Episode 3: Flute Player

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Tess:

 Hello again everyone, or whoever is listening to this. I realize that this tape recorder was meant for my school project and all, but it seems to have taken on a whole other purpose. It’s still history.. So.. that counts right? Besides I still have time to finish that before it’s due, this counts as research.

 Alli and I have been working like crazy trying to organize this place but I think it may be a useless endeavor. Grandpa seems to have just researched a topic and dropped it into a box. If there is a method to the madness then it definitely isn’t genetic. Allison is having a field day trying to figure it out though. I don’t know how she can clean and organize for such long periods of time. I’m exhausted.
 A fact that makes the process even harder is that everything is about something interesting to us both. Therefore we never cease to be distracted. Take for example the one we found today. Grandpa has it titled mysteriously as “Flute Player”

 

September 3rd 2014

 

I met up with my old friend Denzel Chase today. We met for coffee at La Cocina, one of my favorite breakfast spots in Santa Fe. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall but they do the best Huevos Rancheros.

Denzel and I met at a classic car show in Albuquerque about 10 years ago. He has a mint 1967 Mustang. We struck up a conversation, he said he had never been to Los Alamos so I offered to be a tour guide if he ever came up. I came to find out that Denzel was a detective with the Albuquerque police department, a fifteen year vet at that point.

I was looking forward to catching up today, especially as I had heard he recently retired after a total of 25 years with the force. I hoped he had some great road trip stories in the Mustang to share. We met at La Cocina and got our coffees. I asked how things were going. Denzel said he had been retired about six months now.

Anyone at this stage in life should be excited, happy. I know the day I walked out of the Lab for the last time was one of the best days of my life. Especially with all that I had seen and heard there…. But Denzel was not his usual cheery self. He always had a confidence about him, not somebody you want to mess with. But he also had a easy friendliness about him, he could put people at ease and earn their trust. He was a detective and his personality made him one of the best I would say.

Today though he was quiet, reserved, even I might say a little sad. I asked what was on his mind.

“Oh nothing” he said. After a long pause he continued. “Well, it’s just that since I retired I can’t get this last case out of my mind…”

Intrigued, I asked him to share. The story that followed is one that both he and I still have no explanation for.

 

It was March 16th, a Sunday. And it was a full moon… You know me Robert, I’m a practical man. I don’t believe in superstition. But I have to say, there is something about nights with a full moon. There’s always something bad that happens.

I was working the night shift. I had a few cases I was working on at the time, but not alot of leg work I could do in the evening for the given cases. So, that afternoon I came on duty, we had our standard shift change briefing at headquarters. I was to be placed on “stand-by” that evening. Meaning, if a crime is committed, after the scene is secured, I would be called in to start an investigation. My part of town was usually southwest, just west of downtown, right across the Rio Grande. I’ll be honest, that’s not a good part of town. There’s one corner of Central Ave, one corner, that had 98 violent crimes in one year.

Speaking of central, that full mooned night, my partner Justin Alvarez and I had stopped at a convenience store to get some “game fuel” as he says. It was around 10:30PM. He got a Red Bull, and I got a coffee, black of course. We had just got back into the car when the call came through,

“Dispatch 221, we have a 10-14 at such and such address on Doloras Ave, delta oh el oh ar ay es. Units in vicinity please respond”

A moment later we heard “Copy dispatch, this is unit 427, I’m 10-76, ETA five or six minutes.”

Justin and I looked at each other. Typically, we would not be the first on scene for a 10-14, that is a report of a prowler. But the gas station was just a few minutes away and as we were on stand-by, we nodded, and decided to head over too.

“10-4 dispatch, this is unit delta 87, we’re close, we’ll head over for back up.” Justin said

“10-4 Delta 87 and 427” Came the response from dispatch.

Seeing as the call was for a potential prowler, maybe a burglar, we decided to run silent, maybe catch them in the act. It was a bad neighborhood, pretty run down and a lot of drug related crime.

Justin was driving, he flipped the lights on and pulled out onto Central, but we kept the siren off. We turned right at an intersection, just a few blocks from Dolores Ave. A few minutes later we were slowly making our way to the address. Down the street, we could see Unit 427, that was patrolman Anthony Vargas. The door to his cruiser was open, lights still running. As we pulled up, we could tell it wasn’t going to be good. Vargas was talking to a frantic neighbor, an older African American woman in a nightgown and curlers in her hair.

“Calm, down ma’am! Tell me what you saw.” Vargas said.

“You gotta go help her!” the woman yelled, frantic. “There was a man creeping around!”

“What did you see?” Vargas said. Justin and I had got out of our unmarked cruiser and joined him.

“I was watching the news when I thought my hearing aids were acting up.” the woman explained with an overly dramatic gesture. Justin and I exchanged a skeptical glance .

