomers, there wasn’t much I could add that could surprise him.  When I finally wound down an hour-and-a-half later, I ended with, “And that’s it, the whole sordid, disgusting tale of my betrayal and abuse at the hands of those monsters.” 


Silence reigned supreme in the house for several moments before Dylan reached over to the table and stopped the recorder.  “My god, Max!  How the hell did you survive that?”


“I honestly don’t have a clue, Dylan.  Something kept me going and wanted me to live.  I do know one thing, though, god had absolutely nothing to with it.  I think maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m an atheist now.  I just can’t believe that a loving, all-knowing and all-powerful being would allow something that deplorable to happen to anybody, especially a kid.  And in a building built for the sole purpose of praising that supposed being, of all places.  Shit like that proves to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no god and if that’s the god you believe in, then I weep for your soul.”


“I hate to interrupt, but I could sure use a bathroom break, if you don’t mind,” Derek said.


“Sure thing, Derek,” Tom replied.  “Right down the hall, last door on the right.  While you do that, I’m gonna grab a drink.  Anybody else want something?”


“Diet soda, if you have it,” Derek answered as he turned the corner into the hallway.


“Tea for me, please, Tom,” from Dylan.


“I wouldn’t say no to a tall glass of Jack Daniels,” I chuckled.


“Sorry, babe, no Jack left.  Will a Pepsi work?”


“Well, what kind of establishment are you running here?” I asked sarcastically.


“The kind that caters to a much younger clientele, sir,” he replied politely, but just as sarcastically.


“Well, if Pepsi’s the strongest you have, I guess it’ll have to do.”


“Back in just a few.”


With just me and Dylan left, I asked, “So, do you think you have a case against them?”


“Nope.”  Seeing the stunned look on my face, he continued, “I know I do.  Now it’s just a matter of trying to gather the evidence to prove your story in court.  And, unfortunately, that’s not going to be easy after all this time.”


“But you’re going to try, aren’t you?”


“Damn right we are.  I’m not lettin’ these people get away.”


“Good.  As far as I know, nobody took any pictures, so you won’t have that.  Though I suppose I should be glad there aren’t any.  The only other thing I can think of is to check that room in the basement of the church.  I’m sure it’s been repurposed in the last twenty years, but you never know what might have been missed.”


“That’s going to be the first action I take.  On our way back into town this afternoon, we’re going to the courthouse, fill out the form for a search warrant, then get a judge to sign it.  Once it’s signed, we’ll head straight to the church to serve the warrant and execute our search.  I’ll call for a forensics team to be ready to roll on a moment’s notice.”


“What will you have to do get a judge to sign the warrant?” I asked.


“Usually, they’ll take our word for it that we have either reliable information or reasonable suspicion that a crime’s been committed and approve it.  Due to the time lapse we’re dealing with on this, though, I may have to play part of your interview to get him to agree.”


“If you think you have to do that, do me one favor, please.”


“Just ask, Max, and I’ll do whatever I can.”


“I’m sure he doesn’t normally deal with cases like this since he’s a family court judge, but take it Judge Corgan.  I think if he hears the recording and knows who it is, he’ll agree with you and approve the warrant without asking any questions.”


“Are you sure you want him involved in this case?”


“Why not?  He’s going to know about it soon enough, anyway.  I know you guys will do your best to keep it under wraps while the investigation is still going on, but it won’t stay that way for long.”  Dylan started to object, but I continued, “Look, I know it won’t come from you or Derek, but this is going to be a big story.  There’s no way in hell you’re gonna to keep it quiet for long.  Somebody will let it leak, I know it, and so do you.”


Dylan hung his head in shame and responded, “Yeah, I know.  But I swear to you, Max, if it happens, I, personally, will track him down and cut his balls off.”


I laughed for the first time since I started telling my story.  “Gee, I’m not sure which headline will be better, ‘Child Sex Scandal at Local Church’ or ‘Gay Sherriff Cuts off Department Leak and Balls of Leaker’.”


Gay Sherriff!” Derek asked as he rounded the corner from the hallway and rejoined us.  “What the hell are you talkin’ ‘bout Max?”


“Oh, damn, sorry, Dylan.”


“Sit down Derek, there’s something I need to tell you,” Dylan ordered.  Derek sat down next to Dylan, surprise filling his face.  “I’m going to say this once and only once.  What you just heard, while it’s true, you really didn’t hear it, you just thought you did.  And if I find out from somebody else that you did hear it and are spreading the news to anyone who will listen, I’ll bust your ass all the way down school crossing guard, you got me, mister?”


“Are you freakin’ kidding me?”


“About bein’ gay, absolutely not.  I am and always have been, so I don’t kid about that.  The rest of it, of course, I am.  I wouldn’t dream of bustin’ ya’, but I would appreciate it if you’d keep it to yourself.  I’ll let the troops know when I feel it’s appropriate to do so.”


“Geez, first Tom and now you.  Is there somethin’ in the water?” Derek asked with a chuckle.


Tom finally rejoined us with our requested drinks and, “What about me and Dylan?”


“Oh, nothin’, I guess,” Derek answered.  “Just surprised to find out Dylan’s gay, too, and hopin’ there’s nothin’ in the water to cause it.  I don’t think Suzy would appreciate me comin’ home one night, tellin’ her I’ve switched teams and go for the guys now,” he chuckled.


“You are kidding, I hope.  You do know that’s not how it works.”


“Of course, I do Max, just tryin’ to be funny.”


“So, anything else, Dylan?  You haven’t asked me any questions and I’m sure you have some.”


“As a matter of fact, I do have a few.  Let me get the recorder going again and we’ll get this finished.”  Dylan started the recorder again and asked, “Thank you for telling us your story Mr. Sanders.  I have a few questions I need to ask to clear up just a few things.  If you don’t mind.”


“No, go ahead.”


“First, do you remember where, exactly, this supposed room is located in the basement of the church where you allege these assaults took place.”


I burned inside at the words ‘supposed’ and ‘allege’, but I remained calm since I knew that was just part of the game the cops have to play.  “Of course, I do.  I’ll never forget that hellhole.”  I closed my eyes as I described the church to them.  “When you enter the church from the main front door, the worship hall, or whatever they call it, is straight ahead and through a set of double doors on the left.  Maybe twenty or twenty-five feet down the entry hall.  About fifteen or twenty feet past that, there’s a hallway that leads to the right.  Down that hall are restrooms on the right, the church offices on the left and then four classrooms at the end of the hall.  The room where kids my age had Sunday school classes was the last room on the left.


“When our class was done and it was time for my ‘special lessons’, as Frank liked to call them, they’d lead me out of the classroom, back to the first office on the right, and then into the office.  There’s a hidden door in that office.  Back then, the left wall of the office had two or three file cabinets lined up along it and the office door covered the first one or two when it was open.  Past the last one, there’s a recessed space.  In the very top-right corner of that recess is a small button you have to push in about half an inch to release the latch on the door.  Once the latch has been released, the door pops open a few inches.  That door swings into the room.  Behind the door is a set of narrow stairs going down and to the left that leads to the room under the office.”


“Can you describe the room for us, please, Mr. Sanders?”


“About twelve foot by twelve foot, all poured concrete, bare concrete floor.  Kind of a mop sink in the corner diagonally opposite the door.  Next to the sink was a small wooden cabinet that held towels and other things.  There was a table in the center of the room and four folding metal chairs.  A single light was on the ceiling with no shade to block the glare.  That’s about it,” I concluded, reopening my eyes.


“You have no doubts as to the location of the room?”


“None, whatsoever.  It’s there and that hidden door is the only way in or out of it.”


“The last question I have for you is if you remember any distinguishing marks, tattoos or anything about the bodies of the two people in question.  The type of thing that would normally be hidden by clothing.”


“What you’re really asking is they have any tattoos on their ass or a mole on a dick, isn’t it?”


“Yes, sir, that’s exactly what I’m asking about.”


“Let me think a minute.”  I closed my eyes again and forced myself back into that room with my tormentors, shuddering as I did.  As I focused on the images in my mind, I realized both of them did, indeed, have such marks.  “I can see Iris has a birthmark or freckles or something like that on the inside of her left thigh and Frank has a tattoo on his right bicep, about half-way between his shoulder and elbow.  I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I think it’s a military insignia of some kind.”


