Hodges turned the corner and down the hall saw Wendy sitting on a bench, staring into a coffee cup with a lost look on her face.
He stopped in front of her but she didn’t appear to notice.
“Are you okay?”
Wendy looked up. She had this blank, distant look on her face, as if he were a stranger she was seeing for the first time.
“There’s a woman in the morgue that looks like me. She could be my twin.”
“I’d heard about Nick’s twin, but not yours.”
She looked into her cup again.
“Do you know her? Is she your twin?”
Hodges sat down next to her. “Are you sure? Were you adopted? Or—”
Irritated she exclaimed, “No, Hodges! Our DNA isn’t even identical so I’m more than certain.”
He stopped asking.
Wendy shrugged. “She’s just some Jane Doe that everyone will soon forget about.”
“That’s no good.”
She looked oddly at him. “What’s no good?”
“She has to have a name.”
“We don’t know what it is.”
“Well she’s not going to be called Jane Doe. I won’t stand for that.”
“We call all unknown fe—”
“We are going to call her something else.”
“Like what?” Wendy asked her cup.
Hodges thought for a moment. He leaned in, laying his hand over her hand. She looked into his eyes.
“I’m going to go ask Catherine to change her name to Mindy Bimms. Just until we can find her real name.”
Wendy brightened a little. “Really? You’d let me do that?”
He smiled, brushing some hair away from her face. “Yes. I’d do that for you. She deserves a proper name.”
Wendy threw one arm around him, hugging him. “Thank you!”
Hodges smiled, holding her. It took him a few minutes to realize she’d begun crying. He took her cup and sat it on the floor before he held her tighter.
“Every time I see her face – what if I die like that? Shot and nameless?”
“That would never happen.”
“If you went missing, I’d never stop looking for you.”
His promise made her cry harder.
Catherine looked up when Sara walked into her office. She sat down in a chair before her desk and smiled. The papers in her hand fluttered against her leg with a soft rustle. Catherine returned it the smile but only because she knew what Sara’s meant.
“What do you want?” Catherine asked.
“So Ecklie’s memo said that due to budget cuts we need a supervisor’s approval to run DNA tests until further notice.”
“Well,” Sara sat the papers on the desk. “Meet Dean Parker Nolan.”
“Dean Parker Nolan, huh?” Catherine picked up the papers, looking at the photograph of Nick’s look-a-like paper clipped to the top. She thumbed through the rest of them. “Came from South Carolina, has a couple assaults, a B&E and a larceny, but those are from South Carolina. No warrants, never did jail time. Nothing major for twelve years, just a parking ticket in Austin, Texas. So far, he looks harmless. Why do you need a DNA test?”
“I have a hunch that his DNA might give me more to go with. Maybe he’s done some crimes that he might not have gotten away with. Something that might be worth killing him for.”
“You’re thinking drugs or guns?”
“I tracked down his last employer, a local HVAC company. The owner said he was a good employee, never had any complaints or trouble with him. The owner let him go because he couldn’t pay him. He and his wife have a mortgage on the house and I found a statement that said they’re going through foreclosure. That’s enough to make a man do things he wouldn’t ordinarily do. All the utilities and mail in the house, however, are in Alice’s name. That’s a little curious.”
“Nick can approve a DNA test. Why didn’t you ask him?”
Sara grinned. “Well, you see, Nick thinks a DNA test is a waste of time. He thinks the guy’s just a petty criminal and that a DNA test won’t help. And, of course, there’s also the… Bet.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “You two know the rule about betting on crimes.”
“I only bent it a small tiny bit. Besides, I know I’m going to lose.”
“Do either of you even have a suspect in mind on this?”
“We’re both leaning toward Alice right now. When we spoke to the neighbors, they said they got along with him and really liked him, but they had some stories to tell about her and the fights the two got into. One even told us she stabbed him once, that’s how he got the chest scar, but he apparently didn’t press charges. There was no record of it. Nick found she’s been in every psychiatric hospital, clinic, and ward in the city. She’s diagnosed as bi-polar and schizophrenic, and has her own rap sheet. It’s a long list of assaults and battery. He spoke to her doctor and he said she hasn’t been in to refill her medications for almost a month and she would have run out two months ago.”
“So she might have fallen off the wagon and killed her husband and the hooker?
“Assuming she did it, yes. But I want to make sure Dean hasn’t done something else that might have made him a perfect target.
Or, worst case scenario, he was mistaken as Nick. I just need to check every angle on this case, something about it just doesn’t feel right. I keep feeling we’re missing something that’s plain as day.”
“Did Robbins find any plastic surgery scars? I know when you two started this case, Nick thought the guy had been trying to steal his identity.”
“No plastic surgery. Mother Nature made Dean look like Nick. Also, he had cancer. Doc said it wasn’t advanced yet, but it was incurable. Add that to a long list of things that could drive a man to desperate measures.”
“I’ll approve the DNA test, on one condition. I don’t want either of you to talk to anyone about this bet, including me.”
They both looked at the door when Hodges came in saying, “Catherine, I want to talk to you about my request.”
