It was as if I was walking through a scene from Law and Order. Where everyone was hustling and bustling around you, as you take your time to make your way over to the crime scene; knowing that a body was waiting for you. Troy and I didn't know if there was a baby, a kid, or a full grown adult waiting for us, but whoever it was, shivers went up my spine.
"Sharpay probably isn't done with the crime scene yet. We should probably split up after we find the person in charge here," Troy murmured just as a guy who was wearing a yellow hard hat started making his way towards us.
He was wearing a shirt with the sleeves ripped off, blue jeans that had a hole in the knee, and he already smelled of sweat and outdoors. "Can I help you?" He gruffly asked as just passed us--thirty feet away--at least twenty other guys sat and five girls.
Troy took out his badge with a smile. "Hi. I'm Detective Bolton, and my this is my partner Montez. We're the people assigned to this case. Are you in charge here?"
Troy had such a professional aura to him that the man in front of us stuttered for a moment before clearing his throat and holding out his dirt covered hand for us to shake. I smile as my hand connected with his; briefly seeing out of the corner of my eye Troy wiping his hand off on the outside of his jacket.
"I'm in charge here. The name's Jerry." He looked to be about in his mid forties, his skin tan from being outside, but slowly fading as the days got colder and the sun didn't shine as much. "How can I help you?"
To me it seemed as if Troy probably had enough of this guy. He always wanted to jump right into the case before we even received all of our information.
"We appreciate the cooperation Jerry. Bolton and I just need to know the basic information for now, then we'll set up a section out here so that we can start to interview your crew, and after that, then we'll let you know what's happening. How does that sound?" I asked in my best nurturing voice. I found out the easy way that when I talk nice and smooth with some of the potential suspects, they warmed up to me real nicely.
I could practically see Troy roll his eyes as Jerry nodded almost too eagerly. It probably wasn't very often that he saw a woman in her late twenties come through these woods.
"So let's start with who found the body exactly?" Troy cut in before I could ask the same question. I glanced at him for a second and saw that he just sent a wink my way.
"Every morning I send two of my crew members to go get coffee. The quickest way of doing that is to actually take the bike trail half way around the park and then cutting through the second parking lot to reach the coffee house. So today it was Sara and Rick's turn to go. They were the ones who found the body," Jerry motioned behind himself as I had to push myself off the ground a little bit to see over his shoulder. "The woman with red hair, and the guy who's wearing the red t-shirt with the white splotches covering the front."
They looked just like average people, and unfortunately that's how these cases go. Normal people find the bodies, normal people get dragged into the case, and normal people never forget. It happens all the time.
Troy and I looked at each other as that was all we needed to know for now. Later, we will come back and interview them, making sure that nothing sounded too fishy.
"So Jerry, this is another part where we need your help," Troy started as he just loved taking the lead before I even had time to register what was happening. "We're gonna need someone to show Montez around the site. All the places that you guys have been working on, while I'm going to go to the scene of the crime. Okay?" Even though Troy asked if it was okay, he wasn't really asking for Jerry's approval.
I was silently thankful deep down as seeing the body so soon was not something I was looking forward to seeing. Who knows what kind of memories that would dig up inside of me, and Troy sensing the hesitation took charge and offered to do the job while I was led around like some lost kid.
"Oh…sure thing. I can get…" Jerry looked around and finally he called over to a group of guys all kicking around a rock to entertain themselves, "Scott! Come here."
A guy who was wearing faded blue jeans with dirt smudged near the bottom, a white t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, and a nice tan from being out in the sun stood up. He had a kind smile on his face as he approached us. He looked to be about mine and Troy's age, if not a little younger.
"This is Scott," Jerry said. "Scott, this is Detective Montez and Bolton."
"Gabriella," I corrected as I knew Troy rolled his eyes at how easy I let people call me by my first name.
"I need you to show Montez around the site. Every space you can think of, I need you to show her." Troy gave directions while eyeing Scott over as if he wasn't a good candidate to lead me around.
Troy and I broke apart after that as he went to go see the crime scene and I went with Scott. Although it was fairly easy to see that Scott and Troy were not buddy-buddy with one another as their personalities seemed to clash right away.
"You might want to chage your shoes into work boots," Scott called out to Troy's retreating back. Troy turned around and his blue eyes that I were so used too, turned even darker. "There's mud everywhere."
I had once grown up on this bike trail--playing hide and go seek with my friends, walking with my mom and dad, and camping out occasionally on a warm summer night. I knew that if the body wasn't directly on the path, then Troy would have to go into the woods and trees and that it would be muddy. Scott was only warning him.
"I think I'll manage," Troy said tensely.
