Click to read Chapter One
Click to read Chapter Two
Click to read Chapter Three
Click to read Chapter Four
Stepping out of the interview room, watching Mrs. Shade being escorted back to the lobby, still weeping, her hands clenched around a shredded tissue. How much worse could this get?
“Hey, you don’t look so good, what’s the story with your blue coat? No wait, let me tell you about the plant lady first, you look like you need some good news.”
Leading the way down the hall to a small alcove used as a coffee station, filling two cups, looking for milk in the mini-fridge and talking quickly, recapping the interview with Sara Jenkins AKA ‘the plant lady’.
“Turns out Ms. Jenkins wasn’t at a plant conference, Baxter got that wrong, she was visiting her brother on the family farm, been gone for almost two weeks, got back last night and heard about the finger. It was the description of the ring, she’s seen it, knows who has one like it.” Pausing to add sugar, stir and take a large gulp of coffee. “About a month ago she hired a young girl, woman, early 20s, new to town, name of Rose Lancer. While she was at the farm her assistant manager, guy called Shane, phoned to say the new girl hadn’t shown-up for any shifts last week and wasn’t answering her phone.”
“Did anyone go to her house, or did they have any emergency contact information, a partner, parent, sibling?”
“She’s living in a basement suite and yes, this Shane guy went by, but there was no one home, doors locked, blinds closed. The main house is vacant, a neighbour was shovelling the sidewalk but hadn’t seen her, didn’t know anything about her. No emergency contact, only child, mother deceased, no father in the picture, no significant other.”
“But we don’t know for sure it’s her ring, her finger? Or that she didn’t just take off, changed her mind about the job or the town?”
“No, but, it’s an unusual ring, apparently it was the mothers, been passed down through a few generations, and Ms. Jenkins doesn’t think Rose would have just taken off, she seemed to like the job, was reliable, really good with the customers and wanted to learn. We need to get into that apartment and look around, see if we can trace her movements, if she’s really missing. Baxter found the owner of the property and he’s meeting us there at 6.”
Glancing at the clock above the coffee machine and patting jacket pockets in a search for car keys, “let’s go, you can tell me why you looked so sick after speaking to your blue coat.”
“Sir, sir, this was left at the desk.” Baxter rushed to intercept them, holding out a plain white envelope, “it’s not really addressed to you but look,” pointing at what was written on the front, “I’m sure it’s for you, I mean…look.”
In tiny handwriting in place of a name and address were the words:
Five fingers one thumb
In the snow they were numb
All wrapped up so neat
Good enough to eat
A nose and some toes
But where are the clothes?
It wouldn’t be fair, if I didn’t share…
Can you make the next rhyming line Detective?
“Who left this? When?” turning the envelope over, checking the seal and slowly starting to pull it open.
“Stop! Don’t open it, it could be anything, poison, a bomb, we have to get this checked properly!”
“Well I don’t think it’s a bomb, smallest bomb ever, but yeah, let’s get it to the lab. Baxter, call that property guy and tell him to wait and grab me an evidence bag. Who else touched this?”
“I did, you did, and whoever left it, unless they were wearing gloves, and whoever wrote it, but they probably wore gloves,” shrugging and reaching over the front desk for an evidence bag.
“You didn’t see who left it?” pushing back through the lobby doors and heading to the stairs while trying to put the envelope into the evidence bag without further contamination.
“Nope, it was just there, about an hour ago, after you went to do those interviews. Just showed up on the desk.” The last statement shouted down the stairs at their backs.
After leaving the envelope at the lab with strict instructions to call as soon as it had been opened and the contents checked, they headed to the car.
“Okay, so, what’s the story, did your blue coat know anything?”
Twenty minutes later, both trying to banish images of a little girl and her dog in the snow snacking on a human finger.
“So the kid, Jessica? she’s challenged, special needs? I don’t know what the politically correct thing is, but she didn’t know it was a human finger?”
“Yeah, I’m not clear on what exactly but yeah. She thought it was a cake finger, the mother had made fingers out of sponge cake at Halloween, did nail polish with icing and even made edible rings, she showed me a photo and they looked real. When the dog found the finger, Jessica thought it was cake. The mother panicked, grabbed it off her with a Kleenex and shoved it in her pocket. When they were driving home she threw it out the window, she still doesn’t know why she didn’t take it to the station, she completely freaked out, brushed the kids teeth about a thousand times she said, and made the dog stay outside overnight.”
A deep sigh, and a shake of the head.
“It’s pure luck that it landed where it did, and that someone saw it and called it in. She explained exactly where they were walking and the crime scene team is heading out there, they’ll set up floodlights and a perimeter tonight and we can go out in the morning, they’ll probably still be there.
They drove in silence for a few blocks, the sun had set and the evening light was quickly fading. Clouds were forming in the north and snow was forecast to start at about midnight.
“Turn left here, it should be on the right, yeah, that must be the owner, doesn’t look very happy.”
An unshaven man, extremely thin, with dark hair, glasses and a threadbare overcoat was standing next to the front gate, impatiently tapping his foot and moving the gate back and forth, almost shaking it.
“I’ve been waiting 45 minutes, it’s freezing out here.” His voice was high-pitched and with a very slight lisp noticeable on the ‘s’.
They exchanged glances over the top of the car – doesn’t he have a key, couldn’t he have gone inside?
“Mr. Franklin, thank you for waiting, we appreciate your patience, if you can just unlock the door please, to the suite and the main level. Actually, I can just take the keys, we’ll get them back to you as soon as possible. Thanks again for waiting. Good night.” Spoken quickly, firmly and with an air of unquestionable authority.
Taking the keys and striding up the path to the front door, quickly unlocking it, stepping into the house and closing the door to the flustered sounds of Mr. Franklin. To the right was a living room and on the left a set of stairs leading up, presumably to bedrooms. Directly ahead the hallway led to a kitchen.
“Well that was pretty forceful, ole Frankie didn’t stand a chance. Pass me the suite keys and I’ll check it out. Why do you want to look at the main level? She lived downstairs, this place is empty, and cold, and kinda dirty.”
“I don’t know, I just have a feeling we should look around,” handing over the second set of keys “is that your phone buzzing?”
“I turned off the ringer when I was talking to the plant lady,” looking at the phone screen, “lab. Hello… hey… yep. Can you say that again? How many? Yep…” walking in progressively larger circles in the living room, through to the kitchen and back down the main hallway to the front door, pausing to try the knob on a small door under the stairs, “okay, yeah, we’ll be back, maybe an hour. Thanks, thanks…okay.”
“That was the lab, they’ve opened the envelope, no bomb, no poison but you might wish there had of been,” slipping the phone back into a pocket “any guesses?”
They looked at each other, both thinking about the poem on the front of the envelope.
“No guesses. It’s hair,” reciting the last lines of the poem “- But where are the clothes? It wouldn’t be fair, if I didn’t share – so what’s the next line…it must be something to do with hair.”
“It’s hair, and teeth. Five teeth, all from different people. They’ve started the DNA comparisons to see if any of the teeth or hair matches the hands or the finger,” a pause, “but if five teeth equals five victims, that would mean there’s still one we haven’t found.”
Standing in a cold empty house a feeling of despair swept over them. The certainty that this was only going to get worse.
“Somewhere out there is another body or body part.”
To be continued.