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The Ghost of East Texas - Chapter 1

Chapter One



FBI Special Agent Blair Cooper gathered her notes from the podium and placed them inside a small briefcase. She had just completed her presentation to a room filled with New York State Police on procedures for profiling serial murder cases. She was eager to wade through the crowd of participants and make her way home to Virginia. Blair shook several hands and accepted appreciation comments as she made her way through the large conference room. Blair grimaced at the bright sunlight as she walked outside, and quickly put on a pair of dark sunglasses to shield her eyes. After a short flight, Blair would be home. She and her lover and partner, Tally Rainwater, had plans to spend a long weekend at the coast to relax and rewind.
Since they met, three years earlier, on a case in the deep south, Blair and Tally had developed into a crime-fighting team. Tally had the gift of second sight that emerged in childhood, a gift that had been very useful in assisting Blair and the FBI in solving a serial killer case that struck very close to home for Tally. Her psychic skills were so accurate that the FBI enlisted her as a consultant to assist with investigations, and Tally and Blair had been consistently busy since returning to Virginia.


Blair hailed a taxi and relaxed into the seat.


“Where to, miss?”


“JFK, please,” she answered and pulled out her cell to check for messages. She smiled when she saw the text from Tally wishing her luck for her presentation. Blair sent her a short note to let her know she'd call from the airport.


The driver wove through the hectic New York City traffic to bring Blair right to the departure gate. She paid the driver and tucked the receipt into her bag. Her small overnight case was waiting for her on the curb, and she retrieved it before walking into the terminal. The cold air welcomed her as she stepped inside and headed for the security gate. She tucked her sunglasses back into her bag and pulled out her ID. As a federal officer, she was allowed exclusive access through security where they checked her firearm and gave her a pass to the airline's VIP lounge to await the arrival of her flight. She smiled at the security team as she passed through the secured area and followed their directions to the room.


Blair located a comfortable recliner and settled in for her hour-long wait. She pulled out her cell and pressed the button to call Tally. The phone only rang twice before Tally answered.
“Hey, sweetie, I've got an hour wait until take-off, but I should be home by four. Be ready, and I'll help with the luggage, then we'll be on our way.” She listened to Tally for several seconds. “Will you be okay in the storm?” she asked when Tally said a storm was about to move through. “Yes, I know you're all grown up, but that doesn't keep me from worrying. Love you, too, and I will see you soon.”


Blair ended the call and felt the scowl on her face. Tally had been gifted with second sight when she was born with two different colored eyes. She had been teased during her childhood for being a freak by children and adults. It wasn't until she was nearly killed by a lightning strike at the age of twelve that she began to understand the gift that had been bestowed on her. Since that event, the proximity of an electrical storm frequently triggered her visions on numerous occasions. Blair was still a little spooked by Tally's psychic visions.



Tally tossed her cell on the bed and zipped up the last bag that she had packed for their trip. It had been months since she and Blair had been able to spend time away from work for some real relaxation, and she hoped it would be a few weeks before Blair was assigned to a new case. Most of their cases dealt with murder, the recovery of the victim, and the killer's discovery, but the last one they worked on together, a missing person case, turned out well. The missing teen was located, and they returned him home safely. The emotional trauma from the kidnapping would remain for his lifetime, but the teen could at least have the opportunity to live a long, healthy life.


Tally felt the hair on her arms standing up, and she knew the storm was close. Hopefully, it would move through quickly. She picked up her cell and took the last bag to the front foyer before entering the living room. Tally closed the blinds and sat on the couch to wait for the vision to come. She saw a flash of the lightning through the window, and she whispered to herself. “One, Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, boom.” Tally had learned to count to gauge the storm's closeness from her mother when she was a child to help her deal with the anxiety she felt after the lightning strike. She closed her eyes and tucked her legs under her body to relax. Flash, boom, the storm had arrived, and her world went black.


Lisa, a young murder victim, had served as her spirit guide once Tally began to understand her visions. Lisa would help her communicate with the deceased, or help her visualize and locate the living, and help Tally use her gift to the fullest. Together they had allowed many victims of horrific crimes to be discovered and to cross over to a more peaceful existence. Today, however, Lisa had not appeared.


