EVEN BEFORE THE SUN set the horizon ablaze in orange flame, the conversation in the Wheelen home fell to ash and smoke. Danielle felt like she’d just witnessed a horrifying car wreck, and then discovered that none of the occupants survived. It was hard to believe what her parents were telling her.
“Really? I mean, that’s crazy, Dad!”
“Honey, we’ve been over this more than once. It’s…”
“Awful. That’s what it is!” Amy interrupted her husband. “We can’t know for sure. Right? Can we?”
“Not that I can think of, Hon,” Peter replied. “In fact, I don’t think we need to. Aren’t we all pretty certain what’s happening?”
“But Dad! You’re saying that today, just down the hall from your classrooms, the police conducted an autopsy on a…cow? And they did that because the science lab at the university is large enough—and has the best equipment—to handle this kind of investigation?”
“But what exactly do they think they’re investigating? I don’t get that part.”
“Well, at first, they thought it was a simple cow mutilation. You know, crazy people. Drugs. Nut jobs.”
“But then they found the farmer,” Amy whispered.
“And he…was…also mutilated?” Danielle asked, her voice a bit higher than normal.
“That’s not what Professor Antrim said,” Peter replied. “We found Doc Ant in the hallway, pale and sweating, just outside the lab room. He said that it appeared the farmer died of a heart attack, perhaps caused by fright.”
“I don’t understand why then…why they think swords were involved,” Danielle said, tension swelling her throat. “You lost me,” she murmured, twisting her hands.
“Look, Honey, I don’t know. Your mother and I didn’t actually see”—Peter shifted around on the couch nervously— “see the bodies. But they said they’ve never seen anything like this cow before. Even with a sword, they can’t imagine how these…how…how…”
“It was in sections, Danielle,” her mother continued quietly. “Like it had been dissected. Except with a huge blade, not a scalpel. ‘Intersecting, downward sloping lines, razor sharp,’ Professor Antrim said. Horrible…like it happened all at once.”
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