bearing signs of severe rust. There was no sign that Ricki had ever been here.
“House is clear,” Roberta said, lowering her weapon. “I saw a shed out back that we should check out. Stay out of the front room downstairs; it’s pretty weird in there.”
Roberta ignored her sister’s inquisitive expression and led her back down the stairs, through the corridor and into the kitchen. The rear door of the property led out to a paved yard, containing broad flagstones with tufts of weeds and grasses poking up rebelliously between them. Marcos didn’t appear to apply his own clearly outstanding professional work to his own property. Roberta once again raised her shotgun, and pointed to Riley that they were heading to the shack, only thirty feet or so away. Every step threatened to reveal Roberta’s shaking knees; intuitively she knew that beyond this door—this door that was really just a crudely hinged piece of steel bolted to the metal frame of the shed—there were answers.
The smell hit them first. It was flesh in the early stages of putrefaction, the cloying air of death, sweet tones of meat and the rapid rot that sets in under the broiling sweat of Savannah in the summer. Riley gagged.
“What does this guy have in there, road kill? It smells terrible!” Riley had forgotten to stay silent, and clamped her hand that was not holding the pistol to her mouth. Roberta winced. No point in recriminations now.
“Hey, in there!” She said loudly. “Come out with your hands up; we’re armed to the teeth and it’s no problem to shoot you!”
There was no reply. A car passed by out the front of the property, and when it was passed, Roberta could hear the buzzing of flies. She took another step closer, and another, and then she was close enough to reach the door with one hand. Riley moved to cover the doorway, and Roberta pulled the door to the shed open with a screeching of metal on concrete. In the dark interior, there was a workbench, upon which a man lay on his back. The entrance of Roberta and Riley had stirred up a great cloud of black flies, which buzzed and scattered away as their compound eyes detected the changing light, signifying a threat.
There was no threat to Roberta and Riley here. The man was Hispanic, in his early forties, and had clearly been murdered most viciously. His throat had evidently been cut, but the cause of death may well have been the agricultural chainsaw that had been buried into the dead man’s abdomen.
“Jesus Christ, what the hell is this?” Riley said in stunned awe.
Roberta had no answers, but looked a little closer at the body in the half lit room. The chainsaw was sticking out from under the rib cage of the corpse, where it had become wedged against the bone. The tip was hidden deep within the body, but the weight of the engine of the device weighed it down at one end toward the groin.
“I don’t know what this is, Riley. With all the weird shit in the house, I thought Marcos must be the kidnapper, but if Marcos is now dead—murdered—I really don’t know.”
“What about Ricki?” Riley said. “We don’t have the Rock of Rhodesia, and this guy has been murdered, so he can’t have done it… could he?”
Roberta shook her head, and backed out of the shed into cleaner air. She gulped some deep lungs full of air, desperate to rid her olfactory system of the horrific stench and filthy air. When she could speak, she said,
“If he did then someone much worse than a kidnapper who wants a diamond is in play. Who else knew that Frome was looking to pull this stupid con?”
“Well, I guess Marcos knew, but if our theory is correct, he only figured it out accidentally. Or maybe he knew all along, and was in on the plan to steal the Rock, and then he got double-crossed?”
“I guess both could be right, until we find out more,” Roberta said. “Who else? Frome couldn’t do this to a man, and while she’s crazy, I don’t think she’s murder