The Deadroot Murder House, part 5

Posted: December 29, 2021 in Deadroot Murder House, Gargoyle Park, Monorrow Case Files

5: August 2 – I think I really stepped in it this time.  I keep telling myself I’ve got to play the game if I want to make detective, but I don’t like the rules of the game in this town.  So I keep breaking them.  This time I don’t think I knew I was breaking them.  Maybe I did, though.  Probably I did.  Anyway. . .

The Amancia Bailey case.  It’s like a sore tooth you can’t stop playing with.  The prosecution is painting this portrait of her being this cold-blooded killer who thought she could get at Starling’s fortune.  But as nice as that house looked, I don’t get the impression that Starling had much.  And I’ve been spending my down time in the neighborhood where Bailey and her family live.  The media might be lapping up the story that she was some ruthless psycho, but you wouldn’t know it in her neck of the woods.  Every other block there’s flyers for some community potluck fundraiser or another to raise money for her defense.  I’ve been to enough of them now I can tell you who makes the best callaloo (Mrs. Baptiste) and who makes the worst macaroni pie (also Mrs. Baptiste).  I can also tell you that to a person, her friends, family and neighbors would swear on their life she was innocent.

Not that that means anything.  I’ve already seen my share of murderers who were the nicest people.  But in this case, I think Amancia’s supporters are right.  Besides, if she did do it, how the hell did she do it?  Whatever happened to Chellick Starling. . .I want to say it wasn’t natural, but what the hell does that even mean, especially in Gargoyle Park?  The prosecution is definitely ignoring that particular detail, and I know it’s bugging the hell out of Captain Knot because he’s in a worse mood than usual.  If I were Shorely, I’d be making that the key to her defense, but Shorely’s the proverbial screen door on a submarine.  I hope all that potluck money is going toward a new lawyer.

So here’s where I stepped in it.  I visited Amancia Bailey at Stone Key.  I don’t exactly know why.  It’s not like there’s anything I can do about it.  For all intents and purposes, the case is closed.  I guess I just needed to see her for myself, get the lay of the land, so to speak.  Maybe just by seeing her again I’d be able to see she was guilty and I could start getting some sleep again.

I’m actually surprised they let me see her.  She’s not technically under suicide watch; from what I hear Warden Blur doesn’t believe in it.  Thinks that a suicide is a good way to save on taxpayer dollars.  But she’s still on tight 24-hour surveillance regardless.  They didn’t bring her to the main visitor area.  They had her all shackled up and had us meet in the cafeteria.  Two guards with shotguns watching us the whole time.  Overkill.  As soon as I saw her shuffle in, I knew she didn’t do it.

Looks like she’s lost 20 or 30 pounds and probably hasn’t slept more than 30 minutes at a time.  She’s drowning in that jumpsuit.  The look on her face is this mix of exhaustion, resignation and profound sadness.  I’m pretty good at spotting when someone’s putting on a show, and that’s not what this was.  Amancia Bailey looks like someone who knows they’re being marched toward a cliff and there’s nothing they can do about it.

She doesn’t recognize me, not that I thought she would.  I’m out of uniform for one, and for another, I doubt she was taking in many details the night we found her over Starling’s body.  As soon as she sits down I realize this was a huge mistake.  I don’t know what the hell I thought I was going to accomplish by meeting with her and for several seconds I’m just a deer in headlights.  Not that she noticed.  She just sits and keeps her eyes down.  She doesn’t look at me the whole time I’m talking to her.  Not until the end.

I don’t even remember exactly what I said.  Just babbling, really.  Told her about how all her friends and neighbors are pulling for her.  How I was one of the cops who was first on the scene and that this whole case seems very strange.  She doesn’t acknowledge any of it.

When I got to work that night, Watch Commander Phillips is waiting for me.  He tears me a new one.  He got a call from the DA about one of his cops poking his nose where it don’t belong.  Desk duty for 2 weeks.  I’m not surprised and I should have known better.  It’s interesting, though, that I didn’t get the riot act read to me until after I saw Amancia.  My name was on the visitor list.  They knew I was coming.  I’m wondering if they were hoping I might get something out of her that no one else has.  But that doesn’t make sense if they’re pushing for a conviction.  And 2 weeks desk duty also seems a little light considering they’re basically accusing me of trying to tamper with the DA’s case.

I’m thinking about all these things at my newly appointed desk when I feel a big hand clap me on the shoulder for just a second.  I look up and it’s Captain Knot heading out for the night.  For a second I’m wondering if I imagined it, but then he looks back for one sec and gives me a wink.

So maybe at least one person’s on my side.  And I was pretty much ready to just let it go.  Except Amancia Bailey did say one thing to me.  After I was done running at the mouth and not getting anything from her, I was getting up to leave, and I said off-handedly that maybe I’d swing by the Starling house, just to see if there might be something we may have missed, something that might help.  I don’t even know if I actually meant it.  I was just trying to untangle myself from this painfully awkward conversation I’d tied myself into.

Amancia looked like she got an electric shock.  Her head snaps up and she looks straight at me with what was anger or fear or both or maybe something else entirely and she says “You stay away from that house, boy.”

Probably the worst thing she could have said.

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