Chapter Ten Exposure.
It was early morning and Steffi, Julie and Ben were sifting through the reports about the Arsonist that killed her parents and the reports of the investigation into their deaths.
“I’ve got to admit I have no idea what I’m looking for?” Ben grumbled.
“Anything that seems odd and doesn’t fit.” Steffi explained for the umpteenth time.
“The only thing I’ve found out so far is that he had a nickname, Heat Wave. Hardly original. All the buildings he torched were empty and in horrendous state of repair. Apparently the brains in city hall found a loophole that allowed them to claim back tax as long as the buildings had no roof and was empty.”
“Go on?” Steffi encouraged.
“It went wrong with the last one before your parents death. A large group of hobo’s, wino’s and rough sleepers were using the basement to get out of the icy winter wind. When the fire subsided, the fire chiefs decided to contain the fire since it was derelict, they found fifty bodies. They were overcome with smoke and the heat. Most hadn’t the ability to look after themselves. They were out of their heads on Meth’s and Morphine.”
Steffi was tapping Steve’s notes on his chin as she listened.
“So Heat Wave accidentally killed some of the cities vulnerable people and decides on the basis of that to turn to murder. Not only that he decides to hit not his usual target of a derelict condo but a one level house in a fashionable district. Do you buy that? No? Well neither do I!” Steffi retorted angrily.
Arthur looked up from his desk with concern.
“Sorry Arthur.” She looked down at Steve’s notes again. “What are you trying to tell me darling? What is it you saw?”
One of the pages of Steve’s notes was a grid of letters with different letters beneath.
The telephone rang.
Arthur answered it.
“Sergeant? They have found Mike Murphy’s body in a field beside Mount Clear road.”
“If that is the Lieutenant tell him I’m on my way.”
“Yes sir she is leaving now.” Arthur put the phone down. “He said he would meet you there. He seemed puzzled as why you are down here in the first place.”
“Thanks Arthur.” Steffi turned to the other two. “No word of this to the Lieutenant, understand?”
“Your secret is safe with me.” Ben joked but Steffi froze to the spot.
In her minds eye she could see herself getting in the car.
“You haven’t told me where we’re going yet.” She said merrily as she clipped over in her matching high heels.
“No It’s a secret isn’t it Steve.” Bob slurred as he drunkenly rested against the wall while drinking his third cup of coffee. “Your secret is safe with me Stevie boy.”
“So I can see Ben, so I can see.” Steve helped Steffi into the car and soon they had vanished into the night.
“What did you just say?” Steffi said fixing Ben with an icy stare.
“That I wouldn’t say anything to the Lieutenant.” Ben swayed uneasily from foot to foot.
“At the wedding you said the same thing. How did you know where we were going?”
“Steve told me and took us up to the cabin to deck it out with flowers, balloon’s, and the like.”
“And you told no one?” Steffi kept the pressure on.
“No. I know I was drunk but even then I wouldn’t tell.”
“Why were you so drunk? I haven’t noticed you drinking so much before.”
Bob pulled a strange coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air before catching it again.
“I am a alcoholic. Getting so plastered at the wedding was the last straw. I sobered up and joined the NAPD alcoholics anonymous group. I haven’t drunk any spirits or beer since then. They give you this coin to remind yourself of the journey your on.”
Steffi gripped her colleges arm.
“That was a very courageous thing to do. I am very proud of you.”
“Sir Henry might have told someone, it was his lodge after all.”
“Yes. I’ll have to ask him...” Her voice petered out as a look of surprise crossed her face.
She dashed back to the strewn papers and hunted through them like she was a demon possessed.
“What an idiot. It was there in plain sight.” She took two sheets of paper and Steve’s notes and stuffed them in her tunic. “Julie come with me, Ben follow up with two uniform officers and check to see if we have any news of the shoes and the scent?”
“Oh I meant to tell you Sergeant.” Ben consulted his note book. “The shoe’s were made in Italy but Bruno is the only client for them here. Apparently he has six pairs of them.
The perfume was another import this time from France. Sean Murphy and Kathleen bought it for Helen for her birthday.”
It was raining a fine drizzle as they left the freeway. It was the sort of rain that soaked you right through without really trying.
Doctor Houston was already at the scene as Julie coasted to a stop. The Lieutenant arrived a few moments later.
“Hello Doctor. What have we got?” The Lieutenant asked with a nod to the women.
“Another of the ritualised murders.” The doctor led them to where Mike laid. “There are marks on his arms at the wrists which suggests he was tied down. I can’t tell about the legs as there is a car on top of them.”
Roger Lomax, the six foot nine chief forensic scientist, was waiting with his team.
“Roger.” He acknowledged.
“The Lincoln came through the roadside wall here and just missed him to land here. There is flattened and damaged Maize to suggest that he was chased by the sports car through the field.” The big man explained. “There are corn stalks trapped around the wheels.”
“That would fit in with my theory. I think he was to exhausted to get out of the way. He was laying on his back, probably trying to get his breath back and relieved that the car had missed when the limo dropped on top of him. Trapping him from the waist down.” The doctor added.
