Officer Diels stood on the sagging porch of the Farnsworth’s house, chewing slowly on a cigarette. He’d never quite been able to kick the habit, although it seemed to him that he deserved some credit for not smoking the things any more. Went through more cigarettes though… they got soggy too quickly. If he were younger, maybe more ambitious, he would’ve tried to come up with ones that wouldn’t fall apart so fast. There was probably some money in that…
The wind moved through the house behind him, the rooms empty of any living thing. In one of the back rooms, a room where threadbare curtains adorned with fire trucks remained motionless, there was someone. But he wasn’t alive any more, and so it was that Officer Diels found himself gnawing away at the nicotine, waiting for the medical examiner to come over from Bennington.
Not that he felt it was terribly necessary. It was pretty clear what the kid had done; the window was locked, and the door had been until his mother had forced it open. She hadn’t seen the kid since the day before and there had been no answer when she’d knocked. And the father couldn’t knock; he’d lost his hands in an accident up at the sawmill years before. Well, and that was probably the problem, if he thought on it. Who’d want to work there after seeing what it had done to dear old dad?
The blood had already dried in the early heat. Summer was coming on entirely too fast, that was for sure. Blizzards had begat a blistering spring, one wholly out of character with the area. Made a person feel discontent somehow. Springs were never exactly pleasant, in like a lion, out like a lion. But there was something wrong about fifteen inches of snow dropped and then two weeks later the thermometers registering seventy-five.
Well, so perhaps not blistering. But it had been too hot. And now as May made its final gasps, the smoke from barbeques curling through the maples, it was getting to be that way. Wasn’t going to be a good growing season. Nasty business.
Maybe the kid had figured that. More likely, he’d suddenly noticed how close all those trees were and how bad his grades were, finally figured out that there really weren’t that many options after he could no longer feel smug for being drunk around adults or during daylight hours. The sawmill, one of the farms if he was lucky. But there were a lot of brighter folks in his class who would be out looking for jobs, brighter folks who would’ve gone off to college in other places, maybe. But they’d be looking for jobs here, and those offering jobs knew who they were. Michael Farnsworth had not been one of them.
Officer Diels had taken some perfunctory photographs of the unsettling scene that had met him in the bedroom. Just for documentation. There were still some laws on the books about suicide, but no one was going to prosecute a dead boy. And it certainly wasn’t murder. He’d dug that razor blade into his own arm. One of those cheap little things that came in packs of two, sold down at the general store to people interested in scraping paint off their windows, maybe off their walls or doors. Probably too small for those, though.
Anyway, there was no sign of struggle. A person didn’t just sit there and let someone else slash their arms open from the base of their wrists to their elbows.
Well. Then again, maybe they did. But none of the weirdoes in town were weird enough for that. They stuck to talking to shadows and collecting glass bottles. Normal weird stuff.
He thought he’d seen bone through the blackening blood, but he was happy to leave that sort of stuff to the M.E. Wherever the hell she was. They were always late, them and the fire department, the ambulances, the police cruisers if there was ever a need for that. Always complaining about their dollars that went to those vehicles and the people in them. They came from Bennington, sometimes Manchester. Constant complaints about their tax dollars and their getting wasted. As if it wasn’t county-funded anyway. Stupid, stuck-up little towns. They didn’t care if the ambulances showed up after everyone was dead. It had happened before. Probably would happen again.
Didn’t make much a difference for the kid, though, if the M.E. was late. A bit minor, then. But Diels didn’t really like hanging out on the front porch in the mid-day light, guarding the scene against anyone who would come disturb it. There were, after all, so many people around who enjoyed messing around in rooms with corpses. Better protect it against all those hordes.
He replaced the cigarette with a second, the first already too mutilated for his liking. There was a whole carton of the things in his car; he’d jammed three in his pocket right before he climbed out, using the moment to steel himself slightly. Mrs. Farnsworth had been hysterical on the phone. Mr. Farnsworth had been on too much of his pain medication to have absorbed it at all. Probably should’ve lent some to his wife.
One of the neighbors up the road had shepherded them away, having beaded in on the mild chaos with the cunning so often on display in small towns. She’d seen the police car from her house somehow, although precisely how was beyond Diels. He certainly couldn’t see her house from where he stood on the porch, and he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to from his car, either. Nor had he driven by it.
He scanned the tree-line and the road, his eyes settling upon the telephone wires. It was possible that some of the houses still had party-lines… poor part of town. Someone could’ve heard the call. Although they probably hadn’t needed to.
Diels glanced at his watch, wondering how long he’d been waiting. Time passed slowly near bodies. No smell yet, at least. A small comfort, but he knew they really could stink. If he’d been there long enough, even standing outside wouldn’t’ve been enough alone to get rid of it. Would’ve had to go camp out in the [car] [jeep] in that case, with all that damn glass to turn it into a sauna.
Kid could’ve waited until after he’d graduated, couldn’t he have? They were all almost done. Could’ve at least given his parents some nice pictures, pasted on some sort of smile in his robes. Could’ve waited and even tried to at least make it look like an accident. Smash a car into something. Go hike up the mountain and fall off of something. Go for a swim in Settler’s Pond, dive under and not come up. Lots of ways to make it easier on the family. Still would’ve been hard, but not nearly as much as bleeding all over the floor had and would.
Actually, that was the one thing which seemed slightly off. He’d seen a lot of dead people before, a lot of them of blood loss. It didn’t seem quite like there was enough of it to have killed him.
He frowned. Maybe the kid hadn’t just stuck to tearing his arms wide open. His father’s painkillers…? It was possible. Maybe the M.E. would be useful for once.
He looked down at his feet, the porch creaking even as he stayed still. Whole house was probably going to come apart soon enough. No money for repairs, and no one to do them anyway. If the Farnsworths had money, they’d want to leave anyway. He pushed at one of the boards beneath him with a toe, heard it squeal in protest and give slightly. The floors inside were like it, too. Probably pretty cold in the winter. Hopefully they had some decent insulation below.
He frowned again. If there was insulation beneath the floors… it was probably turning a dark shade of brown beneath the boy’s room right now. Blood had probably gone right through the thin carpeting of the room. It hadn’t looked especially absorbent. But insulation definitely was.
There was a rattling in the distance, somewhere along the road out of view. The M.E. would do a blood test, then they’d know. If the painkillers had done him in before he’d bled out, there was no need to check under the floor. And if he had just bled out?
A black pick-up truck with a dented bumper came into view, the gravel bouncing off of its fenders and undercarriage as it sped up the dirt lane. He threw the cigarette away, breathed deeply, and steeled himself for what was to come next. They’d never gotten along. She took routine things too seriously. Obvious things, too.
If the kid had just bled out, he hoped she’d just leave the damn floorboards alone.