Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Ch. 02byAdrian Leverkuhn©
Some nights are worse than others, you know. Nature of the beast, I guess you could say; no two nights are ever the same yet somehow they all are.
Even with more than a decade of looking at wrecked and mutilated bodies, this one got to me. I don't care what you have to say about it, or what you think: when you look at one of your own, a brother officer, your feelings are... different. The Wall can't quite get up there fast enough and you're left wide open and vulnerable -- just like every other Joe on the street you get a big, cold slap on the face. You feel the scene all around you and it hurts. It hurts because you don't get to play the objective observer anymore. It hurts because the pain hits you where you live and there's no place to hide.
And you can't run from your feelings, either. They come for you hard and fast, grab you by the throat like a lion and don't let go -- ever.
Chief Anders was shook up, bad. He was standing at the foot of this sleazy hotel bed looking down at Tottenham's body and I couldn't even begin to guess what was running through the old man's head. They'd gone to Academy together, been close friends for just a little longer than forever -- and now this. This death wasn't a random drive-by or another officer run-down by a drunk driver. This was no pissed-off veteran blowing his brains out after a bitter divorce. This one was different...
... because everything around us was so Goddamn dark and twisted...
... because the body on the bed had gotten there on its own, consensually, then been... what? Betrayed?
... but most of all it hurt because it pointed to something immeasurably dark and vicious within our ranks.
Whoever it was had not bothered to untie the wrist and ankle restraints this time, and Tottenham's body was obscenely splayed; he looked like da Vinci's Vitruvian Man -- drawn in blood. There were little impressions all over the bed, too...
Only Tate seemed relatively unaffected. He'd never really cared for Tottenham, thought he was a martinet and had done sloppy work in Internal Affairs. Tate seemed to be the first to grab hold of the implications of having the head of IAD being so compromised; I didn't get it then because none of us had quite grasped the depth of penetration this act implied.
This was another city's jurisdiction but after learning the identity of the victim we'd been asked to join their investigation; given the FBIs tertiary interest I wasn't surprised when Brennan showed up a little later. Tate and I helped the local detectives, a crusty old veteran, Spiros Pantazis, and a new detective, a four year veteran -- who also happened to be a woman.
Her name was Susan Eklund, and my first impression of her was that she might make a good cop when she got out of high school. To my eye she looked like a teenager, but then again I've been a little slow to admit that just about everyone under the age of thirty looks like a teenager to me now. She had a round face and round, curly hair, sort of blond but not quite. She was wearing a suit. A very masculine suit, and she was laying the macho know-it-all routine on pretty thick. Her partner, Pantazis, regarded her warily.
Their photographer was moving around as directed, taking photos then standing back, waiting for orders; Ekland seemed intent on ignoring Tate and myself but was deferential to Chief Anders. No one seemed to know the fuck what they were doing...
I went over to the bed's headboard and looked at the grain of the wood. "Prints here, I think," I said; Pantazis came close and looked too, held up a little UV lamp and looked again.
"Good call," he said. "Missed that one."
That had been Eklund's mistake and he wanted her to know it, too. She glowered at him and came over with her kit and began taking the print.
I walked over to the sliding glass door; it was unlocked. "Anyone been out here yet?"
No one had. "And don't let anyone in the bathroom!" I yelled. The carpet was already useless.
Pantazis came over and looked with me. There was dozens of prints on the glass, and we wouldn't be able to tell about the door-handle and lock-lever until Eklund tried to lift prints from them, but I was guessing there'd be a relevant one or two -- at least -- on both.
"You shootin' film?" I asked their photographer. He looked like he was -- maybe -- fourteen.
"No, sir. We haven't in years. Canon, 1Ds with data verification."
"Can you shoot I.R."
"Never-mind," I grumbled as I took out my phone. I called dispatch, had them transfer me to the lab.
"Woodward. Is Harker in?"
"Yeah, hang on." I heard some hollering in the background, banging sounds of stools falling over onto the floor, then the always and ever diminutive: "Jonathon Harker here."
"Jon? Woody. You got any high speed infrared left?"
"Yeah, sure. Tons. What's up?"
I filled him in; he got excited and loaded up his stuff and was headed our way in a flash, he got there about a half hour later -- somehow keeping his velocity just under the speed of light. I just managed to keep everyone away from the patio door, and the bathroom, until he arrived, then told him what I needed. I moved off and let him at it. He knew what I was after.
