BRIGHT LIGHTS HAD been placed all along the area on the shoreline, shining their light down on the scene. Numerous police officers walked along the perimeter of the taped off area. Some shaking their heads in disbelief. Some standing sentry at the tape keeping curious onlookers at bay with their cell phones trying to get a photo or video of what was going on. Others standing by as crime scene personnel worked to gather evidence.
Jaime stood stoically still. The blue and red lights still strobing all around. The numerous voices of police all around yet felt so far away. A police detective had been murdered and his body lay on the shore. Another body, a young woman, lay lifeless twenty yards from the detective. Jaime couldn’t move. Couldn’t think. All she could do was stare at the woman in the short cocktail dress, one high heel sitting a few feet from her body.
“Shaw!” a voice in the distance called out.
How is this happening? Jaime asked herself.
“Dammit Shaw! What’s going on?”
A calmer voice answered. “Sarg, I can handle this.”
“Then do so. Your partner needs to get focused.”
Jaime felt the hand on her arm. “Jaime,” she heard.
She looked at the man who stood before her, her vision clouded around the edges.
“Jaime,” the man called again, lightly shaking her arm. “Look, we’re all a little frazzled here.”
“Derek?” her voice sounded foreign even to her own ears.
“Seriously, what the hell is going on with you?” the man demanded. “We have work to do.”
Another man approached them. “Richards, the ME will be over here soon. Has anyone found an ID on our hooker here?”
Jaime turned and glared at this man. “She is not a hooker!”
“Whoa,” the man responded, holding his hands up in a surrender gesture. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck…”
Jaime stood in this man’s face, her anger apparent. “For your information Officer,” she growled, “That woman is my sister.”
Derek reached for her arm and pulled her back. “What did you say?”
“It’s Amanda,” she answered.
“The sister you’ve been looking for for two years?”
Jaime looked down. She was an officer with the Syracuse Police Department in Upstate New York. She could not get emotional right now.
“Officer Shaw!” the precinct Sergeant now approached them. “Did I just hear you correctly? You know this woman?”
Jaime took in a breath and looked up into the eyes of her superior. “Yes Sir. Her name is Amanda Shaw.”
Sergeant Monahan ran his hand down his face before turning to Derek, “Get her away from this crime scene.”
Jaime reached for his arm. “No! Sir, I can do this.”
Her commanding officer looked at her with sympathy in his eyes. “Shaw, you have to step away. You’ve identified one of two murder victims as your sister. I need objectivity here.”
“I can be objective. Please.”
He looked at Derek Richards, Jaime’s partner for the past three years. “Take her back to the station.”
“But Sir,” Jaime continued to plead.
“Look, we can talk more about this when we are all back at the station. Right now, I need Richards here to get you away from this crime scene. This is an order officer,” he said before turning and making his way over to Amanda’s body for a closer look. He shook his head once he’d squat down for a closer look. Jaime knew what he was seeing. A young woman who looked like a drugged-up, murdered call girl.
Amanda wasn’t what they saw. Okay, the murdered part, yes. But a drugged-up call girl? No. There had to be a reason her body lay on the same shore of Onondaga Lake as a detective from their own station.
“C’mon Jaime,” Derek broke into her thoughts as he tugged on her arm.
“I can’t leave her,” she finally said emotionally.
Derek stood in front of her, his hands on her upper arms until she looked at him. “There’s nothing you can do for her. C’mon, let’s go grab a coffee or something.”
As they sat in the breakroom at the station, a mug of the worst coffee she’d ever tasted cradled in her hands, Derek sitting at the small round table across from her with his own mug, she softly asked. “How’m I gonna tell my parents?”
Derek reached across the table and placed his hand on one of hers. “Hey, we’ll figure it out.”
She looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. “What’s to figure out Derek?” she cried. “My sister is dead! Murdered! How can I explain that to my parents when I don’t understand it myself?”
Derek brought his hand back and rubbed it down his face. “I don’t know,” he finally admitted softly.
