The Monster of Silver Creek
by Belinda G. Buchanan
Nathan Sommers stared grimly at the photo of a young woman. Her body lay sprawled in the mud with her hands bound behind her. After a moment, his eyes moved on to the coroner’s report.
“What is it, Norma?”
Her face was serious. “We’ve got another one.”
He kicked his chair back and got to his feet. “Where?”
“Graves Landing, near the point.”
He hurried past her and out of the station.
Scrambling into his truck, he took off down Main Street with his lights flashing. He made a right and drove parallel with the lake for about a mile before turning down a narrow road. His stomach began to churn as he neared the point at Graves Landing.
There were several cars parked on either side—none of which, he noticed, were emergency response vehicles. Spotting his deputy’s truck, he pulled off behind it and began the slow descent down the steep embankment.
“Jack,” he said, ducking under the yellow tape. “Who found her?”
“A couple of hikers,” he answered, leading him over to the body. “They were walking along the trail when they spotted her. I’ve taken their statement already.”
Nathan took the pair of latex gloves he was holding out to him and solemnly knelt in front of the victim. Her long brown hair was matted in mud and leaves as she lay partially submerged in the silt. Dressed in navy shorts and a blood-stained tank top, her flawlessly tanned skin was in the process of turning a pale shade of gray. He saw the familiar marks on the left side of her chest just above the lining of her shirt. Her eyes were open and frozen in horror, revealing the absolute fear she had felt during the final moments of her life.
“Are you ready, Chief?” asked Jack, kneeling on the other side of her.
Nathan gave a short nod, noting that his deputy’s complexion was nearly the same color as the girl’s.
Leaning over, Jack slowly pulled the silver duct tape from her mouth, exposing her lips, which were parted and blue.
Nathan swallowed hard as he slipped his fingers inside her mouth. After a moment, they closed around a small solid object. He slowly pulled it out and turned the stone over in his palm. The number four was smeared on it.
“Go ahead and bag it,” he said, handing it to his deputy. “Is she a local?”
“Don’t know,” Jack answered, taking the stone from him. “She didn’t have any I.D. on her.”
As Nathan shifted his weight to his other foot, he caught sight of something shiny reflecting in the girl’s hair. A closer look revealed it to be a gold necklace. The clasp was intact, but the delicate chain attached to it had been broken in half. Picking it up, he studied the charm that dangled from its end.
“It’s the Star of David,” Jack said quietly.
Nathan handed it to him to bag and stood up. “Is the coroner on his way?”
“No, he’s got two women in the final stages of labor. His office said he would be over here as soon as he could.”
Nathan stripped off his gloves and surveyed the scene. The body was partially hidden in some loose brush near the edge of the walking trail. This part of the path was more secluded, and normally didn’t see a lot of traffic. To the right of the trail was the lake, which ran parallel with it for two miles, all the way around the point, before ending at the cabins. The other side contained nothing but a steep slope that led up to the road.
Jack pointed at the footprints along the ground. “Those are from our hikers.”
Nathan looked at the impressions. Two sets of prints strayed off the trail and came close to the body.
A burst of static sounded. “Collins, do you read?”
Jack grabbed the radio mic on his epaulet. “Go ahead.”
“We’ve got a boating accident over at the north side by the old ramp. No injuries reported.”
“I’ll take it,” Nathan said.
“10-4, Norma. The chief is responding.”
As he turned to go, he noticed that a rather large crowd of onlookers had gathered at the top of the embankment. Nathan studied their faces one by one for a moment. “Bag anything that looks suspicious.”
Collins nodded as he snapped a picture of the victim. “I’ll show her photo around. See if anyone recognizes her.”
As Nathan began making his way up the slope, he was inundated with questions.
“What happened to her, Chief?”
“Can’t say,” he replied curtly.
“I heard she’s got the marks on her just like the others. Is that right?”
“Are they fang marks?”
“Who was she?”
The crowd continued to badger him as he climbed into the seat of his truck and reached to close the door.
Mac Hodges suddenly appeared. “What do you think, Chief?” he said, holding on to the door. “Is it just like the others?”
Nathan clenched his jaw. Mac’s breath smelled of cigarettes and coffee, which together gave off an aroma of cow manure.
“Is that number four?”
