The Body In The Ditch - A Murder Mystery (Hashi & Manic) IC
They say that the first 48 hours after a murder are the most crucial and that the odds of that murder being solved are cut in half after that time. The young woman's body had been found early in the morning of November 6th by a jogger and her dog. Today was November 9th, and the woman hadn't even been identified yet.
This was the first case of murder the sleepy little town of Stoneyvale had had in about 25 years. In fact, this young woman probably wasn't even alive when the last murder had happened.
And it was definitely murder. The body had been found in a drainage ditch along a lonely stretch of road that lead from the town's center out to the farm land that surrounded it. It was wooded with no houses for about 2 or three miles in every direction. The body itself had been clothed in a pair of fitting blue jeans, a speghetti strap tank under a trendy new looking sweater. Her blonde hair had been cut off in what looked like a hasty manner, leaving uneven chunks to spill out on the ground around her. Her fingernails were finely manicured with acrylic french tips, one of which was missing off her index finger. There were deep strangulation marks around her throat, red and painful looking, even in death, however, that wasn't what had killed her. The cause of death was, in fact, a stab wound in her left thigh deep enough to puncture the artery. She had bled out.
Stoneyvale is one of those small, quiet, but sprawling towns tucked into the beautiful landscape of New England. It had no historical importance either. The people who lived there had lived there a long time. While Stoneyvale boasted a fairly sizable population, rivaling that of the county seat of Manchester, strange unfamiliar faces, like the face of this girl, never went unnoticed. However, no one seemed to recall ever seeing her before.
She had no identification on her. No wallet or cell phone. No purse. Nothing but an empty locket around her neck and the initials CV & CT engraved on the back.
It wasn't much to go on.
It was the first case Detective Locke DeCine had been given since he had been reassigned to Stoneyvale almost a year earlier. It was ironic that his first case would be something so sensational. However, his superiors seemed confident that Locke was the right man for the job. Locke wasn't sure if they meant it or if they were handing him something so difficult on purpose to show up the detective from Manchester. Give him an unsolvable case as a way to put him in his place.
Locke tried his best to not let the pressure get to him, but his frustrations were mounting. He'd just come from the medical examiner's office who confirmed the cause of death. Stoneyvale had that cozy small town feel, but it definitely did not have that rural backwater approach. Its police department had pretty good equipment, not quite state-of-the-art, but Locke hadn't even had that in Manchester, despite what others may have thought. The M.E. had run the woman's finger prints, but had gotten no matches. She wasn't in the system. A photo of her had been sent to Manchester to be run against the legions of missing persons files. If someone somewhere was missing her, they would find her.
Locke wasn't all that optimistic. Even if they were able to put a name to her face, so much time had passed. The rain that had fallen the night before she'd been found hadn't helped much either. The case wasn't even a week old and it already had all the makings of being a cold case that would sit unsolved for decades.
Locke left the M.E.'s office and pulled his jacket tight around his neck. A chill wind ran up the street finding any hole in his wool armor it could to stick its icy fingers in. Locke pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He selected one from the pack and lit up. It was a bad habit, he knew, but it helped him to think.
He made his way down the street towards where he had parked his car, a thin trail of smoke following after him, his mind lost in thought.
Breathe a lie
Allison had chosen Stoneyvale because it could be summed up in one word: quiet. Nothing big ever happened. In fact, nothing much had happened there in quite a while. Until now. She had been living there a year now; long enough to know where in town was safe, and where to never go.
Downtown was a little iffy. It held all the shops, so it was unavoidable. She usually went in the early morning, when most people were either at work or still asleep instead of crowding the sidewalks, but today hadn't been working out as planned. Instead of waking to her alarm, she'd woken up to the distant chirping of birds, three hours late. An examination of the clock showed it to be broken. At least her boss was lenient with her. Mary was almost a friend...almost.
Allison was close to the bakery, she could picture it and almost push all the other images filling her head - a couple kissing, a dog barking, someone aiming a gun - away, filling her mind with images of baking bread and mixing muffin batter. If people weren't thinking about their own petty problems, they were thinking about the latest headline. An unknown young girl found murdered, body left in a ditch along the stretch of road connecting the town and the surrounding farms. The one Allison drove every day before parking her car in warehouse parking lot to walk to work.
It was the first murder to occur in Stoneyvale in almost thirty years - and Allison would know. She'd accidentally walked right into the old crime scene when looking for a house. The realtor hadn't thought to mention a woman had been stabbed in the thigh and left to bleed to death.
Thinking of the little kitchen in the back of the shop seemed to be working; she'd even stopped unconsciously pulling locks of her mousy brown hair and was taking fewer deep breaths. She wasn't going to have a panic attack and faint in the middle of town - that was good. It meant not being rushed to the hospital, not having to deal with all the thoughts and memories of the people who'd walked the halls, died on the bed she'd have to lay on... But then came the man.
She was so distracted trying to focus on her own thoughts, happy that she had finally reached the corner opposite the one where the bakery sat, that she didn't notice him as he walked along, cigarette between his lips. She was watching Mary through the front window, placing a fresh batch of muffins in a basket, when they ran into each other.
