Friday, October 22, 2021

Microstory 1740: Hercules Wagon

I just found a dead body. It’s a fifteen-year-old girl, who is—I mean was—one of two of the last remaining residents of Cepheus, Kansas. Everyone else who once lived here either left, or died already. Technically, anyone in the world could have killed her. I can’t rule out any of them, except for myself, but there is one person who is my prime suspect right now. Her father is the only one I know of who was here at the time. They were supposed to go fishing today, I know that much, but I’m not a coroner, so there is no way for me to know how long ago she was killed. It could have happened anytime within the last month, but I feel like the smell would be worse if she had been lying here for longer than a few days. Plus, food is something that I do know a little bit about, and I can tell you that this ice cream that spilled all over the floor only went bad recently. It looks like she dropped the bowl, slipped on it, and hit her head on the corner of the counter. Or maybe that’s just what her dad wants us to believe. I mean, where is he now, right? A month, a few days; either is plenty of time for him to contact the authorities if it really was an accident. Running makes anyone look suspicious, so he’s only making it harder on himself. I simply cannot let the trail go cold, and I can’t rely on the sheriff to do his due diligence. He’s going to rule it an accident, and not even look at the damn facts. She’s dead, and the dad’s gone. They need to investigate, or even call in the FBI. No, he can’t be trusted. I have to go on the hunt, or no one else will. Sure, I’m just a rural area supply transporter, but I know these woods like the back of my eyelids. If the killer is hiding somewhere around here, I’ll find him. You can bet on that.

I get back in my wagon, and head to what’s left of Main Street, hoping to find some evidence of where my suspect could have gone. There aren’t a whole lot of locations around here, and of course I’m well aware that he could be in Peru by now. If I killed my own teenage daughter, accident or no, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to stick around unless I wanted to get caught, consciously or no. I never pegged him for much of a bright boy, so I expect he’ll turn up sooner or later. These abandoned buildings are a pretty decent place to hide if you’re not worried about someone like me being on the hunt. Not in the old general store, not in the one restaurant still standing, not in the playground slide. It’s covered in mold, though. Someone should really do somethin’ about that. Where could that guy be? I head farther out to check the fishing hole, and the run-down cabin nearby. No one has been here in weeks, by the looks of it. Maybe he’s camping out on the prairies, or in that trailer that someone abandoned deep in the forest a couple of decades ago. Man, pretty much everything around here is falling apart, isn’t it? I still can’t find him, so I decide I need to get some perspective. One thing I didn’t try that they always do on those crime shows is inspect the scene. I can’t believe I was so dumb that I didn’t really even look for clues around the body. Maybe I’m not a bright boy either. When I get back to the house, police lights are flashing in my eyes. The sheriff has finally shown up. Took him long enough. He has some colleagues with him from neighboring counties. I get out, thinking it’s time I fill them in on what I know. I don’t get to say much before they slam my face into the hood of my own truck, and wrap handcuffs around my wrists. Apparently, they found the father lain neatly in his casket in the cemetery. He probably died before her. Now I’m the only suspect. I shouldn’t have run.

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