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Authors: Midge Bubany

Silver's Bones

BOOK: Silver's Bones
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Silver's Bones

 

Midge Bubany

 

 

North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.

St. Cloud, Minnesota1

 

Copyright © 2015 Midge Bubany

Cover image © iStock/Getty Images

 

Print ISBN 978-0-87839-787-7

eBook ISBN: 978-0-87839-826-3

 

First Edition: March 2015

 

All rights reserved.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is ­entirely coincidental.

 

Published by

North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc

PO Box 451

St. Cloud, MN 56302

www.northstarpress.com

 

To Drew and Kristin for loving our children

And to Diane for being my first eyes

 

Sail on silver girl,

Sail on by.

Your time has come to shine.

 

~Paul Simon, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

 

Chapter 1

Monday, August 6

A
s I stared at the stack
of messages, my personal cell phone rang, jolting me out of my post-vacation stupor. I looked at the display. Now what could my ex-girlfriend possibly want?

“Hey, Adriana, what's up?”

“Cal, you have to get out here!”

Her voice was uncharacteristically screechy, so I said supportively, “Sup­pose you calm down and tell me . . .”

“Don't
you
tell me to
calm down
! My landscaping crew just found a frickin' skull in my yard!”

Skull? Well, that took me aback. “Huh? Human?”

“Would I call you if it was a raccoon?”

“Right. Fresh?”

“What?”

“Has it recently been separated from its body?”

“Oh, for God's sake! No, it's not
fresh
.”

“Okay, okay.” She was getting
more
agitated instead of less. “Where exactly was this skull found?”

“Russ Taylor dug it out with the Bobcat thingy. They're excavating a hill for my retaining wall.”

“Where do you live?”

“In the new Ronson Development on the north shore of Lake Emmaline.”

I didn't know she bought a house—I never thought she'd stick around— and I didn't like the idea she had.

“An address?”

“Oh, sorry. Twenty Ronson Road. When you come to a T, take a left. My driveway is the first one.”

“Sounds easy enough. Hey, make sure the crew doesn't touch or move anything.”

“I think
everyone
gets that, Cal.”

“Never know. All righty then, see you in a few.”

I ended the call and stared into space. I was still dull from jetlag. Okay, a skull—probably ancient. Maybe not even human. Whatever it was, I needed to contact my boss of five months, Sheriff Patrice Clinton, to give her the sketchy details of “the skull.”

“Good morning, Deputy Sheehan. How was the Hawaiian honeymoon?” She sounded way too chipper for a Monday morning.

“Great. Hey, I got a call this morning from Adriana Valero. She says she has a human skull in her backyard.”

“Is she a flake?”

“Uh . . . no. She's an attorney with Phillip Warner's firm. FYI—I used to date her.”

“Oh, so
that's
why she called you.”

“Evidently her landscaping crew dug it up. She lives in the Ronson Develop­ment on Lake Emmaline.”

“Have you told Troy about this?”

“No, he's not at his desk yet. I thought I'd call you before I went out to take a look-see.”

“Well, find him. Then we'll
all
go out and see exactly what Ms. Valero has in her backyard.”

I speed-dialed Troy Kern's number. I was about to hang up on him when he finally answered on the fifth ring.

“Kern.”

“This is Cal. Hey, we have a situation. Adriana Valero's landscaping crew just found what they believe to be a human skull. You in?”

“Jesus. What do you think?”
Click.

Thanks for calling, Cal. Yeah, I'd love to be involved
, I said to myself. I sighed. Prick. He could be a competitive, unlikable, asshole jerk, yet he thought he was a nice guy—a comedian, to boot. He initiated rookies on their first days. My initiation was processing a fat, stinking, naked drunk on my own, while he and his cronies watched on cameras from the control room.

 

 

When I walked into
the
sheriff's office, I caught her staring out the window. Patrice Clinton was an attractive brunette somewhere north of forty, five-foot-seven, small boned, and in tremendous shape. She must have spent a couple hours a day in the gym and then an hour in front of the mirror every morning getting ready for work, because her hair and make-up were always just so. Although I had occasionally seen her wear pants as part of her uniform, today she wore her usual skirt and heels. Why not? It was an office job to her. She whirled around to face me when she noticed I had entered.

