The Sand Digger’s Skull
The Sand Digger’s Skull, by Chris McGillion
Six skulls are uncovered from the Comoro Riverbed in Dili. Examination shows that all resulted from violent deaths. FBI Agent Sara Carter, currently on secondment to INTERPOL, and her Timorese police translator, Estefana dos Carvalho, are assigned to investigate a possible war crime stemming from the last days of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. Their Timorese police colleague, Investigator Vincintino Cordero, accompanies them because one of the skulls is much more recent than the others suggesting a murder somehow linked to an earlier mass killing. The three travel to a remote village along the Comoro River near to where a likely site has been identified as the source of the skulls—parts of the riverbank washed downstream in heavy rains. But this is in a stretched of riverbank the locals insist is sacred land that no one must transgress. The officers assert their authority but the villagers are reluctant to acknowledge it, preferring instead to trust in their customary law and follow the advice of traditional elders. When one of those elders is found stabbed to death, the investigation suddenly takes a more urgent turn. Aided by an agnostic Catholic priest and an old woman many believe to be a witch, the three police officers must sift fact from superstition in the hunt for the killer or killers and for the explanation that ties all seven deaths together.