coroner the same. He’s on his way back from Buffalo with a team of reporters at his heels. They both seem to be enjoying the limelight.”
I felt disgusted. “I just hope they do their jobs.”
“In their own sweet time, I expect. They have nothing to gain by hurrying.”
“Do you have pictures of Studsburg as it used to look?” I asked.
“Tons of them,” Carol Stifler said. “But I didn’t bring them with me. If you want to see them, come on over someday and we’ll sit down together. Harry and I still live in the same house we had when you and Maddie were in school.”
“Maybe I’ll give you a call.”
“I can see this has unsettled you, dear.”
It had, and I was even more unsettled at the prospect of seeing two county officials try to enhance their public offices at the expense of some poor soul who was dead. “It certainly hasn’t dimmed the happiness of this occasion,” I assured her. “I wish I could stay longer, but I have to be on my way. Maybe I’ll call you and we’ll look at those pictures.”
“It would be my pleasure.”
We all hugged and kissed, and the cousin in whose house we were gave me a care package with enough party leftovers to keep me eating the rest of the week. Maddie walked me out to the car, and we gave each other a final squeeze. Then I took off.
When I gave Deputy Drago my phone number, I foolishly expected him to call me and tell me what he had learned from the autopsy. Looking back as I stuffed myself that evening with goodies from the baptism celebration, I knew my optimism had been rather naive. As far as Deputy Drago was concerned, I was nothing more than the person who had accidentally discovered the body. I was not on his list, long or short, of people to be briefed.
I was pretty sure the coroner would have completed his autopsy sometime that day, and equally sure that the sheriff’s department would know the results. When I finished eating, I called the sheriff’s office. Deputy Drago was there, and he came on the line when he heard my name.
“What can I do for you?” he asked cordially.
“I wondered if the body had been identified.”
“Well, it hasn’t been, but we’ve gotten a little surprise. It wasn’t a he. It’s the body of a woman.”
“That’s right. The coroner estimates she’d have been in her twenties, possibly early thirties, about five six, and probably weighed a hundred twenty or a hundred twenty-five pounds. Well built. And the coroner’s pretty sure she wasn’t pregnant.”
“How can he know all that if there isn’t much besides bones?”
“Well, partly from the bone structure. She was wearing a pair of men’s Levi’s, and from the size of the hips, he figuresshe was a well-proportioned woman. And her sneakers were a woman’s size seven.”
“Was there a purse or wallet in that opening?” I asked.
“Nothing that could identify her. No rings, no jewelry, nothing. The coroner’s sending X rays of her teeth to all the local dentists in the area, but we’re not too optimistic. If she went to one, he might be dead now, and who knows what happened to his files?”
“Was there a dentist in Studsburg?”
“Didn’t seem to be. The sheriff knew the town pretty well when he was younger. Said there weren’t any doctors or anything like that. Folks used to go to another town for that kind of stuff.”
“Do you know how she died?” I asked.
“She was shot. We found the bullet in the silt on the floor, a typical round-nosed lead bullet like the ones they used back in the fifties and sixties. Comes from a .38-caliber revolver. It works well up close, but it’s kind of inaccurate at distances. She was shot pretty close. The bullet doesn’t mean much, though. Lots of folks around here have a handgun.”
“What about missing persons?” I asked, reaching for my last straw.
“I checked that out myself, Miss Bennett. Just doesn’t seem to have been any reported around that time. We don’t get