Chapter 2: Under the Pale Moon

Note:  this is a  preview of the new mystery novel by Chris Donner,  featuring grief counselor Alice Anne McDonnell in a cozy mystery of suicide, murder and banking.

In case you missed it, read chapter 1 first.

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Chapter 2: Under the Pale Moon

Monday morning had started out bright and welcoming.  A perfect autumn day.  It soon turned into a western Oregon day as the sunshine gave way to clouds and the clouds started their normal misting rain.  It had gone on all day, thoroughly wetting everything and bringing a slight chill.  There was very little moonlight, but what there was gave a silvery shimmer to all the trees.  The wet asphalt reflected the glow of moonlight.  It was a peaceful night in Pudding River.

Officer Teddy Thompson had half an hour to go on his shift.  He was tired, having coached his son’s football team the night before.  He thought he must be getting old.  He didn’t remember being this stiff last year.  Time to start doing all those sit ups and 5 mile runs he kept promising himself.  At least he  wasn’t fighting love handles or a beer belly, he consoled himself.  He had no trouble fitting into his uniform or passing the department physical this year.  Still, a couple of hours with a pack of twelve year olds had about done him in.

He made one last swing by the Pudding River Bank, circling into the back parking lot.  Kids had been practicing ghetto art on the dumpster and the bank’s teller supervisor had complained to him when he deposited his paycheck last Friday.  They didn’t have much a of gang problem or graffiti in Pudding River, but there were always the few discontents and wannabes that the  police department had to deal with.  If he did find anyone back there, he’d chase them off instead of catching them.  He didn’t want to do the paperwork or, worse yet, have to chase some punks down an alley.  It was quitting time and he was looking forward to putting his feet up and catching up on the Monday Night Football game that was recording on his Tivo at home.

He rolled his squad car quietly around the corner, going slowly to make the least noise possible with a souped up Dodge charger.  Sure enough, there was a car back there, idling.  He didn’t see anyone around, though.  Maybe it was some kids making out.  The windows were pretty fogged up.  Doing it behind the bank, parked by a dumpster wasn’t his idea of romance, but maybe all they had time for was a quickie.  He always secretly enjoyed breaking up these little parties.  No telling what you would see, and he had seen it all.  Or so he thought.

He parked his squad car off the passenger’s side, headlights blasting the car windshield.  He got out, put on his hat, took out his flashlight and walked over to the car.  He couldn’t see any movement inside. Odd.  He circled wide and came up along side the passenger window.  It was too fogged up to see inside, so he tapped on the window with his flashlight and identified himself.  Still no response.

Maybe the driver was off in the bushes taking a leak and was waiting for me to leave, thought Teddy, glancing at his watch.  Five minutes to quitting time.  Should I leave it for the next shift, he wondered.

Feeling a little guilty about dodging his responsibility, he sighed and moved around behind the car.

What the heck, he thought, I’m here now.  Might as well finish up.  He would soon regret that decision.

He circled round the back of the car so that he could approach the driver’s door from behind, keeping an eye out on the side mirror, but it was merely out of habit.  The windows weren’t revealing any secrets from inside.  As he came up to the tailpipe, his flashlight reflected off a green garden hose that had been stuffed into the tailpipe and tied in place.  Following the hose around the side of the car, he saw it go into the back window.  It was open just enough to admit the hose.  The remainder of the space was stuffed tight with a blanket, sealing the exhaust inside the vehicle.

Fearing the worst, Teddy tried the handle.  Locked.  He used his flashlight to smash the window, holding his other hand over his face so he wouldn’t breathe in too much of the exhaust.  He ran the flashlight around the edge of the broken window, moving the broken glass out of the way, then reached inside to fumble for the ignition switch.  He shut off the car, then reached around for the door lock.  Unlocking the car, he opened the door.  A man’s body came tumbling out at him.  Teddy reached for the body, pushed it back into the seat, then quickly felt for a pulse.  Nothing.  He grab his radio, calling for backup and an ambulance, fearing that it was too late for anybody but the coroner to help.

So much for getting home on time, he thought, then felt guilty for the dead guy who probably didn’t have the comfy home and loving family to go home to like Teddy had.  Why else would he have off’ed himself like this?

He gave a quick call to his wife to let her know he’d be home late and reassured her he was OK.  Then he started reviewing all his steps for the mountain of paperwork he knew was coming his way.  He wondered about the man’s identity but knew he’d better not disturb the  body any more than he had already done.  Pudding River didn’t have the facilities for this level of crime scene investigation, so it would get farmed out to the county guys.  The coroner and the deputy sheriff would tear him a new one for what he had already done.  He didn’t want to make it any worse for himself.

The fire engine, ambulance and his sergeants car all rolled up together, lights flashing and sirens screaming.  Teddy had secured the crime scene on one side.  Tying off his yellow crime scene tape, he came over to brief everyone.  The EMTs checked the victim and decided they couldn’t help him.  His sergeant put the call out for the coroner’s wagon and the deputy sheriff.  Since the EMTs couldn’t officially pronounce the time of death, they sat in the ambulance and waited.  The fire engine shut off its light rack and headed back to the station.

Teddy’s night was made worse because one of the fireman had told him the Seahawks came from behind in the last few minutes to cream the Giants so the surprise had gone out of the game. He finished securing the scene, briefed his sergeant and then headed back to the station to start his paperwork, making a quick detour to McDonald’s drive through.  Thank goodness for all night fast food.

As he logged into the computer and brought up the first page of his incident report, Teddy said a quiet prayer for the guy who couldn’t stand being on this earth one more day.  Suicides always bothered Teddy, just because of all the unanswered questions.

Oh, well, he thought.  The poor guy will soon be just another statistic, forgotten while the world moves on.  Somberly, Teddy shoved a couple of fries in his mouth and started typing.

But he was wrong about the victim being soon forgotten.  Before too long, this night would be the cause of headlines in Pudding River and Teddy would have his fifteen minutes of fame.
Keep going! There is more mystery in Chapter 3: Answers From The Dead  –>>

  1. jane says:

    Wow … totally enjoying this … I forgot you were going to write … I don’t get on Facebook enough anymore.

  2. Love the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. They do keep you pining for more.

  3. Judy says:

    I’m hooked!

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