It was always a mix of emotions for Audrey to perform her duties as a Deputy District Attorney, though she didn’t want it to be. This was something she’d expected on an intellectual level when she took the job but was not something she’d understood until she started digging into the nitty-gritty of the cases, sifting through all the horrid details that she’d prefer not to face but knew she must to properly execute her responsibilities.
This was not like TV, not even a little.
It wasn’t anywhere close to all those countless court cases on late-night television she’d watched as a child growing up and then while attending college.
This was real.
Real people’s lives were forever affected, both by the crime and the aftermath.
A real person had been murdered.
Rachel Pope is dead.
In the back of Audrey’s mind, there was some part of her that was elated to actually be at a crime scene like this for the first time, but that thought was fleeting and fled far and fast when she glanced over at the difficulty her boss, Gregory Pope, had while wading forward with each step. She was ashamed it ever entered her mind as she followed Pope up the stairs and onto the trail. It was a good hike, and they passed a stone bridge that went to the left before they ran into a line of police officers who waited twenty feet back from a small clearing on the right of the trail. More police tape had been put up across the dirt path, tied to trees on either side. She suspected this was because of Pope’s presence.
Rachel Pope’s body lay beneath a river hawthorn tree. She was covered with a white plastic sheet, which Audrey suspected was done because of Gregory Pope. Audrey was glad for it because it gave the man a way to deal with the situation without having to directly face all that had been done to his daughter.
Based on what little she saw poking out from underneath the plastic sheet, Audrey deduced Rachel had been jogging through the park when she was attacked.
A knife was five feet away in the dirt with the point down. The handle made her think of a medieval dagger. It was possible the perp had dropped it, but more likely, he’d stabbed it into the ground before fleeing.
Audrey’s eyes narrowed as she looked from the body to the knife’s position.
Accidental or intentional? She forced herself to remain open to both possibilities, even though she naturally gravitated toward one.
Did the perp want the knife to be found? Was he concerned it might be missed? She refrained from glancing at Gregory Pope. Or was it a message to the venerable District Attorney?
That was probably going too far, but she made a mental note of it still the same.
She took in a deep breath as she tried to soak it all in. It was now just after 2:45 PM. It was fifty-five, maybe sixty degrees. Jacket weather for some, but not coat. It had been half an hour since Walzer had found Audrey in the prison parking lot. She pegged the time of death between 12:30 PM and 1:45 PM.
But it’s the middle of the day, Audrey thought, looking around. It’s busy here. It was more likely from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM. She doubted Rachel could have been here longer than forty-five minutes without being discovered.
There was blood on the trail, a smear on the ground to where Rachel lay. The river hawthorn tree itself looked unharmed.
Did the perp drag her body over there? If so, why? The tree was ten feet high and thick, but it didn’t hide the body, not even close.
Rachel was on her back with her hands at her side. She probably would have been on her belly if she’d moved herself.
Audrey was startled when somebody grabbed her hand. She looked down and saw Pope had taken hold of it. He was gripping so tight she feared he might break a bone. Audrey grasped back, and when their eyes met, gave him a firm nod as if to say everything would be fine even though it would never be okay again.