The Shattered Figurine.
July 21 - Chapter 8
June 6 - Chapter 7
May 7 - Chapter 6
April 7 - Chapter 5
March 5 - Chapter 4
February 5 - Chapter 3
January 9 - Chapter 2
I wrote a short story sometime back and since that time I've added several additional chapters to what one day could be a novel.
I am going to post it here, raw and unedited. I will add to it as time passes so if you love it, let me know (or if you hate it).
Watch for installments coming soon. When? You'll have to visit and see but I can tell you this, there are several more chapters already written.
I would love to have your feedback.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy writing it. I appreciate you visitors.
Copyright is held by the author.
Josephine Naylor, with shoulders sagged, stares down at the frozen corpse. Even though rime covers and disguises the otherwise naked body, the Detective knows it is the missing teenager. The remains is female, about five feet, maybe a hundred pounds without the frost and it has been left in the same position as the others, all three of them, face up, ankles and hands neatly tucked together bound with what is likely to be duct tape. The same parts are missing.
This regrettable murder is beyond definitive that the killer is the same person; by the method of execution forensics had confirmed that idea with the second body. The third cadaver brought forth the criminal psychologists to graph out a profile that would tell what “type” of individual might commit such a crime, which made the scene before her extremely important so she stands well enough away. She is still able to discern an unusual shape upon the forehead which, once uncovered from its icy envelope, she guesses it will likely prove to be a piece of broken crystal similar to the pieces they found resting on the pale dead skin of the other three, in the same location.
Jo is positioned at the edge of a wide field, shadowed by the alders and tall spruces that front the extended forest behind her, the rising sun just cresting the pointed tops. The body is lying parallel to the tree line at the rim of the pasture. It’s early December. Fog in the night has turned solid as the temperature suddenly dropped below freezing, clothing everything in stark white. Jo is suddenly startled from her gaze by a creeping sensation that someone is watching her. She turns towards the open field scanning the perimeter of the woods. Nothing moves, not even a breeze disturbs the black and white photo she is in. A rise in the field shields her view to the road and her car but she would’ve heard a vehicle approach. The silence is intense, nature seems to mourn the young girl’s death; she would definitely hear the crunching of the frost under someone’s boot.
Satisfied she is alone she calms her nerves with deep breaths that turn smoky in the chill. The air is cold and without scent. She decides she will wait for the sun to melt away the victim’s icy mask before she calls her partner; she has to see what is on the forehead first. Folding her mittened hands across her slight chest she tucks her hands under the armpits of her down jacket. Keeping the body to her left and her back to the woods she thinks about the email that led her here and why she’s here alone. She has a hunch, a dreadful hunch she desperately doesn’t want to be the truth. The other bodies had been left where they would eventually be found but she has been told where this one is. It’s the reason she came alone. In her mind she can remember the message word for word.
Route 114-A. East from the Black Farmer’s Road 11.4 miles. Over the hill on your right.
Only you can stop this madness, I can’t.
She had been torn that she would find another victim but it was the word Unicorn that bothered her the most. She and her peers had recognized the previous pieces of crystal left behind, their only clues, as legs broken from a miniature figurine. The consensus was it could possibly be a horse but it was she that suggested it could also be a unicorn, she had one when she was a child. Her grandmother had given it to her when she turned ten. Her little brother dropped it and broke off the delicate twisted horn when she was fifteen. She sold it in a yard sale four years ago when she was thirty seven, and she remembered who bought it. Since then she had given it no thought. In her mind there wasn’t any reason to. The message this morning changed that. She can’t ignore the possibility no matter how horrific it seems. She prays silently to be wrong.
By 8:30 the sun begins to melt the icing from the cadaver, turning the white, twinkling coating into clear drops of water that pool in the cavities or run like tears. The crystal perched upon the head flashes rainbow colored rays when Jo moves. She walks a wide arc around the body knowing she should stay away but she can’t so she creeps towards the body. The frost groans with each step. She scrunches down close to the head thinking the girl might have been pretty once. She peers closely at the crystal. The figurine has only one leg and it props up the glass animal’s nose. Focusing on the tiny head Jo gasps when she notices the horn is missing, broken off with only a short stub to suggest there had been one. The image strikes her almost as if it was a fist; she shrinks back from the discovery losing her balance to fall abruptly on her ass. The shock is too great. She panics with arms flailing and feet scrambling, wanting to flee the awful truth.
Clutching a hand to her mouth to stifle her sobs, she runs aimlessly along the edge of the forest. Her moans break the eerie silence to echo through the trees. Tears stream across her temple absorbed by short dark curls that stick below her toque. Reaching the opposite corner of the field she stops. Bending over to put hands on her knees, she pants from the exertion. Deep breaths once more ease the tension she’s feeling. She needs to think clearly. Staring at the stubble by her feet she loses focus as indecision and unbelief rages in her mind. Foremost in her thinking is that it’s impossible that the person who bought the unicorn could commit such heinous crimes; it just couldn’t be she told herself. She’s known the man all her life.
