Read a chapter of 'Grimm: The Chopping Block' prior to its release
The plot synopsis for this new novel reads: "A cache of bones is found in a shallow grave in local woods. Meanwhile missing persons cases in Portland seem to be on the increase. As more bones are discovered, Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt and his partner Hank Griffin investigate -- but there seems to be no connection between the victims."
"Grimm: The Chopping Block" will be released Tuesday (Feb. 18). Enjoy this early sneak peek:
Detective Nick Burkhardt parked his Land Cruiser on a narrow access road overlooking Claremont Park, behind a row of official city vehicles headed by a pair of police cruisers with flashing light bars. Judging from the rest of the stalled procession, paramedics, crime scene techs and someone from the coroner's office were on site.
He turned to his partner, fellow detective Hank Griffin, and said, "Gang's all here." "Makes us fashionably late."
They climbed out of the SUV, Hank taking a few moments longer to maneuver on his cast as he reached over the seatback for his crutches. While in Kauai on a long overdue vacation, he'd taken a bad fall -- "landed a little too enthusiastically" in Hank's own words -- from a zip-line, tearing his Achilles tendon. In the past few weeks he'd become quite nimble on the crutches, but he left the foot chases to Nick.
Hank joined Nick at the side of the access road and frowned.
Nick understood his partner's consternation. Glancing down the irregular slope of the makeshift path delineated on either side by crime scene tape looped around tree trunks, he had the impression of facing a woodland obstacle course.
"Maybe you should sit this one out, Hank."
"I'll be fine."
"I'll get there," Hank said confidently. He cleared his throat. "Eventually."
Nick started down the path, paused to look back and saw Hank prodding the ground with the tip of one crutch. Nick raised a hand to point at some overhead branches, and smiled.
"I could ask them to install a zip line."
"Funny, Nick," Hank said, with a sweep of the crutch as though it was an extension of his arm. "I'm laughing on the inside."
Though Hank had joked that his doctor had told him to leave all the work to his partner, he was too proud to easily admit any limitations. Nick hoped his good-natured ribbing would keep his partner's spirits up, so he was less focused on what he couldn't do in his current condition. At the same time, he hoped Hank remained cautious enough to avoid further injury. He knew his partner was was counting the days until the cast came off.
Nick turned his attention to the path ahead, noting the presence of techs and a few uniforms. Farther ahead, two paramedics stood talking to each other in low tones with an occasional glance at the techs taking measurements and photographs.
On the other side of the crime scene, Sergeant Wu spoke to the father and son who had reported the human remains. A tall, birdlike woman with a long gray ponytail, dressed in a blue denim blouse and khaki slacks, interrupted the group to speak with Wu. A forensic anthropologist who consulted with the medical examiner's office, Nick recalled. Her exact name escaped him. Yolanda Candella or Canders.
Angling toward the mound of bare bones, some of which had been laid out for measurement and photographs, Nick crouched for a better examination. More than a few of the bones had clean breaks. And that raised all sorts of questions.
He'd been a Portland homicide detective long before he discovered he was a Grimm -- descended from a long line of Grimms that included his mother and his late Aunt Marie. As a Grimm, Nick had the ability to "profile" what he had always assumed were mythological creatures, most of whom were at odds with humanity. They called themselves Wesen, and in moments of stress or extreme emotion, they transformed -- woged -- and revealed their true nature. But the transformation was visible only to a Grimm. Other humans were unaware of the change in appearance -- unless the Wesen chose to reveal its true face to them. Not something that happened often because the Wesen hid in plain sight, wolves in the fold of humanity.
So Nick's job description had changed. In addition to apprehending human murderers, he was, as a Grimm, uniquely qualified to find and stop Wesen killers. The only difference was that not all Wesen killers received due process. Sometimes off-book solutions were necessary.
Staring at the severed bones, Nick had to consider the possibility that the killer -- and he had no doubt the victim had been murdered and buried here in a shallow grave -- was not human, that the perpetrator was Wesen. He recalled the Fuchsteufelwild, a goblin-like Wesen who had slaughtered employees at the Spinner Corporation with bone blade hands that dripped acid. He'd sliced their bodies in half, cutting easily through flesh and organs and bones. Dissatisfied with his speculation, Nick shook his head. This M.O. was clearly different. The cuts were cleaner here, artificial, not natural or supernatural. And the flesh and blood and organs were absent, leaving only the bones.
He snapped a few photos with his cell phone, then scanned the immediate area for clothing or personal effects that might have been dumped with the remains. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Wu approaching, and stood.
"What've we got so far?"
"Father and son geocaching," Wu said, glancing down at his notes. "Brian and Tyler Mathis. Tyler finds the bones of the vic. Not the sort of father-son outing dad had in mind."
"Geocaching," Nick said. "That some kind of sport?"
"Mash-up of scavenger hunt with hide and seek," Wu said. "You find the item with GPS coordinates posted online."
"Somebody put human remains in a geocache and posted the location online?" Nick said.
Hank swung forward on his crutches and took up a position facing Nick and Wu, his expression one of relief at having arrived at the crime scene without incident. "Bad coincidence apparently," Wu said. "They found the real cache over there -- the little red tin box on the tree stump."
Nick said, "Don't suppose it's been dusted for prints."
Wu nodded. "But we're not optimistic," he said. "Son had his hands all over it. Father let him have it to draw his attention away from the human skeleton. Speaking of which, Doc Candelas -- "
Ah, Candelas, Nick thought.
