Officers Cope and Barrett were driving around Schenley Park, looking for a good observation point or a good place to grab a bite.
“We could try that barbecue place,” Cope said.
“Ugh, too heavy,” was Barrett’s reply.
They drove on in silence for a little while.
“So she had nothing on the tall guy?”
“Nope,” Barrett answered. “She definitely knows more, but she feels a sense of loyalty since he helped her out.”
“I get that,” Cope said. “Nothing about the eyes?”
Barrett shook her head. “I wanted to mention that thing you told me about, see if that sparked a response from her.”
“What about?” Cope asked. “The coat?”
“No, the black-eyed children.”
“Oh, shit, don’t get me started on that,” Cope said. “I only talk about the freaky shit when the sun is shining. You get that nonsense into your head on night patrol, you’re likely to shoot somebody.”
Barrett looked at him. “You believe that shit, Copey?”
He shrugged. “Hey, you saw the video.”
She shook her head, looking back out through the windshield. “I dunno,” she said. “Seems a little Occam’s Razory to me.”
“Occam’s Razor, the maxim that when confronted with a mystery, the simplest solution must be the correct solution.”
“Ah, that Occam’s,” Copey said. “So what’s the simplest solution?”
Barrett shrugged. “Camera glitch.”
“Same glitch in two cameras?”
“I don’t know.”
They drove along in silence, then Copey said, “How ‘bout Italian?”
Barrett considered this, then, “Yeah, I could do a slice.”
Ten minutes later, they were sitting inside Rubio’s eating their dinner before their patrol really started. Barrett had gotten two slices with mushrooms since the slices here were kind of small, and she was kind of hungry. Copey would have gotten a whole pie for himself if they weren’t on duty. He had to keep up appearances, so he had gotten a calzone and a Coke.
“So what are these black-eyed kids, do ya think?” Barrett asked.
Copey chewed and shrugged. “Who knows. Stranger things exist in Heaven and Earth, Horatio.”
“Maybe,” Copey took a sip of his Coke to wash down the calzone. “All the descriptions of those little grey buggers say they have black eyes.”
“Or maybe they’re just kids in sunglasses.”
“Hm,” Copey replied. “Maybe. If you want to take all the fun out of it.”
They ate in silence for a moment, then Copey said, “You ever meet Donnie?”
Barrett rolled the name over in her head, “No,” she said. “Donnie who?”
“Donnie Davis, he was a detective at the 6 until he retired a couple of years ago. Full pension.”
“Good for him,” Barrett said.
“He told us he worked this case once, missing child over in Squirrel Hill. One of those Kosher families.”
“You mean Hassidic,” Barrett corrected him.
“Yeah, those good folks. Anyway, the kid goes missing in the middle of the night, and his parents said he had brought some other kids home, and they had had black eyes.”
“He brought them home after he had been missing?”
“No, a day before. Anyway, the kid says these other kids needed help, but these traditional people, see, they have a lot of superstition. They said they thought these black-eyed kids were, ah, what’d he call ‘em? Lilim? Lenin? Something like that.”
“Lenin?” Barrett asked. “What’s that?”
“It’s a word they have for evil night spirits. It’s Yiddish, I think. Anyway, they said these kids just stood there at the door, staring at their boy with those all-black eyes, and they kept asking to be let into the house. But based on the Jewish custom, they weren’t about to let these little fellas in, so they pulled the boy inside and shut the door. They called the police when the little fu—little kids started banging on the windows, making all kinds of racket on their porch.”
“So a couple of uniforms go out there, they see no kids, but there’s a mess on the front porch, scratches in the steps that the parents said weren’t there before. Thing is, the steps were concrete.”
“Wow, that’s weird.”
“Yeah. So the cops take a statement, tell them to call if they see anything else, and run some patrols all night. Nothing. Then the next day, the parents call in, panicking, their son is gone. Right from his bedroom.”
“And that’s when Donnie took the case?”
“From what he says, yeah,” Cope took another huge bite of his calzone. Barrett waited.
“Anyway, long story short, the kid’s never been found.”
“Oh god, that’s terrible!” Barrett said. “Poor family.”
“Yeah, but Donnie, he said that case is the one that always haunted him.”
“Everybody has one.”
“Really?” Cope smiled at her. “What’s yours?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Ah, but you just said –”
“Eventually, everybody has one. I’m still in uniform.”
“A rookie, eh?”
Barrett laughed. She and Cope had both been on the force for about three years now. As far as cities go, Pittsburgh was a pretty mellow place. She had no real cases to speak of yet. Usually if one does come along, it goes straight to the detectives.
“So you think this guy that was with Bethany might be one of these black-eyed kids, all grown up?”
Barrett took the last sip from her spring water. “Dunno,” she said. “I hope for Bethany’s sake, he isn’t. I’d hate for her to go missing.”
They finished their meals and took their plates to the bin. On the way out the door, Copey said, “Ya know, Donnie lives in Squirrel Hill now. I wonder if he’s still trying to solve that case.”
“He always lived there?”
“No, he bought a house there after he retired. Hangs out at PD’s Pub off Murray.”
Barrett opened her car door. “You guys close?”
“Meh,” Copey said, sliding into his seat. “Close as a rookie and a detective could be.” As they pulled away from the curb and headed out, he asked, “Would you like to go ask him about the black-eyed guy? He’s probably just getting into PD’s now.”
“What, you mean like detective work?” Barrett smiled.
“Sure, why not?” Cope said. “A little practice for your inevitable future.”
Barrett considered it. What if this Donnie guy actually knew something about who Bethany’s friend might be? Then she just said, “Nah, we should just stick to the park.”
“Okay,” Cope said. “But you’re missing a great story.”
Cope shook his head. “Ah, you gotta hear Donnie tell it. You’d never believe it coming from me.”
“I don’t know,” Barrett said. “I trust my partner. What’s the story?”
Cope looked at her, seeing if she really looked interested. She did.
“Well,” he said. “Donnie was going over the outside of the house, it looked like the kid had gone out his bedroom window, which looked into the back yard, and there was…” he trailed off.
“There was what?” Barrett prodded him.
“Ahh, you just have to hear Donnie tell it. It’ll sound too weird coming from me, and I don’t like to talk about this stuff after dark.”
Barrett looked over at her partner of two years. “Really? You, big cop with a gun, you don’t want to talk about this after dark?”
“Like I said,” he replied, “You get these ideas in your head on night patrol…”
“And you’re liable to shoot somebody,” she finished. He just looked at her, raising his eyebrows in a ‘that’s right!’ kind of way. They drove in silence again for a little while. Barrett spent the rest of the night thinking about Donnie the Detective. She wondered if maybe she should go talk to him. She knew for a fact that nearly every seasoned cop on the Pittsburgh P.D. had at least one story of the unexplained to tell, although most didn’t like to talk about it. One of her colleagues that had taken her under her wing when she first got out of the academy had told her about seeing a man in a shiny green suit and a grin that was too big to be natural jump over a ten-foot high fence one night. Every cop had a story or knew someone that did. Copey knew Donnie.
“You know what?” she finally said. “Fuck it, let’s go see Donnie tomorrow and let him see the videos.”
“Why not go tonight?” Cope asked.
“Because we’re on patrol,” she replied. “And I don’t want to shoot anybody.”