Friday, already? As you count down to the weekend, please enjoy a special 1200 word flash fiction piece, Dark Cargo. My vampires never sparkle, but they are always very, very hungry. Enjoy!
MEMO: Investigation Summary Incident #269-2011
TO: Director, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration/Department of Transportation
FROM: Frank J. Straker, Straker Investigations
The Freightliner tractor-trailer pulled into the parking lot of the Flying J truck stop at mile marker 22 at 9 p.m. on December 26, 2011, but no images of the driver were caught on film. Meteorological reports indicate that it had been snowing steadily since noon, with over two feet of snow and ice accumulated in central Indiana. Playback of the footage recorded by the security cameras showed several staff members leaving at 5pm, with the last vestiges of daylight lingering in the sky. It can be extrapolated that management opted for a reduced staffing pattern based on weather conditions. Timesheets indicate that at 6 p.m. five employees were working onsite. It is unknown how many customers were present at the time of the incident, but it is estimated that the number could be as high as fifteen. Three individuals, whose vehicles remain parked on the premises, are unaccounted for.
Twelve customers – predominantly long-haul truckers – purchased fuel at the Flying J between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., although none were able to provide any additional detail about the Freightliner when interviewed the day following the event. Only two individuals recalled noticing the truck in the parking lot. The cab was a high-gloss black, with no distinguishing markings.
Shortly before midnight, the video reveals the appearance of footprints leading away from the driver’s side door of the cab, trailing to the back of the truck. Both doors of the trailer are seen swinging open. A line of tracks belonging to at least four pairs of feet – three adult-sized, one child-sized – appear. These footprints lead away from the truck, cross beneath the canopy over the fuel pumps, and are on a trajectory for the building’s entrance. Based on analysis of the available footage, these tracks cannot be attributed to other patrons inside the Flying J at the time.
The last transaction completed at the cash register in the convenience store took place at 11:05 p.m. Vera A. Martin, of Batesville, purchased a large cup of coffee, a package of Combos, and paid for 14 gallons of gas with her debit card. Investigators documented these purchases as present on the floor beside the front counter. Next to these items was a woman’s white Nike tennis shoe, size 9. Blood was encrusted in the treads and on the left side of the shoe. A diaper bag was found next to her purse. Ms. Martin’s corpse was found behind the building, partially devoured. Her husband and infant son have not yet been located.
The transaction appears to have been completed by Wade Crawford, who had been employed as a clerk at the Flying J for six months. Mr. Crawford’s remains are in storage at the Johnson County medical examiner’s office. Identification was confirmed by tattoos on his arms, back, and upper chest. Although dental records were available to assist with the confirmation of his identity, they were unable to be utilized. His death certificate notes a crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain, as well as forcible separation of the head from neck. The bottom half of Mr. Crawford’s head was not located. However, the top portion of his skull and scalp was found beside the cash register.
Crime scene reconstruction suggests that at least nine individuals were in the restaurant section of the truck stop at 11 p.m. Laney Jacobs, 22, was working as a server. Her body was found draped across the rear portion of the buffet. The ME reports that rigor mortis was slowed due to the ice and refrigeration components of the buffet for salad, fruits, and other perishable items. A head belonging to an unidentified man with brown hair and brown eyes, approximately thirty-five years of age, was found approximately four feet from her body on the opposite end of the buffet in a soup tureen. A ticket book for the patrons present was found in Ms. Jacobs’s apron. Although saturated with blood, it was possible to determine that she was working five tables in the restaurant. This is considered consistent with the relative positioning of the other cadavers.
It appears that one cook was also present in the restaurant. His head, like that of Wade Crawford, is missing. The results of DNA testing are pending, and no fingerprints were on file to assist with identification, but based on time cards at the location, the body is presumed to belong to Roger McPeak. Two feet, believed to be Mr. McPeak’s, were found browning on the grill. While a substantial amount of blood was present at the scene, it cannot be rectified with the amount of blood remaining in the corpses, which have an oddly desiccated appearance. Of the ten autopsies that have been completed to date, all ten victims were determined to have been exsanguinated.
The night shift manager, Charles Benoit, was found in an office in the back of the building. The office door was locked and barricaded on the inside, impeding the entrance of investigators. Mr. Benoit’s throat incurred significant injury. His wallet was found under the desk. Over $75 in cash and several credit cards were present in it upon discovery, which suggests that robbery was not a factor in this incident, although photos of his two small children have bloody fingerprints on the edges. These prints do not match with those of Mr. Benoit, and did not have a match on file. The prints were curiously smooth, according to forensics team members.
Miranda Stevens, of Indianapolis, Indiana, was apparently assisting in the convenience store with stocking responsibilities. Her upper torso was discovered in the refrigerated storage area of the store. One of her legs, a section encompassing approximately two inches above the knee extending to the ankle, was recovered from a trash barrel on fuel island number three. Sizeable bite marks were noted in the calf region. Type AB blood – matching that of Ms. Stevens, was found in both the storage area and in the trash bin, although the amount is not commensurate with the extent of gross trauma evidenced by her wounds. A Ziploc bag containing a six inch section of her intestines was discovered in a snow bank in the approximate vicinity of the location where the Freightliner had been parked.
Security camera footage reveals a series of bloodstained footprints appearing outside the building at 11:28 p.m. These tracks led back to the Freightliner. It is possible to see the back doors of the trailer slamming shut 42 seconds before the cab door opens and the truck’s headlights are switched on. The Freightliner was navigated across the Flying J’s parking lot at 11:35 p.m., turning left onto Whiteland Road in the direction of interstate 65. One report received within the last 48 hours indicates that a tractor-trailer matching the description of the Freightliner was spotted in St. Charles, Missouri. That vehicle appeared to have Utah plates. It was parked at an Iron Skillet restaurant and truck stop; no description of the driver is available. This is the extent of information concerning incident #269-2011 available at this time. Investigation will continue.