Normally, Allison had a barrier up to help protect her, one that couldn't keep out the images, but that usually kept them from overwhelming her. But the memories filling this man's head... They were horrific.
A girl, pretty, if you could look past the chunks of blonde hair missing from the top of her head, lay in a ditch. A silver chain held a little locket, bright against the red marks along her neck. Her scream was unintentional and unavoidable. Was this man the killer? She stumbled way as more images flashed through her mind, the letters CV CT, and a broken nail. Allison screamed again.
Locke always seemed to have a hard time paying attention to where he was going, especially when he was in deep thought. It wasn't uncommon for him to walk into things, like doors, street lamps, mail boxes, people. He'd done it his whole life. And yes, even now in his late twenties, it was still embarrassing. His embarrassment, however, was quickly forgotten when the woman he'd bumped into screamed bloody murder before he could stumble out an apology.
She wasn't screaming in pain. This was fear. She was looking right at him. Her soft eyes boring into and through his skin as though she were seeing to his core and what she found there was more horrifying than anything he could have imagined. At first Locke was completely dumbstruck, staring back at her in pure confusion.
Locke had grown accustomed to the strange sideways looks he had received from the residents when he'd first arrived in Stoneyvale. As far as the locals were concerned he was an outsider. Despite how polite and welcoming they may have seemed, there was always that sense that they didn't accept him. Not as one of their own. He could spend the rest of his life here solving crimes of mild vandalism and loose dogs and he'd never be accepted.
But no one had ever gone into hysterics when they saw him. Anxiety began to crawl up his throat. What was she seeing when she looked at him? What could possibly be so frightening. The cigarette had fallen, forgotten, from his mouth to the sidewalk. He reached for her, "Miss-"
Locke looked up from the girl and saw that a small crowd had started to form around them. Each one of them was looking at him strangely. A few were whispering to each other as they looked at him askance. Locke's embarrassment was back now, mixing with that anxiety and causing his stomach to sour. This was not the way he wanted to start his day.
"Everything's alright," he told the crowd, holding up his hands as though to push them away. "Everyone go back to what you were doing. Go on."
Slowly the crowd began to break up. People murmured to each other as they started walking away, casting uneasy and curious glances back.
"Detective?" Locke turned to see the owner of the diner, Elmira's, standing behind him. Jack Reys was one of the very few who seemed not to care that Locke had come from Manchester. He stood now looking at him quite concerned.
"I got it, Jack," Locke told him as he started to gently steer the young woman from the street.
"She works at the bakery," Jack called after him, pointing to a store front that was blessedly close.
"Thank you!" Locke called over his shoulder and started towards the bakery with the crying woman. As the two of them approached, Locke found himself face to face with Mary, the bakery's owner and she had him leveled with a stern look that reminded him of his mother right before she hit his ass with the back of her hairbrush.
Breathe a lie
Allison tried to get in more air for another scream but when he grabbed her, she was filled with so many warring images that breathing became too difficult. Images of the dead girls eyes mixed with the letters, mixed with him picturing her eyes bulging as she screamed at him, mixed with the strange looks people gave him, both now and everyday. She tried to grasp onto the last one. It wasn't horrific, like the others, and she could relate.
The people of Stoneyvale were a Born Here, Die Here sort, and they didn't take well to outsiders. It wasn't as though she was publicly shunned. People didn't throw tomatoes at her in the street. But those stares...they could speak volumes.
Mary's face formed in his head, and she felt relief at getting to see the old woman standing there, rolling pin in hand, looking like she wanted to hit him. Allison felt a small hand pull her away from the man, and she saw that the woman did want to hit him. Repeatedly. Finally able to take a breath, Allison pulled away and clung to one of the shelves along the wall, gasping and blinking her eyes focused.
"What the hell did you do to my baker?" She heard Mary demand, but the sound of wood against flesh didn't follow.
"That poor girl." Allison sobbed, tears falling now as she recovered herself. "What did you do to her?" She rested her forehead against the soft wood and let the tears fall freely. There was no point in trying to stop them now, and at least there was no longer an audience. "How could you do that? How could anyone do something like that?" A voice in her head piped up that she was talking to a murderer! But she was too shaken up to really process that fact. "How could you do that to her and just...dump her in there?"
"What the hell is she talking about? What did you do to her?!" Mary's usually warm, grandma-like voice was razor sharp. It made a part of Allison, the one she wasn't currently paying much attention to, glad. Glad that someone cared, instead of just thinking she was crazy.
Locke kept his eyes on that rolling pin. Not that he believed that Mary would actually hit him with it, but she was waving it around quite liberally and dangerously close to his face.
"Ms." The woman corrected him sternly, one of the rolling pin's handles whizzed by Locke's nose.
"Ms. Epping," Locke corrected himself patiently. "I didn't do anything to your baker. I only bumped into her outside."
"Like hell you did!" Mary had stopped waving the heavy rolling pin around and now had her arms crossed over her ample chest. She was still glaring at Locke with dagger-eyes. "Its probably that gun you carry around that scared her out of her wits!" She jabbed the rolling pin towards the gun holstered just behind Locke's left hip. "There's no need to carry that thing around out in the open like that! This isn't New York City, you know! That's how people get killed."