“Good evening to you, too, Hodges. How are you tonight?” Catherine asked.
He ignored the intentional pleasantry and barreled on. “I spent all day reading handbooks and procedure manuals. Nothing in them indicates that while a deceased victim’s identity is unknown that another name, other than Jane Doe, cannot be used.”
Catherine heaved a sigh. “Hodges, I am not changing this woman’s name to Mindy Bimms.”
Sara smiled. “Who are we talking about?”
“Your Jane Doe. Oh, by the way, I assigned her to Ray. Wendy’s taking it pretty hard; I thought giving it some personal attention might help.”
“Why is she taking it hard? Did she know her?”
“She says no. I think that whole staring at her own face, dead, is getting to her.”
“Nick doesn’t seem to care.”
“Nick’s a different person.”
“That’s why I want the name changed,” Hodges blurted, interrupting the women’s conversation.
“You want to change her name because Nick doesn’t care?” Catherine asked.
Hodges shook his head. “No! Why would that matter?” He moved on without waiting for an answer. “It’s because Wendy does. I think it would help Wendy if we could give this woman her own identity.”
“How is Mindy Bimms better than Jane Doe?” Sara asked.
“It’s a long story, but trust me, it is much better. Please, Catherine?”
Catherine’s eyebrows lifted. “Did you just… Beg?”
Hodges tried to answer the question, but his blushing did a better job. The women laughed.
“Okay. Okay. For Wendy, I’ll change the name. You should have started there, Hodges. That was much more convincing than that attempt you made earlier.”
“Thank you. I can expect it to be changed promptly?”
“I’ll let her know.”
Hodges left. Catherine leaned over her desk.
“Do you think Hodges might know this Mindy Bimms?”
“Why do you ask?”
“She looks like Wendy, and you suspect she was a prostitute.”
“Hodges? Cheat on Wendy? Never!” Sara got up.
“Cheat on her? Are they dating?”
“Doubt it. That would make things too easy on us. Just wishful thinking from them both. Still.” Sara headed for the door. “Thank you for the approval, Catherine.”
Hodges and Langston walked hooker to hooker, showing them pictures of Mindy Bimms and Dean Nolan. Wendy worked the opposite side of the street, asking if anyone knew someone who looked exactly like her. All the three kept getting was one headshake after another.
Wendy joined Langston and Hodges “I need a break. How about—”
Wendy turned. A young Latino boy stood at the end of an alley, staring at her. Wendy cautiously approached him.
“Do you know a woman who looks like me?” Wendy asked.
He nodded. “You look like Bernadette.”
Wendy smiled. “Can you tell me about Bernadette?”
“Sometimes she’d take me to the diner down a block and get me something to eat.”
“Are you homeless?”
He didn’t answer.
“Was Bernadette her real name?”
He shook his head.
“Did she ever tell you what her real name was?”
He shook his head. “We just called her Saint Bernadette. She told me that Saint Bernadette was a nun who lived a long time ago and helped people. I guess that’s why we called her that.”
“Can you tell me who else she helped?”
He glanced down a nearby alley. “Ask anyone down here. I gotta go.”
He ran off. Wendy started down the alley, trailed by Langston and Hodges. Hidden among the trash and in the shadows were vagrants, homeless people, the forgotten. In the dim light of the streetlights, it looked like the very shadows were alive, but they were only hulks of humans trying to etch out a meager existence. She stopped at the first person and began asking about Saint Bernadette. A lot of the people in the alley knew her, but no one knew her name.
One man told them, “She’d give me clothes sometimes. Nice girl.” He snarled toward the street, at the other hookers. “Not like those tramps! She didn’t hoard her money like they do.”
Langston quietly commented, “It doesn’t sound like she had a pimp.”
Wendy mentally noted that and moved on. As she worked down the alley, she discovered that Bernadette really was a saint. She used some of her money to buy these people clothes and food. When the money ran out, she was resourceful and found ways to take care of them. Wendy was beginning to see that the woman she’d pictured was not who Mindy Bimms really was.
It was the last person that had a story that piqued their interest.
“You should find Maureen,” a woman told Wendy.
“Don’t know. Saint Bernadette spent the most of the time with her. Once, I even heard her call her mom. She took good care of that damned drunk, but the woman was a witch to her. We felt sorry. Hope that wasn’t the little girl’s mom. She didn’t deserve someone like that. And as smart as Bernadette was, she should’a been doing something other than sleeping around for money. Smart as a whip.”
“Do you know what Maureen looks like?”
“Black hair. Dirty. Can’t tell you much else. After you get enough dirt on ya, you just look like everyone else down here.”
Wendy looked around her. She could tell the different faces, but to someone not used to looking for differences, one homeless person looked like the next.
Langston handed the woman one of his cards. “Let me know if you see Maureen or remember anything else.”
Wendy dug a handful of change from her pocket, putting it in the woman’s hand. “Please call us.”
Wendy and the men headed back up the alley.
“It sounds like the mother might have fallen on hard times and the daughter might have come to help her,” Hodges commented.“Maybe. We’ll need to find Maureen to find out,” Langston said.