"He comes with rain, sleek as shadows and deadly as a swirling draw."
"It rains a lot here. We get at least one heavy shower every month. We get scattered sprinkles and mists almost every day."
"I know Houston weather, Tom," repeated Tom's friend, Mason Dewberry. They both paused to sip their coffee over cold, empty breakfast plates, and they observed the subdued morning crowd in the diner. Blowing across his cup, Mason added, "I grew up here, just like you. My family goes back three generations and more, and we all swim like fish. In fact, I rarely meet a native Houstonian who never learned to swim. Those who don't, they face a near constant threat growing up. It's why the numbers look the way they do. It's sad, but it's only natural."
Tom's face puckered sourly, and he set his cup aside to lean across the table, pushing his plate away and wondering where Bobbie, their waitress, had gone. "It's not natural, Mason. It's decidedly un-natural, in fact. Haven't you been listening to what I'm saying?"
"I heard you, Tom, and you've never been wrong before, not completely wrong, anyway, but on this one… I have to disagree. I think you chased a squirrel up that tree, but it's not a 'coon. It's not what you think it is, though it looks that way."
"It looks that way," rebutted Tom, pushing back again and sighing disgustedly, "because it is that way." He turned to stare out of the plate glass window at his elbow. As if pontificating his argument, the sky rolled gray with clouds and the glass began to sparkle with thousands of tiny, misty drops of water. "He's just damned clever, that's all."
"Well, I have to admit that much, at least," conceded the detective. He paused to tease Bobbie about her long absence, once she reappeared to clear their table, whereupon she informed him that 'even ladies have private business sometimes'. Returning his attention to his old friend after she left, he continued, "If it works the way you laid out, then it's damned clever, alright. It's slick, you know, but it's comic book slick."
"Fifteen kids in thirty six months, Mason," asserted Tom, engaging the attack, once more, in a final effort to convince his friend, "regular as clockwork. He comes with the rain and he goes with the rain, same as the kids. We find the kids in rain-swollen creeks and ponds days later, and we think they drowned. Case closed."
"I admit it's an unusual number of young drowning victims, and, further, I admit that the timing of the disappearances and discoveries seems a bit too regular to be mere coincidence. Then again, this is the very nature of coincidence. I can't tell you how many times my eyes have fooled me. The mind must rule the senses, Tom. You know that. Hell, you practically taught me the business before your… disability. You know that better than just about everyone."
Tom nodded his head and slowly spun his coffee cup as he listened. Then he responded, "It's another reason why I think we have a serial perpetrator on our hands, here. Coincidence is his camouflage. The rain is his cover. He's counting on the trends to conceal his tracks. He's betting the statistics will bury all visible evidence of his crimes."
Mason sighed and glanced at his telephone to check the time. "Okay, man, sum it up for me one more time. Make be believe, if you can."
Tom chewed his tongue for a thoughtful moment, before saying, "I could go over all the dates to elicit the pattern of attack and body deposition. I could review the victim profiles for their striking similarities. I could recite the details of the disappearances to reveal an apparent modus operandi. Instead, I'll bend your ear one more time with this one case, the case of little Marley Vernon.
"This kid stands as a general representative of all the drowned children that I think fit the series. He has the same physical appearance, the same hair, eyes, stature and race as most of the others. Left alone near dusk after his older brother took his little sister home for a Band-Aid, he vanished while playing in the rain. A thorough search of the neighborhood included all sewers, creeks and standing bodies of water, but the boy could not be found. One week later, a jogger discovered the boy's corpse floating in a retaining pound almost ten miles from where he was last seen, apparently delivered there by the drainage of a small stream that passed within one hundred yards of the kid's backyard. Investigators suspected accidental drowning, the medical examiner agreed, and the mother faced a grand jury over charges of neglect."
"I remember that one," grunted Mason, nodding. "He was a cute kid."
"Yeah, they all were." Tom sipped from his coffee, and then he shifted to second gear. "Two things stand out about Marley Vernon's drowning. First, a pair of anomalies appeared during autopsy that have not been completely explained, including signs of delayed decomposition and aberrant lividity indicators. Originally, the M.E. assessed the time of death to be more than seventy-two hours after the child went missing, and the lividity patterns, while not inconsistent with drowning, she noted to be 'odd'."
Mason shrugged and grunted again. "It happens all the time. It's not an exact science, as you well know."