“Thank you, Mr. Sanders, that’s type of detail that will help us as our investigation moves forward.  That’s all I had.  Deputy Timmons, do you have any questions for Mr. Sanders?”


“Just one, sir.  Why has it taken you almost twenty years to come forward with this information?”


“Because I didn’t remember any of it until last Thursday.”


“I’m sorry, sir, but do you really expect us to believe that all this really happened that long ago and you didn’t remember any of it until just a few days ago?”


I was furious at the question and almost let my anger get the better of me.  Fortunately, Tom felt it coming and squeezed my hand to remind me of what was at stake.  “You may believe what you like, Deputy Timmons.  I know what was done to me.  The fact that I blocked it from my own mind all this time really has no bearing on whether it happened or not.  I’ve already talked to one psychologist about it and he’s the one who helped me recover those memories.”


Recover?  Or did he plant these memories?”


“Who the fuck do you think would plant shit like that into anybody’s mind!?  If you don’t believe what I’m saying, you are more than welcome to discuss it directly with him.  That’s it, this interview is over!”


Dylan turned off the recorder and as he did, I stood and started to take a step towards Derek when Tom pulled me back to my chair.  “Max, calm down,” Tom scolded me as if I was thirteen all over again.  “Derek’s just doing his job.”


“Mr. Sanders … Max … please forgive me,” Derek pleaded.  “I knew those were going to be ugly questions and I also knew they’d upset you.”


“Then why didn’t you fuckin’ warn me you were gonna ask them?” I vented.


“Because I wanted your denial and true emotions to be evident on the recording.  If I’d told you beforehand, you wouldn’t have reacted naturally when I did ask them for the recording.  I know that sucks and if you’re pissed at me, so be it.  But, you should know that anybody else who hears this recording will have absolutely no doubts about the story you’ve told us today.  They’ll know it’s the truth, without question, just from conviction in your voice.”


“Okay, Derek, I understand, I’m sorry I was about punch your lights out.”


“You have nothing to be sorry for, Max.”  He turned to Tom and added, “Thanks for savin’ my bacon, again, partner.”


“No problem, just don’t pull that shit again.  Next time, I let him go.”  We all enjoyed a light-hearted chuckle after that comment.


“Well, Max, thanks for your time.  I know how much it hurts for people to have to relive abuse like this having done these interviews more than I like to think about, but you did great.  This is the first step to getting Frank and Iris off the street.  Just two more things before we go, can we get the list of names from your sons and I still want to have a chat with Logan.”


“Oh, yeah.  Tom, why don’t you grab the list off the desk in the study and I’ll retrieve Logan.”  We left Dylan and Derek in the living room as we took care of our tasks.  When I reached the twins’ room, I turned the doorknob, but the door wouldn’t open when I gave it a push.  I gave a quick knock and called, “Logan?”  I heard a quick scuffling away from the door, so I tried again.  This time the door opened freely and I found Logan curled up on the floor, crying.  I took two steps, picked him up off the floor and carried him to the bed, where I sat down with him in my lap.  “Logan, what’s wrong, did you hurt yourself?”


Through his sniffles, he whimpered, “No.”


“Then why are you crying.”


“I’m sorry, Max, I’m just a nosy little brat and I listened to you through the door.  I can’t believe what those people did to you,” he sobbed.


“Oh, Logan, it’s okay.  It was a long time ago,” I empathized as I hugged him and rocked him in my lap.


“Now I know why you freaked out yesterday.  It scared me when it happened, but now that I know why, it makes sense.  That’s why I wanted to listen to what you were sayin’.  ‘Cause what happened yesterday just didn’t seem like the guy I saw at the party on Saturday.”


“Well, in one sense, I was, but in another sense, I also wasn’t.  Do you see that?”


“Yeah.  It’s like the change in my dad before momma died and after.  Before she died, he was like you were during the party.  But after, he’s been like you were yesterday, all pissed off at everything and nothing.”


“Do you understand now why I didn’t want you to be there to hear all that?”


“Uh-huh,” he answered with a little nod.


“Maybe, just maybe, the next time someone says they need to have a private talk, you’ll let them have it.”


“Damn right, I will,” he answered which caused me to chuckle.


“Good, despite all the bad stuff you just heard, I think you’ve learned a good lesson.  Dylan and Derek are about ready to leave, but Dylan wants to talk to you be he goes.  You ready to do that?”


“Yeah, let me go pee and clean up my face and I’ll come out.”


“Okay, see you in a minute or two.”  I headed for the hallway, setting Logan down at the bathroom door before continuing back to the living room.  Tom was already back and Dylan was looking at the list of names from Alex and Joey.  “He’ll be here in just a minute.  He had to use the bathroom.”


“Jesus, Max, this list is unreal.  How many names did you say are here?”


“I counted sixty-three when I typed them in.”


“These can’t all be kids they abused, can it?”


“I sure as hell hope not, but that’s for you and Carol to figure out.  Carol picked up a copy of it yesterday so she could start working on it this morning.  I wonder if she’s found any matches in her cross-reference.  You want me to find out?”


“That’d be great,” Dylan answered.


I picked up the phone and dialed Carol’s number.  She answered the phone with, “Hi, Max.  What’s up?”


“I’m just gave the list to Dylan and I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to check your records to see if you have any matches, yet.”


“I’m still working through it, but I’ve found three possibilities so far.  I’m trying to track where those three might be now.  We have about twenty more names to check against our files, and I have other people working on that while I search for these first three.”


“I know even three isn’t good, but it could be a whole lot worse.  What are the names of the three you’re looking for so I can let Dylan know?”


“I’ve got a Jack, which could also be John, a Trevor and a Lance.  According to our records, they are all adults now, so finding them won’t be an easy thing.”


“Okay, got it.  If you get any more matches, let Dylan or Derek know, okay?”


“You bet.  How’d your talk with Dylan go?”


“About like you’d expect.  But, he’s leaving here and going to get a warrant to search the church, so that’s something good happening already.”


“I’m glad to hear it.  Look, I don’t want to be rude, but I’ve got to get back to work on these names.”


“Go, then.  We’ll talk later.  Thanks, Carol.”


I hung up the phone and turned to Dylan.  “She says they’ve matched three names so far with another twenty names to check.  She’s already working on trying to find the three.  Those names are Jack, Trevor and Lance.  She said the Jack could also be John, possibly.”


“That means the rest of these names are probably kids from the church, then.  I hate this, absolutely fuckin’ hate it.”  He turned to Derek and added, “Make sure when we talk to the judge that we include church membership lists in our request for the warrant.  They’ll fight givin’ us those, but we’re going to need them to help track all these people down.”


“You got it, Sarge.”


At that moment, Logan finally emerged from the bedroom and he walked over and stood by me.  “Logan,” I started, “you already know Deputy Timmons.  The other gentleman with him today is his boss, Sergeant Brock and he has some questions he wants to ask you.”




“How are you feeling today, Logan?”


“I’m a little better, but my butt still hurts and my eyes look like crap.”


“Would you come closer so I can get a better look at you, please?”  Logan stepped over to stand right in front of Dylan.  “Yes, I can see the puffiness and bruising around your eyes.  Where else did your dad hit you?”


“All over, man, here, look.”  Logan lifted his shirt up, then slowly turned in a circle so Dylan could see both his front and back.  “And that ain’t all.  Look at this crap.”  With that, he held his shirt up with one hand and then, with his other hand, pulled the string to untie and loosen his shorts, letting them drop to the floor.


After just a quick glance, Dylan said, “Okay, Logan, I’ve seen enough.  You can pull your shorts back up.”  We waited patiently while he pulled the shorts up off the floor and retied the string so they’d stay in place above his skinny hips.  When he was done, he turned back to face Dylan.  “Can you take a seat on the table here so I can ask you a few things?”  Logan was only too happy to follow Dylan’s request, allowing a grin to stretch across his face as he did.  “Thanks, Logan,” Dylan said as he leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees.  “From what Deputy Timmons told me this morning, your mom passed away a few years ago, it that right?”


“Yes, sir, she got leukemia and the doctors couldn’t do nothin’ for it.”


“Can you tell me what your dad was like before she passed?”


