Forgot what we were talking about? Here’s Part One Audio:
And…here’s Part Two Audio:
Yolanda Ash was on edge when she showed up for her shift, and the news that a human toe was in evidence didn’t calm her down. The preschool was making noises about having Michael “evaluated” to “find the right level of care” for him, and her ex-husband, finding personal offense in any suggestion he’d sired a “dysfunctional” child, was threatening to pull him with no backup childcare plan. Her feet hurt. Her bank account was running low. Situation normal.
She was partnered with Serge Melville, a decent cop and relatively evolved human. They weren’t going to have a family barbeque any time soon, but she didn’t feel like stabbing him. That was more than she could say for most people.
She found Melville in evidence, poking the bagged toe with a pencil eraser.
“That’s not gonna bite you,” she said, a little extra loud, and he jumped.
“Hey, Ash. Yeah, I know, but it’s weird having this here. They had a big discussion about where it was supposed to be. The pathologist is gonna flip that they brought it here in a baggie, it should at least be in biohazard in the chiller.”
“Well, St. Anthony isn’t exactly awash in random body parts. Mindy’ll survive.” Ash took a close look at it. It was much the worse for wear, dirty and a little chewed. It was small, too, much smaller than her own toes, and she considered the possible reasons for that briefly before deciding to put it out of her mind.
“We’re on canvas duty,” Melville said. “They think it must be from somewhere in the same neighborhood as the cat that dug it up.”
Shit. Door knocking was not going to calm her down any. At best, you annoyed some nice person for a few minutes and then left them alone. At worst, you took a shotgun blast through the door. She checked her belt, all set, tapped her vest. “Let’s get it done before it gets too hot. Not in the mood to sweat my ass off today.”
The neighborhood was a decent one full of small, older starter homes. Not prosperous, but aspirational. Most of the homes were empty, the occupants out earning the money to pay their first mortgage. The department would have to send swing shift around during dinner time. Ash was happy it wouldn’t be her.
The people who were home were retirees and young mothers, equally shocked and morbidly fascinated by the idea of a toe floating around the neighborhood. Everyone seemed to have all their own toes. The retirees couldn’t get enough details. Their friends would have questions. The mothers were too distracted to have questions and counted their toddler’s toes regularly. Some interesting Facebook discussions were going to happen during Mommy’s wine time, but that was hours away.
“You want to get lunch?” Melville asked after another house was empty.
“Yeah. I’ll call it in. Where do you want to go?”
“I dunno, for some reason, I’m in the mood for chicken fingers.” Melville grinned and Ash snorted. They had one more street to go, both sides, and she mostly wanted a cold drink. Iced coffee and a fat burger, earned on this miserable walk and knock.
The temperature was uncomfortably hot when they got back to work. Ash started hoping that people weren’t home, just because she wanted to get out of the sun. She was a hard worker, but the vest was heavy, and her dark uniform felt like an oven.
Melville rang the doorbell of a tiny little place with an older, sensible commuter in the driveway. No answer. He rang it again, then knocked. “St. Anthony Police Department! Is everyone okay in there?” Ash looked in the window next to the front door. The place was a wreck. A flash of pink came around the corner, and Ash stepped away from the window as the woman yelled something.
The face behind the reluctantly cracked door did not look good. Greasy brown hair crowned the start of a whopper case of zits. The woman’s eyes were dopey, and she was squinting to see. Ash felt her cop radar ping violently. Something was going on here, it just wasn’t clear what. Not yet.
The conversation made two things clear. One—Hannah Jackson was high as a kite, probably on prescription pills. She was spacey and halfway incoherent, and her pupils were tiny dots despite the shade of the porch. Two—she was hiding something, maybe just the prescription pills, but maybe something else. Melville was tense beside her, he could feel it too. Hannah Jackson probably didn’t have a body stashed in her bathtub, but she didn’t want the cops to see something, which meant it was their duty to try to see it.
“Ma’am? Can we come in for a minute? It’s hot out here on the step and we may have a few more questions, since you’ve been home the last few days.” Deer in the headlights. The woman yelled that she was naked and slammed the door. Oh boy. Ash and Melville looked at each other, communicating in an instant, and Melville headed for the backyard as Ash pounded on the door again. There was a fence with a locked gate, and Melville came back around, already calling for back-up.
