Thursday 12 – Saturday 14 January 2012
News vans and trucks, and the accompanying camera operators, reporters, and journalists flooded Egmont Pass within hours of the word getting out, although Sheriff Barber wasn’t entirely sure how the word had managed to get out so fast. It was not within the nature of the Sheriff’s Department to publicise this sort of thing. The locals wouldn’t have wanted this kind of publicity, so Barber assumed that it must have come from one of the snow season tourists.
He knew that it wasn’t from Dylan Partridge’s mouth that the word was spread. The man was practically catatonic when Barber and his officer daughter drove out to the Partridge cottage to inform him of the possible identity of the dead woman, and to request a DNA reference sample. Dylan had barely been able to agree to the sample, and his current position and posture in the Sheriff’s office indicated that the man had no idea where to go from here. His snow boarding little friend, Charlie Cooper, on the other hand, was entirely different to deal with. Sheriff Barber had a gut feeling that it was she who had alerted the media.
‘So, Miss Cooper,’ he had no intention of choosing his words carefully and was going at her quite strongly, ‘exactly how much are you getting paid for this exclusive media circus that you’ve created?’
She didn’t need to feign shock; she actually was shocked. Charlie hadn’t anticipated that a small town Sheriff would have picked up on her deeds. She floundered momentarily, praying that Dylan was too out of it to realise what the Sheriff was saying.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sheriff Barber.’
‘Sure you do, missy. We stop by Mr. Partridge’s cottage to inform him of certain things, and next thing we know, not having told anyone else in town, all of a sudden there are more media jerks here that we know what to do with. So, I’ll ask you again, how much are you getting paid for this?’
Charlie glanced first at Dylan, who was beginning to register what was happening around him, and then briefly at the Sheriff. He was savvier than she had counted on. She wove her arm around the Sheriff’s and tried to walk him out of Dylan’s earshot. He refused to move.
‘You got something to say, you can say it in front of your friend here,’ Barber said to her.
She shifted her weight from left foot to right foot, back and forth three times before evening her weight across both. She lowered her eyes to the floor in an effort to appear remorseful of her actions.
‘I only contacted one news agency. They’re giving me fifty thousand for an exclusive. But I contacted them before the body was found. I guess now I can demand more money with there being a body that could possibly be Stephanie Partridge’s on your coroner’s autopsy table.’ There was not an ounce of remorse in her voice, contradicting the actions she had set up before opening her mouth.
Sheriff Barber was disgusted by her betrayal of her friend, but before he could say anything, Dylan uttered a sentence.
‘Get her away from me,’ he whispered. Sheriff Barber acted immediately.
‘Izzy. Pete. Take Miss Cooper back to the Partridge property, get her things together, and get her on the first bus, train, car, horse and cart, whatever the hell you can find, out of the Pass.’ He turned his gaze back to Charlie, stepped in close to the petite woman, and sneered, ‘If you ever step foot in my town again, I’ll arrest your sorry ass and throw it in jail for as long as I can.’
Flanked by Izzy and Deputy Pete Marshall, Charlie was marched from the Sheriff’s office mumbling and cursing all who dared to look at her. Barber watched as his people left the building with the woman. Once out of sight, he turned his attention back to Dylan who was forlornly sitting in a chair opposite the Sheriff’s own seat. Barber perched himself on his desk, in front of Dylan.
‘There is, of course, a chance that this is not your sister. We won’t know until the DNA results come back. Doc Allbright has put a rush on the preliminary results, but we have to wait maybe six weeks for a conclusive answer. You understand that, right?’
Dylan slowly nodded.
‘Doesn’t happen as fast as it does on that CSI show, unfortunately,’ Sheriff Barber said in an attempt to explain the likely delay in identification of the body.
‘How sure are you that it’s Stephanie, Sheriff?’ Dylan said in almost a whisper.
‘Izzy was the one who made the connection. I don’t know, son, but we’ll do everything we can to get to the bottom of this.’
Sheriff Barber’s reply did nothing to comfort Dylan, particularly not when he thought that if the body on the doctor’s autopsy table was Stephanie, then she had been alive and held captive all these years.
‘Someone here in the Pass knows more than they’re letting on, Sheriff,’ Dylan said. Barber nodded in agreement, and looked out into the main office where John Hardy was sitting, waiting to be questioned regarding the whereabouts of his long-time friend and neighbour, Amber Carlson. Since the appearance of the corpse on her back stoop, Amber was nowhere to be found, making her either a party involved in the death, or a potential second victim. Sheriff Barber didn’t know which one he was wishing for the most.
. . . To be continued . . .