“He was always happy and in good mood.  Helped me with my homework, we played baseball in the yard, he helped our neighbors when they needed it.  He was a really good guy.  He don’t do none of that stuff now.  He’s always grumpy, don’t help nobody with nothin’, not even me with my school stuff.”


“And all that happened after your mom got sick?”


“Pretty much.  It got a lot worse after she died, though.  He didn’t start beatin’ on me until after.”


“Do you have any idea why he hurt you so severely Saturday night.”


“He was pissed off that I didn’t want to go home with him.”  Then, Logan leaned in and whispered, “He also weren’t none too happy about them bein’ gay,” while pointing his thumb over his shoulder at us.  “But that don’t bother me none,” he added with a giggle.


“If your father got some help to learn how to control his anger, do you think you’d want to live with him?”


“Sure, I would.  I love my daddy, but I just ain’t gonna put up with him beatin’ on me whenever he feels like it.  That ain’t right.”


“You’re right, Logan, it isn’t.  Here’s what I think, young man.  I think your dad’s still really upset about losing your mom.  He’s never had or taken the time to grieve for her the way he needed.  But, I also think if we can get him some help, he’ll get better.  He may still be sad, but I think we can get him to stop hurting you.”


“You’re talkin’ ‘bout a shrink, aren’t you?  That’d be great, Sergeant Brock.  I mean I’m still sad about my momma, too, and sometimes at night, when I go to bed, I cry ‘cause miss her, but I don’t beat on nobody.”


“If we can find somebody to help your dad, would you be willing to talk to the same doctor?”


“I’d do just about anything so I could live with daddy, as long as ain’t beatin’ me.”


“Good, Logan.  Let me talk to a few people and see what we can do.  You think you’ll be okay staying with Max, Tom and their boys for a bit while we sort all this out?”


“Oh, yeah, it’s great here.  And we all get along real good.”


“I’m glad to hear it.”  Dylan turned to Derek and said, “I think that’s all we needed, Deputy.  What say we get that search warrant and go ruin somebody’s day?”


“Sounds like fun to me, Sarge.”


Dylan stood to leave and said, “Max, Tom, thanks for your time.  I know you weren’t looking forward to our time together today, but your part is done.  For now, at least.  If the Muellers ever see the inside of a courtroom, you’ll have to testify, of course.  But, if this turns out how I think it will, I don’t think it’ll come to that.”


“What do you think is going to happen?” I asked.


“Personally, I think the D.A. will offer them a deal to put them away for the rest of their lives and then some.  We’ll see, though.”  He then knelt in front of Logan and added, “Logan it was very nice to meet you this morning.  I’m sorry it had to be under these circumstances.  I want you to know that I’m going to do everything I possibly can to get you and your dad back together.” 


Logan stepped into Dylan’s outstretched arms and wrapped the big guy in a hug and said, “Thanks, Mr. Brock.  I need my daddy.”


“We all need our dads, young man.  Let these guys take care of you in the meantime, though, okay?”


“I will.”


We let Dylan and Derek out so they could get back work, then returned to the living room.  Logan was taking his shirt and shorts off as he walked and Tom and I joined him in getting comfortable.  After the three of us had sat down again, I commented, “Gee, that was fun, wasn’t it?  And to think I get to do it all over again tomorrow.  I can hardly wait.”


“You can lie to yourself all you want, babe, but we know better.”


“Can I ask a question, Max?” Logan asked.


“As long as it’s not a hard one, go right ahead.”


“What’re we gonna do for lunch?”


Considering all the questions he could possibly think of at this moment, the simplicity of the one he selected made me laugh.  Typical nine-year-old eating machine needs fuel.  When I calmed down, “That’s a good question, young man.  But I think today is Tom’s turn to fix lunch, so let’s ask him.”  I turned to Tom and asked, “And what culinary delight do you have for us today, Chef Wright?”


“H-m-m, how about lightly grilled tube-shaped meat on a brioche bun with a cucumber and vinegar relish and a light drizzle of a tomato reduction?  And, perhaps a side of crispy potato wafers, lightly salted.”


“What the heck are you talkin’ ‘bout?” Logan asked.


“Hot dogs with relish, ketchup and potato chips.  Sound okay to you guys?”


“Yeah, that sounds great!” Logan enthused.


“Works for me, too, bubba.  You want help?”


“Nah, I think I can handle this.  Why don’t you relax a bit?”


“Thanks.  After that, I’m wiped out and would like to decompress for a bit.  Logan, would you help Tom get our lunch ready?  Please and thank you.”


“Sure thing, Max.”  He jumped off the couch and said, “C’mon, Tom, tell me what I can do,” he said as he grabbed Tom’s hand and dragged him into the kitchen.


As the two disappeared into the kitchen, I laid my head back on the chair, closed my eyes and tried to think of nothing for a few minutes.  I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams as Logan was shaking my shoulder twenty minutes later to wake me up.


“C’mon, sleepyhead, lunch is ready.”


“Wha…?  Oh, hey, buddy.  Be right there.”  As he zipped back to the kitchen, I forced myself to get up and follow along.  When I arrived, Tom had everything lined up on the counter and ready go, so I climbed on a stool, doctored my dog and dug in.  “Thanks for taking care of lunch guys.  I don’t know what happened.  I laid my head back for just a minute and I was out.”


“Well, you said you were wiped, guess you weren’t kidding.”


“If my reaction today is any indicator, it’s a good thing you’re going with me tomorrow morning.  It’d be a bit difficult to drive home if I’m sleeping.”


“Don’t worry about it, babe.  I’m here for ya’.”


“Hey, Max, I’m wonderin’ somethin’,” said Logan.


“And what’s that?”


“How could you go through all that, what those people did to you, and not remember it?”


I was so surprised at the question, now, that half the Pepsi in my mouth sprayed out my nose, again.  Have I mentioned how much it hurts when that happens?  After cleaning up the counter and gathering my composure, I answered.  “To be real honest, Logan, I’m not real sure how that happens.  The doctor I talked to last Thursday explained it to me and basically, when something really bad happens to you, the brain will sometimes hide it from you as a form of self-protection.”


“But why is coming back to you now?”


“Well, the people who abused me were also the people Joey and Alex were living with the last four years.  My best guess, and the doctor’s, also, is that dealing with them again is what brought it all back to me.  If I’d never seen them again, I’d probably never have remembered any of it.”


“What I don’t get, though, is this; if they were married to each other, why didn’t they just have sex together like normal people do?”  It was Tom’s turn to spray his drink in surprise, yet, somehow, he managed to keep it from exiting through his nose.


“I wish I knew, buddy,” I lamented.  “Besides, I wouldn’t really want to call them ‘normal people’ either.  Did you get your homework finished?”


“Oh, yeah, I had it done before the cops showed up.  I just acted like I didn’t so I could listen to you guys talk.  I thought if you thought I was still dealing with that, you wouldn’t be thinking about me listening to you.  It almost worked, too,” he grinned mischievously.


“Right up to the point where I caught you sticking your head around the corner, you little sneak.”


“I’m still sorry I did it, though.  Besides being the wrong thing to do, you were right, I really didn’t need to hear all that junk.”


“Well, I hope it doesn’t cause you nightmares or anything like it does me right now.”


“Yeah, me too.  It’ll be my own fault if it does.  Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”


“I suppose we will,” I mused.


When we finished eating, we worked together, as usual, to clean up after ourselves. 


“What’re we gonna do now?” Logan asked.


“I’m going to sit by a fire and read,” I answered.


“Same here, Logan,” Tom replied.


“I like to read, too.  What kinda books you got?”


“Well, I don’t have much for kids your age, yet, and the Spiderwick books I ordered won’t be here until Wednesday.  Why don’t you come to the study with me and let’s see what we can find.”  I led Logan down the hall and when I opened the door, his jaw dropped and eyes went wide with surprise at the number of books he saw.


“Holy moly, Max, you got more books than the library at school.”


“Let’s look around and see what we can find for you to read this afternoon.”  We started to browse the shelves, Logan looking low and me looking high.  We were about half-way around the room when I came to a series I hadn’t read for a while but I thought he might enjoy.  “Do you like science fiction stories?”


“Yeah, they’re usually pretty cool.  I like reading about the future.”


