Chapter 4: Fort Slaughter (in which Caroline is a stand-up woman)

Chapter 4

         Sometimes the cops forgot to redact a report on a crime scene. Barbara clicked into the activity log at the City PD and scrolled down. It was all there: Lozano and Riley first on the scene, Cal Jenner, apparently murdered, and the name of the woman who’d found the body – Caroline Arthur. She thought she might remember the name. The woman was one of the Silicon Valley young retirees who’d flooded town right before the bubble burst.

Barbara had seen her at a few City Council meetings. Caroline never spoke. She took notes in a leather-bound notebook with a Mont Blanc fountain pen, a Starwalker Red Gold Resin Fountain pen. Other than the pen, you wouldn’t have guessed Caroline had money. She was a nervily skinny woman with a great haircut growing out. Her jeans were faded and her denim jacket about ten years back-dated. Once, Barbara had seen Caroline sitting on the bench at the bark park on the west side of town. A big Malamute had fallen asleep at her feet, oblivious to the frantic racing and barking around it.

Tanner knocked on her bedroom door. “The Good Kid Special,” he said. “In that case,” Barbara said, “come on in.” Tanner set a plate next to the computer. It held a fried hotdog on a bun. “What’s special about this?” Barbara said. Tanner fell back against the wall. “The Good Kid made it – that’s what’s special. You have crushed the Good Kid, causing him to need to go into his room and brood for at least ten minutes.”

“How about if the Good Kid broods over that late math assignment for at least an hour?”

“You,” Tanner said, “have marked me for life. At least a life-time of therapy are in my future.”

“Punk,” Barbara said.

“Sadist.” Tanner inched the plate toward her, bowed and left.

Barbara bit into the hot dog. It was greasy and cold. She chewed and kept eating. She was going to need protein to get through what came next – finding Caroline Arthur.


Caroline parked outside the PD. She’d just walk in and ask for Riley. It was simple. If Jake was there, she’d say, “How you doing?” He’d grin. She’d race to the ladies room and cry till she almost threw up. If he wasn’t there, she’d be on Red Alert the whole time. She grabbed her bag, put on her shades, climbed out of the car and stomped into the station.

Leanne looked up from the computer. “Why, Caroline, what a surprise! What brings you here? Jake’s out on call if you needed to see him.”

Caroline loved her shades. They were Oakley Black Iridiums. There was no way Leanne could see her eyes – and they turned Leanne’s face a terminally ill gray.

“Hey, Leanne, how’s it going? Actually I need to talk to either Lozano or Riley.”

Leanne smiled sweetly and nodded. “Riley’s out. Lozano’s at his desk. I’ll buzz you in.”

Lozano was on the phone. He shook his head and pointed Caroline to the chair on the other side of his desk. “Graffiti, “ he said, “written in mud. You’re reporting that somebody wrote Vengeance for Fort Slaughter on your sidewalk in mud and left dead pine branches on your doorstep?” He winked at Caroline. “We’ll get an officer out there as soon as we can. It’s a zoo here today.” He put his head down on the desk. “Yes, ma’am, I know who you are. Like I said, we’ll get somebody out there as soon as possible. No, you don’t need to call the sheriff.” He mouthed, “Fuck you.” at the phone  “Thank you so much for your patience.”

Lozano set the phone on the cradle verrrry gently. “Why,” he said, “why did I ever think that I was going to right injustice and make the world a better place for everyone?”

“Because you were ten when you had that idea and were watching reruns of Starsky and Hutch and you wanted a cool haircut?”

“Caroline, you got that same smart mouth. How are you doing? Did Leanne give you her Alpha Chick bullshit?’

“I do. I’m okay. She did.”

“Okay, let’s get this business over with.”


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