“This could be big for us, Cal.”

Her eyes were lit with excitement. She was a rookie sheriff and didn't yet understand what a pain in the ass a high profile case can be for the depart­ment . . . and community.

“I hope the skull is ancient,” I said.

She screwed up her nose and was about to say something when her eyes diverted toward the door. Troy walked in. I was rather shocked by his appearance.

“Dude, new do,” I said.

He'd replaced his Don Johnson overly gelled hair with “modern cop.” The sides were buzzed, leaving a swath of slightly longer hair on the crown.

“Tell me that's not a new regulation,” I said to the sheriff.

She smiled and said, “No.”

Troy rubbed the top of his head. “What? You don't like it? It's easier to take care of.”

“No, hey, I do. You look like one tough
hombre
with all the scars you got going on that scalp of yours. Jesus. What happened to you, anyway?”

“Brothers. They beat my brains out.”

“Explains a lot.”

“So, what's your excuse?”

“Okay, okay. Let's get moving,” Sheriff Clinton said.

Troy and I grabbed our investigation kits. We all drove separate department vehicles out to Adriana's new home. I still couldn't believe she'd given up her position in a Minneapolis high-powered legal firm—the job she couldn't turn down a year ago—to move back to a community she couldn't wait to get out of.

Hopefully, the skull was a raccoon's, so I could be on my way back to my desk and transition slowly from my Hawaiian honeymoon to the central time zone and the real world.
Yawn.

When I arrived at Adriana's property, I pulled my assigned Explorer behind Troy's 2011 Buick Enclave, a vehicle assigned to investigations after it had been confiscated in a drug bust. He liked it, but I didn't. It wasn't fully equipped.

The driver's door on Sheriff Clinton's Crown Vic stood open and she was changing into black athletic shoes. We waited for her to finish tying the laces, then all three of us rounded the corner to find Adriana with her back to us, hands on hips, dressed in a gray pin-stripe suit, posing like a model against the backdrop of the lake. The sight of her used to take my breath away. Not anymore.

Adriana towered over the sheriff. After I introduced the two women, Adriana said, “I'm fighting back my freak-out urge here. I never expected my yard to be a crime scene.”

Sheriff Clinton smiled up at her and said, “Well, before we jump to any
conclusions, let's see what we
really
have.”

Adriana lifted her brows at the patronizing tone Patrice had taken with her. We started walking down to the edge of a hill between her house and the lake, where three men were gathered. The only guy I knew was Del Martin, the builder who'd renovated my house. Del was in his early fifties and had the body of a guy who earned his muscles the hard way, by doing physical labor all day long. He had a beak of a nose and a ready smile. The man wore plaid shirts and jeans for every occasion, even weddings and funerals.

One of the guys looked to be about my age (thirty-two), but smaller—average height and build. His light-brown hair, mustache, and beard were neatly trimmed, while the younger guy with him was a skinny kid with pimples, bad posture, and dirty, long brown hair beneath his Packers baseball cap, which was worn backwards.

As we moved in, the man with the mustache started talking like he'd pop if he didn't get his words out fast enough. “I went for a second bucketful when I saw something kinda weird in there, so I jumped down to take a look and Jesus, there . . . there was . . . a . . . a skull. I couldn't believe it.” He took a quick breath. “I went to find the homeowner to tell her she better call you guys right away.”

The sheriff marched over to him and extended her hand. “Sheriff Patrice Clinton. And you are?”

“Russ Taylor, Taylor Landscaping, and this here's my employee, Shane Erickson.”

Shane nodded, kept his hands stuffed in his pockets.

Del extended his hand. “Del Martin, I'm the contractor and builder.”

“Nice to meet you.” Patrice pointed to where the Bobcat was parked. “Well, let's see what we've got here,” she said.

We all bent over to examine the bucket's contents. It was definitely a skull with a portion of the backbone still intact.

Troy whistled. “Looks human to me,” he said.

I walked over to the gouged-out area at the top of a small grassy hilltop running parallel to the shoreline. Everyone followed.

