"What does that mean?"
"I'm not quite certain." She looked over. "Let's leave everything here until tomorrow morning. We'll take a fresh look. Secure the road. Close it up before the emergency vehicles and onlookers bury what happened up there."
"The family will throw a fit."
She looked up the gorge and back at Uncle Gordon. "It's your call. We should get pictures and samples. If someone knocked her unconscious beforehand and then wheeled the car off the embankment, we've got a murder investigation."
Uncle Gordon grunted for the third time. "Are you bored?"
"I've got a nose for this kind of thing," Mom said. "Something here doesn't add up, and I'd be leery of signing off on it without another look."
"This is what I'll do. I'll post a guard and I'll close the road, but the body has to be moved." Mom ran a hand through her wavy blonde hair, and at the same time killed a mosquito on her leg with the other hand. She nodded.
"It's an accident," Uncle Gordon said. "Don't make work for us."
"You know it wasn't," Mom returned, her intelligent blue eyes shining with what I took to be glee. She took my hand and we made our way up the gorge, holding on to the winch line.
When we were on our way, I chanced a question. "Do you think she was murdered?"
"Shush," she said. "I need to think a while."
As we left the dark cliff side, I looked back at the police cruiser, tow truck, fire truck, and ambulance. A small crowd had gathered, and I saw Dave Zacroix, the town reporter for the Vesey Review, nosing around. On my right side, the bluff plummeted straight down some fifty feet into a rocky, forested embankment.
We passed some large warning signs, and the car swerved slightly as mom turned down the sharp decline. I looked ahead and tried to remain silent, but my excitement at the thought that Mrs. Williams had been murdered was too much.
"Are you done thinking?" I asked. Mom held up her hand for me to stay quiet. It was close to seven o'clock, with an hour of light left, maybe more. The sun floated above the horizon in an almost red fireball. I had seldom ever been up this way. We passed the largest sign, which faced the other way: DRIVE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Again, I glanced down into the gorge. The road seemed downright hazardous with its turns and bumps. Then another sign came up on the other side: DANGER! ROUGH ROAD FOR 2 MILES.
I spit on my fingers and rubbed it onto my mosquito bites. Only reckless people would come this way, so why would Mrs. Williams be driving up here?
"Kelly went missing Tuesday on her way home from Ely," mom said at length in a methodical voice-her work voice-"where she visited her mother. Kelly is-was- forty years old, and an associate at the town hall, among other things. An exemplary woman and, as you know, an excellent teacher. She leaves behind two teenage sons and a husband. She was a volunteer as well. She even helped your dad at the Sally Ann on occasion."
"Who would want to kill her?"
"It's too soon to ask that sort of question. Before deduction, inference; before that, induction; before that, facts; before that, more facts. Sam found her at the bottom of a gorge off Ridgeway in her burnt-out Malibu three hours ago. Her mother reported her missing four days ago. Her husband was attending a Minneapolis-St. Paul business conference at the time; however, after he returned, Gordon says he nearly lived at the shop. He wouldn't leave."
"You have to feel sorry for him," I said hopefully.
"Yes, too bad, but if you empathize, you can't be objective. I've wondered often what I would do without your father. I don't think that, in ten years of marriage, we've said so much as a harsh word to one another-but if you're going to stand in judgment of the facts, you have to learn not to be empathetic towards the victims."