Authors: E. H. Reinhard
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers
“Should have taken the surface streets,” Hank said.
“Yeah I know.”
He leaned back into his seat and closed his eyes. It was his normal response to traffic jams. “We only have five miles to go on the freeway. It should take us a half hour or so. I’m going to just rest my eyes a little.”
“No sleeping on the job. Get your ass up.” I flipped on my directional and tried to get to the right.
“What am I supposed to do? We’re stuck in traffic.”
“Watch out the window for someone breaking the law.” I pointed to the car next to us. “Get that guys attention and tell him we are merging. Show him your gun if you have to.”
Hank sat up in his seat and rolled down his window. “Fine. Are you in a hurry or something?” He showed the guy his badge and motioned like we were coming into his lane. I was sure he could tell from our car’s front fender being an inch from his.
“I’m supposed to have dinner with Callie later. She made reservations at some place she likes. Something about it being our six month anniversary.” I regretted the last sentence as soon as it escaped my mouth.
“The big six month anniversary dinner, hey?” He laughed. “Are you guys going steady?”
“At least we’re not going to dance classes and getting our nails done together.”
He sat quiet for a second looking for a snappy comeback. “So let me get this right. You were starting high school when she was born?”
I did a little mental math. It was pretty close.
“No comment, huh?”
“You know I’ve been sitting on a lot of new material about your wife. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, but this works for me if it does for you. Tell me all about your new pink car that I’m sure she picked out.”
“It’s not pink. It’s raspberry metallic pearl.”
“So that’s what they are calling pink these days?”
“Whatever. So speaking of cars, how’s the new Vette?”
Hank was quick to change the subject.
“I love it.”
“What does Callie think?”
“It’s not functional enough. That’s fine. She can trade her car in something functional if she wants.”
“You’re going to need to start making compromises now that you guys are all serious. How are you adjusting to so much time together?”
“It’s fine. I like it. I mean I could have done worse. At least it seems like she has her stuff together—new car, nice house.”
The driver let us over when the car ahead of him moved. Hank threw him a wave as we merged. “Yeah, how does she swing that with a bar tending job again?”
“We haven’t talked about it.”
“Might be something you want to check into.”
I dismissed Hank’s remark, but he had a point. It had been something that was bugging me for a while. She seemed to dismiss the topic anytime I brought it up. It was getting time to have a real conversation about it.
I rode the shoulder of the freeway until we hit East Hillsborough Avenue and exited. Fifteen minutes and a few side streets later, we made a right off North 46th Street and pulled through the chain link gates of the County Medical Examiner’s office. I parked the car up front and killed the engine. We walked in through the green glass doors and had the receptionist page Ed Dockett, the chief medical examiner. We stood around up front until he came from down the hall a few minutes later.
“Lieutenant, Sergeant. How we doing this afternoon?” He reached out for a handshake.
“Fine, Ed. You?”
“Busy. You want to follow me back?” He gave us a wave of his hand as he turned. “I can give you a quick viewing and then I need to get back to it. She just came in a little over an hour ago so I haven’t started with an autopsy yet. I snapped a few photos and put a file together for you though.”
“Thanks,” I said.
We followed Ed down the hall and passed through the stainless doors to the morgue.
“Hey, hold up a second,” Hank said.
I stopped and watched him fumble some small orange things from his pocket. I tried to get a closer look. “What are those?”
He held them out in the palm of his hand. “Ear plugs.”
“And you need those for?”
He spun them back and forth in his fingers and placed one in each nostril. “I’ve come prepared.”
“Oh, it’s not that bad. Come on.”
“These should be mandatory equipment. The last time I came here I smelled death for three days. Just a whiff now and then like there were little dead person particles stuck inside my nose clinging to my nose hairs. I have an extra pair if you’d like.” Hank dug in his pocket and pulled two more ear plugs out.
“I’ll be fine, Hank.”
Ed stood at table toward the back. A white sheet covered the body in front of him. “Down here, guys.”
