Blood is Their Argument

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Chapter 2

First Light

The Previous July

The dawn broke warm, still and muggy in Dallas. Like most summer mornings, night recedes begrudgingly, as if not wanting to relinquish the temporary relief from the sun and heat that turns grass a crunchy brown and sears unprotected skin. Mockingbirds are the first to greet the morning, their cacophony of songs announcing the coming of a new day. With the sun comes renewal, a new beginning as daylight reveals substance from shadow. But sometimes everything is in reverse.

“How long has he been dead?” It was the first words uttered by a well-dressed man in suit and tie as he walked toward the swing set where a second man was hunkered over a lifeless form.

Bill Maloney looked up at his approaching partner, Frankie Nguyen. ”Judging from his looks, maybe six hours, give or take. We’ll know more when the medical examiner gets here.”

Bill Maloney had been a homicide detective for the Dallas Police Department for eight months. He had relocated from Brooklyn because he wanted more sun and less stress. True enough, Dallas was less stressful than New York City, but his inaugural summer in Texas caused him to redefine the meaning of hot. And then, the bodies began to turn up.

It was 8:00 AM, July 5th, at Spring Park in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. Right now Maloney knew two things. One, it was going to be another scorching summer day. He was already sweating, and the forecast said it would again top one hundred degrees. That would make twelve days in a row, but who was counting? By late morning it was hot enough so that a person couldn’t walk bare-footed on any pavement without french-frying their feet. The birds seemed to have the right idea. They would spend the better portion of the day flying back and forth through lawn sprinklers, the only things that stood between a verdant carpet of grass and a sick lawn enshrouded in deathly brown. Middle class neighborhoods in Dallas do not like brown. It does not fit the lifestyle. People in poor neighborhoods had more pressing problems. There had already been three heat-related deaths in Old East Dallas, where air conditioning was a precious and rare commodity. If people did have it at all, they had undersized pre-owned window units.

The mornings started out hot, and were announced by cicadas. Sitting in trees, they would exchange droning sounds that resembled gas powered toy airplanes coming and going.

Sometimes Maloney felt as if the cicadas were laughing at him. He felt that way now. Maybe it was because the second thing he knew was that the dead man staring up at him was Julio Martinez Guerra. Guerra was a big man, a member of the North Cliff Blancos, a local section of the Diablos, a Latino gang that had in recent years spread into most of the cities in Texas. With the bulk of their income coming from drugs, stolen cars and computers, the Diablos were organized like a tribe. They were divided into local sections, named after colors. Each section had chiefs who were organized into a syndicated council that acted sometimes as a unified force in enacting gang policies, respecting each other’s territories, and forming treaties with other gangs. But this council was fragile at best. Local chiefs sometimes feuded with one another for control of adjacent territories, shifting boundaries, and merchandise routes. This had happened as recently as five years ago when rival factions became embroiled in a territorial dispute over drug traffic. Insults and flashing gang signs escalated into a tide of raiding and counter-raiding between the North Cliff Blancos and the Rojos of Chalk Hill, leaving in their wake a string of drive-by killings. Within four months seven young men and two women had been killed. Five of the men had gang ties, the two other men and the women did not. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Guerra had been the chief of the Blancos, the section that controlled most of central and north Oak Cliff. Located south of downtown Dallas, Oak Cliff was a large suburb of almost 500,000 people. It was so named because of its vantage point atop the high white chalky bluffs that overlook the Trinity River valley to the north, west and east. Oak Cliff had once been an independent city until the early 1900’s, when Dallas swallowed it. Formerly, north Oak Cliff had been mostly White, with a mixture of blue collar, middle class professional, and small business people. In recent years there had been an influx of Hispanics, mostly from Mexico, with some coming from Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Fleeing from civil wars, political unrest, or poverty, they came across the South Texas border by the thousands looking for a better life. The changes were predictable. The influx of mostly ethnic, mostly poor people of color created White Flight, lowered property values, and created rental properties with absentee landlords. Neighborhood tax bases shrunk, and city services diminished. As a result, roads, parks and businesses deteriorated. Poverty and crime escalated. Oak Cliff threatened to secede from Dallas unless the city made a major commitment to upgrade many of its neighborhoods. The commitment of new business initiatives and the creation of an historic district marked significant reversals in Oak Cliff’s social entropy. And, to be sure, Oak Cliff’s crime rate was not that different from many other Dallas suburbs. But there was a perception held by many north of the Trinity River, based more on ethnophobia than fact, that Oak Cliff was not a very safe place to live.

