Author: SANDEFUR PM
When murder strikes close by...Rated: Fiction T - English - Crime/Spiritual - Chapters: 3 - Words: 15,586 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 05-12-12 - Published: 05-04-12 - id: 8085124
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Disclaimer: This is fanfiction just for fun. I have no claims.
X X X X X
Captain Will Girardi, chief detective of the newly expanded Hogan County sheriff's department, stares at the single word he has typed on his computer: 'Richard,'. Will sighs as he tries to think of what to say. Nine days ago, at Joan's prompting, his estranged brother came to Arcadia hoping for a reconciliation, but it had been too painful for Will to deal with at that moment. In one way it had been good to see his brother again – the last time was at their father's funeral and they hadn't spoken. But in so many ways seeing Richard brought it all back: his parents' painful divorce when he was only six, the slow slide into poverty that came as the family's Italian restaurant slowly died in a neighborhood that was in decline, the unending bitterness his Mama constantly spewed about her ex, the occasional visit to see Pop and his new wife… It hadn't been too bad before Richard came, those visits, as the new Mrs. Girardi was not the woman his father had the brief one night stand with that ruined his marriage, and she warmly welcomed her new stepson into their home. Oh, Will did carry a lot of resentment in those days, after all his Pop was working his way up the ladder at the Chicago police department and his new wife made a good living as a nurse, and she came from a well-to-do family. Their rising prosperity stood in stark contrast to what Will had to endure at home, but his resentment never went so far as to cause a permanent riff between father and son.
But then…Richard was born and everything changed for the worse. Will was sixteen at the time, a star athlete in school who was very popular with the girls – a great time of life, right? Except that was the year the restaurant went out of business and the family had to turn to government aid to survive. Will worked hard at part time jobs to help out, which meant dates were few and far between, and even his athletic career suffered as he had too little time to properly hone his skills. His mother, and it took Will a lot of years to realize this, had gone a little bit crazy. All of their problems were Gerald's fault – her hated ex who lived so far above their station in life and to whom Eleanor attributed all of the ills of the world. As the years went by, high school graduation was followed by a long struggle to make it into the minor leagues while Will witnessed his 'replacement' half brother enjoying the best of all that life had to offer. Eventually Will cut off all contact with Richard in a virtual denial of his existence, a position he clung to so strongly he forced others to go along. No mention of Richard's name was allowed in his house and reluctantly Helen and his other relatives had agreed.
But Joan, who for some reason decided to take piano lessons again, found an old letter from his Pop that mentioned Richard and despite his best efforts to throw her off the scent, Joan stubbornly tracked down her previously unknown uncle and brought him to their home. It was a failed meeting, but Will was left with his father's old police badge. Every night since then Will has stared at that badge just before bed time and he has experienced regrets, regrets, regrets… If only Joan hadn't found that letter while searching for her old piano exercise books. Why didn't Helen throw it out like he asked? Will sighs and remembers he too kept Helen's paintings from the time shortly after her rape when she was dealing with all that had happened to her. Helen asked him to throw them away before the move to Arcadia, but he made sure they were included on the moving van. Somehow he just knew she wasn't through dealing with what those paintings meant, just as Helen knew he wasn't through dealing with his troubled relationship with his late father and estranged brother.
Will looks again at his computer screen and the first word of this impossible to write e-mail. He supposes he should thank Richard for the badge – Helen was insisting he owed his brother at least that much – but what else? An apology? 'Sorry kid brother for dumping on you a lifetime of hurt feelings that you never caused.'? Except he did, but through no fault of his own. Richard is the constant reminder of the life Will should have had but was denied due to his father's one huge mistake. No matter how hard he tries, no matter how rational the argument that hurt feelings should be put aside, Will finds he cannot open this can of worms. Will deletes the stalled e-mail.
