by John S
Nolan was a star in high school, be comes a major leaguer with a nasty habit.
|Beating the Bushes
Nolan Stewart stood tall on the mound ready to strike out the last batter. Three no hitters in a season would be a new high school record in the state of Connecticut. All that stood in front of Nolan was a strike to a weak-kneed batter. The poor kid who looked like he was about to pee his pants. “Strike Three” the umpire almost shrieked, and the record was Nolan’s. The brash kid from the south side of town was now immortal in Derby, Connecticut. Not since the mills had shut down had the residents of this small town been this upbeat. His teammates were slow to congratulate their star, to them Nolan was a complete, arrogant asshole. He was also a bully. Nolan never hesitated yelling at any of his teammates who had the nerve to make any error behind his brilliant pitching.
After the game Nolan sat in front of his locker and wondered why he felt nothing. He knew he should be happy, but he couldn’t muster a smile. His high school career was over and he would soon be drafted in the first round by one of 24 major league teams. Even the thought of getting out of his one-horse town couldn’t bring any joy into his cold heart. Hell, he stood over his mother’s coffin two years ago and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t shed a tear.
The only reward that almost brought him some pleasure was the many women in Derby High who wanted to be with him. Not only was he popular because of his athletic skill, but he was also what old-timers would call tall dark and handsome. He had his mother’s deep blue eyes and electric smile. From his father he inherited his muscular build, his six-foot two height, and a full head of thick jet-black hair. He’d been through a few of the young ladies in his senior year. Word hadn’t gotten around to all the women that Nolan treated them like crap. Right now, it was Betty Trotter’s turn in the barrel. She waited patiently for him outside the locker room, pacing back and forth, suffering the leers and catcalls from Nolan’s teammates. Nolan was the last one out and the pair headed to the deserted parking lot and Betty’s brand spanking new Mustang.
Betty’s father was one of the few success stories in Derby and he liked to show off his wealth by spoiling the hell out of his four daughters. Betty was the youngest, prettiest, and the most spoiled.
They made the short drive and then parked at Derby’s most popular lover’s lane, the parking lot behind the ancient A&P. Lovers had been parking and getting hot and heavy there for as long ago as anyone could remember. Local legend was that about half of all teenage pregnancies in town were initiated right there behind the A&P. Nolan and Betty were one of three couples occupying parking spots. The cars were far enough apart to not invade anyone’s privacy. Nolan and Betty were making out hot and heavy. The only thing wrong was Betty’s choice of music playing on the radio. She was heavily into the pop music that Nolan despised. The tinny sounds of Taylor Swift or Beyoncé sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard to Nolan.
Nolan was thinking this might be it. He’d been close before but was still a virgin. He couldn’t help himself, he grabbed one of Betty’s ample breasts. Betty took Nolan’s hand away as gently as she could. Nolan went for the buttons on Betty’s blouse, trying a different route to his objective. Again, she gently tried to remove his hand. Nolan wouldn’t relent, he was out of his mind with lust, as only a teenage boy could be. He moved his other hand to Betty’s knee and was working his way up to Nirvana when Betty slapped him hard across the cheek. Nolan moved his hand further up her leg. Betty slapped him harder, it had no effect on Nolan he reached higher up on her thigh. Betty looked into Nolan’s flaming blue eyes and knew he wouldn’t be stopped by a slap on the cheek. She managed to position her legs in such a way that gave her a clear shot at Nolan’s crotch. With every ounce of strength, she could muster, she struck Nolan’s inflamed groin with her knee, just like papa Trotter had taught her. She knew she hit pay dirt, Nolan rolled off of her and moaned in agony.
She tried to escape the Mustang, but Nolan recovered well enough to grab her by the shoulder and in a rage punched her the back of her head. He threw her down on the seat and beat her pretty face to a bloody pulp. Betty screamed as Nolan punched her over and over again. Her screams were so loud the occupants of the two nearby vehicles heard her and two of the guys from the other cars managed to pull Nolan off of the bloody mess that no longer resembled the pretty Betty Trotter. Lucky for Betty, her two rescuers were burly Derby High football linemen. They took turns kicking Nolan around the A&P parking lot. Nolan managed to get away and escaped into the woods behind the parking lot.
Nolan was hurt, but he was also thrilled. For the first time in his life he’d experienced pure joy. He felt it in every fiber of his being as he was beating Betty. He would have killed her if he wasn’t interrupted by the two idiot football players. He sat under a huge oak tree in almost complete darkness and despite the pain from the beating he couldn’t wipe the smile from his bloody face. If the football players had been a little less enthusiastic while pounding Nolan things might have turned out differently.
