Authors: Maddie Cochere
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Ohio
|Maddie Cochere - Two Sisters and a Journalist 01 - Murder Under Construction|
|Two Sisters and a Journalist Mysteries |
|Maddie Cochere (2013)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Ohio|
Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Ohiottt
Murder Under Construction
Two Sisters and a Journalist #1
by Maddie Cochere
Copyright 2014 by Maddie Cochere
All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions therof in any form whatsoever except as provided by US copyright Law.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Jacket design by Gillian Soltis of Columbus, Ohio
I swear that body was hard as a rock when my butt bounced off it. There was going to be a bruise for sure.
“Aunt Jo! Aunt Jo!”
The distant voices were fraught with concern.
I sat up and brushed dirt from my arms and legs before turning my attention to the body. She was most certainly dead with a knife buried to the hilt in her chest. I would have to call the police, but I needed to get the kids out of the area first. I didn’t want them coming around the mound of dirt and seeing the naked girl.
You might wonder why I didn’t scream, or why I was so calm in the face of a dead body. Two years ago, I would have freaked out enough to win an Oscar for my performance, but any outward burst from me now would be from finding yet another body. This was going to make the second one this year on top of the three from last year.
How could that be, you ask? I don’t have a clue. Most people never find a dead body in their lifetime, but the body-finding gods had bestowed four upon me so far – now five with this girl today. The Buxley police weren’t going to find this amusing.
I picked up the bicycle and half pushed, half dragged it back up the high mound of dirt. My niece and nephew, Kelly and Keith, were only a few yards away. Three of their friends were waiting for them at the edge of the construction site near the first mound of dirt.
“I’m ok,” I yelled to the kids. “Go on back.”
I hopped on the bike and pedaled down the mound. I wanted to be sure to have enough speed before hitting the second one. The kids were running full tilt, but I quickly overtook them on the bike.
I flew over the last mound and slammed on the brakes. The rear tire fishtailed in loose dirt and gravel. I flopped the bike again. The waiting friends all doubled over with laughter. It was hard to be mad at them for laughing. I’m sure it did look fu
nny to see a nearly two-hundred-pound woman flop a bike.
“Aunt Jo, are you all right?” Kelly asked, breathless from running. She reached down to give me a hand. Keith rushed to grab my other arm.
“Pretty much,” I said as I inspected my legs. Bouncing off the dead body had broken my fall the first time, but this flop had given me a bloody knee. “Your mother is going to kill me though. I told her I’d send the two of you right home. Your dad will be home in a couple of hours, and she wants you to get cleaned up and help with dinner.”
“That was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” said one of the friends, still laughing. “What happened to you when you went over the last hill? We saw you take air, and then you dropped out of sight.”
“It was an even better flop than this one,” I said as I rubbed my backside.
They all thought that was hilarious.
“Go on,” I said, pretending to scold them. “Get your bikes and get out of here. This is private property, and you shouldn’t be here anyway.” I turned to Kelly and said, “Tell your mom I’ll talk to her tomorrow.”
All five of the kids hopped on their bikes and rode off. They had been messing around at the edge of the construction site when I arrived. Keith wanted to show off by riding over the first mound of dirt a few times, and when I said it looked like fun, he offered his bike to me to give it a try. Wanting to live up to my reputation as the cool aunt, I grabbed the bike and rode off.
I was a little wobbly going up the first mound, but I kept on going to the second, much larger mound, where I sailed over like a pro. I had good speed when I reached the third, but realized I was in trouble when I shot up straighter and higher than anticipated. There was no way I could make a safe landing by coming down at that angle.
The bike crashed beside the body. I fell hard with my butt landing on her before rolling off into the dirt on the other side.
I sighed now as I reached into the pocket of my shorts for my cell phone. Dirt had made its way into my underwear, but I wasn’t going to attempt to shake it out here. An entire row of ranch-style houses bordered this end of the soon-to-be office complex, and anyone could be watching from a kitchen window.
