Read The Butcher Online

Authors: Jennifer Hillier

The Butcher

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For Darren

APRIL 25, 1985

It had once been a lovely apartment building, but the crackheads had changed all that. Graffiti covered the old brick walls and the front doors were badly in need of a new coat of paint. Most of the windows—the ones that weren't broken—had mismatched bedsheets as curtains, and the courtyard in front of the building looked and smelled like a garbage dump.

The light Seattle rain drizzled down steadily, covering Captain Edward Shank's face with a fine mist that felt good. Twenty feet away from the apartment's entrance, he stood still in the dark, feeling secure, if a little warm, under the weight of the Kevlar vest hugging his torso. Several other police officers flanked him on either side, and though they weren't touching, he could feel the tension in their bodies cutting through the cool night air.

He spoke to them in a low, commanding voice and gripped his weapon tighter. “Nobody moves till I move.”

The only light in the area was weak and yellow, seeping from a
bare bulb over the doorway to the building. A striped cat with missing patches of fur moved quietly through the shadows and into the walkway light, pausing to sniff the air. The front door to the apartment building opened and the cat scampered away. A middle-aged man, potbellied and wearing a too-tight wifebeater-style tank top and a pair of saggy denim shorts, stepped out.

Edward Shank moved forward, aiming his weapon at the man's chest. “Rufus Wedge!” His voice, strong and authoritative, carried easily into the quiet night. “This is Captain Edward Shank from the Seattle Police Department. Don't move. You're under arrest. Get on your knees and place your hands in the air.”

Startled, Wedge turned in the direction of Edward's voice. His left hand crept toward his back pocket.

Without hesitation, Edward fired. So did the four other police officers beside him.

The gunfire propelled Rufus Wedge backward. The man hit the door hard before slumping to the ground, bright spots of blood immediately appearing in several places across his torso, stark against the white cotton of his shirt. The man's grizzled jaw went slack, the few stray hairs from his comb-over falling across his pink, shiny forehead in moist wisps. As the light went out of his eyes, the dull yellow bulb above him cast a golden, almost angelic glow on his face.

An interesting contradiction. Edward almost felt guilty.

Almost.

“We got him, Captain,” someone said. Edward recognized the voice but didn't turn to look. He couldn't bring himself to take his eyes off Rufus Wedge, so he nodded without averting his gaze. “We finally nailed the Butcher. Thank fucking Christ.”

From somewhere in the dark, the striped cat yowled.

The officers around Edward rushed forward to check the man's vitals, as was protocol, guns still drawn. Their captain stayed behind, unmoving, under the cover of the darkness, his eyes fixed on Wedge's dead body.

Rufus Wedge, otherwise known as the Beacon Hill Butcher, had been the most wanted man in the Pacific Northwest for a long time. The manhunt was now over.

Holstering his weapon, Edward let out a long, slow breath. Wiping his brow, slick from the rain, he stepped forward into the light toward the dead man. Wedge stared up at him with blank, glossy eyes.

“No more now,” Edward said quietly. He wasn't speaking to anyone in particular, except maybe himself. “No more.”

1

PRESENT DAY

The ornately carved 1890 Mathushek upright piano was the only thing left in Edward's house, and here it would stay. There was no way to bring it with him to the old folks' home, because the goddamned piano had to weigh at least five hundred pounds.

He would miss it.

Once upon a time, the Mathushek lived in a saloon somewhere in Texas. It was originally a player piano that could belt out seventeen different tunes without anyone's help, which must have seemed like magic back then. The saloon closed after a Mexican gang shot the place up, and the piano was brought to the owner's house, where it stayed until he died of a heart attack while fucking his mistress, a former singer in the saloon. The mistress then inherited the piano, and it stayed in her family until her adult grandchildren decided to sell it at auction. By then, the Mathushek was in terrible shape, dented and scratched and out of tune, and it had taken almost a year to restore it to its original beauty.

Or so the story went, according to the man who'd refurbished it and
sold it to Edward Shank thirty years ago for twice what it was probably worth. The guy could have been lying, as most salesmen did. Anyway, who gave a rat's ass? It didn't matter now.

The bay window in the living room where the piano sat had a clear view of Poppy Lane, and Edward stood in front of it, smoking a cherry-flavored cigar, watching, waiting. He didn't have much time left in this house, and after fifty years as its sole owner, the thought wasn't pleasant. He didn't want to move out, but at eighty years old, the house was becoming harder to keep up. He was still in good shape, but the fall that had bruised his hip badly a month ago hadn't helped anything. All good things had to come to an end, and while this was something he understood well, it was also something he dreaded. He could see a faint reflection of himself in the clean window. Some days he simply didn't recognize the thinning mop of white hair and leathery lined face staring back at him.

His hand, still strong but dotted with sun spots, stroked the burl walnut wood of the antique piano lovingly. He traced the rose carvings with a finger that ached from arthritis, his bad hip throbbing slightly, though he refused to sit down. Edward would miss this house. He would miss this piano. Memories of his late wife and daughter were everywhere, and he could still recall the fresh smell of their apple-scented shampoo when he kissed the backs of their heads as they played “Heart and Soul” on the beautiful Mathushek. A lifetime ago. In just a few hours, he would be an official resident of the Sweetbay Village Retirement Residence, and from then on the most exciting thing in his life would be bingo tournaments on Saturday afternoons, and Mac 'n' Cheese Wednesdays.

