Chapter 12: Darnell Dean
Everything always looks better in the morning. I woke up focused, refreshed, and ready to tackle the pieces of the puzzle once more. My anger at Sheriff Deacon may have been misplaced the night before. All the pent up emotions from our earlier encounter coupled with the message laden rock through my window had led me to draw conclusions that may have had little basis in fact. Now in the morning light, I briefly considered going to Deacon’s house to confront him, but I realized there were other things that might be more important. One was finding out where Summer had gone. I hadn’t seen her since the discovery of Carla’s body. I didn’t have to search hard. She was waiting for me outside my office, looking even more lost and forlorn than she had been before.
“Good morning Summer.”
“Good morning,” she replied. “I’m sorry I took off.”
“It’s okay. Considering the circumstances, I probably would have too.”
I opened my office door and we went inside. Closing it behind us, I watched as she sat down in the chair opposite my desk. She must be getting used to her spirit form now.
“When I saw her swinging back and forth, I panicked. I’ve never seen a dead body before.”
“It can be a shock.”
“In that instant, I remembered her. Not only did I see a dead body, but it was someone I knew and cared about.”
“What did you remember about her?”
“She was kind to me. She never said a harsh word. If there was a beautiful person in the world, on the inside and out, it was she. I remember she brought me flowers. And in that tree house she kissed me. But it wasn’t dirty, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Mr. Winter, do you think it’s wrong for girls to want to be together?”
“Do you?” I countered.
She thought for just a second. “No I don’t.”
“Well, there you go.”
“That’s not really an answer,” she smirked, not letting me off the hook.
“I don’t think it’s wrong to want someone. It’s part of what makes us human. I can’t say why one person is attracted to another, but I imagine it’s because we see the person we want to be in their eyes. Maybe when you looked at Carla you saw who you could be.”
“Now that’s an answer,” she smiled.
“I got it from my answer book,” I joked.
“I bet. So where to today?”
“Well, I thought maybe you could help me with something.”
“Oh really?” she asked, leaning forward in the chair.
“Yeah. Carla’s dad and I have never gotten along. But I need to find out some things. And to do it, I have to get inside his house. I thought maybe you could go there for me. Find what I need.”
She perked right up. Something ghosts like is that feeling of being needed. They are so lost and disconnected from real living that to be included in something is one of their greatest joys.
“What is it you want in his house?”
“Yes, I want you to observe. Keep track of what he does, who he talks to, where he goes.”
“You want me to play detective?”
“Are you up for it? I know you realize how close you were to Carla now, so it might be hard with the funeral coming up and all.”
“No, I can do it.”
“You want me to go now?”
“Yes, if you want to. Whenever you feel ready.”
She got up and made a display of straightening her dress. “Just what is it you’re looking for, Mr. Winter?”
“The truth, just the truth.”
– – – – – –
After Summer left, I walked over to the storage unit where I kept my car under wraps. It wasn’t anything special. Just a blue Pontiac Sunbird with sunroof, special memories, and less than a 100,000 miles. As I removed the tarp, I asked myself why I didn’t tell Summer about the ouija board and speaking to Carla. That I knew how she had died by jumping to her death from Quarter Mile Bridge. Maybe I wanted to save her from the questions such knowledge would bring. To know you died is one thing, to know you took your own life is another.
The truth is I really didn’t want her tagging along for my next visit. Darnell Dean. It would be bad enough for me to face the brother of the Kaleidoscope Killer. Maybe even worse if it got ugly. And I didn’t want her to see that side of me. I wasbeginning to become attached to her, though I was trying to fight it. My own sister died when I was ten, so maybe I missed that big brother / little sister connection. I told myself I shouldn’t get to liking her so much. One day I knew she was going to have to go.
Darnell Dean lived on the upper class side of town. Doctors, lawyers, bankers. People born into money, or in the case of the Dean’s, earned it through hard work. It’s hard to believe that with their rich local history and fine reputation, they managed to spawn the worst serial killer in the state. The elder Dean had been a respected doctor for a good many years and if that wasn’t enough money, he married a debutante from one of the south’s more prestigious families. But she wasn’t a wallflower. She worked just as hard as her husband, as one of the most sought after interior designers around.
The children seemed to be good kids. Dexter, Darnell, and a sister, Deana, went to the best schools, but under the surface something was brewing in Dexter.
I don’t pretend to know the nature of darkness that dwells in a man’s soul, especially Dexter. But something cruel and vicious took hold in his twisted mind and he embarked on a murderous spree without rhyme or reason. By the time I arrested him, he’d left a long wake of carnage and dead women behind him. Including my wife. In fact, it was her death that brought it all together. He wanted me to know he was ready to end this. He left his calling card with her, a piece of colored glass in her mouth and another in… No, I can’t do this. He killed her; let’s leave it at that.
