Thursday, June 6, 2013

Week Three of the Continuing Saga

  Each week 1000 words or more, of a continuing story, will be posted for Friday morning -(equivalent to approximately 3 paperback pages).

Part One - Chapter Three

(Follow up from Chapter One & Two -  posted May 23rd & 30th on this blog)

Who's That Girl

We followed the trail that we had left for ourselves, and found the body dump site without difficulty. Sargent Thomas secured the area with yellow crime scene tape, but there was really no point to it, no one ever came into this section of woods, except of course unless you were intending to dump a body. Rory asked Kevin to go back and escort the M.E. to the site when he arrived. He was more than happy to leave the scene.

The sun was brighter now that it was about noon. I felt my brow sweat and I wiped my forehead, then put my hat back on. I wanted to look as professional as possible, which was extremely difficult with Rory so close. We searched the entire area looking for anything out of place, but there was nothing found. No strange footprints, no drag marks, no bottles, boxes, wrappers or anything else that didn’t belong in the forest. It was just the girl’s body covered with some leaves, and the trees. She didn’t appear to have many insects crawling on her yet, so it seemed as if her body had not been there long. I decided to spill my thoughts, even though no one asked.

“It looks like she wasn’t here too long. Her flesh is visible. Even though there are some leaves covering her, if she was here for any length of time, some animals would have gotten at her.” I said. “Add to that, it is spring, and all the animals out of hibernation are out now looking for food. She couldn’t have been here long. I know once the Doc takes a look at her, we will have a better idea of when she died. I just wonder though, how did she get here? There are no traces of her being placed. It seems very odd. She is too young to have a heart attack while walking. This definitely seems like foul play.”

Rory and the Sargent shook their head in agreement, and that was about it for my contribution. Soon the Medical Examiner was there, old Doc Hayward. First he took some pictures, then he knelt close to the body for a more thorough inspection, a few more close up pictures, and then he took a temperature reading.

Her body was barely discernible until the leaves were pulled away from her frame. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a light pink sweater, that was fluffy cashmere or a knock off of cashmere at least. When the M.E. turned her over, her face looked unreal. It was small framed and frail in structure, but her skin had swelled from something, and she had a bloating look. Her hair was brown and went to her shoulder, and curled in the humid spring air and moisture. There were no visible bruises on her face, but her hands looked like they had clawed at something, they were scuffed and scratched. They placed plastic bags over them to preserve any evidence.

He looked around a bit, then ordered for the men who assisted him to take the body back to the coroner’s vehicle. I followed the men back with the body. As we walked out from the woods I wondered how she got there. We had been busy for the past few weeks getting ready for the spring hikers, and had been around the area everyday and nothing ever seemed out of whack. No one had been using the Reserve area yet. It was truly a mystery, and I internally vowed I would figure it out. It was my park, my responsibility, and I wanted to make sure our slate was cleared of any foul play. I only hoped that working with Rory would not be a deterrent. I decided to put my other emotions aside, and concentrate on the case, on the poor dead girl. Justice needed to be served.

We had determined she wasn’t local. None of us recognized her face, and there was no missing person’s report for the area. Rory was going to extend his search, hoping that she matched a description of someone already missing, and listed in the state data base. These kind of cases were always sad. Someone out there was missing her. If Rory finds out who she was, then the poor family would mourn this girl’s death, another parent had lost a child, the deepest of human sadness. I didn’t envy his job of telling the parents. He was always a pillar of strength, but everyone has their limits. I quietly prayed for whoever she belonged to, and for Rory too.

