Sam was still shaken.
After providing details at the scene and writing up her report; after coming home and lying in bed with her cat, Mr. Perkins, for six hours, she still couldn’t get the image of that hanging corpse out of her mind. And that man, the man in the hoodie…
She had come back to the station for an interview with the homicide detective assigned to the case, Bill Barnes, and as she had described the suspect, she thought of him as Raggedy Man. The name just popped into her head. Had she heard it in some movie? Maybe. She didn’t use that name with the detective. But there was something else she didn’t tell him as well:
She didn’t tell Detective Barnes about the nightmares. Her captain had already offered the services of a police psychologist if Sam wanted one; what would they think of her if she told them about the dreams? And what about dreaming the word “Eclipse?” What kind of craziness was that?
Knowing that there was no way for her to get any sleep, and knowing that Kathy would be worried about her, Sam had driven her civilian vehicle, a 1976 Mustang II Cobra, out to her foster mom’s house. She continued turning the problem over and over in her mind as she pulled onto the gravel drive.
ESP wasn’t something she really believed in. So if it wasn’t some kind of precognition, what explanation existed for her dreaming the word and then seeing the word written in the blood of a dead man?
Sam didn’t know. So far, there were only questions. A thorough dragnet had failed to catch Raggedy Man, so he remained a mystery. There had been no I.D. on the body and a preliminary fingerprint check had turned up no results.
The house Sam had grown up in after her parents died was a wood frame farmhouse, out on the edge of the Blackrock city limits. Sam stepped onto the porch and let herself in.
Removing her shoes at the foyer, Sam called “Mom?”
Shortly after the car accident that claimed her parents’ lives and nearly claimed her own, after Sam’s lengthy hospital stay, she had become Kathy’s ward. Though Kathy had wanted Sam to call her “mom,” Sam had not been comfortable with it. She had come to stay with Kathy when she was ten. She didn’t start calling Kathy “mom” until she turned fourteen.
Sam called again: “Mom!”
From the floor above, a creak sounded. Sam’s pulse quickened.
Moving to the staircase on her left side, Sam pulled her jacket back, her hand hovering over the Glock on her hip. Though she was wearing her civvies, Sam never went anywhere unarmed.
She had taken two steps up the staircase when a voice called down: “Sam is that you, honey?”
Sam let out a long breath and pulled her jacket back over the gun.
“Yeah, it’s me!”
Seconds later Kathy came down the stairs wearing a t shirt and sweatpants, carrying a small, empty glass. Her frazzled graying hair was half pulled back, the rest wafting around her face like smoke. At the bottom of the steps she gave Sam a hug and kiss.
“Mom until they catch this guy I want you to lock your door.”
Sam followed Kathy through the family room and into the kitchen. “I saw the news but they didn’t give a lot of details…”
“There’s only so much they’re willing to tell the public right now.”
Kathy took cat food from a bottom cabinet and filled a bowl near the fridge. “Well I’m not ‘the public’ I’m your mother! I have a right to know.” Two cats came running for the food.
The media knew that the body had been found upside down, drained of blood, and that was about it. Sam had no doubt that if she gave her foster mom any additional details, those details would spread through the town like wildfire. And it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out where the leak came from.
“And I want to keep my job. Change of subject.”
“Fine, can I get you a seven and seven?” Kathy went to the fridge for ice.
“I’m working later.” Sam wanted to tell her mom that she shouldn’t be drinking at one in the afternoon either, but that was a conversation they’d had plenty of times already. Kathy’s husband and Sam’s foster dad, Ben, had been a long haul trucker. When Sam was fourteen, while traveling the five freeway from California late at night, he had driven off the road and down a steep embankment. His body was mangled to the point that an open casket funeral had been impossible.
Shortly after Ben’s funeral, Kathy had begun drinking more consistently. Part of the reason Sam started calling Kathy Mom was because she felt sorry for her.
In recent months, after the death of her favorite cat, Kathy started hitting the bottle earlier in the day. Sam was worried that before long an intervention would be in order. For now she chose to continue monitoring the situation.
“Johnny Clapton called me…” Kathy had set the glass on the island, then opened the fridge and withdrew a 2 liter Seven Up. “He’ll be in town next week.”
Not this again. Sam’s batting average when it came to men was pretty poor, a fact not at all lost on Kathy, who often tried to play matchmaker. Johnny Clapton, who bedded so many women in high school that his nickname became “the Clap,” was definitely not her soul mate.
“Yeah mom he called you, because he has your number. Not mine. Because I don’t want to talk to him.”
Thankfully at that moment Sam’s cell phone rang. She looked at the caller I.D. “It’s detective Barnes, I’d better take it.”
Kathy was pulling the Seagram’s down from an upper cabinet. “He’s the one who’s not married, right?”
“Really?” Sam said before answering the call. “This is Cain.”
“It’s Bill,” he said. “Wanted you to know, although the domestic call you got was anonymous, the number came back to a burner cell phone.”
Sam was wondering why Detective Barnes was telling her this, but her brain put the pieces together even as Barnes kept on: “Someone didn’t want that call to come back to them. What that says to me is that the call was a lure, to get you out there, so you’d see that hooded man, and so you’d find that body…”
Which also meant that the word, “eclipse…”
Barnes finished her thought, an idea that was already lurking in the back of her mind, the only sensible alternative to the ESP theory:
“I think that message at the scene was meant for you.”