Authors: E. H. Reinhard
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers
“Lowen, what are we looking at?” I asked.
“GSW to the head, close range. Ed is back by the body.” He pointed across the street to the officer speaking with a man in his front yard. “Neighbor called it in. We’re getting his statement now.”
“Thanks Lowen. We’ll talk in a minute.”
We continued toward the front door of the house. Hank put the sleeve of his sport coat over his nose. “Ugh. This one’s been dead for a while.” He gripped his stomach with his free hand. “Ugh. Nachos.”
“Where are your nose plugs?”
“I forgot the damn things in my desk.” Hank’s face scrunched in pain.
“You need a minute?”
He shook his head and buried his nose and mouth into his sleeve further. “I’ll power through it.”
We entered the property through the kitchen. Down the hall of the tiny house was the scene. Officer McMillan was the first to greet us as he headed our way from a back bedroom. “Lieutenant, Sergeant. The body is in the bedroom back there.”
I nodded, trying not to speak and let the smell fill my airways. The smell was getting worse with each step. I covered my nose and mouth with my sleeve.
“I’m rounding up a couple other officers now to go knock on doors in the neighborhood,” McMillan said.
“Sounds good.” I pulled my sleeve from over my nose and mouth just long enough to get the words out. We followed the hall back and turned into the room. The whole house was tiled. Bloody foot prints led from the room. I squatted and snapped a photo of one of the shoe prints with my phone. The corner of the room was splattered in blood with small chunks of brown flesh and bone clinging to the wall. The room was filled with three sounds, the constant buzz from the flies, the flies bouncing off the back window of the room and Hank gagging behind me. Ed knelt next to the body on the floor with a dust mask over his nose and mouth. Half of the man was covered with the comforter from the bed. From the first glance at the body I had wished the rest was. The man was an odd color of dead with a good portion of his head missing. A half dried coagulated blood pool sat beneath him. More bloody footprints surrounded the body. I took my sleeve from my face and spoke while holding my breath. “What are we looking at, Ed?”
He glanced over and pointed at the door. He stood, and we walked to the fresher air outside the house.
Ed pulled the mask’s straps from his ears. “Was wondering when you guys would show up.”
“We were working a case that had us out in Clearwater. What have you found?” I asked.
“Don’t have an I.D., no wallet on the body. It might be the homeowner. I’ll have to print the guy though. Let’s see, close range GSW to the head with a large caliber. Judging by the amount of insects present and the decomposition, I’d say the body has been there for about five days.”
“Anyone find a murder weapon?” Hank asked.
“You’d have to talk with the officers. I was looking over the body while they were going over the place.”
The sound of a car pulling up drew my attention to the street. It was Rick and Pax from our Forensics Department. The left their car and walked over.
“Got a body?” Rick asked.
Hank still had his sleeve over his nose and mouth, he pulled it away. “What? You can’t smell that?”
I shook my head at Hank. “Rick, Pax, why don’t you head inside with Ed here and he can show you the scene. There’s a bunch of bloody footprints in there for you guys.”
Ed strapped the mask back over his face. “Come on fellas.” He walked for the front door with Rick and Pax following.
I pointed across the street to the officer getting the statement. “Let’s go have a talk with our neighbor.”
“Good idea. Theses nachos aren’t going to stay down if I stand over here much longer.”
We waited for a car full of kids in Toyota staring to pass before we crossed. They drove extra slow and stared out the window rubbernecking to see what was going on. We walked over. I wasn’t familiar with the officer taking the statement, but had seen him floating around the station. It must have been someone new Timmons hired. He motioned for the neighbor to hold on a second and met us as we were walking over.
“Lieutenant Kane and Sergeant Rawlings, if I’m not mistaken.” He reached out for a handshake. “I’m Officer Jim Rickson. I transferred here a few weeks ago from Pensacola.”
Hank shook his hand, and then I did. “What did the neighbor say?” I asked.
Rickson handed me his clipboard with the statement. “He said he walked across the street to take the guy’s garbage cans and newspapers up to the house. He said the stuff had been sitting by the curb for a few days. When he was dropping the newspapers at the front door, he noticed the smell and called it in.”