By the time the police located Nolan under the oak tree he was passed out cold. Two different ambulances brought Nolan and Betty to the same emergency room. Two security guards did all they could to prevent Betty’s father, Mr. Trotter, from reaching Nolan as he lay on a gurney waiting for a doctor. Trotter went right for the throat. He wrapped both of his hands around Nolan’s neck. He did all he could to choke the life out of the son of a bitch who brutalized his daughter. He came close to choking the life out of Nolan, but the guards were joined by two of Derby’s finest and managed to pull the older man off of Nolan.
Nolan was almost unconscious as he looked up at the crowd surrounding him, he smiled, and said, “it was worth it, she was great.” Trotter charged again and was barely restrained.
A very forgiving judge, no doubt influenced by Nolan’s heroics on the baseball field, let Nolan off with probation. Nolan’s legal aid attorney produced pictures of a helpless Nolan beaten, bloody, and with fresh bruises around his neck. The lawyer argued that Nolan had suffered enough for what amounted to a teenage indiscretion, and the judge agreed. Nolan got six months’ probation and Betty was given a lifetime of agony. After numerous surgeries the poor girl was almost back to where she was before the attack. Physically. She would never recover fully, mentally, no surgery would ever cure her on the inside.
Rumors of Nolan’s teenage indiscretion reached the ears of major league scouts and front office personnel. While experts, who were expert at such things, picked Nolan to go early in the first round of picks, he lasted until late in the fifth round. He was chosen by the perpetually terrible New York Mets. The frugal owners of the Mets, having been brought to near bankruptcy, by the Bernie Maloof scheme, were always looking for a bargain and they thought they’d found one in Nolan. The young man was devastated. He believed he’d gone from being considered a future star to being just another bush leaguer because some bitch said he beat her up without provocation. He was provoked, the freaking bitch refused to give him what he wanted, what was he supposed to do? She had cost him a boatload of money. The money bonus difference between a number one pick and a number five was insane. Plus, first rounders were put on the fast track to the majors. Fifth rounders were expected to beat the bushes for years before they would even get a sniff of the big leagues.
The first stop for Nolan on his minor league journey was the Mets rookie league team in Kingsport, Tennessee. He arrived in the second-hand Chevy he’d bought with his bonus money. The 95-degree temperature smacked him right in the face as soon as he opened the car door. He couldn’t ever remember being as hot, of course, the 100% humidity wasn’t helping any. He was sweating from places on his body, he didn’t even know he had. A squadron of giant mosquitos must have smelled fresh meat, they attacked the fresh northern skin like it was going to be their last supper. As he ducked and dodged the insects, he murmured to himself, “welcome to the frigging south.”
His new teammates on the Kingsport, Mets were almost as bad as the heat and the bugs to Nolan. It was no wonder why the big-league Mets always sucked, their draft choices had a strong resemblance to the Bad News Bears on crack. Throwing a baseball was always easy for Nolan, and he did well, not great, pitching. The heat and humidity were wearing him out, and it was affecting his performance.
The nights in Kingsport were as miserable as the days. Candy was one of two groupies who followed the Kingsport Mets and she was thrilled when Nolan asked her out for drinks after a game. Candy had seen better days; her drinking and drugging had taken their toll on her. Nolan didn’t care about any of that. After a few drinks they drove down to the lakeside and sat in his car sweating and getting hot and bothered. Nolan put his best move on Candy, he didn’t really need too. Candy had been here before and knew what was expected of her. Nolan lasted all of two minutes and Candy made the mistake of joking, “pretty quick there, stud.” Irate, Nolan grabbed her by the neck and squeezed for all he was worth until he felt the life leave her. There were no words to describe the pleasure Nolan felt when his huge hands were around Candy’s thin neck. The feeling was ten times more satisfying than the sex. He sat back in the car seat in total bliss. A pair of headlights in the rearview mirror wrecked the darkness and Nolan’s ecstasy. Lucky for him the headlights didn’t get any closer, the driver turned left to the main road.
