Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

"as" she headed to the stairs

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

One more night in this twin (bed) ???

Allan Garrett Allan Garrett
Recommendations: 2

He's come back to his families house, in his childhood bedroom,...

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Was his answer is not needed. The reader knows that only two people are having this conversation, so if it isn't one, it has to be the other.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

losing his temper, something that didn't happen very much in this sort of town.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

Good research, or knowledge of police procedures. Wouldn't like to be the cop that walked around on the crime scene. I value my weekends off (when I can get them).

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

"Damn bed's killing my back". He explained - should be "Damn bed's killing my back" he explained.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

"And Nick, do me a favour..." "Punch out. Tell him I need..." "he requested might sound better (just my own opinion).

Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

Is "ever jockey" a typo or is that one of the character's speech patterns? I know my dad used to say ever instead of every.

Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

"ape, (Boyfriend) get pissed when she wouldn’t put out." Boyfriend shouldn't be capitalized.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

need to leave a space between paragraphs. I have fond if you copy paste document from a word processor into Scribe slice they tend to lose their spacing. This can be over come by setting the paragraph setting to double spacing. Also if you don't leave spacing you run the risk of overwhelming your reading audience by the sheer volume of text.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

Did her boyfriend get pissed when she didn't put out? Dump's only happen - Dumps only happen. 10 years on "a" major case.

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Allan Garrett Allan Garrett
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Homecoming- Sunday


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

Sunday


5:00 am. She was in the kitchen like every morning for the last 36 years. It was her kitchen, it wasn’t her house but this kitchen was hers. It was the place where she shared her love for the children, the children that were not hers. It was where she helped them with their homework, bandaged their wounds, and consoled them after the death of their mother. She was preparing to start breakfast for him like she had since she was 18. She had raised his children after his wife died, made their meals, put them to bed, read them stories. She loved those kids like they were her own. She had done for them what she couldn’t do for her own children. She regretted it. Raising his children, being away from her family had destroyed them. It drove her husband to drink himself to death, knowing what he knew. It had driven her son into drugs and then prison. And it drove her daughter to become estranged from her. But here she was, 36 years later, heavier, tired, and lonely. Back in this kitchen starting another day. And there he was, like every morning, at the kitchen table reading the morning paper, saying nothing. ‘Does he even understand it?’ She asked herself. He could if only for a minute, but she knew he would read that same article five times before the frustration would set in. Then the anger would well up inside him, and she’d be there to ease his mind. Be there to give him his coffee, light his cigar, and feed him his eggs.
‘Routine, keep the same routine as much as possible.’ The doctor had said. ‘Talk to him, read to him. Make him use his mind’


So she did. Keeping the same routine wasn’t hard. They’d practiced this routine for the last 36 years. It never changed. The only changes were the children. Bobby went off to college made something of himself. He was in New York now, sending those checks every month. Maureen, she had run off with that truck driver years ago, they hadn’t seen her in 28 years. She called from time to time, but would only talk to her, never her father. Then there was Michael. He was his father’s son. Mean little bastard as a child, to everyone except her, he loved ‘Momma Mabel’ as he called her. He was the only one of the children that called her Momma. He had left in a rage, a rage that drove him straight into the Marine Corp. Then he became a cop in St Louis. She remembered the fear she had when he got shot a few years ago. He was her baby. And now he was home. Upstairs in his old room. She wondered why. Why did he come back? It certainly wasn’t because he missed this town, or for that matter his father. Perhaps he felt he was obligated to. Obligated to right all the wrongs he had committed as a young man. Or obligated to right all the wrongs his father had committed.  ‘Yes, that was it.’ She thought. Otherwise why come home and take the job as Chief? The same job his father had for almost thirty years. His father’s son. Her baby. The phone rang. As she crossed the floor to answer it she patted the old man on the back and received a grunt for her concern.


“Hello” She answered.


“Morning Mabel, I need the Chief.” It was Nick Forler, the night shift Patrolman.


“One second dear, I’ll get him” She laid the phone on the counter, and turned to see that Michael Sr. hadn’t even noticed the phone had rang, and she headed for the stairs. When she got to the stairs she knew it would hurt, mumbling to herself she began to climb them. After only three, her knees cried out in pain, she changed her mind. 1 comment


“Michael!” She called from the bottom of the stairs. “You up baby?”


“Yea Ma, what is it?” was the answer from down the hall.


“It’s Nicholas!” She told him.


“Alright, Thanks” Came the answer.


She turned and walked back down the three steps she had managed to climb. It was easier going down.


He laid there a minute clearing his head. Staring at the ceiling, where Farah Fawcet still smiled down on him. ‘Damn she was gorgeous’ He thought. He still couldn’t get over the fact that Mabel never took down all these posters. When he came home and entered his room again it had been like walking into a time machine, like he’d never left. But this bed had to go, he’d take care of that today. One more night in this twin was going to kill his back. He got up and walked down the hall to the phone. 2 comments


“Yea, Nick??” He didn’t notice that Mabel hadn’t hung up as he answered.


“Chief, I gotta bad one here.” Was the reply.


“What?” He was already annoyed with this kid. “Spill it.”


“Dead girl Chief, Cutter found her in the woods, in the annex.” Was his answer. 1 comment


He was awake now. “Shit. How?”


“Don’t know, Chief. I didn’t get close, Cutter came into town and brought  me out here to show me the body, and I called you. You’re the Detective.” He explained.


“Well, Damnit! What do you think she died from? Animal? Drugs? Suicide?” He was losing his temper, this didn’t happen in this town. 1 comment


“All I know Chief is we got a naked girl dead in the creek. I wasn’t gonna have you chew my ass for walking all over a crime scene” Nick was starting to feel picked on.


“All right, seal it off. Nobody get’s in. And call Maggie, tell her to get her ass down there and don’t run code. I don’t wanna tell everybody in town what’s going on till I know. And get the day shift in right now. Get the place taped off, in a thirty-yard perimeter. Anybody walks on the scene to work weekends for a year.” Chief told him. 1 comment


“Ok boss, I’ll take care of it.” Nick replied.


“And Nick, sorry I snapped, I didn’t sleep worth a shit. Damn bed’s killing my back.” He explained. 1 comment


“No sweat Chief.” He was relieved. 1 comment


“And, Nick do me a favor, call Peterson before you punch out, tell him I need a queen, hard as a rock and get it sent over, I’m gonna be busy.” He asked. 1 comment


“Done.”  Nick answered.


