Chapter 1-Murder isn't funny
I've been a police officer for over 20 years, and I've investigated murders and all kinds of different crimes.
It is never a good thing when your work follows you home. When I was awoken by a pounding on the door, I had no idea what it was. Like many Policemen, my neighbors had a habit of disturbing me whenever something was going down. I rolled out of bed, put on my slippers and bathrobe, grabbed my gun, and headed downstairs. Normally, I don’t take a gun to the door, but two weeks ago, a Deputy Sheriff had been awoken by the sound of arguing and screaming in the apartment next door. He’d gone to break it up, and wound up with a .40 caliber slug in his chest. So yeah, I took the gun.
The person at the back door was David Farnsworth. He lived down the street. I didn’t know him that well. He was just one of the kids on the street. I opened the door, leaving my handgun in my bathrobe pocket. Before I could say anything, he burst out, “I think someone’s trying to break into your basement!” This was plausible, because like most houses in the neighborhood, we had a walkup basement with a concrete ramp leading down into it. The stairwell up to the porch overshadowed it. Erin, my wife, had followed me downstairs, and I scribbled on a piece of paper, ‘Officer needs help: Insp. Thompson, badge #619 @ home address, two units, tell them possible home invasion.’ I gave the paper to my wife said, “Call 911 and tell them that.”
David told me that he’d been walking home from the bus stop after work and he’d spotted a figure crouching by the basement door. He followed me to the hall, where I grabbed a flashlight and my uniform windbreaker. I told him, “Crouch here with the door open a crack. If something goes wrong, I may need to get back in.” Then I stepped out softly. I raised my weapon and the flashlight, illuminated the figure and yelled “Police! Show me your hands!” There was no reaction from the hoodied figure below. I repeated it, but still no response. I heard the sirens coming, and told David. “Tell Erin to inform 911 that I’ve got the intruder covered, so tell them to come straight in. Tell her to use those exact words.” He disappeared inside. I was thinking “Great. I’m pointing my service weapon at a drunk.” I dropped the gun to my side, but kept the light on the figure below. The blinking LEDs of the first squad car arrived, and I said “Below. In the area way.”
The officers approached cautiously, and I raised my gun, putting my finger on the safety, ready to engage any potential threats; what police officers know as “covering.” The officers reached them, turned them around and one called up “DOA. Gunshot wound!” I swore. “Call homicide. I’ll get EMS!” David had arrived, and I passed it along that we needed Medics at my place.
Ten minutes later, as the street was closed off, the fire engine departed. The ambulance from a private service stayed behind. They’d handed over the DOA slips to the police, and using a Q-Tip, I’d gotten two DNA samples for elimination from each. Now that Forensics was en route and the first of my Homicide Squad had arrived, I was starting to feel the tension. Erin appeared and asked, “What do you use as a command center?” She was putting it wrong, but I understood.
“We’ll bring in a big camper van or something. Set up some portable tables.”
“Or you could use our house.” she suggested. I blinked at her. “If your people are quiet, they won’t even wake the kids. Besides, I can make sandwiches and coffee, and you can set up in the dining room.”
I turned to Captain Halliwell, who was charging up the front steps. “Tell the CP team to forget the Mickey and the Catering truck. Set them up in my dining room.” He turned to go, but I grabbed his shoulder. “If anyone wakes up my kids, I will be very unpleasant. I don’t want them to be getting firsthand experience of a homicide investigation yet. We’ll wake up the neighbors later.” I paused and looked around at the lights in houses and people standing around talking. “Those that aren’t awake yet. I’m going to get dressed; then we’ll see. Seal off the area. I don’t want one of my neighbors getting arrested for interfering in a homicide.”
"Yessir. Kind of funny isn't it? I mean a murder taking place right in front of the house that belongs to the head of the Homicide Squad."
"Murder isn't funny Captain." I replied.
Upstairs, as the radio chatter came faintly up from the street and the flashing LEDs illuminated the windows, I took a deep breath. In a typical investigation, murders are committed in an area where the killer was comfortable with the turf and could make a quick escape. I had three guesses about the events leading up to the one that happened tonight. One, (I hadn’t seen the body yet,) but it could be a neighbor. That meant they were ambushed on the way home or at home. Two; The killer was a stranger to the neighborhood, and this was a dump job. That meant that I was missing the primary crime scene. Three; The killer and victim were neighbors, locals, whatever, And the murder had killed someone inside and dumped the body outside. If the scene was outside any other house, I’d be rousing the occupants and searching the house.
I grabbed Halliwel as soon as I got downstairs. He was supervising the set up in the dining room, and I pulled him into the living room. The den facing the street was currently being used as a staging area for the Forensic Teams. “Listen up. I need a favor. First thing tomorrow after my kids have left for school I want you to tear my house apart for the original crime scene. Then I want you to investigate any potential ties to me or my family in this incident. Without briefing me on the progress. Clear it with the DCI. As soon as we’re done here, I’ll probably hand off the case t0 the Superintendent’s Special Investigations Command.”
At that moment DL Murray, the lead forensic tech pocked his head into the room. “Grab a suit and get out here quick. We’ve IDed the victim, and it’s not good.”