Tally felt like she was flying through a dense forest filled with thick green growths of trees. She could see birds and other small animals as she soared deeper into a dark canopied grove, and then suddenly, she was back in sunlight as the forest opened into a meadow. Tally was confused at first, as she saw gaping holes in the landscape, the dark soil mounded against the brilliant green grass. She sensed death on a large scale and scoured the ground for headstones that would indicate a cemetery or some form of a burial site. Finding none, Tally wondered if this were some sort of battlefield that once filled the grass with rivers of blood as warriors died in battle. Warriors seemed to be a strange thought, instead of soldiers, but that was the word that came to mind. Across the meadow, Tally saw a cluster of campers and tents, so she knew the vision was in the modern-day era. Smoke from a campfire wafted into the air as she searched for people. The site appeared abandoned until she caught a glimpse of a young woman kneeling by one of the mounds. She was bent over, slowly removing dirt from the ground with a small trowel. Tally strained to see what the young woman was trying to uncover, but she could not bring anything to view. She sensed sadness and death, but no other vision came to her. Just as quickly as she arrived at the scene, another flash of lightning sent her reeling back to her own reality.


Tally looked at her watch. Fifteen minutes had passed since she sat on the couch. The vision had left her unsettled. Usually, the purpose of the experience was apparent, but this one had been a teaser, and she wondered if there would be others to come that would give her more pieces to the puzzle she was being tasked to solve. She pondered where Lisa had been. It was unusual that she had not been present, even though that wasn't the first time Lisa had been absent.


“What is this all about?” Tally took out a notepad and jotted down the specifics of the vision. Tally had grown accustomed to doing this to keep facts straight and help her piece together the puzzle of images that appeared. When Tally finished, she reviewed her notes, but couldn't determine anything further.


“Only time will tell,” Tally said. She closed her notepad and tucked it into her suitcase.



Blair watched the rain passing to the north as the jet came into land at the airport. I hope the storm didn't upset Tally. She knew how sensitive Tally was to the lightning associated with thunderstorms and how frequently her visions led to resolving a mysterious event. Selfishly, she hoped that if Tally had experienced a psychic episode, it would not interfere with their plans for a relaxing trip to the beach. They were both overdue for some respite from their stressful occupations. She glanced out the jet window, and when a flash of lightning filled the sky, she found herself counting, one, Mississippi, two, Mississippi. Blair smiled as she realized she was doing what she had witnessed Tally doing so many times. Calculating the distance from the storm.


Blair had followed in her dad's footsteps in the FBI and wasn't shy about using the assistance of psychics to help solve cases. Her dad had used a particular woman for years before he retired. When Blair first met Tally in Alabama, she was skeptical of the young woman's abilities, but her surprising accuracy was undeniable. As Tally gained the confidence of the task force hunting the serial killer, Blair found herself becoming attracted to Tally, and when she was kidnapped by the killer, Blair was fraught with guilt for letting her protective guard down. Even though she was just a few years older than Tally, her experience with the FBI had hardened her to the brutal nature of the crimes they investigated. Tally had a nurturing, naïve soul, and Blair felt destined to protect. Her feelings for Tally escalated quickly to a romantic attraction, and they became lovers and partners.


She looked at her watch. Home in forty-five minutes, then it would be sun and sand for four days.


The jet came to a stop on the tarmac. Blair quickly pulled her belongings together to exit the plane. Rushing through the terminal, she pulled out of the short-term parking before the rest of the passengers had time to collect their checked bags. Just ten more minutes and I'll be home. She pulled out her cell and called Tally.


“Hey baby, I'll be there in ten minutes.” She could hear Tally chuckling. “Yeah, I know I'm overexcited, but I can't wait to have some uninterrupted time alone with you.” She listened to Tally, who was equally excited. “You have the bags already at the front door? You must be ready, too. Okay, I'll see you soon. Love you.”


