“Where the hell is the body?” barked Wallace “Wall” Davies, the detective on the case. He was a tall man, over six feet, with a beer gut nobody could forget. “You folks called and said a man had been shot dead. So where is he?”
“Let’s see. It’s about 12:15. He probably went for lunch,” replied some wisecracking kid, part of a small crowd that had gathered to get a closer look at the action. None of his co-workers laughed.
Wall obviously was not amused either. “That’s funny. You should go on the road with that. Now, Mr. Gaither, what happened?”
A small, frantic man spoke up. “I don’t know where he is, but when I found him he was right here beside the lockers. I heard a loud noise, like a gun, and I ran to the stairs. There he was, just a tumbling lump. When I got to the bottom, he was on the floor — dead.” He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and blew his nose loudly. The long, black hair he usually swept over his head’s bald top was now falling the wrong way, covering his left ear. He seemed on the verge of a breakdown. “That’s when I rushed to the Administration office to tell the plant manager.”
“‘Dead’ is a very harsh word. I prefer ‘life-deprived’ myself.”
“Jodie, shut up,” chimed a young woman. “You’re an insensitive idiot.”
Wall pointed at the young man named Jodie. “Look, kid, if you can’t say anything to help my investigation, just round up your friends and get out of here.”
A scream came up from somewhere on the first floor.
Wall swung the door open and took the flight of stairs in a few short leaps. When he reached the bottom, he stood in the corridor listening. Another terrified scream rang out, from his left, in what he imagined must be the most basic expression of fear. Although the heavy, pounding cadence of machinery echoed throughout the plant, somewhere amidst that thundering percussion section was a scared soloist. Wallace Davies knew that woman had just seen something she had never seen before and most likely would never see again.
“Oh my God,” said Wall as he stared upward.
A man had reached the screaming woman ahead of Wall, and was trying his best to comfort her. As scared as she was, she kept trying to look at the body. The man turned her head each time she did, saying, “Stop it, Kay. Just don’t look. Just don’t look.”
The man noticed Wall and asked, “Excuse me, who are you?”
Wallace Davies was a good detective, but his role at home was a different story. Had he paid more attention to his sons, he might be able to recognize the signs of their drug use and neglect of school duties. His wife had told him more than once that she would leave him if changes weren’t made.
It wasn’t that Wendy had met another man. She had become tired of Wall’s late arrivals every night, the phone calls taking him away from the house at all hours, and his absences from important family events. She couldn’t remember the last time he had attended a birthday party for one of the boys, and he had only once in the last 5 years made the Christmas trip with them.
“Damn it, Wall. I’m so tired of your neglecting us,” Wendy said. “When are we going to see you start acting like a member of this family?”
The image from the Timex plant came back to Wall. The dead man hung there, a slack shell of a person, his eyes casting a lifeless gaze at his own feet. His wrists were tied to a green metal rack that swayed gently over a tank filled with a silver liquid. Drops of blood sizzled as they fell into the molten pool.
“Wall, are you listening?” Wendy said. She was drying her hands with a dish towel.
“I’m sorry, babe. It’s just I’m so busy with business. Don’t I put food on the table? A roof over your head?” This had always been Wall’s answer and, until now, Wendy had accepted it.
“‘Busy with business.’ ‘Busy with business.’ That’s all you ever say. You treat this marriage like it’s a business. As long as you fulfill your financial duty, then everything’s okay. Well, everything is not okay, Wall. We’re not a family. We’re just three people and some guy who eats with us.” A few tears started falling, but she was not whimpering. Her anger was clear; she was not going to play the helpless victim.
Wall leaned back against the stove and folded his arms across his chest. That was his stance for serious conversations. “You know that as long as the department won’t hire me a partner, I can’t cut back my hours. The murder rate is just as high as it was when I started in homicide in ’93, so I can’t just slow down. As long as bad people keep doing their thing, I have to keep doing mine.”
He could not shake the murder scene from his head. The dead man’s hair was wet and his shirt was soaked with perspiration. Wall’s first thought was that he had been left there to sweat and bleed to death, but he knew the man would have called out for help. Yeah, and that weird little guy Gaither said he had found him dead at the bottom of the stairs. Why would someone move the body?
(continue to Part 2)