Beating On The
A Jack Brady Thriller
by Robert W. Tinsley
......"Crushed right orbit;
depressed fracture of right zygoma."
......"What the hell is
a zygoma?" I asked. I was sitting in the office of Ray Sanchez,
one of El Paso's more inventive criminal lawyers.
...... Ray's client -- and, by
extension, Brady Investigations, and therefore mine -- Hank Marcinko
had been arrested for the beating murder of Carolyn Regal. We
were going over the autopsy report and the crime scene photos.
...... Hank Marcinko was big,
but from my conversation with him, I couldn't believe him capable
of beating a woman to death.
...... "The zygoma, Jack,
my large friend, is what you laymen call the cheekbone."
...... Ray calling me large constituted
a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I weigh a good 280
pounds and stand 6 feet, 4 inches in my socks. Despite retiring
from the SEALs and turning fifty-two, I've done my best to keep
up PT. Ray is close to my height, but thirty pounds heavier,
not as well distributed. "Don't get all superior on me,
you old fraud. You only know what it means because you're looking
at the diagram on the ME's report."
...... The crime scene photos
were ugly. Especially compared to the photo we had of Regal while
she was still alive: Long blonde hair, blue eyes, full lips and
a figure that she didn't mind showing off. She wasn't drop-dead
gorgeous, but she was close.
...... The beating had been brutal.
It had taken place in a mechanical room at Providence Memorial
Hospital on North Oregon, not far from the University. There
was a lot of blood. What had been an attractive, shapely woman
was now a misshapen, discolored parody of a human body.
...... "Which of the injuries
finally killed her?" I asked.
...... Ray leaned back in his
chair and propped a pair of size 14 black ostrich-skin cowboy
boots on the edge of his mahogany desk. He rested the file folder
on his ample belly and said, "According to the ME, so far
the proximate cause of death could have been the epidural hematoma
beneath the depressed fracture of the left temporal bone, the
stroke which resulted from the blunt trauma to the left side
of the neck directly over the carotid artery, asphyxiation from
the swelling of tissue around the trachea caused by same, or
the bruised lungs she got from him kicking her. Take your pick
this is just the preliminary report."
...... "Had she had sex
recently?" I asked.
...... Ray opened the folder
and peered at it through the bottom of his bifocals. "No
semen was found, but there was evidence of the prostate protein,
P30. Conclusion: she had sexual intercourse between twenty-four
and forty-eight hours before her death. No way to determine DNA
or blood type."
...... "So, let's summarize,
just so I know what's what." I started reading from the
...... "Carolyn Regal,
Caucasian female, 26 years old, employed by the accounting department
of Providence Memorial Hospital, died of a beating on
the afternoon of October 14. She left for lunch, but didn't come
back to work that day. When she hadn't shown up by 10:00 AM the
following day, her supervisor called her at home, but no one
answered the phone.
...... "One of
her co-workers mentioned having seen her car in the parking lot.
Her supervisor then called hospital security, who called
the police and started a search of the hospital and grounds.
...... "Her body
was found in a mechanical room at the top of a flight of stairs
near a roof access hatch."
...... Ray took up the
narrative. "Within twenty-four hours of finding the body,
the police arrested Hank Marcinko, a hospital maintenance man.
Hank is the recently-ex boyfriend of the victim. The police found
a message from him on the victim's voice mail asking her to meet
him at lunch on the day of her death. He says she never showed
up. Witnesses report a loud argument between the two on the previous
day. And his alibi sucks."
...... I looked at the file in
front of me. "He was sitting in an arroyo watching a roadrunner
catch lizards?" There was a large arroyo behind the hospital
separating the hospital grounds from the University of Texas
at El Paso campus. Birds are always active through that area
-- roadrunners, shrikes, the occasional scrub jay.
...... Ray shrugged. "When
Carolyn stood him up, he decided he needed to unwind. He said
he's known this particular roadrunner for a couple of years.
The roadrunner was the only one who saw him, and it's not talking."
