'Hole in the Silk'
A black Lincoln town car pulled up along a dirt road on Riverview drive in Jurupa valley CA.
The car parked on the sidewalk in front of two green plastic garbage bins. The sidewalk consisted of a curb bracketing a patch of dirt and grass from the road. It was way out near the train tracks close to Riverside municipal on the other side of the valley.
It was a small back road, penned in by verdant hills on one side dotted with lonely single storey houses on the right. On the left looked like some kind of little ranch with a white picket fence made of metal out front. The fence of which had a wreath on it and a broken mailbox. Large trees surrounding it on one side, a small wire fence on the other. A single horse stood with its head dipped under what looked like an overturned sandwich box. Of the kind of sandwiches you get in gas stations, chewing silently. A small single storey house shrinking into the distance. Behind the overgrown shrubbery and white picket arch ways.
A shapely black woman got out of the driver’s seat. She leaned on the car door and looked around with an air of disenfranchisement. She wore a dark blue pant-suit with a grey camisole under her buttoned jacket. Her shoes were sensible black work shoes with raised rubber heels. Her hair was straight, tied back into a loose bun. She took a deep breath of fresh air, as if against her will and turned back to the car. She leaned on the open car door and craned her neck to look at the passenger seat. She was pretty trying to look dower with a practiced set of frown lines. Around her mid to early thirties, but it was catching up with her quick. She had a wide mouth, thin drawn on eye brows above small downturned almond eyes on a round warm face. Her nose was a thin strip down her face ending in a petite rounded nose. She wore no jewellery at all.
In the passenger seat was her partner. A man in his early forties, slim but well built. His suit looked more expensive than hers, just plain black with a white shirt and black skinny tie. He sat with his legs knotted playing Sudoku on his phone.
“Bored with Pokémon go already?” She said comically exasperated.
He looked up and smiled a cheeky ten-year-old smile “Too much walking”. He was handsome. Designer stubble left a little too long turned into a small shaggy salt and pepper beard. His hair was darker, slicked back tight on his head, his hairline dipped a little at the corners but it held out. He had a strong chin which dominated most of his face. The rest of it was pure jowls which sagged just a little more each day, hence the beard. He had a slightly flushed colour on his cheeks and forehead. Thin lips and small sincere eyes above a large ruddy nose with a few chips missing out of it.
She let out a breathy laugh shook her head, looked down the road and sucked her cheek before turning back to him. “Are you coming?”
He looked up, brow furrowed sincerely. “Hnh no, I’ll sit this one out”
“I’ve seen it before”
“Ok” She sucked her gums and made a playful chupse sound as he smiled and shook his head. He was still looking down at his phone as she shut the door.
She straightened up and walked to the end of the drive towards a yellow sign with an arrow pointing right. The road itself looped back around the hills to a larger residential area.
She took her time walking down river view. She stopped out front a black set of gates in a walled off area of dirt. Probably for the horse to walk around in when it wasn’t pretending to be a truck stop sandwich.
She hung her hands on her hips and cast a glance down Avenue Juan Diaz. It was a reasonably nice area, quiet but for the trains. It was out of the way, in the dark you could come and go without crawling over too much bubble wrap.
The closest house was one on the corner. A single storey with a big driveway. A white Pontiac on the sidewalk out front and little red number on the driveway. Another white car in the open garage. It has a little stone path leading up a raised embankment shaded by large shaggy trees. There were two cop cars parked ‘cop-like’ at intersecting angles across the curved curb.
On the other side of the street on top of the hill was what looked like a sprawling villa or a large sand castle with large arched windows in the front. There was a large white unmarked van parked out front.
Her head on a swivel she turned back to the dirt road with the yellow sign. She was met by a steel gate almost at right angles to the black one for the horse. The gate was open at a slap-dash angle and dug into the loose dry earth. She lifted it and eased it across, it swung loose and scrapped to a stop, lifting up a layer of clay dust.
The path was too narrow for a car, lined on one side by a drainage ditch of some kind. The path itself looked well kept.
She walked without great haste down the path about a quarter of mile in the direction of the river. It lead her down a steep embankment overlooking the viaduct. One of the largest in California she’d been told.
