By Dana Reed
August Summers stared at the corpse on the cold, hard
slab and swore vengeance.
Detective 3rd Grade Roberta (Bobby) Beckett tried not to dwell on the same. She was a member of the Homicide Division from Midtown South. Manhattan. New York. USA. She’d learned long ago that revenge made one sloppy, careless. One tended to slip up on crucial details. She moved closer to August, slipped an arm around her shoulder and stared back at Detective Joe Delgado, her closest friend, not counting August and saw the pain in him.Joe stood with glazed eyes focused ceiling ward and appeared disjointed from the events transpiring around him. Both detectives and uniforms filed in and out of the room, giving testimony to the dead man’s worth as a human being and fellow cop. So much want of revenge and outright hatred for the perp who committed this foul act hovered in the air that Bobby was beginning to feel heady, as though she were suffocating. This filing in and out of NYPD members was beyond normal. But then the dead man wasn’t just anyone.
“August. We have to leave,” she murmured, wondering how much more her friend could take. But August didn’t move. She seemed rooted to the ground. “We’ll catch the killer. Don’t worry,” August whispered to the body lying still on the slab. Then she kissed his forehead and choked back tears.
When she turned and looked at Bobby, there was something unfathomable in her gaze. In the past, August had been stalked by Micah Travis and relentlessly pursued by W.F., her crazy father. Both had intentions of killing her and the reflection of those intentions in her eyes told Bobby months ago that she was scared but she wouldn’t run. What Bobby saw now was a woman intent on a pursuit of her own. Someone had stolen most of her reason for going on, for continuing with this farce known as living on a daily basis. And August’s need for revenge knew no bounds.
The bed or gurney stopped moving. At least he imagined it had. Where the hell was he? Confusion reared its ugly head until he heard Claudia’s voice. She was reassuring herself. She could do this. “Pick up the scalpel,” she commanded. “And cut. It has to be done.”
He tried to scream, to move, to open his eyes. Somehow she had to know he was alive. Don’t cut me. Oh please. Don’t cut me. I’m alive. Please, Claudia, please. For God’s sake wait until I’m dead…
August was following both detectives to Bobby’s Buick when her ‘damned’ cell phone made trilling noises. Again it was like birds engaged in aerial combat. No wonder Bobby hated hers so. What now! She fumed inwardly and answered on the second screech. If it was Howie, her editor at the Interloper, she was going to tear him another butt hole. Lately it seemed he phoned just about every hour inquiring about this month’s article for his magazine—was August going to write up Dan’s death or should he assign another journalist?
“This is August!”
“Yes.” She was momentarily perplexed. The caller sounded official, unemotional, like someone who’d phone if August was late on a credit card payment and who wanted answers. Fast. “Can I help you?”
“This is Gail Peters from the care unit where your mother’s being evaluated at Bellevue.”
Care unit. Yes. A good name for the psych ward, she thought, making her wonder what now! “And?” She stopped following Bobby and tapped her foot impatiently.
“It seems Mrs. Forester removed a coil from her bedspring and stabbed an aide several times. We need to see you—in person—at once!”
Bobby noticed the distress in her demeanor. “What’s up?”
“I need to be dropped at the precinct,” August murmured. “My car’s there… Mother’s stabbed an aide—“
“Oh shit.” Bobby threw her arms up in surrender. August didn’t need this; not on top of Dan.
Bobby looked at Sanchez. A silent message passed between them; he nodded silently and speed dialed a number on his cell. “Lieu? Sanchez here. We need to chase down info on the ADA either later this afternoon or tomorrow.” When the Lieu shouted, he quickly explained about August, her mother, the urgency in the matter. After he hung up, he nodded. The lieu agreed: they should go with August.
“That’s because Dietrich knows the situation,” Bobby stated emphatically. Looking back at August, she asked, “You ok?”
August nodded and silently slid into the back seat of Bobby’s Buick. As her friend drove, August attempted to quell the memories of her past experiences with Mother and her father, W.F. His name was Wayne Forester, but everyone called him W.F.
Both he and Mother were crazy in their own way. Mother’s insanity was brought about by a sniper’s long distance bullet in the brain during Desert Storm. It was inoperable and was now shifting, bringing on migraine headaches and fits of a deep seated psychosis. W.F., however, didn’t take a bullet in the brain. W.F. was driven over the edge by the astronomical amounts of liquor he’d consumed over a lifetime. Last they met W.F. was into killing August and her sister, Diane. Thank God he’d failed.
They rode in silence with August unaware of the intended location. Oddly enough Bobby was again angry with Joe. She’d heard them quarreling when she came down the stairs. Joe had the last word with, “I couldn’t tell you. Haven’t I explained the circumstances?” Once aware of her close presence, the argument ceased. Now they were barely speaking. She wondered what he’d done now to deserve Bobby’s wrath. When he climbed into the back seat and told August to sit up front with Bobby, she knew it was serious.
However, looking at Bobby behind the wheel, she was distracted by traffic around them. Her anger was apparently wearing off. Twenty minutes later Bobby pulled into a parking space at Bellevue Hospital, prompting unrest in August.
“Is this about my mother?”
Bobby shook her head negatively. “An indigent victim was admitted this evening with burns over ninety percent of her body. Someone set her on fire in a subway tunnel at 34th Street.” August gasped. Bobby continued. “Two witnesses were at the site when the uniforms arrived. I need to question them.”
Walking behind them Detective Joe Delgado remarked, “Too many murders at once. Must be getting close to a full moon.”
“Yes,” Bobby said, opening one side of the double doors leading in. “But this one’s not dead yet. Close to it but no cigar.”
By this time the indigent female who’d suffered devastating burns was in a treatment room. Nurses guided by a doctor from the burn unit were applying gauze pads soaked in medication to her flesh. August was amazed by her lack of emotion. “I’d be screaming. Gosh.”
Joe Delgado stepped up beside her and spoke while gazing through the glass wall of the treatment room. “Once burns go through a certain depth in your skin or layers of flesh, enough to destroy the underlying nerves, there is no pain; no feeling.”
August closed her eyes. The sight of a horribly burnt, shrunken victim was more than she could bear. The skull was devoid of hair and most of its flesh, leaving her mouth a mere skeletal structure. The woman’s arms were raised with both fists clenched. Her legs were permanently curled into a fetal position. August recalled an autopsy report she’d studied for a column. The victim’s body was found in this very same position; the victim’s muscles were contracted from the intense heat of the fire. Pieces of material were adhered to this latest victim’s scalded flesh. Her clothing had literally melted into her body.
What the hell kind of a monster could do this to another human being?” The words nearly choked in her throat.
“The kind we lock up all the time,” Bobby muttered.