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Authors: Carrie Stuart Parks

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BOOK: The Bones Will Speak
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Please don't let the killer have a gun

Hackles raised, Winston shot to his feet.

The man cursed, and the doorway abruptly lightened.

Winston charged, rushing past me. I lunged, grabbing a handful of fur, temporarily slowing the dog. His momentum pulled me forward and off balance. I fell, losing my grip. Winston disappeared into the bushes.

I launched after them. A car door slammed and the engine revved.

, a sharp yelp . . . then silence.

I tore through the undergrowth.

Winston lay on his side, legs stretched out. “Ohnoohnoohno, please, God . . .” I halted, watching his torso to see if it moved.

Winston's chest rose and fell.

Winston. I couldn't lose Winston. My friend. My best friend. My eyes burned as I stumbled forward.

He raised his head and gazed at me. He struggled with a great effort to get his front legs under him before sinking back to the ground.

Kneeling beside him, I shifted his giant head into my lap. He closed his eyes. No blood marred his white coat. I ran my hand down his neck, stroked his shoulder, then gently felt his legs. He didn't budge. I skimmed across his ribs to the hip. He shifted, then stiffened.

“Easy, boy. Easy.” I pulled out my phone.

Still no reception.

I stood and looked toward the house, then to where the road disappeared around a spiky tamarack. “Winston, stay.”

I shoved through the brush, retrieved my rifle, and chambered a bullet.

Slowly approaching the tree, I worked spit back into my mouth. What if he just pulled out of sight? What if . . .? Just think about Winston. And Mattie. I wound my way around the branches until I could see the overgrown lane. Empty. I raced down the driveway to the county road. No sign of his car or any vehicle.

I returned to Winston. He struggled to rise. “No, Winston, down. Stay. Stay here.” Kneeling beside the dog, I gave him a hug. “Please.”

Run for help on the road? Game trail? Someone could give me a lift, but if the killer returned . . .

Game trail.

Charging through the woods toward my house, I held the phone in front of me like a compass. The pine branches snagged my hair. “Stupid phone . . . Winston . . . That . . . poor girl . . .” A stitch in my side grew, my legs heavier, the air thinner. Too much time.

The reception bar appeared. Yes! One, two, three . . . call now. I hit the redial button and waited, gasping for air.


“Hello!” Nothing.

I jogged again, hand holding my ribs. My feet were like concrete. A fallen log caught my shin, and I almost dropped the phone. Get . . . help . . . Get . . . help . . . Get . . . help . . .

I burst through the trees onto my lawn, scattering some wild turkeys. The cell phone sprang to life. I punched the number, sucking in air.

The voice was pure oxygen. “Ravalli County Sheriff's Office, dispatch.”

“Help! Hurt . . . vic . . . Mc-uh-McCandless . . . farm . . . Dave . . .”

“Yeah, we got the call.”


“The sheriff's heading there now.”


“The McCandless farm.”


his officers. Ahead of him, young, freckle-faced Deputy Ron Mackey pressed against the peeling siding of the old house. His white knuckles gleamed against the black grip of his gun.

Dave crept closer.

“They're inside,” Ron whispered. “The dog that attacked her is there. It's huge. I think I can shoot it without hitting the girl.”

“Where are the rest of the deputies?” Dave asked.

“Said they missed the turnoff. They're on their way.”

Dave advanced and pressed against the other side of the doorway. “Are you sure it's a dog, not a wolf?”

Ron nodded. “It's white with long fur. Big head. Yeah, I'm sure.”

Dave clenched his teeth, then made an effort to relax his jaw. “I'm going to take a look. If the dog moves, shoot it.” He nodded at the EMTs waiting in the parked ambulance, signaled the rest of his deputies to draw their weapons, pulled out his own, then peered around the corner.

The corpse sprawled on her back. The canine lying between Dave and the body raised its head and stared at him.

Dave lowered his gun and stepped through the door. “Winston?”

“Move left, Dave. I haven't got a clear shot!” Ron said.

“Put your gun away.” Dave approached the dog. Winston didn't stand to greet him. Dave paused midstep and stared at Winston's stretched-out rear legs, then turned and looked through the door. He could see a trail of broken and bent grass. He squatted down beside the dog and stroked his head. “Easy, Winston, easy. I need to help her.”

