Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
The body of her son.
She covered her face with both hands, though she could still see through her slightly spread fingers.
The cart drew closer. She felt a tiny thud as it came to a stop against the wall.
She dropped her hands, straightened her composure, and looked at the officer beside her.
“Are you ready, Mrs. Bronson?” he asked gently. His hand was around her shoulder, as if to protect her.
She nodded slightly, and turned back to face the glass.
The officer nodded to the morgue attendant.
The sheet was lifted, exposing the face.
She looked down slowly, praying she wouldn’t see what she knew was there.
The face she forced herself to look at was white and wrinkled, not like her son should look. But it was him.
She turned away and bowed her head, sobbing quietly at first, and then hysterically. The officer held her from collapsing. With one arm still around her shoulder, the other holding her arm, he turned her away from the window and led her to a chair. She dropped into it, bowed her head and wept.
The cop held her hand patiently, and in a few minutes she was able to calm herself somewhat. She cleared her throat and looked at the officer.
“It’s him,” she said weakly.
Friday, August 12th, 6:20 PM
JEREMY didn’t know what to do about Jenny anymore. She seemed like such a sweet person at first. He thought maybe he’d been falling in love with her, but now he wasn’t so sure any more. The way she’d thrown that rock at him, and cursed him, and spit at him, he was confused now. Maybe he would kill her after all. That would solve all of his problems.
He dumped the remains of his macaroni and cheese dinner into a small container, and popped the top on.
He washed up the dishes, packing them back where they belonged, and looked around the room.
The kitchen was exactly like Mother had left it almost seven years ago. It was spotlessly clean, and neat as the day she’d left. The day she was forced to leave. The day she had died.
He thought back to the funeral. Nobody came. It was just him, his mother, one friend of hers, and some preacher from a church in town that he’d been able to find to say a few words at the small service.
Then, he’d buried her beside Father. He never cried. Couldn’t. And went on with his life.
He brushed his teeth carefully, and slipped his runners on, grabbed the container of leftover supper, and stepped out the back door.
He noticed his vegetable garden was coming nicely. The tomatoes were turning red, and growing. He looked forward to enjoying them.
He strolled contentedly toward the barn, enjoying the cool of the early evening.
He swung open the small entry door beside the huge double doors of the barn. He stepped inside, and could see Jenny lying down, curled up on the blanket, over by the far wall.
She looked at him, without moving, as he came nearer.
He picked up a folding chair and moved it closer, just a few feet away from her. He sat and put the container of food on the floor beside him, and then leaned over with his chin in his hands, and stared at her.
She sure was pretty. Even though she probably needed a wash, and maybe some clean clothes, well, she still looked awful pretty.
He glared at her and didn’t speak.
Neither did she.
Finally, he sat up straight, and said, “I brought you something to eat.”
He picked up the container, and stood and moved over to her. He set the meal down beside her, and returned to his chair without speaking.
She ignored the food.
“It’s good,” he said. “Macaroni and cheese. I made it myself. You should try it. It’s very good.”
She ignored his suggestion, and closed her eyes, remaining silent.
“You should talk to me,” he said.
She opened her eyes. “Why?”
“Because I need your help.”
“What kind of help?”
“I don’t know what to do with you.” He sighed.
She said nothing.
Then, she spoke. It was a statement, but almost like a question. “You can let me go.”
He was quiet for a minute, and then said softly, gently, “I can’t.”
“Because you would tell the police what I did to Chad. They wouldn’t understand. Nobody seems to understand what I did was for the best. Only Mother and Father do. But they’re dead.”
Silence a moment.
“I understand why you had to do it,” Jenny said.
He thought a moment, and then frowned at her and asked, “And why’d I do it?”
Jenny still had no idea why he’d killed Chad, and was holding her.
Finally, she said uncertainly, “Because he deserved it.”
Jeremy stood and glared at her. “Deserved it? Why? Why’d he deserve it?”
