[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
For 1-55 (Chapters 1-13), see here.
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 056
Chapter 14 (1 of 8): Headquarters
After the sheriff’s people and the coroner had left the area, Phoebe and the techs took one last look around. She assured herself that enough pictures had been taken and that the evidence bags did not need supplementing. Flipping through her notebook she reviewed her crude grid map with the lie of the land and reread explanatory notes she had scribbled in the margins of the drawings.
It was verging towards noon, and the snow fall had diminished considerably, heading south.
“Looks like we got everything, people,” she said. “Anybody think of anything else for now?”
Nobody could think of anything.
“You guys get started, and I’ll follow you. What way are you taking back to the city?”
Henry was the driver. “We’ll head back through Dust and then north on 519 till we hit 612. I think it’s quicker if we go east there and catch State 43 south to the city.” He hoisted his sleeve and glanced at his watch. “That should get us back before two for sure.”
“Sounds good,” Phoebe said. “See you there. And thanks for the great work here.” They made dismissive gestures with their hands and got into the tech wagon. “We’ll have a preliminary meeting around five. Check with Tanya later this afternoon.” They waved and got into the van.
Phoebe watched them turn around on the narrow county road and move off to the west. She followed.
She drove her own car and got mileage from the city. The accountants at headquarters encouraged such arrangements, since they claimed it saved them money in the long run. And Phoebe liked it, since the city was not going to provide her with a Buick Le Sabre. She’d always had a fancy for cars – her one indulgence, she reminded herself — and three years ago she’d decided to treat herself to a real car. Samuel had not objected, and neither one of them had regretted it. The Buick rode smoothly on the interstates and, with its front-wheel drive, was easy to maneuver on the many smaller streets and roads she traversed in the course of her investigations. She’d had a CD-player installed in the dashboard and replaced the standard front and rear speakers with something that cooked. Music was important to her, and given the amount of time she spent in the car she thought it was worth the additional expense.
She had a Marion McPartland disk going, and for a happy moment lost herself in the crisp piano renditions of jazz favorites. But she drove slowly through the thick layer of snow on the road, following the ruts the others had made. When she got out on 519 she could pick up the pace, though even here the county road crews had not yet done any plowing. It wasn’t until she hit State 43 that the snow had been cleared off and she could pick up the pace of her driving. It would still be a good forty-five minutes before she made it to the office.
Her mind circled around the murder.
She knew that statistically most murder investigations in rural areas would involve family or friends sooner or later. In the last few years she had also come across more drug-related killings, but these were still pretty much restricted to the urban centers like the city and Woulfton and, in the western part of the state, Grange. If the current case was typical, somebody in the young woman’s circle of friends or family was responsible for what the hunter had discovered. Unpremeditated murders, committed in a moment of uncontrollable passion, and regretted almost as soon as they had been committed. But that didn’t mean the perpetrator rushed to confess. Horror at the deed he – or sometimes she – had committed would gnaw at the conscience over time and in some way or another the truth would come out, either directly through personal confession or, more circuitously, from an anonymous report by a suspicious friend or family member of the deceased. More commonly the unthinking nature of the crime meant that the lack of planning made for plenty of clues that would lead without serious difficulties right to the tearful doer of the deed. This could be an enraged lover or an envious sibling, cases that at least made some kind of human sense to Phoebe. Even the mercy killing of an agonized spouse with terminal illness had a kind of logic to it.
But the cases that always seemed inexplicable to Phoebe were the deaths inflicted on small children by a parent. Not that the brutal murder of a child by a stranger was any less horrendous, but one might be able to discern a kind of murky, twisted reasoning from the point of the view of the killer. And the death of a young adult disturbed Phoebe simply because it constituted the cruel thwarting of a human being’s right to grow old, with the loss of all that this entailed – love, family, career, joy. Her own daughter, Melinda, so senselessly snatched from her seventeen years ago, was a heart-breaking case in point.
No, don’t go there, she admonished herself.
What kind of murder were they dealing with here?
The savage wound to the woman’s head certainly suggested passion of one sort or another. Dumping her in a ditch on a lonely stretch of country road spoke to impulsiveness and panic, to an inability to think one’s way clear to a solution that would block discovery of the murderer. He must have realized that sooner or later somebody would discover the woman or what was left of her. Or she must have. Phoebe was experienced enough in the investigation of murder not to jump to conclusions about the killer on the basis of age, gender, race, religion or any other of the contemporary social yardsticks. She’d once worked a case where the murderer turned out to be a highly disturbed ten-year old Nigerian immigrant who’d stabbed her step-father to death; in another a senile eighty-seven year old farmer living in a retirement home had emptied both barrels of a twelve gauge in the face of his best friend, whom he’d mistaken for the devil. But Phoebe’s gut feeling on this one told her the young woman had been murdered by a man. Truthfully, of course, at this point she simply did not know.
Why was another matter. And if she’d had to put her money somewhere, at this early stage she’d guess it involved a lover. The first thing was of course to try to figure out who the victim was, and she made a mental note to herself to have someone give the pathologist at the University, Dr. Wendell, a call when she got back to her office. Schwenicke should have delivered the corpse by then.
And what about the muddled message on the piece of paper they’d extricated from the dead woman’s jeans? Marion McPartland was winding down the last piece with a flashy riff, and the car went silent. The only sound was the tedious slap of tires against wet pavement.
Phoebe decided not to put anything else on for the time being.
TO BE CONTINUED