Suddenly, the door opened, and my union delegate stormed into the room. “I cannot believe you started the interview without me,” he said in a loud voice as he walked toward my table.
“Mr. Leigh—” Captain Benings tried to speak but the delegate interrupted him yet again.
“It’s Detective Second Grade, thank you very much.” Leigh adjusted his tie as he sat in the empty chair next to me. “And you, Captain, should know better than to begin a review without proper representation. Is this rolling?” Leigh asked me, pointing to the microphone.
“Yes, it is,” I replied.
“Unbelievable.” Leigh shook his head and adjusted his chair next to me. He covered the microphone with his hand and, leaning toward me, whispered, “Sorry I’m late”.
“Thanks for showing up,” I responded. “I actually expected more people to be here.”
“Can we get an, uh…ten-minute recess?” Leigh asked the interview panel.
“Granted,” the captain said, tightening his lips and leaning toward the microphone. “Ten-minute recess.”
Detective Leigh leaned toward me and spoke under his breath. “Listen man, the feds are going to show up any minute, I saw them walking in. I’m not sure if the captain here wanted to speed this up to keep it in department or to screw us over, but we’re here now.”
“I’m not surprised,” I said, looking at him. “I’ve been dealing with them this entire time. It’s ok.”
We hadn’t even finished our conversation when the door to the room opened yet again, and two men in black suits and white shirts entered the room.
“Are we too late for the review?” one of them asked.
“Gentlemen, this room is reserved for official police department business only. You are?” the captain asked acerbically.
“My name is Agent Simers and this is Agent Klebond, from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. We’ll sit in on this interview if it’s not much trouble,” Simers said, showing Benings his credentials.
I expected that this was his way of being polite. Because of the nature of our investigations and information sharing between our agencies, these guys generally barged in our meetings and did their thing regardless. The newcomers sat at the interviewer’s table and pulled out folders, papers, and small tape recorders. I followed their every movement, shaking my head. This might get bad. The Job already had me modified on medical review leave, and their presence might even push Captain Benings to restrict me at home.
Nervously I turned my head toward Leigh, who was already looking back at me. We’ll be just fine.
“We are ready whenever you are,” Simers said, facing the captain.
“Detective Leigh, are you ready?” Captain Benings asked.
“I need a moment, Captain,” Leigh replied before turning his head toward me. “What did you guys talk about?” he whispered.
“Just the initial roll on scene,” I said, whispering as well. “Nothing much.”
“Okay.” Leigh turned his head toward the interviewer’s table. “We’re ready too.”
The Captain flipped the switch again and spoke close to his microphone. “Resuming interview from recess, we are now accompanied by Detective Leigh from the Detective’s Union and Agents Klebond and Simers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Detective Miers, please continue with your testimony.”
Sighing, I flipped a page in my notebook to see where in my notes I was with the testimony and continued.
“The first break in the case came three days later. We received a call in our command’s call center, and my partner picked up. It was an anonymous tip that we initially thought was just an emotionally disturbed person. The man claimed that he knew who our John Doe was and gave us an address to look up.”
Recalling the replay of tipster’s voice, I couldn’t help but to insert an observation. “Tipster’s voice had an accent to it, changing the W’s to V’s and sometimes emphasizing the A’s. I feel this is important to know, as all the tapes had the same male speaker, which reinforced our belief that all the calls came from the same person.”
I looked up again to see that Benings was writing down in a notepad the remark I just made.
“He further told my partner that he was aware of a shadowy group that kidnapped people, both men and women, and genetically treated them to change their bodies. He went on and on about conspiracies and World War Two Nazi scientists who conducted experiments, and that he was being followed, but he didn’t want to be identified to us. Stuff like that. The address he gave us was Nine Ericson Way, Karthaus, Pennsylvania—a private house.”
I briefly looked over to Agent Klebond to preface what I was about to say. I knew Captain Benings didn’t have all the information about the way the Interstate Operations Unit conducted business with other agencies. We would do whatever it took to find the underlying causes of strange cases, and the more the FBI asked us for support, the more we would bend the rules. Though, I had the strange feeling that Klebond knew more about this case that he was letting on.
“Before we left to check out the address, we received the expedited DNA search results from the FBI. They informed us that the search was expanded to include databases from overseas agencies as well. To our surprise, we got a match. Agent Klebond called us up to let us know the match was to a man named Dietrich Xelsior. According to the agent, Xelsior was recorded as working in some Nazi camps during World War Two as a nurse for a few front-line doctors. Not a main figure per se, he was captured at the end of the war by Russian forces in Peenemunde, Germany, where he was registered as a prisoner. From there, we can’t link him to anything else, and there are no historical images either.”
