Devil Cares: Chapter Two

May 6, 2008 at 5:00 pm (Devil Cares) ()

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“Find anything?”
“Not yet, Andy. I’ll let you know.”
“The paramedics will be here to take the body away soon.”
Barrett Mossberg sighed and stood up from his inspection of the body to turn and look at Andy Koonz, the officer that had let him into the motel to take a look around. Barrett was a handsome young man of twenty-six. He was also the spirit and image of his father, most folks agreed. Though, in Jericho, Montana, the term was more often “spittin’ image.” He possessed the typical Mossberg width–not that he was fat, but he was tall and broad of shoulder. His eyes and hair were the piercing blue and deep brown of his father.
“Andy, if you’re so worried, go stand by the window.”
Years ago Barrett had befriended Andy to make sure he always had a contact on the force. It was only later he learned he could have picked one possessing a little less aptitude for panic. He had come to genuinely like Andy over the time of their association, however. Andy was in his mid-forties, losing his hair, and gaining his waist. A tribute to Jericho’s finest, all around.
Looking a little like a kicked puppy, Andy slinked off to peer out the window.
Shaking his head, Barrett resumed his crouch. It shook him a little that Elaine Shores, a woman he had known since childhood, had apparently killed herself. Or maybe it was the brain tissue and blood of the woman he’d known since childhood dripping off her windows that disturbed him. That was part of the reason he’d come down here in the first place, instinct telling him there had to be more to this. But, according to Andy, the gun had been in her left hand and the angle of the shot had been the correct degree to be self-inflicted. Of course, if it wasn’t all it appeared to be, whoever had done it would have ways of knowing that Elaine was left handed and could surely calculate angles.
Now that he thought about it, Barrett realized it had never occurred to him to ask before: can demons do geometry?
From under his shirt he pulled out the sterling silver cross his father had given him for his sixteenth birthday. He undid the clasp and let it dangle from his fist as he recited the demon detecting prayer while moving the cross over the body. The tell-tale otherworldly blue glow he had been expecting did not appear.
Brows furrowing, Barrett withdrew a small vial of water from his sturdy canvas jacket. Muttering a similar prayer, he dashed a few drops on and around Elaine’s body. Nothing.
Sighing, he got to his feet.
“Everything looks clean, Andy,” he said. “Unfortunately.”
Andy shook his head sadly. “What could cause such a nice lady like Elaine to kill herself?”
Sadly, Barrett replied, “I wish I knew.”
He recapped the water and stuck it in his pocket, wiping the few drops that had gotten on his fingers in the process on his jeans. Barrett went out the backdoor just to be safe, hurrying to his truck to avoid the rain. As he was getting inside he saw the paramedics bringing Elaine’s body down the short flight of stairs leading into the motel.
Shaking his head and pushing away another twinge of sorrow, Barrett backed out of the parking lot and headed home.
Jericho at Christmastime usually saw the city in full swing with lights, decorations, trees, the whole shebang, accented by the several feet of snow the city usually had. Although Jericho was not so close to the Canadian border as to make the difference not matter, it was still in northern Montana and almost always had snow by Christmas. According to those that lived in Jericho, there was no excuse for a poor Christmas spirit. Not so much this season, though. It wasn’t because of any deficit of lights and ornaments; all of these were in their usual places. It was the weather.
Not a snowflake to be found, instead it was raining like it was going out of style.
The people of Jericho could withstand any snow related weather, but rain was just miserable. And so, although they put the decorations up regardless, there wasn’t any of the usual crowd out enjoying it. The Robertsons usually walked up one side of Main Street and down the other, stopping to carol at every establishment. Rain had put them off it lately. The Benitos left free pizza outside their shop to warm up the people walking by, but after the third pie was turned into a sopping mess before anyone could finish it they gave up.
It was a positively eerie feeling as Barrett drove the streets; he’d never seen Jericho this subdued.
Though Jericho was large enough to qualify as a small city, it was still gripped by small town pride. Local sporting events often took the front page headlines, school plays and events were usually next, and finally what most cities considered town gossip was graced with the inside spread. The Jericho Crier was half over before any “real” news was reported.
Barrett’s personal opinion had always been that the people of Jericho held this attitude because of the city itself. It wasn’t very close to any other cities or small towns so it largely kept to itself. As wasn’t exactly uncommon in a rocky, mountainous region, Jericho was close to several ravines and wide river basins. Decades ago the state had rerouted the roads, as states are occasionally wont to do, rendering the former way into Jericho inaccessible. It turned out that the easiest way to fix this had been to simply build a bridge from the new road over one of the smaller ravines. Over the years the Jericho Gates (as the bridge was inexplicably called, for it was neither plural nor a gate) became a symbol of civic pride. Even the city’s welcome sign sported an image of it.
