The Body in the Pool Chapter 4

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter Four

Another flight of stairs and several more long hallways, Doctor Wallsgraf stopped before Room 319. “Please keep in mind the boy is a minor.”
“A minor over the age of sixteen,” Spence retorted. “I don’t suspect him of this crime, I do need to know what he saw.”
The headmaster nodded.
“And I think that would go better if you waited out in the hall.”
“The students don’t have single rooms.”
“Where is there a measure of privacy?”
“There’s a study at the end of the hall. You could use that.”
Spence nodded. “Can you arrange for my partner to speak to the security guard on duty?”
“Fine.” The headmaster replied shortly. “I suppose the sooner you decide we are victims and have nothing to do with this crime the sooner you will be gone.”
Spence held his tongue and waited for Doctor Wallsgraf to knock.
When the door opened, the headmaster asked the young man to send Curt out into the hallway. His roommate complied with an excited, “Dude, po-po is here for you.”
A moment later, the seventeen year old in question appeared at the door. “I didn’t do it I swear.”
Spence’s hair rose fractionally. This was a standard response from teenagers, giving a detective an advantage if he wanted to push it. Spence thought he might as well. “Well then, Curt, let’s talk about what you did do.”
“Curt, this detective just wants to know what you saw tonight.” The headmaster said soothingly.
Spence sighed. “Let’s step down the hall to the study and talk there.”
Curt nodded.
“Thank you.” Spence said in a tone to dismiss the headmaster, although he could feel his eyes watching them walk away for more than a reasonable amount of time. The headmaster was definitely nervous about what Curt might say. Was he more nervous than was reasonable to expect given the circumstances?
The study room was barely five feet by eight feet and the front wall was all glass, granting anyone passing by in the hall a full view of any goings on. Spence pulled out a chair, “Have a seat.”
Curt sat; his left knee bouncing up and down.
“What’s your full name?”
“Curt Anderson.”
“And you’re seventeen?”
Curt nodded.
“Have you called your parents about tonight?”
“Hell no. I mean heck no.”
“Could you have called if you wanted to?”
“I guess but they would make a lot of fuss.”
Spence nodded, requirements met. “Parents tend to do that.” Especially in his line of work. “So you and Stacy.” Spence waited.
A slow smile spread across Curt’s face. “She’s smokin’ hot.”
“Been an item long?”
“Not really. She’s kind of,” Curt paused, “Complicated. She’s not into how much money you have or who you know or where you summer. It’s all about art. I had to spend like all summer studying up to have a conversation with her.”
“Right on,” Spence said as he laughed. “Tonight, you two were heading outside to…”
Curt swallowed. “Look at the stars.”
Spence nodded. “Nice cloudy night for it.”
Curt fidgeted in his seat.
“How’d you go out?”
“Through one of the glass doors in the library.”
Spence nodded. “And when you got outside did you notice anything?”
“Like what?”
“Anything that wasn’t as it usually is?”
“No, everything was fine.”
“You didn’t happen to look at the pool on your way out?”
“We kinda did actually. We were thinking the pool might be fun. Changed our minds cause the cover is such a pain in the ass to drag off and right in view of the house…” Curt trailed off.
“Go on.”
“We, uh, we left the pool deck, looked at the stars a while, and then came back. The night security guard makes rounds right before he comes on. We wanted to be back in our rooms before then.”
“Does everyone know about the rounds schedule?”
“Oh yeah. When they make rounds, how many of them are around, when the security system is down. Gotta know when it’s safe to…look at the stars.”
These kids were informed, excellent criminals in the making. “What did you see when you came back?”
“It wasn’t what I saw. Well, it was. First I heard the gate bang. That’s what made me look over that way. Then I saw the pool cover all wrong on one side.”
“And then?” Spence prodded.
“We walked over to look. I don’t know why. As soon as I saw the pool cover I wasn’t worried anymore about the guard coming. Why is that?”
“Immediacy. Our brains are designed to respond to things in the now even when it makes no sense. Even when worse is coming in the next five minutes. The now holds sway.”
Curt nodded. “That’s cool dude.”
“It’s something.” Spence said wryly.
“I kind of dragged Stacy along with me. And when I looked in the pool that dude was like floating there.”
Spence nodded and waited.
“Stacy lost her shit. Like totally freaked out. Screaming. I knew we were busted when she started that.”
“Who showed up first after Stacy started screaming?”
“The night guard. He came running, which was super funny because he has all this stuff on his belt and it was flopping all over the place, and he was trying to hold it all and run at the same time.”
Spence gave a courtesy laugh.
“I know right. Idiot. Like when has he ever needed half that junk.”
When indeed. Spence grabbed his phone. “Give me a quick second.” He texted Tom: Check the equipment on the guard’s belt. “Thanks. Let me ask you this. You didn’t see anything weird when you left the building, did you smell anything weird?”
“Not when we left. But yeah I smelled BBQ when we came back. Made me kind of hungry, then kind of like I wanted to puke.”
There was no way Spence was going to mention what he thought had been grilling. “I can see that. Is there anything else?”
“Like what?” Curt asked.
“I don’t know. Anything that makes you think ‘huh, that’s weird.’ Or that you can’t quite place. Something that rubs you wrong?”
Curt burst out laughing.
“Double entendre aside. Anything?”
Curt shook his head.
“Anything the headmaster wouldn’t want you to tell me?” Spence fished a little since he had the pond to himself.
Curt didn’t say anything for a moment. “It’s decent here. They try to be strict,” he laughed. “They’re not really on top of shit. And lately, I dunno. It’s like the headmaster has been extra distracted.”
Spence raised an eyebrow and waited. Curt was focused on the tabletop, using the side of his thumb nail to scratch at a gouge. “Can I go back to my room now?”
“Sure.” Spence stood and pulled his card case from his pocket. He handed Curt a card. “Call me if you think of anything else.”
Curt nodded. “Are you gonna talk to Stacy, too?”
“Of course.”
“Could you not mention the whole studying all summer to talk to her thing?”
“No problem.” Spence said with a smile.
“Thanks, man.” Curt left the room.
Spence flipped through his notes. Not much there. Maybe Tom had better luck with the guard.
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The Body in the Pool Chapter 3

