Someone was dead. What had he missed?

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 52

The uniforms roped off the field. Stakes were placed in the reeds to mark the grid pattern they would be using to search the site. Access was restricted to a small path.

“We called for a helicopter so we can get some aerials,” the watch commander said. “Should be here in a few minutes.”

Stone watched his breath swirl in the wind. “What about bringing in some evidence techs from the Crime Lab?”

“You don’t think our guys can handle it?”

“I’d like Jenny Lee to help out.”

“It’s your baby. You want me to call?”

“Thanks.”

The blades of the helicopter whined as Air One, the state police helicopter, circled the site. Stone waited at the edge of the field while someone on the chopper shot aerials. By now, rush hour traffic on Willow Road was backed up for miles.

After Jenny arrived and gave the okay, they pulled the body out of the dumpster. The ME took vitals and started a visual inspection, recording his observations into a pocket recorder. By the time he got to the victim’s feet, his lips thinned to a grim line.

Stone eyeballed the body, a white male with silver hair. The red jacket looked expensive. The pants were navy Dockers, and the shoes Italian style loafers. Good leather. When the ME finished, Stone opened his evidence bag, pulled on a pair of latex gloves and went through the man’s pockets. Drawing out a billfold, he read the name on the driver’s license. He closed his eyes, then stood and peeled off the gloves.

“It’s Paul Landon. The architect for Feldman Development.

Stone, Jenny, and the ME met at the dumpster an hour later. Jenny wiped her face, shiny despite the November chill. She’d organized teams to search for weapons, imprints in the grass, blood drops, or anything that might tell them what happened.

“We think we found the path they used to drag the body over.” She pointed to a strip of the field that was now being roped off. “You can tell by the broken reeds. We also found some imprints on the ground. But they’re faint—not deep enough for a good impression.”

“Any tire tracks?”

“We got pictures, but this is a construction site, right?”

“Not yet.” Stone thought about the Feldman RV that had been parked here. “But there have been heavy vehicles around.”

Jenny shrugged.

“What kind of trace did you pick up?”

“Some red fibers. From his jacket, maybe. And some dark threads. It could be his pants. Or someone else’s. Don’t know yet.”

“That sounds good.”

“No. It’s not, Detective.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s what I didn’t find that’s the problem.”

Stone cocked his head.

“No weapon. No blood drops, no smears.”

“She’s right,” the ME interrupted. “It’s a remarkably clean corpse.”

“What are you saying?” Stone shoved his hands in his pockets.

“From his body temp and the rigor, I’d have to say he’s been dead at least eight hours, maybe more. But there are no contusions, wounds, or other obvious signs of trauma. “

“Cause of death?”

The ME raised his hands. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

The ME’s assistant bagged the body and loaded it into a van. He would take the body to the hospital for a formal pronouncement of death. Then he would head downtown to the morgue. “This is the third body we’ve found in the past few weeks with the same MO, Stone,” he said. “It’s sure looking like we have a serial killer.”

Stone told the uniforms to start canvassing the area. There were no private homes on this stretch of Willow Road, but an order of nuns lived in a convent around the corner. He dispatched officers there, as well as Kraft Foods. Then he called Chief of Police Phillips.

“You want to call Feldman, or should I?” Hank asked.

“I’ll do it,” Stone said. “May as well take the heat.”

“What, because of that dog?”

“Yeah.”

“You think it was some kind of warning?”

“Don’t you?”

“Monday morning quarterbacking will drive you crazy. You did more than you needed to. I’ll back you.”

“Thanks, Hank. I appreciate it.” He snapped off the phone, noticing that clouds had thickened the already dark sky. He made his way across the field, his head bowed against the wind. Ricki Feldman was probably right. The dog had been a warning, and now someone was dead. He had screwed up. What had he missed?

He punched in her office number but got her voice mail. He started to call up to Feldman’s Lake Forest home, but his cell trilled before he finished dialing.

“Stone, it’s Phillips. I’ve been on the phone with Glenbrook. I want you to meet me over there for a meeting.”

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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