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Sunday Serial: ‘Haunted Bones’- Foreword, Chapter One

Detective Daniel “Danny” Saenz—pronounced Signs—was a fifth-generation Mexican-American. His ancestors came to the United States in the mid-1800s as merchants. They settled in Los Angeles when the town was nothing more than a dusty hamlet surrounded by one of the many iconic Spanish Missions.

Danny was a tall, slender, nice-looking gentleman with light olive skin and a physique resembling that of Antonio Banderous. By all accounts he looked Mexican, but he was born and raised in Oceanside and all-American in every way.

He could no doubt speak fluent Spanish that he learned from his grandparents, but he could neither read nor write the language. However, his English was impeccable and spoken without a hint of a Latino accent.

At the Tri-City Medical Center, located on the southeastern edge of the city, Danny worked his way to the emergency bay area where Dr. Dobbins was being treated. When Danny walked into the room, the old man was conscious and talking with a hospital physician. In one corner of the room was a uniformed officer looking over his report. When the officer noticed the detective, he pulled him aside and quietly told him as much as he knew.

“According to Dobbins, someone broke into their home, shot him, and then apparently pummeled his wife to death.” Danny didn’t look too surprised but wondered.

“I can’t understand why both of them weren’t shot?” “Dunno,” was the soft reply.

“Can he talk?”

“Yeah, some. That’s how I got that much out of him.”

The hospital physician looked at the detective and uniformed officer and told them they could briefly talk to Dobbins but cautioned them to proceed with care. He also told them he had been medicated and wasn’t very lucid. He left the room. Saenz walked to the side of the bed; the officer to the foot of the bed.

“Dr. Dobbins, I’m Detective Saenz. How are you doing?”

The old man slightly moved his head up and down against the pillow. His blue eyes were glazed over and his white, balding hair was disheveled. He was thin in stature and his face was gaunt.

“They say I’ll live,” he replied in a weak and raspy voice.

“Yes sir. That’s good news, sir. Think you can you tell me exactly what happened?” The old man thought for a moment and swallowed hard; he glared at the ceiling.

“I was awakened by a noise I think coming from the garage. I got up and went to the family room to look down the hall. That’s when our cat came running from the dining room and flew by me scaring the hell out of me.”

“Yes, I can relate to that. We have three cats at our house,” Danny replied.

“So you know what it’s like having them around. Anyhow, I started back to the bedroom believing the noise I heard must’ve come from the cat. On the way back through the family room, I saw a figure coming through the doorway on the other side of the room. At first I thought it was Harriet but then realized it wasn’t. I got startled.” “Yes sir, go ahead,” Danny said.

“Well, whoever it was didn’t say anything and started walking towards me.”

“Could you recognize this person?” Danny asked.

“No, I could not. He was wearing what looked like a ski mask, and I think he had on gloves. Yes, he did have on gloves. Like leather driving gloves.”

“You’re sure it was a man?”

“No I don’t. I couldn’t even tell if this person was black, yellow, or a Martian. He had on a mask.”

“It was dark. You could see that well?” Danny asked.

“We leave a few dim night lights on in and around the house. It was dark, but I could tell this person had on a mask and gloves.”

“I see. So your eyes had adjusted to the dimness?”

“Yes, they had.”

“Then what?”

“He started walking towards me and I whispered kind of loudly, ‘What are you doing in my house?’ When he didn’t say anything, that’s when I got scared.”

“Yes sir. I can imagine. Go ahead.”

“About all I can remember next was I saw a flash and heard a loud noise that hurt my ears. I assume it was a gunshot. I then fell to the floor in pain. I felt my left side and it was warm and gooey. I then realized I’d just been shot.”

“Did you pass out at this point?”

“I think so but don’t know for how long. When I came to, I knew I needed help. Somehow I was able to get off the floor and walk into the bedroom to call 9-1-1. Harriet was still in the bed. I reached down to touch her and she felt wet. A warm gooey wet. Then I realized it was blood. I think at that point I made the call and then passed out again.”

“Your call came in at 5:04. When the police and medics arrived, they had to break through the door. The deadbolt was on. They found you semiconscious on the floor by the bed,” Danny said reading to Dr.

Dobbins a portion of the report handed to him by the uniformed officer.

“Maybe I was out for about an hour. I seem to remember the clock by my bedside showing a few minutes before four when I first got up.”

“Can you remember anything else, sir?”

“Son, I’m real tired right now. Maybe we can talk later.”

“Yes sir. I’m planning on it.”

“By the way, how is Harriet? Is she okay?” Dr. Dobbins asked.

Danny looked over at the other police officer, who slightly cocked his head and shrugged his shoulders in such a manner that he wasn’t going to be the one to tell Dobbins the bad news. Danny turned his head back to the doctor.

“Dr. Dobbins, your wife didn’t make it.” The old man got a strange look on his face, and then shook his head side-to-side.

“Poor Harriet, the dear.”

“Well, that’s enough for now, sir. We’ll talk more when you start feeling better and things calm down.”

“Thank you, young man. Yes, we’ll talk later,” the old doctor said. Danny turned and walked out the door with the uniformed officer following. They walked over to the nurses’ station where the attending physician was looking over some charts. Danny pulled him aside.

“Just how badly is Dr. Dobbins hurt?” he asked.
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