The familiar vibration of his phone in his pocket startled Barrett out of these thoughts. Checking the number on the caller I.D.–it was his home number–he flipped it open.
“Hello?”
His little brother’s voice greeted his ear. “Barrett, there’s a cop here. He saws he wants to talk to us, but not ‘til you get back.”
“I’m on my way, Wes.”
They exchanged goodbyes and hung up. A frown crept over his face. What could the cop possibly want? Had they found out about his post mortem pre-paramedic visits to crime scenes? Barrett didn’t think so, and if they had Andy would probably have given him a call first. No, his guess was that this was about something else.
Mossberg Ranch was on the outskirts of town, a twenty minute drive if one strictly adhered to the speed limit. Barrett didn’t, and made it in about twelve. The ranch was the main source of income for the Mossbergs. His father hired ranch hands to actually run the place so the family would be free to do their other work. The work Barrett had been engaged in this morning, in fact.
Barrett pulled into the drive and started up the short hill to the house. People in town liked to call it the Mossberg Mansion, even though it wasn’t really that big. It looked more like an old Victorian than a ranch house; his mother’s doing, naturally. To compensate, it had all the original wood on the outside without any fancy decorating schemes. All in all, it seemed like the living embodiment of the type of compromise his parents often engaged in.
Parking next to the police car, Barrett got out and walked inside to an awkward silence. His sixteen year old brother was sitting at the kitchen’s bar with folded arms. Wesson was slimmer than Barrett, but well muscled from working out. When he grew he’d probably be very close to Barrett’s size. His hair was lighter than Barrett’s, but his eyes were a darker blue. A cop Barrett didn’t recognize was standing a few feet away from Wesson, shifting and fidgeting uncomfortably.
Both of them looked up when Barrett walked into the house.
“Mr. Mossberg, I’m Officer Hutchins—”
“Barrett, please,” he interrupted. “Mr. Mossberg is my father.”
Something flashed across Hutchins’ face at those words. “Yes, sir, about that. I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
Everything stopped, and Barrett could hear the blood pounding in his head.
“There was an accident this morning involving your parents.”
Barrett could see Wesson’s face go white and his body start to tremble.
“We haven’t ruled out foul play, but the initial examination has led us to believe it was just the slick roads.” He took a deep breath and continued. “Your parents slid off the bridge early this morning when they were coming into town. I’m so sorry, Mr. Mossberg, they didn’t make it.”
It was several hours later before all was said and done, and Barrett was allowed to collapse on the couch in a numb haze. He’d had to go down to the morgue to positively I.D. his parents’ bodies. That had been like a scene out of his worse nightmares, only this time the thing that killed them had been simple bad luck. Barrett had checked to make sure, of course. They’d been only too happy to leave him alone with his parents, and once alone Barrett tested them with holy water, did both versions of the demon detecting spell, and even checked their bodies for unusual markings. They were in pretty bad shape, though, and he hadn’t been able to discern anything.
He had a feeling he’d be seeing their mangled bodies in his dreams for some time to come.
Wesson had wanted to go with him, but Barrett had resolutely refused. Not matter how much Wes had promised he could handle it, he didn’t need to see the effects of a car crash on his parents’ bodies.
After that it was funeral arrangements. His parents being the practical and pragmatic people they were, they’d long ago paid for everything they’d wanted. All he’d really had to do was go down to the funeral home and confirm.
Next had been writing up an obituary for the Crier. He’d never been an English wiz, but he thought his attempt had been passable. One of his old girlfriends was on staff, and he asked her to give it some polish if it needed it.
When all of these things had been completed it was evening, and the sun was already tingeing the western horizon.
Wesson wandered in from the kitchen and collapsed next to Barrett on the couch.
“You got Kimber’s number?” Barrett asked after a beat.
“It’s in the phone. I thought if I programmed it in there Dad would see it and maybe call him.” Wesson was silent for a second before going on. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter; just got off the phone with him. He’s trying to get a flight, but with it being Christmas…”
Sighing, Barrett rubbed a hand over his eyes. “You didn’t have to do that, I would have called him.”
With a snort Wes replied, “He’s way more likely to take a call from me than you. I don’t think he’d even answer a call from the house, so I used my phone. I told him the funeral was on Tuesday.”
Silence reigned then, as Barrett had nothing to say that would prove his brother wrong. Still, Wesson should not have had to break the news to Kimber. It wasn’t his responsibility.
These broody thoughts were interrupted when Barrett became aware of his brother’s shoulders shaking. Barrett put his arm around Wesson’s shoulders and pulled him in close, resting his chin on Wes’s head.
“I can’t believe they’re really gone,” Wes choked out. “They called me when they crossed the Montana border. I was probably the last person they ever spoke to.”
Swallowing a thickness in his own throat, Barrett was helpless to do anything but hold his brother as he cried.


