Prose Header

The Forensic Toddler

by Russell Helms

As his parents were being murdered, little Justin sat on the living room floor taking it all in. He was plump with a wizened face and sported quite the vocabulary for a toddler. When the crime was finished, he palpated their carotids, then dialed the authorities. He checked his wristwatch, a Rado with a ceramic band. It was 8:12 pm, the 31st, and he remembered that it was November.

“What is your emergency?” said the voice, a bit bored, as if having had too many cough drops.

“I would like to report a double homicide,” said Justin. “My parents have been murdered.”

“Are they breathing? Is there blood? Are you safe?” said the dispatcher.

“No, yes, and quite so. Can you send some someone immediately? I need someone to put me down. I’ve been up since early this morning, and I’ve had about all I can take.”

“Stay on the line, sir, I’m sending an ambulance and the police.”

“Well, that’s fine, but I prefer to hang up now and begin the grieving process. Please do hurry, though. This is all new, and I’m at odds with myself.”

“Sir, what is your name? Do not hang up. Were they shot?”

“It’s Justin, Justin Wheatbiscuit. The perpetrator wielded a rather large knife. It was quite savage... the blood and all. I’m hanging up now.” He placed his father’s cell phone onto the coffee table next to a magazine filled with art. “Dear Jesus.”

To assuage the horror, Justin balanced couch pillows over his parents’ faces. The front door was open, his father having opened it. Justin had not recognized the man and deduced that his father must have known him. Wasn’t it the case that murderers most often knew their victims? Random killings were rather rare or so he had learned from watching Forensic Files.

To pass the time, Justin grabbed a sketchpad and, with a selection of pencils of different hues, drew the face of the attacker. A round face with a scruff of brown beard, deep brown eyes, a jingle-jangle of long hair with bushy sideburns. The man had a chipped front tooth.

Sirens and lights swirled, and Justin folded his arms and sat in his small recliner, a replica of his father’s.

In burst a policeman, followed by two others, guns raised, sweeping the foyer. Into the living room, and they stopped, seeing one body on the couch, the other straddling the real estate between the living room and kitchen, which needed updating. Blood and more blood.

“What the hell?” said Officer Doone. He was a veteran of the force and had seen action in Vietnam. His wife called him Beefy. “Hell.” He motioned the others in, and they failed to notice Justin in his tiny recliner.

“It’s a royal mess,” said Justin, drawing attention his way. He tapped together his index fingers.

“The hell?” said Beefy. “Are you okay, little one? What’s your name, and pardon my language.”

Two paramedics with their tackle box of supplies entered, rushing to the bodies.

“Oh, it’s Justin. I would have liked ‘Max’ better. I’m quite all right, but there’s been some trouble, as you can see, and I’m bushwhacked.” Justin yawned.

“Do you have grandparents? Someone we can call? A neighbor? Do you know a number?”

“Well, I prefer to sleep in my own bed, but I suppose a night or two with MeeMaw wouldn’t be a bad idea. Her number is in the phone, there on the coffee table next to the magazine filled with art. It’s just MeeMaw. Her name is Francine, but once a MeeMaw always a MeeMaw.”

The second officer, Johnson, was piqued. “How old are you? You talk funny.”

“I’ve been told that I’m nearing my fourth birthday. I suppose that will have to wait.” Justin looked as if he needed cigarette or perhaps a long puff on a pipe.

The third officer scratched his head and hitched his pants.

“They’re dead for sure,” said the female paramedic. “Gosh, I hate that he has to see this, poor little kid.”

“Okay, let’s not trample the crime scene,” said Beefy. He kneeled beside Justin cum Max. “Did you see who did this to your parents?”

Justin leaned over and retrieved the sketchpad. “He was roughly five-five, about 210 pounds. A thick man. Here.”

“Holy cow, you drew this? Johnson, check this out,” said Beefy.

“Holy Toledo, good work, kid. Is this really him?” said Johnson.

“Well, it’s not Santa Claus,” said Justin. “Of course, that’s him. Come to think of it, I’ve seen him once before. Three days ago he arrived and winterized the front door. Mummy made him a Spam sandwich and Country Time lemonade. After he left, father discovered the chainsaw missing from the garage. The man gave his name as—”

“Hold on, slow down, kid,” said Beefy, scribbling notes.

Justin tapped his index fingers together. “His name is Chester Stubbs. Father wrote him a check so you’ll be able to find Chester’s signature on the reverse, assuming he cashed it. He charged $125, which we all thought was a fair price.”

“Do you know what kind of chainsaw was stolen?” said Beefy.

“Yes, a Husqvarna Rancher, purchased at Home Depot, used only once. Can you call dear MeeMaw for me? You said you would. It’s not necessarily good for me to sit here gazing at my murdered parents.” Justin made a spit bubble and licked his lips.

“Sure thing,” said Beefy. “So no shots fired? Looks like stab wounds. Johnson, you call this kid’s MeeMaw.”

“Yes,” said Justin, “a long knife. Mother was stabbed eight times and Father, twenty-two. There’s medium-velocity blood spatter on the walls, floor, and couch. I’m pretty sure the knife slipped and that the intruder cut his hand. You’ll most likely find drops of his blood among the wreckage.” He closed his eyes and his head nodded.

Another pair of paramedics entered the room.

“His grandmother is on the way,” said Johnson.

“Swell,” said Beefy. “I’ll call the chief. He’ll call the coroner.”

“It might be useful if I disclose that Father was in difficult financial straits. It could be that the check bounced and that Chester sought revenge. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his first hit. He seemed purposeful and efficient, though. He spared me only because he has a child of his own, I imagine.”

“Johnson, you and Fields get with the neighbors to see what they know, got it?” Beefy examined a cut on his finger.

“Yes, sir,” said Johnson. He and Fields left.

“What else can you tell me about the man?” said Beefy. He towered over Justin.

“Well, he drives a white van with ‘Mr. Fix-It’ on the side, a phone number beneath. Half of the number 9 is missing. As you may have noticed there is a bloody footprint in the foyer. The tread is a herringbone pattern with an S down the middle. This is characteristic of tennis shoes worn by prisoners. I would speculate that the shoes were manufactured overseas, perhaps Malaysia.”

“Hmm,” said Beefy. “An ex-con, maybe on parole. We have a list at the office. You’ve been a great help, son. I admire your facility with language.”

“Exactly,” said Justin, “and thank you. My twin died in the womb, and I’ve always felt guilty that I was the cause. I seek refuge in reading, as mother would have told you.”

“Okay, I’m calling in this info for an all-points bulletin. You okay to sit there or would you like to come outside?”

“I’ll need to pack for MeeMaw’s. I’ll just head upstairs and do that,” said Justin. He sighed and stood, adjusting a small bathrobe and belt.

“Did the intruder go upstairs?” said Beefy.

“No, he was in and out. Robbery was not the motive.” Justin worked his way around a lamp in the floor, careful not to step in blood. At the entrance to the foyer, he looked back, gazing at what was left of his old life, realizing that life with MeeMaw would involve tuna salad sandwiches. He would have to teach her how to remove the crusts, but otherwise life should be fine.

Copyright © 2017 by Russell Helms

Proceed to Challenge 745...

Home Page