Short RidesBy: Lorelei James
In Sundance, Wyoming.
It was one of the worst scenes Deputy Cam McKay had dealt with. And he’d seen a lot of horrific things over the years. He’d served several rotations in Iraq and witnessed the aftermath of suicide bombers. He’d seen animals used as vessels to hold bombs. He’d been in a caravan that’d hit a string of IEDs, resulting in death and dismemberment of his fellow soldiers. He hadn’t come away from war unscathed—he’d lost most of his left leg, part of his hand, and bore scars, both visible and invisible.
During his time as deputy in Crook County, he’d dealt with deadly car accidents, including a fatality involving his cousin, Luke McKay. He’d broken up domestic disputes where one or both of the parties were drunk, armed, angry, and bleeding. He’d stumbled across a wild horse slaughter.
But this? It was beyond sickening.
The hysterical 911 call from the neighbor who’d discovered the bodies hadn’t prepared him at all for what he’d found at the crime scene.
His stomach roiled as his brain flashed back to the carnage and he fought the urge to throw up.
But Cam hadn’t been alone in his reaction. Sheriff Shortbull had stumbled outside and heaved over the juniper hedge after his glimpse at the dead couple.
In Sundance, Wyoming.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Maybe it seemed worse because Cam knew the couple. He’d graduated from high school with Jeff Wingate. Cam couldn’t fathom how the mild-mannered insurance salesman could carry out such brutality, especially to his wife. And Angela hadn’t fought back. She’d literally lay down and died.
What a fucking waste.
What a fucking mess.
There’d been no indication of domestic issues. No 911 phone calls in the last year. No history of violence. He’d seen them eating in Dewey’s Delish Dish two weeks ago. They’d acted… happy.
Because the crime scene was beyond their small county’s investigative expertise, they’d had to call in the DCI from Cheyenne. Which meant waiting for the crew to arrive. But neither Cam nor Sheriff Shortbull could stomach waiting inside the house where the bloodbath had occurred.
So they stood outside in the frigid February weather, taking turns warming up in their patrol cars. He and the sheriff were too disturbed to slide into their usual defense mechanism, cracking jokes—which was how most law enforcement officers handled unpleasant aspects of the job—trying to find any bit of humor to escape the horror of the gruesome scene.
About two hours into the wait for the experts to arrive, a Ford Explorer inched up the driveway and parked.
Cam intercepted Angela’s parents, Jim and Teresa Swensen, after they’d exited their car; the sheriff blocked access to the house.
Jim tried to sidestep Cam, while Angela’s mother cowered behind her husband like a broken shadow. Cam braced himself, trying to imagine how he’d feel if it were one of his kids behind that door. But he couldn’t fathom that level of grief. Couldn’t imagine facing that horror.
Jim asked, “Is it true? What Becca saw inside the house?”
Damn gossipmonger. “What did she tell you?” Cam asked evenly.
“Becca said she saw them both. Dead.” His wild eyes turned accusatory. “Did the sheriff’s office intend to notify us?”
“Not until we’d dealt with some of the preliminary issues.”
Cam hadn’t expected this grisly situation would be kept under wraps for long, not in a town this size, especially since both Angela and Jeff and their families were well liked within the community.
“Our Angela. She’s really in there,” Jim half-whispered.
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry.”
“Yes, sir, she is. I’m sorry.”
“We need to see her.”
The image of her bullet-riddled body jumped into Cam’s head, unbidden. “You can’t. It’s a crime scene.” And no parent should ever witness such an atrocity done to their child.
“Jeff killed her?”
“It appears so.”
Jim’s eyes hardened. “Did he attack her? Did she fight back?”
“We’re waiting for the DCI folks to arrive and help us sort out what happened.”