Midnight Owl (A Joe Leverette Mystery, Book 1)

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Dr. Carrington looked at the Styrofoam box sitting on his exam table. Marsden had called just before Marcie had brought it in to him, to let him know who it was.

Carrington put on his gloves and peeled the tape off and carefully placed it in an evidence bag. He knew the lab would want everything to examine.

Even though he knew who was in the box when he saw the young man’s face he couldn’t help but draw in a long breath. He shook his head and placed it on the head stand that he placed right next to the box.

He started combing through the boys hair to get any particulates for the lab. There were a few and he placed them in another evidence bag. Next he turned to look at the face. The boy looked as if he were just sleeping. No sign that he knew what was happening. No terror.

When Carrington examined the rest of the head he didn’t see any trauma, except for the part of the head that was severed from his body.

When he checked that out he shook his head.

“Marcie, get Leverette down here,” he called.

“Sure thing,” she said and headed to the squad room. She hated the way this ate at Leverette. He was always trying to avoid her but now she was going to avoid him. Well not avoid him, just not flirt like she usually did.

Leverette and Marcie walked into the doc’s exam room. When he saw the head on the table it made his blood boil all the more. Marcie went back to what she was doing in the office.

“What’d you find, doc?” Leverette asked.

Carrington sighed and looked directly in Leverette’s eyes.

“Same saw blade was used on the boy,” Carrington said and shook his head. “This weirdo is something else.”

Leverette looked at the boy and thought he looked peaceful. Then his phone went off.

“Yeah,” he said into it. “Shit! I’ll be right up.”

The doc looked at him wondering what was going on.

“They found the body,” Leverette said. “Looks like he was killed in his own bed,” Leverette said as he headed out the door.

“What a fucking mess,” Carrington said to no one in particular. He turned back to the boy and finished getting samples before he got ready to go to the crime scene.

Marsden informed Leverette about the boy’s body as they drove to the King’s home.

“Mr. King left for work around 5 a.m., the Mrs. left just after 7 a.m. Neither checked on Phil before they left, stating that he got up around 7:30 a.m. to get ready for school.

“Since Phil had never missed a day of school in his life, the principal called Mrs. King to let her know he never showed up. This was around 9 a.m.; school starts at 8:30.

“Mrs. King was able to leave work to go check on him. Her boss knew about what had happened last week and agreed to let her go.

“When she got home she noticed his books still on the dining room table and called out to him. She said she listened for the shower wondering if he just slept too long but got no answer. She said she had an uncomfortable feeling when she was there and was almost afraid to go upstairs to check his bedroom. Mrs. King was considering about calling her husband but if he just overslept it would be a waste of time so she headed upstairs.”

“His door was closed and she noticed an odd odor coming from his room. It smelled like copper,” with that Marsden had to stop and gather himself, then he continued. “When she opened the door, all she saw was the blood on the pillow and she turned and ran.”

“She didn’t go in to check on him?” Leverette asked as they turned into the King’s driveway.

“No. She said she saw his head was gone and the smell was horrible. When she got downstairs it took her a bit to gather herself together and call her husband, then the police.”

“First officer was on the scene within fourteen minutes, checked the house then went to check the boy.

“He called Billingsley, who in turn called the CSIs and then he wanted us. I told him you were with Carrington and he had me call you immediately,” Marsden finished as they parked the car and got out.

He saw the King’s holding each other on the front porch of their colonial style home, crying into each other’s shoulders. He hated this shit and wondered if he or Billingsley should have called Mr. King when the package arrived at the station. Too late now.

The detectives walked up to the porch and offered their condolences to the couple. The King’s pulled themselves together and thanked them.

“We WILL find out who did this to Phil,” Leverette promised. Marsden nodded his head and they went into the home.

The first responding officer was there at the door. He was a young man, maybe in his twenties. His sharp blue eyes had a steely gaze coming from under his hat.

“Were you the first responder?” Marsden asked, as Leverette was too pissed off to speak just yet and decided to have a look around the house.

“Yes, sir,” the officer said. “When I arrived Mrs. King was standing on the porch and did not want to go in to sit down. She proceeded to tell me when she got home and went to her son’s bedroom all she saw was blood and smelled an awful stench.”

“Thank you, Marks,” Marsden said looking at the name on the officer’s jacket.

He looked up to Leverette standing at the bottom of the stairs looking as if he was debating about ascending them. Marsden walked over.

“Ready to go up?” Marsden asked.

“Yeah, but first I want to talk to Betty,” Leverette said. (who is Betty?)

Betty was an exceptionally gorgeous woman. Her long auburn hair and large green eyes made every man in the station pine for her. She had curves that would make any model cringe and a soft sexy voice, legs that went to heaven. Leverette was the only man not affected by her charms and nobody understood why.

