Chapter Two-Motive, Means, and Opportunity
When I arrived at the Squadroom, the SIC was already setting up at a conference table with our coffee and pastries. Their commander detached himself and wandered over. “Inspector!” he said, “It’s been a long time!”
“Yeah.” I agreed. “The last time I saw you, your predecessor had just screwed up a case my team had busted our butts on for two months.” Before he could reply, I continued, “However, that’s in the past. Inspector Kinkaid, correct?” He nodded. “Alright. Remember that you’re part of my team. I’ve got seniority, so that makes it my team. Unless my superiors say otherwise, right?”
“Of course. The Super made that clear. Now I respect you Thompson. I want us to work together on this, okay?”
“No problem. Have you interrogated the victim’s family yet?”
“Yeah, mother and father. Solitaire says her only real hobby was playing cards.”
“Does he know where?”
“No. But she met her boyfriend there, and his address is an apartment complex in the Asian district.”
I blinked. “How does Solitaire know that?”
“He ran an Integrated Database Check and also ran him through the FBI and INS.”
“Please tell me it was after he became a suspect.”
“No, it was when he started dating the victim.”
I sighed. “Add his name to the list of known associates and have Amy run him.”
“Right.” Kinkaid said scribbling in his notebook.
"Okay anything else?" I asked.
"Nope." Kinkaid said shutting his notebook. "All we need is motive, means, and opportunity."
Inside the incident room, next door to the one where Halliwell was poking into my life, pictures of the victim, lines, and lists of actions were taped, thumbtacked, and held by magnets to the wall and whiteboard. I looked at the list of the contents of the victim’s pockets and spotted something. It was a small business card with some fortuneteller shop advertised. I pulled over a computer and discovered the address of the shop. Then I called Vice Division.
There were two brothels and a gambling den in the area, but Vice had eyes and a camera on both entrances to the Gambling Den. I doubted that a woman dating a man would be doing anything at a brothel. So I sent one of the detectives from SIC and DS Jackson to try to find the palm reader. What they found was a gambling den.
The palm reader ‘read’ Jackson’s hand, and told him that he’d seen our victim leaving a laundry the night before, after it was closed.
Three hours later, I was sitting in a Ford Fusion that smelled like a normal stakeout car, a mix of cheese and urine, sort of like public transit. We were parked across the street from the laundry, the crisp paper of the search warrant in my pocket. My earpiece crackled. “Team One Position.” Behind the laundry, two public work trucks pulled up and parked. In the rear view mirror, I saw three squad cars pull into the parking lot of the abandoned building down the street. Ahead, a squad car lit up a battered Chrysler that I’d borrowed from Intelligence Division. “Team two position.” A Honda CRV pulled in front of the laundry, and AD Matt Green, my new administrative assistant, who can really pull off the ‘yuppy’ look, walked in. Next to me Lieutenant Zhao of Vice West, which covers Chinatown, adjusted his earpiece. Across the street an old ford van moved into place. The driver got out and opened the back. It appeared to be full of cardboard boxes. Inside, Green was saying “Hey I know this is short notice, but I need this stain removed. See look, it’s… OKAY everyone! Police, freeze. I said freeze! stop moving!!!” Outside, things started happening. In the alley, the Tac Team exploded out of the public works trucks. The driver of the ford van jumped toward the store while the cardboard boxes exploded out. Halliwell led his team out the back and toward the building. To my left, the Chrysler took off, hidden lights lighting up like a Christmas tree. It was followed by the squad car. To my right, the blinking lights on the approaching squad cars appeared out of the parking lot of the abandoned building. I thought I heard a siren start somewhere, but dismissed it.
I burst inside. It was a typical laundromat. Ahead, the tac team in their body armor appeared, frisking customers and pointing them to the seats. I pushed back and found two tac team members pointing their MP5s down a staircase. Meanwhile, Halliwell’s team had crashed through a steel security door and were pounding upstairs. I knew no one would put a gambling den up there, so I headed downstairs instead, followed by Zhao, Solitaire, the tac team members, Macintosh, Green and Duncan. Solitaire kicked the door in and we poured inside. It was dark. The air was full of the scent of cigarette smoke, cannabis, and spilled alcohol. It was full of customers. Six people, the two bartenders and four dealers, broke away and sprinted for a door, Solitaire and the Tac team in pursuit. I yelled, “Everyone on the floor! I mean it! We’re nuts, trigger happy, and believe in supporting the local hospitals! MOVE!”
