Originally, I had the 1952 story taking place in late winter, but I decided for various in-story reasons to nudge it up to late summer, the same time of year that serves as the setting for the 1972 and present-day mysteries. I must say, I have a lot of fun delving back into the early fifties - now I understand why Rhys and Susan do what they do! As much as I enjoy dabbling in historical mystery - and reading them!- I still can't see tackling a whole novel set in the past. Too much work!
In civvies, the kid looked even younger. Harry had suggested the Liddle boy – and boy howdy, he bet the kid would hate to hear that – meet him at his office, but Jack was worried someone might notice and word would come back to his bosses at the State Troopers barracks. Harry didn't blame him, really. Millers Kill was a small town in a county full – or not full – of small towns, and if everybody didn't know everybody else's business, it wasn't from lack of trying.
Which is why he was sitting on a wooden bench near the fence of the draft horses ring, watching farmers compete their teams in pulling contests. They were mostly for show nowadays, harnessed up for hay rides and sleigh rides, their tails and manes brushed and braided by little 4-H girls. The Washington County Fair was the only place they could show what they were meant to do: haul the immensely heavy loads no lighter horse could have managed. Harry remembered helping his father log out their forested land back in the twenties, Ben and Bob maneuvering four or five cut trees at a time through the woods as neatly as you'd please. Can't get a machine to do that.
He could hear the kid before he saw him, and then Jack emerged from around a cluster of youngsters and crossed to the bench. He was in light pants cinched up with suspenders, tie knot halfway down his open-necked shirt, jacket over his arm and what looked like his daddy's hat on his head.
Jack snatched it off and fanned himself with it as he plopped down next to Harry. “Oh, gosh, this shade feels good. I can't believe the heat today.”
“It's a scorcher, all right. I'll be glad to see September.” Harry reached for the bag Jack had set at his feet. “Is this it?”
The kid nudged it towards Harry. “Yeah. One of the secretaries kind of likes me, and she mimeographed the pages for me.”
Harry opened the bag, and the faint scent of the machine's ink drifted into the air and was gone, washed into the odors of sweat and horseflesh and popcorn. He pulled out the papers: detectives' report, coroner's report, Jack's report, and best of all, pictures. Harry shuffled through photos of the dead girl, in situ on McEachron Road and in the morgue, a close-up of her face, and one of her dress, showing the design and the label at the neck. “You didn't get these from a mimeograph.”
“I swapped a favor with the guy who does the developing.”
“Must have been some favor.” Making unauthorized copies of crime scene photos could get a chemist fired, mostly to discourage them from getting a second paycheck from the scandal sheets.
“You don't want to know.” Jack grinned. With his shirt undone and his yellow hair flopping to one side, he looked like a Dutch pirate.
Harry sighed. “Tell me about this one.” He held up the photo of the dress.