The back alleys of Industrial Road were far from Nick's favourite place to search, even in the daylight and with an escort consisting of two unis and Detective Vega. Whilst they still had a suspect in custody, there was little they could do to connect him to the victim other than the fact they were from the same town, and his reason for being at Penny's Plumbing shop appeared to be supported by the urine and gravitational blood drops they had found at the scene.
"I think that looks like our guy over there," Vega pointed to a homeless man sporting a greasy beard and dressed in tatty jeans, sandals and a mouldy khaki jacket which Geoffrey Nugent had described in the interrogation room. The man was sat on a blanket, eating from what looked like a tin of discarded dog food. The two of them walked over to the man, "excuse us, I'm Detective Vega from homicide and this is Nick Stokes from the crime lab, we just want to ask you a few questions."
The man looked at them warily, letting out a grunt which assumingly meant 'okay'. Nick handed him a photo of Joseph Huyt and asked the man, "Have you seen this man before?"
The homeless man shook his head muttering, "no, no I 'aven't."
"Okay then," Nick replied, this time handing him a picture of Geoffrey Nugent, "how about this guy?"
The homeless man studied the photo intently, he muttered some gibberish to himself before nodding and saying gruffly, "Yer, yer he was invadin' my territory! So I scared 'em off, got 'em with my fork."
"With all due respect, it's not your territory to claim," Detective Vega pointed out.
The homeless man ignored Vega's comment and continued to ramble on about his land and Geoffrey Nugent's inconsiderate attitude towards his territory. Nick attempted to veer the conversation away, "did you see a body near where you fought off Geoffrey Nugent, the invader?"
The man thought hard for this question before shaking his head and continuing to ramble on about his encounter earlier that evening.
"Okay okay," Nick intervened, starting to get impatient, "did you see anyone carrying a body, or anything which resembled one through here last night?"
"No, no, no!" The homeless man had become increasingly frustrated, "I didn' see nothin', no bodies, no murder, no nothin'!"
"Calm down please..."
"I'll calm down once you get yerself off my territory!" He began yelling, pulling out the fork he had used to ward off Geoffrey Nugent. Nick's heart suddenly jumped and he and Vega rapidly brandished their own weapons.
"Drop the weapon!" Vega yelled at the man, who ignored his demands and lunged at the detective. Vega skilfully side-stepped the hobo and quickly brought him down with a tackle. "Alright, I'm bringing you in for attempting to assault a police officer," he panted as the homeless man struggled like a fish out of water as Vega placed the cuffs around the man's wrists. Vega pulled the man up and handed him over to the unis who escorted him to the parking lot.
The homeless man began cackling, shouting over to Nick and Detective Vega, "I'm gonna be eatin' proper food tonigh' yeah!"
"Nice work," Nick commented to Vega, as they watched the man being taken out of sight, "unfortunately I think that eliminates our only suspect as the perp."
"You think a statement by some crazy hobo is gonna stand up as an alibi in court?" Vega asked.
"Well we got the evidence which supports the story as well," Nick said as they both walked back to their cars. "Say, if the traffic cams didn't pick up the perp's car entering the parking lot, and our homeless friend didn't see anyone bringing the body in, that must mean that whoever dumped the body must have arrived on foot from... that direction." He pointed towards the railroad tracks which ran parallel to Industrial Road.
"Or, the homeless guy could be lying and he came from the opposite direction," Vega commented, "or the homeless guy did the deed himself, he could have carved up our DB for some dinner."
"No, Doc said our guy was cut up before he died," he looked at Vega who cringed. "If our guy had come from the main road, we'd have seen something on surveillance; he must have been brought round the back of the complex, but I don't see any treads or prints around here."
Nick looked around in desperation for some form of answer. It was clear that they were back to square one. No suspects. No murder weapon. No evidence to suggest anyone else. Vega's cell began to ring. He answered the phone and turned to Nick saying, "the girlfriend's come in from Victorville. We better get back to the lab."