I glanced over the guy’s statement and handed it back to Officer Rickson. “So he was being neighborly and smelled a dead neighbor?”
Hank nodded. “It’s pretty hard to miss that stink.”
“Rickson, give us a minute. We’ll go talk to the guy and have him run through it again to make sure his story still jives the second time around.”
“No problem guys. Here, take the statement sheet.”
I took the clipboard from him and walked over to the man standing in his yard. He appeared in his mid-sixties with a white beard and long hair. A sleeveless Harley Davidson shirt and dirty jeans were his attire of choice. He stood about six feet. We introduced ourselves. “Sir, I’m Lieutenant Kane and this is Sergeant Rawlings with the TPD’s Homicide Division.”
He nodded. “Tom Hill.”
“Mister Hill, you called 9-1-1 to report this correct?” Hank asked.
“Yes Sir, that is correct.”
I looked over his statement. “Mind running through it one more time for us?”
“Yeah, sure. Where do you want me to start?”
“Take it from the top,” I said.
“Well, it was around two o’clock today and I walked out to grab the mail. I glanced over at Reggie’s place there and…”
“Reggie?” Hank asked.
“Yeah, Reggie Robinson, the homeowner.”
“Can you give us a description of Mister Robinson?” I asked.
“African American. About six two, two hundred pounds.”
By my quick glance at the body, the description fit. I wrote the name, height and weight down. “Do you think you could give us a positive identification of the body, Mister Hill?”
He shook his head. “I’ve seen enough people I know dead. I’d rather not see another.”
“Alright, please continue.”
“OK, so I looked over there and noticed that he trash cans were still by the curb. Trash pickup was on Saturday mornings so they had been out there for a number of days. Then I noticed all the newspapers lying in the driveway so I walked over to take everything up to the house.”
I looked over the statement. It was pretty much identical. “Is that something you’d normally do?”
He crossed his arms against his chest. “Well hell, I figured he was on vacation or something so I’d take his papers up to the door and drag his trash cans up. Is there something wrong with that?”
“OK that’s fine. What happened next?” I asked.
“I dropped off the papers at his door and I smelled a dead body.”
It came off as a weird comment to me. “You smelled a dead body?”
“Son, I was in Vietnam. I’ve smelled more dead bodies than you boys will in your lifetime. You guys working homicide know what I’m talking about. It’s not something you’re going to forget.”
I nodded. “Did you enter the property?”
“No Sir, I did not.”
“Do you own a firearm?”
“Yes Sir, I own many. It’s my constitutional right.”
“What about your neighbor there? Did he own a firearm?” Hank asked.
Hill nodded. “He owned a forty-four. Showed it to me the day he bought it.”
I wrote down the homeowner owned a forty-four and slid the pen back into the clipboard. The guy’s story was the same as before.
“I think we’re almost done here. Just another quick question and we’ll let you get back to your day.”
“Have you noticed anything or anyone strange around here lately? People, cars, anything like that?”
“There’s always different people coming and going out of this neighborhood. It isn’t what it used to be. There’s a bunch of drug dealers and kids up to no good around here now. Reggie’s boys were some of them. They drive up and down the block all hours of the night. Their music rattles my windows. Little gang banger types.”
I pulled the pen back out from the clipboard and wrote it down.
“Is that going to do it?”
“One last thing here, Mister Hill. Mind showing me the bottoms of your shoes?”
He yanked his head back. “Now what the hell you want to look at the bottoms of my shoes for?”
“Just to confirm that you weren’t in the house.”
“I already told you I wasn’t.”
I pointed to his shoes and snapped my fingers. “Shouldn’t be a problem showing us then.”
He rolled his eyes, and lifted his right foot. I pulled the foot print photo up in my phone and placed it next to his. They didn’t match. “All we need. Thanks for your cooperation.”
We walked back over to Rickson and I handed him his clipboard back. “Make sure there’s a copy of that on my desk when you get back.”
“No problem, Lieutenant.”
