"Why did you move the body?" the older cop asked me, shining his flashlight on the front steps. Only the slightest trace of blood remained.
"It's cold out," I said. "It was still sleeting. She wasn't wearing a coat." I didn't have a good answer.
"The crime scene has been breached," the skinny guy said.
I scratched my head. "How do you know it's a crime scene? Nobody here heard any shots."
A general mumbling of assent from the assembled chorus just inside the door backed me up on this point. The two cops exchanged a look.
"We're going to have to question everyone here," the skinny cop said. "I hope you didn't let anybody leave."
His partner looked past me at the milling guests. "Why are they drinking?"
I shrugged. "It's the holidays."
"No more drinks, please. Gather them up."
While I collected everyone's glasses, the two cops moved inside and took a look at the victim. It seemed like a pretty indifferent look, but I suppose I give some ho-hum once-overs at corpses myself. The skinny cop gestured toward the parlor.
"What's in there?"
"Another body," I told him.
"Man or woman?"
"How'd he die?"
"Not tonight, if that's what you're asking."
"You got some sort of table, Mr. Sewell?" the older cop asked. "And a chair?"
I fetched a card table from upstairs and set it up for him. I rolled in my own chair from my office. Command post. The skinny cop pulled the blanket back down so that the waitress's face was showing, then he had everyone line up and walk slowly past her to take a good hard look at her before then stepping over to the card table to be questioned by his partner. The dead doctor's family was still upstairs with Billie. I decided to wait until all of the guests had been interviewed and allowed to leave-out the side door to avoid further "breaching" of the so-called crime scene - before letting the police know about the others. The two cops were as unhappy with this information as they had been with the body's being moved.
"What are they doing upstairs?" the gruff cop demanded.
I indicated the parlor. "That's their loved one in there. It's been upsetting enough for them even before the arrival of our mystery guest. I was giving them a little peace."
"We have to talk to them too."
"Of course you do."
The gruff cop glared at me. Fetch.
The rest of the investigating unit was arriving, everybody grumbling the same thing about the body having been moved. The person with the yellow crime-scene tape wasn't sure if she should even bother. The photographer took a few pictures of the sidewalk and the front steps then came inside and snapped off a dozen portraits of the waitress. The medical examiner arrived, and after some poking and prodding, announced that the waitress had been dead between two to five hours. "Fresh kill" was how he put it. I went up to Billie's living room to fetch the dead doctor's family. I led them back downstairs where they each took a turn looking down at the face of the dead woman. No one recognized her.
"Her name is Helen," the skinny cop said. "Does the name Helen mean anything to anyone?"
"Her face launched a thousand ships," the widow said wearily, then turned and went into the parlor to be with her husband. She was joined by her brother-in-law. The daughter detached herself from her husband's arm and stepped over to me. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Even so, I could tell that she had her father's eyes. Unfortunately she had his jaw too. And perhaps even at one point the nose, though I suspected she had had this doctored sometime back. The woman was handsome at best. She wore her straw-colored hair coifed into a perfect bowl. Good skin. Pearl earrings and matching necklace. A well-maintained Guilford housewife. She took my hand-my fingers really-and pinched lightly.
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