Stephen White's Facebook page

Cold Case Excerpt

     The phone call that summoned us to D.C. came on a Friday evening in April. I was busy playing Frisbee with some pizza dough and Lauren was slicing garlic so thin it was translucent. Her hands were less sticky than mine were so she answered the phone.
     A moment later, with real surprise in her tone, she said, "Hi A. J. No, no, no. You're not interrupting anything. Really.  We're just throwing some dinner together ... Yes, in our new kitchen, it's wonderful. It's good to hear from you. ... We're doing fine, thanks. You?"
     I smiled. The only A. J. I knew was A. J. Simes, a retired FBI psychologist. The previous year she had been instrumental in helping me identify and track down someone who was eager to kill me. Before the adventure was over she had saved my life. Lauren and I had only heard from her once since she had left Colorado and returned to her home in Virginia.
     "You still in touch with Milt Custer, A. J.?" Lauren asked. Milt was also retired FBI, and had been A. J.'s colleague the previous fall.
     A. J.'s response to the Milt Custer inquiry took a while. Milt, a Chicago widower, had been sweet on A. J. during their sojourn together in Colorado. I fondly recalled his awkward flirting. But Lauren's next words yanked me back to the present.
     "You want our help with something? ... Both of us? ... Of course I'll listen. Should Alan get on an extension? Good, yes .... Hold on.  " Lauren covered the mouthpiece and said, "It's A. J. Simes. She wants our help with something. Why don't you get on the cordless and listen in to what she has to say?"
     I grabbed the other phone from the front hallway and A. J. and I greeted each other. Immediately after the pleasantries she asked, "Have either of you ever heard of a man named Edmond Locard?"
     I said no. Lauren said she thought the name was familiar.
     "Well, have you ever heard of an organization called Locard? It is, of course, named after Edmond Locard. He, by the way, was a nineteenth-century French police detective."
     We both said no, though Lauren had begun nodding her head as though she was remembering something about him.
     A. J. sighed. "Does the name Vidocq ring any bells? An organization called the Vidocq Society?"
     "Yes," I replied. "I've read something about them. It's, um, a volunteer organization of law enforcement officers and — what?— forensic specialists and prosecutors who try to assist local police in solving old crimes. Murders and kidnappings mostly. They've been quite successful, haven't they?"
     "That's right, they have. Very good, Alan. Well, Locard is a group similar to the Vidocq Society and has similar goals, though a slightly, mmm, shall we say, different philosophy and approach. I am one of the founding members. We are not as well known as Vidocq, which is mostly by design. Our members are not as prominent. That, too, is partly by design. But as an organization we are very effective. The reason I'm calling is that we in Locard have just made a decision to consider involving ourselves with a case that involves a crime that occurred in Colorado over ten years back but that also has some intriguing contemporary Colorado connections. I suggested to our screening committee that I thought you could both be of some help in our efforts. You, Lauren, could advise us on the lay of the local prosecutorial landscape. And you, Alan, could help me with some aspects of the case that might involve your clinical skills. The screening committee has already looked — discreetly, I assure you — into your backgrounds and authorized me to invite you both to consider assisting us on the case. Should the case develop as we anticipate it will, you would each bring an important local perspective to our investigation."
     A. J. told us little more that evening. She did explain that our participation was purely voluntary, and that we would not be remunerated for our time or for our expenses except for extraordinary travel costs, which would need to be approved in advance by the director of Locard.
     We looked at each other and shrugged. Lauren told her that we would be happy to consider her request. A. J. explained that we would need to come to Washington, D.C. at least once and possibly twice or more but that the Colorado family that was imploring Locard to investigate the crime had agreed to provide transportation for the initial visit.
     "When would this be?" Lauren asked.
     "The first meeting is a week from tomorrow. You would need to be at Jefferson County Airport at six o'clock in the morning. That's close to your home, right? I'm told that it is."
     "Yes, it's close enough."
     "There will be a plane waiting for you there at a facility called ..." She hesitated and I heard papers ruffle. "... Executive Air.  The family name is Franklin.  You should be back in Colorado the same day if you're lucky. Midday Sunday at the latest. If you're required to stay over, someone will make sleeping arrangements."
     "And you'll be there, A. J.? At the meeting?" I asked.
     "Yes, definitely. And one last thing."
     We waited.
     "Please don't tell anyone we've talked. Discretion is important. Essential. Agreed?"

