You’ll Never Find Her, Sheriff.

by | May 25, 2021

Jack stayed at the dig site out by the Brazos River until late, but the next morning, he was up early.

He fed Frank and Jesse and then let them out into the yard while he took a shower and grabbed a cup of coffee.

He dressed in jeans and boots but then added a button up shirt and a sports jacket. He knew he looked a little too much like Hiram Bishop had yesterday, but it felt appropriate for the work he had to do today.

He called Frank and Jesse in but left the dog door open again so they could come and go as they pleased. He opened up the cookie jar he kept treats in and both dogs immediately sat down staring at him in rapt attention like soldiers in boot camp training.

He tossed them the treats which vanished into big slurps of pink tongues and flashing teeth. He then headed out the door, grabbing his Ranger hat as he went. His gun was still locked in the box in the truck, not that he would need it at Robertson Prison.

The drive from Jack’s house in Chance to the prison right outside Abilene was a quick trip.

He had thought about stopping for breakfast, but he did not have much of an appetite. He was not sure if that was because he had spent yesterday watching the FBI pull bodies out of the ground or because of what he had to do today.

He figured it was a combination of both, and he did not think he would be very hungry by the time the day ended either. Traffic at this time of day was fairly healthy, but it was still West Texas, so he was not worried about being late. In fact, he knew he would be early, probably way too early.

But the idea of sitting around just waiting to leave for the prison was not something he thought he could handle. His stomach was already in knots as it was. He had not seen Sam Moses in five years. He was present for the trial and sentencing. Then, he had been called in for the automatic appeals that came with a sentence of death.

He had visited Moses a few times in prison, trying to find the location of Julianne Farmington’s body and the others. But nothing had ever come of any of those conversations except to leave Jack angry.

He was also present at the hearing to commute the death sentence when Sam got sick.

He had spoken out against it, but he knew the whole time he was just spitting into the wind. As Larry Cole said, even Texas would not execute someone dying of cancer. No matter how strange that may sound, the United States—including Texas—only executed healthy people.

His last memory of Sam Moses had been the leering, skull-like grin he shot Jack when his sentence was commuted to life without parole. Others thought Sam was leaving that hearing to go die quietly in a prison hospital, but Jack knew better.

The prison seemed to pop up out of the middle of nowhere. Cotton fields suddenly stopped at a fence line topped with double barbed wire. He pulled into the parking lot which was not very full yet. He still had almost an hour until it was time for his appointment. He sat in the cab of his truck, watching a red-tailed hawk play in the air streams high above the prison.

After Sam Moses had left the Sweetwater Police Department for the third time, it was like he had ceased to exist.

There was no sign of him or his truck. Jack knew they had to be careful how they identified him since right that second, all they had to go on was a profile and a crumpled piece of wax paper with some writing on it.

But he was as sure as he had ever been about anything, they had found their guy. But they could not find him again. They went to the small rental house he had been living in, but he was not there. He had been working as a handyman for a series of rental houses, and he got to live in his house for free.  But there was no sign of him at his job either.

In fact, there was no sign of Sam Moses for at least two months. They spoke to the television networks, naming him as a possible witness they needed to speak to. They posted BOLOs, or Be On the Look Out, notices to the entire state. Local press started to get a whiff that this might be the guy, but Jack, Hank, and the others kept denying it, saying they just thought he was a possible witness.

They followed up on everything they could think of. His old employers, his credit card, his travel records, but nothing they found led them anywhere closer to finding him again. The idea that Jack had him in the police station three times, and now he was gone began to eat at him.

Then, Julianne Farmington went missing from her high school one afternoon while she was waiting to be picked up from basketball practice.

A few hours after she had gone missing, Sam Moses had called Jack from her phone. He had been pleasant at first, but Jack was not, and the call soon turned ugly. It ended with Moses swearing he would go after Jack’s children next and forcing a weeping Julianne to beg Jack for her life.

No one else would ever talk to Julianne Farmington again, but that call was the beginning of the end for the West Texas Reaper. He had stayed on the call too long and the FBI, who had already been looking for her phone were able to track him based on the phone.

Then a sighting from a tip line came in, and everyone was scrambling. They tracked him down to a deserted farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. He was covered in blood, but Julianne was not with him. He was silent until Jack went to handcuff him. As he leaned in close, Sam whispered, “You’ll never find her, Sheriff.”

