I feel guilty about keeping my readers waiting for the much-delayed publication of HorrorScope: The Zodiac Killer Exposed. So here I share parts of another chapter.
Silence of the Peacocks
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
Fireworks burst over the shipyards at Mare Island in San Pablo Bay and rain down over a regatta of sailboats in the estuary. The detonations lit the sky. The house tops of Vallejo glowed many colors and then retreated back into dark silhouettes. Cheers rose with every burst, awe cooed with each fabulous sequence of explosions. Sparklers sizzled in driveways. Whistling petes shrilled through middleclass neighborhoods. Barbeque smoke and its flavor— hotdogs, ribs, hamburgers, Americana— mixed with the heavy smell of cordite. It was late night 4th of July in Vallejo— the summer of ’69!
Vallejo was a blue collar town, but it was also a city on the bay, which gave it a little more opportunity for pageantry. Vallejo always sponsored a boat regatta and a massive firework display. There was little fancy in Vallejo, but it was an old town tied to the ship building yards at Mare Island, the Navy, and to a way of life inseparable from the rustic fringes of the San Francisco Bay Area.
At an opposite to the tempo of courageous men, ships and the sea, there were the surrounding grassy foothills. One of Vallejo’s major landmarks was Blue Rock Springs Park. Giant and ancient eucalyptus flourished by the springs, and oaks dotted the surrounding brown hillsides like giant green umbrellas. As a therapeutic destination, the springs went back in popularity to the 19th century. Aptly named Springs Road was the main road eastward from Vallejo. As the city expanded, it did so along Springs Road. It was now modern and developed with businesses— 1960s’ space age gas stations, Mr. Ed’s Drive-In, car washes, storefronts, and off here the new suburban neighborhoods.
Modernity, however, ended where Springs Road met Columbus Parkway. The latter was a paving of the old dirt road that had led to the springs. Its chief use now was a back way to the highways or to go to the huge park built around the springs. It was a beautiful country jaunt in the day. Take a left at the end of Springs Road onto Columbus Parkway and dash up and down the rolling, brown hills like a dragonfly, whisk under the canopies of tall eucalyptus and then as the road sank into the cleft of the hills, there under the densest canopy of eucalyptus was the parking lot to Blue Rock Springs Park. The lot was but a wide spot in the road, deep enough to fit two rows of cars.
The slopes of the foothills here were green and manicured. Winding paths led to stands of giant eucalyptus. Up on the slope an old wooden porch house was now used by the caretaker. Peacocks nested up here. They sat on beds of dried eucalyptus leaves and mewed over the vista. Pools of natural spring water were deep green. Their bottoms were impenetrable to the eyes because of the transparent reflections of giant eucalyptus. One pool was spanned by a wooden walking bridge. It was rustic and meant to be rustic. Even the parking lot was rustic. It was edged with uncut, raw boulders. It was a country park outside of town, sporting an old style redwood timber sign with the park name painted in golden yellow.
Beyond the park Columbus Parkway held nothing. The road climbed a slope of the dry foothills and eventually came down toward nothing but a convenient half cloverleaf in Highway 80 on the outskirts of northern Vallejo, the main highway from the Bay Area to Sacramento inland.
At night the area had a foreboding air. Darkness clutched the road under the canopies of eucalyptus. Within the curve of the road, in the cleft of the bosom where the parking lot was located, a car would sink into an abyss, its headlights plunge in a tarry pool. There was a lamp in the park near the parking lot. It stood-out like a weak lantern pestered by the shadows of the eucalyptus leaves dancing with the foothill’s bay breezes.
This aerial is centered over the park, looking toward Vallejo, showing Columbus Parkway traced in eucalyptus trees. Vallejo Historical Museum
Festivities were ongoing this night, so that the park was neither quiet nor foreboding. But as it grew late the partiers had thinned out. Columbus Parkway and the park grew lifeless and dark. The brown hills became tope behind the lace of country night. The clusters of trees were black silhouettes that strengthened their clutch over Columbus Parkway, eclipsing it into eerie shadows. Soon the plaintive cry of the peacocks faded.
