Chapter Forty-Two: Justice Part One

Editor’s Note: as a new decade dawned in Vine, hope was not necessarily in the air. Full disclosure: I was born in 1980. I don’t remember a time before everyone was scared all the time. Below is the history of the Hayes’ murders as best I know how to construct it, in the style of the official Vine Histories. Italics mine, all other subjects interviewed by me. 

Chapter 1: The Murder of Jacob and Lucas Hayes

The murder of Jacob and Lucas Hayes on August 7, 1980 set off a series of events that shook the foundations of Vine. The two brothers, ages 11 and 8, were found “in a state of unnatural post-mortem distress,” per The Vine Bulletin, meaning they had been bound, their wrists had been slashed, and their eyes gouged out and replaced with honeysuckle leaves. Who or what could have done such a heinous grotesquery to these children is a matter of some debate. 


Call came in, two bodies found in the woods. Vine’s a small town. A consecrated place. We’re not immune to the influence of the Devil, though. Just like anyplace on Earth. Make no mistake: this was the work of the Devil. You could tell when I saw the stripes of blood drying into crust on their cheeks and wrists. I wasn’t going to bowling-and-beers with the boys that night. No sir. The wife had a roast on, my stomach rolled up looking at it. Like cows scattering from barn to field, I was completely aware of every cell in my body vibrating. The devil is everywhere, even your own bloodstream is vulnerable.

Jared Hayes (Father)

They went out to ride bikes. Same as always did. I said be back by sundown for dinner. Same as always did. Their mother had a roast on that night, same as always did on Thursdays, so that the leftovers could carry until Sunday dinner after church. She was planning a big Sunday dinner after church, a lasagna with peach cobbler for dessert. After church, her parents would come over for dinner. So would my brother Jim, for Sunday dinner. So we had people. The boys, they were starting to get them big appetites. Sun goes down, I was calling to them. Same as always did. Sun went down, night time, I was calling to them. We went out searching. Fast forward to today I’m still calling them at sundown. Jacob! Lucas! Like someone upstairs made a mistake and their bikes’ll emerge from down out the trees. Same as always did, except this time, well, the boys— 

Patti Hayes (Mother)

How could something like this happen here? How could? In Vine? In consecrated land? How could God allow such a thing? 

Chapter 2: Fear of Satanic Rituals Emerge

As details of the grisly murder became more widely known, the people of Vine began to fear the influence of the demonic on the community. Whispers and rumors abounded: young people listening to Satanic music in the woods, a potential return of the thought-to-be vanquished witches, or even demons walking among them as men. The people of Vine began approaching daily interactions with a new sense of caution. 

Alice Rollins Laments The Youth

Kids these days, it’s different. Honestly, it’s a miracle. You’d think: all this TV stuff, these heavy metal singers openly embracing devil-worship, you’d honestly think the kids would be worse off than they are. How can they stand a chance? Can’t even listen to music without a bloodied up goat head. Out in the open, under daylight sun with blue heron witnesses. The drugs. That’s why they don’t care, the drugs. That stuff they get up to in the woods. Reading from all kinds of weird books. Walk around the graveyards. We’d go out in the woods, drink a few beers we snuck, if I’m being honest. One time I snuck into Gentleman Jim’s underage, being honest. You get up to shit then you go to church Sunday. But these kids today, it’s different. 

George Deitrich Reports Loud Noises At Night

Them teenagers out there, always some havoc, always a ruckus, cows can’t sleep none owls don’t sing can’t get no kind of shut-eye, sheriff tells me it’s firecrackers, they found what-do-you-call-them, the butts, the ends of some firecrackers, all burnt out, lucky it rained or might like set off forest fire, this place’ll really go to Hell, you set off firecrackers on a dry July day. Can’t nobody sleep none these days, seems like. 

Walter Polk, Father of Two

What you gotta worry about, when the sun goes down and the workers are getting off, when the respectable people of Vine are sitting down to a nice dinner before cozying up for the evening—what you gotta worry about, is what kind of world is still left out there. Outside. Nowadays what you gotta do is lock your doors. Tell you what, still sleep with a Bible on my nightstand, and a revolver in the drawer. Kids these days—I got me a four- and two-year-old—what chance they got? Under the rolling and tangled leafy fingertips of a forest alive with Satan. Kids these days, you gotta hope they’re home when the sun goes down. 

