Lance took a few moments to talk to Aberly before heading back home. He hadn’t told his son or his brother yet what he’d done because he just wanted to get some sleep before he had to turn himself into the authorities in the morning. Aberly had been surprised, but he then gave a nod and clap on Lance’s shoulder telling him that he had done the right thing.
So, Aberly was taken by surprise when the SVU team showed up at the station about an hour later, not having expected anyone until morning, and even then, he had thought it would have been the FBI who would show up.
Delaney stared at Aberly a long moment. “Are you a deputy? I thought the only two deputies were Hank Olsen and Buford Mathers?” Aberly crossed his arms. “Not officially, but the others are exhausted. I’m keeping watch over the town while they sleep. This is a small-town Detective and I have the Sheriff’s number. Though, of course, I heard the news and know he’s no longer officially Sheriff of Land’s End but I also have Hank’s number and the boarding house where Buford is spending the night.” Lance had filled Aberly in on Buford’s change of residence along with the rest of the information he had imparted. “What can I do for you, Detectives?”
Delaney continued to frown in disapproval, not liking, the laid-back atmosphere of the town where it came to law and order. That’s what had gotten those boys into the mess they were in, and the Sheriff as well. “You lied to us.” Delaney suddenly blurted out. Aberly sighed and uncrossed his arms. “Yes, I did, but it was that or be shot in the foot and be locked up for some indefinite period of time. So, when Lance offered the compromise that he’d at least get those boys the medical care they needed in the City and ensure that a full investigation into Lloyd would be pursued in order to let the loved ones of those he might have killed were notified, I agreed to the rest.”
Maggie interjected. “Why didn’t you report those boys missing yourself five years ago Mr. Aberly?” Aberly sighed again. “It’s just Aberly, and I allowed myself to be swayed to the contrary when I suggested we seek outside help. The people of this town like to handle their own affairs, Detective. I know that’s a poor excuse but in my only defense; I did everything I could to find those boys. Even after the Sheriff called off the search. I spend a lot of time in those woods hunting. Even keep a small cabin out there. I never went off my property, however, to where I would have run into Lloyd’s place. I own Land’s End and a good amount of surrounding property and I stick to my own land. I don’t trespass onto others’ property.
After a time, I convinced myself that the boys had simply run off, and to be honest I felt they were likely better off away from their father. I was fairly certain they weren’t lost in the woods or killed by any wild animals. I would have come across evidence of that over time. I realize now that my decision was a mistake. I’m not about to present myself as innocent in this affair. I was as negligent as everyone in this town where it came to those three boys. I should have reported it, and I’m ready to accept whatever consequences come of that for myself. I was ready to yesterday when I tried to talk Lance into going to the authorities when the boys suddenly showed up, but being shot and locked away indefinitely wouldn’t have helped those boys. So, I agreed to the compromise Lance offered. My main concern was to get those children the medical and psychological attention they needed.”
Delaney continued to speak in a tone of disapproval. “Well what consequences come of your participating in the Sheriff’s lie and past silence, I can’t say yet, but that’s not why we’re here tonight. We want to see and speak to Craven. It was reported by the Sheriff that he had beaten the boy after locking him up.”
Aberly nodded. “That’s right. I came into the cell to bring the boy some dinner and found him on the floor cuffed by his hands to the bench and his feet in tie wraps. Buford was on duty, but he was afraid to do anything as his father had beaten him too for defying him earlier in the morning and standing by me, Doc and Hank in our desire to report the entire incident to the City authorities. So, I took charge and released the boy from his restraints, got him to the bathroom and fed both him and Buford. Then I gave Lance a piece of my mind and told him if he laid another hand on either of those boys that I would go straight to the City authorities and report him and reveal the truth, despite my agreement otherwise.
I sent Craven and Buford home and took watch for the night myself. Lance was punishing his son further by making him work back to back shifts because Hank had tendered his resignation in response to the entire affair. He usually works nights. Anyway, Buford’s staying at the boarding house and I can show you where Craven lives. It’s off a tiny dirt road and easy to miss in the dark.”
Both Maggie and Delaney frowned in response to the abuse to Craven and apparently the Sheriff’s son as well, though he was a grown man. “How bad off are they?” Aberly shrugged. “I didn’t visually examine them to see how bad because they were both able to stand and walk on their own. A lot of Craven’s injuries won’t be visible anyways. His father whipped him with a rubber hose before the Sheriff laid into him with his baton when he tried to fight back. That’s apparently when he was cuffed and tie wraps placed on his ankles.”
Maggie furrowed her brow. “I thought Craven was emancipated? I don’t recall another Demonis in town. Who’s his father?” Aberly scowled himself. “Pastor Wuthers. He disowned the boy, convinced he’s the devil himself but apparently has still been asserting his authority over him. I had the same little talk with him that I did the Sheriff when I found Craven in the condition he was in, and I told both Craven and Buford to come to me if either of their fathers lays a hand of them again. I wasn’t bluffing.
