The last run of the morning done, his hands stained with the ink that hadn’t settled into the newsprint, Adrian climbed back into the driver’s seat of the delivery truck. They hadn’t seen her in three days. Tomorrow would be Wednesday and make four. If they made it to Friday, her name would be the headline on the papers he stocked fifteen times once a week. He’d seen the signs her family made. His stomach felt taut and he felt as though he could hear the individual gas bubbles rise and explode.
They had asked him where he was that night at the dance, the last place anyone, including Adrian, had seen Angela. They had been together the whole time. At least. Until Lillie showed up. And he couldn’t help but remember the dreamtime between them as soon as he saw her standing in the corner with that anchor Mitch. Suddenly, he had wanted to explain why Angela, why now.
“Her father…her father is Detective Hank Molloy. I thought if I hung out with her, I could ask him about what happened to my father, about the body bag. You and I both know Thomas Louder was lying to our face.” Unabashed earnestness in his expression, he made Lillie feel ridiculous for the green knot of jealousy she’d plaited in her hair.
“Hung out? Adrian. You’re dating her to get to her father?…You’re doing this because of the case?”
“The case? THE case! My case, the case of us. I don’t see how you can ignore it – don’t you want to get me…out of your head?”
“No.” She’d said simply. “No. I don’t want to risk that for anything.”
And the problem laid itself out at his feet again. As scared as she was of breaking it, as scared as he was, Adrian had to understand the connection and that meant he needed to dance with Angela. “I’m sorry.” He’d held his hands up apologetically, and Lillie stared at him like he was crazy. Maybe he was. But when he turned back to look for his date, she wasn’t sitting by the punch bowl. He had figured that she probably deserved an explanation, too, only, he thought somehow he could avoid that part until he’d
Adrian sniffed. The other driver smoked and the cab reeked of Marlboros including have a dozen smashed into the ashtray. He leaned back and the thought overtook him: He could really be an asshole.
When it came to things that mattered, yeah, he could.
Adrian decided to get out and take a walk in the half-hour or so before the rest of the kids arrived for first bell. He wasn’t sure where, but he needed to move as though if he held still the thoughts couldn’t attack him. He pulled the keys from the ignition, and locked the truck behind him. He wandered for a few moments up and down the sidewalk until he came back around to the school. He realized that the noise of the fountain he’d heard each week when he stopped for the last rack wasn’t flowing.
He walked towards the fountain when he realized there was a body in the red, punchbowl-like water and the smell of blood in the morning sun was so strong, so strong, so strong…fingers, a foot displaced from a leg, a head dispatched and mutilated like a honeydew melon cut up for Sunday brunch. A foot hung over the side, the bluish flesh covering up the Memorial on the plaque that read G. Howard Grant Memorial Fountain.
If Adrian wasn’t already on the verge of throwing up, the ribbonetted flesh ran in fatty coils away from the bone, each reeking. Reeking so strongly that he wobbled, almost fell to his knees against the cobblestones that surrounded the facade.
A gasp of air from his lungs burst from his lips and he turned his head away, suddenly awash with heat. A sting followed, the pain disgust brings when it comes on too fast. He summoned himself to look once more. Right, right now, right now you’ve got to be sure. Amid the gore, the mash of muscle and studs of bone, there was one thing. A tattoo of a bleeding rose, bleeding both in image and in fact. It must have been situated on her breast. Maybe he’d seen a petal of it when she was dancing.
His stomach sent him toward the nearby decorative bushes to empty its contents, nothing much but acid, and as he finally felt finished, the bitterness coated his mouth.
It was this taste on his throat, these images, when he called Lillie from the pay phone outside the laundromat two blocks south of the school. Lost…he felt…so lost. And when Adrian felt lost now, there was only one Gibraltar he knew of.
“Hello?” She was sleepy still.
“Hello.” Lillie was waiting for him to answer. Adrian could hear her reposition the phone against her ear.
“You called me, Adrian. Adrian?”
“There’s a body…in the fountain…it’s Angela. She’s…I should…” He could feel his voice falter, even felt a whine change his pitch, but couldn’t help it.
“Just call the police, Adrian. We’ll…just wait for me at Hazel’s. Buy some coffee. I’ll just be a minute. Don’t…”
“Yeah, I‘m going.”