...... "Hank is a large,
strong man," I said. "That gives the cops motive, means,
...... Ray waved a ham-sized
hand in the air. "Don't depress me with facts. I've set
up interviews with Regal's co-workers. There are three on the
list: Abbey Bow, Tom MacLean, and Richard Chariton. You can get
the schedule from Marlene as you leave. Meanwhile, I've got some
real work to do. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the
...... When I stepped outside,
the December sun shone down through a cloudless sky onto the
crowded parking lot. It was getting close to Christmas, and I
couldn't help thinking how vacant my house was going to be this
year. My daughter Tina would be spending the holiday with her
in-laws in Albuquerque, and Kathleen, my secretary -- er, assistant
and sometimes PI-in-training, was in San Diego with her family.
...... Oh, well. Moping wasn't
going to get my client out of jail, so I climbed into my five
year old Explorer and headed out of the parking lot.
...... Ray's office occupies
one corner of the fourth floor of a building next to Bassett
Center, an aging mall just off I-10, just about halfway between
the eastern and western city limits. To get to Providence Hospital
I had to drive to the other side of the mountain. Today I didn't
feel like fighting the I-10 traffic, so I took Scenic Drive.
...... Scenic Drive is a two-lane
road about the width of a donkey track that winds around the
southern face of Mount Franklin about 500 feet above the Rio
Grande Valley floor. I enjoyed the narrow, twisty street and
the scenic overlook. It was my favorite spot to think about things.
The accounting supervisor, Mrs. Hailey, set aside a conference
room where I could conduct the interviews. It's amazing that
even with carpet, wood paneling, and plush chairs, a hospital
is still a hospital. The smell never changes.
...... The first person on the
list, Mrs. Abbey Bow, turned out to be the office gossip. She
was about a foot shorter than I and maybe a little older. Her
face was round with numerous laugh lines, framed by short brown
hair streaked liberally with gray. Her weight hovered in that
border region between pleasingly plump and overweight.
...... "I shouldn't speak
ill of the dead, you know, but that Carolyn was a wild one."
...... "How do you mean?"
...... "Oh, she would go
out with just about anybody at least once. She was out gallivanting
around most nights, even weeknights. And that tattoo!"
...... The autopsy report mentioned
a tattoo of a red poppy on Carolyn's left breast, centered on
her nipple. "How did you find out about the tattoo?"
...... "Well, you know the
hospital provides its employees with free use of an exercise
room in the basement. They had an article on it in the hospital
newsletter once, said it cuts down on sick days. Anyway, I go
down on rainy days to use the treadmill, and one day Carolyn
was there at the same time. I saw it as she was changing clothes.
It must have hurt something fierce! That young woman had no modesty
in her. Walking around in the buff seemed as natural to her as
...... "So she went out
with men other than Hank Marcinko?"
...... "Oh, my, yes! And
he didn't like that one bit, I tell you."
...... "What do you mean?"
...... "He'd call her during
the day and they'd have the most awful arguments. Not that I
was eavesdropping, mind you, but I do sit in the cubicle next
to hers. You can't help overhearing, you know. And sometimes
they'd go out to lunch, and she'd come back looking like she'd
been dragged through a knothole backwards. I'd ask her what was
the matter, and she'd just shrug and say she'd spent the whole
lunch hour fighting with Hank."
...... "Did you ever see
any signs of physical violence?"
...... "Oh, heavens, no,"
said Mrs. Bow. "Hank has a bad temper, but I've never known
him to hit anyone. Besides, the hospital has a very strict policy
about workplace violence. He could have been fired!"
...... "Were you with anyone
during lunch on the day Carolyn was killed?" I asked.
...... "Why, yes. Nora Hailey,
the supervisor, and I had lunch together that day. I remember
because we were discussing how much Carolyn's work had improved
over the last six months. Job evaluations coming up, you know.
When we found out what had happened I thought how odd it was
that we were talking about her while she was, well, you know..."
Mrs. Bow looked down at her hands.
...... "Did Carolyn date
anyone else here at the hospital?"
