The crime scene was sparse. A field that has once held beans before the historic floods had destroyed the crop. The body had been found near the center of it, in a mound of mud that had been left behind when the waters receded.
Jarrod studied the scene from every angle before he moved. He had one hand on Harris’s skinny arm.
“It’s open here,” she said. The wind ruffled the paper cap she wore. “How long did the remains sit out here?”
“Two days is the best estimate. In this field, anyway.”
“So, we need to account for that. There’s not going to be much evidence, detective. Not with time and the elements and floods.”
“I know. But there may be something we’ve missed that was buried with the body and washed up?”
She shook her head. “Long shot. Miracle odds. Autopsy results may tell us more. And Chuckie is processing the partial frame of the bike.”
“Why do you call her Chuckie?” he asked, to buy himself time to think.
“Madi started it. Just a joke.” She was all seriousness, Dr. Harris. Jarrod couldn’t help but wonder if she’d always been that way. “So, who saw him last? Where was he?”
“His parents. At his home. They lived with his grandfather at the time. He was several years younger than his siblings. He was often alone and isolated at the ranch. The nearest neighbors lived a mile that way, and he had a friend not quite two miles the other direction. It was suspected he was riding his bike to his friend’s house the day he disappeared. He did that frequently.”
“So, what was the weather like back then?”
“How the hell should I know?”
She sent a significant look at the phone in his hand. “Google it.”
He started to do that, but it wasn’t as easy as she said. Finally, she slipped off her gloves and grabbed his phone. In a fraction of the time she had the data displayed on his screen. “It was 80 degrees, and rain free. Wind was from the west at nine miles an hour. That’s about as calm as it gets.”
“What does that matter?”
“It just does. It’s just one piece of the puzzle.” She took a notepad from her bag and wrote down the information. “It was a clear day.”
“If someone was around, they would have seen him ride his bike down the road.” Jarrod tried to imagine what the place had looked like around there twenty years ago.
He took the turn on McGareth Road and they followed it for several miles.
“There’s Lacy Deane’s place,” Harris said, turning the page and labeling a crude map she’d drawn. “She would have lived there, then. I think.”
“Possibly. It depends on when she went into foster care.”
“Take that road there.”
He did. It wound through the countryside, past a little bungalow that looked like something straight out of a fairy-tale. “That place was probably there.”
“No doubt.” It had probably been there for at least one hundred years. There were workers in the yard. “I don’t know who lives there now.”
“That big man looked like Brynna’s brother-in-law. The one married to Jillian.”
“The governor’s brother, I think. But he had a tattoo.”
Jarrod grunted. “That’s Caine Alvaro. Doctor at Barratt County. Twins, one was adopted.” He wasn’t about to gossip about Beck family business. “But this isn’t his place. He bought the old Larson place just off Bracker’s Mill.”
“I see.” She made a small note on the map. “I still don’t know the name of the current owner of that place.”
“Probably his fiancée. She lives out here somewhere.” Jarrod had met the woman a time or two, hanging around the Becks. A small, whirlwind chatterbox, her constant humor had almost overwhelmed him. A cute little doll with a terrifyingly brilliant brain had been his main impression—a doll who was terrified of men. “Dr. Nikkie Jean Netorre.”
“I’ll pencil her in.”
I’ll pencil her in. So neat and precise. And irritating. “You do that.”
“Killion Mill is a mile that way. It connects these two places, I believe.” She had a handheld GPS unit in her hand now. “This place was on the list of people they talked to. Do you think the current owner will know anything about them?”
Jarrod turned the squad car around in the nearest field turn off. “You could have asked that two minutes ago.”
“Sorry.” Her eyes told him she wasn’t the least bit sorry at all.
Jarrod parked the car off the side of the drive so the construction workers could get in and out if needed, and then killed the engine. “Come on. But let me do all the talking.”
She smirked. “You’d do that anyway.”
Haldyn studied the couple as they walked closer. Talk about a total mismatch. The woman was barely five foot tall, the man walking at her side all protectively–and that was hard to miss–was at least six foot six and three hundred plus pounds.
And absolutely beautiful, as far as male specimens went. He put Jarrod Foster to shame, and that was saying quite a bit.
Foster might be a real butthead, but he wasn’t an ugly one. But this guy…
Haldyn was having a hard time not staring.