“You traveled out of state on Job time?” Captain Benings interrupted me. “Who authorized this?”
“Travel was authorized by the Interstate Operations Unit Chief of Detectives.”
The captain turned his head over to his right as if looking for confirmation from the agents. Klebond leaned toward the table to make eye contact with the captain and nodded. “Yes.”
I paused for a second and looked up to see if the captain had any other questions before I went on.
“What did you find in the house, Detective?” Agent Klebond asked.
I made eye contact with Leigh; he shrugged as if to say, “It’s up to you.” The federal agents very rarely asked questions in these types of hearings, as they usually had all our reports.
“The house is registered to a New City firefighter who died a few years ago during a blaze in the same building, the Liverstein. His body was never recovered. It was abandoned, and all the windows were boarded up.”
“Curious,” the agent said.
“Curious indeed.” I turned toward him. “Even though it’s not strictly enforced, New City employees are required to live near New City. This might be a case of identity theft, but we have yet to look into it. This is the first case in nearly thirteen years where I’ve found so many dead ends, one after another.”
I expected this information would take the panel a little while to digest. Captain Benings was looking down at his folder with his head in his hands, while Klebond was shuffling around his folder as if searching for a reference for this information. Feeling the tension in the room, I cautiously continued with my testimony.
“On Monday April eighteenth, we received another call from the same tipster, asking for us by name this time. He told the dispatcher that he had information about the Liverstein murder. Again, my partner, Detective Steven Enry, picked up and spoke with him. The tipster told him that the group had kidnapped another man. This one was in Germany, so I called the FBI and relayed the information. I was told this was out of our jurisdiction and that was the end of it.”
Once again, Benings leaned back to make eye contact with the agents sitting on his left, past Ingru. Klebond, who was already leaning back as well, caught his gaze and nodded yes. Seeing this interaction, I looked down at my notes and continued.
“On April twentieth, the tipster left a message on Detective Enry’s and my desk’s answering machine when we were out of the office. It stated ‘A new victim is in Ohio.’ He left an address, too. Seven Evergreen Lane, Lima, Ohio.”
I paused yet again to check if the panel was following the information I was giving them, and to drink some water.
“At this point,” I continued, opening my memo book, “we were chasing shadows. These kidnappings could have been connected, but they were so disconnected geographically that we made the decision to turn this case over to the Bureau. They accepted, and I faxed over everything we had on the case. I dealt with the same agent every time, Agent Klebond, who is sitting on this panel. He called two days later, on the twenty-second, asking me to check out the Ohio kidnapping.”
“One moment, Detective” Captain Benings interrupted with a frustrated voice. “Agent Klebond, why did you reopen this case to New City personnel when we all can clearly see that the scope of this investigation is out of our jurisdiction?”
“Captain Benings,” Klebond replied, looking at him calmly, “this case has more leads throughout the United States happening simultaneously. We requested the detective follow up on this lead because he was already familiar with the case. It is well within the scope of the Interstate Operations Unit guidelines and we did follow up with the proper channels.”
Benings was clearly frustrated with this case. This was probably the first time he’d dealt with Interstate Operations, whose cases could be real head scratchers, and some of the information was usually held from our superiors on a need-to-know basis. I was struggling with it too—my partner was missing, and I felt helpless. The agents, on the other hand, looked pretty calm considering that Klebond just admitted that this case was bigger than what we’d had in our hands, which was complicated as it was. That made me want to peek inside his folder even more.
“That’s all I have. That is all I remember.”
“That’s it? You don’t remember anything from the last encounter?”
“No, I don’t. I’m told that my partner is missing from it and I want to contribute to the search.”
“Do you really expect this panel to believe that our John Doe, whose DNA identifies him as Xelsior Dietrich, a Nazi nurse who disappeared over seventy years ago, and a dead firefighter kidnapped your partner, grabbed all evidence from this event, and vanished without a trace?” Captain Benings said, raising his voice as he tried to grasp the situation. “Does the Federal Bureau of Investigation have anything to contribute to this review?”
“What information would you think the Bureau can add?” Simers asked, straightening his back.
“Well, how about who this ‘tipster’ person is? It seems to me that he clearly knows more about this case than all of us, wouldn’t you say?”
