The Monster of Silver Creek
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’s 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.”