The Body in the Pool
Book One of the Dismember Killer Series
“Detective Harding, have you been waiting here the whole time?” Doctor Wallsgraf asked when he returned to his office.
Tom smiled. “I was admiring your interesting collections.”
The headmaster paused in his stride. “I see. Detective Thomas said you’d like to interview the guard.”
“That would certainly help. Was there only one guard on duty?”
“No. We employ five guards daily on three shifts. If you will follow me to the security office.”
The security office was two doors down the hall. The headmaster pushed open the partially closed door revealing two uniformed men. One young, extremely slight in build with what seemed like an entire boy scout mess kit on his belt. He was crumpled in a wooden chair squeezed into the corner, his elbows resting on his knees. The other man: older, craggy faced, and tending to roundness, sat in front of a bank of screens which displayed the contents of various cameras about the property. The room smelled of fast food, burgers and fries by the lingering ketchup scent.
“Detective Harding has a few questions for you,” the headmaster announced.
In case he was inclined to linger, Tom said, “Thank you, doctor. I’ll let you know if I need anything else. You’ll be in your office?”
The headmaster exhaled heavily. “Fine.”
The sound of a chuckle turned into a cough emanated from the older guard.
Tom suppressed a smile. Turning to the occupants of the room, he asked, “Who can tell me about the security policies here?”
The older guard nodded.
“And you are?”
“Mike Hunter. Been here about three years.”
“Go on then Mike.”
“Standard overlapping three by. One in the vid room on all three. One at the gate day and evening shift.”
“So there’s no one at the gate at night?”
“No reason for it. No one should be coming and going after hours, by the board’s decree.”
Tom nodded. “Board?”
“Board of Directors. They run the place although the good doctor will tell you otherwise,” Mike said with chortle.
“I handle the evening shift, interior, Sunday through Thursday.”
Taking a stab in the dark, Tom said, “Kind of rough during football season, eh? I would have thought with three years you’d have seniority.”
Mike nodded his head. “You’d think that, wouldn’t you.”
Tom waited. Mike clearly had practice with the waiting game. Neither spoke for two minutes.
The skinny guard finally broke the silence, “I’m Bobby. I work the night shift.” His voice cracked twice in the two short sentences.
Tom glanced at the boy scout. Run with him since he was willing to talk or establish dominance by reminding Bobby he was mid-interview with his coworker. Tom made eye contact with Mike who shrugged. There was a story there.
“Hi Bobby. I’m Detective Harding. Can you tell me about your night?”
Bobby nodded. “I got here at eleven, like I always do. Well, maybe I was a little late. I got distracted by my chem homework when I was supposed to be getting ready but I can’t have been more than five minutes late.”
Tom glanced at Mike as Bobby ran on at the mouth. Mike held up seven fingers.
“And it was super rainy on the 405 and people always drive badly when it rains, which makes no sense to me because it’s always raining here. I should have gone to school somewhere warm but I got a partial scholarship which meant less loans, Seattle seemed like a good choice, you know. But then I got depressed from all the rain and I almost flunked out, lost my scholarship, and had to take this job to afford school.”
Tom tamped down his mounting irritation. Fountains of information eventually distilled into facts worth writing down, eventually. The secret was to perfect your interested face. Tom nodded to back up his face.
“Like I said I was a few minutes late. I started my rounds as soon as I got here. Well, almost as soon. I mean, I dropped my lunch off in the office first. But then I went right out. Well okay I stopped at the bathroom, too. But that was kind of already on my rounds. Right, I mean, I’m supposed to check all unoccupied rooms.”
Tom bit his tongue to keep from laughing.
“Everything was fine. I had to ask room 412 to turn down their music. And a couple of boys from 319 were looking out the windows in the hall with binoculars. Bird watching they said. I sent them back to their room.”
Tom noted 319 and ‘bird watching’ in his notepad.
“I was getting to the main floor rooms, I always start at the top and work my way down, when I heard the girl scream. God, it was terrifying. She was loud and shrill and I got goose bumps everywhere. I ran outside and found the kids by the pool. The boy was holding the girl and I think trying to quiet her down. He seemed more concerned about getting caught outside after curfew than the b-b-b-body in the pool.” Bobby sobbed as he stuttered out the last.
Tom waited to see if Bobby would regain control of himself.
Mike cleared his throat. “Video came back up not long after that I guess. The first thing I saw the kids were hugging and Bobby there was puking in one of the potted plants.”
“Did you call the headmaster?”
“I did. Then I flipped through the cameras to see if anything else was amiss, then went out to the pool deck. Got there before the headmaster. Bobby was, well, like that,” Mike gestured to Bobby’s current state. “The girl was hysterical. The boy pretty quiet. The body floating in the pool.”
“Did you see anything on the cameras?”
“Would have said so if I did.”
Tom shot a look at Bobby. He was done for. Time to press Mike. “Why is the maintenance window common knowledge?”
Mike shrugged. “Not my call.”
“You have an opinion about it.” Tom prodded.
Mike sighed. “It’s important we maintain a predictable schedule for the comfort of the students.”
“Let me guess, the good doctor,” Tom asked.
Mike nodded. “He’s not much for accepting other people’s ideas.”
“Even when they have more experience?” Tom asked. “What did you do before this? Military? PD?”
Tom nodded. “What else should we know?”
“That’s a hell of a question.”
“I can tell you’ve been on the job. What do you think we need to know about the school? The headmaster? The security process? The students?”
Mike took a deep breath. “The headmaster is generally an ass. He’s been worried lately. Clear as glass. The gate out front is useless. We’re wooded on the other three sides, no fences. The kids are mostly your run of the mill teenagers with a few budding criminals.”
“Got it.” Tom noted the lack of fencing as a point to check out. How close were roads to the woods? Could someone have come through easily? With a dead body? Tom brought out his phone and showed Mike the picture of the victim. “Do you recognize him?”
Mike took a long look. “Can’t be sure. It looks a lot like one of the board members though.”
“One of the Academy’s Board Members?” Tom asked again.
Mike nodded. “They come in monthly for dinner meetings. Pretty sure I’ve seen that guy or someone who looks like him.”
Tom handed Mike a card. “Call me if you think of anything else.”