As a big city cop, Maloney knew that poverty and crime went hand in hand. Everybody knew that, but what they didn’t know was which was the chicken and which was the egg? Were people poor because they lacked opportunity? Or were they poor because they lacked initiative? No one really knows. Not even sociologists know, and in that unknowing was the gray area within which politics worked. In the absence of knowledge, policy was built from opinion, half-truths, and prejudice.

Maloney hated politics. He thought the process unfair, crooked, and contrived. Or maybe it was more simply that he had little patience or tolerance for the bullshit in hidden agendas that passed for straight talk. Guerra was a criminal, but an honest one if that made any sense. With Guerra you knew what you were getting; the brusque in-your-face honesty of a street thug who rose to the top by being a ruthless opportunist who had the savvy to forge and maintain fragile alliances with his foes. Since his rise to the top of the Blanco hierarchy there had been an uneasy peace between they and the other local Diablos sections, including the Chalk Hill Rojos. Maloney didn’t like Guerra, not from what he knew by reading his case file. But he had a certain respect for him. Maloney did the social calculus. He knew that there was a connection between the broken down, recycled window units in Old East Dallas and the creation of men like Julio Guerra. He saw this in Brooklyn and the other boroughs of New York City, just more of it. To many in his community in Oak Cliff, Guerra was not a thug. While he was busy negotiating drug deals and orchestrating car thefts by night, by day he bankrolled school lunch programs and libraries for three charter schools in his old neighborhood. And through his business front, Guerra Enterprises, he provided low interest loans for home renovations. He reminded Maloney of some of the tribal war loads he saw as a soldier in Afghanistan. A sinner and a saint, loved and reviled, that was Julio Martinez Guerra, always well dressed, manicured and buttoned-down. Now he was dead, and he didn’t look so good.

“Holy smokes, it’s Guerra!” The declarative brought Maloney back to real time. He looked up from his stooped position into the sunlight to see the silhouette of Frankie Nguyen, who had just gotten to the swing set and saw who Maloney was fussing over.

Nguyen was the only Vietnamese detective in the Dallas homicide unit. He came from Saigon with his parents and grandparents in 1973, when he was just a bay. He was named Frankie because his parents loved Frank Sinatra. Growing up in the Vietnamese section of Haltom City, outside Fort Worth, he remembered his father lip-synching to Sinatra songs, teaching them to young Frankie, and then having him sing at family gatherings. Frankie loved the Rat Pack lingo that his father taught him. He used it, even if it was out of date. Now forty years old, Nguyen had been on the force ten years, and had risen fast. His ability to come up with multiple theories of homicides and to track leads relentlessly made him a great investigator. Some people on the force said it was in his blood. Nguyen disagreed. He attributed his insight and abilities to his double major in Philosophy and History at the University of Texas. He was also a good friend of Maloney’s. He had gone out of his way to help Maloney adjust to new surroundings, finding him leads on houses for sale, advising him on what neighborhoods to live in, where to get the best deals on automobiles, insurance, and where to shop. He helped Maloney adjust to all the routine things that become magnified tenfold when you have just divorced and moved to a place very different from that to which you are accustomed. Texas was about as socially distant from New York City as you cold get in America. Located in the Bible Belt and mostly rural, Texas stretched over nearly 269,000 square miles, the largest state in the lower forty-eight. In attitude, it had a braggadocio to match. To Texans everything was bigger and better, from barbecue to ballet. Only one generation removed from Jim Crow, the state was heavily Red, heavily armed, and ready to threaten secession if the aroma of too much government wafted into Texas air space. Skeptical of Yankees, confident in its own ways, and mantled with a veneer of the well-mannered Old South, the phrase on the state license plate summed it all up, “Drive friendly.”

The two detectives were different. Nguyen was articulate, intellectual, smooth in speech and comfortable around people. He drank dry white wine and loved French food.

Maloney was a brooder. His cloth was cut from the Irish. His father had been a New York City police officer, a beat cop who was killed in the line of duty when Bill was nine. He joined the Marines right out of high school, and did two tours in Afghanistan. The grisly nature of that experience pre-adapted him for homicide work in New York City. Now fifty-three years old, Maloney was still in great shape. His six-foot frame held his two hundred pounds like a Roman sculpture. His gray hair was short and thick, and his soft blue eyes were a counterpoint to his well-chiseled frame and rugged face. Unlike Nguyen, Maloney did not much care for people. He hated wine, preferred beer and scotch only, and his favorite foods were pizza, red meat, and ballpark hot dogs. From a distance they were an unlikely combination, a virtual odd couple. But as a team they were very, very good at what they did. They once did an interview on a local television program called “Community Calling”, a public interest show highlighting people who were making positive contributions to the city of Dallas. Nguyen came with prepared note cards and spoke often and eloquently about homicide theory and the intricacies of crime scene investigations. Maloney summed up his interview in four words, “We catch bad guys”.

