written by: Mark Kuglin
Looking out at the crystalline waves— with dolphins frolicking in them— was awe-inspiring. The bright sunlight, directly overhead, was reflecting through the clear water and it created a dazzling prism of colors. And from where I stood, I could feel the soft spray of the crashing waves. Combined, they made it an idyllic, picture post card setting.
My reverie was suddenly broken when a voice behind me angrily said, “What the hell are you doing? The body was found over here!”
As I turned to respond, memories of similar experiences came flooding back. This wasn't the first time I had been called in to help some local sheriff. Strangely though, each encounter— although markedly different— felt exactly the same. I kept on meeting the same buffoons— cartoon like figures— pretending to be investigators. Sheriff Dunkins was no different.
When he realized he had my full attention, he said, “Normally, I don't like to call in private investigators but you come highly recommended. From what I hear, you have been very lucky when it comes to figuring out these kinds of cases.”
“No offense,” I responded carefully. “It isn't luck. Things get inadvertently overlooked. Each perp— regardless of how careful they are— leaves a trail. Some of them are just a lot smaller than others. It takes patience to find them.”
“Patience,” he morosely replied. “I can't afford. The vic’s dad is a big deal around here and he's raisin’ all sorts of hell.”
“Then we’d better get to it,” I said. “Can I see the crime scene photos?”
After I looked at them for several minutes, I said, “It doesn't look that difficult. There are some obvious starting points.”
“What?” he angrily responded. “It looks like her damn body fell out of the sky. We searched all over the place and couldn't find any tracks or a sign of a struggle.”
“Well,” I said as carefully as possible. “If you look closely, her body looks to be well above the high tide mark. She was killed somewhere else and brought here by boat. The tide washed away any tracks.”
To that, he angrily exploded and yelled, “Boy, we may seem backwoods to you but we're not stupid. We figured that much. If that all you’ve got, we're done here!”
I was about to respond when he quickly added with a jeer, “Just how in hell did you solve them other cases anyway? From what I hear, each one had some problems and the perps went kickin’ and screamin’ about their innocence all the way to their executions.”
“I assure you,” I responded with all the calmness I could muster. “ Each case was rock solid and the right person paid for their crime.” After pausing a moment to let that sink in, I then asked, “Can we get back to this one?”
“Ok, ok..What else do you see?”
“Before I do,” I responded. “I have a question. What was her personal history?”
“Well,” he answered in a drawn out drawl. “She wasn't exactly Daddy's good little girl. From what we found out, she’d been sleeping around, into the drug scene and creating all sorts of problems.
None of it surprised me. It didn't for two reasons. I had done my homework and already knew about Mary Jane McCormick. She was a spoiled brat—from a very wealthy family— and she was used to doing whatever she wanted without fear of reprisal. And— just like all the others— she carefully hid it all from daddy. As far he was concerned, his daughter was a perfect little angel who could do not wrong.
“So, I take it you had a very long list of suspects.”
“And then some,” he responded dejectedly.
“Let's go back to the photos,” I suggested. “Maybe, I can narrow down the list for you.”
“Ok,” he said while handing me the rest.
After he did, I carefully scrutinized each one of them. After several minutes he impatiently asked, “Well, what do you see?”
“I see a beautiful young girl in a very carefully staged scene. With the exception of the look of death in her eyes, she looks completely at peace. Whoever did this wanted her to appear as if she was simply napping. She looks content and completely innocent.” After a short pause I added, “It's like your earlier comment wasn't that far off.”
“What was that?” he asked with his anger returning noticeably.
“An angel fell from the sky,” I reverently responded.
Fully enraged by my answer, he shouted a series of expletives at me that I wouldn't have ever thought to put together. I did my best to suppress a smile but failed miserably.
“Do you think this is funny?” he screamed at me.
All I could do was smile even more and silently fret.
So many fallen angels, so little time…