Authors: Allison Brennan
“Boss?” Getty said.
“Strap her to the chair.”
Getty buckled Lucy into a rescue seat with a full five-point harness secured around her thighs and over her shoulders.
“Ready?” he asked.
She nodded, holding Sean’s blue eyes as she was lowered down.
I love you
, he mouthed.
“She’s going to be okay down there?” Weddle asked Sean.
“Yes,” Lucy heard as Sean and the cop disappeared from her view.
Down below, Ken Hammond, the Fire and Rescue supervisor, introduced himself and the deputy coroner, Frank Shaffer, as he unhooked her.
The smell of decomposition Lucy had identified yesterday seemed to have dissipated, but she figured it was because of the severe overnight temperature drop. She made a mental note to check the high and low temps over the last few weeks, though she didn’t know why she’d need to do it—the coroner would handle the death investigation. Shaffer motioned for her to lead the way.
“I marked the walls with a stick,” she said, shining her light on the tunnel walls. Her faint scratches were still there.
Hammond said, “Smart move. These mines have some odd tunnels. I’ve been down here before with the Army Corp of Engineers to assess damages after cave-ins. Even the maps they have aren’t completely accurate. I don’t know if anyone knows these caverns anymore.”
“What was mined?” she asked as she walked carefully down the tunnel to the room.
“Iron primarily, but they found a vein of titanium in the thirties, which helped keep the mine in business during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. It slowed down after the Second World War, but it wasn’t until the midseventies that they completely shut down.
“My dad and granddad worked down here,” Hammond continued. “I think everyone in town is attached to this mine one way or another.”
Lucy stepped out of the tunnel into the larger cavern, bracing herself.
“I’ve never been on this side of the mine,” Hammond said. “This was a secondary vein, built in the midfifties. They needed the ventilation shafts because the air quality—”
“Where’s the girl?” Shaffer interrupted.
“She’s in a large cutout in the wall.” Lucy turned and shined her light. “Right here.”
The slab was empty.
Her face froze in a blank expression as she shined her light slowly around the area. The broken chair. The old tools. The two tunnels. This was where she had been yesterday. There was no mistake.
She looked back at where the decaying body should be. It was still missing.
“Maybe you went down one of these other tunnels,” Hammond said.
Lucy shook her head. “She was right here.” Her voice cracked on the last word and she steeled herself. She was a professional; there was an explanation. She just had to figure it out.
She saw Hammond and Shaffer exchange glances they might have thought were discreet, but they believed she was either an idiot or an attention-seeker.
“We’re going to check out the tunnels,” Hammond said. “Wait here.”
Lucy stared at the empty hole.
She hadn’t imagined the dead body. She hadn’t made up the maggots in the woman’s mouth, or how she lay. She didn’t have nightmares last night over a figment of her imagination, dammit!
Less than twenty-four hours ago there was a dead woman
Someone had moved the body.
She shined her light on the floor. A dead body, even a diminutive woman like the blonde, would be heavy and awkward. One person couldn’t easily carry her, not without disturbing the dirt, unless he had help.
The ground yielded little information, especially with her lone flashlight. She needed an evidence kit and bright lights to make out any faint marks on the hard surface. Did she see footprints? Were they hers? Too large. Shaffer’s or Hammond’s? She couldn’t tell just by looking.
Whoever moved the body had help. Or …
She spun around and turned her flashlight to the tunnel with the tracks. The mining cart that had been there yesterday was gone.
Hands clasped firmly in her lap, and resisting an overwhelming urge to pace, Lucy sat stiffly on the worn couch in Tim Hendrickson’s living room while Deputy Sheriff Tyler Weddle asked her questions. Sean sat next to her, watchful and protective, but he was keeping his mouth closed—which was rare, but probably a good thing since she was about to throttle the cop.
“Ms. Kincaid,” Weddle said, “I understand you were highly stressed when you were in the mine. Your boyfriend was injured, you were—”
Lucy interrupted. “I know what I saw.”
“There was no body down there.”
“There was no body there
, but it was there yesterday. You need to get a trained crime scene team down there to look for trace evidence.”