“You worried about her?” he asked.
“Yeah. I am. You?”
“Yep. Try the door.” Ash reached for the knob and turned it. Unlocked. She unsnapped her holster and opened the door, slowly.
“Ms. Jackson?” Ash called. “We’re coming in to check on you. We just want to make sure you’re okay.” The two officers entered, listening and hearing nothing.
The front room had a cheap couch and coffee table, the latter covered in dirty dishes and paper towels with ruddy smudges on them. A pile of blankets and a pillow suggested that Hannah had been sleeping on the couch. The TV was off. It smelled terrible, a cross between a sick room and a garbage can. Maybe the woman was just sick after all. Then again, she seemed to be eating a lot for someone with stomach flu.
Melville went down the hallway to the other rooms, and Ash went to the kitchen. The back door was open. Shit. The drugged up bathrobe woman had done a runner. She called to Melville that the woman was gone. He called back. “Ash, you better come in here and look at this.”
Ash felt her stomach clench. As much as she trusted her instincts, it would have been okay with her to be wrong. She hurried down the hallway and into a small bathroom. It was white tile, older and in need of some attention, and it looked like a crime scene. The white floor was smeared with rusty residue, and Melville was holding aside the shower curtain to show a board covered in dried blood with several large nails sticking out at odd angles. It had some depressions near the nails, faint marks made by a blade of some sort, deeper in the middle. There was more blood in the bathtub. A faint smell of bleach lingered, a few days old but still detectable. There was something that looked like blood spatter on the wall, and a bag of clear plastic pill bottles on the back of the sink.
Without a word, Ash took gloves out of her pocket and handed some to Melville. He turned on his radio, squeezing past her toward the front of the house. “We got more of a situation here than we thought. The suspect is on the run in a pink bathrobe through…” His voice faded as he walked. He’d redirect the backup units to search the neighborhood for Hannah Jackson. Ash peered into the bag of pills. There were some antibiotics, if the labels were to be believed, and a bottle that said it was generic Percocet, but prescribed to one “James B. Barnes,” not Hannah Jackson. That explained the pinpoint pupils. A pile of dirty, stinking clothes suggested that she was indeed running naked in her bathrobe.
Ash hurried out of the bathroom and found Melville in the backyard, looking at Crime Scene Part Two. There was a chewed open jewelry box and a hole about five inches deep in the flowerbed. You did not need to be a detective to determine Hannah Jackson was the source of the toe now, somehow, whether it was hers or someone else’s. Jesus have mercy, how did people get themselves into these situations? “I’ll go left, you go right?” she asked Melville, and he nodded. The back gate was still open and one of them might find her on foot. Opioid-addled fugitives tended to be slow and easily distracted.
Ash trotted left, keeping an eye out for the pink bathrobe and an eye on the ground for any evidence tossed by the suspect. About a block down, she started to see smears of something dark red on the gray sidewalk. The red turned brighter as she followed them—these were fresh marks, literal bloody footprints like a horror movie. She ran faster, following the trail now, and radioed to Melville that she thought she had a line on the suspect. After turning two blocks and trotting one more, she saw the woman in her pink bathrobe, hobbling painfully down the street carrying a wad of plastic trash bags. Ash flipped on her body cam in case things got weird. Well, weirder.
The Story: I really liked the idea of exploring the police officer’s POV, and how she would then discover the same scene we’ve already seen through Hannah’s eyes. In the conclusion, I get to bring them together and see how it all turns out. One of the great things about Story McStoryface is the freedom to try things I haven’t done before and see how they work out. I think this is fun.
PS. It took longer than normal to get this out because I had Satan’s Neverending Virus. It started as a miserable cold, and then it got…complicated. I’ll spare you the TMI, but I have had some terrible medical care followed by some excellent medical care, and finally managed to record without coughing. The joys of a one-woman shop.
PPS. I am currently debating whether to attempt Bad Poem-a-Day August over on my other blog, You Should Be Happy. It is a lot of work. I already have a lot of work. A lot of work + a lot of work = Too much work. Maybe now that I’m off all the meds, I should sit with my whiskey and convince myself it will be fine. I usually never regret that.