“What’s that in his mouth?” Nguyen asked as he pointed to something hanging from between Guerra’s lips. Maloney hadn’t noticed because he was looking at the general condition of the body.

“I don’t know, it looks like a piece of grass or a weed, or somethin’”. Maloney reached for the camera that was hanging from a strap around his neck. He stood up and squeezed off several pictures of the body. He kneeled to get a close up of the face. Click. Maloney turned to Nguyen.

“Hey Frankie, get my gloves, tweezers, and a zip lock baggie from the kit okay?”

“Sure thing Billy Boy.” Frankie was always good not to call him that when anybody else was around. Nguyen turned and went back to the car, unlocked and opened the trunk. As he grabbed the crime scene kit, he sighed, “It’s just like the others,” he mumbled softy. Slamming the trunk a little harder than normal, Frankie walked back to the swing set where Maloney was walking around the body and looking at the ground.

“Here you go,” Frankie said, as he handed him the plastic toolbox that contained the necessary items to recover evidence from a crime scene: camera, photo log, latex gloves, baggies and paper bags, tooth brushes, cotton swabs, pocket knife, wooden dental picks, graph paper, pin flags, marking pens, tape, and pencils.

“Thanks Frankie. While I’m checking out the body, why don’t you set out the survey grid for additional evidence?” Maloney peered down at the body and put on the gloves.

“Sounds like a plan,” Frankie replied as he grabbed a camera and slung the strap over his head. He also took some pin flags, graph paper, a 50-meter tape, a compass, and some Baggies from the kit. They both knew that the medical examiner and his forensics team would be here within the hour to do a more detailed examination of the body, dust for prints, take insect and soil samples, and remove Guerra from the scene. But Nguyen and Maloney were well experienced in collecting evidence without contaminating it or disrupting the crime scene, and making sure anything collected was recorded as it was found. They knew that every piece of evidence they collected had to have a chain of possession. Too many cases had been thrown out by the Dallas County prosecutor because either the crime scene lacked integrity or the chain of possession had been compromised. They treated a crime scene like an archaeological site.

Frankie had pioneered the use of archaeological methods in crime scene analysis at DPD. While an undergraduate at UT he had enrolled in three summer archaeological field schools, where his professor, Dr. Edwin Moncrief, had used the analogy of a crime scene to describe an archaeological site. At a site, it was important that the context and integrity of the artifacts was maintained, and that there is a clear chain of evidence from the site to the lab. That meant that the artifacts should not be picked up, altered or removed until they have been recorded in their initial position. Contamination, disruption or removal of evidence could interrupt the chain. Frankie heard Dr. Moncrief talk about how important it was to record the location and condition of the artifacts, and their association with each other and the soil strata. He impressed upon Frankie and the other students that excavating a site was systematic destruction, which was much preferable to just sticking a shovel in the ground and looking for the goodies. Too many sites had been bulldozed, inundated, washed away, or simply looted. The only way to comprehend what happened was through meticulous and patient recovery and record keeping. The lessons stuck with Frankie, especially after he became a homicide detective and saw how careless removal or contamination of evidence had made it difficult to accurately process a crime scene or maintain a clear chain of evidence.

As Frankie looked around he noticed that, like the flies around Guerra, people were already beginning to congregate around the scene of the crime. He recalled the first case where his technique had really paid off. A decomposed and partially scattered body had been discovered in a deep ravine along the Trinity River in east Dallas. Scavenging wild dogs had fed on many of the remains, so by the time the police had gotten there many of the body parts had been scattered or more likely carried off by the dogs. Distinctive canine teeth marks had been found on the long bones, including one femur and a tibia. No pre-mortem wound signatures were present on the torso, or on any of the few skull fragments. A portion of knotted rope fragment had been found around the neck vertebrae. In addition, right above where the body was found, there was a large pecan tree with a branch that hung over the ravine. A piece of tattered rope hung from it. The original theory was that a despondent man attached the rope around the branch and jumped into the ravine and hung himself. Eventually, the elements did their work on the rope and it broke, releasing the body. Once on the ground, scavengers and insects did the rest. No other evidence was recovered. But Frankie had not been satisfied. Not all the remains had been found. The arms and hands were missing, so were a few skull fragments.

