The Body in the Pool
Book One of the Dismember Killer Series
Spence and Tom drove carefully out of the city, observing the grueling traffic heading the opposite direction until they reached the tree-lined lanes of Shadow Brook. The morning sun was struggling to burn through fog at the higher altitude.
“Look at these houses, man. Can you imagine the mortgage on four or five thousand feet?” Tom stared out the window at the mansions set half an acre back from the road on plots that stretched five acres or more.
“Not only the mortgage I don’t want to think about. Can you imagine how long it takes to mow all that grass?”
Tom laughed. “These people have a yard service. A gardener maybe?”
“Why have land if you aren’t going to take care of it yourself?”
“I’m not Tess,” Tom said shortly.
“What’s that mean?” Spence replied, annoyed with the direction this discussion had taken.
“You’re rehashing the whole why have kids if you’re not going to raise them yourself question.”
“I wasn’t-” Spence stopped abruptly. “Yeah, sorry.”
“Between us, I agree with you man. Tess is a baker though, it’s not like she’d be going off to war if she goes back to work.”
“She lost all her clients with this bed rest thing. I don’t blame them, no choice, they had to get baked goods for their own businesses to succeed. She’d be starting over from scratch with a new baby.”
“I want her to be happy, I do.” Spence let out a frustrated sigh. “I don’t want our kid raised by strangers so Tess can be happy.”
“Is that it?” Tom asked.
“No, is that the house?” Tom gestured and Spence slowed the car.
The house in question was smaller than the average on the mountain, perhaps two thousand square feet on an acre. Spence made a slow U-turn and pulled into the circular drive.
He turned off the car and faced Tom. “On the count of three.”
“One, two, three.” Spence slammed out his fist. “Rock.”
Tom whipped out a flat palm to meet him. “Paper.”
“Crap.” Spence sighed. Loser, loser, tell the wife her husband is BBQ chicken dinner. He exited the car, straightened his coat, adjusted his cuffs, and checked his breath. Then decided he needed to pop a mint before heading up to the door. Tom followed behind him a step slower. Spence rang the bell taking in the pumpkins on the step left over from Halloween. These were no choppy eye hole and gaping tooth mouth deals. These were artful pumpkins: a delicately carved skeleton and an arched cat. The door opened immediately as though Mrs. Paulson was waiting inside the door for him to push the bell button.
“Yes?” She asked coolly.
“Mrs. Arlene Paulson?”
“I am Detective Spencer Thomas with the county sheriff’s office. This is my partner Tom Harding. We need to speak with you regarding your husband.”
“Please come in.” Mrs. Paulson opened the door wider and stepped back to allow the detectives into her home.
She gestured over to a formal seating area off the front entry. A small arrangement of furniture in front of the fireplace. Spence chose a very upright and firm chair. Tom stood in the background. With a calm demeanor she sat across from Spence on a settee. He gave a brief moment wondering how anyone found this chair comfortable and then set his face on his compassionate facade. “When was the last time you saw your husband, Mrs. Paulson?”
Spence though he caught a momentary flicker of something in the woman’s eyes before she smiled and replied, “Last night in bed of course.”
“What time was that?”
“I believe it was quite early. I want to say 8:30 or so.”
“He was gone when you woke up this morning?”
“He had an early meeting at the club, I believe, and then he went on to his office.”
“I see. You had no reason to be concerned, then?”
“Of course not, Detective. What is this all about?” A touch of irritation was beginning to creep into Mrs. Paulson’s tone of voice.
“We have reason to believe your husband did not make it to his meetings today. A body matching his description was found late last night.”
“Matching his description? That could be anyone.”
Spence was struck by her comment, Wallsgraf had said essentially the same thing. “The fingerprints match your husband, ma’am.”
Mrs. Paulson said nothing as large tears rolled down her cheeks. Spence was quiet, allowing her to process the shock to her system. She would have questions, they always had questions eventually. Mrs. Paulson brought her hand up to her mouth and focused her large eyes on Spence. Tears continued to roll out like a spring storm with the volume turned off.
“Are you sure it’s him?” Her voice quivered.
“Yes, ma’am. Fairly certain. We would appreciate it if you could come down to the office with us and make a formal identification.”
A small sob escaped her. “He’s not at the hospital?”
“No, he’s not at the hospital.”
There was a beat before she spoke. “Is Harold dead?”
He was drowned and had his penis cut off, that was certainly dead in Spence’s book. It would not be smart to say that to the widow. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Should I come with you now?”
“That would be preferable. Of course we can do this tomorrow if that would be easier on you.”
“No, no, I want to make sure please.” Her voice cracked on the word sure.
“Can I call a friend or family member to accompany you?”
For a moment Mrs. Paulson said nothing and then she replied, “I don’t know.”
Spence waited while she presumably thought about it.
“No, I think I would rather not have to explain this to anyone right now.”
That was an odd sentiment. Spence filed it away in the part of his mind that was always analyzing. “Shall we go? We can drive you.”
Mrs. Paulson nodded. “I need my coat and bag. I’ll be a minute.” She bustled from the room and Spence heard her feet on the stairs before he spoke to Tom. “You called the tears.”
“It’s an easy call to make.” Tom showed Spence his notebook. On the page were Chippendale, Oriental, and first editions. Spence nodded and looked around the front room identifying what Tom was referring to. Money.
When she returned Mrs. Paulson was wearing a full length chocolate brown fur coat. Spence wasn’t savvy enough to know what kind of animal died to provide this bit of luxury, he guessed it had cost a pretty penny though. As she locked the front door, Spence noted the Gucci bag on her arm. As he followed her down the steps to the his car, he noted the red bottoms of her shoes. Even without all the details Spence knew enough to estimate Mrs. Paulson was wearing clothing costing more than he made in a month. He wondered how the Paulson finances were doing and if Mr. Paulson was heavily insured.