Madison set the forensics kit on the floor by the door and pulled on blue latex gloves. Andie’s floral Toms were laying on the floor next to the counter. She hadn’t noticed that before. She could also smell the faint odor of feces. Her eyes focused on the metal tub sitting on the counter. It was the only thing out of place besides Andie’s shoes. She didn’t know what had happened to Andie, but the tub bothered her. She wanted to make sure that Kurt took pictures of the tub and of Andie’s shoes. At an early point of an investigation, it was crucial to take note of even the slightest detail. She also wanted to make sure that they tested the tub for fingerprints.
She could see the flash of the camera as Kurt took pictures of the tarp-covered body. She moved around the counter and stood in the doorway. The body was still covered. All she could see was Andie’s foot, her red toenails gleaming under the light. Hal came over to stand by her.
“I called Mesa County. They’re sending someone.”
The Mesa County Coroner was located in Grand Junction. It would probably take someone twenty minutes to get to Fruita. She watched as Kurt continued to take pictures of the tarp and the way it covered Andie’s body. As he finished his last shot, she told him to go take pictures of the tub on the counter and Andie’s shoes.
“Do you think that’s significant?” Hal asked.
“I don’t know Hal, but I know Andie couldn’t lift the tub. And I don’t think she walked around her shop barefoot.”
Something about the tub was bothering her. She thought for a moment. The tub was on the counter. How had it gotten there? What was she missing? She looked at the clock on the far wall. It was after 6:30. She and Andie should be having dinner at Guthrie’s right now. Then it hit her. Guthrie had said something about someone helping Andie with the metal tub. Someone big. She started toward the front of the shop. Someone had to question Guthrie while his memory was still fresh.
Hal followed her.
“What’s going on?”
“I think Guthrie may have seen the killer.”
Madison pointed at the tub. Kurt’s flash went off illuminating the tub with the fingerprint powder on it.
“That tub is too big for Andie to lift. She always kept it just inside the door. She could drag it that far from the sidewalk.”
Hal looked perplexed. “So?”
“It’s on the counter. Only someone with a lot of strength could lift that tub onto the counter. Guthrie said he saw someone helping Andie bring in her flowers.”
Finally, Hal understood what Madison was saying.
“I’ll get right over there.”
Hal pushed through the front door. A small crowd had gathered outside the police tape. Hal pushed by them without acknowledging them and headed up the street. Madison went back to the back room. She wondered why anyone would kill Andie. She wasn’t dating anyone right now and all her break-ups had been amiable. She didn’t think Andie had any enemies. Maybe, the motive was robbery. They would have to check the cash register for fingerprints as well as the tub. She turned to look at the register on the counter. It looked secure. She got out her little notebook, and started making notes, of the shoes, the tub, the register. She looked around the store room. She took notes on the tarp, on how the boy had been sitting near the tarp. What did the boy have to do with this? He wasn’t big enough to have lifted the tub, and she didn’t think he could really grip anything with his deformed hands. She wrote down another thought in her book. They would need to fingerprint the boy’s thumbs as well.
She heard the bell above the door tinkle as someone came into the shop. She turned to see one of the deputy coroners entering the shop. Like Madison had, the coroner paused for a moment and looked at the shoes on the floor. Then, she headed for the back room.
“I’m Deputy Coroner Katie Schultes.”
Madison shook her hand. “Sheriff Rhodes.”
Schultes surveyed the body.
“Has anyone been in here yet?”
“Yes. One of my deputies took pictures of the position of the tarp. When I came in, I found a suspect next to the body.”
“A suspect?” Schultes looked surprised.
“A kid. He was crouched by the body against the wall by her…” Madison stopped and swallowed. “…by her head.”
Schultes eyes softened.
“You knew her?”
“Yes. I came by to pick her up for dinner. We were heading up to the café up the street.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Schultes was looking at her with sympathy, but also appraising her.
Madison straightened. She took a deep breath.
“I’m fine. I’ve worked a lot of homicides in Denver.”
“But no one you knew.”
“No, no one I knew, but I’m the sheriff and I’m going to do my job.” She stared into Schultes blue eyes. Her green eyes glinted with anger.
“All right, Sheriff.” Schultes turned to the body.
“Have you taken pictures already?”
“Yes, we were waiting for you to remove the tarp, so we could take pictures of the body.”
She hadn’t noticed any flashes for a while, so she assumed Kurt was finished in the front of the store. When she turned around, he was standing by the counter loading a fresh roll of film into the camera.
“We’re going to need you in here again, Kurt.”