     "She doesn't want us to tell Sam," I said, a few moments after we hung up the phone. Sam Purdy was a Boulder police detective and a good friend. A. J. had become acquainted with him the previous autumn, too.
     "I got that impression, too," Lauren agreed. "Any idea why?"
     I shook my head. "Secrecy is its own reason. Can you finish making the pizza? I want to check some of this out on the Internet."

     I sat down at the kitchen table fifteen minutes later. "There isn't much about Locard as a group. A little about Edmond Locard as an individual. But the Vidocq Society has its own Web page. Lot of heavy hitters are members. You know, CNBC types — the kind of people who had endless opinions about Monica Lewinsky. Some people who testified in the O.J. Trial.  Vidocq has a fancy meeting room in a townhouse in Philadelphia.  There are some blurbs on their Web page about 'cuisine and crime.'  Apparently, they have fancy lunches while they sit around and discuss old crimes.  The Web page makes it sound like some kind of club.  A regular crime-fighters' Rotary."
     Though she was drinking water, she handed me a glass of red wine.  "While you were on the computer I remembered where I'd heard his name before.  Locard.  He's the man responsible for what detectives and crime-scene specialists call Locard's Exchange Principle.  It's the foundation for the science behind trace evidence.  Locard's the one who theorized that when any two objects came in contact or stay in close proximity for an extended period, something, some material, either visible or microscopic, will always be exchanged between the two objects."
     I smiled.  "That's about all I learned on the Net, too.  That and that Locard worked in Lyons.  Can you believe we agreed to do this?"
     "Yeah, I can.  I think it sounds fascinating.  I'm more surprised that we were asked.  Let's face it, Alan, our national reputation as crime fighters is, shall we say ... nonexistent. I suspect that A. J. has an agenda that we don't know about."
     "Do you think it will take up much of our time?"
     She shrugged.  "I know a couple of people who have done this sort of thing before.  My impression is that it's more of a consultation thing.  I don't think it will be too bad.  Anyway, we owe A. J. big-time."
     "Yes. We do owe A. J. big-time."  I lifted the pizza to my mouth. "Gosh we make good pizza, don't we?"
     We were in.

