The body lying naked and dead in a Seattle Dumpster was a shock. But even more shocking was the manner in which he died. The victim, a high school coach, was lynched.
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July 28, 2003
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Excerpt from Trial by Fury by J.A. Jance
I was hung over as hell when Detective Ron Peters and I hit the crime scene at ten after eight on a gray and rainy Seattle Monday morning. Peters, my partner on Seattle P.D.'s homicide squad, was quick to point out that it could have been worse. At least I had some hope of getting better. The black man lying behind the dumpster at the Lower Queen Anne Bailey's Foods didn't.
He was dead. Had been for some time. The sickish odor of decaying flesh was thick in the air.
Partially wrapped in a tarp, he lay propped against the loading dock, the whole weight of his body resting on his shoulders, his broad head twisted unnaturally to one side.
The human neck is engineered to turn back and forth and up and down in a multitude of combinations. This wasn't one of them. I didn't need the medical examiner's officer to tell me his neck was broken' but it would require an autopsy to determine if a broken neck was actually the cause of death.
Fortunately, the medical examiner wasn't far behind us. Old Doc Baker, his fall head of white hair wet and plastered flat on his head, turned up with a squad of youthful technicians. Baker supervises departmental picturetaking and oversees the initial handling of the corpse.
Crime-scene etiquette comes with its own peculiar pecking order. In phase one, the medical examiner reigns supreme. Baker barked orders that sent people scurrying in all directions while Peters and I stood in the doorway of the loading dock trying to keep out of both the way and the rain.
The store manager, with a name tag identifying him as Curt, came to stand beside us. He chewed vigorously on a hangnail. "This is real bad for business," he said to no one in particular, although Peters and I were the only people within earshot. "Corporate isn't going to like it at all!"
I turned to him, snapping open my departmental ID. "Detective J.P. Beaumont," I told him. "Homicide, Seattle P.D. Is this man anyone you recognize?" I motioned in the direction of the dead man.
It was a long shot, checking to see if Curt recognized the victim, but it didn't hurt to ask. Every once in a while we get lucky. Someone says sure, he knows the victim, and provides us with a complete name and address. Having that kind of information gives us a big leg up at the beginning of an investigation, but it doesn't happen often. And it didn't happen then.
Curt shook his head mournfully. "No. Never saw him before. But it's still bad for business. Just wait till this hits the papers."
"Optimist," Peters muttered to me under his breath. To Curt, he said, "Who found him?"
"Produce boy. He's upstairs in my office."
"Can we talk to him?"
"He's still pretty shook up. Just a kid, you know."