Written By: Kyle Coffman
July 18, 1975 - Rural Southern Illinois
Officer Burke steps out of his green and white police vehicle that is parked on the side of County Road 141 in Corral County, Illinois. He’s a tall man in his late thirties with dark hair. He takes one last drag from his cigarette and flicks it on the side of the road. It’s a very hot day and the cigarette ignites a patch of dry brown grass. He stomps on it until it’s flattened, smashing the fire and smothering the flame.
He takes a deep breath and removes his police cap to wipe the sweat from his forehead.
He joins Sheriff Rhodes, whose police vehicle is also parked on the side of the road. Sheriff Rhodes is staring at something on the ground right off the road in a ditch beneath two trees. In disgust, Officer Burke’s face falls.
“Ever see anything like this before?” Sheriff Rhodes asks in his Midwest accent.
Officer Burke shakes his head with an unfortunate glare.
Sheriff Rhodes is in his mid 60’s and appears to be ready to retire and after seeing today’s scene, now more than ever.
Lying on the side of the road is the dismembered body of what appears to have been a woman in her early twenties. She wears a white dress stained with dried blood and dirt. The two law enforcement officers look down to see her body, head missing.
The sun beats down on the body and Sheriff Rhodes holds a soiled brown handkerchief to his mouth and nose in hopes of covering the stench.
“She’s been dead for at least a week,” he says.
“What ya thinkin?” Officer Burke asks looking away from the body.
Sheriff Rhodes looks around. Fields of farmland as far as the eye can see surround them.
“The body was dumped here,” he responds. “Not seen anything like this before either.”
“Serial killer?” Officer Burke asks pulling out another cigarette from a pack in his right shirt pocket and averting his eyes so he won’t have to see the dead body again.
Unconvinced of Officer Burke’s question, Sheriff Rhodes shakes his head. “Nah, not quite yet. First body and hopefully the only body,” he says.
“Then what?” Officer Burke lights his cigarette and takes a very long drag.
“May be a pissed off husband. Or she was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he says.
“Who reported it?” Officer Burke asks.
“Old man Stanton said he was driving to Maisy’s farm when he saw something on the side of the road resting near these trees. Once he got close to it he realized it was a dead body.”
“Resting?” Officer Burke takes another drag of his cigarette. “Stan is on his way,” he informs Sheriff Rhodes. Stan is Corral County’s only Coroner. Corral County is located in Southern Illinois and is made up of several small towns and hundreds of miles of farmlands. There are mainly corn and bean fields, but murders are not something that occur in Corral County, Illinois. Ever.
When Stan finally arrives, with his old beaten up, green and white, Corral County Coroner van, he vomits three times after seeing the body. He’s a slender man in his late forties and a nightly “drink the entire bottle of whiskey” player. The first retch was from last night’s whiskey, the second was from his toast he had for breakfast to soak up last night’s whiskey, and his third, well that was most likely the remaining whiskey.
Sheriff Rhodes pats Stan on the back as Stan leans on his van for support. His wooziness was not from last night’s adventures with the bottle, but from the grotesque sight of the headless dead woman.
Another two officers arrive on the scene and begin to place yellow police tape around the trees where the body still lies.
“No need to bother with that boys,” Sheriff Rhodes says. “Old man Stanton already made his run this morning on this road. No one else is coming out here, except a tractor or two maybe this month to work the fields.”
The other two officers stop as Officer Burke helps Stan pull out a black body bag and a stretcher from the back of his truck.
After another hour in the hot sun, and several photographs taken, the body is now ready to be transported.
Stan, who has finally pulled himself together, leans down to move the body. He slaps on his latex gloves and motions for assistance.
Officer Burke and Sheriff Rhodes eye one of the other officers and the man joins in and pulls on a pair of latex gloves to assist.
When they lean down to lift the body a piece of the woman’s dress moves revealing something on her sternum.
“What in the hell?” Stan asks as Sheriff Rhodes and Officer Burke lean down.
Right below the woman’s cleavage appears to be a wound on her skin. Officer Burke removes a pen from his right shirt pocket, next to his cigarette pack, and uses it to pull down the dress and reveals a line carved into her skin.
All the men eye each other in bewilderment. Then, Stan pulls out a small pocket knife and cuts her dress down revealing her entire stomach.
Their faces turn a pale green as they all grab a handkerchief from their pockets and cover their mouths. Stan and Officer Burke gag into their handkerchiefs.
A twelve inch upside down cross has been carved deep into the woman’s abdomen.
“What kind of satanic bull…” Sheriff Rhodes says standing up.
“Is that an upside-down cross above her…” Officer Burke begins, but can’t seem to finish his sentence without gagging once again.
