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Authors: Carrie Stuart Parks

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BOOK: The Bones Will Speak
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“As of last year when we completed this section. But we board and treat dogs only. The cat practice is next door.”

“I sometimes need to leave Winston when I go out of town. This is a lot closer than driving him to Missoula. Do you have room for giant breeds?”

He tapped the window. The kennel area erupted in barking as a German shepherd, Lab, Bernese mountain dog, and two huge mastiff-types responded. “Yup.”

“How much do you charge?”

“Sixty-five dollars a day.”

Aynslee poked me in the back. I ignored her and tried to keep my face bland. I'd stayed in motel rooms for less.

A buzzer went off.

Danny sprinted across the room. A second technician joined him. They grabbed a gurney, slammed a door open, and disappeared outside. Two more technicians and a man I recognized as Dr. Hawkins raced into the room. The vet sent the technicians scurrying to gather up various items.

“What's going on?” Aynslee asked.

“Looks like an animal emergency,” I said.

Danny reappeared shoving the gurney. On it was a large collie-shepherd mix, followed by a man in Levi's and a plaid shirt. They maneuvered the gurney next to a stainless steel treatment table and Danny and the vet shifted the dog. For a moment, Aynslee and I got a clear look at the shepherd mix. Aynslee turned away and covered her face. I grew faint.

No dog could recover from those fearsome injuries.

The vet raised his hand and everyone froze, waiting. He bent over the dog, listening for a heartbeat through his stethoscope.

The rancher stood away from the table, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “Found him like that, next to a dead llama,” he said to no one in particular. “Musta happened early this morning.”

Dr. Hawkins put down the stethoscope, walked over to the rancher, and murmured something. The rancher put a hand over his eyes. His shoulders shook.

Danny suddenly noticed Aynslee and me standing by the wall. He hurried over. “Sorry, I'll take you to your dog.”

“What happened to . . .?” Aynslee pointed to the still form on the table.

“Wolves,” Danny said quietly.

“Oh.” I put my arm around Aynslee. “Speaking of wolves, I have a dead cat in the trunk of my car. It may have been killed by wolves. Or coyotes. Do you dispose of dead animals?”

“Sure. Is it in a plastic bag?”

“Yes.”

“Put it by the side door. I'll take care of it.”

I nodded. We entered an inside kennel area with chain-link runs on both sides, high windows, and an exit on the opposite wall. He pointed to the last kennel. “Your dog's over there. He's been sedated.”

A few quick strides and both Aynslee and I were at the gate. Winston lay sprawled on a blanket, but raised his head slightly at my voice. My daughter dove on him and covered his muzzle with kisses. I stepped inside, crouched next to him, and stroked his head. “Good boy. You're my good boy. You get better, okay?”

Winston seemed in a twilight stupor, bloodshot eyes sagging.

I cleared my throat and waited a moment before standing. “How much is it going to cost to fix his hip?” I stepped from the run. Aynslee gave him one last hug and reluctantly left his side.

Danny closed the door and looked at the dog. “It depends. I'll get Dr. Hawkins for you. He can give you an estimate if you'd like.”

“Yes, please.”

He led us toward the front of the building, through a spacious room where a young blond staff member was hosing down a large, stainless steel tub. The smell of cleaner and wet dog floated in the air. Pointing right, we moved into an office that opened into the lobby. One wall was book-lined and surrounded a field-stone fireplace. The cherry wood desk was spotless. Windows overlooked the landscaped parking lot. Two chairs upholstered in western scenes faced the desk.

“I'll get the doc for ya.” Danny bobbed his head.

The watercolor painting above the fireplace caught my attention. I moved closer.

“I enjoy watercolors.”

I jumped. I hadn't heard Dr. Hawkins enter.

“Gwen Marcey?” The man extended his hand. “I'm Tim Hawkins. Nice to finally meet you. I've admired your watercolors ever since I attended one of your shows. What did you call that exhibit?” Doc Hawkins was slightly taller than me and wore starched, verdant-colored surgical scrubs. He smiled easily.


The Last Best Places
. I only had time to research and paint five watercolors in the series.”

