T.K. stood off to one side. This was not her show and the last thing she cared about was being seen on television. She had her hands stuffed deep in the pockets of her camel-colored wool coat. It was too big for her, having belonged to one of the members of the previous generation of Anderson men, but when it got damp it smelled of pipe tobacco and it was incredibly warm. She stood at the edge of the pool of light that flooded the police van and the men in front of it. Pounds stood shoulder to shoulder with Wozcynski. The Chief spoke first and then handed the press over to the detective. There were a lot of platitudes, talk about tragedy and justice, without any real promise or commitment, because that was such a dangerous thing. You didn't want an entire community calling for your job if you didn't uphold words you made at a press conference.
Wozcynski avoided any particulars as well, but he was open enough about the actual case. There was an undetermined number of bodies on the hill, investigations would continue, any information from the public would be welcomed, call the number on your screen, and so on.
Two hours before, they'd all sat in a mobile communication center that had been brought out to the crime scene. They needed a private place to meet, but there wasn't time to drive to the station and back again. The comm center was basically a mobile police command center in an RV, but there was a table in the back they could all fit around. Non-essential personnel was excused and they kept their voices down. A police officer was put on spotter duty to make sure the reporters across the street weren't using any eavesdropping equipment.
Once they were settled with their awful coffee, Pounds asked Anderson what there was to go on.
“I don't know what you got from the techs already, so forgive me if I repeat something. The smell is from a fresh body. If we're gonna get good leads soon, it'll be from that, fibers, prints, something we won't get from older bodies. ID is obviously gonna be vital, but that's all missing person reports and dental records and it'll be slow going. Odds are we won't get much from the tip line, but it's a necessary evil. If you don't have someone photographing the reporters and rubberneckers, get one. They don't always return to the scene, but they do often enough it's worth following up on.
She sighed. “To be honest, I don't know. I really don't,” she reiterated, reacting to Pounds' face. “We're in blood from a stone territory here, sir. This is my area, but this isn't TV and I'm not a profiler. I can tell you the Unsub will probably be a white male around 40, but that's the odds talking, not any observances I made. I have to see who the people he killed are, what he left behind, how he did what he did.”
“But you're sticking with this being a man? One man?”
“Again, I'm just playing the odds. Wozcynski pointed out that it would be hard for a group to do this and not be noticed and that a man is a lot more likely to both collect bodies and be powerful enough to haul them up here, at least as whole bodies and not chopped up parts. I will refer to the Unsub as a male by default until I have a reason to believe otherwise. I'd advise, however, that you not do that, at least not in the press conference.”
Pounds nodded, but the detective narrowed his eyes in a scornful squint.
“Basically, the good news is that you're doing everything right. The shitty news is that contrary to popular opinion, solid police work is what's most likely to get you a break here. But it's probably not going to happen today.”
Once T.K. had finished, Pounds went to the door and gestured for someone to enter. Ash Antonov was tall, lean, pretty, and knew it. He had been sent down by the Seattle P.D.'s public relations department to coach the officers on their press conference. T.K. knew that there was nothing they'd have liked better than to take all the attention for themselves, but at this point in the game, it would have been far too obvious. So here Antonov was, with his expensive suit and haircut and an annoying focus on her, Anderson thought. He was intelligent and answered questions quickly and concisely, but when he wasn't focusing on one of the other police officers, his blue eyes returned to Anderson. Which was odd, because she wasn't contributing anything, as she wasn't going to speak at the press conference. That didn't bother Antonov, however, who said, “No, stick around,” when she offered to leave.
His attention made her uncomfortable, and not in that good flirty way. It felt like he was trying to bore a hole in her head with his eyes. She was used to being an object of scorn or puzzlement in the police department, for lots of things, but he was looking at her as if he expected her to burst into flames or open a third eye in her forehead. She didn't know if this was his way or if he was trying to single her out, but either way she dismissed it as alpha male bullshit at its worst.
