Chapter 11: Two Steps Back
Detective Blackhorse followed the wooded trail back from Dakota Field’s house back to his car, climbed in behind the wheel and sat staring blankly ahead. He was sorting through all of her allegations. If what she said was true, then both Alice Barnhill and Helen Brown had motive to kill Herbert Simmons. The old saying still rang true: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. He found it interesting that neither Alice nor Helen gave any indication that they even knew Herbert. That felt like a lie by omission. Blackhorse was annoyed with himself for failing to ask if they knew any of the victims. That could have potentially opened up another line of questioning. Even pretending not to know Herbert would have been significant, given what Dakota had just revealed. Now, Blackhorse had to decide whether or not to go back and question them again, so that he could confront them if they lied about their history with Herbert.
Alice wouldn’t be the first person to become addicted or relapse due to the humiliation of losing her job and having her affair with a minor exposed. He could only imagine what something like that might have done to her marriage and her reputation. Not to mention the nightmare of legal prosecution for having sex with a minor. Blackhorse was pretty sure that Dakota’s accusations against Helen were true. He remembered looking at the photographs of Helen’s son and thinking that he somehow looked familiar. The moment Dakkota said that he was Herbert’s son, it dawned on Blackhorse that the child favored the father. Then again, the small features of children often made it seem as though just about anyone could be related to them.
Dakota had not presented any actual evidence, to back up her allegations. Making assumptions, especially in the early stages of an investigation, was a slippery slope that could send Blackhorse down a rabbit hole of misinformation. The trouble with hearsay is that it often sounded truthful, when it was actually completely fabricated. There was usually a little grain of truth in a rumor, but plausibility still was not proof positive. Jumping into a second round of interviews, based solely on Dakota’s accusations was risky. Blackhorse might waste his time confronting them with baseless accusations that only served to offend them and make him look like a gossip hound. Denials tended to make a suspicious person look guilty. There was no bigger time suck in an investigation than going after an innocent person. The chirping of Blackhorse’s cellphone interrupted his musings. He fished it out of his pocket.
“Blackhorse? Yeah, it’s Officer Schneider. Just thought you’d like to know the toxicology report came back on your victims. All three of them ingested fatal doses of belladonna. Them fools was probably smoking it and killed their own fool selves. Looks like Sherriff Stone called you down here for nothing,” crowed Schneider.
Blackhorse bit back his irritation over Schneider taking it upon himself to grab the toxicology report and read it before Blackhorse had even gotten a chance to look at it. Ignoring Schneider’s obnoxious bray of laughter, he thanked him for calling with the toxicology results and ended the call. Blackhorse wondered out loud why that idiot was so concerned with his case. Schneider refused to help him, but he sure as hell had no problem butting in when it suited him.
Schneider had not wanted him on the case to begin with, so Blackhorse suspected that Schneider would use the toxicology results to campaign for a quick close to the case. No doubt, the loudmouth would spread it all over town, making it even more difficult for Blackhorse to get anything useful out of people. Blackhorse needed to find irrefutable proof that the victims had been murdered, before Schneider swayed Sherriff Stone. The victims may have been thieves, but they still deserved justice. Blackhorse had no intention of allowing himself to be bullied into closing the case, before conducting a thorough investigation. Schneider was obviously keeping tabs on the case. Blackhorse was beginning to wonder if there was some reason, other than insecurity and petty jealousy, why Schneider did not want him investigating the deaths.