“If it was a black bear, all I need to do now is find the fireplace it’s lying in front of,” Dan joked. “What was the cause of death?”
“The more he struggled the tighter the rope got around his neck until finally he died of Asphyxiation.”
“With all those cuts?”
“They were superficial. There was only one that could have been fatal, but he was already dead when he sustained it.”
“Are you saying what I think you are saying?”
“Yeah, the person watched him struggle until he died and then stabbed him to make sure he was dead.”
“What kind of person does that to a fellow human being?”
“A very sick person,” Nancy said. She rolled her eyes as she approached the tray with instruments. “You should see some of the bodies I’ve worked on.” Nancy hesitated a moment as she turned back to Dan and added. “I sent some tissue samples down for DNA.”
Dan gave the body a once-over. He understood now why Charlie was so upset. He did not know how he would handle it if something like this every happened to Kelly.
“Not a pretty sight.”
“You’re right there. I’ll have the evidence to convict, all you have to do is find the bastard who did this.”
“What about the rope?” Dan inquired.
“You can buy it at any hardware store.”
“You seemed pretty interested in the knot. What about it?”
“The rope tied to the feet had what’s called a surgeon’s knot,” Nancy remarked and then hesitated. “For obvious reasons.”
“So our guy has a medical background?”
“Not necessarily. He could also be a Boy Scout.”
Dan looked at Nancy a moment and then glanced at his watch while Nancy reached for the scalpel. She was about to make an incision when Dan stepped closer to the table. Dan studied her for the longest time. There was something comfortable about talking with her that he hadn’t felt in a while.
“It’s Nancy, if you don’t mind.”
“I’ve got to go out to Senator Maxwell’s house.”
Nancy suddenly had a funny look on her face. She turned away from Dan and avoided his gaze.
“Why did you give me that look?” Dan asks.
“Come on,” Dan goaded. “What is it?”
Nancy shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
“I’m not playing games. I want to know. What is it?” Dan asked one more time.
“It was just that a few years back in Little Rock, his son was implicated in this case I was on.”
“Alan?” Dan appeared puzzled for a moment because he had not realized Alan was ever in trouble.
Nancy held up her hand. Dan stared at the scalpel in the other hand.
“Nothing came of it. I shouldn’t be repeating it.”
“I never heard anything about it.”
“Like I said, it was nothing.”
“What was the case?”
“I don’t even remember, it was so long ago,” Nancy said, as she shook her head. “He was cleared.”
“But something made you think about him.”
Nancy motioned with her hands for him to leave. “If you don’t mind, I have work to do.”
Dan studied Nancy a moment and then turned and walked out. He didn’t know her well enough to have her trust him yet. In time he would get that information out of her, but for now he would respect her desire not to divulge that case.
Once the door shut behind Dan, Nancy set the scalpel down and walked over to the phone. She punched in a few numbers and then waited.
“Carla, would you do me a favor. I worked on a case a few years back. Henderson was the name of the victim. Pull the file and fax me my report.” Nancy hesitated a moment while listening. “No, it’s nothing. I know they never solved the case. It’s just something came up and it made me think about that case now,” Nancy said as she glanced at the corpse. “Thanks.”
Nancy hung up the phone. She picked up the scalpel from the tray and walked over to the corpse. She had a lot of work to do yet, but knew in her heart she would find nothing more. It was like that with the Henderson case. It all led to a dead end.
The squad car pulled up to the large country ranch house surrounded by trees and outhouses and barns in the distance. Workers were hauling out carpet pieces from the main house. Dan got out of the squad. He hurried up the walk to the porch and rang the doorbell. A couple of workers carried out another piece of carpet.
“You tearing the house apart?” Dan asked.
One of the workers turned to Dan. “No, Sheriff, just the one room.”
Dan reached up and touched the carpet piece the men were carrying. “Looks like good carpeting.”
“The Senator got tired of the color.”
“Must be nice. I couldn’t tell you what color carpeting was in my living room, let alone whether I liked it or not.”
Dan appeared puzzled. He stood at the door and looked in. Maria Maxwell, the Senator’s third wife, walked out. She was a voluptuous-looking blonde in her late thirties. Definitely what one would call a trophy wife. Especially in the tight fitting black spandex slacks with the oversized sweater that hung over one shoulder. She appeared relieved to see Dan.
“Thank goodness it’s just you,” she smiled widely. It was then she saw the confused look on Dan’s face. “I thought more workers were here. I don’t know what to expect anymore.”
“Is the Senator in?” Dan asked.
Maria’s face turned serious. “Is something wrong?”
“I just need to discuss a few things with him,” Dan remarked, turning to the workers loading the carpet pieces in a truck. “You wouldn’t happen to know if Richie Ames worked yesterday?”
Maria took a deep breath while rolling her shoulders back, exposing her breasts in a way most men found appealing. But when she did not get the usual response from Dan, she dropped her shoulders and then shrugged.
“That was awful what happened.”
Maria’s mannerisms became guarded. “I wasn’t here yesterday. I was in Little Rock at a Daughters of the West dinner. I pulled in early this morning.”
Dan glanced around. “Doing some remodeling?”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into him. We just fixed things up the way he wanted them last year. Now he’s ripping everything out and starting over again.”
Maria stepped aside and motioned Dan to follow her. “I think he’s in the study. Follow me.”
Dan took off his hat and followed Maria in. Maria led Dan into the study. The room was large with knotty pine paneling and an oversized earth stone fireplace that filled one wall. Half the carpeting had already been ripped up. Dan turned to the Senator, who was sitting behind the big oak desk sucking on a large smelly stogie while overseeing the work being done. Senator Maxwell was in his late sixties, with a receding hairline and a potbelly that protruded over his belt.
The Senator stood up while extending his hand. “Why, Dan, what brings you out this way?” he said.
“The Ames boy.” Dan watched the Senator’s reaction for a moment.
Dan shook the Senator’s hand. His fingers were fat and clammy. If the Senator had not been watching, Dan would have wiped his hand on his pants leg to wipe away the sweat.
“Too bad about that. He was a nice kid. A little slow, but a hard worker.”
Maria cleared her throat. Dan had not realized she was still in the room. Maria seemed a little perturbed with Dan because she could not get a rise out of him like she could with the other men around the ranch.
“If you don’t mind, I have to change for a meeting in town,” she added before the men could continue.
“It’s the Senator I wanted to talk to anyway.”
Maria turned around sharply and walked out, going unnoticed by either man.