Jaime stood near the flowers surrounding her sister’s ashes. The funeral home was quite full. Most of the people who’d walked through now were fellow officers. It had been four days since she’d stood on the shoreline looking at her sister’s lifeless body. Four days of nothing short of hell. Her mother had broken down upon seeing Amanda through the window at the medical examiner’s office. Then, she’d gone into shock or something. Her mother accepted the condolences of those who approached but wasn’t speaking otherwise.
The guilt Jaime had flowing through her was nothing short of suffocating. Why hadn’t she looked harder? Why hadn’t she found her sister sooner? What she wouldn’t give to be able to go back in time. Work harder. Follow more leads. Anything that would have prevented her sister from being murdered.
“Hey,” Derek’s voice called softly to her as he stood before her.
“Hey,” she responded back.
Two days of funerals were more than anyone should have to handle. Detective Warner’s the day before had her and all of her precinct in their dress blues. All of it so senseless. How was Amanda connected to Warner? And, if she was, why hadn’t he said something to Jaime? He knew, as they all did, that she’d been looking for her sister for two years. None of this was making sense.
She hadn’t known what to say to Mrs. Warner. When she’d gone into the precinct a couple of days ago and saw his desk being packed up so his personal effects could be given to his wife, she’d done something she knew was wrong. She walked past his desk when the officer cleaning out had walked away, saw his detective badge in the box, and took it.
A week later, Jaime sat at her desk in the precinct. She’d been put on desk duty when she refused to take some time off to grieve. She had been angry at first, but now she found it helpful. She could look through information to try and put the puzzle together of what happened on that fateful night almost two weeks ago.
“Shaw!” her Sergeant called out to her from the door of his office. When she looked his way, he gestured for her to join him in his office.
Once inside his office, he closed the door. Another man, older, was also present. He wore a uniform as well.
“Officer Shaw,” this man greeted her. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly.
“Shaw,” Sergeant Monahan began then softened his approach, “Jaime, this is Police Chief Wexler.”
The man reached for her hand when she went to salute. “No, that isn’t necessary.”
She stood at attention as she looked at her two superiors before her. “I can only imagine the difficult time you and your family are going through,” the chief said.
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Why aren’t you taking the allowable time off?”
“Sir, I can’t sit in my apartment. I need to do something.”
“Shaw is assisting with going through some of the paperwork from Warner,” her sergeant answered.
The chief gave her a scrutinizing look. “You know you cannot go near the investigation for your sister.”
“I’m aware Sir.”
“Good. I just wanted to personally let you know the precinct, as well as myself personally, are here for you. If you change your mind and need some time off, all you need to do is ask.”
Jaime took in a breath. Her emotions were building again. “I appreciate that Sir.”
“I understand you’re well on your way to becoming detective,” the chief said.
“Yes Sir. I’m waiting to hear on when to take the exam.”
“I’ve heard nothing but great things on your work Officer. When you become detective, I would like to congratulate you personally.”
After a moment of awkward silence. “I’m sorry Sarg, I have some paperwork I need to work on,” Jaime said, needing to get away.
“Very well. My door is always open. You know that.”
“Yes Sir,” she said before making her way back to her desk.
Sergeant Monahan was a tough man but fair. Everything she’d gone through since coming on board as a rookie four years ago, she’d done it to prove herself. Prove to him and all the men in her precinct she was more than capable of handling the job. Though Monahan was strict, he’d proven time and again that he stood in her corner. Praise didn’t come easy to the man. For the chief to acknowledge he’d heard good things about her should have filled her with more pride than it did at the moment. The loss of Amanda was dulling everything.
