Carlton Stowers Careless Whispers

ISBN 13: 9780878335305

Careless Whispers

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9780878335305: Careless Whispers
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Recounts the brutal murders of three young people, describes the lenghty police investigation, and covers the trials and convictions of the murderers

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About the Author:

Carlton Stowers is the author of more than two dozen works of nonfiction, including the Edgar Award-winning Careless Whispers, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Innocence Lost, and Open Secrets. He and his wife live in Cedar Hill, Texas.

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Careless Whispers
PART ONEFor several silent minutes the police officer had stood looking down at the body of the young girl. Like the blonde, she too had been a pretty girl, with long dark brown hair. A gold necklace with a heart-shaped medallion was still around her neck, the chain broken and partially embedded in one of her wounds. She still wore blue hoop earrings and there were rings on two of her fingers. It appeared she had been gagged with her own blouse and her hands tied behind her with what was probably a strip of cloth torn from a towel. Lividity had already begun and, after trying to bend one of her toes, the officer decided she had been dead for quite some time. Ants and pillbugs were crawling over her bloodstained torso and flies had already laid their eggs in her nasal cavities. Soon, he knew, maggots would be hatching.Her eyes remained partially open, a milky gray glaze replacing their original color. The lifeless stare of a murder victim seemed always to draw the officer's attention. The eyes were like once-sparkling marbles deprived of light: dull, nonreactive, cold.He shook his head slightly, images of her killer forming in his mind. "God, if only I could see through your eyes," he whispered.Still, the officer's expression did not change in the slightest. Years of investigating homicides had taught him to mask any feelings he might have. To do the job he knew the situation demanded, he had to go about his duties with an attitude some might mistake for a total lack of emotion. Fellow officers, in fact, had often remarked that they'd never known anyone less bothered by the sight of a homicide victim. Jokingly they said that he would get right down there with them, touching them, looking right at them, like he was checking a dog for fleas. Nothing seemed to affect the guy. It was the only way the officer knew to properly conduct an investigation.While he stood there looking down at the girl's body, hishands buried in the hip pockets of his trousers, the Captain walked up and placed a hand on his shoulder. Neither spoke for a moment, then the Captain shook his head. "I've seen some rough ones, but never anything like this," he said. "Nothing like what they did to these poor kids. Bastards didn't leave them a shred of dignity. Not a bit. I think that's what bothers me the most." There were tears in his eyes as he spoke."It bothers me, too, Captain," the officer said. He took a deep breath. "It bothers me a helluva lot."1For most of the day construction worker Sidney Smith and his brother-in-law Joseph Chambers had been fishing along the banks of Lake Waco with little success. Several times they had moved from one location to another, hoping to find that one special spot where either the crappie or bass might be biting. Finally, weary of the unyielding heat and disappointed with their luck, Chambers suggested they call it quits, stop somewhere for a couple of beers, then go on home. But Smith was starting a new job the next day and knew he wouldn't have the opportunity to do much fishing for some time to come. He argued that it wasn't even five o'clock yet--there were still several hours of daylight remaining--and there was one other place they might try before giving up.Several weeks earlier he had caught some nice-sized crappie in shallow water at one of the far ends of Speegleville Park. He persuaded his brother-in-law to drive over there and try just a bit longer.To get to the Speegleville side of the lake, Smith drove out Highway Six, over the twin bridges, then took an exit to the access road which led to the entrance of the large state-maintained park that was used mostly by fishermen and campers. After entering the park, he drove his pickup a couple of miles along the winding blacktop, then turned off onto a small dirt road that led into the thickly wooded area that bordered the lake's shoreline.It was not a road in the truest sense, just a rutted path carved out by pickup-driving fishermen, campers who wanted to set up their tents in the more isolated areas of the park, and adventurous young lovers seeking privacy for other reasons. Even with the sun still high in a cloudless sky, the shelter of trees formed a leafy umbrella over the road and made the route they were taking so shadowed that it suddenly seemed near twilight.Chambers, who had never been in Speegleville Park before, mentioned that the place was "spooky as hell.""A guy could get lost out here and nobody'd ever find him," he said.Sidney Smith grinned. "We're almost there," he said. A few seconds later, the smile drained from his face."What the hell is that?"He braked to a jerking stop. Less than twenty feet