Chapter 8: Dead End
“You’re early today,” Cassidy acknowledged as she walked up to her workstation.
Alan looked away from his computer monitor and gave Cassidy a smile before responding.
“I thought I would come in early and get a jump on things. How are you feeling?”
Cassidy gave Alan a look of curiosity as she hung up her coat. She responded to his question as she settled into her chair.
“I’m okay,” Cassidy reported with an intonation of sorrow. “About last Friday, I was tired.”
“No, you weren’t,” Alan spoke back with a grin on his face. “You were frustrated and pissed off, and I was the sounding board that you could vent it out on.”
Cassidy noted Alan’s good mood and was relieved to see it. She returned his smile before speaking again.
“Just the same, I’m sorry.”
It’s fine. It’s fine,” Alan responded while pecking at keys on his computer keyboard between clicks of his mouse.
Cassidy noted Alan’s attention to his monitor and became curious about what he was doing. In Cassidy’s mind, it was unusual for Alan to be working with his computer when it was something that he could push off to her, and as far as she knew there was nothing to be done that she could not do.
“What are you doing?” Cassidy questioned with a frown of curiosity.
“I came up with an idea last night,” Alan answered while examining his monitor. “I’m just testing it.”
“Is it about the case?” Cassidy questioned with a look of interest.
“Medallion taxi cabs and pirate taxis are not the only cabs in the city. Maybe they took a gypsy cab.” Alan explained as he continued to study his monitor.
“And where are you going with this?” Cassidy asked behind a look of confusion.
“Well, we know that our vics went somewhere. We know that they didn’t drive themselves, the missing person’s investigation couldn’t find evidence that a known friend or family member drove them somewhere, and it’s unlikely that they used a transit service that we can track. That leaves an unknown acquaintance, walking or a gypsy cab.”
Cassidy was not sure what Alan was thinking, but she was content to hear him out to the end.
“The problem with gypsy cabs is that there is next to no records on their movements,” Alan continued to explain.
“But we know that none of our vics called for a cab, medallion or gypsy,” Cassidy challenged.
“That doesn’t prove that they didn’t get in one,” Alan suggested.
Cassidy shook her head in disbelief before expressing it with her words.
“This sounds like a waste of time.”
“Think about it,” Alan rifled back. “If they did get into a gypsy cab and there’s no record of it then that would make our vics the ideal target for a cabbie who is not above killing a passenger for the money in his or her pockets.”
“I can’t believe this was about money,” Cassidy disputed with a stern shake of her head. “It’s too much work for pocket change.”
“So, he gets his kicks off killing people, but it fits,” Alan countered. “We’re talking about a dual sex serial killer here. There has to be a component to this that has nothing to do with sex.”
“Maybe,” Cassidy considered with a shrug.
“They get into the car, somehow the driver poisons them, he takes their money and disposes the body,” Alan suggested with a look of excitement. “It fits.”
“We don’t know that they were poisoned,” Cassidy quickly disputed.
“What we do know is that they were not bludgeoned, shot or stabbed,” Alan argued back with equal swiftness. “At this point poison is the most likely murder weapon. Who knows, we could be looking at a female killer.”
This last remark gave Cassidy cause to stop and think. In her mind poison, did lend itself towards a female killer, and it did work well with the fact that the female victims did not appear to have been sexually assaulted.
“We should at least look into it,” Alan proffered after a pause.
“We only have three days left,” Cassidy pondered out loud with a look of confusion.
“So, you want to spend the next three days questioning more friends of the vics,” Alan questioned with a look of astonishment. “All of that is in the missing person files. It’s a dead end.”
Cassidy gave the idea some more thought and then responded to it with a look of resignation.
“Okay one day, but then we go back to questioning people who knew the victims. Agreed?”
Alan gave a halfhearted acceptance of this with an “okay.”
“So how do we do this?” Cassidy asked with an amazed expression.
“E-Z Pass,” Alan answered as though he had unveiled a surprise.