“Then this set might be just the thing for you.  I’d forgotten I had them.”  I pulled the first volume off the shelf and handed it to him.


Ender’s Game? What kind of story is this?”


“It’s about a young boy who is taken from his home to a school in space in the hope that he is the one person on Earth who can save the human race from an alien species.  There’s about nine or ten books in the whole series.  If you like the first one, you’re welcome to read the others.”


“Thanks, Max, that sounds really cool.”  We returned to the living where we all got comfortable in our chairs and spent next few hours reading.



As we hit the road to town, I told Derek, “Get on your phone.  Call Judge Corgan and see if he has time to see us in about half an hour, then, call the office and tell the forensics team to get ready to move.”


“You got it Sarge.”  Five minutes and four phone calls later, Derek came back with, “Judge Corgan says he’ll wait to start his afternoon session until he’s seen us.  I told him it was important.  I finally tracked down forensics at a crime scene, but they say they’ll be done there shortly.  I told ‘em to go ahead, get some lunch and we’d call ‘em back when it was time to go.  I also told ‘em that they might be working late.”


“Good job, Derek, thanks.  So, what do you think about Max’s story?  Do you really believe everything he just told us?”


“I gotta admit, when Max first told me yesterday what this was all about, I wasn’t real sure.  But after listening to him for the last, what, almost two hours, I’d be crazy to not believe him.  Nobody would make up a story like that, with that much detail, just for the fun of it.  I mean, I know he’s a writer and all, and that’s what those people do, but you just don’t make up shit like that without it having some basis in reality.”


“Good, Derek keep thinking along those lines.  I hadn’t considered the possibility that he was testing out some bizarre storyline for a new book.  But, even if I had thought that initially, I wouldn’t be now.  He really was about to rearrange your face after your questions, ya’ know.  You can’t fake that much anger.”


“Damn good thing Tom was there to reel him back in,” Derek chuckled.


“No kidding.”


“I hope Max understands I was just askin’ questions that the other side will be askin’.  And I hope he can get a tighter rein on his emotions if this does end up a court.  A jury wouldn’t take that kind of display very well.”


“No, they sure wouldn’t.  And he also knows you were doing your job.  He’s a smart enough guy to know those questions are going to come up.  He may not like ‘em, but he knows.”  After a short pause, I added, “So, Derek, anything else you want to talk about?  Now’s your chance.”


“Nope, can’t think of a thing, Sarge.”


“You’re sure about that.  Max dropped a bit of bomb on ya’.  I thought you might have some concerns about my ability to do my job properly.”


“What?  You think I give a shit ‘bout you bein’ gay?  Let me tell ya’ somethin’, boss.  I spent five years workin’ almost daily with Tom.  We trusted each other to have the other’s back.  Granted, I didn’t know he was gay until he quit, but he was one of the smartest and most dedicated guys in the department.  In the brains and balls contest, I’d rank him second to only you.”


“Thank you, Derek.  That’s quite the compliment.”


“And I mean it, too, boss.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as you’re doin’ the job and you ain’t tryin’ to get me in bed with you, it’s none of my damn business.  Or anybody else’s either.”


“Well, okay then.  I’ll just shut the fuck up about it then.”


“Good idea, Dylan.  We got work to do.”


“You have a blank warrant form in the car?”


“Always, Sarge.”


“Well, get to work on it.  I want it ready for the judge’s signature when we get there.”


Ten minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of the county building and headed for Judge Corgan’s court on the third floor.  As we entered the courtroom, it was empty except for Gary, the bailiff.


As we crossed the courtroom, Gary stood and asked, “Good afternoon, Sergeant, Deputy.  You’re here to meet with the judge?”


“Yes, please,” I answered.


“One moment while I let him know you’re here.”  Gary took the few steps to the door separating the courtroom from his chambers, opened the door about a foot and stuck his head through the gap.  When he pulled his head back, he said, “He’s ready for you, gentlemen.  Please try to be quick, we have a full docket this afternoon.”


“Thank you, Gary, we’ll be a quick as we can.”  We passed through the open door and Gary closed it behind us.  “Afternoon, Judge Corgan.”


“Good afternoon to you also, Sergeant, Deputy.  What sort of hellish misery are you bringing me today?”


“The worst possible kind, your honor.  We need to obtain a search warrant and a subpoena for records for a church.”


“I probably don’t want to know what you’re investigating, do I?  Yet, you’re going to tell me.”


“Yes, your honor.  I have a recording of an interview we conducted this morning and we have reason to believe that multiple crimes have taken place in this church.  We need the warrant to conduct our search and the subpoena to obtain the church’s membership list.”


“Fine, let’s hear it,” the judge said with disgust.


I forwarded the recording to a point just past my introduction and our complainant’s name so he would have no bias when deciding whether to issue the warrant.  When I pushed play, the recorder came to life with the voice of a very haunted individual, ‘Okay, it all started shortly after my thirteenth birthday …’.  The recording played for about twenty minutes before Judge Corgan waved a hand in disgust, asking me to stop it.  I did as he requested, and silence enveloped the room as he forced himself to remain calm.


“How long is this recording?” the judge inquired.


“Just under two hours, your honor.  And the longer it goes, the worse it gets.”


“Why do those names, Frank and Iris, sound familiar?  And the voice on the tape?  I know that voice.”


“Because we were all in your courtroom just a couple weeks ago.”  I could see the judge mentally reviewing his recent cases as he closed his eyes and considered what I’d just told him.  After a few minutes, his eyes opened and shock contorted his face.


“The Muellers!  And the voice, that’s Max Sanders, isn’t it?” he asked with dread.


“Yes, sir.”


“If I’m guessing correctly, Mr. Sanders is in his early to mid-thirties.  And these events began after he turned thirteen, so we’re talking about something from around twenty years ago.  Why now?”


“Apparently, your honor, he’d repressed the memories of the abuse until last Thursday.  Mr. Sanders talked to a psychologist that afternoon who helped him re-integrate those memories back into his conscious memories.  I received the doctor’s mandatory reporting on Saturday morning and made arrangements that afternoon to interview Mr. Sanders this morning.  I took Deputy Timmons with me as a second witness to the interview.  After Mr. Sanders related his story, we each asked him a few questions.  I’d like to forward the recording to that point so you can hear it yourself.”


“By all means, please do so.  While you do that, let me tell Gary we’ll be a bit longer.”  While the judge informed his bailiff of the delay, I found the spot where I wanted to restart the playback.  When he sat behind his desk again, he asked, “You ready, sergeant?”  After I nodded, he added, “Continue, please.”


‘Thank you for telling us your story Mr. Sanders.  I have a few questions I need to ask to clear up just a few things.  If you don’t mind.’


‘No, go ahead.’


‘First, do you remember where, exactly, this supposed room is located in the basement of the church where you allege these assaults took place.’


 ‘Of course, I do.  I’ll never forget that hellhole.’ 



‘I’ve already talked to one psychologist about it and he’s the one who helped me recover those memories.’


Recover?  Or did he plant these memories?’


‘Who the fuck do you think would plant shit like that into anybody’s mind!?  If you don’t believe what I’m saying, you are more than welcome to discuss it directly with him.  That’s it, this interview is over!’


I stopped the playback and waited for the judge to comment on what he’d heard.


“Do either of you doubt the veracity of this man or the authenticity of his story?”


“No, sir,” I answered.


“Absolutely not, your honor,” Derek concurred.


“The hell he must be going through.  Then and now.”  He took a deep breath before continuing.  “I don’t know Mr. Sanders that well, having only met him that one day in my court, but I believe him to be an honest man.  And believing that, I can’t help but also believe the abuse he has described in this recording.  You can’t dream up some of those details he provided.”


“There’s one more thing you need to know, your honor.”


“What’s that Sergeant?”


“Mr. Sanders has also given us a list of sixty-three names of other boys that are potential victims.”


“What!?  How did he get that?”


“Um, he didn’t, sir, two of his sons did.”


“Which two and how could they have done that?”


“Do you remember the twins, Joey and Alex, that were in court that same day?” I asked.


“Of course, I do, cute little buggers, they were.  Oh, wait, I get it, the twins lived with the Muellers for, what, four or five years?  And they got the names from them due their mental abilities?  But if that’s how they did it, we can’t use it for evidence.”


