An hour later, Deputy Raul Tabaño rolled into the booming metro-plex of an ancient, 150 year old ghost town, which consisted of a couple of dilapidated, roofless shells of adobe buildings and mostly crispy, charred-sticks of a few fire-damaged shacks which remained after the town burned down 50 years ago. The road in was only dirt and some gravel. He had read that military boys and their girlfriends came here from miles around for dances and get-togethers during the 1940’s war years. As he surveyed the area, he couldn’t even imagine that with what was left here. Today, Owl Station was not much of a going concern except for snakes and jack rabbits in constant battle to survive in this harsh and barren land.
Still looking through his patrol car window, it was not too difficult to see the reason he was ordered to come here. What he saw was the only thing that even looked as though civilization had been anywhere near here in the past fifty or sixty years. It was everything that Dispatch said it might be, and more. This looked like a crime scene, but nothing really serious. It was a case of theft or vandalism, at best. Probably some juveniles who turned to crime rather than earn an honest dollar with actual work. Police work isn’t always the glamour job portrayed on the recruiting posters. “Almost seven years in the Department, and I still draw these kinds of cases.” Tabaño muttered. It was time to report-in.
He reached up to his shoulder for his radio Mic, “Dispatch .. Unit Seven on station.”
Soon after, his radio squawked, “10-4. Unit Seven on station, 14:07.”
Deputy Tabaño shut down the engine and got out of the patrol car to take a look around before reporting further. He grabbed his black, three-cell Maglite on his way out .. just in case. It could be a useful club in an emergency as well as a decent flashlight. He approached the two vehicles - a late model SUV still hitched with a small camping trailer. The SUV doors were closed, but the trailer door had been jimmied and was standing wide open; swinging in the slight breeze. Clothing, pots, towels and other stuff was strewn everywhere. The license plates were current and registered in West Virginia. He wrote down the plate numbers in his notebook from both vehicles. He reached for his radio Mic and called the plates into Dispatch, then confirmed their read back. It wouldn’t take them long to find out who the registered owner was. All computers are connected to one another, these days. Since 9-11-2001, ordinary citizens would be surprised what authorities in the field can find out about any person from the smallest scrap of information.
The SUV still had the keys in the ignition. Raul pulled a latex glove from his back utility belt pouch and switched-on the ignition. The engine turned, but didn’t start. It was out of gasoline. The interior had been rifled through, but it was hard to tell if anything was stolen or missing. The crime lab would have to get out here and do a complete work-up for latent fingerprints as well as collect hair and fiber evidence. They could even tow the vehicles back to the air conditioned police garage rather than work in this gawd-awful Arizona-in-July heat. Probably both, but maybe not today, although there was still plenty of daylight left. Still, they would have to mobilize people on their day off, get to the station, gear-up and get out here. No easy feat.
Tabaño looked into the camping trailer cautiously. As he stepped on the bottom step at the door, the trailer rocked with his weight. A startled Owl which had sought refuge inside from the sunlight and heat now flew out the door over the Deputy’s flashlight raised arm and head with a loud, blood-curdling squeal like he had never heard before. In stories his Cocopah Indian Grandmother used to tell him as a kid, seeing an owl like that is a forewarning of death. He loved those stories and he loved his grandmother dearly, but he was living in the real world of the 21st Century and had no time for ancient superstitions during a police investigation.
Once inside, the strewn mess of someone’s possessions continued to indicate some sort of fowl play to him. Whoever did this, took some time and cooked some canned chili on the gas stove and ate a meal as they tore through the place. Flies were busy eating the leftovers. Two things immediately caught Deputy Tabaño’s eye. One, a rifle rack was installed along the bunk area wall, but there was no weapon. The second thing was the small, personal-sized safe that had been broken into, now sitting on top of the small dinette table. He sat down on the edge of the bunk to look at the scene from reverse direction. As he did, he sat on something small and hard under the corner of the blanket. He stood up and threw back the blanket corner to discover a single 12-gauge, #6 shot Remington shotgun shell in a black casing. Probably overlooked by the thieves or vandals. So, we at least have the possible theft of a 12-gauge shotgun of some type. Raul moved over to the dinette bench and reached for the papers inside the safe - birth certificate, DD-214 military discharge, Social Security card, divorce papers, titles for the SUV and the camping trailer as well as the insurance policies for both. There wasn’t any cash, but if there had been, it was stolen too. Whoever this owner was, he was squared away. He opened one of the envelops from the safe and suddenly fell back against the seat. Hurriedly, he checked the names and addresses on all the other papers from the safe in his hand.
“Dispatch .. Unit Seven.”
“Go ahead, Seven.”
“Dispatch, I’ve found the vehicles that belonged to the victim we found in the desert this morning. I’ll need the crime boys out here as soon as they can get here.”
“Unit Seven, .. Lab crew and Lt. Reyes are en-route to your location. ETA 30 minutes. Captain passed the word about your license plate report.”
Deputy Raul Tabaño took a long look around, removed his trooper hat, wiped the sweat from his brow with his left uniform sleeve and took a deep breath before putting his hat back on. It won’t be long to wait, but he thought he deserved a break. There was nothing more he should do until the lab crew got here. This was going to be a real case. Time for two more aspirin and another orange popsicle from the cooler in his patrol car trunk. The ice inside the cooler was melting pretty fast now. The popsicles didn’t figure to last by the time the Lab Crew got there, but they might. He took no chances and decided to have two.
>>>> Chapter 4 >>