The Angel of Knowlton Park (5 page)

BOOK: The Angel of Knowlton Park
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Burgess thought of that unstoppable juggernaut of a woman, shrieking as she swarmed up the hill toward her child. "The apple of his parents' eyes and the joy of their old age?"

"Not exactly. Mother and Pap were so busy with their assorted nefarious activities that young Timothy didn't get much raising, except what his brothers and sisters happened to provide when they noticed."

Burgess felt a surprising prick of disappointment. Despite the bruises he'd seen, the undernourished body, he wanted this child to have been loved. "Human Services been involved?"

"I guess a lotta folks phoned social services. Dawn Watts sat down with one social worker who dared to darken their door and scared her so bad she almost wet her pants. Girl wrote it up as an ideal family and never went near the place again."

Burgess made a note to find that social worker. "You might want to take a walk up there before the removal, see what was done to the boy before wasting any sympathy on that social worker."

"Bad?"

"He was butchered."

Delinsky rocked back like he'd been struck. "When I saw him up there, all wrapped in that blanket, I guess I thought... Even with the blood, I guess I hoped..."

Delinsky swallowed hard and squared his shoulders, trying to keep emotion out of his voice. He looked diminished. "Kid kinda wandered the neighborhood like some little lost soul. People were always asking him in, feeding him, taking him along on family expeditions, to the movies and stuff. He was kind of everyone's pet. You go house to house, you're gonna see a lot of tears."

Then Burgess understood. Delinsky hadn't just known Timmy Watts. He'd been one of the ones who looked after him, who'd called social services. "You knew him pretty well, didn't you?"

Delinsky blinked rapidly, then dropped his head to stare at his shoes. Burgess remembered him at another crime scene, a man with a soft spot for kids, and looked the other way. Let the man have his tears.

On the street, you learned to pack it away, not let it get to you. With the public in your face, you couldn't wear your heart on your sleeve. Cops saved that for when they were with their own, people who understood how it could hurt. How that beautiful slaughtered child lying up there could bring on spasms of rage and frustration, discouragement and profound sadness. After a while, every cop had his black holes, places he tried not to go because he knew they'd suck him in.

"Give me the Watts's address." Burgess wrote it down. "Anything else?"

"I can give you some names, people who looked out for him," Delinsky said. "When you see the kid's house, you'll know why he never went home."

Burgess was getting as much here as from five to ten interviews and a neighborhood canvass. They'd still have to do the canvass, though, and he wanted Delinsky involved. "I'd like you with us when we do the neighborhood, Gabe."

The big shoulders hunched as protest came and went on the young cop's face. "I just did a double, Sarge."

"I need you on it." It was part of shaping a cop. Man needed to know how to function when he was eighteen hours out and wrapped in the stink of his sweat. Burgess had little sympathy for a cop who wimped out because he was tired. It wasn't that kind of job. Delinsky sucked it down and nodded.

The door burst open and Perry and Wink Devlin staggered in, holding a limp Vince Melia between them. Melia's face was blotchy scarlet and dead white.

"Won't drink water, won't go stand in the shade, won't even loosen his goddamned tie," Perry complained as they eased their limp lieutenant to the floor. "We've all about hit the wall here. Funeral home's coming to do the removal. Carr's coming down, too. Sheesh. This day is a bitch from hell!"

He looked around with a faint grin. "Nice in here, Sarge." When he grinned, Perry still looked boyish, but otherwise, since Perry shaved his head, Burgess had lost a useful tool. He no longer had a disarmingly attractive, young-looking detective with dynamite interviewing skills to spring on unwary suspects.

"Vince were conscious, he'd tell you to watch your language."

"Vince were conscious, we couldn't get him off that hill. He's got his own boys."

"Get that shirt and tie off him and bring me the cooler," Burgess said. "We've got to get his temperature down. And put that box there under his legs." Delinsky went for the cooler.

"Shouldn't we call medcu?" Perry asked.

"Let's give it a couple." Melia was particularly nervous these days about image, about performance, with Captain Cote breathing down his neck about his stats.

Cote, who sat in an air-conditioned office studying pieces of paper, hadn't noticed they were having the summer from hell, and that the GP was responding the way people who didn't sit in air-conditioned offices did in heat. They drank and quarreled. Dropped the few clothes they wore and screwed the wrong people. Got mad and hit each other with whatever came to hand, robbed each other for money to buy fans and air-conditioners or to buy drugs to forget how miserable they were, and shot each other with little provocation because their tempers were already short. No, Lt. Melia did not want to be dragged off to the hospital instead of managing a crime scene, felled by a mere 110 degree day.

Melia was a good lieutenant. He stood up for his men, cut them slack when he could. He knew when to lean, when to let it ride. Captain Cote came from some antiseptic, stainless steel factory where they made bureaucrats. If he'd ever sweated for hours under blistering sun at a crime scene, he'd forgotten. If he showed up here now, he'd barely see that savaged child up there surrounded by buzzing flies. He'd see how sweaty and unprofessional they looked. Immediately start pressing for preliminary reports. No wonder Melia kept his tie as tight as Cote's ass.

Burgess dipped Melia's shirt in the icy water and spread it over his chest, draped his own soaked handkerchief over Melia's forehead, and slipped an evidence bag full of ice under his neck. It didn't take long. Like Snow White kissed by her prince, Melia's eyelids fluttered and he was struggling to sit up and ask questions.

