Two more “Stabitha” chapters!

The whole thing is around 40,000 words right now, a lot of that is outline but yeah. The overall construction work is pretty solid at this point. The Master Plan is three Brian books, and if that’s still a thing anyone’s purchasing after book three, well, after Closure on Brian’s Journey, I know Carrie’s a strong enough character to sustain her own trilogy 🙂

CHAPTER THREE

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I said to the pretty teacher’s mother, and boy do I look like I believe it. My head turned just so, my eyes warm (or at least framed warmly by the well practiced look on my face), my voice gentle, rich with sadness, perfect mimicry of every TV cop ever. Because that’s what they’ve seen on TV, that’s what they expect, and all you have to do is give them what they’re waiting for, complete the tribal ritual to everyone’s satisfaction.

It’s funny. Even though she’s the one who’ll get upset later, when Carrie gives the news, it sounds as cold and heartless as a telegram. But when I do, it sounds like I totally care.

Splitting the heavy lifting is part of the division of labor with Carrie. It’s what makes us such good partners. I deliver the awful news to the vic’s family, and then Carrie gently starts to ask the questions about the Departed I’m clearly too moved to ask yet. Did Charlotte this, had Charlotte ever that, do you know if Charlotte etc.

Thus begins the victimology, the science of unpacking the life of the deceased.

When doing victimology, you’re the advocate for the dead, but you’re also the Devil’s Advocate. That’s literally a thing. When the Vatican wants to saint someone, they appoint the Devil’s Advocate to make the case against sainthood, to find out the dirt on ‘em.

Out loud, to the press, the family, you say you’re going to avenge this injustice. But really, she might have had it coming. You have to set aside the way things look, and see if there’s some secret badness behind all that goodness. Because otherwise, you might never find how that badness might have been what got her killed.

It’s not just the murderers who have good cover stories, you know. Dennis Rader, the church president, and the mass murderer known as BTK. All that sainthood makes for a good cover story. I should know.

After compiling the interviews, cell phone records, internet history, contents of their porn folder, etc. a homicide cop knows the victim better than she knew herself. It’s like being a therapist, with a patient who can’t lie. Of course it’s too late to make any progress in their therapy, but still.

Charlotte had no enemies the mother would know of, no surprise there. Maybe some Mean Girl from high school who resented her popularity, but of course she’d been student body president and on the debate team and did all that soup kitchen volunteering not because it looked good on her college application, but because… she cared! About homeless people!

I chimed in with follow up questions, was she dating anyone, had she had a bad breakup, the stuff that covers the causes of 90% of murders.

Then when the mother breaks down crying at last, overwhelmed, it’s Carrie who has to do the hugging.

She’s like my left tackle; she stops anyone from hitting me from my “blind side.” Seriously. We even choose the seating at the vic’s family’s house so that if someone inexplicably takes a run at me, to fall into my arms to cry, she takes the hit, there there, stroke stroke.

I can do the face. I can do the words, carefully framed in the voice. But don’t fucking touch me, or you might join your dearly departed over the rainbow bridge.

I hate being touched. I’m not autistic, no. I just have… reasons.

The worst part of solving a big case, for me, is that everyone wants to hug you. And you’ve already fucking told Janice from Accounting that you don’t like being touched, right? But she runs at you anyway, saying “I know you’re not a hugger, but…”

And that’s when I have to haul out the big gun and say, “I was touched a lot when I was a kid and that’s why I don’t like being touched.” That puts a stop to that.

If your spouse dies, your child, anyone else, they’ll move in on you, so sorry for your loss. Tell them you got kiddie-fucked and they run for the hills. It’s awesome!

I have no scruples when it comes to lying when it gets me out of a sticky situation, but in this case I don’t even need to. With the right attitude, even the worst horrors that ever happened to you can be turned to your advantage.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

It was my job to run in to the café and get the coffees, while Carrie idled curbside. She did all the driving, which, given my homicidal tendencies, was a good idea in Manhattan traffic.

I handed over her latte. “You wanna lay five on the headline?”

She checked her seven o’clock, saw a cab flying up the street, and pulled out anyway, causing the cabbie to swerve into the other lane and honk furiously.

Carrie thought about it. “How about ‘School’s Out Forever’?”

“Doesn’t incorporate the bondage stuff. Kinky school teacher murdered during kinky sex thing… Kinky Kinder Killer?”

“KKK? I don’t think even the tabs would do that.”

“I got nothing. We’ll have to leave it to the pros.”

 

“Next stop, Miss Slade,” I said as Carrie continued to endanger innocent lives, flashing the cop lights in the dash at anyone who looked like they had retribution in mind. “Are kindergarten teachers allowed to have first names? Or do you just have to change it to Miss?”

“I believe that’s part of the certification process, yes.”

It was a fairly long drive to Washington Heights, which gave me plenty of time to think out loud.

“The only sex toy we’d found was a vibrator hidden deep in a drawer, which isn’t the behavior of an inveterate kinkster, is it?”

“I saw the first 50 Shades movie on her shelf. Maybe she’d been dreaming of finding her own personal Jamie Dornan for a while, and then she finally busted loose.”

“You mean Christian Grey.”

“Fuck that guy. The only reason to watch 50 Shades is to forget about him and look at Jamie.”

“How about laying five that the browser history involves some ‘kink curious’ searches?”

Carrie shook her head. “You broke or something, you need a fiver so bad? Whose history doesn’t? Just because you get bored and look up some weird shit doesn’t mean you’re going to do it.”

We pulled up in front of the New Era Charter School, in a yet-to-be-gentrified part of the Heights. It was a step above most of the grimy, ancient public schools in Manhattan, but not by much.

I’d done some searching on my phone on the way up.

“It appears that our victim was buying school supplies because the school is having ‘issues.’ The charter school money’s not going where it should.”

“Lavish staff parties in the Hamptons with the principal riding in on a white horse, that kind of thing?”

“Allegedly.”

“Maybe she knew something about that she shouldn’t have.”

“Money’s a powerful motive.”

We parked in the yellow drop off zone (hey, it’s Manhattan, you try and find a spot) and entered the building. Our first interviewee was waiting for us.

“I’m Miss Slade,” she said, extending her hand. Carrie and I kept our poker faces at the absence of a first name.

“You found Charlotte?”

“She didn’t come in, or call in, or answer her phone. So I went to check on her. I had a key because she kept the school supplies she bought at home, and we could just pick them up when we…”

She broke down, and Carrie did the necessary with the hugging and shit.

“You said we,” I asked after she gathered herself. “How many people had a key?”

“Oh, I keep it, but anyone can borrow it when they need to load up. We don’t keep them here because, well, some of our students have light fingers.”

“Some of your administrators, too?” I asked.

Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t think I should talk about what I can’t prove.”

“Was she dating anyone?” Carrie asked.

“No, I mean not that I know of, but I would have known, I think. We were pretty close.”

“Did she have any exes you know about, bad relationships?”

“No. Everybody loved her. You saw her on NY1, right?”

“No,” I admitted.

“They did a segment on her, called her a hometown hero. The schools are so underfunded, and someone found out she’d withdrawn her 401(k) money and spent it on school supplies.”

“I remember that,” Carrie said. “There was a GoFundMe set up for her.”

Miss Slade nodded. “It brought in ten times what she spent, and the damn thing was, she said she was going to spend all that too.” She teared up. “Who kills someone like that?”

Carrie took her hand. “That’s what we’re going to find out.”

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