Chapter 1: Bell Town, October 30, 2005
The rain was a soft drizzle that wetted the cheek and made the streets of Bell Town a shiny mirror of yellow light. Officer Malley tuned out the drunken revelers on Pike Street and pumped hard. “Officer Malley. En route to possible homicide at Bell Town Suites. I’m on bike, and things are cooking here. Need backup."
There was a snarling response of static, then the dispatcher came on. “Detectives Bruski and Suarez are on scene. I’m getting you backup. Can you give me any more information?”
Malley dismounted his mountain bike under cover of the apartment canopy. “Just a tip from a street person that something bad went down at Bell Town Suites. No suspects.”
The phone snarled again, “You have the name of the person.”
“He’s street person on First Ave. Goes by name of Willie. We all know him. Pan handles down here. Never been problem for us.”
The dispatcher’s voice was robotic. “His last name?”
“I don’t know. We all know him. I’m going inside now”.
“I’ll tell the detectives you’re there and what’s the address? Never mind I have it. Back-up's on the way.”
Bruski filled the frame of the glass door. A veteran Seattle Police detective, his bright red face was a beacon of history. Malley could see he had loosened his thin tie over billowing shirt creases; his love handles bounced on his belt as he shoved the door open. Bruski had the build of a heavy weight wrestler, and his beefy hand could flatten your face. His head was shaved and Malley could see the bristles of white hair sprouting from his thickened scalp. Not a real friendly doorman, Malley thought, but this was no ordinary visit either. Bruski's forehead wrinkled as he backed away. “You know this victim, patrolman?”
“I stop in every so often and have coffee with her. If its Delores.”
“We don’t know who it is, but somebody down here definitely did not like her”. Bruski led him to the front desk, where Detective Suarez was leaning over the blood drenched corpse of a female whose eyes were bulging from blackened sockets caked with blood. Malley moved to the side of Suarez.
“Back off. This is a crime scene." Saurez commanded; his voice loud and excited. "Just stand where you are. Can you recognize her?”
“She’s got the white blouse and black silk kerchief. Blond hair?” Malley queried the detective.
“Bleached blond. You know her?”
“Yeah, it’s Delores the manager here.” Malley dutifully answered.
“She stays this late every night?” The detective asked in professional tone without looking up at Malley.
“She does, but she works in the office behind and keeps it locked.”
Malley was watching Saurez like an accuser. “And who’s Willie, the tipster?”
“I told dispatch he’s been on the street for long time. We all know him. Does some panhandling.” Malley's voice was matter of fact.
“What was he doing in here?’ Saurez was moving the victim’s head. Bruski threw him latex gloves to make it professional before a young officer.
“She fed him leftover dinners late at night,” Malley answered.
Sirens were getting loud, converging down 3rd, up 1st and down Pike.
“Anything going on out there tonight?” Saurez asked routinely.
“No, it’s been quiet." Malley didn't even pause to think. "Same drunks going home or to the lot across the street to pass out. It’ll be quiet in an hour.”
“Officer, take the back-up and start talking to these people. Wasn’t there a dump of convicts from the Wall on 1st and Pike today?”
“Yeah, there were some new faces out there tonight. Probably out of Walla Walla Prison.” Malley knew the neighborhood and its cycle of life - and its deaths.
Saurez never made eye contact, seemingly fixated on the head wounds. Without looking up he gave the patrolman orders. “There were some murderers dumped out there today. Take the back-up you called in and hit the street. Somebody’s got blood on his hands,”
“What about a room check? The place is full,” Malley asked.
“We’ll do that. And, anyone on the run is going to have to pass through us."
“There are fire escapes.”
“You know where they are. Watch them.” Saurez's tone of voice was deprecating. He had no respect for patrol and police uniforms. He made dicks fast in his career and carried weight in Seattle PD. Saurez stripped off his blood stained latex gloves and headed for the office. The door was unlocked. Lights were on.
“There’s money in there. She takes a lot of cash and does her books at night.” Malley cautiously warned the detective.
“We’re going to check that now. Probably a robbery. It’s pretty messed up in here. Somebody was looking for something.”
“Detective, nobody has to look very hard with Delores. She has a cash box, and that’s where everything worth anything is.”
“How do you know that?’ Bruski had been staring at him. Malley almost forgot the big man was still there.