Anyway, Craven legally changed his name to Demonis just to piss his father off further.” Aberly shook his head. “He’s a good kid, but he has a lot of rage Detectives. So, you might want to tread with light footing when confronting him. I don’t think anyone knew the extent of his father’s abuse. There was never any physical evidence of it. I knew the two didn’t get along, but I had no idea the Pastor was beating on him.”
“And if you had known?” Maggie asked a note of irritation in her voice over how the town folk kept all this abuse hidden and unreported. Aberly crossed his arms again. “I would have had words with the Pastor.” Delaney cut in. “Did you ever have words with Floyd when he was abusing his sons before they went missing?” Aberly nodded. “Yes, quite often, but the Sheriff always told me he’d handle it.” Maggie’s tone of disapproval increased as she chastised the old man. “That’s when you are supposed to call social services, Aberly.” Aberly nodded. “Yes, I already admitted that I was negligent in that matter. I honestly wish I had in light of all that’s happened. I felt relief when that social worker showed up and thought that things would improve.”
Delaney cut in. “About that. There’s no record of any report having been made to social services or anyone coming out here to investigate a report of child abuse.” Aberly widened his eyes, taken by surprise. “Well, one showed up.” He was quiet for a moment, then conjectured, “Maybe Lloyd sent someone in posing as a social service worker. He wanted those boys from what Mike told us. He said that he felt they should have been his sons because he had been in love with Angie, Floyd’s deceased wife. So, I wouldn’t put it past Lloyd to have sent someone in to put pressure on his brother to release the boys into his custody. I can see that the man wouldn’t want to get involved with real authorities. They would have wanted to check out his home situation and background. Not exactly the kind of thing a serial killer would want.”
Delaney nodded after a moment’s thought. “That makes sense, I suppose. I thought maybe the whole social worker showing up part was another lie.” Aberly shook his head. “No, that part was true. I can give a description of her, and she gave her name as Ms. Reynolds. She was dressed in a suit and had the manner of a social worker. No one questioned it.” Maggie interjected. “We’ll get that information later and check it out. Right now, I want to check on Craven, and oh, before I forget. Who the hell is Jarrel? And where is this ‘mad room’?”
Aberly’s eyes went even wider at the mention of Jarrel. Apparently, Lance had revealed even that in his confession. “Jarrel Montavier…”
Delaney cut in. “Montavier, as in related to Jonathan Montavier?” Aberly nodded. “His brother. He’s uh; mildly insane and Montavier likes to keep him out here out of the public eye. I’d be careful about tossing around information concerning the Montaviers to the media, Detectives. Jonathan is a very powerful man. Anyway, Jarrel is fine. Yes, he has a mad room where he has to be locked up sometimes but for his own good and safety. I’ll take you there after you see Craven. He’s okay. I checked on him and made sure he ate and called his brother as he’s supposed to every evening to let Jonathan know he’s alright. He’s able to live alone. He doesn’t require a mental hospital, but he’s a bit off and needs some watching over. The Sheriff felt it best that he be locked up until the investigation was over, as he knew that Jarrel would never lie. He’s incapable of it, regardless of any threats otherwise. He has the innocence of a child, not in regards to intelligence. He’s highly intelligent and at one time was a practicing psychiatrist before he lost his mind.”
Both Maggie and Delaney shook their heads. “Are there any other secrets this town has that we ought to know about?” Aberly chuckled. “Small towns hold a lot of secrets, Detectives, but in regards to this case and what you might need to know. No. I think that’s it.”
“Why don’t you have a surname, Aberly?” Delaney suddenly asked.
Aberly smiled. “Not everyone feels the need to have a surname, Detectives. I come from a time where it wasn’t common for people to have last names.” Delaney furrowed his brow. “I know you’re an old man, but you can’t be that old.” Aberly outright laughed. “I’m much older than I look, Detective, and you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you just exactly how old I am. I have a unique regenerative condition. I do age obviously, but it’s very slow in comparison to most people. Anyway, the last I knew it wasn’t against the law to have a single name. It’s legal and on the record. Most people here call me Abe or Old Man Aberly or just Old Man.”
“How old are you?” Maggie asked out of curiosity. Aberly, however, headed toward the door. “I thought you were here to check on Craven? I’ll show you the way. It’s within walking distance. The road isn’t exactly in good repair. So, unless you got a four-wheel drive I’d recommend walking it.” Aberly glanced down at Maggie’s feet. “At least you got the sense to wear shoes you can walk in. I never understood why women wear those high heels. They look painful.” Maggie smiled. “They are, but some feel that the discomfort is worth the look.” Aberly shrugged. “Never was much for surface appearances. So, I guess that rationale is beyond me.”