All that remains, p.21
All That Remains,
The ammunition was originally designed with law enforcement officers in mind, the bullets having greater expansion upon impact than any other round fired from a two-inch barrel. When the lead projectile with its hollowpoint construction and distinctive raised central post enters the body, hydrostatic pressure forces the peripheral rim to flare like the petals of a flower. There's very little recoil, making it easier for one to fire repeat shots. The bullets rarely exit the body; the disruption to soft tissue and organs is devastating.
This killer was into specialized ammunition. He, no doubt, had sighted his gun by his cartridges of choice. To select one of the most lethal types of ammunition probably gave him confidence, made him feel powerful and important. He might even be superstitious about it.
I picked up the phone and told Linda what I needed.
"Come on up," she said.
When I walked into the firearms lab, she was seated before a computer terminal.
"No cases so far this year, except for Deborah Harvey, of course," she said, moving the cursor down the screen. "One for last year. One the year before that. Nothing else for Federal. But I did find two cases involving Scorpions."
I puzzled, leaning over her shoulder.
She explained, "An earlier version. Ten years before 253 Federal bought the patent, Hydra-Shok Corporation was manufacturing basically the same cartridges. Specifically, Scorpion thirty-eight's and Copperhead three-fifty sevens."
She hit several keys, printing out what she had found. "Eight years ago, we got in one case involving Scorpion thirty-eight's. But it wasn't human."
"I beg your pardon?"
I asked, baffled.
"Appears this victim was of the canine variety. A dog. Shot, let's see... three times."
"Was the shooting of the dog connected with some other case? A suicide, homicide, burglary?"
"Can't tell from what I've got here," Linda replied apologetically. "All I've got is that three Scorpion bullets were recovered from the dead dog. Never matched up with anything. I guess the case was never solved."
She tore off the printout and handed it to me.
The OCME, on rare occasion, did perform autopsies on animals. Deer shot out of season were sometimes sent in by game wardens, and if someone's pet was shot during the commission of a crime or if the pet was found dead along with its owners, we took a look, recovered bullets or tested for drugs. But we did not issue death certificates or autopsy reports for animals. It wasn't likely I was going to find anything on file for this dog shot eight years ago.
I rang up Marino and filled him in.
"You gotta be kidding," he said.
"Can you track it down without making a commotion? I don't want this raising any antennas. It may be nothing, but the jurisdiction is West Point, and that's rather interesting. The bodies of the second couple were found in West Point."
"Yeah, maybe. I'll see what I can do," he said, and he didn't sound thrilled about it. The next morning Marino appeared while I was finishing work on a fourteen-year-old boy thrown out of the back of a pickup truck the afternoon before.
"That ain't something you got on, I hope."
Marino moved closer to the table and sniffing.
"He had a bottle of aftershave in a pocket of his pants. It broke when he hit the pavement, and that's what you're smelling."
I nodded at clothing on a nearby gurney.
He sniffed again.
"I believe so," I replied absently.
"Doris used to buy me Brut. One year she got me Obsession, if you can believe that."
"What did you find out?"
I continued to work.
"The dog's name was Dammit, and I swear that's the truth," Marino said. "Belonged to some old geezer in West Point, a Mr. Joyce."
"Did you find out why the dog came into this office?"
"No connection to any other cases. A favor, I think."
"The state veterinarian must have been on vacation," I replied, for this had happened before.
On the other side of my building was the Department of Animal Health, complete with a morgue where examinations were conducted on animals. Normally, the carcasses went to the state veterinarian. But there were exceptions. When asked, the forensic pathologists indulged the cops and pitched in when the veterinarian was unavailable. During my career I had autopsied tortured dogs, mutilated cats, a sexually assaulted mare, and a poisoned chicken left in a judge's mailbox. People were just as cruel to animals as they were to each other.
"Mr. Joyce don't got a phone, but a contact of mine says he's still in the same crib," Marino said. "Thought I might run-over there, check out his story. You want to come along?"
I snapped in a new scalpel blade as I thought about my cluttered desk, the cases awaiting my dictation, the telephone calls I had yet to return and the others I needed to initiate.
"Might as well," I said hopelessly.
He hesitated, as if waiting for something.
When I looked up at him, I noticed. Marino had gotten his hair cut. He was wearing khaki trousers held up by suspenders and a tweed jacket that looked brand new. His tie was clean, so was his pale yellow shirt. Even his shoes were shined.
"You look downright handsome," I said like a proud mother.
