Christine slid the sunglasses up along the bridge of her nose and over her forehead, settling them into her hairline. As she did she pulled the length of her loose chestnut curls from her face. There wasn’t much to see from her vantage point, but it didn’t stop the over-eager reporter from standing on the highest point of her toes and peering over the heads of the police milling about just beyond the bright yellow tape that blocked off the small hiking trail.
“Sheriff!” She called out as soon as she spotted the familiar mop of dark hair on the portly man, her hand shooting up into the air as she waved her notepad back and forth over her head. The man's hooded dark eyes looked towards her and she could practically hear the tired and exasperated sigh that he must have given the deputy standing beside him. There was a pause as he muttered something to the man before he turned towards her.
“What is it Miss Marshall? We’re a bit busy right now.” She had been right to assess the sound as tired, she decided. His voice was long and drawn out as if he’d not done much sleeping. Of course, that was to be expected, it was only seven in the morning now.
“What exactly is going on? Have you identified the woman?” Despite the tired drawl of the Sheriff, Christine greeted him with a bright grin and a lift of slender eyebrows. She’d always had an issue containing her excitement. While that might seem odd to so many others in this particular case, Christine had no shame whatsoever in that enthusiasm.
“Yes, we have.” There was a frown on his face, but it was the wounded look in his eye that had Christine’s own smile faltering.
“Who is it, Jimmy?”
“It’s Melanie Camp.” The name fell on her like a ton of bricks, and she could practically feel the eyes around her now focused on the pair of them. Her smile disappeared, pulling down at the corners as she shook her head.
“Melanie Camp? Oh my god.” Christine lifted her hand and brushed her fingertips along her lips, her eyes trailing away and towards the vehicle blocking the view of the body bag. “She’s just a baby….what happened?”
“We don’t know yet.” She wasn’t even taking notes as she should have. Instead, she was remembering the bright smile of an exuberant teenage girl who had been a prominent figure around their small town. “Look, Christine, I’ve got to finish up here. Come by the station later. We might have more…”
Christine nodded her head, but she didn’t get a verbal reply out as the body bag was lifted from the ground and hoisted onto a stretcher, causing the several people around her on the other side of the yellow tape to freeze in place. There hadn’t been a murder in Doewater Creek for more than thirty years. The worst thing that happened there was the occasional animal attack. The ominous way that the Sheriff had insisted they didn’t know what had happened, and the shocked murmuring now happening around her, set Christine’s stomach in twisted knots as she slowly lifted her camera from the sling around her neck and took several shots for the paper.
It wasn’t until she was securely fastened in her seatbelt, foot to the gas pedal, that the whole thing actually hit her. After pulling over to the side and emptying the contents of her stomach several times into the bushes, not to mention fielding worried questions by a neighbor or two who happened to be driving by, Chrstine managed to climb back into the car. Melanie Camp had always been a bright and happy girl, the idea that anyone would want to hurt her, much less actually kill her, was hard to believe.
“Please tell me an animal did that.” Jim Hawthorne could hear the almost pleading tone that lay under the more prominent exhausted one, but he already knew the answer. He knew the answer because this body, like the other three laying beside it, had the same markings, the same level of devastation.
“I wish I could, Sheriff, but you know I can’t.” The coroner’s solemn expression didn’t change or fade, instead, she only frowned and looked up from the gash she had been examining in the body’s torso. “Most of these wounds look like they came from some kind of…” She sighed, her eyebrows lifting upwards in an exasperated way. “..curved weapon? But it had to have been at least ten inches long, and very dull.” She paused and, using the end of the scalpel in her hand, touched the jagged edges of one of the wounds. “You see this? Just like the others, the skin was torn, it wasn’t sliced. If this was an animal…”
“Yeah.” Jim nodded his head and released a small sigh, brushing the palm of his hand down over the front of his face. It had been the same story for the other bodies, as well. He didn’t need her to finish the sentence because he could already hear the words in his head. If it had been an animal, that animal had to be extremely large. Not to mention that, after death, none of the victims appeared to be touched. Wild animals didn’t kill just for sport, they didn’t walk away just because their prey wasn’t breathing anymore.
“Thanks, Charlie.” He gave the woman a tired smile, and she nodded though she didn’t bother to look up from her inspection of the wound. He didn’t wait around, honestly, he didn’t want to see the next part. Forty years as sheriff of Doewater Creek had done nothing to prepare him for this, and he was at a complete loss of what to do next.
“Jimmy?” How many times the woman at the front desk must have said his name before catching his attention he wasn’t sure, but judging by her worried expression there was no way this had been the first. In an attempt to lay to rest any worries he offered a calm smile and lifted a set of thick bushy eyebrows.