“And nothing on the radio, I don’t want ever scanner jockey in town down there” he insisted. 1 comment


Michael hung up the phone, rubbed his face and wondered what the hell was going on. This town hadn’t had a murder in years. Hell more than a decade. He headed for the shower and the Tylenol. His back was going to give him hell all day. He showered quickly and got dressed while running all the possible scenario’s through his head. Rape, Boyfriend get pissed when she wouldn’t put out? Dump job? No, dump’s only happen in the city, no one would go that far out of the way to dump a body. He was frustrated, he thought he left this kind of thing behind him in St Louis. 10 years in major case, it had burned him out. He thought coming home would center him again. Give him a chance to take stock of it all. The two bad marriages, the dead partner. All the bodies he scrapped up off the pavement in the middle of the night. It had aged him. Hardened him. He had begun to feel nothing anymore. He knew he needed to get out when he felt nothing for the mother of the little girl that had been raped and strangled by some sick fuck. But he didn’t leave even then. He stuck it out, told himself he had a job to do. He only left when they told him if he didn’t retire, they’d run him out. No ‘Thank you, Good job Detective Booker.’ Not even a gold watch, just a ‘Get out, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.’ Like it was his fault the guy was a child molester. He’d done the world a favor. Sent that bastard to hell where he belonged, and saved the taxpayers money in the process. He should’ve gotten a raise.
             After he got dressed he stripped and re-assembled his Glock 40 like he had every morning for the last fifteen years. Dry fired it, checked the slide for dirt, reloaded and holstered it on his hip. It was his routine, a lesson he learned in the Corp. ‘Never go into battle with a weapon you don’t trust.’ His drill instructor had always said, and it stuck. He did it every morning, even for the three months he didn’t work before he accepted their offer. He didn’t know why he came home, at first he had said no. Even though Mabel had told him about his father, about the Alzimers. He still didn’t come home. All of his memories were bad here. Memories of his father, of his brother telling him he’d never come back, of his sister running out on him in the middle of the night. And Sarah. He hadn’t seen her since he got back; he knew she was still here. Divorced he’d been told, two kids, worthless ex-husband Jimmy Meyers. That little shit never was any good, why the hell she married him he couldn’t figure out. In the end He’d Ran out on her leaving her to fend for herself and their children alone. He’d been told she was working the bar at Skids, a run down place that was called “The Lighthouse” when they were kids. Sean Hurley owned “Skids” now. He looked in the mirror and debated shaving. ‘Why bother?’ he thought. He headed down stairs and stopped to look into the kitchen. There he was, reading his paper, he would’ve walked in and sat down with him for minute, but he knew it would be waste of time. Michael Booker Sr. never knew which of his son’s was there in his house, countless times over the last few weeks Michael had talked to him, only to be called “Bobby” by his father. As if  Robert would ever return here, except to bury the old man, and probably not even then. 3 comments


They had grown up in their father’s shadow. He was bigger than life. A large man, 6’3” 260 lbs. The kind of man that could stare you into pissing your pants. Several times as a child Michael had done just that. As a child he was frightened of his father. He remembered when he was a kid and he and his older brother had gone to see “Walking Tall” the movie about the small town sheriff Buford Pusser. His brother had leaned over and said, “That’s our dad.” But Michael didn’t agree, Buford Pusser was a man of honor, a man fighting for good. Michael Booker Sr. was not Buford Pusser. Michael had once seen his father break a man’s leg because he didn’t leave town. The man had been a vagrant. A drifter, looking for work. Michael Sr. had his son with him in the patrol car when that man walked into town. Michael’s father pulled to the side of the road and got out to explain he wasn’t welcome there. The man told his father he’d keep walking. Chief booker got back in the patrol car and took his son for ice cream. Three hours later on the way home, the man was sitting on the curb eating a hotdog he’d begged off the cashier at a gas station. Chief Booker stopped the car, walked over to the man, kicked him in the head, laid his leg across the curb and stomped on it until it had broken.
      
Those were the memories Michael Booker Jr. had run from. Those were the memories that had run off all of Michael Sr’s children. For Michael Jr it was the Marine Corp, for Robert it was college, for Maureen it was the first trucker that stopped long enough to let her in. Michael hated his father for that. But his father was dead now, just his body was left. His mind destroyed and unable to recall which of his children stood before him, and unable to recall the horror he had set upon them from the day his wife died. At least now, he couldn’t hurt anyone anymore Michael thought to himself. Some people in town would say that his father just dealt out small town justice, the way it needed to be done at the time. But after years in the Corp, and on the street in St Louis, he knew. His father had been nothing more than a psychopath with a badge.
      
As he stood there looking at his now feeble father, Michael hadn’t noticed Mabel looking back at him. When he saw her he saw that look in her eyes. The look of a mother’s pain when her child has been hurt. She knew, she knew better than anyone what he had been like. And her sentence was the same as his children. She had only been able to watch when he beat her husband, she had only been able to watch as he hauled her son off to prison. The only safety found by her family was given to her daughter, Janelle. Why, Michael didn’t know, many times his father found Janelle wandering the street late at night hanging out with local hoods. Found her drunk at a bar underage. Even caught her stealing from the local QuikMart. Not once though did he do anything about it. No charges, just took her home to her mother. As Mabel stood there looking back at him he felt sorry for her, sorry that she was unlucky enough to have had to deal with this man for more than 30 years. But he was grateful too. Grateful she had been there for him and his brother and sister. She was the one who made the difference in their lives, giving away hers in return.
       “You got time for some eggs, baby?” she finally said.
      
“No Maam, I’ll get something later.” He replied as he turned for the door.
      
“Michael, was she black?” she sounded scared.
      
“I don’t know yet Momma, you call Janelle, make sure she’s home” was the only answer he could give.
      
“I’m sure she’s home, she don’t run around like she used to.” She was trying to convince herself.
      
“I’m sure she is Momma.” And he headed out the door.


       Chief Booker headed straight to the new Impala Patrol car they got him when he accepted the job. He thought it was a waste of money, he would have been fine driving his father’s truck, but they insisted on it. He started the car and got on the radio.
      
“100, dispatch”
      
“Morning Chief” came the reply.
      
“Who’s in?” he asked.
      
“111, 101,and 107 are on scene and 110 is in route.” She answered.
      
“500?” she’d better be there he thought.
      
“She’s on scene too, sir. Been there 10 minutes or so,”
      
“I’m in route” he paused. “100, 101 we secure?”  He asked his Captain.
      
“Yea boss, Tight as a drum, Nick took care of it.”  Harry answered.


       He dropped the mic in the passenger seat and drove through town, people were starting to stir. He drove calmly through town, not to give away anything was wrong. They’d all know by noon anyway. He gave the complementary expected wave to all who noticed him. A little known slice of small town life most in the city never realize. People are openly polite in small towns; they wave as you drive by. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know you; they do it as a courtesy. He always felt it odd. Especially now after being gone from here for so long. He turned the corner at Main Street and headed out of town towards the annex. The annex as it was called was a huge parcel of land that was once owned by the quarry that was in the middle of it. The quarry had shut down 20 years ago and the city had annexed the property in the hopes of turning it into a business and industry area. That didn’t happen. The business never came. The land just sat there. Only use it ever got was from teenagers going into the woods in their cars to screw in the back seat, or poachers hunting out of season. Patrolling the land wasn’t ever considered a priority by the police in town, unless they got a call teenagers had lit a bonfire and were partying out there. He made another right onto Wilson Rd and hit gravel, no pavement out here, road wasn’t used much anymore. That’s when he saw them. Nick had his patrol car blocking the road sideways with the lights on. A couple of locals had collected there and were discussing whatever they thought was going on. Booker looked them over and made a mental note of who they were, remembering often that murderers tend to hang around crime scene


He skirted past Nick’s car and drove further down to where the ambulance was parked. Both medics were also standing around debating the event. Booker parked in front of the ambulance and Harry met him as he climbed out.
      
