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North Coast Current

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Sunday Serial: Haunted Bones-Chapter Twelve


Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.
The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.

— Tom Morrow

Chapter 12

The following day, the detectives sorted their notes and rehashed their interviews. What they knew was there were a lot of odd similarities: call girls, rowdy Marines, a hotel madam, and leaking pipes. What they didn’t know was how all this could be connected, if at all, to three recently found bodies that appeared to have been hidden for many, many years. However, there was one slight connection: the rowdy Marines and the mummy—he was positively identified as a Marine.

But all of the other information they had collected seemed relevant, too; they just didn’t know how. From the people they had interviewed, the detectives sensed it unusual for all of them to talk of the same things; especially since they said they hadn’t seen or talked to one another in over twenty-five years. In one way or another, they felt they had. Their words seemed too coincidental.

As they were working at their desk, Joe received a call from Sara. The team had some results from their autopsies: the bones in the pit and the bones in the boiler. Both detectives dropped what they were doing and headed to the forensics lab.

“Laura, what’ve you got for us,” asked Danny.

“Well, let’s start with the body we found in the privy. I think we have more information on her.”

“So you’re saying it was a woman?”

“Yes, it was a woman and a young one at that.”

“How young?” Joe asked.

“Based on bone density and how long we felt she was buried in the privy, we think she was in her mid-twenties.”

“And how long do you think she was in the pit?” Danny asked.

“Since the early 1950s.”

“How do you know that?” Joe asked.

“We coordinated with Professor Hanover and his research, which led us to do a little research of our own. Between the two of us, we think we’ve nailed the time period of exactly when she was buried in the pit.”



“You can be that exact?” Danny asked.

“Yes. The debris told us. You see, we discovered that the hotel had new plumbing installed somewhere around 1910 when the city extended their sewer lines. It appeared that once everything was hooked up and properly operating, the old outhouse was abandoned and just boarded up. And it stayed that way for many years.”

“Who did this research?” Joe asked.



“Yes, it was her initiative to do so. I gave her permission and told her to have at it. She thought she could help you.”

“No kidding!”

“Yeah, no kidding. Anyway, she went to city hall and discovered through records that the old privy was demolished in 1951 and some sort of new construction took its place. I suppose it was that section of the hotel that Del had already demolished before he was forced to stop.

“At any rate, during the demolishing of the old outhouse, and the construction of the new addition, the privy pit apparently was filled in with dirt and debris. And that seems to be when the body was put there.”

“Interesting. I would think one of the construction crew members would have seen the body,” Joe said.

“Well, possibly but not likely. Based on Professor Hanover’s work, the body had almost two feet of dirt on top of it followed by old wooden debris. That would be debris from the old outhouse.”

“And he knows this for sure?” Danny asked.

“I wouldn’t bet against it. He knows his stuff.”

“So more than likely, the body was put into the pit right after it was backfilled, covered with more dirt, and then had debris thrown in on top of that to hide the grave. Does that sound plausible?” Joe asked.

“Yes, it does. Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing. Timing was everything. That’s why the crew building the new addition would have never noticed anything. They would have just gone about their business and built out and over that pit never noticing they were building over a grave,” Laura added.

“Have you been able to identify the body?” Joe asked.

“No, we haven’t. But we have taken a DNA sample and run it through the national database in hopes of finding a relative who may have gotten into trouble. Maybe we’ll get a hit. But beyond that, there’s not much else we can do.”

“Cause of death?” Danny asked.

“A broken neck snapped just below the base of the skull. She died instantly, and probably cruelly.”

“Anything else?”

“As best we can tell, the girl was completely naked when she was put inside the pit. Professor Hanover did find some deteriorated cloth nearby, but we determined it wasn’t clothing. Analysis showed it was probably a bed sheet. So it’s possible she was wrapped when buried.”

“Is it possible to do a forensics facial reconstruction to get an idea of what she might’ve looked like?”

