One of the three hits from the IAFIS database is for a woman, Abigail Berenbaum of Lake Park, Wyoming. The second is for a man named Christopher Peters; his last known address is listed as Sacramento, California. And the last of the hits is Thomas Graeblowski of New Hope, Michigan. It was probably too much to hope that the victim would turn out to be local; no missing persons reports matching the John Doe have been called in here in the city, after all, and he certainly looked like someone whose absence would be noticed. She digs underneath all the papers littering her desk to pull out a copy of one of Georgia’s autopsy photos; John Doe’s head was positioned carefully so that neither of the holes in his skull would be picked up by the camera. Yes, this is definitely the face of someone used to being in the center of things, easy with the attention of others. And yet he died alone and anonymous and his gym-ready body and pretty face were collapsing in on themselves, eaten up by an errant chemical process.
Nothing about this case has made any sense so far, but at least what she’s stuck on now is a simple question about procedure. She sees Ramirez getting himself a cup of coffee at the other end of the room and weaves her way between the desks to stand at his side. “Want one?” he asks, snagging a cruller that has to be stale after sitting out all day.
She shakes her head. “Got a question, though. Do you have a minute?” He can’t answer with his mouth full, so he ends up shrugging and nodding while he dumps hazelnut creamer and sugar into his mug. “Two possible IDs on my John Doe. Both out of state. How should I be handling this?” She knows she could always pick up a phone and call these precincts, but there is a complex ritual of give-and-take unique to each station, and she doesn’t want to make any rookie mistakes that would end up with her owing more favors than she’s got in her.
“Ah,” Ramirez grins, shooting her a finger-gun. “Now that depends. States?”
“California and Michigan.”
“California, you’ll just have to cold-call. But Michigan – chief might be able to help you out with that one. He used to be on the state squad up there. He should be able to get you a name to drop.”
“Thanks, Ramirez.” She fixes herself a cup of coffee before remembering she already got her caffeine from the soda she had at lunch.
He pauses and looks at her closely before smiling once more. “You can call me David, you know,” he says, and hesitates again. “And if you need any help on this case, I’m around.”
The officer on the other end of the line is courteous without really being helpful. She faxes over the picture of the John Doe and the IAFIS printout, hoping he retained at least a little of what she told him. He sounds like he's fresh out of the Academy and resenting the hell out of the fact that he's working the phones.
She’s just trying to figure out how to approach the chief when her phone rings and he asks in clipped tones for her to step into his office. She dumps the coffee and goes.
“Come in, Kathleen,” he says when he sees her standing in his doorway, uniform straightened and that one errant lock of hair tucked back into the bun at the nape of her neck. Being summoned to the chief’s office only happens for a commendation or a dressing-down, as far as she’s aware, and she knows she hasn’t let herself in for either; she’s more than a little nervous when she steps forward to stand in front of his desk.
He gestures casually to the chairs opposite his and she sinks into one of them, her eyes trained on his face. He sighs and runs a hand through his short, bristly hair. He seems to be in no hurry to speak, so she stays perched on the edge of her chair and waits. He finally drops his hand and becomes business-like. “How long have you been with us, Kathleen?”
“Thirteen years on the force, three months here in Jefferson City, sir,” she responds promptly, not betraying her surprise at the question.
“You work a lot of homicides?”
“No, sir. Hibbing was a pretty quiet place. Mostly robberies, break-ins. Drugs. Domestic disturbances. That sort of thing.” It's not quite as idyllic as she's making it sound, but she figures he can read between the lines, and he'd know that all of those things, domestic disturbances especially, had the potential to get really ugly.
He waits, apparently expecting her to mention her last case, but as far as she’s concerned, that was the exception that proved the rule. Aside from that one outrageous anomaly, the citizens of Hibbing were mostly law-abiding. “And this homicide you’ve got now – you think you can handle it?”
She’s a little blindsided by the question. How has her competence become something open for debate? “Yes, sir,” she bites out.
He smiles, not unkindly. “Politics, Hudak. It’s an election year. We’ve got a young white man shot to death on expensive riverfront property, where there are streetlights and private security. Both sides are making this a lead story. You’re going to be in the spotlight and you’re going to be held accountable if this isn’t wrapped up and damn fast. So think about it and tell me, can you handle this case?”
The politicians can do what they want; her duty is and always has been to the victim, and she intends to fulfill it. “Yes, sir,” she says again, meeting his eyes directly. He nods, and she stands. “Just one more thing, sir; I need a name to get a possible ID on the John Doe – someone in New Hope, Michigan.”
Still gen, still R-ish.
Word count (today): 996
Word count (total): 17,058 (56.86%)