“The dead walk among the tombstones at Mountainview Cemetery today.” Police Captain Jason Mollring said. He stared out at the view of the countryside from the top of the cemetery grounds while he sipped from a police station coffee mug. Recently hired from the Big City, he was still trying to get used to being in a small town.
Officer Tricia Montalvo was not paying attention to him, instead closely examining the dead body. The head and shoulders of the victim were shredded and lacerated. This was her first murder case after four months on the Littleton Police force and she was beyond excited. She was tired of giving out parking tickets.
“Our culprit is over there, I am sure of it." Said Captain Mollring. "Those zombies, the homeless who live up here. Maybe it was some demonic rites gone awry? I saw something like that once in the City.” Tall with a chiseled jaw and gray streaks visible on his jet black hair below his police hat, he looked like he just stepped out of a film noir movie.
Officer Montalvo knew he was referring to the two old men just stirring awake in dirty blankets. They leaned against a large cement mausoleum on the other side of the cemetery, awakened by the police activity. Born and raised in Littleton, she knew them well. She called them Laurel and Hardy because of their bumbling ways. She didn't think they could punch their way out of a paper bag, let alone kill anyone. She walked around the ride-on lawn mower to get to the other side of the body.
“Put them on the suspect list.” Said Captain Mollring, who sipped his coffee and kept up his survey of the morning view.
“I’ll interview them for witness statements shortly.” Officer Montalvo looked up at Captain Mollring, but he was still staring out into the view. She discretely opened up her ‘C.S.I For Dummy’s’ book and followed the examination instructions.
“I think it has been about 8 hours, based on the body’s stiffness. That puts the time of death about midnight last night, October 31.” She looked back at her book and then at the body. “And it looks like he was already dead when the lawn mower hit him. No bleeding from the cuts.”
“Can you tell the cause of death if it wasn't the lawnmower?” Said Captain Mollring.
Officer Montalvo looked up quickly, confused at his question, but he was still staring off into nothingness. She just shook her head.
“Well, the medical examiner needs to see the body, but I am pretty sure the large carving knife sticking out of his chest is the cause of death.” She moved sideways to read the handle of the knife. “It says ‘property of St. Dimitri’.” She looked down the hill at St. Dimitri's Catholic Church next to the cemetery. The long knife glittered in the morning sunlight, orange bits of pulp and pumpkin seeds were still on its blade buried deep in the man’s chest.
She looked at the colorfully gaudy leather shoes the dead man was wearing. “Captain?”
"I think this is the Mayor. Only he wears shoes that ugly.”
The Captain turned abruptly, spilling some of his coffee.
“Damn! Derek Timm? And he has not approved my salary yet.”
The police administrator, Sophia, walked up with the groundskeeper.
“Here is the man who found the body.” Said Sophia.
“It’s the Mayor, Sophia.” Officer Montalvo nodded toward the mutilated man at their feet.
“What? Oh too bad. He always thought so well of himself.” Said Sophia. "I will miss him. He always threw a great holiday party."
“What's your name?” The Captain asked the man standing next to Sophia.
“Genio.” The man responded. He had a thick scraggly goatee and long curly black hair, covering part of his wrinkled face. He wore white long johns under ill-fitting uniform coveralls meant for a much bigger man.
“Jennie-O- like the turkey meat?” Captain Mollring said. “I like ground turkey.”
Genio stared daggers at the Captain while his shoulders pulled back in anger, but just kicked the dirt and stayed silent.
“Have you worked here for long, Genio?” Officer Montalvo asked.
“No, I just moved here a couple months ago.”
“Ok, So tell us what happened.”
“I was mowing the lawn this morning. It was hard to see much because of the fog. I heard the blades hit something.” His eyes stared at the ground. “I heard a woman scream so I stopped. When I looked over I saw the body. At first I thought it was one of those guys.” He nodded toward Laurel and Hardy.
“Who was this screaming woman?” The Captain leaned over to ask.
“My cousin Marissa." Said Officer Montalvo. "She comes out her to run in the mornings. She was with me last night and is not a suspect.”
"Too bad." The Captain turned back to the groundskeeper. “And where were you last night?”
“Last night?” Genio shrugged. “I was at St. Dimitri's along with everyone else all night. I was dressed in a wolf costume. Ask anyone.”
“OK. If anything else comes up, tell Sophia.”
“Wait, I have a question-,” Officer Montalvo interrupted.
“Leave this to those of us with experience in these matters, Officer.” Captain Mollring waved the groundskeeper away. “You need to talk to those men. I am sure our suspect is one of them.”
"-That’s an order Officer. Go!” Said Captain Mollring.
“Hello guys.” Officer Montalvo walked up to the two men. “How are you doing this morning?”
“Hey Tricia.” Liam said. He was the oldest of the men, and his many missing teeth made his face scrunch together and his jaw protrude.
“Were you all two together last night?” She asked.
“Yes.” said Liam. Lucas nodded along. Their blood shot eyes were clear under their gray hair and worn beanies.
