Ten days later, New City.
“Detective Miers, welcome. I trust you brought your documents this time,” the black-suited Lieutenant Ingru greeted me as he stood at the entrance of the building.
“I did,” I replied, extending my hand toward him. “I’m sorry about yesterday.”
“That’s ok, it happens.”
We shook, then continued walking down the hall to a medium-sized room with plain, dull white walls lit by neon lights. There was a long table in the middle of the room with eleven or twelve chairs on one side. Facing it was a smaller table with two chairs. In the department, Room 207 was often referred as the “inquisition chamber,” a place which I had become intimately acquainted with throughout my career.
“Captain Benings will be administering the review,” Lieutenant Ingru said as he walked back toward the door. “He worked in the Regional East precinct for a while and got assigned here a couple of months ago. He’s a good guy.”
I just sat down and shook my head, faking a smile, acknowledging his statement. I knew he’d said that to signal that the captain would be lenient and understanding, but I had nothing to add to it. The New City Police Department, or “The Job” as we referred it to, would often rotate its interviewing panels. What bugged me the most right now was the fact that, from what I’d been told by my union representative, my partner, Detective Steven Enry, was still missing, and yet here I was. The Job was treating this event the only way they knew how to, with bureaucracy.
Ingru left the room, leaving me alone to “admire” the “beauty” of loneliness and stare at the walls.
As was customary at this type of interview, a microphone and an old-fashioned tape recorder were already on table, along with multiple small water bottles and plastic cups. It was fascinating that our department still used tape recorders.
A few minutes later Ingru entered the room followed by a man dressed in a police captain’s uniform.
“Detective Miers,” the captain said as he approached my table, extending his hand. “My name is Captain Benings, and I assume you already met the Lieutenant. We will be administering your review today.”
I got up and shook his hand, looking at his shiny shield. Active officers generally took pride in how worn out and dull their shields were. It signified that it, the shield, and by extension they as officers, had seen and done a lot of grimy police work. A clean shield was usually seen as a sign of a stickler for procedures, a man that has too much time on his hands, even for a captain.
“I see that considering what happened, you’re recovering well,” he continued.
“Thank you, but I would rather be part of the search team,” I replied, tightening my handshake grip a bit.
“That’s being taken care of. For now, our job is to get to the bottom of this unusual occurrence. Shall we?”
I nodded with a contemptuous smile and sat down in my chair. He has already made up his mind.
Without wasting any more time, Captain Benings walked to his chair, reached over to the tape recorder and flipped a switch.
“It’s Friday, April twenty-eighth,” he said into the microphone. “This is the official review of case, uh—” he looked down as he pulled out a folder like mine “—2016-208-224. Administering are Captain Benings and Lieutenant Ingru from the Bureau of New City Internal Investigations. Testifying is Detective Robert Miers from the Interstate Operations Unit.”
He raised his eyes and looked at me. “Are you ready for the review, Detective?”
“I guess I am,” I said, opening my folder and placing it on the table. I was a little taken aback; the captain seemed to be in a rush. I could’ve objected, asking for my representative to be present, but it wouldn’t have made any difference.
“State the facts, beginning with your name, rank, and unit.”
I adjusted myself in the seat so I could be close to the microphone and proceeded to speak.
“My name is Robert Miers. I’m a detective working in the Interstate Operations Unit. We work closely with other departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigations to solve outstanding and unusual cases that cross and-or concern New City. Detective Steven Enry and I got the original call from Patrol Precinct Officer Walker. He stated that his unit had received and responded to a call for a wellness check on the fifth floor of the Liverstein Building, located in the intersection of 30th Street and 30th Avenue. The Liverstein Building is a commercial building with many offices on all floors. He, Officer Walker, further said that a DOA was found at the scene, and considering some unusual circumstances, the local detective unit had decided to refer this case to us. It took us about twenty-five minutes to get there at the time. The medical examiner was already on scene.”
I paused for a moment to flip through a page of my notepad and drink a sip of water. I still got nervous no matter how many times I testified in front of panels like this.
“The body was located on top of a table, clothed in a white hospital gown. We later found that the floor is leased by a corporation called Atlas. We investigated it and came up with bankruptcy paperwork, a dead end.”
