A murder at Natalino's Landing? Sergeant Hamelin of the Pennsylvania State Police wondered. Natalino's Landing's closed this time of year.
Sergeant Gregory Hamelin slowly guided his black and white police hover car, skimming above the narrow gravel road through the thick woodland, on the west side of Lake Wallenpaupak. On this chilly morning in late October, a heavy fog had settled on and around the Lake, dimming the red, yellow and orange leaves that hung on the overhanging tree branches, or lay thick upon the road beneath his vehicle.
Sergeant Hamelin had taken the right turn off the road between Scranton and Hawley. He d now gone about a mile south.
Few people, he thought, come down this road at this time of year, especially at night. Good place to avoid witnesses. Good place for me to get ambushed.
Now he reached an open area to his left, beside a small cove on the western shore of Lake Wallenpaupack. The water along the shoreline was covered with a thin layer of ice. The fog hid whatever was beyond.
He again wondered. A good place for me to get ambushed?
Here beside the cove, a small refreshment stand, stood beside a gravel parking lot. An unlit neon sign on the roof identified the place as "Natalino's Landing". A narrow pathway ran from the parking lot down to the shoreline, where a wooden dock stretched out into the water. Across the parking lot from the refreshment stand, was a picnic area with tables, benches, and waist high stone barbecue grills, that had metal grates lying across the top.
He again wondered, Have I been lured into an ambush? Is someone aiming a weapon at me?
Today the refreshment stand was closed. Its windows were shuttered, and the shutters locked tight. The entire place was deserted, except for one dark blue civilian hover car in the parking lot. Its windshield faced the picnic area. A man sat alone behind the wheel. Sergeant Hamelin wondered if the man was armed.
He turned his police car left, into the parking lot, gliding six inches above the pavement.
The civilian car's left front door opened. The driver stepped out from behind the wheel, and shut the door behind him. He was in his mid forties, and had a stubbly beard. He wore a dark red windbreaker jacket, rugged pants and shoes, and a dark blue cap with a long visor sticking out in front. The man was also unarmed.
38 year old Sergeant Hamelin set the State Police Car down to the left of the other vehicle, leaving one empty parking space between him and the man. He then stepped out through the driver's side. The damp chilly air was filled with the aroma of wet fallen leaves. Sergeant Hamelin wore a dark blue jacket over his uniform, with a badge pinned to the front of the outer garment. He had another badge on his hat.
The man in the dark red jacket stepped up to him, looking very distressed. He raised his right arm, pointing to the opposite side of the barbecue grills.
"That's where it is, Officer!"
Sergeant Hamelin nodded. He walked beside the man, both of them kicking up fallen leaves with each step. The man led him past the grills that were cold, and cleared of ashes.
"My name's Daniel Cobb. I came here about an hour ago to do some fishing off the dock, but you can see the water. It's covered with ice. So I started walking around, and that's what I found."
They came to one grill, beside the edge of the woods. The grill had been recently used. Unlike the others, gray charcoal ashes filled the pit beneath an uncleaned grate. The remains of a barbecued and eaten carcass lay on the ground beside the stove.
"Look at those bones!" Daniel Cobb's voice shook. "They didn't come from any sheep or goat!"
The Sergeant nodded. "They're human."
"Cannibals." Mr. Cobb said, "People from the City Building. That's what I've heard they do behind its walls. There it's legal."
"Well it isn't out here," Sergeant Hamelin told him, "and they all know it. They all know that when they leave the City Building, they're required to obey our laws for as long as they're out here."
Now he asked Daniel Cobb, "Do you have any idea who this victim was?"
Mr. Cobb pointed again, "Over there."
About 30 yards away, just inside the edge of the woods, a three foot high wooden stake had been driven into the ground, with a woman's head stuck on top. The Sergeant and Daniel Cobb headed away from the stove, kicking up more leaves, while making their way around a few trees and came over to the stake.
The Sergeant said, "She's a teenage girl. Might not even be 18. Do you have any idea who she is?"
The girl had brown hair, stylishly set with a hairclip. Her eyes were shut and her lips slightly parted, in what might have been an ecstatic smile. She also wore a pair of earrings. "No Officer. She's not anyone I recognize."
Sergeant Hamelin pointed at the girl's hairclip. The image of entwined snakes was engraved upon it.
"This is carved from bone." He said, "Probably human bone."
He pointed again. "So are the earrings."
The same engraved snake image was on both earrings.
"Then she's a City Building girl." Mr. Cobb sounded relieved. "Not one of us. At least they're keeping it among themselves."
"They should be keeping it among themselves inside the City Building, and City Building People all know it."
Excuse me Officer. Daniel Cobb again sounded anxious. "Do you know if any other City Building people are staying around here anyplace?"
Gregory Hamelin told him, "There might be some in Zabelton."
"Zabelton? It s not that far from here!"
The Sergeant nodded, "I'll head over there, and see who's staying at the Motel."