We walked over. As soon as he saw the plugs lodged into Hank’s nose, he rolled his eyes. “Are those police issue?”
“You guys should hand these out at the door.” Hank’s nasally voice sounded almost as comical as he looked.
Ed shook his head and pulled the sheet back. The woman wore a small black dress. Her long hair hung to the sides of a bloated face. Her eyes were open and milky white.
“No belongings or identification found with the body?” I asked.
“What you see is what we got.” He brushed her black hair away from her neck. “You can see the ligature marks here.” He pointed to the purple bruising around her neck. It was an inch and a half wide spanning her entire throat. “I’d say it came from a belt.”
“Age?” I asked.
“I’d put the age in the early twenties. We have a number of tattoos to go off of to try to get an identification.”
I leaned back from the body to get a few inches away from the smell. “Any other injuries?”
“I didn’t find anything else on the first pass. There were a couple minor contusions and marks across the body, but all postmortem. Fish poking around would be my guess.”
“How long would you say she was in the water?” Hank asked.
“Rough estimate of ten days or so—around there. The skin around her hands and nails has begun to separate. That doesn’t start to happen until after a week. The water temperature and a host of other variables come into play as well, but I’d say ten days.”
“Can you still get prints?” I asked.
Ed scrunched his face. “Not traditionally. I can try a few things but I wouldn’t hold my breath. She has some pretty distinctive tattoos though. I took photos of them and included them in the file. Her height, estimated weight, hair color and all that are in there as well. You need to see anything else?”
I took another look at the bloated female corpse. “We’re good here.”
Ed pulled the covering back over the body. “I should have the autopsy done tonight and be able to get you the results by tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, I’ll grab that file for you from my office and meet you back up front.”
I dropped off a copy of the file to our guys in the Missing Persons Department. If she was local and reported there was a good chance they could get me an I.D.
I sat and picked up the phone at my desk. The clocked showed a quarter to six. Our reservations were at six thirty and I was going to be late. The Japanese steakhouse she wanted to go to was attached to one of the bigger shopping malls in the area. The twenty minute drive from work, would be double that during rush hour traffic. The couple text messages I received from her throughout the day told me she was at the mall shopping and wanted to catch a movie after dinner. I dialed Callie, she picked up in two rings.
“Hey, Babe. Are you done?”
“Almost, but it looks like I’m running behind. I can leave here in about fifteen minutes or so, should be able to be out there before seven.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m just finishing up shopping now. I’ll walk over to the restaurant in a few minutes and see if we can bump our reservation back. We can always just go somewhere else if we can’t.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll try to get there as soon as I can.”
“It’s not a big deal. Just call me when you’re close.”
“OK, see you soon.”
I hung the phone back on the receiver. Unlike my ex-wife, there was no guilt trip for being late. No guilt trip for my job ruining her plans. Either Callie understood or our relationship was still new enough that she wouldn’t let me see she was annoyed. I guess time would tell.
I locked up my office on the way out and popped in by Captain Bostok to tell him I was taking off. His door was open, so I headed in.
He pointed to the chair across from him at his desk. “Kane, grab a seat. What did you get out by Ed?”
I sat. “Woman was in her early twenties. Choked with a belt was Ed’s best guess until he does the autopsy.”
“Did he give you an estimate for how long she was in the water?”
I nodded. “He thinks over a week.”
“Nothing. She had some tattoos. I made a copy of the file Ed gave me and dropped it off upstairs at Missing Persons. It looked like everyone had already left for the day so I left it in Schmidt’s inbox on his desk.”
“If someone reported her, he’ll have something for you come morning.” The captain dug through the mini fridge next to his desk and pulled a can of V8 from inside. “You want a V8?”
“No, I’m good thanks. Not a tomato fan.”
“I have to lay off the caffeine and junk food. The doctor said I’m sixty pounds over my ideal weight and have a high risk of a heart attack. He said I need to start taking better care of myself if I wanted to see seventy. The wife got worried. She has me drinking this stuff now. It’s supposed to be good for you and it tastes alright. Sure you don’t want one? This isn’t the tomato flavored stuff. Says it’s organic splash flavor.”