...... Mrs. Bow started to laugh,
but changed her mind in honor of the situation. "It would
almost be easier to list the men she didn't date. If it was male,
she'd eventually make a pass, if only to keep in practice."
...... "So, she has 'dated'
men in this office?"
...... "Well," said
Mrs. Bow, "she and Tommy MacLean certainly had a fling about
six months ago."
...... I put a check mark against
Mr. MacLean's name. "How long did that last?"
...... "About as long as
any of her little affairs last, around a month."
...... "How did Mr. MacLean
feel about the breakup?"
...... Mrs. Bow leaned forward
and put her elbows on the table. "He was very upset when
he found out."
...... "What do you mean?"
...... "Carolyn had been
seeing someone else almost every night for over a week before
poor Tommy found out. He and Carolyn had quite a yelling match
after work one day. Tommy was in a funk for quite a long time."
...... "What about Mr. Chariton?
Did he and Carolyn ever see each other outside the office?"
...... Mrs. Bow considered for
a moment, then shook her head. "I don't think so."
...... "Why not?"
...... "I really can't see
Mr. Chariton doing something so impulsive, even though he did
come in for his share of attention from Carolyn."
...... "How do you mean,"
...... "Carolyn was a great
tease. She would choose someone and stand very close to them,
put her hand on their arm or shoulder, she was a toucher, look
deeply into their eyes, you know the sort of thing. And her clothes.
She always dressed well, just on the ragged edge of being too
revealing for appropriate business dress. She was never shy about
giving men a little peek at hidden treasures, if you know what
...... "And Mr. Chariton
never responded to this?" Was this guy some kind of saint?
...... "Well, I don't think
he ever went out with her, if that's what you mean. He's a little
too married for that."
...... "Mrs. Chariton is
a very strong-willed woman. I don't know her very well, but she
seems to keep Richard on a pretty tight leash. I've seen the
...... "Signs?" I asked.
...... "Phone conversations,
mostly. You see, he sits in the cubicle opposite me and, as I
said, it's hard not to hear at least one side of every phone
conversation. His wife calls him three or four times a day. He
never says more than 'Yes, Dear,' 'No Dear,' 'Whatever you want,
Dear.' He and I have worked together almost ten years, and now
that I think about it, it's not just the phone conversations.
I only see him and his wife together at hospital social functions,
Christmas parties, that sort of thing. Now Mr. Chariton isn't
the most forthcoming of men at the best of times, sort of a wallflower.
But when he is with Mrs. Chariton the poor man seems to fade
away like a ghost." She leaned forward and dropped her voice
...... "Did Carolyn have
any other breakups that left hard feelings?"
...... Mrs. Bow waved a hand
dismissively. "Too many to count. That was something she
...... "What was that?"
...... "Why men were so
possessive of her. She was a free spirit, taking the pleasure
of the moment. She couldn't conceive of limiting herself to one
man, but the men who wanted her, wanted her exclusively. She
just couldn't understand that."
...... I put down my pen. "You
seem to have known Carolyn pretty well."
...... Mrs. Bow smiled a sad
smile. "Dearie, when I was young, I was Carolyn."
...... I tried not to show any
reaction, but I think I failed.
...... "Don't look so surprised.
I wasn't always a grandmother. You and I are of a certain age.
You remember what it was like. The Sixties, hippies, free love,
drugs, sex and rock and roll..."
...... "You changed,"
...... "No, I just grew
up, found God and a good man." She paused and took a deep
breath. "I expected that Carolyn would too, one day."
There was a catch in her voice. "She just didn't get the
chance." Her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
...... I thanked Mrs. Bow for
her time and sat alone in the conference room for a few minutes.
Carolyn Regal, free spirit. As a contemporary of Mrs. Bow's,
I knew exactly what she meant. Before genital herpes and AIDS,
it was "Live for the moment and let the future take care
of itself." Outside that cultural context, Carolyn's actions
seemed the kind that led all too often to a violent end. I wondered
if Carolyn Regal was consciously irresponsible or blissfully
unaware of the consequences of her actions.
