The lobby of the police station was a large open area, once inside the double glass doors to the building. Each landing of the first three floors could be seen from just inside the main entryway. To the left and the right, stairs led up to each floor, much like a department store. The only difference was there were no escalators. The wood of the stairs was a nice, rich, lacquered, and shiny brown. At a distance, you could not see all the imperfections that came with years of traffic. It remained shiny.
Robbie Sinclair, a reporter for the local news station, arrived to meet with Detective Tom Waters for an interview about the serial killer that may or may not be in the city. Mr. Sinclair had been in the building many times and knew exactly where he was going. To his left and to the third floor. He smiled at every officer he passed, greeting each with a smile or a handshake, like a politician. His politics, information. Being as friendly as possible, helped ferret out more than one story. He had an uncanny knack for making people feel comfortable with him, even in their first meeting, talking with people like he had known them for a long time. Many of the officers knew him, and had given him information in one form or another over the years. Most of the time over drinks at a local establishment unofficially reserved for cops. That’s how he got Detective Waters to agree to go on the record with him about the serial killer. As he reached the third-floor landing, he could see Carla Shepard. She fielded incoming calls for the detective’s general service line and was the gatekeeper to the office area. She alone held the power to buzz you in to see them. She was a woman that Robbie had always been especially flirty with. She always feigned interest in his advances, that were just shy of a true come on, saying things like, “You know if you keep looking so beautiful, I might have to ask you out.” But he never did. She would respond with comments like, “Oh, Robbie when are you going to take me away from all this?” That was their relationship. She saw him before he saw her and was already smiling at the flirtatious greeting that was on its way. Carla saw his name on the roster for Detective Waters and was expecting him. She looked especially attractive and it was not lost on Mr. Sinclair. He considered if maybe he should ask her out.
“Why I must say madam, you are especially fetching today. You must have known I was coming.” Robbie said as he reached the counter, leaning casually against it.
“Of course, I did. Why else would I bother getting up in the morning?” Her smile was wide and she batted her eyes for him, playfully.
“You got a hot date after work, Carla?” He asked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” She responded coyly. Robbie glanced around the floor at the other people coming and going as he chatted with Carla.
“I have an interview with Waters, ya mind?” He nodded to the door for her to buzz him in.
“He isn’t back yet.” Carla flipped a page in the scheduling book.
“Back? He isn’t hanging me out to dry, is he?” Robbie leaned across the counter a little closer to Carla.
“Sorry, Robbie. Important business up at the state patrol office, he said you can wait? He should be back soon.”
“How ’bout you buzz me in and I wait in his office? I mean, yeah, his uh, cubicle.” Robbie pushed off the counter standing, expecting her to let him in.
“You know I can’t let you hang around in there, unaccompanied.” She said as the phone started to ring, “Clark City Detectives office, can you hold please?” she pushed the hold button and without taking the phone away from her ear she said, “The best I can do is let you have a seat in the bullpen?” She pointed to the door directly across the hall from her.
“All right, all right.” He turned around and she went back to her phone call. Robbie entered the office which was just a large classroom with a podium, filled with desks. He shut the door and to his right was another door that led to the detective’s area. He checked the handle, the door was shut, but not locked. He went to a desk in the bullpen and had a seat. He checked his tape recorder and made sure he had cassettes that weren’t already used, placing them, one at a time into the recorder and pressing play. He looked at the door once again. The temptation was more overwhelming than his judgment. Robbie got up and stood to the side of the door trying to listen for anyone on the other side. He made sure he was on the side of the door, that if anyone came in, they wouldn’t hit him with it. He opened the door just a crack. Robbie went back to the desk, just in case someone saw the door open. He waited at the desk. The door slowly drifted opened while he watched. No one shut it or even bothered to look in. Robbie decided to give it a shot and casually walked through the open door. There were several detectives in their cubicles or moving about the large office area. Robbie adjusted his lanyard so that his press pass was visible in case anyone said anything to him. He walked in like he belonged there, and no one said a word or even paid any attention to him. Robbie ducked into the bathroom when he saw Sergeant Sutter come out of his office. He was the one guy that would absolutely question his presence there. Robbie made his way to a stall, he had to use the bathroom anyway. When he was almost done, the door to the bathroom opened and two men came in loud, still in the middle of a conversation.
“Can you believe the cajones on that bitch?” Pelon set a file he had in his hand on top of the hand dryer.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, I definitely believe she might have had balls.” Robbie recognized Detective Waters voice, the other was most likely his partner, Detective Pelon.
“Would ya though?” Pelon asked.
“Whaddya mean, would I?”
“Would ya?” Pelon asked again emphatically.
“I don’t know, maybe if I saw her out of uniform and she, you know, dolled herself up a bit.” Waters answered.
“Yeah, she had that Latina heat for sure!” Pelon laughed and went to the urinal.
