Angel's Trumpet Murder (Excerpt)

On New Year’s Eve 1997, at 11:45 p.m., Joe Jenkins, the engineer in charge of the freight train—he affectionately referred to as “Matilda”—checked the cab instruments at the three quarter mile mark before getting to the New River drawbridge. He smiled softly when he saw that he was clear to proceed. He knew that once he crossed the bridge, he would have only thirty-five more miles of rail before getting to his destination—the Miami port. A sense of joy filled his heart as he thought of spending the rest of the New Year’s Day with his wife and grandchildren in Hialeah, something he had not been able to do in the last three years. As the train approached the bend, Joe noticed a pocket of dense fog and immediately began operating the train on restricted speed mode even before the cab signaling system indicated it.He looked ahead and estimated that the drawbridge was half a mile away. While his cab signaling system was reliable, it wasn’t in his nature to trust electronic devices all heartedly. He preferred to rely on his God-given senses, and kept an eye out for the semaphores along the tracks. Through the fog, he was able to confirm the aspect of each of the three rail signals. Each displayed a green light. He felt confident then, and continued without stopping. From experience, he knew that the drawbridge could handle the stress of Matilda at 60 mph; and decided to throttle up from 15 mph to 25 mph.As Matilda came out of the bend, Joe continued to increase her speed. He was still about three thousand feet away from the north side of the bridge when he saw something moving on the tracks across the bridge. Immediately he placed his right hand on the break lever anticipating an emergency stop. He looked at the tracks ahead for a few seconds, but could not see any more movements. He studied the cab instruments again—just in case—and confirmed that he was clear. Believing that the illusory movement was a shadow made by the light of the train bouncing off the fog, he continued to accelerate.About 1,500 feet away from the edge of the bridge, just as Matilda was reaching 40 mph, Joe saw a figure fidgeting on the tracks. He became bewildered and frantic as he realized that a woman lying on the tracks. In desperation, he started blasting the horn, and putting all the weight of his body against the brake lever, hoping against all odds to stop Matilda on time. Obeying Joe’s command, the brake compressors pumped and sent thousands of pounds of air pressure to each set of wheels under the train, while the main gears of the engine froze in an effort to counter the thrust of the one-hundred cars tailing the engine.The massive steel wheels grinding against the wet smooth surface of the steel rails produced an ear-piercing screech that together with the frantic blaring of the horn, filled the quiet night with a sense of urgency and desperation. The cantankerous commotion brought Gabi—as her friends knew her—to a semi-conscious state. Despite the haze and confusion in her mind, she managed to open her heavy eyelids just in time to see the blinding light of the colossal diesel-guzzling Cyclops rolling mercilessly toward her, as it spewed torrents of bright sparks from each side. The way her mind was working at that moment, Gabi thought that she was having a nightmare and that the train was an angry fire-breathing dragon fixed on meting its justice and exacting its punishment against her for all the pain she had caused others in the past year.

