J.D. Stone and The Case of the Bloody Knife

J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

I suppose I should lay out a little background for you. I am Sheriff James D. Stone of Swimmer's Lake, Montana. I will bet you have never even heard of Swimmer's Lake, Montana. That is of no surprise because the town is not all that big. Usually a lake next to your berg means a resort town teaming with tourists looking for some good swimming, fishing, and boating. The sad truth is that our "lake" is not so much a lake as a big stagnant pond infested with mosquitoes and leeches. In fact, the town's original name was Swimmer's Itch Lake, but sometime ago our Chamber of Commerce thought that dropping the offending word may help increase our tourist revenue. It did not.

I will not bore you with the results of the last census taken of our small town, which is nestled between the peaks of the Rockies. Suffice it to say that between me and my score of deputies we can maintain the peace in our little hamlet and the surrounding Summit County. Nonetheless, I have been witness to some mysteries as puzzling as one might expect in some of the bigger cities.

Unfortunately, we don't have the same resources as one would find in more populated areas. It can take weeks or even months to obtain the results to a piece of evidence sent to the crime labs in either Missoula or Great Falls. Therefore, in order for us to move quickly on a crime, we are encouraged to rely largely on old police methods of investigation and our own small crime lab.

During the day there are usually only myself and two or three deputies on duty at one time. My deputy sheriff is Dan Easton, a young man still trying to find his calling in life. He owes his position to the fact that his mother happens to be our town's mayor. I'm not saying Dan does not exhibit some good qualities as a law enforcement officer. He is a crack shot on a nonmoving target and hotshot driver on straight-aways.

However, Dan's main flaw is that he needs a hefty dose of self-confidence. He tends to chose flight over fight and that is not good in a pinch. There was this time when the two of us responded to breakup a bar brawl at the Stockman's. Dan and I entered the smoke filled room to find men and some women punching, throwing bottles, and cursing at each other.

"Hold it right there!" I yelled at the top of my voice. The barroom quieted down and everyone turned towards me. "Now let's settle things down before my deputy and I have to run you all in."

Everyone started laughing at this moment. Unknown to me Dan had discretely made himself scarce leaving me alone with two dozen angry drunks. Fortunately, the levity of the situation pacified everyone's mood. However, it is still the humorous story told around town, and it does nothing to inspire confidence in the department.

Now I am going off on a tangent. To bring us back on course I was explaining that even though we don't have a large population we still get our share of some real puzzlers. One case comes to mind that really had our department stymied. 7B973 is the case file's official name; unofficially it is the Case of the Bloody Knife. The name will make sense as I tell the story.

It all began one June afternoon. Dan called in saying that he found Brent Underwood covered in blood and staggering along side Lower Country road. According to Brent's initial statement, some unknown assailant had beaten him up. Dan was now taking Mr. Underwood back to the station to get a more detailed report.

Being that I was on Upper Country road, which is just a few miles up from Lower Country road, I was about to radio in that I would join Dan back at headquarters when our day dispatcher Jeanie Carson broke in suddenly.

"J.D. you better get out to Victoria Drummond's place. There's a body out there."

"I'll be there in five minutes Jeanie."

Yeah, you probably noticed that our radio protocol is a little informal. But, as I said, we are a small department. We tend to be more like an extended family.

In less than five minutes I had my black and white Blazer pulling into the gravel drive of Victoria Drummond's little house nestled in the trees just off the mountain road. I saw Johnny Blake sitting on the front porch with his head in his hands. He looked up at me as my truck pulled to a stop. The man's face was ghostly white and his eyes were bloodshot.

"Johnny, you alright there?" I said as I stepped out of the Blazer.

Johnny weakly rose up from the steps, his body was shaking uncontrollably as I approached. "I dunno Sheriff," He stammered. "I…I was just doing some fishing in the river there when I thought I heard some arguing from Victoria's house."

Johnny used to run the local hardware store before he retired a couple of years back. Now he spends all his free time fly-fishing the local rivers. He knows everyone along the riverbanks and though he is mainly catch and release, he will share his occasional catch with whoever's land he is fishing.

"Just sit down and take it easy," I consoled Johnny as I eased him back down on the top step. "I'll need you to tell me everything you know. But first I need to see what's up in the house."

Johnny nodded and returned his head into his hands. As I approached the screen door, I noticed Johnny's rod and gear lying on the porch. The flies where buzzing around the basket containing his catch. There were a couple of bloody footprints leading out toward where Johnny sat.

The screen door opened with a screech of rusty hinges. I walked through the dining room. The table and chairs lay strewn across the room. Broken dishes littered the floor. I saw a few spatters of blood on the floor along with some bloody smudges and footprints leading from the kitchen.

The next room I searched was the kitchen. The window above the sink had been broken out. More smashed dishes were scattered across the countertops and the floor. However, the worse mess was the blood. Blood covered everything. Splatters of it covered the cabinets' doors and even the ceiling.

On the floor, lying in her own pool of congealing blood was the butchered body of Victoria Drummond. Her tangled blond hair matted in places with blood, her dead gray eyes stared at the ceiling, and the flies were thick around her throat that someone had savagely sawn through.

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

Victoria Drummond was the daughter of Victor Drummond, the Victor Drummond of the Victory Lumber Company. Victor had made his fortune by cutting and selling logs from around the area. Besides agriculture, timber is Montana's chief industry.

