Authors: Sarah Biglow
SAINTS AND SINNERS (A GEEKS AND THINGS MYSTERY) Copyright © 2016 by Sarah Biglow.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Edited by Ken Marrow, M.A.
Cover Design by: Ana Grigoriu
Published by Sarah Biglow: July 2016
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The sun shone hot overhead as Kalina picked her way through the gravestones in the cemetery beside the church. Halfway to her destination she stopped and pressed a hand to her side, letting the muscle cramp work itself out. Her other hand supported her swollen belly. Pregnancy and summer heat were not a good combination but it would soon be over. With her due date fast approaching, she wouldn’t have to worry about the swollen ankles much longer. Gaining her second wind, she trudged forward over damp grass—recently doused by the sprinklers—finally stopping at the grave in question: her father’s. He’d been gone over a year but it still felt like she was saying her last goodbye at the funeral. Tears welled in her eyes and she let them fall. So much had happened in that year. She’d found her way back home to Ellesworth, MA and her family’s comic book shop. It sated her need to be nerdy and gave her a purpose. And she’d found love again with her first love: Christian Harper. They’d been through betrayals and loss together but he’d also risen from detective to captain. And now they were married and about to become parents.
A few weeds poked up around the base of her father’s headstone and she did her best to pluck them without being able to bend over properly. “Hi, Dad.” She wiped at her cheeks with her free hand. “I know it’s been a while since I visited and I’m sorry for that. I’ve just had a lot going on. Chris and I got married in January. You would have loved it. And you’re about to be a grandfather again. It’s a girl.
“I’ve kept the shop running just as you had it. Well, with a few technology upgrades. We’re doing great business and it’s reminded me how much I missed being there. It feels like home and when I’m there, I’m a little closer to you.”
Fresh tears stained her cheeks and a breath caught in her throat. She hadn’t expected this visit to be quite as emotional. But she was moving forward in her life without him and it hit her that there were so many things she’d longed to ask him that she’d never get answered. Sure, she had her mother and sister for support but sometimes a girl just needed her father.
Beads of sweat trickled down her neck in the summer warmth but she stayed where she was, hands resting at her sides, one still gripping the scraggly weeds. The silence of the cemetery pressed in around her and what should have been a comfort carried a sense of foreboding. The moisture on her next turned chilly in the summer air and butterflies danced in her stomach. Something had disturbed her peaceful, if teary, visit.
Casting the weeds aside, she made her way deeper into the cemetery. Simple headstone and ground-level plaques gave way to taller monuments to those who had passed on. Some had seen their fair share of rough weather. Engravings had worn down and were only partially legible. Some had seen their edges eroded over time. She stopped to study some of them, curious to see who lay beneath them. She recognized a few names from town history. There was an entire row of Finnegan family members, which only served to turn her stomach. Shortly before the wedding, Kalina and Chris had solved a series of deaths linked to a career-ladder climbing journalist and her love-struck cousin. Beth had been the latest generation of Finnegans in town. Kalina hurried past the rows and stopped when she spotted something sticking out between a couple of the tallest headstones. Shadows cast by the trees overhead obscured the area, forcing her to get closer to investigate.
She rubbed her belly as the baby kicked a time or two, landing solid shots to her ribs. The movement winded her temporarily and she had to stop and catch her breath again. “Thanks for that, baby girl.” She massaged the left side of her ribs until the pain lessened and she could continue forward.
The object that had caught her eye was a designer pump, dark brown and sharply pointed at the toe. Said shoe was still attached to a woman’s slender foot. Kalina moved between the two headstones to find a young woman, a few years younger than herself, laying between the graves with an angry red pool of blood congealing on her chest. Her eyes were still open, frozen in a look of what Kalina could only describe as curiosity. Whoever this woman had been, the fatal blow had not come as a shock. Beyond her designer footwear, she was dressed in an impeccable knee-length summer dress. It clung to her curves even as she lay sprawled on the ground in death. Her hair was still pinned up on the side of her head. Only a tiny trickle of blood marred her pale pink lips.
The shock of the discovery finally hit Kalina a minute later and she backpedaled as fast as possible. This wasn’t the first dead body of unknown but definitely suspicious causes she’d seen in the last year. In fact, she’d seen more than she’d ever cared to in her thirty-four years of life. But that bug that bit her every time something like this happened in town took hold of her thoughts as she searched for her phone. This was going to be her last case. After the baby was born, she wouldn’t have the time to go running off digging up clues. Her priorities needed to change and she’d accepted that. But this one intrigued her and she knew herself well enough to admit that she wasn’t going to let this beautiful woman go. She finally found her phone and hit the first number on the speed dial: her husband.
“Hey honey. Is everything OK with the baby?”
“The baby’s fine. But you need to get down to the cemetery and bring a coroner. I just found a body.”
