Date Published: 10-01-2022
Detective Jelani is a tough, veteran cop, who earned his stripes in the rough-and-tumble streets of St. Louis before relocating to Miami.
His younger partner, Detective Madigan, is brash and confident. But they were never prepared for what awaits them as they try to solve these latest crimes. They are about to become embroiled in a series of cosmic events which they could have never dreamt of, even in their wildest imaginations. In a world where the angels of heaven and the angels of hell bring their ageless battle to Earth, how will these men, and their families, overcome such insurmountable challenges? As has been the case since the beginning of time, God and His heavenly host are facing off with Satan and his hellish host. Caught in the middle is Thumos, possibly the most powerful angel ever created. He is a warrior angel, "quickened" by God for one thing: battle. And he has seen plenty of that down through the centuries. No one can match his prowess; not even the Archangels. But Thumos has become a disgruntled warrior of God, and after standing by for long enough, he can take it no more. The earthly world of these two Miami detectives will collide with the heavenly world of Thumos. None of them know what is coming, and none of them will ever be the same again.
About the Author
John has spent his professional career working in information technology by day and dabbling in a variety of other diversions by nights and weekends, including a few decades of serving in lay ministry. While serving in this capacity he preached hundreds of sermons, taught countless Bible study classes, and wrote dozens of inspirational articles.
He enjoys golf, guitars, grandchildren, and all things Kansas City – the Chiefs, the Royals, Sporting KC, KC Current, KC Symphony, and KC Broadway, to name a few. He thinks (if not for his long-lost metabolism of youth) he could eat the famous Kansas City barbecue every day…maybe not for breakfast, but lunch and dinner for sure!
Now he is enjoying bringing to life his angelic hero, Thumos, and a host of other characters that he hopes you will find both entertaining as well as either inspiring or repulsive (after all, there are both good guys and bad guys in this story). This is the first book of a series, featuring detectives Lane Madigan and Ian Jelani, whose experience with Thumos will yield life changing results. And if you happen to be interested in such things, happy Bible Easter Egg hunting while you read, since many are planted throughout the book.
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CHAPTER 1: THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
The early morning shards of sunlight were just beginning to streak across the wispy morning clouds in shades of pink and orange. The renowned Miami heat was already firing up, despite the early hour, quickly devouring the residual cool breeze of the overnight darkness. The street vendors had already begun preparing the day’s wares, so the air was filled with the scents of a variety of tasty delicacies.
Ian Jelani ignored them all. The Miami detective stood at the crime scene, baffled over what was before him. In all his twelve years on Miami's Police Force he had witnessed a lot of crazy crime scenes, but this one might top them all. And that counted the crazy stuff during the race riots in St. Louis, when being a black policeman was a sure-fire way to get things thrown at you. Ian was a man of average height, athletically built, in good shape for a veteran cop. His clipper cut curly, dark hair was showing tinges of gray around his temples, a shade that extended to his goatee.
Ian exhaled slowly. He had investigated more than his fair share of gang violence and ruthlessness, yet he found himself dumbfounded today. His dark eyes darted about the area, then rubbing his hands over his face in disbelief, he turned and called out to his partner, “Hey Lane, you better come over and check this one out for yourself. You are not going to believe this, partner.”
Ian watched his comrade, Detective Lane Madigan, begin to make his way over to the crime scene. He could see the questioning look in Lane’s eyes. Lane was younger, a little taller, probably six feet four inches, and he looked like he could have played as a football defensive end once-upon-a-time. His dark brown hair was perfectly in place, and his green eyes widened as he approached.
Despite the grisly scene before them, Ian suddenly noticed the smell of fresh Cuban burritos wafting in the air, particularly noticeable because he was already hungry for some breakfast. The cal to this crime scene had disrupted his normal morning ritual.
“After more than two years of working with you, bud, I know exactly what you’re thinking," called out Lane. “I can smell them too. We definitely need to go get a couple.”
“Well I hope you’re still hungry after what you look at here," said Ian. “It’s almost enough to kill my appetite...but only
‘almost’, because I’m starving," he said, watching his friend advance.
