Death of a Dispatcher
May 20, 2011: Sunset View Apartments
The sun had just set when Russell handed Catherine the call sheet. It was in a middle-class neighborhood and they rarely got calls here. She wove through the streets until she passed the sign at the entrance of Sunset View Apartments. It was easy to find the possible homicide by following the line of the police cars and one ambulance. Residents watched from their balconies or front doors – no one wanted to get too near the action.
Catherine parked between two police cars and got out of her Denali. She opened the back door and grabbed her C.S.I. vest, shrugging it on. She grabbed her kit and turned, running into Officer Grenske.
“You can’t be here,” the man told her.
The comment surprised her, but she wasn’t about to take any lip from him.
“I was called here, Rich, so I can be here. Who pissed you off tonight?”
“No, that’s… Catherine, you can’t be here. My partner is calling for another C.S.I. You should be getting a call from Ecklie or Russell any time now.”
“Who is the victim?”
The name didn’t ring a bell for Catherine. “Who?”
“You have to go back to the lab and wait for I.A.”
Suddenly Catherine knew exactly who had died. She shoved her kit at him, surprising him enough to make a space she could slip through. She dashed toward the open door, passing officers before they realized who she was. The apartment was small – a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and one bedroom. There was no body in the kitchen or living room, so she kept moving. The bathroom was empty, leaving only the bedroom. She stepped slowly into the room.
The room was disheveled from a violent struggle, and Capri Martinez lay on the floor, her dead eyes staring at Catherine’s shoes. Her shirt and shorts were soaked in her blood from more stab wounds than needed to kill her. The killer had twisted clear tubing around her neck, strangling her – maybe because he thought stabbing her wouldn’t be enough.
“No,” Catherine whispered, putting her hands over her stomach. “Oh no.” A few tears slid down her face.
Grenske appeared next to her. “Catherine, you have to leave.”
She couldn’t move. He laid his hands on her shoulders and guided her back out to her Denali. Grenske opened the driver’s door and helped her into the seat, and then hurried off. She closed her eyes, trying to collect herself before making phone calls. Catherine jumped a little when someone placed a hand on her shoulder, and then she smiled at the paramedic standing next to her, EMT Casey Thompson. He leaned on the steering wheel, watching her.
“Are you okay, Catherine?”
“I saw you go inside. You look shook up.”
“It was a surprise to see her like that.”
“She deserved it after all the lives she cost. You were almost one of those, you and—”
Her phone rang and she answered it.
Casey patted her arm before he walked away.
“What is going on?” Russell asked over the phone. “I just got a call from Ecklie to pull you, Greg, and Nick off cases, and all he told me was it had something to do with your case. Captain Holt from I.A. called and he’s sending an investigator over to talk to the three of you and anyone else who was working November 2008.”
“It, uhm… It’s Capri Martinez, D.B. She’s been murdered.”
“Capri… That dispatcher that nearly got you and Greg killed? The one—”
“That same one.”
“Are you sure she was murdered?”
“I saw her, D.B. She was stabbed and had some tubing around her neck. I’m fairly certain she didn't stab and strangle herself.”
“Okay, okay. I'll send Sara and Morgan. Hurry back.”
Catherine slammed her door shut. She reached out to drop her phone in the middle console but missed. It dropped onto the passenger seat. She stared at it, overwhelmed by a memory.
November 6, 2008: 4:20 AM
The road had morphed from a pitted and rutted dirt road into the memory of a wagon trail an hour earlier, but that didn’t stop Catherine from continuing down it. Her foot was pressed down on the gas pedal, forcing the SUV to rocket over the bumps at a speed that was unhealthy for passenger and vehicle. Her hands clenched the steering wheel with white knuckles and angrily she ground her teeth together. The desert around her had no signs of civilization - no lights, no other roads, not even a rotting and dilapidated pasture fence.
