C. Edward Baldwin
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ink & Stone Pubishing
Date of Publication: June 2015
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 99k
Cover Artist: Clarissa Yeo
In Rememberers, time is not a straight line. It circles back onto itself. Eternal Return is real. But only a small handful of humans know this. And of that handful, an even smaller number of people, known as Rememberers are capable of remembering events from previous life cycles.
Kallie Hunt, a nineteen year old college student, after suffering from a sustained bout of déjà vu, discovers that she’s not only a Rememberer, but also the reincarnation of the goddess Kali and the first woman Eve, and perhaps more importantly, a demon-slayer.
Monday, August 24
Detective Jeremy Stint looked absently at the clock on the wall of his office. He was vaguely aware that it was 7:30 p.m. But his mind wasn't on the time. He was thinking about Phillip Beamer's murder. The murder, which had been committed in the first week of August, had been the first murder in Buckleton in nearly a decade. Murders in Buckleton were as rare as a truth-telling politician. The town was located in a sweet spot in South Carolina about halfway between Charlotte and Columbia. It was off the beaten path for drug runners, therefore drug traffickers and the peripheral trouble usually accompanying them tended to avoid it. It was a town made up mostly of the elderly and middle agers with small children. Young people, considering it the boondocks, high-tailed it out of town as soon as their parents and the law allowed, never looking back, which was just fine by Stint. He'd spent twenty years working homicides in Richmond, Virginia, where murders had seemed to occur as often as hands got dirty. The cities could have their mass population's largess of crime. He'd take the slow pace of Buckleton any day of the week.
The rarity of murders in Buckleton made the occurrence of one more horrifying for the town's citizenry, especially since with Buckleton being a small town, the victim was usually known by all. Strangers were as rare as murders in Buckleton, which made Phillip Beamer's death doubly concerning. No one in town had known the man. It was as if he'd dropped into the town out of the clear blue sky.
Stint reread his notes on the Beamer case. The victim's landlord, Mabel Jones, had nearly tripped over the victim's body on the morning of August 6. It was five o'clock in the morning and Mabel was leaving the house on her way to her second business. She was the proprietress of Belle's Cafe. Beamer had been left on her front porch, stabbed to death. Mabel had been up since four and hadn't heard Beamer leave the house. She thought he was in his room, which was on the house's second floor along with the rooms of her three other borders, all of whom had been sound asleep, hearing nothing.
"I tell you that man was as quiet as a church mouse," she'd said to Stint during her first interview at the station. "He'd barely make a sound. I hardly knew he was there. Unlike those other three who clunk around like show horses."
She'd rented a room to Beamer just two weeks earlier. He'd passed her background check and had excellent credit. He'd told her he was a freelance writer and was working on his first novel.
Mabel sipped from the cup Stint had brought her. Drops of coffee trembled down the cup's sides, lightly dotting the table around it. "He said he needed a quiet place to work. And you know there's no quieter place than Buckleton. Even the wind tiptoes around here. I had no reason to doubt him. Everything had checked out. He was so nice and he paid me six months in advance." When she finished, she looked weakly at Stint as if seeking his forgiveness.
Stint remained stone-faced, but he didn't begrudge the woman's making of a buck, nor did he fault her for harboring a bad apple. Background and credit checks were the staples of the industry and were often a landlord's best and only defense against weirdoes and deadbeats. But they weren't foolproof. Heck, even reference-checking didn't always expose poisonous fruit. There was simply no surefire way for landlords or employers to keep a potential Ted Bundy or Jonathan the Bum from entering their places of business or humble abodes. It was impossible to know everything about everyone. Sometimes personal baggage moved in silent lockstep with applicants. "Did he have any visitors?" Stint had asked her.
"Nary a one," Mabel said. "Like I said, I hardly knew he was there. He was as quiet as a church mouse."
Church mouse, Stint thought somberly. It had been a morbidly fitting analogy. Beamer's head had been nearly decapitated, as if his neck had been snapped off by a human-sized mouse trap. Crime of passion perhaps, he thought.
There was a light rap on the doorframe to his office.
Stint looked up and saw the ICE agent standing in his doorway, holding a briefcase. After the Beamer murder, the agent had shown up at his office unexpectedly. Stint had no idea what Beamer's death had to do with national security. But then again, he didn’t know what the death had to do with anything. "Agent Bennett, come on in."
Bennett stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. Stint offered him the client seat in front of his desk. After an exchange of pleasantries, Bennett sat down in the offered seat and laid his briefcase across his lap. He opened it, pulling out the plastic bags containing the business card and crime scene photos. He handed the items to Stint. "I appreciate you letting me borrow these."
Stint laid them on his desk. "No problem, just professional courtesy. I'll put them in our storage safe. Would you like to share with me why you needed them?"
