Lonnie, tucking his hands in the pockets of his dark pea jacket, stood in the main doorway and looked. He could see into the kitchen. Vonnie’s body was still there, but from this angle, all he could see were her blue-jeaned legs.
“How was she killed?”
“Hit hard on the back of the head,” said Pirelli.
Lonnie made no comment.
“It looks like she was upstairs reading. There’s a light on up there and a book. Maybe she heard something. Anyway, she came down, cornered the guy and he hit her.”
Lonnie said nothing and Pirelli continued, “The usual stuff is gone. Small electronics, nothing big.”
He pointed to the living room, to Lonnie’s left. “He wasn’t very thorough,” walking over to a cabinet. Without taking his hands from his pockets, Lonnie leaned in and could see Pirelli opening a door to show an iPad on a shelf.
In the hallway, to Lonnie’s right, a small cabinet squatted. The kind people used to hold bills to be paid, winter hats and gloves, keys, the things you wanted just before you left the house.
Pirelli brought him a small plastic bag. Inside was a card advertising a realtor.
“What’s on the card’s not important,” said Pirelli. “It’s where it was kept and where it was found.” He pointed to the mirror above the hall cabinet. A variety of business cards and a couple of photos were tucked into the frame.
Lonnie peered at the card in the plastic bag. He could see a faint mark on one corner that fit the frame.
“We found it there,” said Pirelli, pointing to the floor and a faint dusty boot print showing on the dark hardwood.
“It was covering the boot print. We figure it was knocked down by the guy who did this.”
Lonnie stayed at the scene, removed himself to the porch while Vonnie’s body was taken away. His hand came up to his nose as the gurney passed him.
Two tours of duty in the Middle East had ended in an explosion that put him in hospital for months. One of the effects of the damage was a lingering hypersensitivity to smell. There was a technical term for it that he didn’t like to remember. He fancied he could smell things most people couldn’t. Death was one of those things.
As Pirelli emerged from the house following the body, Lonnie asked him what they knew of Vonnie’s movements that night.
“We found a message on her voice mail. She had a date with a girl friend, but it was cancelled,” said Pirelli.
“The girlfriend cancelled?” asked Lonnie.
Pirelli nodded. “Her name’s Brenda Wasicki. You know her?”
The name was familiar, but Lonnie couldn’t recall why. He shook his head.
When the scene-of-crime officers had gone, Pirelli approached him again to tell him he could take a closer look, if he wanted.
Lonnie was fingering a ring on his right hand, his thumb worrying the underside of the band.
Pirelli asked, “Something on your mind?”
Lonnie looked at him, Pirelli lifted his chin in the direction of his hand. “That’s your dad’s ring,” he said. “You always did that when you were trying to work something out.”
Lonnie looked at his hand. “Just trying to understand,” he told Pirelli, a worm of resentment in his chest that Pirelli had anything about him figured.
Pirelli shook his head. “Not a chance,” he said. “You won’t find any sense in this.”
After Pirelli left, Lonnie roamed the house.
He’d dropped by to see Vonnie soon after he returned to the city. It was the first time they’d spoken since he’d left six years before with no notice to anyone. He’d written her a couple of letters, but she’d never replied.
When he knocked on her door a few months ago, he had never made it past the front hallway. He had suggested dinner; she’d had a date for that evening. She promised to call him; he didn’t think she would. She was tougher than when she was 15.
In the afternoon of the next day, Lonnie heard from Pirelli. A body had been fished from the river, identified as Glen Sharp.
“We’re lucky we found him,” said Pirelli. “It’s deep where he went in with lots of places for a body to stay hidden. He got caught in a boat propeller, so it’s not pretty.”
Sharp had arrests for petty theft and public drunkenness in his past and at least one jail term for a jewellery store robbery, said Pirelli. According to the preliminary autopsy, Sharp died with high levels of alcohol in his blood.
The clincher – his boots matched the prints found in Vonnie’s house. “Case solved,” Pirelli said.
Lonnie’s reply was a question. “Why would an experienced burglar without a weapon let himself get cornered.” Now it was Pirelli’s turn to have nothing to say. Before hanging up, Lonnie asked for a number for Sharp’s family.
Vonnie had lived with the Kuhls when her mother spent a year in a mental health facility. Vonnie had been a sweet and pretty 15; he had been a year older. His parents had made it clear he was to treat her as a sister, as long as she was under their roof, and she became a substitute for the big sister who had left for university. The two of them had grown close and she’d been happy with his family, but every once in awhile he had caught a frightened look on her face, as though she feared an uncertain future.
When he thought of her body cooling on her kitchen floor, it was the face of that frightened 15-year-old he saw. #indiepub