Nolan’s heart was racing at a hundred miles an hour. When he realized there would be consequences for his actions panic was in every move he made. He scanned around the car and detected no movement in the near total darkness. There had been no other vehicles there when he and Candy arrived, and he saw no sign of any now. He was scared to death, but also excited. He wasn’t familiar with the area and he needed to get rid of Candy’s body. He pulled the lifeless body from the passenger seat and placed her on the ground behind the trunk. His first thought was to leave her there. If he did and someone spotted his car there the cops would be sure to arrest him. He opened the trunk and threw Candy and her purse in it. He took off with no idea where to dump the body, he hoped that luck would bring him to the right spot. He drove away from Kingsport towards the woods with a half-assed idea of leaving the body amongst the trees and the wild animals. He saw a dirt road and turned on to it, driving slowly and carefully, the last thing he needed was to get stuck in the muck with a body in the trunk. He stopped when he saw lights in the distance up ahead. This would have to do. Candy was a lot heavier than she looked, and he only managed to carry her a few dozen yards into the thick woods. He ran to his car and carefully backed down the dirt road, there was no room for him to turn around. He hit the main road, continually looking in the rearview mirror expecting to see flashing red lights there. Nolan got back to his motel and remembered Candy’s purse in the trunk. He tucked the purse under his arm and tossed it into the motel dumpster as he walked by it. He spent the rest of the night staring at the door waiting for the FBI, CIA, ICE, and every other law organization to come knocking. They never did. In the morning Nolan was on a team bus heading to Princeton, West Virginia for a game with the Rays.
The bus ride gave Nolan some time to think about the night before. He didn’t know if he was in the clear or if the police would be waiting for him on his return to Kingsford. All Nolan knew was that he had to do it again. He would spend time on planning his attacks so that he wouldn’t be caught. He needed to get past the first one, if he did, he would continue to kill. He’d never felt anything close to what he felt when his hands were around Candy’s neck squeezing the very life from her. The power, the control, were orgasmic to him, he needed more.
Ben Watson was a small-time sheriff in a small-time town, and he loved it. He’d done his time in the big city, Knoxville. He did well for himself and after twenty years retired from the Knoxville force to return to his hometown and the sheriff job he held now. He’d seen death up close and personal many times, but the sight of a woman dumped in the woods like a piece of garbage was enough to piss him off. Ben loved women and he had three ex-wives to prove it. The woman had no ID, no pocketbook, or purse either.
Old man Fletcher found the body. He’d seen headlights on the road leading to his house around midnight. He waited till morning to check things out. The old man found some broken branches and trampled weeds leading into the woods. He followed the trail and found the body of a woman lying under a tree. He made it back to the house and called the sheriff’s office to report his find. A dead body in Kingsport was big news. Sheriff Ben and his two deputies all responded to the scene.
Once on scene Ben called his dispatcher to find out if any missing person reports had been filed, none were. This wasn’t some TV show where a million-dollar coroner’s van would pull up and the handsome genius coroner would give you a time and cause of death in about six seconds. No, the nearest doctor was two towns away and he acted as the coroner for Kingsport and several other towns. Ben saw the bruises around the poor woman’s neck and knew from experience that she’d been strangled. They waited two hours for Dr. Brennan to arrive and tell them the same thing.
It took two days to identify the body of Candy O’Hare. A fellow waitress, Marge Sawyer, of Candy’s at Bobby’s Diner heard through the grapevine that a murdered woman’s body was found outside of town. When Candy didn’t report to work for a couple of days, she called the sheriff’s office. She then went to the town funeral home and identified the body as her co-worker.
“I didn’t know Candy that well, Sheriff. I’ve only been in town for a few months and Candy was nice enough, but we were from different generations, so we didn’t hang out much.”
“Can you recall her saying anything about what she would be doing two nights ago?”
“Yes, she was real excited about a date she was going on. I got the feeling that Candy dated a lot, but this seemed to be a little more than a usual date.”
“Did she tell you who the guy was?”
“Like I said we weren’t real close, if she said something about the guy I don’t remember, sorry.”
“No, that’s fine, do you think Candy spoke with anyone else at the diner?”
Marge thought for a few seconds and said, “No, I doubt it. The only other person working there is the cook, Raymond, and he barely speaks English.”
Sheriff Watson thanked the young woman and sent her home. He knew where he was going next. If anyone in Kingsport had a big date they would end up at The Thatcher Inn. If a young man was looking to impress his date it was the only place in town, the food and drinks were the best. One of the waitresses knew Candy and remembered her being there two nights before with a man she’d never seen before. She described him as young, handsome, and quiet. The sheriff asked the rest of the staff if any of them had seen the man who was with Candy, no one had. His newest deputy had some artistic talent, and she sketched him and almost everyone else in the small department. He would send her over to interview the waitress and see if she could come up with a composite sketch.
When the deputy put the composite on Watson’s desk, he had no idea if it was good or not. With no idea what the guy looked like he had no reference. He didn’t even know if the guy who was sketched was the animal who killed Candy. He tracked down ever other clue or tip and came up empty every time. Dr. Brennan was able to extract DNA from Candy’s rape kit. The DNA was entered into the national database with no hits, so that was a dead end, so to speak. They made copies of the sketch and showed it all over town, no-one they spoke to could ever remember seeing the guy.
