Raven’s Wordzzle Challenge: Week 56
Wordzzles are little Word Puzzles gifted to us weekly by Raven at Views From Raven’s Nest. Raven presents these puzzles in the form of lists, which we must unravel and expand into a story. This week I bundled all the words together and wrote only the mega challenge, which actually began Thursday on my blog post, The Best Laid Plains.
The Crime Scene
“We’ve definitely got a serial killer on our hands,” Detective Vincent Copper spoke as he strode a marked path through the crime scene, the Bluetooth transmitter in his ear relating information to the Barbaresco Chief of Police. “Three months, three different Bacchanal clans snuffed. Somebody has a grudge. But they may have made a mistake this time. They’ve left someone alive – barely. The EMTs are working on her and the Life-Flight helicopter is just now landing.”
Copper tapped the Bluetooth and ended transmission. The noise of the chopper would have made further communication impossible anyway. He demanded an update on the victim’s medical status, secured transport details, and asked the lead of the forensics team if they’d found anything of significance in her personal effects.
“I think it’s supposed to look like the lady fell off the mountain side and died right here,” Marty Credence told the detective. “But she’s alive and we may just have an important witness.”
“Oh?” Copper took a recording devise from his pocket and clicked it on. He nodded toward the crumbled embankment and said, “Tell me more.”
“Well,” Credence turned to face the mountain and pointed uphill. “She arrived, traipsed around a bit through the brush in the dark – no clue as to why – and then took a tumble. We found her hair combs, her shoes and bits of her velvet dress scattered down the mountainside.”
Credence handed Copper a sealed plastic evidence bag with a jeweled hair comb inside. “The lady’s purse was here beside her – her name is Janice Wheeler, but as an initiate bacchante she took the name, Chianti Sangiovese – she’s a real estate agent from a successful firm and – by the way, the jewels and gold are real – she’s not hurting for money.”
Copper was used to Credence’s detailed parenthetical monologues, and sometimes he even appreciated them, but for right now he just wanted the big picture. He waved his hand in the air in a rolling motion, urging Credence to move it along.
Credence dropped the chatty air and started listing facts. “So far we know Ms. Wheeler fell a short way down the mountain, got up and walked a few more yards, and then fell the rest of the way, landing here.” Credence took a side-step away from where they’d found Janice and pointed at a spot several feet to the left and about a yard closer to the embankment. The sand held the deep imprint of her hands, knees and feet where she’d landed. It also showed her staggering steps as she gained her feet and struggled to the band stand.
Copper visually traced the fifty yard path. “She went to the bandstand. So how did she end up back here?”
Credence elaborated. “We found a microphone covered in blood we think is her’s, from the lacerations on her hands. She definitely went to the bandstand and we think she was able to speak.”
“What you think doesn’t matter,” Copper said. “I don’t want imagination. Give me facts. What do we know?”
“We don’t know how long she was on the bandstand, or if she may have gone anywhere else, then returned to the bandstand, but we do know that she arrived here,” Credence pointed at the place they’d found her, “walking between, and very close to, two other people.”
The sand told a story. “So you’re saying she was carried,” Copper asked, noting the marks that looked as though her feet were dragging.
“Supposition, but it seems that’s so. The sand here isn’t anymore tightly packed than anywhere else. Unless she can levitate, something or someone else was keeping her footsteps from sinking in.”
“What about the other two sets of footprints?”
Credence unfolded a measuring rod and lowered it into one of the larger footprints. “They are measurably deeper in the spots where it looks as though Ms. Wheeler was being carried.”
Copper smiled. “I want cartography on all of this.”
“In progress, sir,” Credence assured him. “Photographs, plaster casts … all standard procedures.”
Copper nodded. “Anything else?”
“We have a theory that the additional prints belong to a man and a woman. His prints being the wider, deeper ones, and her’s being roughly the same size as Ms. Wheeler’s, only wearing shoes. But we won’t have any firm evidence until we get everything back to the lab and look at it more closely.”
“Nothing from the club house?” Copper pointed at a huge octagonal building floating in the middle of the lake.
“It wasn’t open. There are no signs that any of the party ever left the beach. The boat ramp is chained every evening at nine p.m. and this shindig didn’t start until midnight. Even so, we’ve asked the D.A. to subpoena any surveillance equipment they might have.”
“Good work, Credence,” Copper switched off his recording device and shook the forensic officer’s hand. “Keep me posted.”
Copper followed the carefully-marked path around the outskirts of the crime scene. Fifty-seven people had died here last night. Almost fifty-eight. Why?
This was a crime of wholesale slaughter. It was not a crime of passion against a single victim – or was it? Nothing made sense. In January, 72 people from the Reisling County Clan died at bacchanal. In February, 32 people in Merlot County died the same way. Now this.
Unlike their legendary counterparts, these Bacchanal ceremonies were non-violent – in fact, surprisingly non-violent given that sex and alcohol were the reveler’s prime pastime. Copper stopped as near to the bonfire as the marked path allowed. From his vantage point he could see a scorched Big Mac box, what looked like a religious tract, and a pile of sharpened sticks ready for roasting marshmallows. They looked out of place amidst the police tape, orange evidence flags, and body silhouettes.
Copper turned his back on the scene and walked to the edge of the lake. He stared down at his mirror image on the surface of the water. Years ago he’d built a partition in his mind between his job and his life. Everyday that partition seemed to grow more fragile. Copper wondered if it was time to get out of law enforcement. His dreams were haunted by the sightless eyes of those whose cases had never been solved.
He walked to his car, then turned and stared out over the crime scene. Tonight one hundred sixty-two people would haunt his dreams. He thought of Janice Wheeler and hoped it wouldn’t be one hundred sixty-three.
Copper activated the Bluetooth in his ear and dialed his cell phone, then started his car and headed for the highway. His call was answered on the first ring.
“Well?” The Chief demanded.
Copper sighed. “Just like the other two,” he said. “All three crime scenes are identical. Dead revelers, scattered bottles and glasses, and no signs anybody had a clue anything was wrong.”
“This one had one difference,” the chief pointed out.
Copper nodded even though he couldn’t be seen. “Janice Wheeler. I’m on my way to the hospital now. Not only is she alive and a possible witness, but there is some evidence that she may have been assaulted. Plus, she was found several yards beyond the party grounds.”
“What are you thinking?”
Copper shrugged. “It’s just a hunch, but I’m thinking there may have been two different crimes here.”
“You know we can’t investigate a hunch,” the chief said. “But keep your eyes open. And keep me informed.”
Copper left the freeway via the 8th Street exit. An environmental group stood on the corner waving picket signs bearing green panther silhouettes and the slogan, “Green Power, the salvation of the world.” He braked for the stop-light and one of the kids tapped on his car window and offered him a pamphlet. Copper rolled his window down just far enough to take it. “Be green!” The kids said, and waved as Copper pulled away.
Copper glanced at the pamphlet. It contained an ad for some sort of environmental poet’s corner combined fund-raiser, and promised a Ralph Nader autograph to every one pledging $100.00 or more.
Tossing the pamphlet over his shoulder and into the back seat, Copper wondered if Ralph Nader authorized the sale of his autograph.
(to be continued)