Frankie implemented his meticulous survey method. Due to the dense ground cover, he had divided the area into 30 X 30-foot square grids, then combed them intensively, flagging and mapping everything he found. He found the left arm and hand bones about fifty feet from the body, and six feet from each other. Most of the missing parts were recovered, but he never found the right hand. Because of the buildup of fallen and decayed leaves and other organic debris, Frankie began systematic excavations where the bones had been discovered. The leaves were carefully removed from a six foot square excavation unit. Then, the grass was carefully clipped away and the topsoil carefully skimmed off with shovels. All the leaves, grass and topsoil were sifted through a ¼ inch mesh shaker screen. Frankie knew that forest soils formed quickly, but also realized that anything found below about 3 inches would have been deposited much earlier than the event in question. That is, unless the natural layering of the soil was somehow upset. He also knew that forest soils were highly acidic and, combined with the humid climate of north central Texas, perishable remains like clothing would disintegrate quickly. They had found nothing unusual except a stain of loose, mottled red and brown soil on the excavation floor that showed up about 2 inches below the ground surface. Working carefully with a trowel, Frankie hollowed out the feature, which formed a hole about the circumference of a peach. The feature turned into a long hole that extended downward for another eight inches and then turned at nearly a right angle and ran parallel to the ground for another foot and a half. Well below any association with the time of death, Frankie was asked by his captain to call off the excavation. Frankie asked for more time, convinced that he had encountered an old “rodent run,” a tunnel made by a gopher or some other burrowing animal. He knew that rodents were known to move artifacts upwards and downwards in the soil, and that things could often fall into them by accident. This kind of disturbance could remove artifacts from their primary place of deposition. Dr. Moncrief had once said that rodents were put on this earth to tease archaeologists.

Near the end of the rodent burrow Nguyen found something gleaming, almost smiling at him, from the dirt. It looked like metal. It turned out to be gold. Patience had paid off. The thing staring up at him was a college class ring. The ring had probably been carried down by the rodent or had washed into the burrow by a rainstorm. Class rings have a lot of information. This one was from Texas A&M, School of Engineering, 1996, with the name engraved in it. Nguyen’s luck, they called it.

They now knew who the person was, but still didn’t know whether it was a homicide or a suicide. They didn’t know that is, until the forensic anthropologist examined the lower right arm bones and discovered distinctive amputation marks and healed bone. This indicated the healing from an amputated or severed right hand. Frankie figured, correctly as it turned out, that a man with only one hand could not have tied the cord knot around his neck. Forensics had also discovered deep peri-mortem cuts to the ring finger of the left hand. Someone had tried to remove the finger after the victim was dead. Apparently, as with many people, the finger had swollen around the ring making it difficult to remove. Whoever killed this man found this out, and took the other option of cutting off the finger. For whatever reason the killer failed to finish the task, and it was a costly error. Armed with the identity of the victim, it took only a few days to locate the victim’s acquaintances. It turns out the man had been killed by a former roommate over a mutual girl friend after an evening of heavy drinking.

The buzzing of the swelling crowd brought Frankie back to reality. He looked over at Maloney, and then went about his task.

After he had his gloves on, Bill looked hard at Guerra. His long black hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Dressed in a pair of black slacks and a white, short sleeve sport shirt, open halfway down his chest, he wore a gold necklace with a crucifix. A gold hoop earring hung from his left earlobe, and a gold ring adorned his right index finger. The Rolex on his right hand said 8:30AM. Unlike the man, the watch just kept on ticking, totally oblivious to the fact that the wrist around which it was attached was cooling fast. He was not wearing socks, and had on leather sandals. He was sitting on the swing, sort of slumped forward. The reason he had not fallen forward off the swing was that he was held up by monofilament fishing line. The line or double line, as Bill now noticed, ran underneath both armpits and then up. It was wrapped around the swing set bar overhead. It then extended down to the ground in back of the swing and was tied to what appeared to be a tent stake. Bill peered down at Guerra’s face. In addition to the grassy stuff hanging out of his mouth, there appeared to be the remains of foam or something on his lips, and down his chin.

What in hell is that stuff? Bill thought.

