Jordan,Ill., is one of those places that just seems to attract a lot of news stories. But when the murder rate starts growing faster than corn in July, the staff of the Jordan Daily News knows something is very wrong.
Great News Town
It's the summer of 1984 in Jordan, Ill., a small town where the Chicago suburbs disolve into corn fields. A refinery explosion draws national attention and keeps the staff of the local newspaper busy so the first murders barely rate a headline. Slum neighborhood, they think. Jealous husband, the sheriff says. Then in one weekend five people are killed and three injured. Now city editor Josie Braun and investigative reporter Duke Dukakis realize the events are connected. Duke pieces together the clues that solve the crime, but not before Josie faces her own brush with the serial killer.
“Last one up the hill’s a sissy,” Travis shouted as he ran toward the crest. His approach scared up a flock of crows on the other side of the hill. A black cloud arose suddenly, the cawing and flapping frightening the boy enough that he stumbled backward and rolled a little way down the hill. The scene was right out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” Duke thought, and he couldn’t suppress a laugh.
Birds circling overhead reminded Duke of his grandparents’ blueberry farm in southwest Michigan. Somehow the birds always knew when the berries were just right. One morning they would come and the berries would be gone. But why were all these crows here? The corn was so far from ready, and there was nothing . . . ”
Suddenly, Duke knew what had attracted the birds. He started running toward Travis, but he was too late. The boy had disappeared over the crest.
“No!” they could hear Travis shriek. “No!”
Duke was ahead of the others, and when Travis emerged running back over the hill, he ran right into Duke. “Oh, my god. Oh, my god,” the boy screamed hysterically.
“Shhh.” Duke grabbed him. “Let’s just go back to the car.”
“No, no!” Travis was screaming and hitting Duke.
“What is it?” Karen shouted, as she and Trent came running from opposite directions. “Oh, Mom,” Travis squealed. Karen grabbed her son instinctively to comfort him.
“Just go back to the car,” Duke insisted.
Then Karen knew. She backed away a few steps, paused as it dawned on her, and ran around them to the crest of the hill.
“Take Travis back to the car,” Duke said to Trent, but the older boy followed his mother. Their wails told him he was right; he had no choice but to follow.
Just over the crest, facing Jordan, was a blanket splattered with red. The two bodies were off to one side, clothed in crimson. Birds and rodents had picked at the faces and wounds, but Duke could guess by the almost black intensity of the chest wounds that they’d been shot. Carl’s face was turned toward them, staring with huge, empty eye sockets, as though black magic had claimed his soul. The girl was turned away from them, her blond hair matted with blood and splayed across his shoulder. Even in death Carl’s arm circled her waist, his hand resting on her bare buttocks.
In the noonday heat, a stench rose from the bodies like steam. Trent bent over into the tall weeds and retched. Karen fell to her knees whimpering like the mice that scurried from the bodies.
“Mom!” Travis called from behind them, unwilling to return to the horrifying scene.
“Take your brother to the car,” Duke commanded, shaking Trent by the shoulders. Trent looked at Duke with dull blue eyes that seemed almost in a trance, but he obeyed. Duke stepped in front of Karen and bent down to look her in the eye.
“We should get the boys out of here,” he whispered. He grabbed her in a bear hug and pulled her to her feet. Her cries sputtered in her chest as he took her hand, and they ran as though the horror was chasing them.