Her long black hair looked like a spider crawling along the sand just inches below the water. It was only a slow subtle movement as gentle waves hit the shore and then made their way back out into the lake. She looked like a ghost or some angelic version of the Arthurian Lady of the Lake. She was nude and just floating there but it was her eyes that had me transfixed. Just like old times.
I held my feelings deep inside but could feel them brimming and wanting to explode like the violence of a volcano. The officers were tying up the yellow tape to cordon off the area and the Crime Scene Unit was about to arrive. My partner Sid stood behind me and I knew I had to pull myself away or risk some unwanted or unneeded suspicion.
“So what do you make of it Will?”
“What else could I make of it? You see her; you see the bruising on the neck. It has to be murder.”
My reply was too terse and abrupt. I could feel my heart boiling in my stomach acid and I felt like losing my breakfast. Not only was Sarah dead but my heart was taking that same trajectory.
“You know Will, you don’t look so good. You feeling OK partner? Maybe you picked up that flu bug that’s been going around.”
“I’m OK Sid. Maybe it was something I ate last night that’s not sitting so well after seeing her.”
“She looks like she was a doll. Wonder why that is? It’s always the beauties we find while the ho-hums of the world keep on breeding.”
“I don’t know Sid. I don’t know.”
Driving back into the city my mind began to wander. Sarah’s husband was my prime suspect and that was without any evidence to prove it. He was a rat bastard too lucky to know what he had in her. Me, I was just an eight month diversion that ended up making him pull closer to her in the long run when he realized she was drifting. When the time came the love of my life punched my number and she left me and all of our plans high and dry. Back into the arms of the beast she fell.
You can’t change volatile and psychotic and that was what her husband was and had always been. You can’t change the broken heart of true love and that was all she left me with. It was keeping me alive by beating but for the most part it had long been cold and dead.
Before making any snap judgments I promised myself that I would hold off until the M.E. ran the autopsy. First person we would question would be her husband though and I was just hoping that the bastard would slip up and spill the beans. Sarah may have hurt me but she was too good for him and she shouldn’t have been done wrong by him or anybody else for that matter.
It was the next morning before the M.E. called us in. In all that time I kept checking for her rotten husband to file a missing person report to cover his tracks but there was nothing. The M.E. identified her from finger prints on file from when she went to grade school so we had a name and I had cover as far as my association with her. Her cause of death was from the strangulation while being dumped in the lake was just a cleanup method. She had been dead for twenty four hours or so by the time she was hauled out of the drink. How these people thought dumping bodies in a lake was a good way to cover up the crime has always been beyond me. Once we had the basic facts it was time to talk to the husband.
Samuel Paisley was well to do. Money was not something that Mr. Paisley had in short supply and buying people was just his way of maintaining control. The house was big by my standards and what the social butterflies would describe as immaculate. Three cars in the spacious garage and one parked on the roundabout. Looking at all the riches was yet another reminder of yet another reason for Sarah to look the other way when it came to me and my pittance on the force. She had told me once that money doesn’t matter but money always matters.
As luck would have it Mr. Paisley answered the door to Sid and I standing on the steps looking out of place and a little in awe.
“Can I help you?”
“Samuel Paisley, my name is Detective Will Telling and this is my partner Detective Sid Hollis. We’re with the APD and we’d like to ask you some questions.”
“What’s this about?”
“Mr. Paisley, do you know the whereabouts of your wife?”
“Well yeah, she’s staying with her mother and taking care of her because she was feeling under the weather.”
“When was the last time you spoke with your wife?”
“A couple days ago; she called to let me know she was on her way down.”
Sid then broke in with a question, “So Mr. Paisley, are you and your wife close? I mean you haven’t talked to her since she left. Why is that?”
“What’s this about?” The look of worry started to crease his face. Perspiration in a thin sheen broke from his forehead.
I said, “Mr. Paisley, your wife was found dead and floating in a lake. She didn’t drown either. She was strangled. She never made it to her mother’s house. Now you tell me, what is your alibi?”