Much later, perhaps forty minutes she starts walking back towards the corpse, clearly knowing what she must do. Regardless of the outcome she will be in very deep shit with the department, she shouldn’t be doing this alone and yet she knows she has no choice. She doesn’t believe he will hurt her but she’ll know soon enough. Approaching the body, she ignores the wounds, the taped limbs, the lifeless form concentrating on the crystal unicorn. Picking it up gently off the dead girl’s forehead, she grips it tightly and heads to her car. It’s a twenty minute drive to his house. She figures he’ll be home having retired five years ago from the Penitentiary, he’d been the warden for 27 years. The irony is that he’ll likely spend the rest of his life there.
Jo’s transportation is an unremarkable dark grey Crown Victoria, conspicuous in a plainness that suggests Police so she parks several driveways away. Not wanting to alert the man, she walks slowly towards the last house on the right on the cul-de-sac. The elms that line the sidewalk are thick, evenly spaced and naked of foliage. Most people are already at work or school, the street is quiet except for two cats meowing by a neighbour’s door wanting to be let in. Shading her body behind the bole of the third last tree on his side of the street she can see curtains drawn at the house. There is no movement that can be detected. Hiding behind the tree resting her back against the weathered bark she tries to decide how she will approach the house where she grew up.
Posted January 9/2017
The wire slowly tightens around her slim neck. With both hands Detective Josephine Naylor desperately claws at the thin cord as it begins to dig deeper into the soft skin of her throat. Her breaths come and go rapidly in short wheezing gasps. In a few seconds she knows she won’t be able to breathe at all. Fear clutches her every sense as she feels the taut wire break her skin. Her hands reach back to claw at her assailant’s brawny forearms as thick as a block a of wood. She rakes her nails along the leathery skin to no avail. The twisting of the wire stops, just before it cuts through the esophagus. The deepest, scariest voice whispers.
“You Bitch, you arrested your own father.”
Jo Naylor freezes, wanting to choke, barely able to draw breathe. The pitch of the whisper changes to anger, more of a hiss.
“Now I’ll never be able to kill him.”
She tears at her throat, kicks out one leg connecting with something solid that reacts like stone. She is slowly being lifted off her feet by only the wire. Standing on tippy toes reaching for the hands that hold the wire, she sees death.
It’s night time. The grisly scene is set in the bluish glow of a full moon. The tall, broad shouldered man holding Josephine’s life in his meaty mitts never saw the shovel coming. It’s a round mouth, curved on the edges, caked with a little brown mud where it joins the wooden handle which is about four feet long. On the opposite end, Jo Naylor’s partner, Adam Thorne, is swinging with his whole body. The flat part of the shovel connects with the side of the big man’s head. It would’ve floored most men but the giant only staggers. His hands let’s go of the garrote. Jo falls to the ground, gasping in short rapid pants, hands protecting her throat. Thorne turns to face the snarling man, ready to swing again.
Pawing at his broken face, the man is reeling from the blow. His bluish presence sways momentarily in front of Thorne. Adam chucks the shovel to the ground reaching for his gun. The assailant stiffens as if sensing his own danger, he moves automatically and unbelievably fast for someone so large. His huge fist is aimed towards the threat, he can only see with one eye. He connects with Adam’s chest driving the air from his lungs, the gun flying into the air. The powerful blow propels the detective’s body backwards ten feet and to the ground almost landing on Jo. The big man runs.
Adam tries to sit up to see where the man is going to but can only see the body flee into the shadows of the woods that borders the field they are in. There is a dirt road that runs fifty feet beyond the tree line. He quickly recovers from the punch to his chest. His sternum took most of the impact. It aches and is beginning to bruise. His breathing slows as he turns his attention to Jo. He can see her in the low light propped on all fours, knees and hands, head hanging. He can hear her gulping at the air. He rises to stoop over his partner visualizing the ghostly figure with his hands around her neck.
“Jo, it’s okay. He’s gone. Can you talk, how’s your throat?”
Jo is not responding, unsure of her voice. Her emotions are scrambled, fear, relief, regret and sorrow all swirl about her head. It hurts her throat to breath. Her heart has slowed only to a trot. Adam’s words sound far off. Her eyes are open but only see darkness, she feels darkness. Her mind focuses on how close she came to dying. She tries to concentrate on what her partner is saying, looking up to see a pale shadow, an eerie blue cast upon her saviour. The buzzing in her head fades and his words become solid.
“…get an ambulance?”
She croaks out in a desperate whisper, the movement of her throat opens and closes the wound where the wire has cut her skin, a burning soreness in her neck.
“No…be okay in a sec… need to sit up, help me…too weak.”
Adam bends to hold her by the shoulders as he props her back into a kneeling position. He can feel her shaking, slight tremors threading through her body. She starts to cry. Her heaving sobs tear at his heart. He kneels to embrace her, close to his own aching chest as she shudders and bawls. He holds her tighter to reassure her that he understands. Not knowing what to say he remains silent. Shielding his partner as the shudders soften, he hears the sobs grow farther apart. He can’t help think, he’s never seen her this broken but can’t imagine what she has been through. She’s a tough and determined cop.
