The girl who lived in the shadow

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8. Detective Amari Raguel Watkins

12. 09. 2018.

There was nothing normal in this small town called Raventown. Everything was different than I expected it to be. It was nothing like the other towns I’ve been to before. This one was darker like the devil himself had his own black wings spread over this awful town. The smell of death could be smelled from a mile away, something that wasn’t normal in the other towns.

Even if Rayan and I were staying at a small motel at the end of the town, I could still smell death in the air of our room. Or maybe it was the poor quality of this place that I smelled.

The motel wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t the best either.

The room was poorly made, something that I expected it to be just from the outside of this so-called Raven motel.

We were staying in a two-bed bedroom where the white bedsheets were covered with dust, the nightstand was half broken, with only one lamp still working. There was an awful smell coming from the blue walls that were ripped in some places.

And the only things I hoped that would be not broken, were broken too. The closet where we placed our clothes in, fell apart the moment we placed them in. And when I sat on the dusted chair next to the table, the table and the chair started making noises.

“Now I’m afraid that if we lie down on the bed that the bed would just fall down,” Rayan said.

“I can’t believe that this shit hole is the only motel in this town.”

Rayan shrugged. “It could be worse, you know.”

“That’s true, but I still hope that we will solve this thing in two days,” I said.

He looked at me confused. “Two days? Why are you in such a hurry?”

I smiled at the thought of my husband and my daughter waiting for me at our small perfect home. “My daughter and husband. They are waiting for me.”

“So you have a family?” He sat on the bed.

“Yes, they are the best thing that happened to me in the world.”

“I didn’t know that.” I smiled at him, taking out my wallet and showing him the picture of my family.

“That’s your daughter?”

He pointed to my little beauty. “Yes,” I said.

“It must be hard not to be next to her,” he commented.

I shrugged. “I have my husband to take care of her until I return back.”

“So you are the one who provides for the family.”

I nodded. “Yes. My husband had an accident five years ago with my daughter, so he is retired now.”

“I never knew that about you. I mean, no one ever mentions your family at work,” he said.

I took a deep breath. “It’s better that way.”

“What about the sheriff’s daughter?” I looked at him. “Aren’t we going to help them?”

Standing up from the bed, I take my phone and see a message from the sheriff. “It’s not our problem.”

“What if it is? What if the girl is connected to the dead girl?”

I looked at him. “Listen. Don’t run before you walk, Rayan. Just because she went missing, it doesn’t mean she has to do with the girl’s death. Maybe she got drunk like the rest of her classmates and got a little lost in the forest.”

Rayan nodded his head. “I understand.”

“Good. Now let’s go, the autopsy is done.”

~ - ~

We parked the car at the Raventown’s autopsy apartment. It didn’t look like the ones I’m used to seeing back home. This one was very Raventown alike. Half broken, half dead. Nothing really much alive.

“Why does this remind me of the motel we are staying at?” Rayan asked.

I tried to open the door. “Because it’s the same shit hole as the motel.”

With some more strength, I managed to pull the door open, and we were immediately greeted with the smell of rotten bodies.

“Oh, God. It smells like dead rats in here,” Rayan said, placing a white tissue over his nose. I have to agree with him, it does smell like dead rats. But I guess that this was completely normal here.

Rayan was the first one to walk into the autopsy apartment. He was way ahead of while I took my time exploring the small building that we were currently in.

A couple of rats ran past my leg, running into a small hole of the dirty brown wall. There were tiles covering half of the wall. Some of them broken and some of them missing. I couldn’t even imagine the room that the pathologist must be working in.

I followed the half-lighted lights down the hallway, looking at the empty wheelchairs standing in the corner.

Rayan opened the iron door, and we walked into a big room full of autopsy tables and saw a blond woman sitting on a chair, typing down on a typing machine.

The blond woman looked up at us, her glasses almost falling down.

“You must be the two agents the sheriff told me about,” she said, standing up.

“I’m Helene Donald, the lead pathologist in Raventown.” She reached her hand to me and we shook hands. “I’m agent Amari Wattkins and this is Rayan Birsen, my partner.” Helena and Rayan shook hands.

