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Authors: Richard; Forrest

A Child's Garden of Death

BOOK: A Child's Garden of Death
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A Child's Garden of Death

A Lyon and Bea Wentworth Mystery

Richard Forrest





“Who the hell is Sonja Henie?”

The young police officer turned from the grave. His outstretched hand held tongs which grasped the neck of the mottled and decomposed doll. In macabre unison the others in semi-circle around the pit followed his slow movements.

“Bag and label it before you drop the Goddamn thing,” Chief Rocco Herbert said.

With his free hand the young officer snapped open a plastic film bag and abruptly dropped the doll inside. As the doll slid down the smooth surface a small skate crumpled into fine dust.

“You're breaking the Goddamn evidence,” Rocco Herbert snapped.

“Sorry, sir,” the young officer replied as he gently rolled the top of the bag shut and sealed the opening. “But Sonja Henie?”

“Yes, I would think so,” Lyon Wentworth said, while still staring into the excavation at their feet. He looked up at the circle of expectant faces. “The doll seems to have on ice skates and is made of a type of molded composition used during World War II when rubber was scarce and before plastics. In the forties Sonja Henie dolls were very popular with children.”

“That might help,” Chief Herbert said. “If that is a family in there.”

They looked back into the shallow pit. The dirt surrounding the three skeletons had been carefully removed and the final particles brushed away with extreme care. They were huddled together with jaws gaping in silent conversation. Moments before, the smallest's arms had been clutching the remnants of the doll; but now the bones were pushed askew in a beseeching gesture.

“The little one … it's a girl, isn't it?” Lyon asked.

“I don't know,” Rocco replied.

Lyon Wentworth was sorry he had come. Chief Rocco Herbert's phone call of two hours ago had at first annoyed him. He hated disruptions while working. Once the train of thought was broken, his curiosity had been piqued.

“It's probably an old settlers' burial area,” he had said.

“When they first called me I yelled cow bones,” Rocco replied. “But now that I've seen them, they're not that old. Christ, Lyon! Three of them. We haven't had anything like that in Murphysville since the last Indian raids.”

A cool spring breeze came over the ridge top and blew a fine film of dirt across the grave. Lyon felt a chill and didn't know if it was caused by the breeze penetrating the light jacket he'd thrown on as he left the house, or by the things before him.

He was a tall, angular man of forty. The wind rustled a forelock of blond-browning hair, and he pushed it back with his palm in an often repeated gesture. Lyon Wentworth wore tennis sneakers without socks, denim work pants, the light jacket covering a green sport shirt. His face seemed to have a slightly troubled look, but one that could instantaneously change to a wide and warm smile.

He turned again to the silent police chief next to him. “Any idea of how long they've been in there?”

“Not yet. The medical people might come up with something, but I wanted you to see it before we moved anything.”

“Missing persons?”

“Nothing yet, but we haven't much to go on. If you're right about the doll, they've been in there thirty years.”

Lyon turned back to the grave as a photographer scuttled halfway into the pit to get some angled shots. The three skeletons nestling in the bottom of the hole gaped up at them with boned grimaces as if resenting the intrusion on their rest. “One's missing an arm,” Lyon said.

“Over there, beyond the bulldozer,” Chief Herbert said. “It must have been outstretched or raised in some manner. The 'dozer blade caught and carried it a few feet before the operator realized what he had. That's when he called me.”

“Your men cleared the rest of the dirt away?”


“Anything else? Weapon, shovel, anything?”

“No. We've combed the area for two hundred yards in every direction, but if it's been thirty years, I wouldn't expect to find anything. Nothing, just the grave, three bodies, the doll, a few shreds of cloth left from their clothing; nothing else. Except, they were probably clobbered with something heavy: each skull is filled with fractures. It doesn't take any expert pathologist to see that.”

“And that's all?” Lyon asked again tiredly.

“Afraid so, Lyon,” Rocco said. “Not much to go on unless the medical and lab people turn up something, or by some miracle an old missing persons report is able to fill us in.”

Lyon looked into the grave for the last time and turned away. “I've seen enough.”

The Chief turned to the waiting officers. “All right, move it, but for God's sake be careful.”

They started to do his bidding and then poised in silent tableau as the sound of sirens wavered and died. Four State Police cruisers stopped on the road below them. Car doors slammed in unison as troopers started up the hill, led by a red-faced captain.

“Christ!” Rocco said. “Here comes the cavalry.”

Lyon noticed that activity around the grave site had ceased as the young police officers watched the approaching entourage in a guilty manner, like small boys caught in some mischievous act. Ten yards away the trooper captain, puffing slightly from the exertion of the climb up the hill, began to yell at Rocco Herbert.

“Damn it all, Chief! You should have called as soon as it was discovered.” The captain, now at the site, continued yelling at the tall police chief. “What do you have up here? The whole Murphysville force?”

“Just the day shift,” Rocco replied.

The trooper captain glared into the grave. “Probably Indian graves. The boys at the lab will run it down.”

“You're in the confines of Murphysville, Norbert,” Rocco said.

The red-faced captain ignored the remark and gestured toward Lyon. “Who's the civilian?”

“A friend of mine,” Rocco said. “Lyon Wentworth, meet my brother-in-law, Captain Norbert.”

The captain seemed to shake hands with Lyon automatically while still glaring into the grave. “You've probably mucked up any evidence there was.”

“Damn it, Norbert, we haven't mucked up anything. I've been to the FBI school the same as you have,” the police chief replied angrily.

“Of course you're calling the state in—officially.”

Rocco paused slightly before answering. “No, not yet. I'll need you for the lab and pathology work, but that's all for now.”

“Listen, Rocco, you aren't prepared to handle this and you know it.”

“For the time being it's a Murphysville matter,” Rocco said and walked away, only to be followed by the captain. Away from the group the heated but subdued argument continued while state troopers glared across the grave at the uniformed police.

Lyon Wentworth walked down the incline of the rough-cut road the bulldozer had been slicing before its ghoulish discovery. He could hear the heavy tread of Rocco Herbert behind him and he quickened his pace. A spring zephyr touched his face as he looked through the trees at the clear sky, and he wondered if he'd have a chance to get a flight in this Sunday.

The Chief caught up to him at the stone wall that ran along the country lane, and he placed a large hand on Lyon's shoulder. Lyon turned to look into the taller man's eyes.

“I need your help, Lyon,” the Chief said.

The bond between them had lasted for a number of years, and the large hand on Lyon's shoulder seemed inchoately to transmit this. Although Lyon was tall, Rocco Herbert was taller by several inches. He was a large man of huge dimensions, six feet eight inches, with a solid girth of 270 pounds. His face was deeply chiseled, capable of a foreboding visage and yet also warmth and humor.

“You're personalizing this thing, Rocco. Let the State Police handle it.”

“This is the biggest thing we've had here in years—it's a chance for me to move out of the force.”

Lyon smiled. “The ways of justice move in an odd manner.”

“You want I should kid you?”

“I want you should leave me alone. Come on, Rocco, what kind of help could I possibly be?”

“I'm not sure. I only know that you think in strange ways, and this is going to be strange … like that business with the doll.”

“So, now you're offering me a puzzle?”

“Like in the old days,” the big man replied.

Lyon sighed. “There's so little to go on.”

“I know, except for the doll, and that could have belonged to anyone. An itinerant farm family up here to work the tobacco fields.…”

“I don't think so,” Lyon said. “Those Madam Alexander dolls are an expensive make and cost from eight to ten dollars even thirty years ago. Hardly what an itinerant worker could afford in those days.”

BOOK: A Child's Garden of Death
2.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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