“They, whoever they are, let the tires down so that his body took the whole weight of the vehicle.” Lomax told them.
“His breathing had already been compromised when the sports car was driven up in such a way to partially crush the windpipe.” The doctor explained.
“How long before he died doctor?” Steffi asked.
“I would say about ten minutes, certainly no more than fifteen. It must have been a terrifying way to die.”
“And the time of death?” She asked.
“I’d say somewhere between ten o’clock and midnight, certainly no later than one o’clock. As I say I’ll know more when I get him to the mortuary.”
“We must have driven right passed him on the way back from the Murphy’s not knowing he was there.” Julie said in disbelieve.
“Don’t reprove yourself Julie the only way we knew of the murder was when a young woman stopped her car and popped into the field to relieve herself.” The lieutenant gave a sigh. “I’ll be up at the Murphy’s delivering the great news. Excuse me but your son was run over by two cars in a field of Maize. That should go down well, a real show stopper.”
“With your permission I’d like to go and inform the family. I have their respect.” Steffi told him.
“Very well. Take Julie with you while I try and sort out this mess.”
An hour and a half later they pulled up in front of the Murphy’s lodge in their blues.
Jitters opened the door just before they got to it and looked at them fearfully.
“Any news officers? Master Michael hasn’t been home all night.”
“I know.” Steffi said sadly dreading like all good officers do having to impart the bad news. “May we come in?”
Jitters nodded and opened the door wide to let them through. He led them into the main hall just as Kathleen was coming down the stairs, her eyes puffy due to crying and the lack of sleep.
She smiled at them a moment before registering why they had come.
She collapsed onto the stair.
“No. Please God no! Not my boy not my Mikey!” She cried out in her agony.
“I’m am so truly sorry.” Steffi said feeling the woman’s despair as if she was living through the loss of Steve all over again. “We found him this morning no more than an hour from here by road, three miles as the crow flies. He nearly made it home.
He was murdered as far as we can tell around 10 o’clock last night, possibly earlier. We will know more when we have conducted the autopsy.”
Steffi crossed over and sat down on the stair beside Kathleen and took her hand in hers.
“He was the only thing good in this family. Sean and I had an affair when his first wife was dying with cancer, lung cancer. After she died we waited a sensitive amount of time before we got married. God that was ten years ago, it seems longer.” The words were coming out in sobs. “I had already had his son, my Mikey. When we got married I made Sean promise me that he wouldn’t involved my boy in any criminal activity. He seemed to have kept his word, even getting Michael training in business studies and setting up the club for him.
But he lied to me. He wanted the Lieutenant in the Serious Crime Squad killed as a favour for a friend, so with Bruno Carlotto and Helen Marks to help him Michael was given the job.”
“I know this is the wrong time to ask but are you willing to stand up in court and say this?” Steffi ask cautiously.
“Oh yes. I’ll show you all the dirt they try to hide away. Their duplicate accounting book to the supplying of cheep hooch and drugs.”
Julie came over and replaced Steffi in consoling the poor woman as Jitters reappeared. with a strong cup of tea for his mistress.
“Jitters, sir. We need to collect all the rest of the family together so we can tell them what has happened. Preferably when they are all together rather than in dribs and drabs.”
“The children are out and about looking for Master Michael.” The butler told her. “I will phone round the area’s they were searching to see if I can catch them.”
“Thank you Jitters. And Sean Murphy?”
It was Kathleen who answered.
“He’ll be in the study. We done row often but when we do he will go to the study to cool off. If something is troubling him that’s also where he’ll be.” She got of the step and drew herself up to her full height and tried to compose herself. “I’ll take you.”
“Be careful My Lady I don’t know how the Master will take the news.” Jitters cautioned before deciding it was better if he led the way.
When they reached the study door it was to find it locked.
Steffi sniffed the air catching the faint smell of burnt flesh.
“Get this door open now!!” She commanded.
Jitters with nervous fumbling of his master keys eventually finding the right one and unlocked the door.
The room was in total darkness.
“Good Morning Sir. I have officer Corrigan with me sir. I am afraid the news is not good.” The manservant said as he crossed over and pulled back the curtains only to find the tiebacks were missing. He have to have strong words with that lazy good for nothing maid.
“I’m afraid he can’t hear you Jitters.” Steffi said sadly.
The butler turned round and almost collapsed in shock.
Sean sat in his chair with the cigars remnants still clamped between the skulls teeth and hanging out of its nasal cavity. The empty eye sockets stared at them accusingly.
Steffi crossed to the French windows and let herself out taking deep breaths of the morning air to clear her head and remove the burnt pork smell from her nostrils.
She lent into the patrol car and plucked up the radio mike and clicked it on.
“Dispatch this is Sergeant Corrigan patch me through to Lieutenant Jay Moore Serious Crime Division over.”
“I hear you Sergeant. What is the news and do I want to hear it? Over.”
“I’m still at the Murphy lodge sir. He’s been here. Sean Murphy’s dead, burnt to a crisp. Over.”