Meanwhile Frankie had begun surveying the site. He began by walking a very tight circle around the body. Then, in ever widening concentric arcs he walked, peering at the ground, careful not to step on anything, looking for any possible piece of physical evidence that might be tied to the murder. Whenever he came to an artifact he placed a flag by it. Bottle caps, pop tops, cigarette butts, and paper, anything that might be associated with the crime scene. After he was finished, he would photograph each item, collect it, put it in a baggie, label it, and note the distance and direction of the artifact from the body. Finally he would write his name and the date on the bag. He would also note other characteristics, like if a bottle cap was rusted or if paper or cigarette butts showed fading. This would allow him to eliminate debris that was clearly deposited before the crime took place, and therefore could be eliminated as evidence. He would then draw a sketch map of the scene, plotting the location of artifacts and significant features like the swing set, the location of Guerra’s body, the bike trail, ravine, parking lot and picnic tables. He would also note the time of day, accompanying personnel, and weather.

“Nothing,” Frankie said aloud, as if someone could hear. Nothing meant that he had not flagged anything that upon first inspection could be linked to the crime. Only some old cigarette butts, several poptops from soda or beer cans, and a few faded candy wrappers. He looked back where Bill. was peering into Guerra’s face and surveyed the scene. About fifty yards from the swing set, he was looking north, past the swing set to where a bike trail snaked off into the oak grove to the west. Click. What was past the oak grove? He would have to look later. To the east there was a tennis court, with no nets, a drinking fountain, and beyond that, a parking lot. Click. Now the lot was empty. He saw a sign near the parking lot that read, “No unleashed dogs allowed.” Opposite to the west was Hampton Avenue, a major north-south artery for Oak Cliff traffic. Just this side of Hampton Avenue was the entrance to Spring Park. He turned around and looked to the south, where he saw several picnic tables interspersed with trees, extending about 50 yards. Beyond the tables was a side street. Just this side of the street was an eight-foot high chain link fence that ran the length of the park’s south boundary. Click.

Frankie looked back at Bill, or more correctly, at Guerra sitting on the swing. That’s exactly what he looked like from Frankie’s vantagepoint, just a man sitting on a swing. That means from the picnic tables behind him, and surely from the bike trail beyond the swing set, in the twilight of dawn and the early morning light anybody looking at the figure on the swing would not think anything unusual. You would have to literally stumble over Guerra before you realized he was dead. Frankie now knew something he hadn’t known before. He began to walk back to where Bill was working.

Very slowly, Bill deftly opened Guerra’s mouth with a tongue depressor while he reached inside with his tweezers. He pulled out a plug of grass about the size of a golf ball and placed it, along with some saliva strands, into a baggie and sealed it with the zip lock.

“It’s just like the others,” he said aloud to no one in particular. As he stood up to stretch out his aching back, he noticed Frankie walking toward him. Out of the corner of his eye he also noticed that the reinforcements had arrived: the ME and his entourage of technicians; two squad cars of uniformed police to tape off the crime scene, and homicide Captain Hercules Demitrius Boggs.

He called himself H.D., so did everybody else. Boggs’s father chose those names because he was an avid fan of “B” gladiator movies, and thought that the strength in the characters would transfer to his son. In many ways they did. Boggs was Texas from the crown of his cowboy hat down to the tips of his boots. Starched Wranglers and an open-collared white knit sport shirt completed Boggs’s attire. Fifty-six years old, he was born and raised in Fort Worth, “Cowtown” as it was known locally. He was a curious mix of city and country. Comfortable in western wear and with a rural sense of patience and time, Boggs favored classical over country music. The latter he found banal and stereotypic. It was the kind of music that, he had often said, wanted to make you saw off your hand. He loved rodeo and basketball. An avid Dallas Mavericks fan, he went to several games a year. He loved seafood as well as calf fries. He was tall, about 6 feet 3 inches, lean at 200 pounds, with the narrow eyes and leathery skin of too many Texas summers. The tanned skin was equally the product of work and bass fishing. His blonde hair, full and thick contrasted with piercing blue eyes. His manner was deliberate, his gait slow and even, and his temperament was balanced. Slow to anger and easy to work with, he wore the mantle of police Captain well. He had the respect of both his men and the higher ups in the chain-of-command. That was rare. He was fair of mind, but had little tolerance for insolence, vagueness, or dishonesty. He had even less tolerance for politics when it interfered with his ability to do his job. Bill liked him, despite the torrent of Yankee jokes Boggs inflicted on him when he first arrived.

Boggs got out of his white Dodge Dakota, and walked directly to Maloney.

“What do we have Bill?” Boggs asked. But even before Bill could speak Boggs answered his own question. “Shoot! It’s Julio Guerra!”