“No, your honor, we can’t.  But we can use it to help track down other possible victims.”


“Excellent plan, sergeant.  Make it happen, as quickly as possible.  Do you have your request for a search warrant and records subpoena ready?”


Derek handed over the completed forms and said, “Right here, your honor.  All we need is your signature and we’re ready to go.  The forensics team is standing by, waiting for our call.”


Judge Corgan signed the applications with a flourish, handed it back and said, “There you go gentlemen.  Time for you to get to work.  And no screw-ups.  We don’t want these people roaming loose amongst our civilized population.”


“No, sir, we don’t.  And thank you, your honor.  Let’s go, Deputy, I’m afraid we have a long night ahead of us.”  Derek and I stood, leaving the judge alone in his chambers.  As we left his office and entered the courtroom, I said to the bailiff, “We’re sorry we took so long.  Hope we didn’t ruin your afternoon schedule.”


“We’ll deal with it Sergeant Brock.  Whatever you had must have been important.”


When we reached our car, Derek asked, “I know we want to get started on this search, Sarge, but can we stop on the way to grab some food?  If we’re going to be late like you think, I don’t want to wait until midnight to eat lunch.”


“Good idea, Derek.  You care what kind of food it is?”


“Anything’s fine with me, sir.  You’re drivin’ and I’m just along for the ride.”


“Call the forensics team and tell them to meet us at the church in thirty minutes.”  After a quick swing through the drive-up at Wendy’s, we continued on to the church.  Just as I pulled in the parking lot, I saw the forensics van turning the corner to meet us.  Derek and I wolfed down our food while we waited for the team to park and get ready to collect any evidence.  By the time we’d finished eating, the team was standing next our car, waiting patiently.  Of course, I use the term team generously since it was just two guys with cameras and tackle boxes of tools. 


“You ready for this?” I asked.


“Ready as I’ll ever be, boss.”


“Then let’s do it.”  We got out of the car and greeted our ’team’.  “Afternoon Perry, Zach.  How you guys doin’?”


“Just great, Sergeant.  Mind tellin’ us why we’re at a church and just what we’re supposed to be looking for?”


“Deputy Timmons and I conducted an interview this morning where we heard allegations of sexual abuse happening in this building.  We are executing a search warrant to find evidence of those crimes.  I hope you brought lots of Luminol and your black lights have fresh batteries ‘cause you’re gonna need them,” I answered.  I turned to Derek and said, “Derek, call dispatch and have them get another car over here.  I want someone guarding the front door so nobody can come in.  Also, have them send a unit, unmarked if possible, to keep an eye on our suspects.  I don’t want to take any chances of them trying to do a disappearing act.  Once you’ve made your calls, follow us in.”


“Got it, Sarge.  Be right behind you.”


I led Perry and Zach to the main entry door and walked inside.  Following Max’s directions, we proceeded straight down the entry corridor, ignoring the glass-enclosed corridor the lead to the right.  “About twenty-five in and on the left, should be the sanctuary.  Yep, got it, now fifteen or twenty feet further along, another corridor to the right.  Bingo!  Bathrooms on the right, offices on the left.  Thar, she blows, gents.”


A young lady in the first office we came to asked, “May I help you, please.”


“Yes, I’m sergeant Dylan Brock of the Sangamon County Sherriff’s department.  May I have your name, please, and are you in charge around here.”


“Yeah, right,” she scoffed.  “Really, who are you?”


I stepped into the office, handed her my ID and answered, “Exactly who I said I am, ma’am.  Now, your name, please.”


“Michelle and if you think I’m the boss around here, you’re sorely mistaken.  That would be Warren in the next office,” she responded, point to the next doorway.


“Thank you, Michelle.  Would you please step out here in the hallway and stand by the water fountain right there?  Thank you.”  Michelle stepped out of her office, handing my ID to me as she did, then stood where directed.  I turned to Zach and Perry and said, “Keep an eye on her until Deputy Timmons rejoins us.  She’s not to touch anything.”


“Yes, sir.”


I moved to the next doorway and opened it without knocking.


“And just who are you?  Don’t you believe in knocking?” the man behind the desk bellowed as he hung up the phone.  I handed him my ID and watched as surprise took over his face.  “What’s the meaning of this rude interruption.  That was a very important phone from a valued member of our congregation.”


“Are you Warren, the man Michelle says is in charge here?”


“Of course, I am.  That’s my name on the door right there.  Now, answer my questions.”


“I’ll answer any reasonable question you may have, sir, once you step out here in the hall and join your secretary.”  Flushed with anger, he did as I asked and when he was standing with Michelle, Derek returned.  “Everything all set?”


“Backup will be here in about twenty, twenty-five minutes.  Surveillance of our suspects will start in about ten.”


“Excellent, Deputy.”  I turned to Warren and Michelle and explained our presence this afternoon.  “We have a warrant to search this church and a subpoena to retrieve listings of your membership rosters.”


“You can’t do that,” Warren complained.  “This is a house of God and you have no authority here.”


“Wrong, sir!  Here, this paperwork will explain it to you.  Take a few minutes and read it.  Otherwise, all you have to do is stay out of our way.”  I handed him the warrant and turned to my people as he began to read it.  “Derek, I want you to stay right here keep an eye on these two until our backup arrives.  Zach, I want you to dig through every file cabinet, storage box and computer you can find.  Find every membership list you can, I don’t care how old.  Perry, you come with me.”  We continued down the corridor to the very end.  “Okay last door on the left was the classroom the victim says he started in.  Then he says was led back down the corridor to the first office on the right.”  We walked about fifteen feet to a closed door.  “This should be it,” I said as I grabbed the doorknob and turned it.  Or, more accurately, tried to turn it, because it was locked.  “Warren, where is the key for this door?” I called down the hallway.


“On my keyring, but nobody really uses that office very much.  Here,” he said as he started to walk towards us.


“Stay where you are and toss the keys to me.  I’ll find the right one.”  He tossed the keys my direction with an underhand throw and they landed about five feet away.  I retrieved them and then spent a minute testing keys until I found the right one.  With the door unlocked, I pushed it open.  “Gloves and booties time, Perry,” I commented as I pulled a pair of each out of my jacket pocket and started pulling them on.  Finally prepared and sure not to leave any stray fingerprints anywhere, I pushed the door fully open then reached in, flipped the light switch and took two steps into the room.  Just as Max said, there were three file cabinets to the left of the door and the open door covered up exactly one and half of the three.  I noticed that all the cabinets were secured with steel bars and padlocks, which seemed odd for a church.  Again, true to his word, there was a recess just beyond the third cabinet.  Half hoping that this would still turn out some extremely realistic dream he’d had, I stepped into the recess and began feeling around in the upper right-hand corner for a button that would release a hidden door.


“What the hell are you doing, Sarge?” Perry asked.


“Feeling for a button of some kind to release a latch to a hidden door.”


“Are you kidding me,” Perry asked incredulously.  “That sounds like something out of a horror movie.”  No sooner had the words exited his mouth, I felt a very slight depression in the wall that was virtually invisible to the naked eye.  I gave it a push with my index finger, heard a click from inside the wall and a section of the wall magically swung out about three inches. 


“Holy shit!” Perry exclaimed as he jumped back about 3 feet.


“Welcome to my house of horrors, young man.  Watch your step as we descend into Hell on earth.  Leave your case up here for the moment.  Bring just your camera and a light.  I want to do a visual check before we go hi-tech with all your other goodies.”


“Yes, sir.”


I shined a light into the cavity behind the wall and found the stairway just as Max described, going down and to the left.  I also found a light switch and flipped it on, providing illumination from a light on the ceiling of the stairs.  I could see a subdued glow coming from under a door at the bottom of the stairs and to the left.  Chills ran down my spine and the hairs on my neck stood at attention as I began my descent.  The stairs were, indeed, quite narrow and I had to turn my body slightly to avoid brushing the walls on both sides.  When I finally reached the bottom and Perry was standing on the next to last step, I opened the door.  Upon seeing that this room really did exist and wasn’t just some figment of imagination from the overactive mind of an author, I wanted to vomit.  Somehow, I quelled that feeling and stepped into the room just far enough to allow Perry to follow me inside.  Much to my dismay, the room before me matched the exact description Max had given us this morning, though I had no doubt it would once I found the release for the hidden door.