He didn't know whether to kill himself, or someone else.

He sighed. Maybe he'd go for a drive later this week, and go hunting.
Hunting used to always cheer him up. He still had his old cabin down in Raymond, though he hadn't been there in years and had no idea what shape it was in. One day those two hundred acres of densely wooded forest in Raymond would be Matthew's, too.

But not yet.

Moving away from the window, Edward glanced at the wall above the piano. It was bare now, save for the little scuffs left behind from the various framed photos that used to hang there. He'd already brought all of his pictures over to the old folks' home—sorry,
retirement community for active seniors
—but he knew the exact spot where his favorite photo used to hang. It was taken the day the mayor of Seattle awarded him a medal for taking down the notorious Beacon Hill Butcher back in April of '85. The day Captain Edward Shank had become a hero and Seattle legend. The case, nationally known, had almost single-handedly made his career. You didn't become chief of police for writing speeding tickets and catching petty thieves. The Butcher had been the case of a lifetime, and he still got requests for interviews about it every now and again.

Though he was alone, Edward grinned, running his tongue over the smooth white dentures that made up his smile.

There was a sizable dent in the corner of the piano, and his sore finger traced the rough edges where the wood had chipped and cracked. The dent hadn't been there long, and it was a damned shame it existed at all, because otherwise the instrument was in wonderful condition. Marisol, his late wife, had seen to that. She'd been diligent about keeping the Mathushek in tip-top shape, moisturizing it regularly with wood polish and hiring a professional piano tuner once a year.

The ivory keys were slightly worn in places, but still soft to the touch. Edward could play the piano a little, though the arthritis was making it harder. Taking a seat at the leather bench, he rested his cigar
on the ceramic ashtray on top of the piano and flexed his fingers. He made it halfway through Beethoven's
Moonlight Sonata
before his aching fingers forced him to stop.

Disappointing, but not a big deal. Marisol had been the musician in the family, a graduate of Juilliard and a pianist in the Seattle symphony for a few years. She'd also taught piano right up until the day she died, and Edward had always been content to be her captive audience. Their daughter Lucy had been talented too, only she hadn't lived long enough to develop her mother's skill.

His hip burned and he rubbed it gingerly. He stood carefully by the window once more, watching, waiting, six-foot-four frame erect and ready. If anyone strolling down the sidewalk looked up, he or she would see a sprightly eighty-year-old man standing ramrod straight in the window, dressed in a plaid button-down shirt and pressed trousers, cigar smoke swirling around neatly combed silver hair. One must always present himself well. First impressions mattered.

But Poppy Lane was quiet on this rainy Sunday afternoon, at least until his grandson Matthew arrived with the U-Haul and his friends. Matthew was moving in today, and Edward knew his job would be to stay out of his grandson's way until the young men had unloaded everything. Then he would take the boys out for burgers before heading over to the old folks' home for good.

Watching. Waiting. Edward had been a police detective for close to forty years, and patience was indeed his virtue.

The white U-Haul truck finally rounded the bend, bouncing down the street, another car following behind it. The boys were here. Soon it would be time to go.

At best, it was bittersweet.

Taking one final look around, Edward's gaze once again lingered
on the antique piano. His eyes misted as memories of Marisol came rushing back. God, how he missed his wife. The house hadn't been the same without her these past few months. Reaching out, he once again touched the dent on the side of the Mathushek, left there from when he'd smashed her head into it four months ago.

At least he'd managed to get all the blood out of the carved roses before calling 9-1-1, despite his arthritic hands.

One must always be careful cleaning up after a kill.

2

There were three things Matt loved most in the world:
adobo,
the Seahawks, and Samantha. He didn't think it made him a dick that his girlfriend was third on that list; at least he was honest about it. Most guys weren't, and that's why so many relationships ended (in his not-so-humble opinion).

Adobo
was a traditional Filipino dish infused with vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic. Every family—hell, every individual Filipino—had their own unique recipe, and no two dishes ever turned out exactly alike. Matt's recipe was based on the version his Filipino grandmother—his
lola
—used to make as he was growing up, which included brown sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, and a secret ingredient that Matt would take to his grave. After all,
adobo
was his signature dish, the dish that had made his food truck the most popular stop at the Fremont Food Fair every Sunday, and the dish that had ultimately allowed him to open up his own restaurant in the heart of Seattle. Appropriately named, of course, Adobo.

Matt had inherited his grandfather's height, build, and personality,
but his love for food and cooking was all from his grandmother. Marisol Perez had met Edward Shank in 1962 when the Chief was in the air force and stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. When recounting the story of how they'd met, the Chief liked to joke that Filipino women were their country's greatest export. Kind of an awful thing to say, but his
lola
had always laughed it off. She'd always believed that her husband was complimenting her, and Matt had never had the heart to tell her that his grandfather was not.

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