“Details” by J.H. Dixon
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, J.H. Dixon moves to the middle of nowhere.
Full disclosure was the term they used. Before I moved my family, my life, everything. It’s an easy job really, being sheriff. Quiet most nights. Some drunks, wife abusers, the occasional meth head. And the mutilations. We don’t expect you to solve them or anything, but you need to be aware.
When you take the sheriff job in nowhere, southern Colorado, I suppose you ought to expect the lonely craziness. Cults. UFO freaks. Flocks of survivalist hermits. Even the cattle mutilations. But this, they left out.
Among the dead cows, thirty-two of them (we counted . . . we had to) with their eyes, tongues, hearts, and genitals surgically removed, lay the boy. Eleven, maybe twelve. Not much older than my Isabel. T-shirt and jeans. Sneakers. Face up, lifeless, and eyeless. Perfectly, even carefully, laid among the stones and the sage brush.
I’ve done twenty years in law enforcement, a good chunk of them in missing persons and homicide. Maybe it was the emptiness around me. Lonely acres of land as far as one could see. Miles of nothing everywhere. The mountains like painted scenery, an afterthought in the background. Or maybe it was how peaceful and preserved the victim looked. The gaps in his face distastefully clean and shiny. Maybe it was the bloodless bodies strewn around the boy in an intricate, enigmatic, deflated balloon pattern. For the first time in a long time, I felt sick.
The rancher who made the discovery understandably stayed in the truck while I investigated. I got back and grabbed my radio to call it in. Holding the radio up, I paused a second and took off my hat. I looked at the old rancher. “You ever seen anything like this?”
“What the hell do you think?”
That night, I drank. Like I haven’t in years, I really drank.
We didn’t find anything. No clues, no witnesses, nothing. None of the boys seemed to think we would. The CBI couldn’t make it down until the next morning. One of the deputies said he would stay with the scene overnight to keep the coyotes away. I silently raised my glass to thank him for saving me from that nightmare.
The agents were no more successful than us locals. They took snapshots and samples and joked about aliens and rednecks. They’ve spent too much time around the dead. Hell, they were more numb than I was when I decided to take this job. They took their work to an anonymous lab in Denver. Assured us we’d be kept in the loop. We were left to manage the bodies—the boy and the bovine—and to wait for a missing person’s report. Look into strangers passing through town, they suggested with a shrug.
Several days passed. We still had nothing but an orphaned body in a makeshift morgue. I paid a call to the rancher again. He asked if we had any answers. He said he was sure sorry about the boy, but damn if he wasn’t worried about his livestock, too. He’s already hurting financially. I told him that I’d get back to him if we made any headway. He laughed. Some mysteries are like catching farts.
My family left me alone for the most part. I’d go to the tavern each night and listen for news or check out any unusual people, or just to get drunk. I was always the unusual person there. The stranger. Here, if you don’t grow up local, you’ll never be. The town, the shell of a town, is not in the middle of nowhere, but rather on the edge of it. Forgotten by the rest of the world, it seemed that novice psychos were drawn here for an apprenticeship in the morbid. I wasn’t ready to count myself out of that group.
During the day, the calls would come in. Burnouts discussing radiation spikes and triangular lights in the sky. Conspiracy theorists babbling mindlessly about mind control drones. Concerned Christians convinced that their neighbors are suburban Satanists. Newspapers and bloggers wanting information. Details. Every detail.
A week later, one of the more nervous deputies knocked on my door. Denver finally got back to us. They identified the DB he reported. I watched him lose his nerve, avoiding my eyes. It was wrong. I leaned back, bracing myself. The kid’s name was Hadi Irawan. He was reported missing from Indonesia the same day we found him. His eyes were found in an alley near his home, some 4000 miles away.
J.H. DIXON resides in Denver, Colorado, where he spends most of his time listening to records, crafting his own beer, and managing a fabric store. This is his first published piece, excluding men’s room walls.
Posted: Nov 30, 2015