Jenny was silent.
He sat again and folded his arms. “You’re lying to me.”
Then, he shouted fiercely, “You’re pretending to understand, just so I’ll let you go.”
Jenny thought quickly. “Sorry,” she said calmly. “I didn’t mean to lie to you. I don’t know the reason, but I realize you must have a good reason, or you wouldn’t have done it.”
Jeremy looked at her out of one eye, skeptically. Should he believe her? No, probably not. She’s a liar.
“I’ll tell you the reason,” he said, calm now.
She waited. He hesitated.
“He’s a criminal. He broke the law. He’s a thief.”
Jenny widened her eyes. Then, she blinked, and asked in disbelief, “That’s why you killed him?”
“But you don’t even know him.”
“Doesn’t matter. I know what he did.”
“How . . . how did you know?”
“I have my ways. I see things. I hear things. I know things.”
“So, have there been others?” Jenny asked.
“Just two others. So far.”
“Who were the others?”
“Doesn’t concern you.”
“Were they the same? You know, criminals too?” she asked.
“Yes, they were.”
“I’m not a criminal,” she said.
“Yes, I know. And that’s why I have such a problem. I don’t know what to do with you.”
Friday, August 12th, 6:40 PM
AMELIA was in her massive kitchen when the knocker clanked. She had just cut some fresh flowers from the flowerbeds behind the house, and was arranging them. A tall vase stood on the table beside her. She dropped the flowers into the vase and went to the foyer.
Lilia had already answered the door. Hank was standing inside, and he grinned when he saw her.
She smiled back. “Hi,” she said. She motioned for him to go into the sitting room. “Come in.”
She asked Lilia to bring some coffee, and then followed him and they took a seat on the divan, facing each other.
Hank noticed the photo albums had been closed, but were still on the coffee table.
“How’ve you been?” he asked.
“Fairly well, considering the circumstances.”
Hank nodded slowly, and said, “Have you seen the news?”
She cocked her head. “No.” She said it in a questioning tone.
“The body of Bronson has been recovered.”
She caught her breath.
“The medical examiner reports he was likely killed about the same day he was last seen. Ten days ago.”
She waited for him to continue.
“He was murdered,” he said. “Shot in the head.”
Amelia looked horrified. “And Jenny . . .”
“Still no word on Jenny, but absolutely no reason to think she has come to any harm.”
She looked hopeful. “So . . . if Bronson died ten days ago, but Jenny was still ok as of yesterday, then . . .”
“Then, she’s still ok today,” Hank assured her.
Amelia feared the worst. “But why was Jenny kidnapped? She did say she’s ok.”
“That’s what we don’t know.”
“Where was Bronson found?”
“Annie found his body. She was doing some investigating, and she found him buried in the woods along County Road 12.”
Amelia’s brow rose. She opened her mouth and stared at him.
“I’ll tell you something, Amelia. Annie and Jake really know what they’re doing. They found things the police missed. If anyone can find Jenny, they can.”
Lilia eased in the room, set a tray with a pot of coffee, two mugs, and a plate of some sort of sugar cookies, on the coffee table, and silently left.
Hank poured two cups of coffee, and fixed his up with cream and sugar. He grabbed a cookie and sat back, holding his cup. He devoured the cookie in two bites, and sipped at his coffee.
Amelia had prepared her coffee as well. She sat back, holding it with both hands wrapped around it, staring into the cup.
Hank looked thoughtfully at her, debating with himself whether or not to mention Mrs. Bellows. He put his arm on the back of the couch and cleared his throat, as if making a decision.
“As you know, Amelia, we live in a pretty safe city. There hasn’t been a murder here as long as I can recall, but . . .”
She looked up.
He moistened his lips, and continued, “An old woman was killed today as well. There doesn’t seem to be any connection, but we’re still looking for one.”
Horror gripped her face.
