This third and final story is a story I wrote as a birthday present to a friend. A detective-thriller. Third Story: THE EIGHTEENTH PIECE
Gabriel Constantine sat on the edge of the roof to the Starkholm City Police Department. The rain slid gently down his glasses and half-blinded him. He ran a hand through his wet hair and found himself soaked to the bone.
With a hiss, he struck a match, and with shaky hands lit a cigarette. He closed his eyes at the sound of a door opening behind him. He didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. His partner had arrived. He drew a sharp intake of breath and the Camel hung limply from his lips.
“I thought you quit,” said Dorian Manchester.
“It’s just this once,” Gabriel rebuked with a wave of his hand, and still he did not turn around.
“Uh-huh,” said Dorian, and he moved to sit next to Gabriel. “You’ve been up here all day, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Dorian,” said Gabriel, “Nothing’s wrong.
Dorian put his chin to his neck and stared at Gabriel, “You’re smoking the Camels again,” he said, “You only smoke the Camels when something’s wrong.”
Gabriel took his glasses off his face and tried to wipe them clean, but only succeeded in wetting them further. “You know the missing-persons report for the eleven year old filed two days ago?”
“What of it?”
Gabriel’s eyes were fixated on his glasses, and his grey-brown mustache twitched slightly, “I found him,” he said, “At the playground—just where his parents left him. At least…that…that was the first piece.”
Dorian’s mouth hung open, “The first piece…?” he echoed.
“There were seventeen,” Gabriel said through a clenched throat, “He was cut into seventeen pieces and scattered over three blocks.”
For a while Dorian Manchester did not respond, after all—how could he. He had only the words to say “Holy shit, Gabriel,” and finally gained the strength to look away from him, “How did you find them?”
“A dog dug up the remains at the park...it was only a matter of following his scent. The dog, I mean.”
Dorian moved away from Gabriel, for his voice shocked him. It had turned from mournful to uncaring—impassive, even. “Do we have any leads?” he asked.
“We can count out his family,” he said, “We interviewed them all over the course of the last few days. His extended family is on the other side of the country, and his Mom and Dad…well, they have alibis, and witnesses there to vouch for them. Nobody they could buy out, but then again, I don’t think they had enough friends to buy out in the first place.”
Dorian stood there, looking down several stories to the streets below. His loafers hung from the edge of the building and he watched the rain parachute down in tiny drops one by one. He felt like a giant—a god, even. “How could someone do that…?” he asked to nobody in particular, “How could another human being cut someone up into seventeen different pieces?”
“Eighteen.” Gabriel said.
Gabriel flicked his cigarette onto the streets below and opened his mouth, allowing a smoke to billow outwards. “His heart was missing. The killer took it.”
“My God…” Dorian muttered.
“God doesn’t exist,” said Gabriel as he fished through his pockets for another cigarette, “God wouldn’t do something like that to his children.”
Dorian could only think to ask one thing. “What happens now?”
“Well, I suppose the interviews start all over again. He was killed right outside his Primary School, so the teachers are the main suspects, I’d guess.”
Dorian rose to his feet and patted Gabriel on the back, “I’ll come tomorrow.” He said.
“You don’t have to—“ said Gabriel.”
“I insist,” said Dorian, “Moral support, right?”
Neither Gabriel Constantine nor Dorian Manchester slept well that night.
The following day was unusually sunny, given the downpour of the night before, and Dorian sat on the steps to the playground as Gabriel began to question the teachers. His hands looked like them were melting into his face, and his elbows were planted on his sides. He looked out at the children playing, and wondered how many of them had lost their innocence because of something like this. He guessed none, because many of them were still playing cops and robbers out on the playground, pretending to shoot each other, playing imaginary war games.
If only they knew, thought Dorian, and then decided it was best that they remain innocent to the horror of murder.
And then he spotted it. One child, with out of control blonde hair, a boy, or girl, it was hard to tell from the distance, sat on the end of the slide, and they looked quite unhappy.
Dorian took long strides across the playground and climbed the equipment, albeit with much struggling, and sat down to face the child. He nudged their shoulder, and their voice painted them as a girl. “Go away,” she said, her voice sharp like a violin.
“Are you okay, Miss…”
“My name’s Amanda!” she shouted, “NOT Miss!”
“Amanda,” Dorian pursued, “Are you okay?”
