Read Blue Stew (Second Edition) Online

Authors: Nathaniel Woodland

Blue Stew (Second Edition) (5 page)

BOOK: Blue Stew (Second Edition)
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Officer Corey shrugged. “There’s going to be a full investigation into this, you can bet your house on that. We won’t allow there to be
chance of a psychopath like
loose in Sutherland. But, with the way you’re seeing it—which, to be fair, is how most of
saw it at first—there’s a huge amount of flimsy variables holding everything together. When you think about the pure logistics of it . . . well . . . there’s just a much simpler explanation.”

Walter finally saw the alternative.

“You think he did all that to

Tom Corey’s lips fidgeted as he prepared his words, “The reality is, no matter how this picture comes together in the end, it will never be a sensible, pretty one—not with the
bits we’ve already seen of it. But, as with anything, the simplest explanation is
the correct one. And, my feeling is, if someone can be insane enough to do that to someone else, they can be insane enough to do that to themselves. After all, don’t they say that self-hate is the strongest form of hate?”

“Well, a sociopath can’t feel another man’s pain, but he usually
feel his own, so there is
. . .”

. But what if you add heavy doses of drugs to the equation? Not that I should be telling you all this, but we found a few empty bottles of what might’ve held prescription painkillers in the back.”

“Damn, you sure the bottles were empty?” joked Walter offhandedly, without thinking.

Nigel cringed.

It appeared as though a second frown came over Officer Corey’s default one. In such a small town, rumors of Walter’s drug-related hijinks had certainly reached the local police department.

Walter laughed at his flub, “I just meant . . . my neck and back are sore. I was in a crash.”

“Yeah, and how are you? Usually we would have you immobilized and in an ambulance by now, but seeing how you’ve already been out hiking for twenty minutes . . . we missed the boat on that procedure, I guess.”

“Really, I don’t feel any worse than I would after a good hockey game,” said Walter. Physically speaking, he
telling the truth.

Officer Corey nodded. “I’ll buy that. No sign of the floater?”

“No . . . and at this point . . .”

Officer Corey nodded again. “And you’re
you saw someone?”

“Ninety percent. Eighty, maybe.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll send out a tracking team with some dogs, and keep an eye on the missing persons reports.  Are you going to stay here tonight?” It was more of a statement than a question.

“I guess.”

“Good. Anyway. As far as what we were talking about goes, you can trust that we’ll leave no stone unturned. We just put in a call to some detectives out of Rutland. They’ll be down soon. We’re going to treat this as a homicide until we can prove otherwise. They’ll want to get a statement from you, I’m sure.”

Walter bit his lip and nodded.

Officer Corey sighed, “It’s going to be a long night.”

He had no idea.


•   •   •


Doris Hanes was content with her life. She had even thought it over one time, and she had decided that she was content with the very notion that that’s how people who knew her might summarize her life, if anyone ever cared to ask. Which they didn’t, which was fine.

Her youngest offspring, a daughter of twenty-four, had just completed an internship at a medical research facility, and was currently weighing job offers. Her firstborn son of twenty-seven taught music at the high school level. Both had moved out of the house years ago, leaving Doris alone with her cats and her goldfinches. They both called no less than once a month to tell of their pleasant lives, however, and Doris was happy with this arrangement.

The antagonistic nature of Doris’s choice of pets provided the bulk of the household’s activity, which already implies that the house was busier than it really was: the cats were lazy, and their passing swipes at the large birdcage were always halfhearted.

A frugal lifestyle had allowed Doris to retire at the still-going age of sixty, and these days she occupied herself almost exclusively with two quiet things: mystery novels, and her recent hobby of whittling and polishing wooden cooking spoons, a few of which she had brought to and sold at a local craft fair.

She and her ex-husband had bought the house twenty-five years ago. She had divorced him after the birth of their daughter, and she had held onto the only things, deep down, she had wanted out of the marriage: the kids and the house.

It was a lovely house. Not a drop of paint touched the interior or exterior. It sported a natural wood finish throughout, and Doris’s decorative and furniture choices went with this minimalistic and naturalistic aesthetic perfectly.

It was her sanctuary—her deserved reward for fulfilling her duty as a human female: raising two well-adjusted progeny and releasing them into the world.

That night, however, it was less of a sanctuary.

The house was perched in a clearing high up on the side of a hill, and its large enclosed porch overlooked, on most days and nights, a quaint, tranquil valley.

The storm blew in moments after the sun had set. Initially Doris had embraced it, sinking down into her dusty armchair at one end of the porch, sidled up beside one of the porch’s many large windows, wrapped in a quilt, reading her newest literary selection from the library by the soft light of a lantern.

