Goddamn. If I were a serial killer, Colin thought, I’d spread the bodies around, too. Good way to avoid anybody getting too interested, in case a few of those bodies were found eventually.
If these were related, the few that had been found almost had to be the tip of an iceberg. Think of how much empty country there was out here, with the high desert stretching to the east, the wooded, rugged mountains of the Cascade Range to the west. How many places to dump a body.
He didn’t like this line of thinking, but couldn’t avoid it. He thanked the sergeant and asked him to call if he thought of any more details or heard of anything relevant.
His gaze strayed to the bulletin board and Maddie Dubeau’s picture. Did this explain her disappearance? He didn’t want to think so.
Duane called a couple of hours later. “It can’t be Maddie,” he said baldly. “We’ll check dental records, too, but...Marge says this one is male.”
Relief was sharp, a jab to the chest rather than a gentler flood. Colin cleared his throat. “Age?”
“Can’t pin it down. Apparently some people get wisdom teeth real early, some not until their twenties, some never. Late teens, she thinks, but she wants more bones.”
Colin grunted. “I don’t have good news for you,” he said, starting with what the Crook County sergeant had told him. “Deschutes County had a kid, too, found four or five years ago, buried in the cinders on Lava Butte. Some teenagers were out there at night, drank a few six-packs—climbing up and sliding down, you know how it is—and they uncovered bones. A boy smashed the skull with his foot.”
“Bet that still gives him nightmares.”
“No shit,” Colin agreed. “That one was shot. There was an exit hole in the back of the head. Since, unlike Crook County, they had teeth, they were able to identify the victim. Another runaway, a girl from Vancouver last seen in Portland. Sixteen years old.”
“The one here in town was about the same age, too, wasn’t she?” Duane said thoughtfully.
“There are a hell of a lot of kids that age on the street.”
This wasn’t a problem they had much in Angel Butte. Winters were too cold in central Oregon for anyone to sleep in doorways or alleys year-round, and the town was too small for prostitution and panhandling to hide in shadows. But in larger cities, it was another matter.
“I called Bend, too,” Colin continued. “They didn’t have anything related. They think. A Detective—” he glanced at his notes “—Jacobs is going to do some research. He’s only been with the department for four years. Klamath County’s getting back to me.”
“If this one is a guy and those were girls, there’s likely no tie.” A serial killer was wired to choose victims to meet a certain need, usually at least part sexual, which almost always meant they were of one gender or the other.
“Probably not,” Colin agreed. Which didn’t mean these bones weren’t in some way connected to Maddie’s disappearance.
Duane gave an update on the search, which so far had turned up only a few additional small bones from a hand or foot.
The two men left it at that.
Colin rocked back in his chair. Well, the latest bones weren’t Maddie Dubeau’s. That was something.
She’d be twenty-seven years old now, if she were alive. Twenty-eight in a few weeks. He didn’t even have to think about it. His relationship with his sister wasn’t close, but he’d sent her a birthday card just last month. Like Cait, Maddie wouldn’t be a skinny kid anymore.
Some people didn’t change much from their early teen years, others so much so their own parents wouldn’t recognize them if they hadn’t been there every day while the transformation happened. The plain became pretty, the beautiful, ugly...or just ordinary.
Which way, he wondered, would Madeline Dubeau have gone?
He shook his head at his own foolishness. She was dead. She had to be. It was past time he quit clinging to the stubborn belief that she had somehow survived. How could she have? She had been a kid. A girl, small, fine-boned, physically immature for her age. Injured, snatched late at night and never seen again.
The very fact that she haunted him suggested that she was dead, didn’t it? The living left you alone in a way the dead didn’t. Just look at him; he didn’t give a damn about his mother, who was alive and well in San Francisco, but his father he still actively hated even though he’d been buried four years now.
Colin swung around in his chair to look out the window at a courtyard and the brick back of the jail. Despite the calls he’d made today, this investigation wasn’t his. It was Duane Brewer’s, Jane Vahalik’s, Ronnie Orr’s.