Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
Not much there.
Besides the groceries in the bag, he took another look at the package of meat, now turning a brownish, sickly hue. Better get this in cold storage, he thought grimly.
He snapped open her change purse. There were a few coins, and ten dollars in bills. The only other thing in the handbag was a single key. He looked at it. Undoubtedly the key to the apartment.
Other than Mrs. Bellows, no fingerprints had been found inside the apartment, or on the door, or doorframe.
The building had no security cameras, so that was a dead end too. Everyone in the building had been questioned. No one had seen anything, or anyone, unusual.
Hank sat back and scratched his head, staring intently at the box of evidence in front of him, trying to determine his next course of action.
Friday, August 12th, 8:25 PM
ANNIE was watching Jake and Matty wrestle on the floor of the living room when the office phone rang.
She got to it after the second ring. It was Hank.
“I thought I might drop by for a minute, if you’re not busy,” he said.
“Sure. Jake and I are both here.”
“Great. Just coming up the street now. See you soon.”
She hung up the phone. Jake looked up, a question mark on his face as she came into the room and sat in an overstuffed armchair.
“It’s Hank,” she said. “He’s on his way over.”
While Jake was distracted, Matty took the opportunity to slip free, and pin his father flat on his back.
“Ok, I give up. You win,” Jake announced.
Matty grinned and climbed off.
“I’ll get you next time,” Jake warned.
“Yeah, I doubt that,” Matty said, as he plunked himself down on the couch. “Any time you want big guy!”
The doorbell rang and Matty charged to the door. He whipped it open. “Hey, Uncle Hank!”
Hank ruffled Matty’s hair. “Hey, Matty,” he said with a grin.
“We’re in here,” Jake called from the other room.
Matty followed Hank as he went into the living room, set his briefcase on the floor and dropped onto the other end of the couch where Jake was. Matty hopped up and sat between them.
Hank said, “I got the M.E.’s report here for Bronson, as well as the ballistics report.” He reached down and clicked open his briefcase, and withdrew some papers. “I also have the report on Mrs. Bellows.”
Jake took the report on Bronson from Hank, and then looked at Matty. “Why don’t you go do your homework, Matty? We have some boring things to discuss here.”
“I did my homework,” Matty announced.
“Then, go read, or something,” Annie said. “It’s almost your bedtime anyway.”
“All right, I know when I’m not wanted,” Matty said dryly. He jumped off the couch. “See you later Uncle Hank.”
“See you later Bud.”
Matty raced from the room. He could be heard running furiously up the stairs.
“There’s not a lot of enlightenment there,” Hank said, pointing to the report Jake held. “The thing of interest is, there was no exit wound on Bronson. The gun used was a 22-caliber. The bullet was still inside his skull. Not much power in those 22s. Certainly enough to kill, especially at close range, but the deadly thing about them is, once the bullet gets inside the skull, it just bounces around, and around, completely tearing apart everything inside.”
Annie scrunched up her nose in distaste at the thought. “Not a nice way to go.”
“No, it’s not,” Hank agreed.
“I don’t see the difference,” Jake said. “In the head, or through the head. If I had my choice, it would be neither one,” he chuckled.
“Yeah, you’re probably right about that,” Hank said. He pointed at the report again. “Also, I already assumed this, but the report states Bronson was killed elsewhere, and then brought there and buried.”
“What about the blanket?” Annie asked.
“Nothing much to go on there. Just a regular blanket. Lots of blood on it, and a few fibers from an unknown make of car, but nothing else.”
Annie frowned, and looked thoughtful.
Hank continued, “I dropped by Amelia’s and filled her in as well. I also asked her if she knew Mrs. Bellows. No luck there.”
Annie leaned forward. “It rained a couple of days after Bronson was killed,” she said. “I remember seeing the ground was a little concave in that area. The rain probably caused that.”
“Yes, for sure,” Jake said. “It’s almost impossible to fill in a hole and flatten the ground. There’s always some air trapped inside that can go away later. Even if you stomp it down with your feet, it doesn’t completely work.”
“Ahhh.” Annie whacked herself on the forehead with the palm of her hand.