“All I can contribute to those questions is that we have traced most of those calls. They appear to have originated from within the mainland US, with a few international exceptions.”
He took Klebond’s folder, opened it, pulled out a few papers stapled together, looked at them as to reference his thoughts and continued.
“Furthermore, the calls were directed at the offices of New City Interstate Operations Unit, specifically to Detectives Miers and Enry—they were not transferred from anywhere. The FBI has received no such tips on our hotlines. That was one of the contributing factors for the Bureau to let this investigation be led by the detectives.”
“Has the detective been checked out by the psych services?” Captain Benings asked as he turned his head toward Lieutenant Ingru.
“Okay, okay,” Leigh intervened. “You asked for his testimony, you got it. We all can see that this case is very complicated and there are a lot of loose ends that need to be investigated, however all the facts Detective Miers reported match.” He motioned his left hand toward me. “How are you coming to this outlandish conclusion?”
“From the Ohio sheriff’s report, based on DNA that was collected on the site and eyewitness reports from the night of occurrence,” Captain Benings replied in a very serious tone, looking at Leigh and me before shifting his gaze toward the agents. “The report I have states that we have four DNA donors found on scene. Two are Detectives Miers and Enry, one is Brian Lars, who based on records provided to us by the FBI is the presumed-deceased firefighter, and one is Dietrich Xelsior. Who did you fight with? Where did they go? And last but not least, how did our John Doe, aka Dietrich Xelsior, get to the scene?”
“As I testified earlier, the last thing I remember…” I began, just to be interrupted again by the increasingly frustrated captain.
“We already heard that. Thank you, Detective.”
I looked over at Leigh, my union representative and a nineteen-year veteran detective with our department, who looked like he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
The feds were just sitting there, not talking to each other, not consulting, just observing the scene. I found that behavior peculiar, but then I wasn’t sure what their investigative procedures were. The captain turned his attention toward them as well, asking them questions as I lowered my eyes and looked at my folder again. Julia, my sixteen-year-old daughter, had slipped a picture of our family inside my folder. She understood the dangers that were associated with my job and always tried to sneak stuff like this in with my paperwork.
I smiled for a moment and shook my head as everyone around me argued about dead people and legal implications. I blocked all of that out and focused on the picture. It made me feel happy.
My representative saw that I’d tuned out and asked me if I had anything else to say.
“I have one question for them—any news from the search for my partner?” I replied, motioning with my head toward the panel.
“Gentlemen!” Detective Leigh raised his voice. “My client has a question for the panel. What is the status of the search party?”
“A search of the immediate area has been going on for a while now,” Captain Benings said. “We have a substantial amount of manpower out there, aided by federal and local agencies. But given the size of the areas covered in forests and a lack of other helpful evidence, it’s slow. But we will find him.”
“I’ve worked with Enry for over ten years. I would like to join the search team,” I eagerly replied.
“The panel has made its decision. Detective Miers, you are to remain on administrative leave with no gun or shield until the final resolution of this case or until Detective Steven Enry is found. Additionally, you are to report to the department psychologist as soon as possible for reevaluation.”
“Why is he suspended for such a long time?” Detective Leigh asked the captain.
“Detective,” Benings said, getting up from his chair and adjusting his jacket, “do you know how many members of this department have gone missing in the line of duty over the past twenty-five years? Please don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. None, that’s how many. Your client is not only the last person to see Detective Enry alive, he’s the only survivor of the whole incident. As I already mentioned the FBI substantiates some of his testimony, in that they found four sets of DNA on the ground and inside the burned house, several types of shell casings and no discernible footprints leaving the scene. This means that everyone but your client disappeared without leaving a trace. Do you realize how incongruous that is? He’s lucky the department isn’t pressing charges against him. This review is closed pending judgement upon closure of Detective Enry’s search party.”
The captain reached for the tape recorder and flipped the switch off. He approached the agents and began to speak with them.
“Let’s go,” Detective Leigh said as he pushed his chair back.
I didn’t wait for more—I was over these people and their arguments. Julia’s picture had reminded me of how things were slipping away at home. This job was slowly taking over my life and I’d had less and less time to spend with my family. My wife, Elsa, complained a lot more lately, especially about the last few investigations I’d been involved in.
I took a deep breath to clear my head of those thoughts, then together with Detective Leigh walked past the panel who was still exchanging thoughts about this case and without saying anything left the room. I had nothing to say to them, especially Captain Benings.