Murder Most Grievous: Sheriff Belvedere

29 Oct

 

 

Murder Most Grievous

Sheriff Belvedere

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

John Belvedere shuffled through the arrest reports from the previous week. The department had squeezed through another Hallowe’en with only normal incidents: minor fender benders, and couple of B&E’s, and one parent who complained her child had come home with a small rope noose stuffed among the candy. The mom and her child were black. The noose was a continuation of a suspected hate crime that occurred two years earlier at one of the rural high schools. Intimidation of its black students by some anonymous redneck, he had surmised — though he never said it, even to his deputies. Loose lips sink ships. And Belvedere had two daughters in college. He couldn’t afford to lose his job.

The mom wanted the department to fingerprint the noose. Or at least run a DNA fiber test to run down the culprit. Wasn’t going to happen. Results would likely prove nothing. Besides, the budget was tight this year, and that kind of testing was expensive. “People must think we’re made out of money,” he thought.

Belvedere had kept the sheriff’s position for fourteen years, assuming the mantle from his predecessor, who got his hand caught in the cookie jar, and paid for it — both at election time and in the country prison for a few months. All-in-all, he had more than twenty years of his life invested in law enforcement, and he loved it. It never got old.

His desk intercom buzzed him, and broke his concentration.

“Line 2, Sheriff. Captain Cooke from HPD.”

Belvedere always grinned at the name. Captain Cooke! He pulled the receiver to his ear.

“Cooke . . . how’s the hook?”

“You know John, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t make fun of other people’s names.”

“What’s up, Steve?”

“Need your help with a possible kidnapping.”

“Go ahead.” Belvedere grabbed his notepad and a pen. Cooke was all business. He needed to get out more, thought Belvedere.

“Seventeen-year-old black female. About five feet ten, 120 pounds, last seen leaving an apartment on the day after Hallowe’en.”

“Her apartment?”

“Negative. Apartment of a new boyfriend, according to the girlfriend who reported her missing.”

“Name of the missing person?”

“Klerique M. Shaunasey. Student at Higdon. Senior. Pretty bright girl, according to the principal there. Lives with her uncle.”

“Her brother Dayshon Shaunasey, by any chance?”

“Yep.”

“Man, that family! And her mother was shot and killed a few years back, right?”

“Stray bullet. Right.”

“Jeesh! Suspects?”

“We’re holding the boyfriend, but don’t have anything other than circumstantial stuff. He’s cooperative. Nice kid. Works at the library. Not sure there’s anything further on him.”

“Anyone else?”

“Yeah. The name James Ditter came up. English teacher at Higdon. Hasn’t been at school this week — called in sick. Some of the students — as well as the boyfriend — says the guy is a bit creepy. And he was real friendly with Shaunasey. Touchy. Anyway, he lives out in the Berger Lake area. Wonder if you’d mind sending someone out to visit him today?”

The particulars given and received, Sheriff Belvedere hung up and stood. Stretching, he decided to go himself. He needed to get out, and the administrative stuff was not what he originally signed up for. And, it could wait. Besides, on a nice fall morning with the colors at their peak, he relished a quiet drive in the country.

Along the way his two-way crackled.

“Sheriff?”

“Come in.”

“Got a development on the Shaunasey case.”

“Go ahead.”

“The Higdon resource officer found a school digital camera in Mr. Ditter’s classroom, and the principal gave him permission to look at the memory card.”

“Okay.”

“Seems the pictures are all of the missing girl.”

The front door to Ditter’s house opened, and Belvedere announced himself. Ditter invited him in.

“Coffee?” Ditter offered.

“Is it made?”

“Only take a minute.”

“That’s all right. Understand you’ve been sick?”

“When you work in a high school with twelve hundred students, you catch everything that’s out there. Please, have a seat. How can I help you? I know this isn’t a social call.”

Belvedere pulled a printed photo of Klerique from his leather folder and handed it to Ditter.

“You know this girl?”

“Klerique Shaunasey. Bright girl. She’s in my Honors English class. Is something wrong?”

“We don’t know. When was the last time you saw her?”

“Friday.”

“And not since then?”

“I came down with the crud over the weekend. I’ve been laid up here since.”

“Anyone attest to that?

“Sheriff, what’s going on? Why these questions?”

“Um, seems nobody has seen her since Saturday.”

“And you think I might have? Why?”

“We check out all of the leads, Mr. Ditter. Part of the job.”

“And the leads point to me?”

Belvedere grinned. He loved this part. He never knew what the reactions would be, but he always expected a wide range to evidence he revealed to a suspect.

“Sgt. Johns — resource officer at Higdon?  He went into your classroom this morning and found the camera issued to you by the school.” Ditter tensed. “Your principal okayed him to look at the storage disk from the camera. You wanna tell me what he found?”

Ditter looked down, then away. He took a deep breath and sighed loudly.

“I guess it was going to come out eventually. Klerique. He found pictures of Klerique.”

“And do you mind telling me why she was the only student on that card?”

“It’s complicated. I think I’m going to stop talking now. I want to call my lawyer.”

 

* * * * *

Miss the first installment of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden

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