The embrace is an odd feeling for Adam, he and Jo have become friends as they worked together, never intimate. Adam’s happily married and his wife Erica likes her too. He knows the last six months since her father had been sent to prison have been tough on her. She had been the arresting officer. Then this hoodlum appears.
And even though it had been spoken sotto voce, when Adam was sneaking up on the creep he heard what the big man said to Jo before Adam whacked him with the shovel. It would be enough to crack the shell she’d protectively built around herself, never discussing it after the trial, avoiding all conversation. The team at the station respected her and her silence. It was forgotten about. Until now. She would be hurting again.
Jo pushes herself away from Adam, her voice cracking and soft.
“Thanks pal, I’m…I’m going to be okay.”
She coughs a couple of times.
“My throat is so sore though. And I’m getting a cramp, help me up, I need to stand up.”
Adam rises holding her under the arms. He can see in her silhouette that strands of hair has come undone from where she usually tucks it behind her ears, clumps fall forward when she her head is down. Standing erect she lifts her face towards the sky trying to take bigger breathes and sniffling from a runny nose. She brushes the hair from her face, rubs the tears away as she says in the lowest of voice.
“You saved my life Adam. How do you thank somebody for that?”
She can almost hear him blushing. He masks his modesty by being funny.
“Oh I do that every day, getting thanks is old hat. You owe me one.”
She tries to straighten up but weakens and hangs on to his arm, gripping it tightly in both hands. Solemn now.
“We’re going to be in trouble for not having back up. We should get you to a hospital. If you’re sure you’re okay I’m in no hurry to call this in.”
“Before we do, I need to compose myself. Where did the man go, do you know he’s gone?”
“Yeah, yeah he’s gone. I saw him head towards the woods, don’t worry we’ll pick up his trail. Here, sit here.”
They are behind an old vacant barn at the front edge of a short field that separates the building from the forest at the back of the property. Her assailant had been hiding at the rear corner when Jo approached from the front. Their struggle had moved them towards an open gate and a large wooden trough where a farmer might have left hay for his livestock at one time. Adam can barely see the outline of the upper boards which are low enough to sit on. He props Jo against them and steadies her as she rests upon the edge.
“Maybe we should call this in Jo. Old man Maloney will be harder on us if we wait until morning.”
He can see her nodding in the low light.
“I know, he’ll be hard on us no matter when we call, can’t do anything in the dark. Give me a little time Adam. I need to get hold of how I’m feeling. That man said a strange thing to me.”
“I know, I heard him. It was eerie.”
“It was, his voice sounded like it was coming from a well…I was terrified.”
“I imagine you were.”
They both think of that for a few seconds. Her voice is weak, little girl-ish.
“I need to talk about this Adam, I need to get this off my chest. I can’t hold it in any longer.”
Adam squeezes the shoulder he is supporting her with. Propping himself against the aged board beside her he wraps his arm around her. He lets her talk.
“You won’t tell anyone else? Please.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
“When I found that last body and the unicorn, I knew it was him that killed those young girls. I didn’t want to believe it, couldn’t even imagine it…but that’s not the worst”
She tells Adam what really happened last fall when she entered the unlocked door of her father's house..........
There was a loose board in the entryway, it had been loose since Jo was a teenager. But she had forgotten about it when she stepped inside. The wood emitted the faintest familiar shriek when her foot depressed the right spot. The protesting wood was a signal. A gunshot startled her. Automatically crouching down, she retrieved her weapon from a waist holder hidden by her jacket. It was all one movement. A body fell upstairs. She rose from her squatting position, gun in front yelling.
She was too scared to move. She couldn’t make sense of anything, couldn’t believe what was happening. A gurgly moan escaped from the farthest room upstairs, her father’s study. The sound was tainted with misery. Directly ahead of Jo on the left wall was a stairway. The bottom half was in sunlight as it streamed in from the living room on the right. She rushed forward with her weapon drawn, her back to the wall as she climbed. She could see the door to the room on the right at the end of the upstairs hallway and it was closed. There was a one inch crack at the base that spit out light and wisps of grey smoke. She realized that the window in the back wall of her father’s study must be open, the breeze it let in stirs the burning incense the “Warden” so frequently used. At one time she enjoyed the smell of eucalyptus burning, at that moment the floating bouquet almost sickened her. On raised toes she crept down the hallway.
The gurgle that responded was desperate, urging.
Jo reached for the knob, the gun in her right hand. It’s was locked. With no hesitation she stepped back, lifted the heel of her hiking boot and delivered a round house kick to the door by the knob. The jamb splintered from her forceful blow. The door crashed into the wall beside a bookcase. Three or four novels spilt to the ground, something delicate shattered on the floor. One piece of painted porcelain slid across the floor until it slowed in the puddle of blood by the Wardens head. Jo’s eyes had been drawn to the sliver as it shot along the linoleum. When it turned her gaze towards her father’s face she screamed.