     Our flight from Jefferson County Airport in Colorado to Washington National was on a private jet that had room to seat ten or so, depending on how many people squeezed onto the leather sofa in the center of the plane. On this nonstop, though, Lauren and I had been the only passengers. The whole private-jet, flight-attendant-acting-like-a- butler thing had led us to conclude that we would be greeted on the tarmac at the airport by a shiny black limo with a liveried driver, or at the very least a Town Car with a chauffeur. Instead, as we descended the stairs from the Gulfstream and collected our bags from our always solicitous flight attendant, Ms. Anderson, we stood alone on the macadam watching the approach of a bright yellow fuel truck. After a minute or so one of the pilots followed us off the plane and suggested we might want to retreat to the waiting area that was inside the office of the company that was going to service the plane.
     We were almost to the office doors when a voice behind us called out, "Yo. Al? Laurel?"
     The experience of traveling cross-country on a private jet had left me feeling impervious to discourtesy. I turned and smiled and said, "Yes?"
     The man behind us seemed out of breath. He was wearing flower print shorts, old Tevas, and a dirt brown T-shirt that was so faded I couldn't discern what had once been silk-screened on it. I pegged his age at around thirty-five. "Whoa, glad I caught up with you. Traffic is something for a Saturday and I thought I was supposed to go to the terminal to get you. Had to find my way out here by Braille, I swear. Anyway, I'm your wheels. This way." He pointed behind him, pausing only to glance up at the Gulfstream and said, "Nice ride. Is it yours?"
     He didn't wait to hear my reply, which was an amused "Hardly." We followed him to a red four-door Passat and loaded our own luggage into a trunk that was half-full of nylon ropes and harnesses, all neatly bundled. Lauren and I glanced knowingly at each other, recognizing the accoutrements of a rock climber.
     Lauren patted herself gently on the bulge that barely protruded from her lower abdomen and urged me into the front seat. Our driver lowered some narrow sunglasses from the top of his head to his eyes and said, "I'm Claven, Russ Claven, by the way. I guess I should welcome you, at least unofficially, into the ranks of Clouseau. So ... hey ... welcome to Clouseau." He affected a pseudo French accent for his final pronunciation of Clouseau, and completed his welcome by saluting us in a quasi-military fashion.
     "I'm Alan Gregory. This is my wife, Lauren Crowder. And ... did you say Clouseau?" I asked. "We were expecting to be met by somebody from a group called Locard."
     He laughed with a robust roar that came straight from his belly. "Clouseau ... Locard ... Vidocq. They're all just dead French detectives, right?" He laughed again, enamored with his own joke. "Some of us affectionately call the group Clouseau. You like 'The Pink Panther'? Personally I think Sellers is hilarious. 'Does your dog bite?' Was hilarious, anyway. You guys ever do the dead pool? Do they do that in Colorado? I do it every year. I almost won that year — the year that Sellers died? If Sinatra had kicked on time, it would have been mine. And John Paul? The man seems immortal. I had him on my list every year until they put on the zombie list. I got Sonny Bono right, though, if you can believe it. Just a premonition on that one. But I always pick the wrong dead Kennedy. Seems one dies every year but the rules say you have to pick the right one to get the points. And I can't tell you how many votes I wasted on Bob Hope before he got added to the cast of 'Night of the Living Dead'."
     I waited for him to pause for breath. He didn't. "Anyway, welcome. You know the District at all? We meet in a place in Adams Morgan. Not too far. Then again, not too close." He hit the accelerator with great force, as though he were trying to kill a roach that was camping out on the pedal. "Tell me. Which one of you is the shrink and which is the DA?"
     Lauren clenched the armrest with one hand and my shoulder with the other as she identified herself as the deputy DA.
     "Boulder, right? Colorado?"
     "Yes," Lauren responded, her voice tentative. I could tell she knew what was coming.
     "Did you do JonBenet? Was that yours? And was it as crapped up as everybody says it was?"
     "It wasn't mine," she said, smiling insincerely. "I was totally out of the loop on that one."
     "You must hear things, though, right? That DA of yours pointing at the camera and saying he's gonna get his man. I loved it. Loved it. I have a friend who started calling him Wyatt Burp."
     I knew Lauren desperately wanted Russ Claven to drop the JonBenet questions. To my surprise, he did. I couldn't decide whether he was displaying some sensitivity to Lauren's discomfort or whether he suffered from a congenitally short attention span.
     Claven drove the Passat aggressively. Lauren and I learned quickly that the German car accelerated with elan and—thank God—braked efficiently. He took us into the city across the Arlington Bridge and circled the Lincoln Memorial at a speed that made me grateful for centrifugal force. "I'm avoiding construction," he explained as he downshifted and accelerated up Twenty-third, as though he feared I was going to question his choice of routes or argue the charge on the meter.
     The morning in the capital was bright and warm. In some kind of seasonal time warp, Lauren and I had advanced a month further into spring by leaving Boulder, flying across country, and descending to sea level. She tapped me on the shoulder and pointed in the direction of the Tidal Basin and the sea of pink-white cherry blossoms. I heard her whisper "Maybe we'll have time tomorrow."
     I somehow doubted it.
     In the next few minutes I recognized the fleeting images of the State Department, Washington Circle, and Dupont Circle, but we were soon traveling through the narrow, car-lined streets of an urban D.C. neighborhood that I'd never visited before. The way our driver was looking around from side to side I had the feeling he hadn't been here a whole lot, either.
