The Trinky Washburn Mysteries
Dirty Heels Mysteries
A body is found in the woods - staked to the ground, skinned and torn apart by dogs. Middleton City Homicide Detective Trinky "Wash" Washburn loves her kids, shoes, writing and the gruesome cases. As the skinned bodies pile up Wash battles demons while trying to discover a fine line between art and death.
“God damn it. Please tell me I didn’t just step in someone’s guts.”
“I can’t make any promises, Wash.”
Detective Trinky Washburn directed her small flashlight at her black Aldo stilettos. Whatever she stepped in wasn’t crimson, but that didn’t ease the fact that she was in the middle of the woods in four inch heels stepping in God knows what. Good thing they weren’t too expensive.
Cayne turned his light beam onto her. He had a Mag light, so it was as if she was in a spotlight.
“Like what? Damn fantastic?” Her lip turned to a snarl. She started across the soft earth. “I had a date. Do you remember what one of those is?”
“Vaguely.” Cayne put his light back on the lump in front of him. “Did you bring coffee?”
She stopped with one foot in the air. She spun around and motioned for a uniform officer to come over. “Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, Detective Washburn.” His shining name tag said his name was Wolfe. Everything about his uniform said it was brand new.
“It’s Wash. The only reason you’d ever have to call me Washburn is if I hate you.” She gave him a smile. She wasn’t one of those gorgeous TV female detectives, but she knew how to be friendly. “I want you to get some coffee.”
“We’re half an hour from the closest coffee shop.”
Wash held her breath for a second. When her kids talked back she liked to count to five to calm herself. “Does it really look like we’re going anywhere, Sparky? Coffee runs suck, but we’ve all had to do it. The old guy over there wants a large black. I want a soy non-fat latte with two splashes of vanilla. Get it wrong and it’ll be Washburn.” She flicked her hand to send him away before turning and carefully heading across the field. She had to lean forward and walk on her toes as the thin heels sunk into the ground. Spring was early this year, but the forest was still wet from all the snow that had melted.
Cayne flicked his light back at her again. “Why don’t you carry boots in your car? Anyone have boots for Wash?”
“I’m fine,” she called out to the other police officers around the small field. She checked over her shoulder to see if the rookie had left yet. “I didn’t have my car.”
Cayne let out a snort.
Wash was more worried about messing up her Silver brand jeans than her shoes. She plucked at the thighs as she squatted across from the homicide detective. The other cop handed her blue latex gloves. Her eyes fell on the lump staked to the ground. At some point it had been an actual human being. She could see the persons flesh and muscle exposed to the elements. It even glistened in the flashlight beams.
“If you don’t have your car how’d you get here?”
“My date dropped me off at the blockade and one of the boys drove me in.”
They were in the rural area outside of the city. Tulloch Park had been around for years with no real attempt at developing it, so it resembled a forgotten woodlands. Recently hiking trails had been cut throughout the park, but were not perfect. It was more used by wildlife than humans.
Wash’s eyes flicked up at the other detective. She was pretty sure she caught him looking at her cleavage because he rapidly looked down. Maybe she should have fastened the top two buttons of her satiny black blouse – Nah. Give the old man a thrill. Plus she was having a really good cleavage day. Wash was proud of her body and didn’t mind others looking. Proud in the fact that she was thirty-five and was still in passable shape. She stood a few inches short of six feet without heels, had thin lithe legs and enough curves where curves needed to be. She didn’t have a flat stomach (no matter how many crunches she did) but two children could do that to you. She wasn’t over weight by too much, just not as tight as she would have liked. Her chest was what she was proudest of it. They were more than a handful, as her ex-husband liked to say (and he had big hands), and after those two children had yet to travel south. She couldn’t really blame the other detective for looking. She had curled her dirty-blond locks before going out, but tied it all back tight after her date dropped her off. It fell beyond her shoulder blades normally.
When Cayne looked up again it was into her green eyes. “No coffee?”