We finished the crime scene about five hours later, only then did we let the Coroner's people move the body. I had Harker shoot some stuff where Tottenham's body had been, then pulled down the comforter and had him shoot the blanket, then each sheet underneath. Pantazis and Eklund looked at me like I was nuts.
Anders and Tate were down in the lobby when I got off the elevator, there were a couple of reporters outside on the sidewalk -- too late for the morning editions, I told myself as I walked over to the Chief -- and Tate handed me a cup of coffee when I got there.
"Thanks. That was rough..."
"Woodward, I want a total black-out on this for now. Strictly 'no comment'; got it?"
"Of course that goes for you, too," he said as he looked at Tate.
"Did you get what you needed?"
"Think so, Chief. If the locals cooperate, anyway."
The way he said that left no doubt in my mind: someone had turned up the heat.
The elevator dinged; Pantazis and Eklund walked out; a photographer pointed and all the gathered reporters got ready. Obviously they didn't know who Tate and I were, maybe not even Anders.
"There a back way out of here?" I asked the clerk behind the reception desk.
She pointed to a hallway: "Down there, door at the end of the hall. Leads right into the parking garage."
"Thanks." I turned to Anders. "You want me to talk the reporters?"
"No, you go on, keep on Harker until you know something."
"Right." I turned to Tate, motioned with my head and we walked-off down the hall to the covert exit. I opened the door and recognized her immediately: Liza Mullins, crime reporter for the Post-Intelligencer. She'd staked us out, been waiting.
"Any comments, Woody?"
"Not a one."
"Heard it's a cop. Any truth to that?"
"I heard the mother-ship's on the roof. They're holding a place for you."
"Can I quote you on that? 'Seattle PD claims alien Mother Ship wants Ace Reporter?'"
"So, you're an Ace Reporter?" We laughed, then: "You never give up, do you?"
"You ever been married, Liza?" That seemed to shut her up...
"I'm not now. Why?"
"Well then, would you marry me?"
Her left eyebrow shot up: "Sure, Woody, right after the aliens get through with you."
"That's what I thought. Always the same." We all laughed -- even as Tate and I turned and walked off, leaving her standing there. Then I heard her running along behind us and we stopped when I got to the back of the Ford. "You still here?" I pointed at the ceiling: "They ain't gonna wait forever, ya know?"
"Knock it off, Woodward. Gimme something!? Please?"
"How 'bout coffee later? Or breakfast?"
I looked at her; cute kid, maybe a pest -- but cute. I could handle some cute after a night like this. "I don't know how long I'll be?"
She handed me her card. "Call me. Whenever."
I looked her in the eye. "Cute," I said, and that eyebrow shot up again.
"I said, cute. As in, you-are-cute."
She started to blush and I opened the door and got in, started the engine and let it warm up. She moved closer, until she was blocking the open door, then she knelt down beside me.
"Do you mean that?" she said.
"What? About the mother ship?"
She didn't have a come-back ready, or maybe she was being serious.
"Yeah, Liza, I think you're cute. Maybe nine/tenths gorgeous. Why?"
"Just didn't expect you to say that, that's all." She was looking all kinds of serious now but it was kinda odd because for some reason I didn't regret saying it. I'd know her for years, we'd bantered back and forth over cases -- the normal back and forth between cops and reporters -- and yet for any number of reasons nothing had ever developed. We'd certainly never exchanged Christmas cards or birthday greetings, let alone met for coffee, so I considered this a most unusual development.
"Well, maybe I shoulda told you years ago, but there it is."
"Will you call me?"
"For coffee, yes."
She looked at me. She got it. "Call me. I've got to get some sleep, but I'll answer."
"Right." She shut my door and I backed out and drove out from under the building; Tate fell in behind me and called as soon as we were clear:
"What did she want?" he asked.
"You wish, Dickhead. Seriously, Woody, what's she after."
"A warm shoulder, I think."
"Aren't we all. What else."
"No shit? You need a chaperone or anything, let me know."
"I'm wasted, Woody; gonna head to the barn and crash for a while."
"Yeah, you old farts! Gotta get your rest or you..."
"Suck my dick."
"No thanks. Tryin' to quit."
"Well, then, be careful!"
