“You know I'm not going to crawl up your ass, right?” Anderson asked, turning to Wozcynski, after the Chief was out of sight.
“That's what they always say. Way I figure it, I only have to put up with you until the Feds decide to take over.”
“I tell you, I'm only here to do my job and help out. I'm not after collars or press or a raise or a promotion. And yeah, the sooner the Feds take over, the less stress on all of us, right?”
Wozcynski relented a little. “Right.”
“Okay. So tell me what you think.”
“I don't give a shit what you say, this is one guy or two at the most. And a guy, mind you. This is no group and this is no woman.”
“For starters, more than one or two guys would be noticed hauling 30 plus bodies up a fucking hill. Women killers are not collectors, which this individual seems to be, as far as I can tell.”
“I think those are both reasonable assumptions. We can't rule anything out, but it's a place to start. Anything else?”
“Yeah. It's cliché as hell, but he's gotta have a van or a truck, right? I mean, clearly this guy isn't driving around in a hatchback or a goddamn Prius.”
“That seems like a safe bet. It doesn't rule out station wagons and so on, but it's a place to start as well. What's the canvassing strategy? Are there any residences around here?”
“Not many. There's a housing development over that way,” Wozcynski vaguely gestured to the north, “But it's a couple of miles. There is a horse ranch to the east and a couple of mobile homes to the west. We have officers knocking on doors already, and there will be a call for information at the press conference, as well as in local papers tomorrow.”
“Asking for what?”
“Information about anything suspicious in this area.”
“That'll be a shit detail.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Just asking for information?”
“Hey, Chief set that up on his own, okay?”
“Shit, that'll be a nightmare.”
“Oh, yeah,” Wozcynski agreed. “Good times.”
“Can I talk to one of the techs?”
“Knock yourself out. Guy with the headlamp over there, he's in charge. You'll forgive me if I don't go with you. I've had enough of the smell.”
Anderson tucked her pants into the tops of her boots, trying not to think about how ridiculous it must look. She began to carefully pick her way toward the excavation. Two police officers were sifting buckets of dirt into a pile, looking for evidence. What a mess this was. She couldn't see any outstanding mistakes, at least, but there was really no good way to approach a situation like this. You just had to go by the book and hope for the best. There wasn't a lot of best to be seen yet, though, she reflected, as two guys in paper suits and air filters hoisted a body bag that seemed awfully light.
She stopped at the yellow tape perimeter that surrounded the immediate dig. Part of it was just a trench, two feet wide and maybe four feet long, but it opened up into a square hole, bigger than six feet on a side. Dirt and plants were piled up around it. One man stood hip deep in the hole, snapping photographs. Another tech was straddling the trench, taking soil samples. Two more techs were loading another skeleton into a body bag. The tech with the headlamp had his back to Anderson. She kept breathing through her mouth, but even then she was aware that the smell was appalling, thick and almost a physical presence in her nose and mouth.
“Excuse me!” she called, her voice muffled by the mask.
The man with the headlamp did not hear her, but one of the other techs did and pointed at Anderson. Headlamp turned and started slightly. Once he focused on T.K., the investigator had to guard her eyes from the bright halogen light on the guy's head. It went off and Anderson blinked gratefully. The tech walked up to the tape.
“What is it?”
“I've been sent in by the city to help you guys out. I was wondering if you can tell me what you have so far.”
Headlamp looked at her, tilting his head with curiosity. “And you are?”
T.K. was only too aware of what he saw, down to the pants tucked into her boots. Her oxblood leather jacket covered a white blouse and her pinstriped pants. Her shield was visible, but above everything she still had a face that, even at 33, regularly got her carded at bars. Her dark hair, cut short because of the nature of the job, helped keep her pigeon holed as too young and too butch.
“T.K. Anderson, I'm with King County. I've been sent here to support the investigation.”
“Some kind of expert?”
“Something,” Anderson said flatly.
“Please,” the tech said, and waved her past the tape.
Anderson shook her head against the smell, lifted the tape, and stepped under. The tech had a name badge dangling from his neck which read “Staunton, Arnold”. Respecting crime scene etiquette, Anderson didn't offer her hand.
Staunton's tone was matter of fact and bored. It didn't bother her because she knew he talked this way to anyone who wasn't a geek, and the fact that she had breasts and a uterus had nothing to do with it. It was almost refreshing. “You can see the excavation. We believe that this was really only one grave, but my guess is it was re-opened several times. I can tell you that we have what appears to be six bodies in this grave, and parts of at least two others, just here. God only knows what's out there,” he waved over his shoulder. “Only one woman, as far as I can tell.”
“How long have they been here?”
“Hard to tell at this point. Most of them have been here for years, at any rate, due to the decomp. Beyond that, I really can't say.”
“Most of them?”
“That's what the smell is from. We have one that's much fresher, but we haven't gotten to it yet. Starting from the original position, we dug a trench in two directions, as you see here. We hit more bodies and started opening the trench up. In the meantime, the trench in the other direction managed to expose a freshly buried body, just one foot down. Hence the smell.”
“Anything else you can tell me? Feel free to speculate.”
“No children, only one woman. Guy was efficient, he didn't dig up a new hole for each body, he re-dug where he'd been before, which probably saved him some time. Digging a hole big enough for a human body is not fast or easy. I can also tell you he didn't give a shit about the bodies. He might have before they were dead, but when he buried them, they were just folded into the hole without any consideration. The woman was off to one side, but there's no way of telling if she was singled out or if she just wound up there. I haven't looked at the bodies closely enough to think about cause of death or see any particular mutilation.”
“What about the fresh body?”
“Still mostly buried, not focusing on it at this point. One thing at a time. We'll make sure to cover it before it rains, as it'll be more likely to give us something to work with, fibers, what have you. Once we have more techs up here we'll dig it up and see if there's a wallet, jewelery, anything useful.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“There will be a report when I have anything concrete and when we have some more manpower. Right now, it's mostly speculation, which is much more your area than mine. But good luck.”
T.K. took a last look around the ghastly scene and then began to walk back to the trail. Wozcynski was sitting on a log, smoking something thin and brown.
“Had enough?” he asked.