I dialed the Buxley Police Department. Sergeant Rorski wasn’t going to be happy to hear from me, but I asked to speak to him anyway. I soon heard his gruff voice.
He sounded irritated and tired. I almost hung up when a little voice inside my head encouraged me to
let someone else find the body
“Sergeant Rorski, this is Jo Ravens. I -”
He cut me off.
“Jo Ravens, huh? You know the population in this town is only five thousand, four hundred, and twenty-six people. Buxley is not the murder capital of the world. You better be calling me with a domestic complaint or a missing dog.”
“Sorry, Sergeant,” I told him. “She’s got a knife in her, and she’s out in the open, so you’re going to want to hurry.”
I gave him the location of the body. Rather than to thank me, he grunted into the phone and hung up. It would be a few minutes before he arrived, and as much as I wanted to go home and shake the dirt out of my underwear, I wanted to check out the body more.
I headed back past the dirt mounds. They had been here for several months. Trees had been cleared from the property, and the land was partially graded, but work seemed to stop as fast as it started, and the large plot of land sat empty. Doctors, insurance agents, lawyers, and the like were going to have to wait for their new offices.
It had only taken a minute to reach the body on the bike, but it was going to take a few more on foot. The odds of my finding another murder victim were astronomical. Mama always said I was lucky, because I was a Sagittarius, but if this was lucky, I would gladly trade places with a Capricorn.
Questions were already running through my mind. Who was she? What was her story? Who murdered her? The husband? A co-worker? A stranger? My spine tingled at the thought of finding out.
I picked up the pace to a half jog. Rounding the third mound of dirt, I stopped to catch my breath. My heart was pounding, and my clothes were wet from sweat. I was worried the dirt in my underwear would turn to mud. I hated running. It used to be fun, but that was sixty pounds ago.
A siren sounded in the distance. I would have to hurry if I wanted to garner any clues to her death. I moved closer to the body. She was covered with loose dirt. Whoever killed her hadn’t intended to bury her. There were no footprints, but it was easy to see where the bike had crashed and where the dirt across her body had been disturbed when I bounced over.
Uh-oh. My heart began to beat triple time. I could see it now. The knife was at a forty-five-degree angle in her chest. The pain I felt when I fell on the body must have been my butt hitting the knife. Sergeant Rorski was definitely not going to be happy when he saw this. I wanted to push it back the other way and throw more dirt on the body, but I knew if I touched anything, I would only make things worse.
The sound of the siren stopped. The police would be here within minutes. I focused on the girl.
She appeared to be mid twenties. The exceptional toning of her body gave the impression she exercised regularly or may have been an athlete. Her coal black hair fanned out around her as though it had been styled for a photo. Her eyes were closed. This was different. With all of the other bodies I had found, the eyes were open.
I checked for a wedding ring but noticed she wasn’t wearing any jewelry. I leaned over to look more closely at her face and ears. She definitely had pierced ears, but I couldn’t be sure if the mark on the side of her nose was a piercing or not. Maybe this was a robbery gone bad. Her fingernails and toenails appeared to be professionally manicured. Each nail was a peach color with tangerine tips. Gold glitter covered the line where the two colors met. I pulled my phone out of my pocket again and snapped a picture of her left hand.
“Get away from that body!”
I looked up to see Sergeant Rorski and two of his officers approaching fast.
“I haven’t touched anything,” I yelled over to him.
“Just step back,” he bellowed.
I took a few steps backward and watched as the three men took their first look at the body.
“Well, there’s no question it’s a murder,” said one of the officers.
The sergeant grunted.
“There was obviously a struggle,” the second officer said as he pointed to the disturbed dirt.
“That would explain the angle of the knife,” said the first.
Should I say something? My sweating turned up a notch. The dirt in my underwear was intolerable now. It was settling into places where it ought not be, and I needed to scratch.
