The Profane Series: Medium Rare Chapter 4b
May 2012 – Briarwood, ID
It was a ten hour drive to Briarwood. But rather than hijack the sherif’s vehicles, they dropped their entourage off in Vegas to handle the Searchlight bodies before grabbing a quick flight up to Twin Falls. From there they drove seventy-five miles due north to the Blaine County Sheriff’s Station, fifteen miles south of their final destination: Briarwood, population four hundred and eight according to the 2010 census, was situated on the edge of Sawtooth National Forest.
“Like I tried to tell you on the phone,” Blaine County Sheriff’s Deputy Billy Forest said, ushering them into the city’s small morgue facility. “The bodies we’re digging up way pre-date what you’re looking for. From the style of clothing and the degree of decay, the Briarwood bodies look like they’re from at least the forties. Maybe earlier.”
“Can I see the crime scene photos?” Vector asked in a low voice, interrupting Henderson’s automatic grumbling.
“Sure,” Billy said. He gestured at the swinging double doors. “Morgue’s through there. I’ll be right back.”
Vector slipped through the doors behind Henderson without touching them with his hands, he kept those buried in his suit pockets, jacket buttoned against the hint of a chill. He couldn’t stand morgues and mortuaries—the smell pervasive, unnatural, and dense with death, difficult to get out of his nose for days—but they were a necessary evil of the job.
The coroner’s assistant opened up the cubbies holding the remains unearthed up north, on the city line where Briarwood because preserve.
Deputy Forest swung into the room carrying a thick file of pictures.
“It was lucky that we found anything.”
“Hikers?” Henderson asked.
“Nah, the property up there was recently remanded by the county. There was an old farmhouse, safety hazard, teenagers like to hang out up there, throw parties, have sex, drink—you know, the usual schtick. So the county decided to tear it down before the summer, when we have the highest number of trespassing calls or minor injuries. Found the topmost skeleton—;” he laid the file out on a bare examination table, flipping open to the thick stack of photographs and showed Henderson. “—when they started to clear out the frame. Something about the foundation being unfinished. Then, the further we started digging, the more we found.”
“The newspaper said there were five bodies,” Vector said.
Forest groaned, nodding his head while he laid out the crime scene photos. “See, how the hell did you boys even hear about that?”
“It’s on the national wire.”
The deputy blinked at him. “Little old Briarwood is national news?”
“I’ll be damned.” Forest cleared his throat and stepped back from the case file. “There it is, that’s all we’ve got. And frankly, agents, I don’t think there’s much left for us to discover. A case this old? Whoever is responsible is probably long dead themselves. Or too old to cause anyone any more grief.”
Vector frowned and drifted over to the table. He ran dark eyes over the pictures. The bodies were significantly older than any of the rest they’d found at any of their crime scenes and all human, but there was something…
“Were these taken before the remains were moved?” he asked, taping there specific shots.
“As well as we could, yeah.”
“Do you see something?” Henderson asked.
He rearranged the pictures, overlapping them until they splayed out across the shiny stainless steal in the mimicry of a petaled flower.
“If this wasn’t our killer, maybe ours is a copy cat,” he mused.
Next to him, Deputy Forest gasped at the interlocking and ascending pentagram formed by the bones, now perfectly on display in the Blaine County Morgue.
Vector was already moving away, that itch in his head lighting up. He tapped his cellphone, a heavy little weight in his breast pocket. He wasn’t sure what compelled him to say what he said next—maybe it was homesickness or nostalgia, heaven knew it wasn’t an actual scent trail, but there was something about the idea, once it had crept into his brain that felt right. Not unlike catching the lingering whiff of their killers smell and knowing instinctually, with those thousands of years of hunter’s instincts, where he’d gone next.
“I know where we have to go.”
“From this?” Henderson asked, raising a skeptical brow.
That tickle in his head nagged at him and Vector turned to the deputy.
“Do you have the paper?”
He waited patiently for the two men to move.
Upstairs, Forest produced a copy of the local paper, which had run the original series of articles on the Briarwood bodies. Vector grabbed a pen and seated himself in the visitor’s chair next to the Deputy Forest’s desk. Behind him, Henderson asked where they kept the coffee.
“Not very friendly, is he?” Forest asked, jerking his chin at the Fed’s retreating back. He collapsed in his desk chair, the swivels squealing under the weight.
“Agent Henderson is particular about who he chooses to be sociable with.”
“Around here we call that plain unfriendly.”
“I’m sorry if his attitude rubs you the wrong way.”
Forest shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. So, what’s this about you knowing where to go next? What next?”
“For some months now Agent Henderson and I have been investigating a series of dump sites, from a serial killer. Pseudo-Religious in nature, spread out across the western United States, and all of them featuring five bodies arranged in a pentagram, like what you’ve uncovered. So far forensic evidence has dated our oldest site at six years. That was in Denver, Colorado. The other bodies were found in Montana, Nevada, and Central California. We were actually on our way to Las Vegas to examine the newest remains when I saw the article about your discovery up here.”
“Pentagrams not an unusual shape,” Forest said.
“No, you’re right. It appears fairly regularly throughout a number of religious, esoteric, and supernatural texts. And the scent here is too old for me to get anything concrete but…”
“Scent? What like you’re a tracker?”
Forest straightened up, planting both feet on the floor and his hands against the arms of his chair.
Vector flicked him a sideway glance, smelling the fresh sweat break out under the man’s collar. The deputy’s pupils dilated in the afternoon light and his heart rate sped up appreciably.
Forest swallowed and scrambled to his feet. “I better check and make sure your partner’s found the coffee.” In his hurry to flee, he knocked a handful of items off his desk.
Vector reached down and picked up the dispatcher’s pad and pen, keeping the pen for himself. He used his sharp teeth to uncap it and let the tip hover over the edge of the paper, closing his eyes and trying to think.
When he opened them again, he noted the map of the United States hanging up on one wall of the sheriff’s station, next to the glass window that looked into the main office.
Vector crossed the station, marking the locations where he’d smelled their killer. Tracing the route from oldest dig site the newest. Four points of a pentagram and Briarwood, Idaho right at the center of it.
“Oh, we’re such idiots. Why didn’t I think of this before?” he muttered under his breath, tracing the last leg of the star, the top leftmost point to where it naturally ended somewhere in the Puget Sound region.