Brad Finch, civilian employee of the MPD Crime Laboratory was still at his lab station. He’d agreed to work overtime on a project for Narcotics. He knew that this was payment from, not payback to Detective Enciso Martinez. He didn’t care what strings Martinez or one of his superiors had pulled to clear his overtime work. Money was money.
He hunched over several petri dishes. Each contained a single small scrap of paper. Finch’s goal was to determine if all the paper was from the same manufacturer by analyzing the composition of the fibers in the paper. I don’t know what triggered the copy paper fetish in Martinez, but he’s got it bad.
He dropped one drop of a solution from an unmarked bottle on each.
Mamba, Stallings, and Martinez peered over the lab man’s shoulders.
“Ay, caramba! Mira. Look,” the Latino breathed.
Two of the pieces turned a dirty orange color as the technician’s solution saturated the paper. The three remaining pieces varied slightly from black to dark blue-purple under the same conditions.
“That clinches it,” Finch remarked matter-of-factly.
“What exactly did you prove?” Mamba asked. These look like significant results. I want no doubt left of their implications. I’ve got too much time, and there’s an officer in the hospital not to be sure!
“It’s a misconception that we prove anything here. However, these two papers,” Finch pointed to the orange scraps. “These two are of entirely different stock than the others. I will testify to that in court.”
“Good to know. This is an important case. You’re certain these two papers are the same as each other and different than the rest?” Stallings double-checked.
“I’ve testified as an expert witness on less positive results than these.”
“That’s good enough.” Stallings turned to the PI. “I’ll take you to Internal Affairs about Chief Rogers now.”
Finch raised his eyebrows at the mention of the Chief of Police. I’d say that qualifies this as an important case.
“What about me?” Martinez asked. “You’re not shutting me out now.”
“You’re our ace in the hole,” Stallings assured him. “Stay close to a phone.”
* * *
“I think you want to see this,” Petula said to her boss as she pulled the door to his office shut behind her.
“What is it? I’m kind of busy here.”
“The kiss-up press conference can wait. Something’s up in the lab.”
Chief Rogers looked up but did not speak.
“Narcotics authorized overtime for a lab tech.”
“Are they over budget, or what?”
I should just let you hang yourself.
“It involves testing copy paper,” she said, emphasizing the last three words.
“Copy paper? Why should that . . .” Rogers’ voice faded away. He considered the implication the results of such testing might mean to his career. They’ve already got Edwards for his part in leaking information. He’ll cut a deal for lesser time. If they manage to link the copy machine contract to my time in St. Louis to any of his testimony, I’m as good as convicted. “You’ve got my attention.”
“You know those files you were supposed to prepare for shredding in just such a situation?”
Rogers glowered at her.
“I’m not stupid,” he said.
“The jury’s still out on that. I’ll take your response for a no. I’d get hopping on that task.”
She sauntered out. She had file preparation of her own to complete.
* * *
The morning after receiving Finch’s lab report, Mamba and Stallings found the IAD ensconced in an interrogation room in the division station. Stallings made it clear that Mamba would not talk unless it was to answer a question he asked him.
Things weren’t going well.
“Officer Desantos, for what will be the last time I say this, you need to inform Senior Officer Hargrove about the documents and test results we have with us. And you need to do that immediately,” Stallings spoke with restraint he did not feel. He and Mamba had been getting the run-around from the Internal Affairs officer for almost ten minutes. It was time to fish, not cut bait.
“If you’ll show me what you’ve got, I’ll see about getting you in to see Senior Officer Hargrove.” Desantos oft-repeated suggestion was cut off by Stallings.
“I’m not about to reveal the reason for his visit to anyone but the Head of Internal Affairs. I’m living proof of what misinformation can lead to!”
“The Senior Officer is out of the office on assignment,” Desantos reiterated.
“He may be out of this office,” Stallings fumed. “But I know he’s still here in the Division house. You’re both here interviewing SWAT officers involved in that firefight last week.”
“You will be,” Stallings promised. “Come on, Mamba. We’re going downtown.”
The two men stalked away from the interrogation room that housed the recalcitrant Desantos. Without comment, they climbed into Stallings’ car.
“This is pretty radical.” Mamba broke his self-imposed silence several minutes later as the two men entered the parking structure of the government building that housed the Central offices of the Manzanita Police Department. “The boys down here are a seriously serious lot.”
