His breath visible in the early morning air, Detective Constable Kevin Walker made his way down the hill and across the farmer’s field toward the body. There was a crust on the snow from freezing rain that had fallen two days ago, and his boots punched crisp holes as he followed the footprints of the old man who’d spotted something in the middle of his field just after dawn and had come down to investigate.

As he walked, Kevin kept his eyes moving across the snow, alert for anything out of the ordinary. Other than two sets of tracks, one belonging to the farmer and the other to Ontario Provincial Police Constable Bonnie Charles, the first responder to the scene, the surface of the snow was pristine. He reached the little circle of footprints where the farmer had staggered back and retched, he saw the spilled coffee and the cup the old man had dropped in his shock, and then he stopped.

Close enough.

The victim was a man in his fifties. He wore inadequate low-cut boots, grey trousers, and a tweed car coat. No gloves. No hat. The back of his neck was seared where a close-contact gunshot had passed through the base of his skull and out the front of his neck, leaving a frozen bloodstain on the surface of the snow. His face was turned slightly toward Kevin. The eyes were open and lifeless. The mouth was a frozen oval.

Kevin recognized him. He lived in the village, not two blocks from Kevin’s house.

He found it difficult to stop looking at the eyes. They had a disturbing cloudiness to them that made him feel uneasy. Kevin had participated in sudden death call outs before and so it wasn’t his first body, but it was the first that was an obvious and violent homicide. The blood, the stains on the trousers, and the cloudy, lifeless eyes were upsetting. He forced himself to stand there, taking in all the details, until he no longer felt repulsed.

He heard the sound of tires crunching in the farmer’s driveway at the top of the hill and, turning, saw the EMS ambulance arrive. Members of the Sparrow Lake volunteer fire department, they were, like Kevin, residents of Yonge Township, a strip of 128 square kilometres jutting north from the St. Lawrence River between Brockville and Kingston. He watched Constable Charles point the way down the hill, waving her arm to make it clear that they should avoid the farmer’s footprints and follow Kevin’s down the snowy slope.

As they edged their way toward him, he turned his eyes to the distant line of trees rimming the back of the field. A mixture of evergreen and bare-limbed deciduous, they were white with ice that had formed when the temperature had dropped below freezing again, the night before last. It made a picturesque tableau against the blue morning sky. A crow called out somewhere within the forest. Running his eyes along the tree line, Kevin saw nothing unusual. A second, distant crow answered the first. There was no visible disturbance in the snow between the body and the back of the field.

Somewhere in that stretch, however, would be the expended round that had killed the victim when it ripped through his neck.

He turned and looked at the footprints leading from the road to the body and back to the road again. Two sets coming in and one set returning to the road.

A one-way trip for the victim and a return trip for his killer.

“Another cold morning, Kevin,” one of the paramedics called out, by way of greeting. Behind him, his partner cursed as his boot rolled over a frozen clot of soil beneath the snow.

Kevin held up a hand. “Just you, Philip. Come up beside me.”

The paramedic shifted his equipment bag from one hand to the other and edged forward until he stood next to Kevin. He crouched, resting his bag on the snow, and swore. Behind them, his partner made a coughing sound and turned away. Philip studied the victim for a moment, then stood up and looked at the detective.

“Obviously dead,” Kevin said.

“Obviously dead,” Philip agreed. These two words, quoted from the Ministry of Health’s Deceased Patient Standard, obligated him not to touch the body unless directed to do so by the coroner. He turned to his partner. “Let’s get out of here, Dan. We’ll wait for Dalca in the truck.”

As they hurried back up the hill, they passed Constable Charles, who was talking into her shoulder microphone as she walked down. She took a long look at the body for the second time this morning before making eye contact with Kevin. “The road’s blocked off between Ballycanoe Road and Junetown Road. Everyone’s being advised to approach from the north. We’re setting up the inner perimeters now. You said to use Mr. Lackey’s yard as the command post, right?”

“Yeah.” The old man, Jerry Lackey, kept his yard well-plowed between his house and outbuildings, and it was large enough for a staging area that would accommodate all the respondents to the scene.

Kevin watched Charles depart, issuing instructions into her shoulder mike, then pulled off his gloves and used his smart phone to take a few photographs of the body. He brought out his notebook and drew a rough sketch of the scene, made a few notes, then slipped it back into his jacket pocket, put on his gloves, and trudged back up the hill.