Now Victoria was a bit of a floozy. She tended to sleep around with anyone she fancied. As you can guess this didn't sit too well with her father. He threatened to have her removed from his will, sent away to a boarding school and such. Alas, none of it worked to tame the young girl's wild ways.

Finally, in an act of desperation after Victoria graduated from high school, Victor decided to remove his daughter from the temptations of town by buying her a small house in the mountains and granting her an allowance that exceeded my annual pay. The results were not exactly what Victor wanted but at least now, her trysts were discrete and removed from the public eye.

Victor also has a son, Victoria's younger brother, Victor jr. or just Vic. Vic had a gambling addiction. He would spend all he had in the casinos. It wasn't long before Vic had run up some sizable debts. There is a rumor, which Vic, who at the time ran one of Victory Lumber's smaller operations, started to embezzle money from his father's company. The rumor continues that Victor quietly removed his son from the company and enrolled him into a gamblers recovery program.

It must have broken Victor's heart to have two children fall so far from his high expectations. Now, one of them lay dead in her own home.

After making a quick survey of the house, I called in two more of my deputies and began to question Johnny.

"Now Johnny, I need you tell me what you heard and saw." I said to the still shaking fisherman.

Johnny nodded weakly. He stared off into the trees as he began his tale, only occasionally looking up at me. "I fish Miss Drummond's place every Monday. She doesn't...ah, didn't mind. I would always share my catch and she'd happily accept it. Sometimes her latest boyfriend would be here. They would argue sometimes over stuff. I never paid attention to what it was they argued about. None of my business, I'm just here to fish.

"I got here early this morning. I had caught a couple of nice rainbow when I heard arguing coming from the house. Nothing new I figured. Her boyfriend was probably here again. So I continued my fishing."

"About what time was that?" I interrupted.

"Oh, I'd say about two hours ago, maybe eleven." I nodded for Johnny to continue as I scribbled notes down in my notebook. "Then I heard some really loud screaming. I didn't think anything of it at first. She and her boyfriend always argued.

"You know her father didn't like her boyfriends. She being the heir of the lumber tycoon in these parts, her father didn't think it was proper for her to be cavorting around with such men.

"I guess that is what finally made me decide to see what was going on. Her boyfriend hadn't been around for weeks and suddenly he shows up. Plus, even when they did argue she never screamed like she did today.

"I probably thought it over for ten minutes before I went up to the house. By this time the screaming had stopped.

"I saw the kitchen widow had been busted out. It was fine this morning. So, I stepped up to the door. I could see through the screen door the mess in the dining room. I knocked on the door, but there wasn't any answer. I called out for Miss Drummond and still only silence.

"So, I stepped into the dining room. I remembered the window in the kitchen so that was where I went next and...Oh God! The brutality of it all."

"That's quite alright. Did you see anyone else enter or leave the house?"

"No," Johnny shook his head, "Not a soul."

"Did you recognize any of the voices in the argument?"

Johnny sat straight up as if shot through with an electric bolt. "You know sheriff. I remember only hearing her voice."

"Did you hear anything she said?"

"No, I just remember her yelling at someone."

"Did you remove anything from the house?"

"No, I just used the phone to call you guys and I came back out here."

"Johnny, do you remember who Victoria's boyfriend is?"

The older man sat there and scratched his chin. "I was never properly introduced. But, I've seen him around town. Let's see I believe his name was Bart...no that's not right. Brent...yeah that's right Brent Underwood."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 3

By Dwayne MacInnes

I immediately called the station to ask Dan to arrest Brent. After I gave the order, I waited until the coroner and Deputies Ed Douglas and Lars "Sonny" Thomas arrived. Both deputies quickly contained the crime scene and were thorough in gathering any evidence at the scene. I had a few words with Mike Harris, the coroner, and some last minute instructions for my deputies before I headed back to town.

Back at the station, Dan had Brent locked away behind bars. Our jail is not large, so there are only three cells that sit behind the main desk. Dan sat behind the desk leaning back in the wooden swivel chair resting his feet upon the desk's large top. Jeanie sat across the room from Dan at her dispatching station. The two were in conversation when I walked in.

Dan nearly fell backwards trying to compose himself. He knew I did not care for him having his feet upon the desk. In any case, he managed to regain his feet without killing himself. I hid my smile with a rough smirk.

I looked over to the first cell to see Brent Underwood in the blue jail digs sitting on his bed at the far side of the cell. He had his head bowed low, so I did not immediately see the bruises and scratches on his face. When he looked up at me, I then saw the beaten Brent had taken. His left eye was nearly swollen shut, a butterfly bandage held a cut above his right eyebrow together, and there were a series of five parallel scratches on his left cheek.

"Did you find anything on Brent?" I asked.

"Yes sir, in his backpack I found a letter from Victoria. You can read it. It is on your desk and this bloody hunting knife," Dan pointed over to the knife sealed away in a baggie on the desk. The knife was the standard hunting knife one could find in any outfitting store. Except it had a nice polished bone handle with B.U. engraved on the pommel.

"I assume you gathered the suspect's clothes as evidence as well?" I usually don't second-guess my deputies, but with Dan, I had to make exceptions. The boy was still learning. Once he almost had a suspect's clothes cleaned, fortunately we retrieved them before we lost the evidence on them to the washing machine.

"Sheriff, I have them separated and sealed up nice and tight."