Her father was lying on the floor on his back in front of his desk. The lower jaw on the right side of his face was missing. What skin was left along the cheek was torn and bloody. The bullet had entered just below the chin, exiting through the soft skin of the side of his face. She quickly surmised that in his attempt to commit suicide, he either missed or chickened out at the last minute. His handgun, a Beretta Bobcat, was resting in front of a short filing cabinet to the right of the desk. Cordite and incense filled the room with an helpless odor. She knelt in front of him placing her gun on the floor beside her. Ignoring the wound, she looked into his eyes. They were filled with tears, proclaiming their sorrow. The man she saw is the one that loved her and nourished her all her life and her heart breaks. She stared at him as if in a trance, not knowing what to do. His voice was weak and desperate as he stared back into his daughter’s eyes and pled.
She backed off in horror of what he was asking her and then she saw the killer, the coward, the stranger she had lived with most of her life. She saw the frozen corpse of the young dead girl that she had left in the field only an hour before, she visualized the two other young female bodies that were discovered from the emails she had received when they didn’t know who the killer was, she saw the grieving parents, she saw the headlines in the papers warning of a serial killer, all those images flashed through her mind like a broken film reel, that skipped and repeated every image in one second bursts. Her anger had risen to an extreme level. Her face was flushed and red with revulsion.
Standing up, she reached for her pistol. She pointed the barrel at his face lining the sights with his forehead. Looking at his eyes once more there was almost a glee in them. The destroyed face was trying to smile. She hated him. She wanted to kill him. Her trigger finger squeezed with the lightest of pressure. The gun exploded. In a fraction of a second she had changed her mind and the bullet tore through the covering and the wood of the floor slightly above his head. He winced from the impact inches away. She lowered the gun to her side. When he opened his eyes questioningly, her voice was filled with disgust.
“No you bastard, you’ll pay for what you did. You’re not my father anymore, you’re worse than the scum you looked after all your life in that stinking prison. That’s where you’ll go, you’ll be one of them.”
The man on the floor, the father, the killer, moans a cry of anguish as the truth grips his demented mind. He turned onto his side looking for his gun. Spying it beside the grey filing cabinet, he tried to crawl towards it. Jo hastens to the fallen weapon, kicking it towards the back wall behind his desk.
“No way, it’s not going to be that easy for you.”
Before he could do anything else, she removed a set of cuffs from her jacket pocket. As she snapped one end onto her father’s right wrist, he offered no resistance. He’d fallen onto his back once more, the disfigured face still bleeding, his eyes were shut and tears escaped from under the pale lids. She clamped the other cuff to the leg on his heavy oak desk knowing he’d never be able to move it in his condition. There was a couch beside the bookcase. She latched onto one of the blue flowered cushions and placed in under his head trying not to stare at the wound. She ran to find a towel to cover the face to stop the bleeding.
When she entered the bathroom, she saw her haggard face in the mirror. It froze her to the spot. The reflection wasn’t the hardnosed detective she’d become, it was the little girl that had loved her father. It sickened her to know he is the monster that lay in the other room. Overcome with grief at losing the security she once felt, she dropped her gun on the tiled floor and retched into the sink. She heaved and belched until her stomach was empty, tears flowed freely down her face. She couldn’t empty herself of the lose she felt. Propped up with her two hands on the sink, head bowed down, drool escaped from her lips and water dropped from her reddened eyes. The blurring of her vision cleared as she tried to control her feelings and she found herself staring at the straight razor he would use to shave each morning. She thrust herself backwards as she realized that it was probably the instrument he used on the young women. Jo Naylor lost it then and ran screaming from the house...
Adam is holding his partner tighter now. She has talked for over an hour, her emotions a mixture of pain and sorrow as she continued to tell him of what happened that morning. He can’t empathize with what she is feeling, can’t even imagine what it must be like to know your father is a murderer. He can’t understand why the man would want his daughter to find him or why he would wait until she entered the house to commit suicide. He remembers the trial, it was short and swift even though the traitor had changed his plea. The psychologists said he was fit to stand trial. Among all his protestations, he was quickly proven guilty of first degree murder, three counts. He received three life sentences; he would never leave prison alive.
Jo sniffles as she leans away from Adam. The sky is turning grey in the east, it’s almost morning. She brushes her tear streaked face with the arm of her blouse. Mascara has made black streaks upon the sleeve that she can see in the low light. She says, “And then I called you, remember?”
“Yeah, I do. It wasn’t an easy thing, him on the stretcher, you standing in the front yard watching us. I couldn’t believe it when you called me of course. But it’s over now Jo, you need to put this behind you.”
“How do I do that Adam? How do I get rid of all the happiness I’ve known since I was born, all the things he and I did together, all the times he protected me, all the times he told me I was the sunshine of his life. How do I forget how he seemed to love my mother so much until she died?”
“Well he was drinking that night they had the car accident. Maybe that’s when he cracked, when he knew it was his own recklessness that killed his wife. You know Judge Reinhardt was one of his cronies, one of the men he hung out with, he got off with a slap on the wrist.”
Jo is pacing back and forth in the yard behind the barn not replying. The sky is starting to turn pink with the sun anxious to show itself as she stops to face the horizon. Adam can’t see her face as she has her back to him. He keeps quiet. She talks softly.
“I know Adam. I think of it every day and know I need to carry on. It’s tough. We’ll never know all the answers.”