The excitement lasted the rest of the day. There were more officers scouring the area looking for anything to use for forensic evidence. They didn’t find much. The body was taken to the morgue and the Doc said he would let me know what he found. Rory and his Sargent combed the woods the rest of the day and then finally left. He said he would let me know of anything that might turn up, if it concerned me. He was polite and professional, but had no spark in his eyes, like he used to have when he looked at me. There were no surveillance tapes or the like, to go over. We were strictly a nature lover only kind of place, no security video, so I had nothing to add to the investigation. Still I hoped he meant it when he said he would let me know. I really wanted to find out what happened to that poor girl. I was sad with the knowledge that something horrible happened to her, here in these peaceful woods.
Kevin was shaken up pretty bad by the time everyone left. I could see his tall frame was slumping, and it looked like an effort for him to stand at all. I suggested that he go home, but he insisted on staying with us. Josh noticed his weakening too, and made an effort to keep him occupied with other things. Still no one could get the sight of the girl out of our minds. Death was real today.
It only took a day to find a match. The girl was a nineteen year old student who attended a local college, and was reported missing by her family. Her name was Jennifer Taylor. She still lived at home with her parents in a nearby small college town. Her father ran a small bookstore on the Main Street and her mother was a nurse at the County Hospital. They said she had gone to the movies with some friends but never made it home. Her car was found locked in the parking lot. There were no signs of struggle, and no video available to see anything that might have happened. Her friends said they all left at the same time, but they had parked on the Main Street and not in the back parking lot. There was still no glimpse or lead about what happened to Jennifer.
Life continued on, in our small town. Everyone who stopped into the Sal’s General had a twist on the story. The store was the only one in town on the main road, which was nothing more than a route between hill towns. This was the place for gossip, and many versions about the girl, her friends, about her parents, about how bad things happened to good people, filled the small watering hole with imagination. I have always found that people love to talk about other’s troubles. They have good intentions, but somehow it seemed selfish to me. It was as if talking about it eased their mind somehow, and helped them process the situation. I wish it worked for me too, but it didn’t. No matter what people said, how sad they were, how much they wanted to justify what happened, it still troubled me. There was no way to explain how she got there, and nothing yet pointed to what happened to her. Jennifer Taylor deserved justice.
It was the second day after the body was found, a Thursday, my payday, and my usual day for stopping by to get some groceries for the week. The store only had a few people milling around, and I internally thanked God that I could shop in peace. I took a hand basket from the stack near the door and headed for the produce display. There was some fresh lettuce, so I picked out the greenest and placed it in my basket. I grabbed a few tomatoes too. I went to the cooler and found some hummus and pita bread. I got an uneasy feeling and felt like I was being watched. I walked to the isle and reached for a few cans of tuna and some black beans. The feeling of being spied on got more intense, as if someone’s stare was searing my back with their burning eyes. I looked up and turned around, moving my head in all directions, to find out who was watching me. The only one I saw was old Mr. Simpson, who was idly paging through the newspaper behind the counter, patiently waiting for the next customer, which was in fact me. No one else was in the place.
I wanted to get out of there, get some fresh air and clear my head. I went to the check out.
“Is that all you’re getting today?” Mr. Simpson asked.
His face was drawn and he looked like he had a different question going on in his head.
“Yes, I’ll have to come back later. I’m in a hurry now, I have some work I need to get done.” I said.
He turned and started to ring up the produce and busily bagged my things. He rang me up pretty quick and watched me as I slid my card through the card reader.
“Is everything all right Karen?” he asked.
I looked up and noticed for the first time his hair was receding so much that he was almost bald. His complexion was pasty white, and he looked older than I remembered.
“I’m fine. Just want to try to figure out what happened to that poor girl.”
“Ayah. Sad thing happened there.” he said.
He seemed preoccupied, as he stared out of the window now, but he wasn’t really looking at anything.
“Mr. Simpson, how are you doing? Is everything all right?” I asked.
“Couldn’t be better. Thanks for asking.” he said.
I took my bag and left the store, but somehow was unconvinced things were all right for the old man. He seemed more than sad, more than older. He looked like something was wrong. Maybe he was sick, and didn’t want anyone to know, I thought to myself. Looking back now, I realize I was more right than I knew. But that day, I just wanted to get back to the office and research a few things.

More of the story on next week's post, as the saga continues. If you have any ideas of where this story should go, or any comments in general, please post a comment - would love to hear from YOU. Until next week - cheers!

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