“Can’t say.” Nathan jerked the door shut and headed down the road to where the accident was.
Nathan stood near the water’s edge talking to the driver of the jet ski. “Have you been drinking any alcohol today, sir?”
The guy squinted up at him as he shook his head. “No, sir.”
“No?” Nathan turned behind him and looked up the boat ramp. The handlebars of a jet ski lay on the ground beneath a giant elm tree. The rest of the craft sat lodged in its branches ten feet up.
He folded his arms across his tattoo-covered chest and shrugged. “I just wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“Hey! What the hell have you done to my jet ski?”
Nathan glanced to his right and saw Sam Bryant heading towards them.
Bryant got right in the boy’s face and tapped him on the chest. “What the hell happened?”
“Hey, man! Back off!” he said, putting his hands out to his sides.
Nathan stepped between them. “All right, Sam. Let’s just calm down.”
“It’s the same damn thing every year, Chief. These jerks come here from up north and think that they own the freakin’ lake!”
“Why don’t you stop renting to them, then?” he asked pointedly.
The scowl on Bryant’s face was quickly replaced with a sheepish grin, reminding Nathan of a Cheshire cat.
“Do you know how much money an hour I make for these things?”
Nathan’s mouth twitched. “File a claim. You can pick up a copy of the accident report later in the week.”
“All right,” Bryant said, letting out an exasperated sigh.
Nathan took the driver by his arm. “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“I’m going to need you to take a Breathalyzer test.”
He planted his feet and pulled back. “Come on, man! How about if I pay for the jet ski, instead?”
Nathan shook his head as he led him up the algae-covered boat ramp. “Sorry.”
“How am I supposed to get that thing out of the tree?”
He looked over his shoulder. “Beats me.”
“You’re not much help, you know.”
“I’ve gotta go, Sam. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Yeah, I heard about the girl. Is she another victim?”
Nathan kept walking, pretending he hadn’t heard him.
Nathan hurried up the steps to the police station and through the door. The reading from the Breathalyzer had shown that the driver of the jet ski was not legally drunk, but it was enough to place him under arrest.
“Oh, Chief, I’m glad you’re back,” Norma said, following him into his office.
He turned slightly. Norma was a rather large woman but made absolutely no sound when she walked. She always just seemed to appear behind him like an apparition.
She had several slips of paper in her hands. “Beadie Johnson swears there’s a peeping Tom outside her house and wants you to come by.”
He unclipped his Glock from his belt and put it in the top drawer of his desk as he listened to her go on.
“There’s a lady that called and said her neighbor’s dog killed her cat. And the traffic light is out on Harmony and Fifth.” Her plump face smiled sweetly at him as she handed him the messages.
He leaned back in his chair for a moment. “Where are our four-way stop signs?”
“Behind the building in the storage shed.”
“All right,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ll get the signs set up and then go see the cat lady. Tell Mrs. Johnson I’ll stop by later on today.”
Nathan double-checked the address Norma had given him. It was for the old Anderson house which he knew had been vacant for the past year. He started to radio her but as he pulled into the driveway, he noticed that the garage door was raised and had several cardboard boxes sitting inside it.
Glancing to his right, he could see a young woman standing on the front porch wiping her eyes, while an older man waited on the lawn a few feet away.
A German shepherd, tethered on a leash, began to furiously wag its tail as Nathan made his way over.
Upon seeing him, the man scrambled to meet him halfway. “Chief? My name’s Nick Donaldson.”
It was obvious to Nathan that he wanted to tell his side of the story first. “Wait just a minute, okay?” he said, holding up his hand.
Mr. Donaldson hesitated for a moment, and then reluctantly stepped aside.
Nathan turned his attention to the woman. “Ma’am? I’m Chief Sommers.”
“Katie Winstead,” she answered tearfully.
He couldn’t help noticing how pretty she was, even though her face was streaked with tears. “Can you tell me what happened?” he asked, taking out his notepad.
“Yes,” she said quietly. “That man’s dog killed my cat for absolutely no reason! He just attacked her and shook her like a rag doll!”
Nathan stopped writing and looked up as her voice suddenly changed into that of a billowing dragon.
“He should be put down for what he did!” she continued.
