Bent Woods (Suspense)
Chapter 5: The High Road

Chapter 5: The High Road

A tow truck was pulling up, as Detective Blackhorse strode back to his car. It was clear from the driver’s sleep swollen face that he had rolled out of bed earlier than usual. The man was grumpy and uncommunicative. That suited Blackhorse just fine, he was in no mood to make small talk. His mind was going a mile a minute, as he attempted to figure out how he should proceed.

What he wanted to do was punch Officer Schneider in the face, until his arm got tired. Blackhorse had to talk himself out of it. Overreacting would be playing right into Schneider’s hands and lay the groundwork for them to call in a complaint to Blackhorse’s superiors. The last thing he wanted, was to get yanked off of the case and have to go home with a black mark on his record. That would cause him to lose favor. That reckless act would be used against him, every time he put in for any kind of promotion. Blackhorse knew that for a fact, because he had made much smaller mistakes in the past which his supervisor never let him forget.

No, Blackhorse would not give Schneider the satisfaction of knowing that his prank had upset him. He also wasn’t going to sink to Schneider’s level of pettiness and tattle to Schneider’s superiors about it. Instead, he would take it as a lesson learned about watching his back around him. The best revenge would be to solve the case quickly, with little to no help from Schneider.

They arrived at the auto repair shop and the mood of the tow truck driver, who turned out to be the mechanic, had not improved. He gruffly informed Blackhorse that there was no car available to him for use, while his was being repaired. The mechanic refused to even speculate as to how long the repair might take. Realizing that losing his temper and snapping at the man would likely result in a lot longer than necessary wait in retaliation, Blackhorse left and walked to the nearest diner. He took his time over breakfast and was gratified, when the mechanic called to tell him that his car was ready.

Twenty minutes later, Blackhorse pulled up in front of the Nodaway police precinct. He turned off the engine and sat for a few silent moments, reminding himself to stay calm regardless of what anyone inside might say or do to him. Blackhorse grabbed his laptop bag, walked in, flashed his badge to the receptionist and kept walking. Schneider was in Sheriff Stone’s office and greeted him effusively.

“There he is! I was just telling Sherriff Stone that you’re running late ’cause you had a bit of car trouble and got stuck in the Bentwoods all night. It’s a shame nobody could go and get you. If I wasn’t tied up with another case, I’d a been more than happy to pick you up. The switchboard was closed, by the time I got back, so I didn’t hear about it till this morning. We wasn’t sure if you’d show up or hightail it back home,” guffawed Schneider.

“Oh on the contrary, I used the extra time to perform a thorough search of the crime scene,” said Blackhorse serenely.

The smile hardened on Schneider’s face and his eyes narrowed. Blackhorse was amused by the uneasy look Schneider shot at Stone.

“That was a waste of time. Like I told ya yesterday, I already went over the crime scene with a fine-tooth comb,” boasted Schneider.

“Well, apparently you missed a spot.”

“That’s impossible! I even documented everything with pictures,” said countered Schneider.

“So, you found the ring and chose to just leave it at the crime scene?”

“Ring? What ring? There wasn’t no damn ring,” blustered Schneider.

Wordlessly, Blackhorse reached into his pocket and opened his left hand to reveal the gold ring he had discovered. He leaned forward, so that both men could get a good look. Schneider snatched it.

“This looks like a high school class ring. I’ll bet it ain’t got nothing to do with the murders. Hell, this coulda been laying out there for a year or more.”

“I thought you said people avoid going to the Bentwoods. Either way, it was at the crime scene so, it’s evidence and should have been collected. We can’t just assume that it is immaterial.”

Schneider started to sneer, saw how impressed Stone was and his expression became discomfited. Blackhorse kept his expression bland, to conceal his glee. Schneider looked down at the ring, trying to think of a way to save face. He glared at Blackhorse.

“So, what’s a ring gonna prove? How you even gonna figure out who it belongs to? There must be five folks in town with the same initials. Everybody around here goes to the same high school. If you ask me, trying to figure out who this belongs to would be a big waste of time.”

“You seem to consider a lot of investigative protocols a waste of time, like thoroughly processing a crime scene. Sheriff Stone was wise to call in the Rural Crimes Investigations Unit.”

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