" -- was none too happy the kid had been poking the bones with a stick."
"Anything she can tell us?" Hank asked.
"Looks like one vic." Wu glanced at his notes again. "Adult, female, approximately five-foot-six, possibly under twenty-five years of age. Skull features consistent with Asian ancestry." He looked up at them. "Won't know if all the bones are present until they're sorted at the lab."
"No personal effects at all," Wu said. "If we're lucky, we'll get a match off the dental records."
"We've got uniforms canvassing the area, nearby homes, structures. Maybe somebody saw something. I'll let you know if anything turns up."
"C.O.D.?" Hank asked.
"No definitive cause of death indicated. But, judging by the lack of, well, the rest of her body, she was probably killed off-site and dumped here."
"What about these breaks?" Nick asked, indicating a femur that had been removed from the pile. "They're clean. Almost precise."
Wu nodded. "Doc ruled out animal attack. Something with a fine edge, lots of force. Could be man or machine. Wounds could be pre- or post-mortem."
"Meaning our vic could have been chopped up while she was still alive," Hank said somberly.
"No matter how bad you think your day is," Wu said, shaking his head as his voice trailed off.
"Thanks, Wu." Nick turned to Hank. "Let's talk to the father and son."
When Tyler saw the detectives approaching, he unconsciously took a half step behind his father. Nick noticed something yellow, green and rubbery propped on the boy's thumb like a mutated thimble. He smiled briefly to put the boy at ease. "What have you got there?" he asked.
"It's an alien," Tyler said, waggling his thumb from side to side so the alien's tiny rubbery hands shook up and down. "I swapped it for my soldier."
"A toy from the geocache," Brian Mathis explained with a glance toward the red tin box on the rotted tree stump. "The reason why we came here. For the geocache."
"Don't imagine you anticipated a murd -- an investigation," Hank said.
"Of course not," Brian said, wrapping an arm protectively over his son's shoulders. "Geocaching ... it's like a scavenger hunt. Harmless. I never thought something like this would happen."
"How did you come to this exact location?" Nick asked.
"From which direction? The service road?" He pointed toward the line of first responder vehicles. "Or the park?"
"The park," Brian replied. "Thought the cache would be closer to the picnic areas." "Mr. Mathis, is it okay if I ask your son a few questions?"
After a moment of hesitation, the father nodded.
"Okay, thank you." Nick turned his attention to Tyler, flashed another brief smile to put him at ease. "Tyler, how did you locate the bones?"
"We were looking for the geocache."
"Both of you?"
"Yes," Tyler said. "My dad's GPS got us close, but not to the exact spot, so we ... poked around. I searched over there. My dad was over here."
"Nothing led you to the bones?"
"No," Tyler said. "Well, it looked like an animal might have dug up some dirt, near those bushes. I pushed the bushes back, saw the white -- the bone, I mean. The first one, that big one" -- he pointed to the isolated femur -- "and I pulled it out. That's when I saw there was more of them."
Nick wondered how much poking around the kid had done after he discovered the cache of bones.
"Anything unusual about the arrangement?" he asked.
"Was anything odd about the bones? A pattern maybe?"
The boy pressed the rubber alien to the underside of his chin for a couple moments then shook his head.
"Except ... "
"Except what?" Hank asked, leaning forward as much as his crutches allowed.
"They were all jumbled in a pile," he said. "In pieces. Not like how you see in movies and stuff. Like the person fell asleep before they died."
Nick looked at the father and pointed at the geocache tin.
"Do you know who put the geocache here?"
"I don't recall," Brian Mathis said. "The person's user name is on the site. She left it over a year ago. It's been found almost a dozen times."
"How do you know?" Hank asked.
"On the site," Brian said, with a shrug, as if the information was obvious. "And there's a logbook in there."
"In the box," Nick asked.
"Yeah," the boy said. "We added our names."
Nick reached into the pocket of his black leather jacket and pulled out a pair of latex gloves, slipped them on with practiced ease and picked up the geocache tin. If father and son had both handled the box while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive, they'd probably destroyed any useful prints, and -- according to Wu -- the box had already been dusted for prints, but until he talked to the crime-scene techs personally, he'd rather not compound any errors.
Inside the box, a plastic toy soldier bearing several juvenile tooth-etched scars sat atop a thin notebook, with a preprinted list of geocache etiquette rules. The logbook had been signed by ten people, but most had signed a first name and an initial or a nickname, "Spelunkid" scrawled in red marker stood out. One person had stamped the book with a cartoon image of an owl. A few people had written dates next to their names or aliases, the most recent "find" occurring three months ago. Finally, two stubby pencils had been provided for those without the foresight to bring a red marker. Between the logbook and the website, they might I.D. several suspects. Nick glanced toward the bones, then turned to Brian Mathis. "Where exactly did you find this?"
Brian dropped to one knee and pointed to a sheltered spot between the rotted stump and the fallen tree trunk.
"Under there," he said. "Might have missed it, if not for the bright red color." Nick looked at Hank and gave a brief shake of his head.
If the geocache and the bones were meant to be found together as some sort of macabre scavenger hunt, why not put them in the same place. More likely, the killer had no idea the geocache existed.
Nick returned to the buried pile of anonymous bones.
Unless the canvass turned up a witness to the burial or the crime-scene techs discovered something not readily apparent, their best lead remained the victim herself. If she knew her killer, her identity might lead them to his doorstep.
"Grimm" returns to NBC at 9 p.m. ET/PT Friday, Feb. 28.