Jesus Christ, Boy Detective:
From the Hips
 |  J. Bradley



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             Timmy Hightower crouches over the body, its eyes and mouth weeping vinyl.
             “Whatever wasn’t used to do this, is gone.” Chief Donaldson puffs on his pipe while leaning against the empty record shelf. “Randall had a very unique collection. It’s too hot for the usual fences.”
             “Who would have motive to do this to him?”
             “Ex-wife, maybe? Jealous record collector? I just show you ...”
             “... the bodies. I have to be the one to follow the leads. I know.”
             “Speaking of bodies, where’s your uncle?”
             “Painting the town red, as you’d say. I mean that figuratively, of course.”
             “Leopold Franz is out at night? Having fun? I didn’t think that was possible.”
             Timmy straightens himself up, turns, and faces Chief Donaldson. “In order for Uncle Leo to truly reform, he has to reconnect with humanity. Love can do just that. Or some really good sex.”
             Chief Donaldson’s pipe drops out of his mouth, his jaw unhinging. “Um ... I thought ...”
             “Chief, I was married, despite what you may have read. I never required my followers to be celibate, either. My father, however, believes if his followers aren’t getting laid, then they use that pent-up sexual energy to serve his purpose. The means behind an end don’t really matter to him, as long as he gets what he wants.”
             “I don’t think Leopold knows how to talk to a woman, let alone how to hold a conversation. Who is he out with?”
             “Does the name James Decatur ring a bell?”


♥♥♥


             Chief Donaldson settles into the couch in Timmy’s basement crime lab, watching Timmy drag and drop crime scene photos across the large, flat screen monitor.
             “Don’t you have other cases to work?” Timmy asks.
             “I’m merely an administrator. The last time I solved a case was five years ago. I’ve always wanted to see how he worked. What is he having you do, anyway?”
             “Timmy’s instincts are telling me there’s a pattern here.” He points at the photo of a woman choking on stamped envelopes. “Carleen Clavin, rare stamp collector. The estimated value of the stamps on that envelope was $20,000. The rest of her collection went missing.” Timmy clicks on the mouse to bring another photo to the forefront: wrists and throat slit with tiny, jagged incisions. “Edwin Denson, three-time Magic: The Gathering national champion. The estimated value of the deck used as murder weapon was a grand. The rest of his collection, gone.” Timmy clicks on the mouse to bring the man weeping and drooling vinyl up on the screen. “And now, Randall Fringston. The part of his collection used to kill him was estimated at $5,000 and the rest is gone.”
             “We have someone who likes to kill collectors with their own collections and take the rest?”
             “That’s part of it. I did a little more digging.” Timmy presses a few keys on his keyboard, bringing up three official-looking documents. “Each one is divorced, the reasons for the divorce attributed to their obsessions regarding their collections as the deciding factor.”
             “Wow. What next?”
             “Tomorrow, after school, we go to Sandiego’s and have a chat with the owner.”
             “We? Leopold’s gonna be back late. He should be recovered by the time you get out of school.”
             “Leopold is off this case. He needs some time to himself to recharge. And since all you do is administrate ...”
             “Wait a minute, Timmy. I need to clear this with your father.”
             “I already did. Meet me at Sandiego’s tomorrow. Plain clothed.”


♥♥♥


             Timmy threads the bike lock through the spokes of the back wheel of his BMX bike, around the tree, through the spokes of the front wheel, connecting the lock. He notices Chief Donaldson across the street in front of Sandiego’s, wearing a white polo shirt and light khaki pants, puffing his pipe. “That’s your idea of plain clothed?” Timmy yells, as he walks toward Chief Donaldson.
             “Yeah, so? Were you expecting me in a suit and tie, oiled shoulder holster hidden beneath my sport coat?”
             Timmy stops in front of Chief Donaldson, looks him over. “Uh, yeah.”
             “This is your investigation, Timmy. I’m merely here to assist and protect you outside of my official capacity as the Chief of Police. While I am operating as your protector, I’m going to be comfortable, and before you ask ...” Chief Donaldson reaches into his left pocket, pulling out a .38 Special, “... yes, I’m carrying.”
             “Aren’t you afraid that will go off in your pocket?”
             “Pocket’s cut out, letting me draw from a holster strapped to my thigh.” Chief Donaldson puts the .38 back into his pocket. Timmy notices the outline of the gun bulging through Donaldson’s khakis after he holsters it.
             “Yeah, incompetent gun owner is a good cover for you,” Timmy says, as he opens the door. Timmy and Chief Donaldson watch a string tied to the doorknob inside pull the trigger of a crossbow balanced on a rack. The bolt skewers through the hood cinched on the head of the man tied to a chair behind one of the glass cases. Chief Donaldson runs across the room, takes out a pocket knife, and cuts the hood around the arrow sticking through the body’s right eye.
             “Timmy, meet Santiago Sandiego. How does it feel to kill a man?”
             Timmy runs out of Sandiego’s, vomiting onto the curb.


