Chapter One from The Rebel
“Come on, boy. Another quarter mile and we’re done.”
Larry McCall whistled for Henry, his black lab, who needed exercise more than Larry, to move along. Sunrise illuminated the sky, streaking it in shades of purple and orange that made even a grisly homicide detective marvel at the beauty of nature on an early fall morning.
With Henry busy sniffing a patch of dirt, Larry paused a moment, tilted his head back and inhaled the dewy air. Another two weeks, all these trees would be barren and the city would come in and scoop up the leaves. At which point, his body would make excuses to stay in bed rather than hoof it through ten acres of fenced-in fields on Chicago’s southwest side.
Half expecting Henry to trot by him, Larry opened his eyes and glanced to his left, where the dog always walked. No Henry. Since when had he gotten subversive? Larry angled back and found Henry still at the spot he’d been sniffing a minute ago. Only now he was digging. Hard. Terrific. Not only would he have dirt all over him, but he’d also probably snatch a dead animal out of the ground and drop it at Larry’s feet. Here ya go, Dad.
Not happening. He whistled again. “Leave it,” he said in his best alpha dog voice.
His bum luck was that Henry had alpha tendencies, too, and kept digging. He’d have to leash him and pull him away before a dead squirrel wound up in his jaws.
Years earlier the city had torn down three low-income apartment buildings—the projects—because of the increased drug and criminal activity surrounding the place. All that was left was the fenced-in acreage that made for great walking. Problem was, there could be anything—rodents, needles, crack baggies, foil scraps—buried. Needles. Dammit. Larry hustled back to the dog before he got stuck. Or stoned.
“Whatever you found, Henry, we don’t want any part of. Leave it.”
He snapped the leash on, gently eased Henry back and was met with ferocious barking. What the hell? His happy dog had gone schizo.
“What is it, boy?”
Holding the dog off the hole he’d started, Larry bent at the waist to focus on something white—dull white—peeking through the dirt.
Henry barked and tugged at the leash.
“Okay, boy. Relax. Let me look at it.”
He led a still barking Henry to a tree, secured the leash around it to keep him at bay and walked back to the spot. Using the handkerchief he always carried—yes, he was that old school, so what?—to protect his hands, he cleared more of the loose, moist dirt from the top, and more white appeared. He tapped the surface. Solid. Rock solid. And Larry’s stomach twisted in a way it only did on the job.
Birds chirped overhead, the sound so crisp and incessant it sliced right into his ears. Henry apparently had riled `em good. Still squatting, Larry scanned the desolate area. Beyond the fence at the end of the last quarter mile, the early morning rush began to swell on Cicero.
Henry barked again. Normally calm as a turtle, he wanted to dig.
Larry cocked his head to study whatever peeked through the dirt, and once again his stomach seized. After all these years, only one thing futzed with his stomach.
But, truth be told, he had a tendency to overthink things. Something else years on the job had done to him. Hell, he could be staring at an old ceramic bowl. And how humiliating would it be to call this in and have it wind up being someone’s china?
Henry barked again, urging him on, and Larry gave in to his curiosity and pushed more loose dirt around. At least until he hit a depression and his finger, handkerchief and all, slid right into it. Gently, he moved his finger around, hitting the outer edges of the depression, and a weird tingling shot up his neck. His breathing kicked up.
What’d this dog find?
He cleared more dirt, his fingers moving gently, revealing more and more of the surface of whatever was buried here. Once again, his fingers slipped into the depressed area and he knew. Dammit.
He’d just stuck his finger into an eye socket.