Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 25


Jim sat at his desk, trying to write a report, the kind he had written dozens of times before during his career as a police detective. But this one, this was the hardest, because he had become attached to these people in a way he never before had allowed himself. He had prided himself on his reserve, his distance, and now he was paying the price of failure. Strangely, this deep caring and sorrow was a price he was happy to pay.

There is little joy in providing solace for the pains of others when your own soul needs surcease. Time passes slowly. You hear their cries, you comfort their sorrow. If you are truly compassionate, you avoid trite phrases of empty pity and instead employ the deep work of empathy. You do not profess to understand their pain, for everyone’s sorrow is different; everyone’s grief is unique. Instead you share your pain with them, as they are sharing with you.

After a couple of hours, when all the rage and sorrow and fear and grief and denial had been pasted onto the walls of Harve’s main sitting and dining room, tearing through his rooms like a tornado of emotions; after the parents had gone; after the lab techs had stopped for a drink and a sandwich and then continued their painstaking work; after nothing more could be said or should be said, Jim decided to leave. He drove slowly to the Rectory and entered the library.

He and Clay agreed that, although they would need to interview Harve in depth at some point, there was neither sufficient evidence nor the will on either of their parts to do so at this time. They also agreed that Harve was not a flight risk. They would summon him and Martin to the sheriff’s office sometime in the next couple of days. Clay left for Jefferson City as Jim drove slowly back to town.

Arthur sank into the couch in front of the fireplace and gave into his own deep agony. Charity held him close. Jen built a fire, even though it was warm outside, for she could feel the deep piercing cold in his bones. Only those with the gift knew the intensity of his pain. He cried until there were no more tears. And then together they quietly chanted the song for the dead, for the passing of souls into the hands of the eternal. It was not a Christian prayer; none of Arthur’s small congregation would have recognized it. Jim did not. And yet, he felt the presence of Beth, a sense of her spirit, unlike anything he had felt since her death years ago. And he also sensed the despair and fear that tinged those ancient, foreign words.

Harve and Martin arrived soon after, both dealing with a different worry. Harve was keenly aware, as was Martin Rutledge, who sat silent at the table, that he was a person of more than a little interest. He had sent Rory to the pump house. He was known to fish Big Bass Pool. He had done the landscaping on Jackson Hill and now maintained it. And it was his pond where the bodies of what he presumed were the four missing boys were found. And he was terrified at what might happen if they ever entered the cabin out back under the trees. He had not told even Martin Rutledge about that. As they sat, each in his own puddle of misery, Harve’s cell phone rang.

“Harve?” said Blake. “We need to look in your tool shed.”

Blake had remained behind at the pond with the CSIs while Clay took the bodies to the State Medical Examiner in Jefferson City. Harve put the call on speaker. Martin Rutledge sat up straighter, put his hands on the table, and drew a deep breath.

“I’m going to advise my client against allowing that without a warrant,” he said. “Unless you’re planning to charge him with something right now.”

Blake asked them to stay put. He would be there in ten minutes. When he arrived, Blake sat down at the table, motioning Harve to sit, which he did, but next to Martin. The rest sat up, listening to what was going on.

“Here’s the current situation,” said Blake. “The forensic guys have retrieved the bodies, or what remains of them, from your pond. They sent them to Jefferson City for DNA identification and to see if cause of death can be determined. Next, they are going to troll the pond with large nets to see if there is anything else they can find. The divers are getting underwater lights prepared so they can examine that hole in the middle of the pond. It’s about ten feet down or so; they want to get a really good look. Gary’s Mustang is being taken by flatbed down to Jefferson City for a thorough examination at the state lab.

“Right now, all the evidence pointing to you is circumstantial. I don’t want to have to charge you just so I can get a closer look at your premises, but if I have to I will. And I can have a warrant faxed up here within the hour. Thing is, a warrant will let me search everything on your property. So you think about that, talk with Rutledge here, and let me know what you want to do. You can cooperate, you can get arrested, or you can wait for a warrant and have me and a ton of other guys snooping all over your property. Don’t take long to decide.”

“What should I do?” Harve asked. “What should I do?”

The door opened, and a forensic tech came in. He held a whispered conversation with Blake after which Blake walked over to the table.

“Mr. Sanders,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to stand up and put your hands behind your back.”

Harve stared at him open mouthed, while Martin Rutledge got to his feet and stood next to Harve.

“What’s going on, Trooper Meadows?” asked Martin.

“I’m placing your client under arrest for suspicion of murder, five counts. You have the right to remain silent.” He continued with the entire Miranda reading.

“Now please, sir, stand up and put your hands behind your back.”

“On what grounds, Blake?” asked Jim.

The forensics tech held out a tablet for Jim, Harve, and Martin to see.

“This is the result of tissue samples we took from the bed of your truck.”

Before Martin could object, Clay produced the warrant that had been sent to the lab van’s fax machine, allowing them to search the truck.

“We’re in the process of getting one for the entire premises,” said Clay.

“Can I sit?” asked Harve.

Clay nodded.

“Please continue,” said Martin to the forensics tech. “And what is your name, sir?”

“Walter Corbin. That’s C O R B I N. Anyway, we found some tissue in the hinge of the blue truck’s tailgate. The rest of the back was washed clean, clean as I’ve ever seen a truck. But whoever did that cleaning missed this tissue. We’ve bagged it, as Coroner Burch here instructed, along with all the other body parts. But first we ran a quick test and determined that it is human tissue. Once Burch has signed the release papers, we are going to fly all the evidence down to the state lab in Jefferson City to see what we find. But it was and still is our recommendation, based on the evidence found so far, that warrants be obtained for Mr. Sander’s Econoline that he uses in his business, and his house, and outbuildings.”

Jen stood and quietly signaled Arthur, Charity, and Bridgette to join her out on the porch. She went as far to the side as she could away from the door and perched on the wide top railing.

“Do we tell them?”

“Not unless you want a quick trip to the nearest psych ward for seventy-two hours,” replied Arthur. “Let’s wait until Dan gets here. I did some background on him, and he’s solid. We’ll tell him everything and go from there. In the meantime, our job is to keep them away from the back cabin for as long as we can.”

“And how do you propose to pull off that miracle?” asked Charity.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, you’d better come up with something soon, because they can hold Harve for twenty-four hours without taking him in front of a judge for arraignment if Martin talks them into taking that route instead of insisting on filing an arrest warrant. Either way, the best we can hope for is a few hours, maybe overnight if we’re real lucky.”

Jen and a very confused Bridgette sat silently. Charity wandered down as close to the pond as the cops would allow her and stood watching the activities. Arthur returned to Harve’s living room, where he surreptitiously slipped Martin Rutledge a note.

Need to talk was all it said.