"He seems…strict," Scott commented when he looked back to me and Troy was out of sight.
"Nah." I shrugged my shoulders. "He just gets cranky sometimes."
"Right," Scott smiled, "You ready? You want some boots?"
After receiving boots from Scott, although they were a little big so I had to tie the laces tighter so they wouldn't fall off, he was showing me around the trail. The trees had thinned out, there were random ditches around from the digging that was happening, and the lake looked dirtier than ever. I realized that a lot had changed since the last time I could remember, and for some reason, that bothered me.
"So what's with all the construction?" I asked as it seemed Scott was leading me around the whole lake, which wasn't that far. The lake was only about a mile or two around. Although the path was longer as it had various forks, we mainly stuck to the path that was near the water's edge.
"We're moving the path," he scoffed. "I think it's the stupidest decision and project that we've worked on, but hey? It's work, right? Somehow I have to bring in the money."
Scott seemed like an easy going guy, but once he started talking about doing the actual construction on this bike trail, a different mood took over. He didn't seem that happy about it.
"Why would anyone want to move this bike path? It's been here for a while, hasn't it?"
One side of Scott's mouth hooked upwards in a half smile, but then soon faded as he stopped walking and peered across the lake, eyes landing directly on the yellow bulldozers that Troy and I passed to meet Jerry for the first time.
"The bike trail has been here for a little over a hundred years. It's part of the historic part of this town." I looked up at Scott as he talked. He looked so serious to the point where I barely recognized him as the guy who came over to me smiling. "There's a lot of politics involved in this bike path, I guess. Something to do with the mayor of Burlington, and the two senates of Wisconsin. I don't know the whole story, but they want the bike trail moved and there's a whole lot of people against them now. I think they're calling themselves the Ecosystem Development Committee."
"There's people protesting?!" I nearly exclaimed as if the people protesting didn't already have a bad enough name, this just made the case a whole lot messier.
"Yup. It makes our job a hell of a lot harder. Not that I'm saying I support this destruction, because I think I probably would be one of the protesters if I wasn't on Jerry's crew." Scott clarified.
Just then my pager went off, and I looked down to turn off the beeping. I smiled before glancing up at Jerry. "I think we should head back. I've seen just about enough of this site."
Sharpay was an average height woman who stood at five foot four, had blonde hair that always seemed to bounce perfectly with every step she took, and had perfectly manicured nails. You would never expect her to be a Crime Scene Tech with one glance at her choice of shoes. Sharpay is just like our Chief Cooper except she doesn't interrogate people while trying to find the murderer. Instead, she and her team go to the scene, process the scene, collect the evidence, and then Troy and I report back to Sharpay to figure out if we have a lead.
She seems to like Troy and I because every once in a while when Troy and I are tight on time, we offer to take her to dinner as friends and she'll bump our case in front of someone else's. We have never actually taken her out yet, but we've all been busy. Unfortunately our jobs require a lot of time.
"Jesus fuck…" I muttered as my eyes went wide for a second. I could never forget the first dead body I saw--apart from my parents who I don't remember--but each and every time I see a new body, it seems to get worse and worse.
I was expecting a woman. I don't really know why, but I just always got a feeling when it was a female Troy and I were investigating, but I wasn't expecting a kid. A kid who didn't look more than thirteen years old. She was still a girl who dressed all innocent and naïve--as if nothing in the world would hurt her. She had dirty blonde hair, really thin looking, and it was long to the point where it passed her shoulders. She looked to be about twelve; just hitting puberty as her chest was pretty flat; just starting to grow. Her torso was long, along with her legs as she looked to be light weight.
"She looks as if she could be sleeping," a voice said from behind me and I nearly jumped out of my skin.
"Troy! Don't' do that," I chided as he took a step forward to be right next to me.
"She looks peaceful," he murmured as I knew that these kind of cases hit him pretty hard. Although it was always difficult to see someone so young being killed, each and every detective had a specific kind of case that hit really hard. For Troy, it was kids being killed, and for me? I always found the rape cases hard to deal with.
"Yeah," I agreed. "Except for all the blood near the back of her head."
"I believe that's from being hit in the head with this rock," another voice spoke up. It was unusual for Sharpay to sound kind of mousy and shy, but she knew that Troy didn't take children's deaths lightly.
"I don't know why the killer would leave behind his weapon, and I'll have to take it in for a DNA match up to the girl's blood, but I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that the killer struck her in the back of the head a couple of times." Sharpay clarified.
Yellow tape was being hung everywhere so that no one would step into the crime scene while I knew that it was just a matter of time before people started to come to see why there were weird cars and vans coming to the construction site. Chief would not be happy if he found out Troy and I got caught up in all the publicity. We were not allowed to talk to the press.