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter Three

Tom led the way down a long hallway. Marbled floors echoed their steps. Dimly lit wall sconces provided minimal illumination. Tom turned a corner and stopped in front of an open door.
“Mr. Wallsgraf?” Tom asked.
“Doctor.” The man behind the desk removed his glasses and looked up.
“No, it’s Detective Harding.”
“No. I mean, I am Doctor Wallsgraf.”
Spence stepped into the office. “Detective Thomas.” Spence noted the over-sized mahogany desk, the lightly faded Persian rug on the floor, and roaring fire in front of leather wing-back chairs to one side of the room. “I can imagine this situation has been quite distressing for you.”
“Why, yes it has.” The headmaster’s face softened.
“It is important that we get as much information as we can about the situation.”
Wallsgraf nodded. “Of course. I don’t know what I can tell you that I haven’t already told Detective Harding.”
Spence smiled. “I know how frustrating the process of detection can be to those who are encountering it for the first time.”
Tom made a sound not unlike a warbled cough.
Spence shot him a quick glance. “Start from the beginning of your night for me.”
“From dinner? Or?”
“Do you live on site?”
“I do.”
“Let’s start with what woke you.” Spence sat in a chair in front of the desk.
Tom milled about the edge of the room, looking at the items Doctor Wallsgraf chose to display and listening to the conversation without watching their body language.
“I believe it was a scream that woke me. Clearly a young, female voice. I sat in my bed for several minutes trying to place what had occurred.”
“You didn’t immediately investigate?” Spence interrupted.
“Well, no.” Doctor Wallsgraf stopped speaking.
Spence waited. He could wait all day if he needed to. The pressure of speech would eventually force words.
“Sometimes.” Wallsgraf stopped again. “Our population is unusual. The occasional nighttime sound is not exceptional.”
“When did you decide this was exceptional?”
“The security officer on duty called me.”
Spence nodded and made a note in his book.
“I got dressed and went downstairs.”
“If you remember, what exactly did the officer say to you?”
“I don’t remember the exact words, essentially he informed me two students were out after hours, breaking curfew, and that there was a security breach.”
“Did you think the students in question were the security breach?”
“I did wonder what he meant. The guard thought I should see for myself.”
“You got dressed and went downstairs. Very reasonable, continue.”
“The female student was hysterical. I asked the boy to take her to our nurse. The security officer informed me there was an issue in the pool. I walked out onto the pool deck and then immediately called the police.”
“Did you recognize the victim?”
“No.”
Spence pulled up the picture on his phone and held it out. “Are you sure you don’t recognize the victim?”
Blood drained out of the headmaster’s face and he shook his head.
“I would like to speak to the students and your security officer.”
“I don’t think that should be necessary.” Wallsgraf’s eyebrows squished together.
Spence smiled. “It is necessary.”
Doctor Wallsgraf ceased making eye contact. Spence watched his eyes flick about the room. He picked up the fountain pen on his desk, unscrewed the cap, then replaced the cap and then the pen on the desk.
“I can arrange for you to see the security officer. However, it is quite out of the question for you to interrogate students without their parents present.”
“How old are the students?”
“Our students range from twelve to eighteen years of age.” Doctor Wallsgraf’s nose twitched.
Spence waited.
“Sixteen and seventeen.”
“I think you know we can interview them in conjunction with a crime as material witnesses without parental presence as long as they have been given the opportunity to contact their parents. Do they have access to phones here?”
The headmaster sighed. “They all have cell phones.”
“I thought so.”
Doctor Wallsgraf stood. “Follow me.” He stalked across the room and into the hall. Spence returned his note pad to his pocket, caught Tom’s eye, and followed the headmaster out of the office. Tom would stay in the office as long as possible to take note of everything ‘in plain sight.’
Spence had little trouble matching stride with the several inches shorter headmaster. He even had breath to ask a few questions. “How long have you been the headmaster?”
“Seven years at this school.”
“You’ve worked at other schools, then?”
“Of course. I can provide you a list if necessary.”
“That would be helpful.” Spence wondered what he might find in the headmaster’s background. When a previously reticent interviewee suddenly volunteered information, it made Spence’s hair stand up.
They walked several long hallways and one flight of stairs before arriving at the infirmary. Doctor Wallsgraf knocked before entering. “Nancy?”
“Yes, headmaster?” Six feet of blonde, curvy goddess stepped around a curtained alcove. It was the middle of the night and she was flawless.
“The detective would like to talk to Stacy and Curt.” The headmaster gestured to Spence.
“Detective Thomas, ma’am.” Forget hot for teacher, Spence had a shrewd idea a lot of students got sick around here.
“Hello, detective. I’m afraid I sent Curt back to his room. He really wasn’t helping matters with Stacy.”
“Then can I speak with Stacy while I’m here?”
“She’s asleep now, the poor thing. I prescribed hot Chamomile and honey. That seemed to do the trick. Hysteria is nine-tenths exhaustion you know.”
Spence sighed. No point in waking the girl up now.
“You know detective, Curt is likely to be asleep as well. Perhaps you could return in the morning to question them both.”
Spence considered the headmaster’s suggestion. The problem with returning in the morning: it allowed the headmaster to ‘adjust’ what the students might say without his influence. “Let’s take a look see at the boy’s room. See if he’s awake, tweeting about his experience.”

