Unlike standard police interrogation rooms with four windowless cement walls, a table, chairs, and a large one-way mirror, the Internal Affairs interrogation room has both painted walls and windows to go along with three padded sofas and a ceiling full of light.
Detectives Furor and Lombardo are led into the room by David Disney, a man with a clean shave and searing blue-eyes, which, together with a commanding voice and muscular physique, give him the appearance and presence of someone in charge. Three men—two standing, one sitting—are already in the room, waiting. Disney introduces his two officers as agents Dexter and Portis. The third man they know.
Officer Lenny Dykstra sits, shoulders pinched, eyes pulled to the floor.
Disney sweeps the door closed with his foot, steps around Lombardo and Furor. There’s an open file in his hands that he appears to be reviewing, lifting one page and then another.
“Before taking your statement,” he says, looking up from the file, “Officer Dykstra has a story I think you’ll find very interesting.” Then, directing his attention to the corporal, he asks, “How’s about repeating it for our friends here?”
Wringing his hands, Dykstra looks first to Disney, then to Lombard and Furor, before returning his eyes to the ground.
“Three days ago, on Tuesday afternoon, I was working the front desk when a call came through—an anonymous source, claiming to have information about a sex-trafficking operation involving underage girls from Eastern Europe, which the caller claimed was being run out of a local strip club. The voice was distorted, as if the caller had wrapped something around the receiver to muffle the sound. Now, I don’t know why, but something about it just felt rehearsed. I decided to take it to the captain, get his advice. That’s when a woman entered asking to file a missing persons report on her friend, a stripper, who she claimed had disappeared from the very same club the caller had just mentioned. Now, I don’t believe in coincidences, so after taking down her information, I went straight to Dobbs.
“Strangely though, when I knocked the door, instead of the usual, ‘What the hell do you want?’ or ‘This better be important,’ response, he invited me in, offered me a seat, like he was expecting bad news. This got my suspicion meter flashing, but it was his response to my telling him about the phone call that really sent it through the roof. Not only did he sit through my summation without asking a single question, but when he picked up the phone to relay the information to V.I.C.E., I heard him tell them the name of the strip club was The Frisky Kitten. Well, that’s a piece of information I hadn’t mentioned yet.”
Hearing this, Lombardo folds his arms, leans back against the counter. “And the missing persons report?”
Dykstra nods. “After hanging up with V.I.C.E., I told him about the woman and asked if he thought they might be related. The question seemed to rattle him a bit as his eyes sort of receded into his mind like he was trying to piece something together. When I asked if everything was all right, he told me he was just worried the girl may have been a victim of this alleged underage sex-trafficking ring. He then asked a series of questions about what the woman who’d filed the report had said, specifically if she had any suspicions about where the missing friend might have gone and with whom she’d last been seen. I told him there wasn’t much to offer, except that the missing girl had recently broken up with her boyfriend, a guy named Raymond, whose last name she couldn’t recall having ever been told. Likewise, she wasn’t useful in providing a description either as she had only seen him once, at night, and from a distance.”
“When did the stripper go missing?” Furor asks.
“Monday night, somewhere around ten o’clock,” Dykstra says.
“And the implication is that Dobbs killed this stripper and then ordered a raid on the club where she worked?”
“There’s a lot more to this story,” Disney tells him. “I suggest you hear it all the way through.”
“I’d love to, except I think you’re forgetting something. Monday was the night of the annual Policeman’s Ball, which Dobbs happened to be hosting. The party kicked off at nine o’clock and I personally saw him there when I arrived at ten and several other times throughout the night.”
“We’re aware of that,” Disney says. “We’re also aware that your case against Dobbs is also highly circumstantial. That’s why we’re laying all the cards on the table, in the hope that something one of you says may be useful to the other.”
Furor nods, eases back onto his heels as he returns his attention to Dykstra. “Carry on.”
“Once I’d finished telling him what the woman had told me,” Dykstra says, “Dobbs asked that I bring him a copy of her statement the next time she came in.”
“The next time?” Lombardo challenges.