“I think you watch too much television.” Weddle exchanged a smug glance with Ken Hammond, who stood next to Tim by the front door.
Lucy bristled. “I have—”
Sean cut her off. “You’re out of line, Deputy.”
Lucy frowned. She didn’t like being talked to as if she were a fool. She had seen a body. She could close her eyes and picture the woman: dark blond hair; extremely pale skin with a blue tinge; white blouse and dark slacks, and something else … something that flitted in and out of her mind as soon as she attempted to focus. But it was the deceased’s arms crossed unnaturally over her chest that had Lucy the most intrigued—and concerned.
The deputy questioned, “And someone went down there and did what? Moved the body? To where? Why would someone do such a thing?”
Sean said, “It’s no secret that I fell down the mine shaft. Word travels fast in a small town. Maybe whoever was hiding the body felt the need to move it.”
“That’s a bit of an assumption,” Weddle said.
“Hardly.” Sean leaned forward. “There was a body exactly where Lucy said it was.”
Lucy knew Sean was irritated that the cops were treating her as if she were crazy, and she wasn’t tickled about it either, but she put aside her frustration and tried to see it from their point of view. She was a stranger, she’d been through a traumatic incident, and she seemed to be seeing things that simply weren’t there.
“I apologize.” Weddle didn’t sound at all sincere. He stood. “I’ll contact the sheriff and give him your statement. He may send a team down there, or maybe not. The mine is extremely dangerous. There are exploration shafts that go down a hundred feet, caved-in ceilings; it hasn’t been maintained in forty years. But he’ll probably want to at least check out where you thought you saw the body.”
see a body,” Lucy said.
“That’s what I said.”
“They need to search thoroughly,” Lucy pushed. “They only did a cursory inspection—”
Hammond said, “There were some signs that someone had been down there recently, but nothing significant. I’m not going to put anyone at risk—we need a current map of the mine and additional team members.”
“The lighting was poor, but if you—”
“Ms. Kincaid,” Weddle interrupted. He took a step toward her, intentionally crowding her as a method of intimidation. “We’re going to check out your claim, but we must follow safety protocols.”
“I understand,” she lied. Every muscle itched to defend herself. “I can look at missing persons pictures, see if I recognize her,” she offered.
“I’ll have the station shoot you over what we have. But there’s no one local who’s missing, and no lost tourists. Probably a waste of time.”
“It’s my time to waste,” Lucy snapped. She rose from the couch, and brushed past the cop.
“I’ll let you know if anything turns up,” Weddle said. “About the body or the arsonist.”
Lucy didn’t have any confidence in Weddle’s ability. Surely, the sheriff would show more professionalism when he read the report.
Tim walked Weddle and Hammond outside to their truck.
As soon as they were safely out of earshot, Lucy said, “Sean—”
“I know what you’re going to say, Luce. But until we know what’s going on with the vandalism, we need to keep a low profile. Announcing you work for the FBI or trained as a forensic pathologist doesn’t equal ‘low profile.’ ”
“It’s murder, Sean! The police need to make that young woman’s death a priority.”
“I agree, but let’s see what they do in the next twenty-four hours before we blow our cover. Give them time to do their job. You said the body
have been down there for months—another day isn’t going to make much of a difference.”
Even though she understood his reasoning, Lucy didn’t agree with Sean. They were in Spruce Lake because of the vandalism. Now that there was an arsonist endangering lives, the gravity of the situation had increased. If word got out about their credentials, it could spook the saboteur into hiding—or possibly even escalate the sabotage. But that didn’t mean the police couldn’t uncover their identities with a little looking—an Internet search would easily yield Sean Rogan at RCK East, a private security company, and Lucy’s involvement with a couple of FBI cases might have her name popping up in the media. Lucy didn’t think that just because Spruce Lake seemed to be living in the past, the authorities didn’t have basic tech skills and an Internet connection.
“You’re right,” she said.
“I have a feeling your mind is working overtime.”
Before Lucy could respond to Sean’s comment, Tim stepped back inside the house. “I think they’re taking you seriously, Lucy.”
“I hope so.”
