Captain Meade was cautiously letting Burke ease back into work. He had more or less reduced him to a glorified beat cop but Burke understood his trepidation. He also understood that he had to prove to Captain Meade that he was not going to come unhinged again.
His days were not spent like they had been spent before and during the Ice Pick Killer case and he was working solo. His cases had been mostly the occasional death, which would later be attributed to nothing more than somebody’s “ever lastin’ callin’ to come home and be with the Lord.”
Recently, there had been a rash of fires in old abandoned textile mills. Those old structures were historic and had been preserved as an homage to a way of life in the South. The big water wheels on the sides, which at the time provided power, had ground to a halt and were forever frozen in time.
A rare smile was visible on Burke’s face as he remembered his daddy telling him that one year during a freak drought, an owner put squirrels in the wheel. As he put it “those little critters went to town.” Every day, crowds gathered to watch the little squirrels…the little squirrels who virtually saved the mill that year. For a moment, Burke almost felt normal again.
There had been no deaths associated with the arson so Burke just instructed the local police to add extra patrols around the old mills. He wasn’t going to be doing the patrolling but it wasn’t because he didn’t care. He had something else on his mind, and that something else was finding Slaughters’ killer.
He had covertly sneaked into the office late one night and made copies of the Ice Pick Killer case files. Although he had promised Captain Meade that he would leave it alone, he had to break that promise. He justified in his mind that it wasn’t about breaking a promise. It was about seeking justice for Slaughter. He wasn’t pretending lugubriousness when it came to the other victims…but Slaughter was first and foremost on his mind.
Burke still had a burning hatred for Pittman and remembered that Captain Meade said he had an alibi. Who alibied him? Was it somebody who actually had character, or was it somebody who was afraid of retribution?
Was it the trashy tramp, who John Foote had said everybody called the parasite? The parasite that Pittman had been shacking up with since before he was divorced? There was no doubt that she would lie for him…and maybe he would lie for her.
Had anybody interviewed her? Word had it that she hung all over him like a cheap suit and was jealous of his relationships, especially those that preceded her and it didn’t matter if they were male or female. Real or perceived competition had been known to bring out the green-eyed monster.
When talking about somebody who obviously has no morals, extreme measures weren’t out of the question when it came to possessiveness. But the files showed that the parasite had been interviewed and she had indisputable alibis for the previous murders.
Burke admitted to himself that he wanted it to be Pittman. He had visions of peeling him like a grape and hanging him from an overpass or having him drawn and quartered and dragged through the streets. He wanted it to be Pittman but deep down, he knew it wasn’t. Still, something was gnawing at him.
Like Slaughter, he was drawing lines and making connections. The line connecting this person didn’t connect to that person and that person didn’t connect to this person…but all the lines connected to Pittman. Burke knew that Pittman knew all the victims…but what the fuck was he missing?
Flipping through page after page of interviews and crime scene photos, he came across the picture of the salvaged words from the burned letter. “They turned their backs.”
Who had sent the letter? Was it Pittman? Was it the parasite? Pittman would be the most likely person to have access to an antique typewriter and by association, so would his parasite.
Burke could see Pittman wanting to be the hero by providing enough information to catch the killer but he would have done it in a way so as to draw attention to himself. Still proclaiming to be a public figure, he would be eager to promulgate himself and would have never allowed Slaughter to steal his limelight. Given that, it didn’t make sense that either one of those maggots would send an anonymous letter.
He repeated those four words over and over. “They turned their backs. They turned their backs. They turned their backs. Yes. They turned their backs and that’s how the killer got to them…but everybody already knew that.”
It was well after midnight and Burke was exhausted. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He drifted off only to be awakened seconds later by what seemed to be an almost intentional myoclonic jerk. He opened his eyes and immediately remembered his dream about Slaughter.
In the dream, she turned her back on him. Was she trying to tell him something? Was she trying to tell him what was in the letter? Was the gesture meant to somehow be prophetic?
She had no way of knowing that the letter was burned and those four words had been saved. Again, he repeated to himself, “they turned their backs. Everybody knew the victims had turned their backs.”
He decided to call it a night even though he knew he would have a fitful sleep. He soon drifted off and dreamed he awoke and looked at his clock. The time said 5:10. He stared at it for a few seconds, thinking “I think I woke up yesterday at 5:10. I think I woke up the day before yesterday at 5:10. Why does that number sound so familiar?”
He opened his eyes and thought “what a strange dream.” He turned over and looked at his clock. It said “5:10.”
To be continued_____________