♥♥♥


             Timmy sits on the back of the ambulance, blanket draped around his shoulders. He stares at Sandiego’s front door. Chief Donaldson snaps his fingers in front of Timmy’s face until the boy’s eyes flutter and look up.
             “Ever heard of a Scorpio?” Donaldson asks.
             “A what?”
             “That’s what killed Sandiego. It was an artillery weapon used by the Romans. Sandiego’s specialty was ancient weapons and only that part of the store is gone.”
             “Divorced?”
             “Yup. Because of the money he spent collecting these weapons.”
             Timmy slides off the back of the ambulance, letting the blanket fall from his shoulders into the street. He walks over to his bike, kneels, and begins unlocking the bike lock.
             “This wasn’t your fault, Tim,” Chief Donaldson yells, as he closes the distance between Timmy and himself. “How could you have known this was going to happen?”
             “I should have been more careful,” Timmy replies into the sidewalk. “Timmy’s supposed to be more careful.”
             Chief Donaldson gently places a hand on Timmy’s shoulder. “Timmy’s never dealt with cases like this. Take the night off.”
             “I can’t. I have a case to solve.” Timmy wraps the chain around the bike’s frame, snaps it shut. He jumps on, pedaling furiously away from the crime scene.


♥♥♥


             Chief Donaldson shuts the door behind him, turns on the faucet, twiddling the knobs until the water is slightly warm. “We need to talk.”
             “We have nothing to talk about,” the running water hisses.
             “Yes, we do. I didn’t sign up for allowing a 12-year-old boy to accidentally kill someone.”
             “You know he’s not a boy.”
             “I know he’s not, but Timmy is. Whatever that allows him to use Timmy’s skills and abilities has to be getting back to him wherever you’re keeping him. When you are done with his body, his mind will have to cope with all that has happened.”
             “I have that covered, Craig, as I have everything covered. Where’s your faith?”
             “Not in you.”
             The faucet twists until the mouth aims at Chief Donaldson, the knobs twisting clockwise until they crack. The water slams into the right side of Chief Donaldson’s ribcage, slamming him against the bathroom door, keeping him pinned.
             “This is a warning. I can find someone to replace you easily. Remember that.” The water trickles to a stop.
             Chief Donaldson clutches his ribs, heaving.


♥♥♥


             Timmy ducks under the police tape, opens the front door of Sandiego’s, his hand encased in a questionably clean tube sock. Timmy takes the sock off, takes a flashlight out of his backpack, and turns it on. He shines the light on the wall across the room, stares at the faded crimson blotch. Broken glass cracks with each step. Timmy stops in front of one of the broken cases, taking inventory of the knives and swords.
             “I’m surprised you came back.” Timmy turns, facing a shadow with glowing green eyes. The flashlight dims in Timmy’s hands. “Why didn’t you believe Chief Donaldson when he said only the weapons were stolen?”
             “I needed to see if he missed something. Donaldson and his crew always miss something.”
             “Dear boy, your haste is going to cost you.”
             Timmy throws the dying flashlight at the shadow, running toward it at the same time. He drives his shoulder through the shadow’s shins, sending it crashing to the floor. Timmy runs outside, then turns. He stands in front of Sandiego’s, bouncing on the balls of his feet, fists clenched in a fighting stance.
             “Let’s see how you do out here.”
             “Another time.” A grenade breaks through the front door’s glass pane. Timmy sprints across the street, ducking beneath the nearest car. The grenade settles to a stop on a sewer grate, waiting.


♥♥♥


             “I said take the night off, Tim.” Chief Donaldson winces as he takes a slow drag off his pipe.
             “A man died, Chief. A man died by my hands. I won’t stand for it.”
             “Haven’t people died because of you already?”
             Timmy crosses his arms; his eyebrows slant. “Really, you are going to ask me this here?”
             “All right, fair enough. There weren’t any prints on the practice grenade your attacker threw out of Sandiego’s. However, whatever you did gave us something.” Chief Donaldson takes an evidence bag off the roof of his car and hands it to Timmy. Timmy holds it up, watching the tooth slide down inside, following a thin trail of blood.
             “Our suspect also may have a limp.” Timmy hands the evidence bag back to Chief Donaldson. “If our suspect is smart, they’ll avoid the ER or emergency dentists to fix either one of these problems.”
             “Could you tell the gender of the suspect?”
             “It was too dark. I also couldn’t tell based on the voice. They changed their voice deliberately to make it harder to figure them out.”
             “If our suspect profiled you well enough to figure you’d double back to look at the crime scene, they might be waiting for you at home. I can have a couple of officers take you home and accompany you inside.”
             “I don’t think there’ll be a need, but I will. For your sake.”