“We are here about the murder of Margareth Larson,” I said.

“I know, and I’m sorry about the mess in here. It’s not really a good work environment,” she said, and I couldn’t agree with her more. The room was even worse than the hallway. There was water leaking, rats running everywhere, and even some freezers were chained because they couldn’t close the door properly.

“Do you have any clue who could do this to a girl?” Rayan asked.

“Not really. I’m so used to spend my time with the dead, that I don’t even know the people in this town.”

Helena took her keys out, unlocked one of the chains, and slowly opened the door, revealing a dead body of a young girl.

“Oh my God.” Rayan turned his head away.

“Squebish little?” Helena raised her eyebrow.

Rayan nodded. “A little.”

I took a deep breath before turning my attention to the dead body beneath me. It was a young girl, not older than 18. Her head was shaven, and her neck sliced from ear to ear.

“I did a detailed autopsy on her, and with the tools, I have here, it took a while. I’m sorry for not calling you earlier.”

“It’s okay. It means that you did your job properly,” I said to her.

She smiled. “As much as you think that the sliced neck is the cause of death, it isn’t.” I looked up at her. “What do you mean?”

She turned the girl’s head aside. “See that.” She pointed on the bruises around her neck. “Those were there before the slice. She was strangled, the slice is just a cover-up.”

“This is a sadistic way to cover something like that,” Rayan commented.

“Did you identified the weapon with what she was strangled?” I asked.

“She was strangled with some sort of a chain. The body will be sent to Michigan’s forensics apartment, and they will be the ones who will search for the weapon.”

“That’s good. Is there something else?”

She nodded, walking back to the body. She took one of her hands out, showing me her fingers. “The killer pulled out all of her fingernails.”

“The poor girl,” Rayan said. I glanced at him and gave him a hard look.

“The sheriff told me that she didn’t have parents,” I said.

“Her parents have died when she was young, but she was living at the monastery with her uncle.”

I looked at her. “Uncle?”

“Father Dan is her uncle. He takes care of her.” She looked lost for a moment. “First his sister and now his niece. Some deaths’ people can’t handle in one lifetime.”

“I know,” I said.

“If that’s all, I would like to take a copy of your autopsy report.”

“There is something else, but you can’t tell that anyone for the sake of the investigation,” she whispered.

I nodded. “Don’t worry. Everything won’t be public until we are completely sure what we are dealing with here.”

“There is this guy that lives near the old orphanage where Margareth’s body was found. He is a real creep, and people say that he was a formerly convicted pedophile.”

Rayan and I looked at each other. “Does that man have a name?”

“It’s Michael Pierson.” Rayan wrote it down in his notebook.

“Thank you for your cooperation.” We were about to walk through the door when she stopped us. “That’s not what I wanted to tell you.”

We turned around. “What do you mean by that?”

“Margareth Larson was at least three months pregnant.”

~ - ~

The door to the black church opened, and an older blond woman walked out, walking past us with an angry expression on her face.

“Seems that everyone here looks dead,” Rayan joked.

“Let’s focus on finding out who the killer is, then we will joke after that,” I said, opening the black door.

“Don’t worry. I already called John for a background check. I should get the information any moment,” he said as we entered the church.

Everything was dark in the church. With the walls dark grey and the windows covered with curtains, there was no light coming in from the outside. The only thing that lighted the black and white tiles, seats, and the altar were a couple of candles from the stone altar.

The walls were covered with candles too, but there was no light coming from them. Only darkness.

I reached the small fountain filled with holy water and crossing myself, I looked over to Rayan who started at the man who was kneeling in front of the giant cross.

“This is a holy place, you should cross myself,” I whispered in his ear.

“This place is far from holy for me to cross myself,” he whispered back.

Taking a deep breath, I tried not to make a sound as Rayan and I walked down the red carpet to the man kneeling in front of the cross.

The man was holding a rosary in his right hand, while his eyes were closed and he whispered something on a language that I didn’t quite understand.