The viaduct was a great concrete deco construction made of several arches. A train track ran across it and little else. It was slim bridge almost like one you’d expect ending in a large fort or a castle. There was only room either side for a walkway. Probably reserved for maintenance on trains that got stuck or upkeep on the bridge itself.
The embankment was overgrown with a crude path cut out leading down towards the river. She praised her sensible shoes as she gracefully descended the haphazard path towards the edge.
As she got further down the greenery thinned out and she could see them now.
The river thinned out here too, it was a choke point. The map on her GPS made it seem like there would be more than a stream waiting for here at the bottom. It was like a little patch of oasis. Patchy desert spotted with green here and there. A thin stream of water which passed under the third arch of the viaduct and not more than that.
There were a smattering of uniforms standing around the edges. While a couple of non-uniforms walked back and forth behind the tape. Occasionally squating to look deep in thought.
Further on were a handful of people in jump suits and galoshes sifting through dirt. Using large pool nets to pick through the shallow river.
“Catch anything!” She yelled as she glided down the hill to meet them.
The uniforms shook off the cobwebs they were settling into and tried to meet her at the bottom of the incline. She warded them off with the flick of her wrist and a wry smile. They fell away like dead leaves, back to their cute statue act.
She marched past them, gracefully mounting and dismounting the tape. The non-uniforms rose from their squat positions. Turned to her ready to screw up their faces and say something litigious.
She was far too quick for them. She closed the gap in a heartbeat and before they could get their balance she was on top of them.
“Who-th’ heck are yo-“
“FBI special agent Harriet Jageur, don’t get up.” She said as she quickly flashed a laminate that distinctly read ‘FBI’ in red ink.
They goggled at her for a second, completely taken aback by how practiced her assault was. Everything she said seemed like it was said in a mirror a hundred time before she ate breakfast. Everything about her from the way she walked was purposeful and vaguely menacing. Garnished with a conservative smile.
The two detectives stumbled to their feet. The first was older, stout with broad shoulders, a grey thinning crew cut. The broad flat face of a boxer. He wore a worn looking plaid suit jacket with brown pants and a limp over washed shirt and tie. A dingy looking cup of coffee in his left hand, she wasn’t sure if he was drinking it or using it as an ash tray.
The second was Asian and had a boyish face with sharp eyes and short dark hair. More rounded with crisp edges of downy facial hair. He was a little waify with almost elf-like features, but his eyes never left her as she marked her territory. He wore a pressed Walmart blue suit, which was maybe a size too big for him to grow into, if he had any more growing to do. An optimist.
“I didn’t know you guys did murder cases” The younger guy said.
“When it crosses state lines, it’s a federal case” Harri said.
“Detective Jimmy Darrow, this is Fletcher Win.” The older detective said, giving no effort at all to hide the weariness in his voice. His fighting days were over. “How can we help you Special Agent… was it Jaguer?”
She smirked and sucked her gums before letting out a breath “My dad was German” She said finally. “I’d just like to see it”.
“I read online you already caught the guy” Win pitched up.
“We have a suspect in custody, I’m just here to dot the ’I’s”
“What was his name, something like Jeff Dunham? You don’t think it’s the same guy?” Win followed her as she slipped on a pair of blue latex gloves. She brushed past him to the white tarp the two seemed to be guarding like squat toads.
“Jack Dun. We see this sort of thing a lot when you get murders as well publicized as this” She crouched down beside the tarp. It was half in the little stream but the current wasn’t strong enough to do anything more than tussle it a little. “Copycat killers. More often than not people will try and murder someone in a similar style to an active serial killer. So the crimes will be lumped together”
“So that’s what you think this is?”
“We caught Dun in Arizona so unless he has private jet I’m unaware of he didn’t kill this girl.” Harri lifted the tarp and gave her a quick up and down and let it fall back down. “Do we have an ID?”
“Looks like a whore to me” Darrow chimed in. He took glances from Win and Jaguer, who then swapped glances back.
“Is that your professional opinion?” Harri smirked.
