Beatrice 1963: Part Nine
“Dum-Dum!” called a voice from the small woods between us and Catlin’s junkyard. The big lab began wagging his tail as a slender, raven-haired girl stepped out beside a tree as if materializing out of thin air like a magical forest dryad. Katherine Catlin, the only daughter of Daniel Catlin, owner of the junkyard, came from a long line of Irish gypsies. With her dark, smooth skin, her doe-like brown eyes, and her wild tangles of black shoulder-length hair, Kat indeed looked like a fairy princess.
Kat had once given Dec a bloody nose over Red Hots. Dec assumed that he had been a genious the day he discovered how to create his own brand of candy. He had combined a handful of those little Red Hot candies with cinnamon oil and tamale juice. The stuff was so hot, Dec had to use rubber gloves to mix the three ingredients together. He’d even cried during the process, with real tears running down his cheeks as he fiddled with the pot, the spoons, and the strainer he used to produce his creation.
As it turned out, Dec’s first guinea pig was his last.
He’d made a fifty-cent bet with little Bobby Brazer that he could not keep a mouthful of his new candy in his mouth for more than two minutes. Bobby and Dec shook on it, and out came the candy stored in one of those metal cigar holders. Dec had Bobby pour those little babies into his mouth, so that neither of them got the scalding juices on their fingers or hands. Be as it may, Kat happened to be riding over to Bobby’s house to babysit him while his mom worked second shift at the five and dime.
She took one look at Bobby retching, bawling, and going into catfight crazy mode, as those little pellets of extreme fire exploded in his mouth. Kat took action, and at once turned on the garden hose. She practically shoved that sucker down little Bobby’s throat as she crammed it into his mouth. A second later, water came bursting out of Bobby’s mouth and a strange gurgling sound came burbling up from the depths of his stomach. Dec sniggered at little Bobby thrashing around like a mad loon, and Kat launched herself directly at him.
Dec took up a boxer’s stance, his left fist doubled up a few inches from his left jaw, his right fist prepared to jab. He looked like a pro fighter, all set to take Kat out with a one-two punch. But his one-two was trumped by her first, second, third, and even a fourth fast and furious punch to Dec’s left eye, his chin, his right cheek, and a last and final blow directly into his nose. All I saw was a bright red explosion of blood bursting from his nose as he sailed backwards and landed hard on his butt next to hose-sucking little Bobby. Kat had been brutal, and delivered those punches with all the swiftness of a tiger attack.
Dec swore me to secrecy after that tromping he took from the Gypsy girl all because of his stupid prank with those Red Hots. He had long ago forgiven her for the thrashing she gave him. He had even asked her older brother to teach him how to box so that no girl ever tromped him again. After a four-month training session, Chris made him square off with Kat there in their ring in their old barn. I laughed at the horrified look on Dec’s face. He looked worse than Bobby Brazer after he took in a mouthful of those fiery hot candies. Dec, however, had nothing to fear. Kat took it easy on him and even made sure she did not hit him in the nose like she’d done before. It was because both the Catlins had a sense of honor about them. Chris would not allow his sister to show-off in front of us, and Kat was too kind-hearted to beat Dec a second time.
“Are you skipping today, too?” I asked her as she joined us and the dogs there on the edge of the junkyard. Dec said, “We’ll never tell on you. We skipped today, too. And you’ll never guess what we witnessed.”
It then dawned on me: We were the only two witnesses to Jonathan Kennedy’s murder. We were also the only two to see what Big Ty had done when he’d searched Kennedy’s car. We were the only two who could tell Sheriff Mac what we’d seen. We might even be witnesses, testifying in court if it ever got that far. We were the only two people in town who could share details to a courtroom full of people and put poor King Henry in prison for the murder he committed.
Kat said, “Dad didn’t want me in town on account of Tyler Burke.”
Dec gasped, “You saw Ty at the murder scene! Now comes the part where you tell us you saw Ty in your crystal ball, right?”
“Murder?” Kat asked, looking puzzled more so than annoyed by Dec’s reference to gypsies and crystal balls.
“Keys?” Kat said, quite suddenly. “Keys in the trunk of that Olds!”
Dec and I followed her over to the Kennedy car, now determined to find out what Ty had discovered in there when he took a peek back in town. Kat let out an angry hiss when she saw the dark-haired girl crumpled in the trunk. She looked to be asleep as she lay sprawled there, her head propped up by the spare tire taking up the rest of the space in the trunk. The three of us were in shock that Mary Kay Sebastian’s life had ended so tragically. Someone had killed her and dumped her in that trunk. I felt the loss more than those two, for Mary Kay was Lakota like me, and had always seemed to be more like family than friend.
We all three knew Mary Sebastian, the sweet and personable girl who worked the concession stand at the Holly Theater. One time, during a movie, I got up to get me some candy corn. I did not have an extra nickel to cover the cost, and Mary simply slid that box of candy corn across the counter, and kindly said, “I got you covered, Hawk. Go and enjoy the show.”
That’s just the kind of person she was, good-hearted and beautiful, with her long, black hair and her amazingly green eyes. She was always smiling, too, and when she did that I just had to smile back at her, like maybe it had inspired me. Dec liked her, too, and he didn’t much care for most people, claiming he had a Second Sense about most. He had a gut-level detector to alert him to the BS most people were full of. Dec was a good people reader. He claimed it was a gift from his dad, a special trait Mac had as the town sheriff. And Dec’s meter never sounded a peep around Mary Kay Sebastian.
“My brother,” Kat whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks, “loved her. Christian and Mary were . . .”
She stopped, her words trailing off. And although her eyes were filled with tears, a crease appeared on her brow. Dec and I took a step back away from her, for she looked so fierce. At that moment in time, Kat looked like that a fierce Celtic battle-maiden my dad once told me about: The Morrigan, for with her raven hair flowing over her shoulders and the angry glare making her eyes look all shiny, Katherine Catlin indeed looked like some Irish spirit had spiraled down through her Gypsy blood-line and taken over her.
“Mary Kay,” she said in a harsh whisper, “did not deserve this!”
And that’s when Mary Kay opened her eyes, stared groggily at us, and hoarsely whispered, “Where am I?”