ACL Festival

Hill Country Siren: A Joe Robbins Financial Thriller (BOOK 3) Episode 10

The final episode: Joe scales the stonewall outside Sophie’s estate and creeps toward the house. He finds the side door open. Forced. Johnson has a new crowbar.

Once inside, Joe discovers he can still save Sophie. Joe fights Johnson to a climactic finish upstairs.

Back in Austin, a shattered Joe has an eventful meeting with his ex-wife, Rose. In the last scene Joe takes Chandler and Callie to Krause Springs.

Read episode 10 (the final episode.)

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Sanjay tries the rope swing at Krause Springs.

Excerpt from the final episode of Hill Country Siren.

The wall stood eight feet high. I jumped to grab the top, hoisted my legs up and over, and dropped lightly amid the junipers. A high wind rustled fronds in the fan palms. As I walked toward the house a thrashing noise came from the ferns beside me.

I turned that way, my nerves on edge.

It was only a small animal. I took slow, measured breaths to steady my heart rate.

At the edge of the patio I crouched behind a flower bed to survey the backyard. The outdoor spots lit the pool and deck area. Bright lights shone in every room in the house, but I detected no movement.

Rico’s words rang in my ears.

But Sagebrush is a serial killer.

I ignored the words and flexed my shoulders to stretch the muscles in my back.

I crept from chair to chair on the patio, pausing often to watch the windows. The bamboo wind chimes rang on the back porch. The palm trees swayed. I looked behind me, and all around the yard. I made it to the back right corner of the house and tiptoed up four stairs to the side door.

It stood open. Forced. Johnson had a new crowbar.

He might have watched my every move from the security room inside. Had Rico reached the local police? I pulled out my cell and dialed 911. When they came on the line I whispered, “I’m outside Sophie Tyler’s residence at 1102 Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. A serial killer is inside the house. Tell the police to be careful. He could have hostages.”

“What is your name, sir?”

“Joe Robbins. I’m a friend of Sophie Tyler’s.”

“Please stay on the line while I contact the police.”

Seconds could mean everything.

I hung up and rose to look through the door window. The mudroom on the other side was empty. I had to be silent now. Luckily, the door opened without squeaking. I stepped inside and searched the room for a weapon. I found an umbrella, not much use against Johnson’s crowbar.

I opened the door to the kitchen, every nerve alive, the umbrella held at the ready. The overhead lights shone brightly. I heard faint human voices. It sounded like an argument, but I couldn’t discern the speakers. My chest tightened.

A broken plate lay wedged in the corner at the far edge of the floor. In search of a better weapon I quietly opened a drawer on the left and saw odds and ends: spatulas, mixer attachments, can openers. I took another step into the kitchen.

A pool of blood seeped from the edge of the butcher block.

Read all of the final episode.

Check out the photo gallery for Hill Country Siren.

HILL COUNTRY SIREN: A JOE ROBBINS THRILLER (BOOK 3) EPISODE 8

Joe shares the information he gleaned from Mark Cunningham with Rico. Back at his condo, he discovers a shocking surprise and a most unwelcome guest. The next day Joe returns to Cunningham’s ranch intent on pressing him for information about Sagebrush’s co-conspirator.

Read Episode 8.

Back at his condo Joe discovers a most unwelcome guest.

Back at his condo Joe discovers a most unwelcome guest.

Excerpt from Episode 8

The sun had almost set. As I sat on the sectional in semidarkness, my mind returned to the conversation with Mark Cunningham. I didn’t see a next move for me. I sifted through the new data and cross-referenced it with everything else I’d learned, trying to find a loose end or a logic stream to pursue. I had just poured a second glass of wine when it occurred to me: I forgot to tell Rico about Oklahoma.

After a few beers one night, the bouncer Buddy Wantannabe had told Cunningham he came from a small town in Oklahoma. Earlier, I had gotten the impression from Johnson that he might have killed his own father. If so, he had escaped undetected.

I stepped to my desk and woke up the laptop; the white screen glowed in the otherwise darkened room. I typed a search into Google: “unsolved murders in Oklahoma”. A number of websites popped up, one organized by the state, a site for the Tulsa Police Department, and a long list of private sites.

