Authors: E. H. Reinhard
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers
I rode the elevator upstairs to the fourth floor and headed down the hall to Missing Persons. It was a small department tucked in behind our administrative unit. The walls were light gray and stacked to the ceiling with file boxes. There were three offices separating the front. The offices belonged to Detective Schmidt, Detective Steinberg and their secretary.
I walked in and spotted Hank and Schmidt’s desk toward the back. There was no one else around.
“Schmidt.” I reached out, shook his hand and took a seat.
Detective Schmidt had been in our Missing Person’s department ever since I took the job a few years back. He wore black rimmed glasses, a white shirt and tie. From the lack of gray in his hair, I was sure he dyed it. The wrinkles around his eyes said he was in his forties.
“Kane, I was just telling Rawlings here that it only took me a couple photos to find your girl. I recognized the tattoos. Her name is Jenny Cartwright. I made the call to Ed. He said he’d make the call to her parents to come and identify the remains.”
“When did she get reported missing?” I asked.
He slid the file on her over to me. “A week ago today. Her roommate reported it.”
“Have we been in contact with the family?”
“Daily. Her roommate called it in to us. We contacted the family. Parents hadn’t talked to her in a week or so prior to her going missing. They’re local though.”
I opened the file and thumbed through the contents. “I’ll take a look at this in more detail in a bit, but give me the short version. What do we have as far as information?”
“Her roommate stated she went home with some guy she’d met at a bar. It was the last time she was seen or heard from. We had a few officers go to the bar, but didn’t come up with anything.”
“What bar?” I asked.
Schmidt reached over to the file and rustled through it. He tapped at a name on one of the papers. “Frank’s is the name. Her roommate said she didn’t come home that night and didn’t show for work the next day. I guess they both worked at the same restaurant. Anyway, her roommate kept trying to call her and never got an answer. She reported her missing after she missed her second shift in a row.”
Hank put his elbow up on Schmidt’s desk and sat his chin on his hand. “Did her roommate leave a description of the guy she went out with?”
“She never saw him, but gave a description from what she was told by the Cartwright girl on the phone—big Russian guy with longer hair. Name was Ray,” Schmidt said.
I flipped through the papers in the folder. “Roommate’s contact info is in here correct?”
“Yup. Should be everything we gathered in there.”
“Thanks Schmidt.” I took the folder from the desk and stood. Hank followed my lead.
Schmidt’s attention went back to the files on his desk.
We left the Missing Persons office and headed back down the hall. I hit the button for the elevator to take us to three.
“Plan of attack?” Hank asked.
The elevator doors opened and took us in. “We need to get some interviews set up, parents and roommate.”
Hank leaned against the back wall of the elevator. “Does it seem kind of weird to you that her parents wouldn’t have talked to her in a week? I mean if I had a college aged daughter living with a friend I’d be checking in on her every twenty minutes.”
“I agree. We’ll get to the bottom of it.”
The elevator let us out, and we made our way over to the captain’s office. His door was open. We entered.
He looked up from his computer. “Well?”
“We got a positive. The girl’s name was Jenny Cartwright.”
“What do we know?”
“We know a little more about our suspect. Jenny Cartwright’s roommate said she went home with a big Russian with longer hair. He went by the name Ray. It gives us a loose description to work with between the two. That description doesn’t ring a bell does it?”
“Not in the least. Circulate it around the station and see if anything comes back. When did this Jenny girl go missing?”
“Roommate reported her missing a week ago. She went home with a guy from the bar and wasn’t seen or heard from again. I’m going to try to get some interviews set with the roommate and the girl’s parents.”
“Have her parents been notified?” the captain asked.
“Schmidt called over to Ed and gave him her name. Ed was going to call in the family to make a positive identification,” Hank said.
I tapped my fingers on the captain’s desk. “Still plugging away on that budget?”
“Yeah. I’m trying to find a way to get Jones back on first. I’m not sure if we can. The money just isn’t available.”
“I’d appreciate it if you could.”
The captain nodded and pointed to his computer screen. “I’m working on it. I know you guys could use the help.”
