Revenge Should Have No Bounds 046

 [If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
before proceeding.]

001     002     Prologue 001-002     003     004     005     Chap 1 003-005
Chap 2 006     007     008     Chap 3 007-008     009     010     Chap 4 009-010     011     012     013     Chap 5  011-013     014     015     016    017
Chap 6  014-017     018     019     Chap 7  018-019     020     021     022     023     Chap 8  020-023     024     025     026     027     Chapter 9  024-027     028     029    030    031     Chapter 10  028-031    032     033     034     035     036     037     038     039     040     041     Chapter 11 032-041     042     043     044     045

Revenge Should Have No Bounds  046
Chapter 12 (5 of 7): The Detective

She turned to the men who had held off at a discreet distance.  Pete was huffing up out of the ditch.  “I’ve shot three rolls, Phoebe,” he said.  “Let me get the video set up before we start in on this thing.”

A couple thermoses of coffee and some paper cups had appeared out of nowhere on the hood of Eaton’s patrol car.  They all filled up and drank while they waited for Pete to mount the video camera on the heavy tripod.

Pete fiddled with some buttons, and a light went on.  “All set, Phoebe,” he yelled.

Strong beams broke through the falling snow, and soon a yellow truck pulled up.

“First let’s let these guys set up the markers along the side of the road,” she said.

Two men in coats with ‘Swaithe County Road Crew’ lettered on the back got out and proceeded to unload half a dozen small cone-like structures that they pushed down into the snow.  They formed a straight line where the lip of the ditch met the edge of the road.

The sheriff nodded to the men. “Thanks!” he said.  “Any chance of not getting this road plowed real soon?”

The men looked at each other dubiously. “Yeah,” said the one who had been driving, “I guess so, sheriff.  I can call dispatch if you want.  I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear from someone who doesn’t want the snow removed yesterday.”

“I appreciate that,” Eaton said.  “Let’s just try to discourage sightseers for a while.”

The driver got into his truck and spoke a few minutes into a mike.

“”No problem, sheriff,” he reported back.  “Dispatch just says for you to give the word when you’re done out here.”

The sheriff nodded again.  “I’ll buy you boys coffee and donuts later in the week.  Don’t forget to cash in my chit.”

“Yes, sir, sheriff,” they both said in unison.

Then they got back in the truck and did a smart job of turning it around on the narrow county road.  Soon the red tail lights disappeared and they were gone.

“O.K.,” Phoebe said.  “Let’s do it.”

Anders started the video camera as Barb eased her way down into the ditch.  Henry Friend followed with a small suitcase containing specimen bags, plastic bottles, and various equipment to be used in the search of the crime scene.  Barb began on the side farthest from the road.  She used a light-whiskered brush and carefully pushed snow off the body at ninety degrees to its longitudinal axis.  She began at the feet and slowly worked her way up toward the head. After each stroke of the brush she examined the deposit that collected at the side of the dead woman.  With a long thin wooden poker she had removed from the kit Anders was carrying she stirred the pile of snow gently.  When she had assured herself there was nothing else there but snow, she brushed off another swath and repeated the procedure.  Anders stuck close behind her to the right, and Phoebe could see that from time to time the two of them spoke briefly to each other.

When they got to the crown of the head Barb again addressed Anders.  He handed her a plastic bag, and she used a broad-bladed chisel to loosen material from the ground and bag it.  She bent down as close to ground level as she could and shined a flashlight under the body’s head and seemed to study what she saw.  Then they continued, circling around to the other side of the head.

It was a slow and cautious procedure, and it took a good twenty minutes before Barb had worked her way all the way around the body back to where she had started.  Eaton and Vernon, one of the deputies, reached down their hands and helped Barb and Henry back up onto the road, which at that point had been pretty much trampled through to the blacktop.

“What was it you were putting in the bag?” Phoebe asked her.

“I couldn’t be sure, but I thought there were stains on the ground.  Lab analysis will show if it’s got anything to do with the body,” she explained.

She hesitated, and Phoebe prompted her.

“And?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I think there was a gash on back of her head.  It’s hard to tell, the way she’s lying, but there is something that isn’t right about her head.  Any blood or tissue would have frozen with the hair.  I couldn’t make out any clearly visible evidence.”

Phoebe made a note of the possibility of head trauma.

“Anything else,” she asked.

“Except for that, nothing else I could see on the first pass,” she answered.  Apologetically.

“That’s kind of unusual, isn’t it?”

“Well, not necessarily,” she said.  “If there are loose items on her, hair, fibers, effluvia of some sort, they’re for sure frozen solid and glued to the clothes and skin.”

“What about that shirt,” Phoebe asked.  As Barb had removed the plastic and blanket covering the woman’s chest and pushed away the snow they had all seen that she was dressed in some kind of short-sleeved shirt whose two flaps had fallen down on each side of her.

“Stiff as boards.  Like the woman herself.  Hard as rock.”

“Is it possible to tell how long she’s been there?”

“Not really.  She would have frozen pretty fast in this climate if she was put there any time within the last day or two.  Or even the last couple of months.  It’s been a very cold winter, as you know. I suspect something like that happened.  There’s no sign of decomposition, so she’d been just killed before being dumped.”  Barb bit her lower lip.  “Or might still have been alive and unconscious, but wouldn’t last long in the cold dressed the way she was.”

The coroner had been following their exchange closely.  “That makes sense to me, too,” he said.  The sheriffs indicated their silent agreement.

“Yes,” Phoebe concurred.  “There is always that possibility.”   She rapped her pencil on the writing pad.  “Were the pants intact?”

“Yes.  If there was any sexual assault, it didn’t happen here.  Assuming she was dumped at night, in the time frame I’m projecting, it would have been too cold for that kind of business.  Of course, it might have happened earlier, somewhere else.  The autopsy will determine if anything like that was the case.”

“How long will it take for the body to … defrost?  I mean, I imagine they can’t do much autopsying before it softens up.”

“Have you ever defrosted a frozen turkey?” the coroner chimed in.

“Sure I have.”  Phoebe saw, with a certain delicacy about the analogy, where this was going.

“How long does it usually take?  Say a 16-pound turkey?”

“I don’t know.  A couple of days maybe.”

“At least,” the coroner replied, happy to have become the sudden cynosure of everyone’s morbid attention.  “But this,” he gestured into the little gulley where the exposed body lay, “is no 16-pound turkey.  More like a hundred, hundred-ten pounds, I’d say.”

The young deputy sheriff, Vernon Williamson, took on a greenish hue and turned aside for a moment.

TO BE CONTINUED

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