“It had only been eighteen hours since the stripper’s disappearance, she wouldn’t technically be considered missing for another thirty hours,” Dykstra says. “Yet, it seemed Dobbs already knew that.”
“I feel I’ve greatly underestimated you, Lenny,” Lombardo says.
Dykstra smiles modestly.
“Did the woman ever come back?” Furor asks.
“She didn’t,” Dykstra admits, “which made me nervous.”
“Nervous? Why nervous?”
“Because even though she hadn’t filed a missing persons report, I did fill out an incident report with her name and contact information. A report, which Dobbs requested I bring him a copy of as part of what he called the broader investigation into the sex trafficking ring.”
“And you’re worried Dobbs is planning to do something to this woman?” Furor asks.
“I’m worried he already has.”
Lombardo appears to lean slightly forward as Furor straightens his posture, inviting Dykstra with their body language to elaborate.
“The next day,” Dykstra says, “when the woman failed to show up to complete the report, I tried contacting her, but my calls all went straight to voicemail. Fearing something might have happened to her, I took down her address with the idea of stopping by her place that evening. Unconventional, maybe, but there was just no other way to shake the feeling that something about the situation wasn’t right. Then I remembered, I’d pulled station duty that night and wouldn’t be getting off until two in the morning. If the idea had seemed unconventional before, it now felt downright inappropriate. That’s when I recalled the woman had mentioned something about being a stripper at the same club where her friend was a waitress. Thinking, perhaps, she might be getting off around the same time as me, I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least swing by, try and catch her as she was coming home. Thinking back on it now, I know it was a bad idea, the kind of idea that could have cost me my pension and the department its credibility. But that’s what thirty years of following gut instinct will do to you.
“So, that night, Wednesday, after punching the clock, I made a pass by the woman’s place. The address she’d given indicated she lived on the third-floor of an apartment building, which, as I drove by, had a light on in one of the third-floor windows. Whether hers or not, I had no idea, but it seemed likely. So, after making two laps around the block looking for an open parking space, I pulled into the alley adjacent her building. I had just killed the engine and stepped out of the car when I heard the snap of what sounded like suppressed gunfire and from the corner of my eye saw what appeared to be a brief flash of light in the third-floor fire escape window. Seconds later, that same window snuck open and out stepped a man onto the fire escape. I felt for my service weapon, only to realize I’d left it in the car. Not wanting to risk stepping out and being seen by an armed gunman, I ducked behind a dumpster and watched as the man climbed down the escape ladder and onto the street. Of course, it was dark and the man was at least twenty yards away, but I know it was Dobbs. As he made his way to the head of the alley, I waited until he’d turned the corner before racing to catch up, arriving just in time to watch him drive away in a Hyundai Accent. I didn’t see the license plate, but the make, model, and color were the same as the one Dobbs drives.”
Furor’s eyes go vague, lost in a cloud of thought.
Lombardo too seems unsure what to make of all of it.
Sensing no questions coming his way, Dykstra continues. “Not sure what else to do, I called the police from my mobile, told them I believed someone had just been murdered, then went back to my car to wait. The police arrived, followed by an ambulance. About ten minutes after that, I watched as they brought a body down on a stretcher. At this point, I stepped out of my car, presented my badge, told them I’d picked up the call on my radio as I was making my way home, and asked what was going on. They told me a man had been shot in the back. I asked who he was, but no seemed to know his name. Though, I did hear one of the EMTs mention something about the odds of being called to the same building twice in the same day. I asked what he meant and he told me they’d rescued a woman in that same building earlier that afternoon after she’d tried to kill herself. I asked if they knew the woman’s name. They did. It was the woman who had filed the missing persons report.
“When you say she tried to kill herself, you mean she’s still alive?” Lombardo asks.
Dykstra nods his head. “She’s recovering at St. Luke’s.”
“Has anyone spoken with her yet?”
Disney cuts in. “The effects of hemorrhagic shock have left her in and out of consciousness. Doctors say it’ll be a few days before she’s lucid enough to take questions.”
