Mary Had A Little Lamb: A Writing Exercise
This is simply me playing around. I heard a little kid reciting the old nursery rhyme, and it prodded me to head off in a dark direction.
If you aren’t into dark then thanks for stopping by; my suggestion is you leave right now. Lol
If you stick around and read, thanks a bunch.
Either way, it was nice seeing you again. I doubt this is going anywhere beyond this one chapter, but you just never know. My muse is in charge.
From the Nursery
“Mary had a little lamb,
It’s fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.”
It was the stark contrast that first got to me . . . bright pink pajamas with little dancing lambs, golden hair, ghostly white skin, all unnaturally bright under the July sun, a little girl named Mary Burnett, splayed out on a dark bed of tidal mud on Olympia’s waterfront. She’d been missing from her bedroom for twelve hours when an early-morning jogger spotted her. Ten hours earlier her frantic parents called the police, us immediately responding because, well, Mary was only four, and any missing four-year old is trouble.
Sea gulls rode the air currents above. A gentle breeze danced through my hair. The sounds of traffic on Pacific Avenue, two blocks away, a horn, a siren, someone shouting to get the hell out of the way, background noise for the stillness of death.
I was standing alongside Dawn Robie, Detective Grade Two, my partner in homicide, ten years on the force, someone I completely trust. The M.E., Doc Meyster, was standing next to us. Dawn looks more like a schoolteacher, but I’d never tell her that. Long auburn hair, usually in a bun, wire-rim glasses, slight build, she is unassuming and possesses a gentle face, not beautiful but stunning in her imperfect way.
“This just pisses me off, Bill,” she said, taking her eyes off the scene and watching a gawker drive by slowly. “Jesus Christ, Parker, block off this road,” she yelled at a uniform twenty feet from us. She turned back to me, studying my face. “What kind of sick world do we live in?”
She wasn’t expecting an answer. Good thing because I had none.
Dawn tried another question.
“How the hell did he put her body out there? There are no footprints leading to her.”
She was right. The mudflats of the estuary were exactly that, mud, and anyone foolish enough to walk on them would sink a good foot, maybe more, but Mary Burnett was twenty feet from solid ground and nowhere leading to her was there a footprint. It was as though she had been gently placed there from above, airborne special delivery.
Again I had no answer, and no answers would be forthcoming until we retrieved the young girl.
“We can’t disturb the scene and we need Doc out there. Let’s call it in, have someone deliver four or five sheets of plywood. We’ll use that to walk on, a straight line to the body . . . no, make it ten sheets of plywood. We want to approach the body from an angle; we can’t take the same path as the killer, assuming he took a straight-line route from where we’re standing.
“Sunrise was what, two hours ago? He had to have dropped her off within the last three hours, right? The tide pretty much dictates that. Is it coming in or going out? Dawn, get someone on that. Doc, we’ll get you to her as soon as the plywood is dropped off. I’m going to get a couple of the uniforms to canvas the area. Someone might have seen something unusual, and this definitely qualifies as unusual.”
“What do you think, Bill? Same guy?” Dawn asked.
“It sure feels like it.”
If it was the same guy, Mary Burnett was number three on his list. The first two, both girls, ages five and three, had been strangled and molested. One such murder, in a city the size of Olympia, is alarming. Two is cause for uproar and hundreds of calls to the police hotline. This new one would have parents sleeping in the same room with their daughters, and dad’s registering for gun permits. The chief had labeled this series of killings as priority number one for the department, “nail this sick bastard and do it yesterday,” was his directive, and I had no doubt he was fielding calls from the mayor several times a day.
It had all started in April. Theresa Mullins, the mother of five-year old Angela Mullins, had taken her daughter to Priest Point Park to play on the Big Toys. She had walked thirty feet to a water fountain, her daughter playing happily on the swing, gotten a drink, turned around and Angela was gone. She re-appeared twenty-two hours later, floating face down in a pond at a nursery out on Lilly Road.
In June, three-year old Jaycee King went missing from her backyard where she was playing with her constant companion, a six-year old Golden Lab. Her mother, Sarah King, said it happened within a five minute window, the amount of time it took her to pull something out of the freezer and stick it in the microwave . . . five minutes to kill the dog and leave with the child.
Jaycee was found draped over the branch of a Douglas Fir alongside a popular jogging path at Burfoot Park.
And now, Mary!
At City Hall
The Medical Examiner’s office and city morgue are in the basement of City Hall, a three-story, all-glass structure in the heart of brick-and-mortar downtown Olympia, a visual pimple-on-the-ass attempt to modernize the capital city of Washington State. Six hours later, Dawn and I were with Doc Meyster as he conducted the autopsy of Mary Burnett. I felt it important that Dawn and I be there. This needed to be as personal as possible.
We had notified Mary’s parents, watched as two loving human beings were reduced to emotional rubble, and we promised to make the killer of their daughter pay for it.
I’ll never get used to the morgue. It’s a combination of factors, I suppose, the lingering smell of death, the temperature, the stainless steel examination table, the drains, the drawers in the walls, each containing what once was life, now containing the aftermath of violence and invasion.
I rubbed some Vicks under my nose, handed the jar to Dawn, as Doc’s saw started up and he began to cut and pull apart the young child. I thought of my own daughter, now eighteen, living with her mother in Eugene, saw her on that table, and shuddered.
It took two hours for our answer.
“Same guy,” Doc told us. “Mary was strangled and invaded. No DNA, but the technique is exactly the same as the other two, the strangulation the same, a knotted rope, half-inch in diameter. There were rope fibers in her neck where it had dug into her skin. Solve this case and you solve the other two, and you better hurry. Whoever did this has picked up his pace. He’s hungrier, bolder, and the next one will be happening very soon.”
“you Better Hurry!”
I knew what Doc Meyster said was true, but his words of advice were as worthless as tits on a boar. Hurry with what? We had no clue, no DNA, no evidence of any sort. The guy appeared to be a phantom, appearing, disappearing, in the blink of an eye, and in this latest case he had done a Houdini we were still confused about. How the hell had he dropped Mary off in the middle of a tidal estuary without leaving footprints?
Dawn rolled over and put her head on my chest, her auburn hair loose, her finger tracing the outline of an old bullet wound just above my navel. The clock on the nightstand said it was two a.m. She and I had been breaking department regulations for the past three years. We didn’t give a shit, and as long as our arrest rate remained high, nobody else would care either. That’s just the way it was.
“Are you awake, Bill?”
“I can’t sleep, Dawn. Mary won’t let me. I keep thinking that sooner or later, if I remain on this job long enough, I’ll finally figure out what makes these sick assholes do this shit, you know? But I’m still as clueless as I was when I started on the force. This kind of darkness is unexplainable. Maybe we should both put in our papers, buy that farm we always talk about, and leave this shit behind us. It would be nice to wake up one morning and not smell death, you know?”
But my words were hollow and we both knew it. I was already excited by the chase. I was already inside the head of the sick bastard, thinking as he thought, feeling as he felt, and God help me, I needed it.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
More by this Author
Let's walk along with my two homeless protagonists and see how they are doing on the road.
Into the mind of a killer we go, as two detectives try to unravel the clues in a string of child murders.
What do you want to know about writing? You can find the answers, and more, here in the Mailbag!