He grinned, his face turning red. "Rose whistled at me when I was getting on the elevator. It was kinda funny. Hadn't had a woman whistle at me in years, except Sugar, and Sugar don't exactly count."
"Hangs out on the comer of Adam and Church. Oh yeah, found Sugar, also known as Mad Dog Mama, down in an alleyway, passed out drunk as a skunk, practically ran over her sorry ass. Made the mistake of bringing her to. Fought me like a damn cat and cussed me all the way to lockup. Every time I pass within a block of her, she yells, whistles, hitches up her skirt."
"And you were worrying that you were no longer attractive to women," 1 said.
Dammit's origin was undetermined, though it was patently clear that every genetic marker he had picked up from every dog in his lineage was the worst of the lot.
"Raised him from a pup," said Mr. Joyce as I returned to him a Polaroid photograph of the dog in question. "He was a stray, you know. Just appeared at the back door one morning and I felt sorry for him, threw him some scraps. Couldn't get rid of him to save my life after that."
We were sitting around Mr. Joyce's kitchen table. Sunlight seeped wanly through a dusty window above a rust-stained porcelain sink, the faucet dripping. Ever since we had arrived fifteen minutes ago, Mr. Joyce had not had a kind word to offer about his slain dog, and yet I detected warmth in his old eyes, and the rough hands thoughtfully stroking the rim of his coffee mug looked capable of tender affection.
"How did he get his name?"
Marino wanted to know. "Never did give him a name, you see. But I was always hollering at him. 'Dammit, shut up! Come here, dammit! Dammit, if you don't stop yapping, I'm gonna wire your mouth shut.' " He smiled sheepishly. "Got to where he thought his name was Dammit. So that's what I took to calling him."
Mr. Joyce was a retired dispatcher for a cement company, his tiny house a monument to rural poverty out in the middle of farmland. I suspected the house's original owner had been a tenant farmer, for on either side of the property were vast expanses of fallow fields that Mr. Joyce said were thick with corn in the summer.
And it had been summer, a hot, sultry July night, when Bonnie Smyth and Jim Freeman had been forced to drive along the sparsely populated dirt road out front. Then November had come, and I passed over the same road, passed right by Mr. Joyce's house, the back of my station wagon packed with folded sheets, stretchers, and body pouches. Less than two miles east of where Mr. Joyce lived was the dense wooded area where the couple's bodies had been found some two years before. An eerie coincidence? What if it wasn't? "So tell me what happened to Dammit," Marino was saying as he lit a cigarette.
"Then it was between nine and ten when your dog was shot," Marino said.
"That's my guess. Couldn't have been shot much before that or he'd never made it home. I'm watching TV, and next thing I hear him scratching at the door, whimpering. I knew he was hurt, just figured he'd gotten tangled up with a cat or something until I opened the door and got a good look at him."
He got out a pouch of tobacco and began to roll a cigarette in expert, steady hands.
Marino prodded him. "What did you do after that?"
"Put him in my truck and drove him to Doc Whiteside's house. About five miles northwest."
"A veterinarian?" I asked.
He slowly shook his head. "No, ma'am. Didn't have a vet or even know one. Doc Whiteside took care of my wife before she passed on. A mighty nice fellow. Didn't know where else to go, to tell you the truth. Course, it was too late. Wasn't a thing the doc could do by the time I carried the dog in. He said I ought to call the police. Only thing in season in the middle of August is crow, and no good reason in the world anybody should be out late at night shooting at crow or anything else. I did what he said. Called the police."
"Do you have any idea who might have shot your dog?" I asked.
"Like I said, Dammit was bad about chasing folks, going after cars like he was going to chew the tires off. You want my personal opinion, I've always halfway suspected it might have been a cop who done it."
"Why?" Marino asked.
"After the dog was examined, I was told the bullets came from a revolver. So maybe Dammit chased after a police car and that's how it happened."
"Did you see any police cars on your road that night?" Marino asked.
"Nope. Don't mean there wasn't one, though. And I can't be sure where the shooting happened. I know it wasn't nearby. I would've heard it."
"Maybe not if you had your TV turned up loud," Marino said.
"I would've heard it, all right. Not much sound around here, 'specially late at night. You live here awhile, you get to where you hear the smallest thing out of the ordinary. Even if your TV's on, the windows shut tight."
"Did you hear any cars on your road that night?"
He thought for a moment. "I know one went by not long before Dammit started scratching on the door. The police asked me that. I got the feeling whoever was in it is the one who shot the dog. The officer who took the report sort of thought that, too. Least, that's what he suggested."
