Cadaverous Ch. 01 Pt. 02bydrdirty8©
As the sun slowly moved toward its resting place on the horizon, Ricky Joe Burns opened his tired eyes, barely realizing yet that it was already past dawn. He was supposed to be at work at eight a.m., and a quick glance at the clock on the living room wall told him that it was well beyond seven.
Stealing away from his comfortable chair with a creak in his bones and sleep still dancing on his eyelids, Ricky headed to the bathroom to splash some cold water on his eyes. "It's gonna be a hell of a day, Ricky Joe," he told himself, but that was something that he said often and in the same way, staring at himself in the mirror. He was unshaven, hair a mess, barely able to focus.
Ricky, throwing down a quick bite, hurried to his bedroom to put on his deputy's uniform and headed off to work. He hadn't had a shower, a shave, or even much of a hair brushing, but he was so tired that he hardly cared at all.
As Ricky neared his truck, he heard a loud noise from behind him and turned so fast that his neck hurt, coming face to face with his lunging dog who, knocking him to the ground, began to lick his face.
"Well, this is a hell of a way to start my day, Hooter. Where'd you come from, Boy?"
Laughing and petting the dog roughly, Ricky slowly found his way back up and sent the dog back to the house.
Before he could even get his truck out of the drive, a gruff voice came over the c.b.
"Burns, you up and out yet? We got us a situation."
"Yes, Sir, Sheriff. On my way in now."
"Seems as though somebody's been sneakin' around out at the Miller farm and may have poisoned ol' June Miller somehow. You get on over there and don't worry 'bout comin' in til you're done. Paramedics is on their way there. You copy, Burns?"
"Loud and clear, Sheriff. I take it it was Bobby that called in." Ricky knew the answer before he asked and felt dumb for even mentioning it.
"Yep. Just get your ass on over there. You know how June Miller is. She may be sick right now, but she's gonna make our lives miserable as hell when she gets up and around if'n you don't do as she says."
"Like I said, on it, Sheriff." Ricky wished he could reach through to the other end and shake his boss by his throat, or by his collar, at least.
By the time Deputy Burns pulled up to the Miller house, the paramedics had June Miller on a gurney, laid out like a Christmas ham. Funny as it seemed, she wasn't complaining. It wasn't like June Miller not to yell at someone all of the time. Ricky knew that there must be something to June's story about a prowler. If June Miller was incapacitated, she must be near death.
Ricky tried the best he could to get a statement from June, but she barely spoke, and when she did, it wasn't much more than a child's jibberish. So, Ricky found his next best witness, little Bobby Miller.
Bobby was on the other side of the house, spitting on bugs and squashing them with a stick, seeming to take immense pleasure in his torture of the small creatures.
"Bobby, how you doin' today, Son," Ricky asked cordially.
Bobby acted as if he didn't hear a thing. Maybe he didn't. Ricky was never one to have much patience, especially with kids, but he figured his job depended on it and made another bold attempt with the spaced out child.
"Bobby Lee? Bobby Lee? Are you listenin' to me, Son?"
Turning his head in a fit of anger, the boy lashed out, "I ain't your son! I ain't nobody's son! My daddy done died, and mama's gonna be next! And we asked you to do somethin', and you ain't done nothin'!"
A bit flustered and unsure of how to proceed, Ricky shot back, "Now look here, Bobby Lee Miller. I know you're goin' through a tough time and all, but I'm your friend. You know that. If you got one friend in this world, it's Ricky Joe Burns. Now, your mama's gonna be fine, just fine. We're gonna get this son of a..." Ricky, who rarely held his tongue around anyone, decided to take a step back, reclining on the wall of the house and continued, "this really bad fella that's been terrorizin' ya'all."
Bobby seemed as if he almost wanted to smile, maybe even to trust in Ricky's words, but he quickly lowered his head to resume his preying upon the bugs on the ground.
Ricky knew he had to make some kind of headway with the boy and with the case. He started to reach out a hand to comfort little Bobby but stopped himself short. "Bobby, did you see anything, anything at all last night? We need any kind of information you can give us so that we can get this man that's doin' all of this. Ok?"
With a slight sniffle, the youngster turned to Ricky, nearly crying. "You really gonna get this man? He done somethin' terrible to my mama, and if I had my daddy's shotgun, I'd find him and put a hole in him big as the one in that tire right there."
"I promise you now, as God is my witness... we will catch him! You got my word on that, and you know the word of a Burns is good as gold!"
"Yeah," replied the boy, "That's what my daddy always said. He said he trusted you and your daddy. He said the only one of your kin you can't trust is your cousin, John. He said John's 'bout as worthless as tits on a bull."
Ricky let out a howl of a laugh at the boy's comment but couldn't disagree. He had as much use for John as he did for his boss. Still, he felt obliged to teach the boy a little bit of decency, as he saw it. "Bobby, I know you loved your daddy and all, but maybe an eight year old boy shouldn't go around usin' that kinda language. I use a fair amount of it myself now and again, but you're still real young and need not be sayin' those sorts of things."
