The Body in the Pool
Book One of the Dismember Killer Series
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?”
“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?”
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.
“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.”