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
The Grand Pacific Hotel had been a landmark in Oceanside for more than a century. Now, the old seaside resort stood partially torn down. But the razing of the hotel quickly came to a stop when the local inspector notified the owner of the demolition company, who was already at work tearing the place apart, that a new clerk at the office had inadvertently failed to give him all the proper paperwork; he had to halt. It appeared that an addition to a State Law required an archeological survey of abandoned outhouses, otherwise known as biffies, be performed before demolition could take place.
To further complicate matters, the demo crew found a body stuffed inside a third floor bathroom wall when the high-reach excavator accidently loosened plaster to the main structure of the hotel. The discovery revealed a corpse tightly wrapped in cloth much like that of a mummy. News of the discovery spread like wildfire across the city, across the nation, and around the world. Oceanside was getting attention; but it wasn’t the kind of attention they cared for.
The police department asked Professor Hanover, head of the university archaeological team, to help the coroner, Southgate Jones, analyze the mummy to determine its age and how long it might have been lodged between the walls. Professor Hanover was elated to be studying such an unusual find.
Several days later, the two detectives met with Lieutenant Hastings to bring him up to speed with their new case.
“The university team concurred that our mummy was, in fact, a male. Of course, the dog tag around his neck was probably a dead give-away.” Hastings was used to Stein’s sarcastic sense of humor.
“The Naval Command Investigative Service out at Camp Pendleton has identified the tags as belonging to Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Graham Scoggins from Waycross, Georgia. Scoggins was listed as being AWOL as of July 25, 1966. This info should give us a starting point,” Danny said to the lieutenant.
“Yeah, I think so. And you know good and well NCIS will probably want in on the action. But let’s first try to establish how he ended up there and worry about NCIS later,” Hastings said. Danny then told Hastings about their interview with retired bellman, Seth Adams
“He was an interesting man. Told lots of stories. And there were a lot. He started there back in 1935 when he was just thirteen years old.”
“You fellows get anything worthwhile?”
“Not too much. But he did give us the name of another old employee who worked there. Fellow named Ned Martin. Said he was the night auditor. Didn’t really make any comments about him other than to say he thought he was still alive.”
“You find an address?” Hastings asked.
“Found a fellow by that name living in Paradise Acres on the far east side of town by the Vista border.”
“Anything else from Mr. Adams?”
“Did talk a lot about the girls that came to the place during the various wars; you know, WWII, Korea, Vietnam.”
“Well, you know, hookers. Think a few might still be around. Can’t remember their names but said he’d try to remember and let us know. We’ll stop by again and see if has.”
“So, there were some good stories, huh?” Hastings asked.
“Yeah, for the most part. His mind, though, at times seemed to wander off. He’d be in the middle of a story, stop, and then pick up on something else. At times he seemed dazed. I guess at his age, that sort of thing happens,” said Danny.
“I suppose it does. Probably happen to us if we’re lucky enough to make it that long,” quipped Hastings.
“Probably so,” said Joe.
“What’s next on your agenda?”
“Thought we’d head on over to Paradise Acres and interview Ned Martin, assuming he’s the same person we’re looking for,” Joe said looking down at his little notebook. Just as he did, Danny’s cell phone rang. It was Professor Hanover of the UC San Diego archeology team. He was at the old hotel.
“We’ll be right over,” Danny replied to the professor.
“So, what’s up?” asked Hastings.
“Some new developments. The professor didn’t want to discuss it on the phone.”
Lieutenant Hastings waved off the detectives and they headed straight to the hotel. Professor Hanover was waiting in the debris-filled parking lot when they drove up.
“So, what’ve you got?” asked Danny.
“Well, you’re not going to believe this, but we just found a skeleton.”
“You’re kidding! Where?”
“The privy. Found it about four feet below the surface of the debris.”
“Are you shittin’ us, Professor?” Joe said with a smirk.
“No, I’m not shitting you.”
“I suppose it would be dumb luck to ask if you found any sort of identification.” asked Danny.
“No, not yet. But we’re still digging and sifting through the debris. I’ll be sure and give you everything we find,” Hanover replied.
“Hopefully by the end of the day.”
“Anything else of interest?”
“We always find something of interest. You simply cannot believe the stuff people throw down these things.”
“I can imagine. But stuffing a body into a crapper!” Joe said shaking his head side to side in a disapprovingly manner.
“Detective, I can assure you it’s not the first time we’ve found a body or a skeleton in a crapper. It’s more common than you think.”
“Who’d do something like that? A sicko?” Joe asked
“To be honest with you, not really. But, basically, it’s a great way to get rid of a body. Not too many investigators go looking for missing persons in a privy, an active one or not. Nobody really cares to stick their heads down one of these things, much less get in, and start digging around,” the professor said turning and walking back over to the excavation site.
“Well, you got that right. That’s the last place I’d be looking,” Danny said as he and Joe followed the professor to see the skeleton.
“We’ll get ahold of our forensic team and have them come over and help remove the skeleton,” Joe said to Hanover.
“Yes, I’d expect you’d want to have your own people take over.”
“Thanks, Professor,” Danny said. He then got on his cell and called Laura Spahn, their forensic team leader requesting her presence again. She heaved a sigh and began to believe the old hotel site could be an unwanted burial ground for mass murders. She responded back to Danny that her team would be there within the hour.
While waiting for Laura, Danny and Joe watched the archeology team sift through the pit removing mostly what appeared to be construction debris. It raised a question.
“Yes, it is old construction debris. Don’t know anything about it right now, but I assume it either came from the deconstruction of the old outhouse or waste material from the construction of the section that was demolished. We’ll find out.”
“Yeah, okay, let us know. Could be helpful in our investigation.”
“Say, any chance you could tell if the skeleton was wearing clothes?” asked Danny.
“It’s hard to tell right now. Some rotted old cloth was found very near the body. We plan on keeping that with the skeleton for your forensics team.”
“Yeah, that’d be good,” said Joe.
“How much longer do you expect to be with the pit,” Danny asked the professor.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe about another sixty or seventy years or so,” he said with a wry smile.
“What?” Joe said in a mockingly loud tone.
“To be honest with you, we’ve really just scratched the surface, so to speak. You see, we have to take it slow and go down one layer at a time, or, if you will, a year or two at a time. If our timeline is correct with what we’ve already excavated, we’re at about 1950 or so. Who knows what we’ll find further on down there. It looks like a pretty deep pit based on the size and age of when the hotel was built.”
“No, really. How much longer in today’s time?” Joe asked.
“Yeah, he’s screaming bloody murder right now. He wants to know when he can get back over here. He’s afraid to show his face. He wanted me to ask you.”
“I tell you what. You tell Del that when we find our first dinosaur eggs, we’ve pretty much hit rock bottom.”
“That’s not funny, Professor,” Joe said being more serious.
“Give it a few more weeks, Joe. I think by then we’ll probably be wrapping it up. But that estimate isn’t chiseled in stone. Just a good guess on what I expect. Fair enough?”
“Yeah, fair enough. I’ll pass that on to Del. At least that’s enough info for him to make contingency plans,” Joe said with some relief.