Two months had passed. She’d spent most of her nights back with her parents. She’d tried giving them comfort. They both, her mother in particular, seemed to go into their own worlds. They simply went through the motions. Though they didn’t say it to her, she’d heard their fights. Her father had never wanted her in the dangerous role of being an officer. Now, she’d failed them by not finding Amanda as she’d promised them. She saw the disappointment in their eyes. Amanda’s death brought on more death. Death of the relationship she’d had with her parents. Her father moving out of the home she’d grown up in brought about the death of their relationship as well. She’d always envied her parents’ marriage. They could get through anything together. Or so she’d thought.
She stood in the open door of Monahan’s office. “Sir?” she called to gain his attention.
He motioned her in. Once she took a seat before his desk, he leaned forward. His hands folded on the top of his desk as he gave her his undivided attention. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“Sir, am I still able to take some time off?”
She was still on administrative duty. Even she had to admit her concentration wasn’t what was needed out on the streets.
He could see she was still grieving. “Shaw, I’m amazed you’re still functioning at all. Of course you can take leave. May I ask what changed your mind?”
“My parents aren’t handling this well at all. I’ve been staying with them a lot. I feel like I need to be there for them.”
Not exactly the truth. Her mother didn’t acknowledge her presence when she was there. Refused to talk with her. When she was with her father, he wasn’t dealing well either. Told her not to worry about them. This was just a rough patch and they’d get through it.
“Take as much time as you need.”
“Thank you Sir,” she said as she stood and began making her way to his door.
“Shaw. What about the detective exam?”
She stood with her back still to him. Becoming detective had been such a goal for her. The past four years had been making her way to that moment.
“The exam is still a couple months away,” she began. “I’m sure I can make that.”
She hadn’t realized he’d stood and made his way to her until he spoke right behind her. “If you need me to arrange something different for you, say the word. You’re going to be a great detective.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
She stood at her door that evening looking at her former partner standing there. “Derek?”
He was in civilian clothes and his hands were in the front pockets of his jeans.
“May I come in?” he finally asked after a moment of awkward silence.
She stepped back but didn’t invite him in any further than the entry to her apartment.
“So, it’s true,” he said as he saw three pieces of luggage near the wall behind her.
“Derek, I appreciate you stopping by. What I don’t need is another lecture.”
He’d been showing up at her door three or four evenings a week. She’d had a suspicion he’d been attracted to her. At first it felt nice. He’d been an officer for three years longer than her. Before he could get up the nerve to ask her out all those years ago, she’d made sure to have the conversation of no dating co-workers one day while they’d been on patrol. Oh, he’d tried talking to her on how some co-workers could make a relationship work without putting their names in the conversation, but she’d stuck to her guns. He was good looking, not that it was a requirement for dating, was committed to the job like she was. There just wasn’t a spark on her side. She liked him. As a friend.
“It’s been a few months now,” he said.
“So, me and my family are just supposed to be over the fact that my sister, my only sibling, is dead? Murdered?”
“That’s not what I mean. I see you Shaw. You’re trying to fix this. It can’t be fixed.”
“What I’m trying to fix is my family. What’s left of it. My parents are not dealing with this at all.”
“Neither are you!”
She lifted her hand in a gesture to silence. “I’m dealing with it as best I can. Sarg said I can take time off. That’s what I’m doing.”
“Look, I know you’ve been looking into her murder,” he said and saw the shock fall over her face. “No, I haven’t said anything to Sarg and I won’t. But you can seriously jeopardize this investigation. Not to mention your career.”
“I haven’t found anything. Yes, it’s frustrating, but the detectives looking into Warner’s death have much more experience. I know that. Right now, I just want to take some time with my family.”
He looked at her skeptically, but she wasn’t going to justify herself to him.
Once Derek had finally left, Jaime leaned against her closed door. She looked at the suitcases stacked there. Yes, she’d lied to Derek about not finding out anything. In going through Warner’s files, she’d uncovered a name. Ravi Ramirez, huge name in the drug world. However, he lived in Miami and if she wanted to catch her sister’s killer, that was where she needed to go. Her quest now was to arrest the man responsible and bring him to justice. Maybe then her family could heal. She just had to make sure her self-imposed undercover assignment could pull it off.