White’s team slips into Osage County one by one—all undercover. The former sheriff and the former Ranger, acting as cattlemen, soon ingratiate themselves with William Hale, while another agent, under the guise of an insurance salesman, visits the houses of several suspects. Agent Wren, claiming to be a medicine man searching for long-lost relatives, attends tribal gatherings and makes inroads with members of the Osage tribe.
White and his team design to be as calculating and deliberate as the murderer himself as they infiltrate Osage County in search of the truth.
White is unsure of where to begin the investigation. Many records have mysteriously vanished, and virtually no evidence has been preserved from any of the crime scenes. The undertaker, however, saved Anna’s skull after she was disinterred, and allows White to examine it. He confirms that she was shot with a .32 or .38-caliber pistol, and that there was no exit wound. Because the bullet was never turned up during an autopsy—but should have been impossible to miss—White concludes that a conspirator on the scene, or even the killer himself, must have swiped it.
White is overwhelmed by the corruption and simple incompetency that have characterized the investigation thus far. Still, the evidence gleaned from Anna’s skull gives him a place to begin—even if that, too, is murky and shrouded in mishandling and mystery.
White questions David and James Shoun, who both insist that they searched diligently for the bullet. Because there were so many people present for the autopsy, including the local lawmen, the undertaker, and Mathis, it is impossible to say who among them altered the crime scene.
White knows that something went awry at the crime scene—but because so many people were present, he has his work cut out for him in determining who did what there, and why.
White begins the process of methodically corroborating each suspect’s alibi—David Grann quotes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, who famously stated, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth.” White quickly rules out many suspects, including Anna’s ex-husband, Oda Brown, and Rose Osage. The woman to whom Rose allegedly confessed now comes forward to claim that a strange white man came to her house, wrote up a statement, and forced her to sign it. White realizes that the conspirators are not just erasing evidence but manufacturing it as well.
White’s realization that someone—or perhaps multiple people—are actively working to incriminate innocent people and throw investigators off the trail shows that there is a vast and insidious conspiracy at work. The calculation and “diabolical” planning of whoever the mastermind behind the murders is shown to have new, unforeseen depths.