Still looking down at the implausible situation presented to him by this overnight homicide, Ian wagged his head in utter disbelief. What kind of force did it take to actually nail someone’s head into a concrete sidewalk? With his bewilderment under control, his experience and training took over as he contemplated the crime scene. Aside from the obvious, he also noted a large rock lying on the ground near the dead man’s body. Puzzled, he thought to himself that the sticky wet red stains on it would not clear up this mystery any sooner.
Ian, long-having refused to give into all the electronic gadgetry of the day, scribbled on his old-fashioned notepad. He glanced up from it to see Lane walk up beside him. “Not another one,” Lane muttered quietly so only they could hear.
Ian saw the younger detective looking for answers in his eyes. Ian was sure the only thing Lane saw there was the very same frustration and shock.
Ian maneuvered carefully around the victim’s body to get a closer view of the head. He turned on his penlight to get a better view in the still dimly lit morning hour. He let out a slow whistle. That is one big spike, driven right through this poor guy’s temple. Could the perp have used that softball sized rock nearby to drive the spike in? Get a grip, Jelani, he told himself. It was no wonder forensics had not yet been able to extract the spike. Not only would the extraction process further damage the victim’s head, conventional human strength had simply failed to budge it. He leaned in a little closer to inspect below the head as it lay in a large pool of congealing blood on the sidewalk. The spike went at least several inches down into the concrete, best as could be seen.
Ian stood up from his crouched position over the body, making the sign of the cross. “Question is," he said, looking back over at Lane, “was the victim killed with the rock, then he was impaled, or was the perp hammering the spike into this dude’s head with the rock?”
“Or maybe neither,” retorted Lane. He was dressed in his wrinkled khakis and department issued T-shirt," noted Ian.
That sort of ensemble only comes after having dressed hurriedly in response to an early morning call out. Lane continued, “It looks like there is some blood on that rock, but honestly not that much. I mean you would think it would be covered if it had been used either way. This is the second one of these bizarre crime scenes this week; the fourth this month. I just don’t think I can take another one, not this early in the morning.” He exhaled noticeably.
Lane was not a morning person, Ian remembered. Especially when his day started out like this. In fact, Ian was not sure he'd ever seen him eat breakfast before 10:00am in the two years they had been partners. Good thing, thought Ian. He quickly thought how thankful he was that he had not yet eaten any breakfast either, despite the pangs of hunger he felt.
“What does the Doc say about this one?” Ian asked to distract himself.
“A male, of Middle Eastern descent," Lane replied, as he abruptly broke off his response. Ian looked at Lane, as if to say
“Wel , duh!”
“I could have figured that much out myself, Captain Obvious,” responded Ian “That’s it? I sure hope Doc can find it in herself to dig up a little more information for us than that.”
"Maybe you should spend a little more time with the good Doctor to move things along," Lane said with a smirk.
Ian shot Lane a look of slight disgust over that last comment. “Okay pal," he responded," you better watch your mouth.”
Ian knew that Lane was only trying to get a rise out of him over comments about Dr. Lauren Wil is, and it was al in good fun. But still , he just did not tolerate any inappropriate suggestions about her, even from his best friend.
Lane grinned, clearly pleased with how it grated on Ian’s nerves. He spread his arms wide, “But hey, why break the streak – we haven’t had a decent lead on any of these ‘Hamburger Homicides’, so bring on yet another sickening, unsolvable crime.”
“Oh I’m getting pretty disgusted with investigating these ridiculous crime scenes," Ian said, obviously irritated. “I’ve had it up to here with the meddling media and their ‘Hamburger Homicides’, as they like to call them. You and I have seen a lot of crazy stuff in our day, but I tell you what, nothing tops these crimes.”
“I hear you," answered Lane. “But listen, no one out there is going to miss any of these nut jobs who are no longer wandering the streets. A repeat rapist, a street gang leader, a pedophile. Maybe their mamas miss them, but heck, probably not even them. I can’t wait to hear about this latest dude. No doubt, he'll be right in that same category.
Wanna make a bet on that one?”
Ian shook his head. “Nope, not touchin’ a bet like that,” he retorted. “But look, al life is sacred, man. It may be hard to hear it when it comes to guys like this,” he motioned his hand toward the corpse before them, “but it’s the honest-to-God truth.”
