Chapter 35

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Groggy and cranky, Raymond pulled onto the dirt road leading to the crime scene a few hours before he was due to arrive at work. He wanted to get into the woods and see if he could get Don what he wanted quickly, and hoped he didn’t run into any co-workers along the way. It had been a long, sleepless night after Don had called and he wanted to get some coffee down before work. The girl who had been attacked out here was recovering well and given the ok to talk, and Raymond was determined to get there before the daily sun reporters crowded the room out and stressed the poor girl before he could talk to her. They had managed to keep the story quiet but Raymond knew that would end soon enough, especially with this being the second attack and possible homicide to happen in this small town in the last couple of weeks.

The forest was quiet, except for the sound of his own footsteps and the occasional chirping of birds there was nothing to distract Raymond from his task. It was only about six in the morning, there was still a chill in the air, and the early morning light peeking through the fog gave the crime scene a creepier feel than he would have liked. Raymond stepped over the crime scene tape with a groan and little hope that he would find what he was looking for, it had been almost a full week since the attack and although there had been no rain, he couldn’t possibly see a pile of ashes staying in one place for very long. If they were indeed some sort of human remains like Don thought, the animals would probably have scattered what little remained after the forensics team had been there to the seven winds.

It turned out he was wrong. The ashes remained piled up on the forest floor like some sort of grotesque memorial, the only difference being the plastic sheet still covering them and the light covering of pine needles that had settled on top.

Standing there looking down at the outline of the pile under the clear sheet, Raymond thought he could see the shape of a body, a body missing its head. A chill worked up his spine and he shook it off, no use getting the jitters out here, not when where he wanted to be was sitting down drinking coffee in a warm building. He took a plastic bag and some gloves out of his pocket and bent down, carefully pulling small stakes out of the corners of the plastic sheet and peeling it back just enough to uncover a small portion of the pile. He put on the gloves and used the blade of his pocket knife to carefully scoop up some of the now damp ashes into the plastic bag until it was about half full, then sealing it back up and putting it into his coat pocket.

“Hope that’s enough for you buddy, because I’m not coming back out here unless I absolutely have to” Raymond muttered under his breath.

The sound of a breaking twig startled him, and he almost fell over turning to see what made the noise. “Hello” he called.

The sound of something running caught his attention, Raymond managed to swing his head quickly enough to catch a glimpse of brown fur disappear behind a large rock. Still bending down Raymond kept still, listening for any other noise and looking for another sign of whatever was on the other side of the rock. Footsteps, so light he almost couldn’t make them out crept around the far side of the rock, and the brown head of what looked to be a huge dog peeked around at Raymond.

Raymond’s heart raced as he and the dog looked at each other for a few seconds, then with a quick growl the dog turned and raced off through the trees in the opposite direction, leaving Raymond alone once more.

“The hell with this” he whispered to himself. He recovered the ashes with the plastic sheet as quickly and carefully as he could, replacing the stakes with shaking hands. Finally he stood up with a groan and walked back to his cruiser as quickly as he could without running,   he jammed the keys in the ignition and sped out of the woods. He really needed his coffee.

….

Raymond had no sooner sat down to his first sip of coffee when his phone vibrated in his pocket. It was still early and he really wasn’t in the mood to talk anyways, so he waited until the vibrating stopped and went back to drinking. A few seconds later the vibrating started again.

Grumbling to himself, he took it out of his pocket and looked at the number on the small screen, it was Keith. Taking another sip of coffee, Raymond considered letting it go to voicemail but answered it anyways. Keith usually never called him unless it was something important.

“Hello” Raymond asked, unable to keep the irritation out of his voice.

“Ray! Where are you? I just tried calling you a second ago” Keith nearly shouted.

“I know, I was ignoring it hoping it would stop ringing. What’s got you so huffy this morning?”

“You’re going to want to come in here as soon as you can, there’s been a break-in in the evidence room!”

Raymond sat back in his chair, genuinely surprised. This was just a small town with a small town police station yes, but he couldn’t think of a way for someone to break into the evidence room without getting caught. “How’d they get in and what did they take” Raymond asked.

“That’s the strange thing, you’ll have to come in and see for yourself how they got in. It’s not how they got in that’s strange, it’s what they took that’ll really make you scratch your head.” Raymond had never heard Keith sound this serious, he certainly had Raymond’s curiosity peaked.

“Alright you got me, what did they take? And did you get their pictures printed up off the security cameras? We could have them to the sun before noon.”

There was silence on the line for few seconds, Raymond heard Keith sigh before he started talking again. “No pictures from the cameras buddy, not this time. Just come in and help us make sense of all this, I sure as hell have no idea what to think of it all. And Ray, the only thing they took were those ashes from the crime scene last week, and we’re not the only ones that were robbed. The sample we sent off to the lab were stolen as well.”

Raymond reached into his pocket and felt the bag he had filled up that morning, at least there was more at the scene that could be picked up. In reality he was more concerned about somebody getting in and out of the evidence room than what was stolen out of it.

“Ok” he said finally, “I’m on my way in. Find out if someone is going back out to the scene to see if there is more or if the animals have torn them all up. I’ll meet you in the security room when I get there, that is if they’ll let us in. I’d like to have a look at the video tapes from last night.”

“Got ya,” Keith said, “but Ray, it’s called digital now, we stopped using video tapes years ago.”

Raymond smiled a little; at least some of the humor was back in Keith’s voice. “Whatever, I’ll be in there soon. Just stay out of the real cop’s ways till I get there, rookie.”

“Screw you too buddy,” Keith said with a laugh, “I’ll be here anyways.” And with that he hung up.  

The Last of the Twenty: The Setting of the BoardWhere stories live. Discover now