The next day was an avid morning at the house. Johnny bundled his dad out the door and into the car, leaving behind an unattended mug of coffee to fill the void between his mom and younger sister at the kitchen table. Johnny’s spot was vacant and had been vacant. Too excited about the day to come, Johnny had skipped breakfast and given his father less time to finish his.
“Slow down, son,” Johnny’s father warned, as they entered through the front doors of the precinct … “Maybe you should go see…” but it was too late. Johnny had already barreled through the chief’s door … and was so rambunctious that the chief nearly drew his weapon.
“Oh, oh it’s you, Johnny … hello. Aren’t we very ready? I nearly shot you.”
“Very,” Johnny replied, and plopped his pad of paper and bucket of crayons onto the extra desk he’d been promised, and quickly wiggled out of his jacket.
“Oh you can hang that on the back of the chair. That’s fine. I hadn’t expected you for another half hour,” the chief said, and then examined the enthusiastic face bubbling over. “But then again, why should I have?”
But Johnny’s eyes were elsewhere. “What’s that?”
“Wh-what’s what?” The chief turned and saw behind him the large littered cork board, which testified to the latest gruesome case at hand. “Oh, I’m sorry.” He nearly fell over himself. “You shouldn’t have to look at that,” he said, and searched for something to cover it with. Explicit photos thumbtacked on it depicted the blood and gore of a murderous scene. There were many images, and many of them taken at different angles and at different distances to catalogue the initial discovery of the crime.
“But that’s police work,” Johnny said, “and I work for the police.”
“Yes, yes … but…” the chief sputtered and then paused. Having failed to find a cover, he’d readied to commandeer himself as one … until he saw Johnny, too close to the board for him to squeeze in between.
Johnny’s eyes appeared to have glazed over the berating slaughter and come to rest on one single shot … one where the body had been removed … and where in its stead had been drawn a chalked outline.
“What is that?” Johnny asked. His finger resting on the outline in the photo left no doubt where his interest lay.
“That’s chalk,” the chief answered.
“To outline the body.”
“But why?” Johnny persisted.
The chief could have said that they had to remove the body, because it wasn’t proper to leave it there. He could have said it would have started to smell. He might have mentioned the autopsy that needed to be administered, searching for clues amid the flesh … but he didn’t … maybe because it was too depressing. Instead, like a child’s fancy, but which was clearly his own and had maybe been derived for his own peace of mind under the many similar circumstances … the chief shared this with Johnny.
“It’s a signal, Johnny,” he said, “like a beacon to heaven, telling God we need help. We’ve lost someone of yours, and we need your help. You know, to give us strength. You um, know what cemeteries are, don’t you, Johnny?”
“Well it wouldn’t be right to leave the victim there out in the open and not in the cemetery … but at the same time we don’t want them to be forgotten,” the chief said … and then he heard something come out of Johnny’s mouth. It was said low with much thought surrounding it, so much so that it was lifted to an aerial state, but the chief had missed it. “I’m … I’m sorry, Johnny, what did you say?”
Johnny gazed at him … and almost as if he was talking from somewhere outside himself … uttered once again the word his father had mentioned, “Morale.”
(To Be Continued)