“It’s possible, but not likely. We briefly discussed it. But these types of identifications are very costly. And, just to be honest with you, funds aren’t available for doing one. Given the timeframe, age, and possible lifestyle of this individual, it’s very doubtful anyone would recognize a recreation from a person who would be around eighty-five today if she was still alive. Besides, at this point, we wouldn’t know whether to do a circumstantial identification or a positive identification.”

“You’ll have to explain that later.”

“I will. But the fact is we’re not going to do either one. Money.”

“Okay then, what about the bones in the boiler?” Danny asked.

“We had success there, too. However, we had some help from the victim himself.”

“So these bones come from a guy, huh?” Danny said.

“Yes. It was another Marine. We found his dog tags when we swept the boiler from behind him. Remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. Damn, I thought they would have melted?”

“Surprisingly they didn’t.”

“Anything else?” Joe asked.

“Yeah, a zipper or at least a partial zipper. It looked like he died with his britches on.”

“Shoes?” Joe asked.

“Not that we could tell. Just his pants.”

“Any other clothing?”

“Not that we could find.”


“He was stabbed in the heart.”

“Are you saying his heart survived the heat?”

“Oh no. You see, we found that one of his true ribs over his heart had a slice on the upper edge of it. The only thing that could have cased that would’ve been a knife. Essentially the knife went through the rib cage, sliced the rib, and penetrated his heart. He probably died quickly.”

“True ribs?” Joe asked humorously.

“Yes. The top seven ribs are called that.”

“And the bottom however many ribs are called false?” Joe said fathoming a guess.”

“Almost,” Laura replied.

“You’re kidding?”

“No, I’m not. But the middle three ribs are called false. The bottom two are called floating.”


“Yes, Floating. But whoever stabbed this person had to’ve been fairly strong to get that knife through those true ribs. It does take some strength to actually penetrate the chest. Of course, a very sharp knife would’ve helped. And based on the rib penetration, the knife appeared to be sharp.”

“Care to make a guess as to what kind of knife?” Danny asked.

“I would estimate about six inches long, maybe an inch or so wide, and no doubt had a very sharp angled point.”

“What about the victim’s age?” Joe asked.

“My guess he would have been in his twenties. But I think those dog tags might determine that if you can ever decipher what they say. Maybe the boys back at your lab can determine that,” Laura said walking over to a metal table, picking up a small clear plastic zip-lock bag containing the tags, and handing them over to Danny.

“Yeah, thanks. We’ll see what our guys can do. Is there anything else we need to know?”

“Well, I’m somewhat befuddled as to why that body hadn’t completely disintegrated more than it was. Even though we really don’t have a time frame as to how long he was in there, something seems amiss. That body should have been cremated to ashes. Sara said that old boiler looked like it could’ve melted cold hard steel like butter in a broiler.”

“Yeah, I have to admit that. It was big furnace. But it also looked like it had seen better days,” Joe said verify Laura’s statement.

“You might want to look into it. That scope of research is a little beyond us,” Laura said.

“Yeah, that’s interesting. We’ll do that.” Danny said.

Danny continued talking to Laura while Joe and Sara moved to a corner in the lab. Danny glanced over and noticed they were standing close with Sara straightening Joe’s tie; both were smiling—and whispering. After a few moments, Joe turned and walked back to where Danny and Laura were standing. Sara started walking into a lab office. But before she walked in, she turned and spoke to Joe.


“Sharp,” Joe replied with another smile.

Danny looked at Laura and sort of cocked his head. Laura just grinned and looked at Sara.

“You ready to head for the hills, pardner?” Joe said to Danny.

“If you are.”

“Yeah, I’m ready. Laura … thanks for all your help. I think you’ve given us something good to work on. We’ll keep you posted.”

“You’re welcome, Joe. And please do that.” Danny nodded his head at Laura and mouthed a thank you. He followed Joe through the lab and out to the parking lot.

“So, you and Sara are becoming an item, huh?”


“A yep is all I get?”




“Another date?”


“Where to this time?”

“That quaint little Italian place near the beach.”

“So now you’re going to some quaint little Italian joint and not some touristy fish house. Did I hear that right?”


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Sunday Serial: Haunted Bones-Chapter Twelve