“Okay, Perry, I’m going to stand at the bottom of the stairs with the door closed.  I want you to photograph this room from every possible position and angle.”


“No way, Sarge.  I ain’t stayin’ in here alone.  You close the door and then stand beside or behind me while I take the pictures.”


“Fine, let’s get on with it.  I also want every square inch of that tabletop, the chairs and the sink in the highest resolution possible.  Get to it,” I snapped as I closed the door.  Perry immediately and methodically began snapping his pictures.  After seeing the flash go off about fifty times, I was wishing I had my sunglasses with me.  Good thing neither one of us suffered from epilepsy.  Forty-five minutes later, Perry announced he was done taking pictures and ready to start in with his other tools.  We climbed the stairs, again twisting our bodies to avoid rubbing the walls.  When we stepped back into the office, Derek was standing there with an expectant look on his face.


“What’s your feeling, Sarge?  Does it match our witness’s recollection?”


“Nothing but pure disgust.  And, yes, unfortunately, it does.  Since you’re here, I assume our backup has arrived.”


“Yes, sir.  They sent two cars.  I have two of the troops guarding the entrance and the other two guarding Michelle and Warren.”


“Is surveillance in place on our suspects?”


“Affirmative, also.  Where do you want me?”


“While Perry dusts every surface in the stairway for prints, I want you in the room with me going over every inch of wall, floor, everything.  Get gloves, booties and a light and follow me.  Don’t brush the walls on your way down.”


“Right behind you, sir.”  I turned and headed back down the stairs while Derek got ready to join me.  I had just begun eyeballing the wall by the door when he appeared in the doorway.


“Oh, god,” he muttered after taking a quick look around.  “So much for this all bein’ some writer’s sick fantasy.”


“I want you to start in the corner at the sink and eyeball every surface, floor to ceiling.  I’m going to start right here at the door and do the same thing.  We’ll work left to right until we reach our own starting point.  That way we both see everything.  Got it?”


“Whatever you say, Sarge.”  We got to work checking the walls first.  Not ten minutes into it, Derek interrupted me with, “Sarge, come tell me what you think this is.”  I walked over to where Derek was pointing to a shiny spot on the wall, about two inches in diameter.  After just a few seconds of consideration, I knew exactly what that spot was.


“Come with me, Derek.”  I turned and yelled, “Perry, make a hole, we’re comin’ up, right now!”  I went up the stairs as fast as I could, Derek right behind me.  With Derek panting beside me in the office, I said, “C’mon, let’s move this damn desk a couple feet.”  We got on the front and back side, lifted the desk and moved it away from the wall.  “Just what I thought,” I grumbled after looking into the gap between the desk and wall.


“What are you talkin’ ‘bout?” Derek asked.


“Pull that cable comin’ out of the wall.”  Derek did as I asked.  When he reached the end of the cable and discovered the camera attached to the end of it, he dropped the whole mess on the floor, ran out of the office and into the bathroom, holding his mouth all the way.  Must not be any sound insulation in those walls as you could hear him losing his lunch from twenty-five feet away.  It took every ounce of strength I could muster to not join him.  “Perry, get your ass back in that stairway and keep dusting.”  I stepped out into the hall and walked towards the bathrooms.  “Warren, we need to have a talk.  Will one of you please escort him to the sanctuary?  I’ll be there as soon as check on Timmons.”  Kelly took Warren’s elbow in her hand and escorted him down the corridor while I ducked into the bathroom to check on Derek.  I found him right where I expected, kneeling on the floor in front of the porcelain throne, holding his gut and sobbing.  I knelt beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Derek, you gonna be okay?”


“Yeah, boss, sorry ‘bout that.  Don’t know what came over me.”


“The same thing that almost had me joining you in here.  Don’t worry about it, I’ve seen bigger men brought down by much less than what we have here.  Come join me in the sanctuary when you feel up to it.  I’m going to talk to Warren.”


“Make sure you read the bastard his rights.”


“Always thinkin’, Derek.  Good man.”  I left the bathroom and made my way to the sanctuary.  I found Warren kneeling near the lectern at the front of the room and Kelly standing just inside the door.  I walked up the aisle and sat in the first pew while he finished whatever prayer he was making.  When he finally finished, and stood up, I said, “Join me here, Warren, we need to have a chat.”  I waited until he joined me on the pew and continued, “Warren, I assume you’re the pastor here.”


“I am.  Can you please tell me what is going on?”


“We’ll get to that in a few minutes.  For the moment, this is just a little chat between us, but there’s something I have to say before we get started.  You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer my questions.  Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to me and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.  If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.  Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?”


“Why did you read me my rights?  Am I under arrest?  I don’t even know what you’re doing here.”


“Are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney?”


“Of course, I’ve done nothing wrong.”


Derek finally joined us and sat on the other side of the pastor.  “How long have you been the pastor here?”


“Just under a year.  My anniversary is coming up next month.”


“Besides you, how many other people have a key to that office?”


“Ten or twelve, I think.  I’d have to consult our list of church elders.”


“Have you ever used that office yourself?”


“No, sir.  When I was hired, the church board told me that office was reserved for use by only the elders who have the key to it.”


“And can you tell me what the elders use that office for?”


“I was told that some of them use it for special counseling of troubled youth.  But, again, I’ve never been involved with that so I really can’t tell you anything.”


“Do you know what kind of counseling they do?”


“No, absolutely not.  When they need to use it, they come in with the child they’re going to counsel, use their own key to unlock the door and then they relock the door once they’re inside.  And with no windows in the office, I can’t even see who is in there.”


“Does Michelle have any idea about what happens in there?”


“I don’t know how she could.  She’s only been working here for a couple of months.  Now, I’ve answered your questions, would you please tell me what’s going on?”


“Would it surprise you, Pastor, to find out there’s a room under that office?”


“What?  There can’t be.  This building is built on a concrete slab.”


“Trust me, sir, there is a room under there and it’s holding some very deep and nasty secrets from you.  Before I say any more to you, I’m going to need that list of people who hold keys to that office.  Give me that and I’ll let you know what’s going on.”


“Come with me, then.  I’ll do whatever you want.”  We followed Warren back to his office, Kelly trailing behind the three of us.  He stepped behind his desk, opened the center drawer and handed me a sheet of paper with thirteen names, addresses and phone numbers listed on it.  After a quick glance, I found Frank Mueller on the eighth line, along with some other familiar names of people known for doing good works for their hometown.  “There’s your list.  Do whatever you want with it.”


“One moment, please.  I’ll be right back.”  I turned to Derek and led him out of the office.  Michelle was still standing by the water fountain, but I could see the was getting restless.  “I’m sorry, Michelle, would you like a chair so you can sit down?”


“Yes, please.  Thank you.”


“Kelly, would you please get this young lady a chair from her office?  And if she’d like a soda, coffee or something else to drink, get it for her.  Thank you.” 


I turned back to Derek and said, “Here’s what I want you to do.  Call Judge Corgan’s office and get his fax number.  Then, find a fax machine and send this list to him.  On the cover page, give a brief description of what we’ve found so far and request an arrest warrant be issued for every person on this list.  There are only men’s names here, but since we know at least one spouse was involved, we’re going to want them included on all the warrants. 


“Once you’ve done that, call dispatch and tell them we’re going to need either a couple vans or a bunch of cars to haul up to twenty-six people away.  If they have to get a school bus, I don’t care.  Tell them to figure out how they’re going to do it because we don’t have time to deal with it ourselves.  Also, tell them to park in the lot behind the shopping center next door and wait there until we call them in.  And keep your gloves on.  Go to it.” 


Derek turned into Michelle’s office to take care of his task while I returned to Warren’s office to enlighten him.  He was sitting at his desk, holding his head in his hands when I took the chair across from him.  When he heard the chair creak, he looked up and asked, “Look, I’ve answered your questions, given you a confidential list of very important church members, I’ve cooperated in every way I possibly can.  I think I deserve to know what you’re doing here.”


