Cheryl Ann Guido: SUNDAY’S CHILD


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SUNDAY’S CHILD

Cheryl Ann Guido

It was a small thing really, a tiny pale hand protruding from the waters of the pristine stream. Still, it had caught Janine Corbo’s eye as she biked down the scenic road that followed the river’s path. 

After leaning her bike against the guardrail, she scrambled down the steep incline to investigate. Probably just an old doll someone tossed into the stream, she thought. Still, she felt obliged to be certain. After all, being an aspiring journalist, if there was a story here, she wanted it to be hers. 

When she reached the edge of the creek and peered into the crystal-clear water, Janine saw that this was no doll. The tiny baby appeared to be about a year old. Janine pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911.

In a few minutes, police and emergency vehicles filled the road above. After being fished out of the water, the baby was placed on a small stretcher and looked over by the Medical Examiner who suggested that the baby had probably drowned. 

A forensic team waded through the stream looking for evidence and Janine found herself being grilled by a homicide detective. After the detective finished questioning her, he gave her his business card with instructions to contact him if she had anything else to add and not to leave town. Of course, she would not leave town. Why would he even say that?

Janine hiked back up to her bike. Still a bit shaken by the day’s events, she slowly peddled back home. Upon arrival, she started to heat the kettle for some tea but thought better of it. She needed something stronger, something to calm her nerves. She opened one of the cupboards and pulled out the bottle of Scotch she kept for guests. Not what she would have preferred but it was all she had. She poured a little into a glass and swallowed it in one gulp. The strong amber liquid burned, causing her to gasp and cough. Why do people actually like this stuff, she wondered, as she downed a glass of water to quell the flames in her throat.

Her eyes caught sight of the letter from the editor of the local newspaper that had arrived in the morning mail. She had written in hopes of being hired as a reporter and he had responded asking her for a sample of her writing. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed the editor’s number. 

“Hello? I’d like to speak with Mr. Dalton.”

The secretary on the other end told her that Mr. Dalton was unavailable and asked if she cared to leave a message.

“Yes, I would. Tell him Janine Corbo called and that I have an exclusive for him. I was the one who found the baby’s body this morning.”

Janine heard a slight gasp then the secretary asked her to hold. Several moments later a deep gruff voice came on the line. 

“Hello, Janine? Jake Dalton here. So, you’re the one who found that kid today.”

“Yes sir.”

“And, you want a job. Do you think you can accurately write up what happened this morning without leaving out any details?”

“Oh, yes sir!”

“Alright, you do that and email it to me by three this afternoon. If I like it, you’re hired.”

“It will be in your hands by noon, Mr. Dalton.”

“Well don’t rush it. Remember, you’re a journalist. It needs to flow, be interesting, accurate and without grammatical mistakes.”

“Of course. Thanks, Mr. Dalton.”

Janine disconnected then sat down, opened her laptop and began to write. The words came easily and before she knew it, the piece was finished. She titled it, Monday’s Child. After running it through spell check and rereading it several times to be sure there were no mistakes, she emailed it to Jake Dalton. She sat back in her chair and smiled. With that simple *send* command, she had officially become a journalist.

***

The next morning Janine flipped on her television after she prepared her breakfast. Addicted to watching the news, she settled into a chair and sipped the strong dark coffee that always gave her that little jolt she needed to start the day. On the tube, the detective who had questioned her spoke to reporters as he recounted the events of the previous day. He added that although a positive DNA match had not yet been determined, the baby girl had been visually identified by her parents, Mark and Diana Bolton of Bolton Industries.

Ancestors of the current Bolton family had founded the little town of Scenic Hills over one hundred years before and were considered township royalty. Their mill provided work for many of the town’s citizens and they were well known for their charitable contributions to needy residents. They were well liked and deeply respected. The loss of their child saddened many.

Janine still had not heard from Dalton. She began to worry that her piece had not impressed him when her phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Janine, Dalton here. Great job on your article. It will be in today’s afternoon edition.”

“Oh my goodness, thank you, Mr. Dalton.”

“No thanks needed. You’re an excellent writer. Now, I have an assignment for you. Are you up to it?”

“Already? I mean yes, yes of course.”

“The body of another child has been found. I want you to cover the story.”

“Another child? How horrible.”

“Indeed. Go to the old abandoned warehouse on Chestnut Street. You’ll need to leave right now. The police have already been on the scene for at least an hour. Oh, and … welcome to The Scenic Times.”

“Thank you. I’m on it.” Janine hung up and dressed. As she drove to the warehouse, she could not help but wonder about the murders that had so suddenly plagued her little town, a town whose biggest news stories prior to this had been car wrecks and the occasional fire. 

As she pulled up outside of the warehouse, she felt a chill as the memory of her own experience the previous day flooded her mind. Come on Janine, you’re a reporter. You need to toughen up. This is not the first crime scene you’ve witnessed and it probably won’t be the last.

