The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 19

by Shane Migliavacca


The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 19 Sheriff John Pinbacker (II)



Dr. Kiesel was sitting at a desk doing a crossword when Sheriff Pinbacker entered the morgue. She’d requested to have some time to study the body. Feeling there were some peculiarities to it, he’d obliged. The family wouldn’t be in town for a few more days to claim it. A few feet away, the body lay under a sheet, sitting on a metal table. Kiesel appeared to be engrossed in a crossword puzzle. Chewing on the back of the pen in her hand.

Pinbacker cleared his throat loudly. Making Kiesel look up.

“Oh, sorry sheriff.” She put the puzzle away. “Gets a little boring around here. What with the…dead people.”

“So, whatcha got doc?”

She got up, walking over to the cold looking table. We all end up on these, Pinbacker thought. Laid out naked for some stranger to go poking around in our guts. 

“Well, if I may say,” Kiesel pulled back a bit of the sheet. Reveling the head and bare shoulders of the woman. “We got some strange shit here.”

Pinbacker stuck his hands in his pockets. “I don’t like strange.”

“You and me both sheriff.” She said.

Since they’d first got word of the body from an old woman walking her dog, Pinbacker tried to wrap his head over the cause of this murder. It was no simple mugging. Who goes out at night in slippers? Drug retaliated perhaps? An attempted rape? Kiesel had yet to give him all the details, but his gut told him that wasn’t the case here. Of all the possible reasons, there was one nagging at him. One idea that was festering in the back of his brain. There was a goddamn psychopath in his town. One he feared would strike again. 

“Lay it on me doc.” He sighed.

Kiesel went down to the other end of the table, lifting up a corner of the sheet, reveling the stump. “We have the obvious wound, here.” She tapped on the stump with the same pen she’d been chewing on. “I think a hatchet did this. Pretty strong swing.” She covered it up again. “Cut and dried.” Making her way back to Pinbacker. Kiesel pointed to the wound on the neck with her pen. “Then you get to this. Teeth marks.”

“Human? Not some random dog or something?”

“it’s human. That’s where the weird shit comes in. Our biter I believe, drank the blood after taking a chunk out of the victim’s throat. That’s why there was so little blood near her head. Or they used something to collect it.”

“Hold on a sec. You’re not gonna tell me there’s a vampire lose in town.”

She tapped the pen to her cheek. “I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“I took a saliva sample from the wound. What I got back from the lab…that’s the troubling part.” Kiesel dropped the pen. It clattered to the floor. Rolling away from her.

Pinbacker stopped it with his boot. “I’m not gonna like this, am I?”

“No. The sample would indicate our killer was a little over a month old. Give or take.”

The sheriff bent down. Picking up the pen, he handed it back to Kiesel. “Okay. Officially I like my vampire theory better. Could this be a screw up on the lab’s part?”

She dropped the pen in the pocket of her lab coat. “Thought of that. Had them run it a few more times. No changes.”

“You’re not making my day here doc.”

“Sorry about that sheriff.” Kiesel said.

Pinbacker rubbed his calloused hands together. “You’re not the one who has to put an APB out for a hatchet wielding vampire toddler.”

“Were there any witnesses?”

“One. A guy in a neighboring apartment building. Heard the victim hollering for someone to stop. Said she was chasing after somebody who stole her bicycle. He only got a look at her. Didn’t see the thief.”

“So, no idea if it was a vampire baby?”

Pinbacker shook his head. “No. Sadly I have to be hitting the dusty trail doc.”

Kiesel nods. She turns to the body, pulling the sheet back over the woman’s face. “Rest in peace.”


Pinbacker sat behind his desk. He always felt it was way too big for his office. Today it felt very small. Between the murder, there was the fact that he’d started smoking again. The stress he was feeling from the case was having an effect on his marriage. He found himself sitting alone at home, turning over the facts in his head. Ignoring Rose far too much. Or becoming annoyed with her for talking while he was thinking. He’d have to make it up to her. If he could.

Maybe some coffee would help. He left his office. There was a time he kept a pot in his office. It led him to stay holed in his office way too much. Going out to get it, forced him to socialize with his deputies. Pouring a cup, he could see trouble coming his way. Trouble in this case was Deputy Dana Cuthbert. Her brow was furrowed. Pinbacker couldn’t get over how much the deputy looked like some sort of amazon. She was tall. With bright, blonde hair and blue eyes. It was no surprise to him when he found out she played basketball in high school. Back where he’d come from they’d call her corn fed. He could see her on that show, Charlie's Angels.

