Authors: Kendra Elliot
Trinity tried to remember Brooke’s teeth. She couldn’t remember anything obvious. They were white and straight like
most people’s teeth these days. Except her own. Her lower teeth were a little bit crooked, but her foster mom said it wasn’t noticeable and that Trinity was lucky to have such good genes she hadn’t needed braces. Which was extra-lucky because as a foster kid, dental care was scarce.
“You’ve already looked at all their teeth? Brooke had perfect teeth… in the front, anyway. I don’t know if she had any fillings on her back teeth.”
Dr. Campbell nodded. “I’ve looked at four of them so far. For the most part, they have great teeth. What I’d expect to see on healthy, middle-class teen girls.” She didn’t volunteer any more information.
Trinity slipped her cell phone out of her back pocket.
Would the doctor look at a picture of Brooke?
“Umm… would you…”
Dr. Campbell placed a hand on her arm, stopping her, her eyes sad. “You can show your pictures to the police, okay? We’ll let them figure it out by the evidence, not by me guessing from a picture.”
Heart sinking, Trinity dropped her gaze and shoved the phone in her jeans. The doctor was right. She didn’t want to hear it
be Brooke; she wanted to know the truth.
“Brooke wouldn’t kill herself,” she said quietly. “They’re saying on the news it could be suicide. I know her. She was looking forward to the homecoming dance next week. She had her dress and everything.”
Dr. Campbell pressed her lips together. “The reporters are speculating. Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what happened and they’re simply saying what will get the most attention on TV. The police and the medical examiner are the only ones you should listen to.”
Trinity looked into her earnest brown eyes and nodded. Dr. Campbell was deadly serious.
“Victoria asked me to bring you to her. The police aren’t ready to talk to you, and she was worried about you sitting alone out there. She has a project you can help her with.”
“Ah… okay.” Trinity had no idea how she could be helpful. Maybe the doctor needed some filing done. Or maybe Dr. Peres was simply trying to keep her distracted. She followed Dr. Campbell through a maze of hallways and into a large room that looked like a lab. But this lab had bones. Lots of them. There were three small metal tables, each with a skull and a shallow bin of bones. Dr. Peres was taking bones out of one bin and organizing them on a table.
Sweat sprouted on her temples and Trinity’s vision tunneled. Foggily she felt Dr. Campbell grab her arm and push her into a chair. She shoved Trinity’s head between her knees. “Take deep breaths.”
“Didn’t you tell her what we’d be doing?” Dr. Peres asked, concern filling her voice. Her feet moved into Trinity’s view and she squatted next to her, her hand on Trinity’s shoulder.
“No. I thought I’d let you do that. I didn’t know you’d already have the skulls out on the tables when we came in,” answered Dr. Campbell.
“Are those… are those…” Trinity’s mouth was too dry to form the words. She stared at the floor as it moved in and out of focus.
“They’re real, if that’s what you’re asking,” said Dr. Peres.
Trinity closed her eyes.
How had they removed the flesh so fast?
“Oh, honey!” Dr. Campbell kneeled and tried to look Trinity in the eye. “These aren’t the girls! These are some old skeletons. Dr. Peres thought you might like to help lay them
out. She said you were interested in anthropology. I should have warned you!”
Of course. They wouldn’t have cleaned the bones already.
“I’d like to help… I think.” She lifted her head carefully, expecting to see black shadows rushing her vision again. All seemed clear. Both doctors examined her with concern.
“Maybe another time,” Dr. Peres said. She took stock of Trinity’s face and frowned. “I can find you a magazine and let you know when the police are ready to talk to you.”
“No, really. I’m fine. It was just a shock. Those girls have been on my mind for hours and to step in and see…” Trinity scanned the room again and tried to get a grip on her breathing. She could do this. A distraction would be good. One of the skulls faced her, appearing eerie without its jaw and lower teeth. Could she handle touching the bones? It couldn’t be much different than the plastic skeleton in her anatomy class. She was interested to see if she could fit the pieces together. It’d be like a giant puzzle.
