I stepped out of my Ford Taurus and walked over to Detective Carl Donato, crouched down in the dark corner of the Rizzo’s Pizza parking lot along Route 101. The streetlights reflected off the wet pavement, Donato looking over his shoulder at me. “Walsh?” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“I was on my way home, heard the call from dispatch.”
Donato stood to his feet and backed away from the body, reaching inside his jacket. He came out with a pack of Marlboros. “Rescue’s on its way, but it’s too late.”
I glanced toward the crossroads and the flashing yellow light above, then shifted my gaze to the body. “Any idea what happened?”
A car drove by on the road at a pretty good clip. Donato followed it with his gaze until it disappeared beyond the hill. He turned to a group of young men huddled near the front door of the restaurant. “Boys over there aren’t saying much.” He nodded toward a woman leaning against a car, parked in front of the brick building. “That woman over there said she was on her way home from work, saw the body from the road.”
Donato walked away, and went over to the woman.
My gaze was back down at what looked like a young man. Lifeless and bloodied. I looked over at Carl standing in front of the woman, saying something I couldn’t hear. He lit a cigarette for himself, then shook one from his pack and gave it to the woman.
Sirens screamed in the distance of the quiet town, growing louder until the EMS sped into the parking lot, coming to a quick stop a few feet from the body. Two medics jumped from the vehicle with canvas bags in their hands and hurried toward the body.
“He’s deceased,” I said.
“How long?” one of them asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just got here.”
I left them alone and walked over to the young men talking in hushed voices, watching the scene. The lights from the ambulance glowed off their ghost-white faces. I said, “Anyone see what happened?”
There were five of them. Maybe early twenties, at most. Only one of the young men spoke up, pointing his thumb over his shoulder toward the darkness inside the restaurant. “We were in there.”
The hours posted on the metal sign, screwed into the brick wall, said it closed at 11:00 p.m. “Isn’t it closed?”
They all seemed to nod at the same time. The young man said, “We work here. We were just playing cards, in back, after we closed.”
I looked at each one of them. I could smell the booze. “Are you all old enough to be drinking?”
The kid who seemed to be a little older, maybe the one in charge, gave me a nod. But looking at the others, he might’ve been the only one of proper drinking age.
I put my thumbs in my belt and looked toward the parking lot and the two medics standing over the body.
I said to the boys, “Was that young man with you, by any chance?”
They all looked at each other before answering, then shook their heads at the same time.
“I hope you’re all telling the truth,” I said, glancing over at Carl walking away from the woman he left alone, by her car.
“Did you hear or see anything? Something must’ve brought you outside...” I looked at the kid in front, who’d so far been the only one willing to open his mouth. “What’s your name?”
I looked toward the far end of the lot and saw Carl get in the front seat of his Crown Victoria. He had one foot on the ground, his phone against his ear.
“Don’t go anywhere,” I said to the boys as I walked toward the woman.
She leaned against her rusty Subaru wagon, her arms folded with the lit cigarette in one hand.
I introduced myself, “I’m Detective Henry Walsh.” Although truth be told, I was at least six hours from my first shift in the detective unit.
Three more police vehicles—two locals and another state trooper—pulled into the lot with lights flashing. With a light mist in the air and dim streetlights overhead, the medics powered up the spotlights on the back of their vehicle to light up the area around the body.
I said to the woman, “Did Detective Donato get your information?”
“No, he… he asked me what I saw, then walked away. I don’t know where he went.”
I pulled my pad from my inside coat pocket. “Okay, why don’t you start with your name.”
“Christine. Christine Dwyer.”
“You called nine-one-one?”
She nodded as her body shivered from her nerves and the damp chill in the air.
“Did you see what happened to him?”
She took a drag from her cigarette. “Saw him lying there when I was driving by. Wasn’t even sure it was a person at first. But I pulled in and parked my car. I walked over to him and…” She closed her eyes and hung her head before finally looking up, “I knew right away he was dead.”
I glanced back toward the body, then walked around her car, looked at the hood, then at the front quarter on the passenger side. The car wasn’t in good condition—dented in more than one place—but not enough to be from the impact of a body. I looked back at the street. “Which direction were you coming from?”
She pointed toward the southeast. “Just got out of work in Providence. I live just over the Connecticut line.” Her voice was quiet. It shook as she spoke. She took a deep breath, this time without the cigarette.
“Did you see anybody else out here?” I looked at the boys. “Were they outside when you pulled in?”
“I don’t think so. But they must’ve heard me scream. I yelled for help as I dialed my phone.” She straightened out and looked toward the building. “I didn’t think they were open this late.”
“They’re not. Just hanging around, playing cards… drinking beer.”
She looked at the door to Rizzo’s. “I’m not sure, but I thought the lights were on when I pulled in. I thought someone must’ve turned them off. That’s what caught my eye at first. The lights. Otherwise, I might’ve driven right by.”
I looked through the restaurant’s windows. It was dark inside. “You sure the lights were on?”
She paused, staring toward the restaurant. “No, I’m not sure. It’s all just a blur.” She let out a nervous laugh. “I’m sorry.” She looked around the lot. “Honestly, I was in shock. I didn’t even see…” She looked around. “What’s his name? The other officer?”
She nodded just as Carl snuck up behind me and grabbed my arm. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”
We both walked away from Christine. Carl looked over at the boys in front of the building and said, “One of ‘em over there is Sergeant Potter’s sister’s kid. He’s on his way right now.”
Carl started to walk away. Over his shoulder, he said, “I need to go check on something. I told him you were here.” He walked past Christine Dwyer without a word and toward his car parked in the far corner of the lot, almost on the other side of the building.
“Carl? Where are you going? Aren’t you—”
Without looking back, he got in his gray Crown Victoria and pulled straight out onto Route 101. He took off like he was in pursuit.
Maybe he was.
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