away, at an intersection with another makeshift road, was what appeared to be a body, its legs stretched out into one of the rutted tire paths.For several minutes the two men sat in the cab of the pickup trying to decide whether they had happened onto someone's bad practical joke or something far more serious. It could be nothing more than a dummy, placed here to scare whoever might be passing by. If such was the case, the perpetrator had succeeded with flying colors."That's no dummy," Chambers finally said, breaking a silence neither realized had set in as they contemplated the situation. Smith said nothing but was mentally agreeing with his brother-in-law as he got out of the pickup and slowly walked in the direction of the outstretched body.He didn't have to get much closer to satisfy himself that something bad had taken place. Lying beneath a small tree on the edge of the road was the motionless form of a young man. What Smith assumed to be blood was smeared across the front of the man's shirt. He also appeared to have some sort of gag tied around his mouth.Sidney Smith had never seen a dead person before but he was certain the man was no longer alive. Still, he stared at the body for several seconds, not even blinking, trying to detect any movement. There was none.Finally, as if awaking from a trance, he turned and ran back to the pickup. "We've got to tell somebody," he said with obvious fright in his voice. "That guy's dead."He backed the pickup down the road until he could turn around, then headed back in the direction of the paved road. Smith knew that Gene Thorpe, a McLennan County Deputy Constable who also served as a night security guard at the park, lived in a house trailer near the marina, just a couple of miles away. He hoped Thorpe was at home.Driving as fast as he could along the narrow park road, Smith said nothing at all until they had almost reached Thorpe's trailer. Pale and shaken, he didn't take his eyes off the road as he finally remarked on what he'd seen."Jesus, Joe, he was still wearing a pair of sunglasses. Laying there dead and still had sunglasses on. Damn."Sidney Smith felt as if he was going to be sick. God, how he wished they'd quit fishing and gone home early. 
Constable Thorpe, a husky, middle-aged man with an ever-present weary look, had just returned home from work and was ready to sit down and watch the evening news before having his dinner. Thus the situation presented him by the two shaken fishermen was more aggravating than alarming. Probably, he thought, some old fisherman who had gotten too much sun, had a stroke, and died. It had happened before in the brutal July heatwaves that annually visited central Texas. Thorpe had never understood why anyone would want to get out in such brain-baking heat unless it was absolutely necessary.There was no urgency in his movements as he pulled on the cowboy boots he had just minutes earlier removed. Whatever the case, he knew he would be tied up with the matter for quite some time. Before leaving the trailer, he placed a call to the sheriff's department. "Looks like we've got some kind of questionable death out here at Speegleville," he told the dispatcher. "Better get some people out here soon as you can. I'll have somebody waiting near the entrance of the park to direct you to the site where the body was found." He hung up, frowned, and headed toward his car. Smith and Chambers climbed back into the pickup and led him to where they had made their gruesome discovery.Thorpe's attitude changed dramatically once he arrived at the wooded area where the body lay. Clearly this was no heat stroke victim. The body was that of a teenage boy. Stab wounds were evident in the chest and there was a gag tied over the mouth. By the way the arms were stretched behind the back, Thorpe immediately assumed that the hands had been bound as well. He instructed Smith and Chambers to drive back toward the entrance to the park and lead the investigators to the scene as soon as they arrived.As he stared down on the dead youngster, all thoughts of hislate dinner and missing the six o'clock news disappeared. Somewhere, he thought to himself, there's a real crazy running loose. And despite the intense heat which made even taking a deep breath a chore, a sudden shiver ran through his body. 
Patrol Sergeant Truman Simons, a seventeen-year veteran in the Waco Police Department, was a man of average build, trim, and well shy of six feet, but something about the way he carried himself gave one the impression of a much larger man. A rural heritage was still very much evident in his rough-hewn good looks, his easy laughter, and his gentle manner. His brown eyes, which matched the color of his hair and his neatly trimmed mustache, always focused squarely on whomever he was talking with, signaling a quiet self-confidence. His dress, when not in uniform, was usually jeans, boots, and a western shirt.Simons had been working the relief shift--3:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M.