“Who are they?” she asked.
Dr. Peres turned to study the tables. “Women. They were found in Forest Park several decades ago. In a similar position to how the girls were found last night.”
It’d happened twice?
“There were six, just like last night. But with these women no one ever figured out who three of them were,” answered Dr. Peres.
“How can that happen? How can no one be looking for them?” Shock roiled through her, and her personal fog cloud vanished.
Dr. Campbell spoke up. “I suspect someone, somewhere missed them. I don’t know if back then they were able to get the
word out well enough. They didn’t have the immediateness of the Internet to inform the world. I wonder if the story ever went beyond the Northwest.”
Trinity looked at the skulls in a new light.
Had families been wondering for years what happened?
“You have to figure it out. You have to let their families know,” she said to Dr. Peres. “How old are they?”
“They were young women. Late teens or early twenties.”
Alarm raced up Trinity’s spine. “What do the police think?”
Dr. Campbell gave a sad smile. “I don’t know what they think, yet. Dr. Peres is going to assess the remains and see if she can find any indicators for who these women were.”
The importance of Dr. Peres’s responsibility rendered Trinity speechless.
What was it like to have such an important job?
She studied the tall woman. The doctor didn’t look stressed or upset. She looked ready to get to work. Trinity’s budding desire to be a fashion designer suddenly seemed trite.
“Why, Victoria,” said Dr. Campbell. “From the expression on Trinity’s face, I’d say we have a future forensic anthropologist on our hands.”
Dr. Peres pulled her gaze away from the closest skull and studied Trinity. Her eyes were warm and a rare smile curved her lips. “It’s not a job for everyone.” She tilted her head as she considered Trinity’s face. “But I think you might do.”
A new path to her future rolled out in front of Trinity.
Victoria saw Trinity was wary as she studied Callahan and Lusco across the table. Victoria had snagged a small meeting room at the medical examiner’s office for the detectives to have a private talk with the teen. Her foster mom was on her way and
had given permission for the men to talk to Trinity as long as Victoria was present.
Trinity had good reason to be suspicious of police; her background was a sad one. Her birth mom had been in and out of jail multiple times for drug use and theft. Trinity had lived with her grandmother part of that time until the state realized Grandma had sticky fingers, too. The mother and grandmother ran a resale business out of their home with the items they stole from local stores. They were as busy as a Walmart. The locals knew where to buy cheap batteries, cigarettes, and skin care; they didn’t care if the products were tagged with the grocery store’s security sticker.
Callahan and Lusco watched the girl with careful eyes, and Victoria wondered if they saw the same thing she did. Trinity Viders felt like a breath of fresh air in the medical examiner’s office. Victoria and the detectives had spent the morning with dead girls, and it was invigorating to see teenage eyes that blinked instead of staring foggily at the ceiling.
Victoria didn’t like to judge by appearances, but she appreciated that Trinity didn’t dye her hair pitch black or have multiple piercings in her eyebrows. Her blonde hair was neatly pulled back, her chin was up, and she didn’t wear makeup except a light layer of mascara. Victoria hoped detectives saw a solid kid in spite of the hell she’d been through.
“We tried to contact Brooke’s parents,” Lusco started kindly. “No one is at the house. Any ideas where to find them?”
Trinity shook her head. “Maybe they left for the weekend. They don’t usually leave Brooke home alone, though… of course they thought she was spending the night at my house.” Her gaze dropped to her hands clenched in her lap. Victoria noticed she’d bitten her nails to the quick. One outward sign
that the girl’s emotional state wasn’t as calm as she projected. She did a good job keeping herself in control. Her eyes were red, but her gaze was steady.
“Dr. Peres said your friend was meeting a guy in Forest Park?” Callahan asked.
Trinity nodded. “I never met him. He’s a photographer. I’ve seen some of the pictures he’s taken of Brooke. And some other girls, but I didn’t know them. She posted them on her Facebook wall and texted me one.”