Cassidy had no idea where Alan was going with this. She knew that E-Z Passes had been used before to establish the general locations and movements of vehicles. But she could not think of a way to use them for identifying illegal taxis moving about the city. She gave Alan a look of puzzlement and waited for him to clarify this for her.
“The Taxi and Limousine Commission maintains a running list of gypsy cab license plates and drivers,” Alan reported. “They E-mailed me a copy. I plan to check the owners of those vehicles against the lists of toll booth payments that were made on the days that our last three vics disappeared. The receipts of E-Z Pass transactions only go back that far.”
“That’s still a lot of drivers,” Cassidy pointed out quickly. “Do you know how many gypsy cab drivers are out there?”
“Thousands,” Alan answered with a word.
“And there’s no telling how many more of them are missing from that list,” Cassidy disputed.
“True,” Alan agreed while pecking at his keyboard. “But I’m betting I’ve got most of them.”
Immediately after making this statement, Alan scrunched his face into a grimace and growled out a “damn” as he pushed himself back into his chair.
“What’s wrong?” Cassidy asked as she got up from her chair and went to Alan’s side.
“I can’t get this thing to match up names from the TLC list with names in the E-Z Pass receipt records for the dates that the last three vics went missing.”
“Let me do it,” Cassidy insisted as she reached in and took control of Alan’s keyboard and mouse.
Alan gave her his chair a few seconds after she took control of the computer. It took Cassidy a couple of minutes to setup the filter and run the search. It took the computer less than a minute to spit out 637 names. Cassidy whittled this down to 483 when she filtered out any name that was in prison at any time during the previous 6 disappearances. She reduced this number to 411 when she filtered out anyone without a driver’s license at any time during the previous 6 disappearances.
“It’s still too many,” Cassidy advised an instant after seeing this number.
“How about the E-Z Passes,” Alan suggested after a thought. “The records of ownership go back to the inception of the program.”
Cassidy picked up on the thinking instantly. It took her a few minutes to configure another filter. It took the computer less than a minute to filter out the names that did not own an E-Z Pass on any date that one of the first 6 victims disappeared. When this search was finished, there was 32 names left, five of them female.
“It’s doable,” Alan reported with a smile.
“We don’t even know if we’re on the right track,” Cassidy advised with a frown. “And even if we are there’s no guarantee that the killer uses an E-Z Pass.”
“Hey, you’re the one that insists on being thorough,” Alan countered. “Are you just going to ignore this?”
Cassidy gave the question a moment of thought. At the end of this time a smiled curled up on her face. She then shrugged her shoulders, shook her head in disbelief and spoke with a hint of a grin in her voice.
“You came up with this last night?”
“I have my moments,” Alan returned with a broad smile.
“Okay, let’s wash these guys through the system and see how they look,” Cassidy acquiesced behind a chuckle.
Boom! A bang resounded through the door and walls with a terrifying loudness. For Cassidy, the shockwave of this event brought everything to a momentary standstill. In that same instant an eruption of wood splinters exploded out from a small round sector of the door and Detective Alan Mercer flew backwards as though an invisible fist had pounded into his left abdomen. A belch of air coming out of his body was the cause of the sound that came from his mouth as he went flying across the hall. He slammed into the door behind him and then down to a sitting position on the floor with an expression of wide-eyed shock. Detective Cassidy Tremaine, with an expression of terror on her face, tripped over her own feet as she jumped back and away from the shock of the event. It was just past 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
“Son of a bitch!” Alan roared as he began to push himself up off the floor while removing his Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol from its holster.
While Mercer was making his rise back up onto his feet Cassidy was screaming into her two-way radio. “Shots fired! Shots fired! Officer down!”