He paused, staring out -the window. "Probably just some kid."
A clock gonged off-key from the living room, then silence, the passing empty seconds measured by water clinking in the sink. Mr. Joyce had no phone. He had very few neighbors, none of whom were close by. I wondered if he had children. It didn't appear he had gotten another dog or found himself a cat. I saw no sign that anybody or anything lived here except him.
"Old Dammit was worthless as hell, but he sort of grew on you. Used to give the mailman a fit. I'd stand there in the living room looking out the window, laughing so hard my eyes was streaming. The sight of it. A puny little fellow, looking around, scared to death to get out of his little mail truck. Old Dammit running in circles snapping at the air. I'd give it a minute or two before I'd start hollering, then out 1'd go in the yard. All I had to do was point my finger, and off Dammit would go, tail `tween his legs." He took a deep breath, the cigarette forgotten in the ashtray. "Lot of meanness out there."
"Yes, sir, " Marino agreed, leaning back in his chair. "Meanness everywhere, even in a nice, quiet area like this. Last time I was out this way must've been two years ago, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, when that couple was found in the woods. You remember that?"
Mr. Joyce nodded deeply. "Never seen so much commotion. I was out getting firewood when all of a sudden these police cars come thundering past, lights flashing. Must have been a dozen of them and a couple ambulances, too."
He paused, eyeing Marino thoughtfully. "Don't recall seeing you out there."
Turning his attention to me, he added, "Guess you were out there, too?"
He seemed pleased. "Thought you looked familiar and I've been raking my brain the whole time we've been talking, trying to figure out where I might have seen you before."
"Did you go down to the woods where the bodies were?"
Marino asked casually.
"With all those police cars going right past my house, wasn't a way in the world I could just sit here. I couldn't imagine what was going on. No neighbors down that way, just woods. And I was thinking, well, if it's a hunter who got shot, then that don't make sense either. Too many cops for that. So I got in my truck and headed down the road. Found an officer standing by his car and asked him what was going on. He told me some hunters had found a couple bodies back there. Then he wanted to know if I lived nearby. Said I did, and next thing there's a detective at my door asking questions."
"Do you remember the detective's name?"
"Can't say I do."
"What sorts of questions did he ask?"
"Mostly wanted to know if I'd seen anybody in the area, specially around the time this young couple was thought to have disappeared. Any strange cars, things like that."
"Well, I got to thinking about it after he left, and it's entered my mind now and again ever since," Mr. Joyce said. "Now, the night the police think this couple was taken out here and killed, I didn't hear a thing that I remember. Sometimes I turn in early. Could be I was asleep. But there was something that I remembered a couple months back, after this other couple was found the first of the year."
"Deborah Harvey and Fred Cheney?" I asked. "The girl whose mother's important."
Mr. Joyce went on, "Those murders got me to thinking again about the bodies found out here, and it popped into my mind. If you noticed when you drove up, I have a mailbox out front. Well, I had a bad spell maybe a couple weeks before they think that girl and boy was killed out here several years back."
"Jim Freeman and Bonnie Smyth," Marino said.
"Yes, sir. I had the flu, was throwing up, felt like I had a toothache from head to toe. Stayed in bed what must've been two days and didn't even have the strength to go out and fetch the mail. This night I'm talking about, I was finally up and around, made myself some soup and kept it down all right. So I went out to get the mail. Must have been nine, ten o'clock at night. And right as I was walking back toward the house, I heard this car. Black as tar out and the person was creeping along with his headlights off."
"Which direction was the car going?"
Mr. Joyce pointed west. "In other words, he was heading away from the area down there where the woods are, back toward the highway. Could be nothing, but I remember it crossed my mind that it was strange. For one thing, there's nothing down there but farmland and woods. I just figured it was kids drinking or parking or something."
"Did you get a good look at the car?"
"Seems like it was mid-size, dark in color. Black, dark blue, or dark red, maybe."
"New or old?"
"Don't know if it was brand new, but it wasn't old. Wasn't one of these foreign cars, either."
"How could you tell?"
"By the sound," Mr. Joyce replied easily. "These foreign cars don't sound the same as American ones. The engine's louder, chugs more, don't know exactly how to describe it, but I can tell. Just like when you were pulling up earlier. I knew you were in an American car, probably a Ford or Chevy. This car that went by with its headlights off, it w
"It was sporty, then," Marino said.
"Depends on how you took at it. To me, a Corvette's sporty. A Thunderbird or Cougar's fancy."
"Could you tell how many people were inside this car?"
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes