“And no dust like you’d expect from something sitting under the building for years.”
“Male? Female?” Like it mattered. A skeleton was under his building. The sex wouldn’t matter to the media.
Terry’s eyebrows lifted slightly. “I don’t know. They brought in a forensic anthropologist to take a look. A real bitch. She bit Darrow’s head off when he peeked inside the tent a few hours ago. Darrow also told me he’d signed in another specialist from the medical examiner’s office not too long ago.”
“No reporters yet?” Jack scanned the street. When had the neighborhood grown so old? The houses looked like they’d been banished to a rest home for old buildings. It’d once been a well-kept, middle-class area. He turned back to the apartment building, heart sinking at the dated architecture and failing roof. It looked like crap. He’d have a firm talk with the manager. No one had told him the building had fallen into such lousy condition. Jack grimaced. He couldn’t personally supervise every structure owned by Harper Developing. That’s why he hired local property management companies.
“Not yet.” Terry paused. “Looks like that place needs a lot of work. Wouldn’t hurt to plow the building under and start over.”
“I don’t think a high-rise of condos would blend into the neighborhood.”
Terry chortled and punched him in the shoulder. “That’s right. Now your buildings are too snobby for the likes of this hick town.”
The words stung.
This little apartment building had been one of Dad’s first investments. Back in the 1960s, Jacob Harper had bought several rental properties in his hometown of Lakefield. Property values grew and he bought more. After Lakefield, Jacob had slowly expanded his purchases to the north and south, picking up aging properties and remodeling them into places Middle America called home. Over forty years, he’d created a solid reputation for Harper Developing.
A reputation that’d sat heavily on Jack’s shoulders for five years.
“I need to know exactly what’s going on. Who’s in charge of the scene?”
“You’re looking at him.” Terry expanded his chest with a deep breath and a frown. “I was here first and cordoned everything off. All the residents have been interviewed. No one knows shit. We’ve handed the investigation off to state. We don’t have the forensic equipment or specialists for this type of crime.”
Jack wasn’t surprised Terry was the lead cop on-site. Under the big athletic persona was a quick, logical mind. “I don’t see anyone from OSP.” Oregon State Police often assisted small communities like Lakefield when they needed help.
“I expect a detective team from Major Crimes at any time. They called the medical examiner, who came and confirmed the skeleton was dead.” Terry rolled his eyes. “The ME called the anthropologist.”
“Well then, that’s who I’ll talk to. I can’t stand here blind. My cell phone’s going to be burning up as soon as the media gets wind of this. I need some answers.” Jack strode toward the tent.
“Uh, Jack.” Terry grabbed at his arm, talking quickly. “That anthropologist isn’t gonna tell you anything. She looked at me like I’d crawled out from under the building with the rats. And I’m in uniform.”
He shook off Terry’s grip. “I’m the owner.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Terry clamped his mouth shut and followed at Jack’s right flank. Silent team support. Just like when they’d played football in high school.
“Here.” Dr. Peres emptied the contents of a paper bag into Lacey’s hands. Lacey’s memory of the man with eyes like storm clouds evaporated as a pair of intricate gold earrings sparkled on her palm.
Lacey’s mind snapped into place and her focus sharpened.
No, not earrings. Bridges. A pair of old, removable gold dental bridges designed to replace a missing tooth. These bridges had held the mandibular molar spaces open. Lacey could clearly picture them in place on the skeleton’s small jaw. They resembled small pieces of jewelry. The delicate spider-leg clasps would connect to adjacent teeth to secure a gold tooth in the place of the missing tooth.
Something sparked and then dimmed in her memory.
“Old dentistry. No one makes bridges like this anymore. And they haven’t for a long time,” Lacey stated.
“How old?” Dr. Peres peered at the gold. “Could they help narrow a time frame?”
Lacey shrugged as her field of vision narrowed to exclude everything but the bridges. An overwhelming urge to hurl the gold to the ground shot through her.
Something was wrong.
“I can’t say. Maybe the dentist was old, not the dentistry. Maybe he practiced old-school techniques. There are hundreds of dentists who don’t update some of the methods they learned in dental school. These could be any age.”
“Well, that’s not a very big help.” Dr. Peres glanced at her watch. “I’m going to go steal a cup of the cops’ coffee. Want some?”
“I’d kill for coffee. Please. Black.” Lacey watched the doctor disappear out the back flap door. She exhaled and relaxed her shoulders, noticing that both techs did the same thing. The three in the tent exchanged a wry look. It was tough to be in close quarters with Dr. Peres for any period of time. Lacey turned her focus back to the gold in her hand.