Home > Lake Silence (The Others #6)(3)

Lake Silence (The Others #6)(3)
Author: Anne Bishop

“Are you the lady who called about a suspicious death?” he asked, approaching warily.

He was a big man and had a big voice. Not that he was yelling at me or anything, but it was the kind of voice that could hammer a person—the kind of voice that, when used with a threatening tone, could trigger a panic attack.

He stopped and studied the claw marks on a tree—marks that were high enough that I hadn’t noticed them because they weren’t in my usual line of sight.

Something to think about on a hot summer night when I’m trying to convince myself that it’s safe to leave the windows open to get some air. Safe from thieves maybe, since I have nothing to steal. Safe from the mysterious Clawman?

I’d read somewhere that an ordinary bear could hook its claws in a car door and rip the door off the hinges in order to get to the snacks someone foolishly left inside. Odds were good that whatever prowled around in The Jumble’s woods didn’t qualify as ordinary, although, to be fair, Aggie was the only terra indigene I had seen—“seen” being the qualifying word. If one of the crows hanging around The Jumble was Crowgard, how many others were more than they seemed?

“My lodger found a body near the farm track that is the boundary between my property and the Milfords’ orchards,” I replied, trying for matter-of-fact helpful. I held out the bowl. “Here. This is evidence.”

He took the bowl, lifted the saucer, and stared at the eyeball. At least, I assumed he stared at the eyeball. Since he was wearing those mirrored sunglasses, he could have been staring at me—and it suddenly occurred to me that if he asked to look in my refrigerator, I had no idea what he might find.

“Wait there.” He walked back to his car and opened the trunk. He returned in a minute without the eyeball. It didn’t look like he was going to return my bowl and saucer either. “I’ll need to speak to your lodger.”

“She’s a little shy about talking to the police.”

He removed the sunglasses. The look in his blue-gray eyes said my lodger better get un-shy in a hurry. Or maybe I was projecting from past experience with men. Man. The one who used to leave me feeling that something was my fault even when I couldn’t have controlled someone else’s actions or thoughts or opinions.

“Did she tell you the location? Can you show me the alleged body?”

I had just given him an eyeball. How alleged could the body be? “I—”

“Caw.”

I looked at the crow—or Crow—perched in a tree a couple of yards down one of the bridle paths, of which The Jumble has many.

“Yes, I can.” I set off down the path and hoped really hard that I was following Aggie and not someone else.

The second time I tripped and would have landed face-first in the dirt if the officer hadn’t grabbed my arm and kept me upright, he grumbled, “You might do better watching where you’re walking than looking at the trees.”

Sound advice. I wished I could take it, but I didn’t want to explain that our guide was in the trees, because that would require explaining the nature of our guide.

“Stop,” he said after we had been walking awhile. It felt like forever, and since I hadn’t gone back inside the house to get my wristwatch before we headed out, time was measured by how it felt. “Do you have any idea where you’re going?”

“Of course I do, Officer . . .” I realized he hadn’t told me his name. Maybe that wasn’t required?

“Grimshaw.”

“Really?” So not the correct response, especially from someone named Vicki DeVine. “The Milfords’ place is the land between The Jumble and the road that leads to Sproing. The body was found near the farm track between the Milfords’ land and mine.”

“So we should be heading east?”

I was about to agree but the affirmative words stuck in my throat. Were we supposed to be heading east? Was this a trick question? Couldn’t be heading west. The lake was to the west of the main house—could, in fact, be seen from the back of the main house. But that left two other directions unaccounted for.

“Ms. DeVine?” Officer Grimshaw was not a happy camper.

“Um . . .”

“Caw.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “This way.”

Suddenly there were three crows on the same branch, making me think of the shell game where you have to figure out which shell is hiding the pea.

Three black birds were sitting in a tree. Which one was A-G-G-I-E?

“Caw.”

Only one took off, so I followed, hoping it was a Crow, and Officer Grimshaw followed me. Big mistake. I probably should have admitted to being geographically challenged before I led him into the woods.

“Caw!”

Open ground. Daylight. The dirt road, aka the farm track. And the body.

“Ew.” That wasn’t a professional response, but I wasn’t a professional and I sincerely hoped I never met this man again. Either man.

“Stay there,” Grimshaw said as he moved closer to the body.

Like I was going to get closer when my knees already felt rubbery and my stomach felt swoopy.

“This body has been disturbed.”

“I’d be disturbed too if I was suddenly dead,” I replied.

He twisted around enough to look at me and must have decided I wasn’t trying to be a smart-ass; I just wasn’t quite in control of what I was saying anymore. Since I had dealt with the eyeball pretty well, the only explanation was that my brain had decided that, with someone else here to handle the problem, it no longer had to be fully functional during this stage of the crisis and could enjoy a mini anxiety attack.

“Not a lot of predation,” Grimshaw said, studying the body. “I don’t think he’s been here long.”

“Aggie said his eyeball was squooshy. That’s why she wanted to warm it up in the wave-cooker. Wouldn’t it take a while for the eyeball to get squooshy?”

I watched him put his sunglasses back on before he turned to face me.

“Aggie is your lodger?” Arctic Voice.

I nodded, glad I couldn’t see his eyes because my insides were quivering as I braced for Arctic Voice to become Hammer Voice.

“I really need to talk to her.”

My quivering insides translated his Officially Polite Voice as more encouraging than scary, so I pointed at the branch above me. “Go ahead.”

His head moved, so I assumed he was looking up. Then, as he turned away, I heard him say, “Crap.” It wasn’t so much spoken as a breath shaped into sound.

Aggie lifted her wings in what might have been an apologetic shrug and let out a timid caw.

Grimshaw pulled out his mobile phone and made a call. The next couple of minutes sounded like a TV show with all the “officer needs assistance” and requests for the medical examiner and transport of the remains.

He hadn’t gotten very far into explaining the situation when seven birds winged toward the body. They landed close and moved closer, despite Grimshaw waving an arm to keep them away.

“Friends of yours?” I asked, looking up at Aggie.

“Caw.”

“Officer . . .”

“I heard.”

Yeah. Regular crows would have been enough of a problem if you wanted to avoid having more body bits and pieces being taken away for someone’s dinner. But dealing with the Crowgard? That made this a potential PR fiasco for the police department—and every other human service that could be affected by the terra indigene’s taking exception to someone keeping them away from the buffet.

Or was it the body that was so intriguing? I saw a glint of gold. A wristwatch. It looked like someone had been trying to pull it off and had been interrupted. By our arrival?

“I have to stay with the body until the Crime Investigation Unit gets here,” Grimshaw said. “Can you find your way back to the house?”

“Sure.”

“Can you find your way back?”

Could we call that a no-confidence vote for the geographically challenged?

“Caw.” At least Aggie was confident of getting us back to the main house.

So there, Officer Smarty-Pants.

I headed back up the path, fairly sure that I could get out of sight before getting lost.

   
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