“I kept hearing this…whistle…almost a melody; it was like a flute. That’s when I saw something move outside, the leaves on my bush outside my window were moving and I heard steps and that whistling. I was scared officer! Aint nobody got time for a pervert or thief. So I reached for the phone and called for y’all” When I hung up, well that’s when I heard  her scream!”

“Who ma’am? Who was screaming?” Vargas asked.

“Denisha, she’s my neighbor right there!” she pointed. “I know it was her screaming! And she pregnant too.”

We all looked at each other and then to the dark house across the street.

“Officer Vargas, you secure the front door, check for sign of forced entry. We’ll go around to the back. Does anyone else live there ma’am?

“No, no! It just her, her man left her when he found out she was pregnant.”

“Ma’am, go inside and lock your door” I replied.

“Oh dear oh dear! I hope she ok!” she said running back inside.

Vargas unclipped his service piece and hunched into a trot across the street, Justin and I following suit. I reached inside my jacket for my Smith and Wesson. We slowly followed parallel to the broken picket fence lining the yard to this Denisha’s house. The full moon was just bright enough to watch my footing. When we reached the back of the house, I stopped and listened: nothing. I flicked on my flashlight. The back door hung open, the screen door torn. Not good.

I pulled my radio and spoke in a low tone. “Dispatch, we may have a 10-31, a potential crime in progress. Backup requested. Vargas, we are going in, keep the front secured. Repeat, officers going in.”

Justin nodded and we went in with me taking the lead. I  held my flashlight tight to my Smith and Wesson. We swept in, right, left. Nothing. Empty bathroom, empty hallway. We silently moved down the hallway; two bedrooms clear. We backtracked. The light touched the living room. There was broken glass shattered across the floor. The TV was on, but it was only snow, static. The flashing light was caught by the shards of glass. We approached slowly, and then we saw her: A young woman, at least we thought it was a woman…

Her body had been stabbed multiple times in the chest and abdomen. There was also, peculiarly, a spiral of feathers as it appeared, originating from her chest and circling down and around her feet, up again and ending in an open spiral above her head. As we approached closer, we could see she had been…scalped.

“My God…Dispatch, this is Delta 87. We need EMS right away, young female, presumed pregnant, severe trauma and bleeding, non-responsive. The scene is secure. We need backup…send everyone.”

We exited through the back door. A light breeze blew that night, it was cold. And on the wind I could almost swear I heard it, a flute, distant and indistinct. I shook my head, now I was hearing things. It was going to be a long night.

 

Dolores Ave had become an epicenter of police activity. Two CSI units had arrived shortly there after in addition to a number of EMS and Fire units and most available officers. The house of one Denisha Martinez was now roped off with yellow police line tape. The whole house was bathed in unnatural fluorescent light from the portable police spotlights. The sound of their gas generators making a low background rumble.

The victim, only 22 years old, was pronounced dead on the scene. After the CSI teams were done working the house and documenting the body as it lay in situ, the EMS unit from Albuquerque fire were given the ok, and the black body bag was wheeled out of the house, into the ambulance and off to Presbyterian General downtown for an autopsy. I worked non-stop, gathering the info I could. We took an official statement from the neighbor, who I will keep anonymous. After compiling all the info I could at the scene, it was my duty to contact the next of kin. The deceased’s mother also lived in Albuquerque. I arrived at the house in Los Lunas, just south of Albuquerque metro, and broke the news to a heart broken mother. After interviewing her, she stated that she was unaware of any threats or known enemies to the deceased.

The boyfriend, reported to have left a month or so before by the deceased neighbor would be an obvious suspect. We were already in the process of tracking down his whereabouts. The mother did not now where he was currently. A dead end at the moment.

The details of the manner of death would be withheld until after the autopsy. It was now around eight in the morning and I was exhausted. After going off duty, I trudged home. I barely slept despite my exhaustion. This was not a run of the mill murder.

While the murder was not the only one in this neighborhood even this year, the circumstance was bizarre; and beyond any crime I had investigated. I came back on duty that evening, but even before I had, I got working early. I arrived at Presbyterian General to consult with the pathologist regarding the autopsy which was done efficiently that morning, first thing.

I will also keep the pathologist anonymous but we can call him Dr Smith for simplicity. The autopsy revealed what we would have expected based on the way the body was found: she died of blunt force trauma, massive internal bleeding due to some 20 stab wounds. Dr Smith was unsure if the removal of the skin of the scalp was done post mortem. Based on the wounds and brutality of the crime, Dr. Smith agreed we were looking for a male suspect, probably of moderate build and height. Dr. Smith concluded that the wounds were not consistent with a knife, but rather a hatchet or axe. The violence of the crime was astounding.  

The toxicology was unremarkable other that some alcohol in her blood, but it was not excessive. Still a sad finding in a pregnant woman. The fetus obviously did not survive. There was also evidence of sexual assault. The unusual findings however were thus: despite evidence of sexual assault, they had thus far been unable to locate any viable DNA samples from the suspect. In addition, one of the stab wounds yielded an interesting find. The left clavicle had been completely shattered by a violent blow with the presumed hatchet. However, stuck within the bone were lodged pieces of what looked like black glass.