“Mike, this ones all yours kid.” Smiling as he said it.


Harry Mitchell was the only one in town that got away with calling him kid. He was almost old enough to be his father and Michael respected him. He was your atypical small town cop. Friendly guy, but cross him and he’d beat your ass. He’d worked with Michael’s father for 20 year’s and had been fired twice by Booker Sr.. The only reason he was still there was that when he made Captain, Booker Sr. couldn’t fire him anymore without council approval. And it was Booker Jr. that made him decide to stay a couple of more years instead of retiring.
      
“What is it Harry?” Jr asked.
      
“White, Blonde, petite, pretty thing, but looks like she went through a shredder, and naked as the day she was born too. Probably 16-17 years old.”  Was his answer.
      
“Any guesses?” Mike inquired.
      
“My guess? Rape, how he whacked her I couldn’t tell you, I didn’t wanna trample all over your crime scene. But Maggies in there, she’ll know by now.” He explained as they walked.


Nick was standing next to a beat up old truck talking to a local. It was Cutter. James Louis Cutter, Michael knew him from school, Cutter was a bit on the slow side, but good people. He never bothered Michael. He and Michael hung around each other for a while before Michael was a teenager, even though Cutter was a few years older. They even hunted squirrel in these woods. That was until Michael was around thirteen and realized Cutter wasn’t too bright, so being the typical arrogant teenager he was Michael cut him loose. Michael knew what Cutter was doing out here, so he knew Cutter was probably not a suspect.
      
“Alright Cutter, tell me a story.” Booker said as he shook the man’s hand.
      
“Well Mike I was just out here hunting shrooms, and I all but fell over that little girl back there. Man I thought I was going to be sick.” Cutter answered.
Booker looked at Nick. “Nick, get me Cutter’s rifle out of his truck” He turned back to Cutter and stared him down a little.
      
“Honest Mike I didn’t do nothing, I was hunting shrooms.” He was scared now.
Nick handed over the rifle to Booker and the Chief  un-chambered the bolt, smelled it and looked back up at Cutter.
      
“Look, Jimmy, I’ve known you all my life. We hunted out here together as kids. Now you tell me, just one thing.” He grinned. “Was it a buck, or doe?”
      
Cutter stood up straighter. “Shrooms.” He said, trying to summon courage.
      
Booker tossed the rifle back to Nick. “Bullshit Cutter. Look, I’ve got a dead girl on my hands. So let me explain things to you. I know you’ve got five kids to feed. I know you don’t get anything but scatter work around town. So I know if you didn’t poach deer they wouldn’t eat. I’m not the conservation officer Cutter, I don’t care as long as you eat what you kill, and I know you do. So the truth now, don’t make me confiscate the only rifle you’ve got to hunt with, I wouldn’t feel good about that.”
      
“Ok” Cutter dropped his head. “It was a buck, but the rest is true, I found her, I didn’t kill her, swear to god.”
      
“I believe you Cutter, because I remember when we were kids. First doe you shot, you cried like a baby. You couldn’t kill anyone Cutter. I know that.” Booker put his hand on his shoulder. “But, I’m keeping your rifle till I can determine what killed this girl, then Nick will bring it back to you, OK?”
      
“Sure, Mike, I’m ok with that.” You could see the relief in his face.
      
“Alright Cut, you found her, you take me to her.” Booker turned to Nick and Harry. “Nick be sure to secure that weapon, Harry I’m gonna need names and plates on all our snoopers.”


       Both men turned to their assignments and Cutter lead the Chief into the woods.
Chief and Cutter made their way through the brush and thorns until they reached the tape Nick had circled all around the crime scene, Booker squared up and tried to see where Maggie was but couldn’t even make out the creek from where they were.
      
“I’ll stop here Mike, I don’t wanna see her again.” His posture had fallen again.
Booker put his hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye.


“I understand Jimmy, where’s that buck?” he asked.
      
“Prolly up there, bout 100 yards or so.” He pointed up the hill to his right.
      
“Alright, You come back later today, approach from the back of the quarry and haul him out of here. But for now stay here, I may need a guide, I haven’t been in these woods for more than 20 years.” Booker turned back towards where the creek should be.
      
“Maggie!!” He called out;
      
“Yea Chief?’ came her answer.
      
“Give me an approach!” He asked.


He saw her head pop up about 30 yards away. She pointed to his left. “Make your way to the left, follow the tape in, then down your side of the creek, stay out of the water.” She explained.
      
He did as she told him leaving Cutter alone to lean against a tree. Once he reached the creek he followed it to where Maggie was kneeling next to the girl. He surveyed the scene, on his side of the creek nothing, no boot prints, no pack down. On the other side, obvious disturbance, lots of pack, several boot prints. What looked like track from bare feet, obviously the girl. He moved around and above her head looking over the body. She was bruised all over; mostly thighs and her wrists were bruised heavily from obvious rope use. Ankle bruising the same way, her right foot was barely there, picked at by animals. Legs and sides torn to shreds by brush and thorns.
      
“How long Maggie?” was his first question.
      
“Body temp is screwed due to the creek, but judging rigor and decomp, a day?” was her reply.


“She was a runner?” he asked.
      
“Looks that way.” Maggie turned and pointed up the hill. “I think she came from up there, and she was hauling ass too. Scared to death I’ll bet.”
              
“Rape it looks like.” He was talking out loud, not really to Maggie.
      
“Wont know till we do the usual, but judging by the trauma, I’d say several times. The bastard tortured her Mike. He beat her, raped her, who knows how many times, then hunted her down and shot her like an animal.” Maggie was on the verge of losing it.
      
“Shot her? I don’t see the wound” He knelt down next to her head to get a closer look.
      
“Here.” She moved away the hair on the girl’s head. “Small caliber. Probably .22 long rifle, no exit wound, scrabbled her brains, not that it was necessary.”
      
“What do you mean?” He asked her.


“Well, I think she fell first. Off that creek ledge.” Pointing to the opposite bank. “And when she fell, poor thing smashed her head on that rock there, judging by the laceration. I’d say severe skull fracture. She might have held on for an hour but I doubt it.” She stood up. He could see she was crying.


