Chapter 8: The First Snag
Detective Blackhorse sensed that Alice Barnhill was about to end the interview, before it even began. While he found her reticence a typical small-town reaction to a stranger, it seemed exaggerated. Was she trying to stonewall him? One look at her dilated pupils and he realized that she must have recently eaten, smoked or snorted some illicit substance.
Even if Blackhorse seized the upper hand and got her to submit to an interview, he would have no way of ensuring that what she said was factual and not some sort of drug-induced delusion. Attempting to follow up on a false lead would waste valuable time.
He was also a little concerned about Shirlene. Alice seemed agitated and paranoid enough, without him making it worse by attempting to interview her. The last thing Blackhorse wanted was for the woman to lash out at her child.
Since Shirlene had not been withdrawn and was chastened rather than flinching or cowering when Alice yelled, there did not appear to be any real threat of abuse. A lot of people spoke bluntly to their children. Most likely, Alice’s bark was a lot worse than her bite. Judging from her excessive yawning, she woukd most likely crawl back into bed as soon as he left.
He had no proof that Alice had taken an illegal substance. There were plenty of legal substances which could also dilate the pupils. So, all Blackhorse had was strong suspicion bolstered by the word of an underage child. Definately not strong enough probable cause for an arrest or even a lawful search and seizure.
In the end, Blackhorse allowed her to slam the door in his face and retreated to his vehicle. He climbed in and let out an exasperated sigh. Alice had barely let him talk, let alone get any questions answered. Yet, the encounter had presented a few potential avenues for investigation.
Blackhorse pulled out his notebook, wanting to jot a few things down. The little girl had said people around town believed that the victims had stolen something from the woman who lived in the woods. The woman hadn’t filed a police report like the others, but that wasn’t surprising. If Shirlene could be believed, everyone was convinced that she was an evil witch.
Blackhorse didn’t believe for a second that the woman had cast some sort of spell, but a dispute with the victims meant she might have had a hand in their deaths. If Blackhorse could confirm there was some sort of quarrel, then the mysterious woman in the woods would move from potential witness list to the list of potential suspects. He would hold off on interviewing her, until he could and determine whether or not the child’s story could be verified.
Blackhorse also wanted take another look at the crime scene photographs. He had assumed the drug paraphernalia found with the victim’s bodies was used to measure and prepare some form of heroin or cocaine. The fact that Alice’s pupils were dilated, rather than shrunken down to pinpoints, and all of the yawning indicated that she might have actually taken some sort psychedelic substance. Perhaps she had gotten it from one of them.
Blackhorse finished jotting down his ideas. He added a reminder to take the little girl’s advice and schedule his next interview with Alice at night. He fully intended to find out whether or not his suspicion about the psychedelics use was correct and what her issue was with one or all of the victims.
It was late in the day. There was only time enough for one more interview. Blackhorse started the car and drove off, glad to depart from the depressing little house at the end of the cornfield.