Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 15
Myra had heard about trailer parks, but had never actually been in one. She’d driven past many, but they all had trees that protected them from prying eyes of passers-by. She’d also heard lots of horror stories about the trash that lived in them. Hicks and drug dealers and retired people. That was all that lived in them, right? At least that’s what people said. As she pulled into the parking lot of the Paradise Palms — an ironic name at best as this wasn’t paradise and the only palm trees were painted on the sign — she couldn’t so easily erase those thoughts from her head when she saw the man standing and staring at them as they pulled up.
He was probably six foot or a little more and had a great build. He wore a button-up work shirt, but it wasn’t buttoned, and a white t-shirt underneath. He had the boots and the greasy, green hat to complete his hillbilly look. If he didn’t fit the stereotype of trailer trash, no one in this park would.
For now she would have to put aside her preconceived notions and deal with the situation. She just had to hope that he’d at least understand what she was talking about.
Stop that Myra. He’s a human being and deserves as much respect as you do.
They parked in front of a bar. Typical. It even had a witty, backwoods name: The Sandy Bar. She wondered if it was owned by a Sandy or if they were just being clever with the name, since sand bars were common in the lakes.
Before she got out of the car, she got out an external mic for the iPhone so she could be ready in case someone had anything important to say. She put this in the pocket of her coat, grabbed her digital camera and got out of the car. She closed the door, and not a second later her cell phone rang. She closed her eyes and wished she was out of range, but it rang a second time.
“I’ll be right there,” She told Detective Schneider as she answered.
“Myra? Where the hell are you? I got your message.” Randy sounded quite upset. She’d been vague in her message, just saying she had an emergency field assignment.
“I’m in Aitkin. Something came up and I had to drive up here.”
“What came up, Myra, that couldn’t wait until you cleared this with me? This had better be a good one.”
“Randy, you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”
“Then you’d better get your ass back here or start explaining.”
Myra reflexively pulled her coat tighter around herself, not for warmth, but to feel safer when she told him. She turned away from the man and Detective Schneider.
“I think I’ve found a troodon head.”
“So what, we’ve got several of those. That’s no emergency. Skulls of troodons have been found all over here.”
“No, Randy, listen to me. I mean a fully intact head. Not a skull, but a head.”
There was a long pause. “You’re right. I don’t understand. How could you have found a head?”
“I’m here at the site it was located. The local authorities have it in a freezer with the body of a man they think was killed by it. I’m going to see if I can find anything else.”
“Wait, a head? You mean with skin and eyes and all that?”
“And you just took off to go up there and have a look?”
“I’m going to try to secure it for the museum. It’s police evidence right now, but they’ll have to do something with it when they’re done.”
“Was it frozen in something like that mammoth in Russia they found?”
“The Soviet Union, and no. From what I was told it was found next to the severed body of a man.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know, that’s why I’m here. Do you understand now?”
“Look, Randy, I’ve got to go. They’re waiting for me. I’ll call you later.”
Myra hung up the phone before Randy could ask any more inane questions. She could feel the butterflies in her stomach, just thinking about going to see where the head had been found.
Detective Schneider was talking with the local man. Looking at him closer, Myra was surprised at how good looking he was. She giggled to herself and then felt stupid and pulled her coat about herself tighter. She could never be interested in a man like him and he would certainly never be interested in someone as plain as her.
“Myra Tolie, this is Sam Jeffrey. He’s the one who found the body.”
“So you saw where the head was originally?”
“Head?” Sam asked. “No Ma’am. I found my friend, Casper, if that’s what you’re asking.”
He sounded a little upset and shaken. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting to be asked questions so early in the morning. If the person back in the morgue was indeed his friend, then he’d likely be very shaken up.
“I’m sorry, how insensitive of me. I didn’t mean any offense. My condolences.”
Sam nodded and narrowed his eyes as if he were sizing her up.
“Can you show us where you found the body? Ms. Tolie would like to search the area where it was discovered.”