“We were together all night and got up here around midnight. We didn’t kill anyone!” Said Lucas. Short and squat he had red streaks of broken blood vessels over his nose and cheeks.
“Did you see anything suspicious?”
The two men looked at each other. “We thought we saw something moving around, but you probably won't believe us.” Liam looked at his dirty sneakers.
“Try me.” She said.
“Día de los Muertos.” Lucas said. “We saw a werewolf!”
Liam and Lucas nodded, their eyes wide.
“And a skeleton walking!” Said Liam his face full of fear. “You better come see.”
The men led Officer Montalvo past several rows of tombstones and then pointed behind a large 3’ foot wide bench headstone.
“We saw a skeleton chasing a man here last night.”
“We also saw a werewolf!” Lucas said, again.
“We came over to look and...”
Officer Montalvo walked around the headstones to found a collection of bones and a human skull staring back at her.
She bent down to look at the bleached white bones, and felt the thin wire holding them together. Tufts of black fur were nearby and on the bones. She reached down and picked up some of the fur and put it in an evidence bag.
“Do you think, that thing, killed the man?” Liam asked.
“I don’t think so-” Officer Montalvo bent down to look closer. “Thanks. You guys should get out of here, go get some breakfast.” She pulled out a few dollars and handed it to Liam. The two men staggered off, limping and stumbling through the unkempt grass of the cemetery.
“The Walking Dead.” She said to herself.
She went back to the crime scene.
“Did you figure out which one of them did it?” The Captain asked.
“They both have alibis.” Officer Montalvo said. “They did say they saw a werewolf. And there are some bones over there behind those headstones, I think maybe-”
“-Come on, Officer. We are in a graveyard. What did you expect to see?” Captain looked down at her with a frown.
Officer Montalvo closed her mouth with an audible pop. “I know where the Mayor was last. Let's go.”
Captain Mollring and Officer Montalvo walked down the hill of the cemetery across to St. Dimitris. The overgrown grass of the cemetery ended abruptly when they entered the church grounds, almost as if an invisible line was crossed. The bright green and well maintained church grounds were soft under their feet.
They walked in through the front doors of the church and found a woman in a nun’s habit in the church office.
“Hello Sister!” The Captain bellowed.
She gave the Captain a mean look, and then turned to Officer Montalvo. “I thought you forgot where the church was Tricia. We haven't seen you anywhere near here since your confirmation 10 years ago.”
Officer Montalvo closely inspected the dirt on her boots. “Yes, well. Captain Mollring, this is Sister Lori." Officer Montalvo gestured toward the Captain. “Sister Lori we are inquiring after the Mayor.”
“He is not here.” Said Sister Lori and then turned away to continue her paperwork.
“Yes we know. The Captain took over. He is dead.” “When was the last time you saw the Mayor?”
“What, dead! She gasped and put her hand to her mouth. “That is terrible. He was a good man! At least that is what he said about himself.” Sister Lori shook her head. “Well, he was here last night. He was the judge for the pumpkin carving contest.”
“And how did that go?” Asked the Captain, leaning in toward her.
“Well there was a kerfuffle. The Mayor picked, a, questionable winner.” Sister Lori rolled her eyes. “He picked little Mia and Delaney’s pumpkin, and it was not the best-”
“Mia and Delaney’s mother just died and they are having a rough time of it you see. ” Office Montalvo whispered to the Captain.
“Who was upset at this pick?” Said the Captain.
“Oh, Paul Sieben. Paul you see made a beautiful pumpkin and it was by far the best and well, he really wanted the $500 prize.”
“We have to ask, where were you last night after the Halloween event?”
“We were all here cleaning up until late.” Sister Lori said. “We couldn’t find Skully! He must have walked away!” Her eyes were large in her nun’s cowl.
The Captain’s eyes narrowed and he leaned in even closer to Sister Lori, pointing his coffee mug at her. “He sounds suspicious.” He turned to Officer Montalvo. “Write that down- interview this Skully character.” The Captain had a satisfied grin. “I bet he is the guy!”
“No.” Officer Montalvo shook her head. “Skully is the name of the science class skeleton.” “They bring him out for the Halloween party as a decoration.” Turning to Sister Lori she said, “When was the last time you saw Skully?”
Sister Lori looked over to the stained glass windows of the vestibule, thinking. "It must have been just after the pumpkin judging. Because then the music started up and I looked for him to be my dance partner, but he was gone!”
“I think I know where he might be.” Said Officer Montalvo. “Were any of the carving knives missing?”
“Sister Lori, frowned. “Oh yes! One might be missing, but we were not sure of the count. I counted 16, but Sister Jenese said she counted 15. Now Sister Jenese can cook, let me tell you! But she gets her numbers mixed up, and once she gets past the digits of her fingers, well she can’t keep track-”
“Thank Sister Ann. I think we got it.” Officer Montalvo raised her hand. "One more question, did you see the person in the wolf costume here last night?”
“Oh yes. He just stood in the corner all night. Didn’t even help clean up!”
“Thanks. I will give you a call later about where you can pick up Skully.” Said Officer Montalvo.
