Rhonda Pohs sat at her desk. Outside the snow falling steadily reminded her winter was far from over. Being a detective, she no longer wore a uniform. Instead she chose a Kelly green pantsuit in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Since joining the county detective squad, she helped investigate a couple of murders, including a triple homicide at one of the local trailer parks, but hadn’t had a case of her own.
She felt as though the other detectives merely tolerated the only female member of their group. If she thought her first boss Chief Jack Franks was a male chauvinist, he couldn’t hold a candle to this group.
“Hey, Rhonda,” Phil Mason said as he entered her office. “We just got a call that’s perfect for you. It’s out in the country and I’m supposed to go with you, but you’re the primary. Some guy was killed with a pitchfork while spreading manure.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not at all. We told you we give all the new detectives the shit work and it doesn’t get any shittier than this.”
“Very funny.” She reached under her desk and pulled out a pair of snow boots she kept at the office for emergencies. If she planned to go traipsing around in a snow and manure-covered field, she wanted to be prepared.
Phil drove as they went out into the countryside south of town. Rhonda knew these fields were some of the most fertile farmland in this part of the state.
Dispatch identified as George Adkins, the patriarch of one of the largest farming families in the county. To say the man didn’t have enemies would be considered a gross understatement. He’d stepped on a lot of toes in the seventy-plus years he’d been building on the farming empire his grandfather started in the mid-eighteen hundreds.
“How much do you know about farming?” Rhonda asked, as they drove past the farm with the sign “Adkins Homestead EST. 1884” in the front yard.
“I know they smell to high heaven in the summer, other than that, not much. I’m a city boy. How about you?”
“My grandparents farmed out here. Before they died, George bought the property from them and they moved into town. I know my grandpa used to spread manure, but I thought the modern day farmers all used slurystores.”
“Slury what?” Phil echoed.
Rhonda smiled. At last she had something over on Phil. “A slurystore is where they process the manure into liquid fertilizer.”
“You mean they make fertilizer out of cow shit?”
“Of course they do. It’s nature’s way of putting nutrients back into the ground. You’ve heard of Milorginite haven’t you?”
“Sure I have. That’s what I use on my lawn. What does my lawn treatment have to do with anything?”
“It’s made from a waste product, then sold to you. It’s a good fertilizer, and I bet you paid dearly for it. I should know, Mark and I put it on our lawn last year.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. I never knew it was made from shit. Guess this will be a learning experience for me.”
Ahead of them, Rhonda saw a squad car, ambulance, and fire truck. A lump formed in her throat when she realized the field where the murder happened once was the site of her grandparents’ farm. Instead of the well-kept farm buildings, fields covered the entire area, stretching across the countryside without a fence in sight.
After Phil parked the car, Rhonda got out and went up to her knees in the snow drifting into the ditch.
“The coroner should be here soon,” said the deputy, who was probably the first one on the scene. Rhonda noticed he stood with his back to the corpse to avoid the wind blowing the snow around.
Rhonda stepped around the deputy to get a better look at the body. He lay on the ground, a small drift of snow starting to cover him like a soft blanket. Protruding from his chest was a three-tined pitchfork. A horrific expression was frozen on his face. Thankfully, someone had taken the time to close his eyes so she didn’t have to look into his death stare.
She took her camera from the pocket of her parka and snapped pictures from various angles before they went up to the house to confront the grieving family. Of course, they remained in the snow-covered field until the coroner arrived and took the body back to the hospital to do the autopsy. With that done, Rhonda was glad to get out of the biting wind.
Trudging back across the field, Rhonda got back in the cold car. No matter how good the heater was she knew it would never warm up by the time they reached the farmhouse less than half a mile away.