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5 Comments

  1. Zappaz said,

    More excellent work, of course. Like I expected anything less. And, ooh, the plot thickens. What would make Elaine Shores kill herself, indeed? I’m itching to know. And, aw, poor Mossberg boys.

    Once again, I shall be waiting (im)patiently for tomorrow’s update! ^_~

  2. Yahrlan said,

    Bum bum BUUUMMMMM!
    Awwww.
    Can’t wait till tomorrow.

    In that order. ^_^

    Devil Cares Chapter Playlist

  3. jekloneo said,

    Yep, the plot thickens, alright.
    Keep updating!

  4. yinyang said,

    “He was also the spirit and image of his father, most folks agreed. Though, in Jericho, Montana, the term was more often ‘spittin’ image.'” I would completely remove the second sentence, and just put “spittin’ image” in the first sentence if you want to convey the local dialect more effectively.

    “He possessed the typical Mossberg width, not that he was fat, but he was tall and broad of shoulder.” –> “He possessed the typical Mossberg width not that he was fat, but he was tall and broad of shoulder.”

    “Andy was in his mid-forties, loosing his hair, and gaining his waist.” –> “Andy was in his mid-forties, losing his hair, and gaining his waist.”

    “He recapped the water and stuck it in his pocket, wiping the few drops that had gotten on his fingers in the process on his jeans.” The “on his fingers… on his jeans” repetition is what I’m concerned with here. Repetition is one of my pet peeves. I think the sentence would read better if it went more like, “He recapped the water and stuck it in his pocket, wiping away the few drops that had gotten on his fingers in the process.”

    “It wasn’t because of any deficit of lights and ornaments, all of these were in their usual places.” –> “It wasn’t because of any deficit of lights and ornaments; all of these were in their usual places.”

    “Not a snowflake to be found, instead it was raining like it was going out of style.” –> “There was not a snowflake to be found. Instead, it was raining like it was going out of style.” You could also just replace the comma in the original sentence with a semicolon, but I wanted to mix things up a little.

    “Checking the number on the caller I.D., it was his home number, he flipped it open.” –> “Checking the number on the caller I.D. it was his home number he flipped it open.”

    “Had they found out about his post mortem pre-paramedic visits to crime scenes?” –> “Had they found out about his postmortem, pre-paramedic visits to crime scenes?” Postmortem is more common usage, though post mortem is also correct, so you can use either.

    “It looked more like an old Victorian than a ranch house, his mother’s doing, naturally. To compensate, it was all the original wood on the outside without any fancy decorating schemes.” –> “It looked more like an old Victorian than a ranch house; his mother’s doing, naturally. To compensate, it had all the original wood on the outside, without any fancy decorating schemes.”

    “That been like a scene out of his worse nightmares, only this time the thing that killed them had been simple bad luck.” –> “That had been like a scene out of his worse nightmares, only this time the thing that killed them had been simple bad luck.”

    “When all of these things had been completed it was evening, and the sun was already tingeing the western horizon.” With the word “tingeing,” it sounds more like the a sunrise than a sunset, except that it’s in the wrong direction. I would suggest a different description.

    Despite the fact that I recommended more changes for this chapter than the first one, I think the writing is better. 🙂 The action flows well, and the character descriptions are good. I especially liked all the comments about the Mossberg parents. I also liked the way you introduced the supernatural element: “Now that he thought about it, Barrett realized it had never occurred to him to ask before: can demons do geometry?”

  5. Seth Gray said,

    Wow, thanks for all the catches. Some of them I’ve elected to leave the same as I feel it fits the character better, but thank you for going over things to such a degree.

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