A heavy-set man bustled into Lieutenant Bill Granger’s office with an air of authority. Sergeant Karen Maitland raised her eyebrows.
“Dr. Cannard’s an entomologist with Michigan State University here to help us solve the Larson case.”
During the summer, divers exploring a river spotted a submerged car. Peering through the windshield, they saw a dead woman. Granger and Maitland got the case. They traced the car to a Jeannette Larson. Meanwhile, the ME found bruises on the dead woman’s head suggesting she’d been beaten.
The first person they interviewed was the woman’s husband whose eyes didn’t meet theirs. Then again, a lot of people were nervous around cops. Granger gave the husband the bad news about his wife, watching for a reaction. Larson didn’t look surprised.
“Mr. Larson, how is it you never reported her missing?”
Larson’s face wore a shuttered expression. “She wasn’t missing. She just up and left me one night after we had an argument.”
“When was that?” Karen Maitland asked.
“Sometime in June. I forget exactly.”
Granger glanced around the house. “Anyone else live here? You have any kids?”
“No, just my wife and me.”
After they left, the two detectives broke up and started canvassing the neighborhood. Granger spoke to the next door neighbor, Agnes Rainey, who recalled hearing the couple arguing loudly but hadn’t seen Mrs. Larson for months.
When he met up with Maitland, they compared notes.
“Larson admitted arguing with his wife in June, but neighbors don’t remember seeing her for a while before that.”
Maitland agreed. “I got a gut feeling he whacked his wife.”
They went over the M.E.’s findings back at the office. The victim was dead or close to it before she hit the water. This was indicated by a lack of water in the lungs normally found in drowning victims. She’d been attacked, then placed unconscious, dead or dying, in the driver’s seat. Afterwards, the car was pushed into the deepest part of the river.
“So we got this case tied up,” Karen Maitland said.
“Nope, we need more solid evidence. We need to do more digging. If we don’t, we’re screwed. The D.A. will never take it to trial.”
It didn’t take long to discover that Larson had taken out a large insurance policy on Jeannette’s life. Further checking brought out the information he’d pawned her jewelry.
“No woman leaves a man for good without taking her jewelry with her. It just doesn’t fit,” Karen Maitland observed.
“Good point,” Granger agreed. As a bachelor, it hadn’t occurred to him. “Clearly Larson didn’t expect her to come back. If he did, he wouldn’t have pawned the stuff, because he’d be afraid of having to account for it to her.”
Granger went to Cal Webber, the medical examiner.
“I’d like to give you more, wish I could. Thing is, that river’s deep, the water was cold, and the body fairly well preserved, considering it had been down there for sometime. Bottom line, it’s difficult to determine date of death. The husband could be lying. Then again, he could be telling the truth.”
Going over the car again, they located insect pupal cocoons and larval cases attached to the car’s fenders. It was a small detail but one previously overlooked. That was when Granger called the university and got the name of Dr. Cannard. The professor went over the automobile carefully and took specimens back for forensic study.
Granger now waited patiently for Cannard to explain his findings. “Well, Doc, did you see anything that would help us make our case?”
“What we’ve got here are black fly cocoons, those of a species that pupate in late April and May, proving the car couldn’t have gone into the water any later. No way Mrs. Larson went into the water in June.”
“Black flies spend the winter as larvae in water. In spring, they weave cocoons around themselves and cement to a streambed rock or some other solid base—like a sunken car. If the car had gone into the river in June, it wouldn’t have had the cocoons on its fenders.”
“And you’ll testify to that?”
“Thanks, Doc.” Granger smiled. “I think we’ve got what we need now. Since Larson lied about that, we’ll be able to trip him up in some other lies as well. A jury is likely to convict.”
Science was okay, Granger decided. He hadn’t even needed to reach for his Police Special to hunt down this killer.
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