“And I’m going to tell you, Pastor, though you’re not going to like what you hear.  Deputy Timmons and I conducted an interview this morning with a gentleman who used to be a member of this church twenty years ago, along with his parents and sister.  During our conversation, he alleged he had been sexually assaulted by two adult members of this church for a period of almost three years, from age thirteen to sixteen, when he quit coming to church with his parents.”


“That can’t be true.  Our members would never do anything so heinous.”


“Please, Pastor, let me continue.  My witness explained in very graphic details what was done to him.  And we believe him or we wouldn’t be here.  He also gave us very explicit directions on how to locate the room where the assaults happened.  Following his instructions, we have located that room and it will be analyzed from ceiling to floor.  The room we found matched the description he gave us this morning.  We have also discovered there was a camera hidden in the wall in that room allowing whatever happened there to be recorded.”


“I can’t believe this.  You’re taking the word of a man based on something that supposedly happened twenty years ago.  What makes you believe his story?”


“The simple fact that everything we’ve found so far matches his story, detail by detail.  I have no reason to disbelieve him at this point.  Now, I have another question for you.  Do you have the keys to the file cabinets in that office?”


“No, sir.  Only the elders with a key to the office have keys to the cabinets.”


“ZACH!  Get your butt in here,” I yelled.


“Yeah, boss,” he answered as he came into the office thirty seconds later.


“How are your lock-picking skills?”


“Not bad, boss, what do you need broken into.”


“I want you to unlock all three file cabinets in the office next door.  Do not open the drawers, just the locks.  Got it?”


“Yes, sir, two minutes, sir.”  Warren and I waited while Zach worked his magic.  A minute and half later, Zach was back and said, “All done boss.”


“Good job, young man, thank you.  Stay here, Warren, I’ll be right back.”  I walked next door, removed the padlock and steel bar from the first cabinet behind the door, then opened the top drawer.  To my horror, I found the drawer filled with files, neatly labeled with names and dates.  The first date in the drawer I’d selected was just over thirty years ago.  I pulled out the first file and found several pictures of a young girl who looked to be about ten years old engaged in a sex act with an adult male and what appeared to be a CD or DVD.  I could feel the gorge starting to rise again, but I swallowed hard to keep everything inside. 


I put the file back and checked the next drawer.  Again, completely full, but closer to the dates I was looking for.  In the third drawer, I found the file for which I was searching.  A quick look inside told me it was, indeed, the one I wanted.  I quietly slid it inside my coat and zipped it shut.  I then pulled the file from the very front of the drawer and quickly checked the contents.  Same as the other two I’d looked at, pictures and a disc, this time of a boy who appeared to about thirteen or fourteen.  I returned to Warren’s office with the file in hand and retook the chair I’d just vacated.


“Let me show you one sample of what some of your parishioners have been doing, Pastor, just so you understand the scope of what’s been happening here.  If you ever tell anyone I showed you this, I will deny it.  Please, whatever you do, do not touch the folder or anything inside it.  I would not want your fingerprints to be on here because we will check every file in that room for prints.”  I laid the folder on the desk and lifted the front flap.  Poor Warren turned white as a sheet as the blood drained from his face and he turned his head to look away.  I closed the folder and continued.  “The men on that list you gave me have been sexually assaulting children in that room under the office next door for over thirty years.  There are three file cabinets, four drawers per cabinet and I’d have to guess anywhere from 200 to 250 files per drawer, maybe even more.  By my math, that could mean up to 3000 or more files of materials like this.  3000 or more children!  Is this the type of people you want in your church?”


“My God, how can you even ask a question like that?  Of course, I don’t.  None of us do.”


“I’m glad to hear you say that.  I’m going to give you a chance prove that to me and redeem yourself, to all of us.”


“What do you want?  I’ll do anything.”


“It’s 3:30 right now.  I want you to call every person on that list you gave me and tell them you have to meet with them.  Today, at say, 5:30?”


“But what should I tell them the meeting’s about?”


“Make up something, Warren.  You deal in fairy tales for a living, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to come up with a new one.  I believe in you and you can do it.  Think about it for a while and when you come up with something, let me know what it is.  Once we agree on the subject for the meeting, you can start making phone calls to get them here.  Tell you what, let’s set the time for 6:00.  And to further entice them to attend, tell ‘em you’re going to feed them supper.”


I left his office and stood in the corridor for a moment before returning the file in my hand to the cabinet in which it belonged.  That done, I quickly checked the other nine drawers and all but the last drawer were completely full.  The latest date on the files in the last drawer was less than two weeks ago.  I closed all the drawers, inserted the steel bars and relocked all three cabinets.  I then stepped outside to catch my breath for a minute while my people continued working inside.  Taking advantage of the moment alone, I slipped the file from inside my coat, into my car and under the seat, then locked the door.  I pulled my phone out of my pocket and sent a text message that read, ‘Have something for you.  Will bring it by later.  Don’t call.’


That done, I put my phone away and went back inside.  Derek was walking down the corridor towards me with a look of earnestness in his eye.


“What have you got for me, Derek?”


“Judge Corgan says he’ll have the warrants delivered here by 4:30 for all thirteen on the list plus any spouses they can find through a records search of marriage licenses.  He’s pulled out all the stops at the county building to get it all done in time, including cancelling his afternoon session.  He’s also going to send a few signed warrants with no name so if somebody unexpected shows, we can bring them in with the rest.  Also, two vans and six cars including four from the city will be here at 5:00.  I’ve also notified the surveillance team that our suspects will be moving shortly and if they go anywhere but here, to stop and arrest them.  I’ll call them back when we have a better idea what time they might be leaving home so they’ll be ready to move.”


“Good work, Derek.  You do realize the unholy mess we have on our hands, don’t you?”


“Absolutely, sir.”


“Good, take Henry and get our vehicles out of sight.  Especially the forensics van.  Also, have the guards at the front door move into building a bit further so they’re not visible to passers-by.  No need to advertise our presence.  While you two take care of that, I’m going back to talk to Warren, see if he’s come up with a plausible idea to get the people on that list here.”  Derek corralled Henry and they headed out to move our cars next door.  I found Warren in his office looking like the most miserable man on the planet.


“Okay, Pastor, what have you come up with?”


“I’m sorry, Sergeant Brock.  My mind is a complete blank right now.  I just can’t understand how anybody can do what these animals have done.  And in a house of worship, no less.  I am utterly disgusted and bereft at the depths to which they’ve sunk.  Hell, sir, was created by God to punish the sinners of this world, but I think even Hell is much too good for these people.”


“I certainly won’t argue that point with you, Pastor.  I had an idea I thought I’d toss out there and see what you think of it.  What if you were to tell the individuals that thanks to their efforts, you’ve hit a fundraising goal of some kind and the dinner is to honor them for their good works.”


“I don’t think if I could just lie to them, Sergeant.  I would be breaking one of the Ten Commandments by doing so.”


“Excuse me, Pastor, but isn’t what they’ve done even worse?  Isn’t it worth breaking one to help right all the wrongs they’ve done to these children?”


“You’re right, of course.  I will later ask God for forgiveness for my own sins to see justice is served.  These people have been major donors to our church over the years, so a recognition dinner wouldn’t be terribly out of line.  I’ll need Michelle’s assistance to make this work.  Will you allow her to do that?”


“You can have Michelle and any of my people you need, Pastor.  Let’s get started.” 


Warren drafted Michelle and Kelly to set up the Fellowship Hall to resemble a dinner meeting, complete with tablecloths and place settings for the supposed guests of honor.  While they got started on their task, he made his first call to one of our suspects while I sat across the desk and listened to his spiel.  By the time he ended the call, I was somewhat impressed with the man’s acting skills as he wheedled and cajoled the first of the ‘honorees’ into canceling whatever plans they already had and had agreed to be here at 6:00 for the dinner.  Warren continued down the list and when he reached the Mueller’s, I paid special attention to the call because I wanted to make sure they were here.  I had worried needlessly as Warren poured on the charm and soon had their commitment to attend, also.  After forty-five minutes of phone calls filled with flattery, gushing appreciation and some of the most blatant lying I’d ever heard, Warren had managed to get all thirteen of the elders and their spouses to be present.


“Excellent job, Pastor.  If the preaching gig doesn’t work out for you, you may want to consider a new career as an actor.”