Adam watches her as she uses one hand to touch her throat, one hand resting on her hip. She turns her upper body towards him not fully turning around. “Thank you Adam, you’re a good listener. Erica is a lucky woman to have such a sensitive man. I’m jealous.”
Adam is shy with compliments.
“Yeah, well let’s keep this to ourselves. I don’t think she would like it if she knew that I was hugging you most of the night.”
Jo turns towards him with the first smile of the new day. “Oh I think she’d understand.”
Adam becomes serious. He can sense that Jo is better now. He asks her the question she had refused to answer before.
“How did you know to come her Jo and why didn’t you tell me what we were up to?”
Jo looks sheepish in the pink light at her back. She hangs her head feeling guilty.
“I had a phone call in the late evening at home before I called you. I almost came alone but knew that would be foolish and I’m glad I listened to common sense when my conscience told me to bring you along. The man on the other end had a bass voice and wouldn’t identify himself. He told me he knew where there was another body that my father had left behind. I was flabbergasted, it opened up all the bad feelings I’d been hiding. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want the papers to start the stories all over again. I didn’t want to have everyone feeling sorry for me again. I thought perhaps it was a prankster and that I would deal with it myself.”
The admin staff and another detective are in the outer office, a cluttered area, fashioned in ‘institutional dull’. New and old desks, computer stations and a work table form islands that the pair weaves amongst as they head for the front door. Thorne digs a leather bound note pad from the inside pocket of his sport coat.
Adam has been listening to Jo’s explanation when he spies the garrotte the man dropped. The wooden handles are slick and polished gleaming in the morning light. Walking over to where the deadly weapon lies in the grass, he changes the subject.
“Here’s the weapon. His finger prints will be on it Jo. We’ll have forensics sweep the area, his footprints will be in the soft soil of the field. We’ll find out who he is Jo.”
Jo is shaking her head as she stares at her partner.
“On our way here last night, I remembered where I heard the voice before. I know who he is Adam. It’s why I told you to wait in the car, I thought I could trust him.”
Adam stares back her with his mouth hanging open in unbelief.
“Who is he?”
“Dunsmore? Why does that sound familiar?”
“Deborah Dunsmore was the first girl my father killed.”
Inspector Murdoch Maloney feels sorry for Jo Naylor. He tries to imagine the fear she must’ve experienced with a garrote tightening around her neck less than eight hours ago. He doesn’t need to see the red mark. The black turtleneck she wears under her jacket covers it well. He’s faced dangerous people enough times in his life to know how nerve wracking it is to come close to death. He admits to himself that the ordeal over her father last year can be overwhelming also but he didn’t get to be Inspector by being a candy ass. He just finished ragging her and her partner Adam out big time, especially Naylor. This was the second time she had ventured into a potentially dangerous situation on her own. She has just come from a checkup at the hospital.
After his last remark of how close she came to dying, the small office becomes quiet. The computer tower under his desk hums in the silence. The noises from the outer offices, chatter, phones ringing, chairs creaking, are mostly muffled by the closed door behind the two detectives. Adam Thorne is sitting on the left facing his superior’s desk, the chair closest to the exit. Naylor is to the right. Thorne has his elbows on the armrests of the chair, his fingers steepled. He’s gazing at his knees, unfocused, chewing on his inner lip in concentration. He’s only been a constable detective two weeks short of a year. He knows to keep his mouth shut. Maloney chews everybody out, a tough old bastard.
Naylor is looking her boss in the eyes; she catches the glimmer of compassion in them, contrary to the firm set in his jaw. Hoping he sees the determination in hers, she holds his gaze until he speaks.
“Get outta here; go find that man that did this to you Naylor. Watch her back Thorne!”
Their chairs scrape across the hardwood floor in quick response as the two hasten from the office, faster than twelve year olds when school’s out. Through the door before the Inspector can even remind them to close it as they leave, Naylor is two steps ahead of her partner almost at a jog.
“What were you able to dig up on Dunsmore?”
The admin staff and another detective are in the outer office, a cluttered area, fashioned in ‘institutional dull’. New and old desks, computer stations and a work table form islands that the pair weaves amongst as they head for the front door. Thorne digs a leather bound note pad from the inside pocket of his sport coat.
“He is...or was...living in a rooming house downtown off east main. Twenty one years ago, Dunsmore worked for your father at the prison, the parting was not sweet.”
Thorne almost bumps into her as she abruptly stops to face him. Her auburn ponytail swings from her cocked head.
“Is that so?”
Thorne backs off a step as she mulls this over.
“There seems to be lot about your father you don’t know.”
“Well, certainly nothing about his work. It stayed there.”
A few seconds go by and she waves him along.
“That’s interesting Adam. You’ve been busy. Tell me the rest as we head to the rooming house you mentioned.”
Back into a trot again, Naylor heads for their car in the side parking lot as she listens to Thorne’s narrative. He’s walking as if he’s in a marathon trying to keep up, glancing at his notes, relating what he’s discovered in the last four hours. A few clouds bunch up here and there in the mainly clear sky but it’s still cool enough this spring day to lightly see his breathe. Several other cars are leaving and the air smells like exhaust.