“I’m done here Mike, The water washed away any good evidence off her, I’m gonna tell the guy’s to in come and get her. I’ll come back and make sure they stay off that bank.” She was nearly sobbing now.
      
“You gonna make it Maggie?” He was worried about her.
      
“Yea.” She sighed, composed herself. “But Mike, when I saw her hair my first thought was my daughter, she looks just like her, I would have run home to check had I not seen her before I left. You get that son of a bitch Michael, you hunt him down and you put a bullet in his head just like you did in St Louis!” She was angry now. “No one in this town will blame you like they did. Hell, we’ll throw a fucking party in your honor, name the goddamn ballpark after you. Just get him, you hear me Michael?”
      
“Yea, Maggie I hear you.” He turned to look at the girl again, less to look at her but more to look away from Maggie. She walked off, sobbing again.


      It was then he felt it. Like out of no where. Emotion. He’d seen so much horror before this. First, the Gulf War, then Major Case. He had thought he had grown numb to it all. But it was back. It was anger. Seething inside him, like a fire. It was the way he felt the first time he’d seen a murdered child. He was a rookie Major Case Detective when he caught that case, and never solved it. This time things would be different he was sure of that.
      
He switched into autopilot, eyes sweeping the scene. He could see where she came from, and the track left by her pursuer. He had to be sure he wouldn’t screw up any good foot prints. He wasn’t going to get much physical evidence from the scene; those few boot prints may get a conviction. After determining his route he turned back to the direction of Cutter. When he looked he saw Nick standing there with him.
      
“Cutter!” They both looked up at him. “You and Nick make your way around the tape the way I did, but jump the creek and keep going around, there’s track over there Cutter and I need it found, Got it?” He ordered.
      
“Yea!” they both replied in unison.


Booker stepped two steps back to his left and made his way around the girl. Once on the other bank he saw it, blood. She was bleeding before she hit the creek. He moved to the left of the track and started walking with it. She bled a lot on her run. ‘The girl had stones.’ He thought. To loose that much blood and keep going. He was paying such close attention to the blood trail he almost ran into it, the barbwire fence. Looking down the fence he saw a hunk of flesh hanging from a barb and the wire was stretched to its limit. ‘She missed her jump’ He had a mental picture in his head now. ‘If she hadn’t missed that jump would she be alive?’ He turned back towards the road. ‘Yea, she hits the road another 300 yards to the pavement and trucks with lights.’ He continued on to the tape where Nick and Cutter were there waiting, Cutter ignoring them, eyeing the ground and incline hard. When he reached them he looked up at Nick.
      
“Nick, go back to the car, get wire cutters and some evidence bags from Maggie. There’s a barbwire fence she snagged herself on. I want 40 feet in both directions, also there’s blood on the ground. Probably all the girls but we won’t know till Maggie tests it. Maggie will show you how to collect it all.” He explained.
      
“Got track?” Booker asked Cutter.
      
“Yup, like a fuckin freight train came thru here.” He smiled.
      
“Let’s go” Booker ordered. And Cutter shifted to his left and started marching, staying to the left of the track but perfectly parallel to it.
      
The two of them walked slowly towards the hillside. Booker dropped back five feet from Cutter, mostly watching the ground instead of where they were going. He was soaking it all in. It was clear now to him. She was being chased, that was easy to tell from the weeds pushed down. ‘How many?’ he asked himself. He could tell from the way the trail spread out there was more than on man on her tail. Booker reached out and placed his hand on Cutter’s shoulder.
      
“What do you see Cut? He asked as they continued to walk.
      
“Hard to say Mike, trails cold, been at least a day. But if I had to guess, two, maybe three plus the girl” Was his response. He stopped and knelt down and waved his hand over the weeds.
      
“See there.” Pointing the obvious toe mark in the dirt. “That’s our little girl” He shifted his hand pointed to the opposite side of the track the girl had left. “See the way the weeds and grass are sheared off? Them’s boots, hard to say how big they are, they were moving fast. And as wet as it was, I’m surprised they didn’t fall on they’re asses.” He then pointed at the track closest to them. “Now here, they’re walking back to the ridge, I count defiantly two sets of boots, might be a third here.” Pointing now at the ground next to them. “But I can’t say for sure, looks like they followed each other up the hill. I might be able to see it better once we reach the ridgeline.” Cutter stood back up and kept walking.
      
They continued walking in silence for fifteen minutes. The hillside was rough, and hard to climb. Cutter had to grab tree limbs and pull Booker up a few times.
      
“How the hell did she get down this hill without falling?” Booker asked himself out loud.
      
“When your as scared as she was your superhuman.” Cutter was matter of fact.


       Finally with a last push they reached the ridge. Cutter broke off from Booker, leaving him to navigate the last five feet alone. Once he made it to the top he found Cutter upright, looking off across the field. Booker walked up next to him and waited for Cutter to determine the track. After a few minutes of silence came the bad news.
      
“We’re screwed Michael.” He just shook his head in defeat.
      
“What, I don’t understand.” Booker surveyed the tall grass, looking for what he didn’t know.
      
“It’s gone. Fields wide open, with the sunlight all day yesterday; the grass stood back up. No sign Michael. I might be able to crawl along the ground and find it, but I’ prolly be chasing some hunter from last week. In the process I’d ruin any good sign, it would be like chasing a ghost.” He looked back at Booker. “Sorry Mike.”
      
“No sweat Cut, You did what you could.” He surveyed the field again, wondering which way she came from. He knew better than to second guess Cutter. He’d been hunting these woods his whole life. When they were kids hunting together he was always amazed when Cutter could find squirrel track out of nowhere. When all he saw was dirt. That was his grandfathers’ gift to James Cutter. The old man taught him how to hunt for survival, not as a sport. Booker turned and looked back over the slope below them and down towards the creek. Off in the distance he could make out the shapes of men moving around the crime scene, Nick and Harry collecting evidence.
      
Turning back to Cutter. “You think you could hit her from here?”
      
Cutter shifted back and forth a second before he answered.
      
“Do you know what they used?” he asked while judging the distance.
      
“Maggie thinks maybe a .22.” he answered.
      
“Shit Mike, with her running hard like that through that mess? Bouncing around like a rabbit! From what can tell she was hit in the creek or as she crossed it. I wouldn’t waste the round Mike. I might take it if she was standing still, but moving like she was? Not likely, and not with a kids gun.” Was the answer.


Booker nodded and looked back down the hill wishing he didn’t have to climb back down. He waited for Cutter to decide the best route and dropped in behind him. They made it back down the hill with Booker falling only twice. It took twice as long to get down the hill as it did to get up. Once down, they mad their way back to the scene where Harry was watching over Nick while he was pouring the last plaster caste.
      
“Where’d you find plaster? I didn’t know we had that.” He asked Harry.
      
“Maggie’s idea.” He responded as he lit another cigarette. “Smart girl. Cute too, you should ask her out Michael.”
      
