Anna gazed out the window and watched the people below, so tiny and distance-blurred. It was passe, she recalled, when viewing people from great heights, to say they looked like ants, but they looked like nothing of the kind. They were smaller than that, less vibrant, yet more noisy. How was it they could carry on in so blasé a manner after what had gone before? In a city plagued with religious and political hysteria, crime and murder aplenty, they chugged on as if nothing whatsoever had changed. Perhaps, she pondered, it had not, perhaps she herself was the one who had changed. The thought terrified much as it motivated. She spent the entire morning in her cramped and cheap-paneled apartment loft studying stories of crime all throughout the city, looking up newspaper archives and political blogs and city statistics and federal surveys and think-tanks, combing through every niche and cornice of every relevant information vault for ritual murders and cases of dismemberment and abduction, especially those cases which involved children. She was shocked to discovered that what happened to Adam was far from irregular. It took some digging. Much digging. There had been seven such instances in the past five years. She had heard of none of them. She was further horrified to discover that, despite a profligate number of suspects, absolutely zero arrests had been made in any of the cases. Every single one involved a child, later found dismembered, in three of the seven cases the blood had been drained like as to Adam’s own. When she broadened the search to include adults and teens as well as children the number of murders increased by four to eleven dating back ten years. Ten years. She muttered the words “ten years” to herself, over and over as thoughts crystallized across the mine field of internal cognitive weave, synapses firing like the jarring pistons of a great clockwork machine.
How? How was this even possible? How could so many people just up and vanish? Children no less? Was no one looking after them? Was no one curious what happened? How few must have been aware for this to have gone on so long unchallenged…Did no one care?
Vain thoughts. The asking thereof alone would yield nothing which well she knew, yet still she was compelled. She had to know. For if this had occurred before then the ones who were responsible might well have been responsible for Adam’s death. If she could find a thread and seize upon it then the truth might be made clear.
Suddenly, a ringing. High, shrill and somewhere nearby. Phone. She answered with a harried, “What?”
“You okay, Annie? Haven’t been to work for a couple of days. I called up Mike. He said you were feeling ill. Come down with a bug or something?”
“No. I mean, yes. Yes. Just not feeling very great. I have to go. I’ve got things to do…”
“What? What’s the matter? Come on, you can talk to me.”
“I’ve really got to go.”
“I’m coming over. You’ve got me worried.”
“No. Really its fine. I’m fine.”
“Uh huh. I’m still coming over. I’ll be there in under an hour.”
The phone clicked off into silence. She cursed under her breath. Cole Hathers arrived half an hour later. Anna rose upon his rapping and cries of, “Annie? Its me, Cole. You’ll never believe the traffic. Sea of cars. Everything all backed up.” The door of the loft open under the force of the woman, before he stood a short man, skinny, freckled and red headed. 27 and well dressed for someone so obviously poor, a certain disdainful smugness perpetually playing across his rounded baby-face.
“You doing okay?”
“No. Cole. Frankly I’m not. You know how I sometimes take the cast offs from the Community Center to The Tombs, to the Ghanians there, the migrants.”
“One of them was recently murdered,” she watched as his plucky face fell and then moved to her laptop where it lay upon her work table. Turning the screen, Anna gestured to a recent news article from The Vandemburgh Daily which prominently featured a picture of Adam Delle.
“You knew this kid?”
“The boy I told you about. The one who wanted to become an artists… this was him.”
“Fuck. That’s awful. What happened?”
“No one knows. He… h-he was cut up into pieces. Drained completely of blood.”
Cole screwed up his face in visceral disgust, shaking his mane of curly rust colored hair.
“The hell would someone do something like that?”
“The police think… they think it was organ traffickers. Likely from Africa. They’re not sure. There are rumors that Ghanaian migrants from The Tombs are responsible but there’s no proof of anything yet. No one is talking.”
Cole pulled up a chair and sat down beside his friend, eyes affixed to the screen, to the thin black face of the dead boy. He looked quite happy in the photo, a wide, blissful smile breaking out and ruffling the smooth youthful skin, revealing two rows of teeth, crooked, immature and still falling out and growing back in. Anna studied Cole’s face, he wasn’t sad, not really, she could tell by the listlessness about the eyes and the nervous, impatient tapping of his left foot. This wasn’t a issue upon which interaction was desired. He wanted to flee now. Flee back to comforting her. Anger began to boil in her blood, rising up and threatening to tear out of her throat with a harsh vocality. At the last the woman stilled the clangorous ringing of her soul, inhaled and exhaled meditatively; she had to focus, it wasn’t his fault, she told herself, it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his fault. The one to blame was somewhere out there, out beyond her shabby loft, out beyond the soaring apartment complex that sat near the border zone of The Tombs. In that moment, as she looked again to the picture on the screen, observing Cole’s lack of concern and morbid curiosity, she vowed she would find the killer. She would find the one’s responsible and make them pay. Dearly.
At length Cole turned in the creaking, leather-bound swivel chair, his spindly, yet well muscled hands twining together with queasy excitement. He wanted to speak. To comfort his friend. Words failed him. Finally he mustered the courage to vocalize, “You know today is the big unveiling of the new gallery at Partridge Museum. I… I’ve been thinking of going. Would you like to come with me?”
“Yeah, I’d like that. I could use something to take my mind off of,” she gestured at the screen, “All of this.”