A Crown Victoria, cop grey, waits for them at the rear of the lot. The car looks police; they don’t. Naylor’s tall for a lady, her workouts keep her buff. The women that she works with enviously nicknamed her “Shape”. The guys might think it but they know better than to say it. Her dark jeans, the black sweater, a grey jacket fits her loosely hiding her weapon yet defines her pleasing curves. She moves fluidly like a gymnast, she kicks like a double barrelled 12 gauge.
Thorne looks like he’s going to a photo shoot. Black slacks, open necked black dress shirt, grey sharkskin sport coat, shiny shoes, a black hankie artfully tucked into the outer breast pocket makes him trendy. The 357 magnum under his jacket makes him serious. He’s an inch shorter than Jo, wider and just as lean, maybe a little too thin for his muscled frame. He’s wears a happy grin most of the time, seemingly pleased with his life. Eager to be a good detective, he’s attentive and works far too hard.
They’re climbing in the car as Thorne says, “He just got out of jail about six months ago after doing time for aggravated assault. He almost killed his victim he beat her so bad.”
Naylor is backing the car out from the painted lines.
“When was this, the assault?”
“It’ll be four years ago this autumn.”
While she waits for a gap in the traffic to head east, they eyeball each other, the date is significant. Naylor says what they both know.
“That’s just after his daughter died.”
Thorne is nodding his head. He knows she’s thinking of her father right now. “Yeah it was.”
“Who did he assault?”
Naylor sees a gap in the traffic, a kind civilian giving her the right-of-way waves her on. She does something else Maloney doesn’t like. She floors the grey whale and it tears out of the lot. The back wheels chirp for fifteen seconds as black rubber scars the concrete driveway of the police station and a foot or so of Robinson Avenue as she speeds out into the flow of traffic. Even though they don’t have a light flashing, her haste is evident to the other motorist’s and they make room for the cop car to pass them. The rooming house is across town, maybe fifteen minutes. She can flip the siren for a few lights, so maybe ten minutes. Thorne is holding his note book in his left hand; his right holds the overhead safety strap. He’s too nervous to watch the road when she’s in a hurry, so he stares at the lines of his neat script relaying the details.
Eleven minutes later they turn off east Main onto Blueberry St. and pull up on the wrong side in front of a tall narrow house, two floors and a tall attic. The siding is wide Masonite, popular in the seventies, dark brown paint making the house dismal. Paint peels around the edges of the dirty windows and top of the front entry. A dingy white aluminum door with a torn screen hangs open; the bottom hinge is wobbly as if only one screw holds it.
It’s the first building on the left, just after a half empty car lot called ‘Jonah’s Pre-owned Autos’ where used vehicles are shuffled about by the owner and single salesperson, Gaspar Jonah, a man known for his dishonesty and wide colourful ties. He’s in the lot now clapping some young man on the back but stops his spiel when he sees Naylor and Thorne pull up to the building next door. He knows this ghost car and the coppers by reputation. He means to talk to them about the big fellow he saw checking out the cars last night just after he closed. He was going to go out and inquire if the man was interested but when he saw how big he was, how menacing the heavy brows were, the face shaded in the yard lights, he lost interest, was scared actually. He’ll sell this naive lad a car first, and then go talk to them.
As the detectives get out of the car Thorne is saying,
“...so he trashed your old man’s office, beat up one of the office clerks. He was physically restrained and arrested. He spent three nights in jail until the charges were dropped. I didn’t have time to find out why.”
Naylor is standing on the fractured sidewalk facing the front of the house. There is a four foot uncut lawn, two cracked concrete squares for a path to the front stoop which is weathered but the two steps are new, rough cut but new wood. A dirt driveway runs to the right. Her ponytail swings as she surveys the structure. Her nose is scrunched from the smell of old tires piled at the end of the driveway, cooking in the sun.
“How do you know this Adam? I never heard any of this at home.”
“Well, like you said, he never brought his work home. I bet there was always some weird crap going on in a prison. Anyway, my Dad is a regular at the curling club up on Lutz Street and George Zawacki is on the same team, has been for many years. Mr. Zawacki is the...”
“Yeah, yeah I know who Zawacki is, took over the warden’s job.”
“That’s the one. It was quicker this way than through our office channels. So he let me dig through some of the files, I talked to one of the older guards, he remembered the incident.”
Naylor is not saying anything. She stares at the bent front door although it is faint and blurry in her vision. She is oddly struck with a memory of the story of the Dunsmore girl, front page of the daily. She feels a terrific hurt in her heart for the pain her father wrought. Naylor has her hands on her hips when she turns to face her partner. The dark eyes are shiny and sad. Her lips are upturned as she concentrates trying to keep her emotions in check before she speaks. She doesn’t know if she can keep doing this, maybe she’s too close. She’s suddenly scared. Her voice is tiny, just above a whisper.
“Then seventeen years later, my father kills Dunsmore’s daughter. Now Dunsmore is trying to kill me.”