Nathan noticed the light blue towel lying on the porch just behind her feet. A red stain seeped through the top of it. Stepping forward, he knelt down to take a look. A small yellow paw fell out from underneath it as he lifted the cover.
This sent the woman into a spasm of sobs.
Mr. Donaldson tapped him on his shoulder. “Chief Sommers?”
He let the towel drop back on the cat and stood up.
“I’ve already explained to this lady that it was an accident. Bo didn’t know any better. I mean he’s a dog. It was a cat. That’s what they do.” He looked helplessly at Nathan. “Bo has always come over here to do his business, because you know,” he said, shrugging, “no one has lived here for a while. When she moved in the other day, I didn’t know she had a cat.”
Nathan studied the dog for a moment. Bo was sitting beside his master’s leg with his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth. He seemed to be quite pleased with himself.
He gave Donaldson a nod. “From now on, keep him on your own property unless he’s on a leash, all right?”
“Yes, sir.” He turned towards his neighbor and gave her a humble look. “Miss, I’m really, really sorry. I hope you can forgive me and my dog.”
She glared at him to such a degree that Nathan felt the man was going to burst into flames any second now.
“Come on, boy.” Mr. Donaldson led the dog across the lawn and around to his own backyard.
The woman abruptly shifted her gaze to Nathan. “You’re not going to do anything about what that monster did to my cat?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head, “but it was an accident.” And quite frankly, he had bigger monsters at the moment to concern himself with.
Her cheeks darkened as something that resembled lightning shot out of her eyes. “Well, that’s just great!”
Nathan gestured at the towel. “Would you like me to take the cat away for you?”
His words were met with an icy silence.
“If you want, I can bury him for you—”
She turned on her heel and went through the front door, slamming it behind her.
“Or not,” he said with a sigh.
Nathan wiped the sweat from his forehead as he walked up the steps to the station house. They were just barely into June and the temperatures had already climbed into the nineties.
Norma was waiting for him as he came through the door. “Collins radioed in and said they found the victim’s purse. Her name’s Missy Rosenberg. She lives over in Wibaux County.”
“Did you get hold of her family?”
She nodded and handed him a slip of paper. “Her mother’s on her way over.”
Shit. Nathan crumpled the paper between his fingers. “Where’s the body now?”
“The morgue, why—”
“Go ahead and arrange for Harry to do the autopsy now.”
“But you know he won’t do it unless the next of kin has been notified first.”
He shook his head impatiently. “Norma, I need you to do this for me right now. Before the mother comes. Understand?”
Norma’s pencil-drawn eyebrows crinkled up as she looked at him. She liked Nathan, but didn’t like the fact that sometimes he avoided protocol. “All right,” she said after a moment.
“Thank you,” he said softly. “Tell him I’m on my way over.”
Dr. Jensen leaned over Missy Rosenberg’s body, carefully examining the wounds on her chest.
Nathan stood in the far corner of the room, silently watching. The girl’s skin had turned a pasty green, and was now filleted like a fish. He crossed his arms and swallowed hard, trying to keep the gag from coming up.
The doctor gave him a curious glance. “Do you want to come closer to see?”
“No, I’m fine where I’m at.”
He seemed to be smiling through his mask as he put the callipers away. “Well, it looks to be the same cause of death as the other three. Whatever he used, punctured the aorta. She died within two minutes.”
“Any skin or hair under her fingernails?” Nathan asked, hoping against hope that the killer had made a mistake this time.
“No, she’s clean,” Jensen said, stripping off his gloves. “There was no evidence of forced intercourse either. The only other marks I found on her were where her wrists were bound.” He held up the plastic bag with the stone in it. “The writing on it is blood…I’m sure the test will confirm it’s the victim’s.”
“How soon will you have the results?”
Jensen tilted his head. “You know, Nathan, I do have live patients to attend to.”
Nathan sighed inwardly. Besides serving as Silver Creek’s coroner for the past twenty years, Jensen was also the town’s beloved obstetrician. The two jobs rarely interfered with one another, but when they did, he made it clear where his priorities lay. “I know you’re busy, Harry,” he said after a moment. “But this is really important.”
The doctor pushed his glasses up, letting them rest on top of his head. “I’ll put a rush on it.”
Nathan nodded in appreciation. Despite all his bellyaching, Jensen was extremely good at his job. “Any guess on what he used to kill her?”