“They were great.” He turned to Aynslee and held out his hand. “I don't believe we've met.”

“Hi.” Aynslee gave him a limp handshake.

“This is my daughter, Aynslee.”

“Nice to meet you, Aynslee.” He turned to me. “If you decide to paint a few more landscapes like you did, let me know. I'd like to see them before you put them on display.”

“Sure.”

“But be sure to watch out for the wolves.”

“So it was a wolf that killed that dog?”

“Yes. And their pet llama. The owners are really nice people. I'd just been out there on a farm call yesterday. And now . . .” He frowned.

“How did you know it was wolves, not coyotes?” I asked.

“Wolves don't care if the animals are dead before they start eating. There's always lots of blood, drag marks, signs of a prolonged struggle.”

“An animal crime scene. I'd never thought of it.”

“You're a forensic artist. The next time I go out on a large animal call involving wolves, would you like to come?”

“Sure.” Go figure. I was dumped off a human case the same day I have a chance to check out an animal killing. Maybe that was my new career: forensic critter artist. “About my dog?”

“He's beautiful,” he said. “Obviously well-bred.”

“Thank you. I used to show him. He's a champion. Is he . . .?”

“He's fine. We went ahead and x-rayed him. He has a dislocated hip. We'd like to try to get the femur into the socket by manipulation. If we can't, we'll need to do surgery.”

I sank to a chair. “What's all that going to cost?”

He pulled a piece of cream linen paper from a drawer and scrawled on it with a Montblanc pen. Holding it out, he said, “This is just a rough estimate.”

I stared at the total.

Air escaped my lungs as if punched. So much! I took a deep breath and let it out. “You mentioned you liked watercolors.”

“I do.”

“Would you . . . would you consider bartering Winston's treatment for a painting? I could do another
Last Best Place
.”

Dr. Hawkins frowned. “I don't know. I don't own this practice, so I'd have to run it by the partners. They're . . . pretty tight.”

A hot flash bathed my face, and I looked down so Dr. Hawkins wouldn't see my flushed cheeks. When the heat subsided, I looked at him. “What . . . what would happen if I . . . didn't treat him?”

“Mom!” Aynslee's eyes were open in shock.

“Well.” Dr. Hawkins stared first at my daughter, then me. “This is awkward. Without treatment, your dog will be crippled. You'll at least need to pay for the treatment so far. We do accept credit cards.”

“I . . . I don't have a credit card.” Taking a deep breath, I picked up my tattered purse. “Go ahead and take care of him. I'll find the money somehow. Call me when we can pick him up.”

Pouring rain greeted us as we left the vet hospital, fat drops sliding down our backs. I swiftly removed the cat and left it by the side door. Once in the car, I stared out the window as the rain drummed on the roof, increasing to car-wash intensity.

“Mom, do you think I could get a weekend job? Like at a vet hospital? All my classmates have jobs like that. And we need the money.”

“I'll think about it.” Now all I had to do was keep my daughter safe from a serial killer, find a remote house or barn to paint, sell the art to get enough money to pay the vet bill, and avoid marauding wolves.

CHAPTER TEN

DAVE SLUMPED IN HIS OFFICE CHAIR AND
pinched between his eyes to ward off the headache he felt coming on. A stack of papers sat in front of him. Statements from all his officers. Gwen would go over their words to check for anyone lying about his cell phone. She'd look for unnecessary words, their choice of pronouns, changes in nouns, and incorrect verbs. She was spot-on in ferreting out the liars.

Not that he expected any deception from his own officers. He still needed to hear from Jeannie, Wes, and a few of the Missoula officers.

He glanced up as Ron entered.

“Did you get the last of the statements?”

“That female detective just looked at me. Here's two more from the Missoula police. The artist guy—”

“Wes.”

“Yeah. He said he'd get to it when he had time.”

“Keep after him. Who's over at the hospital watching the girl?”

“Missoula took over.”

“Did you hear if Mattie was talking yet?”

“No.” Ron strolled from the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

Dave looked at the stack of papers again and clenched his teeth. He'd bet it was someone from Missoula. At least there would be a bright side. The bulk of the cost of the investigation would come from their budget, not his.