He arrived in the yard just as Detective Sergeant Scott Patterson pulled up in a black-and-white OPP Suburban. Kevin’s immediate supervisor, Patterson commanded the Leeds County Crime Unit, and it was his call to Kevin that had brought the young detective out to Lackey’s farm in such a hurry this morning. A short, stubby redhead in his mid-forties, Patterson was carefully dressed in a full-length black wool topcoat, a black Russian-style fur hat, leather gloves, and rubber galoshes over his dress shoes. Kevin suddenly felt self-conscious in his old blue ski jacket, jeans, and snowmobile boots.

“What have we got?” Patterson demanded.

“Single shot, base of the skull, out through the front of the neck. Bled out. Looks frozen, so he was probably out here all night. Somebody walked him in from the road, shot him, walked back out, and drove away.”

“Sounds like an execution. Did you touch anything?”

“No.” It might be his first homicide, but Kevin believed he understood what he should and shouldn’t do at a crime scene.

“Is it anyone you know?”

Kevin nodded. Patterson was asking him the question not only because Kevin lived ten minutes away from the scene but also because he’d been a member of the now-defunct Sparrow Lake Police Service for seven years before the municipality had contracted out to the OPP. As Kevin himself had emphasized in his application for a transfer to the provincial force two years ago, his personal knowledge of the residents in the area was an asset that had not only served him well in his brief stint as Sparrow Lake’s only detective, but should also continue to do so in his new role as a provincial detective constable.

“His name’s Hansen,” Kevin said. “Bill Hansen. Lives in the village. Runs a car business. Has a wife, Valerie. No, Vivian.”


“Not that I know of.”

“What does the witness say?”

“Lackey? I was just about to talk to him. He told the responding officer he was in the kitchen, getting a cup of coffee, when he looked out the window and saw something down here. Came down for a look, then ran back up and called 911.”

Patterson turned around as a large white Mercedes cargo van with the OPP logo on the side turned into the driveway. “Ident,” he said.

Two men got out of the van and began unloading equipment. Kevin recognized Identification Sergeant Dave Martin, commander of the East Region Forensic Identification Unit, with one of his identification constables, Serge Landry.

“Talk to the witness,” Patterson said. “I’ll get these guys started. Where the hell’s Dart? I called him right after I called you.”

“Well, he lives in Brockville.”

“Christ, that’s no excuse. So do I. It’s only a fifteen-minute drive.”

Kevin watched Patterson cross the yard and shake hands with Martin. He listened for a moment to the dogs that had been barking non-stop in Lackey’s barn since he’d arrived, then he crossed the yard, knocked on the kitchen door, and let himself into the house.

He exchanged nods with the uniformed officer who stood just inside the door. It was a typical farm house kitchen, large and warm. A fire burned in a box stove in the corner. The appliances were yellow and a long way from being new. A calico cat slept on a side table covered with newspapers, cat food cans, and empty bottles. Jerry Lackey sat at the table with a replacement cup of coffee between his hands. He was a small, wrinkled old fellow dressed in a blue plaid flannel shirt, green work pants, white tube socks, and plaid carpet slippers.

“How are you feeling now, Mr. Lackey?”

“Dunno,” Lackey replied in a monotone, “but I stopped throwing up, so I guess I’m okay.”

“Up to a few more questions?”

“Sure.” Lackey raised his eyes to Kevin. They were red-rimmed and bleak. “Never seen anything like that before in my life. Not a person. Animals, sure. But never a human being.”

Kevin removed his gloves and toque, shoving them into his pockets. He pulled off his snowmobile boots and walked across the kitchen in his stocking feet, unzipping his ski jacket. “It’s a terrible thing, sir. I understand how you feel. Do you live by yourself here?”

Lackey ran a hand through his uncombed white hair. “Just me and the animals. The wife passed away eight years ago, and the kids are all grown and gone.”

Kevin removed his ski jacket, draped it over the back of a chair, and sat down. “Do you keep any livestock?”

“Just a couple of cows and an old pony. Gives me something to do.”

“How many acres?”

“Two hundred. A lot of it’s bush now. Used to have more in hay, but since I retired it’s started to grow back in. Tamarack and birch sprout like weeds. Next thing you know, there’s ash and maple, and it’s all over.”

Kevin took out his notebook and opened it, giving Lackey a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry about all this. I know it’s very upsetting, but would you mind running through with me what happened? Start when you first noticed something in the field.”

“Okay.” Lackey moved the cup of coffee to one side and clasped his hands together. “I seen him through the window, there, over the sink.” He nodded to the far side of the kitchen, where a curtained window looked down the hill and across the open field alongside Church Road.