Lane rolled his eyes a bit at Ian’s commentary. “Okay, sure, whatever you say, Ian. That’s not the first time you’ve tried to remind me of your thoughts on the subject.”
As the photographer showed up to take several pictures of the crime scene, Detectives Madigan and Jelani started to head back to their squad car. Lane broke what had turned into a long silence. “Jelani, I’ve said it before, you know that I think al these scumbags got just exactly what was real y coming to them.”
Ian interrupted him. “Oh yes, you have not been quiet about that, buddy. But it’s our job to put these whackos away, and the problem is that some gang has decided to take it upon themselves. They are not much better than these perps.”
Lane inclined his head and screwed up his face, “Wel that’s where we have a little disagreement…in theory only I guess.
I applaud getting these ruthless criminals off the streets any way it can happen, but don’t get me wrong, I get it. We just cannot have people taking the law into their own hands, or else things get real y crazy for us good guys." He paused to run a finger under his nose as he considered his words. " What are we supposed to do? No worthwhile evidence has yet to turn up. No traceable murder weapons, no fingerprints, no footprints, no tire tracks, no hair samples – nadda, nothing!” He gestured wildly with his right hand to make his point.
Both men stopped and looked at each other, with somber faces. Ian spoke first, “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”
“Oh my God," responded Lane. " I don’t want to even think about this being a serial killer. That will send this city into a panic, and put the media into a feeding frenzy. Don’t mention this out loud yet, man.”
“No one is going to hear it from me, that’s for sure,' said Ian grimacing. “I’ve been through one of those cases before.
It’s the worst. The media hype just gets in the way, and real y screws up the investigation. Beyond that, these kinds of guys are freaking nuts. I mean the way they think, it’s just plain scary.”
“Only one way to deal with those guys," Lane insisted, with a fire in his eyes.
“Okay, buddy, calm down," Ian interrupted. “Just do your job, we’l figure this out. We do the investigation, make the arrest, and let the guys downstream take care of the next step. How many times do I have to remind you, we are not the judge, nor jury, nor executioner.”
“I just don’t see it as cut-and-dry as you do, my friend," Lane said with a sigh. “These kinds of morons don’t deserve any mercy.”
Ian muttered under his breath, as they both climbed into their squad car. “This boy has got a lot to learn. But, honestly, so do a lot of other people running around out there.”
Both car doors slammed, as Lane threw the car into gear and the tandem sped back toward headquarters. Both men sat in silence as they mental y reviewed these recent homicides, including today’s bizarre crime scene. They were anticipating results from the coroner’s office, hoping that this time, some detail, some minor piece of evidence, would turn up to help them solve this case.
Lane and Ian turned into the police station, where Lane pulled into their normal parking spot. Both officers walked inside, not saying a word to each other, still pondering recent events. The typical smell of fresh coffee in months’ dirty pots filled their nostrils, as both men headed toward their respective desks. At least two dozen officers, a mix of male and female, seasoned veterans, rookies, and everyone in-between, busily worked away at their desks. Any newcomer might find this place chaotic. A variety of phones rang, keyboard clicks rattled, multiple conversations happened, papers shuffled, filing drawers slamming. To these officers, and everyone else accustomed to working there day-in-day-out, it was business as usual. Lane and Ian sat down in their office chairs just across the aisle from each other, where they began filing appropriate reports and catching up on emails at their computers, their earlier hunger forgotten.
After a few moments, Lane spoke up. “Hey Ian, what do you think about al the painting and remodeling they’ve been doing in here?”
“I hate it," Ian said very matter-of-factly, without looking up from his computer screen.
“I don’t know. I think I kinda like it, myself," continued Lane, almost as though having a conversation with himself.
Ian looked up final y, perplexed. With an alarmed tone, he said “What? Come on, this old building is a historic location.
Some of the first real police officers of Miami roamed these halls. The powers-that-be should be paying tribute to their legacy by maintaining the old look and feel, but just keeping it in good repair. Instead, they listen to the shrinks - stuff about ‘wall color affecting our mental and emotional state’, or ‘keeping the ladies happy with a more trendy look’. What a crock!”
“Good grief, man," Lane answered with a laugh. “I mean I guess I just don’t have such strong feelings about it all.
Obviously I have real y struck a nerve here.”