The excitement in Tally's voice made her foot a little heavier on the gas pedal, and Blair made it in record time. When she bolted through the front door, she nearly knocked Tally over. She had been setting the thermostat on the air conditioning, and Blair's sudden appearance startled her. Blair laughed and took Tally in her arms.


“I know it was only one night away from you, but I missed you,” she cried, and then kissed Tally.


When they ended the kiss, Tally grinned. “I missed you too. Grab those bags, and let's get going.”


Blair wasted no time in picking up the two larger bags and racing out the door. Tally picked up the last bag and locked the door behind her before joining Blair at the car. She slipped into the passenger seat and pulled on a pair of sunglasses as Blair drove away.


“I'm sorry, I forgot to ask how you did in the storm. Is everything okay?”


Tally looked at Blair. “Everything's fine. A strange vision, but nothing we can't discuss when we get home.”


“That sounds like a great plan to me.”


“How long will it take us to get to the beach house?”


Blair flipped on the turn signal and smiled. “About two hours. I've already made arrangements to have groceries and other supplies delivered, so I thought we'd stop for an early dinner at one of the local spots and have a relaxing evening once we arrive.”


“Sounds perfect to me.” Tally slipped out of her shoes and stretched her legs out with her feet on the dash. “Vacation, here we come.”


The whine of the tires and the warm sunshine coming through the windows lulled Tally into a nap. Blair turned the radio on and lowered the volume to keep from interrupting Tally's rest.



Blair slowed the car to exit the highway, and Tally's eyes opened.


“Sorry I crashed on you, but I didn't sleep well last night without you snuggling into me.”


“I completely understand that. I missed snuggling with you, too. I need to gas up and use the restroom. Do you have any preferences for dinner?”


“I think we should take advantage of the fresh seafood while we're here.”


“That sounds wonderful to me.” Blair pulled into a service station and turned off the engine. “Would you mind pumping the gas while I go inside?” She offered Tally a credit card.


Tally smiled and took the card. “No problem. It's the least I can do for crashing on you.”


“Thanks, sweetie,” Blair answered and walked inside the store.



Tally climbed out of the car and walked to the pump. The sun was sinking on the horizon, and she could smell the ocean's salt in the air. She heard loud squawking and turned around to find three seagulls fighting over food scraps tossed out in the parking lot. Tally listened to the ocean waves in the distance, and chuckled at the angry birds, fighting over scraps when there was an ocean full of food waiting for them. “Lazy buggers,” she said, and began pumping gas.


Blair finished in the restroom and was walking back through the store when something caught her eye. A rack of inexpensive souvenirs sat at the end of an aisle, and she chuckled when she saw keychains displaying the state slogan, Virginia Beach is for lovers. “It certainly is,” she spoke to herself and bought a set of matching trinkets.


The clerk slipped her purchase into a small bag, and she returned outside to Tally, who was just finished filling the car.


“Do you want to go inside to wash your hands? The restroom is miraculously clean.”


Tally grinned back at her. “Probably not a bad idea. I'll be right back.”


Blair stowed her credit card and slipped behind the wheel. She placed the bag holding the key chains in Tally's seat and waited for her return.



In Huntsville, Texas, Casper Caruso sat on the bunk of his death row cell. The steam whistle had just blown for the midday prisoner count as he waited for his appointment. A guard came and gave him instructions to turn around and slide his hands through the slot to be cuffed for transport. Casper took his stack of papers to the door and pushed them through the slot. Then he turned around to slide his hands out the door. He felt the now-familiar chill of the steel cuffs as they slipped around his wrists and snapped closed with an audible click.


The guard signaled for the door to be unlocked and swung it open. “This is your big day, Caruso,” he said with a grin. “Your last shot at appeals. I hope you've made it a good one.”


Casper took the stack of papers from the guard. “One way or another, I plan to be leaving this wonderful abode. If the appeal for a new trial isn't granted, I'm going to request they move forward in scheduling my execution date. I'm sick of seeing these four walls.”


“You should have thought about that years ago before you started killing. Did you really think you'd never get caught?”


Casper cackled an evil-sounding laugh. “I gave them a good run for a long time. Before they even knew the Ghost of East Texas existed.”