“What time was this?”

“About seven thirty, I guess. I used to be an early riser, but not any more.”

“Go on. What happened?”

“Well, like I told the lady officer, I seen something down there at first but didn’t pay too much attention. I was getting water for my coffee pot, and I looked through the window while it was running. It wasn’t too light out yet, and I could just see this dark shape lying on the snow. I’m kind of slow waking up in the morning. Thought maybe it was a deer or something.”

“So you made your coffee?”

Lackey grimaced, upset. “I know I should have gone out right away, but you gotta understand, I was still half asleep. It takes me a while to get going in the morning.”

“That’s not what I meant, Mr. Lackey. Nobody’s blaming you for anything. There was nothing you could have done, anyway. It was far too late for anyone to have helped him. I’m just trying to get a clear picture of what happened. Please, go on.”

“Okay, sorry. I’m trying not to be a baby about it.”

“You’re doing fine. So you saw the dark shape down there. Did you see anyone or anything else?”

Lackey rubbed his unshaven cheek. “No, just that.”

“Then what happened?”

“Well, I brewed a pot of coffee and poured a cup. I was going to go out to the road and get the paper from the box because I like to read it with my coffee, so I had my boots and coat on, ready to go. I always take my coffee with me. Just a little stroll to the road and back. I was walking by the window and looked out again, and I could see it was still lying down there, and this time it looked like a man. I didn’t know what to think. So instead of going for the paper I went down across the field and, and, and—”

Kevin let the silence sit between them for several moments while he jotted down a few notes. It gave Lackey time to regain his composure. Then he dotted the last word emphatically, to let the old man know he was ready to move on.

“I appreciate this, Mr. Lackey. Very much. It’s a great help to us, it’ll help us understand what happened. Let’s go back a bit, if you don’t mind. When was the last time you looked at that field and saw nothing down there?”

Lackey frowned a moment. “I dunno. I suppose yesterday afternoon. I went into the village to gas up my truck. When I came back, there wasn’t nothing there.”

“What time was that?”

“About four o’clock. Four thirty.”

“Would that be the last time you looked there until this morning?”

“As far as I know.”

“Okay. Now, last night, did you hear anything unusual on the road? Any vehicles, loud noises, voices, anything at all like that? Maybe your dogs barking at something?”

“Sorry.” The old man shook his head, tapping his ear. “Hearing aid. I take it out after I watch TV. Nine o’clock, every night. Don’t put it back in until I get up in the morning. Can’t hear much of anything without it.”

“Did you get up during the night?”

“Couple of times. To take a leak.” He glanced self-consciously at the uniformed officer, who was listening to him without expression.

“See any lights on the road?” Kevin asked. “Maybe from a vehicle parked down there, or one passing by? Any flashes of light, anything like that at all?”

“Sorry,” Lackey repeated. “I wish I was more help.”

“You’ve been very helpful, Mr. Lackey, and I appreciate it.” While still writing in his notebook, eyes down, Kevin asked, “Do you own a firearm, Mr. Lackey?”

“No, not any more. I used to have a couple of hunting rifles, and a shotgun for vermin, but I sold them a while back. I don’t do as much around here as I used to. I wish I still had that shotgun, though.”

“Oh? Why is that?”

“I sold it too cheap. It was a real good one.”

“What about a handgun, Mr. Lackey? Do you own a handgun?”

“Naw, why would I? Wouldn’t have a use for it. A waste of money.”

“Did you know the victim?”

“No.” Lackey pulled over his cup of coffee and stared at it glumly. “Who was he? Nobody’s told me.”

“Bill Hansen. He lived in Sparrow Lake.”

“That so? Oh, wait. That’s the guy deals cars, right?”

“That’s right. Did you ever do business with him?”

Lackey shook his head. “Not me. Heard about him, though.”

“Oh? What did you hear?”

“Just that he’s pretty expensive. If I was going to buy another truck, I wouldn’t go to him because he buys and sells stuff that’s only a year or two old. I heard he wholesales for dealerships and sells other stuff on the side. My kind of new truck is at least fifteen years old and doesn’t cost more than a grand.”

Kevin smiled. “I hear you. Do you know anyone who did business with him?”

“I don’t run with that kind of crowd.”

“What kind of crowd?”

“People with all kinds of money to spend. People not retired and on a piddly little pension like me.”

“I understand.” Kevin made a quick note. “How well do you know your neighbours, Mr. Lackey?”

