Updated: Oct 26, 2022
Enjoy Part Two of my new original thriller: The Case of the Crypto Criminal.
If you missed Part One of the story, you can find it here.
At the end of Part One, Jock Messerschmidt, the Crypto Criminal, was on the run from the law after stealing money from his financial advisory clients and investing it into bitcoin before the crypto market crash. Jock was headed to Castell, Texas to visit his grandmother in hopes she would help him escape the country.
El Castell on the Llano River
Don was asleep in the guest bedroom when he woke up hearing a noise outside the window. It was pitch black as he crept out of bed and looked outside.
Crouching underneath the window on the exterior of the house and enclosed in darkness, Jock wondered what was going on. There was a strange car parked nearby the house, which was not his grandma's.
His original plan was to wake up his grandma even at this late hour and plead with her to help him, but now Jock wasn’t so sure what to do.
I will wait it out in the bushes near the river and watch who comes out of the house tomorrow morning, Jock thought as he climbed into the brush.
A few hours later, he saw two men leave the property driving a yellow Ford Bronco. They were dressed in camouflage hunting gear.
Jock’s mind started racing thinking about what to do next. There was still no sign of his grandma.
Llano County Courthouse and Jail
Sergeant Snell was drinking the pitiful black stuff they called coffee at the Sheriff’s Office. He had spent all night going through the property transaction records for Llano County and had identified the new owner of Grandma Edith’s place in Castell, a shell company named the Castell Investment Group LLC.
Snell's descendants had arrived in Llano County over one hundred years ago, and he was proud of his Texas Hill Country heritage. Snell's family were long-time ranchers in the area, but had lost pretty much everything in the Great Recession of 2008/9.
Nowadays, rich people from all over Texas were flooding into the area with investment.
Tech yuppies from Austin with too much money bidding up the property values to then turn around and rent them out on Airbnb to other tech yuppies from Austin and make even more money, Snell mused.
Some of these city slickers were even moving out to the Hill Country permanently given their ability to work remotely.
The other day Sergeant Snell had responded to a traffic incident involving a couple who had just moved from Los Angeles to Mason, Texas to host a new podcast about living in the Texas wilderness.
How did these people even know this part of the country existed? And why would they want to live here, Snell pondered. I guess people from all over have finally started to realize how good we have it out here.
Returning to his work from his thoughts, he deduced that when it was finally a decent hour of the morning to call the new owner - probably in an hour at 8am sharp - he was going to see if he could get permission to search the premises out in Castell.
El Castell on the Llano River
Jock had tried to open all of the doors and windows, which were all locked.
However, he was able to break the lock on the storage shed to the east of the cabins and was looking through the boxes of stuff, some of which he didn’t recognize, but some of which looked to be some old childhood stuff of his that he had left at his grandmother’s.
As Jock was digging through a box, he found one of his prized childhood possessions: a Halloween mask from the Tim Burton Halloween movie classic, Beetlejuice. You know the one - "Daylight come and me wan' go home."
Released in 1988, Beetlejuice was Jock’s favorite movie during his adolescence, although his parents didn’t allow him to watch it until he turned 13 years old. Once he did see the movie, he was hooked, watching it every October afternoon when he came home from school as a run-up to Halloween.
In addition to his huge crush on an adolescent Winona Ryder, every night he would say “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice” before he went to sleep, hoping that the character played by Michael Keaton would show up in his bedroom and whisk him away to another world.
Jock remembered going to the Halloween store when he was a teenager and finding this haunting mask, which he had always found terrifying from the movie. The mask was from the part in the movie when Adam, one of the two deceased former homeowners, tries to scare the new homeowners away.
The Adam Halloween mask was made of plastic that looked like wrinkly flesh, had two large black holes where the eyes should be, a highly elongated snout and a toothy, evil grin.
Cradling the mask like a prize possession, Jock started to think of a plan.
I will wait until the big Halloween party tonight, blend in with the crowd in plain sight with my mask, and take my revenge on whoever these bastards are in my grandma’s house.
Llano County Courthouse and Jail
Sergeant Snell had tried repeatedly to reach the new owner of Grandma Edith’s property in Castell, but all he had been able to do was leave multiple voicemails at the property owner’s head office, a Castell Investment Group LLC.
Apparently this investment group was buying up properties all over the town of Castell and turning them into fancy Airbnbs for wealthy out-of-towners.
It was getting towards the end of the day, and many of the deputies had already left to go trick-or-treating with their families.
Sergeant Snell wasn’t a big fan of Halloween and had never been married or had kids, so he always volunteered to be on duty on the night of October 31.
Usually Halloween was a relatively quiet night for the Llano County Sheriff's Office, although every now and then he would respond to a disturbance call at Baby Head Mountain near Castell.
Every kid growing up in Llano County was familiar with the legend of Baby Head Mountain.
As the story went, in the 1850s, there were many alleged cases of tribes capturing local children and using them as bargaining chips in land negotiations. One night, a group of Native Americans supposedly stole a 4-year old girl and murdered her up on an elevated slope near the town.
When the local ranchers finally found the little girl’s remains, they only found her head sticking up out of the rocky terrain, her eyes picked out by the vultures.