Booker looked at Harry, standing there with a big grin on his face. Harry always reminded Booker of some cowboy movie Sheriff. He even wore the stupid cowboy hat.
      
“I don’t think she’s my type Harry, but I hear your daughters home from college in a couple of weeks.” Booker walked off with a smile as Harry’s grin dropped off his face.  


“That ain’t even funny Michael. Besides, she don’t like cops, Thinks their all pricks.” He said as he followed.
      
“Wonder where she got that idea?” Booker responded, leading the way back to the road as Cutter followed in the rear. The conversation continued that way all the way back to the road. Harry trying to suggest women Booker should go after, Booker continued to suggest the availability of Harry’s daughter, Angela. Cutter enjoyed the exchange, especially the part where Booker referred to Angela’s ass, And Harry threatening to shoot Booker right where he stood. Booker was a part of the exchange but he wasn’t even thinking about it. He was running down the events that could have put that girl in the creek.
      
Maggie had said she had been there for 24 hours at least. He hadn’t gotten any reports of teenage girls missing. That didn’t mean much he knew, girls ran around this town like they ran the place. Especially the poor ones. Some parents didn’t pay attention to their daughters the way they should. Small towns were like that. The lack of real crime bred complacency. And it was Sunday morning, if she died Saturday morning her parents might not realize she was missing until today. Friday night every teenager in the county was hunting a party, they’d lie to their parent’s and say they were staying at a friends. Then stay out all night, stumbling into the house the next day or this morning. Or in this girl’s case, never coming home at all. He remembered when Maureen took off at seventeen. She was a known party girl, gone half the night or all of it. When she didn’t come home Saturday, Michael’s father figured she’d stay with a girlfriend and didn’t concern himself. He was angry with her anyway for all the trouble she caused him. It was only after he found her room empty Monday morning that he realized his daughter was gone for good. Michael had known the day she left, he was her little brother and she cried when she said goodbye that morning. He didn’t try to stop her, he only wished he could have gone with her. But, she wouldn’t have gotten far dragging a 12 year old kid with her. Instead she left him alone, to suffer the wrath of a father scorned again by another child. The memory of it all caused the anger to well back up in him again. Just as it had every time he knelt beside the body of a forgotten teenage girl.
      
The anger faded as he reached the road and saw Maggie leaning against his patrol car. Cutter stopped at his truck knowing he wasn’t a part of things now, and Michael and Harry walked over to meet with her again.
      
“I’ll have a preliminary for you this afternoon, blood work and tox will have to go to Jeff City, so that will take a week.” She said as they approached.
      
“Any chance we can push it faster?” Harry asked.
      
“I don’t have any pull down there Harry, you know that. Chief will have to call and chew ass to get it by Friday.”  Michael could tell she was frustrated with it all.
      
“I’ll need DNA and fingerprints too Mag’s” He told her.
      
“ I know Michael” She started to walk off. “I went to the same schools your St Louis doctors went to.” She said with her back to them, walking to her truck.
              
“I’m an ass.” He said to Harry.
      
“She’s just pissed Michael. When I got here she was leaning over that girl crying like she was her own child. It fucked her up.” Harry replied as he leaned against the car.
      
“Yea, I know.” Michael lit a cigarette.
      
“Any ideas?” Harry asked.
      
“Not a one, I don’t have a clue Harry. But I know where we start.” Michael replied.
      
“Ok, where?” Harry stood back up straight, flicked his cigarette across the road.
      
“With a map” Was the answer.



                                          *


      They had watched the scene unfold from the moments just after Cutter had lead Nick to the place where they left her body. The plan now was a bust. Last night’s drinking binge had gotten the best of them and they were in no shape to return and move the body as they planned. The plan was to return and dump her in the quarry, weight her down and just let her sink. They had figured that in 80 feet of water no one would ever find her there. But the plan wouldn’t work now. They found her. But even after the argument that insued after they seen that old bastard in the woods, they decided it didn’t matter. These small town cops couldn’t figure out who did it. Even with the new chief around. He was supposed to be some burned out city cop anyway. So they sat there, the three of them. Sat there in the cab of the truck, watching the scene unfold. Nobody noticed them at the opposite end of the road, the tree line hid their truck. They watched as that weasel ass cop Nick Forler threw up on the side of the road. They watched as the ambulance and the lady Doc showed up. And they watched as the new Chief wandered around chatting everyone up. They thought it was funny when he took Cutter’s rifle from him. Now the old poaching bastard couldn’t hunt their woods anymore. They watched the girl got taken away in one of those black bags. ‘Serves the little bitch right.’ Thought the driver. They had never intended to kill her. But she ran.
      
They knew that if they couldn’t catch her she had to die. They had intended to have their fun for a few day’s, then drive her a couple hundred miles away and let her go. But she ran. It wasn’t their fault, they told her she wouldn’t die. ‘Just do what your told, and you can go home.’ They had told her. And she ran anyway. She was a whore anyway. She was all fun and games the first night, drinking their beer, smoking their dope. But when it came time to pay up she got all high and mighty. Like she didn’t know they took her there to fuck. So they raped her. Then they realized what they had. Nobody knew this bitch. Nobody cared. They decided to keep her for awhile. ‘Use her and dump her when we’re done, they decided together. But then she ran. And then the plan fell apart.
       Plans tend to do that.



                                          *
       They remained at the crime scene for 3 hours. Collecting what little evidence they could find. Nick photographed the scene, and took plaster castes’ of the few boot prints around the creek. Booker made sure Nick casted every pair of shoes that were around the scene, his, Nicks, Cutters’, and Harrys’. Maggie would caste the ambulance medics and hers back at the hospital. After all the evidence collection and running over all the details again, Booker needed to clear his head. So he began to walk the roadside, looking down mostly at the edge of the road. Looking for nothing really, just checking for the possibility a vehicle had been here and they had left something behind. After walking almost 100 yards away from the group, and away from the main road, he heard an engine start. He hadn’t been looking up so he couldn’t see the vehicle. Just the engine turn over and the driver throw it into reverse and haul ass backward out of view. ‘Shit!’ He ran towards the opposite side of the road hoping to get a glimpse around the corner of the vehicle. Nothing. He turned and reached on his hip for his portable. “God Damnit!!” he yelled to himself as he wheeled to his left and began running back down the road to the main group. He had left his portable in his car.


       Harry had heard Booker yell and turned to see what was wrong. He knew, he could see the fog of  dirt flying from the vehicle taking off. “Nicky!! We got a runner!” He screamed as he raced to his truck. Nick didn’t bother to look down the road, just ran to his patrol car that was only five feet away and fired the engine. Stomping on the gas as he threw it into drive he nearly tore out the transmission. Knowing he was the first vehicle to begin the chase he raced passed the Chief almost running him over in the process. As Harry approached Booker yanked the passenger door open and climbed in.
      
“Did you see them?” Harry asked, stomping down on the gas to catch Nick.
      
