[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 057
Chapter 14 (2 of 8): Headquarters
When she had been a small child she had once asked her grandmother why she talked to herself when she was alone, and without missing a beat her grandmother had said she thought it was nice for a change sometimes to talk to an intelligent person who really listened to what she had to say. Phoebe had never forgotten that, and in due time, many years ago, she had herself gotten into the habit of talking aloud to herself when nobody was around. Driving by herself offered the ideal opportunity for these soliloquizing disquisitions.
“I’d say she’s in her early to mid twenties. Definitely Oriental. Very attractive. You could see that even in frozen death. Who would crack open the head of a beautiful woman? Someone who hated her. Or maybe it was someone who loved her? Do you remember that Catullus poem? ‘Odi et amo but I don’t know why, or something like that?’ ‘I hate and I love.’ What else was in there? Something about excruciating pain, wasn’t it? Good grief, it’s must be almost forty years since I took those Latin courses. Funny how stuff stays with you. I couldn’t decline a noun – any noun — to save my life, but I remember a phrase from Catullus. A phrase that could have a relevance to this murder investigation, to boot.
“Yes, that kind of pain, the pain of thwarted passion, that could lead someone to bash in the head of the person he was nuts about, especially someone who wasn’t in turn nuts about you any longer. And then you’d panic. God, what have I done? What am I going to do with the body? It must have been dark when he loaded her into the car for the last ride. Does that mean he killed her at night too? I wonder if there will be traces of alcohol in her? Had they been drinking, gotten into a lovers’ quarrel? He was drunk and had stopped thinking? Got enraged and just bashed her?
“But who is she?
“And who is he?”
Phoebe pulled herself up short. A little free-floating musing couldn’t hurt, but she’d be better off waiting for the group to meet later that afternoon. Musing with others was certainly a less desultory approach, more disciplined, and it might be more useful by keeping the dead ends off limit.
She spun Marion McPartland again, and the sharp clean notes of a consummate jazz musician filled the Buick.
This countryside just miles north of the city that streamed by beyond the car window was spare and sparse. Traffic on State 43 was intermittent at this time of day on a snowy Monday in January, and at times she was the only car visible in front and behind. The highway ran through a slowly undulating landscape. Working her way southeast on State 43 she took silent delight in this enveloping scenery. All the whiteness was interrupted by the dark ribbon of highway, and only on the far horizon did she make out a copse of trees parading across the desolate terrain. The land lay fallow and dead under the thick snow. Dots of trellised green punctuated stretches along the road where crews had erected snow fences to keep the wind from pushing drifts onto the highway and making passage impossible. Near the fences she could discern occasional clumps of ochre growth emerging out of the snow. It was the vast soft remoteness of the land that charmed her, and it had done so ever since she had moved here from the claustrophobic crowding of coastal California. She thought of it as a kind of emptiness of being where there was nothing to clutter the mind or jar the soul, where space and openness somehow became internalized, transforming the austere topography of the exterior world into private and personal emotions of intense clarity.
Murder in such geography seemed somehow contradictory, an obscene violation of unspoken rules, a human breach that seemed to cry out for disclosure. Who and why?
Phoebe found it peaceful, tranquil.
It rested her.
She had grown up in Southern California in the forties and fifties, and just about the time when California was starting to “take off” in the early sixties her parents had moved back to the East coast from which they had emigrated just before the start of the Second World War. Her father retired the same year Phoebe finished high school, in 1962, and the family did the roots-thing and returned to the community where her parents had both grown up. Phoebe resisted the move at first. But she enrolled at the university, and quickly made new friends and a new life. She majored in English and did a minor in Latin, and when she graduated in 1966 she did a two-year stint in the army. In 1968, the year she married Samuel, a rising young attorney in the city, she also started at the police academy with his blessing.
Phoebe found it hard to shake the image of the frozen face on the slain woman. Melinda would have been roughly her age – this kind of comparing was a mental delusion against which she tried hard to defend herself but it was often, as now, impossible to thrust it entirely from consciousness. What if someone had done this to Melinda? The dead woman too was someone’s daughter. Yes, she was fully aware of crossing over an important line into sentimentality, a line that she had laid down for good reason and rarely transgressed, but there was in her thinking and feeling a borderland that, like the partial union of sets, entailed both sentiment and sentimentality. One just had to beware of spending too much time too often in that shaded intersection.
The traffic was starting to build up somewhat as she approached the turnoff where Interstate 775 commenced its long stretch south, hitting the city after the first eight miles. Now there was plenty of traffic and here it moved swiftly, as if suddenly released from the constraining caution imposed by the comparative narrowness of state and county roads. Although she was doing a few miles above the posted limit of sixty-five, eighteen-wheelers passed her as if were standing still. Time is money.
She stayed in the right lane and took the second of the five exits that led into the city. It was close to one o’clock, and she was feeling hungry. She stayed on Edgewater and kept her speed at just over thirty to hit the stop lights on green. After a couple of miles she swung left on Crest and pulled into the parking lot of The Huntress, a cozy combination of bar and restaurant and, in the evenings, dancing to a live group. The booths were still filled with a lingering lunch crowd and she took a seat at the counter.
TO BE CONTINUED