The clientele lay on the floor. I heard a crash, and Solitaire poked his head in. “They ducked into a wine cellar and shut the door. When we broke in, they’d disappeared.”
“Secure them!” I ordered, holstering my weapon and gesturing at the customers. “I’ll go get a perimeter check going.” As I walked out the front of the laundry, past petrified people sitting on the benches, my radio crackled. “Any available unit! Federal agents requesting assistance.” The address was the alley that ran next to the building. I ran outside and almost crashed into Halliwell. “Follow me!” I yelled and we took off. We ran down the alley toward the blinking lights on a Chevy Tahoe. I arrived and found the six men who’d run from me laying on the ground with two men in FBI windbreakers pointing weapons at them. As Halliwell and his team charged in, I groaned, “Let me guess, we’ve just blown a prolonged federal stakeout.”
One of the agents grinned at me as more officers arrived to take the suspects away. “Six months. But it wasn’t going anywhere. It’s almost like he’s independent of the cartels.”
I replied, “Well this a murder investigation. And that trumps whatever cultural studies your people are doing.”
As his team took the last one toward the cars, Halliwell came up and said, “We’ve got a full blown drug house upstairs. There’s also a bloody carpet.”
“Call in forensics and tell them to take the entire building apart.” I ordered. I turned to the FBI. “If the Special Agent in Charge wants to yell at me, we’ll be at Wisconsin Avenue.”
While Ray Murray and his sidekicks tore the laundry apart, I returned to the precinct. Tracing the victim’s movements was proving a problem. Macintosh and Kinkaid started interrogating the club owner. I joined the crew of people trying to use surveillance cameras, traffic cameras, bus cameras, anything, to trace her movements to my front steps. Finally, I gave up. It was midnight, and I was going home.
As I arrived, I noticed the squad car parked in front of my house. I glanced in the car window. No one was inside. Apparently, Erin had invited them inside.
Sure enough, after I locked the back door, I discovered the officers in the front room with coffee, their laptops, and enough firepower to stop an all out assault on the place by every Crips wannabe in the city. We chatted. I couldn’t vent to my wife, but one of the officers was a probie who thought my murder team was right up there with Columbo when it came to dishing out justice. He was agog, his Field Training Officer was enjoying playing the crusty superior and I needed to vent. We chit chatted back and forth, and at some point I looked out the window. An Acura coupe was slowly coming down the street with no lights. It passed the squad car and cut loose with a burst of gunfire, blowing out its windows. Then it pulled forward. At the first blast both officers had leapt to their feet and grabbed their shoulder guns. The car started to take off just as I wrenched open the sliding window and yelled “Police!” Bullets ripped into the stonework surrounding the house and blew the picture window to shreds. I had dropped, and the probationer fell on top of me, his blood running onto my windbreaker. I rolled from under him and grabbed his radio. “2Hotel-1 10-1 emergency! Shots fired! 10-18, 10-39, 10-23!” The radio confirmed that the backup and medics were on the way and were “Expedited.” I grabbed my pistol and looked out the window. The car was gone. The squad car was burning,and I called for the fire department on the probie’s bloody radio.
Twenty minutes later, the first forensics unit arrived, spearheaded by Ray Murray whom I’d woken up specifically for this. The ambulance carrying the injured officer pulled away, escorted by two zebra units. Sequentially, a private ambulance backed in. Lieutenant Mannakee, commander of the VIP Protection Unit came in, and he said “I’m here to remove your family. Superintendent’s personal orders.”
I didn’t argue. After all, it was standard procedure. Instead, I sent the newly arrived Detectives Green and Duncan with them. I told Amy Duncan straight: “I know Mannakee’s people know what they’re doing, but if I get called to a police shooting and find my kids dead….” I left it hanging, and Amy left. Ten minutes later, the ambulance pulled clear. I’d send clothes and whatnot on after them.
Amy crouched in the side stairwell of the ambulance, looking out as they increased speed. They screamed along the side streets, then toward a traffic tunnel. They turned into an access road and found the Superintendent’s personal truck waiting for them. They transferred rapidly as water from the April drizzle leaked through the bridge dripping ominously. Soon, they were racing through the city toward a safe house. Escorting them were two Chevy Tahoe’s from the sheriff’s office and three other vehicles from the CCPD’s VIP unit. In the lead was a marked unit from the Sheriff’s officer. In the rear was another.