Now Wozcynski was answering questions about the situation on the hill, offering no more information than had already been passed around, just eating up enough air time until it was polite to shut it down. And here she stood, her toes growing numb as the evening grew cooler. She was aware of Ash Antonov, now wearing an overcoat over his immaculate suit, standing just outside the range of the cameras and the lights. He was looking at her again.
She couldn't wait to get out of here. There wasn't a damn thing she could do here that was of practical use. She was hoping that when the press conference was over she would find that she had a voice message from the coroner or someone else that would give her something to work on. She was antsy and she knew she wouldn't sleep that night. If she didn't have anything to work on that night she would go nuts with boredom and pent-up energy. She would probably wind up doing the usual, going to 24 Hour Fitness at 2 in the morning and using the elliptical trainer until her thighs and lungs burned. This would lead to three unsatisfactory hours of sleep and sub-par brain activity the next day, when she would need it. Let there be a voice message, she said to herself.
Once the conference was over, she quickly checked in with Pounds and exchanged perfunctory goodbyes with Wozcynski.
She didn't know how the cocky fuck had found out, but smarmy PR flack Antonov was leaning against her car when she approached it.
“What?” she said, treading between impatient and hostile.
“So you just got by Anderson, right?”
“Well everyone else loves their title. You have to call them Detective or Officer or Chief. What are you?”
She sighed. “Technically I'm a deputy Sheriff.”
“Do you have the hat?”
She shook her head. “Look. What do you want?”
“What?” He seemed surprised at her abruptness.
She took a step closer to him. “What. The fuck. Do you want? You were staring at me in that meeting like I had horns and now you're leaning on my car and asking me questions that you don't need to know.”
He kept staring at me. “Seriously? You really don't know?”
“Some time soon, maybe three days from now, maybe a week, maybe two, you will be the face of this department. You were sent down here to be useful and no one's gonna shove you in front of a camera today, but the day is coming. If this shit blows up like we all think it's gonna, you're going to be getting a lot of press, a lot of public attention, and a lot of camera time. So I was looking and you and wondering why you were so goddamn annoyed the instant I walked in the room. I was wondering if you have the social graces to stand in front of a camera and not piss the entire fucking state off. I have no idea why, but everyone seems to think you can do the part of the job that involves catching the guy. So great. But I'll tell you right now that I'm not very excited about your chances about doing the other part of your job well, which is the part where you represent, Seattle, Washington, and law enforcement in general to anyone with a television or a newspaper.”
She gaped at him.
“So you see me come into a room with a nice suit and a briefcase and an education and cheekbones and you think you know a goddamn thing about me? I got this job because I know cops and I know PR. My father died in the line, so you think before you dismiss me as a flak. Believe me, you can take this from me, or you can take it from someone higher up the food chain, but the feedback is the same. You'll be very, very visible soon and part of your job will be, whether you like it or not, to be the face of this investigation.”
He held up his hand and took a deep breath. His breath, when I caught it, smelled minty. Then he handed me his card. “Here. If you don't wanna work with me we can get you someone else from the office, that's fine, but you need to be aware of what's going to happen. That press conference was a freebie. But as soon as Pounds and Polack realize how deep this end of the pool is, they're gonna hand this case off to us, and then you'll be in the shit. You need to be ready.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Be yourself. Your nice self instead of your I'm a girl working hard to make it in a man's world self. I'm sure she's in there somewhere.”
“Fuckin' why me?”
He tilted his head at me like a curious dog. “Wow. You don't know this either? Okay.” He began to count on his fingers. One, you're supposed to be the expert. The public likes experts. Seattle paid for some of your training in this stuff and it's time to get some mileage out of it, especially if it means we can keep from handing this over to the feds. Two, you're a woman. Women never get to see women doing what you do in real life, only on television, because there aren't enough woman cops. Three, you're attractive. That means men will pay attention to you even if they don't like cops or lady cops. Four, you're local. We didn't import you from Chicago when we needed an expert, we found someone who went to Nathan Hale High and is a good old down home Husky.”
Anderson was floored. As soon as he started listing items her stomach had begun to sink. “But what if...you know?”
“What if you never get the guy?” He grinned at her. “Oh, well then you're fucked.”