Blood on the snow made Dalton queasy. He was used to the sight of blood, but somehow crimson smudging the pure white ground was worse for him than blood in any other context.
In fact, the blood, rather than the actual bodies, made his stomach churn. The town was in week three of a once-in-a-century blizzard, these were the fourth bodies they had called Dalton to. These two, at least, were intact. As he inspected the gruesome scene, he wondered idly about how many deaths there would need to be before the spree got labelled a serial killing.
There would be questions eventually. But news travelled slowly in the small town, and most of the inhabitants were diehard sceptics. Recently, two bodies found in the wilderness on the edge of town had been chalked up to wild dogs.
Wild dogs didn’t saw off limbs with that kind of precision. Dalton knew that better than anyone.
Dalton pointed this out to the Police Chief but the old man was all too eager to wash his hands of a troublesome crime.
If this were a movie, he mused, there would be a hotshot young local reporter on his tail, demanding answers. But this wasn’t a movie. The local newspaper was 90% adverts and had three full-time staff — one of whom was an unpaid intern.
Later, after they had collected the bodies and the crime scene inspected by the force’s closest approximation of a forensics unit, Dalton gathered his thoughts at a local coffee shop. He marvelled that such a small town had three such establishments; two of them courtesy of nationwide monolithic companies with a mind-boggling array of teas and coffees and charging the kind of money for them that at one time would have paid for a good meal at a restaurant. Instead, Dalton chose the genuinely local place, the one with a mere handful of drink options and where the woman behind the counter didn’t gaze at him uncomprehendingly when he asked for a simple black coffee.
Sat alone at his rickety corner table, Dalton considered his situation. Three weeks. Four bodies. Two of which had already been written off — incorrectly — as the work of errant wildlife. The police had no suspects. Dalton had a strong feeling that the death of those two kids would end up being listed as “unsolved”.
He was deep in thought as the old woman behind the counter hobbled over with his steaming coffee.
“You look a world away,” she said as she set the cup down. “Whatcha thinking about?”
Dalton looked up. He noticed her for the first time. He cracked a thin smile.
“Oh, I’m just thinking my work gets no recognition.”