     "Parking's always a bitch around here, especially on weekends. Too many college kids live in this neighborhood. None of them are even up this early on Saturday morning, so none of them have moved their cars." The DJ on the car radio announced the time. In mock horror, Claven repeated, "Twelve-seventeen? Shit, we're late. God I hope the sandwiches aren't gone. I'm starving. Man can't live on potato salad alone."
     He squeezed the Passat into an impossibly small spot between a bread truck and a Chevy Impala that should have been in a museum, then removed the plastic faceplate from the front of his car stereo and slid it into the glove compartment. He apparently noticed my questioning stare and explained, "This isn't the best neighborhood in a city that's known for not having the best neighborhoods. Why do I leave it in the glove compartment, you ask? I figure that if they bother to steal the whole car, the thieves deserve a radio that works, don't you think? I mean, I could carry it with me, but what good does the front panel of a car stereo do me after my car is gone?"
     For two blocks we followed Claven on foot, at a distance. We hung back mostly because we were weighed down with our carry-ons and couldn't keep up with him. Finally, he ducked into the arched doorway of a stately old stone warehouse. He paused for a split second; I thought he wanted to be certain we were still on his trail. Once inside the building, there was again no sign of him.
     Lauren said, "Poof. He disappeared."
     "Back here," he yelled. "Behind the mailboxes."
     Behind the wall of mailboxes was a beautifully carved oak door. Behind that door was a tiny elevator. Claven called for the car with a key, escorted us inside, pulled the oak door shut, and tugged the gate closed. The elevator was about the size of a vertical coffin, sans satin. "Can you get to that button?" he asked me.
     "Which one?"
     "There's only one button. Just lean against the wall until the elevator starts moving." I did. It did.
     The elevator was patient. Russ Claven was not. He tapped his foot the whole time we were ascending. He was humming something by Bruce Springsteen. I couldn't remember the title, but thought Russ was carrying the tune quite well. Finally I remembered the name of the song. It was "Pink Cadillac."
     After a long, slow ride we exited directly into the foyer of someone's loft. Claven walked past us into a huge open room and explained, "This is Kimber Lister's house. Mr. Lister has good taste and the resources to indulge it. Family money."
     Lauren was taking in the beautiful furnishings. She said, "Indeed he does. What floor are we on, Mr. Claven?" She had moved her gaze to a southern wall of metal-rimmed square-paned windows that revealed an admirable view of the distant government buildings and monuments.
     "Russ. Call me Russ. What floor? Top floor," replied Claven. "We're on the top floor. Follow me. We shouldn't dawdle." He strode across a stunning old tribal carpet that was bigger than my office and up a ten-foot-wide staircase that was lined with banisters and handrails of exquisitely turned wrought iron. He waited for us at the landing and, with his arms parted, pirouetted to face a pair of heavy paneled doors. He said, "Voila. Oh, wait, do either of you need to use the john?"
     Lauren replied, "I do."
     "That door, there." Russ pointed to the opposite side of the landing. "Alan, you're sure your bladder is up to it? Kimber doesn't like anyone to leave until the initial part of the meeting is over. It could be a while. He runs these things like he's Werner Erhard and were all at an old-time est meeting."
     Lauren disappeared into the bathroom. Russ asked me if I climbed rocks. I told him I didn't but that I had friends who did, mostly in Eldorado Canyon.
     "Oh maaan. Envy, envy. You should try it, you really should. You'll fall in love, I promise you. I'm going this summer for sure. First week in August, I'm climbing in Eldorado Springs. A long time dream of mine. I'll tell you, if it wasn't for climbing rocks and windsurfing I don't know how I'd stay sane."
     I told him I liked to ride bikes.
     He nodded and said, "That's okay, too," but his voice conveyed the same kind of disdain that snowboarders routinely express for skiers. Lauren returned to the landing. Claven's last words as he placed his left hand on one of the ornate doorknobs were, "Don't worry about being late. They'll probably blame me. It's one of my primary roles in the organization.  Designated screwup."  He snapped his fingers and added, "Oh, and if anyone asks, tell them I checked your ID."
     A second set of doors, these of some kind of metal, awaited us inside.  Claven mouthed a profanity, added, "I knew it. They've started," and punched a code into a keypad mounted on the wall of the small foyer.  Moments later the metal slabs slid open in the same silent, fluid motions as elevator doors.
     The doors closed behind us just as the lights in the room were dimming to black.  My retinal image of the scene in front of me was of nothing but silhouettes.  The room was large, maybe thirty by forty, and appeared to have been set up as a small theater with perhaps two dozen seats.  I tried to visualize the backs of the heads I had seen and decided that more than half the chairs were occupied.
     Claven separated my hand from Lauren's and led her to our right.  I grabbed her other hand and followed them to seats near the back of the room.  The chairs were big, leather, and comfortable.  Mine rocked gently as I sat down.  A deep, unaccented voice cracked the silence in the room.  "Nice of you to join us, Dr. Claven.  You've gathered our final guests?"
     "Yes, Kimber.  All present and accounted for."
     A spotlight clicked on and washed an uneven circle at the front of the room.  At the bottom of the circle a man sat on the edge of a small stage, gripping a cordless microphone as though it were a cherished cigar.  He was staring at the wall to our right.  I was surprised to note that he was no older than I was.  His blonde hair was thick, like his body.
     "Good day, all.  My name is Kimber Lister. To all of you who are visiting my home for the first time, please permit me to offer you a warm welcome to my dwelling and a gracious introduction to ... Locard."
     The 'd' was silent.