“Thanks, Cap.” I stood. “Come on Hank.”
The captain let out a deep breath and went back to staring at his computer. “Keep me updated guys.”
We left his office and headed to Hank’s desk. I handed him the file. “Call up the roommate and try to get something setup.”
Hank squeezed the back of his neck and ran his hand through his hair. “Am I breaking the news to her?”
I shook my head. “Not until the parents make a positive identification. Tell her we’d like to follow up with her and setup a time for an interview. I’m going to call Ed and see what the status on the parents is.”
He took a seat at his desk and I headed for my office. I sat and grabbed the phone. I dialed up the medical examiner’s office. The receptionist picked up within a few rings.
“County Medical Examiner’s office, this is Brenda.”
“Hi Brenda, it’s Lieutenant Kane. Is Ed in?”
“Sure Lieutenant, one moment.”
She put me on hold and I rocked back in my chair throwing my feet up on a file box next to my desk. The hold music was interrupted a minute or two later by Ed coming to the phone.
“Lieutenant, what can I do you for?”
“Hey Ed, what’s the status on this Jenny Cartwright’s parents?”
“They should be in soon. I called them about twenty minutes ago.”
“Can you give me a call after they identify her?”
“No problem. Anything else?”
“Yeah, tell them that I’ll be working the case and give them my contact information. Have them call me as soon as they can.”
“Thanks Ed.” I hung up the phone.
I opened her file and spread the papers across my desk. The next half hour was spent going over each sheet on the girl two or three times. Jenny Cartwright was twenty four and studying to be a social worker. She worked part time at Chick Stop, a chain restaurant that specialized in wings and waitresses that wore tight shirts and small skirts. There was no boyfriend in the picture. Our best chance to get to the bottom of this sat with her roommate or the bar she met the guy at. I pulled myself from my chair and went out to see if Hank was able to get something setup with her roommate.
Hank reclined in at his desk chair. “We’re supposed to meet her at noon. I was just going to come grab you.”
He nodded. “We have to meet her at her work. Guess she starts her shift at twelve thirty and wants to meet prior.”
I sat across from him. “Where’s it at?”
“Right over the causeway heading into Clearwater.”
I caught the time on my watch. It was a little after eleven. “Okay, let me grab the file from my desk. I’ll meet you back here in a few.”
I turned and headed for my office. As I gathered up the file I noticed my voice mail light flashing on my desk phone. I picked up the receiver and hit the button for it to play. The message was a couple minutes old.
Kane, it’s Ed. I’ll try your cell in case you’re out. Jennifer Cartwright’s parents identified the body and left. I gave your information to her father, John. He said he’d contact you this afternoon. If you need anything else give me a buzz.
I hung up the phone and felt my cell vibrate in my pocket. It was the medical examiner’s office. I clicked talk.
“Hey Ed. I just got your message at my desk.”
“Oh, OK. One more thing I forgot to add. Her father is a father.”
“A minister. Her father is a minister.”
“Got it. Thanks, Ed.”
I hung up, finished putting all the papers back into the file and went to round up Hank. We took an unmarked from the lot and pulled out a couple minutes after eleven thirty.
“So her father is a minister?” Hank asked.
I merged to the right to hop onto the Memorial Highway that would take us up to SR 60. “That’s what Ed said.”
“Could be why that hadn’t talked much.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if my daughter worked at a place like that I wouldn’t be all that jazzed. Plus I’m sure it doesn’t look that hot if you’re working in the church.”
“It’s just a restaurant. Someplace guys can daydream and watch sports.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
I merged over onto the entrance of SR 60. “So you’re saying you’d rather not go? You want me to swing around and drop you back at the station.”
“Well, I suppose it’s getting toward lunchtime and I might as well eat.”
“That’s pretty much what I figured.”
A few miles down SR 60 we found the place on the right. The lunchtime crowd had the parking lot packed. I found a spot at the back and parked. I grabbed the case file and Hank and I walked through the front doors. We were greeted by the twenty something year old blonde hostess. “Welcome to Chick Stop, how many today?”