He walked up to her as she was examining the furniture.

“Hey Betty,” Leverette said.

She turned and looked him directly in the eye. They were the same height. “Hi Joe,” she said, the sadness in her eyes and her voice evident. “I hate when this shit happens to kids.”

Leverette nodded. “Me, too,” he said. “Have you checked outside yet?”

“Yes, I have two of my people out there right now. They’re paying particular attention to the spot under his window,” she told him as she pointed to the window. “I haven’t heard from them yet. I was just getting ready to go upstairs when I noticed this chair was moved.” She looked down at the depressions in the carpet and Leverette followed her gaze.

“Maybe Mrs. King moved it when she ran from the house?” he said.

“That wouldn’t really make sense. The stairwell comes down there, and the door to the porch is directly across from it. Why would she come 10 feet this way just to get outside?” she asked thinking aloud.

“Good point, Betty, I’ll have to ask her,” he said and headed for the stairs where Marsden waited. Betty was right behind him.

As they topped the stairs the pungent odor became evident. When they entered the room one man was taking pictures while the other was looking around the room, especially checking the window area.

Marsden couldn’t bring himself to get too close to the body, while Leverette and Betty walked right up to the bed.

They noticed there were some tears in the pillow and a note taped to the headboard.

“He was decapitated while he slept,” Betty said as she examined the pillow. She took down the note and noticed it had Leverette’s name on it.

“Here,” she said and handed him a pair of gloves. “Put these on and see what that asshole has to say.”

Leverette took the gloves and put them on, then carefully opened the envelope and took out the note.

Betty noticed his face turn a bright red and then saw the anger in his eyes. A look she had seen on many occasions.

“What’s it say?” Marsden asked, still keeping a safe distance.

“Six to go,” Leverette said. “The last will be your lady love.”

Everyone stopped what they were doing because it was well known, that since his family was killed, he had never expressed a desire to date. They all turned to him with surprised looks on their faces. Betty noticed, “Get back to work everyone,” she said and watched until they all got back to their tasks.

Carrington arrived and wasn’t too impressed with the fact that he would have to climb the staircase to see the victim. He hadn’t been feeling well all morning and now he wished he’d sent Smith to this one.

With a deep sigh he started up the stairs. Once he got to the top he dropped his bag and grabbed his left side. Leverette saw him and ran to him as the doctor slid down the wall.

Leverette turned to Betty, “He’s having a heart-attack.”

Betty ran over and unbuttoned his coat and Leverette helped her get it off him. Then she got on the phone and called for an ambulance.

Carrington sat and winced with the pain, but tried to stay calm knowing full well getting upset would just aggravate it. He’d seen plenty of people on his table who would still be alive if they just remained calm until help arrived.

“Smith,” he managed to get out with much effort. Leverette knew he meant for him to call her to take over.

“Okay,” Leverette said and speed dialed the morgue.

“Morgue, Marcie here,” he heard her say.

“Marcie, Dr. Carrington is having a heart-attack and requested that Dr. Smith come to the scene.”

“Oh my God!” Marcie screamed into the phone. “He didn’t look so good this morning. I’ll get her right over. Is he okay?”

“Seems like he’ll be. You have the address?”

“Yes. Have you called an ambulance? Of course you did. Never mind. I’ll tell her right away. Let us know what you can about George.”

Leverette was taken aback by her informality but let it go. He figured they’d worked side-by-side for quite some time and he probably had his staff call him by his first name.

“Sure. I’ll give them the number to the office,” Leverette said and hung up.

He turned to Carrington. “Dr. Smith is on her way.”

Carrington nodded his head and just sat back. Leverette worried about his friend but knew he had to get back to work.

Betty sensing this said, “Go, I’ll stay with him until the paramedics arrive.”

Leverette nodded his head and went back into the bedroom. Marsden was looking through his computer and checking out his desk.

“Was that note hand written?” he asked Leverette.

“Yeah. See if you can find any paper and envelopes that look like these,” he handed Marsden the letter and envelope, which he had since put in an evidence bag. Marsden took it and went back to the desk checking the papers on the top, then going through the drawers.

A siren screamed in the front of the house and frightened the Kings. They had no idea the coroner’d had a heart-attack.

Leverette came down the stairs to let them know where they were needed. They nodded and headed into the house and up the stairs.

He turned to the Kings. “Our coroner had a heart-attack.”

They looked at him and shook their heads.

“I need to ask if either of you moved the chair in the front room.”

They looked at each other than at him with a puzzled look on their faces.

“Come with me and I’ll show you the one I mean,” he said and let them go into the house first. “This one,” he said pointing to a wing-back chair.

“No, I didn’t move it. Did you?” Mrs. King asked her husband.

