Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'Wu-dunit': Chapter 1, part II

Like the other houses on the block, Mayor Wu’s home was huge, built of solid red brick. The two thick pillars at the top of the veranda stairs supported the small second floor balcony.

It was odd to see these kinds of homes existed on the South Side or anywhere outside some place like Wicker Park, Chicago thought. It reminded him of a Victorian-inspired row house, though with more space around it. In fact, the house was surrounded by shrubbery, plants and shady corners. If someone got past the black iron fence they’d find it very easy to sneak about without being noticed.

Most of the neighbors stood on the sidewalk across the street. They were still in their nightgowns and pajamas, whispering and pointing at the cops’ silhouettes in the windows. Several cops were going in and out of the house. Others were snooping around in the bushes.

Chicago spotted Wendy Welch, the crime writer from the Morning Beacon, speaking with what seemed to be the only cop giving interviews. The other reporters were questioning bystanders. This territory was taken.

He stared at the house thinking of what he should do.
‘If the killer sneaked in from the back, that’s gotta be where all the action is,” Chicago thought to himself.

By now, of course, the cops had blocked entrance to the house with police tape. Somehow, Chicago had to get into backyard. He stared at the house and then to the houses next to it.

He decided he’d inconspicuously approach the third house down from Wu’s then sneak into the backyard. It was the darkest of the neighboring homes. Everyone was too busy with the crime scene to notice him heading over there.

The house was similar to the mayor’s, only slightly smaller and gray instead of red. An 8-foot, vine-covered, stone fence guarded it. The fence looked more like a wall that stretched around the entire house. There was also a black wrought gate that led to the house’s steps. It was open.

Chicago eased away from the crowd and slipped behind the gate. In the safety of the shadows, he no longer had to tiptoe. Instead, he quickly dashed toward the backyard. He could hear the crunching sound of the plants, grass and twigs on the ground, but didn’t care.

Step 1 was complete.

‘Now, how am I gonna get over this wall?’ Chicago asked himself, staring at the stone fence.

He glanced behind him. The coast was still clear – just a typical empty backyard with a big tree and tree house in the middle. He took a few steps back, bracing himself. Licking his lips, Chicago ran up to the wall and leaped as high as he could, grabbing the top.

He hoisted his body onto the ledge and continued over.

The next yard was slightly lit by a dim patio light. Fortunately for Chicago, the house had no fence. There was a row of trees and bushes dividing it from the neighbors, but Chicago managed to force his way through the bushes with only a couple scrapes on his left leg.

Finally, he was in the last yard. There was no fence dividing this yard from Wu’s either. There was just a solid row of tall bush.

‘That’s odd,’ Chicago thought. ‘Did she really trust her neighbors that much? Why isn’t there a fence here?’

The bush, however, was so thick that it was almost impossible to penetrate. Maybe she didn’t’ need a fence. He poked and prodded at the plant looking for a way through.

As Chicago searched for an opening, the silence became more apparent. He could no longer hear the noises from the street, just the crickets and cicadas.

He prodded more cautiously until…

“Did you hear that?” muttered a voice from the other side of the bush.

Chicago stopped in his tracks. His heart began to beat twice as fast. He peaked through at tiny opening in the bush.

There were two officers standing in Mrs. Wu’s lit doorway.

There was short black female cop and her white male partner. Both were staring in Chicago’s direction.

“I don’t hear anything,” said the woman.

The male cop shook his head.

“Uh, never mind,” he said.

The two began scanning the backyard, shinning their long black torches in dark corners. Their transceivers began making noises. They ignored them.

Mayor Wu’s yard was almost twice as large as the other ones, just like her house. It was mostly empty, just a small garden in the back. As the cops made their way to the garden, Chicago decided to stop holding his breath.

He then peered through the bush and into the doorway. He could see random body parts from more officers moving about. There were a few camera flashes here and there. And then…

‘The bucket,’ Chicago pointed out to himself.

There, through the doorway, Chicago could see a small, shiny, tin pail with a wooden handle. By now they had removed the body. There lay a wooden scrub brush next to the bucket.

Wu must have been cleaning the floor before she was killed, Chicago thought.

‘Someone sneaked in from the back and….’

‘Stuck her head in the bucket?’

That made no sense to him. While Mayor Wu was in her 60’s, there was no way she could allow someone to force her head into the tiny bucket. She would have put up a fight and water would be everywhere, he thought.

The floor looked wet, but not wet enough to suggest a fight. Nevertheless, the whole thing seemed odd to Chicago. The door was neither broken nor cracked. Either Wu had let her killer in or the door was left unlocked. But how could anyone have gotten this close to the mayor’s house anyway?

‘She’s gotta have bodyguards or something watching this place all the time,’ Chicago thought.

He quickly pulled out his notepad and began scribbling in the dark. He tried holding the pad up to the bush to better see in the light.

Just then, Chicago heard a rustle to his far right. He stopped scribbling and leaned backward to see where the noise had come from. He peered down the yard but couldn’t see much. He waited and heard nothing more. A squirrel, perhaps?

Suddenly, a shadow blocked the bit of kitchen light shining through the bush and Chicago peered through the shrubbery again.

He recognized Detective Watts, a 40 year-old fit guy who looked like a character from a TV crime drama. He had interviewed him many times before.

“Find anything?” Detective Watts yelled from the kitchen doorway to the police officers searching the yard.

The two officers approached the detective. They began to speak, but Chicago couldn’t quite make out the details. He leaned forward a bit to better hear them.

That’s when he heard it again- the rustle.

Now someone was definitely with him in that yard, he thought. Who and how close to him they were, he did not know. He didn’t want to stay to find out.

Chicago, slowly and calmly stepped away from the bush. He wanted to know who else was in the yard with him, but he refrained from looking. In the dark, he hoped his little friend wouldn’t see or know he was there too.

Quickly, but quietly, Chicago started to walk along the side of the house and back toward the street where everyone was.

“I hear something,” yelled the male cop in a tone of frustration.

“Who’s there?”

Six feet were coming toward the bush.

Chicago picked up his pace. He didn’t care about the noise he was making. He was sure the officer was referring to the mysterious spy who was just next to Chicago in the yard, but Chicago didn’t want to be there if they caught the guy even though he could hear the mysterious spy sneaking away in the other direction.

Chapter 2 to come

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