JEOPARDY SURFACE Excerpt: Chapter One, Part Two of Three
“Jesus,” I blurted, “is it Abbott?”
“Looks like it, but we can’t make a visual ID. We’re waiting for
a dental comparison.”
My hand paused over the notebook as images of Jennifer
Abbott flashed. Her disappearance from a small college campus
was national news. “M.O.?”
“That’s just it. There’s a certain element to this one, and, well,
let’s just say it seems like your bailiwick.”
Why call me if he wasn’t dealing with a series of crimes? That
was my bailiwick. He didn’t give me a chance to ask him to elaborate.
“What do you know about geocaching?” he asked.
The left-field question took me a few seconds to process. “Well,
it’s basically GPS-assisted scavenger hunting. Geeky outdoorsy
types hide caches filled with random, cheap shit and post the coordinates
on geocaching websites for others to find. There are caches
all over the world. Probably hundreds of thousands of them.”
“Sounds like you have firsthand knowledge.”
“You think I’m the geeky-outdoorsy type?” I asked, feigning
“Outdoorsy, yes. Geeky only when you talk about algorithms
and probability models.” When I didn’t respond, he added, “Geeky
in a hot way. It totally works.”
Cheeks burning, I chose to acknowledge the first half of his
comment. “Jesus, Haskins, I believe that’s the first time you’ve ever
used the correct terminology and not ‘mumbo-jumbo’ or ‘black
magic.’ I geocached years ago, back before smartphone apps, when
we had to use handheld GPS devices. These days, you can’t find a
cache without tripping over somebody. Too crowded for me, even
if I had the time. What the hell does geocaching have to do with
“That’s what I’m hoping you can tell me. I’d rather you see
“Who’s leading the investigation?” I asked.
“Yours truly. I’m at the scene now, but the M.E.’s about to
release the body. I’m huddling up with the Kent County Sheriff ’s
Office and Maryland State Police investigators in an hour, then
I’m heading to Baltimore for the autopsy.”
“It’ll have to be off the books. You know I haven’t been officially—”
“Yeah, I know. Listen, I just need you to review my notes, take
a look at the scene, and let me know what you think we’re dealing
with. Just do the voodoo that you do.”
There it was. Yes, he was teasing, but I heard it too often,
and it irritated the shit out of me, especially from someone who
knew better. “There is no voodoo, and I’m not fucking clairvoyant.
It’s statistical modeling, not a carnival side show. It sounds like,
assuming the victim is Abbott, you’ve probably only got a couple
of associated locations at this point. So, I’m not gonna be able to
give you anything specific.”
“I know, but like I said, there’s an element to this one that
you’re uniquely qualified to interpret. You’ll be in and out.”
That, I did not believe.
“I’ll take whatever you’re able to give me.”
I sighed. Loudly. “Where’s the body?”
“There’s no address, per se. The place is abandoned. Locals call
it the Garrett Farm.”
“Garrett Farm. Right, I’ll just plug that into the GPS.
Seriously, do you have coordinates? A big red ‘X’ on a map?
“You’re awfully testy this morning, Munch.”
Munch. Short for munchkin. Clearly, he was trying to push all
“You’re lucky you’re not here. Your nuts would be in your
throat, courtesy of the Lollipop Guild.”
“What the hell?”
“The Lollipop Guild is all-male. The Lullaby League is made
up of the cute ballerina munchkins, which is—”
“What in God’s name would make you associate me with ballerinas?
Right now, I’m feeling more like the Wicked Witch of the
East. How are you so chipper at this ungodly hour?”
“West, not East. Have you even seen The Wizard of Oz? There’s
a mailbox at the farm across the road from the Garrett place. No
big red ‘X,’ but it does have some big white numbers painted on it.
I can give you those.”
He did and I jotted them down.
To be continued…