The line went dead.
Forensics was in an annex to the old original Central Precinct building; it had been cobbled together over the years to make room for new gadgets and ever newer technologies, but somehow digital had yet to replace film completely in our lab, and I for one was grateful. Digital is good, don't get me wrong, but a fine grained film in the hands of a good photographer with a Leica can reveal all kinds of things better than digital, particularly in the infrared spectrum, and that's why I'd called Harker.
Infrared excels at picking up things the human eye misses; things like leather scuff marks on floor tiles, or the impression made by knees or shoes on blankets and sheets. Harker knew exactly what I was looking for; he hadn't needed to ask because we'd danced this dance a hundred times before. He came out of the darkroom a little after eight that morning with a big smile on his face.
"Bingo!" he said.
"Yeah? Let me see."
He laid out a pile of 11x17 inch prints on a drafting table and flipped on an articulated desk-lamp/magnifying glass and pulled it over; I sat down and looked at the first print...
"She probably stood over him, on the bed. High heels, probably a size six, maybe a six and a half. Look at the next one."
I picked up the next image and put in under the light.
"Scuff mark on the tile in the bathroom, and a couple of other prints in the next shot. Same shoe, same size."
"So... female for sure."
"Yeah. Probably pretty small, too. Like five feet, maybe a shade more. Look at the next one... close."
"This the bathroom floor again?"
"What is it?"
"Two sets of prints, really. The same high heels, and a man facing her. About a size nine, maybe a ten."
"Size thirteen. I checked with evidence."
"Bingo, indeed. Good work, Amigo."
"Woody? It's pretty weird you know, even so."
"Well, all the usual places you'd find prints were wiped down, like a cop was in on it, but an insider would know we might use infrared. Any competent lab would."
"Well, I just assumed an insider, you know, what with the FBI guy and the A/C."
"How'd you hear the other was FBI?"
"Shit, Woody, are you kidding? Everyone was talking about it yesterday."
I bunched my lips, frowned. It would be in the papers today. Had to be. It would be interesting to find out their source someday. "So then, what are you thinking? Amateurs?"
"Yeah. Or just sloppy."
"Or tryin' to throw us off the trail."
He shook his head at that one. "Glad this is your case, Woodward. Real glad."
"Yeah, ain't life grand?"
Anders wasn't in; he'd gone home and left a note for me to call him this afternoon. I pulled Liza's card from my pocket and dialed the number.
"Hello?" She sounded half asleep.
"So, let me take a wild guess. You blew off the Mother-ship?"
"You find out anything?"
I didn't answer.
"Oh, right," she said. "Sorry. No questions allowed."
"I could do a cup."
"Starbucks on Westlake, across from the Marriott. Half hour." I broke the connection then checked my messages. First one was from Tottenham, telling me to check in with him this morning. Okay, nothing unusual going on there. Next one was from Mary-Jo, late last night.
"Woody, sorry you had to go so soon last night. Maybe we could so something this weekend?"
Next was from Tate, this morning when he got home: "Just checkin' in, Woody. Call me if you haven't heard from me by noon or so." I dropped by my mailbox and then walked out to the Ford, got in and drove over to Lake Union, went into the Starbuck's and bought a New York Times. I looked around, took a seat away from the windows. The Times, I thought, ought to really piss her off.
She came in a few minutes later; the dark circles under her eyes were almost as puffy as mine.
"I didn't take you for a bird owner, Woody."
"Hm-m... why do you say that?"
"Why would you pick up a rag like that if not to line the bottom of a bird-cage."
"You order anything yet?"
"Nope; thought I'd wait and see what you wanted. You know, like bein' chivalrous and all that crap."
"Here? Now? Are you sure?"
She laughed. "Yeah, man."
"What do you want?"
"I hear that." I came back a few minutes later and sat across from her.
"I didn't take you for a Lake Union kind of guy," she said as I sat. "You got a boat?"
I ignored the question. "So, what are you hearin' on the street about this?"
"Two cops dead, same MO."
"Someone inside tell you?"
"Is that a confirmation?"
"Then I'm sorry. Sources are confidential."
"Tit for tat, huh?"
"No other way in this biz, Woody."
"C'est la vie."
"Il ne doit pas etre de cette facon."
"Yes it does. It wouldn't work for very long if we expected each other to compromise our integrity."
