The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 38
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 38 Sam and The Sheriff
Anne woke. The room around her was alien. Concrete walls surrounded her. She was back at the mental institution. She had undefined memories of it floating at the periphery of her mind. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, her room came into focus. It had all been a dream. She felt a sense of peacefulness spread through her. She was at home in her bed. Nothing more then a dream. Carol. Work. Emily. They were all just parts of what she’d dreamed. Anne smiled. The bed felt so comfortable, so safe. She pulled the blankets tighter. Letting herself drift back to sleep. Curious where her dreams would take her next.
Pinbacker sized up the girl, Sam Lang. He’d noticed the wrench stuffed in the back of her pants. When he asked her, the girl gave him some vague answer about it “being for her bike.” She left the wrench with her bike almost as an offering to him. She was obviously hiding something and was visibly nervous. His instincts told him she wasn’t dangerous though. Telling him where she was headed he was quite surprised. Her destination was the same as his, the Marsten house. The day was getting more interesting by the minute. How did this girl figure into everything.
“Your folks own the magic shop?” He asked. He couldn’t help playing detective.
She appeared a little embarrassed by the connection. “Never been there. Not really my thing.”
Sam manged a small smile. “Me either.”
“Kind of dangerous coming out on a bike in a storm like this.”
“Worried about her and her mom with this storm. Couldn’t get a hold of them on the phone.”
There was more. She was holding back something. He could tell that much. Perhaps covering for her friend. He let his eyes dart briefly to her hands. She had black leather riding gloves on. He could tell from the brief glance if they had anything on them. She could have been there checking on Olson’s car. He didn’t think she was a killer, but she might be helping her friend Anne cover something up.
“Can’t fault friendship. We’ll take a look.” He didn’t tell her he was headed there himself. As far as she knew he was out here looking for his deputy. If she was up to something with the Marsten girl it was best to play it close to the vest. He hoped she wasn’t. Sam came across as too nice a girl. It could all be innocent and these girls had nothing to do with the murder and arson. Olson could have left the house fine and ran into trouble afterwards.
“Hope you find your deputy okay.” She said. Sounding genuine.
“Me too. Me too.”
They neared the house. A pickup truck parked in front. Somebody was here now. He pulled up parallel to the truck. The pickup hadn’t been here too long. Snow only lightly covered it. Perhaps a couple hours at most. It was very possible nobody had been here when Olson had come.
As they approached the house, Pinbacker was reminded of his days as a beat cop. There was one call he dreaded then more then any other. A 10-90 F2. A possible domestic incident. Responding to one of those, you never were sure what you could be walking into. He’d lost a couple buddies to one. When they were cut down by a husband wielding a shotgun. Pinbacker felt that old rookie fear crawl into his stomach.
He knocked on the front door, the girl flanking him. There was no way to be 100% sure about her. So he kept her in sight. One hand on his holster. When nobody responded he looked at the girl.
“Anne should be here.” Sam said.
Before Pinbacker could knock again. The loud click of the door unlocking stopped him. The door slowly opened. An older woman, somewhere in her late forties stood there. A warm, slightly off smile on her face. She wore a heavy green housecoat. He hadn’t seen one of those since he was a boy. His mom used to wear an ugly looking brown one.
“Can I help you?” She asked, looking over at the girl. “Oh, hello Samantha.”
“Hi, is Anne here?”
“She’s sleeping Samantha. She’s feeling a little under the weather.”
The woman turned to Pinbacker.
“What brings you out here Sheriff?”
“Just giving the young lady a ride. Roads are pretty hairy out there. Would you mind if I come in and use the phone?” He lied. “I need to get in touch with the station.” He could easily use the radio in the cruiser, maybe the woman wouldn’t realize that fact.
The expression that passed over her features momentarily told him enough. She didn’t want him in the house.
“That’ll be fine.” She stood aside, letting them inside.
Instinct told him he was stepping into an ambush. He let the girl go ahead of him. Best to keep her in front, in case she was part of it. His fingers played over the clasp on his holster. Faking a cough to cover the sound of snapping it open. It was a cheap ploy. And the only one he could think of.
“Phones over here.” The woman directed him to a phone by a large staircase.
“Thanks ma’am.” He said. Playing the appreciative guest.
“Where’s Anne?” The girl asked.
“Upstairs in her room.”
As the two talked, Pinbacker called the station. A.J. the switchboard operator answered. “Sheriff?” She asked, confused. “Is your radio broke?”
He ignored the question. “Just checking in. Any news?”