It is the day after Easter, lunch time, and the central station of the Arcadia police…(no, sheriff's station number one) is unusually quiet. It always is Easter weekend and for a day or two afterward, but it won't last. Will has already caught up with all of his paperwork and there are no major cases on the board. At least half of the cops normally in the station are out to lunch, and the rest are like Will, eating at their desks. The sudden SCREAM is long, loud and blood curdling…
Will rushes from his office just as many others are standing from their desks and looking to the back of the station. No one seems to know exactly where the scream came from or why, but that is the direction. As Will rushes toward the back of the building, ordering milling uniformed and detective officers out of the way, a second scream comes undeniably from the backstairs that lead up to the third floor. Will arrives and sees a sight that normally wouldn't throw him, after all he has worked homicide for years, but here in the station it seems a personal violation to see a murdered woman sprawled on the stairs. Beside the victim, pressed as far back as she can, is the screamer – a woman Will expertly classifies as a prostitute. The young hooker looks truly terrified by what she has found on the semi-dark stairway.
"Parker, call the lab boys in the basement and tell them to get up here. This is a crime scene, everyone keep back." Will orders as he extends his hand to the prostitute. She shakily descends the stairs and takes Will's hand, grateful to be away from the dead body.
"Sgt. Williams, take this young woman to interview room one and get her statement. Everyone else, get back to your desks…" Will hesitates as he sees two senior cops appear at the top of the stairs – Lt. George Gordon, head of SWAT and that new cop from New Orleans that Sheriff Rakowski hired to head up Internal Affairs, Lieutenant…Preston(?). "Lieutenants, keep your distance. We are playing this one by the book despite the location of the crime."
Will notices Barry Caldwell ("The Bear") has rolled up to the edge of the third floor landing. Well, at least he doesn't have to advise him not to come closer. Will travels the few steps it takes to reach the body, verifies she is deceased and returns to the second floor. It is a routine action since no one is in doubt about the victim being dead – the stiletto through her heart has seen to that.
"Does anyone know who she is?"
Detective Third Grade Carlisle responds, "Pamela Price, she's a new reporter for the Herald. She's assigned to covering the courthouse but stops by here once a day to gather crime statistics and sniff for any overlooked stories."
Will nods. "The name is familiar. She's called me a couple of times for interviews, but I always refer her to the public relations officer. Carlisle, how do you know her so well?"
"We dated a couple of times."
From the top of the stairs Preston calls out, "Captain, have you thought to seal the building?"
Will mentally berates himself for that gaffe. "Lt. Gordon, call the front desk. Full security lock down. No one gets in or out until we get a handle on this situation."
Gordon nods and heads for his office. Will hears the ding of the elevator and notes the arrival of the Crime Scene Unit, who for the first time have only had to travel upstairs to get to the scene of a murder. Further back from them Will notices that Undersheriff Roebuck is not in his office. When he gets back from lunch, he is going to be pissed about what has happened in his absence.
X X X X X
After the initial excitement has settled, and calls have been made to the sheriff and the undersheriff, Will joins his old partner in interview room one. He and Sgt. Williams share a brief whispered conversation...
"Meet Bertha Malloy, a.k.a. 'Valentina'. She was picked up last night for solicitation and was released with a desk appearance ticket a little less than half an hour ago."
"Why was she going up to the third floor?"
"To file a complaint with Internal Affairs claiming sexual misconduct by the arresting officer. It's her standard procedure. Every time she gets arrested, Valentina complains to I.A. about something. She hopes the cops will stop bothering with her if she makes them go through a complaint investigation every time they pick her up."
Will nods as he sits opposite 'Valentina' and notices that under the gaudy make-up this seasoned pro from the streets is only a couple of years older than his own daughter. "Miss Malloy, I'm Detective Will Girardi..."
"I know who you are. You're the former police chief who brought down all of those crooked politicians. Hey, I lost a lot of good customers because of you."
"Sorry for the inconvenience. Run me through your story."
Valentina shrugs. "Like I told her, after my release I went upstairs to file a complaint. I was halfway up before I noticed...the body." (She shudders.) "One of the light bulbs is burned out, so it's kind of dark there. You guys should take care of that before someone trips and sues you."
"Oh yeah. For a second I thought it might be a drunk who had wandered away and passed out on the stairs, but then I saw that knife thingee sticking out of her back... God, I nearly crapped my pants! That's when I screamed."
"You didn't touch the body?"
"Did you hear or see anyone nearby who seemed suspicious?"
"I was alone. There was a lot of activity on the second floor, always is, but quiet above me. The third floor is always quiet. There isn't much up there besides Internal Affairs and that bald cop in the lieutenant's uniform."