Locke sighed inwardly and had to make a conscious effort not to roll his eyes towards the shop ceiling. He was well aware that he was the only member of Stoneyvale's police force that carried his service piece with him when he was on duty. Stoneyvale did not have a lot of violent crime. In fact the worst crimes were occasional public drunkeness or teens with sticky fingers. However, old habits died hard. In Manchester it was foolish for an on-duty cop to go around without his service gun. Even off duty a few cops were known to carry. Despite Stoneyvale's sleepy peaceful reputation, Locke was reluctant to just leave his gun at his desk. He was a cop, after all. Besides, the dead Jane Doe in the morgue was quickly changing Stoneyvale's reputation.
"How could you kill her like that?"
Locke's attention moved from Mary to the young baker-girl he'd bumped into on the street. Was leaning heavily against some shelves with fresh bread on them. Her head was pressed against her hands, tears streaming down her face. Locke's brows furrowed together as he heard her words. It didn't take him but a second to realize she was talking about the case. Talking about his case. He knew the local newspaper had run the story and the fact that it was believed that the Jane Doe had been murdered somewhere other than were her body was found was no secret. Still, there was something about this girl's voice that gave Locke the impression that she had more information than the papers had given. Was she there? Did she see something?
"Excuse me," Locke stepped by Mary, who was still ranting at him, towards the baker. He reached for his badge and shield, opening the case to show her. "I'm Detective DeCine. Do you...know something about the girl found in the ditch?"
"Why would she know anything about that?!" Mary bellowed.
Locke ignored her. He kept his badge out for the girl to get a good look at it, "please, if you know anything-"
"I think you've traumatized the poor girl enough," Mary stepped between the two of them.
"Ms Epping, if she has information, I need to know it."
"She lives by herself outside of town," Mary frowned at him. "The only places she goes are here and her home. When she's here, she stays in the back and bakes. Believe me, she doesn't know anything."
"I think its time that you left, Detective DeCine," Mary had her arms folded again. Her eyes were flashing in that maternal way. "I will not have you in here upsetting my staff. If you insist, I will be sure to let Chief Johnnes know."
Locke's eyes moved from the older woman to the younger one behind her. She didn't look as though she was going to be answering any questions. Not in the state she was in. He didn't need to start a reputation for terrifying young women. His eyes moved back to the bakery's owner. "I'm sorry to have disturbed you, Ms Epping." To the girl leaning against the shelves of bread, "my apologies, miss."
Mary gave him a curt nod of approval. "Good day, Detective DeCine." She followed him to the door as though make sure he actually left. Once the door was shut behind him, she turned back to her bakery.
Outside on the street Locke sighed and reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. He hadn't even had a cup of coffee yet that morning.
Breathe a lie
A Detective? Allison tried to focus her eyes on the badge he held in front of her, but between the tears and pounding in her temples all she could make out was that it was shiny, yellow, and vaguely oval shaped.
"Do you...know something about the girl found in the ditch?"
How exactly could she respond to that? 'Only what I saw inside your head?' Yeah, that would go over well. She was trying to form a response, something along the lines of; 'No, and sorry I thought you were the murderer. My bad,' when Mary all but picked him up and threw him out the shop door.
Thank god. With any luck, the Detective would chalk her outburst up to momentary insanity, and she'd never have to see him again. It was so...humiliating. She'd been doing so good here, only a few 'episodes', the last of which was four months back when she'd accidentally bumped into a hunter who'd been thinking about cutting up the deer he'd killed the night before.
"Are you alright, girl?" Mary gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder, so short all Allison got was a quick flash of the detective's grumpy face as he was shuffled off. "I kicked his behind out of here, so don't you worry."
"Thanks, Mary." Allison pushed herself up from the bread shelf and swiped at the tears sticking to her cheeks. "I'm sorry for all the commotion I've caused. I'll get in the back and start right away." Mary made no arguments as she hurried through the door to the safety and solitude of the kitchen in back. She took a deep, calming breath of bread scented air and set to work.
Because she'd caused so much trouble that morning between being late and screaming in the middle of town, Allison offered to close up shop that night. She could see the fatigue behind Mary's eyes and the way her breathing grew heavy. Besides, no one ever came in after six pm. Why Mary insisted on staying open until eight was beyond her.
"You have a good night." Mary said as she pulled on her coat and reached for the oversize purse she kept behind the counter. "I'll see you in the morning. Bright and early?"
"Of course. I'm sorry for this morning." There was no way she would be late again. Walking through the crowded town had proved too much of a danger. "Good night, Mary."
Mary paused at the door and turned to look at Allison. "You be safe now."
Mary exited and Allison set about cleaning and preparing the shop for the next morning.
After leaving the bakery, Locke drove to the police station on the other side of town. The station itself was a new building, but still small. Stoneyvale didn't require a particularly large police force. Locke was one of the apartments only three detectives, the senior one of which, Malcolm Cullin, would be retiring next month. That was how Locke, still a junior detective himself, wound up with such a significant case. Or so, that was what Chief Johnnes told him when he made the assignment. Chief Johnnes also didn't make any secret that this case would either make Locke's career or end it.
