by Beau Johnson
It started when they found the fourth girl, her throat another mouth. Only it didn’t. It started two years earlier with a girl named Rebecca Hall.
Blue eyes. Honey Hair. But for everything she was, Batista said her dog was what neighbors remembered most; that the talkative little white girl who lived in the crack house on Brock was always going on about it never getting enough to eat even though the same could be said of her. Habit, they said. The good kind.
Sad she was eaten herself. By a monster Culver PD had yet to radar. The day they do it’s Rebecca’s crack pipe parents making the most noise of all.
“You’d think this have happened sooner.” Batista spits to the ground as he says this, impatient as I’ve ever seen him. “Pieces of shit probably looking to cash.”
I couldn’t disagree. Seen it too many times to believe otherwise.
Victim number five is what provides the link. Marilyn Sims. Tall and sweet. Proud and loud. All but sixteen. Inside her stomach was what remained of the family dog, a collie named Frank. From there it’s only a matter of time.
Batista and the rest of the department get to work. Dog walkers. Groomers. Vet and pre-vet. Anyone who’d enrolled and then dropped the field within the last five years. Eventually the investigation focuses on kennels, their owners, and then especially it’s a man name of Gank who’s looked at hard.
Sunny smile. Sweet disposition. Cooperative until he wasn’t.
A record as long as my days are bleak.
B&E. Possession. Possession with intent. Rapes 1, 2 and 3.
Inheriting the business from an uncle. The piece of scum comes to Culver three years prior by way of overcrowding, early release, and a probation system down for the count. Business still in his uncle’s name, it’s the perfect front. My take, anyway.
A new home, he must have thought. New things.
Things he’d yet to try.
“You got maybe an hour before the warrant is good and we go in.” I told Batista I’d worked with less, that I would again. A different storm was approaching, though. One I had seen coming from a long ways away.
“You’re wrong in thinking I enjoy this. I’m not like you.” It was a bone between Batista and me, old and gnawed on by years.
“Isn’t about enjoyment, John; it’s about what’s right.” Opposite sides of the coin we may be, I could not begrudge the man—the detective yet to have someone of importance to him ripped from his life like a bone from your arm. These choices—these are the ones which allow me to sleep at night.
“Ensure he suffers. That’s all I’ll say.”
He didn’t have to.
Once I connect the positives I let the engine run for minutes at a time. Gank, no longer sweet, no longer sunny, and infinitely less cooperative than I’d been told, shits himself by the second go-round. After that he spills like a baby, his balls a smoking mess. He also goes religious on me, which is not so out of the norm. Once they realize what I represent, once they know, it’s usually all our fathers full of grace and repent, repent, repent. Horseshit, you ask me. You kill, you die. Simple as that.
“I’m sick,” he says, blood now leaking from his eyes. He’s on his back, hands bound, pants around his shins. “My head, it doesn’t work right.”
I let him know I’ll be fixing that.
Latisha Kennedy and Jenny McGovern would find their way home. That’s the only reason I hadn’t put two in the back of his head the moment I found him packing his things. I could have. Easily. The rage I felt towards the man no longer hot, but arctic; couldn’t un-think what he’d done and how he’d left them.
What stopped me was the need to know.
And if it’d been my child.
One way or another, I would bring them closure. That was how I rationalized it. What the parents of the un-found girls deserved at the very least.
Not even close to fair, but then again, this is Culver, a place god has yet apply.