Nick made one last look around the scene, not wanting to leave but accepting he'd eventually have to admit that this was one of those cases which would end up on the infamous 'ones who got away' wall.
"Mr McKinley, I'm sure you're well aware that loansharking is illegal," Brass told the man seated next to him at the table.
"Loan shark?" McKinley laughed at the accusation, "is that what we call a compassionate act of philanthropy nowadays?"
"That's funny," Sara commented, "I've never known philanthropists to be charging eighteen percent per week interest on their donations."
"You know, I think I prefer the red-headed chick," McKinley said snidely.
"Where is this going Captain Brass?" The attorney seated next to McKinley piped up. Brass passed a photo of Melissa Wilcrow.
"This woman's Melissa Wilcrow," Brass informed McKinley, "she took out one of your loans back in January to pay off her mortgage and you've been sending her some pretty nasty reminders." He handed over copies of the letters which McKinley had sent. "We found your DNA on the envelopes."
McKinley simply sighed and replied sardonically, "oh Melissa, if only you'd paid me back and not wasted your money on booze and glam then you wouldn't have ended up in this mess."
"Or perhaps if you provided a more realistic interest rate then maybe she'd have been able to," Sara snapped.
"Hey, what can I say?" McKinley held his hands out, "I'm a business, I promised her a loan, one she couldn't get from anywhere else and she promises to pay me back eventually. She was the one who couldn't keep her end of the deal."
"Now seeing as you don't have any evidence which puts my client at the scene of Melissa's death," the attorney spoke rising to his feet, "we'll be leaving."
"You're not going anywhere," Brass replied coldly, "this is just the starter; why not stick around for the main course." Brass nodded to the door and Catherine entered the room carrying the file for Roland Herriot's case in her hand. She indicated to the attorney to sit down.
"Hey baby," McKinley jeered, eyes lighting up with both delight and lust, "you miss me?"
"We can't convict you for the death of Melissa Wilcrow," Catherine said, brushing off his comments, "but we've got more than enough to bust you for the death of Roland Herriot." She slid over several photos which McKinley examined with intense scrutiny. "Your prints on the nesting doll used to kill Roland Herriot. Roland Herriot's blood on the broken nesting doll. Fragments from the skull of Roland Herriot matched the nesting doll you used to kill him. Your DNA underneath Roland Herriot's fingernails. Your IP address was tracked from the death threats you were sending Roland Herriot. I think we've got a very good case here don't you think?"
"I agree Catherine, excellent job," Brass commented smugly, nodding his head in agreement.
McKinley smiled and clasped his hands together, "Roland was a good friend of mine. I presume you all found out that I'm a shareholder in his business?"
"Mr McKinley I recommend that you remain quiet..."
"Nah, it's okay, they got me," McKinley cast away his attorney's advice, "the two of us were good friends, we used to play golf on Saturday mornings, I'd even arranged a game for tomorrow. About nine months ago he told me that he needed some financial help, some family were suing the restaurant or something, so I recommended him to my company, of course he didn't know I was running i..."
"Wait a minute," Catherine looked up stunned, "you recommended him to your own loansharking business?"
"Well, yeah," he shrugged and began his anecdote, speaking in an unusually calm tone for someone about to be convicted for murder. "Of course I didn't want to mention the high interest rates, but anyway it started off well, he was able to pay off most of the loan, and then he stumbled and started falling behind on his payments. I mean, I could have stopped the payments, but then that was against my nature," he laughed to himself prompting horror-stricken stares from everyone else inside the room, "eventually he owed me so much I felt it was time to come clean so I met him earlier and tried to make him a deal, I wanted a bigger share in the company."
"But he wouldn't allow that," Sara continued, "I'm sure he must have been pretty annoyed when you told him you were scamming him."
"Scamming is such a crude term," McKinley bowed his head, "but yes you're right, he did get a little pissed, so pissed actually that he lunged at me, tried to beat me to a pulp actually, look," he pointed to a few bruises which lined the left side of his face and neck, "so I picked up the nesting doll and whacked him with it. Then he just dropped to the floor dead, I believe I acted in self defence."
