Millhouse River Bridge was buzzing with activity when she arrived. She felt like a dinner guest arriving after the first course had been served, sneaking in the back and hoping no one noticed. But, in this case, she was supposed to be the hostess. In essence, she was late to her own gathering. Her eyes scanned the scene, mapping the positions of the team members. One figure was notable by its absence. His signature cowboy hat, an attention grabbing affectation, was always easy to spot. She was relieved that he would miss her tardy entrance.
A young police officer she didn’t recognize checked her badge when she made her way to the bridge. He obligingly filled her in: a fisherman had reported seeing a suspicious black plastic garbage bag on the banks of the river with a foot sticking out of it. When Rachel had received the call from dispatch almost two hours ago, she had been told to report to the bridge in response to a nine-one-one call about a possible DB.
Rachel saw Eastport’s Police Chief Reggie Raymond on the bridge and walked over to join him. This man needed no cowboy hat to stand out. At six-foot-seven, he still looked every bit the professional football player he had been thirty years ago. Next to him, Rachel’s petite five-foot-three inches made her look like a little girl.
“Chief?” she said, her eyes darting to up his face in an attempt to read his mood. His face was inscrutable, hidden behind dark sunglasses.
“Detective, sorry to ruin your Saturday. Hope your boy is doing better.”
“Yessir, thank you.” A cold gust of wind pushed her hair into her face. She reached into her pocket and found an elastic band. She pulled her hair into a low ponytail and turned up the collar on her coat, wishing she had remembered to bring her hat and scarf.
People clothed in bright red crawled along the steep banks of the river. They were members of the Water Recovery Team, trained specialists gathered from all first responder departments in the county. The Chief paced back and forth, his eyes checking the road for media trucks and then turning back to the people in red.
His cell phone rang.
“Chief here,” he said, his deep baritone resonating in the morning air.
“Chief, Captain Ives.” The Chief and Rachel looked down river and saw a red speck of a man waving in their direction. The Chief lifted a hand in acknowledgement.
“We found the body,” Ives said. “On the Millhouse Road side.”
The Millhouse Road side meant the case was in the Police Department’s jurisdiction. If it had been found on the other side of the river then it would have been the Sheriff’s problem. The Chief looked Rachel in the eyes and nodded.
It was official. This would be her first case as lead detective. She felt like she had been working toward this moment since she was seven years old. How morbid, she thought, that a seven year old could dream about getting called to go look at a dead body. She blamed her father for that dream.
“On our way,” the Chief said.
She and the Chief took his cruiser down Millhouse Road and parked behind the County Coroner’s van. She saw Deputy Coroner Cassandra Wayne speaking to one of the men in red. By the time Rachel and the Chief walked to the edge of the bank, Cassie had been strapped into a rappelling harness and was disappearing over the edge.
They walked to the edge of the bank and looked down. Two ropes descended down to the rushing water: one tied around a tree, the other tied to the front of a Fire Rescue Truck. Cassie descended down one rope and a man was coming up the other. Cassie and the man stopped when they were side by side. Rachel strained to hear what they were saying, but heard only the roar of the water. She watched the man pull himself up hand over hand while Cassie continued her descent. The man’s feet slipped on the bank, dislodging wet leaves to uncover mud and fibrous roots beneath. Several minutes passed before he was within reach. The Chief leaned down; his large brown hand grabbed the other man’s gloved hand and hefted him the remaining two feet up the bank.
“Thank you, sir,” the man said. He bent at the waist, put his hands on the tops of his thighs and took several deep breaths. “Tough climb. Can’t get a foothold.”
“Good to see you Townsie,” the Chief said. “I heard you were back in town. How’s DeLorna?”
“Good, Chief. She’s good.” Ives looked at the Chief and nodded with a smile.
So, the Chief and this man know each other, Rachel noted.
“Captain Townsend Ives this is Detective Rachel Boineau. She’ll be heading the investigation.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Pleasantries later,” the Chief said as he put both hands on his hips. This was an unspoken signal to hurry up and tell him what he needed to know. He gave off a Superhero vibe when he stood tall, chest out, arms akimbo. Rachel always expected to hear a voiceover narrator saying ‘fighting for truth, justice and the American way.’
“Water’s running fast,” Ives said. “River’s overflowed its banks in lots of places.” He gestured toward the river as if offering evidence what he was saying was true. “It’s definitely a body. Wrapped in plastic. Trussed up with rope, like a Sunday dinner roast. The killer probably hoped the swift water would take it out into the wilderness; but, the body got hung up in the trees. There’s a foot sticking out just like the guy said in his nine-one-one call. We won’t know for sure until the plastic is cut away, but I think we can assume it’s female.”
“Why can we assume that?” the Chief asked.
“Bright pink toenail polish,” Ives said.