They looked at her in dismay. “What is it?” Jake asked.
Annie shook her head. “It completely slipped my mind . . .”
“Spit it out.”
“When I first saw the concave area on the spot that had made me curious, I brushed away some of the leaves and twigs, and I saw a footprint. A child’s footprint. And when I removed more leaves, I saw more footprints. That’s really what made me suspicious. All those footprints made it look certain somebody had tried to pack the ground down.”
Jake was bewildered. “A child’s footprint?”
“It sure looked like it,” Annie replied. “At least, it was quite small. Maybe a size six, or seven.”
“Maybe a woman,” Jake suggested.
“There aren’t many woman who would use that MO. They don’t bury bodies. Rarely, that is.”
“Then, maybe it was a young person, or somebody with really small feet,” Annie suggested.
Hank was scratching his head. Jake just looked at the ceiling and frowned.
Suddenly Annie got up and dashed into the kitchen. She grabbed her cell phone from a small wicker basket on the counter. She raced back into the living room. “Right here,” she said, as she touched her cell phone screen a few times. She turned the phone toward Hank and Jake. “I have a picture of the print.”
Jake took the phone from her and stared at it. “It’s a running shoe,” he said. “Can’t tell what size from the picture, though. There’s nothing to compare it to.”
Hank leaned over and looked. “You can see a few leaves there. Leaves come in different sizes of course, but I think if you compare it to the leaves, you can get a bit of an idea.”
Jake agreed. “Yes, you can at least tell it’s fairly small.”
“Email me that picture, Annie. I’ll get the lab to look at it and see if they can tell me anything about it,” Hank said.
Annie took the phone, and after a few more touches on the screen, the photo had been sent. “It’s on its way.”
Hank yawned and looked at his watch. “I’m running a bit low on sleep,” he said. “I best be getting home and catch a few.” He stood and stretched, and then picked up his briefcase. “Tomorrow’s a new day, and a fresh start.”
Jake walked him to the door. “We’ll keep in touch,” he said, as Hank left.
Saturday, August 13th, 12:01 AM
JAKE tapped on the office door of the night shift manager of King City Foods. He looked at his watch. The midnight shift had just begun.
The door was opened by a thin-faced man, maybe in his late fifties. He was greying, with small eyes, and a broad nose. He squinted at Jake through round, wire-framed glasses.
“Good evening. Uh . . . my name is Jake Lincoln, and I’m investigating the death of Chad Bronson. I wonder if I may talk to his co-workers for a moment?”
The man glared at him and said gruffly, “Can’t shut down the line.”
“That’s ok, I just need to ask a few questions, sir.”
The man hesitated, and then said, “Guess it’d be ok.”
Jake stepped back as the man moved from the office and closed the door behind him.
“This way,” the manager said, moving down a short corridor toward a closed metal door.
He swung the door open, and they were greeted with the clatter of machinery, stamping, whirring, and humming. Jake followed him onto the factory floor.
The manager pointed toward the rear of the room. Jake could see a long conveyor belt, running along the wall, circling around, moving containers of food past various stations as they stamped, sorted, and labeled their way to the packers at the end of the line.
“Right there,” the manager raised his voice to be heard over the factory sounds. “Doing the packing. That’s where Bronson used to be. Him and Mikey over there did the packing and stacking.”
Jake looked. He could see two guys picking boxes of something off the end of the conveyor belt, and packing them neatly in cartons.
“Thanks,” Jake said. “I won’t be long.”
He strode across the factory floor, dodging workers, as he made his way to where the packers were. They had hairnets over their hair, to keep it from making contact with food, and wore food handler gloves.
They didn’t look up as he approached.
“Mikey?” Jake asked.
One of the guys glanced up briefly. “Yeah, I’m Mikey.”
“I’m Jake Lincoln, and I’m investigating the death of Chad Bronson. May I ask you a few questions?”
Mikey looked stunned. He stopped working and stared at Jake. “Wha . . .? Chad’s dead?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Mikey frowned. “No wonder he ain’t been around.” He picked up a container with each hand and dropped them into the carton. “What happened?”
“He was murdered. About ten days ago.”