“Hell no, I wasn’t looking in the right direction.” He grabbed the Radio mic.
      
“Nick, Stay with them kid. When they reach the junction they’ll head for the highway. They get that far and we’ll lose’em!” He ordered.


       Nick didn’t answer. He knew his chances were slim to catch up anyway. They had righted their vehicle and race off long before he had managed to get to his car. He was concentreating now on not sliding off the gravel road, he was at 90 mph now. The patrol car was floating on gravel like it was ice. One mistake and he was done. The dust from the vehicle in front of him was blanketing the road. He couldn’t see ten feet in front of him. He was watching the edges of the road to try and get a feel for when the road was about turn. ‘There!’ He saw the boulder on the side of the road the local kids always graffitti’d, he knew that meant the T intersection was twenty maybe thirty feet. He tapped his brakes, yanked his steering wheel to his left. The car immediately responded, the back end of the car began to slide almost completely out of control to his right. Nick yanked the wheel hard the opposite direction correcting his turn and stomped on the gas. The car attempted to right itself, now at a ninety degree angle from its entry into the intersection. But he was moving too fast, the rear of the car was still sliding. The right wheel hit the edge of the road and up the slight incline. When the right rear fender struck the tree the force of it nearly threw Nick into the passenger seat, almost forcing his hands loose from the wheel. Nick fought back against the force of gravity. Dragging himself upright he pounded on the gas again and the car pitched back on to the roadway, as he regained control.


It wouldn’t matter, the truck had made the turn easily, and the ground Nick lost when he hit the tree gave the driver of the truck enough time to escape to the highway. Once there he never attempted to stop for traffic. He lunged straight across the two north bound lanes through the median and hung the hard left into the southbound traffic. Highway 61 being a major north/south route through the state, there once considerable traffic even for a Sunday morning. Once Nick reached the highway he slammed on his brakes and tried to determine who he was chasing. Yanking his head back right and left he couldn’t decide which way they went. In all the excitement of the chase and with all the gravel and dust flying he could only make out that he was behind a truck, and that he only had realized due to the vehicles taillights, when the driver was braking on the turns. Nick pounded on his steering wheel in frustration. After his momentary fit he realized Harry and the Chief were right behind him, looking up and into his rearview mirror he wondered if they’d even see his car through all the dust in the air.
      
Had it not been for the light on Nick’s patrol car, Harry would have run him right over. He couldn’t see anything in front of him, he too had been watching the edges of the road to guide him. As it was it was Booker calling out to Harry that Nick had stopped at the highway. Harry was pushing close to eighty when Booker gave him a heads up, as it was it he barely managed to both stop and keep from sliding off the road. Once they came to a stop they both climbed out of the truck and approached the drivers side of the patrol car. Once Nick caught his breath he got out.
      
“I’m sorry Chief, they had too good of a lead on me.”
      
“No sweat Nick, on these roads your lucky you didn’t kill yourself.” He told him.  Booker wasn’t even looking at Nick, he was watching the car’s go by on the highway.
      
“You get a look son?” Asked Harry.
      
“I could tell it was truck, tailgate was either down or missing. But I couldn’t make out make or model.” He answered.
      
Booker turned to look at Harry.
      
“We did just catch a break though.”
      
“How you figure?” Harry replied, lighting another cigarette.
      
“They came back to the scene.” Booker told him.
      
“Which means?”  Nick was clueless.
Booker just smiled and walked back to Harry’s truck. Harry smiled at Nick and said, “Means their stupid son, and stupid people go to prison.” He turned and headed towards the truck.
      
“By the way, you do know the mess you made of that cars’ coming out of your check.” Harry was smiling at Booker who was already in the passenger side.
      
“You’re joking, Right?” Nick was stunned by what he heard.
Harry didn’t answer, just climbed in the truck and spun it around, back the way they came. He floored it kicking up gravel and dirt in Nick’s direction. He walked around to inspect the damage the tree inflicted on him. “Fuck!” He said to himself. The whole rear panel had been mauled, rear taillight had exploded and disappeared. In anger at having missed his chance at catching them, and wrecking his car in the process he kicked the side of the car a few times to vent.


       On the drive back to town Booker and Harry were quiet. The only words spoken were over the radio. Booker told Nick to punch out and go home, His work day had started at 6:00pm the night before and he had been on duty for almost eighteen hours now. Then he radio’d patrolman Sgt. Tom Parker, one of the two day shift officers. Telling him to clear everyone away from the scene and clean up anything left behind by them or Maggie and the medics. They were done. It was time to begin the hunt, and it wasn’t going to be easy, even if their prey was stupid. They didn’t have much in the way of evidence. A trail that lead nowhere, boot prints probably left by someone who shopped at Walmart, like every other person in the county. If Maggie was right, and she probably was, it was a .22 caliber long rifle. A rifle given that in this part of the country was given to every man child when he reached the age of 10. Then there was the girl, who was she? They had no clue, no ID on the scene. No clothes to speak of anywhere in the area. They had no real crime scene, at least where it all began, where she had been rapped and beaten half to death. Bookers’ approach from here would be the only place he could start. ID the girl, and find where the rape took place.


       Once he and Harry arrived back at the station, He told Harry to call the county assessor and get him to open his office, they needed the survey maps for the quarry and all the land around it. While Harry did that Booker would call Jefferson City. He would get in touch with an old friend with the Highway Patrol. He made the call outside on his cell phone, he needed another cigarette and the city council had recently banned smoking in city buildings. He was hoping MULES could help him find out who this girl was. MULES was the Missouri Unified Law Enforcement System. If someone reported their girl missing, the entry would be there. He asked Trooper Miller if they could compile all the missing teenage female entries in the state for the last two years. To narrow the search he explained he only needed entries where the girl was white, around 5’4” and between 14 and 19 years of age. He was going to limit it to blondes, but girls dye their hair and he couldn’t tell if she had, nor had he asked Maggie. Trooper Miller told him he would teletype the entries to them by this afternoon.
      
“You need any help on this Mike?” Miller asked him.
      
“Not up here, but Maggie Calahan will be sending samples down. You think you could lean on them for me? I’ll buy you a beer.” Booker offered.
      
“Make it a case of Hieniken and you got a deal.” Was his offer.
      
“Consider it done Paul. Thanks.” Mike hung up.


       After he hung up the phone, Booker walked inside the station. Making his way up the back stairs to his corner office, he wondered what his opponents were doing. Were they running? Not likely he surmised, if they were stupid enough to return to the scene, they were stupid enough to stick around. Besides, since they were there at the scene, and given where the body had been found, he was on the hunt for locals. He had no idea what they looked like, what they drove, or what their next move would be. If they even had a next move to make. As he walked down the hall his next consideration was when the politics of the crime would show it’s face. He wouldn’t have to wait long. When he entered his office he found Mayor Bradley in the chair in front of his desk, smoking his traditional cigar.
      