     Kimber Lister's eyes never strayed toward the small audience as he addressed us from the diminutive stage. His voice was a resonating baritone that caused the subwoofer in the room's sound system to rumble. The rich timbre of the sound was an incongruous counterpoint to the body of the man who was speaking; Kimber was soft and round and appeared almost childlike and angelic, despite his size.
     "As we have three visitors with us today, I will briefly survey our procedure. The Locard Acceptance Committee has already reviewed the case we will be discussing this afternoon. After contemplation and deliberation, the committee has reached a decision to permit the entire group to hear the details of the case and to render a decision as to whether or not to offer our expertise and make our services available to assist the local authorities in accomplishing a final determination of the issues that remain unresolved in the matters that will be before us today."
     Russ Claven leaned my way and said, "He always talks like this when he's in front of groups. The man was born in the wrong century."
     Lister continued to focus his attention on the wall. "The purpose of today's meeting of the complete membership — in consort with our invited professional guests — is threefold. First, we will use this opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the specifics of the case. That is ... to review what is known, and to make an initial determination of the breadth and quality of the evidence that was developed during earlier phases of the investigation — those conducted by local authorities contemporary to, and subsequent to, the crime. Second, we will make a final determination as to whether or not to commit our resources to provide assistance toward further analysis. Finally, should we decide to proceed, we will endeavor to develop and implement a strategy that will permit us to take the investigation to a more fulfilling level. To further those objectives, we will use presentation, discussion, question and answer, argument, and deduction. Through the process that ensues, remaining investigatory tasks will be identified and fertile forensic pathways marked. Locard members and visiting experts alike will then use these guidelines to delineate tasks so that appropriate individuals might accept responsibility for making additional analyses and inquiries that are in line with their areas of expertise. As the developing evidence dictates, of course."
     One of the effects of Lister's profundity was that I found myself attending vigorously to his words. His manner of speaking was so obtuse that it required additional concentration. He paused as my eyes began to adjust to the darkness. I tried to scan the room to find A. J. Simes. Based on my memory of her hairstyle I settled on two likely candidates who were sitting near the front of the room.
     Before he resumed his soliloquy, Lister lifted his feet from the floor and turned so that he was in profile to his audience. His feet and buttocks now rested on the stage; his knees were in the air. He still hadn't looked our way.
     Behind him, a large movie screen descended silently from a slit in the ceiling at the back of the narrow stage. Lister said, "We'll begin with a short film presentation."
     Russ Claven leaned over again and whispered in my ear. His breath was fetid. "We always begin with a short film presentation. Mr. Lister would much rather be Ken Burns than Sherlock Holmes."