A police officer stopped her. “I’m sorry, Miss, this is a crime scene. You need to leave.”

“I’m Janine Corbo of The Scenic Times, Officer. I was hoping to get some information regarding the murder.”

As she finished speaking, she saw the detective who had questioned her the day before. She waved her hand. “Detective, a word?”

The tall muscular investigator sauntered over. “It’s okay, Officer. I’ll handle this.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Miss Corbo, Detective Anders. What are you doing here?”

Funny, she hadn’t noticed how good looking he was before. They shook hands. “I’m covering the story for The Scenic Times and I was hoping to get a statement.”

“Really. You didn’t mention that you were a reporter when we spoke yesterday.”

“That’s because I wasn’t a reporter yesterday.”

“Hmm. Oh … kay.” His right eyebrow arched as he rubbed his chin.

“I know. It’s weird. They hired me right after I sent them a piece on the Bolton baby. It will be in this afternoon’s edition. Anyway, what happened here?”

“Well, all I can tell you is that we found another child, a boy who appears to be approximately two years old.”

“Were there any marks on the body?”

“None that the ME found at this point.”

“I see. He was probably smothered.”

“And you know that how?” 

Janine’s jaw dropped in embarrassment. “I … don’t actually. Just a guess. I’m a crime buff. I’ve picked up a lot about forensics.”

“I see.” Anders chuckled softly then grew serious. “Actually, the ME did find some fabric fibers in the boy’s mouth. He mentioned that smothering could be the cause of death but he wants to do a complete autopsy before making it official.”

“Do you know the identity of the boy?”

“We have our suspicions.”

“Oh, and who might he be?”

“Sorry, this is an ongoing investigation. I’m not at liberty to say.” There was that gorgeous smile again.

“Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“Only that the ME determined that the boy died early this morning. You’ll have to wait until the press conference to get the rest of the information just like all the other reporters. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back.” He turned and began to walk away.

“When will that be?” Janine yelled at his retreating form.

“Five this evening,” he shouted back as he continued walking.

True to his word, at five sharp Detective Anders stood in front of a sea of microphones and gave a detailed statement about what they had learned so far.

The little boy was the son of Edward Kaddish, the head of the law firm servicing both the business and personal needs of the Boltons. Janine shuddered at what she felt was an obvious connection between the two dead children. The boy had indeed died by being smothered, and the police had been tipped off to the body’s location by an anonymous caller. Detective Anders did not comment or speculate about the possibility that the two murders were related. 

Afterward, Janine rushed home and wrote up her second article. She titled it, Tuesday’s Child, then emailed it to Dalton.

***

At eight o’clock the next morning, Janine again sat in front of her TV eating breakfast. She bit off a piece of toast then almost choked as an announcer broke in with a special report. Yet another body had been found, that of a ten-year-old boy. His little body had been discovered floating in the big fountain at the center of Town Square. Once again, the police had been alerted by an anonymous caller who claimed to be on an early morning run at half past five that morning. 

Janine rushed downtown and arrived just as a news conference began. Detective Anders announced that the boy had positively been identified as the son of Mark Bolton Senior’s secretary. Mark Bolton Sr was the patriarch of the Bolton family and the grandfather of the first child found. He also revealed that the boy had been strangled.

After his statement, reporters began shouting questions at Anders. Janine decided to ask one of her own.

“This child is the third murdered in as many days. Obviously, this is the work of a serial killer. All three children have connections to the Bolton family. Could this be a case of some kind of revenge?”

Anders gulped. In all of his career, he had never had a case like this one. He felt a bit unsettled by the fact that the question came from Janine, the person who found the first body. Was she involved? “Miss Corbo, all I can tell you is that all three children had ties to the Boltons. Anything beyond that would only be speculation.” He held up his hand. “Thank you, everyone. That’s all that I have for now.”

Janine drove home in silence. At first, she had been thrilled to write for the Times. Now, she dreaded penning her latest article, Wednesday’s Child.

***

At five am Thursday morning, Janine awoke to the ringing of her phone. With one eye open and the other struggling, she saw that the caller ID displayed Dalton’s name. She snapped to attention. “Mr. Dalton, good morning.”

“Janine, get down to the Broad Street exit of Route 88 right now. They found another body.” Before she could reply, he disconnected.

Upon arrival at the crime scene, she noted that she was the first reporter to arrive. In fact, emergency vehicles were still arriving. She spotted Anders and waved. 

“I’m sorry, Janine, I don’t have time right now.” He took a step then turned back. “How did you get here so fast, anyway. I wasn’t aware that the press had been notified.”

Janine shrugged. “They must have been. My editor called and woke me up.” 

Anders shook his head. “Well, at this point I have nothing. I’ll have more later at the five pm press conference.”