“Sorry too un-pc? Should have said ‘Lady of the night’ is that more appropriate?”
“Call a whore, you can’t hurt her feelings now.” She stood up and took the gloves off. Sealing them in an airtight baggy and slipping them into her breast pocket.
“You know they say you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead” Win squeaked from the side of his mouth.
“Track marks on her arms, cigarette burns, Tijuana boob job, all screams ‘whore’ to me.” Harri sighed. “Was there anything else?”
Win turned to Darrow, he raised his prop cup of coffee to his lips and then down again. “Her jaw was wired shut. One of the forensic techs had a set of wire cutters.” Darrow reached into his deep jacket pocket and pulled out a sealed evidence bag with. A small rectangular object in it. “They already looked inside.” He lifted the bag out gently but the matchbox caught on the rim of his pocket. It jangled without the distinctive match shaking sound. “It was a dead cockroach”.
Harri tightened her jaw and breathed in and out through her nose for a moment. She cast a weary glance along the vast open expanse around the viaduct and the highway beyond it. “Thanks for your time gentlemen, if I need any further help, I’ll call you”. She said sounding a little like an answering machine. She flashed a professional smile and made her way back up the way she came. The two men looking after her as she went.
She crashed into the car, hiding a casual frustration. She wanted to bang her hands on the steering wheel and her partner could tell. That’s why he didn’t look up.
“It’s the same guy, Con” Harri said.
“I told you” Con said as he continued to stare at the screen of his phone.
“So what about Dun? We have a confession. We got his DNA all over his girlfriend and hair from the previous matchbox killer victim. It’s open and shut. He has to have had a partner.” She gesticulated anxiously as she stared out the window, as if saying it over would make it fit. “I need to talk to him again, getting the next plane back to Arizona”.
“I wouldn’t bother. I got a call while you were on your little field trip. Dun is dead. Strung himself up with his own shoelaces in his holding cell.” Con pursed his lips and dropped his expression again.
“I thought they took your shoelaces when you went into a holding cell.” She looked over at him seeing if he’d look up, he didn’t.
“Well he got another set from somewhere” He sighed.
She looked back out the front window, started the engine and put the car in gear. “I don’t like this.”
A black and white box hovered in a dark room.
A grainy image appears through the white noise.
The box is getting closer, it seems to rock in and out. Carrying with it an intoxicating light headedness.
It’s the only light in the room, moving closer, a moth bangs his head against the screen. The light casts on the pale walls, the curtains glow a deep red.
The grainy black and white image rises from the white noise. Getting clearer and more distinct as more attention is paid to the screen.
A little boys hand running through dark straight hair.
He begins to brush it; she doesn’t turn her head. Who is she?
The little boy brushes his mother’s hair.
She sits in front of a three pained vanity mirror, each section was empty. Just blank corkboard underneath. The wallpaper peeling off the walls. The sounds of insects scuttling along a bare floorboard made under his skin itch.
The boy stands naked behind her.
He runs his fingers through her hair again. It comes out in clumps in his hands. Her head falls off her shoulders and rolls on the dirty bare floor. Her eyes and mouth are open and empty insects crawling all over them in and out.
James woke up to a cold sensation on his face. He was face down with his head tilted on a metal table. He was in the interrogation room of the Riverview police department. He lifted his head to a sudden onset of dull aching. The sweat and spittle on his face drying sent a shiver down his spine in the cold empty room. He tried to put his hand to his temple but it was handcuffed to the restraint loop in the heavy metal table. He pulled at it for a frantic second like a caged animal as the memory of where he was started to leak back into his brain. He found some brief consolation as it all started to make sense. But none of the sense was good.
The room was bare just with the one large table bolted to the floor and the few chairs scattered around. It was a small room almost the size of a stationery cupboard. A mottled almost stucco like substance on the walls. There was no two-way mirror like in the movies, instead it resembled a bland office space. Almost like a slightly larger cubicle. Four walls and a camera pinned down at him from the corner of the room. The camera perched over a sturdy metal door with a small viewing window made of toughened glass and wire.