Darnell, the younger of the two brothers, still lived in his parent’s house. By my calculation, he should have been at least twenty-one, maybe older. He’d gone to school with both Carla and Summer. I knew from Summer’s brother that he had visited her at least once. I had to know what he knew about her death and the days leading up to it. Did I think he’d tell me? No, but I had to try.
When I rang the front doorbell, I half expected a maid or butler to answer. The exterior of the place was like a huge gothic mansion. Four white marble columns dominated the huge wrap around porch. In the driveway sat a new Lexus. I felt like a hobo coming to visit Elvis.
The door opened on the second ring. At first I thought I was looking at Dexter again, for Darnell sported the same haircut, had the same intense eyes, and greeted me the same way his brother had once done.
“Well if it ain’t the Holy Jesus of the police department. You come to save somebody?”
I asked Darnell the same question I’d asked his brother once. “Do I need to?”
“You need to get off my porch and back in your damn car.”
“Darnell, listen…” I began.
“No, you listen to me. You are not welcome here. Because of you, I don’t have a brother. My parents are minus a son. And my sister is committed to a hospital thinking you’re coming to gun her down, too.”
“I’m sorry what happened to your brother,” I lied, and he knew it.
“No, you’re not. I know you killed him. Shot him in the back like a coward. But hey, you’re a cop. We all know you protect your own.”
“Darnell, I’m not here to argue with you. We’ve been over this before.”
“So why are you here then?”
“I’d like to ask you a few questions about Summer Dennings. Did you know her?”
“Yeah, I knew her.”
“Yes, she used to be my friend.”
“Used to be?”
“Well, she’s dead now, hot shot.”
I wanted to reach out and smack him right across the face, something his mother should have done long time ago. Instead I just ignored the jab and kept talking. “What was the nature of your relationship?”
“My brother didn’t kill her,” he answered, avoiding the question.
“That would be something, wouldn’t it?” he laughed. “No, I didn’t kill her. She jumped off a friggin’ bridge because she couldn’t handle being a sleeper.”
“Why would you call her that?”
“Oh come on, you don’t really think she was this little miss innocent do you? Man, this is a new age. Girls sleep with boys. Girls sleep with girls. Boys sleep with girls. Boys sleep with…”
“I get your point.”
“Do you? Hell, for a cop you’re pretty dumb. Summer Dennings was sleeping with everybody. She didn’t know whether she wanted a boy, a girl, a man, a woman, or her own damn brother.”
“Oh now, you want to be a genius,” he remarked.
“I don’t believe that. I know she was Carla Deacon’s lover.”
“Oh, she sure was. And when big brother found out, what happened? Nobody could come see her anymore. Not Carla, not me, nobody. He kept her prisoner there, man. She couldn’t do anything without his permission.”
I didn’t know whether to believe him. It did add up in certain ways, but I’ve never been one to do short math. This just seemed too easy. Me showing up here and Darnell Dean solving the case right in front of me. He didn’t sound like he was giving me genuine info, but something he had rehearsed.
“So what, she escaped and then flung herself off the bridge?” I asked.
“Exactly. Then her brother blows himself up to hide their naughty going ons. Poor dyke Carla couldn’t take it, so she hung herself. I guess next Joel Caden will blow his brains out.”
“Yep, high school star helplessly in love with suicide victim. Completes the chain, don’t it?”
“What chain you talking about?”
“Well, you can’t exactly call it a love triangle can you?”
“Were you in love with her?”
“Summer? Yeah, maybe once I thought I liked her. Until I found out what was going on.”
“And for the record, you didn’t kill her because of that?”
He rolled his eyes. “You must think I’m stupid to fall for a question like that. I didn’t kill her at all, Winter. I’m not my brother.”
I realized that, and was about to tell him so, when he said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“I’m smarter than he was.” He grinned. “Now get off my porch before I call the real cops.”
He stepped back inside and slammed the door in my face. I stood there for a few minutes. What did he mean, he was smarter? Was he being like his brother and feeding me clues? Was Darnell Dean a killer, too?
I walked back to my car and turned to look up at the Dean house. “I’m smarter than he was,” I mumbled, repeating his words.
Was Darnell telling me he was doing this, but I’d never catch him? Could he have thrown Summer off the bridge? Hung Carla? Blown up Jeff Dennings house? It was possible, I realized. Could his disgust over what was going on in Summer’s life send him over the edge in an effort to kill them all. But was that everyone?
I got in the car and suddenly a piece of conversation rang in my head. “I guess next Joel Caden will blow his brains out.” Isn’t that what he said?
“Oh shit,” I realized. I put the car in gear and spun out the driveway. I had to get to Joel before he did.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.