“City council banned smoking here.” He said matter of factly as he sat at his desk.
      
“I am the city council Michael, why do think you sit in that chair?”  he responded.


Michael considered Doug Bradley an arrogant bastard. He considered all politicians to be such. But Bradley was a different kind of arrogant. He and his family had run this town for a hundred years. They ran it when horses still strolled down the riverfront cobblestone streets. His family had come here 120 years ago and opened the first lumber mill in the county. They bought huge parcels of land and then slowly sold them off controlling the growth of the town and the people who lived in it. It was they that decided if your future here was bright or dismal. The often quietly held joke was that the town would have been named “Josephville” had Joseph Ernest Bradley made it here first. But he was a few years too late, and the town had been named Pittsville instead. It was Adolf Pitzer would had beaten the Bradley’s here, and it would be the Pitzers that the Bradley’s would fight with over who was in control of the town. The Pitzers lost that battle 60 years ago when the last of them died out.


“So what can I do for you Doug?” Michael finally asked, as he pulled his ashtray out of the drawer and handed it to Bradley.


“Let’s not start with the bullshit session shall we? Just tell me what happened out there.” Bradley cut to the chase.


“White girl, around 17 I’d say, dead in the creek out on your land.” Michael leaned back in his chair.


“That’s city land now. How’d she die?” asked Bradley


“Doug, you know full well I won’t discuss it, you’ll get more information from
the paper than you will me. So why are you asking?” Michael knew Bradley would press him.


“Why? I’m the Mayor for Christs’ sake, I’m intitalled to know what’s going on in this town. It’s my job to know.” He was still smiling, arrogantly.


“It’s under investigation Mayor, And if it’s an accident, or otherwise I can’t discuss the details, you know that.” Booker was getting annoyed.


“I already know she was shot Michael, so tell me the rest.” Bradley stubbed out his cigar and tossed it back on the desk.


“Well if you know that then you know I won’t discuss it especially not with potential suspects.” Michael was poking back now.


“Suspect? What the hell are you talking about?” Bradley was noticeably agitated.


“First, the girl died on your land. Second, you’re here out of the blue asking questions not five hours after the body is found. You do realize guilty people tend to make themselves obvious to investigators by involving themselves in the investigation?” It was Booker smiling now.


“You son of a bitch! Who the hell are to point a finger at me and say I had anything to do with some little teeny bopper getting killed? You’d better watch what you say Mister or you’ll find yourself out of a job in 5 minutes!” Bradley was on his feet now, furious.


“I was making a point Doug, just busting your balls. You get a little full of yourself at times. Sit down.” He waved at Bradley to sit back down.


“I don’t think that was funny Michael.” Bradley was still red in the face.


“Look Doug, you brought me here to run this place. Let me run it. Free from interference, let me do my investigation, I’ll keep you clued in when you need to be. But no solid information, I’m not telling you anything that will compromise this thing. There’s a chance I’m dealing with locals here, and I don’t want them spooked.” He explained.


“Alright, I see your point, but next time watch what you said to me. Remember who’s in charge around here. Now, what will you tell me?” He was calming down.


“We have no idea who she was. No idea how she got in that creek, someone just dumped her there. I’m basing my assumption we might have a local based on where she was dumped. Not too many people from out of town run that road.” As Booker explained Harry walked in and sat on the couch behind Mayor Bradley.


“As for how she died, you were right. She was shot in the head. Probably .38 caliber or .45 can’t say for sure we found no rounds. It went straight through, we dug  around forever in that creek. Never found the slug.” Michael finished.


“What about foot prints? I heard you were taking castings.” Bradley inquired.


“I don’t expect to get anything off those, especially after Cutter and Nick walked all around the body. Those casting will match them I’m sure.” Michael shot a look at Harry.


“Yea Mayor, when I was back there I saw enough tracks that it could’ve been an army of people in those woods. I told Chief it was a waste of time, but what the hell, it’ll teach that kid Nick not to trample a crime scene. We made him do all the castings” Harry snorted.


“Well fire that kid. If he fucked up I want him out!” Bradley ordered.


“No reason to do that, he fucked up, but Cutter was there first, and animals got to her before that. Wouldn’t be any point to firing him.”  Booker replied.


Bradley stood up, feeling he’d gotten what he came for.
      
“Well, keep me informed Michael. You get any break I want to know first.” He didn’t wait for the answer and headed out the door.
      
“Will do Mayor!”  Booker called out.


Booker looked at Harry, Harry glanced down the hall as he stood up. Once the Mayor was threw the stairwell door he spoke;
      
“Wanna tell me why we lied to him?” He asked.
      
“He’s a liability Harry. Politicians like to talk make themselves look good, I tell him what we have and the guy’s we’re after know it two hours later. I fed him bullshit because I know if our boy’s are local they’ll think we’re idiot’s and get comfortable.” He explained.
      
“Makes sense, I got those maps you wanted.” Harry changed the subject.
      
“Good, let’s go clear out the conference room, get them hung on the wall.” He replied.


       Harry grabbed the ashtray, and they headed down the hallway.



       After they had cleared an area near the wall they hung the maps up. It took almost 3 hours to figure which maps they needed, and eliminate duplicates. After marking off where the girls body was found, and marking off the trail cutter had layed out for her attempted escape from her killers’, they took a step back and looked over the area. It was clear their search for the location of her rape would take time. The area where she could have come from was huge, 400 acres or more. Part of it farm land, part hunting reserve. The hunting reserve was owned by the private hunting club, Redwood Lodge. This posed a bit of a problem. The lodge was actually in the county, even though over 250 acres of their land was in the quarry annex was in the city limits.


       “Well shit” Harry muttered once he realized the trouble about to come.


       “Yea, I see it too.” Booker sat down and rubbed his face.


“Do we call him now? Or keep this to ourselves until we figure this out?” Asked Harry.


“We sure as hell don’t call him now, he’ll start the jurisdiction dance and we’ll spin our wheels for the next month.” Booker explained.


       The man they would have to call was Sheriff Graham. Graham had been sheriff for the last 25 years. A local who had been at war with Michaels father for almost every day since he took office. After winning the election, an election in which he convienantly ran against the elder Booker.


“You do know what happens if that girl was rapped in the county.” Harry sat across the table from Booker.


“Yea, we’ll lose jurisdiction over the whole case. And that idiot will fuck up the investigation and we’ll never know who killed her.”


       “How do we handle this?” asked Harry.


“First, we clamp down on the information that she was a runner. Which means we need to go pick up Cutter before he talks.” Booker leaned back and lit a cigarette and looked over the map while Harry called dispatch and gave the order for Parker to pick up Cutter.


       Booker stood up and started to draw a grid over the maps.


Harry hung up the phone and watched from his seat.


“The only way we’re going to be able to look for our crime seen without Graham knowing what’s going on is to go in on foot from the quarry access” Booker explained while he marked out his grid.