An instant after Cassidy shouted her location into her two-way radio a second gunshot rang out. The bullet blasted through the door in front of Alan and into the door behind him, just to the left of his head. A third gunshot punched through the door and into Alan’s left shoulder. Horrified by the sight of seeing her partner shot for a second time and by the thought of what was likely still to come, Cassidy clumsily pocketed her two-way radio and went for her gun. Showing no debilitating ill effects from the two impacts to his person, Alan quickly recovered to duck down and to the right to avoid a fourth and fifth gunshot through the door. With an expression of rage on his face Alan kicked open the door and brought his gun to the ready. Cassidy had recovered up to a stoop by this time, brought her gun to the ready and braced herself against the wall just to the left of the door that Alan kicked open. The instant the door flew open the explosion of a sixth gunshot rang out from inside the apartment. The impact of the projectile into the lower right side of Alan’s neck sent him sprawling backwards. As he did Alan fired two poorly aimed shots into the apartment with his semi-automatic pistol.
“Alan!” Cassidy shrieked as she watched him go down onto the hall floor on one knee and then onto his back.
Cassidy was terrorized by the sudden gun battle that had erupted from out of nowhere. She took an instant to look at her partner as he lay on the hall floor, bleeding from the neck. Her eyes were wide open from fear. Her mouth was partially open to allow for rapid pants of hyperventilation. She froze. Her partner was still a visible target for the shooter. The want to save Alan from being shot again was checked by her fear of being shot herself. After a second into this thinking she took note of the sound of two clicks from inside the apartment. Motivated by the thought that the shooters gun was empty, Cassidy pushed herself up to full stance and into the doorway while holding her gun at the ready. She noted a single individual in the room, a man, middle-aged and dressed in T-shirt and slacks. A look of crazed terror shaped his facial expression. His hands were in the act of reloading a revolver. An instant behind this recognition Cassidy fired five shots from her Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol. All five shots hit their target. For a few seconds behind Cassidy’s successive burst of gunfire Albert Haynes lay writhing in pain on the floor. At the end of this time he lay dead.
For a moment, Cassidy was stunned by what had just happened and by what she had done. A few seconds later she regained her faculties, secured the area as best she could with a quick scan of the room and then raced to Alan’s side. He was by then unconscious and barely alive. In a panic, she slowed the loss of blood from his neck wound by pressing her gloves against it. She gave no attention to the other areas of Alan’s body. She saw no bleeding and guessed that his body armor had successfully stopped the bullets from penetrating into his person. A head popped out of a doorway down the hall. Cassidy took note of the person and began yelling at him.
“Call 911! Call 911! Officer down, call 911!”
The head disappeared back into the apartment. Cassidy turned her attention down towards Alan. With tears in her eyes she pleaded for him to stay with her, to stay awake, to keep breathing. The only sign of life coming from Alan was the glazed look coming from his eyes. Cassidy stayed by his side for a further ten minutes. One of the first uniformed officers to arrive retrieved some gauze from the medical kit in his car and took her place by Alan’s side. Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and Alan was hurried away to the closest hospital shortly after that. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
Cassidy arrived at the hospital half an hour later with a support escort and driver, Detective 2nd Grade Sarah Murphy. Cassidy was advised of Alan’s passing within a minute of her arrival. Despite this she chose to wait at the hospital for Alan’s wife. Helen Mercer arrived outside of the examination room where her husband’s body lay for nearly an hour. With an expression of shock on her face, Helen approached a tearful Cassidy. She hesitated briefly to note Cassidy’s blood stained clothes and then went through to the examination room. Neither knew what to say to the other at that moment. Several minutes later Helen came out of the room sobbing. Cassidy stood up to meet her.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Helen,” Cassidy entreated.
Helen stopped to give Cassidy a nod of acceptance and then continued to move by with her head bowed and sobbing. Cassidy watched her leave and then commenced to gather her belongings so that she could go home as well. Detective Murphy followed her leave and together they set off for the exit. Just inside the emergency room door Cassidy was intercepted by Lieutenant Graham who was coming to see her.
“You okay?” Lt. Graham questioned softly.
“Yeah,” Cassidy returned with a nod.
Lt. Graham took a pause to study Cassidy before speaking again.