“No, I’ve never seen anything like it. But I can tell you that he used a lot of force. It went right through her aorta, nearly severing it.”
A nurse in scrubs poked her head through the swinging door. “Excuse me. The victim’s mother is here to identify the body.”
Nathan suddenly cast his gaze upon the floor.
Dr. Jensen pursed his lips. “Give me two minutes, Jean.”
The nurse nodded and disappeared.
“Goddamn it, Nathan! You said you wouldn’t do that to me again!”
“I’m sorry, Harry, but she was Jewish. I was afraid her mother would’ve stood in the way. I’d rather beg for forgiveness.”
“Well, that’s just great for you,” he said, grabbing a sterile sheet, “but I’m always the one left holding the bag! This girl’s mother is coming in to see her daughter, and she’s lying here cut open and dressed like a deer!”
“I’m sorry,” he said, moving past him and out the door.
“I seriously doubt that,” Jensen grumbled.
Nathan made his way across the waiting room and stopped at the counter, which was vacated at the moment. As he waited for the nurse to return, he noticed a small woman with short brown hair sitting in one of the chairs that lined the wall. Her hands were clasped tightly together as she stared at the floor.
“Did you get everything you needed, Chief?”
The woman suddenly looked up, locking eyes with him.
He quickly shifted his attention to Jean, who was now standing behind the counter. “Yes, thanks.”
The woman watched him as he leaned over the desk and said something to the nurse in a low voice.
The nurse involuntarily glanced at her and then nodded.
Nathan made his way up the stairs and to the exit. Before his hands touched the door he could hear the woman’s wails.
“Need anything else, Chief?” the waitress asked, sliding his burger and fries in front of him.
“I’m good, thanks,” he answered loud enough to be heard over the chatter. Even though it was late in the afternoon, the small diner was packed.
“All right,” she said, leaving the bill face down on the counter.
Nathan glanced at the crowd around him. Most, if not all of them, were vacationers. From May through September people from all over flocked to Silver Creek. The town sat nestled right in the middle of Prairie County, and held the distinct title of being the largest lake in the tri-state area, boasting nearly three hundred miles of shoreline.
As he began salting his fries, he found himself wishing for October. He longed for the peace and quiet that the first frost always brought.
“Hey, Nathan,” Collins said as he took the stool next to him.
“Did you learn anything new from Jensen?”
“Nothing that we didn’t already know from the others.”
Jack rubbed his forehead and sighed. “I don’t like this, Nathan. This guy is killing people right under our—”
“I know,” he answered, cutting him off.
His deputy gave him a bewildered look.
Nathan gestured with his eyes. “There are too many ears here.”
Jack glanced around the room as if noticing the crowd of people for the very first time. “Sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Nathan said, feeling his frustration.
The waitress came over and pulled a pad from the front of her apron. “Hey, Jack. What can I get for you?”
“Same as the chief.”
“Sure thing,” she said, slipping her pen back over her ear. “Congratulations, by the way. I hear you and Cheryl are having a girl.”
He suddenly broke into a broad grin. “Yep.”
“I’ll get your order right out.”
Jack’s smile faded as quickly as it had come when he caught Nathan’s gaze.
“A girl, huh? That’s great, Jack.”
He gave him an awkward nod and looked away. “Yeah.”
The clinking of plates and glasses overtook the restaurant as an uneasy silence surrounded them.
Mrs. Rosenberg’s fingers trembled as she took the Styrofoam cup from Nathan.
He closed the door to the interrogation room, which also served as the employee break room, and sat down across from her. He placed his hands flat on the metal table and drew a deep breath. “Mrs. Rosenberg, I’m very sorry about your daughter.”
She gave him a nod, seemingly too distraught to speak at the moment.
A young woman, who had accompanied her to the station, reached over and squeezed her forearm. “I’m Missy’s friend, Tiffany,” she explained when she noticed him staring at her.
Nathan pulled a pen from his shirt pocket. “Can either of you tell me why Missy was in Silver Creek?”
Tiffany’s eyes immediately began to water. “Missy and I came up here two days ago. We were renting a cabin on the lake…” Her voice trailed off as the reality of the whole situation began to sink in.
“When was the last time you saw or spoke with her?”