“We’ve got hard evidence of a serious crime.” Stallings’ voice was steel-edged. “Since the yokel I.A. underlings wouldn’t listen, I am going to be heard by someone who will listen and will do something with this.” He patted the laboratory report that lay between them on the bench seat. The Sergeant parked his car. The two men entered the imposing edifice that housed the Central office.
“Do you know which way we go?” Stallings asked. “I’ve only been here twice.”
“Unless they’ve moved, IAD’s Central Command is on the third floor,” Mamba told him. “Not that I was here often, back in the day.”
Stallings flashed a brief smile as he caught the innuendo. Yeah, they make house calls, don’t they.
They rode the elevator up to the third floor. They checked the directory posted on the wall, just to be sure, and walked down to suite 325, the home of the Central Command of MPD Internal Affairs Division. After a brief wait, Stallings and Mamba entered the office of the ranking IAD officer in the Department.
“This is a most grievous charge,” the Commander of Internal Affairs’ said. His tone of voice was as serious as the words he spoke. He rescanned the documents they had given him. “Who did the lab work?”
“That’s not important, is it?” Mamba asked. “You’ll run your own tests anyway, right?”
“You know we will, Mamba. You haven’t been off the force that long.”
“Just protecting a source.”
“Like all detectives—apparently both real and private,” was the dour response.
Mamba felt his fuse ignite at the deprecating remark of his current line of work. Stallings, who’d also caught the Commander’s meaning, made a small gesture with his right hand indicating it was neither the time nor the place for a confrontation.
“Finch from our lab did the work. It was overtime billed to Narcotics.”
The Commander raised his eyebrows. These two have some serious backbone. They’re certain this charge will stick to Chief Rogers. For their sake, and the sake of the department, I hope this expenditure isn’t ruled premature by the board of inquiry if it comes to that.
“What’re you going to do? We’ve got a lot of work tied up in this.” Stallings asked. That’s as close to demanding action as I dare.
“If my lab report matches yours, we’ll take action tomorrow.”
“Fair enough,” Stallings said, hoping that his tone wasn’t noticeably condescending.
“Good morning, Gentlemen.” The Commander rose in a gesture of dismissal. “For the sake of the Manzanita Police Department, I hope you’re wrong.”
“We’re not,” Mamba muttered under his breath. His tone of voice held no hint of satisfaction.
* * *
To the surprise of neither Stallings, nor Martinez, nor Mamba, the lab work requested by Internal Affairs confirmed the work done by Finch. The entire IAD contingent, with the Commander leading, was dispatched to Chief Rogers’ office.
“Good morning, Captain,” Petula said as the IAD team entered her office area. Head’s up, Dwight. She hit the open intercom feed button on her phone.
None of the IAD officers acknowledged her greeting. The Commander went directly to the door to Rogers’ office. He tried the doorknob. It resisted his efforts to turn it.
“This is locked,” he said without looking at Petula. “Open it.”
“I have strict orders—”
“Open this door now or I will have you up on charges of obstructing of an IAD investigation before your nail polish dries.”
Chauvinist! She reached into her purse and pulled out her key ring. She stared hard at the Commander while she extended the keys in the direction of Officer Desantos.
Petula slid keys around the ring until she’d segregated the desired one.
Seconds later, the Commander led his team into Rogers’ office.
“You’d better have a very good reason for this intrusion,” Rogers growled without looking up from where he stood feeding document pages into the shredder.
“Back away from the shredder!” The IAD Commander demanded.
Rogers’ response was to stuff another page into the shredder.
“Hargrove, help the Chief comply with my orders!”
“Yes, sir,” Senior IAD Officer Hargrove said. He tried to maneuver his body between the Chief and the shredder. Rogers fended him off with one arm and stuffed another sheet into the machine.
When Rogers managed to shred two more pages in spite of Hargrove’s interference, the Commander acted.
“Desantos, take Chief Rogers’ left arm!” Officer Desantos moved behind Rogers, grabbed his forearm, and pulled. The man reacted by shoving his arm back as he turned into his assailant.
As Rogers made his move, the Commander clamped both hands on Rogers right forearm. He gave a hard twist and pulled the arm behind the Chief’s back. Rogers grunted and turned away from the Commander.
