Chapter 13: Back to Basics
Office Schneider roughly brushed past Detective Blackhorse and stalked out of the police precinct. Blackhorse stood watched his hasty retreat for a few gleeful moments, before turning his attention to the toxicology reports on the victims. Analysis of their blood and urine showed the presence of atropine. Blood concentrations were consistent with an overdose. Detective Blackhorse surmised that it was not likely that all three were suicidal. There was also no indication that their deaths had been some sort of ritual suicide.
However, it was possible that Schneider was correct in his assumption that the trio had accidently ingested a lethal amount of belladonna. Helen Brown had said something about the victims being involved with psychedelic trance festivals, implying that they were taking drugs. He had no idea how someone could have gotten all the victims to take lethal doses of atropine at the same time, unless they got a bad batch of drugs, or someone had given them something intentionally laced with it. He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.
First, Blackhorse needed to shut Schneider down by proving that the overdoses had not been due to any recreational use of mind-altering substances. Since no one had come forward and volunteered any information, he needed to figure out how to create a timeline of the victim’s movements on the day they were murdered. If he could somehow retrace their steps, then it would be possible to figure out who they interacted with and identify witnesses. He went down to the evidence department and signed out the box containing the few items Schneider had collected from the crime scene.
Blackhorse hoped the contents of the victim’s pockets and wallets would be helpful. He was mad at himself for not taking a closer look at it sooner. He had mistakenly assumed that people would be more than willing to share what they knew about the victims, because they were outsiders. Of course, he had no idea that one of them had actually lived in town long enough to make friends, enemies and impregnate one of the residents. It was also beginning to look like Schneider might have had some involvement with one of the victims. That could add yet another wrinkle to the investigation. Nodaway was shaping up to be a little Peyton place. Blackhorse was going to have to proceed with extreme caution and go over all the evidence with a fine-toothed comb.
Seated in the cinderblock viewing room, he took another look through the victim’s belongings. There were a few receipts, two burner phones and one credit card. Schneider had not seen fit to label which items had come from what victim. So, unless a credit or debit card had been used, there was no way to match the receipts to the victims they belonged to just by looking at them.
He could feel himself getting annoyed and took a deep breath. Allowing Schneider to get him all worked up was pointless. Blackhorse reminded himself that the man might not have intentionally done an amateurish job of labeling the evidence. Schneider’s incompetence made it difficult to tell. It was not the first or the last time Blackhorse would have to patch up investigational holes. He would just have to do his best to sort out who purchased anything relevant to the investigation during interviews.
Phone records should shed some light on which of the murder victims had used the burner phones. It would take a few days to get phone and credit card transaction records. Blackhorse sighed and resigned himself to the tedious task of filling out and submitting requests. He fired up his laptop and got to work. Once he had set the wheels in motion via the proper records requests, Blackhorse decided to take a closer look at the receipts. The time stamps for transactions on the day of the victims’ death would help him establish a timeline which was more reliable than depending solely upon people’s recollections.
Among the receipts was one for the Rocky’s Pit Stop gas station, one crumpled and smeared receipt for the Heavenly Hash smoke shop, and a pawn shop ticket. Blackhorse doubted very strongly that any of those places had security cameras, but it was worth checking. Interviews with the proprietors and employees at those places might also yield a solid lead. People often noticed seemingly insignificant things which later proved crucial to an investigation.
He picked up the Heavenly Hash receipt, eyeing it thoughtfully. More than likely, that shop was a haven for stoners, tweakers and aging hippies. Just the sort of people who could fill him in on the psychedelic trance festival. He might even get lucky and find somebody in that place who knew the victims.