Yet in Vallejo rockets still sailed into the sky and burst in electric colors. Kids spun their sparklers in hand, and parties were only beginning.
At 11:30 p.m. it was still early for Darlene Ferrin. She was one of the most popular people in her set in town. Vivacious is putting it mildly. She was a captivating character with a lively personality. This made up for her somewhat gnomish looks. She was only 5 foot 4 inches tall, but she was a firecracker herself. At 22 now she had already been married twice and divorced once. She was a popular waitress at Terry’s on Magazine Street, and had more than a few admirers who came into eat there just to see “Dee,” as her friends called her. Frankly, she was flighty, always late and often a flake. But her bubbly, unpretentious personality kept friends close.
Dee radiated in her casual bright blue slacks and white daisy patterned top. She sped down Springs Road in her brown, sporty Corvair coupé. In keeping with her character she had kept her friend Mike Mageau waiting . . . and waiting. She was supposed to have picked him up at 7:30 p.m. so they could go together to see a film in San Francisco. Things, as always with Dee, had happened. She gave him a heads-up earlier that she might be late, saying she had to take her younger sister Christina to the Miss Firecracker pageant. She would call him later. This was the last he had heard from her. Mike thought the world of Dee. Home alone because his dad was staying at a motel and his twin brother Steve lived with their mom down south, he waited by the phone for hours instead of enjoying this festive day. Now at 11:30 p.m., Dee finally arrived at his home on Beechwood, near Springs Road. Figures!— just as the day was almost over. He rushed out and jumped into the passenger side of her sporty 1964 Chevrolet Corvair.
It was too late for them to go to San Francisco, and yet as usual Darlene was also without embarrassment over having made Mike wait. She now said she wanted to get something to eat. They headed to nearby Mr. Ed’s diner on Springs Road. Suddenly, impulsively perhaps, she told Mike she wanted to talk. How about if they went to Blue Rock Springs Park? It wasn’t far. Her location of choice wasn’t surprising. It was her favorite meditating place. She turned around on Springs Road and headed to the nearby outskirts of Vallejo.
This sudden turn of events revealed why the extrovert Dee was always late for events. Right now she was supposed to be out getting fireworks for a late night party. Her husband Dean had called and told her to try and find some. After they closed at Caesar’s, where he was the cook, he was going to bring people home and give a party. After Dee had come home, she tidied up a bit and then walked out on her babysitter, telling her that she was going to look for fireworks and would be back by 12:30 a.m. Instead she finally went to meet Mike.
Apparently the fact Dee was married and had a baby girl did not bother the young 19 year old Mike Mageau, at least as little as it bothered Dee. This was 1969 after all, two years after the Summer of Love. Dee liked the beat that came from the antiestablishment pulse— break the norms and don’t assume the most negative thing about anybody acting outside that norm. But the mainstream reaction to Dee’s lifestyle nevertheless would still have been worse than the one embodied in the lyrics of one of the top 10 songs of the year before—“Harper Valley P.T.A.”
Well, the note said, “Mrs. Johnson,
You’re wearing your dresses way too high
It’s reported you’ve been drinking
and a-runnin’ ’round with men and going wild
And we don’t believe you ought to be bringing up your little girl this way”
It was signed by the secretary, Harper Valley P.T.A.
Dee was as much a reflection of the counterculture as she was, by type, part of the cause for the receptive attitudes around San Francisco. Her life was certainly not the typical mainstream life of a 22 year old wife. Nor had it been. Her reputation for excitement must have been such that the young Mike Mageau had a definite impression of her and geared his introduction accordingly. When they had first met, he had said he was wanted by the FBI, thinking this would make her like him.
But Dee had liked him anyway, though he had some peculiarities. He thought he was too skinny. As a result he dressed to build himself up. For instance, despite the summer’s tepid air from the bay he had dressed tonight in 3 pairs of pants, 1 t-shirt, 1 long sleeve shirt, and over these 3 sweaters.