Desantos used the Commander’s diversion to her advantage. With a twist, she pulled the Chief’s left arm behind him and slapped on an open handcuff. The Commander grabbed the other end of the cuffs and slapped it onto the Chief’s right wrist.
Chief Rogers stopped fighting.
“I want my union rep and my lawyer,” were the last words he ever spoke while in his office.
* * *
Petula Jacobs had watched from her desk as Dwight Rogers was escorted from his office by the IAD team. She’d been planning her strategy for this day for a long time. It was time to implement that plan.
“You’ll have to leave, Officer Jacobs,” the I.A.D. Commander said once Rogers was on his way to a holding cell. “I want this entire office locked down.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. “I assume you’ll want a statement from me.”
“Don’t leave town. We’ll get your statement in the morning.”
She nodded and pulled her purse from the bottom drawer of her desk.
“I’ll need my keys. I’ve got to drive home and get into my apartment.”
“Desantos, remove all departmental keys from her ring and return it to her,” the Commander ordered. He took a step toward Petula and added, “While she’s busy, I’ll check your purse.”
Back in her apartment, Petula opened the fireproof box safe she stored in her closet. She reached beneath her Last Will and Testament and pulled out the duplicate set of departmental keys she’d garnered over time through various questionable methods.
“No trail to me from these keys. Not one of them was illegally copied,” she muttered as she shoved the keys into her purse. She thought about changing out of her uniform but dismissed that thought. For what I’m going to do, her uniform was better than any disguise.
Petula returned to the Central Office as the graveyard shift was arriving. Since her undocumented set of keys contained copies of several keys she’d never been issued, she was able to enter the building through a door from the parking garage for which only the Chief and his cabinet had keys.
She walked through the hallways keeping close to the walls and turning into every doorway as though she was about to use one of her keys to unlock the door. By the time Petula reached the hallway outside the Chief’s office suite, she was confident that no one had recognized her.
A uniformed officer stood in the hallway outside the office suite. She swore under her breath. I’ll have to wait. No. I’ve got an idea!
She backtracked down the hallway until she found a door to which she had a key. Once inside, she pulled a small electronic device from a zippered side pocket inside her purse. After switching on the device, she held it over the mouthpiece while she phoned the front desk.
“Who’s been assigned to guard Chief Rogers’ office?” She asked authoritatively.
“I’d have to check the duty roster, but not until I know who wants the information,” Sergeant Smith replied.
“This is Desantos from I.A.D. Now check the duty roster. I’m the eyes of the Captain tonight. I need you to go down to Rogers’ office and have whoever’s pulled that duty station check the reception area hourly. We can’t have anyone, even custodial staff, in there until we’ve run a sweep tomorrow.”
“Can do. You want a callback?”
“Only if he finds something. Oh, and, thanks.”
She waited around a corner until Smith had delivered her message and the guard was inside the reception area. With a grim smile on her face, she used a key to unlock Rogers’ private door that was located just past the official office door.
I’m lucky that the door’s hidden in the hallway’s wood paneling. I still can’t figure how Dwight pulled that off. It was before my time.
By the time she left the Chief’s suite, the shedder basket in the Chief’s office, once filled with freshly cut strips of an assortment of reports, memos, and miscellaneous in-house communiqués, was nearly empty. She slipped into the hallway two hours after she’d arrived to ensure the guard would be in the reception area as he’d been instructed.
She muscled two large trash bags filled with the shredder bin’s former load down the hallway to the refuse chute. She held the door to the chute open until she heard the muffled thump of each bag as it landed in the dumpster in the garage.
Those will be on their way to the recycling center long before IAD arrives in the morning. Since there’s not much physical evidence left, it’s time for me to disappear
* * *
Former Police Chief “Buck” Rogers spent his first night under arrest in one of the Central office building’s holding cells. His lawyer argued that it was a violation of his civil rights “to be incarcerated with individuals it might be assumed to wish harm upon him.” It wasn’t hard for the lawyer to find a judge that agreed his argument.
Rogers was transported to his home. There, he spent two nights under house arrest. A pair of officers remained inside his house. One of the two had eyes on the man at all times. This strategy guaranteed that no potential evidence was changed or destroyed. Even when in the bathroom, Rogers was required to leave the door open.
As humiliating as his bathroom experience was, he would learn that it was far above the bottom of his pit of humiliation.