As soon as he came through the door at Central, Detective Sergeant John Bowers noticed the white board and the younger detective scrawling another name in black marker.
"Who's Wendy Williams?"
Mac Bando, junior detective on the robbery-homicide unit, looked over his shoulder at the burly senior pulling off his jacket. "Just this morning. Boyfriend called. She never showed up for their date last night. Didn't show for work this morning. So, Mom went over to her apartment, and manager let her in. He called 911 to report a 1054." Victim down call.
He ran down the initial report that had come in from the field. Wendy was visible from the living room of the apartment when the manager opened the front door. He used his pass key, noting both the Schlage and the deadbolts were locked. The moment he stepped inside, he noticed the unpacked grocery bags on the table. With one glance straight ahead through the bedroom door, he saw her. Before he could speak, Mrs. Williams bumped against his back.
"Wendy Honey, it's Mom Are you okay, Sweetheart? Wendy?"
She tried stepping around him, and he was able to block her just in time, pushing against him to clear her way to the bedroom.
"No, Ma'am. Don't go in there."
"I want to see my daughter Wendy?"
He had to grab her shoulders and hold her back. He couldn't let her see what he saw. Even if he had to carry her back out to the landing. No way would he let this sight sear into her brain until the day she died. He thought of his own daughter Corell, and it sickened him.
"Ma'am, please Please, step outside. I have to call the police. You don't want to see this."
Mrs. Williams was sobbing now, knowing what he had seen, and she had only barely glimpsed. Enough to see her daughter's naked foot hanging over the edge of the comforter. "I want to see my daughter "
"Please, Ma'am. Please, don't go in there."
She raised her hands, made fists and beat on his chest, keening and going limp when he put his arms around her. "I'm so sorry, Ma'am, but I think she's gone. Wait until the police and ambulance get here. You can't help her now."
He called 911 on Wendy's land line. As soon as he hung up, he thought about leaving his prints. Too late to worry about that now.
One last look, and he knew she was dead. Visions etched into his brain from Nam flashbacks-the dead-fish eyes, the pale pallor and mottled purple of blood pooling below midline. Only thing missing was the odor of putrid flesh and napalm.
"Please, Ma'am. Wait outside. They're on their way. Can I call somebody for you? Is your husband home?"
Wendy's mother collapsed, sagged to the floor, on her knees, rocking back and forth. She didn't speak. What did it matter who came? What did anything matter now?