“You didn’t tell them why we were here?” Sean asked.
Tim shook his head. “As far as anyone in Spruce Lake knows, you’re friends of mine. End of story. I didn’t lie, didn’t expand. But the cops have your names and addresses.”
Sean nodded. “That’s the police—unless the conspiracy is huge, our information shouldn’t get out of the Sheriff’s Department.”
“In a town this size, anything’s possible,” Tim said.
“Let’s keep our cover for the next couple days and see what happens. If it gets out quickly, then we’ll need to rethink our strategy.” He stood and stretched, then tried to hide his limp.
“It’s a little early for dinner,” he continued, “and I have some work to do. If you’ll excuse us, Tim.”
Lucy and Sean left, but instead of going to their cabin, Sean led the way to the lodge. The scent of wet, burned wood still clung in the air. “I saw Adam go inside when we drove up with Weddle,” Sean explained.
They found Adam Hendrickson upstairs in one of the rooms, salvaging what he could after the fire in the kitchen.
“Adam,” Sean said, “we need to talk.”
“Sure.” He sniffed the mattress deeply. “I can’t tell if I’m smelling smoke in the mattress, or if that’s just because I can’t get the stench out of my nose.”
“Give it a couple days. We can move everything to one of the other cabins, air things out, see what can be saved.”
“This is going to delay the opening. Why would someone do this?”
It was a rhetorical question.
Sean pulled over a straight-back chair and sat, his leg throbbing. “Tim said you were close to your dad, closer than he was.”
Adam shrugged. “I spent every summer here, even after my parents divorced. Dad didn’t talk much, but he was one of those guys who didn’t need to. You felt like he just knew everything under the sun. I was raised in Syracuse, but Spruce Lake is my home.” He paused. “He’d talked about turning this place into a family camp, but he never got around to it. I think he enjoyed having the lake to himself.”
“Did your dad have any enemies? Anyone who—”
Adam shook his head and leaned against the wall. “Everyone liked Joe Hendrickson.”
“Maybe it dates back further. When he was younger. Or his family.”
“Like the Hatfields and McCoys? The only thing along those lines might be that my grandma—she died when I was little—was a Kelley. Her family owned the mine until they sold to the government, then had a lease to keep mining. The Kelleys used to own all the land around here, but sold most of it off.”
“Who owns the mine? The federal government?” Lucy asked.
“As far as I know. Or New York State. We’re northwest of what most people consider the Adirondacks, but we’re technically in the same mountain range as the state park.”
“It sounds like the Kelleys made a good deal,” Sean said. “Get paid for the land by the government, but still be able to mine and pull out resources.”
“I really don’t know,” Adam said.
“Maybe someone held a grudge, doesn’t want you to be successful? Did anyone lose big when your family sold off the other parcels?”
“No—the thing is, my grandmother sold the land to people who’d been paying rent for years to the Kelleys—sold it cheap, too, from what my dad said, telling people all the rent they’d paid over the years could be used toward the purchase.”
“When was this?”
“Before I was born. I was three when she died, and in her will she forgave all the outstanding loans. My dad was the same way, you can ask his best friend, Henry Callahan. The big ranch you passed on your way here? That’s Henry’s place.”
“Would you introduce us to Henry?” Sean asked.
“At this point, I don’t know. Someone is trying to shut you down and I want to find out if it’s personal—against your family.”
Adam looked stunned. “Personal? I don’t believe that.”
“Can we talk to Henry Callahan tonight?”
Adam nodded, but now seemed preoccupied. “Sure. I can arrange that.”
“Someplace out in public,” Sean added. “See if we garner any interest from strangers.” It was time they shook things up and see who reacted.
Lucy was quiet as they walked back to the cabin.
“Tell me why you’re ticked off,” Sean said when he opened the door.
“Is it because I want to go public? Meet with Callahan and push some buttons?”
He didn’t push. He crossed over to the desk in the corner and booted up his computer. Lucy stood at the wall of windows overlooking the lake, arms crossed over her chest. He watched her out of the corner of his eye. Her chin tilted slightly upward, the posture she assumed when she was trying to form an argument.