"Lt. Gordon from SWAT."
"I wouldn't know. Arresting hookers usually doesn't call for SWAT." Valentina says with a smile as if she thought the idea funny.
Will carefully looks Valentina up and down, evaluating her through experienced cop eyes. "You're sure you didn't touch the body - that you screamed as soon as you realized she was dead?"
"Duh. Why would I want to touch a corpse?"
"Perhaps because her shoes were so much better than yours? I couldn't help but noticing you wear a lot of high fashion knock offs, but your shoes are genuine Manolo Blahniks."
"Hey, these are my shoes!"
"So our crime scene guys won't find your fingerprints on the shoes the victim is wearing?"
Bertha 'Valentina' Malloy hesitates before forcing tears to her eyes. "The exact same shoes in the same size, how could I pass up an opportunity like that? I've never owned the real stuff before, and it's not like she will ever need them again!"
"Did you move the body?"
"No...at least not much. I only switched shoes before I screamed. That woman was just how I found her, face down with her feet toward the third floor and her head toward the second. Honest!"
"I think 'honest' is a relative term with you. Sergeant, book our friend here for theft and make sure bail is denied. She's a material witness and a possible suspect."
"SUSPECT? Hey, do you think I would kill someone for her shoes?"
"Robbing the dead doesn't speak well of your character. You should hope we come up with a better possibility."
Will exits the interview room and Sgt. Williams follows. "Will, do you really think she did it?"
"No Toni, but this might be a useful life lesson for her. At least she will be where we can get ahold of her if we need to question her again."
"Got it. Will...how did you recognize she was wearing real Manolo Blahniks?"
"I got Helen a pair for Christmas. After seeing that price tag, I will never forget what those shoes look like."
X X X X X
Andy Reese crosses the bullpen of the Herald, heading directly for Rebecca Askew's desk. Someone always monitors the police channel, and during this lunch time he volunteered since there was little on his plate this post Easter Monday. He now regrets being so generous with his time as he is aware that their assistant city editor Rebecca and that new reporter were friends...
Across the news room Kevin is busy at his desk - fact checking the seemingly endless flow of news stories. He barely notices Andy Reese as he approaches Rebecca, but some instinct draws his attention to the pair. He and Andy Reese have been cool to each other ever since the pissy style editor trashed his Mom's paintings in his review and he in turn blocked publication of Andy' biggest story of the year. Kevin nearly lost his job over that act of revenge. Kev watches as Andy leans close and whispers to Rebecca, followed by her obvious distress. Rebecca turns away and begins to cry. Although his relationship with Rebecca has stalled (he isn't ready to accept that it is over), Kevin automatically starts to head for Rebecca's desk to comfort her. Before he can really get rolling, Kevin's cell phone rings. An unbreakable habit, Kevin checks his phone and sees the caller i.d. says Will Girardi...
"Dad, is anything wrong?" Kev asks with concern. It is rare that they call each other during the work day.
"Kevin, I don't know if you've heard yet, but a young woman was found murdered here at the police station. She's a reporter for the Herald named Pamela Price. Do you know her?"
"Yeah Dad, I know all of the reporters, but I don't know her well."
"Who should I speak to? It would have to be someone who knew her professionally and personally."
As Kevin watches Rebecca still crying, he now understands the why of her tears. Prior to their split, he and Rebecca use to discuss all aspects of their lives, including why she vouched for the recently hired Pamela. The pair knew each other in college and even belonged to the same sorority. Despite the fact Rebecca had been a senior and Pamela a freshman, they became friends. In fact, in strictest confidence, Rebecca confessed to Kevin that she and Pamela were at one time much more than friends...
X X X X X
Sheriff Rakowski looks about at his group of senior officers - everyone from the rank of lieutenant on up. A lot of these officers he barely knows since they were until recently Arcadia city cops, and he had always kept his nose out of city business. Now, thanks to Will Girardi, he has jurisdiction over all of Hogan County, including Arcadia. There was no choice but to keep most of the cops who were on the force at the time, and he has left the running of the day to day business of law enforcement in the hands of his new 'Undersheriff', Roy Roebuck. It was only Will's strong reccomendation that got Roebuck this job. Rakowski had his doubts about his new right hand man - after all, he sat on the information that brought down the old government, too afraid to act. But Roebuck, up until now, has proved to be good at his job.