“Why do you think every girl that ain’t blonde is a Mexican?” Waters laughed as he asked the question.
“Come on, you tellin me you don’t think she was a Latina?” Pelon asked as he took a piss.
“I swear to god, Hector, you need to go back to your country and get back in touch with your people, you should be ashamed of yourself. You can’t tell a Mexican from a Russian.”
“Hey, that one was not my fault, holmes, you heard her accent.” Pelon said as he finished.
“Yeah, her Russian accent.” They both laughed.
“So, what do you think about that shit, man? You buying that crap?” Pelon went to the sink and started washing his hands.
“I don’t know. Your serial killer is dead. Your investigation is over.” Detective Waters said trying to sound like a robot, joining Pelon at the sink washing his hands too.
“She had pictures and everything though. And what’s with the little girl? Why we got a start that hunt for?” Pelon asked, shaking his hands free of excess water, then reaching for some paper towels.
“You heard her, man, extremely dangerous little girl, infected. She was with our suspect and now she’s driving his car.” Detective Waters finished washing his hands and started drying them.
“So, what are we gonna do?” Pelon asked throwing his paper towels in the trash bin.
“We still got a plate number, now we got a picture. If we find her, we can ask her what happened to our killer before we hand her over to them, or the feds. I mean how far can she get? She looks, what, fifteen?”
“Yeah, but staties looking for her too, holmes, it’s not gonna be easy. Besides, you already forget she’s supposed to be infected? You want some of that shit on you?” Pelon tapped his partners shoulder, “Hey, didn’t she say observe and report, what else?”
“Do not engage.” Waters finished for him, “I want to close this case right. If that girl knows something about our serial, then I wanna know. I wanna know for sure we just aren’t taking anyone’s word for it. If there’s a chance he’s still out there. I want him.” Detective Waters cell phone buzzed and he answered it, “Waters,” he said, “Really? Can you send me a copy?” he tapped Pelon and they both left the bathroom, “Fuck them, what are they gonna do about it. Email me a copy, I’ll call ya after I get it.” Detective Waters and Pelon went to their cubicle. Robbie Sinclair came out of the stall very intrigued, and while at the sink, he saw a file folder that one of the detectives left on the hand dryer. He opened it and started reading. He shoved the entire file down the back of his pants, at his lower back then fixed his jacket. He checked the door, cracking it slightly and watched as Waters and Pelon settled into their cubicle. Robbie walked out of the bathroom and straight to the bullpen door which was still slightly ajar. Once inside, he left it open and stood in the door way innocently, waiting to be noticed and invited in. Sergeant Sutter joined Waters and Pelon at their cubicle. A few other detectives joined them, wanting to hear what the military and the state patrol had to say about the quarantine, and what it had to do with their serial killer investigation.
“Well?” Sergeant Sutter asked.
“Well what, Sarge?”
“Don’t fuck with me Waters, spit it out.” Sergeant Sutter was eager, as was everyone else, to hear what happened.
“Well for one, our serial killer has been identified this morning as being one, Perry Aaron Tucker.” Waters looked down at his desk reading the name from a notepad. “We’ve linked him to twenty-seven murders over the last two years.” Sergeant Sutter smiled and nodded.
“Good work,” He was elated they cracked the case before the feds arrived, “So what did they want, the military? What’s it got to do with your case.”
“That’s where our case ends and another one begins, Sarge.” Pelon announced.
“I don’t follow.” He replied curiously, then folded his arms over his chest. Waters sat down at his computer and signed in, then checked his email. He clicked the file sent to him from a friend he had in the state patrol’s office. It was a video file.
“Well, our serial is dead. Whatever happened up at Paradise Falls killed him too. The only survivor seems to be a little girl they want everyone to locate, but keep their distance because she might be infected or some shit. It was all very vague, but they dropped some serious threats about noncompliance and shit, so, they’re pretty serious. I mean why else would the military be involved. Also, she’s driving our serial’s car.”
“That chick was hiding something, man.” Pelon added.
“It’s the military, of course they didn’t give us full disclosure.” Sergeant Sutter laughed. Detective Waters clicked the video file and popped it full screen. “What’s that?”
“My buddy in the staties office sent it to me. It was a call from State Patrol locating our serial’s car. Apparently, the officer died from whatever killed those people in Paradise Falls.”
“Paradise Falls was infected and then everyone died?” Detective Crane walked up, drawn to the conversation that was taking place, the more she heard from her desk. She shoved her way through the other detectives to the front, next to her uncle, Sergeant Sutter. Robbie Sinclair also joined the group and listened from behind them, recording everything that was being said.
“Apparently, and this girl, we’re all supposed to drop what we’re doing and look for, she’s the only survivor.” Waters said watching the video play, “That must be her getting out of the serial’s car.” He watched on, “What the fuck?” The gunshot in the video startled those who couldn’t see, those who could, made a collective, “Ohhh!”
