It was such an incongruous thing. Daniel looked around at the brown, wilted, trampled remains of what had, probably very recently, been a beautiful kitchen garden. He could see a few odd sprouts where there had been a line of radishes or maybe turnips over to his right. To his left, the dried, broken stalks of corn must have been as high as the elephant’s eye spoken of in the song. At his feet were the ragged remains of cabbages. Directly in front of him, beyond the blackened, trampled cabbage leaves was the tape outline. Incongruous.
Last night it had been lit by the portable spotlights set up by the forensics team and accented with the flashes from the patrol cars parked along the nearest side road. That had helped, frankly. With the lighting and the bustle of people, it simply looked like the crime scene that it was. In today’s quiet, hazy autumn sunlight, with all the trappings of police activity gone, however, well, it was just different and wrong.
Daniel moved carefully around the area, stepping over what remained of the furrowed rows and abandoned vegetables. Occasionally, he bent to examine some stick or leaf or footprint but he never touched anything. His hands remained in the pockets of his faded canvas jacket. He moved in ever tightening circles, scanning the ground at his feet, pausing for a closer look, brushing aside a leaf with the toe of his shoe to get a better look at something on the ground. Only once did he pull his left hand from his pocket and that was to sweep his long, blonde, leather-tied braid back over his shoulder after it fell forward during an inspection of a print in the soft ground.
At last, his inward spiral brought him to the taped figure on the ground. He stood still, his face equally quiet, as he gazed down at the rusty-brown earth near the head of the figure. There had been a tremendous amount of damage to the victim’s face and he knew the police were awaiting a full autopsy and lab work before they could be certain of the woman’s identity. Yet, even without that piece of information, much of the puzzle could still be put together.
The attack had clearly come from directly in front of her. There was no sign that she had put up any sort of fight. She had known her killer.
Then, there was her dress. Plain. Utilitarian. Frankly, it was not unlike the victim, herself. No longer young, not dressed or made up to impress, it seemed unlikely her murder was driven by sexual passion.
There were no personal possessions in the area, of course. No handbag, no I.D. bracelet, not any jewelry of any kind. There was nothing to give any clue of her identity. Equally absent was any sign of her attacker. The area was so clean of evidence, it was as if the murder had taken the time to tidy up before leaving. Even footprints had been brushed away with a branch (also no longer in the area) for nearly twenty feet in every direction.
Frustrated detectives had spent more than three hours in that garden and walked away with nothing more than the victim’s body.
Daniel stood a moment longer, looking down at the figure in the dying garden. A grin broke out on his face and he bent over one more time, again pulling his left hand from his jacket pocket. Very carefully, so as to avoid disturbing any dirt or leaves, he lifted a single feather from the ground near where the victim’s right hand had lain. Lifting it to the hazy sunshine, he smiled again as the black of the feather’s vane changed to a rich blue as the light shifted on it.
As he turned to go, he drew the end of his braid back over his shoulder and tucked the feather into a tiny loop in the leather of the thong which bound it. That was better. Nothing out of order now. He glanced back over his shoulder at the silent garden. That was what had been wrong. The puzzle piece that had been outstanding. Incongruous.