Not the cloudless night, or a moon like chipped ice wedged against the horizon, but the vacuous stare in her pale blue eyes filled Dick Watson with helpless dread.
Ten inches of snow formed a wall around her maltreated corpse. Gusting wind, heralding an approaching storm, dusted her bluish flesh like confectioners’ sugar.
Watson squatted to examine the bruises on her slender neck and prominent collarbones, then stood, lifted his hat, and scrubbed his hands through his thinning brown hair.
There was something so brutal about how her remains were disposed as to make him question his decision to join law enforcement in the small upstate farming community forgotten by outsiders.
He had spied a distinct and recently formed footpath through the knee-high snow that was now filling with wind-drifted flakes.
Maybe I’m too damn curious like they say, he thought and turned from the young woman, let the wind claw his back.
The woman had reminded him of his nieces making snow angels, which elicited a deep sense of gnawing grief. Watson tasted the acid of regret in the back of his mouth, and glanced quickly over his shoulder, eyes filled with a fear of recognition, then relief at the verification that she was indeed a stranger, and finally regret for his selfish response. He lifted his cellphone and called in her death.
Forty minutes later, flashing blue and white strobes bounced off the haze of night as two deputies helped an assistant coroner carry her bagged body through the glaring light. Watson waited for them to finish, and then followed their truck in to town, wondering if he’d ever learn who she’d been in life, and if his could ever be the same as before he’d discovered her dumped amongst the trees and the new year’s snow.