Walk it. That’s how I processed a murder. Walk the crime scene, walk the neighborhood, walk until my mind caught up with my legs.
This case would take a lot of walking because I suspected this wasn’t an isolated killing. This looked to be related to a string of deaths and disappearances in the burbs stretching back years.
I’d made detective early in my career because I was patient. I didn’t force facts into convenient patterns. I let the evidence and environment paint the picture. And this crime scene was a huge canvas, a lush landscape brushed in blood.
So, I walked. Through the neighborhoods abutting the greenbelt where the most recent remains had been found. Almost a full corpse this time. Unexpected. Most of the remains the force had found up until now were bits of clothing, bones and teeth scattered in the undergrowth.
Since these deaths and disappearances in the county started a few years ago, popular beliefs ranged from cougars, bears or even wolves roaming the greenbelts to serial killers using the ravines as convenient dumping grounds for their victims to the turf wars of gangs using the cover of the greenbelts to make and distribute DIY drugs.
All plausible. All with problems. When you really walked them through. Especially with this corpse that was found face down in a culvert at the terminus of a greenbelt. The clothing shredded, the body bloated and decayed beyond recognition.
That’s what was eating at me. Making my legs turn faster and faster, so my mind would have to catch up. Beyond recognition. Of what?
Of a human?
That was the problem. It didn’t fit. Didn’t fit a cougar, bear or wolf either. The teeth and claws fit, but not the form. Or the clothing. It wasn’t at all clear what we were dealing with.
I stopped walking and took out my handheld. I brought up an aerial of the immediate crime scene. I expanded it and dropped an overlay with pins of deaths and disappearances in the county over the last three years.
I’d done this many times before, but something about this unrecognizable corpse in the culvert told me to walk it over again. I zoomed out on my screen until I could see every pin. Even the latest death.
It didn’t take any kind of skill to see the relationship of the killings to the greenbelts. But that facedown corpse in the stream was telling me something I’d overlooked.
Why greenbelts? What was their reason? Their pattern?
All greenbelts in the area stretched from the high hills. That was their origin. It was clear on the overlay. Five fingers of green sluicing into the burbs before the concrete of the city halted them. Each greenbelt a drainage, tracking back to a central source.
So elemental. So natural. They were drainages. Water forever seeking the sea.
The pattern of death pins was clear. Something was roaming the ravines, moving down towards the city. Bringing trouble. Staring at the overlay, it seemed to resolve more clearly into a massive claw with ever sharper points.
Time to walk. Back to the wellspring. Locate the source. Find the origin.
Of that crime. That corpse. That creature.
I put away my handheld. Patted my revolver. And headed up the drainage knowing full well what was going to come down on me.