McKean S03 The Ghost Trees

McKean S03 The Ghost Trees by Thomas Hopp

Book: McKean S03 The Ghost Trees by Thomas Hopp Read Free Book Online
Authors: Thomas Hopp
One day recently, while I was at my writing office putting the finishing touches on a news story about the latest tragedy involving high-fructose corn syrup, Peyton McKean phoned. “Remember the old shaman, Henry George?” he asked, giving pause to my indignant keyboard jamming.
    “Of course I remember him,” I replied with disdain. “He was my prime suspect in the death of that geoduck digger.”
    “Franky Squalco just called and told me George has been arrested in connection with the death of one Bradley Peter Olafsen in West Seattle.”
    “You see?” I crowed. “I knew he was a bad one.”
    McKean suggested an excursion to the crime scene, so after hanging up and shutting down my computer I put on my hunting jacket and boonie hat and went out to the lot and got my Mustang and picked him up from his labs at Immune Corporation on the Seattle waterfront. Following his directions, I drove us to a brush-choked hillside in Puget Creek Canyon, where a mud-splattered side track off the pavement of Puget Way led into a secluded glen among tall trees. Our Duwamish Indian friend Franky was waiting there, dressed in a dark green hooded raincoat, rain pants, and black rubber boots to fend off the drizzle and chill. He waved us into a graveled parking place beside a muddy, brushy, sword-fern-encircled turnaround. I pulled in gingerly, trying to avoid getting muck or mars on the Mustang’s newly refinished midnight blue paint job.
    Across from us a blue-and-white Seattle Police cruiser sat on a similar graveled siding. Beyond it, two men were hitching a tow truck to an oversized, camouflage-colored pickup truck backed into a grotto deeper in the forest. An officer was removing yellow barrier tape from around a crime scene within the grotto’s gloomy spaces.
    Franky’s dusky cheeks dimpled with an ironic smile as we got out of my Mustang. “Seems like you guys always show up just after everything’s done.”
    “Is the mystery solved?” McKean asked.
    “Cops think so, but I don’t.”
    “Then maybe we’re just in time. Tell me what went on here, Franky.”
    Franky led us into the grotto and gestured at a wide, long patch of sawdust-strewn ground beside a large, newly-cut tree stump. “That’s where Olafsen’s body was,” he said as a second police officer pulled up the taped outline of a human form within the sawdust area. “Got killed right beside where the tree was cut down. Big tree.” He gestured beyond the pickup, where the sawdust stretched off for perhaps a hundred feet through crushed undergrowth. Lopped off evergreen boughs and splinters of wood outlined the shape of a huge tree felled from the edge of a grove of tall evergreens. The trunk had been sectioned and hauled away. The piney scent of cut wood hung cloyingly thick in the damp air.
    Peyton McKean inspected the stump. “Western red cedar, Thuja plicata ,” he announced with his usual pedantic air. As the officer left the site, stuffing the tape in a black garbage bag and putting it in the patrol car trunk, McKean inspected the ground where the body had been outlined. Bending his lanky frame almost double, he meticulously searched among the wood chips for any fine detail the police had missed.
    Franky nudged me with an elbow. “That’s why I called Peyton McKean here, Fin. If anybody can clear Henry George, he can.”
    “Clear him!” I scoffed. “I thought we came to convict him.”
    McKean stared down his long nose like a gangly Shepherd dog whiffing a scent, inspecting the patch of ground closely. Then he straightened to his full six-foot-plus height and turned to Franky. The faintest hint of doubt creased his high brow under his tipped-back green Stetson safari hat. “I see nothing useful. A genetic analysis of the bloodstains would give the expected result, I’m sure. The victim’s blood.”
    “Cops said he got clubbed to death,” said Franky. “Skull got dented, neck got broke.”
    “Understood.” McKean glanced at the red stains

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