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The Feeling Afterwards (pt 3)
By the time Knuckle and I got back to the field two more people had joined us, a petite blonde teenager and an elderly lady with white hair. I assumed these would be Lauren and Mrs. Grunther.
“Hello folks. I’m Detective Robinson. I’m in charge of this assignment.” I announced with a smile.
I look over at the crowd of our suspects. Mrs. Grunther appeared weary and disturbed. I immediately doubted that she could be our murderer, but she still was a suspect anyway. Lauren Samuels was a pretty girl. She had blonde hair, green eyes, and an athletic body, but she was still pretty small. I doubted her as a suspect as well; she looked too fragile to end a child’s life. Knuckle was the type of man I expected to immediately say he was innocent, so when he hadn’t it surprised me. I glimpsed over at Tess and Jenny. Tess was hugging her daughter; I backed away a bit. Emotion doesn’t fit with me well, and Tess was giving way too much. My emotions fit Jenny’s face perfectly: blank. Her eyes were the only things that looked alive, but not in a good way. In a creepy way only disturbed people should look, not a nine year old girl. A tap on my shoulder disrupted my train of thought.
“Excuse me Detective. We’re done here. Its safe for you to investigate the body.” declared one of the crime scene investigators.
I nodded my approval and walked towards the middle of the field where the dead child lay.
I roamed around the two figured on the ground with a flashlight in my hand looking for clues. As a detective, I’d seen some pretty gruesome murders, but I’d never seen so much effort put into a murder. So much time used to make an absolute perfect model of another body.
What puzzled me was that if the mannequin model of the child was supposedly dead as well, then why would they die of different causes? The mannequin model had obviously “frozen” to death, hence the blue lips and skin. While the real Jesse died from a slit throat. I’d also found out from my files that Jesse has been missing for the past three days, which made the crime even stranger for her to just show up here randomly at the school play ground at 7:50 one night. Nothing seemed to make sense.
I stopped suddenly when I shone my light on something strange in the ground. There was a footprint. A fresh foot print. I whistled and Officer Sheckley came over.
“ What do you need Karen?”
“ I need you to go receive the…” I quickly glanced at the imprint in the ground. “ Right shoe of all our suspects. Except for Jenny. Her feet would be too tiny.”
Sheckley gave me a queer look before staggering over to where all the suspects stood.
In less than 10 minutes, I’d taken pattern and approximate size matches of all 4 shoes and had three approximate matches. Lauren Samuels, Tess White and Bruce Knuckle were all matches to the print.
“Mrs. Grunther...” I started.
“Oh call me Ruth honey.” Grunther said in a scratchy tone, her dark brown eyes friendly.
“ All right, Ruth then. Seeing as your print is not a match, you may go home. But before you go, Officer Sheckley will be interviewing you quickly. And Tess too, if you don’t mind Sheckley?”
“ No, just fine with me detective.” Sheckley reported, signalling Tess and Ruth to come with him.
“ Alright then. Lauren, Jenny, you two can come with me.”
Lauren, Jenny and I crossed over to the benches where I’d questioned Knuckle.
“ Alright, Lauren, you first. Your file says you work at the department store on 27th street. Is this true?”
“ Yes, detective.” Her voice sounded a tad shaky, but she was only a kid, so I assumed she was a little nervous.
“ Lauren, please tell me exactly what you did tonight.”
Lauren coughed. “ Well, I went home first, like I always do, to drop off my things. I ate dinner quickly, and came to school at about 6:30-ish. I then went into Mrs. Grunthers room and we had our usual lesson. I left at 7:30, and Mrs. Grunther was still in her room when I left.”
I scowled. Something wasn’t right.
“ Lauren, what did you do between 7:30 and 8:00?”
“Oh, I was just going around the school, looking for my cell phone.” She smiled sheepishly.
I gave her a questioning look.
“Well, I lost it today, and if my mum finds out she’ll kill me. So I was looking for it and when I found it, I began to leave. On my way out, that officer guy found me and escorted me out of the building.”
I nodded, keeping note of this conversation in my head.
“ Lauren, it says here that you were, pregnant about a year ago?”
Lauren face hardened. Her hands began to shake. I knew I’d hit a bad spot. “ Yes. I was.”
I cocked my eyebrow. “ So was your mum looking after the baby, or what?”
Her eyes widened, filled with rage. “ The baby died.”
“ At birth?”
“ No. Later.” Lauren said through clenched teeth.
I took a step back. I can’t stand people crying or get upset.
“ Let’s move on to you Jenny. What did you do tonight?”
Jenny cat eyes stared up at me. “Today’s my birthday.”
