Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake-Chapter Ten

“Have you been out this far into the dairy country before?” Sarah asked Max.
“Of course, we used to drive out here when Michelle was little so she could see the cows. At one time, I knew one of the farmers and he invited us to come see how a dairy works. I remember Michelle was so excited. When she was about eight years old, she had a thing for cows. There were cows on her bedroom walls; there were cows on her bedspread. So coming to see real cows–well let’s just say she was as happy as the time we took her to Disneyland. We were there at four in the morning during milking time.”
“How did that turn out?”
“Michelle and Susan loved it, me not so much. I gave up milk after that and went to bourbon.”
Sarah laughed out loud. “That sounds nasty, bourbon on your cereal.”
“Yeah well couldn’t drink milk at all after that visit,” Max said while looking out the side window.
“Well, there is Deets Dairy so we should be coming up on the scene pretty quick,” Sarah said.
The car made as sweeping turn on a corner of the two-lane road and there they saw a police SUV with the blue and red flashing lights. Sarah pulled over behind the police vehicle.
While getting out of the car the police officer met them.
“What do we have here officer…?” Max asked.
“I’m Officer Welder. I got a call from dispatch that there was a possible body. I drove out here and walked around the edge of the road and found a body.”
Both Sarah and Max walked around the police car and stood at the side of the road. The body was at the bottom of the ditch. Max figured it was close to six feet down to the bottom.
“I did go down and check for a pulse, nothing. I backed out and called it in.” Officer Welder said.
Max and Sarah both pulled out blue gloves and put them on both hands.
“Officer Welder, have you called for EMS yet or the ME.”
“No, I was waiting for you.”
Max looked at Sarah, she shrugged her shoulders. “Officer Welder will you do me a favor and get on the radio and call in EMS and the Medical Examiner’s office, please.”
Before walking down the embankment Max walked along the edge of the road, one way and Sarah walked the other way at lease a hundred yards before meeting back in front where they could see the body.
“I got tire tracks peeling out in the gravel right there.” Max pointed at the road.
Sarah turned back in the direction she had been walking, “Yeah looks like the killer pulled up right here and somehow pulled the body out of their car or truck. That looks like drag marks. My guess the person pulled the body out by the shoulders. Those marks could be the heels of our dead person. It appears the murderer was not strong enough or was too lazy to drag this person very far. They probably dropped the body right here and rolled them down the embankment. You can see the turned over grass as the body rolled down the ditch.”
Max and Sarah carefully, without saying a word, step by step made their down the ditch until they arrived at the body. The body was face down in the dirt. Max bent over and with his gloved hand felt for a pulse. “Nothing. No pulse. This appears to be a young female. She is fully clothed; I would say at this point, this was not a sexual assault.”
“Shall we roll her over?” Sarah asked.
“Check her pockets for any ID or anything else first,” Max said. Then he began to scan six or eight feet around the body looking for any jewelry or other property. Max looked carefully at the bent grass where apparently this female rolled down into the ditch.
Both Sarah and Max agreed there was nothing else in the immediate vicinity, no broken jewelry or hair comb, nothing. “Let’s turn her over,” Sarah said.
Both Sarah and Max put their hands on the right shoulder and underneath the body and rolled the body on her back. “Shit!” Max jumped up from his crouched position and backed up a couple of steps away from the body.
Sarah looked up at him, “what is it, Max?”
Max stood there without saying anything for a few seconds. “This is the woman I was telling you about earlier this morning. This is Hallie Cook-Knowles.”
“You’re shitting me right?”
Max swallowed hard, “No that’s her.”
Sarah stood up. “Max you need to leave this scene right now.”
“No way Sarah.”
“You have to back off Max; you cannot be here until you have been cleared of this. Go back to the car Max. Stay there.”
“Why would I do that?”
“I’m not saying you are a suspect, but you met this person in the past couple of days. You cannot be here right now. Go back to the car.” Sarah raised her voice.
Max shook his head back and forth slowly. “I can’t.”
“Yes you can and you will, right now Max. I cannot have you contaminate this scene. However, this turns out you do not want to be a suspect. You may have more to offer this case then this initial examination. Go, Max, damnit, go now!”
Max backed away and started up the ditch towards the edge of the road. Officer Welder, please escort Detective Drake to our car.”
Max sat in the car watching as EMS arrived. The Medical Examiner pulled up within an hour of Officer Welders call. The next four hours, Max sat in or stood by the car. He ran all kinds of scenarios through his head. He recalled the conversation at Donte’s and thought about any hints that would lead to how Hallie ended up dead in this ditch. For the first time in five years, Max really wanted a cigarette.
Max heard footsteps and turned around. It was Sarah. She was pulling off her gloves. She had her detective face on. There were no smiles.
“Max talk to me about Hallie again. Tell me everything you can remember.”
“Before I do that, what is the ME saying is the time of death?”
“She is saying between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. last night.”
“How did she die?”
“Without the official autopsy, she is saying blunt force trauma to the head. It appears she died of strangulation. ME says more than likely she was unconscious, she was hit pretty hard in the back of the head.”
“I didn’t notice any marks on her throat like a rope or belt was used. It looks like there is some bruising around her neck from the murder using their hands.” Sarah added.
“It didn’t appear she was sexually assaulted by what I saw,” Max said.
“We don’t believe so, but the ME will find out during the autopsy. We bagged her hands but it didn’t appear to have any DNA under the nails. My guess is she was hit hard enough with a heavy object disabling her from fighting for her life. Then she was strangled.” Sarah said.
Max felt confused; he was not used to being at a murder scene and not being in control of the investigation. Max knew exactly what Sarah was thinking. She had to clear him as a suspect. Max knew he had no alibi for the time frame when Hallie most likely was killed. He started to recall everything about Wednesday evening. He was aware of what was coming.
“Max, there is no way you would ever do something like this, but I have to ask you, partner. Did you have anything to do with Miss Knowles death?”
Max stared at her, not blinking once. He was not searching for an excuse. Being upset was not close to what he was feeling. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, Max Drake was a suspect. Now he would have to find a way out.

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