Darkest Journey (Krewe of Hunters #20)(10)

The tales were different and yet, oddly, much the same. In most of them, the supernatural played a key role, and since that agreed with his own experience of the world, it had caused him a few problems early on in school. He’d quickly learned to guard his thoughts in regard to the world around him and to keep his mouth shut about many things he might have had to say, and he’d pretty much stuck to that plan into adulthood.

Then he’d heard about the Krewe.

On their most recent case, his first, he’d discovered that his quick ability to communicate with the lost and disfranchised—the dead—was a bonus and not something to hide. One of the dead men, a powerful lobbyist, had spoken to him, and after that the clues had been easy to follow. The murders had not been politically motivated, but rather rooted in a family financial dispute.

Ethan was glad he and the Krewe had been able to solve the case and especially pleased that he had proved his worth.

“Jackson?” he said now.

His supervisor was busy reading through a file and frowning as he did so. He quickly looked up as Ethan spoke.

“Ethan, thanks for coming so quickly,” Jackson said, indicating the chair in front of his desk. He passed the file across the table.

There were two pictures on the first page, men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five, both in business suits, one a muscular Caucasian, the other handsome and looking to be of mixed African American and Caucasian descent.

“Farrell Hickory and Albion Corley,” Jackson said, indicating the men in the pictures.

“And they’re both...?” Ethan asked.

“Dead,” Jackson clarified. “Local police are investigating. Everything they’ve got is all there in the files, and I’ve also emailed you.”

“They’re sure the murders are related?”

“Both men were found in replica Civil War uniforms in shallow graves—and not in graveyards but near them.”

“Union uniforms?” Ethan asked. A twisted get-even spree by a deranged local? The Civil War had ended in 1865. Reconstruction had officially ended with the Compromise of 1876.

Long over—or so one would think. But down here, things were different.

As much as Ethan wanted to believe people, in both the North and the South, had escaped the prejudices of that era, the Klan, neo-Nazis and various supremacist groups were still around. While laws could protect people, they couldn’t always deal with old hatreds that still had a pernicious hold on too many minds. Still, he believed he lived in a better world now than the one he’d been born into. And being of such mixed ancestry himself, it was painful to suspect that any murder might be motivated by prejudice.

“Here’s the interesting thing,” Jackson told him. “Farrell Hickory was in a Confederate cavalry officer’s uniform. Albion Corley was wearing a Union naval uniform.”

“That is interesting. You wouldn’t kill your own side, so that seems to rule out someone still stuck in the Civil War,” Ethan said.

Jackson nodded. “Anyway, both men were stabbed in the heart. The forensics experts believe that both men were stabbed with a bayonet or something similar that could be wielded with a certain precision.”

“If a bayonet was the murder weapon, that seems to indicate the killer is a Civil War reenactor,” Ethan said.

“That’s what the police think. But what’s the motive? And why these two men? Both of them were descended from men who fought in the Civil War but on opposite sides. Both of them had roots in or around the area, but their jobs weren’t related, and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection between them.”

Ethan listened, surprised he hadn’t seen anything about the murders on the news yet. He believed the country was trying to change the mind-set that had been so common at one time. He would have seen a clearer motive if descendants of known Klansmen had been murdered, for example, even more so if the victims were current members of the Klan or one of its spiritual cousins.

He didn’t know the particulars of either man, since he had yet to read the files, but he was sure Crow would have mentioned anything that obvious.

And he had yet to hear why the Krewe were involved. Unless the local police had asked for help. Unless one of the men had been kidnapped or state lines had been crossed.

Under most circumstances, three murders with the same signature were seen as the calling card of a serial killer, which was when the Bureau got involved, and so far they only had two. Of course, since the War on Terror had begun, everything, even in the FBI, had changed. And especially with the Krewe of Hunters, there really wasn’t such a thing as a norm.

“Jackson, I need to look through that,” he said, indicating the folder.

Jackson nodded. “You can study it on the way.”

“On the way? Where am I going?”

“Baton Rouge,” Jackson said, watching him for his reaction.

“Okay,” Ethan said slowly. “I’m just curious, and I’d like to play with a full deck. The Bureau has an office in New Orleans. Granted, it’s not a Krewe office, but even here I’m not the only Louisiana agent on staff. Am I going with someone else? Were we invited in? Or will I be stepping on toes when I get there?”

“Adam is speaking with the proper authorities. You won’t have any problems, though you’ll be working with a local detective—Randall Laurent.”

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