"Have you read Brent his rights?"

"Yes sir," Dan smiled in his youthful and a naïve way.

"Have you questioned him yet?"

"Just his initial statement. He claimed that some unknown jumped him on Lower Country road while he was out for a walk. I had just finished it when you called to have me place him under arrest."

"Good Dan, we may make a lawman out of you yet," I didn't think Dan's smile could get any bigger. "Take the evidence down to the crime lab, have Floyd look it over."

Our crime lab would have many other departments laughing. It was more of a garage run by Floyd Jenkins. Nevertheless, he and his two assistants ran an efficient operation. He was good at taking fingerprints, typing blood, and a lot of science stuff that I could never comprehend in school.

Dan trotted off for Floyd's while I pulled a chair up next to the cell containing Brent. He looked up at me with his one good eye. It contained all the sorrow and misery of the world.

"You know why you've been arrested right?"

"Yes, sheriff. Dan said there was a murder on Upper Country road and he found a bloody knife in my backpack. I don't know how..."

I held up my hand to forestall him. "Before I ask you a few questions I want to make sure of a couple of things."

"Sure."

"Did Dan give you your one free phone call?"

"Yes, sheriff."

"I hope you called your lawyer. Because my second question is whether you want to talk to me now or with your lawyer present. It would really speed things up if he was on his way in either event."

"No, I called my girlfriend."

"Dan told you who was murdered right?"

"Well no, he just mentioned something about a murder on Upper Country road."

"Did he mention that it was your girlfriend who was murdered?"

"That's impossible; I just talked to her ten minutes ago!"

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 4

By Dwayne MacInnes

It took me a couple of seconds to regain my composure. The last thing I expected to hear from Brent was that he had just spoken to the deceased. I cleared my throat before I began again.

"I think that we need to clear something up. Who did you call?"

Brent's face reflected the same confusion that I'm sure I wore on my own. "I told you sheriff I called my girlfriend, Betty Vermont. Please, tell me she's alright!" his voice pleaded.

I let the air out between my lips, "I owe you an apology, as far as I know Betty is doing just fine. It was just a case of mistaken identity."

"Thank God," Brent sank back down on his bunk.

"Now, I must ask you again if you'd like to waive your right to have an attorney present during questioning."

"Sure, I have nothing to hide. In fact, I'm the victim here. I was the one attacked."

"Do you know Victoria Drummond?"

The shock on Brent's face told me he did. "Vicky? What happened to Vicky?"

"Miss Drummond was found dead at her residence. How well did you know Miss Drummond?"

Brent's face now turned a deep red as he turned his face away. "We were...lovers I guess. You know how she was. I was her latest fling. Anyways, I was until I broke things off weeks ago. Look sheriff, Betty doesn't know any of this. But, we are engaged now. I broke up with Vicky when I realized Betty was the one. Please don't let her find out."

"I'm sorry, but she's going to find out once the press gets a hold of this story."

Brent buried his face into the thin mattress of his bunk and began to sob uncontrollably. I left the young man to his inner demons and walked over to the desk.

It was not long before Betty walked into the station. I approached her before she could ask about Brent.

"Miss Vermont," I said as I ushered her to a bench at the far end of the room. Jeanie's desk was far enough away that we could talk in confidence.

Betty sat down on the wooden bench and looked up at me as I took a seat next to her. Concern and anxiety fought for control over her facial expression. "What's going on? How's Brent?" she finally asked.

"He's alright, but I need to talk to you first. Do you know anything about Victoria Drummond?" A dark cloud passed over Betty's face at the mention of the victim's name.

"What has she gone and done now!" Betty said in a harsh whisper as she looked around to make sure that no one could hear her. Before I could say anything, Betty started whispering in an angry voice. "Yeah, I know her. I also know about her and Brent. Brent doesn't know that I do and I don't want him to find out if you know what I mean.

"She's been calling around for him every since he picked me over her. I think I've intercepted all her calls so far. Just last week she called a couple of days after Brent proposed to me. To tell the truth sheriff, I don't think anyone has ever dumped her and it hurt her pride. Anyways, she just calls and demands that I let her talk to Brent. We get in this yelling match on the phone. Fortunately, Brent had to go into work for an emergency job. You know he's the top mechanic at Ace's Garage. But, she won't take no for an answer. I finally tell her that if she ever shows her face around or even talks to Brent again I will personally kill her. Well, I really took care of her she'll never bother us again."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 5

By Dwayne MacInnes

"You do realize that Victoria Drummond is dead." The shock of my statement took the fury out of Betty. She appeared frightened and took a couple of minutes to find the right words.

"I didn't kill her, honest sheriff. It was just a threat to keep her from bothering us." Betty looked on the verge of tears when finally it all sunk in. "Wait a minute. Is that why Brent is here? You think he did it! That's impossible. He...he..."

I stood up and looked towards the cell. Things were starting to look less cut and dry than they did in the beginning. Brent was still sobbing in his bunk oblivious to Betty's and my conversation. I looked over towards Jeanie; the dispatcher was currently on the phone. I returned my attention to Betty who had been studying me the whole time. Her face told me she had many questions to ask me. Unfortunately, I didn't seem to have any answers.

