Chapter 4: It Was the Tie
After driving her children to their school Cassidy directed her vehicle to the Medical Examiner Building where her nine cadavers were being autopsied. She was anxious to know what the doctors there had learned overnight. The question that she most wanted an answer to was how did they die. She believed this would likely be the first thing they learned, and she did not want to wait for the report of a complete autopsy to learn it.
“Good morning, Janice,” Cassidy greeted as she stormed into the autopsy room.
All nine of the tables in the autopsy room were occupied with the remains that were found in the Greenbelt. Dr. Janice McCullough was examining the skeleton of one of the nine with a large magnifying glass when Cassidy entered. Small of stature and thin, Janice McCullough was a 57-year-old bespectacled woman with short graying hair.
“Good morning,” Janice returned after straightening up to greet her. “I thought you might come around this morning. So, I’ve been trying to get a jump on my autopsy reports.”
“I know you’re just starting your day,” Cassidy countered apologetically, “but I was hoping you might have something more to give me.”
“Are you kidding? I’ve been here since 6 this morning. I heard about your find in the Greenbelt, and I couldn’t wait to get started on them.”
Cassidy was relieved to hear that Janice was eagerly examining the Greenbelt remains. It made her feel like less of a nuisance for asking for answers ahead of her report.
“Have you discovered how they died?” Cassidy questioned a second behind her declaration.
“No, not yet,” Janice reported with a furrowed brow. “But the really odd thing is that there is no appreciable evidence of trauma,” she continued with a gesture towards the body in front of her.
Cassidy recalled finding that strange when she first saw the bodies. She soon dismissed the oddity as a consequence of their desiccation. Hearing Janice say it, an eighteen-year veteran of the M.E.’s office, renewed this question in her mind.
“Well, normally in serial cases the method of the kill is obvious,” Janice explained without flourish. “There is usually clear evidence of trauma of some sort. I haven’t been able to find anything to suggest a physical assault. No broken bones, no fractures, and there is no evidence of blood loss in any of the clothing. You’ve brought me a forensic puzzle, Detective. I like it.”
Cassidy was amused by Janice’s usual affinity for her job, but her thirst for answers did not give her time to express this. She went to her next question after a slight pause to formulate it.
“So, are you thinking poison?”
“The process of elimination would suggest that,” Janice concurred with a shrug. “But without a toxicology report I have no way of verifying it.”
Cassidy knew that the absence of a crime scene or physical residue would make finding proof of poisoning virtually impossible.
“How about when they died,” she questioned with a frown. “Were you able to pin down any dates?”
“Dr. Coulter has done a good job of pinning their deaths down to a year and a season,” Janice responded as she picked up a folder on a nearby counter and extended it to Cassidy. “He also found some brown mohair fibers on the clothing of each body. These fibers are not a match for any of the clothing that the John and Jane Does were wearing. So, it’s a good bet that they all died in the same place.”
Cassidy took a moment to study the information inside the folder. When she was done, she looked at Janice with a confused expression.
“None of them died together?”
“No!” Janice returned with excitement in her voice. “I know what you’re thinking, but they were all killed months apart. What kind of serial killer targets both sexes?”
It had been Cassidy’s suspicion that the males were killed as a side event to an assault on one of the women. The idea that they were separately targeted put her in the position of rethinking all her suppositions.
“Is there any chance he could be wrong?” Cassidy questioned while holding up the folder.
“No,” Janice answered as she turned her attention back to the corpse on the table. “You’ve got yourself a weird one, Detective,” she added as an afterthought.
Cassidy took a moment to assess where she stood at this moment. After a brief analysis, she asked the next question on her mental list.
“When can I expect to see some identifications?”
“I should start getting names later this morning,” Janice reported as she returned to examining the skeleton of the corpse near her. I will send up what I have at midday.”
“Good,” Cassidy mused. “The closer I get to finding what these people have in common the closer I’ll be to finding who did this to them.”
This declaration captured Janice’s full attention. She straightened up, turned her face toward Cassidy with an amused expression and spoke.
“If you’re looking for something they have in common then you really need to see this.”
Janice gestured for Cassidy to peek through the magnifying glass that was being held over the corpse by a swing-arm. Cassidy was confused by the request and intrigued at the same time. After stepping up to the table, she took a second to give Janice a look of puzzlement.