“We look out for her at night.” He faced the red globe of Bruski's head.
“She have a gun?” Bruski picked up the interrogation.
“She does, and she knows how to use it. Over there bottom drawer.” Malley's answer was so quick it should have raised suspicion. But Saurez simply reached for the drawer.
“Here, Juan, don’t forget these.” A packet of latex gloves flew into the office from Bruski, and Saurez grabbed it as if a butterfly.
“No gun. What was it?”
“357 Magnum." Malley answered.
“And the cash box?” Saurez was officious. A real pro stepping casually through his thousandth crime scene.
“She probably had that on the desk.“
“It’s gone too.” Saurez was putting it together for a robbery.
“But, the place is a mess. What were they looking for?” Malley had to ask even though he was in the company of veteran detectives.
“Officer Malley, that’s our job. Now get out there and find the guy with blood on his hands. This is not the most complex case.”
“What about staking out the building?” Malley asked as routine matter for this crime scene.
“Oh right. Get your Sgt over here and stake it out. But you know the street, and somebody out there like Willie saw this.” Saurez was close to retirement, impatient and impervious to ghoulish corpses soaked in blood.
Malley was getting shoved out. Same crap from Detectives. They don’t even remember when they were walking the street too. Not a breath of compassion. He was thinking, "Delores was our friend. She took care of us; we took care of her. These guys don’t give a shit." Malley turned quickly to hide his contempt and pushed open the door. There were already blue lights rotating through the mist and bouncing off the windows of Bell Town. A small crowd of locals was gathering, but this wasn’t that big a deal to fill the streets. Some bare shoulders could be seen from apartments, but it was no riot. Just one hell of a brutal murder of the legendary woman of Bell Town, Delores Cheney Wright.
The ambulance was backing up to the canopied entrance; two medics jumped out, fitting their black gloves while jumping the curb. A patrol car skidded in next to it and a Yul Brunner look-alike jumped out. “Who’s in there?”
“Residents, two detectives and a dead night manager, Sergeant.” Malley answered.
“No.” Malley didn't wait for more commands and walked away.
“Cordon off this building. Take the fire escapes.” The sergeant ordered.
There were a dozen officers on site now, and half of them ran around the block to the alley in back.
“Shouldn’t we rope off the entrance?” Malley turned and asked.
“How the hell long have they been in there?”
“At least an hour, Sarge."
“They don’t have tape?”
“Don’t know sir. They told me to check the neighborhood for suspects. She was robbed.”
“It’s a little late now. This is a crime scene. Tape it.”
Sgt Hughes handed Malley a roll of yellow crime scene tape.
The entry door gapped as a Medic backed out holding the stretcher. They passed quickly; Delores Cheney Wright was enshrouded in white and headed for the King County Morgue. As the ambulance left slowly heading towards Pike Street, the flashing red lights left a peculiar afterglow. Blue light bounced off the wet walls and windows of Bell Town – hardly an atmosphere of emergency. Yet, a woman known to all in the neighborhood was gone – bludgeoned to death for a few thousand bucks. Headline news for the Local Section of Seattle PI in the morning and part of the body count on the morning news in a few hours. Years later for Mark Germaine, Chief Criminal Investigator for the State of Washington, it was to be a fresh shiny file - a cold murder case - dusted off by sloppy investigators and personally delivered to him by the state attorney general with the soft but firm message, "solve this."
Complete with boxes of paper and computer discs, it would be the history of an older and rawer Seattle and a view into the future of a modern cluster of glass skyscrapers competing to reach into space. This had been a logging town, a Navy town and the shipping-off point for miners heading for the Klondike. Brothels were always here and ignored. Madams from the past - even their murders - made for rich westerns. The murder of madam Delores Cheney Wright, however, was no crude western. Mark Germaine knew the moment his boss left him that his 20th story suite in the glitzy new Seattle high-rise came with both accoutrements to impress and organized crime that spanned the world. As a retired Seattle Police detective he would grow up fast or perish like the rest in this case. For Mark Germaine it was not cold; it was hot and would gnaw at his insides for years. His relatively simple life had changed, and that bloodied corpse from Bell Town would lead this reverent Catholic to either heaven or hell. His story would soon begin - not with records and computer files delivered from the state capitol in Olympia - but real drama and people he should have known - but didn't - even existed.