“What kind of pictures?” The detective tensed and exchanged glances with Lusco. Victoria remembered their case last summer that involved pictures of small children and a sexual predator.
“The pictures were beautiful,” said Trinity. “They were good enough to be in fashion magazines. Or hung on someone’s wall. They were light and airy with an overexposed look to them. The girls wore white dresses that sorta faded into the background. It put the emphasis on their faces. I can show you.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and tapped on the screen. “I gave this photo to the lady out front along with the form I filled out on Brooke.”
Callahan took the offered phone and stared. Victoria had already seen the photo. It was a stunning picture. Everything was white except for the girl’s black hair. Her eyes were closed and she reclined on a white couch in the center of a golden field. There was nothing improper or sexual about the picture. She saw Callahan’s chest relax a degree.
“Do you think she was one of them?” Trinity whispered.
Callahan blinked and pulled his gaze away from the picture. He handed the phone to Lusco. Trinity looked nauseous. “I’m
sorry, I don’t know,” Callahan said. “They all had similar hair like this. I just can’t tell.”
Victoria watched Ray study the image, and his expression suddenly blanked.
Ray thinks he recognizes her.
From her brief time with the bodies, Victoria thought two of the dead girls could possibly be Trinity’s friend. It was hard to tell. A body loses much of its character in death. She’d purposefully not tried to compare the picture to the girls. That was up to Dr. Campbell.
“Do you know how your friend met the photographer? Or who else might have been meeting them that night?” Lusco asked.
“I think she met him through Facebook.”
“What?” Victoria felt ill. How many horror stories had she heard about girls meeting in person with someone they’d met online?
“He was shooting someone else she knew… I don’t know who… I think she went to a different high school. But when Brooke said she liked the photos, her friend put her in contact with him through Facebook. At least I think it was Facebook. Maybe it was Instagram.”
“My daughter has an Instagram account,” said Lusco. “I get on there and snoop around occasionally.”
Callahan looked at Lusco and raised a brow. “I don’t know the ins and outs of Facebook or Instagram. My son keeps telling me to get an account so we can share photos.”
“I’ll get the cyber guys to look into it,” said Lusco, making a notation on his notepad. “Anything else you can remember Brooke said about this guy?”
“She was really excited that he was interested in her. I mean, interested in taking her picture. I didn’t like that he told her to darken her hair, but it made the pictures look really good. I remember he’d told her she had the exact look he wanted.”
“Look? What did she mean?” asked Callahan.
“I asked that, too. She said he was looking for her age, build, and hair color for a certain photo shoot he was creating for someone.”
“So the pictures weren’t for him?
Trinity shrugged. “I had the impression there was a client.”
“Did he pay her?”
“Not that I know of. I think she would have done it for no money. She was excited that someone thought she was beautiful enough to model.” Trinity’s eyes moistened and her shoulders sagged. “She was so pretty. She’s dead, isn’t she?”
Victoria’s heart broke, and she wrapped an arm around Trinity’s shoulders, wishing her foster mom was there to comfort the girl. Trinity didn’t seem to mind and buried her face in Victoria’s shoulder.
Ray Lusco kneeled beside Trinity’s chair, patting her back. “Hey. We don’t know that. But you need to be ready in case that’s how it turns out. If it helps at all, it would have been like falling asleep. We don’t know what exactly killed them, but I can tell you it wasn’t violent.”
Trinity nodded, wiping at her eyes. She sniffed, and Callahan nudged the tissue box closer to her. To Victoria, he looked completely out of his element. Plenty of men froze at the sight of a woman’s tears. She knew Lusco had a daughter and a wife. He knew how to handle this type of situation.
“We’ll find out what happened to these girls. And we’ll find out who was responsible.” Callahan promised.
Trinity looked up and held his gaze, searching for truth in his eyes. She nodded.
Victoria met Callahan’s brown gaze. He was on a mission.
She believed him, too.