Captain Roundtree counted down while his men pointed a firehose at Paul.
Paul was instantly knocked down by the sheer force of the water blast. The men continued to spray the nerd on the ground until his body was no longer covered with the late Roxy’s blood and fecal matter.
“Not again,” Paul mumbled. “Not…not again…not…not again.”
“What’s he saying?” Rusty asked.
Cole helped the kid up to his feet. Paul wrapped his arms around Cole and held on tightly. “This can’t be happening again!”
The chief pushed the young man back and grabbed him by the arms. “What can’t be happening again, son?”
“This!” Paul said. “All of this! This can’t be happening to me again!”
“What’s happening to you?” Cole asked.
“I was outside the bathroom,” Paul said. “Where Chad was…I don’t know…I heard a roar…and I was here and I heard a roar…it’s all happening again!”
Cole and Rusty traded confused looks.
“You were a witness to Chad Becker’s murder?” Cole asked.
“Not directly,” Paul said. “I only looked into the bathroom after it all happened.”
“And you didn’t tell anyone?” Cole asked.
“I didn’t want to get in any trouble!” Paul said.
A few of Sitwell’s finest milled around, securing the perimeter with yellow caution tape. Burt walked over and threw a blanket around Paul.
“Burt,” Cole said. “Can you take this kid back to the station?”
“Sure thing, boss,” Burt said.
Rusty and Cole followed as Burt guided the youngster into the back of a police cruiser. Once the door was slammed shut, Cole had another request for Burt. “Whatever you do, don’t let him leave.”
“This guy’s that important?” Burt asked. “Looks like a creepy little pervert to me.”
“Just call it a hunch,” Cole said.
Burt shrugged his shoulders. “You’re the boss.”
As Burt pulled away, Cole and Rusty held a meeting of the minds.
“That kid was at both murder scenes,” Rusty said. “You don’t think?”
“I do think,” Cole said.
“Maybe he was just really unlucky,” Rusty said.
“No one’s that unlucky,” Cole said. “Except for me.”
A pickup truck pulled up to the scene. Buford jumped out of the driver’s seat, took one look at the trailer and dropped to his knees. He screamed his balled his eyes out. “Momma! Noooo!”
Buford stood up and ran for the trailer. Cole and Rusty grabbed him, one man on each arm, holding him back.
“There’s no way for you to get in there,” Cole said.
“And you don’t want to see what’s in there,” Rusty added.
“I tried to warn her!” Buford cried. “Momma! Why didn’t you listen to me?! Why?”
“Come again?” Cole asked.
Rusty sniffed and took a deep breath. Seeing that he’d calmed down, the officers let Buford go.
“I tried to warn…” Buford said.
“About?” Cole asked.
Buford came to his senses and dried his eyes with a dirty, booger infested napkin he pulled out of his pocket.
“About smoking,” Buford said. “I told her, ‘Momma, one of these days you’re gonna fall asleep with a cigarette in your mouth and the pilot light on your stove on and blow yourself to Kingdom Come!”
“That’s not what happened,” Cole said.
Buford sniffed. “It isn’t?”
“No,” Cole said.
Rusty rested his hands on his hips. “You always visit your Momma this late, Buford?”
“Maybe,” Buford said. “What, there a law against a being a good son?”
Cole and Rusty traded yet another series of quizzical glances.
“Calm on, fella,” Rusty said as he put his arm around Buford. “Let’s get you back to the police station. Get you a nice cup of coffee.”
“I can drive,” Buford said.
Rusty started walking toward his police cruiser, coaxing Buford to come with him. Cole followed.
“In your condition?” Rusty asked. “Now what kind of an officer of the law would I be if I were to allow that?”
“I don’t really want to go to the police station,” Buford said.
“I know,” Rusty said as he opened the back door to his cruiser. “We hate to put you through this what with you just losing your Momma and all but you know how it is when someone passes on. There’s all sorts of paperwork involved.”
“Paperwork?” Buford asked as he sat down in the back of the cruiser.
“Don’t you worry about a thing,” Rusty said. “We’ll walk you through it. Easy peasy.
Rusty slammed the car door and pulled Cole aside.
“Holy shit on a monkey stick!” Rusty exclaimed.
“I know,” Cole said. “Two suspects at once.”
“We’re on our way to becoming superstars!” Rusty said. “Gonna have our photos in the paper and everything.”
“You really need to get your priorities straight,” Cole said.
“And you need to get your ass on over to Sharon’s hotel and tell her the good news,” Rusty said.
“What?” Cole asked. “That’s stupid. I’ll just call her.”
“Cole,” Rusty said. “Don’t you want to know if that giant is railing your ex-wife’s vagina?”
Cole looked away. “Please. I’m over it.”
“The vagina that you once thought would never be touched by a penis other than yours?” Rusty asked.
“Stop being stupid,” Cole said. “This case is too important…”
“You’ll never have another opportunity like this again,” Rusty said. “Go on over to her hotel. Put your ear up to the door. If they’re fornicating like a couple of wild baboons in heat in there then you know there’s no hope of you two ever getting back together but if they aren’t…”
“Rusty,” Cole said. “I do not want to get back together with her.”
“Nor should you after what she did to you,” Rusty said. “And I will call you a pussy forever if you do get back together with her but damn it, I can see the way you look at her. It’s the way a fat man looks at a hot fudge sundae. The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to it.”
Cole sighed. “I guess it couldn’t hurt to tell her about all this in person.”
“There you go,” Rusty said.
Rusty got into the driver’s seat. Cole started to walk away, then turned around, walked back and tapped on Rusty’s window.
“What?” Rusty asked as he rolled his window down.
“What if they ARE fornicating like a couple of wild baboons in heat?” Cole asked.
Rusty flipped on his flashing lights and siren. “That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”