"Any finger prints?" I asked as I noticed that Troy couldn't stop looking down at the girl. I put my hand on his shoulder and gently shook him out of his trance. He glanced at me and that was the first time in seeing him after being separated for thirty minutes that I noticed his black shoes and good suit pants had a brown crust forming on them from the mud. "Nice shoes."
He cracked a smile. "I'll clean them later."
"Three different finger prints. I'll run them through the computer to see if I can get any matches, but I'm pretty sure that at least one of them belongs to the person who found her and decided to touch her to see if she was still breathing. I hate the ones who move the body to check for a pulse," Sharpay muttered. "I understand checking her pulse on her wrist, but to actually shake the body when it's cold." She rolled her eyes dramatically.
"Whoever found her was probably just shocked," Troy said calmly.
"Either way, I still have two other different fingerprints, but I'm betting if the mother or father did the laundry, then that will eliminate another fingerprint, and we'll be left with one other."
"The killer's?" I asked although I knew the answer.
"That's what I'm hoping for."
Troy and I left the crime scene before anyone else could get there. We had to leave to let Sharpay and her team finish up. Then we would go back and talk to the construction workers, hopefully question the two people who found the girl even more. I knew something was wrong with Troy the moment he didn't even try to beat me to the car so that he could drive.
"What's up Bolton? Talk to me."
"Have you ever noticed that the crime rate around us is not slowing down? I feel as if we're just sitting around and doing nothing to help others. Sure, we bring other people to justice, but what does that teach them? We can't catch all the bad guys, and then they just get away with it."
I pulled into the closest gas station and parked the car. This place would just have to due for coffee and a little lunch break. If not, I'm sure I remember a fast food restaurant in town that we could go to.
"I think we're making a difference," I murmured. The sun outside casting through the windows made Troy's skin glow even more, no matter how upset he was. "We're catching the guilty people and putting them away so that they won't kill again. It's worth it Troy."
"But what's the point in doing this if we can only catch them after they commit the crime and not before? People will always die--"
"Exactly. People will always die." I looked Troy square in the eye as neither one of us blinked. "We can't stop the circle of life, and as much as I hate this, people are just like animals and we kill. You and me can only hope to catch the bastards."
We were silent for a moment before a car that parked next to us beeped as the owner swiftly walked into the gas station.
I smiled. "Now I'm going to go in there and get us two disgusting cups of coffee and sandwiches for lunch. 'Kay?"
"Yeah," Troy nodded as his eyes still looked a little dazed. "Thanks."
After I found a sandwich that didn't look as if it was in the store for more than a decade, I paid for the coffees and food before making my way out to Troy; except he wasn't where I last left him.
"Brie?" His voice called out from around the corner of the stone building. I followed and saw him sitting on an old looking bench that was pushed up against the brick wall as a back rest.
"I got you a ham sandwich." I tossed it to him as he smiled his thanks. After we both started taking small bites of our food, I realized I should have got bags of chips or something other than just two pieces of bread with meat in between. This wasn't the most ideal lunch as I was pretty sure that in all my teenage life of living in Burlington, I actually never did eat at this particular gas station.
"I suppose we should talk about who could have killed this girl. Cooper will want suspects for the press," Troy said with a heavy sigh. He put his ham sandwich aside and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
I looked at him with my own distress. "There's always the family…whoever that is."
"We'll have to call missing persons when we get to the site. This girl can't be nameless," Troy noted.
"Then if it wasn't the family," which it usually is someone in the family since the victims almost always trust them with their lives literally, "then it could have been someone who knew the family?"
Troy looked at me now as the wind picked up some. I snuggled deeper into my leather coat; trying hard to distract myself away from his intense blue eyes. "Brie…it could have been the killer from thirteen years ago."
I thought about it for a moment. He was right, but my other two suggestions were most likely because if Troy was right, then it just wouldn't make sense if the killer turned up all of a sudden after thirteen years of laying low. He sure would have a strange killing pattern, but I refused to think any further into it.
"Also, we have to think politically."
Troy dug into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette pack, offering me one which I took gratefully. Troy lit his first and then lit mine as it dangled out of my mouth.
"Politically?" Troy coked an eye brow, and it took me a moment to realize that I was just staring at is flawless face.
"Right," I confirmed. "Scott said that a committee was being formed to stop the construction from happening."
"Hasn't it already started?"
"Not fully. Scott said that Jerry and his crew had all their equipment down there and ready to start, but they were delayed due to the gas pipes below the ground that they didn't know about. It was lucky that they didn't strike a pipe or else it could have been pretty bad, but now that their ready to start, a body shows up and their set off coarse once again."