"Alright, let's go through it. A 22 year old woman, a news reporter, gets stabbed to death in the middle of a police station, surrounded by cops, and no one noticed anything?"
Roebuck responds, "Half the usual amount of cops were on lunch break, and the back stairs are almost unused. Everyone either takes the stairs at the front of the station or the elevator. As for the killing, it was done by someone who knew what he was doing. A single thrust through the back penetrated the heart and killed Miss Price instantly. The killer left the blade in the body, and with its' wide hilt, there was no blood splash."
Rakowski picks up the murder weapon, sealed in a plastic evidence bag. "Who the hell uses a stiletto these days? It's basically a steel tube with a razor sharp end - all stab and no slash. I've been a cop for over thirty years and I've never seen one used in a crime before."
Will adds, "It's like a weapon from another era. Odd thing is, I feel as if I've seen this knife before."
Lt. Gordon from SWAT adds, "Me too. In fact, several people who have seen the stiletto swear that it looks familiar but can't place it."
Lt. Preston, her slight southern accent sounding distinctive in this room, adds, "The real question is how the killer got this weapon into the station. All visitors and employees, except for cops, have to go through a metal detector."
Rakowski growls, "Are you suggesting one of our own may have done this crime?"
Preston shrugs. "It's a possibility to be considered. Who else but a cop at this station would have the nerve to try something like this?"
Roebuck responds, "How about a few dozen hardened criminals who were in the station at the time? Anyone of them might have killed that poor woman."
Preston asks, "Nearly all of those bad guys were locked up, and even if they weren't, how did they happen to have the murder weapon with them?"
Lt. Parker from Narcotics replies, "I don't know about the stiletto, but I do know of one definite crook who has the cohones to try something this bold. We pulled in Lou Marks for questioning in the beating of a couple of low life drug dealers who were trying to squeeze into his territory. The beatings had all the style of Lou and his gang, so we sweated him for a couple of hours until his lawyer showed up. Lou was mad as hell at the way we treated him and said he was going up to I.A. to file a complaint. I saw him get on the elevator shortly before noon."
Preston remarks, "He never got as far as my office."
Will says, "I questioned The Bear about what he saw and heard. Three fourths of the third floor is the evidence room and the elevator opens right in front of the cage door that separates that room from the corridor. Bear says Lou Marks got off of the elevator and they exchanged a few simple words of greeting. He said Marks was agitated at first, but quickly calmed down. He explained he had been thinking of filing a complaint with internal affairs over harassment, but changed his mind saying it was too penny ante of a move for him. They talked for a few minutes more and Lou said he was leaving."
Gordon asks, "Did The Bear actually see Lou Marks leave?"
"No, he had to take a phone call and didn't see which way Lou left the third floor. It's possible he went by way of the back stairs, but why would he kill some reporter still wet behind the ears?"
"Why would anyone kill her?" Rakowski asks, genuinely concerned for the young victim but feeling guilty that he is wondering how this will affect his chances at re-election later this year. After all of the scandals that have rocked this community, he doesn't need one attached to his expanded sheriff's department.
Will answers, "We are still working on motive. She was a reporter so she could have been onto anything - my son says she was ambitious and constantly looking for chances to help along her career. Sgt. Williams is questioning her immediate boss and personal friend, Rebecca Askew the assistant city editor. Perhaps it would help if we knew why she was going up to the third floor? Other than the evidence room, the only two offices up there are SWAT and Internal Affairs."
Lt. Gordon replies, "My only contact with the woman were a few phone calls requesting an interview. I always referred her to the public relation's officer."
Preston says, "She was there to see me. I was getting the same phone calls that all of the senior officers were getting. Miss Price wanted a profile story on what it's like to transfer into a police depatment that has been so rocked by scandal and to be put in charge of internal affairs. I'm an old friend of the Herald's publisher and I admired the young woman's persistence. So, I said if she dropped by during my lunch break I would give her some unattributed background information. But, she never showed up."
Roebuck comments, "So that's three people who were coming to see you but never arrived: a hooker, a drug kingpin and a reporter. I had no idea your office was so busy."