♥♥♥


             The officers standing on each side of Timmy collapse. A dove lands on one of the officer’s chests.
             “It’s not safe here,” the dove coos. “Get back to the station and work from there.”
             Timmy stands, turns, looks around. “Who is doing this?”
             “I’m not even supposed to be warning you. Get back to the station.”
             Timmy watches the dove fly toward the moon.


♥♥♥


             “Timmy ... what are you ...”
             Timmy comes around Chief Donaldson’s desk, presses a couple of keys on Donaldson’s keyboard. Timmy’s basement/crime lab comes on the monitor.
             “I was told by a reliable source my house wasn’t safe.” Timmy moves the mouse to the left—the view of the screen changing to focus on the door leading back upstairs—then moves the mouse to the right, scanning the lab. “I don’t see anything. It might be on the other side of the door. Or somewhere else in the house.”
             “Where are the officers I sent along to escort you?”
             “Dreaming, thanks to a couple of well-placed tranquilizer darts. Peter made sure they wouldn’t walk into a death trap.”
             “Peter?”
             “You might know him as the gatekeeper. He normally operates unseen on my father’s behalf. If Peter’s stepping in to help, this is really bad.”
             “I can get the bomb squad out to your house to take a look.”
             Timmy opens a new window on the screen, enters a command. He pushes the keyboard back, walks out of Donaldson’s office. Chief Donaldson takes the gun from his front desk drawer, holsters it, and runs after Timmy.


♥♥♥


             Timmy stares at the front door. He doesn’t turn when Chief Donaldson’s car parks against the curb, the engine quieting down.
             “Tim, what are you doing?” Chief Donaldson says, as he gets out of the car.
             “Our suspect won’t expect me to go through the front door.” Timmy takes two steps before Chief Donaldson grips Timmy’s right shoulder, pulling him back.
             “You are going to get yourself killed. There’s no coming back if you die this time.”
             “Give me your phone?” Timmy turns, holding out his hand.
             “What does my phone have to do with anything?”
             “Just give it to me, Chief.” Chief Donaldson fishes through his pockets, hands Timmy the cobalt blue encased iPhone. Timmy presses a couple of buttons on the phone, bringing up a photo of the man weeping vinyl, handing the iPhone back to Chief Donaldson. “What’s missing on the body?”
             Chief Donaldson squints. “The ... left ear.”
             “Thumb to the next one.” Chief Donaldson thumbs to a photo of a woman choking on stamped envelopes. “What do you see?”
             “Blood ... blood is coming out the sides of her mouth.”
             “Our collector killer isn’t just killing collectors with the things they love. Our collector killer is also collecting body parts that focused on what senses were most needed to be good at collecting what they did.”
             “They’re after Leopold’s knives, then. The killer keeps coming after you, hoping Leopold steps up to them.”
             “Leopold hasn’t allowed a collection to drive away someone he loves. Timmy has.”
             “The newspaper clippings, the mementos encased in Lucite in Timmy’s basement crime lab. That’s what they’re after.”
             “And Timmy’s right leg.”
             Chief Donaldson walks to the trunk and opens it. He hands Timmy a set of yellow plastic earmuffs, before pulling out a riot gun and another set of yellow plastic earmuffs, placing it on his own head.
             “Put them on.”
             Chief Donaldson watches Timmy put on the earmuffs before taking a few steps toward Timmy’s house, pumping the riot gun, firing canisters through the front windows. The earmuffs muffle the shrill howl coming from inside, a black figure jumping through what’s left of one of the front windows, writhing on the ground, covering their ears. Chief Donaldson walks up to the writhing figure, kicks its jaw to make it stop. Timmy kneels, removes the night vision goggles from the figure. Chief Donaldson takes the flashlight from his belt, shines it on the figure’s face, her green eyes rolling back, blood trickling from her ears. Timmy steps back, mouth agape.


♥♥♥


             “I’m ... going to lock my knives up better.” Leopold sits at the dining room table, cleaning his throwing knives. “I’m going ... to have to practice with these ... to make sure they’re properly balanced. We’ll need ... to improve the security system, too.”
             “Chief Donaldson saved my life. If I would have gone in through the basement window or the front door, I would have bled out on the floor. Her attack on me at Sandiego’s after dark was part of her whole misdirection strategy to turn our house into a death trap. She knew that when I finished what she started, it would unnerve me.”
             “You and her younger sister, Marie ... were together for two years. She used ... to babysit you. I hope she’s the last Swanson ... to come after you, or else ... we’ll be dealing with more ... Home Alone guerrilla-style attacks.”
             “Home Alone?
             “Never ... mind.”


♥ End ♥



J. Bradley is the author of Bodies Made of Smoke (Housefire, 2012) and the forthcoming graphic poetry collection, The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014).





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