“No. Had no reason to,” he answered. “Why?”

“Just needed to know,” was all he’d tell her. Leverette suspected from the way the chair was turned that the killer had sat in it in the dark out of view of the two parents as they got ready for work.

“We’ll need your statements,” he told them. “Perhaps you’d rather go to the station to give them while we finish the investigation here. The officer will take you but you’ll have to find a place to stay for a while.”

“Sure,” Mr. King said. “Can we grab some things first?”

“Yeah, no problem”, Leverette said. Since their bedroom was downstairs there was no chance of them seeing their son.

As they pulled out of the driveway Leverette called Billingsley.

“Hey Chief, a bit of a problem but it’s taken care of,” Leverette said. “Before I get to it, I sent the Kings to the station. One of the officers is bringing them. I didn’t want them here when they brought their boy down.”

“Good thinking, Joe,” Billingsley said. “They don’t need to see Carrington bringing the body down.”

“Well he wouldn’t be, chief. He had a heart-attack when he got here.”

“What? Who’s coming down then?”

“Dr. Smith. She just pulled up,” Leverette said as he saw her pull into the driveway. He was holding the door open for the paramedics.

“Okay. Is anyone with Carrington?”

“It looks like Barb is here with the doc.”

“Good. I’ll take care of the Kings. Keep me posted on Carrington, too.”

“No problem, chief,” Leverette said and hung up. He stayed by the door for Smith and Barb and brought them up to date with what they’d found so far.

“So Carrington never saw the body?” Dr. Smith asked. She was a handsome woman, maybe in her 50’s, and had hardened eyes. Leverette thought this was because of her work.

“No, he’d just made it up the stairs when it hit,” Leverette said. “He told me to call you.”

“I’ve told that jerk to lose weight. He thought that quitting smoking would be enough. You’d think after all the years in our line of work he’d know better,” Smith said gruffly and headed into the bedroom where she saw the other investigators.

The CSI team didn’t care for Smith, and neither did Marsden. She didn’t come across as a nice lady and never smiled. At least Carrington was known to smile at times; even laugh.

Betty turned and looked at Smith. “We only took pictures. Nobody touched the body.”

“Good,” was all Smith said and started the examination, while Barb looked around the room, then under the bed. When Smith pulled the cover back Barb stood up and helped her turn the body. One thing about Smith: she was thorough. Even though the cause of death was so obvious she had to check everything. They put the body down and Smith’s eye caught something.

“Give me the magnifying glass,” she barked at Barb. Barb didn’t let it bother her, she’d worked with Smith for twenty some years and realized that’s just Smith. She reached into the tote and pulled out the magnifying glass and handed it to her. Smith concentrated on a section on the boy’s upper arm.

“This is fresh,” she said to Barb who made her way to that side of the bed “Look.”

Barb took the glass and examined the puncture wound. “I see it,” she said.

“Unless this young man received this from a doctor this will show the same as it did for that woman,” she said sounding so heartless that the CSIs in the room swallowed hard.

“Alright, let’s get him to the morgue,” Smith said and Barb pulled out the transport bag from her tote. She unzipped it and with Smith rolled the body to one side and, while Barb held him Smith slid the bag under. They worked the bag so his body gently fit into it and zipped it closed. Then they put him on the stretcher they’d carried up and packed their tools.

Leverette came back up as they were getting ready to leave.

“Are the parents around,” Smith asked.

“No,” was all Leverette said.

“Okay. Let’s go,” she said to Barb and the two started down the steps and out the door.

The CSI now gathered up the bedding and pillows and placed them in separate evidence bags, along with prints and other items that might help identify the murderer. They headed out, also.

“Can’t find that type of paper anywhere,” Marsden said to Leverette. “He must have written it before he got here.”

“Smug son-of-a-bitch,” Leverette said, “What if this didn’t work out for him?”

Marsden knew he didn’t want an answer and just shook his head.

When they headed to the family room Betty and a couple of her people were gathering evidence from the moved chair.

“Joe, you have to see this,” Betty called when she saw him. Both detectives made their way over.

Betty was holding a magnifying glass over one arm of the chair. “We almost missed this.”

She handed the glass to Leverette and he tried to see what she saw. He looked for a while and didn’t see anything.

“We didn’t see it at first,” Betty said, “Then something caught Glen’s eye and he looked closer. It says ‘HA HA HA’ if you look close enough.”

Leverette looked again and there it was. Spelled out in what looked like string or hair.

“I’ll get on this right away. Nothing else on this chair though,” Betty said.

He handed the magnifying glass to Marsden and pointed to where the words were. “Damn,” Marsden said, “What if we didn’t find this? And just what the hell is he trying to prove?”

“Have no fucking idea,” Leverette said and stormed out of the house.

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