Chapter 4: "Matches"
Smith pulled up to the Olympia police headquarters and went inside. After a short conversation with the front desk and a short wait while she used the telephone, he got directions to drive just a few blocks north, to the Port of Olympia Marine Terminal. As he drove up, he could see yellow police tape strung up allover the staging yard, which lead him to his contact with the Olympia agency, Detective David Wallace. Smith introduced himself, and the men shook hands.
“A drowning?” he asked.
“I don't think so,” Wallace answered. “Although some of her essence probably did end up in the Sound.”
The Olympia detective looked up and waved at a Thurston County Sheriff's Office vehicle pulling away, leaving just Smith and Wallace there in the industrial lot. “It was a woman in her late twenties, she was last seen by acquaintances Saturday night at a downtown bar a few blocks away,” Wallace said.
“I'm hearing she was a musician?” Smith asked.
“Yeah, she was in a musical outfit, they were gigging at the bar where she was last seen,” he answered. “MacKinney gave me a summary of one of your ongoing cases. How's that coming?
“A woman, mid-thirties, a sax player in a band with a regular gig. An earthy girl, no enemies. A former forest ranger. Somebody killed her with her own axe in her apartment. One of her band mates found her dead Friday night,” Smith confided. “Before we mail her body back east, I'm flying to Philadelphia tomorrow morning to take a statement from her nearest next of kin, an aunt.”
“Are you watching anybody?” Wallace asked.
“All of her acquaintances' noses are clean. Then again so was hers,” he said. “There's the band, but I'm the most cautious about her ex-lovers.”
“So this woman left the establishment where her outfit had her last gig, on foot, late Saturday, about 11:30, just a few blocks south of here. She lived in this area too. As you observe, the downtown district, all of this – including our station – is right within walking distance,” Wallace said, pointing south. “Nobody reported her missing, she was only gone one day and one night before we got the call from port personnel. The woman was hacked to pieces, back here among this cargo storage area.”
He started walking into the slightly maze-like array of cargo containers and palates of sealed stacks of materials. Smith followed. Several yards into a little dog leg of the dirt lot, Wallace pointed down at the ground, black with dry blood. It had not rained in about 36 hours and had not yet rained it away.
“She was mulched by hand here. Something both blunt and sharp, probably an axe, but we didn't find it, I guess it could be in the water, but the county guys dove this immediate area and didn't find it. The pieces of her – and what clothing that wasn't beaten off of her pieces – all showed clear cuts like an axe bit would inflict. What of her wasn't chopped up, or chopped off, was all bludgeoned, pulped,” Wallace said. “We've gathered her up, and put her down at the Thurston County coroner. I'll be going through her friends and family for the next couple of days.”
They drove from the scene to the coroner's office, a few miles away. The coroner had placed the woman's body parts in their correct approximate relative arrangement, the pieces all labeled and itemized with forensic pins and cards. The woman's name was Katherine Wells, 29. The assistant coroner said there was good evidence of very recent sexual activity with a man as there was a significant volume of semen present; further. And while it was impossible to tell whether the sex was consensual, it had evidently taken place before she was eviscerated, he said.
Smith thanked Wallace for allowing him access to the Olympia investigation, and for his time, and Wallace reciprocated the gratitude.
After some further conversation with Wallace, Smith left and began making his way back up to Tacoma. Two axe murders, two single young-female-musician victims, only some 30 miles apart, both during the same weekend. By the time he got back from Philadelphia, Wallace would be done taking all of his initial statements from Wells' acquaintances, and might by then have sorted out some useful information for comparison. Potential new leads. Before he went back to the office, he stopped at his apartment and packed a bag for the trip to Philadelphia, and made a sandwich to take back with him for dinner at work. It was about 5 o'clock when he returned to the station.
He looked again at the results of the background checks on Foster and Wilson. From the state database, Skip Foster had nothing darker than a couple of parking tickets. Daisy Wilson had no criminal history either. Santos' band mates had a smattering of public drunkenness and reckless driving, though none in recent years. No parties of interest had any apparent documented history of moral turpitude.
Smith changed his mind about his sandwich, put it in his desk drawer, and decided to eat at one of Wilson's restaurants of employment.
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