     The first image on the screen was a close-up of the left hand of a woman. Her fingers were long and thin. Only a solitary ornament—a delicate ring of silver and amethyst—adorned the hand. The ring graced the pinkie. The fingernails on the hand were manicured but not painted, the cuticles having been trimmed with some care. From the lack of wrinkles on the skin I guessed that I was looking at the hand of a young woman.
     Lauren, sitting beside me, reached over and squeezed the wrist on my left arm. The gesture was a warning, a caution. The gesture said, Get ready, here it comes.
     The camera pulled back slowly, revealing the woman's wrist and bare arm. A half-inch curved scar caused a quarter moon of silver to shine smoothly two inches below her elbow. The arm was trim, the biceps firm.
     The theater was funereally quiet. I kept waiting for blood to darken the screen. I was sure there was about to be blood.
     But instead we moved from fingers to toes. Brightly painted, beautifully proportioned toes. The color of the nails was turquoise, and the background skin tones were a gorgeous gesso of subdued gold and amber.
     Immediately, I decided that this was a different girl.
     The camera lingered for a few moments and then pulled back from the toes to reveal an ankle of perfect proportion, a slender calf and an unbent knee, and a seemingly endless expanse of unblemished thigh. The beauty of the leg distracted me, but not totally. I was still waiting for the blood.
     The next image on the screen was a wagon wheel. Totally unlike the arm and the leg, the wagon wheel was old and weathered, the spokes radiating out from a rusted iron hub. Through the spokes, behind them, I could see the vertical shoots of out-of-focus golden grasses. Cultivated grasses. Hay.
     Lauren squeezed my arm again, released her grip, and lightly caressed my forearm. Wait, it's coming.
     Using the hub of the wheel as the center of the world, the camera pulled back again. Quickly this time. At one side of the spoke rested the hand with the silver-and-amethyst ring. Hanging beside the wheel was the exquisite leg and the foot with the turquoise toes.
     Here comes the blood.
     The silence ended and Lister's recorded voice forced its way into every cubic centimeter of space in the theater. "Colorado," he said as the wagon-wheel image exploded to a snapshot that showed two young women laughing deliriously, mugging for the camera. They were posing in a field on an old buckboard, the rolling mountainsides in the background dotted with stands of aspen. One of the girls was sitting on the buckboard, her legs draped over the side. The other was standing, leaning languorously against the wheel. The one whose hand we'd studied was an outdoorsy blonde. Her face was so vibrant and joyous I wanted to smile along with her. The one with the painted toes was of Asian ancestry. Japanese. On reflection, I decided that she was not quite so vibrant. I sensed some pressure in her mirth and her eyes were averted from the lens by a degree or two.
     She was the follower.
     Her friend was the leader.
     "The Elk River valley near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Steamboat is a mountain town in the northern Colorado Rockies, founded by ranchers, but developed by skiers. Its residents call it 'Ski Town USA'."
     The camera closed on the blonde. "Steamboat Springs was the only home that Tamara Franklin ever knew. Everyone in town knew her and everyone called her Tami." The lens moved to the young Asian. "Steamboat was the home of Mariko Hamamoto for only eight months. Her new American friends called her Miko. Her family ... did not."
     The screen went suddenly white. So fine was the focus that I could make out the crystalline forms of snowflakes and ice crystals. I waited for the camera to pull back. It did. Protruding from an uneven bank of snow were a hand and, four or five feet away, a foot.
     On the hand was a silver-and-amethyst ring.
     On the foot were five toes with glistening turquoise nails.
     I stopped worrying about the blood. Now that I'd had my first view of the murder scene, I was sure that every drop would be frozen.

