Cheri Jo Bates, a Date with Death

Chapter:  A Little Dance

      Cheri Jo was returning to the Riverside College Library with the bibliography. She had driven nearby to a friend’s place to pick up a copy.  There were a few more books she had to take out. She parked the Beetle in the alley as there was no longer parking anywhere near the library entrance. It was seven p.m. and there was still plenty of time as closing time was nine on Sundays. But she was in a slight rush as she wanted to get home to start on the paper.  Parking in the alley would allow her to get in and out quickly.

      As she was exiting her vehicle she noticed a man in the driveway between the two older houses across from her.  He looked familiar.  She might have thought him handsome except for the funny crooked smile.  A shorter man, but very muscular, with black wavy hair and Slavic features like her mother’s.

      He called out to her.  Stretching out one arm.  He had a tool in his other hand and appeared to be taking out some trash.  Maybe finishing up his workday.  She approach him and as she got closer she recognized him as a man who was often coming into lunch at a diner popular with students and herself, because many of her friends had worked or were still working there.  It was on a Riverside main street, just across from the large hospital.

      She said hello, with a note of friendly recognition, ready for a brief conversation.  She had trouble at first with his thick northeastern accent she couldn’t quite place.  But he was full of charm. She thought he might have once been an actor or something.  He commented on her high cheekbones, stunning eyes and lovely blond hair, compared her to some actresses he’d known, and she was quite flattered. 

      Soon they were laughing together.  He took her hand and they were dancing for a minute.  He was very good.  He twirled her ‘round and suddenly was holding her tightly against his body. He began to reach up and wrapping one hand around her breast he tightened his hold.

      Soon they were laughing together.  He took her hand and they were dancing for a minute.  He was very good.  He twirled her ‘round and suddenly was holding her tightly against his body. He began to reach up and wrapping one hand around her breast he tightened his hold.

      “Get your dirty paws off me!  Dirty greasy ___ ___ ___!” she may have said in an angry but firm voice.  Only Larry knows what she said and he’s not telling.  It’s not really fair to put words in the mouth of an innocent.  Suffice it to say it was enough to enrage Larry to his core. Though he more than deserved it.  Cheri Jo was an outspoken girl.  She would not take shit.  And she would have let Larry know in no uncertain terms.  She may also have elbowed him in the stomach a couple of times for good measure.  But she was a delicate five three, no match for Larry’s five eight of solid construction muscle.

      He lost his cool. The words triggered a deep anger from his very core.  Clenching his jaw, and still holding her tightly, he took the tool he’d been holding in his free hand all this time, the sharp knife he’d been using to remove the varnish from between floorboards he’d been removing, and with one stroke slashed it across her throat, cutting his own hand in the process.

      She dropped at his feet to the dried mud of the drive without another word, dust swirling around.  Then everything was still.  Dazed and shuddering, he turned to see Joe’s car waiting at the end of the driveway on Terracina, the street out front.

Chapter:  Cover Up

      “So Larry’s got himself in deep shit again,” said Xeno, plunging the needle into his arm.”

      “Fuck you Doc!” said Larry, with a half-smile.  A moment later he was dozing off.

      “Let’s go see for ourselves, shall we?”  He said to the concerned couple. “We’ll take my car.”  Xeno had purchased a 1965 Chevrolet Impala recently.  He’d made sure to purchase one of the most common vehicles ever made in the US of A, in a popular color that would not stand out in daylight or at night: ‘Cameo Beige’.  He’d then had it souped up by his own personal mechanic.  He loved the way it positively growled.  Called it his ‘Incognito’.  Though he owned a small fleet of cars he used for various occasions, with some serendipity, he’d been driving the big sedan on this day.

      It was approaching nine as the three arrived back at the scene of the grizzly event.  It was dark, and cool for a fall evening.  They parked in the alley behind the driveway, turned the car to hide Cheri Jo’s body from any students who might be leaving the library by the nearby side lane. There were a few walking past, but the alley behind the houses was pitch dark. 

      Xeno had called ahead to check the closing time at the Library. Larry had mentioned the girl’s destination back at the motel room.  “Joe, the Beetle there with the keys in it must be the girl’s car. Why don’t you take it and park it round in front of the library when it seems everyone has left.  Start off by making sure there are no stragglers.  Then you can doctor the car while I doctor the scene, as we’d discussed.”  

      Joey agreed, then went to have a smoke at the intersection of the alley and the side street fronting the long windowless façade of the student union quadrangle which held the library.  He stood there, enjoyed a smoke or two, waiting patiently, nodding at each of the few students passing by.  It was too dark for them to see his features clearly, or what he was wearing.  It definitely diverted their attention from the alley though, just as he intended.  At about nine fifteen, when all seemed clear, Joey started towards the Beetle.  

      It appeared to Xeno nothing had been disturbed in the driveway.  He took out some items from the glove compartment, a watch, a three inch pocket knife and a powerful flashlight.  From the trunk he removed from a messy pile one military style boot.

      He bent down over the body to take a pulse and inspect the wounds.  There was no need to take the pulse as she was clearly dead, from the gaping wound he observed in her neck.  She was cold and somewhat stiff to his touch.  He made a circle with the flashlight until he’d found the murder weapon.  It was lying a little bit away from the body where Larry had dropped it in his panic.  Using a handkerchief he bagged it and put it in his pocket.  Wiping for any prints, he lay the small paint spattered watch with the broken band he’d saved, from a trip taken with his father to England as a teen, on the ground in place of the bloody weapon. He had already wiped up any obvious blood drops there and sprinkled it haphazardly with dust and a few leaves. 

      Then without pausing he turned and took the body and moved it vigorously around in the dusty drive to leave the marks of a struggle, making it seem that she’d put up a tremendous fight.  Quickly turning her from side to side he added dozens of hesitant and shallow stab wounds with the pocket knife he’d brought.  His intention was to make the whole thing look like the work of an amateurish first time young killer.  It would be hard to tell whether they were pre- or post-mortem.  He then bagged and pocketed the knife.  With the military boot, he left a clear and heavy footprint.  Finally, looking around for any witnesses, he stood up and with all his might kicked at her jaw, twice.  He then placed the body back in its original position as closely as he could remember, making sure he hadn’t left any of his own shoeprints.

      It was getting on nine thirty by this time.  Joey was walking towards him.  “Make sure to pick up your butts Joe.”  Not a man who liked being told what to do, he grudgingly complied, but wasn’t very careful about it and in the pitch black he left one, which would be discovered later. 

      When they were seated in the car he turned to Joe’s wife in the back seat and said to her, “Now for your part, remember what to do?  Make it loud and blood curdling.”

      She opened the window and filling her lungs she let out the loudest scream of her life.  Some lights in the corner apartment building at the other end of the alley started to flash on in windows.  With the car lights off Xeno started up, revving the engine a bit, and then slowly drove away, turning right, and right again at the street leading back to the motel.

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