Saturday, November 7, 2009

Part Two: Bodies. Chapter Seven

Anderson had already heard the rumors by the time she got the call.  She'd been expecting it.  She picked up her cell. 


“You heard about this mess in Auburn, I suppose?”

“Yes, sir.”

“They're forming a unit down there.  They'll be expecting you.  Got a pen?”

“Yes, sir.”

The voice on the phone rattled off a pair of cross streets.  “Drive half a mile north.  You can't miss the circus.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It looks like this one is gonna be ugly.”

“Yes, sir.”

She put the phone down.

Teresa Katrina Anderson, T.K. to most, sat outside a business tower at Second and Marion.  She was just finishing lunch, a pepperoni slice from Atlantic Street Pizza.  She had given a deposition that morning at the King County Courthouse.  She poked a button on her phone and called into her office.

“Jess, it's me.”

“Oh my God, Teek, have you heard about--”

“Yeah, I just got assigned.  Putting a task force together, as you might imagine.”

“I can't believe this is happening again.  I mean, it's been a long time, but you keep hearing about this shit.  There was that guy in Spokane and it seems like it happens all the time up in Vancouver.  What is wrong with people?”

“Put that cold case I was looking at on the bottom of the pile.  I might ask you to fax or messenger me some stuff, I'm not going to be back at the office today.  Maybe not for a while.”

“You bet, boss.  Anything else?”

“Forward me calls about the Auburn thing, but take messages on everything else.  I wanna keep my head clear.”

“Of course.”

“See you.”


Anderson crumpled up the grease-stained paper pizza plate and threw it away.  Years of her career had been spent building up to this moment and now that it was here, there was no time for performance anxiety.  She knew she was as ready as she could be.

T.K. Anderson was a specialist and worked out of an office in Olympia, the state capitol, even though she was attached to the King County Sheriff's Department.  Her specialty was what the guys on the force referred to as “sick shit”.  Her position only existed because, inevitably, another whack job crawled into public view and started making a mess.  The rest of the time she was detached to various police departments as far afield as Oregon and Idaho, tracking firebugs, stalkers, kidnappers, and pattern criminals.  She had worked cases with plenty of serial aspects, just no actual serial killers.  Many weeks were quite boring, court cases, paperwork, long drives, wilted room service salads, sad drive-in sandwiches and lonely hotel gym workouts.  Sometimes she got to the ass end of Idaho only to find out that two hunting accidents in a week were just that, an unfortunate coincidence that bored deputies were willing to read too much into.  Sometimes she was able to bring in a panty-sniffing window peeper before he escalated to something more serious.  She'd worked three cases with spree killers, one in Seattle, one in Vancouver, and one in Boise, but those always amounted to clean up and analysis after the fact.  Once someone snapped and started shooting in public, they were either arrested or shot themselves, and there was only some much work you could do after that.

Once she reached the right road in Auburn, she saw the crowds from a long way off.  There was a cordon of police cars on one side of the road and on the other were several news vans.  There were camera men standing around, bored, waiting for something to happen.

T.K. pulled her Civic in behind a cruiser and got out.  She clipped her shield to her belt on the left and clipped her Glock on her right hip.  Oncoming traffic prevented a frantic interviewer from reaching her before she crossed the police tape.  A patrolman greeted her on the other side and radioed her presence ahead.

T.K. began to pick her way up the hill on a worn trail.  She'd worn the right shoes today, low boots with lugged soles to go with her chalk-striped slacks.  She always dressed up for court, but it probably wasn't the best outfit to visit a mass grave in.  Halfway up the trail she was met by two men in suits, with matching surgical masks tucked under their chins.

The taller, balder one held out his hand and introduced himself.  “Chief Pounds, Auburn Police.  You're Anderson?”  He asked it like he'd been told to expect a woman but hadn't quite been able to believe it.

“Yes, sir.” 

“Glad to have you with us.  This looks like a helluva thing.”  The chief turned to the shorter man, who had wide shoulders, iron gray hair and a thick mustache.  “This is our chief investigator, Steve Wozcynski.”  Anderson shook hands with the other investigator while the chief continued speaking.  When men shook her hand they always either went too soft or too hard.  She was on Wozcynski's turf and stepping on his toes.  He went too hard.  “Why don't you come on up the hill with us and take a look and then we can go somewhere and talk about what in Christ's name we're gonna do about it.”

