Woodson drove west away from the sunrise. The rain kept coming, or he was following the storm. The world stayed dark either way. The mountain was up ahead.
The Arbordale Ship Building Company owned two lots at the bottom of Cold Slope, tucked at the end of Wigwack Road also called County NN. They'd built a canal at the bottom of one of these that ran in a straight line to Big Poplar Cove on the river. That property served as the marina and storage lot for the other, on the other side of the road and underneath the shadow of the mountain. The warehouse and boat builder's yard. That was what Birkman was worried about.
NN spiraled up the steep circumference of the slope passed the old abandoned mine and ended in a dilapidated state park that only local teenagers and drunks ever used. That was dangerous, though, because of the gigantic granite monuments that laced the trails, toothed traps in the darkness of the forest. If rocks had fallen, people could be hurt. Significant damage may have been caused. Costs, accumulated. The foreman was already at the gate by the time Woodson arrived.
"What's up?" he asked, pulling up the collar on his coat as he stepped into the rain.
Dan Larbett had an umbrella and wore a thick blue winter coat but this didn't help him look any less miserable. He moved stiffly to punch the code into the security alarm on the door to the office trailer.
"Not much. The north fence got buried in snow but I don't think the rocks got this far down."
"Good news. Anyone on the lot last night?"
He shook his head, as much maybe to suppress a shiver, and shook off the umbrella before setting against his desk. His glasses had fogged instantly and this was his next piece of business. "No, thank God." He flicked on a heater he kept under the desk. "And no-one is coming in today in case the worst of the slide isn't over. I'm just here to meet you."
"Think we need to make an insurance report?" Woodson said, but he was listening to an engine crawl onto the property, a kind of purr he could feel through his heels. "Someone's here."
"Shouldn't be." Larbett patted down his damp hair over his still-red ears. A siren whooped briefly.
The officer they'd sent was wearing a clear plastic rain slicker and his face had turned a sick gray.
"You feeling okay, bud?" Dan asked him as the cop brushed some of the water off of his lid. Woodson knew these men and he knew he was not okay.
Dan rode shotgun as Woodson followed the squad up to the Park. Not all the way up. The road was blocked by the debris from the rock-slide. They parked in the middle of the road. It didn't matter because of the cordon, and the rocks and busted trees were piled six feet high on the left, only tapering to dust and stones by the shoulder and a car could barely inch it's way around without scraping the guard rail.
"Looks real bad," Dan said.
"You don't have to come, if you don't want to," Woodson said. But Dan followed him anyway. The officer introduced them to Detective Mansen. Woodson had met him before when he'd registered for his private license. Fingerprints, all of that. He had black hair with white streaks at the temples. He wore one of those plastic ponchos to keep the dying rain off him.
"What is it, Detective?"
"We haven't seen this kind of thing before Woodson. Thought maybe you have. Hope you don't mind us asking for you."
"It's fine with me if it's fine with Mister Birkman. You called him?"
The detective shifted his gaze away, up along the broken mountain side.
"Yup. It's this way."
The detective led them up through park, along the edge of the slide. It was a treacherous climb. They crossed a creek which had been cut in two by the debris and came out into a clearing on one of the granite chunks, a gap in the trees that allowed them to look up at the mountain. Woodson saw a dark crease in the stone. The opening of the old mine.
"Here it is." The detective kneeled down at the edge of a spiral of stones and red clay and dirty snow surrounding a frozen blue shape. It took Woodson a minute to make out what he was looking at.
"Jesus Christ!" Dan covered his mouth as he swore, a stream of puke escaping between his fingers before he could bend over.
It was a woman. She'd been dead for a long time.
"Any ID?" Woodson asked even though he didn't have to. He recognized her even after the slide, after the years it had been since he'd last seen her. "We have a watch with an engraving." The detective raised what was left of her arm by the watchband with the end of a pen. "I'm sorry. It's Megan Birkman."