Web Site: Roberta Isleib's home page
First published in SEASMOKE: Crime Stories by New England Writers from Level Best Books (November 2006.)
SYNOPSIS: When clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Butterman is invited to ride along on a murder investigation, she wonders what could have gone so wrong in this posh waterfront Shangri-la. After interviewing the dead woman's husband and neighbor and observing the path of the victim's final gruesome drag to her bedroom, Dr. Butterman reaches a clever conclusion with methods no self-respecting cop would employ.
The blood had soaked into each nubby crevice of the white carpet, leaving the loops standing at attention, stiff with dried brown. I grimaced. It would be hell to remove the stain.
Over time, I’ve learned how my mind handles physical trauma and the ensuing gore: I focus on housekeeping details. Not that I’m a clean freak, but thinking about cleansers and enzymes keeps me from puking on the crime scene.
“Apparently the vic was whacked here.”
Detective Meigs gestured toward the stain. Vic, perp, floater, whack—Meigs and his buddies handle trauma with cop language, a not-so-secret code that tries to blur the hard truth: A woman died here.
“Her husband called 911 about four hours ago,” Meigs continued. “Told us he’d been in the shower. Thought he maybe heard a banging or popping noise, maybe he didn’t. The window was open, which the husband says isn’t status quo.” He waved at the fluttering chintz, then steered me around the stain and out into the hall.
“Don’t touch anything.”
I rolled my eyes. “Duh.”
“I posted an officer in the kitchen with Mr. Harrison after our interview this morning. There’s a neighbor waiting with him too.” Meigs brows arched, thicker and darker than the reddish curls on his head.
“Did she arrive with a casserole? They say single women have gotten very aggressive these days.” I’m single but Meigs isn’t. And I’m not—aggressive, that is.
He grinned. “Nah, I kind of suggested she hang around to hold his hand. He acted all broken up when they came for the body.”
“Acted?” I still couldn’t quite figure out why he’d asked me to ride along on this case. I pulled my elbow from his grip. “What direction are we facing?”
“I don’t know. North? Northwest? What the hell difference does that make?”
I tapped a finger on my lower lip. “So wait. The woman was found here?”
“Oddly enough,” Meigs’s Adam’s apple dropped an inch, then bobbed back into place, “after she was shot, she appears to have pulled herself down this hall, across the vestibule, and into their bedroom.” His eyes darted away then back to my face. “I’ll show you.”
We traced the path the injured woman had taken, hugging the walls to avoid contaminating the blood smears that marked the victim’s travel. A small crew of crime scene technicians was packing up after a morning scraping samples and spreading fingerprint dust. The chi-chi décor would never be the same.
“So the husband found her in the bedroom when he got out of the shower?” I asked.
“No. He was using the facilities in the guest room on the far side of the house.” Meigs’s eyebrows peaked a second time. “Then he claims he came to the master to get fresh clothes and voi-la—his dead wife. I’ll give you a few minutes to look around, then come on down to the kitchen. Don’t touch anything,” he said again.
How many times would he ask me to consult before trusting me not to muck up the evidence? Well, I call it consultation. He doesn’t seem to go for the idea of publicly asking a clinical psychologist—a woman at that—for her intuition. So he calls it: “Let’s grab a bite for lunch but I have to make a stop first and you can ride along if you like but stay the f*** out of the way.”
Rest of the story can be read at http://www.robertaisleib.com
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