Kurt nodded. His eyes were a little shiny, but he seemed steady. He, like a lot of the deputies, had gone to school with Andie. He knew her better than Madison did. She didn’t ask him if he was up to handling the case even though he probably knew Andie better than Madison did. They were all going to have to put their emotions aside to find Andie’s killer.
Madison retrieved some larger evidence bags from her kit by the door. The deputy coroner was standing over the body.
“Can you help me lift it?”
Together, the two women lifted the tarp off the body and carefully folded it. Andie opened a large evidence bag while the coroner held the folded tarp. While Andie held the bag, the coroner slid it into the bag. Andie marked it and set it next to the case.
She hadn’t looked at Andie’s body yet. Steeling herself, she looked at Andie’s legs. She noticed her pants were stained and the smell of feces and urine was much stronger now that the tarp was lifted. Her eyes travelled up to Andie’s face. Her neck was beginning to bruise and her eyes were wide open. Her tongue protruded from her mouth. Madison could tell that it had not been an easy death.
As Schultes began to check the body, Madison moved back and stood in the doorway. She hugged her arms tightly to her chest. Light began flashing as Kurt took pictures of Andie’s body. Schultes would point something out and Kurt would focus on it and take pictures. When the coroner was finished, she brought out a black body bag and laid it on the floor next to Andie. Steeling herself, Madison helped Kurt and Schultes move the body into the bag. After Kurt finished taking pictures of the floor where Madison had been laying, Schultes took samples from the fluids that had collected underneath her body.
When Schultes went out to her van to get her gurney, Madison followed her.
“When will you know cause of death?” she asked Schultes as she pulled the gurney out of the back of the van.
“I can have preliminary results to you by tomorrow night. It will take several weeks to finalize the autopsy and make a report.”
After the coroner left, Madison went back into the shop. She wanted to make sure that the rest of the scene was processed correctly. Hal entered after her. The metal tub was still on the counter and Andie’s shoes were laying on the floor.
Kurt came out of the back room.
“Did you get pictures of the tub and the shoes?” Madison asked.
“Do you need any more pictures?”
“You got pictures of this room, right?”
“Including the tub and the shoes?”
“Yeah. I also took pictures of the scuff marks by the door.”
Madison looked at the scratches on the floor by the door. She knew that Andie had to drag the tub over the threshold and into the shop. She wondered if there were scratches on the concrete outside.
“Kurt, take some pictures of the sidewalk. You know where Andie keeps the metal tub?”
Kurt nodded and stepped outside. Flashes again filled the room from outside.
Madison retrieved the forensics kit from the back room.
Hal was looking at the tub and the shoes on the floor.
“What did Guthrie say?” Madison asked as she removed the fingerprint powder and brush from the kit.
“He was holding the door open for Ida Mae Parker and looked down the street. He said Andie was pulling in her plants and flowers for the night. She was pulling that old tub across the cement when a big guy walked up to her. He lifted the tub and carried it into the shop for Andie. Guthrie didn’t think anything about it. He thought is was a customer.”
“Did he give you a description?”
Madison began to brush the powder gently along the handles and the rim of the tub. She hoped that not too many people had touched the tub. It wasn’t for sale and held geraniums that Andie didn’t sell. No one would have a reason to touch the tub. She dusted the handles and the sides of the tub. Several distinct fingerprings emerged. Hal handed her the tape and she lifted the prints carefully. After labelling the evidence bags, Hal handed her each bag so she could secure the fingerpint tapes.
Hal’s radio crackled.
“Tell the Sheriff I have the boy in an interview room. CPS is on their way.”
“Roger. Steward out.”
Madison had just finished bagging Andie’s shoes and marking the spot where they were on the floor. She handed the bag to Hal. Next, they dusted the register and the countertop next to the register. Andie’s purse was on the top shelf under the counter. It looked like it was untouched. The bag was leather, so they couldn’t take fingerprints here. Madison carefully pulled the bag off the shelf. It was zipped. They would need to lock the shop up. Madison unzipped the purse and found Andie’s keys. Andie’s wallet was still in her purse and also looked like it hadn’t been touched. After extracting Andie’s keys, she and Hal bagged the purse.
After locking Andie’s door, Madison and Hal finished loading everything in the SUV.
“Are we going to question that boy?” Hal asked, as he slammed the hatch closed.
“Yes, as soon as CPS is there. I want to make sure everything is handled appropriately.”
“Do you think the kid did it?” Hal asked.
Madison walked around to the driver’s side. She shook her head.
“I don’t know, Hal. He’s really small and his hands…”
“Yeah. I saw them.”
“But if he didn’t do it, he knows who does. I’m sure of it.”
Madison got into the SUV and waited for Hal to climb into the passenger side. He handed her the keys and she drove them back to the station.