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Patrolman William F. Sievers
7 June, 1995
I was investigating a stolen car complaint when a woman from down the block asked me if I could stop by her apartment house later.
After finishing up with the stolen car, I went down to see the woman. She lived in one of the old Victorians on the corner of 34th Street and D Avenue where a lot of university students, a lot of poor blacks, and a lot of drug dealers live.
The woman said the apartment manager wouldn't do anything about the stench in the apartment next to hers and would I check it out. I got the manager to give me the key and that's when I found the girl in the bedroom.
* * *
8 July, 1995
She came almost every night now, and always did the same thing, just stood there in front of the shabby Victorian that not even the moonlight could save, and stared up at the window of the apartment where she'd lived with the dead girl.
The people in the neighborhood knew who she was, of course; her name was Alison. She'd lived among them for a good while, an earnestly pretty girl with big somber eyes and a quick sad smile.
Sometimes it rained but the girl came anyway, not seeming to notice when she got soaked, not even seeming to notice when one of the old black women came up to her and said, 'Darlin' why don't you come inside and let me make you some coffee?' The girl was always grateful for the kindness but never accepted it.
She just wanted to stand here, watching, remembering.
Hot angry summer gave way to chill solemn autumn, and then the girl didn't come quite so often, nor stay quite so long. The old ladies who watched her from their windows had despaired of helping her. All they could do was wonder why she came back here, what she was hoping to learn by standing down there on the sidewalk, frail as a child, staring up at the dark apartment, the place not having been rented since the murder.
What could she possibly want here?
* * *
Patrolman William F. Sievers
7 June, 1995
I guess the thing I noticed right away, even before I took a good long look at her wounds, was her face. She looked a lot like my little sister, Janice. And I got scared. I wanted to get on the phone and call my Mom back on the farm and make sure that Janice was all right. She was sixteen now and driving and going out with boys, and these days girls can get in a lot of trouble.
The young woman was sprawled on her back on the bed. She had blonde hair so you could plainly see where somebody had smashed in the left side of her skull. A fly sat on the wound making angry buzzing noises.
She'd also been cut up pretty bad. Her hands lay open so you could see the defense wounds in the palms, where she'd been trying to keep the knife away. Her breasts were cut up pretty bad, too.
I guess because she resembled my sister so much, I had a hard time looking between her parted legs. Women always look so vulnerable down there. There was heavy red blood on the inside of both her thighs. She'd probably been raped. I wondered if she'd been alive when it had happened.
I wanted to cover her, cover her sex if nothing else, give her a little bit of dignity, but I'd done that on another homicide investigation and the detectives chewed my ass off for altering the crime scene. So all I could do was say a quick little prayer for her.
I went downstairs and called in the precinct and told them what had happened and how we'd need Homicide and an ambulance and the medical examiner.
Then I dug in my wallet and pulled out three ones and laid them next to the phone and said to the lady who'd asked me to investigate, 'I'm leaving the money here for a long-distance call.' She nodded.
Janice wasn't home but Mom was, and when I told her what had happened and how the dead woman looked so much like Janice, Mom said, 'Honey, do you really want to be a policeman? Why don't you get out of that city and come back here and work the farm with your Dad?' Then she assured me that Janice was just fine helping Dad work in the north pasture.
I felt a lot better, then, you know, about my sister Janice. I went back upstairs to guard the crime scene, but I stood outside the door. I just didn't want to see the dead woman again. Right now working in the north pasture, with all those beautiful chestnut horses running in the hills, sounded pretty darned good.
* * *
15 October, 1995
Sometimes, one of the neighbors would remember the odd white girl who'd stood vigil all summer outside the apartment house where she'd lived before her friend had been murdered.
Wonder whatever happened to her? the neighborhood women would say. I always felt kind of bad for her. Skinny little girl. And those big sad eyes. Wonder whatever happened to her, anyway?
Winter came early that year, and with it another murder on the block, a drunken white husband beating his fourteen-year-old daughter to death for letting one of the neighborhood black kids have sex with her.
A good grim story to be savored and cherished by all the neighborhood people; a story so good, so grim that it made them forget about the summer's murder, and the girl with the big solemn eyes standing vigil even in the rain.
Excerpted from Black River Falls by Edward J. Gorman. Copyright © 1996 by Ed Gorman. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.