“Not hardly at all. I used to know all the families that farmed on this road, but they’re pretty much all passed away, and their kids have sold out and moved to the city. Bunch of commuters along here, now. Young people who work in Brockville or Kingston or Smiths Falls. I never talk to them. Only time I see them is when they’re driving by in their cars. Sometimes they wave. Mostly, they don’t. It’s that kind of world now.”

Kevin stood up and pulled his ski jacket off the back of the chair. “I appreciate your help, Mr. Lackey. We’ll have you provide a written statement later.”

Lackey swallowed a mouthful of coffee. “Sure. No problem.” He frowned at the kitchen window that had started all the trouble.

Outside, Kevin walked down to the end of the driveway. The farm was located about seven kilometres southwest of the village of Sparrow Lake, and eight kilometres north of Mallorytown. Church Road itself was about four kilometres long, running south-north between Junetown Road and Ballycanoe Road. Lackey’s farm was situated about a quarter of the way up from Junetown Road. As Charles had said, the entire road was blocked off, and inner perimeters had been set up to prevent local traffic, what there might be of it, from intruding on the crime scene. On Kevin’s right, to the north, there wasn’t another residence for at least a kilometre, so the inner perimeter was set somewhere between there and here. It was far enough away that he couldn’t see it from where he was standing.

On his left, the road sloped downhill and followed a straight line south. The closest residence, a single-family, ranch-style house, was barely visible across the road, within the trees. The inner perimeter had been set up right at the end of Lackey’s field, about thirty metres from the neighbour’s driveway—a wooden barricade, an OPP cruiser, and a bored constable.

The road had recently been plowed, but there wasn’t much of a snowbank along the shoulder. The ditch was shallow and filled with crusted snow. A page-wire fence ran down the hill along the edge of Lackey’s field. The fence posts were grey and weathered, and although a few were canted over at an angle, the rest were in good shape. The entrance to the field, through which the victim and his killer had passed, was about fifty metres from the bottom of the hill. The gate had been missing for a long time.

Crime scene tape fluttered across the road on either side of the entrance, to protect the immediate area in which Martin and Landry needed to work. Constable Charles was in the process of re-tying an end of the tape that had come undone from where it had been secured on the page-wire fence.

Inside the tape, they had set out several series of numbered evidence markers on the road, in the ditch, and through the entrance into the field. Martin was in the process of following the footprints across the field toward the body, placing yellow markers on top of the snow and photographing each print. Landry crouched in the middle of the road, unpacking supplies from a kit box. In their crime scene coveralls and hoods, the identification officers reminded Kevin of animals whose coats turn white in the winter for protective coloration.

Behind him, Kevin heard an approaching vehicle. It was Patterson, coming back from the north perimeter. He stepped out of the way to allow the Suburban room to pull in and park. Detective Constable Craig Dart got out from the passenger side, gave Kevin a look, and started down the hill toward Landry.

Patterson joined Kevin at the end of the driveway. “His car wouldn’t start, so he had to get a ride. I picked him up at the barricade.”

“I thought he looked more pissed than usual.”

Patterson sighed. They watched Landry hold up his hand and motion Dart away from his work area. Dart sidestepped, stopped, crossed his arms, and watched as Landry motioned Charles over to him. He passed the end of a tape measure to her and gingerly backed away. He was measuring the distance between parallel tire tread marks, Kevin realized, to get an idea of the wheelbase of the vehicle that had brought the victim to the scene.

Kevin heard the sound of another car behind him. He turned in time to see a black Lexus approaching at top speed. He skipped aside as the car swerved into the driveway, barely missing him.

“This fucking idiot,” Patterson grumbled.

Dr. Yuri Dalca climbed out of the Lexus, retrieved his bag from the back seat, and slammed the door. “Not even have I had a chance to do my breakfast,” he proclaimed loudly to no one in particular, “but now I have to walk all the way through some snow-covered field to look at a body I already know is dead.”

“Life’s rough,” Patterson said, unimpressed. “If you’ll follow me, Dr. Dalca?”

The detective sergeant led the way up the driveway and down the hill. Dalca followed, complaining with each step in a loud, accented voice that betrayed his Romanian origin. Kevin brought up the rear. As they approached the body, Dalca minced around Patterson and held up his hand. “Enough for you, right there. Have you already disturbed my body?”

“Nobody’s touched it,” Patterson snapped.

“A little respect costs nothing.” Dalca knelt down beside the corpse. “Frozen stiff. Joke intended. He’s been here for a while, probably all night.”