“Some of the new stuff just bothers me, it gets under my skin," Ian said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Lane laughed again, and said “Dude, you sound like my grandpa or something."
A couple of hours later, several of the usual doughnuts and cups of coffee now consumed, Lane’s phone rang.
“Detective Madigan here.”
“Detective Madigan, this is Dr. Wilis down at the coroner’s office. We have managed to make a positive ID on that body found this morning. His name was Ramah Bin Shazid.”
Lane knew exactly who this person was. “You’re kidding – Shazid the Slayer? The military has been trying to nail this guy for years!” he blurted out. From the adjacent desk, Ian nearly spewed his coffee in reaction to the news. Lane caught a glimpse of Ian’s reaction, and could see the great surprise in Ian’s eyes.
Lane continued. “Ramah Bin Shazid is a known Syrian terrorist, who is strongly suspected of several bombings over the past three years, claiming the lives of several hundreds of people. My God, you’re telling me he was right here in Miami? Do you have an estimated time of death, or cause of death?”
“It looks to have happened around 3:00am. I suppose by ‘cause’ you’re looking for an answer more definitive than
‘spike through the head’?” replied Dr. Wil sarcastically.
“I think that’s fairly obvious, Doc. Yes, I want to know what happened to the guy: how did he end up the way we found him with the rock, the spike, the order of events, al that?” said Detective Madigan, as his voice began to grow loud and excited.
“We don’t have an exact answer, as this is a new one on us. But I would speculate that to do what was done to him, we’re either looking at someone stronger than anyone I have ever known, or the use of some mechanized assistance.
The rock found near the crime scene definitely had the victim’s blood on it, but it was not the cause of death. I would say the man’s head was first struck by the rock, and then the spike was driven through his head, ” answered Dr. Wil is.
“Were there any signs of a struggle – skin under the fingernails, bruised fists...," continued a very excited Madigan.
“No, not at al,” replied Dr. Wilis. “Either the rock knocked him unconscious, or the perpetrator was able to hold him down on the sidewalk long enough to nail the spike right through him,” she finished.
“Hold him down?” Who in the world is strong enough to hold someone down, no doubt against a frantic struggle, and also drive a spike so far into the sidewalk that nobody else can pull it back out?" He paused for a minute considering something. He shook his head and said “The rock must have knocked him unconscious first.”
Dr. Wilis responded, “Well I really don’t think so, Lane. The injury from the rock was quite mild, as it was virtually a simple breaking of the skin. It certainly did not hit the man hard enough to knock him out, unless he was just an absolute ‘glass jaw’."
“Amazing!” Detective Madigan says, with almost a sense of admiration. “So, can we conclude this case is related to the
other recent ‘Hamburger Homicides’?”
“Wel, I would almost have to say…uh, DEFINITELY! Once again, no revealing physical evidence was retrieved at the scene of the crime. It was another what I would consider to be a beyond-imaginable method of killing, just like all the others. It is the 21st century, Detective. Some pretty crazy people are wandering the streets out there. Whoever is doing al this has a very unique imagination,” concluded Dr. Wil is.
Detective Madigan noticed Ian leaving his desk and coming to stand next to him, eager to hear the news.
“Wel that’s certainly a nicer way of putting it. Thanks for the info. Let me know if you guys come up with any other helpful hints. At this point, no detail is too small. Help me out here, Lauren. I’l talk to you later,” Detective Madigan spoke with a tone of disgust in his voice, as he started to hang up the phone. He then paused for a moment, put the phone back to his ear, and spoke again. “Sorry Lauren, I don’t mean to sound angry with you, I’m just disappointed in our lack of information here."
“No apologies necessary, Lane," said Dr. Wilis. “I get it. It is frustrating.”
Lane dropped the phone into its cradle.
Al along with these recent murder cases, Lane thought that there was something familiar about the forms of execution taking place. He had a sense of it being on the tip of his tongue, but he just could not recal it. “A spike through the head?” he muttered to himself. “Where have I heard that before?” He shrugged off that feeling, and hung up the phone, a heaviness weighing on his shoulders. “Wel , I guess it is official ' , he said to Ian who was half leaning against the front of his desk.