“They’re going to want to do an official debrief on the shooting, but I can push that back a few days.”
Cassidy took a moment to consider this. At that instant, she was not sure what she wanted to do, but it did not take her long to conclude that she wanted to tell her account of this shooting as soon as possible.
“No, I’ll come in tomorrow,” Cassidy responded quickly. “I need to get it over with while it’s still fresh in mind.”
“Okay,” Lt. Graham agreed with a nod of his head. “But you don’t have to report in. You’re on administrative leave until the end of week.”
Cassidy thought to challenge that, but Lt. Graham quickly spoke to stop this thinking.
“This is non-negotiable.
Cassidy accepted this mandate with a nod.
“After that you’ll be on light duty until you complete and pass a psych exam,” Lt. Graham instructed.
“Okay,” Cassidy agreed after a pause.
“I’ll schedule the debrief for 10 a.m.,” Lt. Graham directed. “Report to the conference room at that time.”
Cassidy agreed to this with an “okay” and a nod.
“There will be an officer involved shooting review,” Lt. Graham advised passively. “But I don’t won’t you to worry about that. It’s a good shoot.”
Worrying about it was all that Cassidy could do at this moment. Since the end of the encounter she was in a daze about the whole event. It was not supposed to happen. They went there to talk to this guy. She had no idea why he started shooting at them. Her greatest fear was that the officers investigating this incident would misconstrue the events that led up to the shooting. As a police officer’s daughter, she knew enough about police shootings to understand that the killing of a civilian who was not wanted for anything was not likely to reflect well upon her, not even when the civilian fired first. There would always be some who would believe that she and/or Alan did something to provoke the exchange. This notwithstanding, she expected her claim that the civilian fired first to bode well for her to some degree. But full vindication was dependent upon there being some evidentiary support for her claim that Albert Haynes fired first. Without this she knew that the investigators reviewing the shooting would feel some pressure to highlight any credible infraction to avoid the appearance that they were protecting her.
Cassidy had no confidence in finding someone in the apartment building that would back up her claim that Haynes fired first. The community that he lived in was depressed financially and predominantly anti-police. Because of this her mind spent the past hour going over everything that happened and how she and Alan came to be there. She compared this memory with the preliminary report she gave at the site of the shooting before leaving for the hospital.
Albert Haynes was the sixth gypsy cab driver they went looking for. She and Alan had whittled the list of 32 down to 9 that they believed to be worth questioning. This small list was based on a history of violence and a criminal record. Albert Haynes was the third driver they found.
“Are you sure that the review is going to go well?” Cassidy questioned Lt. Graham about the debriefing that she was scheduled to do the next day.
“Are you kidding?” Lt. Graham asked with a confused look on his face. “You got him. At the least you’re going to come out of this with a commendation.”
It was Cassidy’s turn to be confused. She had no idea what the Lieutenant was talking about and he quickly noticed this.
“No one told you?” Lt. Graham questioned with a hint of a smile. “He’s the guy. They found evidence in his apartment that links him to all 9 Greenbelt victims--keys, wallets, ID’s, credit cards. You got him.”
“He did it?” Cassidy asked with a look of astonishment.
“Yeah,” Lt. Graham returned with an emphatic inflection. “You closed the case.”
This news stunned Cassidy. The last thing she expected to hear was that Albert Haynes was the killer that they were looking for. She never had any faith in this line of their investigation. She only saw it as something to be briefly explored and then dispensed with in favor of researching the lives of the victims. At this moment, she did not know what to think. After a moment of silence, she was led away by Detective Murphy to complete the first leg of her trip home.
After her trip back to the precinct, Detective Murphy took Cassidy’s car and drove them both to her parent’s house. Detective Murphy was then driven back to the precinct in a waiting patrol car. It was just after five in the afternoon when Cassidy walked into her parent’s home. She found her children and her ex-husband, James waiting there with her parents.
“Are you okay?” Margaret questioned while hugging her daughter.
“Yeah, I’m okay, Mom,” Cassidy returned unconvincingly.