Obviously, Kevin thought. Watching Dalca fuss around the body, he mentally reviewed the five questions a coroner must answer when investigating an unexpected death.

Who is the person?—Bill Hansen.

When did he die?—Sometime between four thirty yesterday afternoon and about two o’clock this morning, judging from the frozen condition of the body.

Where did he die?—Right here, given the amount of blood pumped out across the snow by a heart still beating after the fatal shot was fired.

How did he die?—As a result of the aforementioned gunshot wound.

By what means did he die?—Homicide, without question.

“His wife will be so very upset,” Dalca said.

Patterson shifted. “You know this man?”

“Of course. He’s a patient of mine.” Dalca struggled upright and started to put his gloves back on. “There’s nothing for me to do here. The freezing of the body is already done, so no point in me trying to figure out time since death. It was what, last night, twenty below, Celsius? Being police, you don’t know these things and always expect the impossible, but the progress of rigor mortis, the stiffening of the body, is made slower by cold temperatures, as is the production of insects, gas, and all the other fine things we use to measure time since death. The body fluids freeze when he lies out here like this, in an open field, exposed to the cold winds, and the stiffness we have already is not rigor but simply the freezing of the water in the cells. Look at the blood, there on the snow.” He waved his gloved hand. “Frozen as well. Since the middle of the night, obviously. The body must be thawed, very slowly, then we will see the rigor follow its normal course. It could take a full day just to do this. I don’t know. The pathologist will tell us.”

Having delivered his lecture, he picked up his bag and began to manoeuvre around Patterson and Kevin.

“Hang on a sec.” Patterson put a hand on Dalca’s sleeve. “You said this man’s a patient of yours. Bill Hansen?”

“Yes, of course it’s Hansen.” Dalca stopped, annoyed at being touched.

Kevin asked, “Is there anything in this man’s medical history we need to know about? That might be relevant to the investigation?”

Dalca rolled his eyes at him. “You mean, like drug addiction or alcoholism or STD from too much screwing around? Something like that? Don’t waste your time, and don’t waste mine, young man. There’s nothing in my files to help you answer who did this to him. Which I hope you will go and find out now without frittering away any more of my time.” He pulled his sleeve free from Patterson’s gloved fingers and moved around Kevin.

“The inspector from CIB is on the way,” Patterson said.

“How nice,” Dalca called over his shoulder. “I’m going up to my warm car, where I will call my pathologist friend in Kingston to let him know Mr. Hansen is coming. I’ll also call the body removal service to pick him up, I’ll fill out all my tedious, bureaucratic forms and give you your copies, and then I’m going to go somewhere more pleasant to have my breakfast.”

“Don’t forget to release the EMS guys,” Patterson called after him. “They could use some breakfast, too.”

Dalca ignored him, trudging stolidly away.

“I swear to God,” Dave Martin said behind them, “that guy’s a walking advertisement for scrapping the coroner system in this province and going with professional medical examiners like the rest of the modern world.”
Kevin turned. Martin had finally worked his way across the field to the victim. He carefully circled the body, photographing it.

“Don’t get me started, Dave.” Patterson looked at Kevin. “Stay here. I’m not finished with that son of a bitch, not by a long shot.” He shouldered past him and stamped away after the departed coroner.

“First thing,” Martin said, slinging his camera over his shoulder and kneeling beside the body, “we need to bag these hands.”

Kevin crouched down beside him. “What’s in his pockets?”

“Hold your horses.” Martin produced two Tyvek hand preservation bags and pointed at the gold ring on the corpse’s finger. “Married. Left-handed smoker, too. Nicotine stains.” He slipped a bag over the hand, tightened the drawstring, then repeated the process with the other hand. Satisfied that the victim’s hands were properly protected, he took out a clear plastic evidence bag and began to search the pockets. He pulled out a wallet and looked at a driver’s licence, health card, and several credit cards. “Hansen, William L., 22 Mill Street, Sparrow Lake, Ontario. DOB October 21, 1957. Visa, American Express, CIBC convenience card. Looks like two hundred and … ten dollars in cash.”

Kevin had his notebook out and was furiously writing it all down.

Martin dropped the wallet into the evidence bag and continued his search, finding a quantity of loose change, a cotton handkerchief, a green after-dinner mint wrapped in cellophane, a small stub of a pencil, several receipts from gas bars and convenience stores—all at least two days old—and a nail clipper.

“No keys?” Kevin asked.

“No keys. And no cellphone, either.”

