Ella meets with a local police detective who has asked her for information regarding her presence near a corpse found in a trash burner in her neighborhood. Ella describes her worries about strange sounds in the unit next to hers and about other incidents making her uneasy about her new home.
Detective Ferguson and I walked to the far end of the station house parking lot. We sat on one of the park benches lining the lot’s boundary. Ferguson asked me to describe my walk on Pine Glen Street up to the trash burner.
“I love exploring neighborhoods, especially late afternoon when the low sun makes everything glow.” Ferguson’s soft smile encouraged me to go on. “ I thought it’d be a perfect time to wander through the quiet streets near my new home. When I walked past the school on Pine Glen, I noticed how different the houses were there—most were run-down and some abandoned. Just as I neared the lot—”
“The lot with the trash burner?”
“Yes, that one. Well, a dog approached me. Not a nice dog. It had a massive head and shoulders and it wasn’t friendly.”
“It growled at me, you know, like a I’m-going-to-bite-you kind of growl, and I worried it was about to pounce, but something distracted it and it trotted away toward the trash burner.” I smiled as I mentioned the music playing on my smartphone, one of Randy’s favorites. I told him about my call to Falk the next morning, about his finding the body in the trash burner and calling the police. “Then you arrived and you know the rest.”
“Falk did not call us.”
“What? But he said—”
“He misspoke. Someone in the neighborhood, a woman, called about noise—she said she heard—” He paused and pulled his mustache. “Lots of…‘screaming,’ she said, from that lot and asked us to investigate. I thought it was you, but it turns out it was a Fanny Katzer. She lives in your building. Do you know her?”
“Yes. When did she call?”
“Around the time you were meeting Falk, I guess. I asked her why she didn’t call earlier. She apologized, said she thought it was some teens fooling around. After thinking about it all night she decided it was more than that and called.”
I hadn’t heard any screaming and Fanny was nowhere near me during my walk. “Fanny and I have met. We’ve chatted a bit, and I did tell her about being scared by the dog and about Falk. She doesn’t like him much and she didn’t say anything about the noise when we spoke the next day.”
Ferguson’s mouth twitched and he cleared his throat. “Falk, well, this isn’t his case, although Forensics’ report is gruesome and he could be called in.”
“Can you share details with me?’
Rubbing his chin, Ferguson looked at the ground for a few minutes, then said, “Mrs. Volkman, I can’t…I’m not supposed to…oh, what the hey. It’s technically a homicide case, but it looks like a bunch of canines—coyotes, feral dogs, I don’t know what—mauled the guy.’
“More than one dog?”
He nodded, “Much more. I trust you’ll keep this to yourself?”
I agreed, but shivering, I began rubbing my arms.
“Look, leave this to us now. This is a good area of the city, and we don’t have much violent crime here. You’ll be OK.”
We returned to the station house. He took a short statement and offered to have an officer drive me home, but I called a shared ride and left, my thoughts in a jumble. I had the driver leave me in front of a pizza place near Marino’s. After picking up a soda and a fat slice of cheese and tomato pie, I found a small table by the window and sat for a while. Each warm bite of the slice—sweet tomato-y, oregano-and-pepper-flake-laden, garlicky and gooey—helped soothe my edginess.
Too many mysteries were interrupting my pizza reverie. Had Fanny followed me on that walk? She knew about the cat, the one appearing out of the blue—well, the rain—right after Falk found the body. I remembered she was drying her wet hair while talking to me on our back stoop. Was that after a shower or had she been out there, too, in the rain? And she never explained her dislike for Falk, not that she liked Dave either. I cringed at the memory of that creepy detective, Pinscher, who offered me coffee at the station. How did he know my name and that I called Falk? We live a big city but this neighborhood felt more like a small town, although less and less the ideal ‘small town’ I’d imagined.
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