Captain Mollring gripped his coffee cup and drank the last swallow. “OK, next suspect Officer. Let’s go talk to this Paul character.”
“It is just a few blocks away, we can walk.” Officer Montalvo directed the Captain toward a side door. With her short legs, Officer Montalvo had to run to keep up with the Captain’s long strides.
They found Paul at his small law office. The carved pumpkin was on a small wooden stand just to the left of the door. The carving was remarkable, with a small light inside the gourd, the jack- o’-lantern's face had an evil smile that almost looked like it was winking.
“Hello Paul.” She paused to catch her breath. “We are here to ask you… a few questions.” Officer Montalvo finally got out.
“I hope it is to get my statement about the theft.” Paul said, standing up to bring the officers into a small conference room. He passed out a cup of coffee to Officer Montalvo, and re-filled Captain Mollring’s mug. The chair Officer Montalvo was offered had been lowered so her head barely cleared the table.
“Were you at St. Dimitri's last night for the pumpkin carving?” Said Captain Mollring.
“Yes! You saw my pumpkin when you walked in.” Paul pointed toward the front room.
“We heard you had an issue with the judging?”
“That was the theft! I was robbed. Paul’s bald head turned a glowing red. “The damn Mayor was playing favorites, picking the little troubled girls, my goodness!” He shook his head. “This was a serious contest! He can give them all the attention and head pats in the world, but I needed that $500. It is not pocket change-”
“-Where were you after the carving contest?” Captain Mollring interrupted.
“ Why are you asking?”
“I am sorry to pass on this news, but The Mayor was found dead last night in the cemetery with a St. Dimitri's pumpkin carving knife in his chest.” The Captain said evenly, staring at Paul for his reaction.
“What!” Paul stood up quickly. “Dead! With a knife! My goodness, what is this town coming to?” Paul’s small beady eyes were wide with shock.
“He was here in this room, just yesterday morning.” Paul sat back down and rubbed his hand over his bald scalp. “And you think it was me!” He stood up again. “It wasn't me!” Lean with narrow, weak shoulders, his head bobbed back and forth as he looked at the two police officers.
“Do you have an alibi for last night after the event?” The Captain said, sipping his coffee. “And, do you have any sugar?”
“Well yes.” Paul passed over a sugar bowl. “I went home, we had a Halloween party. There were quite a few kids and their parents, and of course my kids and wife.”
“We will check with them.” The Captain gave Paul a steely look.
“Of course! You know them all Tricia.” Paul said as he gestured toward her. “I gave out candy to the kids and wine to the parents until late. I can't believe he is dead!”
While the Captain was drinking his coffee, Officer Montalvo took the opportunity to ask her own question.
“Why was he Mayor here yesterday?”
“We were going over a will from his grandfather. He passed a few months ago and we are finally going to close it out. We wanted to see if we could track down any other family. We contacted a second cousin, but as the direct descendent, Derek gets everything.” Paul explained.
“Is it much of a bequest?” She asked. “I knew his grandfather, Scott, and he did not seem wealthy.”
“Oh, yes! Derek’s grandfather had a large estate. He owned the land the cemetery is on, and the adjoining fields.” Paul waved his arms in the general direction of the cemetery. “Derek said he was going to develop it and name it after his father. Scott’s Valley.” Paul threw up his hands. “Now of course, I have to find that cousin. It is going to be more work!”
“What is the cousin’s name?”
“Jenny? Or something like that.” Said Paul.
“I think I understand.” Officer Montalvo said quietly. “Paul, can we use your phone? I need to call Sophia to make an arrest.
“Understand what!” Captain Mollring gestured wildly, spilling his coffee. “This whole thing does not make any sense! There are zombies, skeletons, werewolves and a pumpkin carving knife? How does any of this connect?”
“The cousin’s name is not Jenny. It is Genio.” Officer Montalvo tried to adjust the chair, but she was still much lower than the two men. She gave up and got to her feet. “I don’t even think he is the groundskeeper. I think he stole the lawn mower to mutilate the Mayor’s body to give him more time to escape. He would have done it too if Marissa did not interrupt him.” The two men looked sideways at the young woman officer and frowned.
“Genio knew about the will from Paul, and the value of the estate. He had to get rid of Derek.”
“But how!" said the Captain. "He was at the Halloween event all night?”
“No. His wolf costume was at the event.” Officer Montalvo paused for effect. “Genio put his suit on Skully, that is who Sister Lori saw. He grabbed a carving knife and chased Derek out into the graveyard. Wearing only white long johns he would look like a skeleton in the moonlight. He came back later and grabbed his costume and Skully and dumped the bones in the graveyard. I bet we will find the wolf costume near the groundskeepers garage.
“Good detective work Officer.” Said Captain Mollring. “But how did you suspect the groundskeeper?”
She broke out into a smile at the compliment. “The groundskeeper said he found the body while mowing the lawn, but the grass was not mowed!
“All for the grandfather's estate.” Captain Mollring said as he leaned back and sipped his coffee. “The dead might not be walking around, but they still have a grip on the living.”