“How can we help you today?” the man rumbled.
“Hello, Detective Foster,” the woman said. She was small, and wore big glasses. Hospital scrubs–with cartoon beagles printed on them.
“We just have a few questions in regards to a cold case we have,” Foster said. “We don’t want to take up too much of your time.”
“I have to leave for the hospital in about five minutes,” the woman said. “I need to pick Jillian up on the way.”
“This shouldn’t take too long. When did you buy this place?” Foster asked, being all perfectly polite and almost personable. Well. At least he knew how to behave out in public.
“In July of last year. I bought it from Travis Worthington-Deane. He lives–”
“I know Travis,” Foster interrupted. “I’ll speak to him this afternoon. We’re trying to find out information on a family that used to live here twenty years ago. The Rooneys. They had four children, plus an elderly uncle lived with them.”
“Small house for such a large family,” Haldyn said almost to herself. She studied the small Craftsman style single story bungalow. There might have been an attic, but it would have made an extremely small bedroom. “How many bedrooms?”
“Three,” Dr. Netorre answered. She rubbed her stomach lightly. Haldyn calculated she was about twelve to eighteen weeks pregnant, just from the size of her stomach. She made a mental note for her records. “Plus the attic can be used as a bonus room, if you’re short.” She shot a grin at Haldyn. “I don’t have any problems up there, but Caine hated it when I had him up there this afternoon.”
“I felt like a hobbit. It’s a small attic.”
“Did Travis say where he got the property from? Do you have previous property records?” Foster asked.
Dr. Netorre nodded. “I found more than that. I have a woman’s day planner and a teenage girl’s diary. They were in the attic in a box we had to go through this morning to check for water damage. It’s filled with things from the previous owners, I think. Travis never lived here. He bought the place ten years ago to work the lands around it. He sold it to me as a favor to Lacy. I was going to Velma and Scooby the previous owner and return the box whenever I got the chance.”
“We really do need that box. There might be something in it that will help us solve a twenty-year-old murder of a teenage boy.” Haldyn liked the coincidence of it all. The storm…was unearthing everything. First the body, now a box full of potential evidence. She’d always enjoyed how Mother Nature worked. Predictable, yet not.
Dr. Alvaro went inside after walking Dr. Netorre to her purple Jeep Wrangler. Haldyn pretended not to stare as he kissed her and sent her on her way.
“You’re staring,” Foster said. “It’s rude.”
“He really loves her.”
Foster just grunted. No romantic bones in his body, that was for sure.
She’d never had a man look at her quite like that. Dr. Netorre was a very lucky woman.
But that was neither here, nor there.
Haldyn really wanted to see what was in that box.
The first thing Harris pulled out of the box was an old paper day planner. It was faux leather, chocolate brown, and faded. Clean, though. “It smells. Like attic and dust.”
“No surprise, Queen of Obvious.” The sarcasm just slipped out. Probably because she’d snipped and snapped at him when he’d forgotten to slip on a glove before removing the lid to the old box. Everything had to be cataloged and inventoried according to her exact specifications. Procedures.
Jarrod knew that. But he’d screwed up. Now she’d probably not let him hear the end of it.
He stepped back and watched as little Miss OCD-with-an-Attitude meticulously photographed and listed everything aloud. Her little buddy, Chuckie, took notes.
Jarrod was just superfluous and he knew it.
Harris slipped open the day planner. “There’s a name. Contact information. Sofia Rooney.”
“The neighbor. She was the last to report seeing Tommy that day,” Jarrod said. “What year is the planner for?”
She answered quickly. “The same year Tommy disappeared. Can we safely assume he was murdered within days of his disappearance? Has Dr. Jueran reported back in?”
Chuckie shook her head. “She’s working on the remains now. She expects to have us something the day after tomorrow. She’s backed up and since he’s a cold case–”
“He just became a lot warmer,” Jarrod pointed out, but hell, he understood. They had more pressing cases where time was of the essence. A boy who had been dead twenty years wasn’t going to be at the top of the list. He couldn’t be.
Jarrod was just impatient. He hated the idea that these parents had waited twenty years for answers.
The lack of answers was enough to eat at your soul.
“I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to it yet.”
Maddening. The woman was absolutely maddening.
Finally, the six items were laid out before them.
“What in the hell do they all mean?” Jarrod didn’t have a clue.