Siren of the Waters: A Jana Matinova Investigation, Vol. 2

BOOK: Siren of the Waters: A Jana Matinova Investigation, Vol. 2
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Table of Contents
 
 

Copyright © 2008 by Michael Genelin
 
All rights reserved.
Published by
Soho Press, Inc.
853 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
eISBN : 97-8-156-94774-0
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
tk
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For the two ladies in my life,
SUSY AND NORA,
who manage to keep me together,
and to
NOAH,
who always makes me laugh.
Acknowledgments
My special thanks for their friendship, help, and inspiration go to Miro, Adriana, Dano, Jana, Emilia, Mirjana, and Professor Mathern, to all the judges, procurators, and legislators I worked with in Slovakia; and to those very committed Slovaks involved in building a wonderful country. And a very special acknowledgment to my editor, Laura Hruska. Blame me for the bad parts, thank her for the good ones.
Chapter 1
T
he cold wind surging down the black ice-covered highway was like a blast from some frozen hell. All Jana could do was plunge her hands deeper into her state-issue winter coat and talk loudly enough through the muffler she had wrapped around her face so that the other bundled officers clustered at the accident scene could hear her. The Traffic Police generally don’t call on the Criminal Police for anything, particularly in Slovakia with its communist-based tradition of compartmentalizing everything; but the number of bodies frightened some Traffic Police supervisor enough for him to make the call to her. Jana cursed him in the same breath that she cursed the sub-zero cold, wishing the request had come on some balmy evening instead of an icy night.
She looked at the Mercedes van that had hydroplaned off the two-lane highway, through snow drifts, smashing into the small cluster of trees. There was no immediate way to check how fast the van had been going: no skid marks on the ice, so there were no telling physical references except the smashed condition of the vehicle, a large van that had nothing left to identify its make except the logo of the circle with the Y on it that protruded above what was left of the hood.
The blaze that the vehicle had become was, surprisingly, still going strong, and the bodies that had been thrown from it were scattered in such disparate locations that they looked like indicators of the time on some fiery sun-dial clock.
A flash went off; one of the police photographers taking pictures of the scene that was dimmed by the falling snow. Even with the flash and high-speed film, there would be a certain amount of blur from the hard-blowing white sleet that stung the uncovered portions of her face. Where the hell had Seges, her new warrant officer, got to? A bad time to bring a novice in on a death investigation, particularly a police officer who had the work habits of a Seges. The man had transferred in from working pickpockets and thought all he ever had to do was to stand around in crowds looking inconspicuous, and the criminals would invariably reveal themselves by sticking their hands in his pockets.
Jana trudged through the snow, circling the wrecked chassis, trying to spot Seges. She went over what she knew of him: He had come with a mixed bag of personnel reports from his past postings, all of his writeups couched in the vague jargon of bureaucratic supervisors who wanted to push the man on to his next assignment and were afraid that bad writeups would saddle them forever with his presence. So they propped the man up and shoved him out, his promotions coming with time. And now, courtesy of departmental rotations, he was here to make Commander Jana Matinova’s life harder.
The anger Jana felt in the pit of her stomach was the only warm spot on her body. She scanned the scene. Still no Seges. The man made mistakes that even newly transferred officers should not make. Securing the scene, for one. Jana had been unsatisfied with the way the danger flares had been set out on the highway so she had told Seges to have the traffic cops reconfigure them. Reluctantly, he’d gone off to comply with the order. That had been twenty-five minutes ago, long enough for the man to take several pees in the snow if he had to. She rather hoped his cock had frozen when he took it out of his pants, then had broken off like an icicle.
She smiled at the thought, than shook herself back to reality. She was his designated training officer. New transfers were supposed to report back to their commander after their assignments were completed. She let herself get slightly annoyed at his failure to follow protocol. Not the thing to do, Jana ruefully reminded herself. She didn’t believe much in rigid rules. They were just another way for authority to limit a police officer’s originality or inventiveness. Rules over results.
Nonetheless, procedure had to be followed now. Time to finish this phase of the investigation. Seven people dead. There would be lots of questions she would have to answer later.
She moved around the bulk of the fire, finally noticing Seges’s pinched shoulders crouching over one of the bodies. Lo and behold, Seges was apparently making notes. Maybe there was some hope for the man. She crossed over to Seges, pulling her six-cell flashlight out, shining it over the body before she knelt next to him. Not good. She knew the face of the dead woman.
