She had been pulled onto the shore by a fisherman. He used a thick hemp rope that he had managed to loop around her torso before pulling her through the dark water. She was laying on her side when Ben arrived. He could see her hands bound behind her back, tied at the wrists and elbows. Her dark hair was matted against the nape of her neck. She wore a blue tank top and faded blue jeans.
Ben walked through the tall sea grass towards two men that stood sentry over her. A week ago he could have said that he had seen exactly two dead bodies in his lifetime. One had been an elderly woman who had died in her sleep, the other a drunk who had wrapped his Chevy around the town’s oldest oak tree. Today’s girl would be the seventh in as many days. He braced himself for the pungent odor.
The men watched him as he approached, and he immediately felt silly. He wore the only suit that he had in his closet – a black one. He had tried to add a splash of color by wearing a red tie, but he found that it only made him look like he was running for office. In the end he opted for a plain gray tie.
“The funeral probably won’t be for another week,” one of the men joked. Ben glared at him from the corner of his eye and crouched next to the girl.
“You’ll want to take your tie off before you do that,” said the older man. Ben took him to be the fisherman. He looked down at his tie brushing against the girls arm. He nodded a response, loosened his tie, pulled it over his head, and handed it to the fisherman.
“Thanks,” said Ben. “You found her?”
“That’s right,” the fisherman replied. “Saw her about twenty yards off the shore. I was just coming in through the harbor when I saw her. Just floating there, head down. She was moving pretty good with the swells. I thought she might turn over on her own but she didn’t.”
Ben pulled on latex gloves and touched the girl’s hands. They had been tied with metal wire – same as the others. The skin on her arms and back had begun peeling off, leaving pale, pink patches. He checked her pockets for a wallet or a driver’s license and found nothing. Ben stepped over her to see her face. As he did his breath caught in his chest and he fell backwards onto the grass.
He whispered one word that only he could hear. “Sarah.”