"Generally, when people kill in self defence, they call nine-one-one and no such call was made from your phone," Brass notified him.
"There's also a fine line between self defence, and use of deadly force," Catherine added, "the coroner ruled that Mr Herriot died from multiple blunt force injuries. You didn't just strike him once; you struck him until he didn't get up again. We call that second degree murder."
"What am I looking at?"
"Ten years to life, closer to life."
McKinley sighed and held out his hands as if he was about to be cuffed, "well I've lived a good life, and I expect me being sent to the clink provides some sort of justice to the families involved. Pah, justice won't bring back your loved ones; it's just a word which provides a minimal sense of comfort, doesn't it."
"Oh really?" Sara quipped, "Personally, I see it as a word which means getting scumbags like you off our streets, and I'm sure that provides us with a lot of comfort."
"Get him out of here," Brass called over the arresting officer, who cuffed the still smirking McKinley and escorted him out of the room followed closely behind by McKinley's attorney.
"Well that's it then, case closed," Sara smiled wearily, "I guess we better sign out and go, if I'm lucky I might be able to get about five hours sleep."
Catherine watched her get up and leave the room, upon hearing the tone which Sara had just spoken in, she remembered what Lou had told her earlier and she quickly followed Sara out the room, catching up with her by the reception for PD.
"Hey Sara!" Catherine called out to her. Sara saw Catherine approaching her and waited by the reception desk, "take tomorrow off."
"Whoa! What?" Sara asked surprised.
"You heard me, I said take tomorrow off!"
"No buts, just, please don't come in, have a night off and relax, have a good sleep. If I see you come in I'll just send you straight home."
"I told you no buts!" Catherine exclaimed, Sara wasn't quite sure how to react to this. "You'll thank me for it on Sunday."
Before Sara had a chance to open her mouth to protest, Catherine had walked away, she had one more thing she wanted to get off her chest. She got her phone out, swallowed hard and dialled the number. The person on the other side picked up on the second ring, before giving them a chance to speak she said, "so dinner yeah? How about tomorrow evening before shift? Don't tell me where either, just surprise me."
Without giving the person on the receiving end a chance to speak she hung up the phone and smiled to herself as she felt the world lift off her shoulders.
The sound of a vault sliding open echoed across the morgue, David carefully pulled back the cloth to reveal Joseph Huyt's lifeless body to the bereaving girlfriend. Upon seeing his body, the girlfriend didn't say anything, she just simply nodded and Nick noticed that her eyes were beginning to well up with tears. David carefully pulled the cloth back over the body and pushed the body back into the vault.
Nick led her out of the morgue and they headed back towards a less depressing part of the building. Nick wasn't quite sure how to tell her that the case had no leads but still he knew he had to try and get something out of the girlfriend. "Miss Appleton," he found his voice was stuttered, unusual for him, "do you know anyone who'd had a grudge against Joe, or whether he'd been threatened in any way at all?"
Michelle Appleton groaned and began to weep, "that means you don't have anything, do you?" She wiped away tears which had begun falling down her cheeks, washing away her mascara. She was a beautiful young woman, with long dark hair which complimented her dazzling blue eyes. If Nick hadn't seen her on the worst day of her life, she would definitely have been one of the prettiest women he'd ever laid eyes on. He felt the only thing he could do was bring her into an embrace to comfort her, she managed to ask between sobs, "will I be able to get his stuff back? His wallet? His watch? His pendant?"
"Urrm, Miss Appleton," Nick said slowly and quietly, "we didn't find a pendant anywhere on Joe's body?"
Michelle Appleton's tears quickly subsided as her look of grief was replaced with a look of confusion, "but, he never goes anywhere without it! He wore it all the time, even in the shower!"
"What does the pendant look like?"
"It had the Star of David on it, Joe was Jewish after all and he was proud of his heritage. You don't think it was stolen do you?"
