The Skeletal Scarecrow
“Dad I’m not kidding. I cut through Mr. Keith’s field on the way home. I saw under the mask and there was a real skull.” Twelve year old Isabella Black pleaded with her father to believe her.
“Drop it.” He commanded. She looked on the bulletin board of the Sheriff’s Office and saw a missing persons report from fifteen years earlier. That would be three years before she was even born. The missing girl on the flyer was seventeen year old Amy Page. Last seen leaving school on a Friday wearing her cheerleader’s uniform with a young male, Tucker Crain in a red Mustang Convertible. Tucker claimed to have left her off near the Pawnee Truck Stop where she worked after school as a waitress. Her boss and co-workers said she never reported to work. The Dust Devil Biker gang was seen at the truck stop about the same time that day.
“Dad, why is this missing person’s report still up here?”
“It’s still there because the girl was never found. Her father still calls to see if we are trying to find her. He has some crazy idea about a bunch of biker’s who call themselves the Dust Devils.”
“Maybe he wants to make sure you haven’t found her.” Isabella’s mind was in ‘imagine if’ mode.
“You go home and leave it alone. Give your imagination to a piece of paper” Sheriff Black told his daughter.
Isabella was intrigued, and she was sure of what she saw. She ran toward their old house on the edge of the small town. She was going to that field again. She’d just have to be careful and not say anything until she could bring in some evidence.
Cutting through Mr. Keith’s corn field again, the young amateur detective tripped on a hole near the edge of a creek that ran on the edge of the field. She got up and wiped off the dirt then found the scarecrow. Sure enough when she lifted up the mask there stared back a very human skull. When she tried to slip the glove off one hand, she caught her finger on a piece of wire that was holding the wrist bones to the arm.
“Ouch” she licked the blood from her finger, and looked around to see that nobody heard her.
Isabella rushed back to town with her find, and into her father’s office. “Here,” she said placing the skeletal hand on his desk still in the glove filled with straw.
“What the heck?” Sheriff Black jumped out of his seat with surprise.
“I wasn’t lying, Dad!”
“Okay, I’ll go to Mr. Keith’s and check out the scarecrow, you let us take it from here.” The Sheriff got on the phone motioning Isabella out of the office.
Isabella watched as her Dad’s Sheriff Car drove up Mr. Keith’s driveway later. She ran over to get a better look from the edge of the corn where she could slouch down. She could see and hear everything.
She was just in time to see her father show a paper to Mr. Keith. She heard the disbelief in their neighbor’s voice when he saw the warrant and heard about the hand.
“Well, I had no idea, Sheriff, I really didn’t. Sure you can go look. I can’t say I’m happy that Isabella keeps snooping around, but I guess I should be glad this time. I’m really confused. That scarecrow looks just as it did when I put in up there this spring after those heavy rains.”
The Medical Examiner’s wagon drove up a few minutes later.
Isabella was sorry for Mr. Keith. Who else could have done it if not him?
She ran back to her house before her dad and Mr. Keith could spot her.
Two days later her father told her the Medical Examiner had identified the girl as Amy Page. They were able to rule the cause of death was a blunt object to the back of the head. The fractures in the skull were obvious death blows.
“Thanks for letting me know, Dad”
“Are you kidding, you’ve been asking several times a day. Man, I wish your mom was still alive.”
“I remember she smelled like powder, but that’s all except for the picture I have in my room. But, Dad just about every woman in town tries to mother me. I have too many mothers.”
Her father frowned as he left to go to the station.
Isabella took a page from her journal and divided it in half. On one side she wrote suspects, and on the other she wrote clues. She started writing down what she knew so far.
Before her dad was home from work that evening, Isabella’s knowledge of the case doubled.
She did an internet search to see if there was anything about the Dust Devil motorcycle gang. It turned out they had their picture taken for a newspaper article about ten years earlier. They were a bunch of farmers and businessmen who liked motorcycles and went riding most weekends in the summer. The name was dubbed on them by their wives.
Would it be possible for the Dust Devils to have killed the girl and kept it secret, all of them? The story showed them being rewarded for doing volunteer work. Isabella wrote some notes by their name.
Mrs. Page was questioned about her daughter and about Amy’s father at the time. Mr. Page had been a Major in the Army Reserves stationed over seas when Amy disappeared.
“I just want to see justice done.” Mr. Page said during an interview on the six o’clock news that evening.
The one other person who may possibly be involved was Amy’s boyfriend Tucker Crain. Nobody seemed to know where he was now.
Isabella asked people on her newspaper route about Tucker Crain.
Tucker Crain’s uncle was on Amy’s paper route so he told her a lot. According to his uncle, Tucker was in the community up until twelve years ago. Then he’d moved to Omaha for medical school. He didn’t last long after failing chemistry, but did make high marks in many other classes including anatomy and biology. After dropping out of medical school he’d gone to work with a mortician in Platt, Nebraska preparing bodies for burial. He’d become very interested in the work according to his former boss. Tucker Crain’s uncle didn’t know where he went after that.
Isabella said to her father that evening. “It may have been her old boyfriend dad, but how would he get the skeleton into the scarecrow?”
“If it weren’t for you, Isabella, we wouldn’t have found her. But, I don’t want you getting into a dangerous situation.”
The girl wasn’t put off as she went to the neighbor’s house the next morning.
Mr. Keith answered her knock at his front door. “Hey there Isabella, why are you snooping around here this morning?”
“I want to ask you a question about Tucker Crain.”
“I’ve heard the name lately, but I never knew him.”
“He was nineteen when Amy went missing so he would be thirty four now. Has anyone like that been here since spring?”
“Well, I don’t -, wait a minute. Early in June there was a man from the State Ag. Department who stopped to check how my corn was. It was funny because corn ripens in the fall, but I figured with the heavy rains we’d had, he was checking for rot or something.”
“What did he look like? Please, I’ll tell my dad to come talk to you if you can just remember.”
“No, I think I’ll call your Dad right now.” She heard him telling her father about a young man around six feet tall, dark colored eyes, and a bright red 1969 Mustang convertible. “It’s hard to forget a classic car like that. Funny, now that I think of it, the tags on the car were expired. They were from Missouri and expired in May. I figured he just forgot to change them.”
Tucker Crain had the same car in high school, knowledge, and experience with anatomy to wire the skeleton together.
Sheriff Black called the Missouri State Department of Motor Vehicles to check on the license tags for the car. They had a marker on his data for outdated tags. They were able to give the sheriff a last known address and phone number for Tucker.
After calling the police chief in the town where Tucker had been living, Sheriff Black got a judge to write a warrant and let him go to get Tucker.
Tucker admitted to murdering Amy Page and lying about leaving her at the truck stop. He’d dug up the bones that he’d buried near Mr. Keith’s creek because of the heavy rains and placed them in Mr. Keith’s scarecrow.
“I knew I should have got rid of that car,” Tucker whined. “I never thought anyone would find her for at least another few months. By then I could have got her down and buried her again.”
Isabella’s dad told her about it at supper that night.
“But I’m warning young lady, you need to quit running so wild. I’m going to start you in some after school activities to keep you out of trouble.”