Margaret challenged this answer with a second inquiry and got the same reply but with more insistence. Immediately after this exchange Cynthia and John moved in to give their mother a hug. This was not a normal act for them. It was normal for them to take their mother for granted, but the demeanors of their father and grandparents had them convinced that something was wrong.
Cassidy was quick to assure her children that all was well. With an abundance of smiles, kisses, tickles and hugs she allayed their apprehensions. She devoted more than five minutes to this task. At the end of this time she had her children seated in the living-room and watching a DVD movie. Cassidy took advantage of their distraction to join her parents and James in the kitchen.
“Was it a good shoot?” James questioned the moment she entered the room.
“Yes, it was a good shoot,” Cassidy responded with an inflection of annoyance with the question.
“I was just asking,” James explained defensively.
“I know,” Cassidy responded apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
James interpreted Cassidy’s flustered apology as a rare look of tepidness. He suddenly had the belief that his normally confident ex-wife had been traumatized into a frightened woman. This gave him a feeling of masculine advantage and he began to exude this in his manner of speech.
“Now, tell me what happened,” James instructed with an inflection of condescension.
Cassidy gave her ex a slight roll of her eyes and then commenced to explain.
“He just started shooting through the door,” Cassidy began with constrained hand gestures. “Alan was struck with the first shot. He took it in the vest. I went to the floor when I jumped out of the way. Alan was hit again when he got up. By the time I got out a call for backup Alan was busting open the door. He took one in the neck. When I went in the shooter was reloading his revolver and I shot him. That’s what happened.”
That’s a good shoot,” James advised with authoritarian bravado. “You shouldn’t get any blow back from the board about that.
“It doesn’t have to be a bad shoot for the review board to find something wrong,” Daniel corrected. “When you’re debrief you should bring a union lawyer with you.”
Margaret was noticeably shocked by the suggestion that she might need a lawyer. Cassidy noticed her mother’s distress and spoke up to relieve it.
“That won’t be necessary, Dad,” Cassidy countered with a nod.
“You shot a civilian without a warrant or probable cause for an arrest,” Daniel disputed with a look of surprise. “It doesn’t matter that he killed your partner. You need to prove you did everything by the book.”
“He’s the guy,” Cassidy softly advised with a shrug of her shoulders.
“What?” James questioned with a look of confusion.
Daniel was equally confused, but he waited on Cassidy to explain.
“Evidence was found in his apartment that linked him to all nine bodies found in the Greenbelt,” Cassidy explained with a look of bewilderment. “He did it.”
Both James and Daniel were stunned by this report. Margaret was visibly happy to hear it.
“So, you’re going to be okay?” Margaret questioned with a hopeful expression.
Cassidy had no immediate response to that. Her thoughts were elsewhere. She shook her head as if to say she did not know the answer to that question, and then spoke the words that reflected what she was thinking.
“Alan is dead.”
Margaret spent the next few minutes consoling her daughter over her loss. Shortly after that James said his goodbyes and set off for his home. Cassidy and her children ate supper there with Margaret and Daniel. Under the urging of her mother, and the endorsement of her father, she and her children spent the night there.
The next morning Cassidy attended to her children with little regard for her own schedule. The debrief was scheduled for ten o’clock that morning. She knew that she had plenty of time to make this meet despite her growing preoccupation with the morning television news broadcast. The report of the shooting, the deaths of Detective Alan Mercer and Albert Haynes, the suspected Greenbelt Nine killer, was being widely, and repeatedly, reported.
Cassidy arrived outside of precinct 122′s conference room at 9:55 a.m. The debriefing started on schedule and came to a completion shortly after twelve noon. At the end of this time Cassidy was advised that her investigation into the deaths of the Greenbelt Nine was over. She was told that a new pair of officers would conduct the follow up investigation to try and find answers to unanswered questions about the crimes. Behind this Cassidy was dismissed to her administrative leave with the appreciation of the board for a job well done.