By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated PG)
They had been working on the mystery for a couple of weeks, and not a single clue had turned up, nothing but more skeletons as more people vanished, primarily the rest of the council who were just coming back from vacation or visiting family. David had learned that it was the untimely disappearance of Judge Murray that had alerted the press to the strange kidnappings. But where had the council and the judge gone? David gritted his teeth; Bob Jones was doing a pretty good job of staying hidden, so well that many were beginning to think it was some curse that had befallen the missing people, turning them into skeletons. David racked his brain. There had to be some way to find the missing people. There had to be some clue, anything, but what was he missing? He had gone back to the warehouse where the council had met several times, staring out the window where they had last stood, trying to see what they had seen before they had disappeared. But he couldn’t see a thing, and nothing new turned up, until the day he found a sugar skull and a note waiting for him at the warehouse. Wondering what she was doing, he opened the note. It read: Hello sweetie! I swore that I would never help you on a case, but I think this shall be one of the few exceptions. I had looked further into Robert Jones’ recent criminal activity as I did think of aiding him, but what I have learned since has shocked me and I backed out. So, instead, I shall aid you, my darling. My reasons for this will be known only to me, though; being the great detective that you are, you might figure it out sooner or later. For now, just follow the sugar skulls, regardless of where they take you and what my notes may ask you to do. It will be the only way to find Robert Jones and his prisoners. Rest assured, they are safe, for now. But you are running out of time as you are next on the list, and once he has you, he will do as he pleases. Now go to the sheriff’s office, the biggest clue of all lies there. All my love, Carol Santonio
David pursed his lips as he reread the note before popping the sugar skull into his mouth. He knew that to continue receiving her aid, he would have to play by her rules, and right now, it was the best chance he had of bringing everyone home safely. He went straight to the sheriff’s office, where he found another sugar skull, and another note. Letting out a breath, he opened it and his eyes nearly bulged at what it said.
Hello dearie, I take it you’ve accepted my aid. Well, having been on the inside of Robert Jones’ operation, I was able to speak to the sheriff and the council. You have permission to look at the minutes, the signature of Councilman Peters below authenticates that, along with the sheriff’s signature and the combination to his safe, which he promises he will change the instance you get them out. Once you have read them and found the motion Robert Jones’ is adamantly trying to change, go to the judge’s house. That shall be the last clue I can give you, the rest is up to you. But I know you can do it. All my love, Carol Santonio. Below her signature were the clear signatures of Sheriff Michael Anderson with the combination, and Councilman George Peters giving David and his friends permission to look at the minutes, with a note to look specifically at page five. David stuffed the note into his coat pocket after unlocking the safe, and pulled out a couple of folders before relocking it and heading back to his house. He called his friends to join him at the warehouse at ten that night.
“So, what did you want to see us about?” asked the Captain the instant all four were there.
David placed the folders on the table, “Carol Santonio doesn’t like what Bones is doing, and has gotten us permission to look at the minutes.” He tossed the note on top of the stack so everyone could see Councilman Peters’ signature.
Trin picked up the note before peering at David over her glasses, “Well, she’s been working hard, hasn’t she?”
David nodded. “I’d say, practically giving us the answer on a silver platter. What could be better?”
Doctor Calvin didn’t say a word; he merely glanced between Trin and David before picking up a folder to flip through.
“Councilman Peters stated to look specifically at page five,” began David as the three each picked up a folder. “Ah, I think I see what Bones is after. ‘All experiments that have no regard for life are hereafter banned from the scientific field. If certain experiments cannot continue without killing one thing or another, it must be brought before a city council to debate if the knowledge gleaned from this experiment is necessary or not.’ And further on we have, ‘all medical personnel involved in the active harvesting of organs will be charged with manslaughter’.”
“What’s active harvesting?” asked Harris.
“They kill the person to get the organs,” answered Calvin grimly.
“But what does this matter to Bones, anyway? He’s a criminal! He’s not going to obey the law, no matter how many laws we put into place,” blurted Harris.
“That’s true, but it might be a different story for his law-abiding friends,” remarked David.
“But the Captain is right, David. I’ve read the file on Bones; he wouldn’t care about this. There must be something else.” The four stood in silence, each pondering over what they must have missed. Trin broke the silence with, “Who would want to actively harvest organs anyway?”
