Chapter 9: Following a Thread
With daylight beginning to fade, Detective Blackhorse revised his previous decision to go down the list of suspects in order and selected a woman at the address closest to his motel. Weariness had settled on his shoulders like a heavy cloak. The sooner he got this next interview over with the better. After sleeping all folded up in his car, stretching out on a soft bed would be blissful. Blackhorse had no desire to go driving past the outskirts of town, in the gathering gloom, for an interview which would probably yield even less than the one he had just finished, only to be forced to navigate his way back to town via some unlit dirt roads.
Twenty minutes later, Blackhorse pulled up in front of the modest tract home of Helen Brown. He was trudging up the walkway, when the sight of billowing smoke sent him rushing around the side of the house. He fought his way through the junglelike backyard crowded with flowering bushes and pots of exotic looking plants to a clearing in the center. A woman was standing with her back to him, leaning over a metal trashcan and tossing leaves into a small bonfire. The breeze shifted as she turned, smoke shrouding her features and sending a billowing cloud into his face. She sounded startled.
“Who are you?”
“Sorry to barge in on you, but I saw smoke and thought the house might be on fire. I’m Detective Blackhorse I came to talk to you about the complaint you called in…”
“About Stefon and the other two savages. You cops are a day late and a dollar short aren’t you? They’re all dead.”
“To tell you the truth, I have been called in to investigate their deaths.”
“So, they were murdered. Is that what you’re saying?”
Blackhorse was distracted by a tingle crawling along his scalp, followed by a sudden sensation that the top of his head was lifting off. Helen’s voice seemed to come from miles away. He squinted against the smoke stinging his eyes and attempted to focus. She came towards, breaking through the smokescreen. In the waning light of day, backlit by the setting sun, Helen’s red hair and porcelain skin glowed in the gathering gloom.
Blackhorse took a step forward and recoiled at the sight of blood on her extended hand. He blinked and her eyes were clean. Blackhorse chuckled to himself, thinking that heat and exhaustion must be getting to him. The firelight must just have been momentarily reflected against her pale skin. Preoccupied by these thoughts, it took a few moments for Helen’s voice to register.
“I’m sorry Ms. Brown. I didn’t hear the question.”
“It’s Mrs. Brown. I’m a widow. I said, what’s so funny?”
“Oh nothing, would you mind if we stepped inside? It’s a little smoky out here.”
“What for? Those men are dead. As far as I’m concerned, it’s case closed on my complaint. So, I don’t see why you want to talk to me now…unless…unless you think I know who killed them. Let me save you some time. I have no idea who killed them. I can tell you that it wasn’t me.”
“I’m not implying that you know anything about their deaths. By interviewing people with complaints against them, I hope to learn more about them and what they were doing in town.”
“Oh, I can tell you why they were in town. Come on inside. It’s time for my son’s medication.”
They entered the house via the back door, passing through a sunny lemon yellow kitchen. She invited him to have a seat in the living room, while she went upstairs to administer her son’s medications. Blackhorse was looking at family photos on the mantle over the fireplace, when Helen returned. He spoke without turning around.
“Is this your son? He’s very good looking.”
“Thank you, that was taken before Huntington’s disease took its toll on him. Look, not to be rude but I have a lot to do this evening. Can we get on with the interview? You said you were trying to figure out what those men were doing in town. I can answer that question. They had come to town for the yearly psytrance festival.”
“The what fesitival?”
“Psytrance…haven’t you ever heard of psychedelic trance festivals? The one they have here is held out in the woods at night. From what I understand, there are a lot of different styles of psytrance music. At the festival here, they play darkpsy music. Its got this pulsing, repetitive, hypnotic driving beat that sends dancers into a kind of trance or meditation on the transcendence of death.”
“Let me guess, the attendees take drugs to…help them meditate?”
“Well, yes they take mind altering substances to deepen their meditative state. But it’s all natural like mushrooms, cannabis…”
“Some people might take those. The majority of the people who come down for the festival are harmless, mostly backpackers, cyber hippies, nomads living in vans, etc. Those three men that I called the cops on were bad people. They showed up here on a hot day. One of them asked for a drink of water. When I opened the door to hand it to him, he forced his way in and they robbed me. My son and I live alone here. We don’t have much and those three swarmed through here like locusts, eating up our food and taking anything of value they could get their filthy hands on.
Most things can be replaced, but they took my late husband’s watch it had a special engraved message on the back. It was like a little piece of him I could wear. Blackhorse felt awkward in the face of Helen’s naked grief. Outside by firelight, she had seemed younger, wild and free. In the well lit living room, he could see the worry lines creasing her high forehead and smudges of discoloration underneath her eyes. Blackhorse made a promise to do his best to track down the watch and return it to her. Not wishing her to revisit her grief any longer, he thanked Helen for her assistance and took his leave.