Locke shrugged out of his jacket and hung it up on the hook behind his desk. He sat heavily in the uncomfortable wooden chair. He hadn't even gotten the chance to turn on his computer before the other junior detective, Mitchell Brathbaum, had wheeled over to him.
"Heard you were part of a big scene on Main Street this morning."
Locke didn't even bother looking over at Mitchell's sneering face as he turned on his computer.
"Scared the shit out of some poor girl?" Mitchell went on. "Whole town's talking about it."
"You know," Locke answered as his computer chimed to life and prompted his password, "if you paid half as much attention to your case load as you did to local gossip, the Chief would entrust you with something bigger than a lost dog." He looked over at the other detective and watched with satisfaction as the sneer faded off his face.
Mitchell grumbled, but rolled back over to his desk. He picked up one of his files and leafed through it.
It was about a half hour later when a young woman entered the station and asked to speak to a detective. Instantly, Mitchell was on his feet and nearly catapulted himself over to her, taking the Desk Sargent by annoyed surprise.
"I'm Detective Mitchell Brathbaum," he introduced himself with a well practiced smooth tone that caused the Desk Sargent to audibly groan. "How can I help you?"
"I'm here about the murder," the woman answered him. "Are you on that case?"
Mitchell grunted and almost instantly lost interest in the girl. He shook his head, "No." He turned a little to look back, "hey, DeCine. This ones for you."
The woman identified herself as Julia Stark from Hartford Connecticut. She had heard about the murder on the news and had been convinced that the girl found in the ditch was her roommate, Rebecca Shaw.
"That's Rebecca," she put the crime scene photo back down on the interview room table, but didn't slide it back towards Locke. Instead she looked at it sadly.
"You're sure?" Locke asked.
Julia chewed on her bottom lip and nodded her head. Tears had started welling in her eyes.
Locke reached across the table to take the picture back. Julia didn't need to keep looking at her her friend's dead eyes. "When did you last see Rebecca?"
Julia quickly wiped her eyes with the back of her fingers the way women do when they want to keep their composure and not smear their eye-liner. "About a week and a half-ago," she said.
"And you didn't report her missing?"
Julia smiled a bit sadly. "Rebecca was kind of spontaneous," she said. "Sometimes she'd just take off for a few days without telling anyone where she was going. She always came back in a few days, so I didn't think anything about it until...until I saw the news last night."
"Do you have any idea what Rebecca was doing in Stoneyvale?" Locke asked. He'd taken out a notepad and was already jotting down what Julia was telling him. "Did she know anyone here?"
"I don't think so," Julia answered. "I mean, I didn't even know this town existed until now."
"So Rebecca never mentioned it before."
"No," Julia shook her head.
"Do you know anyone who might want to hurt Rebecca?"
"No," Julia looked surprised that Locke even had to ask that question. "Rebecca was a nice person. She'd give the shirt off her back to anyone."
"I see," Locke was jotting down notes, "any boyfriends....girlfriends?"
Julia shook her head again, "not current. Boyfriends, that is. She did date someone about a year go, but it was over really before it started. He was transferred to California. They weren't together long enough for any real connection so they broke up. Rebecca didn't like dating. She said it was like a chore for her."
"Did she complain about her job at all? Coworkers?"
"Rebecca was a student," Julia answered. "She wanted to be a chemist. My fiance and I make enough money for the apartment, but we're both so busy that we don't find a lot of time to cook or clean. Rebecca did that for us. So we let her stay rent free."
"That's a nice arrangement." Locke said. He looked up and saw Julia was looking at the crime scene photo of her dead friend again. She was staring at it like someone coming to terms with the death of a life long friend. Locke put his hand over the picture, drawing Julia's attention back up towards him. "You knew her a long time?"
"We went to high school together," Julia nodded. "Her mother died a few years ago. I'm the only person in the world she has-had-left." Suddenly she sat up straighter and turned to pick her purse up off the back of her chair. She opened it and started searching through it. "I brought a picture with me in case you needed it," she said. A moment later she produced a picture of Rebecca and handed it to Locke. "That was taken last year at the Washington Hotel. We went there for the 4th of July."
The picture showed Locke's murder victim, now Rebecca Shaw, smiling from the porch of the old hotel. Her blonde hair was long and done up in a loose pony tail. She had a glass of what looked like lemonade in one hand and was waving at the photographer with the other. She had on a long flowing skirt and a loose fitting linen top. Something about the outfit struck Locke as odd.
"Is this the kind of thing she wore all the time?"
"Yeah. I used to tell her she had such a nice body and it was a crime she didn't show it off. But fashion never was her thing." Julia's brows furrowed, "why?"
Locke wasn't sure. The clothes Rebecca had been found in were trendy, completely opposite of the bohemian look she had in the picture.
"Do you mind if I keep this?" Locke asked looking up at Julia.
"S-sure," Julia nodded, "if you think it will help."
Locke nodded. "Thank you."
"Is there anything else, Detective?" Julia asked. "I'd like to...pick up Rebecca's body."
Locke shook his head, "not right now. If you don't mind, though, I'd like you to stay in town for a couple of days. Just in case something comes up I need clarified. You knew Rebecca best."
