Harlan shook his head, but followed Lottie into the underbrush. Though he had no way to explain her psychic powers, he’d seen them verified time and again. When she got a feeling, he’d learned to pay attention.
Lottie gave a strangled cry and stopped abruptly, causing Harlan to collide with her. He grabbed her shoulders to keep them both upright. “What is it?”
She raised a shaking finger and pointed. “There.”
He looked where she indicated. An arm clad in red plaid flannel protruded from a large pile of leaves in a shallow depression in the ground, three feet off the path. “Stand back,” he said, sweeping her behind him with one arm. Then he strode to the body. Though he could tell at a glance that there was no hope–the hand protruding from the sleeve was mottled and swollen–he knelt down and felt the wrist for a pulse. As he feared, there was none. The skin was cold and hard. “Damn.”
“Can I help?” Lottie’s small voice came from behind him. He turned to her. Her face was as white as a wedding gown.
“Sit down,” he said. “Before you fall down.”
She laughed shakily. “No, I’m okay. Really. What can I do?”
He assessed her. She appeared unnerved, her body trembling, but Lottie was no wilting flower. She was tough. She’d been through worse. “Okay. If you really want to…” He waited for her nod. “Go back to the patrol car and call for help. Can you find your way to the car?”
She nodded again. “I think so. Yes, I can.”
“Good. When you get there, push the number three button on the radio, then press the button on the microphone to talk. Tell the dispatcher who you are, that you’re with me, and what we found. They’ll know what to do. Tell them to send the coroner. Then, stay there until they arrive and lead them back here. Got that?”
“Yes. Will you be all right here alone?”
Harlan grimaced. “Whoever did this is long gone. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
She shivered, then gave him what was no doubt intended as a reassuring smile, though the effect was ghastly. He nodded encouragement. She turned and was soon lost to sight in the heavy undergrowth. With a sigh, Harlan turned his attention back to the crime scene and the unfortunate victim.