Detective Jo Naylor surveys the decrepit two-storey structure she faces, her left hand lightly caressing her throat where a garrote had tightened around her neck no more than nine hours earlier. Her esophagus still hurts when she swallows. Jonathan Dunsmore had tried to take her life last night. She now stands outside his last known address. Her right hand reaches around behind her back, under her jacket, and undoes the security strap on her waist holster. Her Glock is free to draw. She is not sure she wants to know what is inside the depressed rooming house. Trying to digest the info her partner, Adam Thorne, had given her earlier connecting her father and the man that had attempted to kill her, she becomes hypnotized by a loose shutter on the second floor that hangs from one screw. For a few moments she is lost in concentration.
Thorne covers her back when he sees she is deep in thought. They had both agreed it was unlikely Dunsmore would be in his room, but he is taking no chances and studies his surroundings. A brisk November breeze sallies south on Blueberry Street, bringing a chill. The sun is not yet over the buildings, so they are poised in the long shadows. He closes the top button on his sport coat as he turns to inspect the used car lot across the road on the corner of Main, less than half a block away. The owner, a rotund, back-slapping man, is showing a young man a red car, something Japanese.
Thorne’s attention shifts to one of the two houses across the road when two kids bustle through the front door, school bags slung on their backs, lunch bags swinging as they rush off the front porch. Both boys – one several years older – are laughing and chatting non-stop as they hasten toward Main. They pay no attention to the two people on the opposite sidewalk. Other than the dull grey cop car they came in, Thorne and Naylor don’t look like police officers.
Turning to face the boarding house, Thorne gazes at the homes to his left that continue to the top of the dead-end street. A postman is walking away from him six or seven houses away on the same side of the street. He can see several more children heading toward Main, probably to catch a school bus. The houses are all old but well kept, lots of shrubs with bare branches. The odd car is parked here and there, but there’s no traffic. The only blight on the street is the rooming house he and his partner are about to enter.
He gazes at Jo, waiting for her to come out of her reverie. He can’t imagine what she must be feeling. He recalls the day they arrested her father, the day she found out he had killed the three young girls whose deaths they were investigating. It has taken her many months to get over it all – the newspapers, the trial, her father’s final incarceration in the prison where he’d been warden for over twenty-five years. And now the father of one of the victims has tried to kill her. He shakes his head in disbelief and decides he’ll give her a few more minutes and then they’d go in.
Naylor is reliving the terrible memories; they flash through her mind like fireworks – the young girls, the broken figurine she’d found, the day she’d walked into her father’s house for the last time, his attempted suicide, the day they took him to prison, the intense publicity that followed and the healing that is taking forever. Returning to work had been difficult; but in the end work became her saviour, taking her mind off the dreadful past. Until now. Now she is the daughter someone wants to kill. The realization makes her weak, makes her shoulders sag. A gentle hand on her back pulls her back to reality.
“What do you think, Jo? You don’t have to do this, you know. It wouldn’t be a big deal if we pass this on to Burger and Fries!”
Naylor looks back at her partner with a grin. Burger and Fries are Ted Burgess and Cornelius Friesen, two other detectives on the force. Each man tips the scales at close to 200 and it’s not all muscle. Both men share a fondness for burgers and jokingly call each other Wimpy 1 and Wimpy 2. The rest of the force calls them Burger and Fries. The mention of the two oversized cops offers Jo relief from her dire memories and causes her to laugh. The two share a light moment until Thorne says, “Let’s get on it, Jo. We’ll go have a look and see if we can put a stop to this menace.”
Naylor nods at her partner, thankful for his understanding.
“You’re right; and thanks, Adam.”
He offers his serious smile.
“Hey, we’re partners!”
Thorne takes the lead even though he is the junior officer. The concrete pads forming the walkway to the front porch are cracked and uneven, so Thorne treads carefully as he approaches the front porch. The steps are the only thing that’s new, and the wood is still white while the rest of the narrow porch is weathered. There is a doorbell on the left. The center of the push button is missing, but the tiny yellow light inside is still intact. On the left are a black 1 and 5 affixed to the siding, level with the doorbell. A piece of white plastic the size of a postcard is affixed under the numbers. Thorne has to bend down to read it.
Rooms to Let
The name is printed in indelible black marker. Black smudges around it attest to the recent change in manager. Thorne pushes on the worn button, points at the plaque and says, “That’s a good omen, another Joe. Let’s see how co-operative he’s going to be.”
“Maybe we should go by the book on this one and get a warrant.”
Thorne looks at Naylor, eyebrows raised.
“That never stopped you before, and besides I think any judge would agree that this is hot pursuit. We know he committed a crime; he could be here.”
They are interrupted by the door opening. The heated air that greets the detectives reeks of old furniture and marijuana. A short, stocky man peers out at them with scrunched eyes. Long greyish wisps of hair haphazardly cover a pale dome. White stubble covers his lower face. His dark-blue housecoat is worn and tightly belted around the waist. Neck, calves and feet are bare. His temperament is foul.
“Whadda ya want? There’s no rooms available.”
He eyes the two strangers, noting their well-tailored attire, and frowns at Thorne. “This ain’t no rent-by-the-hour pad, Jack.”
Thorne ignores the man for a moment, turns to grin at Naylor, who is on his left and slightly behind him.
“This is going to be easy.”
