Shy Girl Killing

A boy goes out walking his dog. Late evening, dark, raining a bit. Not so hard that you’d need a hat, but be nice to have one just the same. Wearing pajamas and a coat over top. Bedtime, but have to walk the dog first, every night before bed.The dog snarls, breaks free and runs chasing something in the night. A big dog, angry now and growling, running full speed into the darkness head over heels as dogs do. The boy gives chase, under the street lamp, light rain filtering down; across the street, and into the dark shadowy grass of the empty deserted lot. The churchyard here in the quiet neighborhood.

Calling after the dog as he chases “Bobo, stop, come back here.” Embarrassed to be yelling that silly name out in the night, everyone in bed or going to bed. Mad at the dog for running away. And that he has to walk the dog every night.

The back of the churchyard with its vast expanse of darkness, and under the trees there, near the church. He finds the dog, hovering over a sack of garbage on the mushy grass, slick muddy dirt, like wet clay you could slip on and fall. The boys grabs the leash, pulls the dog back to him. It’s hard though, a big dog, angry, snarling at the dark.

He shortens his grip on the leash, down to the dog’s collar. Tells him to hush, threatening to yank the dog up off his front feet. He checks the garbage sack shaped like a human. Then drops the leash and runs back home, back to his house.

His father comes out with him, hurrying across the street through the light rain. Annoyed by all this as the boy runs on ahead, yelling back to his father. Finally he catches up with the boy, under the dark trees. “See, I told you Dad. Right there.” The boy nudges the sack with his foot. A large bag, heavy and long for gathering leaves in the fall. Open at the top.

The man turns the sack over, pulls it open a bit. Then jumps back, falling over backwards into the mud and mushy grass. “What is it Dad? You okay?” “Go back to the house” he says “now!”

The man looks at his hand, the back of his fingers, feels them wet. Not just mud and slick grass, but red wet, sticky from the sack and what’s inside it. “Get going” he yells to the boy harshly, no time to explain or be gentle with him. Gets to his feet and looks back over his shoulder, watching the figure of the boy recede. Watches him ‘til he crosses the street, gets to the house.

Then he looks around, through the trees, the shadows and darkness. His breath shortens and hands begin to shake, edging his way along the side of the church. A dark figure jumps forward at him, but it’s just the dog. Happy and wagging his tail. The man sits down, trying to calm his fears, his racing heart, petting the happy dog on the head. So glad it was only the dog and not something else.

No one around. All quiet alone out here. He takes the dog and hurries back to his house; picks up the phone and calls the police. “Hello…I’ve found something, a body.” His wife comes into the kitchen, nightgown and robe. “What is it? Tommy’s all wound up like…” “Hush” he tells her, his hand over the phone “just…take him, go in the other room, please.”

And then to the dispatcher “yes…a body. Out in the trees, in a bag.” Goes on, explaining to them what he’s found and where.

The nearest units respond. Find the man standing in his doorway, house lights pouring out behind him, the dog poking his nose out, barking. The man waves his arms over his head, coming down the steps toward them as they slow to a stop. They want his name and a statement. “Just come with me” he says, irritated by the procedural nonsense. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

Again he makes his way across to the back of the churchyard, this time the uniformed officers hurrying to keep up with him.

The call comes in “Detective Weiss, this is Hank Ferris” the watch sergeant “we got a possible homicide…” On the way there you try not to think, keep your mind blank, open to all possibilities. Senses keen, alert. Not to analyze, judge or reach conclusions. Just gather the evidence; see everything for what it is, and nothing more. All the rest comes later.

The years teach you that, the cases, and the dead. Homicide isn’t a puzzle. It’s a blank slate, until you start writing on it; all the details, whether they mean anything or not. Write it all down on the blank slate until it’s full, until it can speak to you, tell you what you want to know. With the red light flashing on top the car, racing through the dark wet streets.

Get there and everything’s wrong. Awash in blue lights, squad cars at angles, a crowd gathered around. I grab the red light from my car, switch it off and slam the door shut. Maybe that’ll get their attention. Maybe not.

An officer approaches, fills me in on the details. Barely hear what he’s saying. We edge our way through the crowd of on-lookers. “Get these lights off” I tell him. “And get these people outta here.” Turn back to the crowd, look at them, their faces.

“Everybody listen up” talking loud to make myself heard, make them quiet down. Ask ‘em if anyone knows anything. Got any idea what happened. Nobody does, but one old guy speaks up “we just saw the lights, of the police cars. And came over to see what’s goin on.”

Looks about the same for the whole bunch. Just family folks, out here in the rain. Ask the guy if he knows everyone here, all these people. He looks around at their faces for a moment “yeah…these are our neighbors. Just…folks who live here. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Okay, then. Everybody, go…on…home. We can’t do our job with you folks milling around here. Leave your name and address with the officer…here. And we’ll be in touch. Okay? Now go.”

Slowly they start to disperse, turn and make their way back to their homes. Standing around in the cold rain isn’t all that appealing. Just needed someone to tell ‘em, is all.