“What’s up? So come on, spit it out, what did they turn up?” He crossed his arms and looked expectantly.
“Your girl has done it again, Jelani. She really knows her stuff, you know,” said Lane.
Ian smiled sheepishly, “Don’t you know it, she’s good!”
Lane continued without missing a beat. “Once again, there is no physical evidence to speak of. But ID’ing the victim is important. Dr. Wil is believes that rock was only periphery to the event, and also once again, she has never seen anything quite like this. I suppose you had better go ahead with calling the press, Ian. Let the Feds know what we found too, as they can deal with the military inquiries, considering who is our dearly departed. Might as well get this over with,” he replied disgustedly.
“Whatever you say Boss,” Ian said with a nod. He knew what this meant. The media had been begging for a statement, especial y once they had heard about the fifth body today. Miami PD hated to make this public, but this was not news that could be kept quiet any longer.
Ian picked up the phone, and dialed his local news contact. “Detective Jelani here. Miami PD has an official statement to make. It looks like we have a serial killer on our hands.” Ian paused as whomever was on the other end of the call was obviously speaking, then he continued, “Yep, come on over I guess.”
“Hey Chief,” Ian called out, as he started walking toward the office of Julie Franklin, captain of the precinct. “The media is headed our way. You can be sure there wil be a bunch of ‘em too.”
Later that afternoon, Lane decided to log the serial killings on the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Every time he used it he was amazed at how the voluminous database could help to track and catalog crimes committed around the country. As he keyed in the information, he thought how he probably should have done this sooner, but had held off as long as possible. Miami already got enough attention, of the wrong sort, and this would just add to it.
By 5:00pm, Lane saw some responses coming from various parts of the country. “Hey Ian, come take a look at al this.”
“At what?” answered Ian, but without acting as though he was going to heed Lane’s request.
“Just come over here, man," Lane said in a bit of a hushed tone.
“Okay, okay, don’t get your panties in a wad,” said Ian. He walked over quickly to Lane’s desk.
Lane looked up at Ian. “There are a few other police stations reporting eerily similar incidents, just like some of the crazy stuff we’re seeing here.”
“Seriously?” said Ian, more intrigued, crouching down to look at Lane’s screen. “What are you talking about?”
“I mean like some of the same gruesome murders we are seeing," said Lane somberly. “Criminals of al sorts are failing.
We’re talking high profile offenders, local hoodlums, apparently even some other international criminals like Shazid the Slayer. This even sounds like some of this craziness is happening outside the good ol’ US of A.”
Ian started to get excited. “This is some news-breaking headline junk, my friend..we…."
“Look," Lane quickly interrupted. “We can’t create some kind of nationwide firestorm here. I don’t think anyone is cognizant of al this just yet. This is going to take some further investigation before I’m wil ing to take this anywhere.”
A chil ran up Lane’s spine, as he looked Ian squarely in the eyes. He said “What if this is some kind of nationwide crime spree, like some terrorist thing? Maybe some organized crime resurgence?”
“Maybe some kind of home-grown supremacy group, or some crazy crap like that," said Ian.
“Wel none of these sound like great options," said Lane sarcastically. “And if there is some nationwide, or God-forbid, a worldwide connection in al of this, we are going to be in way over our heads real fast. We need some time to think about al this."
“It’s getting late, and I’m starving and tired," said Ian.
“Sure is late," replied Lane. “And I’m glad you said it in that order, because I know for a fact it’s the ‘starving’ part that comes first for you, then the ‘tired’ part.” Lane chuckled.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re a funny guy," Ian said dryly. “But you’re absolutely right, you know me al too well.”
“Wel, I know my family is waiting on me, so I need to get home, for sure. We need time to sleep on al this anyway, take a fresh look in the morning,” said Lane.
“Agreed” said Ian, “Al right, I’l catch you in the morning, buddy. Enjoy your evening with the fam," and he shot out the door.
Lane left soon afterwards as well, and pondered this al as he drove home. “Maybe I’m just reading too much into al this," he thought to himself. “Maybe I’m just being too paranoid." He pul ed into the driveway, and his thoughts turned to kissing his wife, hugging his daughter, eating a delicious home cooked meal, and then getting a good night’s sleep. He was more than ready for this day to be done.
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