“Dave, the dog's a killer!”

“Winston didn't hurt anyone,” Dave said. “He's guarding the body.” Winston nudged Dave's hand. Dave moved past him and knelt. The girl's face was ashen, eyes closed. She wasn't much older than a child. He touched her throat, feeling for a pulse he knew wouldn't be there.

He jerked his hand away.

“She's alive! Get the EMTs in here right now.” He stood. “Dre,” he called to Deputy Andre Arceneaux, waiting outside the door. “Secure this place. Ron, get Gwen Marcey on the phone. This is her dog and her coat on the girl. Get someone to call this in to dispatch, now, only medical staff. Move!”

The emergency medical team burst into the room, but froze at the sight of the dog.

Dave bent over Winston. “It's okay, big fella, they're here to help.” Straightening, he waved the medical staff over. “Go ahead. Don't mind the dog.”

The team swarmed over the girl. Dave moved out of their way and stepped outside.

Their rescue efforts hopefully wouldn't compromise the crime scene too much.

Several deputies trotted up and gathered around Dave. “Sorry we're late,” one said.

“You stay with the girl.” Dave pointed as he spoke. “You”—finger jab—“get out to the county road and keep anyone out who isn't supposed to be here. You”—another jab—“call the vet and let them know about Winston.”

“No phone reception here,” Ron said. “But dispatch was able to get through to Gwen. I mean her daughter. She said her mom left to look for a body, came back, screamed at her to lock all the doors, tore through the house looking for something, then took off in the car. Does that make sense?”

“For Gwen, yeah.” Dave raised his head at the sound of yet another vehicle. A clean but battered white 2001 Audi A4 emerged from the snowberry bushes, careened into the field, and slid to a stop between a patrol car and ambulance.

Gwen jumped out and raced over to Dave. “You found her . . . I thought it was Aynslee . . . And Winston . . . and I ran . . . Dispatch said . . . He returned . . . Couldn't find my car keys . . .”

Dave took her arm and led her away from the gawking Ron. He dropped his hand. “Take your time.”

Gwen looked into his eyes. “The girl . . .?”

Dave nodded. “They're working on her now.”

“I thought it was Aynslee.” She shook her head.

Dave jerked his head back. He replayed his first vision of the girl in his mind. “Maybe the hair?”

She nodded. “I thought . . .” She tried to go on, then held up her hand and walked a few paces away. After a few minutes, she
blew her nose, wiped her face, and returned. “I left Winston . . .”

“We found him guarding the girl.”



“That . . . that . . . I can't think of bad enough words to describe the man who did that to that child.” Gwen waved her arms. “Then he hit my dog! I need to get him to the vet.”

She started to walk toward the building, but Dave restrained her. “I'll get one of my men to take care of it. I need you to tell me what happened.”

Gwen turned her back to him and stood motionless for a moment. Her hair had grown since the last time he'd seen her. She absently ran her hand through the short blond waves, pausing when she met a chunk of tree bark and plucked it out. Pyrenees fur dusted her muddy jeans.

She turned. Smeared mascara under her eyes made her look like a homeless waif. He looked away quickly, remembering the day he'd met her. His dad had caught her stealing apples from a neighbor's orchard. It turned out she'd been living in their barn for who knows how long. Dad brought her home for a real meal. She'd stayed with them for the next five years. She'd never spoken of her life before that day. At least not to him.

“Okay,” Gwen said.

Dave pulled out a notepad and pen, then nodded to her.

“Winston found the cranium yesterday, as you know. When I encouraged him to take me to his treasure trove, he brought me here, then he brought me the girl's sandal. That's what made me look in the house.”

“Was the girl conscious when you found her?”


“Did she say anything?” He waited, pen hovering above his notebook.

“Uh. Just a couple of words. ‘Stay. No, remember six twenty-five.' ”

“I wonder what that means.”

“No clue. She nodded when I asked if her name was Mattie.”

“So, we've found the missing Mattie Banks.”

“The girl abducted yesterday from Missoula. Looks like she's experienced a pretty rough life. She was probably hooking, which made her a high risk.”