"Now, now, why don't you compose yourself and I'll let you talk to Brent. It looks like he could really use some cheering up." I escorted Betty over to the cell. I gave her a chair so that she could sit next to her fiancé. Of course, I had to make sure she didn't have anything she could pass to him. The file in the cake may have gone out of style, but you never know when someone may try a variation on the theme.

It was just the tonic Brent needed, the young man perked up when he saw Betty. He dried his eyes and slid down the bunk toward the bars. They started to talk in low voices through the cell. I went over and sat behind my desk. I read the letter written to Brent by Victoria. It pretty much said that he was making a big mistake by getting engaged to Betty and that she still loved him. I leaned back in the chair deep in thought. I absently watched Jeanie on the phone. She hung up the phone and looked over at me. She started to say one thing and then she stopped.

"J.D. what's the problem?" It was clear I must have been advertising I had a lot on my mind.

"The water just got a little murkier," was all I replied. "You have a message for me?"

"Sonny just called. He delivered the unfortunate news to Victor Drummond. I guess the old man took it pretty hard. Mr. Drummond would like to talk to you as soon as you can.

"Also, Eddy called to say they were wrapping things up at the crime scene and was heading back to the station."

I smiled there was only one person in the world that got away with calling Ed Douglas, Eddy outside his own mother and that was Jeanie. Jeanie was a young woman right out of the academy. She was cheerful and got along with everyone. It was well known to everyone that she had eyes for Dan, well known to everyone, that is, except for Dan.

As if I had conjured him up by thinking about him, Dan walked through the door. Jeanie immediately flashed a smile that she reserved only for Dan. Dan smiled back in his own goofy way and gave her a little wave.

"Sheriff, Floyd typed the blood found on the knife and it is a match for Victoria Drummond," Dan said a little too loudly. Fortunately, Brent was too engaged in his conversation with Betty.

I walked over to the Deputy Sheriff and talked in a low voice. "Keep it down a little, okay. We don't want everyone to know about the investigation until it is complete."

"Oh, sorry sheriff," Dan said sheepishly.

"Did you get any prints to tie this thing all up?"

"Sorry, but Floyd said that there are none on the knife. He thinks that they may have been wiped off."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 6

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Wiped off?" I said to myself more than to anyone else.

"Actually sheriff, I believe maybe Brent was wearing gloves so maybe there were never any fingerprints," Dan offered optimistically.

"Did you find any gloves on Brent?"

"No, but I bet he threw them away."

I walked around behind the desk and sat down. I looked at the letter again. Things were not adding up here. Dan just smiled at me from across the desk holding his Smokey Bear hat in his hands. After awhile he started to brush some lint off the front of his brown shirt, and then he started to polish his badge when a thought struck me.

"Was there blood on Brent's clothes?"

"Yeah, there was a little on his sweatshirt, but that is all I noticed. Floyd is looking into that now."

"Nothing on his pants?" I probed.

"No sir, just on the sweatshirt."

"This doesn't make sense," I said thinking aloud.

"How so sheriff? He had the knife in his backpack, he was fleeing the scene of the crime, and he had blood on his sweatshirt." Dan pretty much tied everything up. It looked good. However, only on the surface, when everything was examined more closely it started to unravel.

"Why would Brent wipe prints off a bloody knife and then throw it in his backpack?"

"I told you sheriff, I believe he used gloves. I bet if we looked around the area we'd find them," Dan said smugly.

"Maybe, but why throw out gloves and then keep the knife?"

"I dunno? Maybe he forgot to throw the knife away?"

"Perhaps, people get absent minded. But, if he didn't have gloves and he wiped off the prints, why didn't wipe off the blood also? He could have done both at the same time."

Dan just shrugged his shoulders, "Maybe he was in too much of a hurry and forgot?" The excuse did not sound very likely.

"Plus, I saw the crime scene and it was covered in blood. It was all over the place including the ceiling. Brent's clothes should have been covered in the stuff." I continued.

"I think he changed his clothes and tossed them with the gloves. I tell you sheriff they are out there, probably on the side of the road."

"Dan, did you notice the scratches on Brent's face?"

"Yep, right down his left cheek. Probably when they were fighting, Victoria scratched him. You know how women tend to claw in a fight," Dan smiled and folded his arms across his chest. He believed he had me on this.

"You read Miss Drummond's letter, correct?" I shot back.

"Yeah, so what does that have to do with anything?" Dan queried.

"When most people write, the letters in their words tend to slant to the right; Victoria Drummond's don't because she is left handed. If she were to scratch Brent he should have the wound on his right cheek."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 7

By Dwayne MacInnes

Dan was about to come up with another excuse when Ed walked into the office. He smiled over at Jeanie who was working on the daily paperwork that comes with the job. She flashed a smile back.

"Well, sheriff I'm sorry I took longer than expected to get back. Mike Harris wanted me to give you his preliminary autopsy report. So I had to wait around the coroner's office until he was done."

Ed Douglas was a little older than I was. In fact, he was the oldest deputy I had on staff. He was tall and stocky. You could tell by his height and build that he used to play football during high school many years ago. He used to be darn good too. If he wanted, he could have probably gone off to play for a college team. However, instead he went to the academy and pursued a career in law enforcement.

Ed made a great deputy. He got along with everyone, was easy going, and he rarely lost his cool. The only times I have ever notice Ed to lose his temper was a couple of times around Dan. For some reason Dan would occasionally get under his skin. Like the time Dan started banging around the coffeemaker Ed brought from home. Dan could not get it to work and when he can't get things to operate for some reason he thinks banging them around will fix the problem. Well, Ed said a couple of harsh words and then proceeded to plug the coffeemaker in. It has worked great since.

