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