When we arrived at Herring’s House Park in West Seattle, a police officer was clearing off the yellow warning tape and packing his forensics bags and boxes. He was closing the case of an odd death in a parking lot and moving on. Kay Erwin, epidemiologist at Seattle Public Health Hospital, had declared it shellfish poisoning and cops had quickly lost interest. Peyton McKean, however, was of a different mindset. Bundled in his green canvas field coat against the clamminess of the day and a fine drizzle, his head dry under an olive green canvas Stetson safari hat, he moved around the lot quickly, getting a perspective on what had happened forty-eight hours before. As he did so he interrogated the young cop rapid-fire while the man rolled up a length of crime-scene tape.
“The body lay here?” McKean drew an imaginary oblong line around an area of wet gravel with black-leather-gloved hands.
“Uh huh,” the officer answered. His neutral tone suggested he didn’t want to encourage McKean. He wadded the tape into a black garbage bag.
“And the victim’s pickup—parked here?” McKean’s long-fingered hands sawed a transect line from the row of concrete parking bumpers out into the lot.