Preston replies, "We get a steady flow of citizens who have complaints, but as an experienced cop, I know that ninety percent of them are bogus. Still, we have to go through the motions."
Will says, "From the position of the body and the fact that she was stabbed in the back, we suspect Miss Price was headed down stairs from the third floor. Since she never arrived at I.A., what caused her to change her mind and head back down?"
Rakowski says, "Maybe she got a call. Check her cell phone's records and subpeona her files at work. We can't count on the press being co-operative in that regard even if it is one of their own who got killed. Alright everyone, get back to work. Needless to say, this murder is our number one priority. Until it's solved, we are all going to be wearing egg on our faces in the media."
The assembled cops nod and begin to file out of the conference room. Rakowski stares at the murder weapon and experiences the same deja vu that others have felt. He knows he has seen this blade somewhere... Rakowski realizes one officer has lingered behind.
"Something to add, Lt. Preston?"
"Sheriff, I know internal affairs never takes part in on-going investigations, but I'm wondering if this might be the time for an exception?"
"Because a cop might be involved?"
"I know none of us want to face that possibility, but with the news vultures hanging over our shoulders, we can't risk even the hint of an impropriety. Did you know one of our own detectives was dating the victim?"
"I heard through the grapevine. Okay Lieutenant, I'll authorize you to monitor the investigation but no participation. If you have any concerns, bring them to me."
"Then I'll name one. Detective Carlisle should be off of this case..."
X X X X X
Carlisle escorts the upset man through the cold, dim halls of the city's morgue. He has done this on far too many occasions, and he has always hated this formality. They all know who the victim is, but the rules say a family member must make an offical identification. The only local relative that could be found through Pamela's emergency contact numbers is her cousin, Gavin Price.
"Pamela is my Uncle Henry's youngest child. This was her first time being far from home and my uncle asked me to watch over her. When Pamela arrived in Arcadia I showed her around, helped her find an apartment and a good used car. After that she was determined to handle all aspects of her life on her own. Recently we have just been talking on the phone or e-mailing about once a week." Gavin says, trying to distract himself from the grisly task ahead.
Carlisle understands but asks the routine questions. "Did she have any enemies, or had she complained of someone harassing her lately?"
"No, Pamela was well liked and definitely hadn't mentioned any problems. I know she had a very active social life, but I wasn't aware that she was serious with anyone."
"Did she often discuss her personal life?"
Gavin shrugs. "It wasn't a taboo subject, but it didn't dominate our conversations. For instance, I know she had dated you Detective, but Pamela wasn't the type to provide a lot of details."
"What about her work? Did she mention what she was working on?"
"A little, but there didn't seem a lot ot say about her work, which was pretty routine stuff. I know she was ambitious and wanted to move up from covering the day to day of the courthouse."
The pair pauses as they reach the cold storage facilities where bodies are kept. Gavin Price steels himself for the personal ordeal ahead. They enter the room and the county coroner is waiting for them - the body covered by a sheet is on an exam table. Carlisle nods to the coroner who draws back the sheet...
Gavin takes one long look, closes his eyes and sighs. "Yes, that's my cousin Pamela Price."
The coroner lowers the sheet. "I'm sorry for your loss, sir."
"Can you tell me...did she suffer?"
"No sir. She was stabbed in the heart and death occured almost instantly."
"Well, at least that's something. I'll have to call my uncle and aunt to tell them... Oh God, I so don't want to do this, but it can't be helped. They'll want to know, how soon can we have...the body."
Carlisle replies, "It depends on how the investigation goes. The sooner we can arrest the person who did this, the sooner the...remains can be sent to a funeral home."
"Thank you Detective, and I wish you good luck. I...feel ill."
The coroner, experienced at this, hastily rushes a stainless steel trash can over to Gavin Price...
X X X X X
Sgt. Toni Williams (formerly a lieutenant with the Arcadia police but now a sergeant in the reorganized sheriff's department) waits patiently for Rebecca Askew to finish gathering all of the paperwork that can be found in the victim's desk. The password protected computer will be going to the tech department.
"That's all of it, I think. Of course Pamela probably had some personal files at home."
"Her apartment is being searched by other detectives. Ms Askew, is it possible Pamela was working on something serious enough to get her killed?"
