Shades of Gray

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Cal and Michael had just completed the interview with young Donnie Herzog and were just leaving the emergency room as the coroner and his assistant were wheeling the body of their homicide victim through the ER entrance bay doors. Outside the officers could hear the clamor of press as they made their way to the Adirondack Medical Center central receiving lobby. Michael had surmised that there would be a media frenzy as soon as the details of the morning’s events started crackling over police scanners. He had assigned two of his own State Police patrol teams to wait at the hospital. The local police department had also sent officers to help with crowd control. The hospital administrator had cordoned off an area near the reception entrance to serve as a place for the press to await any information from the police. The administrator was standing by a portable podium, urging the assembling media mob to be considerate of the patients and staff at the hospital. His pleas were drowned out by the sound of camera clicks and reporters’ shouts as they spotted the BCI investigator approaching.

“You go to the morgue with Vargas and I’ll handle the press,”

Cal followed the stretcher with the body bag through the service elevator doors and disappeared from view as Michael continued down the hall to the lobby. The four other uniformed officers and two town police officers had kept the growing number of reporters and cameramen confined to and area slightly apart from the main reception area. Michael recognized two of the troopers as rookies from his lecture earlier this morning. He positioned himself behind the podium, cleared his throat and requested that the assembly quiet themselves. Once they had achieved something close to order, Michael addressed the crowd.

“As I’m sure you are all aware, a body of an unidentified man was discovered at approximately 8:30 this morning, at a campsite near the Wilmington Notch fishing area. The man is an apparent homicide victim. He is a white male, approximately 35-45 years old.”

“Is the man local, “A reporter from the local television channel shouted from the back of the room.

“We have not made an identification of the victim at this time.”

“It’s been reported that the victim was stabbed. Is there any indication of the motive behind the killing or who the killer might be at this time?” pressed the same reporter.

“Is the public in any immediate danger,” asked another.

“As the investigation is in its earliest stages, we have yet to establish a motive for the crime. I can confirm that the cause of death is stabbing,” said Michael as the cameras flashed. He continued, “We have a description of a possible suspect which we will release to the press as soon as the evidence is processed and verified. I can assure all of you that the public is in no danger, as this appears to be an isolated incident. Now if you will all excuse me.”

Michael moved away from the podium, ending the press conference. He instructed the officers at the front of the room to clear the area so the hospital could resume normal operations and went to join Cal in the morgue.


Two hours later, Cal and Michael were sitting in Michael’s office going over statements and preliminary reports of evidence collected at the scene. The autopsy had only confirmed the obvious; the official cause of death was exsanguination caused by a lateral incision, four inches deep to the victim’s neck. The carotid arteries on each side of the neck were completely severed. The weapon was most likely an extremely sharp knife, consistent with a hunting knife. Death was nearly instantaneous given wound depth. Traces of skin were found under the victim’s fingernails, as well as a few hairs tangled in a ring that victim wore, presumably these belonged to the assailant, but there was no other trace evidence that a woman had been in physical contact with the victim. The toxicology report indicated a narcotic combination of Demerol and Viagra. The Viagra explained why the corpse was still sporting an erection when it was discovered, even though the coroner could find not evidence of sexual intercourse. The high concentration of Demerol provided supported the evidence that there was no struggle; the victim was too medicated to have offered up much of a fight.

The forensics team that processed the crime scene could not find evidence of the assailant either. The fingerprints collected from the tent and other camping equipment at the scene belonged to victim. The skin and hair, along with the victim’s clothing and other trace evidence was being processed at the BCI’s crime lab in Albany and the results would take at least 72 hours before they came back. Forensics also canvassed the immediate area surrounding the campsite, but due to the early spring conditions, it was impossible to determine what alternative route the killer had taken to flee the scene. They had sent teams to examine parking areas of other trailheads in the area for some sign of the vehicle the killer had used, but nothing useful was evident. The three other trailheads near the crime scene were well-visited entrance points to fishing spots that were very popular with the locals. Each parking area was littered with tire tracks from several different vehicles. Although it was most likely some type of SUV, without a witness, it was going to be impossible to determine what type of vehicle the killer was driving or where it had been prior to the commission of the crime.