Sam looked at the detective. “I thought your men scoured that area already?”
Andrew nodded. “We did, but she’s not looking for what we were looking for.”
Sam looked back to Myra. “And what are you looking for?”
“Did he see the head?” Myra asked Andrew.
“Well… Sam, was it?” She reached out and shook his hand. No sense in disregarding all of her manners. “I’m from the Science Museum of Minnesota, and I have reason to believe that the head I saw back in the morgue, that was recovered with the body of your friend, is from a dinosaur.”
Sam stood up straight. A look of anger mixed with confusion crossed his face. “A what? I mean, are you serious?”
“No, I’m not kidding. I work with fossils all day, but that head is from a troodon, I’m certain of it. If any of our theories are correct, there could be more. I need to search the surrounding woods and see if I can track down a potential nest.”
“You mean more of those things might be living in the woods?” Sam’s gaze shifted from her, to Andrew, to the woods. “I don’t think that’s possible. Wouldn’t we have seen these things before now? I mean, didn’t dinosaurs go extinct?”
Myra suppressed a laugh. “That’s what I’m hoping to find out. That head back in the morgue shouldn’t be there. Not severed, not whole, not with flesh and skin on it. It should be nothing more than a skull and most likely fragmented at that. These things died out millions of years ago, so I’m here to find out why the head of one was found on the ground next to half a man, both clearly severed.”
Myra suppressed the need to roll her eyes and sigh in exasperation. “Can you just please lead us to where you found the body?”
Sam looked at the door to the Sandy Bar — probably needed to get drunk or something — and then to the café across the street. Myra knew she wasn’t going to be eating in that place any time soon. His look went from sad to angry to passive all in a matter of moments.
“Fine. Let’s go. I’ve got things to do.”
Myra got out her iPhone and activated the microphone. “We’re going into the woods now.”
“What are you doing?” Both Andrew and Sam asked together.
“I’m going to record my findings. If I’m going to help with an investigation, I need a record of what we find. Plus I’ll need these for my own research.”
Neither of them responded, but Sam led them deeper into the woods.
“There are drag marks along the ground behind the bar that lead off into the woods. I can see footprints on either side of the drag lines, but they’re blurred and mostly rubbed out. Hard to tell what could have made them. There appear to be claw marks which could be indicative of a troodon claw.”
“Are you going to talk the entire time?” Sam asked, obviously annoyed.
Myra ignored him and continued. “There are many broken branches, but there is no sign of blood, however it does look like more than just a person came through here.”
“That’s where he was,” Sam said coldly, pointing to a spot where the drag marks stopped.
“Thank you. Again, I’m sorry about your friend.”
Sam shrugged and crossed his arms.
“I’m looking at the spot where the body was found. There’s a lot of blood still on the ground.”
Myra knelt down near the pooling of blood and felt around where the body had been, being careful not to touch anything that had blood on it.
“The ground feels cool, I don’t think that’s important. But there’s an uneven part on the ground here.” Myra shifted her body and looked at the uneven portion. “It looks to go off into the woods. Almost like a minor earthquake could have shifted the soil in this part.”
She moved some of the leaves on the ground and something didn’t appear right. She looked up into the trees over her head. Some of the branches also appeared to have been cut. She made a note of this, and Sam and Andrew looked up into the trees as well. She picked up a handful of leaves and sprinkled them to the ground; as she did something odd stuck out. She stopped dropping the leaves. She put the mic in her pocket and held up two leaves that were cleanly cut in half.
“What do you make of this?” she asked rhetorically.
She scanned along the line in the ground and followed it through the trees. The line made a wide, sloping arc through the trees. Something had deliberately cut through the woods and it looked as if the man and the troodon got caught by it. But how was it possible for a man and a dinosaur to be caught in the same location? It wasn’t. It just didn’t make any sense.
“I want to follow this line through the woods to see where it comes out.”
Myra dropped the leaves and started walking along the line on the ground, keeping a close watch for anything, other than the line itself, that appeared out of the ordinary.