It was after midnight, and Cain and his new partner, Grassley, watched as the excavator’s blade went into the hole, emerging seconds later with another load of earth to add to the pile growing next to the grave. On the phone that afternoon, the caretaker of El Carmelo Cemetery had asked if they could do this at night. There were burials scheduled all day, and he didn’t want to upset anyone. The time of day hadn’t made any difference to Cain. Staying up all hours was his business. He just wanted this done.
After three more scoops with the backhoe, the caretaker rotated the arm out of the way and his assistant jumped down into the hole with a long-handled spade. As he did that, the van from the medical examiner’s office arrived. As it came up the access road, its headlights scanned across Cain and Grassley, and then paused over the exhumation. The caretaker’s assistant climbed out of the hole, blinking against the bright light. Then he took the lifting straps from his boss and jumped back into the open grave.
Cain watched the technicians coming up the hill. A man and a woman, young, no more than a few years out of college. Grassley’s phone rang, and he checked the screen before he answered. He looked at Cain and took a few steps back.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and then he paused a while to listen. “No, we’re out at El Carmelo, in Pacific Grove ?— ?you know, the Hanley thing?”
Now Grassley was listening again, pressing his finger into his free ear to dull the excavator’s diesel rumble.
“He’s right here. Hold on.”
Grassley handed him the phone.
“It’s the lieutenant,” he said. “She wants to talk to you.”
He took the phone, stepping through the long shadows of the headstones toward the cypress trees at the top of the hill, where he would be farther from the excavator’s idling engine.
“This is Cain,” he said. “What can I do for you, Lieutenant?”
“Something came up. I need to reassign you.”
“We’re right in the middle of something.”
“I wouldn’t pull you off if I had a choice,” she said. “But I don’t. Grassley can take Hanley from here.”
“We’re two hours south.”
“That’s not a problem,” the lieutenant said. “You’re ?— ? Where exactly are you?”
“El Carmelo,” he said. “The cemetery.”
“Hold on, Cain.”
He knew she was checking her computer, pulling up a map. There was too much noise on the hilltop to hear her keystrokes. In less than twenty seconds she was back to him.
“There’s a golf course,” she said. “Right next to you. They can set down, pick you up.”
“The CHP unit.”
“You’re sending a helicopter?”
“It’ll be there in ten minutes,” she said.
“What’s going on?”
His mind went first to Lucy, but the lieutenant wouldn’t have called about her. She didn’t even know about Lucy.
“We’ll talk when you get here, face to face. Not over the phone. Now give me Grassley. I need another word with him.”
He started toward Grassley, then stopped when he saw the hole. He had to try one more time. He cupped his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece, so she’d hear him clearly.
“I spent three weeks setting this up.”
“It’s a wild goose chase, Cain. One that’s been sitting thirty years. I’ve got a problem that’s less than an hour old. Now it’s your problem. Put Grassley on.”
He came back to Grassley and handed him the phone. It wasn’t any use wondering why the lieutenant was pulling him away. Instead, he walked to the edge of the excavated grave and looked down, shining the flashlight he’d been carrying. The caretaker’s assistant was kneeling on top of the casket. He’d dug trenches along its sides and was reaching down to fasten the lifting straps.
Three decades underground, the kid wouldn’t weigh much, at least. And from what Cain understood, by the time he’d finally died, there hadn’t been all that much to put in the casket anyway. The assistant climbed out of the hole again and handed the ends of the four straps to his boss.
Cain checked up the hill and saw Grassley standing under the tree, one finger in his left ear to block the noise as he talked to their lieutenant.
He turned around, putting his hand up to block the light shining in his face.
The woman from the ME’s office lowered her light and came around to stand next to him. She leaned over to look down into the hole.
“You’re riding back with us in the van?” she asked. “We heard something like that.”
“Not me,” Cain said. “I just got reassigned.”
He gestured up the hill toward Grassley.
“He’ll have to go. You or your partner can follow in his car.”
“Reassigned? It’s two a.m. and we’re ?—”
She stopped, following Cain’s eyes to look at the light coming toward them from the north. When the helicopter broke out of the clouds and into clear air, they could hear the whump of its rotors. Cain pointed up the hill toward his partner.
“That’s Inspector Grassley,” Cain said. “Make sure he gets in the van, that he rides with one of you. He might want to drive back on his own, but don’t let him. We need the chain of custody. You understand. I don’t want any problems later, some defense lawyer picking us apart.”
“I get it,” the woman said.
“I’ve got to go,” Cain said. He looked back into the hole, shining his light on the casket’s black lid. “Let’s get this one right.”
He paused on the way down the hill and looked back up at Grassley. They met each other’s eyes and nodded, and that was all. Then he hurried across the access road, toward the long fairway that stretched between the graveyard and Del Monte Boulevard.
When he reached the golf cou...