...... I sighed and got back
on track. Reasonable doubt. That would be Ray's strategy with
the evidence we had now. The police had nothing but circumstantial
evidence against Marcinko. If Ray could show a history of bad
breakups, he could plant the idea that any number of men could
have killed her. Of course, to do that, he'd have to drag her
memory through the mud and then tack it to the barn door for
everyone to gawk at.
...... That didn't make me very
happy. Mrs. Bow had liked Carolyn, and that meant something.
It meant that Carolyn Regal wasn't cruel or malicious, just immature.
Being immature is no reason for being beaten to death and it's
no reason to have your memory sullied.
...... I guess I was going to
have to find out who killed Carolyn. That presented something
of a dilemma in that Ray hadn't hired me to find out who killed
her, just to help him convince a jury that our client didn't.
Though, I guess you could look at it as an extension of the job
I was hired for. Going the extra mile, giving 110%, that sort
of thing. I never was critical enough about my self-justifications.
...... It looked at this point
like my next best suspect for the murder was Tommy MacLean. I'd
have to take a good, close look at him. But first, I'd get Chariton
out of the way.
...... I dialed his extension.
...... "This is Chariton."
...... "Mr. Chariton, this
is Jack Brady. Could you come into the conference room now?"
...... "Certainly, Mr. Brady.
I'll be right there."
...... The man who walked in
was in his mid-forties, balding and small. He was about 5 feet
6 inches tall, wore wire-rimmed glasses and a slightly baggy
suit with a yellow bow tie. His suit made it difficult to judge
his weight, but he looked like nothing more than the 90-pound
weakling of the old Charles Atlas ads. And yet, there was something
that didn't fit. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it
made me uncomfortable.
...... "As I'm sure you've
been told," I said, "I'm working for Ray Sanchez, representing
Hank Marcinko. We're going back over the statements you gave
...... "Why?" asked
Chariton, his voice almost a whine.
...... "Routine. Basically
to see if you remembered anything new since the police talked
...... Chariton ducked his head
like he expected me to hit him. "Well, I'm afraid you've
wasted your time, at least in my case."
...... "Why is that, Mr.
Chariton?" I asked.
...... Chariton looked at his
hands folded on the conference table. "I really didn't know
Miss Regal very well."
...... "Why not? She was
a very attractive and friendly young lady."
...... Chariton glanced up from
his hands for a moment. "She wasn't the sort of person I
would get to know."
...... "Why not?"
...... Chariton laced his fingers
and started tapping his thumbs together. "Well, her reputation,
...... "What about her reputation?"
...... Chariton looked up at
me and leaned forward a little, the tempo of his thumbs increasing
a little. "She was a loose woman, Mr. Brady. My Melissa
wouldn't have approved at all."
...... He looked back down at
his hands. The top of his head took on a little color and his
breathing deepened. "My wife."
...... "Ah," I said.
"Does your wife have to approve of all your friends?"
I don't know why I asked that question. Something about this
guy just made me want to poke a stick at him.
...... He looked up at me, his
color and voice rising. "What does this have to do with
...... I sat back in my chair.
"Oh, nothing, I guess. Just trying to get a little background.
So you know nothing about Ms. Regal's relationships with other
...... Chariton lifted his chin
and said, "I make it a practice not to pry into other people's
lives." He was starting to get a little agitated.
...... I decided to question
Chariton more directly than I had Mrs. Bow. "Where were
you when Ms. Regal was being beaten?"
...... He stiffened like he had
just stuck his finger in a light socket. "What?"
...... "Where were you?"
...... "How dare you accuse
me of of that!" His voice had gone a little squeaky.
...... I spread my hands in a
"who me?" gesture. "I'm not accusing you of anything,
Mr. Chariton. I'm just trying to establish everyone's whereabouts."
...... He seemed to climb down
from a high dudgeon into a snit. "Well, I had gone to lunch."
...... "Where did you go?
Did anyone see you?" I asked.
