Minot: Chapter 16
The Snake In The Grass
THERE WAS A side gate to the cemetery, which Hawthorne's and Chief Bowen's cars pulled up to. Damien and Bowen got out of his car while Hawthorne and his partner forced open the gate.
"I--I didn't go in to get a look at it," Hawthorne stammered, his hands shaking wildly as he pulled the door outward. Bowen caught it before it could shut itself and the officer in it. "I thought maybe--maybe you should see it first."
Damien couldn't even think of a joke to respond to the comment. So far all there had been were animals. Maybe Hawthorne's eyes had been playing a trick on him; maybe it was another animal, just bigger and lighter, maybe a deer--
Yet the shape that greeted them, sprawled out over someone's grave at the edge of the cemetery, partly obscured by weeds, was definitely not a deer.
Bowen's face was grim as he turned on his flashlight again and stepped forward. As soon as the light fell on the dead person's face Damien recoiled and leaned on a headstone, not caring what he was touching.
Bowen turned back to look at him, sensing his reaction. "You know her?"
"I--she--she's the one who told me about Kincaid!" Damien cried, holding a hand to his mouth. For the face he'd seen was clearly July's. He choked and somehow managed not to throw up.
Bowen moved closer, bending over the body in the weeds. It was a young woman with short hair; he'd never seen her before. There was blood all over the front of her shirt; her eyes were still open. He could see the bullet hole.
"Shot," he said, his voice echoing in the air. "In the chest." He stood up, looking calm only on the outside. "You've met her before."
"Y--" Damien forced himself to swallow. He nodded. "In the--park. She told me she was leaving town." His eyes were burning; he was grateful for the dark so no one could see the tears welling up. It was true, he'd barely known her, but she'd said she was leaving town! He glanced back at her, and turned away again.
Damn it, why didn't you leave!
Bowen turned to Hawthorne and his partner this time. The two younger officers were staring at the body; Hawthorne snapped back to attention when Bowen cleared his throat. "Uh--Chief--what d'we do?"
They'd obviously never had to deal with a body before. What a wonderful town, Damien thought, that the police aren't prepared to deal with dead people. Just dead animals. He let go of the tombstone and told himself to quit acting like a wimp. He'd seen bodies before, including one a lot worse than this, that of someone a lot closer to him than July had ever been. He swallowed again and, surreptitiously wiping a hand across his eyes, cleared his own throat.
"Kincaid wasn't the first," he managed to say. "But he could be the next."
"There's a direct connection here." Bowen looked at Hawthorne again; he was scowling now, just about baring his teeth. Hawthorne, apparently thinking the chief was mad at him, backed away slightly. "Go pick up Mitch and Mandie. We're going to have a good long chat with those two. Someone's gonna talk, and they're gonna talk now."
"Yes, sir." Hawthorne and his partner disappeared from the cemetery.
"You think one of them did it?" Damien asked, as they headed back toward the main gate, and the street, for their cars. Bowen shrugged, looking far more tired than he ever had before.
"I don't know who did it. But they're the closest thing we've got. I'll meet you at the station. I've got to call this in, I suppose." He sighed, and Damien detected the shudder in it. "Looks like Dr. Steiner's gonna have a field day--or field night, that is."
A photograph from July's wallet was slammed down onto the interrogation table. Both Mandie and Mitch flinched back. Both of them looked absolutely miserable. Damien had called his uncle and the two of them stood off to the side, along with Hawthorne and his partner, while Chief Bowen placed his hands flat on the table, bending over and scowling straight into the two's faces. Neither of them made eye contact.
"All right," he said, his voice low and deadly. "Take a good look at that picture. Take a good look and tell me you've never seen this girl before."
Both of them peered down at July's picture. Mitch didn't say anything. Mandie shrugged very slightly. Her hands were shaking.
"Pretty," she murmured. "Nice hair."
Bowen slammed down another photograph. They practically jumped this time. "Now is she so pretty?" he snarled. "Take another good look. This is how we found the pretty lady this evening. Take a look!"
They did. Mitch still didn't say anything. Mandie just stared.
Damien and Father Damien watched.
"Now I want one of you to speak up right now," Bowen continued, his voice still very soft. "Because I know at least one of you knows about this. Probably both of you. And I'm telling you now that whoever speaks first is going to get off easy. This'll be just a walk in the park. But whoever speaks second isn't going to be so lucky. So one of you make that choice and make it right now."
Mitch turned from the picture and stared resolutely at the wall. Mandie continued looking at the Polaroid photo. She was chewing on her lip, and under the table Damien could see her wringing her hands.
Making more use of them this time.
"Well?" Bowen prodded, looking from one to the other. "Either of you got anything to say?" When no one spoke, he went on. "Let me also add that if neither of you speaks up, then I'm going to nail both your asses. 'Cause I know neither of you are as lily white as you think you are."
Still no one spoke. Bowen turned to Mitch and smacked his shoulder. Mitch jumped back and glared at him. "What about you?" Bowen said. "You got anything to say, Mitchie boy?"
"I don't know nothing," Mitch snapped, turning back to the wall.
"What about you, Miss Mandie? You got anything to say about this?" Mandie stared at the photo, twisting her fingers. She looked just about ready to cry. Bowen tried a different tack.
"Take a good look at her, Miss Mandie. She's just about as old as you are. Maybe younger. If the hair were lighter and a little longer, that could be you."
Apparently this statement got to her more than the threats had. Tears welled up in her eyes and she continued chewing on her lip.
"So what do you say, Miss Mandie? You know anything about this? You know who did this?"
A very long pause. Mitch turned to look at her, his eyes hard. The silence grew, making everybody's ears ring. Finally Mandie's eyes turned very slightly to the side, and she spoke.
"Mitch," she whispered. "Mitch did it."
"You bitch!" Mitch screamed, lunging at her from his chair. Hawthorne and his partner leapt forward and caught him by the arms. He continued to struggle, attempting to get at Mandie. Mandie leaned back, putting up her hands and bawling. Hawthorne nearly tripped and fell over Mitch's leg. Damien jumped over to help.
"You stinking bitch!" Mitch screamed. Mandie only cried. "They couldn't have done anything! They didn't have anything on us! You lousy bitch!"
"Lock him up," Bowen snapped over the uproar. "I don't want to see his face till the trial."
The door opened and several other cops came in. Damien relinquished Mitch's arm and the cops hauled him out, still screaming and flailing.
"But he wasn't the only one," Mandie suddenly said, raising a hand in the air as if asking to be called on in class. Bowen, Damien, and Father Damien turned to face her.
"What are you talking about?" Bowen demanded, fury creeping into his voice.
"He did it on orders. Someone told him to do it."
"Who, damn it?" Bowen snapped.
Mandie swallowed and clasped her hands, and said the two words none of them had ever expected to hear.
"What the hell?!" Bowen shrieked. Damien went white and grabbed his uncle's arm to avoid falling.
"Damien! What is it?" Father Damien cried.
"Uncle--he--Psyche! Psyche's with him right now!"
"Oh, shit." Bowen turned back to the door, where Hawthorne and the others were just reappearing. "Get over to Jenner's place right now. We've got a hostage situation now. Everyone hurry up!"