     The film lasted another ten or twelve minutes.
     Tami Franklin and Miko Hamamoto had been juniors at Steamboat Springs High School. They were friends who were last thought to have been together on a November evening just before Thanksgiving of 1988. Sometime in the late afternoon Tami had driven her dad's pickup truck away from her family's cattle ranch near the tiny township of Clark, high in the Elk River valley in the shadows of Mount Zirkel. Behind the truck she was towing a snowmobile on a trailer. She had told her brother that, snow permitting, she was going to meet Miko for an evening ride to one of the hot springs not far from town. Her brother, Joey, had thought she said she was heading to Strawberry Park. But he wasn't sure.
     Mariko's parents had told investigators that their daughter had left home to meet her friend after completing her homework. They didn't know anything about a snowmobile outing. Mariko's mother guessed that her daughter left right around six o'clock. Maybe ten minutes before or ten minutes after.
     That was the night the two girls disappeared. No witnesses reported seeing them together that evening. No one acknowledged seeing the truck. A massive search was mounted the next morning; attention primarily focused on the trails that led to the most popular of the nearby hot springs in Strawberry Park. The search continued for the entire day. But early that evening a memorable storm blew in from the north. Skiers waiting at the base of Mount Werner rejoiced. Nearby Rabbit Ears Pass was closed under forty-three inches of snow.
     The girls were declared missing. A day later the snowmobile trailer was discovered in a field off Highway 131 on the way to Oak Creek.  The snowmobile was not on the trailer. The pickup truck was found almost a month later in Grand Junction, hours away, abandoned.
     The bodies of the two girls lay undisturbed until the springtime thaw of 1989 was well under way. A cross-country skier who had moved off of a main trail in order to find a secluded place to urinate spotted one of the skids of Tami's snowmobile as it was beginning to protrude from a snow-filled ravine above Pearl Lake, high in the Elk River valley. The location of the snowmobile was not in the direction of the hot springs that Tami had told her brother was her destination. Not even close.
     A bloodhound brought to the scene by the Routt County sheriff discovered the bodies about six hours later. The grave where the girls had been dumped was a natural hollow in the earth that had been created by the fall of a diseased fir tree as it broke free of the steep slope where it had been growing. The hillside to which the tree had tried to cling faced north. The location where the bodies were found was at least seventy-five yards from the overturned snowmobile. Due to the nature of the terrain, however, neither of the tow crime scenes was visible from the other.
     To investigators at the scene there did not appear to have been any attempt to bury the girls. The only shroud over Miko's and Tami's bodies was snow. A lot of snow. At the nearby ski area that winter, the official snowfall total on top of Mount Werner had been 361 inches.
     When their inadequate graves were discovered by the bloodhound, the girls' bodies were still encased in snow and ice. Only Miko's once lovely foot and Tami's once elegant hand protruded. The exposure of the limbs to the elements had been recent; small animals had barely begun to nibble on the exposed flesh.
     The crime scenes were complex and would have challenged virtually any experienced homicide-crime-scene investigator. However, no experienced forensic personnel were available that day either in Routt County or in nearby Steamboat Springs. The personnel who did arrive at the scene didn't correctly recognize the challenge they faced.
     Especially after they discovered that the hand that protruded from the snow was the only one still attached to Tami Franklin's body. The other one was gone. As were the toes of her friend's left foot.