“Coffee?” Pinbacker offered her the pot. Hoping to stave off whatever appeared to be troubling her.

She put a hand up. “No thanks. Makes me pee too much.”

“Good to know. What’s troubling you deputy?” He took a sip. Knowing he’d need the caffeine hit.

“It’s our guest.”

He followed the deputy to a small supply closet. She opened the door just enough for the two to slip in quick. A box of paper was spilled across the floor. Many of the blank white pages had been shredded. A pair of emerald eyes stared up at them from under one of the shelves lining the walls.

They’d found the cat in the victim’s apartment. He’d decided against sending it to the animal shelter. It had sat there with a sad, pleading look on its face. Although the cat was starting to make him regret that decision. The damn thing was making a mess out of the supply closet. Puking on the shelf. Knocking over stuff and now this.

“Remind me to ask her parents when they come, if they want the cat.” Pinbacker knelt down. He put a hand out, trying to coax the cat out.

The cat approached him. Watching the both of them as it slowly walked towards the sheriff’s outstretched hand.

“It only seems to respond to you sir. I tried to feed it this morning, little shit wouldn’t come out for me.”

The cat rubbed its head on Pinbacker’s hand. Purring loudly as it did so. He stroked its soft ears. “Maybe somebody should look after the little guy till we know what to do with him.”

“I was thinking the same thing sir.”

“Have anybody in mind?” He rubbed the cat under its chin.

“Actually, yes I do.”


Pinbacker stepped into his modest looking home. Carrying a metal pet carrier in one hand. The cat was finally settling down. The whole trip over it had howled like crazy. Not enjoying being stuffed into the carrier nor riding in the cruiser. Rose wasn’t a big pet person, how she’d deal with their little boarder he wasn’t sure.

Pinbacker set the cat down. It crouched in the center of the cage. “I’ve got to go see the boss. We’ll figure out if you’re staying.”

He entered the kitchen. Rose stood by the counter dicing some carrots. Her back to him, she was watching the afternoon movie. A bearded James Brolin was busy chopping wood angrily. Pinbacker slide up behind his wife, kissing her on the neck.

She tensed up. “You know that’s not a good idea when I’ve got a knife in my hand, hon.”

Pinbacker had meet Rose when he’d come back to the states after his tour in Vietnam. Before he’d decided to become a cop. She’d practically run him down at the train station. He’d tried using the turn style at the same time as a harried young woman. She pushed it a split second before him, sending the metal bar into his gut, doubling him over. She’d been so upset about what she’d done, to show her it was okay, Pinbacker took her out to lunch. A month later he could safely say he was in love. It really didn’t seem that long ago.

“What would you say to having a guest for a few days?” He rested his chin on her shoulder.

She put the knife down. “Oh no. Your sister’s in town.”

“No, hairier.”

“Your mother?”

“No. Shorter.”

“My mother?”

He took her hand leading her out to the living room where the cat sat in its cage. Wide, wild eyes taking in its surroundings.

“What the hell is this John?”

“That would be a cat.”

“I can see that. Why?”

He explained to her where it had come from. After some hesitation, he won her over. Rose kept the house spotless. Everything in its place. The idea of a little fur ball running around the house, even for a few days didn’t exactly please her. Pinbacker was frankly surprised he’d gotten her to agree to it at all.

Pinbacker set out a bowl of food and one for water. He opened the cage trying to coax the cat out. Scared, it stayed in the cage.

“Give it time.” Rose said. “Give it some space.”

He decided she was right. He’d check on it again after supper. Rose had made beef stew. A dish he loved. After he’d eaten way more then he should have, Pinbacker went back to check the cat. The cage was empty. Some of the food was gone from the bowl. The cat itself was nowhere in sight. After a little searching he found it sleeping under the coffee table. He knelt down. The cat’s eyes open slightly.

“Don’t worry. Your safe.”

In bed later, he held Rose. Touching her hair. “We’re doing okay, right kid?”

There was a five-year age difference between them. This led him to call Rose kid. A nickname she begrudging put up with. Though deep down, Pinbacker suspected she liked it.

She kissed him on the cheek. “Yes. Now get some sleep.”


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