Greg, however, was very aware of how dangerous this speed was. As her anger intensified, and kept her road-rage driving high, his concern for his life also intensified. He was wearing his seat belt, but that did little good. Just to keep from flying all over his seat, he had one hand wrapped tight around the handle over the door, the other gripped the side of the seat, one foot was braced against the center console, and the other was braced against the firewall on the floor.
“Catherine… Could we maybe, you know, slow down? Please?”
The only answer he received was Catherine angrily muttering and the name ‘Capri’ slipping out every so often.
The trail suddenly veered left and up a steep bank. The vehicle jolted up the rutted washboard trail. At the top, this wagon trail intersected with another wagon trail, and according to a pole placed here by the State of Nevada sometime in the last century and some change, the two wagon trails were allegedly roads. Catherine tromped on the brake pedal, causing the vehicle to slide to a stop inches from the pole.
The sign post was bent at a forty-five degree angle and twisted. The signs on the post were colored brown and so old that most of the white writing had worn off. But before the writing had begun to peel away, the sun had bleached the numbers and letters out the brown. However, with the pole bent, Road 92 – the road they had been looking for – was somewhere among the stars, and Road 74 – the one they had turned onto and had started as a paved road – was somewhere in the dirt.
“Well?” she asked.
“Now you want my opinion?”
Catherine pulled a call sheet from her shirt pocket, tilting it so the dash light shone on it. “We were supposed to turn at road 89, go down to road 74, turn left, and then right on road 92. Here is a road sign for road 74 and road 92. So which of these are actually road 92?”
Greg let go of everything and tossed up his hand. “Catherine, please, let’s go back to where we had radio service and get the directions again. Capri has been off work for a while now.”
“The radio battery went dead an hour ago.”
“Then cell service.”
“We haven’t had cell service for four hours. Which way?”
Greg didn’t hide his impatience with her stubbornness. “Fine! Then let’s go back to a house, explain that we are incredibly lost, and use a phone! There. That’s my opinion.”
She didn’t seem to notice him snapping at her. “Forward it is.”
“Oh my God! You are a man trapped in a woman’s body!”
“You refuse to stop for directions.”
The vehicle jumped as it hit a large rock jutting out of the wagon trail and slid off. Greg resumed his anti-bounce posture with his eyes closed.
Greg said to himself more than Catherine, “This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea. This is a really bad idea.”
“You’re a woman trapped in a man’s body. You won’t stop whining!”
Through his teeth, Greg argued back, “We are lost! I said we were lost when there were still telephone poles and cars passing us. That’s not whining. That’s pointing out that—”
The vehicle hopped into the air and came down hard. Metal groaned and crunched. There was a strange whine, followed by metal scraping hard against something else that was metal. Then the vehicle plowed forward for another minute or two.
“SLOW DOWN!” Greg yelled at her.
She didn’t listen. He sniffed and leaned forward. Smoke was wafting from under the hood.
“Catherine, there is smoke coming out from under the hood.”
On cue, every light on the dashboard turned on. The engine began knocking followed by several sounds no car should ever make. The engine suddenly died and the SUV coasted to a stop. Catherine attempted to start the vehicle several times. The ignition tried but couldn’t spark life into the engine, and eventually it even gave up and seized.
The headlights and interior lights fade out. Out here, with only starlight, a person could barely see their hand in front of their face.
Far too calmly, Greg pointed out the obvious. “You broke the Escalade, Catherine.”
“I’m going to kill Capri.”
“She isn’t the one who broke the—”
“I am going to kill Capri!”
“Catherine,” he calmly tells her, “you were driving and you—”
“I am going to shoot you if you do not shut up, Gregory Eirik Sanders!”
The tick of the cooling engine, their breathing, and the soft rustle of clothing were the only sounds that followed the threat.
May 21, 2011: LVPD Crime Lab
Catherine charged down the hall toward Russell, Ecklie, and Internal Affairs representative Jackie Ramon. While Jackie was dressed professionally, she wore loafers and no make-up. She looked tired as she sipped her extra-large latté. From her shoulder hung an overstuffed messenger bag with a notepad and several thick folders poking out.