The Body in the Pool Chapter 2

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter Two

“Doesn’t your guy usually leave the penis on the body?” Doctor Choi asked.
Spence opened his mouth to answer but the Doctor corrected himself.
“Amputated, and on the body somewhere else.”
Tom nodded. “Usually under the victim’s folded hands on his chest.”
“Well, where is it this time?”
Spence and Tom shared a look.
“Maybe this isn’t our guy.” Spence shrugged.
“Maybe.” Tom agreed and snapped a quick picture of the victim’s face with his cell phone. He texted it over to Spence.
Doctor Choi nodded to his assistant. “Zip it up, let’s get him back to the slab.”
“When are you slicing him?”
“Morning okay with you? Or you want me to start him now?”
“If this is our guy, every minute counts,” said Tom.
“If this is our guy, he’s been operating for ten months that we know. Does a few hours sleep for the Doc really matter one way or another?” Spence countered.
Doctor Choi sighed. “How about we split the difference? My assistant will take him back, get him printed, get those in the system, and prep him for autopsy. I’ll be in and slicing by eight.”
Spence nudged Tom. “Identification is really what we need most.”
“Yeah, okay,” Tom agreed.
The assistant and the doctor put the body bag on a stretcher and wheeled it out the path to their van in the parking lot.
Spence watched them go as the thoughts ran in his head. “This is less public than previous events.”
Tom nodded. “Maybe it’s a shock value thing. Upping that portion of it. Shocking moneyed brats?”
“He’s never left a body in a pool before.”
“There was the body in the fountain at Seattle Center downtown.”
“True. Except where I was going was maybe the penis isn’t with the body this time because this is the first time he’s left a body in deep water.”
“That’s some circular ass logic,” said Tom with irritation.
Before Spence could get riled up, one of the crime scene techs touched Tom’s arm. They both turned to look at her.
“You might want to come see. The, uh um, BBQ remains.”
“Remains?” Tom changed his gaze from her face to the BBQ.
“I don’t think it’s last night’s dinner.” Her nose wrinkled and her lips pursed.
Spence snapped on a pair of gloves from his back pocket as he walked across the patio. He called back over his shoulder to the tech, “You got shots already?”
“Yes.”
Spence leaned in. The air was warmer. He checked the dial and saw the BBQ was still on. “You get a shot of this?” He pointed to the on light and temperature gauge.
The tech nodded.
Spence turned off the BBQ. What was left in the middle of the grill was cylindrical and about two inches long, charred black. “I need something to collect this with. It’s gotta be too hot to touch.”
Tom walked over to the tech’s supply box and helped himself to a pair of long wooden tongs and a brown paper bag. He crossed to Spence and handed him the tongs. “Here you go.”
Spence gently lifted the material. “It’s not completely charcoal. There’s a bit of give to the…whatever it is.” Spence held it up.
Tom leaned away. “That looks like a burnt hot dog. Are we sure it isn’t forgotten dinner?”
“I’m tempted to smell it.”
“BBQ meat all smells the same.”
“Not always.” Spence said shortly. He held up the questionable meat in one hand and used the other hand to waft the smell towards his nose. “A bit like beef.”
“It’s all beef frank.” Tom laughed. “Kind of short though.”
Spence dropped the evidence into the bag. He took the bag from Tom and rolled the top down. He crossed to the supply box and grabbed the roll of evidence tape. He slapped a piece across the rolled down top and initialed across the tape.
“Here’s the deal. Vaguely beef smelling meat could be beef or it could be human muscle.” Spence stared at Tom until the penny dropped.
“Aw. No way. Tell me you don’t think that thing on the grill was the missing,” he cleared his throat, “from our victim.”
“Only one way to find out.” Spence handed the bag to the tech. “Get it analyzed.”
The tech nodded and took the bag. “I’ll make it a priority.”
Spence pulled off his gloves. “Let’s talk to go talk to the security guy.”
Tom snorted. “If you can find him.”
“What?”
“The headmaster refused to let me speak with anyone earlier.”
“Then let’s talk to the headmaster.” Spence smiled.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 1

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series

 