Pounds took the lead and left Wozcynski walking next to Anderson. 

“You're with the county?” the detective asked.  She tried not to read into his tone.

“Yeah, technically an investigator for the Sheriff's violent crimes division.  I get detached and work all over though, my on-paper title doesn't mean much anymore.”

“Ever been on something like this?”

“I don't even know what something like this is yet.”

“Lotta bodies in a hole in the ground up there.  Some sicko's body dump.”

“How do we know it's one person?”

“I'm sorry?”

“Is there evidence to suggest it's just one person?”

Pounds spoke over his shoulder from ahead of them.  “Well isn't that a helluva thing to think of.  I hope to Christ it is just one maniac.”

Anderson didn't keep talking.  There was little point in beginning a lecture on assumptions about maniacs at this point, and it was just going to piss Wozcynski off.  Serial killer was the phrase surrounded by neon lights in the minds of most of the people around them, but there were lots of other potential explanations, many of which were confused with serial murder.  A thrill killer didn't follow a pattern, but might clean up after himself enough to have a mass grave.  A mass murderer also wouldn't follow a pattern, but would be far less immediate and compulsive, just killing.  The actual serial murderer was a much rarer monster than the public and even most cops believed. 

“Oh, here,” Wozcynski said, and handed Anderson a mask that matched his own.  She pulled it over her ears. 

“I dunno about you, Anderson, but we're not used to this kind of thing out here,” Pounds said, as they crested the hill.

More than 20 people moved in the clearing ahead.  It was ringed by stunted fir trees, but the open space was grassy in some places and hip deep in brush in others.  Orange flags decorated the clearing like a deranged mini-golf course.  Yellow tape criss-crossed the scene, turning the area into an obstacle course.

“Tell me,” Anderson said.

“Over there,” Pounds pointed to their left, “Is the original site.  A dog uncovered a jaw bone and his owner called it in, without even looking, just from the smell.  The jaw bone has been taken in evidence and is being kept separate, contaminated, of course.  The dog uncovered a small hole at the original site in which they found a skull.  The immediate area was gridded and searched for evidence before the hole was expanded.  It was a complete human skeleton, middle-aged male, I'm informed, and the first of at least five that were in the same general area, about six feet square.  The smell is from a fresher body found nearby.  They're getting to that one.  We don't know much more than that, whether the bodies were buried at the same time, etc.  The bodies are being examined, photographed, measured and analyzed in situ before being removed and taken to the city for examination.  Auburn shares a medical examiner with the south county, but we don't have the storage space or facilities to handle more than a few bodies at a time, and based on all those,” Pounds waved at the flags, “We have a lot more coming.” 

“Dogs?” Anderson asked.

“Yes, dogs either found or confirmed those locations after chemical sniffers found them.  There's 34 of them at last count.  We'll start with those places, but I'm willing to wager the whole damn hill will be three feet shorter by the time we're done.  Eagle Scout search and rescue teams are on their way in to do an evidence sweep before we dig any more holes.  All according to standard procedures.”

“You have any more on gender?”

“Like what?”

“You said the first body was a middle aged man.  Anything else yet?”

“You'd have to ask the geeks.  Right now they're focused on getting everything squared away so they can get the first bodies out of the ground before it rains.  Anything they give you would be a guess that would have to be verified later anyway.”


“Wozcynski?” Pounds looked at the detective, who had been staring at the excavation.  He turned to them and squared his shoulders. 

“We've already caught two reporters trying to sneak up here from the river side of the hill and get pictures.  We have no idea how they found out about this in the first place, but you know how that goes.  The more people we bring in, the harder it'll be to keep a lid on this.  We've announced a press conference for 6 p.m. this evening.  We'll do it here and say as little as possible.  I suppose you should be there.”  Anderson couldn't dismiss the tone in his voice this time.

“Visibly reassuring citizens that everyone possible is working on this case and cooperating is one of the big reasons Anderson is here, so you bet your ass she'll be there,” Pounds interjected.  “Listen, this smell is really getting to me.  I'm gonna head down and get a cup of coffee.  Do you need anything Anderson?”

“I'll just take some time to get the lay of the land, sir, if you don't mind.” 

“Of course.  Wozcynski, stick with her, will you?”

The detective stared at his commanding officer for a moment and then nodded.  “Sir.”

Both investigators watched the chief walk away, long legs arching over logs and grass.

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