Fiction: The Gargoyle

By Steven Bays

Nelson arrived at the crime scene to find the entrance to the house roped off. The yellow tape with the black words, POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS caught the reflection of the lights from the squad cars, flickering in the night. A few curious bystanders stood around, mumbling to each other. Standing in the doorway, a police officer raised his hands, palms out, stopping him. Nelson flashedhis badge at the policeman and walked by. Inside the house, a photographer was busy taking pictures of a dead woman. She lay face up on the living room floor, in front of a fireplace. A bathrobepartly covered her naked body. Blood, from a wound on her head, streaked down the side of her face.
Nelson walked up to one of the officers in the house.
“Ain’t you Officer Keller?” Nelson asked.
“Yeah. I remember you. ‘Bout time you overpaid sleuths showed up.”
Nelson smirked and tilted his head to one side, but saidnothing. He walked around the body, looking at it intently. Keller came and stood next to him.
“Sure was a good-looking woman,” Nelson said. “Must have been a gym rat. Look at that muscle tone.”
“I’d say mid-fifties, right?” Keller asked.
Nelson ignored the question. “You get here first?” he asked. “Anyone else home?”
“Yes, to both questions. Two adult males. I put them in separate squad cars. And there’s a boy, I should say a young male. The victim’s son. Seemed a bit off, if you know what I mean.”
“No. I don’t. Elaborate.”
“I guess the correct term would be he’s got special needs?Very upset. He didn’t want to come out of his room. I left him there.”
Nelson kneeled next to the woman. With a pen, he moved a few strands of her blonde hair and stared at the gash on the side of her head.
“Looks like she knew her attacker,” he said.
“How ya figure that?” the officer asked. 
“If the killer surprised her, the wound most likely would have been in the back of her head. I’d say she was face-to-face with him. Maybe someone she knew.”
Nelson looked around the house. “Any sign of a break-in?” he asked. 
“How about the murder weapon?”
“Still looking.” 
“Seems like an open and shut case, right? No sign of a break-in, the potential perps here in the house. You know what?” Nelson stood up. “I hate cases like this.”
“Unpredictable. Totally unpredictable.”
“Seems cut and dry to me.” 
Nelson ignored the policeman. “You said there are two adults here? Who are they?” Nelson asked.
“One’s a boyfriend. The other says he’s the victim’s brother-in-law. I didn’t question them too much. Figured I’d leave that to you.”
“And who called the police?”
“The boyfriend, Kenny. He found the body.”
Nelson made a clicking sound with his tongue. “Yeah, I’m sure he said he was innocent.”
“Don’t they all.”
“I wanna see the boy first. Where is he?”
Keller escorted him down a hallway to a closed door. 
“What’s his name?” 
Nelson knocked and a voice came from inside. The words were forceful, separated with a brief pause.
“Go. Away.” 
Nelson knocked again. 
The voice came back louder. “Go. Away.”
“Chris, I just want to talk,” Nelson said. “Can I come in?”
“No. Go away.” 
Nelson cracked open the door. Inside, a young man was curled up in bed. His face was buried in a pillow. He gave Nelson a quick look, revealing the tears running down his face. 
“Okay. Tell you what. I’ll be back, but then we’re going to talk. Okay?”
“No. You no come back.”
“Determined, ain’t he,” Nelson said to Keller as he closed the door. “Take me to the boyfriend.”
Keller led him to a police cruiser parked in the driveway. “This is him.”
Nelson climbed in the front. He looked over at the man sitting in the back seat. His hair was unkempt, and he looked flushed and sweaty. The man wore pajama pants and a white tank top. 
“So, you’re Kenny. Want to tell me what happened?” 
“I didn’t do it, I swear.”
“I didn’t say you did. Just tell me your rendition of events.”
Kenny took a deep breath. He stumbled with his words. “I. I was asleep, and I heard voices. Sounded like Laura, yelling at someone. Then I noticed she wasn’t in bed with me, so I went to look for her. I found her spread out on the floor. Blood coming from her head. She was still breathing but unresponsive. I called 911 right away then went back to check on her but she was dead.”
“You’re what, maybe 30 years old? Laura’s got to be in her early fifties. What were you, her boy toy? She buy you lots of stuff?”
“No. Nothing like that. Her husband Joe – “
“Oh, yeah, the husband. Where is he?” Nelson interrupted him.
“Dead. He was like, twenty years older than her? She said he was the love of her life. Her words, but if you ask me, she married him for his money. When he died, well the way she put it, she wanted some young dick for a change.” 
Nelson stifled a laugh. “And did your cougar lavish you with gifts?”
“No. It wasn’t like that. I liked her. I mean, I really liked her.” 
“Did you meet her before or after the husband died?”
“Tell me about her son,” Nelson asked.
“I don’t know. Laura said he’s intellectually challenged.”
“Hmm. What do you know about the other guy, the brother-in-law? Where was he when you found Laura?”
“At first, I figured maybe he did it because they never really got along. But he was fast asleep, in another room.”
