Deep down, what bothered Tasha Wolf was the sloppiness of the local cops. They had refused to consider the theory that Leonard Wolf, her philandering dad, had been murdered by one of his bimbos. Instead of making even a token investigation, Sheriff Joe Walters pronounced it suicide, on TV, and later leaked the messy, embarrassing details. Leonard Wolf, booze-soaked anchorman, naked and alone in his blood-spattered cabin, had left not a word of apology or explanation. In the course of that single, horrible day, the Wolf family had gone from fame to shame.
The same cops stood by for years, thumbs inserted into rectums, as a maniac killed six vulnerable young women and floated their corpses down the Destiny River and into Shipwreck Bay.
“You know what bothers me?” Tasha said.
“I’m listening,” said Maggie Hughes, from behind the bar.
“I drove by the Want-A-Burger today, and a sign said Help Wanted, $12.50 an hour.”
“Uh-huh,” said Maggie, wiping down beer taps, not really listening.
“That’s twenty five cents more than I make,” Tasha said. “You know what else bothers me?” She didn’t wait for Maggie’s reaction. “WartHogg played a flash concert in London. I can get to London cheap on Icelandic. But did Joey text me?”
“Fame, Tash, it probably…”
“I know all about fame. Take that famous son of a bitch Merle Apgar. I broke that story. The Strangler was caught because of work I did. And then that publicity hound gets a book published. You know my greatest fear? Movie deal. What if it becomes a hit movie? What if the journalist whose ass-busting work broke the case would have to watch it from the cheap seats? I’ll take the 9-ounce pour this time.”
She pushed her wine glass toward Maggie.
“I live to serve,” grunted Maggie. The house wine came out of a stainless-steel tap, it was that cheap. She pushed a brimming glass of merlot across the bar to Tasha.
“One more thing bothers me,” Tasha said. “Daniel Burns, retired Air Force and currently police science teacher? He knew the last strangler victim.”
“Strangler, now? I thought you were writing some kind of Bermuda Triangle thing.”
“No sale. Dennis wants…”
“The new fucking editor. They last like 6 months, these guys. Anyway, the Strangler case is hot again. Some kind of task force is looking at it.”
“Okay, so what bothers you?”
Tasha shrugged. “I don’t know. Coincidence, I guess. The last victim. Just, something bothers me.”
“The Antonio girl, you’re talking about?”
“She knew Dan Burns.”
“That came out at the time,” Maggie said. “Coincidence, right? Wasn’t she a BCC student? And he’s a teacher, right?”
“In my game you play your hunches,” Tasha said. “Hunch, dig, dig, that’s what it is. Hunch, dig, dig.”
Maggie leaned over the bar. “You want my advice? Restaurant reviews. What this town could use is a good restaurant reviewer.”
Tasha gulped wine.
“Because Yelp,” Maggie said, “my god.”
“I’m hard news,” said Tasha.
“The police already … didn’t they call in the FBI in the Strangler case?”
“The love of my life is galavanting around Europe without me,” Tasha said. “That’s all I know.”
But that wasn’t all that Tasha knew, it was all she was willing to reveal to the gossipy Maggie Hughes. Tasha couldn’t forget that three years ago, Maggie helped spread the awful details of Leonard Wolf’s suicide.
As Maggie walked off to serve a gaggle of soccer players at the other end of the bar, Tasha looked around, saw she didn’t have a friend in the place, left her wine glass half full, and pushed out into the twilight.
She watched the traffic go by, not really seeing it, but contemplating this one set of facts that wouldn’t lie down and behave. Daniel Burns knew Maureen Antonio. She was a prostitute. She was also his student. Her body ended up in Shipwreck Bay. Joseph Garland, who’d strangled Maureen, and five other young women, had been shot dead by Daniel Burns.
Hunch. Dig. Dig.
Tasha shows off her new tattoo.