Excerpt from Sermon: “The Devil In Our Backyard,” by Preacher Richard O’Shelley, courtesy of the archives of the Church of Vine, August 10, 1980 

My brothers and sisters in Vine, we are beset on all sides by the forces of evil. The murder of the Hayes boys proves that not only is the Devil in Vine, the Prince of Darkness is targeting Vine specifically. Some of our members may know that our funeral rituals are not common practice around the world, nor even in these United States of America. Some folks burn their dead, some folks bury their dead, some folks mummify their dead. As the Holy Book of Vine tells us, “for since I have consecrated this land unto you, you shall in return offer your dead to this land.”

My brothers and sisters in Vine, the murder of these two boys, in such close proximity to our holy funeral grounds, and mutilated in this way (it was common practice of demonic pagan religions to place objects over the eyes of their dead, for it was believed they would need such trivial trinkets in the Underworld) shows that the Devil is mocking the Holy People of Vine outright. We cannot let this desecration of our sacred rituals stand. 

What The Teenagers Did In The Woods

Thus in those days it was speculated on what precisely the teenagers were doing in the woods. Their style of dress had taken on a disturbing influence from the outside world: black leather boots, black leather jackets, spikes in places no one needed spikes. In the sticky, mosquito-swarmed stillness of night, faint notes of their strange music drifted through the trees. Lantern-light staked a claim to the treeline but did not illuminate the scene to outsiders. The teenagers were undeterred by sunset. The teenagers were undeterred by their parents’ and Elders’ warnings. Music and lantern-light drifted from the woods. 

Chapter 3: The People of Vine Take Action Against Fear

Interviews were conducted with youth of Vine as young as eight and as old as 18. No evidence was found connecting any one of them to the Hayes murders. Still, the Elders imposed a 7 p.m. curfew. Still, the thirst for justice in the people of Vine had not been quenched. 


The teenagers were a bust. We cased the woods when they were hanging out, doing their weekend thing. Nothing but some loud music and underage drinking. I wasn’t doing the paperwork on those tickets. 

Let me tell you something, though: you bring up Satan around people, especially around the people of Vine? Buddy, you awaken some older fear in them. This is a town of religious folks. 

One name that was on our shortlist of people to interview was Austin Carter. Tragic guy—he’d had a wife and kid, lost to a freak house fire about 10 years back. Six-year-old son. He never remarried. He was a bit of a loner. He’d show up to Gentleman Jim’s and nurse his whiskey but not talk to anyone. Wore black, said he’d never changed out of his mourning clothes. Real wounded soul type. Thing was, he also worked at the school. Janitor. And he’d always laugh and goof off with the kids, he was real good with the kids. Colleagues all said so. No disciplinary action in 13 years of employment. 


You can see how it looked to folks right? Here’s a guy, sure he goes to church on Sunday, but what do you really know about him? Well, someone had it in their head. Walt Smith, maybe, Alice Rollins, one of them. He was so good with kids because he was recruiting them. Satan’s Army—I mean, we got KISS records in Vine—idea goes that Austin Carter, mild-mannered wounded soul good-with-kids janitor Austin Carter, idea goes that he was some kind of necromancer maybe. He was recruiting kids for unholy things, and when Jake and Lucas Hayes got all them things done up to them in the woods, that was some kind of ceremony gone wrong. Like maybe Austin Carter was trying to bring back his son, his son’s spirit as conduit-ted through the body of one of the Lucas boys. Maybe the older was a sacrifice to the Devil, the younger was to be the vessel. 

That’s how the rumor went. I want to be very clear that there was nothing to indicate in the case file, the police report, anything to do with the Vine Police Department that suggested this was taking place. 


When there is a grave threat in your community, it is your duty as a responsible citizen to act. Are you a moral member of the community Vine? Do you live humbly and serve your God? 

The People of Vine Mobilize

Let it never be said that the people of Vine could not organize. As the rumor of Austin Carter’s satanic activities spread, citizens of Vine began to gather, first in the church, then spilling out into the square. It was said that those who deal in necromancy are sinners who should be swiftly and mercilessly dealt with, as they dealt in the dark arts, same as the witches. It was said that the duty of the men and women of Vine was to protect the children of Vine. It was said that deals with the Devil weren’t to be tolerated in Vine. 

