My cell phone woke me early. It was the cops.
“Somebody bashed Doctor William Hubert over the head with a blunt instrument last night. They drilled his brains out of his skull with a surgical tool and piled them in a heap by his bloody skull. We need you, Annie. Hit the street.”
The call scared the pajamas off me, and I wanted to wake up Samir, shake him, make him see me, and help with the fear. Even the voices in my head didn't know what to say at first.
My size ten feet hit the floor in a hulk stomp.
My roommate, Samir, was in the next bed, huddled under his grey blankets with no sense of what was happening. His long black body looked lumpy like a dun toad. Samir was my first real boyfriend. Ain't that something? And me twenty-four years old and all, plus this mental problem.
I twirled the circle of cheap yellow metal on my left ring finger. Samir and I'd met in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class I volunteered to help teach a couple years ago on this island. We drifted together, two outcasts just able to afford this half-way house, and sharing for financial reasons. Only way Social Services would let us stay here together, in the same boarding room, was if they thought we were married. No questions asked.
The Powolskis were like a foster family to us.
Then the voices in my head started screaming. I covered my ears with my hands. Be careful. You didn't listen to the phone call close enough. Stupid. It's way over your head. It'll take you more than hard work to solve this case, Iron Head. It'll take brains and guts and you don't have that.
“Son of a brownie,” I said in response. “Go away.”
You're a homely girl, with kinky bleached-white hair and buck teeth. Good thing my personality more than made up for it. Yeah, at five foot nine I was a force to be reckoned with.
I yawned, trying to get air into my lungs. It's your heart, stupid, you're gonna die! No, it wasn't my heart, I was only twenty-four years old and solid as Twenty Mule Team. My psych in Campbell River told me that anxiety made me short of breath and I'd yawn.
I thought of the phone call a few minutes before. They need you, Annie. The Doc's dead as a salt cod. Grisly murder. Get on it. So I pulled on my jeans and shirt, and shook Samir.