Despite their differences in stature, Agent Martinez was at least six inches taller and sixty pounds heavier than her, his spare jacket, a red, down-filled parka, fit Chase fairly well. She put it on, and immediately felt her body start to warm. Her eyes fell on the black box in the trunk and was about to say something, when Martinez took the words right out of her mouth.
“Let me guess: your service revolver was also lost?”
“They forced me to check it.”
Martinez reached for the box and handed it to Chase.
“You can borrow my spare,” he said. Chase opened the clasp and peered inside. A midnight black Glock .22 sat embedded in foam. She took it out, quickly checked the clip then reached beneath the coat and slid it into the holster on her hip. That, at least, hadn’t been checked.
Martinez stared at her for a moment.
“No-nonsense. I like that.”
Chase nodded, then looked around.
Floyd had parked at the side of the road, maybe thrity yards from the edge of a heavily wooded area. As far as she could see in either direction, there were no houses or cabins and, thankfully, no dogs or dogsleds.
“Come with me,” Martinez instructed, walking away from the parked vehicles. Chase followed him down a small embankment to a spot that had been disturbed by the snow.
“This is where the bodies were found: two girls, both sophomores at University of Alaska, Anchorage,” Martinez said in a voice reminiscent of someone reading a script. “Yolanda Strand and Francine Butler. Both girls were found here yesterday by a trucker shipping goods north to the Valdez-Cordova region. Immediately called it in.”
Chase stared at the two indentations in the snow. The area was much larger than should have been made by just two bodies, and she assumed that the rest of the disruption must have been made either by the trucker or CSU.
“Where are the bodies now?”
“At the morgue,” the Police Cheif answered. “Been there since yesterday.”
“And the trucker?”
“Well known in the neighborhood. His name is Trent Ford, but everyone around here calls him Big Rig.”
“And the girls? How did they get here?”
Martinez shook his head.
“Don’t know—went missing two days ago. Their bodies were discovered before anyone actually reported them missing—they were rooming at the university and when they didn’t show up to class, it was assumed that they had partied too hard the night before. Both had just written their final exam for…” Martinez paused as he thought about this for a moment, “… Eastern Philosophy, I believe.”
Chase continued to look around as Martinez spoke. Aside from the indentations in the snow, there was nothing else out of the ordinary, so far as she could tell in this foreign landscape.
“I brought you out here to get a scope of the scene, of the lay of the land. I wanted you to see how secluded the area was.”
Chase nodded, and found her eyes returning to the forest. She was reminded of the two girls that she had found in the barn in Larchmont County, the ones with the lips painted in blood, and the forest that extended from the rear of the barn.
“Frank and his men have already searched most of the forest,” Martinez said, following her gaze. “Didn’t come up with anything useful.”
“Two college-aged girls…” Chase muttered, partly to herself, “How were they killed? Any evidence of sexual assault?”
Martinez shook his head.
“Not as far as we can tell. Things move a little more slowly here than you might be used to in NYC. These two murders were the first in Girdwood in over fifteen years.”
Chase lifted an eyebrow, but it was Chief Downs who continued.
“Two homicides occurred on a reservation, and before that there were only three others on record. Those are thought to be drug-related.” Downs had a hard expression on his face as he spoke, and Chase got the impression that he was none too happy that these were still unsolved, despite the fact that given his age it was unlikely he was in charge when they had taken place.
“How were the girls killed?” Chase asked again.
Chief Downs shifted uncomfortably, his thick boots crunching snow beneath his heels.
“Exposure and blood loss,” Martinez said.
Chase thought of her own outfit, prior to taking Martinez up on the offer of using his extra parka. It was cold out, but not so cold that she wouldn’t have been able to make the trek back to Girdwood. She would be frost-bitten, surely, but wouldn’t die from exposure, she didn’t think.
“Their feet were cut off,” Chief Downs said, a far off look in his eyes.
Downs turned to face her then, and she saw that it wasn’t just the fact that murders were unsolved that bothered him, but he took this personally. She had the sudden impression that the large man took everything that happened in Girdwood and the surrounding areas personally.
“The two girls were naked and their feet were severed. Best we can figure it, this is a secondary location. Their feet were removed elsewhere, and they were dropped here,” Downs extended his finger beyond the disturbed snow. “We think that this is where they were dropped, but managed to make their to here.”
Chase’s mind started to whir.
Made their way? Without feet?
“How do you know?”
The Sheriff’s expression grew stern.
“That’s where their clothes were found.”
Chase swallowed hard.
And this is why the FBI was brought in, she thought, not with pride, but with something akin to disgust.
And yet, despite these disturbing facts, they weren’t the only thing that struck her as odd.
“Where’s the blood?” she asked. “If their feet were removed… where’s all the blood?”
Chief Downs’s frown became a scowl.
“That’s the thing, Agent Adams… there isn’t any.”