Don't get me wrong. Dan and Ed get along great, most of the time. They even spend a lot of their off time together.

"Well, what do we have?" I asked Ed as he slapped a file folder onto my desk.

"Miss Drummond died from someone slitting her throat with a sharp instrument. Most likely it was a knife of some sort."

I was paging through the report looking for anything that might catch my eye. "Ed, did Mike find any skin scrapings under Victoria's fingernails?"

"No, none. In fact, Doc Harris believes that there wasn't even a struggle. She has no signs of bruising or lacerations. It looks like she was caught by surprise."

"This case is getting stranger by the minute. You saw the crime scene. The place was busted up. You think it was staged?"

"I don't know sheriff? Johnny said there was a lot of yelling."

"In all that blood did you find any footprints?"

"The only footprints or fingerprints for that matter we found around the crime scene were the ones belonging to Johnny and you and of course the deceased. Everything else was smudged."

Dan's eyes widen. You could almost see the 15-watt light bulb blink on over his head. He snapped his fingers and then started to wave it around. "I got it sheriff!" he blurted out excitedly. I motioned for him to lower his voice. Even Brent and Betty looked over at us. We waited until they returned to their conversation then I motioned for Dan to continue.

"It's so obvious," Dan moved in closer to Ed and me before he began to share his revelation with us. "I think Johnny and Brent were working together. Johnny kills Victoria with Brent's hunting knife. He wipes off the handle in a hurry, but forgets to wipe off the blade because he's in a rush. He breaks up a few things inside the house. Runs out and hands the knife to Brent. Brent tosses it inside his backpack and starts off down Upper Country road not paying attention to the bloody blade.

"Johnny waits a little while so Brent can get down to Lower Country road before he calls in the body. I find Brent. He makes up this story of being assaulted and you respond to the call. You find Johnny and he tells you some story. Therefore, you never suspect it's him. You'll dismiss his footprints because you think it's someone else. Pretty cleaver right?"

"Dan, you amaze me," I said looking at Ed who was rolling his eyes. Brent started smiling his goofy smile again. "You absolutely amaze me. I don't know where to begin. Your story is so full of holes and is pure speculation."

Dan's smile disappeared from his face. "Well, I uh..." Dan began to stumble for words. "I was just brainstorming."

"Yeah, that was a real cloud burst," Ed started to laugh.

I stood up and grabbed my hat. "Dan, I want you to check out everything about Brent Underwood. I want to know about his daily routine. I want his work records and I want you to interview his coworkers, friends and family."

"Where are you going sheriff?" Dan asked.

"I have to talk to the grieving family."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 8

By Dwayne MacInnes

I pulled up to the Drummond Mansion on the outskirts of town. For a mansion, it really wasn't too ostentatious. It was still twice the size of your average large home, but Victor didn't like to show off his wealth. He loves his job, the wheeling and dealing is what really gets his heart thumping. Of course, naturally the man was going to accumulate some wealth.

I pulled the Blazer up the brick paved driveway. The sun had half an hour before it would dip behind the mountains so I still had plenty of light. By the time I was done with interviewing Victor, it would be dark out and the night crew would be starting their shift at the station.

I noticed the new red Mercedes convertible parked outside the mansion. It wasn't like Victor to own an import. He tended to love to get around in his old '78 Ford F-10 pickup truck. I stepped out of the Blazer and started to approach the mansion. I noticed two auto ramps placed parallel to each other by the garage. Being naturally curious, I sidetracked over to the red ramps. A small stain covered the bricks at the base of the ramps and a small trail trickled up between the tops of the ramps to a large leak stain. There was a toolkit sitting next to the ramps. Its top was open and tools lay scattered across the drive in front of the garage. Next to the kit, there was a Haynes repair manual.

I turned away from the tools and headed back to the front door. Before I could knock or push the doorbell, it opened. Vic, Victor jr. stood in the doorway. "Good evening sheriff."

"Vic, I'm sorry. How's your dad doing?" I held my hand out and took his in a firm grasp. I noticed Vic wince in a little pain as we shook.

"I'm sorry sheriff; I kind of bruised my knuckles working on my car." Vic pointed out towards the Mercedes parked next to my truck.

"My apologies Vic, you know you may want to pick up those tools before it rains."

"Yeah, I'm learning I'm not much of a mechanic," Vic said as he escorted me into the house. "A week ago my transmission started leaking fluid. I thought I could fix it on my own. I think I made it worse, had to take it into town to get it repaired."

Vic led me to his father's bedroom and stopped outside the doorway. "Ah, sheriff it is not common knowledge, but my father is very ill."

"Oh, I hope he recovers soon," I offered.

"I'm afraid it's cancer -- terminal. I fear this latest bad news isn't going to help father out," Vic said solemnly.

Vic opened the door and ushered me into a large bedroom. A nurse sat next to Victor monitoring his symptoms on the myriad of machines registering his body signs. The old man (strange to say but, Victor never looked old until now) lay in his bed. Wires and tubes led from his body to the various machines beeping and blinking alongside him.

"Sheriff," Victor said weakly as he feebly waved me closer. "I wish I was in better shape to receive you."