“Good Morning Captain,” Bill said. “Well, here’s what we have right now. We got a call from dispatch at 7:45AM that a body had been discovered here in Spring Park. Apparently, a jogger was running his dog along that bike trail over there and somehow the dog got off his leash and came snooping over to this swing set. The man, uh…”, Bill flipped through his notepad, “his name is Bernie Dandrige, came over to retrieve his dog and found the body. He ran to his car, and with his cell phone called 911. He made the call at 7:40. Like I said we got the call at 7:45, and got here about 7:50. We were only about 5 minutes away, we were getting some breakfast tacos at Maria’s Tacqueria over on Jefferson Avenue.”

“Where’s this Dandridge now?” Boggs asked.

“We took his statement and let him go,” Bill said as he took out a white hanky from the left breast pocket of his cream-colored sport shirt and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He continued.

“From what I can tell, Guerra has been dead for about 6 hours. There is only slight rigor developing in his fingers and his jaw muscles. It’s obvious by the way he was positioned here and held up by these lines that he wasn’t killed here.” As he talked he pointed out to Boggs how the fishing line was double wrapped around the armpits and upper torso, and had extended up to the horizontal bar holding the swing, and down to the tent stake.

“What else?” Boggs probed. He was trying to take in everything as he spoke, hearing Bill, his blue eyes intense, looking at the body, then tracing the line up and down, scanning over to the bike path, then fixing them back on Bill.

“Well, if you look at his mouth you can see foam, as if he was frothing, which may indicate some kind of poison. We will have to wait for the toxicology results on that. But I also removed this from his mouth.” Maloney held up the baggie with the grass in it.

“Grass,” Boggs said. “Bermuda grass. It’s the same type of grass found in the mouths of the other two victims. It’s great summer lawn grass, and it’s found everywhere.”

“That’s right,” Bill replied. “There’s more. The only footprints of any kind around this swing were those of Dandridge and his dog.”

Boggs looked and saw that, like most swings everywhere, there was a patch of bare earth where people using the swing had dragged their feet.

Bill continued. “Whoever put Guerra here wiped out their footprints on the way out. But, whoever put Guerra here did it alone. Look at the back of his feet. There are scratch marks and dirt up along his Achilles tendons and the back of his sandals. This suggests that whoever dumped him here dragged him to this spot and set him in the swing.”

“That’s not all.” Both Bill and Boggs turned in Frankie’s direction as he joined them.

“I didn’t find a thing on my survey,” Frankie began. “Nothing out of the ordinary. But, if you were sitting at those picnic tables over there, any of them, or were over on the bike path, given the time of day you would think that this man was just sitting here. You would have to fall over him to realize he was dead. If it hadn’t been for the irony of the unleashed dog it could have been another hour, maybe more before anybody found him.” As he finished, Frankie looked down at Guerra’s feet, and noticed something.

“What is it?” Boggs asked.

Frankie hunkered down to get a closer look. “It’s a leaf. It’s fresh, still green and hardly wilted.” He brought the camera up to his eye, focused, and snapped off a quick shot. He took another shot with the zoom view.

“It might not be anything, but I am going bag it and label it anyway. Everything else I flagged seemed a few days old, either faded or dressed with a light coat of dust.”

“Okay guys, lets wrap this thing up,” Boggs said. “The press will be here soon. There will be a news conference late this afternoon. Before that though, I want to have a meeting with all principals to get up to speed about what we know so we don’t come off looking like a toad in a mud hole. There’s going to be tremendous pressure from the Hispanic community when this gets out. They are going to be all over our collective asses about police protection and proper gang interfacing and-” his voice trailed off as he looked at Guerra.

“What are you going to tell them?” Bill asked as he dabbed his forehead.

Boggs sighed deeply. It was the kind of sigh you might make when you are just about to give somebody bad news.

“Aw hell, I’m going to tell them that, in addition to gang crime, we probably have a serial killer in Oak Cliff.” Boggs turned and walked toward the reporters heading his way.

Bill and Frankie began the controlled surface collection of litter. Bill stuck a yellow survey flag at one of the swing set posts. With it as the datum point, he and Nguyen used the compass and tape to measure the bearing and distance of Guerra’s body. Then, they did likewise with all the artifacts Nguyen had flagged. Each artifact was separately bagged and labeled as to its identity and provenience. Meanwhile, the ME and his team were now hovering over Guerra’s body and preparing it for transfer to a body bag. They lifted up the bag and hauled it to the ME van while eight uniformed policemen kept people away from the crime scene.


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