“About three o’clock yesterday.”
“What were you doing?”
She gave him a slight shrug. “We were on the beach, just hanging around. Then I met this guy, and he asked me to go jet skiing with him.” Tears began to roll down her cheeks. “I didn’t want to leave her by herself, but Missy told me to go on. She said that she would meet me back at the cabin around six. We’d made plans to have dinner at The Sea Shack.”
“And did you?”
“No,” she replied, wiping her eyes. “When I got back to the cabin she wasn’t there. About an hour later, she texted me saying she’d met a guy and told me not to wait up for her.”
He made some notes on the legal pad in front of him before continuing. “Did you find that odd?”
“No,” she said definitively. “I was happy for her. She’d been so sad lately. I was glad that she’d met someone.”
“Why was she sad?”
“She had just broken up with her fiancé,” Mrs. Rosenberg spoke quietly.
Nathan looked over at her, having forgotten that she was in the room.
“Missy was completely devastated. I remember being happy when she told me she was coming here with Tiffany. I thought the sun might do her some good.”
He reached behind him for a box of tissues and placed it in front of her. “Did she say anything else to you about this guy she’d met?” he asked, directing his question at Tiffany. “Anything at all?”
“What did you do before going to the beach?”
“We slept in because—” She stopped and gave Missy’s mother an apologetic look. “We were both a little hung over. After we’d gotten ready, we went over to the boardwalk. We had some lunch, bought some souvenirs…stuff like that.”
“During the time you were together, did you ever see anybody watching you, or following you?”
“No, not that I was aware of,” she replied, seeming startled by his question. “I mean, the beach was full of people yesterday. Even if someone had been, I doubt if we would have noticed.”
He slid the pad over to her. “I need for you to write down the name and number of Missy’s fiancé. And I’ll need your keys to the cabin.”
Mrs. Rosenberg’s breath jerked out of her. “Chief Sommers?”
“Yes?” he said, forcing himself to look at her.
“When can we take my daughter’s body home? I want to bury her as soon as possible.”
“The coroner has signed off on the release form, so you can make the arrangements today, if you wish.”
She suddenly stood up and grabbed her purse.
Nathan pushed his chair back and got to his feet. “Ma’am, if there’s anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“I think you’ve done enough,” she said, giving him a cold look. “You’ve already seen to it that her body was desecrated.”
Nathan sat in his office staring at the contents of Missy’s purse. Everything lay spread out in front of him as he went over each of the items. Inside her billfold, he found two folded receipts. One was for an ATM withdrawal made yesterday morning at ten-thirty for fifty dollars. The other was for some merchandise purchased on the boardwalk. He counted the bills and saw that she had around thirty-five dollars left. It appeared that her credit cards were still intact.
He picked up her Blackberry and began scrolling through her pictures. The most recent one was of her standing on the beach near the water’s edge. The angle of the photo was slightly tilted, indicating to him that it was a selfie. This was the last photo taken of her before she died. The last footprint she had left upon this earth—yet it led to nowhere.
Grazing over the screen with his thumb, he quickly checked her outgoing calls. Over the past three days, she had phoned her mother twice, with the last call being made around eleven o’clock.
A further check of her voice mail revealed she had not received any recent messages, but she had sent a text to Tiffany around seven-thirty last night. It read, ‘T met a QT so dwu4me. M’.
“Good night, Chief,” Norma called to him.
“See you in the morning,” he said absently as he stared at the words. “Norma, wait.” He pushed his chair back and ran out of his office.
She stopped and looked at him expectantly.
“What does this mean?” He held the Blackberry up for her to see.
She fingered her reading glasses that hung from a chain around her neck and peered down at the small screen. Her nose crinkled as she squinted. “Met a cutie…don’t wait up for me.”
Nathan scratched the side of his head as he turned the phone back around.
“You know, Chief,” Norma said, arching an eyebrow, “you really need to get out more.”
It was well after nine by the time Nathan finally arrived home that evening. He laid his gun down on the table beside him and sat down wearily in the brown leather recliner. He let his head rest against the back of it and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the day. But Missy Rosenberg’s face, as well as the cries from her mother, still lingered in his mind, making it impossible to do so.
