Detective Morrissey pulled a notebook out of his shirt pocket and waited.
“Well?” He was a bit irritated. “Go ahead, son. What did you see?” He clicked his pen up and down impatiently.
Henry pointed to the balcony three floors above. “She was there! I seen her.” The excitement in him was building further now that he had an audience. He started wringing his hands.
The detective made eye contact with the officer and nodded in the direction of the building. The cop hurriedly walked off. Ralph could see him conversing with the doorman, then point towards them.
“What was she doing?”
“She was smoking, talking on her cell phone.”
“Ok.” He looked up at the balcony. “Then what?”
“She kept talking.” Henry was rocking back and forth now.
“She started yelling into her phone.”
The detective paused to scribble into the notebook then looked up again.
“What happened next?”
“She was talking again.” Henry flicked his hand on his ear like Ralph knew he did when he was getting agitated.
Ralph could see the doorman shake his head. The cop shrugged and started heading back to them. After he exited the building, the doorman picked up the phone and dialed.
“Look, kid, get to the point. How did she end up down here from up there?”
“A bird shot her.” Henry jumped up and down, pointing. “It shot her! It was awesome! The bird hovered right there and shot her!” He giggled. “She fell over. Splat!”
The detective’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not really right, are you?” He took a menacing step forward.
Ralph grabbed Henry’s arm and started pulling him away.
“So sorry to have wasted your time, sir!” he called over his shoulder. He pulled harder, leading a giggling Henry away.
He could hear a low growled, “God damn, stupid kids!” behind him as they walked quickly away.
They ducked into an alleyway a few blocks down.
“Henry, what the hell were you playing at? You know a bird didn’t shoot her! You almost got us into trouble.”
“Yes it did, Ralphie. I seen it! I seen it all. It was black and had a whirly thing on it.” He stopped and made a circular motion over his head.
A man in a brown jacket came out of one of the doorways in the back of the alley, just beyond the dumpsters. He brushed up hard against Ralph as he passed by. Ralph had to catch himself to keep from stumbling. The man turned and stared hard at them as he passed, a menacing scowl played on his face. He turned back to the sidewalk and broke into a run as he rounded the corner.
Man, that was weird.
He knew not to argue with Henry once the kid got something in his brain so he left it there.
They hurriedly caught a bus back home. Henry picked a seat at the back and dragged Ralph over to sit next to him.
There was an older woman a few aisles up who sat with two large shopping bags. She kept looking back at each of the stops. She didn’t even seem to be trying to hide the fact that she was watching them.
Am I crazy?
It gave Ralph the willies when she got off the bus at their stop, but she didn’t follow them further. He was relieved.
Outside his house he stopped Henry. “Look, let’s keep our mouths shut about what happened, OK? It’s only going to cause trouble.” Henry nodded. “You want to be able to go to the city with me next time, right?” He nodded again. “Your mom won’t let you come if she knows you were witness to a murder.”
Henry leaned in conspiratorially. “Ok, Ralphie. You got it.”
The news stations were all abuzz that evening about the woman who had been murdered at her apartment downtown. Pictures of her before the fall… Stately, beautiful. Dark hair. Shapely legs. Flashes to the sheet covering her mangled body on the sidewalk. What a shameful waste of beauty.
That night Ralph lay in bed, awake and unable to sleep. He had never been that close to a dead body before. He could have touched her….
Light from the street lamp outside glowed behind the window blinds, making black and gray lines across the blankets that lay across his legs. He counted the lines. Thirty-six. He counted them again just to be sure.
Yep. Still thirty-six.
Closing his eyes, he settled back onto his pillow, fingers laced behind his head. He pictured the woman naked, the shadowed lines on the bed marking her bare flesh.
He heard a hum.
More like a buzzing.
His eyes flickered open to see the shadow of a bird hovering outside the window. But it wasn’t a bird. Birds don’t hover.
Henry sat up. His heart was beating out of his chest.
A flash of light. Crashing glass. Exploding pain.