Julia nodded, "of course." She got to her feet and started for the door to the interview room. Once there she turned back to Locke, "will you be able to find who did this to her, Detective DeCine?" The tone of her voice told Locke she believed otherwise.
Locke must have given her a strange look because she continued as though to explain herself, "its just that I've seen TV shows. I know that a lot of times already passed and that without enough information cases like this go cold really quickly."
"We'll do what we can, Miss Stark."
Julia recognized it for the hollow promise it was. She looked at him hard, "I don't want her forgotten about, Detective DeCine."
"I won't forget her," Locke heard himself saying. "I promise."
Julia smiled at him, "I believe you."
He never should have made that promise to Julia Stark. Even though Rebecca Shaw had been identified, Locke still didn't feel as though he was any closer to catching her killer than he had been that morning. It was bad form for a detective to make promises to their victims' loved ones. It was dangerous to get too involved with them. To get too involved with their cases. Locke knew better, and yet he'd made the promise anyway and had meant it.
That evening he went to Elmira's for dinner. The diner had opened in the early 1900's by Jack's great grandfather as a gift to his young bride who he named it after. The couple had run it together for over 25 years before their children took it over. The Diner had seen 2 world wars, a Great Depression, Red scares, 60's civil revolution and 80's excess. In all that time it had never left the Reys family. If anyone needed a crash course in American history of the 20th century, all they had to do was come to Elmira's. The walls were covered in newsworthy articles and artifacts of the past 80 years; both local and national. It may have been the history, both the diner's and what was on its walls that drew people to it. Whatever it was, Locke had learned that nearly everyone in Stoneyvale was at Elmira's at least once during the day.
That evening, as it was most evenings, the diner was full of people enjoying dinner. Locke had been lucky to be able to get a booth to himself where he could go over his notes while he ate a steak potpie. He had a pair of ear-buds in his ears to drown out the low din of the diner around him. Sometimes it was useful to listen to other people's conversations. Locke was good at eves dropping without being noticed. But at this hour the diner was too full to be able to pick out any one particular conversation over any other.
Rebecca had been murdered somewhere other than the ditch she had been found in. There was no blood or sign of struggle there. The medical examiner put her time of death between 1 and 2 am the morning she was found, but he couldn't say exactly when she had been put in the ditch. He thought it may have been around 3 am, but it had been raining that morning and any evidence, if there had been any (and Locke suspected there hadn't been), had been washed away. The lack of tire tracks or drag marks in the soft damp earth between the ditch and the road could be easily explained by the car never leaving the road and the murderer carrying the body and pushing it over the embankment. What bothered Locke was the clothes Rebecca was wearing. Why was she wearing something so out of character? He wondered if she wasn't meeting someone, someone she wanted to make a good impression on. Or someone who she didn't want to know the real Rebecca.
As Locke sat in the booth and pondered the few clues meeting Rebecca's roommate and friend had provided him, a strange feeling came over him. Like someone was staring at him through the window. Staring at him hard. Goose bumps ran up his arms. Goose bumps ran up his arms and down his spine and he realized it felt as though he was being sized up, like he was prey. His head jerked up from his notes and out the window.
No one was standing there. The sidewalk was empty. A car went by headed north, but that was all. Locke craned his neck to look up the street to see if anyone was walking away from the diner, but saw no one. A look back in the opposite direction didn't yield any answers either. By this time the feeling had passed leaving him a little bemused. He was about to go back to his notes when someone reached across the table and tapped his arm, causing him to jump and bang his knees on the underside of the table.
There was a woman seated across from him. She must have sat down while he was busy looking at the street. He had seen her around town and through local talk knew she was Patrice Pomeroy. She, her brother Edmond and their father Hammond, had recently moved back to town and into the old family estate on Lancaster Road. They had been the talk of the town when they had arrived three weeks ago. This was the first time Locke had actually met any one of them.
Patrice had what his mother would call classic beauty. She had fair skin, devoid of any imperfection. Her dark brown hair was curled around her shoulders. She had reached up and taken the scarf off to keep it from blowing around in the wind. She was also taking off her gloves, smiling at him with ruby red lips, pleased that he had finally noticed her. Quickly, Locke pulled the buds from his ears and fumbled with his cell to turn off the music.
"I'm sorry," Patrice laughed slightly, "I didn't mean to startle you like that. I'm Patrice Pomeroy."
"Nice to meet you," he finally got his cell free from his pocket and turned off the music. Quickly he offered her his hand, "Detective Locke DeCine."
She shook his offered hand with a firm confident shake. "Detective." She said the word as though the very sound of it tickled her. "How fascinating!"
"Its got its moments," Locke admitted as he took his hand back.
"Oh, I'm sure," Patrice said. She placed her elbows on the table top and rested her chin on the backs of her hands. Locke noticed the ruby ring on her left hand and the sapphire on her right. There was a hint of a diamond tennis bracelet on her left wrist under the cuff of her coat. "I heard you came here from Manchester," she went on. "Stoneyvale must be so boring in comparison."
"I wouldn't say that," Locke stated.
"Oh! You mean the murder of that poor girl!" Patrice put her fingers to her lips. "Are you working that case?"