However, the soothing nature of the rain on the roof steadily bent, and then broke, as the storm worsened, and as the sound of it reminded her more and more of the time she had had a group of workers over with a power-washer to refinish her walls. She started getting up regularly to check the basement, to ensure that it wasn’t getting flooded by the run-off water that was collecting into muddy streams lining the hill, cutting recklessly through her gardens.

Her ability to enjoy her book was further hindered when she began to notice—only their diminished headlights showed through the downpour—a curious number of cars pulling into Nigel Kensington’s house halfway down the hill, on the other side of the road.

“Strange time for a party,” Doris had remarked to her grey tabby cat, Toot.

It took a while, but at last the storm eased up enough to quell Doris’s immediate fears of having her house washed down the hill. The lull in the storm came at a time when there had been no recent activity down at Nigel’s house, and so Doris was finally able to return to her story.

No more than a half-hour later, however, her peaceful gaze was stolen from the words on the pages by a glimmer of light.

Doris looked up. Above her she had hung an arrangement of sun-catcher crystals which scattered rainbow colors all over in the bright of day, and presently, though faintly, the crystals were refracting blues and reds throughout her porch. She would see such a display so regularly in her day-to-day life that, for an instant—
an instant—she didn’t react.

And then she jerked her head around, to the window.

All of the first-responders were already on the scene. There was one set of lights flashing in front of Nigel’s house, and then farther down the hill, on the far side of the bridge, there was a much heavier cluster of the colored strobe-lights.

“Oh my word,” breathed Doris.

Her first guess at the situation was reasonable. She envisioned someone, in the horrible driving conditions, hydroplaning off the road either while going to or leaving Nigel’s party. She leaned towards the latter option, as it better allowed for alcohol to be a factor.

Alcohol was not a factor, however.

There was, presently, a man standing outside, in the dark, in Doris’s muddy garden. He was soaked in water and blood, his clothes and his skin were sliced into hundreds of neat little shreds, and he was clutching—with a strong sense of worth—a short, bloody knife. This man, his ravaged body convulsing wretchedly, was staring up at the silhouette of Doris. He was smiling.


•   •   •


Walter had talked to the detectives as soon as they had arrived. He’d answered all their questions, and now his obligations that night were
to be over.

Presently, Walter, Nigel, Henry, and Jamie were seriously considering putting on a cartoon before anyone attempted to sleep, out of a blunt effort to soften the mood.

Jamie had her own apartment, but it wasn’t unusual for her to stay over. Henry had decided to spend the night, too, and had offered to drive Walter to work tomorrow after Walter had insisted that he wouldn’t want to call out in the morning.

They were weighing the offerings of the various kid-centric cable channels when they heard it. The faded blast of a rifle, or a shotgun.

Walter was the first to his feet.

“No one’s gonna be out hunting
,” he stated the obvious.

A second gunshot sounded out. Walter scrambled towards the hallway, and then the front door.

, wait,” Nigel called after him, rising to his feet. He was ignored.

Walter flung himself through the door, into the wet outdoors.

Officer Corey was sitting in the front seat of his silently flashing cruiser. He appeared to be talking on his radio.

Walter had made it halfway to the cruiser when a third blast broke the night. The sound, much louder when undiminished by the walls of Nigel’s house, reverberated all throughout the valley, but not before its initial source had become plain: some distance ahead of and above Walter. There was only one thing in that direction: Doris Hanes’s house.

Walter looked up into the distance, where, through the rain and the mist, he thought he could see faint rectangles of light in the shape of windows.

Officer Corey kicked open his door.

“Did you hear that?” Officer Corey asked severely.

“Yes. It came from Doris Hanes’s house.”

Officer Corey gave the exact face of a man trying to place a known name with a known house.

Walter, not thinking, jogged around the cruiser and opened the front passenger door. “I’ll show you.”

Officer Corey raised a hand and opened a mouth to protest.

Still not thinking, Walter talked over him, “Come on. She’s not the kind of lady to fire off her shotgun recreationally in the middle of the night.”

As if to punctuate the point, a fourth crack of fire ripped open the air.

. Fine. Don’t tell anyone I let you in front. Let’s go check this out.”

Walter slipped in and shut the door. No one who knew Walter would’ve been surprised to learn that he’d finally found his way into a cop car—the surprise would come in knowing that he’d sat up front.

Officer Corey slammed his door, radioed in that he was heading up to Doris’s house to investigate suspicious gunfire, and then he floored the gas, expertly fishtailing out of Nigel’s driveway and propelling them up the hill.

They tore up the hill for fifteen short seconds, and then Walter said, pointing ahead to the left, “That’s her driveway.”

“Are you serious?” growled Officer Corey as he jammed the brakes. Obviously there had been no need for Walter’s accompaniment—a quick “drive and turn left” would’ve sufficed for directions.

BOOK: Blue Stew (Second Edition)
8.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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