Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1) (20 page)

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
5.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Dressed now, Butcher says, "That's quite a story."

Officer Banks nods, looking off into the distance.

"They gave you a copy of the accident report, I'm sure."

Banks looks back at him. "It's standard procedure."

"Can I see it?"


Butcher checks his side-arm. "A story like that, you're lucky to be alive let alone standing up straight. Look at you- you barely have a scratch on you."

"What's your point, Officer Butcher?"

"My point, Officer Banks, is the Officer Banks I know would be bragging to every soul he met about how he's indestructible, unstoppable. The Officer Banks I know would have that accident report framed over his desk, after making enough copies for everyone."


"Now come on,” Butcher smiles, “I know you know what those are."

The two hold a long, uncomfortable look. Officer Banks says, "It's possible the accident affected me more than I first realized."

"I'm starting to realize anything's possible." Butcher shuts his locker and offers his hand to Banks. “Despite our differences, it's good to have you back.”

Banks stands. He looks down at Butcher's hand, then back up. “Thank you. It's good to be back.” With that he turns and walks away without shaking Butcher's hand.

Butcher watches him go.






Waiting for his computer to load up, Butcher glances around the room. The station-house is already in morning mode- officers briefing the Sheriff, eating at their desks, Monton at the board with an eraser and marker drawing up the day's routes. It being Halloween, and with the annual parade planned, every officer is scheduled to come in. There's a palpable buzz about what the day and especially night will bring.

Twice he catches someone staring at him. Both times they look away quickly, pretending they weren't looking. The third time it's Officer Stroud, though she doesn't look away.

"Can I help you," Butcher asks.

"Help yourself," she answers.

“I'm fine.”

“Hair is fine, you're something else.”

Butcher shakes his head and loads up the search system. At the desk next to him, Officer Banks is on the same system, doing some research of his own.

"You remember your passwords?"


“I guess that accident didn't do too much damage to your brain.”

Banks considers this. Without a word he gets back to whatever it was he was doing. Butcher leans back in his chair to sneak a look at Banks' screen, but Banks, pretending not to notice, adjusts his screen just enough to keep him from seeing.

Never mind, Butcher thinks. Get to the source of things and the rest will take care of itself. He's not sure why he thinks this, since it isn't always the way these things work, but his gut tells him it feels right, and that's all he can go by.

The first search he makes is for Kevin Robins. Butcher may not like any version of the guy he's met, but he doesn't get the feeling that Kevin Robins is the criminal type. Sure enough the system brings up nine results which he narrows down by age and state until he's left with one, and this one is the Kevin he knows. He's not surprised when the man's record comes up clean, save a few speeding tickets. No outstanding warrants, no investigations. He attended tech school and graduated with honors.

Next he finds Mary Robins, and with her it's the same story- a clean bill of health and a Pre-Med degree to boot. There's nothing to be found here, no clues to their villainy. A picturesque dead end.

Butcher sits back in his chair. He rubs his stubble and wonders what changed this couple, how they could have gone from the all-American picture-book to a house of horrors.

House, he thinks. He remembers the signs, the ones that nearly got him killed when they collapsed in a loud pile outside the Robins house. There wasn't just one but three, an odd collection for a quaint cottage at the edge of town. In the city it's not uncommon to move around from apartment to apartment as factors change, rent goes up, neighborhoods worsen. Even in the suburbs, where folks are never happy with what they've got, it's typical practice to move two, three times before settling into a more permanent home. But in towns like Shallow Creek, these rural stretches of grass and trees and sky, it's far more rare a find.

What was the name on those signs? It was the woman Banks pointed out in the bar that night, with the men seated around her grovelling for her attention, and her soaking it up like a cherry-lipped sponge. She'd had a smile he didn't trust, and a body no one should.

"Maycomb," Butcher says.






It's still early yet, but that buzz in the air back at the station has already moved out onto the street; a mixture of excitement and nervousness about Halloween; costumes hanging at home, ready to be revealed. Large bowls filled up with candy. Schools and mini-malls made up as safe havens for children whose parents are nervous about the bad kids. Shop-keepers prepared for what may come. At the supermarket, customers have to show I.D. to buy eggs and shaving cream to prove yes, they do want to make an omelet and enjoy a clean shave.

Butcher drives, Banks in the passenger seat- another thing Banks never went for. He was the kind of man who insisted on driving, on choosing the radio station, on picking where to eat. In every situation he demanded to be in charge, because he needed to be the man in the relationship, and if he wasn't he'd fight like Hell until he was.

Butcher shakes his head. How strange it is to think of a man like he's gone while he sits next to you. Like a funeral that talks back. The truth is, he's terrified of whatever it is that sits next to him, but he has to bury the feeling, numb it until he can figure out what's going on in Shallow Creek, and not just for the good of the town. He needs to figure out his own damn head. While he has Banks he might as well take him to the Maycomb woman, see how they get along.

He turns onto Main Street and slows the cruiser, taking a long look at the shops done up in the macabre. If these people had only seen what he'd seen, had run terrified through the same field he had with those God-awful sounds closing in from behind, they wouldn't be so quick to celebrate the darkness.

"Where are we going," Banks asks. He stares out the passenger window at the passing town.

"I have a few questions for the real estate agent." He turns to Banks, deciding to test him. "You remember him?"

