October 7, 2017

The Last Victim Excerpt

Snoqualmie Pass- Cascade Mountains

Outside Seattle

Ryker Townsend

I sidestepped down a steep embankment with my boots cutting into dirt and tufts of grass. Dressed in khaki tactical pants and a navy polo with my Glock 21 in a holster, I wore my uniform to crime scenes when I could. The stench of decomp had a nasty way of bonding to fabric. Since I didn’t always know how bad it would be, I’d taken precautions and had a heavy duty plastic bag in my luggage to seal the smell until I could sterilize my gear. As the terrain leveled out, a dense canopy of Hemlock and Fir trees towered over me and blocked the steel gray of an overcast sky as a fine mist dappled my FBI windbreaker and cap.

“This is random…and remote.”

Why here? The UNSUB picked an isolated spot for his body dump. That sent up a flare that our unknown subject had become bolder in stretching his boundaries.

No one on my team spoke as we trudged through the wet brush toward the crime scene. Like me, the others were steeling themselves for what they’d find. Every investigator had their thing—a way to mentally prepare for what they would see—for what they would bring home.

When the flash of a dull fleeting shadow crossed my path, looking like a wisp of black smoke hovering over the ground, I glanced up to catch the dark wings of a raven cutting through the trees and the computer part of my brain kicked in.

Raven. A Trickster god. Prevalent myth in the Pacific Northwest. Poe. Edgar Allan.

My mind acted like a hard drive of stored random facts, especially at stress times. Sometimes they hit me hard and I blurted them aloud. That made dating a challenge. I’d always been drawn to intelligent women, but once I let them into my world, crossing that line usually ended any relationship. I simply had no interest in hiding who I was.

At the sight of the raven, keywords pummeled my brain to trigger imagery and I flashed on pages in a book I’d read, but spotting the bird meant something else. Scavengers would’ve already hit the crime scene and done their damage. All things considered, I preferred thinking of mythology and Edgar Allan Poe. If I had more of an appreciation for the circle of life, I might’ve embraced the synergy of being nothing more than walking worm food.

“We caught a break this time,” Special Agent Lucinda Crowley said as she walked alongside me. She was my number two and another profiler on my team. “The local field office dispatched agents to preserve the scene before the locals trampled over it.”

“Yeah, good,” I said.

I stopped and gazed toward the next rise. I didn’t have to ask how far the crime scene was. A circle of ravens and crows had gathered. Their black winged bodies cut across the gray sky like an ominous Hitchcock montage. The eerie echo of their squawks and their frenzied aerial acrobatics told me all I needed to know.

My body tensed and I emptied my mind to brace for what I’d see as I hit the crest of the hill.

It never failed. When I looked down to the clearing below, standing shoulder to shoulder with my team, a familiar twist hit my gut. I stared at the grisly work of the Totem Killer and forced myself to look beyond the shocking horror. Every severed limb was someone not coming home—a brother, a husband, a boyfriend, a son. The violation clenched my belly, but I owed it to each of the victims not to turn away.

I would have to speak for them now.

“Dear, God,” someone muttered.

A monolith of bloodied flesh stood fifteen feet high like a statue to be idolized. Dismembered legs, arms, and faces were tied to a tree to make a macabre tower. As exhausted as I was, my eyes tricked me into seeing severed limbs that twitched and slithered like entwined snakes under the circling cloud of ravens. When I blinked, the bodies stopped writhing and I let out the breath I’d been holding, but I’d gotten a taste for the dreams that would punish me later.

“We are your sons. We are your husbands. We are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off the bodies as I recited the quote.

“Who said that?” Crowley asked.

“Ted Bundy.”

I wanted to believe in God, but standing there, I couldn’t. With what I see, I don’t hear him anymore.

 

© Jordan Dane