“Two. We’re actually here to speak with one of your employees, Kelly Pearson.”
“Sure. I’ll just get you guys a table and I’ll try to find her for you. Follow me.”
We did. Hank’s eye level never got above her waist as we followed. She sat us at a table against the back wall.
“I’ll tell Kelly you’re here.”
“Oh, thanks,” Hank said.
She walked off toward the bar.
“First time seeing a female?” I asked.
“It’s like staring into the sun. You’re not supposed to look but I can’t help it.”
I smiled. “Yeah, pretty sure that’s the point of this place.”
We ordered a couple cups of coffee and waited. A girl in street clothes walked up a few minutes later. “You the guys from the police station that called?”
I took a drink from my coffee, sat it down and swallowed. “Yes, I’m Lieutenant Kane, this is Sergeant Rawlings that you spoke with earlier.”
She pulled a chair out and sat. “Did you find Jenny?”
I nodded and thought about my words for a second before speaking. “Miss Pearson, I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this but…”
She cut me off mid-sentence. “She’s dead?”
I let out a breath and nodded confirmation.
Kelly’s head sank against her chest. She didn’t cry. “How did she die?”
There was no reason to tell her she’d been strangled and found floating in the Bay. “We’re investigating that now,” I said.
“Do her parents know?”
I was trying to figure out her lack of tears while I took another drink from my cup. “The medical examiner has notified her family, yes.”
Hank must have noticed the lack of reaction as well. “Miss Pearson, how close were you to Jenny?”
“We were friends. I met her about two months ago when she started working here. She’d been asking around the restaurant if anyone had a room to rent. My roommate had just moved out, so I offered the room to her. After she moved in she told me that her parents had kicked her out.”
“Did she say why?” I asked.
“I guess her dad was real strict. Treated her like she was still a child, she said. Jenny liked to go out and stuff and I guess her dad wasn’t happy with it.” Her words began to come between pauses as she started to cry. “When he found out she had a job here he told her she had to move out. I guess I should get into contact with her parents about all her stuff.” Kelly wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand.
I gave her a second to compose herself. “Miss Pearson, what can you tell us about this guy she went home with?”
“She said he was a big bodybuilder type with shoulder length hair. She said he had a Russian accent. That was it, other than his name.”
“And that was the last time you spoke?”
“Yeah. It was a short conversation. She called me to tell me that she was going to be late. She said she was going to go back to some guy’s house and have a drink. I asked her about him. She said she met him at the bar and told me what he looked like. She just said he was a big guy with shoulder length hair and tattoos. I told her that it wasn’t a good idea. She just kind of laughed it off.”
I opened the file we had on the case and pulled my notepad from my pocket. There wasn’t a mention of tattoos. I wrote it down. “We didn’t have anything regarding tattoos in our file here. She didn’t happen to comment on the tattoos did she? Mention what they were of or anything?”
She shook her head. “No, she just said a bunch of tattoos.”
“Now, as far as the guy’s size, she didn’t expand on the big or bodybuilder type further? Give a height, or how big, or anything?” Hank asked.
“No. That was it.”
“The name we have for the guy was Ray. Is that correct?”
“Yeah, she said his name was Ray. I doubt she even knew his last name.”
“The bar she met him at is called Frank’s right?”
“Yeah, it’s walking distance from my house. There’s a bartender that works there that she thought was cute so she’d go in and try to flirt with him. I would’ve met her there, but I ended up working late.”
Hank waved down a waitress and got his coffee refilled. He sat it on the table. “Is there anything else you can think of that may help us?” he asked.
“I wish I could help more, but that’s about all I know.”
“Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Miss Pearson. We will leave you with our cards, if you remember anything else, please give us a call.”
She took our cards and placed them in her pocket. “Are you guys going to eat while you’re here?”
I looked over at Hank, who had his face in a menu. “Yes, we’re going to get something,” I said.
She stood from the chair and slid it in. “OK, I’ll send a waitress over for you guys. I have to go get ready for my shift.”