Setting: Rev. Maude Henderson’s front lawn after a wedding reception.
Two police officers assisting in homicide
Ralph – Maude’s fiancé
Andrew – local youth – likes to be in on any action in towns
Cary – Andrew’s friend
Trevor – Maude’s collage age son
April – Ralph’s collage age daughter
Juan Ramirez – security agent for a wedding guest
Agent Peter – supervisor of security staff
Agent M’Tew –
Mandy – Maude’s cousin who lives with her.
Andrew and Cary were the first to carry chairs to the front lawn where they fussed over the table and chairs and generally loitered. We were set up to be hospitable by the time Ralph and the officer returned.
The investigator made noises about wanting to talk to anybody who might have information, so we made a fairly large group including Jake’s security, a couple from my church, Andrew and Cary, Trevor, April, Ralph, and me. The first question threw me off base. “Why, do you insist on us sitting here rather than inside or where we can see the lake?”
April laughed then explained. “We just had a wedding reception with close to two hundred people here.”
Trevor added, “Safety issue. She might have an insurance problem if you tripped over an electrical chord. We had everything secure, but it’s all torn up while we clean up.”
I reminded the officers, “You wanted to talk to us about the incident last night.”
“Yes, the neighbors insist that the young woman must be one of your guests. If you had as many as she said,” he nodded toward April, “it’s likely you wouldn’t know if someone came up missing. Can you take a look at these pictures and see if you can remember who she is?” He set two pictures of the victim on the table.
“Oh, I know her.” Cary said, eliciting raised eyebrows from the officers. “That’s Traci Larson. Her sister is in band with me. They live up at the golf course. I don’t know the house number, but it is a tan and brown house, on Maple Street, third from the intersection with Fir.” Cary flipped his hair off of his forehead. “Do you want me to come with you and show you where she lived?”
The officer scowled at Cary. “Are you sure?”
I watched Cary closely for signs of shock and said, “Thank you for your help.” I turned to the deputies. “Of course, he is sure.” I accompanied this with a scowl to let the deputies know that I didn’t appreciate anyone treating a youth with disrespect. Having witnessed Cary’s thirst for adventure for several months, I suspected he didn’t care how they treated him as long as he was this close to the center of the investigation.
“Do any of you know what she was doing on the lake?” The officer returned to his questions.
We all turned to look at one of President Jake’s bodyguards.
He continued, “When I saw her, she came down that hill,” he pointed to the hill coming down from the country club, “and attempted to turn toward the pastor’s house. I told her the path was out and she could go as far as the county park in the other direction. She thanked me, waved and started running in the other direction.”
“Was she running away from someone?”
Ramirez lowered his eyes and scratched his nose before answering. “No. She appeared to be running for exercise. When I saw her, she had her hair pulled back with a blue thing at the back of her head, here.” Ramirez pointed to the nape of his neck. “She also wore a blue band that circled her head like this.” He circled his head with his fingers in what looked to us to indicate a sweatband.
“Do you remember what time you saw her?”
Ramirez pulled a smart phone out of his pocket and tapped on the screen a few times. “Eight-seventeen, sir.”
The deputy doing the questioning ran his hands over his head. “Are you sure about the two blue bands?”
Agent Peter said, “He is trained to be sure. If he said two blue bands they are exactly as he described.” He turned to another agent, “M’Tew, did you see the girl in the park.”
“No sir. She did not come into the park.”
Agent Peter turned back to the deputies. “I will question the rest of my officers. If any of them know anything, we will notify you immediately.”
The sheriff nodded toward Ramirez. “I may want to question this guy here again. Since he was the last to see the girl alive, we may have more questions for him.”
Ramirez spoke up, “Give me your email, and I will send you my log. I noted every occurrence on my shift including the croaking frog and the mosquito bite. Perhaps, I noted a sound that will mean something to you. Of course, I have reviewed my whole log, and I don’t see anything that could be meaningful, but it is perhaps of the use for a background timeline.”
The sheriff pushed his business card across the table toward Ramirez.
April said. “You better leave enough of those for all of us. The boys might hear something at school, or Mrs. Henderson’s cat may bring home one of those headbands.”
Mandy had joined us, salad in hand, and added, “John Wesley is more likely to bring home the killer’s head.”
One of the officers turned to Mandy with his mouth hanging open while his eyes opened big and round.
I explained, “I named my cat John Wesley.”