“An easy target.”

“Are you going to interrupt me? I thought you wanted—”

“Sorry.” He knew better than to smile.

“Are you going to look for her folks?”

Dave couldn't read her expression. “We'll try.”

Gwen folded her arms. “She's young, very young. She looks about Aynslee's age.”

“I figured a runaway or throwaway.” Dave watched her face carefully. Gwen might have a knee-jerk response to throwaways, children forgotten by society who ended up on the streets. Or dead. Gwen had been lucky; she could have ended up like Mattie.

A muscle tightened in Gwen's jaw, and she glanced away. “Yeah, well . . .”

Dave waited for her to continue, but she just stared off into the distance. “Gwen?”

“Sorry. Got to thinking about something else. I didn't notice track marks on her arms, but she may be into prescription drugs.” Gwen's voice was husky. “I haven't looked at mug photos for a while, so I didn't recognize her.” She pulled a pencil
from her pocket and tucked it behind her ear. “The unknown suspect—”

“Unknown suspect? You're talking FBI-eze. You've been gone too long.”

“You're interrupting again. Okay, the slimeball used control, of course, and demonstrated organized behavior, tying her up with rope or cuffs that he brought with him. Her wrists and ankles are abraded. Maybe he even used some drug to further subdue her.”

Dave grinned. His dad had trained her well.

“He returned.” She checked her watch. “At 0917. Winston chased him off, but the suspect hit him with his car . . .” She swallowed.

“You saw his car?”

“No, I fell trying to keep Winston from getting hurt. Fat lot of good that did.” She kicked a pinecone. “The bushes over there and the way the road dips kept his car out of sight, but I heard it. It sounded like a gas engine, not electric or diesel. Unfortunately, we all drove over the same route, but maybe you'll get lucky with tire tracks. About Winston—”

“We'll get him to the vet. Is this where Winston found the skull?”

She nodded. “There's a buried body, or body parts, next to the house.”

Dave opened a fresh page in his notebook. “Speculation?”

“I think my dog has a broken or dislocated hip—”

“I mean, speculation on this crime.”

“Yeah, so, uh, he used the house as a kill site, with that grave indicating at least one dump site . . . You know I'm not a profiler?”

Dave looked up. “I know.”

“So why are you asking me?”

“Two reasons.” He held up his index finger. “Number one, you have good insight. Number two, we don't have a profiler. We're lucky to have Dre.”

“Is that the guy with all the tattoos?”

“Yeah. Andre Arceneaux. A lateral transfer from Spokane, but originally from West Monroe, Louisiana. Don't let his tattoos and piercings throw you. He was an undercover agent for Ouachita Parish.”

Gwen opened her mouth, but Dave was on a roll.

“We're lucky he took a couple of forensic classes last year. That's all people think about anymore. They watch TV, all those crime shows, and they think it's really like that. Case solved in an hour minus commercials, using the latest scientific gadgets. A CSI team waiting for our call, trained and ready. When my dad was sheriff, no one questioned him about forensic science.”

“But your dad—”

“Not three days ago, Mrs. Post called. Stray dogs killed a bunch of chickens. She wanted me to do DNA tests on the blood.” Dave violently swatted a deerfly buzzing near his head. “DNA. Chicken blood. This is Copper Creek, Montana!”

Gwen cocked her head and narrowed one eye. “So did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“The DNA on the blood?”

He folded his arms. “You. Are. So . . . Just finish giving me your thoughts about this case.”

Gwen slowly turned in a circle. Dave followed her movements and tried to view the scene through her eyes. Patrol cars lined the field next to the house. One officer unrolled cadmium-yellow
tape, boldly announcing Police Line—Do Not Cross in block print, from tree to tree. Methodically, he created a path to the grave before circling the house. The pine-covered mountains crowded in on three sides. The driveway dropped to the county road to their left. A faint dirt track, or logging skid trail, continued past the house toward the mountains. Rusty barbed wire, looped between gray posts, enclosed a sloping upper field. Most of the fence lay snarled in the tall grasses. The crackle of radios and the rushing stream provided the only sounds.

BOOK: The Bones Will Speak
2.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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