Bobby, unphased by Ricky's words, rolled his eyes. "Hell, my daddy let me sip some beer a few times, and I stole my mama's cigarettes many a times. I seen dirty pictures. I even watched Mrs. Mallory changin' more than once through her window. I reckon I'm more growed up than most my age."
With a sigh, Ricky collected his staggering thoughts and resumed his questioning of the boy. "I ain't gonna say nothin' more 'bout any of that. Ok, Bobby? But what I need now is for you to tell me anything you seen or heard around here last night that might help me find this guy that's causin' you'ns all this trouble."
Bobby, throwing down his stick, took a seat on a small stump directly in front of his interrogator. With hands clasped around his face, resting in a forlorn gaze, he steadily built up the words he needed. "I didn't see much. I heard our dog bark out back and went to shut him up. As I was comin' back in, I saw a man in black clothes runnin' for his life across our yard and through our pasture. I hollered at him and said if'n he didn't get, I'd come back with my daddy's gun."
"That's all you saw, Bobby?"
"Yes, Sir. All I saw. But I heard mama some time in the night say she was feelin' awful dreadful. She tried to get out of bed, called me into her room, but she couldn't get up. I did all I could to help her. Honest, I did!"
Ricky felt himself starting to have some real sympathy for the boy. He rarely sympathized with anyone, as he often though of how much he hated his life and the town, including a lot of the people in it. He knew he'd picked the wrong job, one that required helping people. He wasn't sure he was any good at it or wanted to do it anymore. A strange resurgence of pride and desire came over him, even a bit of anger, wanting to find the man responsible for so much pain and have it out with him before hauling him off to jail.
Ricky said his goodbyes to Bobby Lee and scurried back to the other side of the farmhouse, finding that the paramedics had June Miller loaded into the ambulance. He hoped to get a word in with one of the paramedics and maybe even with June, as he had little idea of what to do next.
"Excuse me," Ricky shouted as the ambulance doors were being closed. "Excuse me! Can I have a word?"
One of the paramedics motioned for the other to go ahead to the cab while he spoke to Ricky. Ricky thought that he knew everyone in the area, but this guy was new to him. It didn't seem like anything to cause alarm but still bothered Ricky a bit.
Extending his hand to shake with the paramedic, Ricky extolled, "Hi. I'm Deputy Burns. You ain't from around here, are ya?"
The paramedic gratefully accepted the hand and shaking it vigorously, retorted, "Nope. I'm from over in Greene County. They needed a replacement here, and seein' as I got several years' experience, I got right in. What can I do for ya, Deputy Burns? My name's Ronnie Rydell, by the way."
"I was wonderin' if you might tell me what's wrong with Mrs. Miller there. I'm investigatin' it, and knowin' what I'm dealin' with might help a bit."
Shaking his head to note his understanding, Rydell informed Ricky that it seemed to be a case of carbon monoxide poisoning but that only tests at the hospital would tell for sure.
As the ambulance drove away, Ricky felt a wave of uncertainty wash over him. Something just didn't fit together. If June Miller had been poisoned by carbon monoxide, why would a man be seen, night after night, at the Miller farm? Carbon monoxide could easily be explained away by a number of things in or near the house. This was all not to mention that Ricky got a strange vibe from the new paramedic, Ronnie Rydell.
Ricky, luckily, kept a kit in his truck for fingerprinting, as well as a camera. He dusted the sill of every window on the house and took pictures of footprints, but nothing seemed much amiss. It was all too much to take in. Before this, his biggest case had been a drunk that tried to hold up the local gas station with a toy knife. Ricky questioned his own abilities to handle this. He wanted so badly to be the saving grace of the Miller family. They'd already suffered enough with the loss of June's husband, Bobby's father, as well as from the recent events.
Ricky gathered everything up, quickly stashing it all in the truck, and headed back around the house to talk to Bobby once more. When he got around the house, however, Bobby was nowhere to be found. Ricky called repeatedly for the boy, but all to no avail.
Ricky took a moment to light a cigarette and then headed around the house once more to check for the boy... still nothing. A tremendous sense of dread washed over Ricky's face. He was, at least for the time being, responsible for Bobby Lee Miller.
As Ricky headed across the Miller yard, he saw Bobby darting from the woods. The boy was shouting something incoherent, causing Ricky to feel even more worried.
Bobby, nearly out of breath, finally caught up to Ricky, holding out a piece of black cloth. "I found this here in the woods! It's got blood on it!"
Ricky, taking the cloth from the boy's hand, turned it over, and sure enough, blood!
At least now, there was a little more evidence to go on. It was going to be a very long and taxing day. Ricky wished that he could just call off work the rest of the day and either go fishing or just sit at home and drink beer and nap. That, of course, was never going to happen.
Bobby was told to go to Ricky's truck, that he would be taken to the Sheriff's station until something could be figured out for him. Unfortunately for Bobby, his only remaining family was small, undependable, and more than forty miles away. The boy reluctantly acquiesced and rode along with the deputy back to the station. It seemed like the longest, bumpiest ride in the history of Henderson.