He felt snow-blind almost, taking it all in. It felt like he was in a box sliding down a hill into oncoming traffic for a second and he had to take hold of himself. Take deep slow breathes to stifle nausea. He felt like throwing up but his gut felt hollow, he couldn’t remember the last time he ate. How long had he been in this room? Was someone coming? Did someone just leave?
He sat back on his chair and tried to get comfortable. It was a metal chair with all but the seats padding worn down. When it moved it let out a very loud screeching noise.
He froze for a second to see if anyone took notice of the loud noise.
Without warning a skinny young man flitted into the room carrying some coffees in a cardboard holder and a pink box of doughnuts. He managed to open and close the door smoothly without disturbing the contents of his hands. Setting the precious cargo down on the cold table.
The smell of cheap machined coffee filling up the small room.
The skinny guy wore a deliberate smile as he exaggerated pulling up a chair directly adjacent to James. Almost to a point of touching knees. Opening the donut box like it was a taxes taken from the poor of Sherwood and James was the Sheriff of Nottingham.
“I thought you could use a pick-me-up” The young man said through his taut smile. All friends.
The young man was singular in his appearance. Taking great care in both looking older and not conforming to any modern tradition of dress. He simply wore a set of brown corduroys trousers a black shirt tucked into them with the sleeves rolled up to his elbow. He had on a large wrist watch and a wide unfashionable silver and black tie. The type people give as wedding presents that never leave the box.
James wondered if his socks had pictures of Santa on them.
His face was thin and pot marked and very greasy. It was just shy of handsome. As if his face at one point was good looking but then became distended. Some parts growing out a little too long and not in a pleasing shape. His hair too was greasy and slicked back across his head in an almost fifties style, jet black. So black it almost made his eyebrows disappear in comparison. He was clean shaven but on closer inspection there were obvious patches he’d missed in some great haste. Red marks on his face as well as some tell-tale rosacea. The name badge on his shirt read; “Det Banville – Riverview PD”.
“You take a little nap there bud?” The detective smiled but it quickly turned into a grin revealing a set of sharp back teeth. He took out one of the cups and slid it over to James.
“How long have I been here?” James asked. He felt a little head rush as he angled the coffee under his head. His head which felt too heavy for his neck and full of broken syringes.
Banville stretched and yawned while looking at his large wristwatch. “Err I’d say a good five hours, give or take a piss break”. James heard some bones crack in Banville’s back and neck as he stretched. The detective began to stare at him intently and then down at the box of donuts. “Donut? We’ve got glazed, chocolate, there’s a bearclaw in there somewhere, Danish maybe? Jelly?”
James picked up what looked like a Bavarian cream and took a ravenous bite. It was gone quite quickly and forgotten by several glugs of watery coffee.
“Ok ready to get started again?”
James looked up at him in silence not quite sure what he was agreeing to.
Banville reclined in his chair, his skinny arms over his head, his hands clasped over his greasy hair. He smelled of cigarettes and as he stretched his arms up obscure looking tattoos showed just under his rolled up shirt sleeves. Something that looked like a gir, something red, maybe a mermaid with redhair. His fingertips were stained yellow, possibly from rolling his own cigarettes.
Banville smiled smugly. “I’ve got all night bud, you just take your time, we’ll go over it as many time as we need to, until we get right”. He closed his eyes in a moment of quiet concentration. He took in a deep frustrated breath through his nose. Collapsed forward leaning on the table a little too close to James, with both his forearms folded.
He smiled that happy friend smile, a little too wide, a little too practiced. “Look I get, you work a shitty job, your old lady is getting at you so you bump her” He sat back in his seat satisfied. “Happens every-fucking-day. You just need to sign on the dotted line and we can get this packed away”.
James sat slumped in the chair, his eyes focusing on nothing. The hairs on the back of his neck electrified, his life slipping away, was it another dream?
Banville could see this wasn’t working. “OK ok no need to get doom and gloom on you. Walk me through it again, tell me how you found the body.” He tried to smile again but he had deep set eyes, sharp and beady as rapier points. He wasn’t fooling anyone, he was out for blood. A wolf circling a dazed armadillo, looking for the softest place to bite.