He headed back over to relieve Hill. Hank and I went back across the street to the scene. Ed was loading the bagged body into the coroner’s van. He hollered over as we crossed the road. “All set here, Kane. I’ll have the autopsy results and should have a positive I.D. for you in the morning.”
I gave him a hand wave. “Thanks Ed, let me know.”
Rick and Pax were walking from the house as we approached the front door.
“You guys done?” I asked.
Rick dropped the hood of his white clean suit. “We’re going to stay another couple hours and come back in the morning. This place is a mess.”
“Come up with anything so far?” Hank asked.
“Gunshot close range to the upper left side of the head. Entry point was just above his eye socket. There’s a good amount of high velocity spatter consistent with the deceased’s wounds and suspected large caliber firearm.”
“Neighbor said the homeowner owned a forty-four,” Hank said.
Rick nodded. “That would do it. We’ll look for one in the house.”
“The footprints?” I asked.
“Look to be around a size eleven or twelve. I took a bunch of photos. I can use the computers at the lab to combine all the bits and pieces of shoes prints to give me one complete,” Pax said.
“Sounds good guys. Let me know what you find.” I caught the time on my watch. It was pushing five o’clock. “Come on Hank, let’s head back to the station and tell the captain what we got.”
We got back to the station around a quarter after five. We parked the Charger and headed inside. Hank made for his desk. I caught the captain as he was locking his office door to leave. I walked up behind him. “You want the highlights?”
“Oh, yeah come on in.” He unlocked his door and pushed it open. I had a seat. The captain rounded his desk and sat. He scooted his chair back and dug into his mini fridge underneath the desk. “Piece of cake?”
He pulled a paper plate covered in tin foil out, and sat it on his desk. “Do you want a piece of cake?”
“No I’m fine, thanks. Weren’t you supposed to be watching what you ate?”
He waved the comment away with his hand. “Bah, a couple pieces of cake won’t kill me.”
“You sure you don’t want a piece? My daughter made it. It’s good. Red velvet.” He pulled the tin foil off and dug through his desk. His hand came back with a plastic fork.
“No, I’m fine. I’m more of a pie guy than cake. What’s the occasion?”
He shoveled a forkful into his mouth and gave me the wait a second gesture. “Grandson turned four. We had a little birthday party last night.”
“How did that go?”
“Great. Man that kid’s smart. Mom’s already teaching him to write.”
“Little genius, huh?”
“It’s great watching them grow. You should have some kids before you get too old.” He jammed another forkful of cake into his mouth.
“Yeah this job doesn’t work very well with the whole marriage and family thing.”
“You can make it work. Sounds like it’s going OK with the girlfriend.” He finished the cake in his mouth and scooped up another piece. “Remember, nothing is more important than family. Alright, give me the Cartwright case first.”
I flipped opened the file. “Alright. She had only been living with her roommate for a couple months. She met a guy at a bar called Frank’s on a Friday night. Her roommate said she called to tell her she was going home with the guy. The roommate tried to dissuade her. Never seen or heard from again.”
“And the guy she left with?”
“We got a little to add to our description. The Ray name could be an alias. We have no way of knowing for sure. The bartender at the Frank’s place said he was six five and three hundred pounds. Also, he likes the finer things in life. He has shoulder length hair, dresses in suits, drinks expensive Scotch, wears a Rolex and has full length arm tattoos.”
“OK, Rolex, suit, tattoos. I got it. Don’t suppose we got a last name, the vehicle he was driving or the guy on video anywhere?”
The captain poked at his cake, measuring up his next bite. “Go through some mug shots and see if we can find the guy. Did you ask around the station and see if that description rang a bell with anyone?”
“I did—nothing back yet. I’ll get the latest description of the guy circulated.”
“Good. Make sure the guys out on Patrol get the info and keep their eyes open for anyone similar. Any call from the Cartwright girl’s parents?”
“Not yet. I guess her father is a minister or something. Roommate said she got the boot from the parents place for partying and getting a job at the Chick Stop.”
“The wing place?”
“Love that place,” the captain said.
“A little good news though. The bartender from Frank’s is going to come in tomorrow morning to give his statement. I asked if he wanted to try working with a sketch artist. He said he’d give it a shot.”