One Through the Heart Online - Kirk Russell Page 0,1

tape, and Raveneau took that in, the yellow tape making a ragged transit across rock roses and rosemary before falling back to the path. He stepped over it on to the concrete slab.

Raveneau’s partner, Elizabeth la Rosa, his partner in the Cold Case Unit, was on her way. So was a photographer and a pair from CSI. The Medical Examiner was standing by, interested and curious and waiting on a call from Raveneau. The ME had given the forensic anthropologist a heads-up. She was a subcontractor to SFPD and lived north of here an hour and a half away, but with multiple skulls they might well need her.

Nothing said Ann Coryell’s skull was among them and nothing said this was a cold case, and yet Raveneau prevailed at Homicide. He had pulled the Coryell file from the Cold Case closet and argued he should be the one to go evaluate, though now as he looked down at the galvanized steel cover he couldn’t get his head around how they missed finding this ten years ago when Lash opened his house and gardens to the homicide inspectors. Raveneau had been here then. He turned to Baylor looking for an answer.

‘How was it hidden?’

‘See those wooden slats over there?’

Raveneau saw rectangular wooden frames stacked on top of each other crushing plants on the lowest terrace.

‘I had two hombres tearing down the shed. They found the cover when they pulled those up. They were put together like one of those puzzles that has to go together just right. They pulled them up and came and got me.’

‘What time was that?’

‘Eight, maybe eight thirty in the morning yesterday.’

‘They came and got you and then what?’

‘I got some bolt cutters and a flashlight and we cut the lock and I climbed down.’

‘What did you think it was?’

‘I thought it might be where they hid stuff.’

‘What stuff?’

‘I don’t know, maybe like a wine cellar, but I didn’t touch anything. My uncle is a San Francisco cop. He’s got this demolition business going because he’s going to be retiring soon, but he’s been a cop like forever and he’s taught me what not to do.’

And just like that Raveneau knew who Baylor was. Just as quickly, he decided to leave that alone for now.

‘My uncle will probably chew my ass for not calling the police sooner.’

Raveneau went back to his car for a flashlight. He opened the hatch cover and laid the heavy-hinged lid down on the concrete. There was a metal pole alongside the steel rung ladder leading down that at first he mistook for a flagpole. But after studying the pulley system attached, he realized the pole was for hoisting or lowering things into the shelter.

When he grasped the steel ladder and stepped on to a rung he saw Ann Coryell’s face again, the angles of her cheeks sharp, dark hair and coat wet with rain. She had already walked the eucalyptus grove just over the low stone inside the Presidio with the police officers who’d answered her call. She walked it again with Raveneau and rain had pattered on the dry strips of eucalyptus bark and made the slope slippery as they listened for a woman screaming. They didn’t hear anything but he gave her his cell number in case there was anything more that night.

He told her to call at any hour and she did. She called at 3:14 a.m. and he slept through it, the ringer accidentally or clumsily off on his cell. That message was the last known moment she was alive. Raveneau had never forgiven himself, probably never would. He stared at Baylor a moment then climbed on to the rungs of the ladder and descended into darkness.

TWO

The air was cool and musty with mold. Raveneau didn’t smell decomposition. He smelled concrete dust and rotting canvas and an earthiness that might be the bones. A faint faraway whistling came from a ventilation shaft that he located now with the flashlight beam. Boot tracks marked the dust, and following those he spotted small pieces of mud and figured the prints were Baylor’s. He shined the light on the concrete wall to his left, worked the perimeter, touching on folding chairs leaned against a wall, a metal card table of a type he hadn’t seen in decades, and then a steel cot with a stained mattress.

He took several steps toward it. Straps attached to the frame looked like old auto seat-belts. He held the light on the mattress and then the floor