It was all he could do not to beat Sam Moses to death right then and there.

He was brought back to reality by the sound of a door closing nearby. He looked up to see a few people leaving their cars and heading toward the front gate of the prison. He checked his watch and saw he was still a little early but could probably go on in. Taking a deep breath, he left his truck, locked it, and donned his hat, following the people already walking that way.

He followed the small group entering the prison. A guard, who looked vaguely familiar, sat at a front desk with a computer in front of him. Jack identified himself and showed his FBI consultant ID. The man did a double take at Jack’s name and then actually looked up at him.

“Ranger King,” said the man who wore a name tag that said Taylor, “It’s been a while.”

Jack nodded, he now remembered Taylor from his other visits to the prison both to see Moses and for another prison interview he did as a Ranger.

“Not long enough for this one,” Jack replied.

The guard nodded, “I assume this is related to what they found out in Stonewall County?”

Jack did not reply, and after a moment, the guard nodded again, “Understood.” He tapped a few keys and then gestured him on through, “Good luck.”

He put his truck keys into a bowl and then crossed through the metal detector.

Then, another guard patted him down before returning his keys and ID. The second guard motioned for him to follow the others through a dark gray door at the end of a long beige hallway.

The prison felt oddly quiet and almost empty, which was strange given it held almost 3,000 inmates. But here in this part, it was like sound was somehow absorbed and left it feeling tomb-like.

At the end of the hallway was a small waiting area. From there, they were directed to another hallway with various doors. Jack went through the one he was directed and walked into a small, windowless room. A steel table was bolted to the floor in the middle with four chairs secured to the table by chain.

In one corner of the ceiling, a small black dome hung with a blinking red light at regular intervals. Recording everything that happened in the room. Feeling more nervous than he would have wanted to admit to anyone, he took off his hat and sat it in one of the chairs, then sat down next to it.

A second plain gray door, right across from the one he had come through, loomed in the far wall of the room. After a few seconds, it was opened by a guard from the outside who ushered in a small form dressed in a white prison uniform. His hands and feet were shackled, so he walked with an odd swaying shuffle, looking like he might collapse at any time.

The guard motioned for the man to sit, and he did.  The guard then attached a chain from the manacles on his hands to an iron ring below the table. The guard then gave Jack a nod and exited closing the door behind him.

Sam Moses had changed since Jack had seen him last. Never a tall man, he now seemed to have shrunk by several inches and his body had become gnarled and twisted mimicking the mesquite trees that dotted the field Jack had stood in yesterday.

His arms and shoulders, once hard and strong from his work, he now looked brittle and ropey. His hands were like twigs at the end of twisted branches. His face had become skeletal and gaunt.

Jack knew Sam had been sick and supposedly close to death, but he was still not prepared for the man who sat in front of him. Sam peered at him for a moment, then his face slowly stretched into a weird rictus showing a mouth with missing and rotten teeth.

It took him a moment to realize that Sam was actually smiling at him, like some sort of weeks-old jack-o-lantern, merely a shadow of what it had once been. His eyelids looked thick,  heavy, and half closed. Jack was blown away by how bad the man looked.

“Sheriff King,” Sam Moses croaked, his voice sounding dry and raspy, “How long has it been?”

Not long enough, he thought quietly to himself, but he did not say it out loud. He just shook his head, “Five, six years.”

Sam nodded, his grin somehow getting wider, “That’s right, you were at my commutation hearing, weren’t you?  You were the one saying they should still give me the chair, you didn’t care that I had liver cancer?”  He laughed with a high cackle that soon morphed into a hacking cough, shaking his entire body.

“Texas hasn’t used the electric chair since the sixties, Sam, you know that.” He felt lame as he said it, knowing he was already being baited, but he could not seem to help himself.

“That’s right. What was it you said on TV that time? ‘We will make sure you are caught and that you get the needle.’” He chuckled, “Guess I beat ya’ again, huh, Sheriff?” His tone was light but his eyes, even beneath his heavy lids, were hard and mean. At that moment, Jack saw that the evil was still there.

Too evil to die, he had told Larry Cole. Though he thought Hank Glenn had said it first. They sat there for a moment staring at each other. Finally, Jack sighed and leaned forward. “How have you been, Sam?” he asked quietly, unsure how to begin.

This made Sam laugh again with another wild cackle that dissolved into a painful cough a second time. “How have I been? I’ve been in prison, and I’m dying. How the hell have you been?” he cackled again.