“It’s Latin,” Rayan said.

“I didn’t know that they still speak Latin,” I whispered out loud.

“We do actually,” the man in front of us said. He stood up, crossed himself, and turned his attention to us. He was an older man with blond hair that already had some pieces of gray hair coming out. But it was his blue eyes that told me who he was.

“You must be father Dan.”

“And you must be Amari Raguel Watkins, the detective who will solve my niece’s case.” He smiled at me, reaching his hand at me, and it took me a second to finally accept it.

“How do you know who we are?” I asked.

He only smiled. “It’s my job to know things in here.” He looked over to Rayan. “You must be Rayan. I heard a lot of things about you.” Rayan had a cold expression on his face.

“We are here...” I started but father Dan cut me off.

Father Dan turned back to the altar. “I know why you are here. You are here about Margareth, but I already told the sheriff everything I know.”

Rayan and I looked at each other for a brief moment. “We are leading the investigation from now on, and everything you told him, you will tell us.”

“There is not much to tell about Margareth, except that she was a shy little girl.” He took out some matches from his pocket and lighted a candle with them.

“Any boyfriends? Friends? Was she close to someone?” Rayan asked instead of me.

“Not really, actually. But she was close with John,” he answered.

“Who’s John?” I asked.

Father Dan turned around, placing the matches back to his pocket. “Her brother.”

“Brother? No one mentioned that she has a brother,” I said.

“John was adopted to the family when Margareth was still little. They may not share the same bloodline, but they were raised as they were one.”

“What about you? It must be hard to raise two children after no one from your family is left alive.” Rayan crossed his arms.

Father Dan eyed him, shaking his head in a disapproving way. “It was hard, but with the help of God, I managed to do it.”

I stepped between father Dan and Rayan. “We should talk with John too, of course, if that’s okay with you.”

He nodded. “Sure, but I don’t know where he is. He didn’t return home two days ago.”

I glanced at Rayan. “Don’t worry, we will find him, and bring him after he answers a couple of questions.”

“If that’s all, I need to get prepared for the prayer.”

“There is something else, and I don’t really know how I should tell you this,” I told him.

“Trust me, I heard everything during my time as a priest. I could take it.” He looked calm for someone who just lost a family member.

I took a deep breath. “We found out that Margareth was at least three months pregnant, and if you know with whom she was friends with, maybe we could find out who the father is.”

He slightly opened his mouth, rubbing his hands over his forehead. “Pregnant you say.”

“I know that it’s a lot to process, but...” He cut me off before I could even finish my sentence, “Who could do such a thing to a young innocent girl?” he asked.

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

He lifted his hand in the air. “Please, leave. I need some time alone.”

I nodded. “We understand. We won’t bother you until we find out something.”

Looking over at Rayan, we both started walking down the red carpet again, until I finally decided to ask father Dan the last question. “Excuse me father, but I was wondering about the orphanage where Margareth was found. Is there any chance we could go in there to search for any evidence.”

Father Dan turned around, gripping the rosary in his hand as his eyes were full of tears. “The Saint Michael orphanage used to be a part of our church, but since the accident it is closed, and it will stay that way. The construction isn’t as it’s best as it used to be. There is a very big chance that the orphanage would break down if you go in there,” he said.

“But there is a possibility that we could find new evidence,” Rayan said.

“Did you find any evidence at the entrance?” Father Dan asked.

I shook my head. “No.”

“Then you are not getting in there without a warrant,” he said, disappearing behind a brown door.

~ - ~

13. 09. 2018.

“You were standing in front of that the whole night. Aren’t you tired?” Rayan showed up next to me with a cup of coffee in his hand.

I sighed. “There is something wrong in this whole mess,” I said, taking the cup from him and turning my attention back to the board that I made in our room. It had the map of Raventown, all the information of this case with Margareth’s picture in the center of it. It took me a long time to make this, but it was all worth it now. Now I could see everything clearly.

“Gersom called,” Rayan said. “They found the guy who lives in the forest and brought him in for questioning.”