In this combination— her thin but lively flower print and his built up stork’s physique— they sailed down Columbus Parkway in her brown Corvair, windows down and radio playing the currents hits. Under the clutches of the canopy of eucalyptus, into the starlight, and at last they plunged into the cleft of the bosom where the solitary orb of light floating in the ink marked the lamppost at Blue Rock Springs Park.
The Corvair’s headlights swept the golden letters of the painted redwood sign, steadied, closed-in and stopped. Dee parked at an angle, her headlights obliquely lighting the sign. She didn’t park in a stall. No one was there. There was no point in being picky. Dee was never picky. She turned the headlights off and the sign went dark. She turned off the engine and kept the radio playing softly.
There wasn’t much time to say anything before a couple of cars came rolling in. Teens cheered, laughed, set off some firecrackers, and rolled back onto Columbus Parkway and into the clutching shadows of the eucalyptus canopy.
They had barely been left alone when yet another car came from the direction of Vallejo and pulled in next to Dee on her driver’s side, only 6 to 8 feet away. Considering she was parked crooked, it was bold to mimic her angle. The driver was alone. He turned off his headlights and sat there.
Mike and Dee looked over. He joked about how she knows everybody.
“Do you know him?”
“Oh, never mind,” she replied.
He didn’t know what she meant. No matter anyway. The lights on the strange car soon came on, the engine started and it pulled out and drove off back to town.
It was a queer moment, but Dee knew many odd people. After all, she liked the far side. Mike didn’t pursue it.
Only minutes later the same car returned, this time pulling up behind them and slightly to an angle. At least they thought it was the same car. They looked over their shoulders at the blinding headlights. It might be a policeman. The policeman on this beat checked the lot occasionally. A powerful flashlight came on and started to move behind them and up to Mike’s open window. Now Mike was sure it was a cop. As the light came to the window he looked over his shoulder. He saw a beefy guy; under 6-foot tall he estimated. He had a blue short-sleeved shirt on. He carried one of those big handheld flashlights in his left hand. Mike leaned back and reached around to get his wallet. It was a fortuitously timed act.
A shot burst forth. Mike felt burning pain in his neck. He jumped back. Dee clutched the steering wheel in surprise, but 2 more shots pumped out, piercing through her right arm and then through her left. Another shot spit out. She slumped from a bullet in her ribs. Mike was flailing about. From behind the blinding splatter of the flashlight, another shot hissed out. His hip burned with pain.
The bright flashlight beam streaked off the car. Footsteps casually thumped away. Blood trickled and dripped down the interior, lit only by the surreal angles of light slicing through the windows from of the assailant’s headlights. As the killer passed before them, the headlights cast his lumbering shadow over the gruesome scene in the Corvair.
Mike let out a scream of agony, mixed with anger.
The shadow stopped, steadied. The flashlight beam streaked over the car again, sparkling off the rear window and illuminating the blood streaking down the interior paneling. The footsteps were returning. Mike panicked. He started jumping about in the backseat. The flashlight splatter stopped at the side window. From behind the splatter two more shots burst out. His shoulder burned in back and then his leg. Two more shots burst out at Dee. She was slumped over the wheel and took the shots in her right back without any attempt to block them.
The splatter of the flashlight beam dashed off the car again. Moments later the killer’s shadow lumbered over the blood in the Corvair as the villain passed in front of his headlights again to the driver’s side of his car.
Mike reached out and unlocked the passenger side door. He fell out. The assailant’s car had just backed around. For a brief moment he saw the attacker in silhouette. A big face. He let out a wail of pain on the tarmac. The attacker hadn’t heard him. The brake lights snipped off and the car surged forward. Mike saw the back of the car and noticed it seemed to be a lighter brown than Dee’s, but of a similar model. The assailant’s car drove off and turned left onto Columbus Parkway— back to Springs Road and Vallejo.