She only said three words and her voice sent shivers down my spine.
“ Well, I’m sorry, but that still means you have to answer some questions for me.”
Jenny just stared at me.
“ Jenny, what did you do tonight?”
“ I sat in Tessie’s office. She was busy doing work stuff for her.” She’d pointed at Lauren.
I glanced over at Lauren.
“ You go to the student counsellor often?”
“ I go every day. Tess helps me.” Lauren’s hands were shaking even more furiously now.
I looked back at Jenny. “What did you do while in her office?”
If possible, Jenny’s eyes suddenly got even greener.“ I was thinking about Tessie's promise. She promised that Jesse would come back. And she did come back.”
Jenny looked down at her feet. I knew she wasn’t going to cry, and I felt happiness in knowing that someone understood. Jenny understood that emotions were something that could stay inside. They weren’t something that everyone had to know. I felt I sudden fondness for Jenny.
I patted Jenny’s head and bent down.“ Jenny, is there anything else you can tell me?”
Jenny looked up, her face close to mine.
“ Don’t.” She whispered quietly so that Lauren could not hear her.
“ Don’t what Jenny?”
“Don’t believe Lauren. Don’t believe Knuckle. Believe Tessie.”
I gulped. Out of everything I’ve heard little kids say, that has to be the most meaningful. I held Jenny's hand and we were silent for a few moments. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lauren. I thought she was going to explode.
“Stop it. Stop RIGHT NOW!” Lauren screamed. I jumped up instantly, unsure of what I was doing wrong.
Lauren’s eyes were bright with rage, and you could practically see smoke come out of her ears. “Stop touching her. Stop talking to her like you understand. YOU’RE NOT HER MOTHER!”
I stepped back, a little shocked from Laurens out burst.
“Lauren, calm down.”
“DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!” Lauren cried.” MY BABY, MY TINY SMALL BABY DIED. I DIDN’T GET TO BE HIS MOTHER. I DIDN’T GET KNOW HIM AND LOVE HIM!”
Some where from the point of Laurens outburst to the word “him”, Tess and Sheckley had appeared.
Tess was briskly whispering things in Lauren’s ear, and she began to calm down. Her eyes seemed less furious, and her hands were shaking less.
Sheckley escorted Lauren and Jenny back towards Knuckle and Ruth, leaving me alone with Tess.
Tess peered at me, her eyes dark.
“What did you say to her?” I asked, curious. “To calm her down, I mean.”
“What I always tell her. That she can make a difference, and being angry doesn’t help her.”
“Is it because she lost her baby?” I wondered out loud.
Tess gave me a peculiar look. “Yes. She has seen me everyday since he died. How did you know about that?”
“It’s in her file. Not the death, just having a child part. I’ll have to update it.”
The silence of the talk of death filled the next two minutes. “How long ago did he…” I asked to break the awkwardness.
“About 4 months ago. He was only 18 months old.”
“How’d he die?” I asked before I could stop myself. It didn’t sound very sensitive, but my curiosity just got the better of me.
“Lauren’s mum isn’t quite right in her head. She’ll forget what she saw or did last, and she just moves on to something else. Anyway, Lauren had to leave urgently one day, and they didn’t really know about her mums disorder yet, so she left the baby with her mum and, things happened.”
I opened my mouth to ask what, but decided it was rude to press for more information.
Tess turned suddenly. “ There's something you need to know about Bruce.” Tess urged suddenly.
Startled I asked, “What?”
“He’s been trying to quit the principle position. He wants to get out of here, skip town. The board won’t allow him to quit until the end of the school year. He’s only allowed to leave if he is seen unfit as a principle."
I pondered this thought. “Ms. White, are you accusing Mr. Knuckle of murder?”
Tess blushed. “He’s apparently in some money scandal. I only know because I over heard a conversation of his last month. But I’m just saying, a murder would make him an unfit principle.”
Tess began to turn away, but I stopped her with my hand.
“Mrs. White, how is Knuckle when it come to, his relationship with the children at this school?”
Tess eyes widened. “Well, you see here detective, Bruce has some… anger problems. You should have seen him when the school board refused his resigning notice. He almost beat up a tenth grader.”
I cocked my eyebrow. “Do the other teachers know about this?”
Tess shook her head. “They may have their suspicions, but none of them have any proof.”
“Mrs White, does Mr. Knuckle have any access to department stores that would have mannequins in them?”
White gave me a curious look, but then responded, “Well, his ex-wife works at the clothing store just down the street.”
“ Thank you Mrs. White.”
Tess turned on her heel and walked back towards the other suspects in reply