I nodded. “What about his background check? Did you find something interesting?”

“He has a restraining order on Margareth.”

Taking a pin, I placed it on the man’s face, and taking a red thread, I connected him and Margareth. “Did they find anything in his home?”

“Not when he called me,” he answered.

“Good. We are going to go and ask him a couple of questions,” I said in a cold tone. “Any news about John?”

He nodded. “He was staying at a friend’s house.”

Picking up my badge and coat, I turned to Rayan. “Tell Gerson to bring him to the station.”

“But what about his uncle? He is still a minor.” Rayan looked at me confused.

I smiled, pointing a finger at his picture on the board. “Not from today.”

Rayan smiled, realizing why I waited another day for questioning John. It would be much easier to talk to him without the presence of his uncle.

“Any news about father Dan?” I asked.

“They didn’t find anything on him. It’s like he didn’t even exist.”

I opened the door of our room. “That’s strange, but do another check, just in case. Something has to show up.”

“I will call them right now,” he said, “There is something else I need to tell you.”

“Yes?” I locked the room behind us.

“They found Hana Petrovich, the sheriff’s daughter. She is in the hospital.”

~ - ~

Hana, the sheriff’s daughter was a beautiful young girl with light brown hair and piercing green eyes. She didn’t look like her parents, but one thing that convinced me was her green eyes that matched her father, the sheriff.

She was pale as ice and looked so fragile and broken, and quite skinny for an 18-year-old girl. Her ribs were very visible and I could count every single vertebra on her back. She looked like she didn’t even have 40 kilos of flesh on her body.

We were standing outside while her psychologist Dr. Boseman helped her change into comfortable clothes.

“I know what you are thinking right now.” Her mother, Natasha Petrovich showed up next to me. “She’s not suffering from any eating disorders, she was always like that,” she said.

“Did you do any tests? Maybe something is wrong with her,” I told her.

She nodded. “We did everything, and they didn’t find anything, but I always knew that she didn’t have any problems with that. It’s her nerves that make her look like this.”

Rayan showed up, giving Natasha a cup of water. “Thank you,” she thanked him.

Rayan nodded and walked back to her husband, Mario Petrovich who was standing next to the window.

“She always had a problem with her nerves, you know,” Natasha started again. “She takes everything through her stomach. The good and the bad.”

“Let me guess, she then get’s sick and throws up,” I said.

“Yes. We tried everything, but doctor Boseman was our best solution. She helped Hana with her anxiety and stress.”

“They seem to be very close.” I looked back to doctor Boseman who stood up and gave Hana a cup of water and some pills.

“Hana considers her like another mother,” Natasha said.

Doctor Boseman smiled at Hana and then walked out of her room with her black bag in her hand.

“How is she, doctor Boseman?” The sheriff asked her.

Doctor Boseman sighed. “She is fine, just a little scared.”

“Did she tell you something about that night?” I asked.

“No, and even if she did, I’m not allowed to talk to you about it,” she said.

“But she is going to be okay, right?” Natasha asked.

“Don’t’ worry, she will be fine. I’ll go and talk to her doctor. Maybe I can arrange to let her go home so she could rest in her own bed.”

“Thank you, doctor Boseman.” The sheriff placed his hand on her shoulder, and she smiled. “You don’t have to thank me for anything. It’s nice seeing you all,# she said back before she walked past us.

The sheriff turned around to face me. “If that’s all you need from her, we would like to spend our time with our daughter.”

“We are done here. We are now heading to the station to question everyone,” I said. “If she remembers something, just call us.”

The sheriff nodded. “I’ll meet you there later.”

“See you around.” I nodded to both the sheriff and his wife, and with Rayan by my side, I started walking down the hall to the exit and at the same time, checking my phone for any missed messages or calls from my husband and daughter.

“Is it just me, or did we saw that girl somewhere before?” Rayan asked.

I looked at him confused. “What are you talking about?”

Rayan looked ahead for a moment before shaking his head. “Forget it. Maybe I’m just hallucinating.”

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