“I recognize her.” Jana pulled her scarf down from her face so she wouldn’t have to yell over the wind. Seges did the same. “It’s the Jedlik girl, Marjana. Last I heard, she’d become a prostitute, working one of the houses outside of Bratislava.” No surprise she knew the girl. Everyone knew everyone else or was someone else’s cousin in Slovakia. That’s what you got in a country of less than five and a half million: too much familiarity.
She ran her flashlight over the body again, then back to the face. Everything was at odd angles, broken bones from toe to neck, except the head which did not have a hair out of place. Absurd things happened in auto accidents. She’d once found a man’s head inside the headlight of a truck that had smashed into him. The head was face out, a bizarre commentary on his failure to see the huge vehicle before he’d run out in front of it.
Seges went back to taking notes, his writing hand bare so that he had to blow on his fingers every few seconds in a futile effort to keep them warm. “Seven bodies: six women, one man. My guess, he was the driver. All thrown from the car, so obviously no one was wearing seat belts.”
She stopped him. His failure to use his eyes combined with his lack of experience was irritating. No, he would not learn easily. She’d probably have to rewrite all the investigation reports herself just to be sure he didn’t screw them up. “Seatbelts wouldn’t have mattered in this wreck. And a woman was the probable driver. One of her high-heeled boots was pinned under the driver’s door when it was torn off. Part of her foot went with it.”
Seges’s face took on the supercilious look of a teacher who was a pedant, irritating Jana even before he spoke: “She could have been anywhere in the jumble of people that was in the car when the vehicle went off-road. The shoe could have flown off on impact and become lodged under the door.”
Jana listened quietly, promising herself she would not get angry, which was not an easy promise to keep with this man. “If you are insistent on our reaching conclusions this early in the process, at least have something, anything, to base your conclusion on. If the powers-that-be question you about it, you will look like you were born a poor Gypsy. Change it!”
She watched as Seges reluctantly crossed out what he had written. With a certain amount of misgiving, she plunged on. “Did the man have a driver’s license among his papers?”
“I haven’t looked, Commander Matinova.”
“Look, Seges!”
Seges finally managed to pull a sheaf of papers from his pocket, the bits and pieces already double rubber-banded so they would not scatter with the wind. Cold fingers are awkward, and his attempt to shift the rubber bands in order to unwrap the papers was fumblingly slow. To fill the waiting time, he began to recite what else he had learned.
“Several half-empty bottles of alcohol were found in the area around the car.”
“What kind of liquor? What proof were they?”
“Slivovitz. 110 proof. What’s the difference?”
She fell into her instructor mode. “Alcohol absorption rates of the bodies. Maybe we will be able to tell when they began drinking? Maybe they weren’t really drinking at all? Maybe they were drinking something else, somewhere else?” Seges was new, but he should have known this. Jana tried not to show her impatience, wondering what other important items he might ignore or misinterpret.
“Always assume you, and anyone else who reads your reports, doesn’t know anything. If you are unsure, write that down. Don’t, and you mislead any officer who reads your report.”
“I will be more careful in the future, Commander Matinova.” He finished thumbing through the papers. “No driver’s license. But the man had two passports.” He passed them over to her. “I don’t like people who carry two passports. They don’t owe allegiance to anyone. You can’t trust them.”
“How many people have you have met, in the course of your duty as a police officer, who you can trust with just one passport?” Jana thumbed through one document, then the other, holding them both side by side open to the primary personal information pages. “These days, it’s not unusual to claim two nationalities. But two different
names
means he’s a crook.”
In his hurry to keep his fingers out of the cold, Seges had seen that both passport photographs were the same, but had neglected the simple task of comparing the names of the individuals who had been issued the passports. She riffled through both documents again, put one of them in her pocket, and then tossed the other back to Seges, who scrambled to look at the name on the document as if to prove she’d made a mistake. Inside herself, Jana felt anger rising. Incompetence. Too many botched cases because of too many sloppy or lazy officers.
“The dates of birth are the same; same physical description. One gives his place of birth as Kremenchuk, Ukraine, the other as Tirana, Albania. One has a Ukrainian name, the other Albanian. Both passports have tons of visa stamps. He liked to visit lots of countries.”
BOOK: Siren of the Waters: A Jana Matinova Investigation, Vol. 2
6.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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