Cold Case

Free Cold Case by Kate Wilhelm

Book: Cold Case by Kate Wilhelm Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Wilhelm
Tags: Mystery
agenda, seminar notes apparently. And one that made no sense. She examined a sheet of paper with a cluster of x ’s near the top, and three more near the bottom, and a single word on top— Key. She turned it over, but nothing else was written on it. A game plan? It was a printout. Did he play computer games? She wouldn’t have thought so, and there were no other indications that he did.
    She returned to the laptop and scanned it for his programs, the sites he had visited. She discovered chat rooms and forums on history, religion, government but no games.
    She opened a picture gallery, shots he had taken and downloaded onto his computer. Clicking through them quickly, she found nothing of interest. Landscapes, faces, buildings. Then she drew in a sharp breath.
    He had taken pictures of Robert McCrutchen’s body.
    There were several full-body shots, half in and half out the doorway. Close-ups of his upper body, his head with the ants all over it, one hand, more ants, blood ringed by ants. Looking at them, she shuddered. It was bad enough in a picture, it must have been truly horrifying in real life. Or death. There was a sheet of paper with one corner under his hand. Apparently he had manipulated the image, or had taken close-ups of the paper alone, for the next image it was a full screen, and on it the paper with the same x ’s. That was what he had printed.
    She picked up the paper again, comparing the two; one on screen, one in her hand.
    Leaning back in her chair, she regarded the photos on the screen for several minutes. Chloe had cause to be in shock. Had Amy seen that body? Probably not. She had been in Portland, and by the time she got there, the investigators would have been on the scene, keeping everyone well away. David had seen it, photographed it, evidently before the police arrived. Why?
    The images could be damning in the eyes of the law, Barbara knew. Murderer gloating over his victim? Obsessed with the crime? A warped voyeuristic impulse? Ghoulish curiosity? The ants made it especially grotesque.
    What now? she asked herself. If he died—that damn phrase again—his belongings would be turned over to his parents and sooner or later they would come across the pictures. If he lived and was charged with murder, the police might seize the computer. Neither was a good option.
    She found the digital camera in the manila envelope and examined it. David had deleted the pictures from the memory.
    She closed the program on his laptop. The first step, she decided, would be to print out the pictures and decide what to do about them later. Staring at the page with the x ’s, she shook her head. If Robert McCrutchen had drawn them, she might never know why, or what it meant. And it was quite possible that it meant nothing relevant, something to do with politics, or a game plan.

    â€œI t looks as if the killer must have been in the house with him,” Barbara said Sunday afternoon, drawing back from the table where she had spread the printouts from David’s computer.
    Frank nodded. The body was facedown, one cheek on the deck, and the top side so covered with blood and ants that nothing else was discernible. “I think you’re right. From the back more than likely, making him pitch forward.”
    â€œI can’t make it work,” she said. “Half in the doorway like that doesn’t make sense, unless the door and the screen door were already open and he was walking out. Two people? One outside, one behind him?”
    â€œOr someone had come inside and left the doors open, and he went to investigate? Or something else.” Frank resumed his study of the sheet of paper with x ’s, then shrugged. “That needs footnotes.”
    â€œI talked to David’s doctor this morning. The swelling of his brain is going down, and they’ll downgrade his condition from critical to serious and move him out of intensive care tomorrow if he continues to show

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