T.K. woke up at 6:30 in the morning with a heavy, dark taste in her mouth. She'd been asleep for a little over two hours. Her phone was ringing. She fumbled for its glowing blue screen in the dark, muttering.
“This is Pounds.”
She shook her head, remembering the man from the day before. She'd seem him just a few hours ago. She remembered the look on his face when she'd said she thought Dr. Kelty was innocent. She turned the bedside lamp on.
“We need you to come back to Auburn. I...uh, there's been an incident.”
She sat up, a crawling sensation of dread shoving the slumber from her head.
“What's going on?”
“There's been a fire.”
Anderson's eyes sprang to where a sprinkler head poked from the ceiling above her.
“This hasn't hit the media yet, we shouldn't talk about it over the phone. Get up, get out here. I'll text the address to your phone number, okay?”
“Are you sure this is—“
“Just do it!” he yelled, and hung up.
She staggered out of bed and into the bathroom. She quickly went through her morning ritual, shower, shave, makeup, clothes. She did this often enough she always had a bag in her car with extra underwear, some changes of clothes, and essential toiletries. She finished up by brushing her teeth and dressing. She repacked her bag and took it with her as she left the hotel room. The hotel room she'd paid $190 for a whopping total of three hours, only two of which had been used to sleep.
She'd talked Wallace into giving her a lift back to her car and she vowed to stay at the first hotel she came to, which happened to be a trendy small one on the verge of Capitol Hill and downtown. The clerk, not used to 4:00 a.m. check-ins was bent out of shape about it, but she hadn't had the energy to give a shit one way or the other. She'd come upstairs and collapsed, staring at the ceiling in the dark for almost an hour before passing into a troubled sleep.
She left the hotel key card on the front desk and went in search of coffee. She found it, easily enough, at a Starbucks just a block away. She grabbed a pastry for breakfast while she was at it and went to find her car.
Her phone beeped and she looked up the address in her Washington State map atlas. She had thick volumes for all the Western states in her trunk, figuring they'd be used eventually. The address was a scant mile from the body dump site. She wondered if the fire Pounds had spoken of had revealed another body dump.
The sky was too gray to see any evidence of a fire from any distance, but as she turned the last corner, she saw a decimated building with holes in the roof, seated on a cul-de-sac that was filled with fire trucks, police cruisers, and aid cars. She did a U-turn and parked on the next block, walking back to the burned house through the drizzle.
She saw Pounds about the same time he saw her, and they approached each other.
“Anderson,” a low voice called out to her, and she turned and saw her boss, Florio, approaching along with detective Wallace.
She climbed into the back of a van with the three men, saving her questions. Pounds and Wallace climbed in the back, clearly delegating to Florio, so he sat on the middle bench seat next to Anderson and started.
“Do you know where we are?”
“All I know is I'm back in Auburn and I've had a hell of a 24 hours.”
“This is where Wozcynski lives. Well, lived.”
“Anderson, someone killed Wozcynski and his family. We assume it was the same unsub as the body dumper. He tried to start a fire in the house, but it didn't take. The fire was lit next to the bodies, so they have taken some fire damage and the house was filled with smoke, but the guy used a gas tank he found in the garage to start the fire, and it was filled with diesel, so it didn't blaze up like unleaded would have. Might have saved us a bit of evidence.”
“What, he didn't notice?”
“It would have been big enough to get awful smoky pretty quick, and a neighbor who gets up for work at 5 a.m. saw the fire through the window. He might not have been smart enough to tell the difference between diesel and gas, but he wasn't dumb enough to stick around.”
“And he killed the whole family?”
“His wife and two children are in the house as well. The whole family was in the living room, but it's pretty clear that's not where they were all killed. We brought you in to take a look at the scene because, well...”
“Because now it's my case?”
“How bad is it in there?”
No one wanted to tell her. After a drawn out pause, Wallace spoke. “We should be glad that the bodies in the dump were deteriorated. He left a mess.”
“Hmm. The freshest body at the dump site appeared to have been strangled. There was no other overt damage.”
“Well, maybe he's pissed off.”
“Yes,” Florio said, “Before you leave today, you'll be assigned two cops and a car that will shadow you until this is over. Three eight-hour shifts, no breaks, no excuses, no complaints.”
“The guy we think we're after killed Wozcynski and his family and tried to burn their fucking house down?”
“Looks like it.”
“No complaints at all, then.”