by Stephen Blackmoore
At least he buried her in a beautiful place.
We step off the trail into a grove of pine and walnut, early morning dew covering every surface. Sunlight burns through the canopy like stained glass, yellows and burnished reds. We can't help but be quiet.
"My cathedral," Earl says. His shackles clank, shattering the silence. He tries to lift his arms as if to say hallelujah, but they won't go above his waist.
"You're a sick fuck."
"Marshal Dugan," he says, "I hadn't thought you'd noticed."
There are six of us. Me, three other Marshals, Doc Ferguson, and Earl Breen, rapist and murderer of Shelly Patterson, a college student. Nineteen. Pulled her into a van one night. Walked into my office with a video of what he'd done to her.
"Three trees thataway," Earl says. I can see the mound. Her glasses wedged between two stones, woven pine needles to hold them together. The devil's own macrame.
Doesn't take long, though we're careful. More precious than Tut's tomb.
Also doesn't take long for everything to shatter.
"It's not her," Ferguson says. "A boy. Maybe thirteen. Been here a while, too."
"Pelvis, skull sutures. It's a boy."
"But this dirt's recent."
"I tend my graves," Earl says.
Plural. Now I know what to look for, I can see them. Tiny shrines. A diary, the glint of a ring, a small framed photo.
Earl answers me with Satan's grin and says nothing.