Cold Hearts(5)

By: Sharon Sala


He saw Melissa Sherman sitting on the curb as he got out. She was crying so hard she was shaking, and he wondered what part she had in this hell. Then he saw his officer putting up crime-scene tape around the area, blocking off access to the gas pumps and the station, and headed for him.

“Earl?”

Earl was tight-lipped, his expression grim.

“Damn, Chief! It’s an ugly sight. Looks like the lift failed. Blood is already drying, so it must have happened some hours back. Miss Sherman found him. She said he’d offered to work late on her car so she could have it first thing this morning. I took her statement. She’s convinced it’s her fault he’s dead because it was her car that fell on him.”

Trey felt sick. “Finish stringing up that tape and then disperse the crowd.”

“Yes, sir,” Earl said. He then turned to look as officers Carl and Lonnie Doyle drove up in their cruisers. “Carl and Lonnie are here, Chief.”

“Good. You’re clocked out, so as soon as you finish up, go home and get some sleep. I might need you again soon, and you need some rest.”

Earl shuddered. “Oh, hell, Chief. I don’t wanna sleep. All I’ll see when I close my eyes is the body.”

Trey sighed. “When you’re through, go write up your report and go home anyway. I’ll call if I need you.”

Earl began tying off the crime-scene tape as Trey backtracked to where Lissa was sitting. When he touched her shoulder, she screamed, then leaped to her feet.

Trey sighed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Lissa’s eyes were swollen from crying.

“My car... It fell. He stayed...should have said no. Oh, my God, it’s my fault.”

“No, it’s not,” Trey said. “Come sit in my car. I’ll take you home later.”

The suggestion seemed to shake her out of her hysteria. She began pulling herself together, wiping tears off her cheeks and pushing wayward curls from her forehead.

“No, no, I can’t go home. I need to get to school.”

“I don’t think you’re in any shape to—”

“I’ll be okay.” She shuddered, then drew a deep breath. “I don’t want to go home. I need to think of something besides what I saw,” she said, and dug a tissue out of her pocket and blew her nose.

“Then, for the time being, take a seat in my car.”

“Yes, thank you,” she said, before gathering up her things and moving toward the police cruiser on shaky legs as Trey headed back to the gas station. He went straight into the garage and then stopped, shocked to the core.

“Dear God,” he muttered. He gritted his teeth and began looking at everything but the body.

At the outset, it seemed obvious the lift had failed. It happened. He would have to check on the whereabouts of the other mechanics who worked for Paul to see if they’d been with him earlier. After a quick survey of the garage, he was disappointed to find out there was no security camera on the premises. It would have helped to know if Paul had been alone. He would send his officers to check if any cameras from surrounding businesses had a view of the station. He met Carl and Lonnie on his way out.

“Carl, is that department camera still in your cruiser?”

“Yes, sir,” Carl said.

“You know what to do. Get plenty of pictures from every angle, and dust the control to the hydraulic lift and the front door for prints. Lonnie, you make sure and keep this scene clear. The coroner will be showing up in a couple of hours.”

Lonnie’s eyes widened. “Are you saying—”

“I’m just covering all the bases,” Trey said.

“Yes, sir,” Lonnie said, adding, “This just feels so weird. We don’t have stuff like this happen here in Mystic, and now two of our locals are dead within a month, although Dick Phillips’ death wasn’t an accident.”

“Yes, and we need to make damn sure this was an accident before we close this case, understand?”

Both officers nodded.

“You and Carl stay on the premises until the coroner is finished, and make sure this place is locked before you leave. Since the lift failed, you may need to call in the fire department to help the coroner remove the body.”

“Yes, sir,” Lonnie said.

One issue dealt with, Trey thought. Now he needed to talk to Lissa.





Two



Trey’s phone rang as he was heading for his cruiser. He glanced at the caller ID and frowned as he answered.

“Hello, Mom. What’s up?” he asked.

Betsy Jakes’ voice was shaking. “Is it true Paul Jackson is dead?”

He paused near the back of his cruiser.

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