The Body in the Pool
Book One of the Dismember Killer Series
Chapter Thirty Four
When he finished requesting the warrant and calling for it to be expedited, he asked, “Where’s Barnes?”
“The DIY company. They wouldn’t give a copy of the purchase receipt over the phone so he drove down to the local.”
“They invoke client confidentiality?”
“Jackasses. We hear back on the bookmytrip.com information yet?”
“That one we got. One way ticket to the Cayman Islands for Arlene Paulson.”
“One way? Damn. What’s the ticket date?”
“Friday, this Friday.”
“We cannot get a break with this woman.”
“Here’s what I’m wondering. Did she book this ticket as part of her plan to kill her husband and inherit a cool 15 mil or was she planning to get gone before he left her for his mistress?”
“It might be a lot more than 15 mil. Did you find those offshore banks yet? Find out how the accounts are set up?”
Melanie looked up from her sorting. “Oh shit. ALL that money.”
Melanie jumped up from the floor and dove into her desk chair to access email. Spence returned to the mess on Tom’s desk while he waited for yet another warrant.
Tess stopped by before Barnes was back. “I brought muffins this time.”
“The sarge let you up here, unescorted?”
“Yeah. He recognized me as your wife, I gave him a muffin.”
“What are you doing?”
“Looking for a report someone unwisely left on Tom’s desk. Or that’s how it started and then we kept finding little Easter eggs, things we didn’t know we needed, buried in all the mess. Now I’m sorting it all while I wait for a warrant.”
“Another warrant? You spend a lot of time waiting.”
“We spend 80 percent of our time waiting on something,” Melanie said. “You know the whole cops love donuts thing? It’s not the donuts you eat. It’s the donuts you sit on so your ass doesn’t fall asleep while waiting.”
Tess laughed. “How can I help?”
“Food always helps,” Melanie replied.
“Have a seat at Tom’s desk and help me organize all this,” Spence countered.
“Sure, honey.” Tess rolled a chair around the piles Spence created on the floor. “All these reports look the same. How do I know which is which?”
Spence and Melanie spluttered into laughter. “We’ve been saying that for years,” Spence emphasized the word years.
“It’s very inefficient,” Tess complained.
They were still sorting and grousing when Barnes returned.
“Three hours to get a copy of a purchase receipt. Three. Ask me how many DIY employees I had to speak to, ask me.”
“Maybe you should have asked if you could do it yourself?” suggested Tess with a wink.
“Now the team mascot is a wise ass?”
“She bakes, let it slide,” advised Melanie.
Barnes’ eyes hit on the plate of muffins. He bobbed his head left and right and then took one. “Anyway, here it is.”
Spence picked up the copy of the receipt. “The day of the murder Mrs. Paulson bought a wheelbarrow, an electric hand sander, three bags of potting soil, and a fern.”
Tess leaned over Spence’s shoulder. “A fern? Who buys a fern in the Pacific Northwest. They’re everywhere.”
“A full sized fern, too.” Melanie added markedly, viewing the paper from over Spence’s other shoulder.
“A fern?” asked Barnes. “That’s what got your attention?”
Melanie rushed back to her desk. “Digital copies of the search photographs already hit my inbox this morning. I looked at them briefly. I think I remember…” Melanie trailed off as she scrolled through hundreds of thumbnails. “Here.”
In a wide angle lens shot of the backyard was a wheelbarrow being used as a planter.
“That wheelbarrow is visibly old and distressed,” Spence noted.
“That’s what the sander was for.” Melanie and Tess said at the same time, their voices overlapping.
“Jinx, you owe me a soda,” Tess finished with a laugh.
No one spoke for a moment.
“That could be how she moved his body. In the wheelbarrow. Then sand down the evidence, fill it with dirt, and hide it in plain sight. Damn that’s good.” Spence shook his head with a cross of admiration and disgust.
“It’s a good theory and probably right. Leaves us with nothing,” Barnes crabbed.
“Couldn’t we find evidence in the wheelbarrow?” Tess asked.
Spence shook his head. “We have no probable to get another warrant. Buying something isn’t illegal. And even if we could get the wheelbarrow, it’s in the victim’s home. Any minor DNA or blood trace could be explained away.”
“Well, what are we going to do then?” Tess asked sounding exasperated.
Spence shrugged. “I don’t know. She didn’t leave us a lot of options. It’s not the perfect murder because she left enough clues for us to investigate her. She didn’t manage to convince us it was the Dismember Killer. It’s close to perfect. We may not be able to get enough on her to charge her.”
“Are you saying she might get away with murder?”
“She might,” Spence sighed.
“Does this happen to you a lot, honey?”
Spence shrugged. “More than any detective likes to admit.”
“Spence is being humble. He has a better solve rate than most,” added Barnes.
Tess reached out to rub Spence’s shoulder. “Maybe your mojo is off because you’re missing your work wife.”
The detectives laughed.
“No, really. Like you two,” Tess pointed to Melanie and Barnes. “You have this whole mind meld, sharing a wavelength, symbiosis going on.”
Melanie raised an eyebrow at Barnes. “He knows what I’m thinking better than my husband does.”
Barnes added, “Why talk when you don’t need to?”
“Do you think that’s normal then for partners on the job to know each other better than their spouses?”
Spence was shaking his head vehemently at her.
“Maybe,” Melanie said.
Tess was silent for a moment. Spence cringed. Pregnancy hormone arguement number two for the day approaching like a freight train.
Tess turned to Spence. “You must be devastated without Tom.”
Melanie looked back to her computer.
Barnes cleared his throat.
“Was that don’t talk about the elephant in the room?” asked Tess.
Barnes gave Tess a long look.
“Right? That’s what you were thinking.”
Tess grinned. “I’m getting the hang of this. If you’re waiting on a warrant, why don’t you go talk to him, honey? Mull over the case instead of breakfast this time.”
Melanie inhaled sharply.
Barnes turned back to his computer. “I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Are you not allowed to see him?”
“Not while he’s under investigation,” answered Spence.
“It’s okay, you didn’t know.”
“If you have a winning team, and you’re in a tight spot, doesn’t it make sense to use all your best players?”
Spence kissed his wife on the forehead.
“I’ll get back to sorting then?”
Spence’s computer made a sound like a petulant duck. “That’s our warrant.”
“I found your report.” Tess held up a thick stack of pages.
“We’ll take it to go.” Spence kissed Tess, grabbed the report, his coat, and rushed out the door.
“Thanks, Tess.” Melanie hustled a step behind him.
Barnes negotiated his way through the stacks of paper carefully on the way to the door. “Go home. Rest. Leave the mess. And the muffins.”