Still in a deep state of grogginess, Gabi felt the earth trembling and rumbling under her body. She realized that she was laying across the cold railroad tracks upon which the vengeful metal monster was traveling. She had no idea how she got there but she knew she had to get out of the way. Desperately and furiously, she tried to stand up and run away, but she was much too groggy to do so. She then tried crawling out of the way, but her arms and legs remained nimble and refused to obey the commands from her brain.
As the train drew closer, Joe saw the ghastly expression of terror chiseled on the woman’s face, and although he could not hear her scream, he knew that she was screaming because her mouth was open. Not knowing what else to do, he closed his eyes, made the sign of the cross, and let out a horrified scream. At that precise moment, Gabi too let out a final deafening shriek an instant before the massive steel jaws of the engine devoured her rag-like body.
The unusual ruckus caught the attention of Gerry Miranda, a five year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, who was conducting his last routine check of the grounds around a boatyard—before the end of his shift. He looked toward the tracks—about two hundred yards from where he stood. He could see the sparks spewing out of the train’s steel wheels, and has he cast his eyes toward the engine, he saw as the train ran over something that was moving on the tracks.
The initial impact severed Gabi’s head instantly. It flung out diagonally, ricocheted against on the adjacent tracks, rolled down the riverbank slope, and into the dark cold waters of the New River. The train dragged Gabi’s body under its massive steel jaws, crushing repeatedly every bone in her body, and ripping her flesh like ruthless blades of a giant meat grinder. By the time the engine came to a complete halt—about half a mile away from the point of impact—only shreds remained of Gabi’s body.
Gerry found it peculiar that the engineer would stop the loaded train just because of an animal. Based on experience, he knew that a train would never stop after running over an animal. Then, a doubt set on his mind. “What if it wasn’t an animal?” He thought. “What if it was a daring teenager playing ‘chicken’ on the tracks?” A f oolish game he used to play with his cousins when they were teenagers.
The horrible thought of a child dying under the wheels of a train, nagged him and prevented him from going home without checking things out first. He got into his cruiser, and before placing the car on drive, he called headquarters to inform them of his intentions to investigate the scene. Once he finished speaking to the dispatcher, he went south on S.W. 1st Avenue, toward S.W. 5th Street. He then went west on 5th Street, and then headed north on Flagler Avenue. He drove his cruiser over the grass and gravel between the tracks and the Hatteras building, until he reached the spot where he saw the mysterious figure— just a few yards away from the riverbank.
Meanwhile, at a New Year’s Eve party in progress at the Grand Ballroom of the 110 Tower Hotel Trevor Brenner looked around the crowd trying to find Gabi. She promised to welcome the New Year with him, and he had reserved one of the rooms, and ordered a bottle of champagne, in anticipation of a more intimate celebration. While she was everything he dreamed about in a woman, Trevor, was determined to break up with her once and for all, not because he wanted to, but because he was forced to do it.
That same evening his wife Sharlene found out about the affair between him and Gabi. They had a heated argument, loud enough for neighbors to call the police out of concern. Sharlene told him to break up the affair and threatened to leak the information to the press. The last thing he needed was a scandal just three days before he was to take an oath as a Federal judge, especially since Gabi was an illegal immigrant, who was an exotic dancer, and a client of his firm. He glanced at the giant clock on the wall; it was five minutes to midnight. He called Gabi’s mobile phone but all he got was her voice mail.
“Have you seen Gabi?” He asked Jake, over the loud music, and murmurs flooding the air in the ballroom. Jake was the owner of the club where Gabi worked as a dancer, and like Gabi, he was a client of Trevor’s law firm.
“I saw her getting into a car with a woman around 10:30 pm, Jake shouted into Trevor’s ears. She told me that she was coming back, but I haven’t seen her again. Have you tried her cell phone?”
“I just did,” Trevor shouted back, “I only got her voice mail.”
“She’s probably on her way. Just get yourself another drink and relax,” Jake said trying to reassure Trevor, but knowing that it was unusual for Gabi not to be there, especially after she had talked so much about the party.
Back on the train tracks, officer Miranda approached the area where he thought he saw the woman. He realized that the area was pitch-dark without the powerful light of the train, so put on the high beams on the cruiser and grabbed his flashlight. Oscillating the flashlight like a search light, he blanketed the area near the cruiser. He spotted an asymmetrical large glimmering spot. He correctly assumed that it was fresh blood, and approached it for closer examination. On the surface of the rails, there was a trail of fresh blood still flowing in the direction of the train, and all over the bed of rocks and gravel under the tracks.
Not finding anything to confirm whether the mysterious figure on the tracks was actually a human being, he started toward his cruiser. As he reached for the door, the gravel under his right foot shifted suddenly causing him to lose his footing. While struggling to remain standing, he dropped the flashlight, which rolled under the frame of the cruiser and somehow its bulb went out. He bent down to retrieve it. As he reached for it, he felt something wet, warm, and mushy. Instinctively, he pulled back his hand, walked in front of the headlights and saw fresh blood on it.
Shuttering with disgust, he opened the door to his cruiser and took a handful of sanitizing wipes from a box he had on the front passenger seat, and wiped the blood off his hand. As a police trainee, he learned to carry alcohol, and latex gloves for his own protection against transmittable diseases. He reached into the glove compartment, pulled a bottle of rubbing alcohol, poured some it on his hands, and scrubbed them.
He then grabbed a pair of latex gloves from his briefcase and a plastic evidence bag. He put on the gloves, and walked back where he had dropped the flashlight. He squatted down again, and reached under the cruiser. He picked up the flashlight pushed the “on” button and then shone the light on the spot where he felt the bloody object. He was shocked to see a portion of what appeared to be a female foot with two toes still attached to it. He felt revolted and strong urges to throw up his dinner. After breathing heavily and rapidly for a few seconds, he managed to stop himself from vomiting.