I spent time on the state government site researching open cases with posted rewards but found nothing related to Johnson Sagebrush. The Tulsa site had summary facts of a number of cold cases, but nothing seemed to fit. A television news site from Norman had an old unsolved murder of a housewife. The subsequent Google hits seemed random: a media article on a single case, several missing-persons sites, and various crime-statistic sources.

But on the third page of the search I found a low-traffic true-crime site called UnsolvedHomicides.com. Ten minutes later I stared at a high school picture of Johnson Sagebrush.

Dewey Couple Found Murdered; Son Missing

On a warm spring morning in April of 1986, June Sprinkle walked to the Wannamakers’ house next door to borrow a cup of sugar. She could see her friend Olive’s car in the driveway and was surprised when no one answered the doorbell. After ringing twice June walked around to the backyard thinking she’d find Olive tending her garden. Once there she noticed the back door slightly ajar. She feared Olive might have fallen sick, so she walked up the steps to knock.

“Olive,” she called. No answer. June took three steps into the kitchen and screamed. Olive Wannamaker lay on the floor in a pool of her own blood, dead of multiple head wounds from a blunt instrument.

June continued screaming as she ran from the house, afraid for her life. The police found Brownie Wannamaker in the garage in a similar condition. They discovered the murder weapon, a crowbar, in a trash can in the garage. Two days later Brownie’s 1982 Dodge Ram D-150 was found in a Target parking lot in Tulsa, forty-five miles away.

The Wannamakers’ eighteen-year-old son, Charles, had gone missing. Initially the police believed the murderer had killed or abducted Charles, and an organized search of neighboring areas was conducted; however, other factors have led Charles to become a suspect.

For most of his senior year Charles Wannamaker had sexual relations with one of his schoolteachers, thirty-five-year-old Annabelle Poteet. A single woman, Ms. Poteet resigned her position soon after the affair became public knowledge. Apparently the Wannamaker couple had discovered the affair and reported it to school officials. Ms. Poteet has cooperated with police in the investigation but has refused to speak to anyone else about the matter.

Charles Wannamaker was considered a polite student by his classmates, always smiling, never offensive; however, he appears to have had no personal friends. In his junior year Charles was charged with a misdemeanor for public disturbance when an altercation initiated by two football players ended with both of them in the hospital.

The murder remains unsolved, and Charles Wannamaker has not been found. The state of Oklahoma offers a reward of ten thousand dollars for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

I pushed back from the computer and closed my eyes.

Charles Wannamaker had become Buddy Wantannabe and then later changed into Johnson Sagebrush. Four years elapsed from when he abandoned the truck in Tulsa to when he met Cunningham in Houston. What had transpired in those four years? Were there other aliases? Were there other victims? I feared the stripper Marci’s life had come to a gruesome end. If so, Johnson had killed at least four people.

Johnson claimed that everyone acted only in his own self-interest. He saw the world as Sanjay’s primitive man: There was no right and wrong, only strength and weakness, primordial rules. The strong took what they could take, and the weak suffered the consequences.

I thought of his parents. What was his mother doing as he walked into the kitchen holding the crowbar? Perhaps she cooked pancakes, relieved that Brownie had not assaulted her that morning as he did so many other times. What had she done to earn her son’s brutal justice? Had she reported the affair with Annabelle Poteet to school officials? Had the affair with Annabelle been the one thing Charles cherished?

I imagined Charles swinging the crowbar as his mother screamed on the floor. My throat ran dry. A sinking sensation invaded my chest. Sanjay’s mention of Darfur came to mind. What had he said? Anytime the fabric of societal control frays, the strong take whatever they want. I shuddered at the thought of living in such a place, ruled by the instincts of primitive men.

I had much to tell Rico and had promised to call him, but before doing so I had to step outside to breathe fresh air, to shake those terrible notions from my head.

Standing up, I stretched and moved toward the balcony. My fingers flipped open the lock and I slid the door across. As I stepped over the threshold a gentle breeze blew and brought with it a rich, deep, earthy scent: sandalwood.

I instinctively stepped backward into the room, and a rushed movement flew through the spot where I had stood.

Kutchiiiittssszzzzzz.

An object collided with the sliding door. Shattered glass fell.