"Let's just say I wanted to gauge the reaction of a little birdie."
Bennett bit his lip. "It's hard to say."
Stint waited a moment to see if the agent was going to add to the short statement. When it was clear that he wasn't, he said, "We don't get much violent crime here. You can imagine the stir this one has caused. If there's anything you could share to help me solve this thing..."
"You're not going to solve it," Bennett said.
"How's that?" Stint asked, his dandruff rising. "I know we're a smalltime outfit, but there's no cause to..."
"That's not what I mean," Bennett interjected. "You're not going to solve it because the murder had nothing to do with Buckleton."
"Well, even a random act of violence happening in my jurisdiction is still my responsibility," Stint said.
"This wasn't a random act of violence."
Stint snatched up the plastic bags and stood up. He walked over to a floor safe tucked into the back corner of his office. He turned the combination lock and popped open the door. He paused and turned to face Bennett, holding the plastic bags up in the air. "Don't you think one professional courtesy deserves another?"
There was a brief pause, and then Bennett said, "Is this place secure?"
Stint just looked at him. Buckleton had a two man police force. Stint was the police chief and lead detective—well, only detective. The other member of the force, Raymond Johns, was home, probably just about ready to tuck his five-year-old son into bed.
"Okay," Bennett said, obviously catching the detective's drift. He nodded for Stint to return to his chair. The police chief placed the plastic bags inside the safe, closed the door, and readjusted the combination lock. After he returned to his chair, Bennett said, "Phillip Beamer was also known as Abu Dawood. He was an American citizen with ties to Al Qaeda."
"He was a terrorist?" Stint asked.
"He was a sleeper cell, planning a terrorist attack against America. He and a group of his cohorts were going to blow up the Strom Thurmond Federal Building in Columbia. We'd been tracking his email communications for a number of years. We'd known about Beamer or Dawood since 2001."
"Who took him out? Was it us?"
"By us, you mean the US government?"
"No," Bennett said. "There were no plans to take Dawood/Beamer out. We would have prevented the attack, but he was worth more to us alive than dead."
Bennett's face drew in as he slowly shook his head. "We don't know."
"But you have a theory," Stint said.
Bennett looked at him curiously for a moment as if trying to gauge his aptitude for hearing the absurd. "Yeah, I do. It's a wild one, maybe even too wild to mention."
"I've been in law enforcement over twenty years. I've just about heard them all."
"A psychic," Bennett said in a matter of fact tone.
"A psychic?" Stint repeated.
"I think someone knew what Dawood/Beamer was planning to do, and then either they or someone they directed killed him before he could carry it out."
"Huh," Stint said. He was skeptical, but not dismissive. He'd known stranger things, like the man who'd thought his dog had commanded him to kill. "What about his cohorts?"
"What about them?" Bennett asked.
"Were any of them killed, too?"
"No," Bennett said. "We have a couple of the ones Dawood/Beamer communicated with via email in custody. But they, too, were sleeper cells and hadn't actually met him."
"Why would someone kill only this Dawood/Beamer character?"
"Because he was the leader. Killing him ended the planned terrorist threat. Dawood had been the lead domino. The other cells were to follow his instructions like trained seals. They knew none of the particulars of the assignment, only their specific roles in it."
"Okay," Stint said. "Let's say a psychic was involved. You have a vigilante on your hands that killed a known terrorist who was planning a horrific act of terrorism against the US. End justifies the means, right?"
"You don't really believe that, do you?" Bennett asked.
He didn't. Vigilantism was just another form of law breaking. To allow it would jeopardize the rule of law in society, ultimately leading to chaos. Not to mention the very real possibility that a vigilante could kill the wrong person. Stint didn't say any of this, but he didn't need to. He could tell Bennett recognized a slip of the tongue when he heard one. "So why do you think he was killed here in Buckleton?"
"Because he was here. His death wasn't connected to the town in any other way."
I guess that's good to know, Stint thought. The last thing Buckleton needed or wanted was someone targeting its citizens. "What's your next step?"
Bennett poked the inside of his jaw with his tongue and looked away. "There isn't a next step. Right now, we wait."
"What should I do about my investigation?"
"Unless you're a glutton for the punishment of an unsolved murder, I'd table it. Beamer's killer is most likely a world away from Buckleton."
C. Edward Baldwin’s debut novel, Fathers House was released in December, 2013 to wide critical acclaim. Kirkus Reviews called his 2014 Reader’s Favorite Award winning crime fiction book, “A resounding story of fatherhood packaged as a tense thriller.” Rememberers is Baldwin’s sophomore effort. Baldwin graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a BA in Communications and he holds a MA in English from East Carolina. He and his wife Natasha, and their two boys, currently reside in Raleigh, NC.