Burgess pressed him down. "Give it a couple minutes, Vince," he said. "You blacked out. Delinsky's getting some Gatorade."

"Hate that stuff," Melia muttered. "I won't..."

"Shut the fuck up and do as you're told, or we
will
send you to the hospital. Sir."

"What...?" Melia closed his eyes, too weak to finish the question.

"I've ordered a fresh shipment of officers to search the area and drag the pond. Might as well ruin everybody's day. Stan can run it."

"You?"

"I'll talk to the woman who found the body, then go see the family. You and Stan can get the house-to-house together... ask them..." But Melia knew the drill. "Use Delinsky. He knows this neighborhood. Knew the kid."

Melia drank the Gatorade and made a face. "Your vacation," he said. "I'm sorry."

Burgess acknowledged the inevitable. Today, he would be driving around the neighborhood, talking to people about the murder of a little boy, with an orange canoe on his roof and fishing poles rattling in the back seat, tantalizing him with what he was missing. Then, because a child had been murdered, he would return the canoe, stow the poles, and work this thing until he brought in a killer.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

Grace Johnston was a parboiled detective's dream. There was no hemming and hawing and 'keep the cop on the doorstep' with her. She seated him in a comfortable blue armchair in front of an air conditioner, offered lemonade or ice tea, and insisted on fixing him a sandwich before she would talk about what had happened.

"I know how long you've been out there working," she said, "and I haven't seen you visiting that disgusting ice cream truck."

If he hadn't been seriously involved with Chris, he would have offered marriage on the spot, the twenty-year age difference a mere bagatelle in the great scheme of things. This woman clearly had her priorities straight.

She waited, sitting quiet and upright on her chair, until he'd eaten. Then she took away his plate and resumed her quiet sitting. Her hair was thick, silvery and no-nonsense short. She wore white slacks and a short-sleeved blue sweater that matched her eyes. She was middle-sized, wore glasses, and looked both pleasant and smart.

He took her through the preliminaries. This was her house. She lived alone. A widow, unfortunately. She'd been in this neighborhood, this house, for forty years. Had seen it decline and now was watching it rise again, along with her taxes. She walked her dog in the park every morning. Not usually that early, but it had been so hot. She hadn't seen anyone else around, no one on the street, no cars, until she got into the park. Then she'd seen the man with the big dog.

"Is he usually there?" Burgess asked.

She considered. "I've seen him occasionally. I think he normally walks his dog later. Walks?" She sniffed. "He makes no effort to control that dog. Just strides into the park and takes off the leash. I think—" She lowered her voice, though they were alone in the room. "—that the way a dog behaves reflects the owner's personality. That man is undisciplined and uncivilized, and so is his dog."

"Tell me what you saw this morning when you came into the park."

"The park, you know, runs uphill from south to north. I suppose, to be more precise, south-west to north-east. From downhill on the south-west side to uphill on the north-east. I came in from the south side." She spoke with the certainty and precision of a teacher, then did a teacherly thing. She took a pad of paper and drew a quick, accurate sketch of the park, far better than he could have done. An art teacher, he decided, noting the long, deft fingers.

She labeled the streets that formed the boundaries of the park. Munjoy, Wilson, Moody, Beckett. Drew in the park entrances, the fence of black chain and bollards that surrounded it, the paths, the pond, the thicket of cattails on the north-east side of the pond, the wide, undulating swath of roses that lined the upper edge. He hadn't seen clearly before her drawing that the cove where they'd found the boy's body was one of many. The bank of roses edged the park in a scalloped fashion, so that no paths entered from the Beckett Street side. Seven evenly-spaced scallops. Timothy Watts's body had been in the second scallop in from Wilson. He wondered if that was significant.

She pointed to the corner of Munjoy and Moody. "I came in down here. Because of the uphill, and the cattails, I couldn't see that corner at first." She traced a path along the pond, stopping at the end. "Until I got here. The man with the big dog... his name is Osborne. I asked around after I got back this morning. I was so upset with him. Little Timmy was everyone's child. He was part of our neighborhood. When something like this happens, it affects everyone. You can't choose not to be part of it."

She shook her head. "I don't mean to waste your time venting my opinions, Detective. I know you've got a job to do. But I have strong feelings about community and people like Osborne... self-centered people who believe they don't have to be part of society, that they can simply opt out... anger me. I suppose it's classic, but families like the Watts have always been with us. People who are hereditary criminals. But Osborne's bright, educated. He could be so much more if he weren't a selfish clod."

She ran a hand over the sketch, then gripped that hand with the other. "You should say, 'Get to the point, Grace' like my husband did. When I got around the end of the pond, where I could see up the slope, Osborne was standing there, watching his dog. It was running toward... well, at that point, of course, I didn't know what it was running toward."

She stopped, her knuckles knotted. "I thought, I suppose
he
thought, that it was some homeless person who'd spent the night in the park. He probably considered it amusing to let his dog go romping up there. It's a big, frightening dog. It snarls, jumps on people. It bites..."

Tears clouded her bright eyes. "Timmy was so scared of that dog."

"Do homeless people sleep in the park?"

"They used to. Not so often now that we have a police officer in the neighborhood."

"Gabriel Delinsky?"

"He's a nice man. He takes his children to the park."

He wished he could linger in this cool, dark room and let her take her time. He hated rushing older people, always felt his mother's disapproval when he did. But time mattered. "The dog ran up the slope," he said, "and then?"

BOOK: The Angel of Knowlton Park
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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