"Whoever took it wasn't after cash, his wallet was full and his watch was still on his wrist," Nick said through gritted teeth, his stomach began to sink as he thought about another possible motive for Joseph Huyt's murder, "I'm gonna need you to hold on here one sec."
Nick walked away from Michelle Appleton and immediately brought out his cell phone, dialling Vega's number but it went straight to voicemail, "Hey Vega, it's Nick. I've got a bad theory about the case, you're gonna have to call me back, I don't think our killer's finished his agenda with Joseph Huyt."
The brilliant sunshine couldn't have been any more out of place at this moment in time. Now it was over, he just wanted to get back to his normal life and leave. He'd been staring at the stone now for a good half an hour and he'd memorised it well enough to have the inscription loop round his head over and over:
OLAF MAGNUS HOJEM
11.22.1918 – 6.23.2011
SOM MAN RADER SA LIGGER MAN
Greg smiled to himself; he'd remembered the first time his Papa Olaf had first told him those words when he was sixteen. He remembered how he'd always ask about his grandfather's life, both in Norway and in America and to be wowed by various stories which looking back, probably seemed to be a bit good to be true. He'd never known a time when he didn't idolise his grandfather, he even did a whole 'show and tell' project about him in third grade and was disappointed that Papa Olaf couldn't come into school.
"Gregory," a voice came from behind him, which brought him back down to earth, "you should eat something, you look skinnier every time I see you."
"It's okay mom," Greg replied, "I'm not hungry." He was telling the truth, he didn't really feel like having anything to eat right now and wanted to be left alone. He regretted how he'd never had a real chance to say goodbye to his grandfather before he'd died, it had been about two months since they'd last talked to each other but his job had prevented them from communicating ever again.
"You should come back with the rest of us," his mother spoke again, "it's not healthy to isolate yourself away from everyone."
"Okay, I'll be over in a minute," whilst his mother had always been overly cautious with him, he knew it was unlike him to stand away from the crowd, he'd always be with them making conversation or telling various stories about Las Vegas. This was different, Greg was different and he knew that his mother was right and that he shouldn't wither in front of a gravestone.
"That was an inspiring eulogy you gave there Mr Sanders," a different voice came from behind Greg, one he'd never heard before, he noticed it had a strong Norwegian accent. Greg turned around and came face to face with a man who must have been around the same age as his mother. "Peter Grimsrud, and your Papa Olaf was my uncle."
"Nice to meet you Peter," Greg shook his hand firmly.
"I've been meaning to meet you for a while, I've lived in this country for five years now and you never seemed to be around."
"Yeah, that would be my job," Greg laughed, "always taking over my personal life."
"Yes, your Papa Olaf spoke very highly of you; he talked about you every time I came to visit him. You should come to Norway some time, I'm sure you'd love it there."
"I've been planning to for a while you know, but things keep getting in the way," Greg answered truthfully. It was the third consecutive summer he'd had to cancel a trip there due to the workload. "How long did you live in Norway by the way?"
"All but the last five years of my life," Peter answered proudly.
"I hope you don't mind me asking, but I got this sent to me last week," Greg pulled out the letter that had been written to him in Norwegian, "could you tell me what this symbol is here?" He pointed to a symbol at the bottom of the letter which resembled a shield with a red background and a golden cross which was drawn inside the circle. To the left of the symbol, there was a drawing of an eagle, but its wings were stained with blood.
Peter put on his glasses and looked at the letter; he quickly gazed at Greg upon seeing the symbols, giving him a look of confusion which unnerved Greg slightly. It was obvious that Peter knew what the symbols were and that Greg was not going to like the answer, he simply whispered to Greg:
"How much do you know about Norway's history, Mr Sanders?"
A/N: And that is the end of the story, I know that there are a lot of loose ends, but it's something to look forward to in future stories. ;) The next story in the series, Rush Hour (1x03) will be published on Friday July 1, so be sure to have a look at that if you enjoyed this and the previous story. Thank you all for reading and feel free to review and let me know what you thought! :)