“Fire’s out, Sheriff. We opened the windows, but the smell is still pretty bad.”'
Sarah nodded, her eyes misting. “Thanks, Billy.” Swallowing hard, she tried to stop the gagging reflex that hit her the second she entered The Lodge. There was nothing in the world worse than the smell of burned flesh. Tommy and three of the volunteer fire fighters were still outside vomiting, and Joshua looked slightly green, although he was holding up better than most. Dammit! They weren’t prepared for this. She wasn’t prepared for this.
“Are you okay, Doc?” Sarah noted the grayness of the doctor’s face, the blueness around his mouth as he slipped on his mask and nodded.
Sarah allowed her gaze to drift around the room, looking for something, anything to look at besides the badly charred body of what she knew must be Marisa Hutchins. They had caught the fire in time to save most of the room, but the body was burned beyond recognition. She swallowed hard again, concentrating on breathing through her mouth. She had to focus on her job, not her feelings. Her gaze fell on the small pink card on the dresser. Picking it up, she shivered as emotions ran up her arm, making her skin crawl, chilling her to the bone. Evil had its own special feel, and this was evil. A gift from me. You’re next.
“Anything on McAllister’s whereabouts?”
Sarah felt Joshua’s keen gaze on her face. She would have to look at him eventually. Struggling to control the overwhelming fear that threatened to pull her into the darkness, Sarah placed the card inside a plastic package and handed it to Joshua. She wanted a hot shower.
“He told me he was going to Richmond, but I didn’t ask where. Said he’d be back tomorrow.”
“I’m finished.” Doc Hawthorne rose, his shoulders drooping more than usual. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He’d delivered these children, watched them grow up. He shouldn’t have to sign their death certificates. “Not much more I can do here. I’d say it’s Marisa Hutchins. You can wait for the autopsy to make it official.”
Sarah grimaced. She didn’t need an autopsy.
“The Edgewood forensic team is on their way. Said they’d be here within the hour,” Joshua stated.
“Thanks, Joshua.” Sarah had hated calling in outsiders, but they just didn’t have the equipment, or the expertise, to handle this type of situation. Nothing like this had ever happened in Glade Springs. Gavin McAllister had a lot to answer for.
“What do you make of the card?”
Joshua was turning the package over in his hands. Sarah glanced at it, a cold chill running down her spine. . . . never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.