>> Adam Tesla

Intro

Due to the surrealist characteristics of some of the scenes in this story, they have not been included in the following plot description. It would be very complicated to describe these events, but, in any case, I refer to the drawn pages to get the feel of the work. The following plot description is of the main events, which include surreal moments that complete the story.

Plot

Adam is in San Diego when he receives the pictures of the four bodies found in Cameron County, Texas. After ruling out any type of accident, Adam concludes that it’s the work of a serial killer. The photos are sent to him by the novelist Louis Lauper, a friend of his who’s investigating the case for her new novel. Adam convinces his boss to send him to San Benito to work the case.

Once there, the local officer in charge, Maria Melaza, accompanies him to his hotel and then to the police station, which is conveniently near the hotel. The precinct is small compared to San Diego’s, San Benito is a small town of only 25,000 residents. Maria makes the relevant introductions: Landon Lauper, chief of the police department, Hunter Hayes, the homicide detective assigned to the case, and Clark Collins, a rookie detective. They hold a meeting in a large room to review the case, there’s a map of Cameron County marked with the four murder locations. Across the border is Hidalgo. After Adam is given the details of the investigation, he decides to start with the first victim, Victoria Walker. She was found north of San Benito in a rocky area, mutilated and hung by the arms between two trees, a gruesome spectacle out of a serial killer movie. The detectives note that given that the area is sparsely inhabited, the killer is most likely not from there; the people under suspicion due to proximity would be few.

They continue to discuss the case with all the evidence gathered up to date; the young detective Clark Collins mentions the resemblance of the crime scene and a famous movie about a serial killer: "The Cross of Christ". Adam investigates similar cases and any other information that could have been overlooked. The next day, Maria, Hunter and he go to visit the parents of the first victim, Victoria Walker, stopping by the place where she was found. They reach rocky terrain and are forced to leave the van; after a difficult 20-minute hike they arrive at the scene of the crime. Adam notes that the murderer had to carry the victim on the strenuous path and concludes that he must be a big guy, or at least very strong.

At the Walker's, Adam has a long, but fruitless chat with the victim’s parents. During their return to San Benito, Hunter insists on the possibility that the murderer might be an African-American from the city’s Protestant community, since the victim was found on a cross and there was religious symbolism around her. Adam, aware of the behavior towards certain minorities in these parts of the country, doesn’t pay much attention to the remark, but doesn’t discard the idea either. Before returning to the hotel, he decides to eat a sandwich at a nearby dinner; Clark, the rookie, shows up and gives him a pen drive, suggesting he check out the contents. Once in his room, Adam sees that it contains a parallel investigation followed by Clark, although Adam doesn’t pay enough attention to it to evaluate the work and falls asleep.

When he wakes up, he remembers a similar case that occurred in Britain in the 60's, and although it couldn’t be the same killer, there are a few similarities. Adam suspects the murderer might be closer than expected. At the station, he reviews the list of suspects and focuses on three; Hunter mumbles annoyed when he doesn’t see any members of the African-American community among them. Tesla explains his decision based on the killer’s profile: tall, strong, or both, traumatized in his youth, but socially functional, from a troublesome family, lives in San Benito or surroundings, and is possibly religious. After several hours in the meeting room, Adam and Maria decide to go get a bite to eat. He tells her about his intention of visiting the last victim’s crime scene in Arroyo Colorado.

Tesla returns to his hotel room and decides to have another look at the pen drive left to him by Clark the night before. Among some ramblings and notes on the case, he’s surprised to find Hunter Hayes, the homicide detective assigned to the case, as the main suspect. According to the inquiries, Hayes had an alcoholic father that abused him and his mother, and developed a hatred for African-Americans after being robbed and getting into fights in his youth. When he wakes up the next day, Adam remembers how that case landed in his hands, and he calls Louis Lauper, his novelist friend, to have breakfast with her. Louis tells him that she discovered something that could be relevant: a strange boy from a commune knew all the victims. After breakfast, Adam heads to the police station to meet Maria, and they both leave to investigate the last crime scene.

Once there, Adam notices that this last murder scene, although apparently the same as the previous ones, shows careless finishing touches: the victim was badly tied, imprecise cuts... When discussing the possibility of a copycat, which seems impossible, since the facts of the case where not announced to the media, Detective Melaza points out that, in that case, it could be someone from inside the department. Back at the police station, Hunter has an African-American suspect prepared for interrogation, and after intense questioning, he insists on detaining the him. However, Tesla doesn’t think he’s guilty. After a long day, he goes back to his hotel and receives a surprise call from Hunter; two policemen from the neighboring town, Olmito, found a guy with a room full of Christs on the cross on a routine visit. The next morning, Adam and Hunter head to Olmito to interrogate the new suspect, but after searching his house and talking to him, Tesla doesn’t think he’s the killer either, for several reasons. They go back to San Benito, and on the way, Adam takes the opportunity to find out more about Hunter. Back at the police station, Detective Melaza has a new suspect on the table, he has a speech impediment and all the victims were found without their tongue. Adam remembers his conversation with Louis, the novelist, and asks Maria about the strange boy who knew all the victims. Maria discloses important information on the boy, and he has several motives, but Tesla isn’t convinced.

He narrows down all his suspects to five: Hunter Hayes, the detective; Ford Foster, the strange boy; Bill Brown, the African-American; Clay Clifford, the Christ on the cross collector; and Joey Jones, with the speech impediment. Clark tells him that he broke into Hunter's house and found solid evidence involving him with the murders. Adam returns to his hotel to get some shuteye, but decides to watch the movie "The Cross of Christ" instead. It bears a striking similarity with the five murders, and he comes to the realization that the crime scene is almost identical, but a few small details are different enough to rule out that the murderer is an imitator. Adam becomes impatient; the killer might act again before they can track him down, so he decides to organize teams to investigate four of the suspects (since Detective Hunter is not yet officially on the list).

Tesla draws a plan where Hunter goes with Clark to investigate Clay Clifford, the collector, while Clark investigates his partner Hunter at the same time. Since Adam doesn’t think Bill Brown's guilty, he decides a squad can watch him, while Maria and he take care of Ford Foster, the strange boy, and Joey Jones, the guy with a speech disorder. They get to Joey's house, who lives with his wife and two daughters. After the investigation, Adam doesn’t think he’s guilty, although there are reasons to believe the contrary. The squad investigating Bill informs that he was looking into Protestant symbology, like the one found in the crime scenes.

The investigation of Clay Clifford, the collector of Christs, ends with him having an anxiety attack. Ford Foster, the strange boy, definitely seems like a kook, but after visiting the commune where he lives, he doesn’t fit Tesla’s profile of the murderer. So, Adam concludes that the killer has to be Hunter or Jones. When reviewing the reports, he realizes that none of the murders were committed at the scene of the crime, and coincidentally, the two suspects have properties separate and far from where they live.

He then receives a call from Maria: they found Clark dead and placed in a position similar to that of the murder scenes, but in a sloppy way. The first to appear at the scene is Hunter. Adam manages to hold Hunter in a room, but doesn’t yet accuse him. Maria arrives with a picture of Jones's mother, who has a strong resemblance to the victims. Adam sends diggers to Jones's property, where they find a hidden area with all the incriminating proof: diaries, manuals, a copy of "The Cross of Christ" and his victims’ tongues in formaldehyde. The crime investigation is over, and Adam returns to San Diego.