“Well, when you make it sound so good. Yeah, fine. Give me one.”
He pulled one from the refrigerator and slid it across his desk at me. I cracked the top of the can and took a sip. It still tasted like watered down tomato soup. I glanced at my watch. My fifteen minutes I told Callie before I’d leave was ticking away. “Anything else, Cap? Otherwise I’m going to take off.”
“Someplace to be?”
He smiled. “Oh yeah, the big six month anniversary, huh? Now, do you give gold or silver for that?”
I leaned back in the chair. “Geez, you too?”
He laughed. “Hank came in here before he left. He told me he’d buy breakfast tomorrow if I said something.”
I stood and made for the door. “Sounds like a captain taking a bribe to me.”
“Yeah, kind of. Have a good night, Kane.”
The drive to meet Callie for dinner was, as expected, traffic ridden. I called her on the drive letting her know I’d be even later than expected. I pulled into the mall’s parking lot at a quarter after seven. Callie sat on the bench outside. She stood as I walked up.
“Hey, sorry I’m late.”
She smiled and wrapped her arms around my neck. “I told you not to worry about it.” She gave me a kiss. Callie’s bags from shopping bounced off my back.
“How was shopping?”
“Fine. I got a couple new pairs of shoes.”
“Shoes? You don’t have enough?”
She smiled. “You can never have enough shoes.”
Callie recently relinquished some closet space to me for when I stayed over. Albeit, very little. The floor and shelves of her walk in closet in the master bedroom were completely filled with shoes. It looked like a shoe store. Each line was color coordinated and separated by style. I got three inches of hanging space for a suit and street clothes, plus one twelve inch by eight inch spot of floor space for a single pair of work shoes.
I smiled back. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. I think you may have a problem.”
She laughed. “Whatever. It’s a girl thing.”
“I guess.” I looked through the glass doors of the restaurant. “Any chance we can still get in here? It looks busy.”
“Yeah, we’re fine. Our reservation isn’t until seven forty-five. So you’re early. Come on, let’s go grab a drink from the bar.”
We walked into the steakhouse and stopped at the hostess desk.
“We have a reservation at seven forty-five under Kane,” Callie said.
The woman scanned the sheet laid out in front of her. “Here we go. It looks like we have a few minutes yet. I’m going to give you this pager here and it will light up and vibrate when we’re ready for you.”
Callie smiled. “Great, thanks.”
We walked over and found a spot at the bar as two people were leaving.
Callie sat the pager up on the bar and poked at my knee. “Have you ever been here before?”
“Nope. First time.” I took in the surroundings. Above the bar were fiber optic lights dangling from the ceiling, rotating from one color to the next. A waterfall wall separated the bar and table seating from the hibachi grills and group dining in the back. I liked the atmosphere.
“Do you want to do the hibachi or just get a table up front?”
I thought about it for a second. I wasn’t a fan of sitting with strangers. From all the recent news coverage, I’d been getting recognized in public. I always seemed to find someone who wanted to talk about my job. “You pick.”
She smiled. “Okay, I will. Let’s get a drink.”
I ordered a beer, Callie got some form of non-alcoholic daiquiri and we talked for a few minutes before our pager lit and did a dance on the bar. We took it back up to the hostess station.
“Would you guys like a table or did you want to do the hibachi?” she asked.
“Table please.” Callie looked to me. “I just don’t want to sit with a bunch of strangers if that’s alright?”
I smiled. “Yeah that’s fine.”
“Right this way.”
We followed the hostess over to our booth and had a seat.
She placed a menu before each of us. “Your waiter will be with you in just a moment.” She smiled and walked back toward the front.
I picked my menu and thumbed over to the entree section to have a look.
Callie looked at her menu for a few seconds and then sat it down. “Already know what I’m going to get.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“Mango calamari rolls.”
I looked up from my menu. “Is that food?”