Once he regained his composure, he removed a 35 mm he had in his briefcase and began taking pictures. After confirming that he could move the car without further disturbing the scene, he moved the cruiser about fifteen feet away from the spot. He then proceeded to call headquarters to report the incident and to request assistance.
“Dispatch this is unit 21. I am at the railroad tracks behind the Hatteras boatyard. I just witnessed a 9-41, and I need assistance to secure the scene.”
"Unit 21, this is dispatch. Did I hear you right Miranda? Did you say a 9-41? Over.” A surprised feminine voice asked over the two-wave radio.
“Affirmative dispatch,” Gerry replied. “Send a homicide unit and a CSU team. Make sure that they bring portable lights because this area is very dark. Do you copy?”
“Roger, Unit 21.” The dispatcher countered. “We just received a report of the accident from the engineer of the train,” she continued. “He claims that there was a woman on the tracks dressed on her underwear only. Can you confirm that report, over?”
He took a deep breath before responding, and looked around into the darkness as if trying to find the answer to the dispatcher’s question. “It appears that that the victim was female,” he finally replied, “but I am unable to confirm. Forensic will have to make to make the gender determination.”
“Copy that, Unit 21. Please confirm your location to send the responding units your way, over.”
“I am on the southbound train tracks between SW Flagler Avenue and SW 2nd Avenue, just south of the New River’s train bridge, right behind the boatyard, over.”
“10-4 Miranda, and by the way, Happy New Year!” the dispatcher responded and immediately issued a bulletin directing all the units within the downtown district to respond to Miranda’s call for assistance. Five units replied instantly, and announced their new heading toward Miranda’s location.
While the other units arrived, in an attempt to maintain the integrity of the scene, Gerry pulled out a set of marking flags and began searching the area with his flash light. By the time the back up arrived, he had placed over thirty flag markers, each marking the spot where he found pieces of the body.
Within thirty-five minutes after the accident, the scene had been secured, and all traffic detoured. Joe was still in shock, and was not much help to the investigators. He could not remember the exact point of impact, but he knew that it happened right after the engine crossed the drawbridge. The only description he could provide of the woman was that she looked young and Hispanic. Joe was so distraught that his company sent a replacement and a team of investigators to find out details of the accident in order to mitigate damages if necessary, and to do the mandatory blood testing of the engineer to eliminate drugs or alcohol as possible factors of the accident. It took a team of six forensic investigators, and twenty officers and detectives working in conjunction with a team of Federal investigators to finish processing the scene.
Back at the 110 Tower Hotel, realizing, and disappointed that Gabi was not showing up, Trevor gave the key of his room to Tom Beatty, one of his partners, and urged him to enjoy it as a belated Christmas gift. He then went out to the valet and requested his car. While he waited for his car, he saw Sharlene’s car, parked across the street. He assumed that she was there to spy on him, and to avoid another outburst, he just got into his car and dove back home.
On the way home, he supposed that perhaps Sharlene had confronted Gabi, which would explain—at least in his mind—why Gabi failed to show up at the party. He called Gabi’s mobile phone three more times, but each time he would get the voice mail and hang up. When he arrived at his house, but before coming out of the car, he called Gabi’s phone one last time. This time he left a message asking her to call him back, as soon as possible, but did not elaborate further. He decided to give up for the night. He thought that under the circumstances he needed to let things cool off a little before attempting to talk to Gabi again. For now, he knew that he had a lot of grabbling to do to appease Sharlene, and buying her a new car would be a good start.
Nine months after Gabi’s death, federal investigators had not yet concluded their investigation, and had not been able to rule out whether the woman was the victim of a suicide or a homicide. Through forensic tests and the assistance of a forensic anthropologist who managed a partial reconstruction of the bits and pieces of the bones recovered at the scene, they were able to determine that the train victim was a female between 5’4” to 5’6” tall, of Hispanic origin, and between 25 to 30 years old.
They also determined that she had an alcohol blood level of .04, and found an unusually high concentration of atropine, hyoscine, and hyoscyamine, in her blood as well in a portion of her larger intestine they found at the scene. All three chemicals have hallucigenic properties, and hinder the brain’s ability to control the motor functions of the body.
Although the CSU team managed to lift prints from five partial fingers recovered at the scene, they found no match on the database of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the FBI’s database. They ran into the same dead end with all the DNA information they had. Not having any cross references to identify Gabi, the investigators referred to her as “Jane Doe # 1025.” Without any additional leads, and having come to a dead end in their investigation, the join investigation conducted by the Ft. Lauderdale Police and the Federal investigators into the woman’s death came to a halt. Having no other option, the investigators placed the evidence in store to preserved it for future use, and relegated the case of Jane Doe # 1025 to the “cold case” files.
During the first three months following Gabi’s sudden disappearance, Trevor attempted to find her, but no one knew where she went. He thought of filing a missing person report, but he knew that doing so, would be a setback for his relationship with Sharlene, and he had been working hard to keep her happy. Besides, Jake did tell him that Gabi had plans of driving up to Canada to spend time with her mother after the Holidays. Perhaps—he thought—she went there and decided not to come back.
By September of that year, Trevor and Sharlene’s relationship was becoming bearable again; they had worked hard to try to restore their marriage with the help of a marriage counselor. To make sure that he would not stray again, Sharlene had insisted that Trevor sign a post-nuptial agreement that would benefit her greatly if he dared to engage in another extra marital venture. Trevor knew that he’d screwed things up and he had no option but to agree to his wife’s demands. The only way out of the post-nuptial agreement was for Sharlene to die, a thought he didn’t dare contemplate.

Angel's Trumpet Murder (Excerpt)

jaggarcia

Joined January 2008

Artist's Description

While investigating what appeared to be a tragic accident, a young cop finds himself in the spotlight as he unravels a murder plot in which a socialite, a federal judge, and an exotic dance club owner become suspects in the gruesome death of a young and beautiful exotic dancer.

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