"Don't worry about it, Victor. You just get well you hear me," I said as I walked over to the bed.

"Lisa," Victor looked over at his nurse, "Vic, I want to talk to the sheriff alone." The two quietly left the room leaving Victor Drummond and me alone.

As soon as the door closed, Victor looked over at me. Fury burned in his eyes as he looked over at me. "Sheriff, I want you to nail that bastard to the wall." It must have taken all his strength to spit out all that anger. The heartbeat monitor sped up as his pulse quickened. "They say I don't have much time left. But, I am going to live until I see justice done for my little girl," Victor vowed. Then he slumped back into his pillow and started to weep.

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 9

By Dwayne MacInnes

I didn't get too much new information from Victor or Vic Drummond. They both knew about Victoria and Brent's affair. Neither much cared for the mechanic, the shame of having a Drummond cavorting around with a person of such lowly status brought shame upon the family name.

Victoria did confide to her brother that Brent and her relationship was fiery in and out of bed. Their passions ran hot in both directions. Often after a passionate roll in the sack, they would both be at each other's throats. The two would often scream and throw objects at each other before Brent stormed out of the house.

The two met because Brent loved to hike up and down the Country roads nearly every day. It was his way of burning off steam and relaxing after a hard days work at the garage. Every day Victoria would see Brent hiking past her house in his sweat suit with the small backpack on his back. They started talking one day and one thing led to another.

Brent claimed that he always left his clothes and backpack in his truck. He never locked the doors because he believed nobody would break into someone's property in a small town like Swimmer's Lake. He worked everyday except Sundays and Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the garage. Occasionally, his boss called him in if there were an emergency because he was that good and fast.

Brent's friends and neighbors did not add too much more about Brent and Victoria's relationship other than what Vic had offered. They did mention that recently Brent proposed to Betty. Betty had a jealous streak in her that could lead to violence. She had a couple of assault charges on her record while she lived in Missoula when she beat up her rivals to former boyfriends.

After that, everything rather dried up. Floyd did not have any new evidence other than the blood found on the knife was definitely Victoria's and the blood on the sweatshirt belonged solely to Brent. Harris was unable to find any new evidence on Victoria's body that could help things out either.

We were pretty much at a stonewall. I had to keep Brent behind bars because the evidence, no matter how strange and circumstantial, still pointed to Brent as the prime suspect. The judge did offer bail at $500,000 but the only people with that kind of money were the Drummonds, and they had no desire to see Brent walking the street.

After a week of nothing, Dan rushed into the office. He was excited as he nearly flew over to the desk. The excitement nearly burst the poor boy. However, he did keep his voice down when he spoke to me.

"Sheriff! I found it!" he pumped his head up and down with that goofy smile on his face. His hat nearly flew off his head as he spoke. "I've got the evidence we are looking for."

My jaw dropped in disbelief. I climbed out from behind the desk and led Dan further away from the cells. "What did you find?" I asked in a low voice.

"Follow me," Dan waved for me to follow as he took off like an excited puppy out the door. I had no choice but to follow. Dan led me out to his patrol car.

He opened the back door to his black and white and pulled out some clothes. "Look sheriff. I found these alongside Upper Country road. They were hidden in a tree, but I found them."

"Are you sure they are what we are looking for?" I asked skeptically. Dan wasn't known for his abilities to sniff out clues.

"Yes sir, look they are covered in blood." I looked more closely and I noticed dried blood all over the clothes. "And sheriff look." Dan reached into the backseat again and pulled something out. He nearly waved them under my nose in excitement, "Gloves!"

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 10

By Dwayne MacInnes

I hated to admit it, but it looked possible that one of Dan's hairball schemes may be true. The bloody work shirt and pants were the same size and color that Brent wore at Ace's. The bloody driver's gloves resembled the ones you could find in any gas station. Just like the one Brent worked at. The most telling evidence produce was a pair of bloody socks. It was apparent that the killer wore them and slid his feet across the floor leaving the tell tale smudges on the floors. However, in doing so they left nice bloody impressions of the killer's feet on the socks.

I immediately had everything sent off to Floyd's for analysis. Within a couple of hours, Floyd sent over one of his assistants, Judy McCall to trace Brent's hands and feet. She also spread ink over the bottom of his feet and had him stand upon a sheet of white paper leaving behind some nice black feet impressions. Brent by now started to take everything in stride. Floyd had already collected samples of Brent's blood and DNA. If Floyd could find any samples on the clothes he would send them off to either Missoula or Great Falls for analysis, depending on which lab had the smaller workload.

Judy finished her work in a businesslike manner. When she finished she gathered her evidence into a briefcase and then left the station only nodding a goodbye on her way out. Sometimes I felt Floyd hired robots instead of people to work for him. But, I figured the people who excelled at this kind of work tended to be very methodical and down to business. They were the, sorry to use the cliché, "Just the facts, ma'am" type.

I don't know who the waiting bothered more me or Brent. I suppose it had to be Brent, after all it was his future on the line and not mine. Nonetheless, time just crept on in tedious beat. The deputies, David Scott and Manny Kitter would drop by occasionally to check in with me. Though they could have done it over the radio, they still stopped in. They too were curious as to what Floyd would glean from the evidence. Even Sonny and Ed, who had the day off, stopped by.