“Please, Sergeant, there’s no need to be nasty about this.  I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me today, though I’m sure I’ll be going to Hell for it.”


“Absolutely not, you have just reserved your suite in heaven, Pastor.  If your god would send you to Hell for stopping these people, then he doesn’t deserve to be followed by good people like you.  Let’s go check on Michelle and Kelly.”  The two of us headed to the Fellowship Hall and found the two women rapidly converting the space into a fine banquet hall.  Warren and I added our bodies to the process and in no time, the room was as ready as it ever would be.  But something was missing, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.


Until Derek returned and commented, “Looks great in here, too bad it doesn’t smell great.”


“What are you talking about, Deputy?”


“How’re you get these people to believe their here for a dinner when you can’t smell any food?”


I smacked myself on the forehead at what should have been the most obvious thing we’d missed.  “Derek, if we pull this thing off tonight, I’m putting you in for a commendation for brilliant thinking under high stress situations.  Get back on your phone and let dispatch know we need food of some kind delivered before 5:30.  It can be anything, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s for all I care, but whatever it is, it needs to smell good.  Well, okay, not McDonald’s, then.”  As Derek pulled his phone from his pocket and turned away to make the call, I turned to Warren and asked, “Do you have any small fans here?”


“Sure, Michelle and I each have one in our offices.  Why?”


“Your kitchen is over there behind the folding screen, right?”  After receiving a nod from him, I continued.  “We need to open that screen, just a foot or two, then place the fans in the gap with whatever food we get right behind them.  The fans can then blow the odors out into the main room here.” 


Warren’s eye lit up with understanding and he turned to Michelle, “Go get our fans and get them in here and ready to go.  Move it.”  With a quick nod, she left the hall and returned in just a few minutes with both fans as requested.  We set up our deception rather quickly and were soon missing only the food.


Derek came back to join us and said, “Food will be here about twenty after five, boss.  That should give the fans plenty of time to spread the smells of dinner through the room.”


“Good.  Let’s think clearly for a few minutes, folks, and see if we’ve missed anything else.”  We all stood quietly in the Fellowship Hall and considered what we’d done so far and compared that to what we were trying to accomplish.


Kelly was the first to break the silence.  “I think the most obvious thing is we need to be out of sight when our suspects start arriving.  In the building and close by, but still hidden.”


“Pastor?” I asked.


“There’s a large pantry in the back of the kitchen.  It could hold eight or ten people, I suppose.  And our guests would have no reason to go in there tonight.”


“Perfect.  That’s where we’ll be.  Once our guests, by the way, good word, Pastor, are all seated and ready to enjoy a delicious meal, I’ll radio our vehicles it’s time to move in.  Then we’ll come out and get to work.  Kelly, Henry, I want you to set up a position at the doors leading towards the offices to keep anyone from going out that way.  Barry, Andrew, I want you at the doors leading to the front entry.  Zach and Perry will stay at the rear emergency exit from the kitchen.  Derek and I will begin our arrests at the table nearest the kitchen and when our reinforcements arrive, they can work their way towards us.  Anything else we need to do?”


Perry piped up, “I think we should close the door to that room and lock the office just in case someone wanders before everyone is here.”


“Do it, Perry, and then get back here.”


Michelle offered, “What about place cards on the tables for each person?”


“Excellent idea, Michelle.  Can you take care of that, please?  I have only one request.  I want Frank and Iris Mueller to be seated as close as possible to the kitchen.  I want them to be the first two we put cuffs on.  CUFFS!” I yelled as I smacked my forehead, again.  “Derek, were going to need a bunch more.  I hate to have you do it, but run over to the car and grab that box of zip-tie wrist restraints from the trunk.”  Michelle and Derek disappeared to take care of their tasks.


It was Warren’s turn to speak up.  “One thing we always do when we have meals such as this is we place an event-related bible verse at each place setting.  I think if we don’t have that, suspicions may be raised before you want.”


“Thank you for thinking of that, Pastor.  Can you think of any verse that would be appropriate to use for arresting a large group of pedophiles?”


“Certainly not!  Not in my Bible, anyway.  However, I’m sure I can find something along the lines of words for the condemned.  How does that sound?”


“Oddly fitting.  Please, do what you can.  I want these guests completely unaware of what is about to happen.”


“I shall return shortly,” he replied, then turned and went to his own office.


“Barry, Andrew, what are you thinking?”


“Sounds like you got all the bases covered, boss.”


Michelle was the first to return and she began placing the name cards at each seat, ensuring the Muellers were seated where I’d requested.  Derek came back next, panting again from running, with the wrist restraints and I had him put them in the pantry so they would be easy to grab when they were needed.  He’d also met an officer at the door who was delivering our arrest warrants and those were left in the pantry with the restraints.  After a few more minutes of waiting, Warren finally returned and he handed me a slip of paper.


“What do you think of these selections, Sergeant Brock?”


When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. - Psalms 109:7


For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. - Matthew 12:37


For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: - Romans 8:3



I read his selections and nodded my approval with each one.  “Fine selections, Pastor.  Very appropriate to our circumstances.”  I handed the stack of verses to Michelle and asked, “Would you please make sure each seat has one of these, also?  What else have we missed?”


“I almost hate to mention this now, Sarge,” Derek began, “but shouldn’t we notify the FBI?  This seems to be a rather large and organized group who are most certainly dealing in the child pornography trade.”


“I’m sure your right about that, Deputy, but it’s way too late to try and get them involved now.  Once we’ve made our arrests and all these people are adjusting to their new lodgings in the county jail, then we’ll call the FBI and see if they want to take the reins.  I’ll be more than happy to turn the rest of the investigation and the prosecutions over to them.  Not to mention trying to locate all the kids that have been victimized over the years.  We’re not equipped to handle what will essentially amount to 3000 plus missing persons cases.”


“Works for me, boss.  Just tossin’ ideas into the fan to see what flies.”


I looked at my watch and saw the time was 5:25.  “Where’s that damn food,” I vented.  “If they don’t get here soon, we’re gonna be screwed.”


“Please, Sergeant,” Warren began, “despite current appearances, this is still a house of the Lord.”


“You’re absolutely correct, Pastor.  Please excuse my outburst.”


From the entry hall, we heard a yell, “Who ordered KFC to be delivered?”


“It’s about time,” I yelled back.  “Get in here.”  Four more cops walked into the hall, each loaded with buckets of chicken and tubs of mashed potatoes and gravy.  “On the counter over there,” I pointed.  “Michelle, is there a large pan we can put the chicken on?”


“Sure thing, follow me.”  I followed Michelle and the food into the kitchen.  Michelle went to a cabinet by the ovens and retrieved two large baking sheets.  We spread the chicken on one and potatoes and gravy on the other, then lined them up behind the two fans which were already running.  As we returned to the main hall, we could already smell the scent of dinner wafting into the room.


“Thanks for bringing the food, guys.  Now, get outta here and wait until we call you back.”


“Whenever you’re ready, Sergeant, just give three clicks on the radio and we’ll be on the way.”


“You got it.  When you meet the others, let them know.”  The four left us in the hall and returned to their cars.  I turned to the others and asked, “Is everybody ready for this?”  My people nodded they were, so I turned to Warren and Michelle, “What about you two?  Can you do this?”


“We can and we will.  I am ashamed these people were members, elders even, of our church and I will be very happy to be rid of them.  I fear what will happen to our congregation when news of these atrocities comes out.”


“I sympathize with you, Pastor, but let’s not get the cart before the horse.”


“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir.  I just know what difficulties lie ahead for us.”


“What I’d like for you and Michelle to do is just mingle with the group as they come in, thank them for putting aside their other plans so they could join the dinner.  When everyone’s arrived, get them seated at their tables, then excuse yourselves to begin serving the meal.  When you do that, come get us out of the pantry and we’ll take over from there.”


“Thank you, Sergeant Brock, for trusting us to assist you when you had no reason to do so.  We truly appreciate having the opportunity to convince you that we knew nothing of what was going on right in front of our noses.”


I saw a flash of headlights in the corridor and knew it was time.  I engaged the radio and said, “Looks like our first suspect, excuse me, guest has just arrived.  Places everyone and be ready to move on my signal.”


Home Page
Story index
Next chapter