Chapter One

Spence juggled the brown bag containing a pint of ice cream into his left hand as he fished for his car keys with his right. Turning his attention to the door, he slipped the key in the lock as his cell phone buzzed.
He set the bag down on the driver’s seat and thumbed to the text message.
Butter Pecan
Shaking his head, Spence texted back, Instead of fudge brownie? His breath hung in the air, suspended in the cold as he waited for a response. Ice crystals threatened to form on his goatee. The ever-present wind moved the tops of the evergreens surrounding the mini mart but did little to move his buzz cut dark hair.
In addition to
Spence closed his door and locked it, jogging back across the parking lot to the convenience store. It was the only store within twenty minutes of his home and lately he’d found himself shopping there more frequently than before. He navigated back to the cooler and grabbed a 1/2 gallon of butter pecan. As he placed it on the checkout counter, the clerk gave him a long look.
“You keep eating like this and you won’t look like that anymore.”
“It’s for my wife.”
“Right.”
Spence laughed, uncomfortable. “No really. She’s pregnant.”
The clerk took Spence’s ten dollar bill and made change. “Uh huh.”
Spence grabbed ice cream and his change, then dropped two pennies into the take a penny/leave a penny basket.
“You have a good night now.”
Spence guffawed. “Right.” His eyes caught the 6’2” mark on the door measurement sticker as he pushed through.
His cell phone alerted as he unlocked the car door.
Are you on your way? Tess’s text read.
Just leaving the store. Spence thumbed back. Three more months of this — fall was going to be mighty long this year.
He transferred both containers to the passenger seat, slid in, and started the car. His phone chirped again. This time, it wasn’t Tess.
Caught a body, likely our guy. Whispering Evergreen Academy. 1749 Lillihop Way.
Ah oh. Tess was not going to like this.
Caught a case honey. Spence texted his wife.
No ice cream? Came her reply.
Sorry love. Spence pulled out of the parking lot and headed for coffee. No way was he drinking mini mart swill.
The serial killer?
You know I can’t give you details.
Fine then I won’t give you the details of Butch sleeping on the bed.
Spence’s laugh echoed in the car as he texted with one hand while driving. LOL. Keep him off my pillow. There was nothing worse than German Shepherd hair everywhere.
A quick detour through an all night coffee stand, then GPS took him straight to Whispering Evergreen Academy. He followed the circular drive and added his vehicle to the variety of official ones already on the scene. The clipboard officer was standing on a pathway to the side of the multi-story, monstrously large building, one might be tempted to call White House Pacific Northwest.
He pulled his flip ID and presented it to the officer. “Hey Bronson, how’s it?”
“Cold as hell. Scene’s out back by the pool.”
“Lovely. Maybe the temp will keep this ice cream from melting.” Spence slid the ID back into his pocket, handed Bronson the bag, and headed around the house by the path. Voices guided him for the first fifty feet. Lights provided a beacon for the rest. Spence stopped as he got to the patio, evaluating the scene before he spoke with anyone.
The acrid scent of burning meat hit his nose. He noted the open BBQ. Some sort of lump on the grill. He opened his mouth a fraction and closed his nose, a trick he learned allowing him breath without inhaling the stench.
The medical examiner crouched by the side of the pool, his assistant in attendance. The pool cover itself was bunched up on the side.
