Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces ~ Chapter 16: Seth Bryan — by Lazarus Barnhill

Lt. Rosaria Frio closed the office door behind her and sat down across from the sheriff.

He finished reading the document in his hand, dropped it on his desk and leaned back in his chair. “Any activity?”

“No.” She shook her head. “No one has withdrawn any money from Morris’ checking or saving account. No charges on any of his credit cards.”

The two officers stared at each other, their matched expressions wary and thoughtful.

“What is this old bastard up to, Rosa?”

She smiled. “You have to admit, boss, the guy has never been transparent. You can count on him being morbid and disgusting, but not what he’s going to do. He is amazingly creative.”

Bryan laughed. “I remember back when I was down in the big city, they constantly warned us not to give the bad guys too much credit. Even when criminal activity is planned in advance, it’s usually not complex or hard to figure. Morris Sinclair is the antithesis of that. He is sly and devious. . . . He’s up to something.”

“Well he’s making everybody crazy.”

“Hmm. To say somebody is making the citizens of Rubicon Ranch crazy is to be redundant.” He shook his head. “Remember right after the Peterson child was found? Remember how it suddenly came to me that we had a whole community full of people who could have committed that murder? . . . Well we don’t really know if a murder has been committed—and if it is a murder we don’t know who it is, how it was done or where it happened—but I have that same feeling again.” He sat forward. “Sweetum is sure none of the bodies in his morgue is missing a foot?”

She shook her head. “Apart from the foot, there are no bodies or pieces of bodies in the morgue.”

“How long before he gets the DNA results?”

“He’s put a rush on it, but it will take the lab a couple weeks at least.”

“Too bad we’re not on one of those TV shows where they get the DNA five minutes after they find the body. Well, I know the ravens were picking at it in the boot, but can he tell from the bone at least how the foot was severed from the body?”

“I’ll ask him.” Frio pulled out her smartphone to enter a note.

“What can we tell from the foot?”

“White adult male. Bone structure, bunions, and a touch of arthritis would indicate someone forty or over.”

“We assume it was male because women don’t wear those kinds of socks and boots.”

“And they shave their legs.”

“Right. So let’s be proactive, Lieutenant.”

“That’s a nice word, boss.”

“Yeah. Let’s assume that the foot belongs to a murder victim. And—I’d love to be wrong about this—let’s assume he was killed up here in the high desert, and that one or more of our upstanding citizens was involved.”

Frio laughed.

“What’s funny?”

“I was just wondering if the killer was one of our long-time lunatics or a brand new loony.”

Bryan sighed. “Here I go making lists again. And—” He chuckled. “—guess who’s right at the top of the list again this time.”

“Melanie Gray.”

“Herself. There’s a part of me that wants to tell her that if she’ll quit walking in the desert, she’ll quit finding dead bodies. That in itself makes her a person of interest.”

“Really? That little woman would have to get really worked up in a rage to chop up a body, don’t you think?”

“Well, she’s been that mad at me before.”

“Oh, yeah. You wouldn’t make her a suspect just so you can harass her some more, would you?”

“Of course not, Lieutenant. There is no crime as yet, therefore no suspect. But we do have an investigation to conduct here. And while we’re listing ‘people of interest’, something strange is going on with Eloy Franklin.”

“Strange?” Frio looked up at him. “He got a rescue dog yesterday. He’s even taken it for a walk.”

“Yes, strange. For the first time anyone can remember, Eloy is actually interacting with other people. . . . You think he bought the dog so he could hang with that actress chick?”

“Actress?”

“Yeah. Tara Windsor. She showed up a little while ago calling herself Leia Menendez. Turns out she’s owned property here for a long time. Her renters moved out of the house after all the deaths. So she moves in.”

“I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that. You consider her a ‘person of interest’? Oh what a stupid question! She’s a beauty. Of course the sheriff-who-loved-women is going to be interested.”

“You so underestimate me, Rosa. Plus, you haven’t seen her movies. She’s Miss Wholesome in the parts she plays. You don’t see her picture on the front of the gossip rags either. I figure she just came here to get away from the Hollywood crowd and be a normal human being.”

“In Rubicon Ranch?”

“Yeah. She was misinformed. On the other hand—” He smiled. “—if you’re talking about exotic newcomers, let’s talk about Egypt Hayes.”

“Who?”

“That’s just it. No who—not who she’s supposed to be. There is no Egypt Hayes. She’s supposedly works at one of those new age ‘good vibration’ spas down the hill. But that villa she rented took a chunk of change no sweet little masseuse could afford. So we have two new mystery women in Rubicon.”

Frio shook her head as she entered data in her phone. “Leave it to you to check out every beautiful woman who comes to town.”

“You’re right. We need to ‘equal opportunity’ this. You know who seems real sketchy to me? Hero Boy. That new guy who works in Rojo Duro at that bookstore.”

“The Yellowed Page?”

“Yeah. This guy moved here from the Midwest after some kind of nature disaster. He was like a hero who saved a bunch of people. But then he moves out here. His name is Ward Preminger. Have you seen him?”

“No.”

“Good looking kid, but—I don’t know. Yes I do. He reminds me of one of those guys who is a nerd as far as the public is concerned, but underneath it he’s a superhero.”

“Or a super villain? So I’ll check him too.” She set the phone on the desk. “You know we have another stranger who just appeared in town.”

“Oh?”

“I’m not sure who he is. He showed up a couple days ago over at the Sinclair house. I heard he looks like Morris, only younger.”

He reflected. “No shit? Assuming Morris didn’t have himself cloned—which is not out of the realm of possible—it must be a child. Or a nephew? That’s double strange. I just talked to Moody and she said nothing to me about having a brother. And she sure said nothing about him coming to town. . . . Father disappears. Brother shows up.”

“Or maybe, brother shows up and then father disappears.”

“Wow. Once again Moody is right in the middle of things.”

Frio ran her thumb across the face of the phone. “So who am I supposed to be checking up on here? Egypt Hayes, Ward Preminger and Morris’ secret clone?

“Yeah. And bring Deputy Midget in to help you on this too. I also want some surveillance of Tara Windsor and Eloy. I just have this feeling something is going down and I haven’t got my head around it yet.”

“What about Ms. Gray.”

He smiled. “I’ve got my own eye on her.”

“Right.”

“You know, Rosa, I’m like a captain on an old square rigger. I know something’s in the wind. Something isn’t right. I just don’t what it is. I just know we need to figure this out.”

“Yeah.” She stood and pushed her chair against his desk.

“Also, let me know if they find any more body parts.”

“. . . Pieces. Necropieces.”

“What?” he asked.

“Wasn’t that one of Morris’ gory books? Necropieces, literally parts of dead bodies?”

“Yeah?”

She chuckled. “What if that disembodied foot belonged to Morris?”

“Ha. Right.”

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About Lazarus Barnhill

Lazarus Barnhill is a native of Oklahoma who has lived all over the south. He holds three degrees, including a Doctorate in Spiritual Development. He has been obsessed with writing since he was a boy. A father of three and grandfather of three, he resides in North Carolina with his wife of 34 years and an irritating cat, Jessie, who is for sale cheap. Lazarus Barnhill at Second Wind Publishing, LLC: http://secondwindpublishing.com/LazarusBarnhill.html
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