Unlucky 13 Page 2

At the same time, a tow truck was pulling into position to remove the Jeep, in prep for reopening the road, the only thoroughfare between San Francisco and Sausalito.

A Bridge Authority uni checked out our badges and called out, “Dr. Washburn, you got company.”

Claire came out from behind her van, shaking her head, and said, “Hey, you guys. Welcome to some kind of crazy. Let me give you the tour.”

She looked worried, and as we closed in on the Jeep, I saw why. The windshield had exploded outward, the front end was crushed accordion-style, and as I peered into the passenger compartment, my scalp actually crawled.

I’ve seen a lot of gruesome scenes in my fourteen years in Homicide, and this one vaulted to the top of the “most gruesome” list. I mean, number one.

Two adults, white male in the driver’s seat, white female in the passenger seat, both looked to be in their late teens or early twenties. Their arms were akimbo and their heads thrown back, mouths open in silent screams.

But what drew my attention directly were the victims’ midsections, which were gaping, bloody holes. And I could see where the blood and guts had gone.

The driver’s side was plastered with bits of human debris mixed with fragments of clothing and other detritus I couldn’t identify. One air bag was draped over the steering wheel. The other covered the passenger from the thighs down.

Claire said, “We’ve got blood and particles of human tissue stuck all over everywhere. We’ve got damage to the seat belts and the dashboard and the instrument panel, and that’s a button projectile stuck in the visor. Also, we’ve got a dusting of particulate from the air bags sugaring everything.

“These areas right here,” she said, pointing to the blown-out abdomens of the deceased, “this is what I’m calling explosive points of origin.”

“Aw, Christ,” Rich said. “They had bombs on their laps? What a desperate way to kill yourself.”

“I’m not ready to call manner of death, but I’m getting a handle on cause. Look at this,” Claire said. She got an arm around the passenger and leaned the young woman’s body forward. I saw spinal t

issue, bone, and blood against the back of the seat.

My morning coffee was now threatening to climb out of my throat, and the air around me seemed to get very bright. I turned away, took a couple of deep breaths, and when I turned back, I had the presence of mind to say, “So, this bomb, or should I say bombs plural, blew all the way through the bodies?”

Claire said, “Correct, Lindsay. That’s why my premature but still educated opinion is that we’re looking at a bomb that exploded from inside the abdomen. Abdomens, plural.

“I’m thinking belly bombs.”


THE LUNCH-HOUR RUSH had escalated from peeved to highly outraged. Traffic cops were taking crap from irate drivers, and TV choppers buzzed overhead like houseflies circling a warm apple pie.

The tow truck operator called out in my direction, “Hey. Like, can someone extract the victims? We gotta open the bridge.”

Here’s what I knew for sure: I was the ranking homicide cop on the scene, the primary investigator until the case was permanently assigned. Right now, my job was to protect the scene from contamination, and, no joke, the scene was a six-lane highway.

I marched over to the tow-truck driver and told him, “Thanks, but the wreck is staying here and please extract your truck from my bridge.”

As the tow truck moved out, I addressed my fellow law enforcement officers, saying, “Whatever this is, it’s not an accident. I’m locking the bridge down.”

“Bravo,” Claire said. “We agree.”

I dismissed nonessential personnel and phoned Charlie Clapper, head of CSU. I told him to drop whatever he might be doing and hustle over.

“Jam on the gas and jack up the sirens,” I said.

I reported in to Brady, told him what I knew. He said he would get hold of the chief and the mayor, and would be on scene ASAP.

Yellow tape was unspooled and a perimeter was set up with a wide margin around the Jeep. Roadblocks were placed at both ends of the bridge. Conklin and I documented the scene with our cell-phone cameras and notepads and chewed over some theories.

I was enormously relieved when Clapper’s van came through with a flatbed truck behind it. Both vehicles parked outside the cordon, and the unflappable Clapper and half a dozen criminalists disembarked.

Clapper is a crisply turned-out man in his late forties, a former homicide cop, and a very fine CSI. I went over to him and said, “I don’t think you’ve ever seen anything like this.”

After I briefed him on what I was calling a crime scene, we walked over to the wreck and Clapper poked his head into the vehicle.

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