The Color of Charcoal
The car windows were darkened to the color of charcoal, and the alley grew hushed. It was so quiet, not even the rodents made a sound. Dead quiet. It was almost like fear and hope were fighting for supremacy.
The two detectives who were the first to arrive at the scene checked the car’s interior. They were searching the upholstery and carpeting for odd stains, hairs or fibers.
The paranoid shopkeepers that lined the front side of the alley decided that they didn’t want to be part of any investigation. The detectives noticed that they had already begun to trundle their wares into safety. Pottery, fruits, clothes, it didn’t matter what they sold. The store owners weren’t taking chances.
The State Streets alley ways; the name was as dark as its corridors. The lead detective actually found himself seeking the light. The alley way reminded him of how bad the city could be. He had lost too many years of his life on these very same streets. He had spent too much time staring at the sadness, dreaming of escape.
In Late July, the Otis Henry case had just entered its third week. The detectives on all shifts would band together to help locate the eight year old boy who only recently arrived from Haiti to live with his aunt before he was abducted.
The lead detective knew that in a world with more missing children than detectives, time would not give him a break. Not even for eight year old Otis Henry. The color of charcoal would best describe the situation; Grey and dreary.
He worked homicide for almost twenty years and it made him bitter, made him wiser, made him more careful. None of that made it any easier when it came to the abduction of children. Nothing could prepare him for what he would find when a missing child’s case comes to a finalization.
The other detective finished checking the back seat. Then both of the men walked around to the trunk. The lead detective turned the key they found still in the ignition, but hesitated before opening it up. A clang from the far end of the alley caught his attention. One of the garbage can lids fell over and a cat jumped out, glanced from side to side and shot off. It was almost as if the cat was preparing the detectives for something hideous.
Before the lead detective opened that trunk, he felt weird. He also smelled the stench of fear and death. That stench of death was so thick he could have touched it. The strange feeling was impossible to hide, and his partner knew it. They did not need a warrant for the car, but the lead detective wished that he had to get one. He closed his eyes briefly as he listened for any signs of life.
Hesitation still kicked in.
“Maybe the boy’s body is not in the trunk,” his partner said, but didn’t even believe that himself.
The lead detective nodded.
It was a shit brown Lincoln Continental, about twenty years old. The car ditched in the alley way matched the depressing décor. The only thing that seemed wrong to the lead detective was the heat. By rights, the alley way should have been as cold as its walls, but it wasn’t. The heat was thick and nearly unbearable. The heat also accentuated the smells; the garbage, the piss stench, the unwashed bodies of the homeless, and that smell of death wafting out from the car trunk.
“There he is,” said the lead detective, his voice flat with disappointment.
His partner exhaled slowly, suddenly the smell was overpowering and they had to turn away.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find the son of a bitch who did this,” said the other detective. “He’ll go down.”
The eight year old boy didn’t even look menacing or combative. He appeared to be frail and there was no way that he could put up a fight. His young face was leathery and his death expression was motionless.
“Did you hear me?” The detective continued. “We will catch him and make him pay.”
The lead detective was washed in fatigue and in doubt as he just said nothing…
© 2013 Frank Atanacio
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