Wash raised a plucked eyebrow. She wasn’t too happy with the job her oldest daughter had done. The curve was off. “You interrupt my night off for this and still want coffee?”
“I’m sorry. You usually like the gory cases.”
“That I do. And this is gory. And I sent someone for coffee.” She moved the flashlight around the body. Thinking about what she looked like seemed pointless at the moment. “This might be a stupid question, but is this a female?”
“It was.” Cayne spoke into a handheld recorder describing what he saw. “Ligature marks on hands and wrists, but no visible ligatures. Will get crime scene techs to do an in-depth search of area. The victim is face down with arms above her head and legs spread out.”
The technicians had already set up three large lamps on tripods around the area. The sun had already gone behind the trees.
“Are those spikes through her wrists?”
Cayne paused for a moment before starting again. “Victim has metal spikes through wrists and ankles. Dr. Nell believes these were pre-mortem. Victim is completely naked.”
“These spikes have to go at least four inches into the ground.” Wash looked up and pressed her lips tight together.
Without making a sound Wash moved her flashlight along the body. The victim had blond hair once, but it was stained with mud and blood. Cayne carefully moved it to the side exposing an ear with at least four piercings. She had been cut across the shoulder blades from one side to the other and then down each side, the skin of her back removed. The exposed muscle had been torn at by some animal. Blood had soaked the ground enough that everything around her body was black. Wash didn’t want to look and yet couldn’t look away.
“Dr. Nell thinks she was alive when she was skinned. Right here on the top left shoulder there are some hesitation marks as if she was moving. The rest of the rectangle cuts are all smooth. I’d bet he cut the rectangle before removing the rest of the skin.”
“If ever there was a time to go vegan,” Wash mumbled. “This is some sick Silence of the Lambs Buffalo Bill shit. This would have hurt like gorram hell.” This was one of those moments where Wash wondered what she was doing with her life and how she could handle any of this. She felt like walking away, but couldn’t let herself. Around these cops it would have been seen as a weakness if she turned away from the body.
“There is never a reason to go vegan.” Cayne pushed himself up making a few noises as he straightened out. He turned and waved for the doctor to come over. The older detective smelled of Old Spice. He wore a classic grey suit every day. He still looked okay for being a cop for almost thirty years.
Wash had been his partner off and on through the past year. “She should have been screaming her head off. Nobody heard anything? Who found the body?”
“Guy who lives at the end of the road. His dogs came home with blood all over them, so he walked down here to see what it was. Threw up over there.” Cayne nodded the way Wash had walked in. “Maybe that’s what you stepped on.”
Wash carefully swept the ground meadow with her flashlight. It was covered with dead golden grass that had grown tall and then was flattened by snow through the winter. Years of rotting leaves had been woven in. It was tear shaped with poplars, birch and some evergreens around it. There was no way the killer would have left any footprints in the spongy ground. Even her own footfalls had disappeared the moment her foot had left the ground. Beneath the grass was probably years of older grass was a meadow of wild moss and sponge. It smelled moldy. She wondered what it was going to smell like when the grass was green and painted with blossoming wildflowers. The forest was grey. It looked grey, it felt grey and the only way to describe the smell was grey. An overwhelming sense of loneliness overtook her. A hiking trail came into the meadow on the south and you had to search the north to find where it continued. The road they had come in on barely existed. Tire tracks had been worn down with a Mohawk of old grass between. Tree limbs curled over it like fingers trying to reach down at whoever was there.
“We ready to turn her over?” Dr. Kassandra Nell slopped through the meadow in bulky rubber boots. “You look pretty tonight, Wash.”
Wash scanned the body one more time. She pushed one foot against the ground. A stiletto sunk deep. She threw her arms out behind her. The small flashlight twirled through the air. One palm slipped out. She landed hard on her right butt cheek. “For Christ sake.”
“You okay?” Dr. Nell put down her case and extended a hand. “You did look pretty,” she said as she pulled the detective to her feet.
Weaving back and forth Wash tried to steady herself. “I’m fine.” She wiped her hand across her hip as she walked away.