Mikey whistled. “Holy smokes! I reckon you ain’t caught the killer yet, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“Not yet,” Jake said, and then asked, “Can you tell me, how long did you know Bronson?”
Mikey stood and scratched his head. “Gee,” he said, “Only a few weeks I guess. He weren’t here that long.”
“Did you know him well?”
“Not too well. We talked some. Not on the line too much. It’s hard to talk in here, but at lunch and break. Yeah, we talked a bit then.”
“Did he ever mention anyone who may not have liked him? Anyone who may’ve wanted to do him harm?”
“Nope. Chad was an easy-going guy. Easy to like.”
Jake crossed his arms, and stroked his chin, thinking. Finally, he asked, “Did he ever talk to you about his personal life?”
Mikey turned back to the line. A few containers were starting to jam up. He swiftly packed them, and answered without looking up. “Well, like I said, we didn’t talk too much.”
Mikey straightened his back, and looked thoughtfully at Jake. “There is one thing,” he said, and then hesitated.
Jake raised his brows and waited.
“Well, I guess now he’s dead, it don’t matter. He didn’t talk about it much though.” He turned and moved the full carton to another platform, where the other worker swiftly taped it shut, and set an empty carton beside Mikey, ready to be filled.
Jake waited patiently.
Mikey stopped and looked up again. “He told me when he was younger, he’d broken into somebody’s house with another guy. They got caught somehow, but because of their age, nothing really happened. So he doesn’t have a record.”
Jake nodded. “Yes, they seal and eventually destroy the records for young offenders. It’s almost as if it didn’t happen.”
Mikey continued, “He never mentioned who the other guy was or anything. And he never said what house they broke into. But he said that experience really straightened him out. I believe it too. He sure seemed like a pretty good guy.”
Mikey quickly packed a few more containers of food.
Jake waited. “Anything else?”
“That’s about all I can tell you.”
“Anybody else here who might know Chad?”
Mikey scanned the factory. “Naw, I don’t think so. Like I said, he wasn’t here long, and he only worked this line,” he said, and added, “Geez, I sure hope you catch the guy who killed him.”
“We’re working on it.” Jake smiled, and offered his hand. “Thanks very much. You’ve been helpful,” he said.
Mikey slipped off one glove, and shook his hand. “You’re welcome,” he said, and turned back to work, hurrying to catch up with the never-ending stream flowing toward him.
Saturday, August 13th, 10:00 AM
JEREMY was happy there was no work today. He never worked on Saturdays. He hated his job so much. And his stupid boss. But today was just a day to do whatever he wanted. There was nobody to tell him to do this, do that.
He had plans to work in his vegetable garden for a while. The weeds just never stopped growing, and he knew if he wanted good healthy things to grow, he would have to pull the weeds before they choked the plants and ruined all his hard work.
Today he’d slept in, and was having a late breakfast. Eggs, fried potatoes, and tomato juice. Yum.
He flipped the eggs from the sizzling frying pan onto the waiting plate of potatoes. He grabbed his glass of tomato juice, and fork, and carried them carefully into the living room. He set them on the coffee table, and pulled the table closer.
He grabbed the remote and flicked on the television in front of him. He wanted to catch up on any news. He liked to keep up.
Channel 7 Action News was on. He listened intently as he leaned forward to enjoy his breakfast.
Mostly boring stuff on the news. City Hall was planning a new park, but they couldn’t agree on where. The population of cats was on the rise, and stray dogs were being rounded up and euthanized.
Jeremy liked the word, “euthanized”. It sounded like a happy word. It didn’t sound at all like they were just killing the dogs.
Euthanized, euthanized, euthanized. It rolled off his tongue.
He laughed and continued on his meal, eating it slowly, and with great satisfaction.
Suddenly a story caught his attention. He looked up. Lisa Krunk was standing in front of the courthouse.
“I’m standing here in front of Richmond Hill Court building, where thirty-three-year-old Randolph Farley has just been arraigned on charges of grand larceny.
“Police raided Farley’s apartment and seized tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and electronic equipment.
“Farley had originally been arrested when he was caught stealing jewelry from Cranstons, and video proof supplied by the retail giant had led to the raid.”