Obsidian, that was what Dr. Smith said it looked like. An outside consult with a mineral expert would later confirm this.

For the first and last time in my career as a detective, I was at a loss.

After coming on duty, I had a debriefing with the CSI teams. My frustration continued. The CSI team had failed to find any significant clues. There were fingerprints of both the deceased and her boyfriend, who did have a criminal history. Now while that sounds like good news, the confirmation of a suspect, it wasn’t.

The boyfriend, who I will also not name, had been in police custody for the last week in Amarillo Texas. With the only viable suspect scratched off the list, it was back to old fashioned detective work.

The cyber team reviewed the deceased social media accounts without finding anything that could be considered unusual. With the help of other officers, the remaining neighbours on Dolores Ave were interviewed but nothing useful was found.

The next day, the phone woke me from a deep but uneasy sleep, it was a member of the CSI team. They had more info available, specifically on the few dozen feathers found around the body.

“Are you sitting down detective?” the man asked. “The feathers were examined and carbon dated, they are around 150 years old. Well preserved. But, not one finger print.

An Ornithologist at UNM was consulted later and identified the feathers as being from at least five bird species found in New Mexico, including the road runner, and all of them very old.

The mystery took a turn yet again. About two weeks later, I was contacted by a patrol officer who stated that I should probably come down to the station. He had a suspect he thought I would want to interview. We will call her Cindy.

Cindy, a woman in her thirties had just turned herself in for prostitution. She begged the patrol officer to arrest her. She said she wanted to “go somewhere safe”.

While this initial statement was odd in my professional opinion, I didn’t see why this concerned me until I interviewed her.

Cindy was working her usual corner on Central, not far from downtown. She says business had been slow lately. Around sunset, she started to hear a flute playing. It waxed and waned in pitch and volume. She said it was beautiful, haunting even. Then, in the shadows behind some dumpsters she became aware of a presence, like somebody watching her. The flute stopped and she heard a voice coming from a dark figure in the shadow. She couldn’t see any details, really, other than it was tall, and almost seemed like there were feathers sticking out of his hair. It was a man’s voice that spoke, but she says it was almost what I would surmise as melodic, as if the man wasn’t quite talking but wasn’t quite singing.

“ What did he tell you?” I asked.

“He said, ‘“ My pretty pretty girl, the full moon has risen, the time to take child, is here. The harvest of souls is come.”

At this point Cindy says she became understandably frightened. Then she says his voice changed cadence into something dark, menacing, and he said just one word: “Come”. At this point, Cindy began backing away, then she broke into a run. She says she was looking over her shoulder as she ran. The sound of the flute returned and she could see the dark figure running for her, no dancing almost, is what she said, while holding something to his lips, presumably the instrument. She felt him gaining and then to her terror felt a hand on her waist, she says she threw the hand off and ran as fast as she could. She reached an intersection and ran headlong into traffic. She could have been killed, but as it happened, a patrol car screeched to a stop in front of her. The officer said she was sobbing, and pounding on the hood of his car for help. When he got out and approached, both Cindy and the officer looked to where she had run from but, there was no one on the sidewalk.

Patrols of the neighborhood did not find anything of note. Shop owners were interviewed on the block in question on Central but no reports were obtained of the incident.

“There was one other thing” Cindy said to me. In my belt, where I felt him touch me, this was stuck there.” She held out on the interview table a feather…

 

I brought it to the CSI lab who also confirmed it too was antique. Given the bizarre nature of the crime, I called an old acquaintance, Phil. He is a New Mexico history professor at UNM.

I explained the details I was allowed to with him. He scratched his beard, snapped his fingers and said: “Kokopelli.”

I had heard the word but wasn’t all that familiar.

“The humpbacked flute player. It was one of the oldest deities of the native southwest peoples. He was the god of fertility, of both agriculture and childbirth. He was also a trickster. His importance to fertility can often be seen in the plethora of petroglyphs, or rock paintings of Kokopelli, often depicting him with a large, well, erection. I would said your culprit is someone who fancies himself to be this character.”

It was a breakthrough for sure, the profiling was sound in my professional opinion.

The weeks went on without further incident. It was the last major case I worked before I retired. I still check in with my friends on the force, there haven’t been any breaks in the case except for one: the feather that Cindy found on her clothes did have fingerprints on the stem: two prints from Cindy’s right hand, and one large partial print. Based on the size and scaling, it was presumed to be of a male. It did not match any print in state crime data bases.

As Denzel finished his breakfast with me that morning, he concluded with this:

“You know Robert, I moved to New Mexico from Minneapolis. I’ll never go anywhere else. New Mexico certainly is the land of enchantment. But it does have its share of mysteries. I guess some of them will never be solved. As a detective, retired of course, I guess that is a fact I will never be able to come to terms with

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