“We are on our way. Just hold the fort till we get there. Over.”
“Kathleen is ready to sing like a canary about the families illegal activities. Over.”
The radio crackled.
“I’ll take over questioning her when I arrive, just keep her sweet. Over.”
“I understand sir but take it carefully she is just about ready to break. Over and out.”
“Understood. over and out.”
Steffi rejoined Jitters in the study. The poor man was attempting to tidy up.
“Please leave things as they are Jitters you may accidentally destroy vital evidence.” She told him gently.
It was at this moment that Kathleen entered the room with Julie following behind.
On seeing Sean she collapsed into Julies arms and catching her unawares ripped the officers pistol out of its holster. She swung round, the gun pointing at all of them before settling on Sean.
“You bastard, you bastard. I hope you rot in hell.” She switched the safety of and began to pull back the trigger.
“Come on Kathleen…” Steffi said gently. “It’s to late for that now. He is far beyond you hurt and anger.”
“It was his fault my beautiful son is dead. He couldn’t keep his sticky fingers to himself.”
Steffi slowly began to circle the grief stricken woman.
“Yes I know but you can’t hurt him now.”
“He lied to me, he lied!!” Kathleen sobbed.
Steffi moved in front of her blocking her view. She held out her hand for the pistol.
Kathleen lowered the pistol allowing Steffi to take it from her and pass it back to the guilty looking Julie.
Fifteen minutes later the Lieutenant and the forensic team turned up with Doctor Houston.
“You certainly give me interesting problems Sergeant.” Doctor Houston said with a smile as he began his examination. “It’s if they have been following you. Well let the dog see the bone.”
Even he blanched at the sight of Sean. Without commenting he carried out his examination.
“The good Doctor has a point Sergeant these murders do appear to be following you.” The Lieutenant said idly as he scanned the room with his eyes missing nothing.
“I think our murderer is a police officer rather than just somebody tagging along.” Steffi replied.
“I hope you have evidence to back such a claim?”
“No, no not really. It’s just that the murder of Mike was before I got here so that rules out a follower of me.”
“They may have followed you to the nightclub and picked him up from there.”
“Impossible!” The doctor moaned .
“What have you got for us doctor?”
“It more what I don’t have. There is no charring of the chair or wall it is as if the fire was confined to the head.”
“Spontaneous Human Combustion?” Steffi asked.
The doctor stood for a moment as if really considering it.
“No. No I don’t think so not if by coincidence he pours whisky over his head.” The doctor leaned over the body and using a pair of tweezers extracted strands of tobacco from the nasal cavity. “Do you realise how much heat is required to reduce a head to this state? This one tops the biscuit. His nose and mouth was almost completely blocked with cigars.”
The doctor pointed at the coloured band that had been around a cigar.
“Was he alive when it happened?” Steffi asked carefully so not to irritate the man.
“I can’t say for sure but I do know that the tobacco products were done to suffocate him slowly.”
When Steffi and Julie were back in the patrol car she dropped into a thoughtful silence as Julie manoeuvred the vehicle out onto the mountain road once more.
“I don’t think Steve is dead.” She said breaking the silence.
“He must be, you were at the funeral weren’t you?” Julie replied with concern.
“When I came too at the hospital I was standing by an iron lung.” She paused to wipe a tear from her eyes. “I think Steve is in there. A great detective dying in a terrible accident becomes a hero, a beacon for others to copy.
A badly injured one evokes sympathy and reminds people of the dangers involved. He becomes a warning reducing the desire to join up.”
“I can see what your getting at but how can you be sure?” Julie asked as the road curved into the mountains.
“By getting someone to take a look.” She paused before adding quietly. “I’ve seen him a couple of times.”
“But if he is in the iron lung how could you have seen him?”
“I don’t know.”
As Julie took the long bend they saw standing in the middle of the road a figure of a man, of Steve.
Julie slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop in time and went straight into Steve. But the patrol car met no resistance and slid right through him.
The car rolled to a halt. The doors where flung open and the women clambered out to see…nothing. Their was no body and no sign of Steve.
When they looked back at the town nesting far below they could see a huge ghostly figure standing behind it looking down into the bustling life of the town as if waiting for the final act. Then in a blink of an eye it was gone.
Two rather shaken police officers got back into the car and carried on their journey.
“What is going on Steffi?” Julie asked her voice shaky from the experience.
“I don’t know. I wish I did.”
Suddenly the radio squawked at them.
“Corrigan here over.” She called up.
“Dispatch here. We’ve received a message from an Israel Goldberg for you. Apparently he has vital information relevant to the case. Can you meet him in his shop at midday. Over.”
“Will do. Thank you dispatch over and out.” Steffi lent back in her seat and tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I wonder what you are going tell me and how much you are mixed up in all this.”
In total silence they carried on their journey, each lost in their own thoughts.
In a room lit by a solitary desk lamp a long beautifully manicured had turn over one of a set of Taro Cards to reveal the Tower Struck by Lightning.
Each card she turned had a meaning beyond the ken of mortal men. Two steady bright blue eyes watched unblinkingly.