The Ragman's Memory

Free The Ragman's Memory by Archer Mayor

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Authors: Archer Mayor
Tags: USA
blankly.
    But Tyler lit up. “Right. Every child born is supposed to have a PKU test. Stands for phenylketonuria—it’s done to check for mental retardation. And the blood sample is usually kept on record at the State Health Department. It’s just an identification card with a small dot on it, but it would be enough for us.” With rare exuberance, he patted Ron on the shoulder. “I’ll get right on it.”
    Ron watched him leave, a small smile on his face.
    “How’d you think of that?” I asked him.
    The smile broadened. “I’m a new papa, remember? We just went through all that. Kind of stuck in my mind—all those vital records.”
    Spoken like a true information nut, I thought gratefully, hopeful again that the identity issue could be settled. “You get a chance to look at those phone records?”
    The smile slipped away. “Yeah—nothing to Brattleboro. For that matter, there weren’t many long-distance calls at all.”
    “Okay. It was worth a shot. If you get any spare time, you might want to check the other numbers anyhow. Is Willy around?”
    “I saw him talking to one of the patrol guys in the parking lot. Don’t know if he was coming or going.”
    It turned out Willy was going, but I jogged outside and caught up with him just as he was starting his engine. He rolled down his window, scowling. “What?”
    “You talk to any of your Satanist contacts?”
    His look turned to disgust. “If I’d found anything, I would’ve said so. Besides, you only told me to think about it.”
    “And then you went poking around.”
    “Fuck you.” Willy didn’t like admitting defeat.
    “What did you find out?”
    “They’re all a bunch of thin-skinned assholes. What I got was a lot of holier-than-thou, alternate lifestyle bullshit. As far as I could tell, nobody’s contacted them to join up recently, and they haven’t been out recruiting. And it doesn’t look like they’ve been butchering virgins lately either. Can I go now?”
    I stood back and let him slither out of the parking lot, his tires spinning on the hard-packed snow.
    I didn’t share his obvious disappointment. Considering the little we had to work with, and the short time we’d been on the case, we were actually making pretty good headway. That satisfaction, however, was purely professional in nature. Emotionally, I was facing a darker picture. Tyler’s report, even with his scientific qualifiers, made it ever more likely that Shawna Davis’s death was a homicide.

6
    SAMMIE MARTENS WAS WAITING FOR ME impatiently in the squad room when I returned from the parking lot. “I found the hairdresser who might’ve dyed Shawna’s hair,” she said.
    “Okay. Let me get my coat.” I took a thick, quilted Navy pea jacket from its peg and slipped Shawna’s photograph into my pocket.
    Sammie drove us to the south side of town, to Canal Street. An extension of Main, Canal began at one of the town’s most confusing intersections. Two parking lots and four roads emptied into this crossroads, which was further hemmed in by several large buildings and the bridge over the Whetstone Brook—the town’s most significant geographical division.
    A hundred and fifty years ago, the Whetstone had been a major power source for a string of grist and saw mills stretching miles away to the west—one of the primary reasons West Brattleboro had started life as the dominant of the two towns. Now, the brook was a social boundary, separating Brattleboro’s patrician north side from its more lowbrow, commercialized southern half. Whenever we were called for domestic disturbances or alcoholically lubricated brawls, we most often headed south.
    The irony was that much of Brattleboro’s vitality also resided on this side of the water. The high school, the park, and the old warehouses of the Estey Organ Works—once the world’s foremost provider of parlor organs—were all here, along with one of our largest grocery stores, most of the garages, the hospital, and half

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