Checking the ground in front of him as he walked, he chose the medical examiner as his first stop. “What have we got Doc?”
“Floater.”
Spence snorted. “Astute observation. Anything else?”
“Waiting on overall shots to be done. Then I’ll pull him from the pool.”
“Ah – you think male then?” Spence needled.
Doctor Choi laughed. “Yeah, alright. I’m guessing male and mid 40’s by the bald spot but still mostly brown hair. There’s blood in the water, too.”
“Are you thinking enough for stabbing or gun shot to be cause of the death?” Spence eyed the pool, it didn’t look like much blood to him.
“I couldn’t possible say until I get him on my table.”
“And was that so hard?”
“Next time bring me a cup of that go juice and I’ll be a little more forthcoming.” Doctor Choi nodded to the coffee in Spence’s hand.
“I’ll see what I can do. How long have you been waiting on photography?”
“They’re getting marching orders from your better half.” Doctor Choi gave a pointed look to the tables behind Spence.
“My better half? Did he bring you coffee?”
“Donuts. Two dozen.”
“Well, fuck.” Spence laughed. He crossed to his partner, Tom Harding. For a moment he listened as Tom gave detailed instructions to crime scene techs who knew their jobs better than he did. Tom was a micro-manager, that’s why he needed to bring 2 dozen donuts to the scene, to every scene. “Tom.”
Tom stopped mid-sentence. He caught the eye Spence was giving him and laughed. “Sorry, I’m doing it again.”
“If by doing it again, you mean keeping the medical examiner waiting while you direct traffic, then yeah, you’re doing it again.”
“No donuts for you.”
The techs laughed and moved off to start their work.
“Took you long enough to get here.” Tom helped himself to a raspberry filled.
“I needed coffee for this all nighter.”
“And no cup for me.”
Spence gave Tom a long look. “Donuts.”
“Okay. Moving on. Whispering Evergreen Academy. Exclusive boarding school for the rich and naughty.”
“Naughty?” The word caught Spence’s attention.
“From what I gather half their students have been thrown out of one or more other schools before landing here.”
“Super. If this isn’t our serial, there’ll be no shortage of suspects then.”
“Body was discovered by two kids who, and I quote, snuck out to look at the stars, end quote.”
Spence and Tom shared a short laugh. “Ok, they were on their way out—”
“On their way back in apparently. All this is second hand though.”
Spence raised an eyebrow.
“The headmaster met me at the door. Directed me to his office and gave me the briefest information possible and a long lecture about discretion. I let it slide. Lower his guard a bit.”
“Good call.”
“You’d think I’d done this before.”
Spence snorted. “Did you look at the security feed yet?”
“Down for servicing,” the corner of Tom’s mouth twitched.
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. Apparently they take it down the first Thursday of every month for a two-hour window between 9PM and 11PM.”
“Everyone know this?”
“Apparently.”
“Ain’t that grand.”
Doctor Choi called out to them, “We’re ready to pull the body.”
The detectives hurried to join him. The assistant slipped into the pool and strapped the victim to a rescue board. With the assistant lifting and the Doctor pulling it was a quick job to get the body board up and on deck. They unstrapped the victim and rolled him over. The click of a camera taking shots filled the air as all four men stared at the body.
“Is his—” Tom stopped.
“It looks like his penis is amputated, yes.” Doctor Choi filled in.
“We’ve got another one.” Spence swallowed hard.

