Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 20


Harve Sanders was a muscular man, thirty-four years old, single, and a gifted landscaper. His home was his showroom, resplendent with iris, coneflower. butterfly weed, bluebells, geraniums, goldenrod, hydrangeas and asters. His vegetable garden was equally marvelous, though this early in the season the plants were only beginning to climb up the trellises, ladders, and tipis he had constructed in the numerous raised beds around the east side of his house.

Harve did all the landscaping in Harper’s Landing, and he had a crew of five young men and two young women to help him. Currently they were finishing the landscaping for the new Harper’s Landing Library and Recreation Center, which was part of the entire historical complex Saul Grossman was building around the renovated textile mill.

He stood near the pond that lay in the lower portion of his ten-acre property, cell phone in hand, lunch pail forgotten. He had come home at 1:00 p.m. to pick up the lunch he had left at home, when he noticed that the pond level was unusually low, even for midsummer. He walked down to the well near the pond intending to get the pump going to fill the pond when he saw blue just under the surface. It was the roof of a car, a blue muscle car by the looks of it.  He had not noticed anything when he drove in earlier, even though his driveway ran from the county road past the pond and up to his house.

No way was he going closer, not even when Jim arrived. They could deal with this without him. The pump house had been bad enough; now this, and in his own backyard. He wanted to run, to get in his truck and go back to the worksite, return to planting boxwoods and laying sod. Instead he stood obediently, staring at the pond.

Jim was nursing an extremely sour stomach on the ride out to Harve’s. He liked the man, awkward and reclusive as he was. But he couldn’t ignore the fact that Harve had been the one to send Rory to the pump house, the last place he was known to have been alive. And it was his pond where apparently Gary Miller’s blue Mustang was now resting. He’d asked Arthur to drive when he picked him up at the Rectory, so he could call Meadows and Murdoch and get things rolling. His cop gut was telling him this wasn’t going to be a happy resolution for the missing boys. But he wasn’t ready yet to call their parents. He’d leave that to Blake and Clay to decide.

The Missouri State Police helicopter arrived just as Arthur and Jim pulled into Harve’s driveway. Blake explained they had been finishing up with a rather nasty accident over on the nearby Interstate, which was why they arrived so quickly. Blake Meadows took one look at the pond and called in a CSI van and instructed Clay Murdoch and the chopper pilot to yellow tape the driveway.

“No one in or out,” he said.

“Get back to headquarters,” he said to the pilot, once they finished. “I’m thinking we’ll need a couple of divers up here. How deep is this pond?” he asked Harve.

Harve shrugged. He had no idea, had never explored it.

“Jim,” said Clay, “I know this is your jurisdiction, but I’m going to ask you to officially hand over this investigation to me. Things are getting out of hand, and if I am in charge it makes it easier to call in the resources I think we are going to need to deal with all of these events.”

Jim knew he was right. Nevertheless, his acceptance was given somewhat grudgingly. He did ask for and got the right to be the first to interview any locals they might take an interest in.

Jim and Arthur led Harve back to the Explorer. Jim pulled out two canvas folding chairs from the back and sat Harve in one. He sat in the other.

“Arthur, would you help me? I want you to take your cell and walk around the outer perimeter of the pond. About fifteen feet or so from the water’s edge. Take lots of pictures, even if nothing’s there. If you spot anything of interest, get Meadows or Murdoch over to look. And be careful not to step in any footprints or animal tracks.”

“Sure thing.”

In fact, Arthur was delighted to have some alone time around the pond. He sensed something wrong, in a way quite alien to him. There was a subtle attraction pulling him toward it, nothing strong enough he couldn’t resist; but it could be quite difficult for someone untrained in the detection of, and resistance to, such things to resist. He dared not tell Jim, since he was certain he would immediately lose his badge and perhaps his freedom, for seventy-two hours. Though probably not the latter. But he needed to introduce Jim to this more arcane side of what appeared to be happening with finesse. Carefully he sent out a “go away” command, repeating it as he walked around. Finally, he felt the attraction fade and ultimately disappear.

Meadows and Murdoch stood back and watched as the CSI who had accompanied them from the accident scene carefully photographed everything as he too walked around the pond. No one noticed Arthur, who was doing the same but from a much farther distance.

Arthur was the one who found the clothing. He yelled for everyone to come look. There was a pile of discarded clothes: shoes, socks, blue jeans, t-shirts, even underpants. Once the pile had been thoroughly photographed, Jim and Clay Murdoch donned gloves and began searching the clothes. In one pair of pants Jim found a wallet containing a school ID picture with the name Michael Dean Stoneman. He also found a few dollars, a picture of a pretty young girl, and an emergency contact card with his mother’s name and phone number. He found a cell phone in the pocket of the jeans, completely uncharged. The second pair of pants produced another wallet, this time with the picture and ID of William Blake Martin. There was a twenty-dollar bill and two condoms in the wallet as well as some nude pictures of twenty-something blondes. The third and final wallet was that of Steven James Blinder. His wallet also held some condoms, three ten-dollar bills, and a ticket stub from the drive-in outside of town. Neither Steve or Billy’s jeans held cell phones, but Jim would have wagered they would be found at the bottom of the pond.

Nothing belonging to Gary Miller was found on the banks of the pond, either in the pile of clothing or near it. Jim had no doubt that the car was his, but this would have to be established once Mick’s Garage arrived with their tow truck. It turned out that Mick Harris was just finishing towing away one of the totaled cars from the same accident scene that Blake Meadows had been at. He told Jim it would be at least twenty minutes before he could get to the pond.

Reluctantly, Jim decided it was time to question Harve. He pulled Meadows and Murdoch aside, leaving Arthur to sit and chat with Harve. Jim explained why he felt it was time to question the landscaper. There were, in his mind, too many coincidences to leave them unexplored. First, there was the disappearance of Rory, who was working for Harve. Then, a bit of questioning on his part had revealed that Harve had done all the landscaping and had a maintenance contract for the houses where the pets went missing. And now this car, submerged in his pond, was, in his opinion, too much to be ignored. Meadows and Murdoch agreed.

“You want to do it here? Or take him to your office?”

Clay Murdoch wasn’t about to question a possible murder suspect out in the open if he could avoid it.

“What about at his house,” said Jim. “If he’s willing, it’s right there. That way we can keep an eye on his reactions if the divers find stuff.”

“If he agrees willingly, then I see no problem with that,” said Meadows. “I really want to Mirandize him though. Because you just never know what is going to come out of discussions like these.”

“How about I let him know that he can and probably should have Martin over here with him, even though he’s not being charged with a crime?” asked Jim. “That way we may not put him quite so much on edge.”

Meadows agreed with Jim. He wasn’t sure what was going on here. Although there was plenty of interesting stuff connecting Sanders to the missing animals and the locations, there wasn’t anything even circumstantial connecting him to the deaths. Hell, they really didn’t know if they were dealing with a homicide or a horrible accident in the case of Rory O’Connor. And who knew where these boys were or what had happened to them.

Jim called Arthur over to the Explorer, and together they spoke with Harve.

“Harve,” said Jim, “we (pointing to the state guys) want to ask you some questions about the pump house, the wells up on Jackson Hill, and of course about this business here.”

“I figured as much,” replied Harve.

“Now, we really don’t know what is going on. But just in case this whole thing turns nasty, I think maybe you might want to have Martin Rutledge with you while we talk. Your choice, of course, but that’s what I would suggest.”

Arthur chimed in with his agreement.

“Can Arthur stay, too?” asked Harve.

“Yeah, I’ll clear it with them,” said Jim. “You call Martin; get him to come down here.”