"Its horrible, isn't it?" Patrice asked. "I can't imagine what kind of monster would do such a thing. And here of all places!"
"Did you grow up here, Miss Pomeroy?" Locke took a bite of his steak potpie. It had gotten a little cold sitting there forgotten while he went over his notes, but he was no less hungry.
"Oh, no," Patrice shook her head. "Well, not really. See we used to summer here when we were children." She paused to raise a hand to get Anna Reys's attention.
"What brings you back?" Locke asked.
"Father retired earlier this year," Patrice explained. "He hasn't taken to it very well and we thought coming back to his old home would do him good."
"Oh yes," Patrice smiled. "Its done him a world of good." Anna had made her way to the table now and Patrice turned her smile up at her. "Anna, dear. How good it is to see you."
Anna returned the smile with a forced one of her own. "What will you have?" She asked a little curtly as she took out her order pad and removed her pencil from behind her ear.
Patrice didn't seem to pick-up on Anna's tone, or if she did, she ignored it. "Father has sent me in town for some of your fried chicken." The smile never left Patrice's lips, "can you make him up some and put it in a container for me to take back?"
For a moment it looked as though Anna was going to argue with Patrice, but then she noticed Locke sitting there looking up at her, still eating his potpie. She seemed to think better of any argument. She pursed her lips together and looked back at Patrice, "of course," she said. She made a quick note on the pad. "How is your pot pie, Detective DeCine?"
Locke swallowed quickly, "very good, thank you."
Anna smiled at him, a much more pleasant smile than the one she had given Patrice before she turned and left.
"That's a very interesting name. Locke." She let it roll off her tongue as though trying it on for size. "How did you come by it?"
Locke didn't answer her right away. His appetite had vanished. "Its a family name," he explained as he set his fork down and pushed the potpie away. "its given to males in my mother's family."
"How interesting," Patrice set her chin on the backs of her hands again. "You don't hear of that kind of thing any more. These days naming children trendy names with artistic spellings seems to be the thing. Tell me," she quickly changed subjects, "do you have any suspects?"
"Excuse me?" Locke blinked at her.
Patrice lowered her arms and leaned closer to him eagerly, "the murder," she prompted. "Do you have any suspects?"
"I can't really talk about an on-going investigation, Miss Pomeroy," Locke told her. He found himself leaning away from her, almost pressing his back into the booth.
"Please. Call me Patrice," she put a smooth delicate hand over his and smiled at him. It was the most disarming smile Locke had ever seen in his life. Instantly his shoulders relaxed. She was so close to him now, her face seemed so warm and inviting. Locke forgot about the diner around him, and for the first time that day, forgot about Rebecca Shaw. All he could see were two pools of blue beckoning.
The moment was shattered. Patrice whirled on the woman standing at the booth now, a look of fury flashing for just a moment across her face. When she saw Anna standing there with a take-out box in hand, she quickly put back on that pleasant look she'd had earlier. "Anna, dear. I'm sorry, I didn't see you there."
"I noticed," Anna answered.
Patrice looked a little uncomfortable, "is that the chicken? That was awfully fast."
"We had some already made," Anna answered. She thrust the white box towards Patrice.
"I see. Well, then I must be on my way," she stood up and took the box from Anna. "Thank you, Anna." She turned to look at Locke, "it was a pleasure to finally meet you properly, Locke. I hope we have another chance soon."
Locke nodded his head, "of course."
Patrice smiled at both him and Anna, "Good night." She then left the booth. Locke watched her go until she had reached the register at the end of the diner's counter, where Jack was posted to take payment from his customers.
"Was there something wrong with the potpie?"
Locke blinked and looked up at Anna. Then he looked back at the half eaten potpie. His stomach clenched with the idea of finishing it, which was odd for him. Normally he could eat not only a potpie but a generous sized piece of pie later on. Tonight, though, the idea of eating anything made him queasy.
He shook his head, "No, it was good, but I guess just not hungry tonight. I've been kinda focused on this case."
Anna nodded, "I understand." She reached to take the plate from him. "Coffee?"
A few moments later, Anna returned with a pot of coffee which she used to fill Locke's mug with. "Don't get involved with Patrice Pomeroy," she cautioned him as she poured.
"You don't like her, huh?" Locke looked up at her quizzically.
Anna sighed and set the pot down. "No, its no secret that I don't," she admitted. "she doesn't like me, either."
"Really?" Locke picked up his mug.
"Don't be fooled by that act she puts on," Anna warned him. "Patrice is one of the most manipulative bitches I've ever met."
Locke laughed faintly into his mug before taking a sip of coffee. Like her husband, it hadn't taken Anna very long to warm up to the new detective. "Don't hold back, Anna. Tell me how you really feel."
Anna snorted before she slid into the seat across from him. "That whole family is made up of self-entitled people. The Pomeroys were among the founding members of the town back in the early 1600's. Back then just about half the town worked for the Pomeroys, either in the mine or on the estate. I guess that's why they still try to treat everyone here as though they were servants whenever they're here. I'm one of the few people who won't treat Patrice like she was royalty. I think that's why she's always disliked me."
"And the chicken...?"
