According to The Plain Dealer the police had found the half-bushel baskets I’d dumped at the back of the Hart Plant. The report stated that Detective Carl Butler had arrested a black man in Pat’s bar, but the man was later released without charge.
I rested the paper on the breakfast table while my mother fussed around. She was still wearing her washed-out housecoat and it was getting on my nerves.
I now had a problem – two actually. Perhaps Pat or One-Armed Willie or one of the regulars had fingered me as an outsider; if that was the case I’d have to change my stalking method and keep out of the bars. And I needed to get rid of the rest of Flo’s body parts. They had served their purpose, and I was no further forward, although I still had the head and the teeth to examine. It had been a frustrating experience – I was so sure I’d find the answers in that damn woman’s reproductive organs.
The cats liked the chopped up bits, though…
My mother put my plate of pork sausages and fries on the table. ‘What’s so funny?’ she said.
Good question. I had nothing to smile about, but I hoped my lie sounded plausible. ‘It’s this police report in the paper. Only a dumb cop would arrest a one-armed man for killing a whore, then chopping her up into little pieces. Can you imagine that?’
My mother sniffed. ‘Not all cops are dumb. Must have been a reason.’
I let that pass, and dug into my breakfast instead. If that was the standard of detective work in Cleveland, I’d be able to outsmart them anytime I wanted. I brightened up; I would use the same method of disposal; burlap bags stolen from the charcoal tip by the chicken farm – the body parts covered in dust, feathers and hay - that would keep Mister Clever-dick Carl Butler guessing.
I refilled my mug with freshly brewed “Eight O’Clock Coffee”, my favorite brand, and took a sip...
At daybreak, my father would sober up with a brew while he prepared for the stalk. Most times I watched while he oiled his brand new Winchester 54 – he took pride in his skills, and I swear he never missed. I didn’t need a gun. By the time I was fifteen, I’d filled out enough to wrestle a spike buck to the ground and apply my knife to finish the job. Over the following two years I filled out a lot more - I was slower and easier to spot - and I lost my edge with the mule deer.
But mule deer weren’t humans. Humans were easy prey...
‘Did you hear what I said?’
I looked up. My mother was pointing at one of her cats; the fat, black one with sharp claws.
‘Tom was sick in my room last night. Did you feed him?’
‘Butcher’s scraps,’ I mumbled through a mouthful of sausage. ‘He was greedy.’
‘Get some bones next time, they’re healthier.’
I pushed my empty plate to one side, poured another mug of coffee. Tempting, but I couldn’t risk it. ‘Next time I’m out,’ I said.
My Chevy pickup truck had seen better days and not worth stealing - the bailiffs turned a blind eye when I told them my mother was an invalid – but it was damn useful for transporting burlap sacks off-road. I’d already located several vacant lots around Orange Avenue, a few blocks south of the Hart Manufacturing plant. That night after dinner I loaded up the Chevy and drove to an empty house on Orange, parked up, and carried the sacks around to the yard at the back. Still plenty of snow there, and I dumped the body parts into a couple of drifts.
On the way back I had a hankering for a brew and a woman’s body close to mine, so I stopped at a nearby cat house on Orange; ladies entertaining drunken men - and then me. It was easy enough, money was tight and prices were low.
The room upstairs was basic; décor was peeling off the stone-clad walls, the once plush carpet was threadbare. An unmade bed and a washstand, with a pitcher of warm water; it wasn’t the Hotel Cleveland. The tall hooker, with bleached-blonde hair in ringlets that came down to her bare shoulders, acted friendly – and polite. I guessed she would be; me a regular Joe, not drunk or acting strange – not that night.
She handed me a bottle of Old Timer’s. ‘What’s your name mister?’
‘Carl,’ I lied. I took a slug.
‘That’s a fine name, Carl … I’m Millie.’
It was her smile that I had noticed first; scarlet lips and gleaming white teeth. Pretty enough, with legs that seemed to stretch to heaven and back, but I let her mouth do the work.
It was a very promising mouth.