“Take a look,” Janice encourage with a nod toward the glass.
Cassidy bent over the glass and commenced her look at the vicinity it was poised over. After several seconds of looking she had no idea what she was expected to see.
“What am I looking at?”
“That is the question,” Janice answered with a look of astonishment. “In appearance, it looks like the indentation of a tooth in the Ulna bone of Jane Doe 3’s left arm. It’s almost canine, but whatever made that impression is needle sharp. Canine teeth are not needle sharp, and if it was a tooth then there should be impressions of more teeth along with signs of ripping and tearing. What you’re looking at, Detective Tremaine, is the mystery that I’ve been studying for the past half hour.”
“I don’t get it. Why is this so important?” Cassidy questioned with a bewildered look.
“This injury was incurred shortly before or during the moment of death,” Janice explained with a hint of amazement in her voice.
“Wait,” Cassidy interjected. “Are you saying that this killed her?”
“This injury would have had to have opened an artery to be traumatic enough to be lethal,” Janice dismissed with a wave of her hands. “And if that had happened we should have found blood in her clothing, lots of it.”
“Then how is this significant?” Cassidy challenged.
“Three of the other bodies have identical indentations in dissimilar locations,” Janice explained with a smile and a look of astonishment. “Two bodies had similar, but slightly smaller, indentations, and both were found on one of the bodies. And what makes this even weirder is that all of these injuries were incurred shortly before or during the moment of death.”
Cassidy took a time to ponder this while Janice looked on in silence. At the end of this Cassidy asked the question that came out of the effort.
“Are you thinking some kind of animal did these indentations, a snake maybe, something poisonous?”
“That would be my guess,” Janice answered. “But I emphasize the word, guess. It seems a little too big for a poisonous snake. I’ve made inquiries with several zoological institutions that have databases on virtually every known vertebrate on the planet. If it is an animal, then I am counting on one or more to find a match for these indentations. But if it turns out that it’s not an animal bite then I am stumped, Detective.”
Cassidy’s mind was too busy racing with thoughts to note Janice’s confession. She took several seconds to consider this before speaking again.
“Let me know if you find anything,” Cassidy instructed in a hurry and as she turned for the exit door to the autopsy room.
“I will send it up as soon as I find anything,” Janice promised to Cassidy’s back as it moved away from her in a rush.
“Hey, Detective Tremaine, I hear you were awesome yesterday,” Detective William (Bill) Hodgson called out as he leaned back in his chair. “Oh, and I heard you caught a big case too.”
This remark produced a few laughs from around the work room, but not from most who were there. Cassidy was accustomed to this treatment and responded to it with a dismissive, “Good one, Bill.” Other than this remark she paid no attention to Detective Hodgson as she made her way across the floor and to her desk.
Bill Hodgson was just one of several NYPD detectives that Cassidy found repellant for their not so subtle innuendos and manner. In her mind, he was the story of her life. It seemed like all the men she did not want were the only men that wanted her, with exception for James Petrucci. He was the first, and only, man to pursue her that lived up to her ideal, for a time. She fell madly in love and married him without a second thought. When he betrayed this covenant that he made with her she was devastated. She became convinced that no man could love her as completely as she could him. Because of this failure all suitors since have had a much higher bar to clear and none had done so yet.
Cassidy believed herself to be attractive since her mid-teens, but this was an opinion that she developed because of the ever-present line of men who wanted to seduce her. She was neither tall nor short. Her liberated persuasion notwithstanding, vanity required that she maintain an attractive figure and a well cropped hairdo. The length of her hair was just long enough to need an occasional comb with her fingers to get it out of her face. Makeup and jewelry were tolerated at a minimum at social events, considered nonessentials in her personal life and taboo at work. She had a face that most thought pretty and mannerisms that most found attractive, but she was unaware of these graces. She always thought that she lacked the perfect features that drove men crazy and considered her mannerisms a source of embarrassment.
What differentiated Cassidy from most women was that she was not as effeminate as they. This caused her much consternation in her developing years. It seemed to her that it was always the girls with an abundance of feminine wilds that ended up with the boy that she wanted. Because of this her childhood memories were not filled with intimate moments with the boy she had a crush on. As an adult, she no longer had a preoccupation with being the apple of mister right’s eye. This new mindset and her competitive drive was serving her well in her professional life. Men, for the most part, were competitors and not the mechanism to a happy existence.