There was an alternative version of the story too, that many locals believed.
According to this version, it was actually the local ranchers who had decided to make a martyr out of one of the children and concoct a story about the murder in order to get the government’s assistance in exterminating the tribe.
Whatever the truth was, sometimes kids from the local high school would go up to an old deserted home atop Baby Head Mountain on Halloween night and drink beer, howl at the moon and wait for the ghosts to appear.
Perhaps Snell would pre-emptively go over to Baby Head Mountain tonight and then stop by the big Halloween night party at the Castell General Store and ask people if they had seen anyone matching Jock Messerschmidt’s description.
Castell General Store
Don and Sean had just crossed the street from El Castell to the Castell General Store, which was packed for its Annual Halloween Bash. Halloween tunes such as “Monster Mash,” “Thriller,” and a new song by Austin from Austin called “The Halloween Song,” were blaring over the loudspeakers, and everyone was in costume.
“Look at all these crazy costumes!,” exclaimed Sean, “it makes me wish we had something better than our hunting outfits.”
Don agreed and looked around at all the various Halloween costumes and decorations.
Of course there were the naughty nurses and superheroes. One group was dressed up as the characters from the HBO show Euphoria. One guy was dressed as a Llano County Sheriff's Office sergeant - or maybe he actually was one. There was even some dude in a strange Beetlejuice mask who seemed to be following him and Sean around the party.
“Sean, let’s grab a beer and one of those famous Castell General Store burgers I have read all about on Google Maps. I am definitely getting the extra jalapenos on mine!,” said Don excitedly.
At the same time, Sergeant Snell was surveying the crowd.
After ensuring there were no shenanigans going on at Baby Head Mountain, he had driven into Castell to see if he could have a look around Grandma Edith’s old property, which had apparently been turned into a boutique Airbnb hotel called El Castell on the Llano River. But first he would check out the party and make sure there was nothing amiss.
How the hell am I supposed to identify any suspects on Halloween?, he thought. Everyone is in a costume with a mask covering their faces.
An hour later, the party was still in full swing. Sergeant Snell had finished his search of the outdoors around the El Castell premises, found nothing amiss and headed to respond to a call back in Llano.
Don was feeling the effects of the extra jalapenos and the Budweisers sloshing around in his stomach. “Sean, I am gonna head back real quick to the cabin and hit the head. I will be back,” stated Don as he raced back across the street towards El Castell.
Given the hundreds of people at the party, no one noticed Don being followed across the street.
El Castell on the Llano River
Don was still stuck on the toilet, regretting the decision about the jalapenos.
Don heard the front door to the cabin open and swing shut. There was some rustling around the kitchen. It sounded like the drawers were being opened and noises of silverware being shuffled about.
“Sean, is that you? Sorry man, I will be back at the party soon, I promise,” said Don. There was no reply.
“Sean?,” asked Don again, in vain.
Suddenly, a knife blade stuck through the bathroom door. “What the…,” screamed Don, who leapt up off the commode, pants still around his ankles.
The door was kicked open and the man in the Beetlejuice mask barged in, wielding a large butcher knife.
With the noise of the Halloween party, no one heard the screams coming from the cabin.
Across the street at the Castell General Store, Sean was wondering what was keeping Don so long. It was a killer party, and he didn’t want to leave, but he was also worried about his best friend.
As Sean approached the cabin, he noticed the lights were on in the cabin, and the front door was wide open. He walked inside to see that the TV in the living room was on and the movie Halloween was playing - Michael Myers was stalking someone, and the spooky theme music was deafening.
He walked down the hall, turned the corner and saw his best friend Don’s lifeless legs sticking out of the bathroom door.
Sean turned around to race to the car to get his crossbow. As he turned the corner, Sean saw a sight that made his blood stop and chills rush up his spine.
In the living room, with blood dripping off a large butcher knife, stood a large man in a mask from the movie Beetlejuice.
It was the most terrifying - and last - thing he ever saw.
Llano County Courthouse and Jail
Snell was flabbergasted. He had just returned from the double homicide crime scene at the El Castell cabins. I was right there last night, he thought, and I missed him.
The maids had arrived at check-out time at 11am, found the carnage and called 911 immediately.
The deceased were Don Jabbour and Sean Jones from Austin, who were in town for bowhunting season - they had still been in their hunting gear, which was drenched in their own blood.
The most haunting part was a bloody Beetlejuice mask and large butcher knife, found in the brush and cacti on the perimeter of the premises.
Sergeant Snell would check for DNA from inside the mask, but he knew that it would match back to Jock.
The press is gonna have a field day on this one, lamented Snell in his head.
In the weeks ahead, there were rumors that Jock was hiding in Austin posing as a homeless person in a tent city.
As of yet, he has not been found, and the legend of the Crypto Criminal continues to grow.
So this Halloween, be wary of the man behind the mask, and as always, be careful with whom you trust your money. You definitely do not want to cross the path of Jock Messerschmidt, the Crypto Criminal.
And now campers, it is time for bed. Try not to have any nightmares…
Note to Readers: If you want to read more of my original stories, check out the collection here.
You can also watch the music video for my Halloween song on YouTube below. Enjoy the spooky season!