Mudcat Café message #2439808 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #113933   Message #2439808
Posted By: Lonesome EJ
14-Sep-08 - 03:24 AM
Thread Name: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
Subject: RE: Fiction : The Dead Man's Guitar
Rulon Howell got the call about dawn on the first day off he'd had in over a week. The phone thrummed on the night stand four times, Rulon wilfully ignoring it until it went to voice mail. He heard Bob murmur, then roll over. He looked at the window and the world outside was just lightening to gray, and he could see that the gold of the aspen in the yard was almost noticeable as an amber undertone in the air. He closed his eyes, seeing the leaves, the branches spinning them noiselessly into the crisp air, roots in earth and frost, the slow closure of the loop of sleep. And then the thrumming began again.
"Shit" he muttered and stared at the screen on the phone. It was Hession, his partner at Homicide. "Yeah Sean", he said.
"Sorry, Rulon. I didn't wanna bug you on this, but I got outvoted by the Summit County Sheriff and the Captain."
He got the details and snapped on a pair of jeans and grabbed a flannel shirt and fleece. "What's wrong?" Bob asked groggily.
"Go back to sleep. I'll be home by the time you wake up."
"I'll make waffles," murmurred Bob, and immediately began to snore.

An early morning bicyclist in the canyon had smelled smoke and gone to investigate. He was still talking to Hession when Rulon arrived. Crime scene tape fluttered in a cold breeze that made the pines roar on the ridges above. The investigation team was already casting tire prints in the entrance to a small campground. A blue Boxster had been reversed into a clump of willows not far from the camp. Embers were still warm in the fire ring. Rulon greeted Sean and Sheriff Halston, then walked toward the body. The victim was being examined by Jude Vinson. Right away, Rulon noticed a twelve pack of Pabst not far from the body. "Go ahead," said Hession, "they're cold."
"It's five o'clock somewhere, right?" said Howell.
"Look in his right hand," said Jude. A beer can was crushed in the fist of the corpse.
Rulon and Hession stood near the body, and Rulon said "slashed his throat?"
"Yeah," said Jude, "that or a wire ligature. He bled out before he would have asphyxiated, but his windpipe is crushed."
Hession pointed to deep ruts that led to the Porsche and said "the killer backed out the Boxster, in a hot rush. He had to so he could get his car out."
"About what time did it happen, Jude?"
"Before midnight, I'm pretty sure," Jude said.
Sean took an evidence bag from the ground near the campfire and said "Dr David Mark Ruben. Had 245 dollars in the wallet, which the killer left."
"Have you examined the vehicle?" asked Rulon.
"Yeah. Suitcase and briefcase with a stethoscope and some other medical stuff. He had an itenerary and baggage receipt. He just got back from St George, about 7:45 PM according to the carrier. There's a receipt from the liquor store where 190 meets the Interstate at 8:42. It looks like he came straight out here, like on a mission."
"Cell phone?"
"No."
"Did we call his house?"
"Sure. Got his voice mail. Him saying 'It's Dave! Happy halloween! Mwa haha.'"
"Mwa ha ha?"
"Right."
"The bicycle guy didn't see anybody else did he?"
"No."
On the main road, traffic was beginning to increase, the police tape and squad car causing curiosity slowing. The sun was breaking through, but sunlight wouldn't touch this part of the canyon for another three hours. Rulon walked out to the Porsche, where prints were being taken from blood stains on the door handle. Beneath the vehicle, a patch of willows had been toppled and mashed into a knotted mass of stalks and leaves, and these were also smeared with blood. In the gathering light, something like the glint of pocket change caught his attention. He reached into the mass of willow branches and extracted a silver Blackberry. The call record showed a call received from a West Jordan exchange that must have come while Ruben was on the plane, a call out to the same number at 9:12, then three calls from the West Jordan number in quick succession at 9:13, 9:15, and 9:32. A fourth call from the same number was entered at 3:46 am. Rulon tried the call return, but was unable to get a solid signal until he was driving out of Emigrant canyon.
At last, the West Jordan phone rang, rang 6 times before he got voice mail saying "Hi this is Sheila. I'm really sorry to have missed your call. Leave a message." He did, and then he headed toward home and some belgian waffles.