“What is it, Janet?” He honestly forgot how small the building was sometimes. There never had been a need for a large station in Doewater, not with how small the population had always been. A handful of rookie cops, a secretary, and, most recently, a coroner who had had more work at the hospital than she had ever performed at the precinct.
“There’s….a man here to see you.” She seemed hesitant, like the whole appearance of the man had been odd, or awkward, and it caused one of his eyebrows to pull just slightly higher than the other as he turned his head. “I told him to wait in your office.”
“Alright, Janet, Thank you.” Jim slowly bobbed his head, looking back through the small station at the slightly ajar door to his office, before shaking his head and turning himself entirely to begin the slow lumbering movements in that direction. It was times like these when he really thought about how old he was. Seventy wasn’t what people would guess when they looked at him, he kept himself up for the most part, but the grayed beard that stubbled his chin, and the creaking of a joint when he paused outside of the door to the office would give it away easily in his opinion.
The man standing in the corner of his office was tall and slender. From the back all Jim could really see was the length of black coat he was wearing and the mop of well tended black hair that sat neatly trimmed along the back of the man's pale neck. However, as he turned towards him there were several other things that were hard not to take note of.
For instance “pale” was an understatement. He didn’t look healthy with the almost sickly white pallor that covered every inch of available skin, which wasn’t much since he was covered from head to toe in the fine lines of an expensive looking black suit. It was hard not to note the sharp angles of his face, how each line of his jaw and cheekbones seemed to sit tightly against the skin, or the piercing blue of his eyes as he brought them around to focus on him.
“What can I do you for mister…” The trailing off of Jim’s words were punctuated by a pull up of one of his thick eyebrows as he planted a hand casually on the gun belt hung low on his hips to avoid the beer gut that hung over it.
“I believe Agent would be the appropriate term.” The males voice was smooth and soft, and he spoke with an almost bored expression as his hands moved behind his back where they hooked long slender fingers around one another. “Agent Jones, to be specific. I’ve been told you have been having some rather unique problems in this little town of yours, Sheriff, and it seems you’re ill equipped to handle it.”
Jim frowned, a heavy look with heavy brows drawn downwards as he crossed the room and moved around the large desk on the other side of it. When he sat it was heavy, a drop from standing to seated that made the old wooden seat groan in protest of his weight suddenly slammed into it. For what it was worth it held its own, though the sound seemed to indicate it wouldn’t hold out forever.
“Agent…” Jim’s gravely tone made it perfectly clear how he felt about being interrupted by the FBI, and if that had not done it the glower that had overtaken his features sure would have. “Look, Agent Jones..” Placing a large amount of emphasis on the name itself he leaned forward, cupped his hands around one another, and settled them on the desk so that he could lean against the perch of his arms. “...I don’t know what, exactly, you’ve been told about the situation, or how you would even know about it to begin with, but I have this under complete control.” Clearing his throat, Jim pushed himself back in his seat, another soft groan of wood as he leaned it back and cupped his hands over the large expanse of his stomach instead, eyebrows lifting high. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have paperwork to deal with. You can see Deputy Jackson about any files you need to look over.”
There was a soft chuckle from the Agent’s throat, a look of amusement crossing an otherwise bored expression for a brief moment, before he pulled his hands from behind his back and tucked long fingers into the inside pocket of his suit jacket.
“Under control.” The repeated words were said in a dismissive manner, a thin white business card pulled from where he had been reaching. “Something tells me you don’t quite believe that, now do you Sheriff?” His steps were silent as he moved forward, extending his hand out and dropping the shining white card on the desk in front of him. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to go get settled into my rooms. When you see it, call me. You’ll be ready then.”
At the look of confusion that settled itself into place over Jim’s face, the Agent shook his head, smoothed both palms along his jacket, and turned to leave the office. The heavy clicking of the heels of his polished patent leather shoes announced his presence to the secretary before he even arrived, but he swept passed in a distracted manner, cell phone already pressed to his ear and a frown on his face.
“They have no idea.” He muttered into the phone, pausing by the open glass of the front door, his hand gripping the metal frame loosely. “They will soon.” There was a pause, and he sighed, an audible sound of frustration, eyes bouncing back to the overly curious expression on the secretary’s face, who quickly grabbed for a stack of papers and began shuffling them as if she’d been busy. “Send Nicolai. I’m not wasting my time on these backwoods people.”
About the author
I am a single mother of three! My largest passions is creating worlds within the written word. I'm so excited to begin sharing this love and passion with the world. Talk to me and follow me on Instagram @thatchickcharliesl !