Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(8)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(8)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

It’s awkward, snapping a garbage bag open when you’re wearing gloves, but I’ve gotten the hang of it over the years. I do have a few actual body bags, which seem more respectful, but they’re also harder to get, and frankly, the total mass of these remains didn’t justify using one. Holding onto Molly’s hand, I lowered myself to the floor, crouching awkwardly on my left leg so my braced right knee could stay extended, and began to tilt the body sideways. Then I abruptly froze. “Oh, shit,” I said softly.

Molly peered over my shoulder. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Yes.” I chewed my lip for a second, considering.

“Scarlett?” Molly said. “What are you thinking? You have that look.”

“What look?”

“You know.” She mimed an exaggerated, scheming expression and stroked an imaginary goatee. “Like you’re about to do something you’re not supposed to.”

I sighed. “Because I am.” Dropping the garbage bag, I dug through the main compartment of the duffel again until I found what I wanted: a nylon camera case. I unzipped it and pulled out an inexpensive digital camera, which thankfully powered up despite months of nonuse.

“You’re taking pictures?” Molly said doubtfully. “Is that wise?”

“Probably not.” I said, and snapped a wide shot. I couldn’t blame her for asking—my whole job is based on destroying or hiding evidence, not creating more.

Molly sighed. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Still in the awkward crouch, I sort of half duckwalked around the body with my weight on my good leg, trying to get another angle. “So do I.”

When I’d finished taking photos and returned the camera to my duffel, I opened the garbage bag again and worked a hand under the body’s intact calves, lifting the bare feet into the bag. I fought my revulsion—her body wasn’t even cold yet. The smell of gore was worse now that I was down by the body, and I tried to concentrate on breathing through my mouth. When the feet were in, I had Molly hold the bag so I could work one hand under the shoulders and one under the torso, sliding the body into the bag. I had no leverage, and it was tough to balance on half a crouch, but it didn’t really matter because the thing was just so light compared to most corpses. The whole body weighed maybe sixty pounds. I was able to slide it in by moving my hands along the body like I was feeding out a length of rope.

The worst part was the perfect head, which came dragging along after the body like an overloaded caboose. “Stop,” Molly hissed abruptly, and I froze, with only the head still outside the bag. She reached down without speaking and closed the dead woman’s eyes, then muttered something as she crossed herself. I’d never seen any kind of religious behavior from her before, but I slid the head into the bag without comment. I can’t imagine that the Catholic Church endorses vampires, but I do understand that some habits die hard.

One of the woman’s hands had strayed and was still outside of the bag, so I gritted my teeth and took hold of it. Her fingernails were torn and shredded, her fingers streaked with blood. She’d fought, then. The struggle would have been messy, and the area just outside the door had been fairly clean, aside from a few blood smears. So she’d been disemboweled somewhere nearby, or maybe in a vehicle. I tucked the hand in the bag as gently as I could.

When the body was all the way in, I picked up both ends of the mat and lifted it off the floor, trying not to wring any of the blood out. Molly held the bag open and I carefully put the mat inside, on top of the dead woman. I think Molly and I were both relieved when I tightened the thick drawstring so we could no longer see the remains.

“What now?” she asked. “Do we clean up the rest?”

“Not exactly,” I said, eyeing the floor. The mat had done a good job of soaking up most of the blood, but there were a few scuffs and smears of blood that had tracked onto the hardwood. I wiped up what I could with paper towels, which I shoved in the garbage bag before knotting it tightly. Then I pulled a small spray bottle out of my bag and uncapped it.

“What is that?” Molly said curiously.

“Mostly oxygen bleach, and a few other chemicals. Olivia’s recipe,” I answered absently. My thoughts were racing. I’d seen a lot of gross stuff since I started this job, but this . . . this was more like a message. No—a taunt. It wasn’t just food, that was for sure.

I carefully sprayed each and every one of the blood spots on the floor, coating the wood with the stuff. Then I stepped back outside and sprayed every one of those smears too, tossing the spray bottle into the duffel bag. The whole process took less than a minute. I gathered the loose upper end of the bag and flipped it in a quick knot. “Let’s go.”

“Don’t you wanna . . . won’t that damage the wood?”

I shrugged. “Yes. But that’s Will’s problem. We leave the solution on, so it can fully break down the blood’s composition. He’ll probably end up getting new floors anyway, but even if he doesn’t, nobody will be able to prove that this was blood or extract DNA.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “I was just thinking of that time at the dog park, where you made it seem like nothing had ever happened.”

I zipped up my duffel bag and hefted it back onto my shoulder. “My job is to destroy evidence of a crime above anything else. If bloodstains were the only thing here, I’d stay and work on them, but the priority is getting rid of the body. For all we know, the killer may have called the cops and tipped them off already.”

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