A bitter sigh fell from his lips as his eyes snapped open. During his years spent as a homicide detective, he’d always felt that it was his job to bring justice for the dead. Putting the killer behind bars gave him a sense of satisfaction that he was bringing closure to their loved ones.
Over the last few weeks, however, he’d slowly begun to realize just how wrong he was. For when darkness fell at the end of the day, those that had fallen prey to evil would still be dead…and their families would still be grieving for them.
He slowly sat forward and leaned over to untie his work boots. As he did, his wedding picture caught his eye, just like it had every night for the past two years. He kicked off his boots and picked up the silver frame.
He let his fingers trace over Jenny’s face, all the while wishing he could feel her skin. There were times that he could almost capture it. It was always there, but just out of his reach.
Nathan’s emotions began to churn, causing him to set the frame down. Wanting to avoid the impending tears, he quickly moved his attention to the case files in his lap.
One by one, he opened up the folders and laid them out meticulously on the coffee table in front of him. His eyes were immediately drawn to the first victim. Carol Fuqua was a bank teller who had worked right across the street from the station house. Well-known and well-liked, her death had sent shockwaves of terror across this close-knit community.
He began sifting through the photos that had been taken at the crime scene, hoping to find something that he’d missed. The images he’d come to know by heart reflected back at him, yet revealed nothing new. By the time he got to the last picture, his jaw had grown rigid. Carol’s hands had been bound behind her so tightly that the duct tape had left deep lacerations in her wrists.
No longer wishing to view them, he flipped the photos over and concentrated on reading through his notes. Her father had placed a frantic call to the police when she hadn’t come home from work the night of May eleventh. While a routine search had turned up nothing, the next afternoon Carol’s car had been found on a rural road near Graves Landing. The keys were still in the ignition, but they, along with the rest of the vehicle, had been wiped clean of fingerprints. Two days later, a fisherman had found her body in some tall brush by the water’s edge.
Nathan had spent the next few days interviewing everyone that knew Carol on a personal level, and even though they were all as shocked as he was to learn of her violent death, none of them seemed to know anything. The information her father had provided was vague. He thought she had a prepaid cell phone but a search of her car hadn’t turned one up.
He solemnly closed the file and rubbed the back of his neck before moving on to the next one. As the minutes ticked away, the frustration inside of him began to grow. Four women, all of them young and pretty, had been found murdered around the lake, but the similarities stopped after that. Carol was a local, while the others were from neighboring counties. Their hair types weren’t even the same.
The killer had left no fingerprints, no hairs, no fibers—no clues of any kind behind. And the murder weapon itself was just as perplexing. It caused two small wounds over the heart, sometimes rupturing the aorta, but always puncturing it. The openings were relatively small in diameter, and evenly spaced three inches apart.
He studied the photo of the stone that had been found inside the mouth of the third victim, a twenty-eight-year-old teacher from Wibaux County. Dr. Jensen confirmed that it had been placed there post-mortem. This was the same conclusion on all the women. The rocks were small, round, and smooth to the touch. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything unique about them as they could be found anywhere along the shoreline.
The minutes turned into hours for Nathan, and it was after midnight before he fell into bed. But even as darkness surrounded him, he found that his mind was still processing the cases, refusing to let him sleep. There were so many unanswered questions. Was the killer a local, or just passing through? Did he like to stand around and watch the police? Had he been watching them this morning?
He slipped his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling fan as it slowly turned above him. He wished that he had at least one piece of concrete evidence. Just something that would point him in the right direction.
After a moment, he turned over on his side and forced his eyes to close. His hand instinctively moved along the mattress in search of Jenny. She, of course, wasn’t there, nor would she ever be there again. His throat began to ache as her loss washed over him again for the thousandth time.
“Can I get you some coffee, Chief Sommers?” The mayor’s aide offered him a courteous smile as she showed him in.
“No, I’m good. Thanks, Erin.”
“He should be here momentarily,” she said, walking towards the door.
He couldn’t help noticing that her perfume lingered for far too long after she had gone. He checked his watch before letting his eyes wander around the mayor’s spacious office. Filled with expensive knick-knacks and handmade cherry furniture, it was no comparison to the prefabricated desks and folding tables that decorated the station house.