After another fit of coughing, he settled down and fixed his eyes on Jack, “What are you doing here, Sheriff?”

He took in a low breath. “We found it,” he said finally, meeting Moses’ gaze.

Sam looked quizzical, “Found what?”

“We found the second graveyard.”

Sam leaned back in his chair looking thoughtful. “Which one would that be?” He asked with a twinkle in his eyes.

Jack was used to this. No conversation with him was ever easy. It was always playing mental and verbal chess with the psychopath.

“The one in the old oil field,” he said, choosing his words carefully, watching Moses for some sort of reaction.

Sam Moses averted his eyes from Jack and just seemed to be staring at a point on the wall behind him.

Finally, as he knew he would, Jack gave in, “The one in Stonewall County, by the river.”

Sam’s eyes locked with Jack and the grin returned again, stretching his face. “Outstanding!” He slapped the table with his open palm which caused the guard to open the outer door and peer in. Jack gestured at him that everything was fine.

“Damn,” said the killer, “it sure took you long enough, Sheriff. It’s been what? Ten years?”

“Seventeen,” replied Jack, feeling his irritation spike as he tamped it back down.

“Seventeen? Wow. I guess time flies when you’re havin’ fun, huh?”  The laugh barely got out before it became a larger racking cough that finally ended with Moses out of breath, wheezing painfully. Jack thought he saw the tiniest speck of blood on the man’s mouth, but he could not be sure.

“How many of them did you find out there?” Sam asked when he could finally speak again.

Jack reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small notebook, he spent a lot of time flipping through the pages trying to see if he could build up any kind of energy within Moses. He finally looked at a page that was actually blank then glanced back up a Moses and said, “Twenty-one.”

For just a second, that seemed to catch Sam by surprise. It was fleeting, but it was there, he was sure of it. That was not the number he expected. But as quick as the surprise was there, it was gone again. He leaned back in his chair, looking amused.

“Twenty-one. How about that?” He seemed to grow thoughtful for a moment. Jack jumped on the opportunity.

“One of them was Julianne Farmington,” he said quietly.

Sam met Jack’s eyes for a long time before he finally spoke, “Was it now? Well, good for you, Jack. You finally found her, huh?” His voice was quiet, “How was she?” he asked, suddenly breaking into his cackle again.

Jack ignored him and leaned in, “Who else knew where it was, Sam?”

Sam shot him a look which then turned into a leer, “Well, I would say Julianne sure as hell knows where it was.” He barked a sharp laugh.

“Who else knew, Sam?”

“What are you talking about? No one knew. That’s why it took you so damn long to find it.”

“Then why did you tell another con? Especially after all this time.”

Sam looked incredulous, “What the hell are you talking about, Sheriff? I wouldn’t tell anyone in here a damn thing. You can’t trust a con. You think I’m a fool?”

“But you told someone. How do you think we found it?”

“What the hell are you talking about,” he was almost yelling now, though his voice made it come out like a crow’s caw. “Are you saying someone in here,” he tried to gesture around himself with his cuffed hands, “told you how to find it?”

It was Jack’s turn to grin, “That’s exactly how we found it. You ran your mouth to someone in here, and they called us. And what I want to know is why? Why, after all this time, would you finally give it up?”

Jack saw the guard start to open the door behind them, but he got him to hold off with a look. He finally had gotten Sam off balance, and he wanted to keep him there. The guard stayed in the room but closed the door quietly behind him and stood in front of it.

“And I’m telling you, you’re wrong, Sheriff. I did not tell any God damn con how to find anything.”

“Maybe you told him and forgot, Sam? Your age, your health, “Jack shrugged, “Maybe the light’s on, but nobody’s at home.”

Sam came halfway out of his chair, but the chains kept him locked down. “Get the hell outta’ here, King. I’m done talkin’ to you. I sure as hell wouldn’t have told anyone who would have told you, by God.” Spittle flew from his mouth as he raged until he dissolved into another fit of coughing.

This time, the guard walked forward, and Jack nodded. He waited for Sam to stop coughing and then unchained him from the table. Sam was breathing hard, his breath rattling in his chest.


He was halfway out the door, when he stopped and turned his head back towards Jack, his voice was like a whisper, “You don’t know a damn thing, King. You never did.” And with that, the West Texas Reaper was gone.