Naylor is staring the man down. “And enjoyable.”
Thorne reaches into his right inside pocket and retrieves his ID and badge. Flipping it open directly under the man’s nose, he says, “You Spangler?”
The manager quickly recognizes the brass gleam of a policeman’s badge even without his glasses.
He tries to close the door, but Thorne steps in and pushes the man gently back. Again Thorne turns and speaks to Naylor. “Do you smell marijuana, Detective Naylor?”
She is watching the nervous twitch in the man’s left eyes when she replies. “I believe I do, Detective Thorne. I bet if we looked around, we might find out why.”
Spangler backs toward an open door to his right, reaches into the room and pulls the door shut.
“You guys need a warrant for that. I ain’t stupid, you know.”
Josephine Naylor might be slight, but she is cast in steel. The glare from her eyes can freeze the hardest of criminals. She steps closer to the manager, taller than him by a good six inches, and says, “If you’re in possession of marijuana, Mr. Spangler, I could take you to jail. I could arrest you right now. There’s an itch in my skull that suggests you might’ve been in trouble with the law before. Maybe we should dig around a bit. What do you think?”
Spangler is sufficiently cowed to drop his boldness. He is on probation until the end of the year, two months away, for his third DUI conviction. He drops his gaze but remains mute. Thorne plays the good cop and explains they really just want to know about Dunsmore. How long has he been here? When did Spangler last see him? What’s he like? Any trouble with him? Jo is taking notes as the men speak. Spangler, relieved that he is not their target, can’t stop talking.
“…I haven’t seen the jerk in two days. He owes three weeks rent, and he promised me he would have it by tomorrow. Seeing as you’re here looking for him, I ain’t likely to see that now, am I?”
Naylor answers him: “I wouldn’t count on it, Mr. Spangler. The man is wanted for attempted murder, and I suggest that if you do see him, you lock your doors and call us ASAP.”
This shakes Spangler up. He wrings his hands in a nervous manner and remains quiet. Thorne says, “How about you let us take a look in his room?”
“I don’t know about that. I think I should call the owner first.”
Naylor looks Spangler in the eye as she says, “Sure, why don’t you do that, and we’ll check your room while we’re waiting.”
Spangler sticks his chin out defiantly and says, “Hang on a minute and I’ll get you the key.”
Spangler opens the door to his room, enters and shuts the door firmly behind him. While he is retrieving the key, the detectives look around. There is a stairway directly in front of them on the left side of the hallway which extends back into the kitchen. A living room can be seen through an open archway on the right. The moldings around the doors and windows are dark stained wood marred with nicks and scratches. An old couch with yellowed fabric sits against the far wall under a narrow window. A matching chair sits beside it. In the middle of the room is an ornate French provincial coffee table that looks as out of place as a meat tray at a vegan convention. Several magazines lay on top, alongside a glass ashtray full of butts. Dust covers almost everything. The floors are hardwood and dull, in need of polish.
Spangler opens his door and extends an arm, holding a shiny brass key attached to a silver ring with a white paper fob, like the one used at a car repair shop when they tag your keys. It has a large 2 marked on it.
“Here, fill yur boots.”
Naylor takes the key and says, “What about the other tenants?”
“No one here but me. Both old John in # 1 and Reggie in #3 work at the meat packing plant in the Industrial Park and they leave here at 6 a.m. If Dunsmore ain’t comin’ back, when can I get rid of his junk?”
“Don’t touch anything, Mr. Spangler; don’t even go in the room until we say you can. Depending on what we find, the room might be off limits for a while. We’ll let you know.”
Spangler grimaces and shakes his head.
“Well, keep the key then. I have another.”
He shuts his door again, muttering something about lowlifes.
The detectives draw their weapons even though Spangler confirmed Dunsmore is gone. Naylor leads the way up the stairs. Off the landing at the top, there are four doors, two facing them, one on the right and one on the left. The left door is open and the detectives can see a toilet with the seat up. A towel lays on the floor by a white vanity. The door facing them, to the right, has a crude 2 scrawled on it in black marker. Thorne steps around his partner and says sotto voce, “Let me go first, Jo.”
“Being chivalrous are we?”
“Yep, that’s me.”
Thorne takes the key and, before he slides it into the keyhole in the knob, he places his ear to the door to listen. Naylor is holding her weapon with both hands, pointed at the door. Thorne knocks on the door with a knuckle and waits for a moment. When there is no response, he turns the key until there is an audible click, then turns the knob. Shoving the door open quickly, he steps into the room with his weapon at eye level. The door swings into the wall with a slight bang.
The scene before them is shocking. Naylor drops her hands to her side and gasps.
The wall facing them is covered with blown-up photos of her. The image in each one is the same, taken from the front page of the local paper when her father was on trial a year ago. Naylor had been leaving the courthouse when the photographer caught her image with a zoom lens. The look on her face is one of sorrow. The headline that day had read, “Randolph Naylor Convicted of Murder!” The same headline hovers above each print in bold black letters. The shocking part of what Thorne and Naylor see is the large hunting knife stuck in the wall, in the center photo, in the middle of Detective Josephine Naylor’s face.
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