Thursday, August 2, 2007

IOSM - Chapter 6, Scene 1 (WIP)

A kettle of turkey vultures, Cathartes aura, had already started circling overhead, casting their shadows over Manny's body like some scene from an old western. Five evenly spaced bloody spots tattooed his torso. Someone was a damn good shot. The lawmen's stern faces pulled me into their world of crime and punishment. I swallowed hard, feeling yanked toward the punishment side of that world.

"Ethyl mercaptan," the coroner said, approaching me and pointing to the vultures. "It's the beginning of the decaying process in dead animals. Nothing escapes the olfactory lobe of a turkey vulture's brain." He tapped the side of his nose to give me a visual clue. "Of course, little else goes on in that small head of theirs." The detective trailed behind him. The deputies grunted loading Manny's three-hundred pound bulk onto a body bag on a stretcher.

"I'm Doctor Franklin Granger, the coroner. I'll figure it out soon enough, but it'd help with a time stamp. How long have you been hiding this man?"


"You know him?" Detective Murphy said.

"Yes. Well, no. And I wasn't hiding him."

"Which is it? Yes or no?" Murphy's stare intensified, and my responses shifted back and forth between the two men.

"He spoke at Tuesday's meeting at the Mt. Zion Church about the Largo PUD, but I'd never personally met him."

"Then why is he in your mulch pile?"

"I don't know."

"Did you have an argument with him?"

"No. I never even spoke to the man."

"Who was at this meeting?"

"About sixty people came. I didn't know many of them. Tabitha Isaman might know. She moderated the meeting."

The detective kept staring at me, and the urge to confess something to him came over me. All the priests and confessionals from my youth paraded before me. I hadn't done anything wrong, but sometimes that doesn't seem to matter.

The doc plucked a bottle of water from the icy tub. "How long have you had that pile of mulch?"

"Since Wednesday, yesterday morning. Some guy delivered it from Cowher's Nursery." I turned to the detective. "That's probably how he got here."

"Who is Manny?" The detective grabbed a bottle of water.

"Manny Klockman is, was, the Largo Development Company president. His company is putting up a planned urban development on a thousand plus acres straddling Bishop and Wake counties. He explained his aspirations at the meeting."

The detective had to have known all this. You couldn't throw a rock around here without hitting someone who didn't have a strong opinion about the PUD and what the development meant to this area. Largo has had contingencies on those acres for over five years. Town council approval of the project next Wednesday is a foregone conclusion despite Tuesday's meeting. If not approved before the contingency contracts expire, Largo will lose the buy-out prices set years ago and the non-refundable money they have been paying to hold that land hostage. If the contingencies on the properties are lost, anyone moving forward with development would have to pay millions more to acquire the same land. It wasn't hard to guess who would benefit from a delay, but would killing Manny prevent approval of the PUD? And why get me involved in this?

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