He was right. The Forensic Techs hadn’t gotten the tent up yet. It was starting to drizzle, and Murray pulled the emergency blanket off the body. Halliwell breathed, “Son of a bitch.” I silently agreed as I looked down at the upturned face of Rebecca Solitaire. She was the daughter of one of the lead detectives on the Superintendent’s new Special Investigation Command. That meant that a high priority case, involving a fellow officer’s family, had dropped into my lap. I couldn’t pass it on to the unit that was supposed to handle it, i.e. the SIC. I swore again and headed inside. Halliwell followed.
We sat in my living room. First came the M.E. report. It was delivered quite calmly by an ME whom I’d never seen before. Two gunshot wounds. Minor non-fatal one grazing the side of the head, and a major one through the back and out the front. Officers had removed their shoes inside the house without being asked, which surprised me. I had taped lists and copies of the paperwork to my walls while the TV in the corner had been hooked into a laptop, which had a uniformed officer sitting at it controlling the four portable surveillance cameras we’d set up. Then, I assigned duties. My detectives had been roused from their beds, (pissing most of them off,) and I was now talking them through the steps. Two detectives were assigned as Family Liaison. I told Friday and Spiro to wake up the unit commander. Then, they had to let the Solitaires know that their life was changing forever. The briefing concluded with me ordering a full canvas of the street in both directions for two blocks, looking for the bullets. That accomplished, I walked outside into the rainstorm. The street was sealed off. Suddenly, the Superintendent appeared. I just turned and my boss was standing there. I jumped. “Thompson.” The big boss said.
“I’m putting you personally in charge of this case because of the high profile. Also, I understand you’ve ordered a Captain to investigate you and yours as potential suspects. Have them report directly to me.” I blinked, but the Superintendent walked away toward his Ford Excursion, as it pulled up just on the edge of the perimeter. Ever since the TV show ‘Blue Bloods’ aired, every police department commander has wanted one of those instead of a regular SUV.
I called after him, “Who told you all these details?”
He called back, “No one.”
I went inside. Halliwell said “Why didn’t you acknowledge him during the briefing? He was standing in the hall.” I swore again. “Pick your team, grab an incident room and start working. Also tell the techs to hit my house basement on up starting at six. I don’t think they want overtime that bad.” I commanded.
I turned, and Detective Lieutenant Macintosh, Day Shift XO, was standing next to me. “We’ve got TV cameras on the perimeter.”
“Is the victim ready for removal?”
“Alright.” I said. “Let’s walk her to the ambulance, and I’ll give the press the preliminary along with a time for a press conference.”
We walked somberly and silently to the blue and white ambulance. The body bag, covered by a clean white sheet, was loaded into the back. The ME, Doctor Amelia Sunderlend, (whom I’d never had a chance to meet formally) and her two assistants climbed in. The EMT closed the doors, and with lights blinking, the ambulance rolled out of the crime scene. Everyone uncovered their heads. I’d seen it done a hundred times, but here, on my own street, it just hit home much harder. I went up to the press. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll have a press conference at the Press Room in the Second Precinct building at ten thirty. At this time, all I can tell you is that we have a dead female victim found in an area way on this street, and the CCPD detective division Homicide East is investigating with help from the Second Precinct’s detective squad. At this time, no suspects are in custody.”
As I turned, someone yelled “Was the murder victim found in the areaway of your house? Shouldn’t the Specials be handling this?” I ignored it and went inside.
I guess I didn’t do a good job of disguising my face, because detectives and uniformed officers scattered in the hallway. Turning into the dinning room, I ran into Macintosh. “Those scuzballs have a nickname for the Special Investigation Command. The ‘specials.’ Isn’t that horrible?”
Macintosh, who fears no policeman, private investigator, or criminal, simply said, “Don’t we have a name for them? ‘Thieves’ gets thrown around a lot when they take over a case. So does SIC-os”
That made me smile. “Okay. I’ll be doing the press conference. Tell the Superintendent’s office we need manpower. Tell him I want the ‘Specials’ on this. But not Solitaire, unless he insists on it.”
I went next door to the kitchen, and discovered pancakes being made for the overtimers. A couple DHQ detectives had lounged around too long and been put to work by my wife. They were making bacon, pancakes, and sausage, with homemade jam, fruit salad, and tons of coffee. I ate rapidly, while discussing ideas with my fellow officers.
I had to go upstairs. It was time to wake the kids. In the kitchen, my wife was still preparing more food. From experience I knew that we (The Homicide Team) would be returning to HQ leaving, precinct detectives and uniforms behind. First Ruth, then Allan and Andrew, and finally Alexander. That was another problem. I told all the kids “Hey, something happened last night out front, not to sure what, (Which was true) there’s lots of police officers around, behave or so help me….” Alexander, since he’d been paralyzed, had needed help getting dressed. Since it had only been a matter of months since it had happened, I was tolerant, and so were the brigades of physical therapists, surgeons, and doctors. Alex hated his mom helping him get dressed. Although I didn’t know why, my guess was he was embarrassed because he had to wear a diaper (Which was natural.) Maybe he was ashamed of his legs, as they atrophied, despite the work of the therapists. Now he let me dress him, and I was preoccupied. He had to remind me to put his socks on before his shoes. I took him to the stairlift and then headed down, leaving him to make his way down. He and the kids ate breakfast in the kitchen surrounded by detectives and officers, who suddenly forgot any jokes of any sort of filth as soon as they showed up. They would be late for school, but I was thinking, “I’m damned if I’m going to disrupt a crime scene for my personal convenience.”