His feet sank into the plush carpeting as he walked over to one of the windows. Crystal Park sat directly across the street, giving him a bird’s-eye view. It was impressive, to say the least, and Nathan probably would have allowed himself to enjoy it if not for the fact that four girls had been murdered in the city he’d been sworn to protect. Feeling his anxiousness returning, he moved away from the glass.
Several mounted fish, two of which had been caught at Silver Creek, adorned the walls. The mayor was an avid fisherman and Nathan had heard the stories of how he had landed each and every one several times over.
He shifted his gaze to the eight-foot blue marlin that hung behind his desk. It was the mayor’s pride and joy, and it was so big that it just barely fit between the windows. The cobalt blue on the fish’s back shimmered brightly against the warm beige paint of the walls. The mayor had caught it off the southern tip of Florida during a fishing expedition a few years ago. Nathan shook his head, realizing that he could almost recite the story by heart.
A large aerial portrait of the lake was fixed above the conference table on the far side of the room. It was an old photo, having been taken nearly forty years ago. Nathan had always liked the picture. It reflected the natural beauty the lake once held. There was only one road leading to it from the town, and the only objects surrounding it were the trees.
Today, the north side of the lake held over fifty cabins. More than twenty acres of forest had been eradicated in order to make room for them.
Silver Creek Lake had been upgraded in the late seventies, as this small, struggling town recognized the potential revenue it could bring. Countless tons of white sand had been brought in to make the shoreline. It wasn’t long before the town was on the map.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Nathan.”
He turned from the picture and nodded. “Good morning, Tom.”
The mayor looked at him and sighed before taking the seat behind his desk. “This is a hell of a way to kick off the summer.”
Nathan bit his tongue as he sat down across from him. When it came to his chief of police, the mayor was all business.
Tom Manning’s stern gaze went from him, to the photo that graced the top of his desk.
Nathan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Although he couldn’t see the picture, he knew it was of Jenny.
“I need an update on the situation.” Manning took off his glasses and began polishing them with the wide end of his necktie.
“The fourth victim was from Wibaux. The mother identified the body yesterday—”
“I don’t care about any of that,” he said, waving his hand as if the information was irrelevant. “Do you have any leads? Any clues?”
Nathan hesitated. “No.”
Manning stood up and marched over to the portrait of the lake. “These killings have to stop.” He tapped his index finger against the middle of the photo. “This is our bread and butter. We live for the summers. And the people deserve the right to come here and enjoy themselves without the risk of being murdered. I just came from a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and they told me that tourism is down nearly thirty percent for the season.”
Nathan got to his feet and went to stand on the other side of the picture. “I’ve got my men knocking on every cabin. We’re stopping every tourist and asking them if they’ve seen or heard anything.”
“What about the FBI? Are they coming?”
“They’re sending me a profiler. He’s supposed to be here today.”
Nathan folded his arms across his chest. “That’s all they’re willing to do at the moment.”
The muscle in Manning’s jaw twitched as he shook his head. “From now on, I want a daily update.”
Nathan stifled a sigh as he turned to leave. “Yes, sir.”
He stopped and looked over his shoulder.
“You know that this is an election year.”
Nathan nodded, surprised that it had taken him this long to remind him.
The mayor looked back at the photo. “We’ll both be out of a job if you don’t put an end to this soon.”
Nathan met Jack on the steps outside the station house. “Where are you headed?” he asked, stepping out of his way.
“I’ve got to get to court,” he called over his shoulder. “You know that Hemmings always rules against us if we’re late.”
Nathan pursed his lips. Judge Hemmings was a crotchety old fart who thought that the sun rose and set with him.
“By the way, that profiler from the FBI is here. I gave him the files and put him in the interrogation room.”
A slight sense of relief came over Nathan. Maybe now they would have something to go on. “Thanks.”
“I’ll see you later.”
As he watched Jack hurry down the sidewalk, he caught sight of someone faintly familiar coming towards him. It was the cat lady from yesterday. Unfortunately, she was too close for him to duck inside and pretend that he hadn’t seen her. As she drew near, he gave her an awkward nod. “Ma’am.”
“Chief Sommers,” she replied curtly.
He opened his mouth to say something else, but she had already gone past. He leaned against the rail and sighed as he watched her cross the street. Her tiny arms swung deliberately back and forth in a no-nonsense manner before disappearing inside the bakery.
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