“What’s your theory?” Furor asks, directing the question to Disney.
“Frankly, we don’t have enough information at this point to confidently posit a theory.”
“But you’re circling something?”
Disney shrugs. “It’s a reach, but we believe Dobbs and the missing stripper may have been romantically linked somehow.”
“You think Dobbs is the boyfriend, this so-called Raymond character?”
“It’s flimsy, but our tech analysts ran a search algorithm on Dobbs using the target key Raymond, the results showed a stillborn twin brother registered with the name Raymond Dobbs.”
“He used the name of his dead twin brother to pick up a stripper? Good god!”
Disney doesn’t waver. “I think a man with political ambitions like Dobbs would do just about anything to avoid exposure, including falsifying his name to a stripper girlfriend.”
“Sure, but then why kill her?”
“Perhaps, he grew intolerant of her lifestyle. Or maybe she discovered his true identity and was using it to blackmail him,” Disney suggests.
Lombardo. “So that anonymous tip about sex trafficking could have been nothing more than a smokescreen, just cause for the police to seize the club’s security footage, which may, ultimately, link the two.”
“That’s certainly how it looks,” Disney replies.
“Why not requisition the footage?” Furor asks.
“Turns out, it’s been erased.”
“Erased?” Lombardo and Furor answer in unison.
“From what I gather, one of the new custodians in the evidence locker mistakenly placed the video discs next to an improperly labelled box containing a rather large and powerful magnet.”
“That can’t have been an accident,” Furor says.
“Good luck proving it.”
“Let me get this straight,” Lombardo slows. “The theory is, Dobbs and this stripper had a thing. It went south, and when it did he wanted her dead. He kills her. To cover his tracks, he needs to secure all the video footage from the strip club, presumably, because he’s on it. So, he calls in a bogus tip about sex trafficking and green lights the raid to confiscate the footage. Footage secured, he arranges for it to be erased by having it placed next to a magnet of some kind. The plan is fool-proof, until the stripper’s friend shows up casting the blame on an ex-boyfriend, who we assume to be Dobbs, whose face she may be able to identify, having seen him once at night and at a distance. A potential loose end, he knows he has to silence her, but it can’t look like murder, so he stages it to look like suicide. I’m with you up to there, but what about this other guy—this guy Dobbs allegedly shot in the back before climbing down the fire escape?”
“He wasn’t carrying ID, so, we really have nothing to go on. Now, the Medical Examiner will run prints, but if they don’t get a match we may never know who he was or why he was killed.”
“Either way, we still have a problem with the timeline,” Furor points out. “If Dobbs was at the Policeman’s Ball all night, he couldn’t have killed the stripper. If he didn’t kill the stripper, there’s no motive for ordering the raid, erasing the footage, trying to kill the friend, or whoever this other guy was.”
“We have reason to believe he may have had help.”
“What reason is that?” Furor asks.
Disney turns again to Dykstra.
“We have an audio recording of Dobbs,” Dykstra says, “in which he appears to be ordering a hit.”
“Ordering a hit? On who?”
Disney answers. “A former cop turned private investigator, Sphinx Mulroney.”
“Mulroney?” Lombardo says as he and Furor exchange glances. “We know him. He used to work in our precinct before going into private practice. Why would Dobbs order a hit on Sphinx? And where the hell did you get this recording?”
“Sphinx and the woman who filed the missing persons report live right across the hall from each other. We suspect, after being rebuffed by the police, she approached Sphinx about finding her friend. This is supported by the fact that that night, Tuesday, Sphinx was arrested at the club during the raid. More interesting is the fact that within twenty minutes of being released from interrogation, roughly the amount of time it would take him to get home, he’s the one who called the paramedics after having found the woman in her bathtub.”
“Wait, Sphinx is the one who found her?” Lombardo says.
“He not only found her, but also the John Doe that Dobbs shot before crawling out the window.”
“Holy hell,” Furor says, pinching the bridge of his nose. “So, you think Dobbs ordered a hit on Sphinx, because he foiled Dobbs’ attempt to murder this woman?”