As we peered at the tips of bones poking through the earth, no one spoke. There also looked to be a piece of fabric, color undistinguishable. We put down evidence markers before I snapped several pictures. Troy pulled out a brush and pick from his kit and cleared away some of the dirt to uncover what looked like rib bones in the loosened soil.

“I'm surprised you didn't uncover this grave during the excavation, Del,” I said.

“We didn't come down this close to the hill. Russ wanted to do his own grading.”

I pointed to a dirt pile. “This was dug from this space, I assume?”

“Yeah.”

“It'll have to be sifted through. Maybe we should call Bemidji in on this one,” I said to Sheriff Clinton. I was referring to the Bemidji Regional Office, or BRO, Northern Minnesota's division of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“Yes, I guess I'd better,” Sheriff Clinton said. She left the group and headed toward the house.

“Del, are you working on any other properties here in the Ronson Develop­ment?” Troy asked.

“We've already cleared trees from the property next door and were going to start digging the foundation this morning.”

“Well, you better stop until we're sure what we have here,” Troy said.

Del squinted. “Okay. I think there's something else you boys ought to see.”

Troy and I followed him. We'd walked approximately a hundred yards, close to the newly cleared area. He pointed to the base of a large maple tree where a bouquet of dead flowers lay, tied with a dirty gray ribbon.

We both squatted to get a better look.

“Strange,” I said.

Del said, “Yeah, I thought it weird to find a bouquet lying out here, but now, I don't know, maybe it's connected somehow to the, ah . . . person back there.”

“When did you notice them?”

“Oh, a good week ago when I was laying out the lot line for the new house.”

“Were they fresh at that time?” I asked.

“They were starting to brown.”

“You see anything like this before?”

“Nope.”

I placed an evidence marker down beside the dead flowers and snapped photos. We'd have to measure out the exact location before I bagged them. I pointed to the barely visible house on the wooded lot across the clearing.

“Who lives there?” I asked.

“Bruce and Lynn Campbell. You know, they own the Save-Rite. Their son, Jason, pretty much runs it now.”

Troy gave Del a pat on the back. “Good find.” And to me he said, “Our crime scene just got a whole lot bigger.”

“And now unfortunately for you, Del, we'll have to rope this whole area off too,” I said.

He pulled in his lips and nodded slightly, then said, “Oh, hell's bells. All right. Nothing I can do about it. If you don't need me, I'm going back to the office to see which remodeling project I can start until I can get back out here.”

“Sorry to delay things for you.”

“Oh, it's a spec home. No worries. But if another body turns up anywhere on this lake I may as well give the land away.”

I patted him on the back. Del went to tell Russ Taylor about the delay.

Troy and I followed. “So, if the flowers are connected to the individual in the grave, why is it so far off the mark?” I asked.

“Whoever put it there didn't remember exactly where they buried the body, or maybe we're wrong and it's unrelated.”

Sheriff Clinton approached to say, “Bemidji will be down ASAP.”

I showed Sheriff Clinton the photo of the flowers.

“Where did you find those?”

“You take her,” Troy said to me and walked toward the house.

I heard her sigh.

“Follow me,” I said.

“He resents me,” she said.

“Aw, he's an asshole to everybody.”

When we got to the maple tree, she crouched down and said, “It's related.”

“That'd be my guess. We can't be sure, but we'll document and take them into evidence.”

“If it's our killer, doesn't placing flowers speak of remorse?”

I shrugged. “But it's not in the exact location.”

“It's nearby. People can get confused in the woods. I know I do.”

“And with the construction going on, flowers couldn't very well be placed in Adriana's yard without raising suspicion.”

She shuddered. “And this case has just taken an even creepier turn.”

“Murders are creepy,” I agreed.

Once we returned to the yard, I noticed Del, Russ, Troy, and Adriana gathered together on the patio. Troy was drooling at Adriana like a dog at a steak. Was he interested in her? He'd be wasting his time. She'd never go for him.

Del said, “If you're through with me, I'll take off.”

Sheriff Clinton said, “Okay, there's no need for you to stick around. And Mr. Taylor, you're going to have to leave the Bobcat for the time being . . . and, boys, could you all keep this to yourselves so we don't get the media swarming in before we're set up for it?”

BOOK: Silver's Bones
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