Twanged at Twilight
When Cy Walleski, ex-cop turned private investigator, is called by college friend Chief Stan Simmons to help with a crossbow killing case, the killings suddenly escalate. Has the killer been lying in wait for Cy? And will he be next?
The frozen look of horror on the dead woman’s face didn’t shake me, nor did the shiny red apple balanced atop her head. What really sent me over the edge was the object protruding from her right eye. An arrow. A crazy William Tell wanna-be, I thought, as I approached the body. Propped against an oak tree, one rope circling her waist held her captive. Another bound her arms around the gnarly trunk behind her.
Leaves crackled underfoot as I moved closer to the corpse, rays from the setting sun playing over the body. I wasn’t too good at telling the difference between types of apples, but if I had to guess I’d say this one was a McIntosh. Admittedly, I’m not an apple expert. Well-polished, its skin was satiny in the late afternoon light.
I’d stumbled upon another bizarre murder the year before in my hometown of Gammil’s Point. I hoped this wasn’t going to become a regular thing for me.
The sound of crunching leaves startled me. I turned to see who was there. Stan Simmons, police chief of Millfield, Maine, for the last twelve years and a long-time friend, stood behind me with his hands in his pockets. The frown on his deeply lined face showed the strain he’d been going through in the three weeks since the first murder victim of this year had been found. And now here was another. As a former cop turned private investigator and a colleague of Stan’s, I’d been called in to help with the case.
“Thanks for coming, Cy. Hell of a mess I got you into. Who’d do such a thing? And the apples on their heads. Polished shinier than a new sports car.” Stan turned his gaze to me. “What do you think?”
“Shit, I don’t know. Never saw anybody killed with a crossbow. Not your usual murder weapon.” I scratched my head, bending down to get a better look. The bolt was deeply embedded in the victim’s eye and appeared to have gone completely through her skull, impaling it to the tree. It was obvious that the archer was an expert marksman. How many people could put a bolt through the eye of a squirming human target? That poor woman must have been terrified.
“Know anybody who uses a crossbow?” I asked.
Stan ran a hand through his thick graying hair as he stared at me and tugged on his beard. “Maybe Alex Lincoln. He took lessons when he was a kid.” He paused, rubbing the back of his neck. “Remember Karen Bradshaw? Had all the guys running after her in high school? She and her husband, Tim Dillon, used to shoot down at the old gravel pit. I heard he even won some medals for the most bull’s eyes. Maybe they got into archery.”
I listened as he continued to think out loud.
“There’s an archery event every October down in Brewer’s Falls. It’s coming up soon. I talked to the folks in charge. Not much help there. You would have thought I was asking for their firstborn son or something.” The angry set to his jaw said it all. He was running into nothing but dead ends.
“Excuse me, Chief. We’re just about done here. Doc Warren wants to know if they can take the body yet.” A young fresh-faced kid with dirty blond hair, worn a little longer than regulation collar-length, eagerly awaited his superior’s okay. His brown eyes shifted back and forth from Stan to me, as his feet shuffled the red and gold leaves.
“Tell him to hold on a few minutes. I want to take a few more notes on body location and angles. Hey, make sure they’ve finished with the photos, too.” Stan waved the young cop away to relay the news to the coroner.
“What was her name?” I asked, nodding toward the dead woman.
“Beth Thoroughgood. Nice woman. Never bothered anybody. Kept to herself. She lived at the edge of town not far from the general store. Ran a little candy shop out of the front room of her house. All the neighborhood kids knew her by name. She was well-liked by everyone. Why would anyone want to hurt her?” He turned to speak quietly to another young officer at his elbow.
“Well, somebody didn’t like her, that’s for sure. How about the other victim? Any connection?” I looked over at the officers; taking more notes, completing their tasks. The flash of the cameras lit the scene like strobe lights.
“Not that I’ve found. Somebody with a grudge? Spurned lover? Heck of a way to get rid of your old girlfriends.”
Finally, the body was released to the coroner’s care and we watched in silence as they took the body away on a stretcher.
“Could I have the info on the two victims and the names of the next of kin?” I asked.
The light was fading fast, and the forensics team was gathering their gear, preparing to leave the scene.
“I’ll have Hank Warren get it to you. He’s been on the case from day one.”
Stan finished writing in his little notebook and put it in his breast pocket. I could read the fear in his eyes. No one was safe while this crazed lunatic was loose. I understood all too well what he must be feeling. The murder the year before had everyone in Gammil’s Point running scared.
“Let’s get the hell out of here and grab some coffee,” Stan said, turning to follow the last of his men. Nothing was stopping me from following his lead. I took a last look at the tree where the body had been found, focusing on a spot of blood, and shook my head. What the hell is going on?
He stroked his short graying beard and stared off into space. Trails of sweat were racing down the sides of his face.
Susan Bigelow was seated opposite him, hands folded demurely in her lap.
She may look harmless, Stan thought, but I know what she is here for. Alex Lincoln. The thorn in her side. And mine. The police chief cleared his throat and leaned back, determined not to be the first to speak. See what she has to say this time.
She tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and shifted in her seat. “I need your help, Stan.”
“Alex again?” Stan picked up the pen he’d been doodling with, and pulled an incident report form from the file in his desk. This would be the third incident in the last two weeks. The guy was really starting to piss him off.
“He’s stalking me now. Popping up at my house at all hours of the day. And worming his way into my home. To talk about nothing. It’s harassment, Stan. I want to put a restraining order on him.” She sat back, fingering the gold chain hanging at her throat.
“Look, Susan, I’ll go talk to him. Put the fear of God in him. A restraining order isn’t going to deter someone like him.” Stan filled out the form and, turning it around on the desk, handed her the pen. “Sign this and I’ll take care of it. There’s not much I can do unless he gets physical. I’ll make sure he gets the point.”
“I hope so. He’s trying to drive me out, you know. After all, I’m the competition.”
“Yeah. Stiff competition.” Stan chuckled.
Susan frowned at him. “It’s not funny, Stan. This is getting ridiculous.”
He got up and went around his desk to offer her his hand. She rose. He said, “I’ll call you and let you know how it goes.”
“Thank you. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.” She nodded at him and stalked from the room.
He watched her leave and shook his head. Alex Lincoln was becoming a problem. A big one.