 

Wednesday Words 5.30

Man is the 13th of June coming hard and fast.

I have just about finished the final edit check. Which is good because the kiddo and I are making our annual pilgrimage south on Friday and I need to get all my ducks in line before I go. Laughing.

There really is no minute like the last minute.

But co-op is done for the summer. I’m writing words many days a week. My stress level is dropping. Free time is right around the corner (lots of summer camps for the kiddo) so I can crank out many, many more words. LOL

I donated a basket for the end of the year auction. A couple of my books, a coffee mug about reading, a bookmark, some tea, some chocolates, and the right to name a character of their choice in my Dismember series. Went for the most amount money. It’s all about the naming of the character. People were mad about that. Laughing.

Quick shout out to the lovely Sheri J Kennedy who just released her 2nd novel in The Adventures of Miss Livingston series, Memory Key.

How’s it going with your WIP? Big summer plans?

Fiendish Friday: Summer Starter

For me summer officially starts tomorrow morning. Woohoo! I have a lot to do this summer. Two novels to finish to be exact. I know what you’re thinking, summer already?

Because I live in the PNW, I don’t gauge summer by silly things like the weather. We won’t see sun and 75 til who knows when. And because I home school, I don’t gauge summer by when the kiddo gets out of school. We, um, home school year round actually. LOL.

So I draw the line in the sand with the last day of co-op. Which is today. Tomorrow will be summer. Today is the day of goodbyes.

I hate the day of goodbyes.

Someone is always moving this time of year. And many kids go back to public school or on to private school or just decide the co-op is not for them. I never know if that smart kid with serious writing talent will come back next year. I even get nostalgic about the smart ass kid who challenges me daily.

Did I mention I hate goodbyes?

Usually when I must say goodbye, I just shut it down. I close off my emotions, keep the interaction short, and then cry privately later. I am not good at goodbyes.

Hours of classes and then a picnic to get thru…I might have to cry in public.

Did I mention I hate goodbyes?

Wednesday Words 5.23

It is almost June. Just writing that sentence makes my stomach flip over in terror.

On one hand, co-op is almost over. I love those kids like they were my own. I adore teaching them and the things they say and laughter that permeates every class.

But I’m so done with them right now. Summer break is just what the doctor ordered.

By September I’ll be ready to love them again.

On the other hand, I’ve committed to June 13th as the release date for The Body in the Pool. For some reason this time all my critique partners were soooo slow. I just got my line editor’s feedback yesterday. Yesterday. Gulp.

I went to beta without getting feedback from my critique partners, they were so slow.

Three weeks is all I have left. So I better say TTFN and get back to my editing while the kiddo is at class and not demanding my attention.