When young Jonathan Kennedy fell dead to the pavement, Henry McGinn simply walked back over to his ruined car and sat down on the curb beside it. Dec and I thought it was sort of sad. There he was just minding his own business. Out driving his prized Pontiac. All jolly and happy. Waving at anyone and everyone. Then in an instant, his life changed.
Where Jonathan Kennedy had been racing off to in such a hurry would later be speculated over, but right then and there, Dec and I thought it was one tragic moment of rage that set Henry off. If only someone hadn’t followed his daughters home from the movie theater. If only Henry hadn’t been carrying that gun. Because unfortunately, it was the only reason he’d been armed with that pistol, and unable to deal with his anger and blasted Jonathan Kennedy to death.
The first one on the scene was Deputy Tyler Burke. Big, blond and young, Ty was Sheriff Mac’s third in command. Ty Burke had once played football at the University of Nebraska as one of the famous Cornhuskers under the head coach Bob Devaney. Ty had been a great quarterback up until a knee injury ended his career as a pro athlete, which resulted in him coming back to his hometown to issue tickets to speeders and to take the keys away from drunks down at Harv’s Tavern and the Blue Lady Lounge on Saturday nights.
Now, while I never had a problem with Big Ty as most everyone called him, Dec never did like Ty. Said he’d once had a run-in with him down at the rail yards. Said Ty had caught him putting pennies on the tracks to smash flat. Dec did admit that he’d mouthed off some to Big Ty, but he said he never did deserve what Ty did to him after that. Dec’s sometimes has a foul mouth, and in this case there had been no exception.
Dec cussed out Ty a little. Well, maybe a lot. Because Ty took it upon himself to punish Dec after he called him the name that insulted both Ty and his mother. After that, Ty forcefully made Dec chew on a bar of soap. It was wrong for Ty to take on the responsibility of Dec’s own dad, and Ty knew it, too. Because afterwards he threatened Dec saying if he ever told Sheriff Mac about the soap-chewing incident, Ty swore he’d tell Sheriff Mac that he’d caught Dec stealing undergarments off young Carla Bennet’s clothesline. Which was so untrue.
Dec ain’t above pulling a good prank once in awhile. But fooling around with a young lady’s underwear would have been embarrassing. Dec knew Ty had him over a barrel. So Dec never did tell Sheriff Mac that Ty had a mean streak in him and made him eat soap.
Dec’s hated Big Ty ever since.
When Ty pulled up in the street behind Jonathan Kennedy’s Olds, he moved like the Tin Man on the Wizard of Oz. Even when he stepped out of his squad car, his eyes fixed on Jonathan sprawled dead in the street, Ty moved woodenly. It was if his legs hadn’t got the message that his brain had. Maybe it was the fact that Jonathan Kennedy was the first dead person Big Ty had ever seen. Maybe it was because our town had never been witness to full-out murder right in plain sight in the middle of a sunny afternoon.
Whatever it was, it slowed Big Ty down and made him move like a turtle as he approached Jonathan’s dead body.
“Lord! Lord!” Ty kept repeating. “Lord! Lord!”
He really didn’t need to, but he kneeled down beside Jonathan’s body to get a better look at the bloody bullet wound.
“Lord! Lord!” kept coming out of Ty’s mouth. And then he said, “Jonnie, oh Jonnie, what in hell happened to you?”
Dec and I looked at each other. It seemed odd somehow that Ty would call Jonathan by the endearing title of Jonnie. It was like they were boy-hood chums, and Ty was sad for the misfortune that had befallen his dear dead friend. Only thing is, Big Ty had not liked any of the Kennedy clan. In fact, no one in town liked the Kennedy clan. My kin included. But that’s a story for another time.
But there was Ty making over Jonathan as if they’d shared some friendship there at Jonathan’s death that just couldn’t be shared in life.
Big Ty then noticed Henry McGinn seated so forlornly over on the curb across the street from him. “Lord,” Ty said again. “Lord, what happened here, Henry?”
And Henry just broke down and started bawling. For a moment, Ty didn’t know what to do. He stood, glancing down at Jonathan’s bloody wound, then looked over at Henry carrying on like a kid who had been forgotten at Christmas. It was as if Ty knew he wasn’t going to be finding out anything about what happened from poor Henry for a good long while. But he did go over to him and removed the gun from his hands.
Big Ty then helped Henry to his feet and led him back over to his patrol car. He put a weeping Henry in the backseat and closed the door on him. Ty then did something peculiar. I called it peculiar, anyway. But later, Dec claimed it was downright mysterious. We’d both been right. Because what Ty did then was both mysteriously peculiar, and really got our detective instincts kicking in, and eventually sent us on the adventure we embarked on later. Which is where this story takes a bizarre twist.
Big Ty walked directly up to Jonathan Kennedy’s Olds, took the keys out of the ignition, and went deliberately to the trunk of the car.
Dec and I stood on tiptoes to see by then, because we had leafy branches blocking our vision. These same leafy branches kept us hidden from the view of Ty Burke, and he didn’t spot us watching him as he took a good long look around to see if anyone was watching him. When he seemed satisfied that no nosey neighbors had come outside yet to see what the commotion was, Ty unlocked the trunk.
He at first had a look on his face as if he knew exactly what he’d find in there. But that all changed the second he lifted that trunk lid.
“Oh, Jeeessuss!” Ty choked out in one long gasp. “Oh, Lord Jesus!”
Which made Dec and I stand up higher on our toes, both of us craning our necks so that we, too, could see inside of that trunk. Of course, from the angle we were at, we saw nothing but Ty hastily slamming the trunk lid closed.