"A customer is still a customer, Locke," Anna sighed. "Jack would shit a brick if I let a paying customer walk out the door."
Locke laughed again. He took another sip of his coffee when he noticed the lights were still on in one of the store fronts across the street. He looked down at his watch. It was just after 8. All the other shops had closed around 7. In fact most of the shop owners were in Elmira's now finishing dinner. Locke looked up over the end of his booth. Sure enough, there was Mary Epping seated with two other shop owners near the front of the diner.
"Is the bakery still open?" He asked Anna puzzled?
Anna glanced out the window for a moment, "Oh yeah. Mary keeps it open until 8. I have no idea why. Its not like anyone wants a muffin at 8 at night."
"Who closes up for her?"
"Allison Brimley," Anna answered.
"The girl from this morning?"
Anna nodded. "That's her. She's there early every morning and stays late every night. I don't know how she does it. I mean, I own this place with Jack, so I can put in those long hours. But a girl her age should have more of a social life, you know? I kind of feel bad for her. But she doesn't seem to mind the hours."
How could anyone do something like that? How could you do that to her and just...dump her in there?
Locke was on his feet quickly, pulling on his coat and grabbing his scarf.
"Locke?" Anna looked up at him, her brows furrowed. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Sorry, Anna. I gotta go," Locke told her. He pulled out his wallet and pulled out enough money to more than pay for his bill.
"Where are you going?" Anna got to her feet.
Locke paused and gave her a half-smirk, "gotta buy some muffins." He wrapped his scarf around his neck to guard from the night's cold air as he headed through the diner towards the door. He gave Jack a wave before stepping out into the night.
Once outside, Locke hunched his shoulders up against the biting wind. He gave a quick glance up and down Main Street before he hurried across it. He came to a stop in front of the bakery. The sign had been turned to close, but the lights were still on inside, indicating that Allison Brimley was still inside getting ready to close down shop. Locke hated to ambush the poor girl, especially after that morning's episode, but he had to talk to her. If not now, then he had no idea when he'd be able to get another chance.
Last edited by Hashibaarrow; 07-04-2012 at 02:07 PM.
Breathe a lie
Allison's night had been far more eventful than she'd expected. A woman had wandered into the shop around seven, a young boy and an older girl around the age of ten trailing along behind. The younger child was holding the edge of her leather boho bag and looking around wide eyed. Allison had never been very good with kids, so she couldn't tell if he was in awe of the shop or scared out of his wits.
"Hello. Can I help you with anything?" Allison tried to keep her voice from sounding strained, but it was difficult. She didn't do interactions well; it was why she usually stayed in the back and only emerged after Mary locked up so she could clean.
"Oh!" The woman turned and fluttered her eyes as if she'd just now noticed Allison was there. "Hello!" She flipped her long, straight blonde hair over her shoulder and walked toward the counter, hips swaying and high heels clicking against the floor. "Do you do special orders?"
"Yes." Allison reached under the counter for the stack of order forms. "I'll need to know what goods, and when you'll need them.”
"Well, let’s see… I'll need three dozen cupcakes, one dozen in chocolate, one in vanilla, and one in strawberry." The woman began, ignoring the younger child when he began tugging at her. “The birthday theme is outer space, so they should be decorated appropriately. I'll also need three dozen iced sugar cookies done in the same motif." The older girl moved to the younger by and pulled him away from the woman, whispering something Allison couldn’t hear.
Allison waited for something else, like what type of space things she should do, but the woman just continued to stare. “Okay, how about… a planet with a ring?” Allison offered.
“Hm.” The woman pressed one manicured finger to her lips and stared at the ceiling while she thought it over. Allison wondered what up there was so inspiring. “Maybe we could make [I]some[I/] with planets, but I want more than just that.”
Still, no creative help from the woman, “um… Crescent moons?”
“Perfect!” The woman gave a frustrated sigh when the girl tapped her arm and looked down with an annoyed expression.
“Tommy says he wants stars, mom.” She told her, holding the boy Allison assumed was Tommy by the hand.
“Stars?” The woman frowned, “I don’t know…”
The boy looked ready to cry, something Allison did not want to deal with. “I can put stars on one flavor, moons on another, and the planets on the third.” Allison offered before the woman could full one refuse the boy and send him into a tantrum. Hopefully that would make everyone happy.
“Oh. Okay, that’ll work.” The woman went back to ignoring her kids and Allison continued to try and get rid of the woman.
“I’ll do the same with the cookies, one dozen with each design.” The woman nodded her approval. picking “Okay, now all I need is your name and the day of pickup, and we can proceed to the check out.” Please, please let this woman not need anything else.
“The name is Carter. My husband, Kent, will be picking them up.” The woman flashed Allison a deceivingly sweet, ultra bleached smile. “Tomorrow, around eleven.”
Tomorrow at eleven. That left her with about fifteen hours. Allison knew she’d be here all night. Between the preparations she needed to do for the normal morning routine and the additional work the woman had presented… she’d be sleeping here again.
At least she’d be getting a hefty bonus, what with the rush charges. It was the only bright side, thinking about the new TV she’d finally be able to purchase.