Hank pulled out his notepad. Flipping it open, he withdrew a photo of Mrs. Bellows. He held it up, and showed it to her.
“Can you recall, have you ever seen this woman, or heard the name, Edna Bellows?” he asked.
Amelia looked thoughtfully at the picture a moment, and shook her head.
“The face doesn’t look familiar,” she said, “and neither does the name. Is that the woman who was . . .”
“I don’t think Jenny knows her either, but I can’t be sure,” she said.
Hank finished his coffee, set the cup back on the tray and selected another cookie. He munched it thoughtfully a moment, and then stood.
Amelia stood as well. Hank placed his hand gently on her arm and looked intently at her.
“We’re all making Jenny’s disappearance a top priority,” he said, “but now I have to go. I want to get back on this. I promise you, I won’t rest until Jenny is home.”
Friday, August 12th, 7:00 PM
ANNIE was in the office of Lincoln Investigations when the doorbell rang.
She heard Matty call from the other room, “I’ll get it!”
She dropped her pen, slipped the desk drawer shut and then stood and walked through the doorway of the office just as Matty came running back.
“Mom! There’s a woman here to see you.”
Annie went to the front door and swung it open. She frowned as she recognized the caller. A cameraman was standing beside her, his camera pointed at Annie.
“Mrs. Lincoln,” the woman said, “I’m Lisa Krunk from Channel 7 Action News. I wonder if I might ask you a few questions?”
Annie was still frowning when a microphone was shoved in her face. She hesitated, and then said, “Yes?”
“I understand you’re the one who found the body of Chad Bronson this morning?”
“And you and your husband are private investigators, is that correct?”
“Yes, we are.”
“Can you tell us a little more about that? What led you to Bronson’s body?”
Other newspapers and TV stations hadn’t been so demanding, but Lisa Krunk was known for being pushy. Annie was a bit annoyed. She didn’t know how much she should say about the case. It was still an ongoing police investigation, and they hadn’t released all of the details to the public. She had to be careful.
“Bronson’s car was found abandoned a few days ago,” she said, “and forensics showed it’d recently been in an area we determined was along County Road 12.”
“And so you went there?”
“Weren’t you a bit worried about going there alone?”
“There was no reason to believe I was in any danger. Besides,” Annie added indignantly, “I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”
“Yes, it appears you are.” She waited for Annie to continue.
Krunk said, “Sources tell us Bronson’s death is related to the disappearance of sixteen-year-old Jenny James. Is that correct?”
Annie thought a moment. “That’s yet to be determined,” she said.
“Have you made any progress on finding Miss James?”
“Yes, we’re making progress, and we expect to find her safe and sound very soon.”
“So, given the fact she was known to be with Bronson, who is now dead, you still believe Miss James has not been killed as well?”
“Definitely not,” Annie said sharply. She decided not to mention Jenny’s phone call, but added, “We have reason to believe she’s in no danger.”
“Is there anything else you’d like to add, Mrs. Lincoln?”
“No, that’s all at this time.”
“Thank you for your time.”
The cameraman swung the camera over to Krunk.
“We will bring you breaking news as it happens. In an exclusive report, I’m Lisa Krunk, live for Channel 7 Action News.”
The cameraman shut the camera off, and lowered it. Lisa Krunk waved a “thank you” as Annie shut the door.
Friday, August 12th, 8:02 PM
THE medical examiner’s report Hank received didn’t seem to shed any light on the murder.
He frowned as he leafed through the pages of the report. The observations Nancy Pietek had made at the crime scene had proved to be correct.
The cause of death was stated to be a fatal wound penetrating the left atrium. The weapon used was a broad serrated knife, possibly a hunting knife or similar.
The time of death was determined to be approximately 1:00 PM on August 12th.
Hank had requested to view the evidence collected from the crime scene.
He pulled the box toward him. Lying on top was a handbag. He removed it from the evidence box and tipped out its contents onto his desk.