From my Novel
THE LOST CHILD
“Goddamn,” Brace said. “Jesus.” As if a second profanation would add weight to his reaction.
He stood at the door of the rickety trailer and stared clear-eyed through the entrance to survey the scene. The bodies were still there, hands on one another in ways the policeman would not have dreamed possible. Or could not have envisioned in his worst nightmares. And now those sights would probably never leave him, and he’d witness them again and again in such nightmares to come.
“They killed each other,” Daly said. “I swear I have never heard of any such thing. They killed each other with their bare hands and teeth.”
“Who called it in?” Brace asked.
“Anonymous. Whoever it was used the pay phone in front of the old Atando Dry Cleaners. Looked at the printout this morning, and that’s where the call came from.”
“Shit,” Brace said. “I didn’t even know that pay phone was still there.”
“Well, it is. I reckon the only reason it’s still standing is because they forgot where it was—the phone company, I mean.”
“Probably,” the Chief said, unable to tear his gaze from the image of the pair of torn and bloody corpses in the midst of the ruined home. “I guess it’s too much to ask if anyone saw who made the call?”
“Well, you know the dry cleaner’s been shut down for two years. Boarded up.”
“I know.” There was an iron scent coming from the place. Not unpleasant, really. He’d smelled it just days before in Rose Theron’s house. Fresh blood.
“But I knocked on some doors. There are a few houses where the phone box is visible. But shit, Chief. It was three in the morning when the call came in. Nobody awake then. At least nobody that I talked to. I couldn’t find anyone who saw anybody around that phone.”
“Figures.” Brace stepped off the deck and just inside the mobile home. The floor creaked a bit under his mass. “Hope this shitheap doesn’t cave in on me,” he said.
“This place is a piece of shit,” Daly agreed. He turned and looked back. There were two more officers standing in the yard, leaning against another of the county’s vehicles—the only four-wheel drive SUV in the fleet. Merely two years old, it was still shiny and in good shape. Brace only let the men use it when they needed to gather evidence. Kits were loaded in the back of it, waiting. The other two cops, Dan Jordan and Lacy Davis, looked uncomfortable as the wind cut around them, sending their breath flying in steamy plumes. Daly almost wanted to step into that box filled with horror, but not even the cold cutting through his pants could instigate that kind of desire. He stood his ground and waited for Brace to give the first command.
“What about the kid?” Brace said, ducking as he passed through the doorjamb.
“That lady—Melissa Warren—she come by and picked the kid up. She said he’s okay. In good shape, really, except that he was hungry and had a dirty diaper.” Daly wiped at his nose with a blue kerchief that his wife had given him. His nose was running. Just from the general cold weather, he hoped, and not a gathering bug. “I climbed through the bedroom window. It was unlocked. I didn’t want to track through that mess there,” he said, nodding toward the bloody wreck.
“Yeah. Kid’s name is Gowdy. Just a few months old.” He sniffed and put the bit of cloth into his jacket pocket.
“He was okay? I mean...nothing really wrong with him? Nobody tried to hurt him?” The Chief had turned to face his deputy who stood his ground out on the deck, his back to the stiff wind that was doing its best to freeze the younger man.
“He was just fine, Chief. Kid was yelling up a storm. Warren took him out of here in short order. Said she had to keep him warm, clean him up, get some formula into him. She’s gone over to the hospital, I think. You can probably find her there later.” He sniffed again. “And the kid.”
“Come on in here,” Brace said. “Tell Davis and Jordan to sit in the SUV. Turn the motor on and run the heater. No sense in them freezing their asses off.”
Daly yelled the order back to the others and joined Brace in the trailer.
“Don’t step in anything,” Brace said to him as he went into the trailer. “And close the door behind you. No use in us being any more uncomfortable than we have to be,” he said.
The deputy pulled the flimsy door closed and stood just inside it. The baseboard heat was on and doing its best to hold the winter air at bay. He looked down at his polished shoes to see if he was standing out of the drying pools and splashes of blackening gore. “Goddamn, this place is a mess.”
Brace was standing closer to the kitchen, beside the counter that separated the ruined den from the stove and sink and refrigerator. Every couple of minutes the refrigerator shuddered, as if it was cold and shivering, too. The table was in splinters, the chairs and small couch in bits and tatters. The center of the space, though, was clear, as if the room had been set up for a square dance. If people could square dance in a space less than ten feet on a side, that is. In the midst of that somewhat cleared space were the two bodies—male and female, both nude, both cut and sliced and bitten, both ruined, both pale from loss of blood.
Daryl Tow had his hands on his wife’s neck, his fingers actually imbedded in the flesh, buried up the second knuckles on some of the fingers. His right thumb was all but vanished into the hollow at the base of her neck. For her part, Rebecca Tow had her teeth in her husband’s dead throat, and it was obvious that she’d taken more than a few chunks out of him before she’d succumbed to injuries and loss of blood. Daryl Tow’s guts were hanging out of what was left of his torso.
“What do you make of this?” Brace asked. He looked his deputy square in the face.
“It’s like I said,” Daly repeated. “They killed each other. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not even that time those two boys we arrested over at that liquor house last year.” He looked at the Chief, to remind him of that incident.
“I remember it,” Brace said. “I’m not senile.”
“Didn’t mean that,” Daly replied.
“But that was two men. And only one of them was beat up anything like this. Other one was in good shape except for a cut lip and a black eye as I recall. Turned out most of the blood on him was the other guy’s.”
“Yep,” Daly agreed.
“This, though.” Brace shuddered, not unlike that clattering refrigerator. “They tore each other to pieces,” he said. And he pointed across the room where Daly was completely horrified to see a pair of fingers.
“Daryl Tow’s,” Brace said. “Looks like Mrs. Tow took a couple off while he was trying to strangle her.”
“Damn,” Daly said in a low whisper.
“Bet she bit them off,” Chief Brace stated. “But he’s still got his gonads.” Brace pointed again, indicating Tow’s bloodied but intact genitals.
“What do you think they were fighting over?” Daly asked.
“It’s no mystery to me,” Brace said. “Look at her.” His hand waved at the bodies. “Her back’s to the bedroom. You can even see that Tow was pushing to get past her.” Indeed, there were bloody skids on the floor. “She was protecting her son.”
“But, shit, Chief. He was Daryl Tow’s son, too.”
“There’s some crazy goddamned shit going on in this town, right now.” His eyes narrowed as he surveyed the carnage, the heat rising up from the floor as the system did its best to warm the place. “Has anyone seen Billy Sothern, yet? He and Tow have been hanging out a lot, lately.”
“We’ve got an APB out for him. Should be picking him up soon,” Daly assured his boss.
“How about Wiley? Has he been in the office?”
“Yeah. I’ve had him chasing some leads for me. Let’s get him in and compare notes.” He headed toward the front door. Daly stood aside to let him pass.
“You don’t want to look in the bedroom?”
“I’ve seen enough,’ Brace said. “Just have Davis and Jordan process the place. If there’s anything to see, they’ll find it.” He turned and took a last look, his eyes frozen for a moment on the two dead people. “I’ve had about all of this I can take,” he said.
“You and me both,” Daly agreed.
“Let’s go get Wiley’s sorry ass and see if he can fill in any goddamned blanks. I’ve got my fucking doubts.”
Cold air filled the trailer as they left the crime scene to the junior deputies.