“Not exactly,” Dykstra says, “you see, the very next day, Sphinx was brought in again for questioning after being linked to a shooting in the subway, in which, he apparently shot a man’s hand off.”
“All this in forty-eight hours?” Lombardo says.
Dykstra nods. “To say I was suspicious would be an understatement, especially after learning that Dobbs wanted to speak with him privately. That’s when I decided to plant my phone in the captain’s office with the recorder on in order to hear what the two were saying.”
“How did you manage that?” Lombardo asks.
“When Sphinx arrived, I approached him in the hallway, exchanged a few nasty words, and he decked me. A bit of a melee ensued that—when the dust settled—bought me a two-minute ass chewing in Dobbs’ office, during which time I managed to plant my phone, recorder on, before I was excused and Sphinx brought in.”
“I’ll say it again,” Lombardo says, “I’ve completely misjudged you.”
“Yeah, well, after recovering the phone, I listened as Sphinx made the case that the disappearance of the stripper, along with the alleged suicide, the death of the John Doe, and that most recent subway shooting were all somehow related and that he intended to follow up on it. Dobbs responded by threatening to have Sphinx’s license suspended if he didn’t back off from his investigation. Though reluctant, Sphinx seemed to relent. Afterwards, he left and I was about to erase the message thinking that it hadn’t yielded anything by way of conspiracy when I heard Dobbs pick up the phone.”
At this point, Disney, having opened the folder in his hand, removes two thin stacks of stapled papers. “These are copies of the phone transcript recorded by Officer Dykstra’s phone,” he says, handing one to each of the men. “Go ahead, have a read of it yourselves.”
The room falls quiet as Lombardo and Furor spend the next minute and a half skimming the printed record of Dobbs’ phone conversation. It’s one-sided, which makes piecing together the content somewhat difficult, but not impossible. When they’re finished, the men look up.
“Do we have any idea who he’s talking to?” Furor asks.
“No,” Disney says, “but, as you can see there’s more than one person involved, as many as three or more.”
“So, the subway shooting was a targeted operation?” Lombardo says.
“The only question is who was the target and why.”
“And the shooter,” Furor says, “the one who got his hand shot off?”
“It’s unclear,” Disney says. “Despite Dobbs’ insistence there that the man be taken to the emergency room, we’ve called around to all the area hospitals, but no one with that sort of injury has been admitted.”
“And Sphinx? Does he know Dobbs has a tail on him?”
Disney’s voice deepens, takes on a somber tone. “As soon as we found out his life might be in danger, we tried desperately to get a hold of him. But it may have been too late.”
“What do you mean too late?”
“We got word this morning that last night the vehicle he was last seen driving, had been run off the road and into the river. A dive team and helicopter have been working all night, searching for his body. All they’ve found so far is his gun.”
“Jesus Christ!” Lombardo explodes, slapping the paper down on the table. “How many people are going to have to die before someone puts a stop to this?”
“What would you have us do exactly?”
“Arrest him for god’s sake!”
“Arrest him for what?” Disney says. “Other than an illegally obtained—therefore, inadmissible—recording, we have no cause.”
“And him?” Lombardo says, nodding at Dykstra. “He just said he saw Dobbs climbing down the fire escape moments after a man was shot. Is that not evidence enough?”
Disney flexes his jaw, evens his tone. “The best Officer Dykstra can say is that he saw a man who looked like Dobbs get into a vehicle that might have been his. Beyond that, all our evidence is circumstantial. Effectively, all we can do, at this point, is wait for this woman to be discharged from the hospital and hope when she does she identifies Dobbs as the one who put her there.”
Lombardo leans back against the counter, rubs his forehead while closing his eyes.
“Well,” Disney says, “I believe we’ve shown all our cards. Now, it’s your turn.”
With the attention of the room directed to Furor, the detective walks them through his investigation, bullet-pointing, as he goes, the singular thread that runs from the most recent Marionette-style murder, the blind witness’s description of the suspect, his recalling of the key under hypnosis, their meeting with the One-Eyed Kings, the elimination of suspects, the discrepancy in the remittance form, the microfiche, and, ultimately, Dobbs photograph.