“We put Cutter on the payroll as an adviser, he knows these woods better than anyone. He’ll be able to lead you to every old shed, cabin and deer stand out there.” He said.


       “Me? Why me?” Harry responded.


“Because Graham will assume I’m the front man on this thing, he won’t give a shit what your doing. Plus, your taking your vacation starting tomorrow, you wont punch in and Cutter will take you out there in his truck. That way no one will suspect we’re searching the woods for anything.” Booker explained.


       “How long will it take you think? Finding it?” Harry asked.


“With Cutter’s help? I’d be surprised if it took more than three day’s. Do we have a GPS?   Booker asked.


“Are you kidding? This ain’t St Louis Mike. But I got one on my boat, Sharon got it for me for Christmas last year. Got it set for all the best holes up on Mark Twain lake.”  Said Harry.


“Good, use it to pin point where you’re at when you find our scene.” Booker told him.


       “And what do you do while I’m following Cutter through the woods?”   He asked.


“Well, our girl had to be from out of town. Since by now everyone in town knows what we found out there. If there was a local girl missing, her family would’ve been in my office by the time we got back here.” Booker finally turned away from the map. “Our girl was young blonde and pretty, what would you do if you needed to find out about a girl like that who was here from out of town?” Booker asked.


“I’d go see our friendly neighborhood pimp and drug dealer.” Harry smiled at Booker. “And it’s a reunion I’m sorry I’m gonna miss.”


       “Yea, I’m really looking forward to it.”  Booker said sarcastically.


       “Have you been to see Sarah yet?” Harry asked.
      
       “No, I haven’t been able to find a reason.” He explained.


“Mike, she’s been through a lot. She’s not the same girl anymore.” Harry told him.


“I know, and she blames me for all of it.” Booker looked back at the map to avoid eye contact with Harry.


       “You made the choice you had to Michael, and she made hers.” Harry told him.


Michael changed the subject. “Let’s get maintenance to change the lock on this door. We’ll be using this room till this is over.” Booker told Harry. “And only two keys, mine and yours, don’t even let him make a spare. I don’t want anyone in here when we’re not.”


“I’ll stay here till it’s done” Harry told him as he picked up the phone. “You heading home?”


Michael walked out the door heading for the back stairs. “Yea, I need to check on Dad.”


       As he hit the stairs Michael looked at his watch, it was 6:00pm. He hadn’t eaten anything all day. His stomach was turning over, but his real worry was what would happen tomorrow when he saw Sarah again for the first time since her brother’s funeral fifteen years earlier.


       The drive home was short, only taking a few minutes. The whole way though, people on the street and in their cars would eye him, or point and obviously talk about the events of the morning. News travels fast in a small town; the fact that a teenage girl was dead in the annex was big news. And now everyone knew. Booker expected that. But the eyes on him as he made his way home was something he wasn’t used to. In St. Louis, murder wasn’t shocking; it only took up 5 minutes on the nightly news. Here, it was a 5-hour drug store conversation. It was then that he realized everyone would watch him, and every move he made would be a topic at every gas station. He realized because of that he was going to get very isolated, very fast.


       Booker decided to park his car behind the house to give the impression he wasn’t home. Hopefully avoiding those that might want to come by and ask questions, or give advice. From here on he’d be driving his dad’s truck, since it hadn’t been driven the last two years people wouldn’t be used to it and it may provide the privacy he would need moving around town. If only for a little while. When he climbed out of the patrol car he caught the smell of fried chicken coming from the kitchen. A Sunday tradition in the Booker household. Michael had missed Mabel’s chicken, she would only make it on Sunday, and the only exception was the Friday night he came home to accept this job. He walked in through the screen door and found Mabel in her smock in front of the stove. ‘The woman is chained to that thing’ He thought. She was always there every time he came into the house. The sweat was forming on her brow from the heat off the gas burners.


“You’re a bit late, Michael. Was it as bad as they said?” She asked.


“I don’t know Momma what are they saying?” Here it was he was going to find out how much was already in the public consciousness.


“Well, at the IGA Ms. Margie, you remember her Michael, she was your 9th grade English teacher.”


       “You mean she isn’t dead yet?” He said sarcastically, as he sat at the table.


“Don’t be evil Michael.” She gave him that look, the one she used to make him feel small. “Well Ms. Margie was at the deli counter when I was there for the chicken and she said some little white girl was shot dead in the quarry.”


‘Good, already misinformation making the rounds.’ He thought. “Well, Mom you know I can’t discuss it but yes she was white and she’s dead, more than that I can’t say.”


“I know Hun, you gotta keep those secrets. But you wouldn’t believe some of the things people say, talking about how she was prolly some tramp from St. Louis. Acting like their children were perfect, would never get caught up in something that would end up like that.” She went on.


       Michael decided to change the subject. “Where’s dad?”


“Asleep in his chair, same as every other day this time. I don’t wake him till dinners ready, unless he smells it and wanders in here on his own.” She told him as she pulled the corm bread out of the oven.


       The smell of the bread wafted through the room and his mind wandered back to when he was a child. The smell took him back to when he was the last one left in the house. His brother and sister gone, he would spend every Sunday right in that chair, chatting about the local gossip, and the events in school that week. He smiled; this was why he decided to come home. Clarity. His father appeared in the doorway, not looking confused for once.


“Well boy, you gonna just sit there or you gonna set the table?” He blurted out. Using the voice of authority he only now had on his very good days. Then he smiled. Michael was startled; his father was not a man who smiled a lot. Then the most shocking thing, Michael senior walked over and patted his son on the shoulder.


“How was your first day in my office? I told those sons bitches that they better not fuck with my boy. Let him run his on ship I told ‘em. Stay out of his way.” He continued sitting down opposite Michael. “So you don’t take no shit from that new Mayor either, I don’t know who he thinks he is. Struts around like a peacock. Damn fools in this town electing him. He ain’t no Doug Bradley. Fucking Bradley family been running this town since before you were born, I don’t understand why people gotta change things.”


       Michael just nodded and laughed. Even if the old man couldn’t remember that Bradley was still Mayor, and even though his first day at work was more than a month ago. His father was in form, feeling confident and strong. If only for a little while. He looked over at Mabel and she was smiling, obviously happy to have some semblance of the old man back. So they went on, talking back and forth about Michael’s years working as a cop in Chicago even though he had only went there once for a baseball game. Booker Sr. telling him how to handle the local thugs in town. Michael let him ramble on, only answering when an answer was required. While his father educated him on how to run the town. Mabel put dinner on the table and sat down in her chair, Michael got out the plates and silverware, and they ate dinner together. It was almost surreal, almost like a family. Maybe tonight his father would hang on to the clear head long enough to get to sleep. So that Michael wouldn’t have to hear him sobbing in his bedroom, as he did most nights. Confused, lost, and scared to go to sleep.



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