Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 24


“Death — even now I cannot write about it.”

Jim tossed his pen onto the desk. How could he do justice to the horror of four headless, mutilated corpses, tossed into the air as they pulled the Mustang out? Apparently, when the Mustang had slid nose first into the opening at the center of the pond, mud and muck had poured in around it, sealing the opening. Gary Miller’s foot had been severed at the juncture of the frame and the partially open driver’s door. Tissue samples found in the hinges told a gruesome story of the amputation.

They had assumed that the car–and the boys–had for some unknown reason been sucked into the hole in the center of the pond. Once the car was pulled loose they expected the remaining water and muck around the vehicle to be likewise sucked into the hole. However, quite the opposite had happened. A sudden, violent spout of water shot out of the hole as soon as the car was free, raining all kinds of debris in all directions. As the spout slowed down, the pond continued to fill with water until it reached its normal level.

The bodies floated on the surface, bloated and stinking, all four headless and mutilated in various ways. Only one, presumably that of Gary Miller, still had some clothes on what remained of the corpse: a belt, tattered jeans, a fragment of white t-shirt, and the most gruesome of all–the other red Nike Jordan, its laces caught in the tongue of the belt buckle.

Harve had fainted dead away. Arthur quietly withdrew behind some bushes where he could be heard vomiting copiously. Jim wanted to run, to be anywhere but here, especially knowing that at any minute cars were going to drive up with parents inside who must at all costs be kept from seeing this.

Blessedly, Harry Randle arrived first, and while he blocked the entrance to Harve’s land up at the county road, Jim persuaded the divers and forensic lab boys to move their two vans to mostly block the view of the pond from the driveway. They had only just begun to retrieve the first body when Gary Miller’s parents drove up, closely followed by George and Tina Martin. A few minutes later, the Blinders drove up with Suzie Stoneman in the back seat. Jim hurried up to the end of the drive before they managed to storm past Deputy Randle.

Just as Jim arrived at the gate, a car pulled up with Charity Farmington at the wheel and Jen Harper beside her. Bridgette Stevens sat in the back seat, tight lipped and red-eyed. Jim quickly sought the help of the two women in calming the parents and persuading them to follow Bridgette’s car to Harve’s front yard. Jim returned to the pond where he told Meadows and Murdoch he was going to go up to Harve’s and try to break the news. Arthur had recovered enough to be of assistance. Harve had been revived by a pale and shaky Martin Rutledge and was now being led inside his house, presumably to a safe distance from Dan Miller or any other parent who might start drawing conclusions.

Harve, however, insisted that they all come inside and sit at his large dining table. It was round, handmade, and the chairs were comfortable. He and Martin busied themselves bringing glasses and pitchers of ice water and finding boxes of tissues. Arthur, having found mouthwash in Harve’s bathroom, now sat at what passed for the head of the table. Bridgette, Charity, and Jen sat in another part of the room, next to the huge stone fireplace.

Shortly after they were settled, and before Jim could begin, Clay Meadows came in carrying a pile of carefully folded clothing. The parents saw them, and all but Gary’s parents cried out in shock, recognizing their child’s clothing.

“What did your boy do to our kids,” yelled Michael Blinder, jumping up and grabbing Dan Miller’s shirt front.

Before a fight could break out, Meadows and Jim had the men apart. Jim ordered Blinder to his seat and glared at both of them.

“Sit! And stay seated!” he commanded. “None of your kids did anything to the others that we know of, yet. This is going to be hard enough. Don’t you two assholes make it any harder!”

Jim realized he was losing control. Jen magically appeared with a glass of water, and he drank it all.

“Okay,” said Meadows. “First things first. I want you to look at these clothes, piece by piece, and the cell phones, wallets, etc. If you recognize them, you tell me, one at a time. I need to keep a record of this.”

“Is it okay if I turn on my cell phone to record?” asked Martin Rutledge. “I’ll be happy to allow a transcript to be made of it.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” said Meadows. “Two records are always better than one.”

Slowly they went through the pile of clothing, one or another parent identifying them one piece at a time. The mothers were crying, and finally poor Suzie Stoneman just collapsed. Charity helped her up and led her to the couch where she lay with her head in Charity’s ample lap, sobbing deeply but softly.

Meadows then asked Dan Miller what his son was wearing the day he went missing.

“I don’t know. Jeans, I guess, and those damn red tennis shoes. Damn things cost a fortune.”

“Red Nike Jordans,” said Dan’s mother quietly. “And a white t-shirt with a picture of the earth on the front.”

“Do any of your boys have birthmarks or scars on their bodies?” asked Meadows.

Finally Tina Martin spoke up. “Billy has a strawberry birthmark on his right shoulder.”

“Steve has a scar on his right knee from football,” said Mike Blinder.

“What about Mike or Gary?” asked Jim.

“Mike has a burn scar on his left hand, back of it,” said Beth Miller. “He and Gary tried making candles in boy scouts once, and he poured hot wax on his hand.”

“And Gary?”

“No. Not really. At least none that I know of.”

Bridgette spoke up from the far corner.

“He had a crescent cut on the bottom of his foot. He didn’t want you to know about it, because he stepped on a beer can pop top. It probably left a scar.”

Dan Miller looked up at Meadows, considerably subdued.

“Enough questions, please. Just tell us. What did you find?”

Blake Meadows started to speak, but Arthur held up his hand.

“If I may,” he said, and Blake nodded.

Arthur delivered the news, carefully and gently. The parents sat in stunned silence, unable to process the news. Arthur enlisted the help of Bridgette and Charity in driving them home and then had the two women join him at the library in the Rectory, where he comforted them both. Jim had gone to the Rectory when he left Harve’s place. He and Arthur needed to share a drink and their impressions of the day. He would write his report later.