Author Alex Greenwood's Mystery Thriller Pilate's Cross
E-book Story based on real-life murder.
Pilate followed Krall back to his cramped and, Pilate thought, laughably stereotypically messy office. Stacks of papers, dozens of school annuals and what had to be at least fifty Post-it notes littered the large oak desk that ate up most of the room.
“Sorry for the mess,” Krall said, bursting into a humorless staccato laugh. He bent over a file cabinet and pulled out a large brown envelope, the kind you might use to mail a manuscript or magazines. “Assassination File November 1963” was scrawled haphazardly in black marker.
Krall offered it to Pilate.
“Uh, thanks, but I went through my JFK conspiracy phase after the movie,” Pilate said, a polite smile. “The Cross College incident, remember?”
Krall looked pained. “That’s what this is,” he said—the word moron left unsaid.
“Oh, sorry. November 1963, huh? “
“It happened just a few days after President Kennedy was assassinated. Cross College lost its president and coincidentally a man named Kennedy to an assassin, too.”
Pilate thought that fact was almost as weird as all those Lincoln-Kennedy assassination coincidences that fascinated him as a child. Lincoln had an assistant named Kennedy who warned him not to go to the theatre. Kennedy had an assistant named Lincoln who warned him not to go to Dallas. Pilate had a figment of his imagination who warned him not to go to Cross.
Pilate opened the envelope. Inside were at least one hundred pages of documents, photocopies, newspaper clippings and graphic crime scene photos of the double murder-homicide. Aesthetically, the photos’ saving grace was that they weren’t in color.
One showed an almost comically surprised looking President Keillor, his right eye a ghastly black hole, sprawled in his chair. Another showed Kennedy, his puppet strings cut, a third eye bored in his forehead.
Pilate flipped through a dozen or so other photos with different angles of the same horrors. He came to one of a portly man lying on a hooked rug, his arms extended like a tweedy Christ, a gun loosely spilling from one hand.
He held it up to Krall, who had watched Pilate take in the gory photos wordlessly. “This Bernard?”
Another photo showed a close-up of Bernard’s face, a crease where his glasses pinched his nose still apparent, his mouth a trickle of blood. A garish mosaic of dark inky blood and brains spilled from behind his head.
“God this is awful,” Pilate finally said, going back through the photos.
“Yes, it was.”
“Hmph. Why?” Pilate said, looking up a moment at Krall, who had his feet on his desk.
“Well, he left a note,” he dropped his feet to the floor, leaned over and pointed to the photo. A typed letter and fountain pen was beside the body. “See?”
“He left instructions for his burial, and a postscript,” Krall smiled, sat back down and raised his eyebrows mischievously, clearly relishing the opportunity to tell the tale to a new listener.
“And?” Pilate said.
Krall gestured toward the envelope. “Gimme.”
Pilate handed him back the packet. Krall fished through the papers until he found a copy of the letter, handing it to Pilate. “Here’s what the police transcribed from the original letter. Not sure where the actual letter is—probably lost in a box or hole somewhere.”
Pilate took the paper.
“Who is Dr. Benton?”
“Hmm? Oh, the guy he asked to look after his affairs? He was a prof here. One of the few who could stand the guy.”
“I see, so Bernard was…” Pilate was going to say “misfit” or “loner” until he read the postscript:
P.S. Wally tried to fire the wrong person.
“Dr. Walker Keillor. Nobody but his missus called him Wally to his face. I think Bernard meant it disparagingly. He told Bernard a few days earlier that Dean Kennedy agreed it was time for Bernard to move on,” Krall said, putting his feet back up and laying the file on his desk.
“Oh. So they fired him?”
“Yes, as you do in academia. They just declined to re-up his contract. After twenty-four years,” Krall whistled, making the sound of a bomb dropping, his hands behind his head and leaning back. “Real bummer.”
“Yeah, apparently so,” Pilate chewed on his fingernail. “Sounds like the most interesting thing that ever happened here.”
“Could be,” Krall said. “Though I hear the flood of forty-three was pretty big news.”