...... "Well of course people
saw me. I went to to the Jack In The Box on Mesa. Just this side
of Executive Center. Everyone there saw me."
...... "Anyone you know?"
...... "No. I went alone.
Why do you keep badgering me about this? The police have the
murderer. Why do you keep going on about me?"
...... "Nothing personal,
Mr. Chariton. As I said, just trying to get a feel for the situation
on that day. Well, I guess that does it, then."
...... We stood and I reached
across the table to shake his hand. He had a very strong grip.
Given his appearance and manner, I hadn't expected that.
...... "I'm sorry if my
questions made you uncomfortable."
...... He just ducked his head,
turned and left the room.
...... Watching him leave I got
that feeling again that something was out of place. He reacted
a little strongly to my questions. He gave the same alibi he
had given the police, but he seemed to have forgotten for a minute
where he had lunch. That might mean his alibi wasn't an alibi
at all. I didn't dwell on it long, though. It was almost 4:30
and I still needed to interview Tom MacLean, the last of Carolyn
Regal's coworkers on my list. I called him on the intercom and
asked him to come in.
...... MacLean was in his late
twenties, redheaded and light complected, which could be a problem
in this part of the country. He stood an honest six feet, weighed
about 190 and dressed well, if not expensively. He seemed to
be fit enough to have beaten Carolyn Regal to death.
...... I gestured to the chair
across the table from me. "Have a seat, Mr. MacLean. Thank
you for talking to me."
...... "No problem,"
...... "How well did you
know Ms. Regal?"
...... "In what sense?"
...... "I'm sorry. What
do you mean?"
...... "Do you want to know
how well I knew her personally or carnally?"
...... Okay. Nothing like getting
to the crux of the matter. "How about both?"
...... He leaned back in the
chair not at all uncomfortable about the line this was taking.
"Personally, not very well. Carnally, we had a short fling.
Lasted about a week before we both figured out that it wasn't
going to go anywhere."
...... I really didn't like his
attitude. "During that week you didn't get to know her personally?"
...... He pursed his lips and
shook his head. "We spent most of our time in bed too busy
to talk. When we weren't too busy, we'd talk about what was going
on at work or new movies or something bland like that. Most of
the time I got the impression she was really someplace else.
Or wishing she were."
...... "You weren't upset
when she broke up with you?"
...... "She didn't break
up with me, and I didn't break up with her. We just went our
...... "Like two ships passing
in the night, huh?"
...... "You could say that."
...... "You know of anyone
who could have hated her enough to kill her?" I asked.
...... He thought for a minute.
"If I were in your shoes, I'd be looking real hard at Chariton."
...... "Why do you say that?"
...... "She gave him a toss
about two months ago. There was a hospital administrators' regional
convention here in town. One day after a seminar she paired off
with him. God knows why, but she did. They disappeared for a
couple of hours, then showed up again, him all moon-eyed and
following her around like a puppy."
...... He picked a little dirt
off the knee of his pants and continued. "He followed her
around like that for a few days, but she wouldn't even acknowledge
his presence. He finally got pissed and dragged her in here,
shutting the door behind them. We couldn't hear anything, of
course. She came out a few minutes later looking like nothing
happened. He came out looking like his dog had died."
...... "You're thinking
revenge," I said.
...... MacLean nodded.
...... "Why? He didn't seem
like a vengeful sort to me."
...... "He seems harmless
enough at first glance," said MacLean. "But he's one
of those quiet, repressed types. You know the kind. And that
wife of his. Talk about the iron fist in the armored gauntlet.
From what I've seen at the last couple of Christmas parties about
the only thing she hasn't done to him is put a ring in his nose
to make it easier to lead him around. Guys like him go along
taking all the shit the world hands them without a peep until
one day they snap and somebody gets the crap beat out of them.
...... "I've seen Chariton
in action. I mean, we go to the same gym. He may be small, but
I've seen him do ten reps on the bench-press with 150 pounds.
I've also seen him work the heavy bag. He's no powder puff, even
though he acts like it."
