Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 07
They walked inside, careful not to step on the footprints. The inside was dim, lit only by the light from the open door and what escaped through the grimy windows at the roof level. Cobwebs festooned the abandoned cabinet that stood half open, and any tools that might have once been stored there had long since been removed. Once his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, Jim saw the scuff marks. They started about half way between an overturned bucket and the capped well and ended about a foot from the edge of the metal cap. Jim noted the sandwich and thermos. He decided to wait to package them until he was done looking over the entire scene. He examined the scores in the dirt floor closely. They appeared to be made by something rounded, such as the toes of boots. They were approximately two feet apart and that in a couple of places they appeared to be deeper. He took out his high power maglite. Additional scuff marks could be seen under the bright light. In Jim’s experience, marks like these were made by people being pulled or dragged against their will. He took multiple pictures, having Harve angle the light to outline the different marks in the dusty ground. He also noted footprints leading up to and then away from the well he had not seen before. He also noted that the metal cap that normally sat flush on the top of the well was off center just a bit.
There still wasn’t enough for Jim to feel the necessity or justification to bring a state crime scene team out here. Rory had been known to go off on his own sometimes for days at a time. However, he took as many pictures as he could, carefully bagged up the sandwich and the thermos, and sealed off the pumphouse with yellow caution tape.
“Who else has a key to this place?” he asked.
“Besides me, I would guess the Jenkins’ lawyer. He’s the one who gave me this key when I told him I needed to get stuff out. He took possession of the family papers, deeds, keys, and all when William died last month. He’s hoping to catch Ben sober and discuss things with him.”
“Give me his name and number,” said Jim. “I’ll give him a call. In the meantime, would you please lock up and seal the key in this envelope?”
“I reckon. You should ask the lawyer about you taking the key. I don’t want it. Why don’t you call him now? He’s that new guy in town, the one who took over the tax accountant’s office at the pro building couple months ago. He’s probably there chewing on a cup of coffee and praying for clients.”
Jim called the attorney, Martin Rutledge, and asked if he could keep the key. He also asked for a meeting, right away if the lawyer was available. He was. And he consented to Jim taking possession of the key. Jim locked the pump house doors, and Harve got in his truck and headed off to the work site for an afternoon of hard labor. Jim sat on the edge of his car, feet on the ground, and head bent, assembling the events of the day in his mind to transfer to paper later.
I really need to talk to Ben sober, he thought, and find out just what the hell spooked him so bad out here as to throw him into a bottle. And make him piss the floor a year later.
He climbed into the Ford and headed for Martin Rutledge’s office. As an afterthought, he pulled over and called Arthur.
“Is Ben still with you?”
“Yes, he is. We are having a wonderful afternoon planting and weeding and talking. I’ve hired him to work on the Rectory with me.”
“Could you do me a favor and bring him on over to Martin Rutledge’s law office in the Pro Building? I should be there in about fifteen minutes or so.”
“Of course. I think I should come and stay with him, if he’ll have me. He’s still fragile. We are talking about him coming and living with me. I could use the company, and he can definitely use the help.”
Martin Rutledge was quite young: only twenty-six years old and two years out of law school. He came to Harper’s Landing looking for a fishing vacation. He spent a few days staying at Mary and Bull Harper’s home, eating hamburgers and apple pie at Morey’s, and catching the finest bass he had ever wrangled ashore on his daily fishing expeditions in the company of Rory, Mary’s brother. On the fifth day of his vacation, as he polished off his excellent breakfast at Morey’s and started on his third cup of coffee, a young man in a sheriff’s uniform, wearing a badge that said Deputy, rushed in calling for Morey.
“George Paper died,” blurted Deputy Randle. “Had a heart attack in his office. The cleaning lady found him this morning.”
Martin wondered just who George Paper was and why his death prompted such concern for Morey and his wife Maggie.
“Well,” said Morey, “There goes my lawsuit against that damned supply company. Can’t very well go sixty miles to St. Louis just see a new attorney over a piddling matter.”
Martin was hit with the same compulsion that had taken over Jim Burch and Arthur Willingham–namely, a sudden and overwhelming desire to be the town’s attorney.
“I’ll take your case,” he blurted out.
That was a year ago. At the time, he was one year out of law school, clerking for a judge in St. Louis and hating every minute of it. He had managed to save enough money to afford such a move, though he knew he had to get clients soon if he were to survive on his own. But the rightness of the situation was strong. He wanted to stay and knew it would work.
His office was currently full. Jim Burch sat in the large comfortable wooden chair at the right front corner of his desk. Directly across from him sat Ben Jenkins, and Arthur Willingham sat on the couch behind Ben. Arthur was reading the various diplomas and honorariums on the wall. He noted that the young man had attended both Harvard undergrad and Harvard Law. They would have to share their experiences over some fine scotch sometime soon, he decided.
Jim gave Martin a short version of the events as they knew them at the Jenkins’ Farm pump house. He stressed that no one knew what had happened to Rory. He told Rutledge that Rory was given to wandering from time to time, something Martin already knew. Jim also emphasized that he did not yet want the pump house declared a crime scene. It would not do anyone any good to have CSIs crawling all over the place and have Rory show up in the middle of things. Martin agreed.
“Ben?” he asked. “Is it okay with you if we just leave the pump house locked and marked with caution tape.”
“It might work,” said Ben. “I guess so. Don’t think it will keep it in if it wants out, though.”
The other three men stared at him, his words incomprehensible to all of them.
“What do you mean?” asked Arthur. “Ben, what are you talking about?”
Ben began to shake, asked for a drink of whiskey, and then changed and asked for water instead. Although it would take longer than one day of sobriety for the man to regain his former robust physical status, he was already looking better and had more color. He drew a deep breath.
“Jim, I gotta tell you. I know that now. And Arthur here says he’s going to help me stay sober. I don’t want to drink no more. But, you . . . “
“I what?” asked Jim.
“All of you, none of you, you won’t believe me. But I gotta tell you.”
“Take your time,” said Martin. “We don’t have anywhere else to be, do we?”
Jim and Arthur shook their heads. They both wanted to hear this.
Ben took a deep breath and then paused, just as he was about to talk. He gave Martin a long look.
“William hired you?”
“Yes, just before he died. He knew he was dying and planned to tell you. But the cancer got him before he could. He didn’t tell you sooner because he . . . “