will the trail go cold
or can other skills win out
truth may have its day
Tom Sandberg shuts the last file cabinet drawer and sneezes. The basement of the sheriff’s office houses all the old case records from the county’s police departments. But his searches have raised only years of dust. He hasn’t found any missing person who fits the boy in the park.
How is that possible? he wonders. Who wouldn’t report their missing son?
Maybe the body was brought to the woods from another county. But that strikes him as unlikely. Travel in the 1940s was a bigger effort than today. And this park is 15 miles from any county line. Who would go to such lengths back then to bury a victim?
Sandberg grabs a tissue from the box on one of the cabinets. Someone on staff knows what it’s like down here. An image of his two kids comes to mind as he clears his sinuses. And he thinks of Becky’s suggestion to apply for a job in the big DC suburbs.
Drugs, gangs. Does he want to face them every day? Or have his kids get involved with them? Meth labs were a problem in this neck of the woods some years back, until tough laws on over-the-counter drugs pushed them further west. But the pipelines still lead to the big cities and suburbs.
The body counts are a hell of a lot higher the closer you get to the capital, he thinks. Who needs that?
No, this is the best place for the family. The kids are doing well in school and have good friends. Why tear them away from that? They can drive to DC on weekends when they want and take in its good side without dealing with the bad. Becky knows that. She’ll understand.
Sandberg checks his watch. Time to leave for Meghan Bode’s lab. She’ll be disappointed in his lack of results. He shares her desire to identify the boy and give him a proper burial. But the harsh reality is some victims are never identified or even found. And this case, which never officially existed, will remain unsolved.
When Sandberg arrives at the lab, Meghan is working on her computer. The boy’s skeleton is laid out neatly on the adjoining table.
“Was it an accident?” he asks.
“No,” Meghan says, rising to show him the bones. “Irene Kristoff—she’s our physical anthropologist—said he was hit with something like a shovel. Twice. Once on the left side of the head and after that a more forceful strike on the back of the skull.”
Her voice trembles. “If the first blow didn’t kill him, the second did. Which means the intent was to kill, right?”
“Yeah. Once, maybe it’s an act of blind rage or a horrible accident. But a second, stronger blow? That’s intent.”
“Did you find a missing person’s case?”
Sandberg looks at the boy’s skeleton and shakes his head. “Nothing that fits him. Who wouldn’t report a missing son?”
“How about the parent who killed him?”
Sandberg leans against a counter. “That’s the last thing I expected to hear from you, Dr. Bode.”
“I read too many murder mysteries. And my husband watches too many crime shows.”
“Family’s always a good place to start for a murder investigation. But I’d expect someone to file a report with the police—friends, a teacher, another relative. And there’s nothing.”
“Maybe they were afraid to. I’ve been thinking about this all weekend. And I had an idea.”
Meghan returns to her computer and shows Sandberg the screen.
“I thought the old newspapers would cover a missing person. And some of them are online. So far I haven’t found anyone who fits, either. But the papers all have columns dedicated to local doings. The ladies’ auxiliary was holding a charity drive. Which men were drafted and heading to basic training. Mrs. So-and-So and her children were making a trip to visit family in another state. Mr. Smith was traveling to DC on business. Maybe there’s a clue in those stories.”
It’s a long shot, Sandberg thinks. But the determination in Meghan’s expression is unmistakable. He’s known it and kept with cases that made others give up. He won’t try to dissuade her.
“It’s worth a try,” he says. “But you have to be prepared not to find anything. This isn’t TV. Some cases are never solved.”
“I know. But I have to try. If I don’t find anything online, I’ll go to the state archives. They’ve got more papers on microfilm. If there’s anything, I’ll find it.”
“I don’t doubt that, Dr. Bode. Let me know how it goes.”
Will Meghan find a clue in old newspapers? We’ll find out next Tuesday.
- Poetic Archaeology A.1 – And A Beta Request (jmmcdowell.com)
- Poetic Archaeology A.2 (jmmcdowell.com)
- Poetic Archaeology A.3 – Meghan’s Brush With Forensic Archaeology (jmmcdowell.com)
- Poetic Archaeology A.4 – Meghan’s Brush With Forensic Archaeology (jmmcdowell.com)
- Poetic Archaeology A.5 – Meghan’s Brush With Forensic Archaeology (jmmcdowell.com)
- Poetic Archaeology A.6 – Meghan’s Brush With Forensic Archaeology (jmmcdowell.com)
- Poetic Archaeology A.7 – Meghan’s Brush With Forensic Archaeology (jmmcdowell.com)