Fate's Last Turn

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Chapter 26

Ned Clayton watched the Englishman disappear up the slope and away into the trees, then let his binoculars fall to his chest where they hung by a leather thong. He turned his attention to the group of cops standing on the highway arguing. It was pandemonium. The fat deputy was trying to justify his use of potential deadly force to his superior the sheriff who had arrived on the scene shortly afterwards along with more cops. What they had all presumed to be a rifle of some sort, brandished by the murderer and then hurled at them defiantly had turned out to be nothing more than a long wrench from the workshop. However, judging by the bloody hand prints smudged and smeared all along the handle it was obvious that it had also been the murder weapon.

A blanket from the house had been used to cover the body of young patrolman Platt. Pitt stayed with him, perched nearby on the tree stump which had caused the fatal injury, feeling it would be disrespectful to just leave him there alone and already wondering how the boy’s mother was going to cope with the news of her son’s death. Pitt knew her well, they lived on the same street.

The house was searched methodically and the second murder victim found straight away. The two bodies were examined carefully but without disturbing them too much. The torque wrench was carefully wrapped in a plastic sheet and placed in the trunk of the sheriff’s car by one of the cops. Once everyone was back outside, colourful tape was produced and the entrance to the house was cordoned off as was the entrance to the complex from the highway. A pathologist had been summoned and a team was already on its way out from Burlington along with an ambulance. Still sniping at each other with ill temper, the sheriff and the deputy made their way back into the house to assess the murder scene for the final time before things were taken out of their hands. Ned attempted to follow them inside but was stopped by one of the other cops and ordered to wait outside until they had finished. He was told that the sheriff would return to speak to him about what had happened when good and ready.

Now that the initial excitement had diminished, as they entered the house once more the sobering sight of the young man on the floor propped against the wall in the hallway with his head stoved in and covered in blood, put an end to any more bickering. It served to bring them back down to earth and start to act with a little more professionalism. The crochety attempts at point scoring ceased and their expressions became more serious as, stepping over the gory mess they made their way through into the back bedroom. The fact that the second corpse was that of a beautiful young woman had an even more profound effect upon them both. They didn’t go near her this time, just stared at the horrific scene, hardly visible in the muted light and simultaneously muttered under their breath “Jesus.”

When they came back out of the house the atmosphere was much more subdued. Voices were lowered. Even Donaghue was quieter and his body language less frantic. Ned was dismayed to find out that the young woman had been brutally murdered too. It was difficult to comprehend. The young Englishman hadn’t appeared to be such a bad guy, for an Englishman anyway. It just went to show how wrong you could be sometimes, especially with foreigners.

Ned moved away from the group of cops, sat on a log at the side of the road where Rudy was now tethered. The mule was snuffling about in the snow covered grass, nibbling at what he could find. Ned waited patiently until the sheriff came over and invited him to take a seat in the back of the patrol car where he began asking questions, scribbling the replies down quickly in a note pad as Ned went into as much detail as he could remember. It took a while for him to explain how and where he’d first run in to the Englishman. He described him in great detail, right down to the kit he was wearing and swore it was the same guy that had knocked him down as he’d hurriedly left the house. He told how he had been robbed of his Bowie knife and how he’d feared for his life as the guy had stared at him with such a murderous look on his face.

By the time Ned had finished and been allowed to get out of the car and continue about his business, the sky had turned a deeper shade of slate grey. Low altitude heavy snow clouds were tinged with red as the afternoon wore on. The sheriff was back on the radio as one of the other cops asked politely if Ned needed a ride back into town. Ned declined, nodding toward Rudy.

“Need to get him home too.”

With that he checked the pack on the mule’s back and took his rifle from its holster and fully reloaded it before slinging it over his shoulder. He wasn’t intending to take any chances, what with there being a vicious murderer on the loose in the vicinity. Ned set off slowly on his way towards Macadam.

“We’ll be in touch.” said the sheriff as Ned walked past the car.

“Sure you will.” replied Ned, and then he paused, cocking an ear to one side.

In the distance could be heard the sound of a helicopter coursing over the tree tops, well beyond the river. It was more of a rhythmic pulse rather than a sound, as if the air had developed a heart beat. Ned scanned the sky but the machine was nowhere within sight. Looking around he could see that all of the cops were looking up to the sky too. Ned smiled to himself, thinking. It didn’t matter where in the world you were or what you did for a living. Whenever anyone heard the sound of a helicopter they always looked up to see it. Without exception.

The sound of the chopper grew faint and soon disappeared altogether. Ned estimated that there were less than two hours of usable daylight remaining so there was very little chance of them spotting the fugitive in the vast expanse of forest during what was left of the day. He was weary and he still had a way to travel. It was going to be well after dark before he got back home and then he was going to need to make some preparations for tomorrow before he turned in. On a matter of principle, now that he had recovered from the shock of what had occurred Ned had decided that he was going to go hunting.

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