“I don’t want to talk to you!” said Amanda, and she crossed her arms.
Dorian forced a smile, “Can you please tell me what’s wrong?”
Amanda pouted and turned away with the immaturity only an eleven year old could possess. “My Daddy told me not to talk to you.” She said.
“And who did he say I am, Amanda?”
“A policeman!” said Amanda, “He said you guys are meanies!”
Dorian wasn’t sure whether or not to take offense to the comment, but pondered the notion of why her father might say this. “I’m sorry.” He glanced at his watch, “School’s almost over, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Is your Mommy coming to pick you up?”
“Mommy’s DEAD!” shouted Amanda.
“I’m sorry,” said Dorian, “How did she…how did she die?”
Amanda smacked Dorian across the cheek without hesitation, and again Dorian was unsure if he should take offense to it, but rubbed his cheek, which now held a stinging pain.
“GO AWAY!” Amanda shouted, “DADDY TOLD ME NOT TO TALK TO YOU!”
Dorian left just in time to meet Gabriel. “Any luck?” he said.
“No leads,” Gabriel said, and he furrowed his brow. “We’ll be dealing with a cold case in a matter of hours.”
“Not necessarily,” said Dorian, “Check for an eleven year old named Amanda who shared a class with the dead boy…”
Gabriel looked at Dorian like he was from another planet. “Tell me you’re joking.”
“Just trust me on this one,” said Dorian.
The two met with a Mister Simon Harker in mid-afternoon. Amanda was locked away from a nap in her room.
“Mister Harker,” said Gabriel, “Are you aware of the recent death of a child in your daughter’s class?” asked Gabriel?
“I’m aware,” said Simon Harker. He was a chubby man, but by the badges displayed on his wall, his Marine training hadn’t left him. His hair was balding in the front and he chewed on a cigar, smoke billowing in the air. “I know.”
“Did your daughter mention anything regarding recent troubles or quarrels with the boy before he died?” Gabriel asked.
Simon Harker squinted his eyes at them, “What are you trying to say.”
“Perhaps we should step outside—.” said Dorian.
“Are you trying to say I killed a little boy?”
“We don’t want to disturb your daughter.”
“—that I cut him up into eighteen pieces…” his voice trailed off and his eyes widened.
Gabriel spoke. “The press only released he was cut into seventeen pieces. Where did you get eighteen?”
“Nothing, I, er, I just…” Dorian noted he was indiscreetly reaching into his pocket. “…counted, uhm, read it wrong.”
“Perhaps you should come with us.” Dorian said, and reached into his jacket pocket on his own, and whispered to Gabriel, “He’s going for a gun. Get down.”
Simon Harker burst into a sudden rage, “I ain’t going nowhere!” he shouted, and at once he leapt up and extended his arm, gun in hand, and aimed for Gabriel, who rolled out of the way a split-second before he fired the trigger.
Dorian did likewise, and withdrew his own gun and fire it at Simon Harker’s forearm. He let out a sharp cry of pain and the gun fell to the floor.
Gabriel shot up and brought his left fist to Harker’s side and his right across his jaw. He hit the floor with a loud thud!
The two officers had to deal with Amanda’s screams for hours before the backup arrived.
Dorian held Amanda back, and smiled to himself, it felt good to restrain her for once, but what she said unnerved him.
“HE WAS TRYING TO BE A GOOD DADDY!” she shouted, “THE BEST DADDY THERE IS! HE CALLED ME UGLY AND DADDY DIDN’T LIKE THAT I WAS BEING CALLED UGLY! HE WANTED TO HELP, JUST LIKE WHEN MOMMY SENT ME TO BED EARLY.”
Amanda’s words at the playground rang through Dorian’s head.
Dorian felt his stomach drop.
Gabriel exited Amanda’s room, a plastic-gloved hand touching Dorian’s shoulder. “I think we have a bit of evidence” he said, and indicated to a glass jar, in the center of which was a human heart.
“The eighteenth piece.” Dorian said.
“The eighteenth piece,” Gabriel echoed, “From a man who would do anything to please his daughter.” Gabriel exited the house and gave the evidence to a few of the officers who had arrived on the scene not moments ago, and turned away to light a cigarette. His hands shook much less than they did the previous night. He wished he could say he was surprised, but he wasn’t. Starkholm City had shown him too much, and most of it was things he did not care to see.