"So you think this 'committee' is doing this? Purposely killing an innocent little girl?" Troy sounded almost mad as I glanced at him, but quickly looked away.
"No. I don't think so, but we can't rule that option out. Someone is bound to think that though and print a story through the newspaper. We just have to inform the Chief of this information."
We were silent for a moment before I felt Troy move besides me. "Are you ready to go back?"
I looked down at both of our half eaten lunches. "…Yeah. This food sucks anyways."
Troy pulled into his previous parking spot near the bike trail twenty minutes after eating. Sharpay's van was still here, meaning that we couldn't start interviewing the workers until she was done so that we had at least one thing to lead off of.
"Want to make the call?" Troy asked and I looked at him. He sighed as he held his cell phone in his hand, the number already dialed in.
"Not really," I admitted, although if he really wanted me to, then I would. He was my partner, and I would do anything for him.
He forced a smile on his face as he was easy to read at times, when in other situations, he was the hardest person I knew. "You owe me Montez."
I was going to say something, anything to sound clever, but I realized I couldn't as Troy was already greeting the other person on the other line. I looked around, and a smile crossed my face as I looked straight ahead.
It was easy getting out of the car as Troy was busy on the phone, so he really didn't care that I was leaving him for five minutes. I walked over to Scott who was sitting on the edge of a truck bed.
"Hey," he smiled like we were long term friends.
"Any leads?" He asked with a happy tone. I looked at him and couldn't help but smile no matter what my mood was. Working in Murder took a lot out of a person as it was stressful to think of animals who could be capable of killing another human being.
Scott seemed just like the kind of person who was always in a good mood, and that was something I could use.
"If you count grabbing lunch at the nearest gas station a lead," I teased.
"Well you will soon I bet Gabriella. After the Crime Scene Tech and her crew leaves then you can really start."
I nearly whipped my head up to look at him in surprise. How did he know the specific role Sharpay played? How did he know that Troy and I haven't really started?
"What?" He asked innocently, and if I didn't know any better, there was a teasing smirk on his face.
"I'm sorry, but…are you familiar with crime scene investigations?" I didn't want to seem rude, but not once in working with Murder have I run across someone who was familiar with the process, but yet they had no police background.
"I might." He scratched the back of his neck in a sheepish kind of manner. "You actually might know my dad. Chief Cooper?"
I was surprised before, but now I was literally ready to go into a cardiac arrest. "Chief Cooper is your dad? You're his son!"
"On good days I am," Scott joked right before I heard a car door slam behind me, and I knew that it was Troy.
"Troy, guess who Scott is related too?" I didn't wait for Troy to answer as he stood next to me and nearly sent daggers Scott's way. I was too shocked to realize what that meant at the time. "He's Cooper's son."
"No way," Troy didn't sound enthusiastic. "Brie, we have an I.D and the families address. You ready to take off?"
I looked from Scott to Troy; not sensing the tension coming from both of the guys. "Yeah. We'll see you later this afternoon Scott."
"Have a good day Gabriella. And Troy," he added.
When Troy and I were both in the car, Troy zoomed out of the parking lot.
"I can't believe we met Cooper's kid. He looks to be about our age." I said with wonder in my voice. I don't know why that amazed me as we all knew Cooper had a kid, we just didn't know who he/she was…until now.
Troy grunted with an eye roll. "It's amazing."
"You're using your sarcastic tone. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah," Troy said dismissively. "Scott just seems like the screw up kind. I don't know why you're so excited about meeting him. He's not like boyfriend material or anything."
I looked at Troy with narrowed eyes. We were so comfortable around each other that we usually could talk about our relationship status and our previous girlfriends and boyfriends, but there was something within Troy's tone that told me that he was very upset about this.
"I never said I wanted to date Scott. I just…yeah, he's good looking I suppose, but I can't date him because he's as of right now, a suspect along with the rest of the construction crew."
"And if he wasn't apart of the crime? Would you date him then?" Troy asked quickly as I swore the car picked up in speed, which was saying a lot since we were in Burlington and you really couldn't speed.
"What's with the twenty questions. All I said was that he was nice and it's cool that we met Cooper's son. No big deal. I also said that I thought your mother and father were nice, does that mean I want to date them too? Huh?" I retorted as I crossed my arms over my chest like a little five year old pouting.
Troy sighed after a while and pulled up to the house that I guessed was the unsuspecting families. "I'm just in a bad mood Brie. You know how I get when it comes to kids' cases. Can we forget about Scott for now?"
I smiled at Troy. I understood perfectly why he was upset. Kids' cases were just not his thing. "We're partners. Of course we can forget him."