I shuffled farther into the darkened room and almost tripped, my heart pounding. I gasped for air.

I saw him. His silhouette framed the doorway, his bald head dark, his solid frame heaving, and the crowbar hanging loose in his hand.

Read all of episode 8.

Episode 9 will be published on May 26.

CHECK OUT THE COOL PICS GALLERY FOR HILL COUNTRY SIREN.

 

HILL COUNTRY SIREN: A JOE ROBBINS FINANCIAL THRILLER (BOOK 3) EPISODE 5

READ EPISODE 5.

Johnson Sagebrush calls Joe out of the blue. During the call Joe learns that Johnson followed him and Sophie as they walked through thousands of people at the ACL festival. But why did Johnson follow him?

The next day at the festival Joe spots a suspicious man in the crowd, but when he tries to catch him, he is surprised.

After the show Joe learns that Sophie is expecting him at the after party.

Fallen behind?

READ EPISODES 1 THROUGH 3.

READ EPISODE 4.

Zilker Park is transformed for the ACL music festival

Sophie’s voice cracked as she announced to the crowd, “A terrible thing happened two nights ago. . . . a close friend of mine was murdered.”

 

Excerpt from Episode 5.

I stood taller than most of the fans and looked right to see Adrian walking at the edge of the crowd, the two security guys at his side. When I raised my hand to wave they saw me and moved into the crowd.

I cut my eyes left and saw the man looking at me, a weird smile on his face. He turned toward Adrian.

“He saw me looking at him,” I said over the radio. Adrian and the security guys pressed through the crowd, still a good way off. When I looked back the man had moved. He walked directly toward the stage, shoving people out of his way.

“He’s moving,” I said. “I’m following.”

My adrenaline kicked in as I jostled by the couple in front of me. “Excuse me. I need to get through. Thanks.” I breathed deeply, my nerves on edge, and moved to the next couple. “Sorry. Yep. Thank you.”

I saw him. He pushed hard by two women. They glared as he passed.

“Pardon me. Thanks. I need to get closer.”

“Hey, man, that’s not cool.”

“Asshole.”

“Sorry.”

He had gained five feet on me. How did he get through them so quickly? People stood closer together now. Sophie sang one of her fast-paced country-rock tunes.

“Asshole.”

“Jerk.”

I couldn’t see his head clearly, only the straw fedora. Sophie stood a hundred feet from me. I waved my hands at her, trying to warn her. A thousand hands waved along. I grabbed a man’s arm and shoved him to the side.

“Watch it, dude.”

“I need to get through.”

“Fuck you, man.”

“It’s an emergency.”

The hat was gone. Where? I squeezed through the crowd in the same direction, struggling.

“Shit. Yeah. Someone stole my hat,” a man complained to his girlfriend.

She watched the stage without listening to him.

“Where did he go?” I asked.

“I didn’t see him. He just stole my hat.”

“What does your hat look like?”

“It’s a Longhorn cap.”

“What color?”

“Black.”

The man had switched hats. I pressed ahead, searching for a black cap. I moved through a bunch of teenage girls in skimpy clothes. There . . . a black cap.

I stepped between a blond-haired man on the left and a young woman in an orange T-shirt on the right. The watcher had blond hair, but that important fact slipped my mind, and as I stepped again a metal water bottle swung from the left and struck my forehead.

SSMUUNCK!!

Pain. Sharp pain. No vision. Knees gave out.

I fell onto a small man. He jerked out of the way, and I hit the ground.

I couldn’t move. More pain. My ankle throbbed when someone stepped on it.

My vision returned. Legs were all around me, perpendicular to my line of sight. The tempo of the song was wrong, too slow. A woman in boots stepped on my hand, sending swirls of fire up my arm.

“Shit, what was that?” said the woman. “It’s a person. Someone’s on the ground. Stand back.” She pushed at people around me, shouted at them. “Back up. Give him some space.”

The crowd spread away from me. I touched my forehead. Blood covered my fingers. I looked up and saw the watcher making his way through the crowd.

“Christ. Look at that blood.”

“What happened?”

“Watch out. Stand back now.”

A man knelt and studied me with concerned eyes. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay? Can you stand up?”

READ ALL OF EPISODE 5.

Episode 6 will appear on May 5, 2016.