The truth was simple, although if the media found out, it wouldn’t be presented as the standard procedure it was. If a man is found murdered on anybody’s porch in Crown City, it is standard procedure to place two officers to guard the house. However, if something like this happens, then two VIP units pull them out and move them to a safehouse. In this case the investigation, ironic because it happened on the front porch of the commander of the homicide unit, was now high profile and national because of the officer shooting. It was time to act radically. So when the convoy stopped, they stopped in the exclusive suburb of Ocean Hills, where the house had a view of the Ocean, was far back from the road with excellent fields of fire, sturdy brick construction, and a bullet PROOF safe room in the middle. A concrete wall with only one gate surrounded the property. Unknown to everyone moving in, the third floor, off limits to the families below, was reinforced. The whole place had belonged to a mobster who’d wanted guards on the third floor to be able to hold off an entire SWAT team. After his inevitable arrest, the Sheriff had used it as a place to house important witnesses.
I was asleep at eight in the morning in a cot in my office. After a serious incident five years ago, the Sheriff’s office investigates all CCPD shootings and vice versa. Now the Sheriff’s office was in a joint investigation with us. My house, a crime scene, was still sealed off. I’d told our neighbors that my family was moving to a hotel until this mess was cleared up.
Macintosh had broken the gambling den owner while I slept. I’d shamelessly allowed the FBI to listen in on the interrogation and they’d been shocked to discover that not only was he funneling money into a Cartel none of us, local or federal, had even heard of, but he knew of them smuggling drugs and weapons into the country. He said that our victim had found out and was going to tell her dad. So they’d doped her, shot her, and then dumped the body in front of a house in a nicer section of town.
“What did you drug her with?” Macintosh asked.
“I don’t know. Yuan, he’s my contact with my employers, he took care of it.”
I shook my head and gave up. I looked over at JJ as he walked over. “Get Kinkaid, Halliwell’s people, and a Tactical Support Team. We’re going to bring in the Yuan.”
I knocked on the door to the interview room. Entering I looked at the suspect. “Tell me where Yuan is.”
I looked at Macintosh. “Didn’t we just get a Chinese consul in this city? Maybe we should turn him over to their law enforcement rep. I’m sure after he interrogates him we’ll know everything we need to know.”
“That’s a good idea.”
The suspect howled loud enough to rattle the one-way mirror. “You can’t do that! That’s a violation of my Miranda rights! You don’t know how they work!”
I leaned over the table. “I. Don’t. Care. The Consul is China. Literally. Once you’re through that gate, you and anyone with you is under the authority of the Chinese government.”
Within ten minutes I had an address, name, code word, and the best way to approach. Then I called the Chinese Consulate. Would their law enforcement rep like to accompany us? He would? Excellent.
The battering ram smacked the hotel door open and the TST poured in, followed by me. As they kicked open doors and yelled clear, I walked over and checked the body on the floor. I felt a faint pulse. “CPR, towels and medics! C’mon lets go!” Two TST guys started administering first aid. I turned to the Gonganju (People’s Armed Police) rep. “What do think?”
The law enforcement liason was named Fa Zhixu (法 秩序). He was holstering his QSZ-92. I let him keep his weapon so he wouldn’t be a liability. He spoke in excellent English, “Very impressive. Your tactics are much more…” he paused as if looking for the word, “Rapid, than ours.”
I looked down and saw something. It was an employee ID badge. I burst out of the room, past the startled Paramedics and Firefighters who were pouring in to help our victim, and called into my radio, “Suspect is in the vicinity. I want helicopter support and every available unit. Suspect is dressed in a hotel waiter uniform but will probably change. Suspect is Asian, 5’4”, 125, and extremely dangerous. You are authorized to engage with taser and return fire as needed.”
I arrived outside at my car and started coordinating the search. Then as the TST arrived outside followed by the EMTs pulling our victim on a gurney. I stood and told Halliwell to take two cars and escort the ambulance to the hospital. Then my radio crackled. “4Bravo-7 to 2Hotel-1. I have your suspect in sight. He’s just entered a McDonalds. He’s wearing blue jeans, tennies, and a white tee shirt. Do you want me to move in?”
“Negative. I’m going to get the Micky over here, and we’ll pretend we’re setting up a CP in their parking lot. Then we’ll move in.”
