The back of the house faces the open expanse beyond the city, the horizon spiked with industrial towers shouldered by a distant hill where the subdivision clings like crystals in a dark geode. The wind encounters little resistance as it races the shape of the land and finds the back door where a whirlwind dances in perpetuity. Sean stands in the spiral, engaged with the sky, struggling to scrub his thoughts.
He’s toured the house littered with evidence numbers and consumed by the absurd fossilized time inherent in all crime scenes, even the dust in the air seems arrested, set aside. He saw where they found the baby tucked next to the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. They found Shorty’s body over the bathroom threshold. She took two rounds, one to the gut and one through the heart. She had fired several rounds down the hallway that emptied into a living area where Doug Galloway sent return fire and died bent over the arm of a recliner. Doug bled from several wounds but the destruction of his pudendal artery proved fatal.
Both bodies were found nude. The struggle preceding the firefight started in the bedroom, broken furniture, broken glass, torn clothes, blood. There’s a bullet hole in the wall near the baseboard, the only bullet fired outside the hallway. He’s reminded of how Big Donny Higgins threw him into a wall at juvie. He’s reminded of Shorty’s deceptive physical strength. Sean worries his initial speculations will lead to wondering other things. Did Galloway try to rape her? Did he succeed? Who fired the first shot? Where was the baby? Had he threatened the child?
His emotions swell. Gravity tightens its grip. He sits on the concrete step, shivering in the wind, faltering under the weight. Memories of his mother’s face throb behind his eyes, the eyes of a grown man, not the headstrong child she struggled to understand. He can’t remember if he cried at her funeral. He arrived too late to join the family in pews directly below the pulpit so he stood at the back, leaning against one of the pillars supporting the church balcony. He never grieved Samantha the way he grieves Shorty. No agony. Just a few trivial regrets. The tonnage of his regrets for Jessica Cooper is too heavy and too tragic. His irrational urge to protect her has backfired and punctured him.
He sees her. He sees her eyes. They ride the chord across the trajectory of that Philosophy of Law classroom, dollops of earth tone more satisfying than anything he will ever know. They’re gone now and nothing he can do will bring them back.
Buy River of Blood on Amazon in both digital and paperback. www.amazon.com/dp/B087B36ZF2
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.