From the instant that she sat down behind her desk Cassidy went to work collecting names of people who were reported missing within the time frame of the deaths of the nine cadavers. She could not be sure that any of them were local to New York City or State, but she felt the need to compile names and to search through backgrounds on the chance that they were. It was her hope that the names of the victims would become apparent when she lined up missing persons that fit the time periods, the sex and the ages. Waiting on the M.E.’s report required patience that she did not have.
It took Cassidy less than an hour to comprise a list of 19 names. After this she turned her attention to the location where the bodies were found. She read the recent history of the wilderness refuge, compiled and read through a list of civil and criminal complaints by individuals within the Greenbelt and examined police reports and citations within the community around the Greenbelt. It was a few minutes past 11a.m. and she was still in the process of the latter when Alan reported in for work.
“Did we get some names?” Alan asked as he sat behind the desk adjacent to Cassidy’s.
“No, we’re still waiting,” Cassidy reported as she continued her study of the data on her computer monitor.
“What are you working on?” Alan pondered out as he noted Cassidy’s intense concentration.
He expected Cassidy to name one of the three other open case files that were attached to them. The answer he got back told him it was none of the three.
“I’m just doing some research.”
“You can’t do anything until you know who they are,” Alan advised with an inflection of admonishment. “And even then, it’s probably going to be a bunch of strangers that have nothing in common.”
“I don’t think so,” Cassidy disputed. “Those bodies weren’t just dumped someplace. They were hidden. Somebody didn’t want us to find those bodies.”
“Killers never want the bodies found,” Alan returned with a hint of incredulity.
“Yeah, but these bodies weren’t thrown in the east river where they could pop up as floaters weeks and months later,” Cassidy challenged. “If it wasn’t for the flooding those bodies could have remained buried there for a… century, or more. Why else would anyone drag nine bodies a quarter of a mile into the Greenbelt? This has been going on for seven years,” Cassidy emphasized the timespan. “I think something different is going on here.”
Alan noted the enthusiasm in Cassidy’s tone and knew better than to debate with her on the subject. He had no doubt that he would lose the argument on the weight of the details that they had so far. But his experience as an NYPD Police Officer told him that bizarre crimes happen for stupid reasons all the time.
“Okay,” Alan conceded with a shake of his head. “But try not to get overly invested in this. Cases like these have a tendency to drain detectives and cause them to spend the remainder of their days fretting over it. It’s not worth it, trust me.”
Cassidy gave the advice little consideration. She knew that she was going to do what she was going to do. Despite this she paused for a moment to look as if she was considering his words. At the end of this time she was just about to turn her attention back to her monitor when she noted Lieutenant Adrian Graham coming their way.
“You two are wanted in the Mayor’s Office,” Lt. Graham reported in a stern voice.
“What… us? When?” Alan questioned with a look of amazement.
“I told them you would be there in half an hour,” Lt. Graham returned with a direct delivery. “You caught a big one. Local news is all over this. I suspect the Mayor is going to want a report. Tell him what you know and don’t promise him anything. Whatever you tell him he’s probably going to pass on to the press. Trust me, you don’t want to make the mayor look bad.”
“We don’t know anything yet,” Alan exclaimed with a shrug.
“Good, tell him that,” Lt. Graham retorted. “Listen, this is how it works downtown. They’re all about what they can feed to the press. Keep it simple. Let the Mayor and his people make that call. Don’t go out on a limb.”
Lt. Graham paused to give his two detectives a brief stern look before speaking again.
“You got it?”
“Yeah Lieutenant,” Alan acknowledged an instant behind.
Cassidy gave a short affirmative nod.
“Okay, get out of here. He’s waiting for you.”
Lt. Graham commenced to walk away as soon as he spoke his last word.
“Right away,” Alan responded an instant before opening a bottom drawer to his desk and retrieving the spare tie he kept there.