The Sergeant faced me. “How’d you find the body?”
“Pepper’s kids were horsing around at the edge of the site, and Keith was riding his bike over the first dirt mound back there. I gave it a try, and when I went over the first, I kept on going until I came over this one.”
The sergeant looked at the tall mound. “You rode a bike over that?” he asked incredulously.
“I worked up a lot of speed,” I said.
His face turned red as he pointed to the area of disturbed dirt and barked, “Is this you?”
He clenched his teeth and muttered, “What happened?”
I took a deep breath before saying rapidly, “I came over the hill really fast, but instead of going forward, I kind of went upward and ended up crashing. It was a hard landing, and I sort of fell on her.”
If smoke could come out of ears, it would have poured out of his. One of the officers snickered and grinned from ear to ear. The other had his hand on his gun while giving me the evil eye and the impression he was moments away from arresting me.
I pointed to the scuffed dirt. “That’s where I crashed, and over there is where I ended up after I sort of bounced over her.” I braced myself for what I knew was coming.
At a level of which I’m sure everyone in the nearby subdivision could hear, he yelled, “You bounced across this body? Is that knife crooked because of you?”
I was worried he might have a stroke. “I suppose it could be,” I said contritely. “I didn’t see its original position, so it might have been like that before I went over.”
Movement to my right caught my eye, and I saw Howard Sanders, the town coroner, rushing toward us. Behind him was a man with a camera, but I didn’t recognize him as the official police photographer. Medical workers followed them.
“Jo Ravens,” Howard said. “Why am I not surprised to see you here?” His voice dripped with sarcasm. “I’m sure you have this figured out already. Make my job easier and tell me how she died.”
was stabbed,” I said dryly.
Howard and I weren’t exactly on the friendliest of terms. He thought I was a meddler and had no business sticking my nose in police matters.
The photographer had already taken several pictures, when I saw a flash of bright red hair in the distance behind him. Jackie Ryder was hurrying toward us from the far side of the dirt mound. Jackie was the star reporter for the local newspaper,
The Buxley Beacon
. There were actually only two reporters for the newspaper, but Jackie wrote circles around that slug, Doug Preston.
She sidled up to the photographer and whispered something into his ear. He immediately turned around and rushed from the area.
Sergeant Rorski’s face elevated to beet red. The man wasn’t going to live much longer, I was sure of it.
“Ryder! Those photos better not show up online,” he blustered. “I don’t want to see them anywhere until we find out who she is and notify the family.”
Jackie saluted the sergeant before inspecting the body as she made her way over to stand beside me.
“What happened here?” she asked. “And how did you get so dirty?”
“I don’t know what happened here,” I said. “And I was riding Keith’s bike over the dirt mounds when I landed on her. Score another one for me.”
She smiled. It was a huge smile, and I knew she found my situation humorous. “I’ll see if I can get some information from Howard after he gets her to the morgue. A peach pie ought to do the trick.”
Howard liked Jackie, and he would tell her anything when she supplied him with pies. She was an accomplished baker and had worked for a few years in an upscale restaurant in Cincinnati. Five years ago, she married her high school sweetheart, Matt, and moved back to Buxley. Rather than flip pancakes at the local waffle shop, she made use of her journalism major and landed a job with the town newspaper.
“Speaking of pie,” I said in a low voice. “What kind are you bringing on Tuesday?”
“I’m not bringing pie. Pepper asked me to make macaroni salad and deviled eggs. She said you were making desserts.”
This was news to me. I had been at Pepper’s earlier today and she hadn’t said a word about the food for the cookout. I wasn’t a cook or a baker. When I was married, my husband and I had always eaten out or he cooked our meals. Why my sister thought I was capable of bringing desserts was beyond me. I was usually on tap for the potato chips and beer on the Fourth of July.
“Matt’s driving over to Pennsylvania later today to get fireworks,” Jackie said. “It should be a good show this year.”