Just moments later, a truck came coasting up from the other direction, that is, from the right, down from the rise in Columbus Parkway from the north, from the direction of Highway 80. Roger, Jerry and Debbie were a little more radical looking than the mainstream. They were morphing into mainstream hippies, which was largely just veneer for teens their age. Presently they were looking for one of Jerry’s girlfriends. They came this way from Vallejo to see if she was at the park, perhaps one of the leftovers from the evening celebrations here. Debbie, the oldest at 19, was driving. She stopped on the road and they looked up to the dark Corvair. (The parking lot slanted up at an angle, so that Columbus Parkway was noticeably below the apex of the lot.) They debated for a moment whether the girl they sought was in the car and whether they should pull in and look. At this moment, what must have been only seconds after they arrived, the Corvair’s lights came on and so did the left blinker. They saw a young man roll out from behind the right side and heard him scream. They pulled in.
The park and parking lot (obscured at the low point in the parkway by the stand of trees, seen from Columbus Parkway from the direction Jerry, Roger, and Debbie came. Vallejo Historical Museum
saw a young man roll out from behind the right side and heard him scream. They pulled in.
Roger jumped out.
Mike Mageau lay in the fringes of their headlights. Blood burbled from his mouth: “We’ve been shot,” he groaned. “Get a doc. Quick!”
Jerry had barely come forward when Roger bolted back. Jerry wanted to stay, but Debbie and Roger blurted “No way!” They assured Mike they would get help quick. They ripped out and sped toward Springs Road. They sped through the clutches of the eucalyptus canopy. Emerging into starlight again, Lake Herman Road cutoff was soon on their left. They noticed a car’s taillights receding away as it headed to Benicia. They couldn’t tell what type of car. They squealed right onto Springs Road. Soon they squealed onto Castlewood Drive (not far from Beechwood) and Roger’s house.
Frantic about the shooting, Debbie tried to explain to the police. Neither Roger nor Jerry had time to look into the car to see Dee Ferrin at all, so Debbie had little to screech over the phone except there had been a shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park. As such, the police were unsure of the extent of the carnage that awaited them.
At 12:10 a.m. all units heard the broadcast. Closest were officers Meyring and Lindemann in Unit 119, and in Unit 130 officer Richard Hoffman. Each turned around and went screaming onto Columbus Parkway, heading north to the park.
Hoffman was the most surprised by the report. He had just checked the park about 15 minutes before (around 5 minutes to midnight). No one had been there.
Now just by the clubhouse of the new golf course (on the opposite side of the parkway), oncoming headlights emerged from the darkness of the canopy of trees by the park. A gray late model Caddy passed them heading toward Vallejo. Meyring and Lindemann do a squealing U-turn and hit the overhead lights. Hoffman plunged forward into the darkness of the dip in the road. His headlights bounce up and down as he took the gutter at quick speed. Then the headlights swept a young man rolling in a pool of blood by the rear of the parked Corvair.
Hoffman rushed up. Mageau is retching in pain. Blood is flowing freely from his mouth. In such severe pain, Mike Mageau could say little as Hoffman knelt by him. He only said they had been shot and didn’t know who it was. Hoffman then got up and looked in the open window of the Corvair. Dee Ferrin was breathing, but only shallowly. He could see the holes in her arms and one in her side a few inches below her right armpit. He went around to the driver’s side. He saw no more bullet holes, but recoiled at the amount of blood splattered about in the car. Angered by the scene, Hoffman impatiently awaited other units.
Headlights quickly appeared through the stand of eucalyptus between the parking lot and Columbus Parkway. It was a plain car racing in. It pulled up behind Hoffman’s car and out jumped Sgt. Roy Conway of detectives. Hoffman confirmed both victims had been shot. Both were barely holding on. He suggested that Conway go back and tell Meyring and Lindemann the details, since they had stopped a suspicious car. Conway acknowledged and, after seeing the carnage for himself, pulled out. At that moment Officer Doug Clark pulled in from the north, from the Highway 80 direction.
. . .Excerpt from Chapter 3 Silence of the Peacocks from HorrorScope by Gian J. Quasar.
* * *
Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.