...... That was what had been
bothering me about him. He looked like a shrinking violet, but
he moved like an athlete. As we say in the detective trade, this
required further investigation.
...... "One last question,
Mr. MacLean. Where were you during lunch on the day Ms. Regal
...... MacLean answered immediately.
"I had arranged with Mrs. Hailey for a long lunch that day.
I took Sheri Long from Admissions to that Italian place, Trombino's,
...... I thanked Mr. MacLean
for his time and sent him on his way. Chariton and MacLean had
both lied to me.
...... I headed for Chariton's
cubicle. It was already past five, but I hoped he was still there.
...... When I reached his cubicle,
it was empty, everything turned off, desktop bare, overhead bin
closed. Mrs. Bow came out of her cubicle across the way with
her handbag and her coat over her arm. "I'm afraid you've
missed him. Didn't you speak to him earlier?"
...... "Yeah, but I just
wanted to follow up on a couple of things."
...... "Oh, well he left
just after he got out of his interview with you. Seemed quite
agitated. Kept muttering under his breath."
...... "Thank you, Mrs.
Bow. May I help you with your coat?"
...... She laughed. "Do
you know how long it has been since a man other than my husband
made me that offer? Thank you, no, Dear. I'm just heading down
to the Fitness Center."
...... I smiled at her. "Well,
have a good workout, but don't overdo."
...... "Not to worry. It's
been years since I overdid anything other than my makeup."
She gave me a parting smile and walked away.
...... I stepped out into the
December evening. It was already almost dark. The temperature
was in the low 40s and not likely to get below freezing tonight.
The air was clear and dry. It would be a good night for looking
at the stars if you could get away from the city's lights.
...... My first stop would be
Burger King for a light snack, a Double Whopper and a large shake,
then I'd head out to Chariton's place.
...... MacLean was right about
one thing. When those shy, repressed types snap, there's usually
hell to pay. Then once they figure out they can do that sort
of thing, they look at violence as a universal problem solver.
Until someone beats the crap out of them.
...... Low bollards about three-feet
high provided the only lighting along the sidewalk leading from
the main building to the parking garage. The sidewalk meandered
a bit passing close to the occasional large juniper tree. I had
just passed one of these junipers when I heard something rustling.
Before I could turn around, my kidney exploded. At least that's
what it felt like.
...... I remember stumbling forward
a step. The next thing I knew I had dead grass pricking the inside
of my nostrils and mouth. I must have only been out for a few
seconds because I could hear footsteps running away from me and
other footsteps running toward me. I rolled my head to one side,
and a man lowered himself into my field of view.
...... "Sir? Sir? Are you
...... I briefly contemplated
showing this gentleman what I thought of someone who would ask
that question of a man who had just done a face-plant into a
dead lawn. Then I decided to let him live.
...... "Yeah, yeah. I'm
fine. Just give me a little room here."
...... I pushed myself to my
knees and rested there, head down, hands on my thighs taking
inventory. My right kidney felt as though someone had impaled
it on a red-hot poker. The area behind my right ear throbbed,
a sure sign that I'd soon be sporting a good-sized knot. Otherwise,
aside from a mild bout of nausea, everything seemed to be operational.
...... Standing up seemed to
be possible, so I did. I didn't pass out and start the whole
process over, but it was a near thing. At first I thought the
building was swaying back and forth. Then I realized it was just
me. Okay, I'd had my bell rung harder than this before. Of course,
I had been a lot younger then. I don't remember it hurting this
...... The concerned young man
was still hovering, so I assured him of my well-being. He was
"but"-ing like an outboard motor as I resumed the quest
for my car. I didn't have time to wait for an ER doctor to tell
me I might have a concussion and be pissing blood for a week.
Pain is just God's way of telling you that you're still alive.
It can be ignored.
...... I had a pretty good idea
who ambushed me. Guilt and panic often bring out the violent
side of a man.
Chariton lived in an old house in the Lower Valley off North
Loop about two blocks from Marion Manor Elementary School. This
whole part of town was irrigated. Twice a week through spring
and summer, people flooded their yards from the network of irrigation
canals that ran behind their houses. The streets through here
were elevated about a foot above the yards, and each piece of
property was defined by low berms to keep the water contained.
