The Final Tap
“I’m going to have to lay off Mrs. Chief’s fine homemade cookies if I have any hope of getting back in shape for the reenactment season,” Chief Duffy said as he went over the fence.
    Detective Brandon rolled her eyes. I would have loved to know her opinion on her boss’s hobby, but then again, I had a pretty good idea what it was.
    I pointed at the ground. “Be careful where you step. The brush marks began here.”
    â€œEverything here is trampled,” Detective Brandon said with a sniff. “There’d be no way to find any tracks even if anything was left when you and Benji first arrived.”
    I ignored the implied insult she’d shot my way. “The EMTs were more focused on getting Dr. Beeson to a hospital than worrying about messing up tracks.”
    The detective stared at the ground. “So you and Benji were the only ones who saw brush marks. Officer Sonders said nothing about them.”
    â€œI forgot to bring them to his attention in all the confusion,” I said.
    The detective sniffed, as if she doubted my story.
    â€œWe need to talk to your assistant,” Chief Duffy said. “Is she back at the visitor center?”
    I shook my head. “She’s a college student, and she had class late this afternoon. She’s gone for the day. But I can give you her cell phone number if that would help.”
    â€œIt would,” the police chief said. “Show us where you found the professor.”
    I led the pair into the forest. It was an easy path to follow with the many footprints left by the EMTs in the snow. Detective Brandon was right—there was no sign of the brush strokes in the snow. I swallowed as we came upon the bloodstained spot where the professor had lain.
    Crime scene tape was strung from tree to tree around the blood stain. Officer Sonders’ handiwork, I assumed.
    Detective Brandon shoved her hands into the pockets of her thick winter coat. “Because of your revelation about the brushstrokes, we’re going to have to call some of the officers in to search the scene again while it’s still daylight.”
    The police chief nodded.
    As the detective touched the edge of the crime scene tape, Chief Duffy turned to me. “Any idea why Dr. Beeson would be this far from the visitor center?”
    I averted my eyes from the scene. “That’s a good question. Benji and I met with him this morning in the sugar maple grove on the other side of the pasture, not far from my cottage. He was frustrated with the weather.”
    â€œWhy’s that?”
    â€œI’d hired him to teach a tree tapping class here at the Farm. It’s scheduled for tomorrow. He was upset that the trees are still frozen because it’s been so cold. It’s unlikely the sap would have run enough for him to tap trees and impress his students during the presentation.” I cleared my throat. “He was so angry about it that he stomped back to the visitor center without Benji and me. Judy—she runs my ticket office—said he stomped into the building and mumbled something about the red maples on the other side of the pasture before leaving again. My best guess is he came over here to see if these trees were as frozen as the sugar maples in the grove.”
    â€œWe’re going to have to talk to Judy too,” Detective Brandon said, removing her hand from the piece of tape.
    I nodded. “You can talk to any of my employees. We’re all very sorry about what happened to Dr. Beeson and will do whatever we can to help.”
    She shot me a look. “Just as long as you don’t get involved in the investigation.”
    I frowned. I knew she was referring to last summer, when I’d meddled in the police investigation of Maxwell Cherry’s death. But since Detective Brandon had believed that I’d had something to do with that death, she hadn’t left me much choice but to meddle.
    â€œI want to talk to

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