One old guy still’s standing around, in his jammies and robe, dark rimmed glasses on his balding head. Talking to a reporter. Anytime there’s a homicide, major crime or accident, you get all these people listening in on police scanners, with nothing better to do. Walk over to the guy, tap him on the shoulder.

“I’m Detective Weiss…and you are?” “Will Martin” he says quickly, pushing the glasses back on his nose “I found…the body.” “Okay. Mr. Martin, I want you to go with… the officer here. He’ll take you downtown, to make a statement.”

He’s confused, befuddled for a moment. “But…” “Don’t worry about it” I tell him. “They’ll take care of you. And, they’ll make sure you get home alright. Just go with them now, go ahead.”

Turn to the reporter, Scott Widdington. He knows me, we’ve done all this before, many times. “All this…stays under wraps, Scott.” “You can’t do that. The public has…”
“Listen to me” I tell him “Mr. Martin is a material witness in this case. Whatever he told you, is confidential police information. Now I can have you held, for interfering with…”

“What do you want?” he asks me “I got a right.” “Just work with me, okay. When I get it all sorted out, I’ll give you a call. I promise. You got my word.” A uniformed cop brings the boy over. Nod at Widdington to take a hike.

The kid recounts his story, matter of factly, like he’s been telling it over and over again by now; and adding to it whenever he can. “It didn’t happen here. No signs of a struggle, you see. Likely he didn’t even mean to do it. Just an accident. Just…”

“Yeah, sure” I tell him “thanks.” The kid’s what, nine, ten years old. Got a hell of an imagination. Be nice to get everybody out the way, let me do my job. Finally make it over to the body, with the young cop standing watch there. Placed his raincoat over the victim, and just standing there now like a guardian.

I bend down to pull it back. “Easy” he says “it’s…pretty gruesome.” Like I’m some kind of green rookie, never saw a dead body before. Maybe he hasn’t, but… Then I pull back the coat, shine my light.

Jesus…my God. Shudder, almost fall over. Feel my lunch come up in my throat, cough it back down with my hand over my mouth. Like somebody’d hit you in the face with a shovel, ripped the guts right outta you. Don’t want the young cop to see that, but what can you do.

A young girl lying there in the bag, face all slashed to pieces, black red blood on milk white skin. A little doll, ruined in fit of anger. Looking at me with her cold dead eyes shining in the light. Like she’s screaming at me “you did this this! All of you. You’re all to blame.”

Stand up and click off the light, but my knees are weak, no feeling in ‘em. Wanna find something to lean up against. Go over to the young cop, hand him my overcoat. The two of us both understanding now.

The rest of it’s a haze, a blur, sick to my stomach; pretending to be in charge. Fighting it…try to do it by the book, give the orders. “Seal off the entire block” I tell the sergeant “put a man on every corner. More if you need ‘em. Nobody gets in, or anywhere near this place, okay?”

My partner, Bergen, shows up. Then all the lab guys with white coats and little flashlights, like aliens landing in a farmer’s field, searching around in the dark with their wandering lights. Bergen comes up to me, big fat man with heavy strides. “Whatta you got Ed?”

Don’t answer, lost for words. Look into his blank eyes. Eyes that have seen everything over the years. But nothing like this. “This is bad, really bad. A kid…a girl, all cut up. Dumped here, in a bag.”

“Whatta you want me to do?” “Just…take the notes, write it all down. Whatever the lab boys come up with. Just…that’s all.”

Shit, what else can you do. Go over to the victim, the body. Watch as a lab guy takes a hooked razor and cuts the black bag open from top to bottom. The body settles and we all flinch from the slight movement of the little dead girl. Can’t help it, even when you know its coming.

Stand over her with my light. Deep heavy bruises around the girl’s throat. No other visible marks or wounds. He strangled her, with his bare hands. And she fought back, with everything she had. Scratched him up pretty good, I’ll bet. Made him mad. Mad at her or…mad at himself for killing her. So he grabbed a knife, and…slashed her pretty face all up. Even after she was dead. Lost it, didn’t mean to do that. Maybe he didn’t mean to do any of it. Doesn’t matter now.

The bag is crinkled at the top, where it’d been tied. He was gonna dump the body here, dump her outta the bag. But the dog saw the shadows, the movement. Knew it was something evil, something wrong. That made him leave, run, before he was finished.

The girl’s clothes are all clean, nice. Did he wash them? Wash them and dress her, after she was dead. Remove any evidence. No blood on the fingernails, even though they’re all cracked and broken up. He soaked her hands, her dead hands, soaked them until they were clean. A thoughtful man, meticulous.

No one would find her here if not for the dog, the boy walking his dog. Wouldn’t find her ‘til morning, daylight. He wanted her found here, right here. But in the daylight; after he was long gone. Could’ve dumped the body anywhere. Somewhere nobody’d ever find her. But he wanted…to show us.

A lab guy goes through her pockets, finds a little pink billfold, hands it to me. Damn. Such a pretty girl, the face on the i.d. card from school. Smiling, alive then. Happy to be alive. Little blond girl, cheerleader type. Bambi Malloy…thirteen years old. And never anything more.

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