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The Paths We Take #19: Falling Apart

Jun 26, 2018





Detective Townsend


The hardest part about seeing a lifeless body isn’t the grotesqueness of the blood or bone fragments, it’s thinking about the life that was still left to live and the people who remain behind to suffer. A young girl would never walk down the aisle into the arms of the man she loves; a dad would never hold his son again; a daughter would never come home for Christmas break to eager parents. I never knew most of the victims, but I knew they all had stories; they were robbed of writing the ending.

I needed to talk with Kyle again. Marks had pulled rank and made sure that the interview would be conducted by his guys in SIU, but I also knew that Marks was still at the scene and I had a few minutes to talk with Kyle, unofficially.

The uniform, a lanky twenty-three-year-old with a shadow of a mustache and shaved head they nicknamed “Super Trooper,” was standing outside of the interview room. Super had assisted me in executing search warrants for a couple of vehicles a few months prior in which we located a trunk full of stolen firearms, which is a nice little bust for a rookie. I made sure that his sergeant documented his efforts and issued a letter of commendation for his file. You never know when the report you build with people will pay off.

“Hey Super, I’m going to chat with this guy for a minute. I have some pending charges for PWISD on him and need to see if he will cooperate,” I said. Super nodded his head, looking down the hall as if he were unsure. “It will only take a second,” I smiled.

He opened the door and I eased my way in, not trying to seem too eager. “Do you mind grabbing me some Rights forms from the supply closet down the hall?” I asked. “I just need the single sheet.”

“Sure thing,” he said, peering down the hall again as if he was going to get into trouble for moving. I knew that there were no rights forms in the closet, but I also knew it would buy me a few more minutes.

I slid down in the seat across from Kyle, his eyes got all buggy and he leaned in towards me.

“I didn’t do this shit man. You know I didn’t do this,” Kyle whispered.

“I know, shut up and listen to me. The cameras are off. We never had this conversation, and if it turns out that you decide we had this conversation, I will make sure that The Breed know you are a little snitch and they will cut your nuts off,” I whispered back.

“Geez man,” he whimpered.

“There’s a girl missing. I know you have your hand in a little of everything in this town. Who is in the business of making girls disappear?”

Kyle looked at me with his mouth open like a fish fresh off the hook while he looked around the room. In the silence, I heard the metal click of a door shutting in the hallway. “I am not involved in any kidnapping shit man, but there are some guys that sort of recruit some of the girls into the business. I only introduced one girl to them, I promise.”

“Who recruits them?” I asked, the footfalls clunking in the hall.

“I don’t know who they are man. I am not trying to get involved in that shit-”

“Okay then, who was the girl you introduced?” I asked. The table shook as Kyle’s knee hit it as he shifted in his seat.

“You already talked to her man… Molly. I only did it because she asked me to. She wanted to make some-”

“We’ll talk later,” I interrupted just before Super opened the door.

“I didn’t see the Rights forms,” Super said, his head dropped as if he failed some important mission. I got up from the table and walked with Super back into the hallway. More officers were arriving with bags of evidence from the scene. Soon the place would look like a war room, bagged evidence plopped on tables like a Thanksgiving spread, jumbled voices barking commands to uniformed officers while they fumbled with envelopes and coffee.

“It’s all good. That prick isn’t going to cooperate anyway,” I laughed as I gave Super a fist bump. He smiled and resumed his post by the interview room door. I remembered putting in my time when I first started. Hours standing next to bodies waiting for the coroner to arrive, standing on porches of blue-haired ladies while they complained about the speeders driving through their neighborhoods, and the countless reports of smashed car windows and missing GPS units. Super was a company man; he would be just fine at the RPPD.

I sent Kristin a text letting her know that I was okay. The story would hit the morning news and I didn’t want her to worry about me. I knew I needed to talk with Molly again, but I wanted to wait until I could clear my head.

The dead girl in the car flashed through my mind as I drove. Lt. Mason called me back and told me the girl’s name was Ariel Lockhart. The name wasn’t familiar, but Mason informed me that she had was charged with misdemeanor possession a couple of years back but that the charges were dismissed. I told him that I didn’t know her, but that I would ask around. They were still waiting to make contact with her parents who lived just a few miles from the scene.

“I need you to check in with a couple of uniforms if you’re clear. They were dispatched to Nancy’s for some sort of damage to property or break-in. “Everyone else is tied up on this thing. Can you head that way?” Mason asked. “I gave them permission to clear the building when you get there. They say nobody’s around, but it should be open by now.”

“Yeah, I’ll head that way,” I responded, wondering what this sleepy little town had done to deserve such a violent start to the day. You’re right. Nancy should be there by now, I thought.

The officers were waiting beside their patrol cars, tossing white puffs at each other while they talked in the chilly morning air. I saw the shattered glass reflecting blue waves of light from the patrol cars.

“Turn your damn blue lights off,” I spit out at them, “Not that it matters now.”

“Nobody’s here,” one of the officers yelled as I pulled my vest out of my trunk.

“I’m sure they’re not now… You know you’re not firefighters, right? You don’t have to announce to the whole world you’re outside,” I said.

I noticed that Nancy’s car was in the parking lot. My stomach let out a queasy rumble as I looked at the storefront which now resembled a scene from an apocalypse movie. We made our way to the side entrance and tried the door, but it was still locked.

The glass crunched underneath our boots as we stepped through the shattered front door, jagged pieces of glass still hanging from the frame. Chip bags, sunglasses, and candy were strewn across the floor, and I noticed a trail of small red drops leading out the front door as we entered. We cleared the front of the store before checking behind the counter and the back rooms. A purse was spilt on the ground beside the cash register that had been ripped open.

I called Lt. Mason and let him know what we had found, and that Nancy was nowhere in sight. I told him about the trickle of blood that was found on the floor. The officers were silent as they wrapped the parking lot with crime scene tape. It would be at least another hour before the forensic team would be able to respond to Nancy’s. I radioed for another unit to respond to Nancy’s home to secure it for further investigation.

The sun was bright in the sky before I left the scene at Nancy’s. Lt. Mason set a mandatory debriefing at the station for noon. The brass would be there, blaming us for what happened, and then highlighting how they would be running the investigation. The scene at Nancy’s would be new to them, and they would probably try to link the two crimes.

My cell buzzed as I pulled into the station parking lot. Luke’s name filled the screen. I contemplated letting the call go to voicemail before deciding to answer.

“I need your help,” Luke said through heavy breaths. “I need to meet you.”

“I don’t have a whole lot of time right now. You see the news? This town is falling apart,” I snapped. It sounded like Luke was wheezing as he breathed, causing the phone to crackle as he exhaled. “You okay?” I asked after several seconds of silence.

“I’m okay,” Luke groaned as I started to pull away from the station. I would call Lt. Mason later and explain why I missed the debriefing.

“I will meet you at your place,” I said.

“No. I can’t go home,” Luke said in a fading voice. “I need to talk to you about Nancy.”


© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.