Alan was filled with excitement about this summons from the Mayor. This was the biggest event of his entire career as a police officer. He could not help but entertain the thought that he might develop an acquaintance with the Mayor. Cassidy’s mindset was altogether different. She was not excited. She was confused. She could not imagine why the Mayor would want an in-person report so soon after the discovery of the bodies. She had to believe that someone would have told him that they were into the preliminary part of the investigation. Her experience as a police officer told her that information about police investigations was passed up through the chain of command. Detectives were not disturbed from their work to brief the Mayor. By Cassidy’s thinking, the only time the investigating officers are ever summoned to the office of someone above the rank of the precinct commander was when they were part of the discussion.
On this rare occasion, Alan was out in front of his partner. Cassidy followed behind her eager partner with a befuddled expression. Her thinking was slowing her movement. Alan noted this hesitation in her gate and assumed the task of driving the car because of it. He entertained the thinking that Cassidy was nervous about their summons to the mayor’s office, but this idea kept conflicting with what he knew of his partner. Cassidy worked best under pressure.
It was a quarter to noon when Alan and Cassidy commenced their walk down the hall toward the mayor’s office. Alan was adorned with his clean, never been used, tie. He advised Cassidy that he keeps a spare shirt and tie in his desk for emergencies. “How do I look?” he asked Cassidy on two separate occasions during their travel. She returned that he looked great both times.
“You should let me take the lead,” Alan proffered with a hint of nervousness. “I’m the senior detective so they’re going to be expecting that.”
“Sure, absolutely,” Cassidy agreed dismissively as they approached the outer doors to the Office of the Mayor.
After walking into the reception room and giving their names the secretary ushered them into the mayor’s office without delay and promptly closed the door behind them.
“Thank you for coming,” Mayor Nathan Presser greeted a second after the door closed. “Have a seat.”
Mayor Presser remained seated behind his desk as he motioned toward the two vacant chairs in front of it.
“Thank you,” Alan accepted with an expression of awe and as he commenced to move toward one of the chairs.
Cassidy gave no response to the greeting or the offer. Her mind was too busy identifying and assessing the small group of individuals that were already in the mayor’s office. She recognized them all by sight, but it was the purpose behind their presence that had her mind pondering. Despite this concern, she followed Alan’s lead and made her way to the front of the chair next to his. They took off their overcoats and threw them over the backs of the chairs before sitting.
“I trust you know the names and titles of everyone here,” the mayor stated in a questioning tone.
“Yes,” Alan concurred with a quick look about the room.
Cassidy allowed her silence, and her fixed stare at the mayor, to do the concurring for her. She had already identified the five men sitting or standing about the mayor’s office as the Police Commissioner; Paul Hayes, the Mayor’s Press Secretary; Arthur Del Monte, the Mayor’s Senior Adviser; Richard Barbate, the Chief of the Detective Bureau; Walter Trudeau and the Assistant Chief of the Staten Island Patrol Borough; Michael Fuller.
“I suppose you both have your hands full right now with these bodies that you found last night,” Mayor Presser suggested carefully.
“Oh yeah,” Alan agreed with a smile and a nod.
Cassidy said and did nothing in response to the query. The mayor noted her fixed stare on him with a brief look and then turned his attention back to Alan.
“And I imagine you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.”
“It is a big case. One of the biggest I’ve ever been a part of,” Alan confessed with eagerness.
“I’ve been advised that we could be looking at a long investigation,” Mayor Presser spoke with a questioning inflection.
“Oh yeah,” Alan agreed definitively. “Cases like these are always long and hard. You’re usually looking for a needle in a haystack with these types of crimes. But we’ll find him. We always do.”
The mayor took a moment to return Cassidy’s stare. He noted that she was neither agreeing or disagreeing with her partner’s words. He had been forewarned that Alan was a plodder who was marking time toward his thirty years and that Cassidy was an ambitious rookie detective. It was his hope that he would be able to maneuver them both into the frame of mind that he wanted. It was becoming clear to him that Cassidy was not going to follow that lead.
“But you could probably use a little help,” the mayor quickly suggested.
“Oh, I didn’t mean us specifically,” Alan corrected with a start. “Often these cases take months and even years to sort out. But we’re just starting,” Alan continued with a nervous glance Cassidy’s way. “We really don’t know what we’ve got yet, but if we are looking at a serial killer then chances are there’s going to be a lot eyes working on this case before it’s closed.”
