Read The First Two Chapters
Also by CS Miller
THE COLDEST CASE
MEANS & OPPORTUNITY
David Allen Mathews III lay dead in the tall monkey grass along the shoulder of Interstate 25 in New Mexico. As he lay there in his eternal sleep, a multitude of unknowing drivers whizzed by in their vehicles only a few yards away. The grass and thistles around him gently swayed in their wake.
The highway was full of the noise of trucks, cars, and motorcycles. The drivers plied their way in either direction to their final vacation or work-related destination. The creatures that hid in the tall grass shrieked and chirped in response to the loud cacophonies of the engines.
But David Allen Mathews III was like the night before Christmas – he did not stir nor did he make a sound.
Less than 72 hours earlier, David had been a vibrant human being with money in his pocket, a key to a new BMW 3 series, a wallet full of credit cards -- one Platinum -- and a bright future at one of the nation’s fastest growing telecommunications companies.
“That boy’s going places,” his coworkers in Houston would say. They all knowingly, perhaps enviously, nodded their heads in agreement.
Now his skin was starting to deteriorate; and, to be quite honest, David was beginning to really smell.
David patiently waited to be discovered by a motorist whose bladder couldn’t wait for the next gas station, or fast food restaurant. Then, the police would come, followed by the coroner, who would be mystified by the death of a young man in a business suit whose body had been found along a major highway. Nevertheless, the coroner would still rule it a natural one.
Was it a natural death? Only one person hereabouts knew, and he wasn’t telling. Were David not in this awkward position, he probably could shed a great deal of light on the situation. He could tell them the whys and wherefores about his sudden demise on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. He could explain how he got there in his three-piece suit when there was no automobile in sight. But David was unavoidably detained from testifying for the rest of eternity, and so there would be no truth told in court this day.
Yellow tape tied to several wooden stakes and a weedy bush loudly fluttered in the wind like baseball cards attached with clothespins to a moving bike’s wheel spokes. It was nearly impossible to read the black words “Crime Scene” on the flapping canary-colored plastic that demarcated the place where David Allen Mathews III lay in repose along the busy Interstate’s shoulder.
A small group of men and a solitary woman stood near the scene. Their clothes shivered and flapped. Some of them talked while others crouched down and stared at the ground near the now blanket-covered deceased man. One wore a blue windbreaker with FBI printed on the back in yellow letters.
FBI Special Agent Garrison Edwards quickly scrutinized the recently discovered remains of David Allen Mathews III, and quickly turned away.
Edwards, a tall black man with slumped shoulders, a weary look, and retreating gray hair, was nearly waist-high in the monkey grass along the shoulder of the road.
I wonder when the road crews last cut the grass along this stretch of highway, he thought. He continued to look over the area where David’s body was found.
Why the hell did they call the FBI in, Lt. Joe Janes of the New Mexico State Police wondered. After all, the state police and the county sheriff’s department are used to investigating murders. And besides, Janes thought this one wasn’t even a homicide.
A number of uniformed state officers and others in off-the-rack sport coats, and soiled and wrinkled ties milled around the spot. A mixture of laughter, gallows humor and efficiency marked the site as the police and lab officials attempted to wrap up their undesirable work as quickly as possible.
A gaggle of patrol cars and unmarked vehicles haphazardly filled the shoulder near the scene. One, a black station wagon with deep tinted windows and the official county emblem on the side, was the pathologist’s.
“What’s the verdict, Doc?” Edwards held a handkerchief over his mouth and nose, trying to keep the acrid smell of death from overtaking him.
“It’s not a confidence builder to others to see an FBI agent giving up his lunch at a crime scene,” an instructor had told his class when he was at the academy many years before in Quantico, Virginia.
Edwards swallowed in an attempt to keep down the ham and cheese sandwich he had eaten for lunch. The sour taste of vomit filled his mouth.
The pathologist, wearing no mask and looking not the least perturbed, hovered over Matthews’ remains. He casually lifted the blanket that had been placed over the deceased yuppie and stared for a few moments. He lifted himself up from his crouched position, pulled his glasses off and wiped them with a handkerchief. “Looks like myocardial infarction – a heart attack, pure and simple,” he authoritatively pronounced.
