Elsa let us in. She looked rather shell shocked, understandably.
Rhonda could be brusque, when she was on duty, but she spoke softly when Elsa opened the door for us. She said that she would examine the body first. She didn’t acknowledge that my employer and myself were even there, so I greeted Elsa myself as well.
The other women were in the living room, and they barely reacted as we walked through to the deck. The deputy stayed behind in the living room as we went outside.
There were floodlights on the back of the house, illuminating the deck, so it was easy to see Mary’s body, crumpled up next to the table, with a knife sticking out of her back.
Rhonda kneeled to check the body for signs of life, but it was obvious that she didn’t expect to find any.
My employer looked at the body, too, but I had the impression that she was more interested in talking to the women in the living room, particularly since she’d been excluded from Rhonda’s earlier conversations with them. She watched Rhonda’s examination carefully, though, and I knew that if the sheriff had missed anything she would have stepped in to correct the omission.
I barely looked at the body. I was fairly inured to corpses by this point, but my attention was more drawn to the woods on either side of the deck. The trees closest to the house were brightly illuminated by the floodlights, but everything beyond that was in deep shadow, and I couldn’t help but be aware that we were completely visible to anybody who might be in those woods, watching us.
Of course, there was no reason to think that anybody was hiding in those dark woods, in the middle of the night, and the two murders had been committed with knives, not rifles, but part of my job was to assess those sorts of possible threats.
And I did remember that, during an earlier case in Claremont, in a well-lighted living room, Rhonda had been shot by a rifle from the darkness across the street. And another woman had been killed then, and that bullet had been intended for my employer.
So, even in quiet, pleasant Claremont — college and resort town — things could happen.
Rhonda stood up. “As Dr. Wright would say, this dead body is dead. I’m sorry.”
My employer inclined her head slightly, as if she was aware that this was a socially appropriate response to what Rhonda had just said, but her thoughts were clearly elsewhere.
“Shall we go in?” she asked after a moment, trying to appear casual.
Rhonda turned to go inside, and my employer made a face at me behind her back, but it wasn’t until later that I figured out what was bothering her.