T.K. checked her messages as she drove back into the city. At least she had some, something to take her mind off the conversation she'd just endured. Hopefully there would be something for her to pursue. Until more information or evidence came out, there was precious little for detectives to do, so Wozcynski went off to do whatever he was going to do, and T.K. was following an ambulance carrying body bags to the morgue.
“Hey, Teek,” it was Jess, her assistant. Jess ran a small office pod in the state capitol, working for two specialists like T.K., a state police liaison, and an FBI agent. “They got you a cubicle somewhere at Seattle P.D. Floor 12, location A-3. Sounds like a good time. Hopefully it's close to the coffee machine. The boss wants you to give him a call, too. Oh, I wasn't sure if you wanted a hotel room, so you'll have to fend for yourself tonight. If you want a room booked long term down in Auburn, just let me know. Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet here. Guess nothing much has come up yet. Sounds gross, though. Call me later.” Anderson saved the message so she could retrieve the phone number later.
She hung up and called her boss. Anderson answered to lots of people, if they wanted to make a stink about it, but the functioning boss was the second-in-command of the King County Sheriff's Department, Captain Russell Florio. He worked out of offices in Newcastle, just south of Bellevue, and whenever T.K. was actually in the state they made an effort to meet every week or so. He kept his distance and was one of the reasons she had the position she did. Florio had known T.K.'s father, and while there was no nepotism in their relationship, she always reassured herself, his fondness for her father let him look past the fact that she was a woman in law enforcement.
“Deputy Anderson.” His voice was flat and low.
“What's the lay of the land? The big man is impatient.”
“Of course he is. What do you think I have by now?”
“Not a damn thing, I would imagine, unless the guy turned himself in and you decided to keep it to yourself.”
“That's about it. Looks like a lot of bodies and I'm gonna say it's just one unsub. Could be he has someone helping him with the labor, but I'm willing to be a collection of bodies like this is the work of one person's particular focus.”
“Where are you now?”
“Following an ambulance into the city for the autopsies.”
“Oh, you'll like that. They brought in Steele.”
“Hand to God. Should be an experience.”
“In case us bringing you in didn't make you realize we're taking this seriously, this should.”
“Don't stay up all night, you hear me? You'll have a lot more work to do tomorrow, I'm sure, and staring at corpses is her job, not yours.”
“I mean it!”
“I heard you.”
He grunted. “Saw you at that press conference for a second there. Nice of them to introduce you.”
“I didn't even think I'd gotten on screen. From what I understand I'll be getting plenty of attention soon enough. You ever heard of a PR guy from Seattle P.D. named Ash?”
“That sounds right.”
“Never met him. Heard things about him. He's supposed to be good at what he does, and he thinks like a cop, which most of those guys don't. His daddy was a good cop, I know that much.”
“What happened to him?”
“Car accident. Nothing even criminal, guy had a heart attack or a stroke at the wheel or something and drove head on right into the poor bastard. Cop in the passenger seat wound up in a wheelchair, too. Bastion, I think his name was. Can't remember his first name...”
“Now, I'm serious, Deputy, you get some rest tonight. You keep your head in the game, it's not gonna be a short one.”
“I said I heard you.”
He humphed and she hung up.
The ambulance exited I-5 and began a series of inexplicable turns, navigating Seattle's one way streets. Eventually it arrived at 9th and pulled into the offices of the King County medical examiner.
The ambulance pulled into an underground parking garage as she followed. When she reached the checkpoint she provided her badge and ID and signed in. She was given a parking pass and a visitor's tag, which she clipped to her collar.
She followed the EMTs as they wheeled a gurney with three very underpacked body bags on it through a door. One turn and they passed through double swinging doors and the temperature dropped distinctly. Anderson was glad she'd remembered her coat. One of the ambulance guys checked in at a desk and then they proceeded through another set of double doors, marked Morgue.
And there she was. A Seattle legend, Mildred Steele had been a new and youngish coroner when bodies started popping up around Green River almost 30 years ago. It had been a rough three decades for her, one heart attack, three divorces, an alleged stint in rehab, and 25 years of Seattle corpses before her forced retirement at 60. She was smoking a cigarette, but she tossed it into a sink, where it died with a hiss when she saw Anderson.
“Who are you?”
“I'm with the Sheriff, I'm part of the investigation team.”
“Ah, right. You're her.”
Anderson nodded. Women knew about other women, no further explanation was necessary.
“Here to watch then?”
“Just looking for something to go on.”
“Well, in all my years I've never seen anyone pull a fucking moth with a skull on it out of someone's throat, all right? Don't expect too much. I tell you, they can live quite well without me right until they decide they need me. Pulled me out of a class, did you know that? Teaching medial procedures and ethics at the University and I had to have my assistant take over to come down here and dig through cadavers. I've already done three skeletons and I can tell you there wasn't much to work with. If we don't turn up dental records we'll be drilling a dry well, I can tell you that.” She looked at Anderson as if expecting something. Then she shrugged. “Right then, put on some gloves and we'll get to it!”