The nervous man, who looked about forty, had long, graying hair pulled back in a ponytail. A tattoo of a snake ran up his left arm. The lady reminded Elliot of his second grade school teacher. “I apologize for the wait,” he said. “My name’s Detective Elliot. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Conley introduced Bill Morton as the man who discovered the body and Ella Mae Smith as the woman who had called the police. Elliot pulled the man aside first, and after a few steps, he flipped open his notepad. “Mr. Morton, how did you happen to discover the deceased?”

Morton gestured toward the scene. “I was coming up through here, going to the park. The Mercedes was sitting by the dumpster, all crooked-like, so I noticed it right off. When I went past, I saw someone was in the car. She didn’t look right, wasn’t moving or anything, so I thought I’d better have a look.” Morton paused and cleared his throat. “Knew she was dead when I saw all the blood.”


Elliot made a notation. “Do you recall what time that was?”

“I don’t know, about five thirty, I guess.”

“Do you work around here, Mr. Morton?”

“Nah, nothing like that, I was just out getting a little exercise.”

Elliot tapped his notepad. Morton was wearing athletic shoes, but the rest of his attire, blue denim jeans and a western shirt, didn’t seem to confirm his explanation. “Did you see anyone else nearby?”

“No, but I wasn’t really looking.”

“Any other cars in the area?”

“Not that I noticed. Except for Mrs. Smith. She pulled in across the way and stopped. She used her phone to call you guys, after I asked her to.”

“Why do you suppose she stopped?”

Morton shrugged and reached into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He lit up then tossed the match onto the tarmac. “I don’t know, Mr. Elliot. Maybe she saw something she didn’t like.”

Elliot weighed the response. Morton wasn’t dressed for a night on the town any more than he was for jogging, but his clothes were free of bloodstains and had no rips or tears. He had no weapons on him, and none were found at the crime scene. It would be nearly impossible to inflict that kind of wound on someone without getting dirty. Of course he could have gotten rid of the weapon, but if he were the killer, why would he leave to ditch the weapon and change clothes, only to return to the scene and call the cops? It didn’t seem likely, but Elliot still got the impression Morton wasn’t being entirely truthful. “I’d like to ask you to come down to the station with us, Mr. Morton. You’re not under arrest. We just want to ask you a few more questions.”

A streetwise look of understanding crossed Morton’s face. Elliot had seen the look before; Morton had a bit of experience with the police, knew something about their procedures. The last thing he wanted was to go downtown with a bunch of cops, but he figured he had no choice. If he refused it would indicate guilt. If he tried to turn and run, that would be probable cause. He took a draw on his cigarette. “This is exactly why people don’t want to get involved. I try to do a good deed and the first thing you know, I’m a suspect.”

“Everyone’s a suspect, Mr. Morton.”

“Yeah? Well, I bet you don’t take Mrs. Prissy over there.”

“Don’t bet on it,” Elliot said. “I’d haul the Pope in if I thought he was connected to the case.”

Morton shook his head. “You probably would, at that. Yeah, sure, I’ll go answer your questions. Not like I got much choice anyway.”

After thanking Mr. Morton, Elliot went to the other witness. “Would you mind telling me why you were in the area this morning, Mrs. Smith?”

Ella Mae Smith smiled, and began to speak. “It’s Monday. I come down on Mondays and Wednesdays to look after Edna Jones. She gets up with the chickens, if you know what I mean. We’re both members of the Presbyterian Church. I’ve been looking in on older folks who need it for ten years now, not that I wouldn’t mind taking a break from it for awhile…taking care of this and worrying about that…but just try and get someone else to do it. Everyone wants to help, so long as they don’t have to take responsibility for it. If you want to quiet down a congregation, just ask for volunteers. And Pastor Schaffer can be quite demanding.” She paused and shook her head, then continued, “It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Patricia Letterman, God rest her soul, tried to warn me. She did it for years, you know, until her health started to fail.”

“I see,” Elliot said. “Could you tell me what caused you to pull up here?”

“Well, it was that car.”

“The Mercedes?”

“Yes, sir. Pastor Schaffer has one just like it. Not that he’d park it there. I guess that’s what caught my attention. And that strange man lurking about, glancing up and down the sidewalk, all nervous and jittery, like a cat in a room full of dogs.”

“You mean Mr. Morton?”

“Yes, sir. I would’ve just driven on, because I’d figured out by then that it wasn’t Pastor Schaffer’s car. And that Morton man looked like he was about to leave, too. But then he stopped and pressed his face against the window of that car, like he was trying to get a better look at what was inside. Well, that didn’t last long. He backed away from there like he’d touched a hot stove, and I just figured he was going to take off running cause that’s what it looked like he wanted to do, but then he saw me.”

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