Next, they reviewed the eyewitness reports taken from the boys at the hospital. There wasn’t much more added to them than the information they had already heard at the crime scene. The only new information was a description of the woman who committed the murder. Due to the age of the boys, the description was vague at best. They both described the woman as in her mid to early thirties, long reddish brown hair and about medium height. Between the facts that the man’s head had obscured their view of the woman’s face and that she had really nice boobs, neither was able to say what her face looked like. In fact, the only identifying characteristics either boy could remember with distinction was that she had large breasts and a nice ass; details which weren’t going to be of any use helping a witness pick a suspect out of a mug book or a line up. Both boys said that the last they saw of the woman, she was walking away from the body and going into the tent.

Cal set up a large “think board” in his office to chart and organize the information they had so far, creating a flow chart representation of what they had so far along with questions that needed answers right away. Together he and Michael began to go though the obvious facts; mystery woman kills her lover, cleans up scene and disappears. Michael and Cal walked through the unknowns: where was the couple’s vehicle, how did they get to the campsite, how long had they been there? What was the motive? The boys indicated that the couple appeared to in the throws of passion. Unless the woman was the human incarnation of a black widow spider, a lover’s quarrel seemed unlikely; or was it? The assailant cleaned up the crime scene with efficiency and alacrity. How was this accomplished? Could one person do it before the discovery of the body was made? To be sure, they had more questions than answers.

As the day progressed, their investigation began to take shape. Most importantly, they had a name to put to their victim. Their dead fisherman was identified as Andrew Simpson, former New York City policeman, accused extortionist and most recently linked to the Gallo crime family in the capacity of journeyman thug and stooge. Apparently Simpson had been working as a bagman, collecting protection money for a low level Gallo lieutenant and was arrested as part of a RICO investigation focusing on the Gallo Family activities. Most of the evidence in his trial was thrown out do to tainted search warrants and witnesses recanting their statements. Simpson beat the extortion charge and apparently went to work for the Gallo’s as full time muscle and general errand boy. They still didn’t have a face or a name for their assailant.

The organized crime involvement brought new dimensions to the case. It was obvious that the murder was personal in nature, stabbings usually were and if things went down the way the boys reported they did, this killing was most definitely personal. The link to organized crime cast their buxom killer in a new light. It was entirely possible that the girl was used either as a lure for the victim or was in fact a contract killer for the Gallo’s. Female hit men weren’t unheard of, they were just rare, and as organized crime was a male dominated entity, most of the “fixers” they employed were men. If little miss big boobs-nice ass was a sanctioned hit man, she was good. She’d left no trace of herself at the crime scene; left no sign of how she got there or where she went.

Around 5:30, they realized that they had worked through dinner and ordered some take out as the shift change neared. About a half an hour later, Trooper St. Louis appeared at the door with their take out delivery as he was leaving for the day. As he shut the door behind him, the phone rang in Michael’s office. Cal fished around in the bag St. Louis had delivered, settled into the couch across the room and began to eat. He lost interest in his dinner when he noticed his commanders face phase from official seriousness to annoyance and frustration across the room. At the conclusion of the rather one-sided phone call, Michael hung up the receiver with more force than he had intended. Bad news had been delivered, but how bad was it? Michael retook his seat in the same manner as he had hung up the phone and began to compose himself. Cal didn’t ask the obvious question. He returned to his seat opposite Michael at the desk and waited for Michael to voice what it was that had him so visibly pissed off. Composure restored, Michael inhaled deeply.

“Seems we are going to be receiving some assistance with our investigation,” he said angrily.

Cal waited for him to continue.

“The fingerprint analysis request on our vic threw up some flags. The FBI has denied any further access to the files on Simpson.” He pushed his chair away from his desk, came around it, and leaned on the front of it, facing Cal. “Apparently our victim is a person of interest in an ongoing federal investigation. Washington is sending agents here from the Albany Field Office in the morning.”

“So our dead dirty cop is part of a larger RICO investigation,” Cal asked.

“Seems so; at any rate we are no longer the primary jurisdiction for this investigation. Albany has made it clear that we are to cooperate fully with the FBI on this. The Bureau will take the lead and we’ll provide local support in the investigation.” Michael hit his desktop hard. “It looks like we will be working for them not with them on this one.”

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