He listened as she told him what he already knew. Car accidents. Power outages. And no news of Olson. He thanked her. The girl still sounding confused as he hung up.
“Would you care for something to drink?” The woman asked them both. “Something to warm you up before you go? I can put some tea on.”
“That would be wonderful.” Pinbacker said. Anything to keep himself in the house. To snoop around a bit more. He had an itch at the base of his neck. There was something here.
“No thanks.” The girl said.
Pinbacker followed the woman into the dining room. The smell of disinfectant was strong. Almost nauseatingly so there. The floor was shiny. Newly cleaned. That didn’t mean anything. Rose kept their house spotless. Still, the itch persisted.
“I’m gonna go use the bathroom.” The girl said. Leaving Pinbacker alone with the mother.
He let her go. Not feeling she was a part of whatever was going on here anymore.
“You have a nice place her ma’am.”
“Thank you sheriff. Let me go pour you some tea. Take a seat.”
Pinbacker scanned the room, looking for anything to give him that piece of the puzzle to fit it all together. The room looked immaculate. Cleaner then the hall they’d been in. Too clean.
He tapped on the hardwood dinning table. He ran his hand over it’s rough surface. Stopping at something unmistakable. He felt as if the wind was knocked out of him. There it was. A bullet hole in the table. No doubt about it. He knelt down, finding the exit point underneath. Following the trajectory of the bullet, Pinbacker pushed one of the wood chairs aside. There it was, where it must have ended up. A hole in the floorboards. Somebody used the chair leg to cover it. Had his deputy done this?
“Everything okay sheriff?” She set a tray with tea down. “Something wrong.”
He bolted up. “Ma’am, I’m gonna need you and your daughter to come with me.” His hand touching the butt of his revolver.
“Is there some kind of trouble?”
From upstairs a girl’s scream pierced the air. He whirled around, starting towards the hall. A chilling click made him stop. He spun back around. In the woman’s hands was a revolver. The same model Olson would have had on him. That itch at the back of his neck was gone.
His revolver slipped out of the holster in a second, bringing it to bare on the woman as she fired. The gun kicking in her hands.
Pinbacker felt the bullet hit him. Tearing into his stomach. He stumbled back, firing two shots off in rapid succession. The woman manged to squeeze off another shot before both rounds hit her square. Slamming her back hard into the large China cabinet.
The woman’s final shot hit him in the shoulder as he went down. He hit the floor, his legs tangled with one of the chairs. Slumped in front of the cabinet there was no doubt she was dead. Fire spreading through his body, blood pumping from the two wounds. The question now was: Was he dead?
It was a shame. Sam liked the sheriff. She wished she could tell him what was going on. Sam always felt on edge around law enforcement people. It wasn’t because she was up to anything illegal except a joint once in awhile. What made her uneasy was the sense that due to her appearance: Short hair, leather jacket and cycle. They were judging her. Suspecting her of being up to something criminal. Not so with the sheriff. He seemed fairly straightforward, easy going and nonjudgmental.
She’d been a little uneasy on the ride to Anne’s. Once the sheriff started asking about her bike and then he got talking about his new cat, she felt at comfortable.
Sam hated leaving her bike there. The sheriff reassured her that it would be picked up and taken back to town. Going so far as to radio into the station to inform them about picking the bike up.
Sam weighed telling the sheriff about her fears of what was going on, with Anne and Emily. She couldn’t, whether it was fear of what he’d do or whether she knew Anne wouldn’t want her too, Sam wasn’t sure. Mostly likely a little of both.
When they got to the house Sam felt something was off. The sheriff seemed to sense it as well. Anne’s mother acted weird, weirder then usual.
She never intended on using the bathroom. When Cheryl took the sheriff into the dining room, Sam saw her chance to go see Anne. Taking her time she crept up the stairs and went down the hallway to Anne’s room. Praying she missed the creaky boards in the floor.
The bedroom door was locked. To Sam’s surprise from the outside. Unlocking it, Sam snuck in. The shades were closed, shrouding the room in shadows. Her eyes couldn’t make out much of the room. Movement caught her eye by the window. Making Sam jump. Anne sat next to the bed on the floor. Rocking back and forth.
“Anne?” Sam stepped forward. “You okay?”
She leaned forward into the light coming in from the hall.
The light revealed a burned, animal-like face. Sam stepped back, horrified. It wasn’t Anne.
“Sorry Sammy, Anne ain’t here right now.”
Sam screamed as the horrifying leaped on her.
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