“What do you want me to do with him?” Wolf asked.
“Help me hide him until the right people can come and claim his body.”
He took that news calmly enough. “Who is it?”
Interesting that he should assume she knew the dead man. But then, what other explanation was there for why she’d want to hide the body? She hesitated to tell this guy the dead man’s identity. After all, she didn’t have any idea who he really was.
He studied her all too perceptively. If she read him right, he didn’t buy for a minute the idea that she didn’t know the dead man. For all she knew, he might suspect she’d been the one to off the victim.
Wolf asked casually, “Any sign of chains or weights in or on the bag?”
“I dunno. I didn’t look yet.” Not to mention she hadn’t thought of it. She clamped down on the chagrin bubbling up in her gut.
“Help me check.”
They squatted in the sand near the bag and examined its exterior surface for tears, holes or other signs of attempts to weigh it down. The smell was worse this close to it. Paige held her facial expression perfectly still, particularly after she caught Wolf’s sidelong gaze on her.
She leaned back on her heels. “I don’t see any signs from the outside.”
“Me, neither. Let’s open it up, then.”
She clenched her jaw but held her position resolutely.
Her companion swore under his breath when he got his first look at the dead man and the condition he was in. Then he breathed, “Ando.”
So. Wolf was familiar with the attendees at the upcoming summit … or else he was conversant with Japanese businessmen and could recognize them on sight, even while dead and starting to bloat.
He commented, “Doesn’t look like any fish have been nibbling on him. Which means he was bagged before he went in the water.”
Wolf reached into the bag and around in the various—appendages—while Paige’s gaze slid away.
He rinsed his hand in the surf as he announced, “Nothing obvious in the bag with our guy. Odd. Who’d ditch a body and not weigh it down?”
Her gaze snapped back to him and she blurted, “Someone who wanted it found, obviously.”
He stared at her speculatively for several seconds. “Grab the bag,” he abruptly ordered.
She blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“Help me lift your guy into my ATV.”
Distastefully, she grabbed the wet canvas and, between the two of them, they heaved the wet sack onto the back of the vehicle. It landed with a sickening thud. Trying to hide her involuntary shudders, she helped Wolf lash the surfboards across the spare tire mounted on the back of the vehicle. The guy knew his way around ropes and knots. But then, so did she.
He swept his arm toward the passenger seat in invitation. As she climbed in, she asked, “What do you suggest we do with him?”
“Put him on ice.”
She frowned over at her companion as he started the engine.
“Yeah. Unless you want me to help you bury him. Can’t leave a body out in this heat and humidity for more than a few hours for obvious reasons.”
He flashed her a grin and her breath caught in surprise. Whoa. In the television business, that was known as flesh impact. Normal people might call him charismatic. She’d call him a walking advertisement for raw sex.
She mumbled, “The idea is to conceal his death until the summit is well underway. It starts tomorrow. We’re only looking at a day or two. Just until someone can get here quietly to take his body home. His family deserves to get his remains.”
“Where are you staying?” he asked.
“At the beach cottage of a friend. It’s close to the resort the summit is being held at.”
“Perfect. We’ll keep him at your place.”
“No way! I’ve got a refrigerator, but the freezer isn’t close to big enough to hold our friend.”
He shrugged. “So, we’ll buy you a freezer.”
“You can’t just walk into a store and say, ‘Excuse me, I need a freezer right away. Something big enough to hold a dead body for a few days.”
“Sure you can.”
He glanced over at her. “You got a better idea?”
She sighed. “No.”
“Technically, he only needs to be refrigerated if we’re looking at less than a week of storage.”
Lovely. They bounced over a high berm of sand and turned onto a paved road, heading south. The ATV accelerated smoothly as she studied her companion surreptitiously. Who was this guy? He obviously worked for Uncle Sam, but in what capacity? And how did he know so much about storing dead bodies? She supposed she should leave it alone and just be grateful he’d come so quickly to help out. But she was too much the nosy journalist to let it go.
Of course, she couldn’t ask him outright who he was. Special operators told you only what they wanted you to know, which was usually less than nothing about themselves. Everything else was off-limits. Case in point, she had no idea how much or how little Wolf knew about the Medusas. Just because Vanessa had sent him in to back her up didn’t mean he was briefed on the Medusa Project. Paige memorized his face carefully. And the license plate of the ATV. And the fact that he surfed. It ought to be enough for her to get a name, at least.
“Any idea how he died?” he asked without warning.
She answered as emotionlessly as she could muster, “I didn’t examine his body carefully, but I can tell you this. He was tortured before his death.”
“His fingertips were black. He was electrocuted. That blood pooling would’ve had to happen before he died.”
“Could be the corpse just beat against some rocks before it washed up here.”
She replied shortly, “Trust me. I’ve seen the results of electrical torture before.”
He didn’t comment, and she had no desire to elaborate. Visions of Jerry’s body threatened to steal her composure. She directed Wolf to turn onto the dirt road that led to her place.