Dave strolled to the bookshelves and pulled out a textbook on crime-scene techniques. The book his dad had written. Big Ned Moore, his hero and Gwen's savior. At times like this, he missed talking to him.

The book fell open to a highlighted passage:

Evidence found at the scene is a building block to a case, but forms only one part of the investigation. The investigative process itself is ancient, found in the Bible, the book of Deuteronomy, in chapter 13:

“Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain . . .”

This is a process for investigating that trained detectives follow today.

Ned used the Bible for everything, even crime scenes.
I wish he'd marked a passage on how to stretch a law enforcement budget.

Someone behind him softly cleared her throat.

“Yes, Louise?” he asked without turning.

His matronly secretary, Louise, waved a handful of papers. “More problems. Another dog's dead, torn up by the wolves, along with a llama. The Stansbury brothers set out some wolf traps and caught a prize bluetick coonhound. Someone spray-painted
wolves: shoot, shovel, and shut up
on the side of the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks headquarters, and they've called three times about it.” She sniffed. “I think that particular agency needs to do a little target practice themselves on those wolves. They started this whole mess—”

“What else do you have?”

“Well.” She pulled out a stapled set of papers. “The Citizens for Nature—that's what they call themselves, a bunch of tree-hugging, leftover hippies, if you ask me—signed a petition to prevent wolf hunting.”

“Of course.”

She held up another sheet of paper. “But here's the piece of resistance.”

“Don't you mean
pièce de résistance
?”

“That's what I said. The city council approved this permission for a torchlight parade.”

“Who's sponsoring it?”

She raised her eyebrows. “The American Christian Covenant Church.”

Dave chewed his lip for a moment. “Is there some Christian holiday I'm missing?”

“Not exactly. They want to have the parade on the nineteenth of this month.”

“And what's so special about the nineteenth?”

“It's the day before the twentieth.” She gave him a smug look.

Getting information out of Louise was like catching a fish with a closed safety pin. “Louise—”

“Okay, Mr. Grumpy Pants. April 20 was Hitler's birthday. This parade is in memory of the torchlight parade Hitler had for himself in 1939. He made his birthday a national holiday.”

“So this American Covenant—”

“American Christian Covenant. Yep, one of those neo-Nazi-type churches. New group. Still advocating making the northwest into a white homeland. Reminds me of the troubles we had here when your dad was sheriff, with the Militia of Montana and the Freemen of Montana. Anyway, they stuck a bunch of fliers under car windows at the Safeway. I put a copy in your in-box.”

Dave rubbed his eyes. Where was he supposed to come up with enough officers to cover an event like that? And the money to pay them?

“Spokane PD returned your call on that serial killer,” Louise continued. “They said they haven't caught him and if you have something for them, they're interested. They faxed some case information over, and I've put it in your in-box as well. Oh, and speaking of Spokane—or at least Washington—they sent over a subpoena for you to serve on Gwen Marcey. Said they already told her it was coming.”

“It must be for an old case.”

“I looked it up. It was some composite drawings she did on a domestic terrorists bombing a few years ago.”

“Give it to—”

“I already did. Craig Harnisch called in sick.” She placed the papers on his desk. “Everyone's got the flu. My daughter—”

“Thank you, Louise.”

“I'll bring you a nice cup of tea.” She turned to leave. “You're probably bound up. Makes people grumpy.”

“I'm not—”

She shut the door.

“—bound up.” He rubbed his chin. “And I hate tea.”

The phone rang, and he grabbed the receiver. “Ravalli County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Dave Moore.”

“Dave, it's Jeannie.”

He leaned back. “Yeah. How can I help you?”

“It's a zoo out here. Hey!” Her shout blasted his ear. “Get those people out of there!”

He winced and yanked the phone away, then cautiously put it closer.

“Half your town's parked outside the entrance to the farm.” Her voice returned to a normal volume. “The state crime lab people are having trouble getting through. I need you to send over some deputies to clear the road.”

BOOK: The Bones Will Speak
6.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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