This had the effect of making parking on the street next to impossible.
There was no curb, only a drop-off. If people were coming to
see you, they parked in the driveway. Arriving surreptitiously
was difficult, and surveillance was damn near impossible.
...... Chariton's house was set
well back from the road with a wide gravel drive leading to a
garage that was separate from the house. A screened-in front
porch ran the width of the house, the entrance on the side by
the driveway. Two large cottonwood trees that must have been
seventy-five years old cast a deep shadow across the front of
the house. El Paso was in the middle of the desert, but within
about five miles either side of the Rio Grande the land was pretty
...... It was full dark when
I arrived. An older model Camry sat skewed in the driveway. I
pulled in behind it. No sense in trying to play it cute.
...... The screen door to the
porch was unlocked. I walked in and stopped in front of the main
door into the house. It was open just a crack. Something didn't
feel right. Maybe it was the monotonous string of words coming
from somewhere inside the house. It had the rhythm of a chant,
though I couldn't make out the words. I wasn't sure I wanted
...... I pulled my .44-Special
Charter Arms Bulldog and used my left hand to ease the door open.
The chanting was clearer now, but still not intelligible. The
living room was large, about twelve feet deep and taking up two-thirds
of the width of the house. It was crowded with feminine furniture.
To the left through a pair of French doors was the dining room.
I assumed the kitchen was behind that.
...... In front of me was a darkened
hallway that probably led to the bedrooms and maybe a den. The
chanting was coming from there. I moved to the hallway. There
were five doors, two on each side and one at the end. The first
door on the left opened into a bathroom. Male toiletries populated
the shelf above the sink. The first door on the right led to
a bedroom, musty and unused. The next room on the right was also
a bedroom. This one was in use. Books and telephone on the nightstand,
rumpled bed covers, men's shoes on the floor. No Chariton though.
...... The chanting drifted out
the nearly closed door opposite. Before I went there I wanted
to check the door at the end of the hall. Wouldn't do to have
someone come sneaking up behind me. As I thought it was a den,
apparently an addition to the original house. No people.
...... I moved to the last door.
I could hear the chanting clearly now. "It's not my fault.
I asked you not to. You wouldn't listen. You never listen. I
told you it was nothing. She was nothing. You shouldn't have
done it. You shouldn't have tried to call the police. I asked
you not to. It's not my fault."
...... The door wasn't latched,
so I inched it further open with my left hand. Chariton was kneeling
on the floor, rocking back and forth, his hands folded in his
lap. Stretched out on the bedroom floor in front of him was a
woman wearing a pink housecoat with small multi-colored flowers
and blood. A lot of blood. The woman's face was a bloody
mess. The tears he shed washed clear tracks through the blood
splattered on his face. There was more blood on his hands and
shirt. He didn't seem to be aware of my presence. He just kept
rocking back and forth and repeating the same sentences over
...... Some kinds of abuse aren't
physical. The abuse Chariton had been getting from his wife probably
since the day they were married didn't leave any marks on his
body, but his mind and spirit must have been battered into oblivion.
Strong people, stable people, retain some sense of self-worth
and get out of situations like that before they are destroyed.
Chariton wasn't one of those.
...... Guilt over Carolyn Regal's
death must have weighed heavily on his mind. Then when I questioned
his alibi, he panicked. He ambushed me, and headed for the only
security he knew. Unfortunately she'd finally had her fill of
him. He snapped and killed her, too.
...... I slipped back out to
the porch, took out my cell phone and called 911.
Copyright (c) 2003 by Robert W. Tinsley.
Robert W. Tinsley is an expatriate Texan
living in Colorado Springs, CO. He is a licensed mechanical engineer
in private practice. In addition to the Jack Brady series, he
has written over 40 non-fiction articles and is on the Editorial
Advisory Board for Heating, Piping, and Air Conditioning Magazine.
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