Once again, the mayor took a pause to look to Cassidy for some sign of agreement with this assessment and found none. Alan noted the glance and gave his partner a furtive look out the corner of his eyes.
Cassidy had her suspicion where this was going from the beginning. The presence of the Police Commissioner and the Chief of the Detective Bureau suggested to her that they were making plans to setup a special team to investigate this crime and that she and Alan were not going to be leading it. With each remark that moved in that direction Cassidy became more defiant in her manner and in her thoughts.
“So, what have you got so far?” the mayor asked with a turn of his attention back to Alan.
“Well, I can’t say that we’ve got much of anything, Mister Mayor” Alan began apologetically.
Even as he was speaking Cassidy was in process of retrieving her tablet from the inside pocket of her trench coat. All eyes turned to her as she did this. Even Alan was giving note to her as he was finishing his response, and when Cassidy spoke the room went still.
“We have nine corpses, six females and three males,” Cassidy reported while scanning the notes in her tablet. “Cause of death is still to be determined. All died at sometime within the past seven years. The last one, a female, died no more than four months-ago. They all died several months apart, and I believe they all died in the same place given that they all had identical fibers on their clothing. The ages of the females are estimated at 30, 28, 27, 27, 24 and 20, give or take two years. The men are calculated to be 42, 34 and 29, give or take two years. All were dressed in semi-formal attire. Given these details we have 19 missing persons in New York County alone who are a possible match for one of these remains. All but one of the bodies were found in an area that is roughly 20 by 20 yards square. This area of the Greenbelt is infrequently intruded upon by visitors given that it is a wildlife refuge. The location is just under a quarter of a mile from the nearest road. There is no illumination other than what’s in the sky at any given time. Whoever put those bodies there knew exactly what he, or she, or they were doing. This was thought out. It wasn’t a random dump. The fact that the bodies were buried within the city suggests that the killer or killers are living in the city, or were at the time that the last body was buried.”
Cassidy put down her tablet after this, looked into the eyes of the mayor and spoke her last word on the question.
“This is what we have so far.”
Mayor Presser had no immediate response for this. He gave Cassidy a moment of study and then looked to his Police Commissioner. He reacted with a slight smile and shake of his head.
“Ah yeah, we have that,” Alan agreed with a look of bewilderment.
After a pause to examine the other officials around the room, Mayor Presser looked to Cassidy and spoke directly to her.
“We were thinking of bringing in some experienced officers who have done studies on these types of crimes.”
No sooner had Mayor Presser spoken the last word did Cassidy interrupt with a sharp retort.
“Mayor Presser, you can get specialists in here to analyze this all you want. That’s your prerogative. But right now, we have one or more suspected killers who are just learning that their victims have been dug up. And it is my guess, right now, they’re either discarding anything that can connect them to this crime, or running. We also have an M.E. who is compiling a list of names that are a match for those nine bodies. When we have those names, we’re going to have a long list of people that we’ll need to talk to. This is what needs to be done right now, and anything that holds us up from doing it is just a waste of time.”
Alan was shocked by the verbiage coming from Cassidy. His first thought was to apologize to the mayor on her behalf. While he was formulating the words for this he noticed that the mayor did not appear to be offended by anything she was saying. A smile spread across his face while he examined her. When Cassidy finished speaking, the mayor took a moment to shake his head and stifle a chuckle, and then he began speaking.
“Okay, you’ve got one week to impress me, Detective Tremaine, and if I don’t like what I see there’s going to be changes. Is that understood?”
By the time Mayor Presser got to the word ‘week’ Cassidy was up on her feet and collecting her trench coat. Alan was confused by what was happening. He did not know if he should stand up or remain seated. When he noted that the mayor had no objections to Cassidy’s preparation for departure he commenced to follow her lead. Cassidy was halfway to the door with her trench coat in hand when the mayor finished speaking. She then turned about and gave him a one-word response.
Cassidy turned back towards the door and left the office with Alan struggling to keep up.
“How did I do in there,” Alan questioned his partner as they hurried down the hall and away from the Mayor’s office.
“You did great,” Cassidy answered with an exaggerated affirmative nod of her head. “The mayor looked as if he was extremely impressed.”
“It was the tie.”