Disney furrows his brow, knitting his eyebrows as Furor makes the case that Dobbs is the Marionette Murders serial killer. “Even with the description of a five-foot-ten-inch, two hundred and twenty pound, left-handed, Caucasian male with experience in managing a crime scene and a connection to the One-Eyed Kings, you do realize we’re, again, mounting a case based solely on circumstantial evidence? Not to mention, I didn’t hear you address the bit about surgical proficiency?”
“If I’m not mistaken,” Dykstra says, “Dobbs once told me he was raised by his uncle on a slaughterhouse farm.”
Disney. “What about this latest victim, Katherine Knox? Is there anything linking Dobbs to either her or the husband?”
Furor shakes his head. “We’ve had our guys on it for the past three days. We’ve got nothing yet.”
Disney cocks his jaw. “With no obvious connection between Dobbs and Knox, coupled with his alibi for the night of the stripper’s disappearance, I’m afraid the best we can do is put a surveillance team on him to track his movements.” Saying this, Disney nods to Portis and Lee.
“We’re on it,” Portis says.
“Likewise, I’ll see about getting a warrant to tap his phone and emails,” Disney says.
“That’s it, huh?” Furor says, kicking forward off the counter.
“Hey now, it’s a start,” Lombardo says, placing a steadying hand on his partner’s shoulder. “This way we’ll be able to clock his movements, stop him before he kills anyone else.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Furor says, brushing Lombardo’s hand away, “he’s a cop, he’s going to spot the tail. And then what?”
“At the very least, we’ll have him neutralized,” Disney says.
“Neutralized?” Furor says. “The son-of-a-bitch kills a dozen and a half people and we’re settling for neutralized!” Throwing open the door, rattles the blinds, sends a handful of loose papers into the air as Furor marches out of the room.
In the parking lot, Lombardo finds his partner waiting by the cruiser.
“Tell me something,” Lombardo says, unlocking the door, “were you really planning on shooting Dobbs right there in the middle of the precinct?”
“Don’t you get it?” Furor says. “He’s done it. He’s wrapped it so tight, he’ll never be caught.”
“I think you’re underestimating the evidence,” Lombardo says. “Sure, it’s mostly circumstantial, but it’s a hell of a lot more than we had five years ago.”
“Underestimating the evidence?” Furor says. “Are you kidding me? Look at what we have. Half of our witness description comes from a blind man, the other half from hypnotic recall.”
“You’re forgetting Dykstra can place both Dobbs and Dobbs’ car at the scene of the John Doe murder.”
“Can you picture that testimony under cross examination,” Furor says, “Dykstra explaining why he felt compelled to pay this woman a house call at two o’clock in the morning? An off-duty cop with no information on her missing friend, he’s going to look like a goddamn stalker.”
“He did make the 911 call.”
“Does that hurt or help?”
“It puts him where he says he was.”
“It puts him at the scene of a crime. It doesn’t validate his story about seeing Dobbs. Neither does the fact that he made the call anonymously, without identifying himself as a police officer, and then pretended to have been passing by when he heard the call come over his radio.”
“At least we’re not running on suspicion anymore. Inadmissible or not, we know from Dykstra’s recording that Dobbs is complicit in this subway shooting, and that he’s not working alone.”
“Are you listening to yourself? We’ve got nothing. He’s going to get away with it and there’s nothing we can do to stop him.”
“You’re right,” Lombardo says, “we can’t stop him. And unless we can come up with something to tie him to the stripper or Katherine Knox, he may get away with it. If he does, that’s just something we’re going to have to live with. But taking justice into your own hands, that’s not an option. Trading Dobbs life for the next fifty years in a cage isn’t going to make things right. Besides, you know what it’s like for cops in prison. Whatever pain you’re feeling now multiply it by twelve and make it physical, as well as, emotional. Then ask yourself, is that what Jai Mei would have wanted for you.”
“Fuck you,” Furor says, slamming the door. “I’ll walk home.”