Talladega Falls, Georgia
The skeleton had been in the ground for a long time. Joe Quinn had seen
enough of them to recognize that. But how long? He turned to Sheriff
Bosworth. "Who found it?"
"Two hikers. They stumbled on it late last night. Those rains the past few days washed it out of the ground. Hell, that storm slid half the mountain into the falls. A real gully washer." His gaze narrowed on Joe's face. "You must have hotfooted up here from Atlanta as soon as you heard about it."
"You think it's connected to one of the Atlanta PD's cases?"
"Maybe." He paused. "No. This is an adult."
"You're looking for a kid?"
"Yes." Every day. Every night. Always. He shrugged. "The initial report didn't say whether it was an adult or a child."
Bosworth bristled. "So? I never have to make reports like this. We're pretty crime free here. Not like Atlanta."
"You knew enough to recognize possible knife wounds to the skeleton's rib cage. But I do admit our problems are a little different. What's your population?"
"Don't come up here and slam me, Quinn. We've got a strong law enforcement body. We don't need any city cops messing around our jurisdiction."
He'd made a mistake, Joe thought wearily. He hadn't slept in nearly twenty-four hours, but that was no excuse. It was always an error to criticize local police even when they were taking potshots at you. Bosworth was probably a good cop, and he'd been polite until Joe cast aspersions on how he did his job. "I'm sorry. No offense."
"I do take offense. You have no idea what our problems are here. Do you know how many tourists we have every year? And how many get lost or hurt in these mountains? We may not have murderers or drug dealers, but we take care of every one of our citizens besides those tenderfeet who come up from Atlanta and camp in our parks and fall down in gorges and mess up--"
"Okay, okay." Joe held up his hand in surrender. "I said I was sorry. I didn't mean to downplay your problems. I guess I'm a little jealous."
His gaze wandered out over the mountains and the falls. Even with Bosworth's men climbing all over, taping and scouring the area, it was still unbelievably beautiful. "I'd like to live here. It would be nice to wake up every morning to all this peace."
Bosworth was slightly appeased. "It's God's country. The Indians used to call the falls 'the place of tumbling moonlight.'" He scowled. "And we don't find skeletons like this. This must be one of yours. Our people don't kill each other and toss the bodies into the ground."
"Perhaps. It's a long way to transport a body. But in this wilderness, it would be quite a while before a corpse is discovered."
Bosworth nodded. "Hell, if it hadn't been for the rains and the mud slide, we might not have found it for twenty, thirty years."
"Who knows? It might be that long already. I'll get out of your way. I'm sure your medical examiner will want to get at the bones and examine them."
"We have a coroner. He's the local undertaker." Bosworth added quickly, "But Pauley's always willing to ask for help when he needs it."
Excerpted from The Killing Game by Iris Johansen. Copyright© 1999 by I.J. Enterprises. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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