I had to pull back. I had to keep the anger under control. I was seething inside and I wanted to kill him right then and there but I had to temper it off. His guilt was coming out of his pores and his act of ignorance was taunting me.
“I’m sorry Detectives but I think I need to call my lawyer before I say any more to either of you. Unless you’re going to arrest me then I’d like you to please leave.”
With that the door was shut in our face. I could arrest him and hold him for twenty four hours but the evidence had to surface in that time or he would just walk. We put a tail on Mr. Paisley just in case he decided to flee and then on the way back to the car I jotted down the plates of each of the five cars.
We followed up with the mother but it was a dead end. Sarah’s mother had taken to dementia so between her and the care givers no one was sure if Sarah had been on her way over or not. All roads kept leading back to Paisley and his lawyer wasn’t letting us near him so we pulled a search warrant on the house and his place of business. When we arrived back at the house his lawyer answered the door and let us in. Paisley was being kept away for his own good.
I took Paisleys office and Sid took the bedroom while several officers were combing the grounds and going room to room. The mahogany desk was covered in papers and engineering blue prints. The top left drawer had a bottle of bourbon and some Cubans. There were files in the bottom left and office supplies in the top right. The bottom right drawer contained an empty cigar box that was sitting on yet another file folder. I pulled the folder out and when I opened it that sick feeling swirled in the pit of my stomach.
There were pictures of Sarah and me together, from the window of the hotel room, going into the rooms, leaving the rooms. There were pictures of us at dinner and walking through the park. He had pictures of me embracing her and kissing her.
He had to have recognized me when I was standing on his door step. Whether he knew I was on the force or not it had to have been a revelation for him. On top of all of that the pictures complicated matters for me. Taking the pictures into evidence would have blown the investigation. With me being party to events that could have set the bastard off would unravel everything. They would have said that I should have told my superiors and removed myself from the investigation. Hell, they would have started investigating me while he walked free and above suspicion.
I tucked the file folder into my jacket and lifted his bourbon and cigars while I was at it. The resolution was there and I was now standing on the edge of where right and wrong blur into a hazy gray. I knew what I was going to do and I knew there was no coming down from the ledge. Sarah would see justice one way another.
I tracked Paisley down to a seedy hole in the wall bar. He was sitting there nursing a scotch and just gave me a casual look before returning back to his drink. I pulled up to the stool next to him and ordered what he was having. I passed him one of his own Cubans and then took a stiff sip and let the alcohol burn over my tongue. We sat there for awhile just drinking and smoking without saying anything to each other. Finally he broke the silence.
“She loved you. She never stopped loving you. I didn’t know you were a detective. I just knew she was seeing someone. I changed everything I did and started catering to her to bring her back. You could see it in her eyes though. She still loved you and you could see that deep in her eyes. She may have come back to me but she never came back completely.”
Draining my glass I motioned for the barkeep to pour me another. I then let him hear my confession, “I loved her. She did everything she could to push me away to try and make it right with you. I would have given her everything I had but I couldn’t convince her to leave you. When she left it broke my heart and when I saw her lifeless body my heart died.”
Now his confession came forth because he knew that we were past the point of settling this in the eyes of the legal system, “She was leaving. We fought and I got my hands around her and I just couldn’t let go. The pictures kept flashing in my head and I couldn’t let go.”
It wasn’t sadness in his face though. There was rage in his eyes and more regret at not having escaped the claws of the crime itself. He wanted to own her and I just wanted to love her.
We went to the alley out back and it was almost like the world begun to spin and time started flashing by like frames in a motion picture. He knew it was coming and that’s why he walked ahead of me. I leveled my revolver and took aim from three feet back. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and beating all the way through the tip of my trigger finger. He wanted it this way because a man like him couldn’t face his peers as the felon he would become. This was his out.
I wanted it this way too. I needed to avenge Sarah.
“My son, I am sorry that this love has taken so many lives. May God find peace for your soul and forgiveness.”
“It’s OK Father, I’m going to see Sarah again. We’ll be together this time.”
The prison house siren goes off and as they take me down the hall I hear the final curtain call, “DEAD MAN WALKING!”
© Copyright 2011 Jason Falter