Kalina kept a tight grip on her phone while she waited for Chris to arrive. The sun continued to beat down, making the scene even more unpleasant. She studied the woman’s face in an effort to avoid looking at the bloody wound in her chest. Something about her eyes and the way her hair swooped down from her hairline made her look familiar. Sure, being the proprietor of the only shop that sold all things nerdy meant she came into contact with a large portion of the town, but that didn’t mean she knew everyone. Still, something about this woman tickled a faint memory at the very edges of Kalina’s memory.
She longed to check the woman for ID to sate her curiosity but she was a cop’s wife and she knew better. Instead, she walked the perimeter around the gravestones, noting shoe depressions in the damp grass. Whoever had done this had been here recently, which likely meant she hadn’t died long ago. It was bold, killing someone in broad daylight, even in a cemetery. As she rounded the second headstone, she noted a few flecks of red marring the pale granite stonework. She’d been killed here. Rubbing her lower back as she came to stand back where she’d started, she took note of whose graves bookended the dead woman’s body.
Abigail and Harrison Fischer.
The names, much like the woman’s face, rang a distant bell in her memory but it was so far buried she couldn’t grab hold of it and bring it forward. A breeze picked up and tugged at the hem of her shirt and the stray hairs hanging out of the messy bun on top of her head.
She turned toward the sound of her name and a broad grin broke out on her face. Chris trudged toward her, a few uniformed officers lagged behind him. She stayed put and waited for him. How had he known where to find her?
“How’d you find me?”
“GPS on your phone.”
“You are tracking me now?”
“Only so I know where you are in case something happens with the baby.”
She laughed. “You do realize that’s kind of stalker behavior, right?”
“I was kidding. I called Clinton Mason to check the surveillance video to find where you were.”
“There’s surveillance cameras in the cemetery? Isn’t that a little creepy? Watching people mourn their loved ones. It’s supposed to be private.”
“We had some vandalism a few months back,” a deep bass voice said.
Clinton Mason was a thick-necked man with shaggy hair sticking up at odd angles along his head. He apparently didn’t own a comb or, if he did, didn’t know how to use it. His torso and upper body were beefy and muscled under his short-sleeved shirt.
“Who would vandalize a cemetery?’ she asked.
“Kids on dares mostly.”
“I didn’t see any signs warning about a security system when I came in.”
“You wouldn’t. We don’t advertise them. It gives those coming here to spend time with their loved ones the privacy they deserve,” Clinton said.
“So you caught whoever did this on cameras. That should make it an easy investigation.”
“Well, we hope we did. See”—Clinton pointed to the trees overhanging the Fischer graves—“the angle is a bit sharp on these so we may not get a clear picture.”
“But we’ll know for sure when it happened,” Chris said.
The uniformed officers finally caught up with the small group already gathered and Kalina realized one was carrying an evidence collection kit. She shifted her weight as the baby moved and the slight change in her stance caught Chris’s attention.
“Clint, can we go see that video footage? I think my wife wouldn’t mind sitting down in the air conditioning for a while.”
“Oh, yeah. Sure thing, Captain.”
Kalina took Chris’s hand and they followed Clinton back to the single story building used for wakes. She hadn’t been there since her father’s service but it was exactly as she remembered. For a funeral parlor it was brightly lit and decorated. It gave off an almost cheery feel. The air conditioning was on high blast when they walked in and it sent shivers down her back and turned the sweat slicking her skin cold.
“The video monitors are right through here,” Clint said and led them into a room she hadn’t noticed before.
A computer with a single monitor sat on a squat mahogany desk. The screen flared to life when Clint jiggled the mouse, displaying four quadrants, each with a different angle. Without doing anything, the angles changed to display another four locations throughout the cemetery. Clint settled in front of the machine and after a few keystrokes brought up a single angle. Kalina saw the officers and the forensic technician bent over the body.
“Roll it back a couple hours,” Chris said.
“You got it.” Clint hit a button and the video began to rewind. Kalina watched as the last few minutes passed by in reverse. She tried not to feel embarrassed when Chris caught her circling the gravestones.
“I was just trying to see if there was anything else there,” she said, feeling the need to explain herself.
“I didn’t say anything,” Chris said and placed a hand on her shoulder.
The image on the screen continued to pass by in reverse. Kalina disappeared entirely but the body remained. No one approached or moved away for forty minutes according to the time stamp and then, finally, a hooded figure appeared, walking backwards until he bent over the woman’s body.
“Can you get a better look at his face?” Chris asked.
“Not from this angle.”
The man stepped back and they could just make out a knife being pulled from her chest.
“At least it looks like we nailed down time of death for you,” Clint said and pointed a meaty finger at the timestamp.
They watched as the man backed up and the woman stood up, now alive. They appeared to be talking and then they disappeared off screen entirely.
“I’ll see what I can do to clean up the footage. See what other angles I can find that they might have passed,” Clint said.
“Good, thanks.” Chris tugged on Kalina’s arm. “I’m taking you back to the station. You need to give a statement.”