Nelson’s eyes squinted. “They didn’t get along? Interesting.” Then he asked, “What did you hit her with?”
Surprised, Kenny's face turned red with anger. “I told you, I didn’t do it.” 
Nelson climbed out of the vehicle. “Stay here, I’ll be back.” He opened the door and Keller pointed to another squad car. “Alan, the brother-in-law. He’s in here.” 
As he approached the other car, Nelson stopped for a moment to allow the coroner to wheel the body away. The gurney’s wheels squeaked as it was pushed down the walkway, towards a waiting van. The number of bystanders had grown since Nelson first arrived. Some placed a hand over their mouth, others whispered. Cries of ‘Oh my God,” could be heard from neighbors who wondered who’s body lay under the sheet. 
Nelson peeked through the car’s window and looked over the man. He appeared older than the victim and wore a black robe. Once inside the car, Nelson introduced himself. “Detective Barrera. Nelson Barrera.”
“Alan,” replied the man. “Did he confess?”
“Kenny, that no good piece of shit.”
“Now hold on. I don’t care what you think of him.  I wannahear your version of events.”
“I was asleep when Kenny woke me.”
“I know. Tell me something I don’t,” Nelson said.
“My room is at the other end of the house. Kenny told me about Laura and my immediate reaction was to check on Chris, her son. I was afraid an intruder was in the house. Me and Chris, we shared the bathroom; you know one of those ‘Jack & Jill’ arrangements? That’s where I found him.”
“He was awake?” Nelson asked him.
“Yeah, he was washing his hands. I asked him if he was all right. I don’t know why, but he started crying.”
“Then what?”
“Chris wanted to know what happened. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. Instead, I brought him to the living room.”
Nelson put his hand out and stopped him. “Wait a minute.Didn’t you think that would be a bit traumatic? Showing him his dead mother?”
“I didn’t know what else to do. Chris started to wail hysterically when he saw Laura. He kneeled next to her and stroked her hair. I pulled him away. Kenny made him sit on the couch. I poured me some Scotch.”
“Okay, tell me. Why are you living here?”  
“It’s kind of a long story. Chris always had a caregiver. When his father retired, he took over that role. But when he died, Lauracouldn’t find anyone who could keep the job. Oh, she tried, but Chris don’t take too kindly to strangers. He was abusive with anyone she hired. Even smacked one woman. I’m serious. He wanted his father. Chris never understood what happened to him. Whenever Laura tried to explain things to him, he blamed her for his absence.”
“So, you came to the rescue?”
“Chris knew me, and we get along. I work from home so when she asked me to move in and help out, I said yes. “
“What line of work are you in?”
“I’m a writer. Murder mystery, that kind of stuff.”
“You any good?” Nelson wondered. 
“I do all right. This arrangement worked out fine. I kept an eye on Chris. Took him to the senior center where she had him do volunteer work. We’d go to the gym, shit like that. Laura could go to her job during the day, and I would write at night.”
“Kenny seems to think Laura had money.”
“Yeah right. He don’t know the half of it. After Joe died, she learned how heavily in debt he was. He gambled. A lot, we found out. The insurance money didn’t cover everything. Hell, she may even lose this house.”
“How did you and the victim get along?” Nelson asked.
“Okay, Did Kenny say something?”
“I’m not saying he did. Just answer the question.”
“I admit, we butted heads. Always did. She used to say it’s an astrological thing. I’m a Virgo, she’s an Aries. Anyway, we were like oil and water, but we made it work.”
“Why don’t you like Kenny?” 
“He’s a freeloader,” Alan said.
Nelson didn’t respond. If it was true, why would he kill the victim?
“There something you should know officer,” Alan said. 
“Detective,” Nelson corrected him.
“Chris took his father’s death pretty hard. Laura wanted him to bond with Kenny. Chris resented him trying to be a father figure.”
“Are you saying Chris did this?”
“Oh no. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“I think I’ll go pay him a visit.”
“I’ll go with you. He can get agitated pretty easily.”
“Okay, but let me do the talking.”
They climbed out of the squad car and once in the house, Nelson stopped. 
“Wait one minute,” he said to Alan. 
He walked around, taking in the scene and furnishings, the pictures on the wall, the nick-nacks, scrutinizing everything. There were crystal glasses in the China cabinet. A bar well stocked with top-shelf liquor. Nelson ran his hand across the fireplace mantle, tapping his fingers at the center. 
“Somethings out of whack. This house is meticulously decorated.”
Alan looked around at their surroundings. “So?”
“Despite that,” Nelson continued, “the center of this mantle, a spot where something prominent would be displayed, is bare.Why?”
“Oh, yeah,” Alan exclaimed, surprised. “The gargoyle is missing.”
“The gargoyle?” Nelson asked.
“Yeah. A figurine of a daemon. They brought it back from Paris. I thought it was weird, but Joe wanted it. Said it scared off evil spirits.”
“How big was it?” Nelson was curious.
“Maybe eight inches tall, made of stone. A bit heavy.”
“Heavy enough to hit somebody and crack a skull?” 
“Where’s Chris’s room?” 

