[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 062
Chapter 14 (7 of 8): Headquarters
“We caught one from county early this morning,” she began.
“From county?” asked Kenneth Hancocks, Assistant Commissioner of Police, chief suck-up, diligent writer of turgid memos. His professional specialty was faux indignation. “We don’t have enough on our own so we have to solicit business?” He looked around the room with angry incredulity slapped on his face like a mask. Phoebe bit her tongue and concentrated on remaining unperturbed. This asshole was nothing if not predictable, always vacuuming any situation for crumbs of self-promotion.
“We didn’t solicit any business, sir,” she said evenly. “Sheriff Eaton called us and asked for help. It involves a case he feels we are better equipped to deal with.”
“And better funded, too,” he sneered.
“I was under the impression we were supposed to coöperate affirmatively with other agencies, sir, including county.” She decided to stick the knife in. And twist half a turn. “According to your own memo number …” she riffled through some blank sheets in one of her folders “… M-9460-2-d of 9 December 2003 all departments were, quote, urged in strongest terms to deploy every opportunity to actively liaise with other agencies, end quote, sir.”
Amanda lifted her cup to her mouth to hide her smile, and the lips of a few of the men tugged at the corners. They had little respect and less use for Hancocks, whose unfortunate name had become a cruel platform for launching many an inventive eponym. Behind his back, of course.
Hancocks fidgeted in his seat. “Very good, Chief,” he announced. “Carry on, please.”
Phoebe took her time, shuffling some more papers. “A frozen body was discovered near Dust by a hunter early this morning. The body is thawing in the basement of the Pathology Department at the University as we speak, and the latest word from Dr. Wendel is that an autopsy will be done tomorrow evening at the earliest.”
“Anything else?” Pulverino asked, jotting down some words on his pad.
Phoebe did not want to speculate about the note and the head wound. “Not yet, sir. But I’ve got a team set up and I’m heading the investigation myself. We’ve already had a meeting and will get together late this afternoon to see where we stand. Incidentally, the case number is H-2004-01-12-01. All follow-up will be designated accordingly.” Everybody copied down this information, and Phoebe repeated the numbers slowly.
“Any special reason you’re taking charge.”
“Not really,” Phoebe said.
“But …?” The Commissioner’s unasked question hung in the air. The others were suddenly interested.
“Two things, sir,” Phoebe explained, staying calm.
Three, actually. But she would not bring up the third, of a more personal nature. She and Samuel had lost a daughter back in 1986. Melinda had died at the age of thirteen in a freak traffic accident on the way home from school, and Phoebe had been able to do nothing about that one. Today Melinda would have been half a dozen years older than the frozen woman she had seen laid out in the snow earlier in the day. Close enough. The deaths of young women still gave Phoebe special pain.
“First, since county caught and passed it on to us I thought I’d show sheriff Eaton some respect by getting personally involved.”
Pulverino nodded. “Good idea. And the second reason?”
“The vick is a young Asian woman.” Now they were alert.
“Are you thinking some kind of gang involvement here?”
“At this point I just don’t know, sir. Off hand I’d guess not. Dumping a half-nude body in a county ditch is not an m.o. that says gangs to me.” She looked around the table for confirmation. Heads were nodding in agreement.
“I take your point. Be sure to keep us posted upstairs on this one. I hope this isn’t some kind of hate-crime thing that’s going to blow up in our face.”
“The mayor would definitely not like that,” Mohre interjected silkily. “Let’s not forget the election in the fall.”
You really are a prick, you too, aren’t you, Phoebe thought. “Let’s not forget a more basic point here and lose sight of the fact that a young woman has been murdered and tossed in a dirty ditch like used kleenex.” Her voice was cool but she was seething.
There was mumbled concurrence.
“Of course, Chief Light. That goes without saying.” Mohre was all slick unction.
Phoebe permitted herself a fastidious moue.
Some other matters were briefly discussed, and shortly thereafter the meeting broke up.
At five o’clock Phoebe and her crew were all back in their own War Room, including the field people: Phoebe, Ulla, Rickie, Willard, Barb, Henry, Pete, and Bev.
“Jay couldn’t make it this afternoon,” Phoebe began. “I’ll catch him up in the morning.” She looked up at her crew.
She began by giving a quick précis of her visit to the crime scene and what she had learned there. She mentioned the slip of paper and the name Mazarine written on it. “Unfortunately the lab couldn’t make out what the illegible part was, though it appears to have been a telephone number.”
“Any prints?” Willard asked.
“Lab’s still working on it, but they’re not hopeful,” Phoebe answered. “If I hear anything different, you’ll all get an e-mail from me. And you should be checking your e-mails often. The header for this case will be ‘Mazarine’. In fact, all of you should set up a batch file with the address of everybody in the room – but nobody else – so we can all stay in touch with things as they unfold.” She shot a pad out in the middle of the table. “All of you jot down your e-mail addresses and I’ll e-mail each of you the list.”
She swept the table with her eyes and nodded briefly to herself.
“So, let’s begin with you, Willard.”
Willard sat up on his chair and opened the folder in front of him.
“We did get some photos from the pathology department,” he began. “They used a digital camera and e-mailed the shots to us, so they were very sharp. I had a set made up for each of you.” He began sliding folders around the table until each person there had one. “Sue Prentiss also did a useful drawing with the eyes open from one of the photos. We should have enough to show around when we start canvassing to try to identify her.”
There were murmured asides around the table as they opened their folders and stared at the face of the woman. The shuffling of the sheets made a swishing sound.
“She was certainly beautiful, wasn’t she?”
“Too young to die.”
“Just like somebody napping. I’ll never get used to it.”
“This one we have to solve!”
Phoebe had been arranging the overhead projector. She laid a transparency across the glass surface and turned the machine on. “Henry,” she said, “can you get the ceiling light?”
The room darkened and everybody looked at the screen on which Phoebe was projecting her on-site diagram of the crime scene.
TO BE CONTINUED