"Guess so." She looked me in the eye: "You lonely, Woodward?"
"No, I'm tired."
She nodded. "When you going to retire?"
She laughed. "How long 'til you can?"
"Oh, I could now. Just not with full benefits."
She sighed. "So why are you staying?"
"The bad ones are tough to break."
"The hardest. May I ask you a question?"
"I'm forty three, was married once, divorced about ten years ago."
"Touché. Damn, I hate being so predictable."
"Well, if it means anything to you Woody, I'm lonely too."
I nodded, looked at her eyes, saw the long nights typing stories, just meeting deadlines by minutes day after day, year after year, and pushing everyone she cared for right out of her life. It was all right there -- hiding in plain sight.
"What about you? You gonna work 'til you drop?"
"I've thought about quitting but I have no idea what I'd do. Guess I could teach somewhere."
"Where you from?"
"Military brat. All over."
"Married? No. Wait. How many times?"
She whistled: "Just didn't work out, huh?"
"The hours. You have to be around every now and then in order to have a relationship. Took me awhile to figure that one out."
"That's why I never got remarried. No good reason, really. I was just never ready to put my work in second place."
"Any regrets?" I asked. She was so easy to talk to...
"I didn't, not then anyway. The prospect of growing old, alone, well, that's not comfortable anymore."
"Perspectives change a little bit, don't they?"
She nodded. "If you retired tomorrow, what would you do?"
"Depends. If it was just me I'd take off, maybe just go wandering."
"Really? What, like on a motorcycle or something? A motorhome?"
I took a deep breath, wasn't sure I wanted to put so much about myself out there in the public domain. Then it just sort of slipped out: "I have a boat."
She went wide-eyed on me: "No shit!?"
"Good for you. Always thought that would be fun. Sea of Cortes, Baja..."
"Now you're talking. When do we go?"
We laughed at that one, but it was an uneasy, loaded laughter, like we were all of a sudden finding something in common and grasping to make something out of it. Maybe we were. Maybe we could...
My stomach growled.
"He hungry down there?" she said as she looked at my belly.
"Always. How 'bout you?"
"You know? I could eat."
"Follow me." We walked out and went over to the Ford, opened the door for her then got in behind the wheel, drove the few blocks down Westlake to the boat. We walked down and I buzzed in the gate, then made our way out to the boat.
"She's nice. How big?"
"About right for two people."
"Yep." I unlocked the companionway, slid back the hatch and stowed the boards, went down and offered her my hand. She ignored it and hopped down with practiced ease.
"It's nice, Woody. Comfortable."
"Thanks. Eggs and bacon sound okay?"
"Maybe. How 'bout some juice or something..."
"Okay, comin' up." I poured a couple glasses, put them on the table.
"You don't have any tissue handy, do you?"
"Sure. Be right back." I went to the head, rummaged around for a fresh box and went back. She had some eye-drops out and her eyes were watering; I handed her the box.
She took her juice and drank most of it. "Good stuff."
I took my glass and downed it. I thought it had a funny aftertaste -- kind of bitter.
She smiled at me now. "I don't really feel like bacon and eggs, Woody."
"No, I had in mind something, well, firmer, something a little more satisfying..."
She was looking right at my groin and I swear she was licking her lips.
"Come on," she said as she stood. "I'm going to fuck your brains out, Woody."
She came over, took my hand and pulled me up, led me forward. I felt a little light-headed, suddenly sleepy. She pulled me up to the foot of the berth up forward and turned me around, pushed me gently and laughed as I fell back. I felt like I was spinning now, like the whole world was careening wildly out of control. She leaned over and unbuttoned my shirt, undid my belt, then the roughly yanked down my pants. "Sit up," she commanded; I felt her tugging my pants all the way down, pulling my shoes off, pulling them over my ankles. I could hardly keep my eyes open now.
"Woody, push yourself up, to the head." It was hard, my arms and legs felt like hot lead, nothing worked right anymore. "Here, I'll help you..." I felt her arms under my shoulders, wanted to say something but couldn't. She fluffed-up some pillows, propped me up in a reclined position and I watched as she took off her clothes, folded them neatly and put them aside.
She opened her purse, took out a bottle and opened it, then she came over, opened my mouth, slipped a pill under my tongue. "I want you nice and hard, Woody. Real hard."