“Great guns, that’s it, Trin!” David kissed her on the cheek. “Of the three, who needs organs?”
Calvin’s eyes grew wide, “Antonio Conti!”
David nodded, “That’s right.”
“So Bones isn’t working alone after all! He’s basically taking orders from Kingpin!”
“Exactly, and Antonio Conti has several doctors he goes to to take care of his organ transplants, and they tend to kill to get them. Before this motion goes into law, they would have been able to get away with it by stating it was for an emergency, and that they were saving someone’s life.”
“Oh! David! Didn’t Judge Murray preside over Conti’s case, not Bones’?”
David snapped his fingers. “You’re right, Trin! And Michael made the arrest! He’s aiming to get revenge and change the motions, and Bones is more than happy to help!”
“But then why not kill them and burn the agendas?” asked Trin. “Wouldn’t that make it easier for them?”
Calvin shrugged. “We might have to find them to find out.”
Harris let out a low whistle. “But wow, Doc Bones and ole Kingpin, who knew?”
David huffed. “Apparently Carol Santonio did, and she didn’t like the combo. Neither do I, and we’re running out of time. According to her, I’m next on the list.”
Trin pointed at him. “And there’s one more clue she’s willing to give you, isn’t there?”
David nodded. “She left it at Judge Murray’s house, I’m hoping it’s the location of their headquarters, or at least some clue as to where they are. Anyone want to come with me?”
Trin nodded. “You shouldn’t be going anywhere by yourself. What if they were to kidnap you with Bones’ technique? Then we’d never find you!”
“I too shall go with you, strength in numbers, as they always say!” exclaimed Harris.
Calvin grinned. “How could I say no to you, old chap?”
David laughed. “Then off to the judge’s we go!”
By the time they reached the judge’s house, it was almost eleven, and the cop guarding the place was just about to leave. David quickly explained what was going on, though he left out Carol Santonio’s part.
Officer O’Neill sighed. “Oh, alright, but only fifteen minutes, the missus wants me home by midnight, and the judge’s missus wants these keys in her pocket before that.”
“Where is Mrs. Murray?” asked Trin as he opened the door.
“We moved her and her children to a safe house, figured the judge would want them safe.”
David nodded. “I totally agree with that.”
“Mind if I tell Mrs. Murray that you’re getting closer to finding them?”
“You may tell her we might find them within the week. Can you have the police ready to back us up at any time? Arrests ought tobe happening shortly.”
“Yes, we now have reason to believe that Antonio Conti is in on the whole thing with Bob Jones.”
“Wait, what? Doc Bones working with ole Kingpin?”
“That’s what I said!” blurted Harris.
David shot him a look before turning back to the officer. “Yes, which could mean we might end up arresting the beginnings of a new mob.”
“Right, I’ll inform the office right now while you look for your clue.”
“Thanks, O’Neill, we’ll be out shortly.” The two separated, O’Neill going to the phone to send in the report while the quartet went further into the house to find the last clue that Carol Santonio left for them. It didn’t take long to find it; the sugar skull was sitting atop a note as before. David practically ripped it open, eager to see what Carol had left for them. The other three crowded around him to read it as well.
Hello again, dearie, you must have figured out why Robert, or should I say, Antonio, is adamant about removing those motions. And now you might understand a bit of why I refused to aid Robert – he and Antonio were already working things out when I arrived on the scene. You know I don’t really deal with revenge. It doesn’t do any good for business and it certainly is most likely to end you back in jail, a place I have no intention of ever going back to. Anyway, for the final clue, do not eat the sugar skull, take it with you to the old Walton barn and feed it to the first horse that greets you. Wait a few minutes before going to the back. Robert will reveal his and Antonio’s location to you. All my love, Carol Santonio. P.S. Your girlfriend is such a doll, you should marry her soon. Calvin and Harris began snickering at the last sentence while David and Trin blushed.
“Goodness, if Carol Santonio herself is telling you the same thing we’ve all been telling you, then you’d better act on it,” chuckled Calvin.
David waved his hand, even though he was still blushing. “Whatever, right now we have a group of men to save. Let’s concentrate on that for now. And let’s tell Officer O’Neill to have the police meet us there, though they should get there about ten minutes after we do.”
Harris nodded. “Alright then, Walton’s barn, here we come!”