“Greg, Nick, and I had nothing to do with Capri Martinez’s murder,” Catherine demanded. “Why are we being investigated?”
Jackie’s face revealed no emotions as she observed Catherine’s anger, one of the reasons her captain had chosen her to interview these three C.S.I. She was not fond of destroying the lives and careers of the people paid to protect the city and its citizens. In fact, within her department most people joked that her motto was ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ yet no one questioned her decisions because she was meticulous almost to the point she could be accused of OCD. She wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions, and her past career that no one talked about gave her the training she needed to ferret out lies and deceit.
“Catherine, you three are the only C.S.I. who have a history with Capri, which means it puts you on the suspect list until I.A. clears you,” Ecklie explained.
“This is bullshit, Conrad! You know as well as I do, Conrad, that Nick, Greg and I had nothing to do with this! Especially Greg.”
Quietly Jackie asked her, “What makes you so certain C.S.I. Sanders didn’t murder the victim?”
Catherine ignored her. “You know we didn’t do this, Conrad!”
“Catherine, look—” Russell began, but Jackie cut him off.
“Do you think I.A. is only investigating you three?” Jackie paused, but not to let Catherine answer, to let the question sink in. “We’re interviewing everyone who Capri Martinez crossed paths with.”
“Meanwhile her killer is—”
“I agreed to allow the other C.S.I. to remain on the case, C.S.I. Willows. However, if that’s going to be a problem for you, or Nick Stokes or Greg Sanders, I can change that. Day shift can take over the case. Would that make this easier for you to cooperate?”
Catherine bit back her anger. While Jackie hadn’t made a direct threat, the way she worded it was worse. She was offering to let the C.S.I. who knew the three stay on the case. She was offering to let them stay informed about the case, as long as the three of them cooperated with her.
“No. There won’t be a problem,” Catherine answered.
“Then please wait outside interview room A with C.S.I. Stokes and Sanders. I’ll call you when I’m ready for you.”
Catherine looked to Russell.
“We’ve got it, Catherine. You’ll be kept in the loop,” he promised.
She walked away. As she came up on the Chem Lab door, she glanced back. The three weren’t paying attention to her. She quickly darted into the Lab, surprising Henry Andrews.
“Give me a piece of paper and a pen,” Catherine ordered. “Quick.”
He obeyed. She scribbled a note and tucked it into his pocket. “When I go into the interview with the I.A. rep, take this to Greg. Once you get an answer, give it to Sara. Understand?”
“You’ll find out who soon enough. Will you do this?”
Catherine looked up. Jackie was headed their way. Henry glanced in the same direction, seeing Jackie.
He answered, “Yes” as Jackie turned into the lab.
Catherine patted his shoulder and left, ignoring Jackie as she passed her at the door. Jackie watched her go, and then turned her attention to Henry. He had returned to work, acting as if he didn’t know she was there. She walked up to him.
“Excuse me,” Jackie said.
“What were you speaking to C.S.I. Willows about?”
“It’s a personal matter.”
“I’d rather not talk to you about it. It’s personal.”
“Tech, you’re acting very suspicious right now, considering the question I just asked you. Do you want me to charge you with attempting to obstruct an investigation?”
Henry didn’t want that. He let out a forlorn sigh.
“Fine.” He looked at the floor and almost muttered, “I’ve been having some really bad burning back there and I asked if she knew any good proctologists in the area.” Henry felt his cheeks turning red as he made up the embarrassing lie. He really hated lying.
She stared at him for a long moment. He eventually offered a faint smile.
“Whatever you’re going to do, tech, if it proves someone is guilty you had better come to me first. Are we clear?” Jackie asked.
“Are. We. Clear?”
She turned and walked away.
Henry waited until she was out of sight, and then pulled the paper out to read what was written, which only confused him more.