Probably the most annoying though was Dan. He was excited to see if his pet theory paid off. He could barely contain himself, he was sure he had single handedly cracked the case. I suppose I couldn't blame him. This was his first big case and his efforts did result in some vital clues. Nonetheless, his grin and the "I told you so" look in his eye were starting to wear on my patience.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity Judy brought over Floyd's labs results. It was nearly sundown and though it was half an hour after the shift change, everyone gathered in the small office. I anxiously opened up the file that Judy had placed on my desk before she left never uttering a word.

As I read along a smile broke out across my face. I slapped the file down on my desk, "Hot damn, I believe we broke this thing!" I exclaimed. Brent rushed towards the bars.

"Am I free sheriff? Who did it?" he exclaimed while Dan yelled, "Did I break it sheriff?"

I patted Dan on the back, "I think we'll make a lawman out of you yet." Dan's smile spread even further across his face. "I'm sorry, Clyde and Bill, but you guys have to go on patrol. I'll fill you in later. Dave, grab Mr. Underwood. Manny get Miss Vermont."

Scott and Manny looked at me questioningly. "This is highly unorthodox, but I want everyone involved in this case to hear this at the same time. We are heading for the Drummond Mansion."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 11

By Dwayne MacInnes

I had Jeanie Carson call ahead to the Drummond Mansion to okay my request to gather all interested parties into Victor's bedroom. Vic was at first apprehensive, but his father overheard us and overruled Vic's decision.

As expected, I was the last one to arrive at the Drummond Mansion. It was important that I make a couple of stops first to double check some theories. As I pulled up onto the estate, the sun had long since dropped behind the western Rockies. I noticed Dave was reclining against his patrol car with Brent Underwood still sitting in the back seat. Manny's patrol car and Betty's Camry were also on the brick drive.

I jumped out of the Blazer and walked over to Dave, "You can bring Mr. Underwood in with us." Dave just nodded and opened up the rear door and escorted the handcuffed suspect up to the Mansion.

I rang the doorbell, and was surprised on how quickly the door flew opened. "Gee, sheriff it sure took you long enough," Dan said as he greeted us at the door. "Everyone is waiting for you. Did you get a flat?"

"Naw, nothing that dramatic. Is everyone in Mr. Drummond's bedroom?"

"Yes, sir," Dan was excited. He nearly ran up the stairs to the upstairs' bedroom.

Everyone was assembled once Brent and Dave walked in behind me. The glares that Victor and Vic gave could have killed. Victor's heart rate increased rapidly, he pushed himself up higher in bed and was about to yell and curse at Brent. However, I held up my hand to stop him.

"Please, if everyone will please calm down," I said looking at Victor, but I meant it for everyone. "Mr. Drummond, I believe you wanted justice for your daughter's cruel murder. I will now administer that. First, everyone please have a seat. Deputies please remain standing and alert."

I couldn't help but smile to myself seeing everyone taking seats around the large room. The deputies stood near the door keeping an eye on everyone. I started to pace back in forth as if in thought. I could not resist being a little theatrical at a moment like this. Hell, this was right out of an Agatha Christie novel.

"I know for some of you this will be very hard to hear. However, let's go back over the facts. A few weeks ago, Dan Easton found Mr. Underwood staggering along Lower Country road. It was not long after that when I got a call about Miss Drummond's body, which had been found dead on Upper Country road.

"Mr. Underwood claims that he was jumped by someone and roughed up. On further examination, we find a hunting knife belonging to Mr. Underwood in his backpack that has the victim's blood all over the blade. There is no denying the knife is the crime weapon and that the weapon belongs to and was found on Mr. Underwood.

"A witness claims to have heard some screaming coming from Miss Drummond's house. He only heard her screaming, but no other voices. He never saw anyone enter or leave the house of the victim.

"This same witness pointed out Mr. Underwood as the victim's lover." I noticed Victor Drummond physically flinch when I mentioned this.

"However, there were no fingerprints on the weapon. Neither, were there any fingerprints nor footprints of the suspect near the body of the victim. The assailant thought they did a good job covering their tracks.

"But why would Mr. Underwood keep a bloody knife in his backpack? Why weren't there any fingerprints? These questions have been bothering me.

"Now, my sheriff deputy Dan Easton had some crack pot story about Mr. Underwood wearing gloves and changing clothes and conspiring with another person. I even thought at the time it was crazy.

"Miss Vermont even admitted that she threatened to kill Victoria and has a police record to back up some of her previous jealous behavior." Betty let out a loud gasp and was about to protest. Once again, I held up my hand to forestall any interruptions.

"Please, let me continue. Thanks to the help of my second in command," I pointed over to a beaming Dan Easton, "who continued to look for clues when the rest of us gave up. He found something quite interesting. Some gloves and some blue work clothes." Brent's head dropped even further as I mentioned the clues.

"But one of the most important clues he found were some bloody socks. By the assailant dragging their feet across the floor, all they left were some smudges. However, on the socks they left a nice set of footprints.

"I had Mr. Underwood's hands and feet traced. The gloves will fit, sorry Mr. Underwood." Brent even sunk lower; Victor's face broke out in a smile.

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 12

By Dwayne MacInnes

"However the socks won't. At least the footprints won't. I started checking some things out a little more closely. Brent's feet are too big he wears a size 11, and I know Miss Vermont's feet are smaller than the men's size 9 1/2 of the socks' impressions.