Alan led Nelson down a hallway. Nelson knocked on the closed door and opened it at the same time. Curled up in bed, Chris lay in a fetal position. He lifted his head to see who knocked, then buried his face in a pillow.   
“Go. Away.” His voice was muffled. 
“Hey, Chris. I’m Nelson. Can we talk about what happened? Would you sit up?” 
No response from the boy.
“I know this may be difficult for you Chris. I understand this is a loss to you, but I have to ask you some questions. All right?”
Still no response.
“Did you hear anything tonight? Anything unusual?” Nelson asked.
“No. Chris needs to sleep. Go. Away.”  He placed his hands together, as if praying, and rested his head with his eyes closed.  
Nelson eyed the items in the room. Plastic figurines of toy soldiers stood on an end table. Baseball cards and game cartridges were scattered on the floor. Posters of action heroes decorated the walls. 
“Do you like Kenny, Chris?” Nelson asked.
Chris sat up. “Mommy, she sent Dad away and wanted Kenny to be my father.”  His eyes drifted back and forth between Nelson and Alan without focusing on either man.   
“Chris no feel so good. Sick. Maybe throw up.” He stood and brushed past the two men and went to the bathroom with a hand over his mouth. 
They heard the locking mechanism on the door click. Retching sounds came from inside. Then the sound of a toilet being flushed. Nelson’s eyes squinted as the sound of the water running grew louder. 
“Is that the shower?” he asked.
Alan nodded in agreement. He crouched outside the bathroom, his head up against the door. “You okay in there Chris?”  
The door opened. Chris came out, water dripping from his face and hair. 
“Better. Chris feels better.” He crawled back into bed.
“Let me get you a towel,” Alan said, walking towards the bathroom. 
“No. No, Chris get towel.” He became agitated and flapped his arms across his belly. “You stay.” Chris returned to the bathroom. He slammed the door shut. They heard the door lock. 
“This is a shared bathroom, right?” Nelson asked. “Where’s the other entrance?” 
Alan showed him to his bedroom. Once inside, he motioned towards a closed door. Nelson turned the door knob. It wasn’t locked. He opened it and stuck his head inside. Surprised, theyfound the bathroom empty. Nelson and Alan walked through and came out into Chris’s room. The young man wasn’t there. They proceeded to the crime scene where Chris lay on the couch. He stifled a yawn. At that moment, Officer Keller came in. 
“The boyfriend says he’s getting cold sitting in the car. Wants to come in and get dressed. Okay with you Nelson?”
“Yeah, yeah. Bring him in. Alan, you too, get dressed. We have to go downtown. We’re bringing Chris with us too. Get a statement from all of you.”
Nelson checked the room one more time. He did a double-take when he noticed the mantle. His brow squinted and his eyes focused intently. Nelson walked over and stood in front of the fireplace. The gargoyle was back where it belonged. A drop of water trickled down its nose and settled at the tip. If the inanimate gargoyle could speak, Nelson knew what it would say.

Steven Bays is from Brooklyn N.Y. His work has appeared in Down In the Dirt, Mocking Owl Roost, Waxing and Waning, and Spank the Carp Magazine. Steve is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group and has self-published a collection of short stories.


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