Monday, November 26, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 7

I lay still for ten minutes, listening. When the crickets and frogs starting singing again, I got to my knees. Where had a big bejeezuz panther come from in the middle of L.A.? Barring an escape from a zoo, or a mutant black puma, there was only one place. Anton LaVey, as one of his many affectations, kept a panther as a pet. Apparently the beast had not followed me. It was, in effect, my savior from the oddly behaving coyotes. I began to revise my opinion and felt rather grateful to the beast. Though not so grateful that I planned on leaving my perch before daybreak. I was there for the count; it was the only sensible thing to do; I was no hero.

I started to take a look around, standing up, stretching on my little balcony of safety. The facility’s lights illuminated the surrounding asphalt walkway and the bordering handrails. I was looking at a shrub against the rails when I had a sinking sensation. It was not a shrub. It was something draped over the railing and, as my eyes plumbed the darkness, I got the distinct idea that it was a body.

Those screams before the panther appeared, just as I was about to shoot the lead coyote. My assignation?

I huddled in the dark until around five, when the sun started to disperse the darkness. Then, I climbed down and walked over to the body. A female. I did not touch anything, but bent to look at the face. Late twenties, touch of Hispanic, long dark hair that now dangled to the ground. Face now an unholy blue black mask from being draped over the rail like an old coat. No idea who she was.

She had not died nicely. Hunching down, I could see she had suffered a massive chest wound. Probably a full frontal attack with an axe. I thought of going through her pockets or purse to look for clues. But I was a reporter, not a detective.

I ran to the parking lot. Lex was fast asleep on the passenger seat. I ruffled him awake, as glad to see him at that moment as any person ever in my life. Then I drove to the nearest pay phone and called the cops.

* * * *

Next, I called my editor at home, told him I was on a page-one story for the afternoon edition. I had persuaded the cops that they did not need to pick me up and drove back to the crime site. In the minute before the sirens pulled into the parking lot, I snapped a photo I knew would never run.

Pat Kennedy shook his head. “I’m getting sick of your face, Holcomb. How’d you come on the body?”

I decided it would be best to give an expurgated version of my story, avoiding odd wildlife. “I was called in the middle of the night to meet a female with some information on my friend Al Stirling’s death. I show up and this is what I find.”

“Is this the person you were supposed to meet?”

“I dunno, she wouldn’t give a name, but I would suspect it’s her.”

“What time did you find her?”

“Just a few minutes before I called you.”

Over his shoulder, Kennedy yelled for progress and a detective came over. “Name’s Bianca Hughes, all her ID is in her purse, money too, forty bucks. Rings still on her fingers.”

“How did she die?” Kennedy asked the detective.

“That’s the ugly part, Sergeant. She seems to have been held by someone, while she was stabbed below her sternum. There’s a big jagged hole in her torso, but no evidence of a gun shot.”

Another siren came up the hill. We watched Dom Simone step out and head directly over to the body.

Stirling’s sister told me that he had been going out with a girl named Bianca Hughes,” I offered. We stood staring over Griffith Park as the sun came up, our backs to the body.

Simone came over after a while. Kennedy just raised his eyebrows. “Cut was made below the sternum, about ten inches wide. Then it appears someone reached in, grabbed her heart and pulled it out.”

“Was she alive?”

“Can’t tell yet, but if she was it’s highly unlikely she was conscious past the initial slice. There’s a body wall that has to be breached before anyone could get a hand in.”

Kennedy looked over my face. “What the hell are you involved in here, Paperboy?”

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