At the press conference that evening, Anders disclosed that the eighteen-year-old female had been an intern at Bolton Industries. Though it was unknown why she had been walking the highway, she had been the victim of a hit and run. No further details were provided. 

By this time, the residents of Scenic Hills, especially those with direct ties to the Boltons, had become terrified since all of the murders obviously revolved around that prestigious family.

With a heavy heart, Janine wrote Thursday’s Child.

The body of Friday’s Child, the six-year-old son of Mark Bolton’s other son Samuel, had been found in a tree house inside of the Bolton compound. A half-eaten package of chocolate cookies lay beside him. When tested, they were found to contain arsenic.

Saturday’s Child was not a child at all. The body of Mark Bolton Jr, father of the first victim and heir to the Bolton business empire, was found in his car in the company parking lot. He had been shot in the head.

As Janine wrote her series, she realized that the victims of the murders had an eerily bizarre similarity to an old poem she had once read whose lines described a different child on each day of the week. There was something else. In each case but the first, the police had been tipped off by an anonymous caller. Coincidence? Perhaps, but she thought it more likely that the murderer made the calls. 

Assuming she was right about the poem, there would be one more child, Sunday’s Child, a good and happy child. Who would be next? Janine’s eyes lit up as an imaginary light bulb went off inside of her head. She knew who the next victim would be, and after a few minutes of Googling, she also guessed the identity of the killer and why. Thankfully it was still Saturday. She dialed Detective Anders. “I know who’s next on the hit list. Meet me at the Bolton compound.”

“Wait a minute, you need to tell me more than that.”

“No time. Just do it!” She hung up without further explanation.

After arriving at the compound, Janine squeezed through the bars of the wrought iron gates. All of the rooms were dark except for one. She headed for the outside window and slowly raised her head until her eyes were just above the sill. Inside, Mark Bolton Sr stood upon a chair, a noose around his neck, hands tied behind his back with a gag in his mouth. Another man stood beside him, his back to Janine.

“How does it feel, Bolton? How does it feel to lose your children?” The man circled around the chair. Janine saw his face and gasped. He continued his taunting. “My son hanged himself, you know. This,” he gestured toward Bolton, “is exactly how I found him that night. It’s right that you go the same way.” 

Janine saw him raise his foot. He was going to kick the chair out from under Bolton and she had to do something fast. She pulled off her shoe and threw it at the window. The sound of glass shattering caught the killer’s attention. He faced the window. Janine stood there, eyes wide, trying to think what to do next. Where the heck was Anders? She held her head high. “You used me.”

“Yes, I did. I’m sorry, Janine, but now you have to die too.” He began to advance toward her. Someone grabbed Janine’s arm from behind and tossed her aside. A shot rang out. The killer keeled over backwards, dead.

***

At one pm on Sunday, Detective Anders stood behind the microphones. Janine stood at his right with Mark Bolton Sr at his left. Anders announced that the serial killer had been shot and killed while attempting to murder Bolton and another victim. He then introduced Mark Bolton Sr.

“I would like to apologize to all of the residents here in Scenic Hills. God knows, this tragedy has shaken the entire community. But it’s over now and thanks to the bravery of this young lady,” he gestured towards Janine, “the murderous rampage of Jake Dalton is over. 

“I will try my best to explain why this happened. Dalton’s son Aaron had worked at Bolton Industries as a junior executive for almost five years. But the stress became too much for him and as a result, he made mistakes and never advanced. Despondent over his failures, he committed suicide and Dalton blamed me. 

“For years, Dalton accused me of putting too much on the young man, ultimately culminating in his death. He filed a lawsuit against me for wrongful death. He lost. Still craving revenge, he took the lives of children close to my heart, including members of my immediate family. He wanted me to suffer as he did. He wanted me to know and feel his incredible pain. I do. 

“I was to be his last victim. But thankfully, he failed in the end, and although my heart is broken, at least now the killing will end.”

Bolton yielded the microphone to Anders who declared the press conference concluded.

As the little group retreated, Anders gently touched Janine’s hand. Without thinking, she entwined her fingers through his and gazed into his eyes. “I wonder why he used me to report his crimes. They would have made the news without me.”

“Maybe he felt an odd sense of control. He was your editor after all. He could have changed what you wrote if it didn’t suit him.”

“I suppose.”

“Does it really matter?”

Janine cocked her head to one side. “Guess not, Detective.”

“I do have a first name.”

“You mean, it’s not Detective?” Janine winked.

“It’s David, and David would like to know if you would join him for a cup of coffee.”

“I’d love to.”

He dropped her hand and threaded her arm through his. “Then, shall we?”

~~~

SUNDAY’S CHILD

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
And the child born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, good and gay.

~ Author Unknown

{{~..~}}

Please visit Cheryl on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoauthor

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