She chastised herself for her first thought as she entered what was left of the Wozcynski residence. She immediately realized that she was another set of clothes that was not likely to recover.
The frame of the house itself was sound. There were no holes in the roof or any of the exterior walls. Much of the interior of the living room, where the fire was set, was ruined from the fire and the aftermath of fighting it, but aside from broken windows and the stench, parts of the house seemed completely undamaged.
Like her clothes, Anderson wondered if this house was ruined forever.
The smell was massive. While the smell at the body dump had seemed somehow light, as it floated in the air on the top of the hill, suspended beneath the trees, this smell seemed captive, and therefore thicker and meaner. A brief mental image flashed through Anderon's mind of photographs of the aftermath of the holocaust, trolleys, chimneys, ovens. The smell was dark and oily, like a grease fire, with an unexpected and gut churning sweet undertone. An unbidden memory returned to her from the creeping corners of her mind. Longpig. Cannibals, somewhere out of time, had once referred to white colonials that way. Because of how they smelled and tasted. She forced herself to swallow the bile that came creeping up her throat.
The living room was where all four bodies had been found. The first fireman into the building, after the small blaze in the living room had been extinguished from outside, had stumbled across Wozcynski's wife. Things changed rapidly after that.
The tour of the house started with the living room. The bodies were lined up with precision, smallest to largest. The coffee table had been moved to one side, where it was a singed and crumbled pile of ash and small shards of blackened wood. The couch, likewise, was largely a ruined relic. Family pictures and other art that had hung on the walls were completely colored by smoke, black or dark gray boxes of blankness.
She drug her vision back to the bodies. This was her job. This was what she did.
Smallest to largest, largest to smallest. There was a pattern to it. She wondered if there would be patterns upstairs as well. She had so little to go on so far, a pattern could dramatically help her start thinking in the right direction. She still felt so lost, without a place to start, and now this son of a bitch had turned the tables, come right into a cop's home and butchered the bodies.
Because, according to Steele, that's what had happened. She was brought in to do a preliminary finding because of the urgency of the case and she was able to report that though the bodies were burned, and at best they were still just assuming the bodies was the Wozcynski clan, until there was dental confirmation, all the bodies had suffered trauma.
The preliminary findings showed serious dental trauma to the mother, possible gunshot wounds, missing teeth, and several missing digits on the father, and the children...
She was going to think as little about the children as possible.
Then she was crossing the scorched living room to see the crime scenes upstairs, where at least two victims had been killed. It was assumed these two victims were the children, based on some circumstantial findings like a slipper and a toe, but it was still just guess work.
“Found one,” she heard someone report as she walked up the stairs. She looked back to see a crime scene tech chalking a circle on the floor where the couch had been. Inside the circle was what appeared to be a finger.
At the top of the stairs she followed the strobes of a flash to the master bedroom.
The room had been decorated twice. Once by a conscientious resident, matching colors to bedspread and headboard, the second time with sprays of arterial blood, arcing across the ceiling and the walls. A child's t-shirt, stained red, was crumpled up on the floor next to the bed. The flash continued to blast as the photographer captured the horrific scene. She could see the indent where the small body had lain on the bed, the puddle of blood where the last flow had been captured. It turned her stomach.
She returned to the hall and saw another tech exit the next room. She looked inside and saw that it was a girl's room, posters of cartoon characters and a cork board covered with photos of a grinning girl, maybe five or six, with gaps in her teeth.
In this room there was no blood, which was a mercy. Beside the bed was a pink waist cord from a robe, with a loop at each end. Her chin began to quiver, not with held tears, but with rage. On the floor, near the knotted belt, was a small, fuzzy, pink slipper, shorter than Anderson's hand. She hiccuped audibly and then moved out into the hall.
She strode straight ahead, ignoring the crime scene beneath her, making straight for the front door. She continued her stride across the lawn, chest hitching, to the curb where a coroner's van was waiting. There, she placed her hand against the side of the van, leaned over the gutter, and vomited up her breakfast. The strong smell of coffee hit her tongue going the wrong way and made her wretch again.
She spat and gasped to clear her throat, rebelling against further gags, knowing her stomach was empty.
She turned and there was Florio. She no longer cared about her image or who was watching. She fell into the arms of her dead father's best friend, her boss, and she wept.