“That ain’t no infection!” Waters leaned forward and replayed the video, “Look at that shit right there, that little girl made him shoot himself in the head!”
“Whaddya mean, she did it? How is that possible?” Sergeant Sutter asked crouching down as they all watched the suicide several times before letting it play all the way out. “Who else is he talking to?”
“Oh, my god. Back it up!” Detective Crane said after seeing the girls face looking straight into the dash cam.
“What for, Crane?” Waters asked, “We don’t need to see it anymore.”
“Just back it up, goddammit!” She shoved through to his desk and tried to access his keyboard.
“Ok, ok,” Waters took control of the keyboard and did as he was told.
“Pause it!” She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, “That’s my Jane Doe!” She ran back to her desk and retrieved her file with her current picture and rushed back through the other detectives and held it up next to the computer screen, comparing it to the paused screen.
“Well I’ll be goddammed,” Waters exclaimed, looking at Sergeant Sutter.
“How is that even possible, look at the date. Your Jane Doe was already in the hospital two days before this.” Sergeant Sutter said coming closer to the computer screen. He yanked the photo out of Detective Crane’s hand and examined them both closely for a few moments.
“Looks like you really got a live case now, Crane.” Pelon chuckled.
“Well she sure is the spittin’ image of her Jane Doe, Sarge, you gotta admit, that can’t be a coincidence.” Waters stood up moving away from the desk, being squished between Sergeant Sutter and his computer screen.
“Ok, well, let’s start with this, you get a hold of that military gal you talked to, tell her what we got here.” Sergeant Sutter said standing up, handing Detective Crane back the photo.
“Wait a minute Uncle-, Sarge. This is my case.” She said taking back the photo, “I’m taking lead on this.”
“Now Detective Crane, I don’t wanna have to-” he started.
“Sarge, she’s right, it’s her case. You can’t take it from her. I mean, how’s that gonna look?” Waters asked. Detective Crane almost smiled at his support but remained serious staring at her uncle. He was quiet for a few seconds, “Besides, let her find out if it’s connected before we tell them. Their just gonna come in here and step all over everything we’re doing if ya tell them now.
“Alright, you take point on this, but you’re working with Waters. Fill him in on everything you got on your girl and try to find a connection. You got until tomorrow morning, then you make the call and give them everything you got. Is that clear?” Sergeant Sutter barked.
“Crystal!” Detective Crane said unable to contain her smile. Pelon hung around after Sutter and the other detectives left from around Detective Waters desk. Almost every single one of them gave Detective Crane some congratulations, or, way to go, Crane.
“So, Crane? Where’s ya Jane Doe now?” Pelon asked.
“Yeah, we need to interview her, see what she knows.” Waters added.
“Well, we gotta problem. First, she was in a coma and now she doesn’t seem to know who she is, but also… come here.” Detective Crane turned and walked back to her desk. Waters and Pelon followed her. “After watching that video, it made me think of something that happened to me with Jane Doe.” she sat down at her computer and pulled up the video of her losing consciousness at the hospital. Waters and Pelon watched over her shoulder.
“Holy shit, it looks like she’s doing that to you.” Pelon exclaimed.
“Exactly what I thought at first, but then I thought it was just a coincidence, like Doctor Meyer told me.” She said.
“Who’s Doctor Meyer?” Waters asked and pulled a seat up next to Detective Crane.
“He’s the Psychiatrist taking care of Jane Doe. I believe her name is Delilah Barnes.”
“Wait, I thought she was in a coma?” Waters sat forward in his seat confused.
“She was, but after what happened to me, Doctor Warner had her move to a colleague’s facility, where she came out of the coma in the ambulance. They thought she was faking it.” Detective Crane explained.
“How do you fake a coma? Who’s Doctor Warner?” Pelon asked. Waters looked over his shoulder at Pelon.
“Do you mind?” Waters asked.
“What?” Pelon asked, “I thought we needed to babysit her?”
“Hey!” Detective Crane was far from wanting a babysitter.
“Not us, me.” Waters said. Detective Crane slapped Waters shoulder immediately offended, he ignored her like a little sister.
“Oh, it’s gonna be like that?” Pelon straightened up from leaning over them and walked back to his desk with a face like he just smelled a fart.
“Hey, Pelon.” Detective Crane said then flipped him off when he looked back at her.
“I’m a married man, Crane, you’ll just have to keep dreaming about it.” Pelon replied on his way to his desk. Detective Crane ignored him and continued her conversation with Waters.
“You gotta come with me right now and meet her, I think you’ll appreciate it. And I definitely want to hear someone else say it out loud.”
“Say what?” He asked
“You’ll see. Can we go now?” Detective Crane asked.
“Yeah, shit, I got this thing I gotta do, can you give me a half hour?” Waters remembered he had an interview to do. Robbie Sinclair had since disappeared from the building making a bee line back to the news station.