January 2, 2022

Filling in the Blanks

Previously: Baby Steps

"...Aaaaaand that, ladies and gentlemen, is officially a bust."  Dominador Ona clicked out of the media player on his computer, swiveled around his chair and looked at his Chief and his partner.

"To recap: at 6:22 AM, we saw the janitor scratch his balls on the way out of the bathroom - where I sincerely doubt he washed his hands - and at 6:43 AM, we saw the head cafeteria lady steal a case of milk cartons.  Rewind back to 9:21 PM last night, we watched two rival members of the boys' wrestling team get it on in the showers.  Guess that particular stereotype is true."  Dominador dropped his hands into his lap and looked at his partner.

"How'd you know we wouldn't find a killer carrying a body and stuffing it in a locker?"

Nicolao Daos shrugged.  "Call it a hunch.  What do we know about the guidance counselor?"

"A hunch?" Dominador blinked incredulously.

"Today was Dani Reyes's first day on the job.  She graduated from college last spring and just moved back to take a position at her old high school," Chief Bibiana Solís answered.  Apparently she was on the same page as Daos.  "Never had a criminal record, never was in trouble, graduated salutatorian in her class, as I recall.  By all accounts, a very good girl."  She gave a brief nod.  "I know her parents.  Good people, devout Catholics...why do you ask?"

Daos's face remained neutral, except for a slight eyebrow raise.  "Because for someone working at a high school, someone who's never been in any kind of trouble, she was awfully calm when faced with a corpse first day on the job."

Bibiana nodded.  "You noticed that, huh?"

"Apparently, he notices everything," Dominador quipped, his face twisted in a slight scowl.  "What's our next move?"

"First, we send for the autopsy results, which won't tell us anything," Daos replied honestly.  "In the meantime, we talk to people, starting with the guidance counselor."

"Chief?"  Bibiana turned to see her receptionist calling to her and frantically waving from across the room.  "The Mayor's on line one."

"Don't worry, Chief," Dominador assured her.  "We'll pound the pavement.  You handle the politics."
"I, uh, I grew up here," Dani began nervously. "Um, this town has a bit of a rough history, I guess?"  She shrugged. "Same thing with the school. I know this sounds really bizarre, but this...wasn't exactly my first dead body on campus."

Trish Flores looked up from her notes and tried not to appear appalled. She failed.

"You mean this sort of thing happened here when you were growing up?" she exclaimed.

They were still at school, sitting outside on a park bench near the football field.  It was an overcast day, not too bright, not too warm, which worked out great because Trish really didn't want to have to step foot into the school.

Dani gave that meek little shrug of hers again. "We're near the border.  There's a lot of dealing in drugs, some trafficking...."  She shrugged again.  "I mean, I grew up here, my parents grew up here, my friends...we all knew the rules.  Just be good and you'll stay out of harm's way."

Trish looked confused.  "Be good?"

"You know, no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no screwing around," Dani nodded.  "I went to mass every Sunday, volunteered at soup kitchens and the mission.  This was why I came back, to help the kids, to let them know there's another way.  It was a little easier back then, of course; the high school wasn't secular yet.  We had prayer in school, mandatory scripture studies, weekly mass, and the like."

Trish began furiously scribbling again.  "Soleado Valle High was a Catholic school?"

Dani nodded, a bit more lively now.  Her face even seemed to glow.  "Academy of St. Nabirio, class of 2009," she beamed.  "That was until the Headmaster was convicted on fourteen counts of sexual abuse.  He committed suicide two weeks after my graduation."

Trish raised a trouble brow.  "You sound awfully chipper about that."

"Oh, yes," Dani nodded.  "I mean, I wasn't one of the victims or anything; I was a good girl - am a good girl - but he hurt one of my friends and deserved to suffer.  Because of him, the school was sold back to the city and completely revamped.  They tore down the chapel, they even sold the beautiful stone statue of the saint himself.  Blasphemy, if you ask me."

"And I was going to ask you," a new voice cut in.  "I was going to ask you a lot of things if the press hadn't beaten me to it."

"Beaten us to it," another voice added petulantly.  "You've got a partner now, man."

"Apologies," the first man nodded briskly.  "I'm Detective Nicolao Daos.  This is my partner, Detective Dominador Ona.  If you're done delaying justice, we'd like to continue our conversation from before with Miss Reyes."

Trish flashed a look.  "I'm not delaying justice, Detective," she replied, rising to her feet.  "I have every right to be here."

Daos's voice took a darker, harder edge.  "Don't even bother talking to me about reporters' rights," he told her grimly.  "Which obstructionist institution do you work for anyway?"

She handed him her business card.  "Trish Flores with the Medianoche Herald.  And yes, Detective Daos, we are familiar with your work."

Though he promptly ripped her business card in half, Dominador noted his partner didn't throw it away.

"Medianoche," the senior detective nodded stiffly.  "Now I know whom to watch for."

To Dominador's surprise, Trish didn't insist upon sticking around.  She promptly left , hopping into her silver Lexus and driving away without a word.

Both detectives turned back to Dani Reyes.

"Now," Daos began, taking Trish's vacant seat.  "Let's take it from the top."

"Wait," Dani protested.  "Do I need a lawyer present?"

Dominador was amused.  "You're not under arrest, Miss Reyes."

"You're not even a suspect," Daos snorted.  "But you may know something I need."

Dani still appeared discomfited.  "I, uh, I arrived at about 6:48 AM," she began shakily.  "I remember 'cause I really wanted to be on time for my first day, and --"

"You don't have to go into those details," Daos stopped her.  "Go back to what you were telling Miss Flores.  You said there were deaths on campus when you were a student here?"

Dani swallowed.  "Yes.  Um...two cheerleaders killed themselves my freshmen year.  One overdosed right before homecoming, and the other jumped from the roof the morning after prom.  My sophomore year, three members of the swim team were found floating in the pool right before Christmas break, and my senior year we had a shooting.  Nine victims total, including the shooter."

Daos noted that she rattled the events off calmly, as though she were merely reciting the names of her relatives or upcoming school events.

"Jesus Christ!" Dominador exclaimed.  "What is this place, Sunnydale?"

Dani shrugged slightly.  "Well, actually, if you translate the town's name --"

"What about the rest of the town?" Daos redirected.  "Any other places with a long history of deaths?"

"Well, when my father was growing up, he said City Hall was known for its death rate.  He said it seemed like a politician was dying every week."  She chuckled.  "My mother said this town used to change mayors like underwear.  But then there was a fire during the fall of '83; most of City Hall burned.  The rest had to be taken down, and the hall was rebuilt elsewhere.  Haven't really heard a lot about deaths since then.  I mean, we did have a city councilor die last year, but he was home at the time...and he was 78."

"Where was the old City Hall located?" Daos asked.

"On the corner of Castaño Avenue and Vientos Crossing.  I've seen pictures," Dani smiled.  "It was a gorgeous building, over sixty years old at the time it burned."

Dominador raised an eyebrow.  "What's there now?"

"Nothing," Dani shrugged.  "I guess people have been too superstitious to build anything there since the fire."

Next: Patterns


  1. "Well, actually, if you translate the town's name --"
    He's secretly funny.


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