I headed to the bedroom, paused halfway down the hallway, and then turned around and went into the kitchen. I had been curbing my drinking, and for the past two weeks I had been devoutly dry, but tonight (or early this morning, rather) I needed something to relax me. My stomach felt better, but the bad feelings I had endured back at the backwoods Friday Night Fight Club had stayed with me.
I filled a shot glass with Jack Daniel’s and knocked it back. Better.
Four more shots made it much better. I rinsed the glass and left it to dry in the dish drainer while I hit the shower.
I made the water as hot as I could stand it and stood under the spray. Who was that fat guy? Why had he smelled so familiar? His face hadn’t meant much to me–acne scars, lips like a catfish’s, small ears–but I knew his scent from somewhere.
Easy answer, I had encountered him in a professional capacity at some point in the past, after that stupid werewolf bit me and my nose became more useful than my eyes.
I wrapped up in my bathrobe and went to the spare bedroom I used as an office. I opened my laptop and accessed the sheriff’s office website. A password and a few clicks got me into the digital mugshots.
I spent the next hour shuffling through pages of Sawyer County’s upstanding citizens, burglars and shoplifters and wife beaters and one idiot who had been arrested for fondling a goat (and that was as much information as I wanted) before heading back into the kitchen for the bottle and a bigger glass. It was three in the morning on a Saturday, I had the weekend off, no boyfriend–that I knew of, I hadn’t spoken to David in a while–and no commitments until my shift started at eight on Monday morning. Might as well get soused and look at mugshots.
Another hour, more pages, and I was yawning. I might have just pulled that doofus over for speeding or some shit. I was assuming that a guy who looked like a creep would have done something creepy–
“Ah. Bloody hell.”
I backed out of the mugshots and clicked on the sex offenders. There he was, halfway down the second page: Leland Wayne Paget.
Three years ago, a nine-year-old girl in Spring opened her closet door to find Paget standing there wearing his tightie-whities and nothing else. She shrieked. Her dad ran in, saw Paget there among his daughter’s Girl Scout uniforms, and proceeded to drag him out of the closet and into a royal beat-down. After pulping Paget’s face and knocking out all his teeth, the dad called the cops.
Paget had jimmied open one of the girl’s bedroom windows and climbed in while the family was down the hall in the living room watching a movie. The cops found his clothes and shoes shoved under her bed. Paget spent two years in prison, and when he was released, he had a new set of dentures and a bus ticket to Mitchum Bay.
One of the duties of the county cops is to check up on the registered sex offenders once a month and make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be. Sawyer County rotates this duty so that everyone gets a chance to spend a week driving around in disgust. Three two-man teams are dispatched, and what fun it is.
Three months ago, it had been my rotation. I had been paired with Pierce Kemp, who was a nice enough guy, even if he did like the Houston Texans and talked too much. And so, I had encountered Paget and filed away his scent in my brain’s olfactory Rolodex.
Awesome sauce. I leaned back in my chair. So what was a guy like him doing in a place where a guy like him would have been shoved into the center of the ring and beaten to death?
I cocked an eyebrow and checked the fifth of Jack on the desk next to me. Half-empty. It had started out nearly full.
I rubbed my forehead. Bobby Leger had told me that he personally approved everyone who came out there, be they spectator or fighter. I’d had to talk to him and pay him a hundred bucks before he let me come out there. I’d had to assure him that I had no interest in busting him, I just wanted to hit somebody.
And pretty soon that had turned into letting myself be hit, number one because Leger complained that my fights ended too quickly (and the reason why he had started taping up my hands himself, because he had suspected I was using brass knuckles or something), and number two because I kind of liked it and maybe deserved it, and that was all the self-analysis I cared to do for the day.
I stood up. The room tilted. I sat back down. The chair creaked. So Leger knew Paget. Once I sobered up, I would pay him a visit.
I stared at Paget’s pic. There was a short summary below his pic, his birthdate and address and offense. But there was also something there that I hadn’t seen on any of the other perverts’ summaries, a small red ADN after his offenses.
ADN, in our system, was short for Addendum. I moved the mouse to it. The arrow cursor changed to a tiny hand, and I clicked it.
It was a link to a copy of a report filed by a detective with the Spring Police Department.
When Paget was in the hospital, doped up with his face looking like one of those weird decorative squashes, he had told a nurse that he was sorry about the little girl. She thought he meant the Spring closet girl. But then he said a name, Dallas, and mentioned a pink teddy bear. And then the nurse went to get the police officer stationed outside the door, because a month earlier, an eight-year-old girl named Dallas Moll had gone missing from her front yard. A neighbor had seen a stocky guy in a blue truck grab her and toss her into the cab, but the plate the neighbor gave police came back registered to a Prius.
Dallas Moll’s body had been found three days later in a rest area bathroom off I-10. She had been raped and strangled. She had been wearing a pair of overalls with a pink teddy bear stitched on the bib, a fact left out of the Amber Alert and the news reports.
When the cop came into the room, Paget was asleep. When the detective arrived half an hour later, he managed to wake up Paget, who of course said he didn’t remember saying anything. He said he sometimes talked in his sleep.
Nothing concrete could be found to link Paget to Dallas Moll. He did have a blue truck, but so did a lot of other people in Spring and Harris County. He didn’t have a plate that belonged to a Prius. The neighbor couldn’t positively ID him. He had a verified alibi.
But the detective had made sure that the suspicion followed Paget. Thus the link to the report. A note to keep an eye on him.
And in true Sawyer County style, no one had. If I had known this when Pierce Kemp and I had checked on him, I would have been back later that night to kill him.
So. A child murderer hanging out with a bogeyman. There was no way this was a horrible idea.