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Chapter 11: "Sock Hop Southbound"


Coroner Thompson rode with Detective Thompson on the way back to Tacoma, giving Smith more time in his normal state—alone—to consider recent developments and the matter at hand. Janice Allison would arrive in Tacoma today, for the next day's funeral, adding a dynamic to the Foster-Wilson duo that might make the couple more readable.

They were parties of interest in this case for a number of reasons—significant involvement with Santos, positioned to know things about Santos' world, and really the only people of whom to ask questions, now that the smoke had cleared, so to speak. But, they were clean. Unreadable. Busy, professionally. Busy burying Santos, among other things, Smith thought. He could smell something on them. He thought it was sex—elitist, brown-leather kink—that he sensed, rather than violence. But the two can smell the same, and sometimes, they are one and the same—and this was, after all, a homicide investigation, the detective considered.

He was uncertain regarding the level of credence and relevance with which to consider Olympia's shark situation. The axe in the big fish seemed like a clear taunt. Conversely, Smith was confident, however, that the womanimal inside of the dead shark was unsolvable nonsense, just like the ones up at the Pierce County Coroner's Office that Thompson had been bagging. Aside from the fact that it was pretty much open season on those things, they seemed to be of no forensic value in and of themselves, inasmuch as they were a true crime only unto themselves (and, of course, in very real ways, to their victims); but they seemed to warrant no further explanation because one seemed not to exist for them. Their existence contained no true meaning; empty vessels.

Unexplainable? Yes. Logically meaningful? No. But dangerous? Quite so. Relevant only as placeholders, and things to avoid.

But. That axe in the shark might be a light in the otherwise bottomless fog of womanimals. Unlike the furries, the proper origins of that piece of hardware might be traceable, might lead to a normal, secular, non-haunted, non-zombie person of interest, possibly a suspect, or some other helpful forensic pathways that might cross other relevant logical paths, lighting them on the way. Or not—it was just one wet axe, he thought. Pretty tenuous. But, down inside, Smith felt like it was probably the same axe used in the Wells homicide, considering the proximity to the scene of her murder, both by clock and by walk. Most probably not a coincidence, he felt sure. Even if the axe couldn't be traced, and it probably couldn't be, it was still a piece of hard evidence, in hand.

Generally, evidence was pretty slim for both the Santos and Wells cases. Each of them left behind a group of distracted yet innocent musicians. Each left behind a shine of personality and lifestyle that were also not conducive to axe murder investigations—they were nice gals, so there was no fish-in-a-barrel ease in finding suspects in their wakes. There were no scumbags, Smith mulled, populating either woman's life.

...



He ate lunch at his desk. That afternoon he went to the hotel where Santos' band was the lounge act, and met with the back-of-the-house manager, whose duties included staffing the bar and booking the live acts. He had met with this man once before and was well due for a follow up. The man said the band was still playing regularly, and there was still significant foot traffic from the nearby Diddler On The Roof nightclub, and a solid flow of life insurance, encyclopedia, and vacuum cleaner salesmen coming on and off the interstate. But he gave no new insight regarding who were and who weren't axe murderers. Smith mentioned that Santos' funeral would be the following morning—of which the man said he was already aware.

Smith further mentioned that the rites would significantly involve Kelly Sammys tavern. And, he mentioned that the bandmates of the other girl whom was killed with an axe, last weekend, down in Olympia — Katherine Wells — would probably be all around looking for common denominators.

“You guys must be shorthanded down at the station, if you're soliciting volunteer work from punk bands and bar managers,” he said.

“It takes a village,” Smith answered, with a little glow of idealism. “This is our town, and we all have to live here.”

...



At about 10 p.m. Smith, sitting in his boxers watching sports news, took a call from Lt. Mackinney: “Thompson is cleaning up a scene at a filling station at I-5 and state highway 512. He wants you down there.”

“OK. On my way. Did he say what he's got?” Smith answered.

“More sharks, I think,” Mackinney said.

The staff on scene had already taped off the station, and closed it for business for the rest of the night, so investigation could be done, and also, so the blood and guts could be mopped up.

Smith arrived about 10:30, and Thompson briefed him: “There are no witnesses. As far as we know. The clerk is dead. Nobody...well, no other human bodies were found. And whoever called it into the city dispatch might have seen it all go down, but they didn't hang around and wait, and I can't blame them.”

Sheriff's deputies were loading up the headless clerk. The two detectives stepped over the crime scene tape and walked into the store station. The clerk's head had most likely been bitten off by a shark, a few of which were laying in the store's floor that was slick with biomass. Flotsam and jetsam. The clerk had put several buckshot loads into one shark, that was obvious by the condition of one of the dead sharks. One of the other sharks must have, in reciprocation, navigated over and bit the clerk's head, clean off.

“How are these things moving about, out of water?” Smith mused gently.

“How these fuckers can move about on land is a mystery to me,” Thompson grumbled. “Here are the two other dead sharks—dead by means other than shotgun—that is, both apparently beaten shitless by this wolflady with a baseball bat.” He pointed.

And there, hanging halfway out of one of the dead sharks (not the shark full of buckshot), was one dead, ex-baseball-bat-wielding womanimal—apparently one of the Chino Beavers who survived Saturday night.

“Well...get these sharks packed up too,” Smith said to one of the deputies. “We'll have the coroner cut them open, and find out what else they've been eating.”
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