“Who would do such a thing?” Stan asks looking up at the men.
Sheriff Rhodes gazes into the fields of farmland searching for something, for someone perhaps, anything, but all he can see are the undisturbed farm lands.
“Call the rest of the boys out here.” Sheriff Rhodes commands Officer Burke. “We gotta find this head!”
What these five men do not realize is they are not alone on this country road. In the fields several people are closing in on the five officers studying the dead body in the ditch. These people are wearing worn clothes and are carrying tools of some sort. Some carry pitchforks and small axes, while others carry sickles and shovels. Are they farm tools or weapons?
As the people are steps away from the officers, they hold the farm tools high in the air and charge at the officers.
The people attack the five men! Horrifying screams suddenly erupt as the sounds of the weapons slam into the officers’ flesh and bodies.
It’s hard to lose a parent, especially when you’re only sixteen. At night I lie awake just staring at my bedroom ceiling thinking of my mother, wishing she was here to tuck me in like she did when I was a little boy. I stare at the ceiling just praying that my eyes will feel heavy enough and I will be able to fall asleep and not dream. I don’t want to dream because every time I dream, I dream about her. Memories are supposed to be happy, but they make me miss her, and then I wake up and I cry because I want her back in my life. My sister, Robin, tells me to be strong and move on with life, but it’s so soon. Robin’s a lot stronger than I am. She’s always been tough.
The funeral was rather elaborate. My mother was a fifth grade school teacher in a very large district where we lived in Phoenix, Arizona. All her students and their parents showed up for her wake. It was a closed casket so that didn’t bring much closure for me. It wasn’t long after Aunt Sue, my mother’s sister, gave the eulogy that Robin and I were informed that we were going to be living with my father, Ted. Robin doesn’t like our father. She claims he never wanted us in the first place. I don’t remember much of him and my mother being married. They were divorced when I was three and he moved to Illinois while we remained in Arizona. At first he would visit us in Arizona for a week or two in the summers, but then that stopped. Then my mother and he would fight over the phone all the time about her allowing us to fly to see him, but Robin never wanted to go and I was never forced to either, so we didn’t. We mainly communicated through e-mails, but after I entered high school that stopped too, on both our parts. Ted left us for another woman and Robin and my mother never allowed that wound to heal.
I sit on a plane, in a middle seat, while Robin sits in the aisle seat flipping through a tattoo magazine. Robin is going to be eighteen in a few months and has short black hair that she dyes and cuts herself, and tends to add whatever leather accessory to her clothes as possible. She has a spider tattoo on the side of her neck, which my mother flipped out over when she came home with it at sixteen. My mother tried to get the tattoo artist arrested for giving a tattoo to a minor, but Robin forged my mother’s signature so that was that. Robin also has several ear piercings from her earlobe to the top of her ear.
I have sandy, blonde hair I tend to keep short above my ears. When I was younger, I would grow my hair out and slick it back, but I suppose I grew out of that greaser phase when I entered high school.
“How much longer?” I ask Robin, fidgeting in my seat. It feels like we’ve been on this plane for hours.
“Illinois is a long way from Arizona, Luke.” Robin snaps at me without even looking up from her magazine. She lifts her leg and mistakenly knees the seat in front of her. The passenger in front turns his head back at her and she throws a “what the hell” look at him. He immediately turns around not wanting a confrontation.
“I hope she likes us,” I say. Robin looks at me with a blank face.
“Yeah, well, don’t get attached. Ted has never been one to stay in our lives.”
“I know, but we have never met his new wife.” Ted got remarried a couple years ago to a woman named Alice. The woman he left my mother for left him years ago to start a family with another man. That’s Karma at its finest. Ted always told her that he didn’t want any more children. That satisfied her during their affair, but I suppose she saw the bigger picture in life eventually and made the decision to have a family without Ted.
“Maybe we have a chance at being a family again,” I say.
“Luke, you can't believe a word Ted says. He always says positive things only to get us to cooperate. And we'll always be orphans now. You can't escape that just because he’s our biological father,” Robin snaps back at me.
A flight attendant makes her way to us holding a trash bag. “Can I get you two anything else?” She asks.
“Some vodka would be nice,” Robin says.
“How about a soda?” The flight attendant responds without a smile.
Robin rolls her eyes and I politely smile at the flight attendant. Not amused, the flight attendant moves on to the passengers’ seats behind us just as the pilot’s voice comes on the P.A. system. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking. We are about to descend into St. Louis where the local weather is 75 degrees. The seat belt light will flash on, so please fasten your seat belts and thank you for flying with us. Have a great day.”
The seat belt sign flashes on as Robin puts her magazine away in her bag. I am thankful this flight is almost over because I desperately need to stretch my legs.