Kevin looked back toward the road. “He didn’t drop it, did he? A guy like him would never be without his phone.”

“We didn’t see it,” Martin said.

“Maybe the killer took it and threw it away.”

“It’s a thought. It might turn up later.”

“I don’t see a shell casing,” Kevin said.

“No,” Martin agreed. “If it was a semi-automatic, the shooter may have policed his brass.”

“Unless it’s under the body.”

“You mind if I do my job and you do yours, Detective?”

Kevin smiled, glancing at his watch. He was surprised to see that it was already past nine thirty. “What did you find at the road?”

“Good set of tire tracks,” Martin replied, “with a wheelbase that’ll probably match a pickup truck, maybe a Dodge Ram. Three sets of boot prints, one size thirteen, one size eleven, and the other size ten, which,” he pointed at the boots on the victim’s feet, “will match this guy.”

“I’ve always wondered, how do you take print casts like that in the snow when it’s this cold?”

“Good question, kid. The secret is an aerosol can of snow print wax. As you may not know, since you’re police and don’t know jack shit, as Dr. Dickhead nicely pointed out, most casting materials produce heat as they harden, which melts your snow and erodes your details rather distressingly. Snow print wax, on the other hand, does not. In fact, it insulates the print and preserves all those lovely details. Plus, it goes on red, which makes for really good photographs. Then Serge, our resident expert, applies the dental stone for the casting, and he’s good to go. Ain’t forensics fun?”

After completing a surface examination of the victim’s clothing for fibres or trace evidence, Martin carefully turned the body over and took another round of photographs. When he was done with the body, he stood up, motioned Kevin back a few steps, and began to hunt through the crushed snow. After a while he shook his head. “No cartridge case. We’ll keep looking, though.” He stood up and stared off toward the distant tree line. Then he studied the size thirteen footprints for a moment and chose a pair that represented where the killer likely stood when he fired the shot. Straddling them awkwardly, he raised his hand with his thumb up and index finger extended, and pretended to shoot.

“Somewhere out there,” he muttered, and slowly moved off in a circuitous route toward where he hoped to find the expended round.

After a while, Landry arrived from the road, pushing a measuring wheel across the snow. “Eighty-one metres, seven centimetres from the first of the victim’s footprints to the last one,” he told Kevin. “Looks like he got out of the passenger side of the vehicle, by the way, and the shooter got out from the driver’s side.”

Kevin wrote it down in his notebook.

Landry shielded his eyes with his hand as he stared at Martin in the distance. Then he stood in Martin’s footprints, studied the angle at which the body had fallen, raised his hand, and fired his own simulated shot. “He needs to be a lot farther to the left.” He headed off toward Martin.

After a while, Kevin glanced at his watch. It was now 10:24 am. Forty minutes had passed while he’d stood here, watching the Ident officers work, taking notes, refining his sketch of the crime scene. He looked up at the driveway and saw Patterson talking to Dart. It was an animated discussion; Patterson waved his arms about to emphasize whatever point he was making while Dart stared at his boots.

Kevin squinted as crows rose above the farm house, cawing. They swerved and flew off into the distance. Probably the same family group he’d heard before. Above them, a tiny jet pulled a contrail across the blue sky. Martin slowly made his way back across the field to the body while Landry remained behind, bent over, patiently searching for the round in the snow.

Kevin’s attention was drawn once more to the road. A vehicle had apparently been allowed to pass through the blockade at Junetown Road and approach the scene from the south. An unmarked grey Crown Victoria, it stopped at the wooden barricade at the far end of Lackey’s field. Someone got out of the car, spoke to the uniformed officer, walked around the barricade and approached the scene along the road.

“Who the hell is that?” Martin asked, behind Kevin.

They watched a woman in a navy trench coat, fuzzy hat, and clunky men’s winter boots walk up to the entrance of the field. Her hands were shoved into her coat pockets. She stopped to speak to Constable Charles, who nodded and waved her forward. She gave a little wave back and continued across the field.
She looked uncomfortably cold; the trench coat was far too light for a minus 15 degree day. She walked with a slight stoop, her head down, her shoulders hunched. Dark hair protruded from beneath the fuzzy hat. For an instant, Kevin wondered if she was a journalist who’d inadvertently been allowed access. Then he noticed her eyes roving constantly back and forth across the snow in front of her with the trained vigilance of someone experienced in moving through a crime scene.

“Well,” he said, “I guess that’s CIB.”

2015, 2023 Michael J. McCann

Sorrow Lake: An Excerpt