When we arrived at Herring’s House Park, the police were clearing off the yellow warning tape and packing their forensics bags and boxes, closing their 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 the cops had quickly lost interest. Peyton McKean, however, was of a different mindset. Bundled in his green canvas field coat, olive canvas safari-style fedora, and plaid cashmere scarf against the cold and wet of the day, he moved around the lot quickly, getting the lay of what had happened forty-eight hours before. As he did so he interrogated a young uniformed cop, rapid fire, while the officer rolled up the crime scene tape.
“The body lay here?” McKean asked, his leather-gloved hands drawing an imaginary oblong line around a spot in the middle of the damp gravel.
“Uh huh,” the officer answered, stashing tape in a black garbage bag.
“And the victim’s pickup, parked here?” McKean sawed a transect line from the concrete parking bumpers out into the lot with his long-fingered hands.
“’At’s right.” The officer cinched the bag and paused to gaze amusedly as McKean hurried around the rain-drizzled lot on long legs, marching off distances with his hands tucked behind his back like some intense, gangly schoolteacher. I could tell McKean was worried he’d lack some detail of the circumstances surrounding Erik Torvald’s death when the last cop who’d actually seen Torvald lying facedown in the parking lot was gone and done with the case.
The officer got into his squad car and prepared to close the door, prompting McKean to call somewhat desperately, “Anything else I should know?”
“Nuttin’,” mumbled the cop, slamming his door. He fired the engine and backed away, making a half-friendly wave at McKean as he left us alone in the lot.
“There’s more here than meets the eye, Phineus Morton,” McKean remarked to me. He lifted his hat and scratched in the dark hair of one temple.