Banks thinks about it a moment. "Not him. A woman. Meredith Maycomb."

"My mistake. Ever met her?"

"You know I have. We spoke about it at The Limestone."

"That we did," Butcher says. "That we did."

In the thin morning crowd he spots a familiar face on the sidewalk- one of the partygoers. She works the front desk at the dentist's office, or she did until last night. Which brings up the question: will the dentist be open for business today? Will they see patients? Clean their teeth and fill their cavities before eviscerating them?

He remembers the uneven way the woman stalked toward him in the moonlight, like a sailor getting back their land legs, but now her gait could pass for human. The people around her have no clue what she is. They couldn't possibly suspect what she's become, what walks among them, because if they could, if their imaginations were that vivid, they would either run screaming from her or grab the first thing they got their hands on and beat her with it, set her on fire, and then run screaming.

Butcher catches Banks looking at her. On his glacial face is what could almost be a smile.






Meredith Maycomb lures them in with a wave. "Officers, do come inside," she says, standing just inside the doorway. As they'd pulled up to the curb they'd found her at the window, looking out through cotton cobwebs as if she'd been expecting them, even though they hadn't phoned ahead, hadn't told anyone where they were going. Maybe she was a psychic. At this point, nothing would surprise Butcher.

Or maybe she was waiting for customers, and he's reading into things.

He walks into the small, sparsely decorated office with Banks just behind. Ignoring his headache, he studies the artwork hung on the walls in thin, metallic frames, the canvases attacked by splotches and slices of paint by an artist caught in Rorschach Test mania.

"Do you like them?" Meredith slides behind her desk, strangely positioned at the center of the room, and into her chair.

"I'm more of a realist myself."

"So am I. This is the world as I see it."

"You did these," he asks. She nods proudly. “If you don't mind me saying, they're a bit off-putting.”


“They remind me of Georgia O'Keeffe- too many vaginas.”

She crosses her fingers and smiles. “I suppose we all see what we want to see.”

"I hope I didn't offend you, it's just that real estate offices usually have pictures of houses, landscapes, things like that."

She settles into her chair, her long hands spread out on the desk. "If you do what everyone else does, don't be surprised when you end up like everyone else."

"Is there something wrong with being normal, Ms. Maycomb?"

"Absolutely nothing if your goal is to be one of those little worker ants crawling around in the dirt. If that's your ambition then I applaud you. I thank you, in fact. Not everyone can be the queen."

"You haven't asked us if we'd like to sit."

"A waste of breath."

"How do you know that?"

She points to them, one and then the other. "In my line of work you come to learn how to read bodies. Where people keep their hands, which direction they lean, where their eyes are looking. Most of the conversation takes places before words ever come into it."

"What does my body language tell you?"

"I didn't realize there would be a test. Alright, I'll bite." She takes the opportunity to look him up and down. "You've come to ask me some questions but you don't want to stay long. You have a job to do and you won't leave until you do it. You're also uncomfortable, which I take offense to, since I've been nothing but polite."

"And my partner?" He nods over his shoulder to Officer Banks, who stands a bit further back, listening to them both.

"Yes, Officer Banks, I don't believe we've actually met." She holds out her hand for him to take. He stays where he is.

"He doesn't shake hands," Butcher says dryly.

She refolds her hands on top of her desk. “I heard you'd gone missing, it's good to see you're safe and sound.”

“I was visiting family,” he answers.

“Well that's sweet. I tell you what- the next time they're in town, make sure and bring them around. I'd love to meet the whole gang.”

Butcher watches their exchange closely. The way they look at each other, they don't like each other much.

Meredith says, "Officer Banks, I must say you're a little harder to read, which makes me think perhaps you have something to hide. I think I would need a little time alone with you to learn all your little secrets. But I suspect that's not going to happen. So, Officer Butcher- what questions do you have for me?"

"It's about the Robins house."

She thinks for a moment, making a show of it. "The Blackstone property. Nice couple, if not a bit odd."

“In what way?”

“They seem too...evenly matched. They should have been acquaintances rather than lovers.”

“You're saying a couple shouldn't be friends.”

“God, no. Enemies maybe but friends never. Where's the drama? Where's the power struggle? Where's the fire in the kiss?”

“Are you married, Ms. Maycomb?”

“Now you know I'm not, which makes your question quite transparent.”

“I didn't mean-”

“You did mean, you meant to say that I'm a failure of a woman because I've never been married, which is interesting coming from a man whose own marriage leaves something to be desired.”

“There's no need to get personal.”

“You’ll have to forgive my touchy nature. I can be an open nerve.”

“In my line of work, we call that defensive.”

She smiles back at him, unblinking. “What is it you wanted to know?”

Butcher pulls a sheet of paper from his back pocket and unfolds it. “I was doing some poking around and I came across something interesting. According to this paper here, it seems the house on Blackstone has gone through not one, not two, but three owners in as many years.”

“And your question is?”

“If you think that's normal. A house moving through people so quickly.”

“You’re the police officer, you should be practiced at spotting the abnormal.”

“No, no, you're the expert. I came to you, after all, not the other way around.”

She smiles, flattered by the compliment despite his line of questioning. “It's not typical,” she says, “but it is possible. Some homes have difficulty finding the right family.”

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
5.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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