After the suicide season over Christmas, when the lack of daylight drove depression rates soaring, the thawing of the winter snow was always the next busiest time of year.
Anders Sand had already cleared two cases in the past week, bodies unearthed from the retreating white blanket: one a climber who had been missing for three months; the other a young girl who had disappeared after a night out. Both had been the victim of circumstance and weather conditions rather than any foul play.
He parked the car and trudged through the woods, following the sound of the forensic team and first responding officers. The ground was wet and mossy, the vegetation taking in it’s first breath of cold air after months of enforced hibernation. On the surrounding peaks the snow and ice still held sway; only on the lower fields had it given up it’s dead.
A white forensic tent had already been erected next to the tree where the body had been found. Gabi Henrikson came to meet him as she saw him approaching.
‘Shallow grave. A walker found it after their dog started sniffing around.’ Gabi knew her veteran partner well enough to skip any small talk. ‘Lot of blood. The cold has preserved the body so time of death is hard to determine. Looks like she’s been there since the start of winter.’
‘Late-teens, early twenties. No identification, no clothing, no signs of sexual assault.’ Gabi paused, anticipating the next question.
‘Cause of death?’
‘It looks like it’s him again.’
Sand pulled up his thick coat around his chin. Although the milder weather had arrived, it was still a chill wind that blew through the valley.
The pattern was the same every year. With the thaw came the next victim. Male or female, young, naked but unmolested and always the same cause of death. A large incision through the abdomen and disembowelment of the organs. The method had led to the killer being tagged ‘The Samurai,’ after the ritual of Seppuku suicide the shamed Japanese warriors once used.
‘They won’t find anything,’ Sand nodded to the forensic officers scouring the surrounding area.
‘Perhaps this is the year he will slip up, make a mistake.’
‘I admire your optimism,’ he managed to give his young partner a smile, but Sand knew better. ‘Find out who she is and inform the next of kin before the media circus starts.’
Gabi left him and went back inside the tent. Sand stood and looked at the vast landscape around him. Somewhere out there was the one killer he had never managed to track down. He was due to retire in the summer. By the next thaw he vowed to avenge those who had fallen by The Samurai’s hand.
Norwegian Detectives Anders Sand and Gabi Henrikson are characters that first appeared in a story I wrote for the A to Z Challenge 2017 earlier this year. You can read it HERE, along with other stories featuring them.