The dead girl smiled at me.
I had found her at the far end of a field abutting a grove of eucalypti, before the land turned up into a rocky hill. The killer had chosen the place because it was far enough from the road, but he couldn’t go any farther. He had stood there, trying to think with his psychotic mind whether he should carry her body over the rocky hill. He had remained in one place too long and had left the deep impression of his shoes on the ground. At last, he dug a hole. And the soil had yielded to the shovel. But a foot down, the eucalypti’s roots had stopped him, and the hole had been patchy at best. Then he had stuffed her body in and covered it with dirt.
From the moment I had paced around her room, picking up her personal things, her diary with a pink cover in which she had written “I love you Dustin” the night before she disappeared; her jeans and T-shirts with the faces of her favorite pop stars; her Harry Potters books, I developed a sense, like a hound dog, not a sense of smell but visual disturbance emanating from her presence. And I saw it strongly when I ran my hands over her pillows. Then, it was as if a part of the sky had turned dark, and toward that direction I would find her. I had rushed out the doors past her crying mother and drove fast toward the east, leaving Los Angeles behind. After two hours, I drove into the back country over gravel roads. I had to double back several times, and there I saw it, where the air was almost black at the foot of the hill, among the eucalypti—the place where he had dropped her corpse.
“Are you sure this time?” Ed Callow said to me as soon as he got there. He had always been the first to come when I called in a case. Ed was the LAPD homicide detective who had been my point man ever since I started doing these cases five years ago. He had a large Roman nose, eyes that always squinted, brown hair cropped short, and a slouching figure with powerful arms.
“She’s there.” I pointed to the mound of dirt under which her body lay.
“You didn’t contaminate it, did you?”
“Anything else you care to tell me?”
Ed shook his head. After five years working together, he still didn’t feel comfortable with my sixth sense. “You give me the creeps. Remind me. You knew where to find her, how?”
“I just do.” I shrugged. He wasn’t really asking.
“They don’t call you The Psychic for nothing.”
I shrugged again. Psychic wasn’t the word for what I did, but I couldn’t share that with Ed. Then the rest of the police and forensics team came and cordoned off the area. They filmed the entire scene, must have taken a thousand photos, collected samples, and made impressions of all the footprints.
Afterwards, we were allowed to approach the site as they dug her out. She had been dead for about three weeks, so she had gone through the stages—rigor mortis, bloating with gas, and finally having her teeth, nails, and hair fall out. She was beginning to liquefy, and so her face had decomposed beyond recognition. Strangely, a butterfly with iridescent wings descended from a eucalyptus and landed on her cheek, and then it took off, circled around me a couple of times, and flew off. When it landed on her cheek, I could see that she smiled at me. It was not a hallucination; I actually saw her cheek moving and forming a deep dimple.
And, in a flash, I had a vision of the killer carrying her limp body. The picture was pixelated and fuzzy, like a low-res image on a computer screen, as if the air molecules held a memory of what had happened. He was tall, over six feet, bald, wearing square glasses, and had a beer belly. He had stood there, thinking, and he had stood too long. He had dug the hole and stuffed her body in. Then, the vision was gone; the fuzziness became clear as the air, and all I could see now was the field of weeds, sprinkled with poppy flowers. Between the earth, sky, and flowers, the place was beautiful enough to lie in forever.
Of course, I didn’t tell anyone about how I saw her smile, or how I saw the sky turn dark, or how I saw the killer standing there thinking. They wouldn’t believe me anyway. If Ed Callow were to press me, I would say that it was a psychic hunch as much as the science of deduction, that I was like a modern Sherlock Holmes, using my psychic powers together with the power of modern technology. But Ed had stopped pestering me years ago; he was always a practical man, taking what he could use and going on with his life in this life, never caring for whatever could be in the next.
The truth, however, was much more difficult for people to believe. In the end, the fabric of space would be torn apart; the earth itself would be in danger; and human existence would be questioned.