I looked up to see that the panel, Ingru and Benings, were both looking at me.
“A search of the entire floor revealed that it had not been used in a very long time. Everything from the furniture to the light fixtures was covered with large, transparent plastic sheets, except for the room that the body was found in. In all the other rooms there was almost an inch of dust on the top of the sheets. Here are some pictures that we took at the scene.” I got up, walked around my table and handed the captain a small envelope.
“Let the record note that the detective handed me pictures of the crime scene,” the captain said into the microphone, opening the envelope and tilting his head to look at the pictures while I walked back to my table and sat in my chair.
“We interviewed the officer and some civilians that worked in the building and came up cold.”
“What do you mean cold, Detective?” Captain Benings asked.
“The responding precinct patrol officers told me that they had been inside the building on official business before, but never on this floor. The civilians that work in that building said they had never seen anyone walking in or out of this floor. A further search revealed that this specific floor had a private staircase that led directly there from the rear of the building. We subpoenaed the Department of Records, which confirmed that the building was built that way in 1913.”
“Let’s talk about our victim for a little bit,” the captain interrupted me.
Again, I looked up at the panel’s direction and sighed. These interruptions, though the captain must’ve thought were necessary, were annoying and distracting. Not to mention that I already thought this was just a witch hunt and not a bona fide review. Why would the job ask for a case review when Steven wasn’t even found yet? Frustrated, I lowered my head, catching a glimpse of my reflection on the glass cover of my table. My short haircut made my head look rounder than usual, and the scrape they told me I’d sustained on my cheek during the firefight on this assignment was healing well indeed.
“The victim.” I shuffled through my folder to find the notes that I had made during my three-week investigation. “The victim was a male Caucasian in his late twenties, about five feet nine inches tall, medium build. The body had lots of puncture wounds throughout, including his fingers. We found a dark suit, a white shirt, a pair of black, shiny shoes, socks and underwear on top of a nearby chair that we thought belonged to him. Strangely, we found no tags or markings that would allow us to trace where it was made.”
I paused yet again and looked up at the captain, lifting my eyebrows. “Sixteen years I’ve been doing this job, I’ve never seen anything like this. What was the purpose of this torture? We’re not sure. The room didn’t show any signs of struggle, which means the victim either laid there on his own or he was drugged. That brings me to the next point—bloodwork came up negative for drugs. Also, the doors and windows were still locked shut, except for one. That means the perpetrator had a key for it.”
“Detective,” Benings interrupted, “how many entrances are in this building?”
“Um, there’s one main entrance that goes through the building to the other side. That entrance leads to corridors to the left and to the right. Two staircases at the very end go all the way up to the fifth floor. And obviously there’s the third entrance around the back that leads to the fifth floor without a way to get off anywhere.”
“Thank you for the clarification, please continue.”
“You’re welcome. Getting back to victim’s bloodwork, we ran his DNA and came up with nothing—no criminal history. No identification was found on him either. So, we named him John Doe.”
The captain and the lieutenant looked at me with indifferent faces as I continued.
“The victim was printed a little later with the same results. It seemed as he had two sets of prints on his fingers. However, the cause of death was ruled to be heart attack. The Medical Examiner concluded it was brought on by the pain he was subjected to.”
“Did you just say two sets of prints? How is that possible?” Benings asked, narrowing his eyes.
“We’re not sure; for lack of a better word, the body was full of strange artifacts, from skin fissures to some bone deformations. The report we got, and it’s included on the case folder you are holding, has an in-depth view of the prints. However, I’d like to point out that the technician responsible for printing him was fascinated enough to mention how the loops and arches cut abruptly on both sets of his fingers and latent prints,” I responded.
Benings paused, making eye contact with Ingru, then turning his head back and looking at me.
“Did you find anything else on the victim? Video surveillance of the surroundings that would be relevant?”
I paused for a moment yet again—Bening’s erratic questions were seriously interrupting the flow of my testimony.
“We looked at three days of video from the nearby buildings and establishments, but the victim didn’t enter the building through the front door. He must’ve used the secret staircase, no cameras around the block that way.”
Captain Benings nodded. “Okay, continue.”