"Also, at first glance, the gloves appear to be your common driving gloves you pick up at your local gas station. But, if you look on the inside cuff you see that they are Berletti's an imported glove. In fact, the only place you can get them are at Andy's Imported Luxury Cars. There is only one person here who drives an imported luxury car, isn't that right, Vic?"

Vic looked around the room shocked; he started to laugh, "Surely this is a joke sheriff. Why would I kill my own sister? That's a terrible thing to say."

"Is it Vic? You only bought your Mercedes a couple of weeks before the murder. I have a sales receipt showing the purchase of one Mercedes and one set of Berletti driving gloves."

"This is absurd, sheriff. Brent had the murder weapon not me."

"That is true, but I notice the week before the murder you had to have an emergency transmission repair done at Ace's Garage."

"What the hell does that prove? I told you I had transmission problems!" Vic was starting yell. Sweat started to bead on his brow.

"Your car was under warranty, but you didn't take it back to the dealership. No, Vic you needed an excuse to get to Ace's Garage. If you pay close attention to the ramps, you left out the majority of the transmission fluid spilled between them at the top. You punctured your own transmission pan and then pushed the car off the ramp. If you did it in reverse, you would never have been able to get the car onto the ramps. It's pretty hard to get those cars pushed up those ramps by yourself."

"It was a small leak sheriff. I accidentally punctured the pan trying to fix it, so the dealership would not cover something that was my mistake," Vic said condescendingly.

"Perhaps, but here's what I think. You had to get to Ace's Garage. You knew from talking to your sister that Brent was the top mechanic, and thus, he would be the one to do the emergency repair. Furthermore, we live in a small town and few people lock their doors. In addition, you knew he kept his hiking stuff in his truck.

"You went into his truck and borrowed his knife. From talk around town, you figured out what Brent's hiking schedule was, so all you had to do was visit your sister. She must have been surprised to see you dressed up like Brent. She started to yell at you. You killed her before she knew what was going on. You broke a few things up and smashed out a window hoping to attract Johnny's attention. In the process, you found a letter that Victoria wrote but never delivered to Brent. Unfortunately, Johnny didn't see you flee the house in your work clothes.

"Nonetheless, you proceeded with your plan. You stashed your bloody clothes in a tree and then you drove down Upper Country road and hid in the woods along Lower Country road. You attacked Mr. Underwood, that was how you bruised your knuckles and after knocking him silly, you scratched his face and hid the knife in his backpack.

"I think you forgot that your sister was left handed. Anyway, you planted the love note in Brent's backpack as well and then you took off. By the time Brent recovered his wits you were long gone and he unwittingly carried the evidence needed to shift the blame to him."

"That is a nice story sheriff, but it'll never hold up. Why would I need to kill my sister? I am quite wealthy and her death doesn't help me out. I am appalled at your accusations and you will hear from my lawyers."

"I am sure I will. But you are wrong about something," I paused and waited.

"Ok, I'll bite. What am I wrong about?" Vic said sarcastically.

"You are not wealthy; in fact you are in a lot of debt. Just from the few inquiries I made into your favorite gambling spots, it looks like you owe millions. I have a feeling you owe even more to loan sharks. Your debt is higher than many small African nations. No, you needed an inheritance and bad. Your father has only a few weeks to live and you could not afford to share your inheritance with your sister. You needed the whole thing."

Vic looked at me with rage and hatred burning in his eyes. "I'm afraid you will have a hard time proving this when I get my lawyers in court."

"Again you may be right. But I have a feeling that once Floyd makes an impression of your feet they'll fit into those socks like Cinderella's did in a glass slipper."

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Epilogue

By Dwayne MacInnes

I had Dave and Manny arrest Vic. Victor Drummond Sr. lay in bed, he looked worse than he did before. I felt sorry for him, but he needed to know the facts first hand and not second.

After Dan removed the cuffs from Brent, the mechanic ran over and gave Betty a huge embrace. "Thank you, sheriff," Brent said never taking his eyes off Betty.

"Don't thank me, thank Deputy Easton. If it wasn't for his determination, we would never had found those last clues."

Both Brent and Betty looked over at the deputy sheriff and smiled. Dan just presented them with his usual goofy smile. Dan was puffed up with pride. Though his theory was wrong, his doggedness was what saved the day.

Well, Brent and Betty got married soon after the whole ordeal. They act like other married couples; sometimes they get along great and at other times, they fight. However, so far, they still seem to enjoy each other's company.

Vic was true to his word in making it hard to prove things in court with his expensive lawyers. However, Floyd's forensic work was what turned the trick. There was just too much evidence placing Vic at the scene of the crime. His 9 1/2 sized feet fit perfectly in those socks.

Vic is now down at the Deer Lodge State Prison serving a life sentence. I have a feeling he has to keep a sharp eye out. He owed the underworld a lot of money and was unable to deliver.

I like to say that after Victor Drummond died from his cancer he wanted to make up for the time and suffering Brent Underwood spent in jail and made him heir to his estate. I would like to say that, but that is not what happened. Victor Drummond died the day after Vic's sentencing. His estate was sold off by the state to cover the debt accrued by his son's gambling debts.

After that, things returned to normal in Swimmer's Lake and Summit County. Dan still hasn't figured out that Jeanie is after him. I still have to break up the occasional barroom brawl. Last time it was at the Mint. But all in all it is a pretty quiet area.

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