The day began as any other day, no hint of what was about to transpire in the cool afternoon showers. I stopped by my regular coffee stand, had to get my sinful fix for the day, a double tall hazelnut white chocolate mocha. Not all cops drink drip and eat donuts, personally I find donuts detestable, fried flour and sugar does not sound particularly appealing to me. I prefer a crisp, tart apple and a warm bowl of maple oatmeal. I watched the temperamental clouds begin to seek each others’ solace and unleash their holdings as I walked up the grim steps to the precinct, bringing much needed moisture after an unusually dry spell. My partner was running late that morning, par for the course. If I didn’t know better, I would think he was avoiding all the paperwork that needed processing, but I had to cut him some slack, domestic issues. It’s not a coincidence that divorce rates among cops is well above 60%, and why I have chosen to remain single, much to my mother’s chagrin. So, as usual, I began the paperwork without him, and was nearly finished with my first report when Paul walked in, disheveled and 45 minutes late.
“Sorry Cass, I guess I overslept.”
“Another night on the couch, Paul?”, I couldn’t help but notice that he was wearing the same pants and shirt from yesterday, but I didn’t want to goad him further, I’m sure Brenda provided enough last night. He just gave me a forced grin and tucked in his wrinkled shirt.
“So what do we have for today? Where can I start?”
I handed him the Robbins file, “You can start with filling out the report on the Robbins murder, I’m just wrapping up the Phillips report.”
“Sure, I got it covered.”
Unfortunately both cases were relatively normal around here in the Seattle Homicide Division, gang-related violence, in both cases the vic’s were under 20 and their ending hadn’t been their first brush with violence. Craig Phillips had been shot over a drug deal gone bad, and fortunately for us his doer had not been a stranger to SPD either, he’d had several busts in the past few years, mostly drug and gang related. Luckily he was not the smartest, after firing three rounds, two of them making contact with Phillips, he had left the shell casings and plenty of witnesses around the body. Not that the witnesses would do much good, most of them were somehow connected to the gangs, either actively participating or being forced into silence. But the shell casings were all the witness that we needed, with one full and three partial fingerprints on the casings, it didn’t take long to make an ID, and within two weeks he had been apprehended at his girlfriend’s house. Luckily for us you don’t need an IQ test to get into a gang, but it does become disheartening constantly arresting teenagers for killing other teenagers. It seems like fewer and fewer pass the age of 25. The shooter himself had just past the age of 18 two months ago, just in time to be tried as an adult.
So when the call came in at 10:18 that morning, we had suspected the body would be more of the same, another case of kids killing kids over drugs or territory. Paul and I made the ride out together, as usual I drove, Paul was a bad enough driver without sleep deprivation and the added stress. We were headed to Rainier Beach, a small neighborhood in the Rainier Valley area south of Seattle. It had long been a hot-spot for gang activity; it was not uncommon to have multiple reports of shots fired within a single week. Occasionally a body was found assumed to have accompanied the shots overheard.
We pulled up to the crime scene at the end of Island Drive, ending in Atlantic City Park. Atlantic City Park was an unusual haven separating the high-end waterfront luxury homes with private boat launches from the violence of gang turf two blocks to the west. The barrier between two worlds consisted of a meager beach, some trees and a long patch of grass. The girl was in a grove of trees on the south end of the park, less than a football field away from the beach. She wasn’t off any trails or footpaths, the only reason she had been found was a wandering beagle on his morning walk with his owner. He wouldn’t stop howling and wouldn’t leave her body until his owner found the macabre prize. Both he and his owner were now sitting in the back end of the ambulance, talking with a police officer while the EMT’s gave him oxygen. I’m sure it had been quite a shock to the retiree, only planning on finding only what he could fit in his little doggie-waste bags attached to the leash. We could talk to him after we observed the scene, I motioned for Paul to follow me into the overgrowth leading into the patch of woods where there was a web of yellow tape and uniforms gathering to both preserve the scene and prohibit gawkers. I don’t know what it is about dead bodies that seem to fascinate people, especially in this neighborhood; you would think they would have had enough by now.
The area surrounding the body was eerily serene, the foliage above acting as a mesh umbrella, turning the rain into more of a mist, coating everyone in a silvery perspiration. It had already blanketed the body and the ground around it. I saw a group of uniforms grouped on the left of the body, talking shop and sipping coffee, I hailed one over.
“Yeah, detective? What can I do for you?”
“Hi Officer Henderson, can you see if you can find some sort of tarp or large umbrella that we can use to cover the scene? I don’t want to have any of this rain compromise any evidence that might be on the body. If the CSU doesn’t have one, you’ll have to head over to the Rite-Aid on Rainier and Henderson and pick up one of those pop-up gazebo things that you take camping.”
“Will do, CSU should be here within ten, so I’ll send someone down to the Rite-Aid just in case.”
“Hey Cass, I don’t think this is gang related.” Paul was donning his latex gloves, carefully taking in the scene around the body, “Look at the body, it’s clean, no visible gunshot wounds, and where are her clothes? There’s no sign of a struggle here, and no blood anywhere, not even around the cuts. I think this is a body dump. She’s got gang tattoos on her neck and arms, but no makeup. And look at her nails, they’ve been cut and they look clean. That’s a bit unusual for this area.”
He was right, this was not the typical homicide.