It wasn’t even seven thirty, but Allison flipped the sign in the front window to ‘closed’ and entered the sanctuary of the kitchen. She knew if she got all the prep work done tonight, it would make it much easier to get everything together and baking first thing.
She didn't actually hear the bell jingle, but she felt when someone entered despite the closed sign and - she peered up and the clock - it being a quarter past eight. Her guard had been down, mostly because even when people were having strong thoughts, being back in the kitchen usually kept her isolated enough that she didn't get images. So why she was getting flashes from whoever had entered was strange. They weren't even strong, emotional thoughts. The person was thinking about the bread shelf, the counter. Taking in the aspects of the shop, she supposed. They sure were a loud thinker.
Mary would hate it if she denied a paying customer, so she dusted off some of the flour - a completely pointless effort, really - and headed for the shop as more images flickered through her mind. The empty cake stand on the counter used to display muffins. The bread shelf again. Mary holding a rolling pin. Allison pushed open the door. Her brown eyes, wide and scared as she screamed, flashed through her mind. She knew who it was before her gaze settled on him.
"Oh, fuck." Allison came to a halt, hand flying to cover her mouth. Expletives were not a common part of her vocabulary. “I mean… what do you want?” No, wait. That was wrong again. “Er, how can I help you?” She didn’t realize she was inching backwards until her shoulders hit the wood of the door to the kitchen. She tried to throw up her mental blocks and keep the images in his mind from entering hers, but it wasn’t working. Memories flashed, alternating between her, screaming in the middle of the road, and the dead girl. There were new images now, though. Another young girl, this one very much alive and handing a picture of the dead girl to the officer. And… a name.
Allison’s head fell back, hitting the wood with a thud. “Rebecca…Shaw…” She muttered, barely registering what she was saying. Her knees gave out and she slipped to the floor. Her vision was blurred, but she knew by the increasing intensity of the images that he was stepping closer.
“No!” It was a high-pitched, pained shriek, and Allison hated that she sounded so afraid. “Please… just… stay on the other side of the shop.” She tried to make her voice sound steady, but it wobbled. “Please… what do you want from me?” Tears pricked at the edge of her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. “What do you want?”
Ordinarily Locke would have waited outside the shop for Allison to emerge. He wasn't in the habit of disobeying signs unless he had probably cause to enter a closed establishment, which he did not have that night. However, as he stood there in front of the shop and under one of the street lights, puffing on a cigarette and waiting, that feeling of being watched had come surging back.
It hit him like a harsh bitter winter wind, striking him from behind. He turned slowly this time to look. Like it had been earlier, there was no one standing behind him. The sidewalk on both sides of the street were deserted. It was too cold for anyone to be out that didn't have to be. They were all either in Elmira's or Casey's Bar a few blocks away.
Locke would have felt foolish if it wasn't for the fact that the feeling didn't go away this time. He was sure someone was watching him. Further more, he was sure that he was looking right at whoever it was watching him, which was creepy seeing as there was no one else there.
He took a drag off his cigarette, still looking across the street. His eyes passed over darkened shop windows as he let a billow of smoke out. He looked for a face in one of those windows, but saw nothing. He took another drag and was about to turn around when a flutter of movement caught his eye. He stopped, blowing out another billow of smoke. There was still nothing across the street, but Locke could hear the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk across from him. They were clacking as though in heels or something with a metal heel. Locke followed the noise with his eyes until the footsteps changed direction suddenly and started across the street towards him. They rushed towards him. Locke's eyes grew wide, but he was stuck there, unable to move. He braced himself for an unseen impact when a harsh bitter wind blew hard into his face, taking the air right out of his lungs. It lasted only a second and then it was gone, the sound of footsteps along with it.
With trembling hands he brought his cigarette to his lips again and took a slow and deep drag off of it, trying to calm his nerves down again. It wasn't the first time something unexplainable had happened to him, but that didn't make it any less unnerving. He let out a lungful of smoke and decided he was better off not waiting outside. He snuffed the cigarette out under his shoe and went into the shop, eager to be in among the bread, pastries and other things he could see.
As he expected, Allison Brimley was not at all happy to see him. He was thankful that she didn't scream this time.
He did not move towards her as she backed away from him, pressing her back against the wall. He could see her eyes glisten in the shop's light. She stammered out a demand of what he wanted. She was terrified.
Locke held up a hand and slowly reached into the breast pocket of his coat and retrieved his badge and shield again, holding both up in their case for her to see. "I'm not here to hurt you," he told her. He watched her eyes flicker from him to the badge and back again. Maybe it was because of the strange experience he'd just had, but Locke suddenly had a thought that it wasn't him specifically that she was afraid of. It was something about him that frightened her. But what? She hadn't known he was a cop this morning and someone would have told him earlier if she had some kind of crippling fear of men. No, it was something different. Something very different. He decided to try a shot in the dark. At this point he didn't really have much to loose.
Its not easy for a man like Locke to clear his mind. The only time he could really relax his brain was when he was at home playing a video game, something like Half-Life or Fable. There were no video games here. So instead he thought about something else. Something calming. Something like a warm steak pot pie.
"Miss Brimley," he was lowering his badge case, "what am I thinking about right now?"