A CSI had already processed the scene when Barnes arrived, nearly an hour after Sam called for homicide. Once the shock wore off, the detective did a walkthrough of the scene. Another uniformed officer stayed by the vehicle while Sam guarded the body. Not long after Barnes showed up, the Blackrock Coroner, Stacy Getz, arrived.
“Abe Froman,” Detective Barnes said. “Same name the vehicle’s registered under.”
He was standing to the left of the hanging corpse, wearing latex gloves, viewing the driver’s license he had removed from the victim’s wallet, which he had found in the left pants pocket.
Stacy had pulled the victim’s jacket aside, pulled the shirt up, and made an incision in the upper right portion of the man’s torso. She was now measuring the liver temperature with a thermometer she had inserted into the cut.
Barnes said “I’m gonna go out on a limb here… ha! I didn’t even plan that.” He smiled and shook his head at his own cleverness. “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this license is a fake.”
“Why?” Sam asked.
“Didn’t you ever see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago?”
Sam answered with a blank stare. Barnes sighed heavily.
Stacy removed the thermometer from the man’s liver and said “he’s no longer in rigor. Judging by liver temp and lividity I’d estimate time of death at thirty to forty hours ago.”
One of the first thoughts that had crossed Sam’s mind was that this latest killing might be the work of Kronin. If the murder happened some time after Sam shot Raggedy Man last night… that would be cause to think Kronin survived. But the coroner was putting this homicide at sometime the night before.
Maybe Raggedy Man really was gone. Maybe Kronin had killed this man but now maybe she ensured he would never hurt anyone ever again. If Raggedy Man had committed this murder, he hadn’t left a message for Sam like he did with the Eclipse Killing. Unlike that homicide, it didn’t seem like this one had been meant for Sam specifically.
Barnes was staring up at the corpse. “Whatever happened, this guy was up to no good,” he said. “Fake ID, out here in the middle of nowhere, middle of the night…”
“I saw another set of tire tracks,” Sam said.
“Yep. Ol’ Abe here met with somebody. Conducted some kind of shady business outta the trunk of that vehicle. We’ll get a cast of the second set of wheel tracks.” He looked up at the corpse.
“Man if the press gets hold of this they’re gonna have a field day. Oh, by the way I spoke to that mechanic, Elias, this morning.”
Sam’s heart quickened. “Oh?”
“Yeah. No alibi for the night of the Rest-In. And remember that silver bullet? The cross?”
“The guy’s got religious tattoos all over him.”
Despite the cool air, Sam felt heat rising. “Lot of Christians in Blackrock.”
“True. Not enough to bring him in, yet. But if he’s part of all this…” Barnes passed by Sam, putting “Abe Froman’s” wallet in an evidence bag.
“I’m gonna’ find out.”
Sam had spent most of her day at the murder scene and still had paperwork to fill out before her shift ended.
Driving back into the town proper on her way to the station, she spotted two vehicles involved in a minor fender-bender on Elm Street. The drivers were outside their cars, waving their arms about, engaged in a heated exchange. One of them, a heavyset woman, was on her phone. She seemed the most aggressive out of the two. The other motorist, a thin man with glasses, was red-faced but didn’t strike Sam as a threat.
With the paperwork she still had to do, and with the grim day it had already been, Sam didn’t really want to stop. But, it was her job. Besides, it looked like the big woman might throw a punch if the argument continued. Sam pulled the cruiser up behind the accident site and exited, telling the woman to calm down. The woman began ranting about how it was the man’s fault, when a hand grabbed the material at the right shoulder of Sam’s uniform.
Sam turned to see the homeless woman from the night before, the one with the one large eye and shedding hair. Dried snot was caked under her nose and she stunk like urine and whiskey. Still holding the cloth at Sam’s shoulder with her left hand, she lifted her right and pointed a finger with a long, thick, yellow nail and said “You! Was you last night!” The woman smiled, revealing mostly gums. “Know who you are!” She let go of Sam’s shoulder and clapped her hands.
Sam grabbed the lapel of the woman’s thick, ratty coat. “And I know what you are,” she said, shoving the other woman out of the street toward the curb. “If I was you I’d run while you still can.” The woman stumbled backward, her heels hitting the curb, and plopped on her ass. Sam leaned down and said “We’re coming for you. You and all the others like you.”
The woman’s large eye grew so big Sam thought it might pop out of her head. “Why?” she screeched, “what I done to you?” Without waiting for an answer the homeless lady maneuvered back to her feet and hurried down the sidewalk and across the intersection against the light, causing a pickup to slam on its brakes.
Adrenaline still pumping through her system, Sam turned her attention back to the irate woman on the phone.
By the time Sam pulled her cruiser into the motor pool she was beyond exhausted. As she shut off the vehicle, the cell phone in the passenger seat rang.
When she answered, it was Kathy on the other end. “Hey… wanted you to know, I just got some news about Uncle Brewin. He’s back in the hospital.”
Sam’s heart sank. “What?”
Kathy was slurring some of her words. Sam could tell she’d been hitting the bottle again. “Yeah, yeah… I called the house this afternoon and his nurse told me. He had a seizure. They’ve got him sedated.”
Sam let out a long sigh. “Okay, I’ll go see him tonight. I got a few more things to do before my shift’s over.”
“Sounds good, kiddo. Love you.”
Minutes later Sam was entering the precinct bullpen, heading toward her desk when a familiar voice called out to her.
Sam glanced a few desks over, where officer Jackson was seated, taking a statement from an older woman, who was looking at Sam and waving.
It was Mama Kaiser.
“Ah, good! You will help!” the gray-haired woman said in her thick accent. “I have been telling this man that Nina has not come in. She does not call, which is very strange. I think maybe something is wrong…”
For a moment Sam simply stood there, silently frozen, certain that if Mama Kaiser looked into her eyes, looked deeply enough, she could see the lies buried there.
Nina’s at the bottom of the lake. She was a monster and we killed her and sank the corpse.
“Officer Jackson can help you,” Sam said.
“But you know Nina, maybe you can think of something—” The older woman persisted.
“I haven’t seen Nina, I can’t help you,” Sam said and started backing up toward the meeting rooms.
“Please, maybe you can do something, maybe—”
“I can’t help you!” Sam said at a volume that was just under a yell. Officer Jackson, Mama Kaiser and a few other nearby officers stared at Sam.
Without another word she hurried into the nearest meeting room and closed the door.
The corpse at the tree, the homeless woman recognizing her, Uncle Brewin in the hospital and now this… it felt like the world was crashing down around her. Leaning her back against the door Sam took a deep breath, let it out and hoped that maybe, even if it was just for a moment, that door might shut the world out.