--for several weeks and had seen very little of his wife in recent days. He would still be sleeping when she left for work at the Engineering Technological Institute, and she would already be asleep when he arrived home in the early morning hours. Both would be glad when he returned to a normal schedule.One of the things he had missed most was attending her softball games. Judy Simons was pretty and feminine--she had played the lead in several musical comedies in college--but she also had a tomboyish manner which was one of the first things that had attracted her husband. She always looked forward to the women's softball league schedule and in summers past Truman had coached her team. Eager to hear details of the previous evening's game, he drove to her office to have coffee with her after handing out beat assignments and completing his paperwork.For Simons, patrol was, at best, boring. On occasion he enjoyed returning to it, however, just to let the cobwebs clear away after lengthy stretches in vice and intelligence or with the tactical squad. Working patrol was his pressure valve, a way to step away from the demands of intense investigations for a time. But always he would tire of the duty quickly, and he had gained a reputation for spending unauthorized time looking into cases that didn't fall within his job description.In the minds of many in the department, including some ofhis superiors, Truman Simons was something of a renegade. He had a remarkable record for solving cases, many of them turned over to him by fellow investigators weary of running into blind alleys. But there were whispered suggestions that perhaps he didn't always make his cases by the book. "I don't know how he does it," Bob Fortune, a detective with the Waco Police, once told a fellow investigator after Simons had solved a particularly complex series of rapes, "and I don't want to know." His innuendo was clear.When Simons worked vice, a record number of arrests and convictions were tallied. And if he found that a fellow officer was involved in some manner of illegal activity, he wasn't the least bit hesitant to call it to a commander's attention. Once he arrested a fellow officer he caught drilling a safe, and he noticed afterward that several on the force were suddenly far less friendly than before. Another time when he was working on a heroin investigation, several prostitutes told him of repeated instances where a particular officer had forced them to provide him drugs and have sex with him or be arrested. After gathering enough information to satisfy himself that the accusations were valid, that the officer was in fact using dope on duty and getting what in police parlance is referred to as "badge pussy," Simons reported his findings to the officer's superior. Several days later the accused officer confronted him and insisted he had gotten some bad information. Simons showed him the notes he had taken during interviews with the prostitutes."Look," the officer said to Simons, "I'll promise you it won't ever happen again. What do you say we forget it this time? You know I'm a good cop." Simons told him he had serious doubts about that.Eventually the matter was dropped. The officer was allowed to remain on the force and he wasted little time spreading the word through the department that Simons had given him a bad rap and was not a man to be trusted. A year later that same officer was indicted on twenty-one counts of burglary.Truman Simons eventually came to the decision that he really didn't like cops. Too many were there simply for the misguided feeling of authority the job afforded them. He developed a growing dislike for the department's tangled bureaucracy. When he had strong suspicions that a fellow policeman had killed a prisoner in the city jail, he began looking into the matter but wassoon told to forget about it or find another job. The brotherhood that he felt was supposed to exist among officers was nothing more than a television-inspired myth. The truth was, he seemed to get along better with the whores and pimps and drug pushers, people who were supposed to be his adversaries, than he did with most of his colleagues.Sometimes, he felt, his attitude toward the police worked to his advantage. In a way it actually helped him when he was dealing with criminals who also felt that most cops were assholes, not to be trusted. Recently, though, he had been giving considerable thought to the direction his own career was heading.An academic rebel, Truman Simons had joined the Air Force at a time when his peers were finishing their junior year of high school. There he had earned his graduate equivalency diploma, but once his four-year hitch was up he entertained no desire to attend college. Instead, he worked briefly for his father as a mechanic, then served as shop foreman at the Ford Tractor plant before hearing on the radio one day that the Waco Police Department was looking for recruits. With no serious interest in or understanding of law enforcement, he decided to look into it.From a group of one hundred taking the Civil Service exam, Simons was one of eight applicants called in for interviews. Later, he was one of two hired.Despite the fact that at age twenty-five he had been the youngest member of the department ever to make sergeant, he still held that rank at forty. Those moving up to lieutenant were the ones who had college diplomas framed and hanging behind their desks and were continually enrolling in law enforcement courses across town at Baylor University. To Simons this was a waste of time and money. He had seen more than one good police officer ruined by too much education. Crimes, he strongly felt, were solved by hard work and long hours out on the street, not ...

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