Thus did a caravan of pickup trucks with rifle-toting concerned citizens who were trying to protect the children drive to Austin Carter’s house in the sweaty dying light of a Thursday evening. 

Chapter 4 – The Stoning of Austin Carter

By the time they reached Austin Carter’s house their number had grown. Elders were amongst the crowd side-by-side with citizens. There was a cacophony of voices: yelling, torches being lit, dogs barking and straining against leashes. There were the men who pounded Austin Carter’s door and did not wait for an answer. Then as quickly and uproariously as the crowd had arrived, they went silent. Some looked around at each other and some stared straight ahead. Any next course of action was tacitly and implicitly understood. 


What is the biblical response to a threat like this? I mean, not only do you have demonic, you know, Satanic influence in your community, you got boys getting ritualistically mutilated in the woods. This is biblical stuff, we’re talking here. The punishment for witchcraft is death, it says that in the Oldest Testament we got. We know what the Lord our God thinks should be done in these situations. That’s the great privilege of having holy books like the Bible or the Book of Vine. We know what God thinks, historically, of these situations! We know what the response would be if God were to be made flesh on Earth and render His own judgment to a Satan-worshipper who mutilated and killed children. 


They dragged him out of his house. It had gotten to be a chilly night, a bit of fog settling over. If they gave him a chance to speak for himself, I didn’t hear it. Couple of old boys—I saw Walt Polk and Jim Davidson, for sure—threw him on his front yard. Folks surrounded him. Perfect circle. 

In the Bible, they talk about stoning people to death all the time. If you haven’t seen it up close? Buddy, it’s way more unpleasant than a couple of them verses let on. Austin Carter howled worse than any hit dog, shot deer, or poisoned possum I ever heard. It took a while to stone this poor asshole to death. Not sure how long but it wasn’t over within five minutes, I’ll tell you that. Poor bastard kept pleading. What are you doing? Why me? Oh God why me? God wasn’t listening that night, buddy.

Here’s what I remember: none of the gathered people of Vine second-guessed a thing. It was like they were hypnotized, in a trance. Folks just kept finding stones. Kept throwing stones. Wordless, too. Eyes glazed over. I’ll never forget how quiet they were against Austin’s cries. Like said, religious folks down here.

Patti Hayes

Jacob and Lucas stayed dead. 

Chapter 5: The People of Vine Stay Vigilant

Police could still not conclusively determine Austin Carter’s involvement with the murder of Jacob and Lucas Hayes. Refusal to conclusively determine led to more fear, more suspicion, making the curfew an hour earlier. In the late afternoon hours the sun would settle its many-colored skirts over the treeline on the mountain or across the reflection still lakewater and yet the streets of Vine would be gray and barren. Neighbors averted gaze from neighbor. The sound of deadbolt latches echoed in late summer breeze.

Alice Rollins

We definitely, during that time—the Holy Spirit was moving throughout Vine. The Devil is the great trickster but if you are righteous and strong in your faith? The Lord provides. He provides the strength to carry on, the will to continue to act. 

George Dietrich

God is with us always in Vine. God is with us always. In Vine, we always trust in the strength of God the Father. I believe he’s with us right now, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Vine—this is consecrated land, okay? We are God’s chosen people in the Americas and God is with us. Always he is with us. He’s in that desk lamp over there God’s in that kitchen God’s in the doormat taking the burdens from our shoes and in our ceilings letting flow a cooling balm. This is Vine. God is with us always in Vine. 

Walter Polk

I think there was a sense, yeah—there was a sense that we needed to protect the children of Vine. There was a killer on the loose. Satanic activity on the rise. We had to protect the children. 


Evil lingers. It grows, it blooms like dandelions. It is as when you mow your lawn only to see a whole rash of dandelions pop right back up. When we had the problems with the witches—there haven’t been witches in Vine for more than 100 years but I know my history—we had to nip the evil in the bud. It is as when Jesus told us: “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.” It works the same way with evil. If we have even a kernel of evil, the smallest element—evil the size of a mustard seed, one might say—nothing is impossible for Satan. 

Jared Hayes

All I can think is the real killer’s still out there. And the Devil never dies.

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