Lucky for Nolan that baseball players almost always have their hats on, making it very difficult to see their faces. Nolan returned to Kingsport after the road trip half expecting to get arrested as he stepped off the bus, it didn’t happen. He was met by the general manager of the Kingsport Mets, who informed him he’d been traded from the Mets organization to the Seattle Mariners organization. He was to report to the Mariners class “A” team in Clinton Iowa.
Clinton, Iowa was perfect for Nolan’s needs. He wouldn’t make the same mistakes he’d made with Candy. For one thing, he would be sure to wear gloves and a condom. He’d seen too many TV shows where DNA had come back to bite rapists and murderers in the ass. He didn’t think his DNA was on record anywhere, which explained why the DNA the cops surely got from Candy hadn’t led to his arrest. He became good at standing in the background of bars and restaurants.
Nolan noticed her as he stood in the rear of the bar. She was with a few female friends laughing loudly and making her friends look uncomfortable. Her friends soon deserted their drunken friend leaving her in the bar to fend for herself. He picked his spot carefully. He was the hunter and his prey was staggering out of Sammy’s Bar. He was wearing baggy, nondescript clothes, and a large baseball hat that covered his face in shadow. She was a few steps in front of him as she reached the parking lot. The lone woman didn’t stand a chance. Nolan made sure no one else was around and called to the woman, she turned, and he flashed his million-dollar smile. She smiled back and was greeted with a punch to her solar plexus that left her stunned and almost paralyzed. He muscled her into the passenger seat of his car and drove out of town to a country road he’d scoped out that afternoon. He raped and strangled the woman, whose name he never learned. He was careful not to leave any trace evidence, he’d worn gloves and a condom. He dumped the body on the side of the dirt road and returned to the team’s motel.
He killed another woman in Clinton using the same tactics. He never heard if either body had been found. Instead of satisfying his perverted sexual needs they only intensified. His pitching was suffering from his obsession, he didn’t care. He was doing alright on the mound, but he wasn’t living up to expectations. A baseball odyssey followed for Nolan. He was traded three times to different organizations. He moved up the ladder slowly. He went from single “A” in Clinton to “AA” in Jackson, Tennessee and then to “AAA” in New Orleans and finally Buffalo. He killed women along the way and was never even near to being caught.
Just Nolan’s luck, he was traded back to the New York Mets and promoted to the major leagues. He’d finally made the “show”. Instead of being happy with the promotion, he was ecstatic about the thought of the millions of women in New York available for him to murder.
Sheriff Ben Watson wasn’t much of a baseball fan, he preferred football. He would still thumb through the sports section of the Kingsport Weekly Gazette during baseball season. A small black and white photo caught his attention. He didn’t know why, but something about the young, handsome face in the picture seemed familiar to him. The caption read, “Former Kingsport Met promoted to the big-league team.” The article below said pretty much the same as the caption. The photo wouldn’t let him go. He was trying to respond to an e-mail from the mayor when it hit him. He jumped up and almost ran over deputy Barnes on his way to the bulletin board in the squad room. It was five years since the murder of Candy O’Hare with no resolution and now the sheriff thought he had his man. Nolan Strauss was his name. He checked and found that Strauss was playing with the Kingsport Mets at the time that Candy was killed.
Watson had nowhere else to go in his investigation. He couldn’t just show up in New York and arrest Strauss. The FBI maintained a field office in Knoxville and over Watson’s years of service there he’d worked a few cases with the local agents. He called one of the agents he knew and explained the situation. The agent was skeptical at first but agreed to help the sheriff when Watson told him that he had DNA evidence. Soon the FBI New York field office was involved.
Nolan sat in front of his locker looking for all the world like he’d just been beaten by a baseball bat. It was probably the worst day of his life. He’d come in from the bullpen in the 7th inning for his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He managed to strike out the first batter he faced and then gave up seven runs without recording another out. His whole world was shaken to the core and his pitching problems weren’t the worst of it. Three stern looking men entered the locker room and approached him. They identified themselves as FBI agents and arrested Nolan for the murder of Candy O’Hare. DNA doesn’t lie and after getting a sample of Nolan’s blood from the Mets team doctor they got a match to the DNA at the O’Hare murder scene. Nolan was taken from Citi Field in handcuffs.
Several other murders were also tracked back to Nolan, by matching his time in certain towns with unsolved murders. Eventually Nolan confessed to nine murders, he was proud of his work and wanted the world to know about it. Two years into his life without parole sentence Nolan was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate. The killer was looking for fame by killing the famous baseball playing serial killer.