“I think that was the beginning of your end. Thinking that you were smarter than law enforcement. If you hadn't started taunting them and stopped killing, you might not be standing here today.”


“Maybe so.” Casper nodded. “It wasn't like a light switch that I could turn on and off. After the first one, I just couldn't stop myself.”


The guard huffed. “There will be a hot spot waiting for your arrival in hell for your actions.”


“I'm sure I'll have plenty of company.” Casper chuckled.


“No doubt about that,” the guard said as he placed a hand on Caruso's shoulder to move him forward. “What number is this public defender? Five?”


“I've lost count of the losers they keep sending my way. It doesn't matter. I do all the legwork, and they just present the case.” He shuffled along in front of the guard. “I probably could have done better representing myself from the beginning.”


“As Honest Abe said, ‘He who represents himself has a fool for a client.’”


“Yeah, I've heard that several times, but still, the clowns I get can barely seem to find a courtroom.”


“Maybe you'll strike gold today.”


“I ain't holding my breath. P. Herman is the lucky one today. I can only imagine what he's like.”


“Well, that's going to be your first surprise,” the guard teased. “P stands for Patricia.”


“I'll be damned. Hopefully, she's a looker. The females around here aren't nothing to write home about.”


“If you were a good-looking woman, would you want to work here with all this evil?”


“Good point. Still, it would be nice to see a real looker for a change.”


Caruso smiled as the guard opened the door to the small conference area, and a beautiful, red-haired woman sat waiting at the table.


“Well, I'll be damned, wishes do come true,” he whispered to the guard.


“Good morning, Mr. Caruso. I'm Patricia Herman. I've been assigned counsel for your last round of appeals.”


“Good morning to you, too.”


The guard took the stack of papers from him, placed them on the table, then unlocked one side of his handcuffs, and secured it on the massive metal ring. Caruso took his seat and reached for his stack of papers on the table in front of him.


“Is that really necessary?” the lawyer asked as the guard secured the cuff to the table.


“Trust me, it's necessary and facility policy. I'll be outside if you need anything,” the guard said, and stepped outside the door to give the two privacy.


“Thank you, officer,” the woman answered.


When she turned back to Caruso, she changed her smile to a more serious face. “I won't lead you on with a great deal of hope. I've read your entire case file, and it wasn't pretty. This is your final chance for an appeal. If this doesn't work, I can send a proposal to the judge to commute your sentence to life.”


Casper shook his head. “I'd rather stay on death row than to be released to that jungle of insanity. If the appeal is not successful, I want you to request an execution date be set. I'd rather be dead than spend more time rotting in this hell.”


“If that's what you really wish,” she said as she reached for the papers.


“It is, no doubt.”


“Well, let's see what you have prepared.”


Caruso watched the woman read through page after page of his final written appeal.


“It's too bad, you didn't go to school. You could have made a great legal aide. You did some excellent research on this.”


“Ha! Legal aides make what, thirty thousand a year? I was making three times that on the oil rigs.”


“Then why blow it all for a life of crime and imprisonment?”


Caruso leaned forward across the table. “Because, pretty lady, taking someone's life gave me more pleasure than even the best sex could have ever accomplished. After the first one, I became addicted to it, and I needed more and more.”


Her recoil was visible. “You have no remorse for what you did to those six women?”


“None at all for them, or the others.” Caruso smiled at the look of surprise that crossed the lawyers face. “Yes, there were more than six, but the FBI could only prove six. They might never know about the others.”


“I think we need to end this line of conversation here,” she said. “I'll be back in touch. Are you one hundred percent sure about your decision to move forward with execution if this fails?”


“Absolutely. Have a great day,” he said as she picked up his paperwork and left the room quickly.


The guard opened the door. “That was quick. I thought you might have drawn this out for hours.”


Caruso stood and stretched. “No need to waste time on a lost cause.”


“Probably not,” the guard said, snapping the cuff closed behind his back. “Well, let's get you back home.”


They walked back to the cell he had lived in for the last ten years, and after being released from the cuffs, Caruso sat at the small desk and started writing a letter.




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