     The primary focus of Kimber Lister's short film was to spotlight the forensic and investigatory shortcomings of the initial investigation. A litany of problems was listed. Poor crime-scene management. Careless recovery of the snowmobile. Possible contamination of both crime scenes by unnecessary personnel. Mishandling of the dead bodies at the crime scene. Incomplete laboratory analysis and mishandling of specimens from the autopsies. Witnesses who should have been interviewed, but weren't. Witnesses who should have been reinterviewed, but weren't.
     The list went on. The more I listened, the more I wondered why I'd been asked to be a member of the team that would reinvestigate this case. Lauren's invitation made much more sense to me. She was a deputy DA in Boulder County with an extensive background in felony investigations. She could advise Locard on a myriad of local legal mores associated with the earlier and the current investigations.
     But me? I didn't get it. I was a clinical psychologist in private practice.  I had no formal training in forensic psychology. The crux of Locard's involvement in the murders of Tami Franklin and Miko Hamamoto appeared to involve the cutting edge of forensic science. I knew that I couldn't help them there.

     The lights came up at the conclusion of the film and Lister announced a short break for lunch. An anteroom off the side of the theater had been set up as a sandwich buffet. Russ Claven made a beeline for it.
     I was looking around the room for A. J. Simes when she approached us from behind.
     "Hi, you two. Thanks for coming."
     We both stood. Lauren and A. J. hugged awkwardly over the top of the seats. A. J. offered her right hand to me. I shook it. She said, "Bet you're wondering why you're here." She was looking at me as she spoke. I was trying not to focus all my attention on the four-point cane she was using for support.
     "You're right about that, A. J. This"—I waved at the screen—"doesn't seem exactly up my alley."
     "Does either of you remember the case? These two murders? You both lived in Colorado back then, didn't you?"
     Lauren didn't respond. I said, "I remember it vaguely. Crimes back then didn't get the coverage they do now. My memory is that there was a little splash when the girls disappeared, a big splash when the bodies were found, then the fanfare kind of faded away when no suspect was identified."
     A. J. said, "Well I wasn't there, of course, but that summary doesn't exactly surprise me. Do you mind if we sit?"
     Lauren said, "Let's. Please."
     A. J. moved around the seats and took the chair that Russ Claven had occupied. "Obviously, your participation in this inquiry was my idea. Please be assured that I wanted both of you to be involved. Lauren, your role is easier to define. It's typical for us to find a consultant in a local prosecutor's office to provide guidance for us on local legal customs. Okay?" Lauren nodded. "Alan, your role is less circumscribed. I suggested you for two reasons. First, it is clear to all of us on the committee that screens new cases that too little is known about the premorbid history of these two girls. At the time the bodies were discovered the local police approached the investigation as though they were looking for an opportunistic killer, either a serial killer, or a drifter, or whatever. They never adequately explored the possibility that there might have been a reason that these two girls collided with this killer, or killers. My own bias is that if you don't explore something, you can't rule it out.
     "What I'm talking about, obviously, is a variant of a psychological autopsy. Typically, doing a psychological autopsy of these two girls would be my role. But I'm currently ... unwell, physically unwell … and not in a position to do the traveling necessary to accomplish the tasks that are required to assemble such a profile.  Based on our work together last year, I think you, Alan, have the skills and the demeanor to help me do it."
     I found myself slowly inhaling, overfilling my lungs. I wasn't sure why. I didn't speak.
     "But that's only part of it. The second reason I wanted you on board is that we already know that the background of one of the girls—Mariko— included a stint in psychotherapy with a psychologist who was practicing back then in Steamboat Springs. We're going to need to acquire permission from her family to get access to those treatment records. And someone is going to need to interview the psychologist who treated her to see what he can tell us about this young girl."
     Lauren was a step ahead of me. She said, "And you would rather that be somebody local?"
     A. J. said, "Exactly."
     During the sojourn the prior year when she was trying to protect me from a killer, A. J. and I had gone a few rounds over the necessity of the confidentiality of treatment records, so I pressed her on that issue. "Do you have any reason to expect that her family will deny us access to their daughter's treatment records?"
     "We don't really know. Locard's assistance on the case was requested by the new police chief of Steamboat Springs and by the family of Tami Franklin. The Hamamoto family no longer lives in the area — in fact they no longer live in the United States. Obviously we're anticipating cooperation, but those contacts are yet to be made."
     I remained confused. "Why do you want a local psychologist to make the inquiries? I don't exactly follow."
     "Surprisingly enough, the answer is political." She assessed our faces to see if either of us had guessed what she was referring to. When neither Lauren nor I responded, A. J. continued. "Why politics? Because it turns out that the psychologist that Mariko Hamamoto was seeing for psychotherapy in Steamboat Springs was Dr. Raymond Welle. That's why this thing is so damn political."
     I said, "Representative Raymond Welle? That Dr. Welle?"
     Before A. J. had a chance to respond Lauren's hand jumped up to cover her mouth and she emitted a little squeak from deep in her throat.
     I explained, "She knows him. Raymond Welle."
     My wife swallowed, exhaled once, inhaled once, and said, "Actually I was related to him. Kind of. Well, briefly."
     A. J. looked my way before turning back to Lauren. "We know about Lauren's first marriage. It came up when we were vetting the two of you. Welle was your brother-in-law, right?"
     Lauren, said, "Yes. My first husband's sister was married to Raymond Welle."
     "So do you know him intimately?" A. J. asked.
     "Does anybody?" Lauren replied.


Cold Case (USA)

Signet Paperback, ISBN: 0451201558

Read An Excerpt

Read Reviews

Read An Interview