Cole Potter looks redder, rounder and more uncomfortable than ever before. I am in the Garage at an absurdly hour in the morning. Cole called me over around 5a.m.. He reported the findings of the rent-a-cop that patrols the Whately Prep grounds all night. He sits, riding around in his electric cart, looking for trouble. This morning, he heard wild honking about 4:17a.m. according to Cole. When the rent-a-cop went to the pond “from which the subject’s sound seemed to be emanating,” he found the lifeless and blood-streaked body of one of the swans. The other one was in attack mode. The mate of the dead swan was hissing and lunging at anyone who came close to the dead swan’t body.
“So where is it now?” I demand. I feel my face flush red. I am furious.
Carl interjects -- I didn’t notice that he was there at first. He gestures at Cole with his head, “When the three of us worked together, we were able to distract the mate and remove the swan. It’s over on those pallets.”
A drop-cloth was thrown over the stack of pallets in the corner. I walk over and draw back the cloth.
Involuntarily, I gasp. Someone has deliberately and violently mutilated this bird.
I hear my own words, “This was slaughter.”
The swan’s chest is criss-crossed with stab marks. Crimson red blood stains the white feathers and the white down of the bird. It’s long neck, so gracefulI, lays slack. I place my hand on the bird -- still warm. My eyes well with tears. In a flash, my grief turns to anger.
“Something untoward is going on here and I will not allow, I WILL NOT tolerate this. Cole, have you checked the security cams? Have you notified both the Whately and the State Police. Those swans are paid for by a Federal Grant that Declan initiated. That makes this swan’s death a federal case. I want action and I want answers.”
Cole’s eyes shift nervously. I read that as not prepared. I know what students look like when they haven’t done the work.
The rent-a-cop, whose name badge reads Gomez Schwartz, is nodding as if in agreement with everything I have said. When I turn in his direction, he steps forward,
“Assignment, M’am?” I barely contain an eye-roll.
“Better ask Mr. Potter here.”
Carl interjects, “You could come help me dig a hole.”
“We can’t bury it until the Staties have their say, Carl. You all had better just slow down. This is no race.”
This time, my eye roll can’t be helped. They can work this out without my assistance, that is for sure.
“Please come get me when the police make some determination or if they need me.”
I walk home, the long way, around the pond. I see one swan swimming in circles, around and around and around. I am saddened by the unnecessary death and feel determined to find the person responsible. I want to throw all the laws on the books at this person.
My head swivels, looking, looking, for a single glimpse of Kelly. I don’t see her. With these escalating acts of violence and the disturbing discovery at Aunt Gillian’s house,
Kelly seems to be more and more scarce.