Edwards nodded in agreement. That’s what it looks like, he thought. But that’s not what it is. Men in three-piece business suits don’t normally just drop dead in the weeds off the Interstate.
“How long do you think he was out here?” Edwards asked.
“Couple of days. I’ll get a better idea when I get him back to the morgue.”
A sheriff’s deputy walked over. “His wallet was full of cash and credit cards. It doesn’t appear to be a robbery.”
“It was natural causes. A heart attack,” the pathologist chimed in. “Pure and simple.”
Edwards looked at him, and shook his head. “Where’s our victim’s car, Doc? How did a man in a pinstripe suit get all the way out here without a ride?”
“That’s your job,” the coroner answered, appearing untroubled by the question. “Mine is to determine the time and cause of death. And, as I said before, it appears to have been a heart attack.”
“I guess that little factor doesn’t make it so pure and simple …”
A large tractor-trailer roared by, drowning out the remainder of his words.
The coroner ignored the agent’s remarks and continued to write notes on his clipboard.
“Where’s the man who discovered him?” Edwards turned, asking the deputy.
He pointed to a fat man, who was sitting on the steps of a tan and white Winnebago. The rear of his recreational vehicle was covered with a myriad of bumper stickers, suggesting he had been to Disneyland, the Petrified Forest, and some place called Flintstone’s Bedrock City in Arizona.
Edwards wiped his sweating, balding scalp with the already soaked handkerchief as he walked over to the vehicle.
He walked up to the man, and pulled out his note pad. “Mr. Diaz?”
The fat man looked up at Edwards, but didn’t speak. He looked put out. He put his right hand over his face to shield his eyes from the blaring sun. As he raised his arm, the far too small T-shirt he was wearing rode up, revealing an enormous, hairy gut. His left hand held a large bag of potato chips.
“I’m Special Agent Edwards with the FBI. Mind if I ask you a few questions?” Edwards pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket. “Can you tell me what time you discovered the body?” he asked.
“I’ve told them all this before.” His voice was surprisingly high and whiny. “How many times do I have to do this?”
“I’m sorry, but it would really be helpful if you could go through it just one more time.”
Diaz let out a sigh. “This is what I told them before. About 10:00 a.m. I just needed to take care of number one and get on with my trip,” he quickly recited in a monotone. “Going to the space center in Houston. Don’t like to use the john in the Winnebago when I’m on the road.”
Edwards tried to appear interested.
“I’ve already told them this a couple of times,” he repeated. “Will I have to stay around here much longer?”
“See anything else?”
The fat man again sighed. “No. Like I told them already, I told my better half I had to do number one and was pulling over. When I got out, I walked over to the tall grass over there so nobody could see me from the road. I just started to take a leak. That’s when I heard this loud buzzing sound. It sort of sounded like an electric saw off in the distance. I looked over there and saw all these flies. They were flying all around one spot. There must have been a million of ‘em. That’s when I saw the man’s body.”
A slew of cars with rubber-neckers in them slowed down by the scene and were waved on by a deputy standing next to the highway.
“Didn’t see any other cars? Anything suspicious?”
“No,” he said, sighing out the word.
“How’d you get in touch with the police?”
“Got a C.B. in my Winnebago. First time I ever used it to call the cops. Usually, I just use it to see what the road conditions are.”
And where the speed traps are, Edwards thought. “Okay. Thanks.”
“Can I go now?”
“You’ll have to talk to the lieutenant over there. He’s in charge.”
The fat man grimaced and let out another loud sigh.
Edwards slowly walked back to his car. He eased himself inside the vehicle, which was now like an inferno from the noonday New Mexico heat.
Why can’t the Bureau pick another color besides black, he thought?
He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out the pills the doctor prescribed for his persistent acid reflux. He popped one into his mouth and swallowed.
Before pulling back out on the Interstate, he looked in both directions. He wished he knew which way she had gone.
At least that way he might know where the next person would die.