Mockingbird in the Moonlight
After a last quick circuit of the shop, I switched off the computer, pulled on my sweater and let myself out the back door. My mind was focused squarely on food and what I might find in the refrigerator at home, so at first the faint noise didn't register. However, by the time I'd reached my car I recognized it as the cry of a small animal. It seemed to come from a pile of boxes a few feet down the alley.
The scrawny tabby kitten huddled against the brick wall. I picked it up. It was so small that its weight barely registered when I held it in my hand. How could someone abandon such a helpless little animal. But was it really abandoned. Maybe something had happened to the mother. Could the rest of the litter be nearby?
There was nothing in the pile of boxes where the kitten had been. The hulking profile of the Dumpster loomed a few feet farther on. There were no more cat cries and no strays behind the trash container. I drew the line at looking inside that big, smelly garbage bin.
The body of the woman lay just beyond the Dumpster, right behind Clarice Evans's shoe store. Her legs, encased in blue polyester slacks, sprawled at awkward angles. She was missing a shoe and her torso half-covered her purse. Every sign of life was absent. There was no rise of breathing and her skin had that empty feel peculiar to the dead. Knowing it was futile even as I did it, I leaned closer to check for a pulse in her neck and got a shock. The light was dim and the woman's face was distorted, but I recognized her. It was Glynnis McCullough.