I closed my eyes and again saw Doc examining Kit’s body in that tanning bed. It gave me a creepy sensation. She looked so vulnerable lying there without even the covering that God gave the unborn. Even though blood had streamed from her neck, and it seemed perfectly obvious why she had died, he had examined every inch of her. He even opened her mouth and smelled for alcohol, and he lifted her eyelids to check for the mottling that is the telltale sign of strangulation. None of this was easy for him either, considering the confined space. He was practically on top of her like a lover, but instead of lovemaking, he had a syringe he was using to withdraw bodily fluids.
The chirping of the phone pierced my reverie.
“Oh, hi Doc, I was just thinking about you….You have…I’ll be right over.
“Sheriff,” Watkins rushed in as I hung up the phone. “Trudy was right. Kit was wearing a large sapphire ring and that string of big pearls when she came into the shop. Several people saw them. Seems she liked to strut around a bit as she went back. Those women could describe every detail of her clothing, but then, maybe they’ve been comparing notes.”
I flopped back down into my chair. “God help me, I’ve made so many mistakes on this case,” I cried. “I let people who weren’t on the scene during what I thought was the vital time leave the shop before I searched them, and I was on such an ego trip that I missed essential information. I wouldn’t blame the folks around here if they fired me.” I laid my head down on my crossed arms.
“Stop it, Sheriff,” Watkins scolded. “There were just too many people for one cop to handle. If it had been me on the scene instead of you, I’d have done the same thing.” He crossed over and put his hand on my shoulder. Do you think if a murder occurred at a football game, the big city cops could take the time to search everybody in the stands? You do your best with the manpower you’ve got. The only question is what do we do now?”
“Thanks, Sam, I needed that.” I bit my already painful knuckle, and tried to think. “We search the shop again. This time we know at least one thing we’re looking for. Everyone, well, almost everyone, who was there between the time Kit arrived and the time Trudy found her was searched. None of them had the jewels on them. Unless they passed them to a confederate, which seems a bit unlikely, the jewels should still be on the premises. If so, maybe where they hid them will give us a clue to who did the hiding.”
He picked up the phone. “I’ll call Donaldson, and have him meet us there.”
I shook my head. “You two go on. I’ve got to go over to Doc’s. He just called. He finished the autopsy, and he wants to see me. Just be sure to examine every bottle of any kind of liquid that shows any sign of having been opened. Dump them out if you have to. I know Mrs. Benson’s going to have a fit. But it can’t be helped.”
* * * * *
Doc’s office was packed like it always was, but his nurse, Marcie Kay, sent me straight on back. She’d said Doc was waiting for me, but you’d never know it. He never even glanced up.
After about a minute, I tried to hurry him. “Okay, Doc,” I said. “I’ve got places to be. What’s the big news?”
It didn’t work. He motioned me to be quiet. He had out one of the largest medical books I had ever seen. As he used his square magnifier to read the tiny script, I paced back and forth, running my hands over the two dozen or so mates to the boo still sitting on the dusty shelves. Then I examined all of his diplomas, his Phi Beta Kappa certificate, his medical license, and the numerous honor awards that covered the walls. Finally, I could stand it no longer. “Doc, come on, please!”
He leaned back and snapped the book shut. “Well, what do you want to know then?”
“What do I want to know?” I gasped. “What do you mean, what do I want to know? I want to know everything, of course.”
Holding up a cup of rather grimy looking coffee, he laughed. “Well then, you’d better grab yourself a cup of coffee and settle down. This is going to take quite a while.”
I shook my head. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather have a Coke. Hold on a minute and let me get one from the machine down the hall. I’ll be right back.”
“No need.” Laughing, he pulled one from under his desk and passed it across to me. “See, I remembered. I was waiting for you. It’s still cold.” The amenities taken care of, he got right down to it. “I guess the first thing you want to know,” he said, “is what killed her.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Wasn’t that obvious?”
“To you, maybe. I still don’t know for sure.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” When he leaned his swivel rocker back and put his feet up on the desk, I knew he was ready to drop a bombshell. He did.
“Well,” he replied so slowly I was contemplating a bit of mayhem myself, “The question is, Did the poison kill her or just the slit throat? Either one would have been enough to do it easily, so which one got her first? My guess is it was a mighty close race.”
I almost choked to death myself. A bit of my drink came up into my nose, and I clutched my throat, coughing. “The what?!”
After passing me a tissue, and waiting for me to recover a bit, he tossed me a copy of his report. Pointing to the bottom paragraph, he said, “You can see right here the gas chromatograph showed an excessive amount of cyanide.” Of course I couldn’t see any such thing. The terminology might as well have been written in the original Latin for all I could tell.
“I’ll take your word for it.” I shook my head in disbelief. This case was getting more and more complicated. Was there one murderer or two? Could it have been a suicide attempt covered by a murder? My mind was reeling. I tried to think. “What else?” I muttered. This time he was the one who raised his brows. “You said there was a lot. What else did you mean?”
“Ahem. Well, for one thing, she’d had intercourse within the last six hours.”
I’d swear Doc blushed.
“From all I’ve heard, that’s hardly surprising,” I said. “The question is more with whom. Any ideas on that score?”
I wasn’t really expecting an answer, but this time, he grinned. “Can’t tell you his name, but he’s a blond haired man with A+ blood, a bad case of dandruff, and a crooked front tooth. How’s that for an idea of who to look for?”
“Good heavens, Doc! I’ll be your Watson any day. How on earth did you get the crooked tooth?” Swallowing a large gulp of my drink, I ran my wet tongue along my own teeth.
He waved aside my admiration. “Oh, well. That was the easy part. He’s a biter. She had a clear print behind her left ear.”
“Doc, you’re absolutely amazing Watkins will be so glad to hear this.”
Now it was his turn to be surprised. “Why?” he asked. “Does this mean you know who he is already?”
“No such luck,” I replied. “But thank heaven it means I know who he’s not!”
“Oh, and who would that be?” he asked.
I only hesitated a minute. Doc was a part of my team, and he had a right to know anything that might have a bearing on this case. I hoped this didn’t, but I wasn’t sure. “There was a question of Kit being involved with Charlene’s husband, Gary,” I admitted, “but he’s dark haired with perfectly straight teeth. So, now maybe we can rule Gary out as her lover. Come to think of it, it also rules out Jimmie Lee Wilson. He’s almost bald from all the chemotherapy he’s had. But what little is left is pretty dark.”
He leaned back. “Maybe. I hope you’re about both of them. They’re both good men. But I’m afraid I’ve got one more topper for you.”
I sighed. This wasn’t going to be good. “Okay, shoot.”
“Well, here it is. She’d had an abortion within the last few months.”
“Darn!” I tossed my empty drink can in his already overflowing trashcan. “And I guess there’s no way to tell if the blond was the father of that baby. Right?”
He shook his head.