Excerpt From: A Bad Week in Hollister
Deputy Casey George came charging through the door to find Sheriff Jason ‘Cowboy’ Berkson sitting at his desk, feet up, reading the Hollister Newsletter.
“Just ran into Sam Fillerman,” he said, out of breath and puffing hard. “He told me Myrtle claims she saw a body floating in the lake.”
“Calm down, boy. You’re about to keel over. You talking about Myrtle down at the bait shop?”
“Why is she telling Sam and not me? I haven’t had no phone calls about a floater.”
“Don’t know, Sheriff,” the deputy answered. “I figure we should check it out, though.”
“Guess so,” said the sheriff. “Grab Funtelli and get over there. Let’s see what all the noise is about.”
“Just gotta take a leak and I’ll get right on it,” Casey said, and headed for the head.
Deputy George stood on the shoreline, talking on his cell phone to the sheriff, while looking down at a body,
“We got a dead one, all right,” Casey told the sheriff. “You’ll never guess who it is.”
"Who?” asked the sheriff.
“Take a guess.”
“This is not a guessing game, Casey,” Sheriff Berkson yelled. “Just tell me who the hell it is.”
“You’re never gonna believe it, Sheriff. It’s Sylvia Toppers.”
“Seriously? The woman who lives out on Harper Road?”
“Yep. The same one. It doesn’t look to me that she’s been in the water very long,” Casey told him.
“Have you called Doc? You need to get the coroner out there right now.”
“Funtelli just called him. He’ll be here in a few minutes,” Casey said.
“I’m coming over. Don’t touch anything. Who took her out of the lake?”
“Myrtle. She said she couldn’t stand seeing her bobbing up and down out there, so she jumped in her boat and went and got her. When she reached her, she tied a rope around one of her legs and pulled her through the water to shore. Then, she dragged her out of the water with the rope she had tied to her leg."
“Good god,” said the sheriff. “Well, so much for ruining evidence, if there was any.”
“That’s not all,” said Casey.
“What else,” the sheriff sighed.
“She covered her up with an old tarp, full of fish scales and crap. She didn’t want anyone to see a naked body.”
“How does she look?” asked the sheriff.
“I only moved the tarp enough to get a look at her face, sheriff. But, with the hole in her forehead, I’d make a pretty good guess that this was no accident.”
“Shit,” said the sheriff. “Stay put. I’m on my way.”
Shortly after he arrived, Doc Harris, the Coroner of Taneycomo County, declared Sylvia Toppers dead. He told Sheriff Berkson and his deputy that he was pretty sure she died from a gunshot to her head.
“I’m still going to have to perform an autopsy to determine cause of death,” Doc Harris told the sheriff.
“So you figured she was shot before she was tossed in the water, Doc?” the sheriff asked him.
“Doesn’t make much sense to drown her first and then shoot her, does it?” replied the Coroner.
“No, I guess not,” said the sheriff.
“It seems you have a real crime spree going on here, Cowboy. First, Melissa Johnson’s son smothers her, and now Sylvia Toppers is shot. Weren’t they neighbors?” Doc Harris asked.
“They lived down the road from each other, up there on Harper Road. You remember her, don’t you, Doc? Sylvia testified against John Johnson at his trial. I guess you could say she put him in jail for life.”
“That’s right. Well, it looks like you have your hands full and I have work to do. Good luck figuring this one out, Cowboy.”
“Let me know what you find, Doc,” the sheriff said.
“Always do,” answered Doc Harris, as he walked away.
“So, what do you think, Sheriff?” Casey asked him. “Do you think Melissa being killed and now this, with Sylvia, could be connected? It sure seems more than a coincidence to me.”
“Don’t jump the gun here, Casey. Let’s go where the evidence leads us,” said the sheriff.
“What evidence?” Casey asked. “I sure as hell don’t see any evidence.”
“It’s some place. There’s always evidence. We just have to find it,” said the sheriff.
"Start here and work backwards, right?” Casey asked.
“You got it, Casey. Let’s start canvassing the area. Maybe somebody saw something. Start with Myrtle.”
“I already talked to her,” Casey told him.
“Well, talk to her again. Maybe she remembers something else.”
“Sheriff, have you ever talked to her? It’s like having a conversation with a fish.”
“She has her good moments. You just never know with her. Where’s Funtelli? Get him over here,” the sheriff said.
Deputy George looked around and saw Officer Simon Funtelli talking to a couple of men he did not recognize. He waved at Funtelli and motioned to him to come over. Officer Funtelli waved back, said something to the men, and walked over to Casey.
“Sheriff wants you,” said Casey.
“What’s up, Sheriff?” asked Officer Funtelli.