"Not officially. Pam was always pitching ideas for stories, and had written a few spec articles in her spare time. We even printed a couple of them. But no, there was nothing about what she usually wrote that could suggest any sort of risk to her life."
"She did spend a fair amount of time at the sheriff's station digging for stories."
"Human interest stories. Pam knew we have a regular crime reporter who is very territorial. She knew better than to step on a senior reporter's toes...I think."
"You think? Then she might have been looking into something criminal or violent?"
Rebecca shrugs. "Pam was ambitious and if she thought she had stumbled upon a really big story, the kind that can jump start a young reporter's career, then...maybe. She was a take-risk kind of person."
"You knew her well?"
"We knew each other from college journalism classes and working on the school paper. She showed a lot of promise right from the start, and a few months ago when she applied for a job here, I was glad to give her my recommendation."
"What about her social life? Is there any particular man we should be looking at?"
"Pam dated a lot, but as far as I know, she wasn't serious about any man...or woman."
Rebecca blushes. "Pam was enthusiastically bi-sexual."
"I see. And were the two of you...?"
"No. At least, not since our one time in college. A lot of co-eds were doing the once in a lifetime 'experiment'!"
Toni suppresses a smile as she remembers her own college days...
X X X X X
Will Girardi enters his home and is met by Helen with a smile, a kiss and a tumbler of scotch. Will gratefully accepts all three, and after a sip he asks... "You heard?"
"Yes, the police called to inform Price about his cousin's death. I figured a murder in the actual police station would be a stressful day for you."
"To put it mildly. Everyone is working hard but they are also looking at each other with suspicion. At the moment we can't figure how the killer got the murder weapon into the station, unless it was done by a cop - everyone else has to go through metal detectors."
"It would be impossible to believe if you hadn't arrested one of your own detectives for murder last year."
"And I'm sure the news media will be dredging that up along with the sensationalism of the crime."
"Well, time to put it aside for awhile. We have pot roast with cherry cobbler for dessert. Also...a guest for dinner."
Helen smiles. "The price you pay when your teenage daughter has a boyfriend. You don't mind, do you?"
"After the way Joan was moping around here for weeks and now she smiles most of the time? I never thought I could be so happy my little girl has a boyfriend."
"And Adam is such a nice boy. Ready to eat?"
"I'll join you as soon as I wash up."
They share another kiss and Helen goes to the kitchen while Will heads for the downstairs half-bath. Before getting there his cell phone rings... "Girardi."
Roy Roebuck says, "Will, we finally got that stiletto identified. Believe it or not our night janitor, uh..."
"Right. Once a week he dusts that old display case in the front lobby. You know, the one with all of those old trophies from solved past crimes?"
"I remember. When I first became police chief I wanted to get rid of it because it takes up so much room, and it's kind of a grisly sight. It's all murder weapons from way back. I don't think there's an item in there that isn't over fifty years old... The stiletto?"
"Came from the case. It was used in a series of murders over a hundred years ago."
"Isn't that case locked? I know all of the guns were rendered useless, but still..."
"The case is always locked except when it is being cleaned. That brings us back to our janitor. Rove dusted the display last week and reported the old lock had finally rusted through. A new one was ordered and arrived today. Rove went to put the lock on at the start of his shift and noticed the stiletto was missing."
"So that explains how the murder weapon got into the building - it was already there. And since that case is in the open and unguarded, anyone in the station, including visitors, could have got their hands on it."
"Which greatly expands our number of possible suspects, but at least everyone here can stop looking at each other with doubts."
Will breathes a sigh of relief. "I'm glad of that, but it's going to be another blackeye for the department when the media gets wind of where the murder weapon came from. Any usable fingerprints?"
"Unfortunately Rove wiped the case clean before he noticed the stiletto was missing. The only prints are his."
"And I know that the display case, like most of the building, doesn't have security monitors to record what happens. I guess that's one thing we will have to correct down the line."
"Sheriff Rakowski has already sent a proposal for more cameras to the county council. I guess as cops we just never thought something like this could happen on our own turf. Okay, I just wanted to get you updated. See you tomorrow, Will."
As Roebuck disconnects a thought occurs to Will. That case is always presumed locked. Would the killer have just randomly checked to see if it wasn't? No...someone knew. Adam's father knew.
To Be Continued.