“We haven’t seen him for weeks, which is odd because he was one of the most reliable employees we’ve had. He was rarely late . . . you could almost set your watch by him. He didn’t ring in to say he was sick, so we assumed he’d moved on. Has anything happened to him?” The warehouse manager’s concern was obvious to the detectives.
“Don’t be alarmed. We just came to see if he’s okay. We found his vehicle, but it wasn’t reported stolen.” Detective Andretta tried alleviating his fears.
“He hasn’t had the car long, a couple of months maybe. He used to drive an old truck.”
With the manager not being of much assistance, Detective Perez said, “If you hear of anything could you ring me?”
As they stood in the visitor car park, beside their car, Detective Andretta asked, “Why leave your car parked somewhere which isn’t near where you live?”
“I don’t know, but let’s go back to the diner. We’ll see if Stan has a key to Bruno’s apartment.”
“Why do you need it?”
“If he’s missing, wouldn’t you like to know? Do you have a key, or not?”
“Why would he be missing?”
“Think about it? When was the last time you saw him? You used to see him on a regular basis. His employer said he hasn’t been to work … so where is he?”
Stan thought for a moment, then said, “Now that you mention it, the janitor asked me if I’d seen him. His rent’s due. I told him not to do anything with the apartment until he spoke to me first. I’m just about finished here. If you wait a few minutes, I’ll look for a key.”
It wasn’t long before Stan walked from the kitchen and signalled with his right hand for them to follow.
Unfortunately, his search was in vain. “I can’t find a key, but for some reason I don’t remember having one. I’ll go downstairs and ask the janitor for a spare. Do you want to wait here, or do you want to come with me?” He wasn’t comfortable with leaving them alone; they were renowned for searching. With cops, you can never tell, he thought.
“We’ll wait here. You won’t be long, will you?” Detective Perez asked.
“I’ll make it quick.”
He left them standing in the small living area, but the front door remained wide open.
Detective Andretta noticed the painting resting on a kitchen chair. “Leah, have a look at this.”
“Looks expensive! I wonder where he got it.”
“Could be stolen?” Detective Andretta replied.
“One never knows.”
Stan came back with the spare key. “Got it!”
“Stan, where’d you get the painting from?” Detective Perez enquired.
“I didn’t steal it, if that’s what you think. I found it outside my door when I was goin’ to work.”
“Are you saying someone just left a painting in the corridor, without knocking?” Detective Perez thought his answer incredulous.
“That’s what I said.”
Detective Andretta asked, “Do you mind if I take a photo of it?”
“Do what you want … but you’re not taking it with you.”
After snapping a photo of it with his cell phone, Michael Andretta said, “We’re not here to take the painting, Stan. You have to admit though, it’s unusual.”
“Fucking waste of paint if you ask me!”
“Can we have the key, or do you want to come with us while we look around?” Detective Perez asked, with an extended hand, palm up.
I don’t want to be hanging around cops, and if they find anything, then it’s Bruno’s bad luck. “Here.” In a broody mood, he pressed the key into her palm. “Bring it back!” With that said, he sat on the couch, and with the use of the remote control turned on the television. “Maybe there’s some sport on.”
They worked their way through Bruno’s apartment, looking for anything to indicate his association with Katherine’s rape.
Rummaging through the wardrobe drawers Detective Perez came across a familiar scent, and a distinct odor.
“Michael, get in here.” It was almost command, one called from over her shoulder. She was removing the drawer from the wardrobe, just as he strode into the bedroom, “What’ve you found?”
“Come and smell this.”
As he looked into the drawer, he could see an array of cheap underwear, with an odd assortment of socks.
“Just tell me what you smell. Put your cop hat on and take a good sniff,” she asked as she handed him the drawer.
He breathed deeply through his nose. “I can smell his body odour.”
“Is that all?”
As he again took a sniff, he said, “Fresh washing, bleach, and perfume.” As quick as lightening his eyes locked onto hers. “Shit! That smells like Barbara Harris’s perfume.”
“It is Barbara Harris’s perfume! It’s the Chanel.” She slapped his bicep with the back of her hand in excitement. “I don’t understand anything this guy does. Let’s rip this place apart until we find the perfume.”
Although there was insufficient evidence for a search warrant, the discovery confirmed they were closing in on him.
Leah Perez sat on Bruno’s old couch and gave some thought to where Bruno would hide the perfume.
“Michael, do you know if his car has been searched?”
“I don’t know. It’s not stolen, and it’s not associated with a crime, so I don’t envisage anyone having searched it. Can’t we do it, if we suspect he’s a missing person?”
“We’ll have it impounded for forensics. It would be a bonanza if we could solve two serious crimes at the same time. That’s if the car contains something belonging to the Harris break in and the rape.”
They returned the key to Stan.
“Thanks for your help,” Detective Perez said.