I ran over to the vans of TST. “Switch to rubber bullets and beanbag rounds. We’re going to storm a restaurant full of civilians.” I instructed.
“Or we could send about a dozen uniforms through the front door so that he slips out the back or side where we’ll be waiting for him.” The TST Commander suggested.
“That’s a much better idea.” I said. “Thanks.”
The convoy pulled in, and I saw our suspect blink at all the squad cars, the Mobile Incident Command Post, cages, and all the rest of the implements of a major investigation.
On my signal, several uniforms wandered in one entrance, and from the window of the Mickey I saw the suspect get up and head for the other exit. I said, “Okay go!” and the uniforms burst in and moved rapidly through the restaurant. I was in behind them, and saw Yuan dive behind a parked car out in the parking lot, firing over the hood with a beretta. The glass window next to me exploded, and I jumped as Fa Zhixu fired through the window. Screams came from behind me and bullets slammed into the car next to Yuan. He looked right at us and then threw his gun over the roof of the car. I looked at the chinese police officer. “You’re under arrest.”
He handed me his gun. “I wanted to get home eventually, and a standoff might have lasted all night.”
I rolled my eyes and cuffed him. With diplomatic immunity, he’d probably get his visa revoked at the worst. I expected lots of high pitched screaming from the State Department.
I was partially right. The district attorney simply didn’t file charges against him, and he was able to leave his holding tank in time to watch us interrogate Yuan.
“Mr. Yuan. Did you murder Miss Solitaire?” I asked. The grey room was full of tension.
His public defender said, “Don’t answer that.”
Yuan shook his head. “I want to plead guilty, but I don’t want my rights infringed. Yes. I killed her. I enjoyed it.”
As I glanced at the one way mirror, I heard a bang and saw it shudder. The groundwork for an insanity defense. “Why?” I asked.
“Because I get a strange rush from killing young women,” he explained, with what appeared to be a twist of sarcasm. “Why did she have to be killed? Because she found out about Xi’e and his operation. I drugged her with what he gave me. Then I took her, put her in the trunk of my car, and took her to your areaway. Xi’e thought it would be a perfect touch. After all, you destroyed his life. We should destroy you. I kneeled her in the street, put a plastic bag around her head, and shot her twice.” He slid his phone across the desk. It showed a picture of a strangely shaped revolver. “A compressed air gun. There are four in the world. Having contained the blood splatter, I leaned her against your door and took the plastic bag with me. I drove to the west side and set the car on fire. Then I took the subway home and dreamed.” He said it all with a straight face.
I asked, “Why did you attack my house?”
“I didn’t. Some generic eastern europeans did. They’re dead by now. You will find them in the Warehouse on Eleventh 3615 Eleventh. The point was to scare you into moving your family into the safe house. It will be attacked. If we kill your family, well and good. If we fail, we’ll get rid of YOU.” He looked around. “The call went out ten minutes ago. May I have some water?” Macintosh slid a paper cup with some water over. I was paralysed with fear. Yuan took a sip. “I may be a psychopath, but I don’t do children.” He looked up at me. “I just committed suicide by telling you that. They’ll attack at seven tonight. When I die, please make sure my mother gets my body. Her contact information is in my phone under “Ma ma.’”
“We can protect you.” I said.
He raised an eyebrow. “From yourselves?”
I managed to jump back as he leapt forward. The son of a gun had slipped his cuffs. He snatched Macintosh’s gun and fired through the one way mirror. My gun was outside in a gunsafe. As the return fire from the officers outside spilt the walls, Macintosh, the lawyer, and I, crouched on the floor. He toppled next to me. Blood ran down the walls and I stood shaken.
I looked through the broken glass as alarms hooted in the background. “Damnit, someone go check that warehouse on Eleventh!” I roared.
We burst in and spread out. The entire aircraft hangar-sized building was empty, except for the two bodies, just entering rigor, piled in the middle of the floor. Their Acura was parked behind them, the bullet holes from our fire still unrepaired.
When Ray Murray got off the phone, having reported having nothing to report the time was 5:30pm. Ninety minutes until the attack on the safe house.
I sat behind my desk. Finally I said to JJ Jackson “How can we get to the safehouse?”
“Are you seriously using your family as bait?”
“No. We’ll sneak them away somehow.”
“Alright, they get food delivered.”
“Is it a semi truck?”
“Because I know the company owner. Lets go.”