They approached the van, weapons drawn. Jessica took the driver's side, Josh Bontrager flanked right, a few paces behind. The immediate danger was the threat from the back doors.
At the rear bumper Jessica stopped, raised her left hand, made it into a fist. Bontrager stopped. Jessica put her ear to the back doors, listened. Silence from within.
Jessica held up five fingers. Bontrager nodded.
Jessica crept up to the driver door, counted down silently from five. There were no lights in the van, so the side mirror did not reflect the inside. She held her weapon in her left hand, trained on the door, slid her right hand along the panel.
On four she opened the door, stepped to the left in attack stance, weapon leveled. The driver's seat was empty, as was the seat on the passenger side. Keys in the ignition.
Bontrager opened the passenger door on five, pointed his flashlight inside the van. Behind the driver's seat were a pair of side racks. Strapped into them were David Albrecht's equipment - tripods, equipment cases, lights, microphone stands, a short ladder.
Jessica flipped on the van's interior light.
There was no one inside.
Near the back doors they could see the video camera on its side.
The camera was on, the blue rectangle of the flip-out LCD screen glowed. Jessica took a single latex glove out of her pocket, snapped it on. She crossed to the back of the van, opened a door. Reaching in, she tilted the camera back onto its side. There had to be two dozen buttons.
'Do you know how to operate one of these?'
'Sort of,' Bontrager said. 'I took the video of my cousin's wedding last year.'
'There's video at an Amish wedding?'
'My cousin left the church. She married English.'
Bontrager put on a glove, looked closely at the camera for a few moments. He hit a button. They heard a whirring sound, then a click. The side of the camera opened.
'There's no tape,' Bontrager said.
Jessica scanned the back of the van, looking for a tape. Then she went back to the front of the vehicle, searched through the console and the glove compartment. Empty.
'Sometimes there's a memory card,' Bontrager said. He clicked a few more buttons. Different menus flicked by on the LCD screen. 'Yeah, the card's still in there.'
Bontrager thumbed a few more buttons, the screens ticked by. He hit a button. A video copied to the memory card began to play.
There were only twenty seconds or so of video and audio, but it was chilling. The video showed someone walking up to the camera along a dark lane. The camera was shaky, showed the figure from the shoulders down.
'It's you,' a voice whispered. Was it Albrecht speaking? Impossible to tell.
Without another word, the door of Albrecht's van was yanked open. The video spun into a collage of images: trees, night sky, the side of the van.
The image then became a stationary shot along the ground, showing Sawmill Road stretching out into the darkness. This continued for a few moments before the screen went black.
Bontrager stepped a few paces away from the van, pointing his flashlight at the ground. 'Jess.'
Jessica walked over. On the trunk of a fallen tree was a small pool of blood. A few more drops on the grass led deeper into the woods, over trampled branches.
Weapons in hand, the two detectives stepped into the forest.