The Mentor

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Chapter 9

It was mid-afternoon by the time Luke had located a Judge who was available to issue a search warrant for 404 Ocean Street to search behind the basement walls.

Luke also asked the Judge to sign a second search warrant. This one was for service on the Boerum Hill branch of the JP Morgan Chase Bank, to obtain account holder details of the debit card used to purchase the hardware supplies on the list provided by Stan.

Once the warrants were signed Luke intended to wait until after school had finished before he attended at the Ocean street address, knowing Megan’s work hours coincided with school hours.

In the meantime Luke contacted the Chase Bank branch in Boerum Hill to inform them he would be attending this afternoon with a search warrant. Following his phone call he scanned a copy of the warrant, and also provided a list of records he required to be provided under the warrant. These were emailed to the Branch Manager so he could source the information in advance, so it would be waiting for Luke when he arrived.

Search warrants executed on financial institutions were affectionately referred to as “friendly” warrants. This was mainly because the warrants were not executed on banks to locate evidence that can be used against the operation of the financial institution. They were served on the bank, as custodian of the banking records, as a way for law enforcement to obtain account holders’ personal banking records and transactions that were otherwise protected by privacy legislation.

It was approaching late afternoon and Luke became anxious waiting for the bank to call. He was increasingly mindful of the time. Megan would soon be arriving home from work and he hoped to conduct the search of the basement before Kirk arrived home.

When Luke’s desk phone finally rang he snapped up the receiver before it had completed its second ring. He was relieved to discover the caller was the Branch Manager from the Chase Bank calling to inform that the banking records Luke requested were ready for collection.

Luke decided to head to Ocean Street via the Chase Bank. He arranged to meet his search team of four CSI’s and two uniform officers in the street about 100 yards west of number 404 once he had finished with the bank. He specifically requested one of the uniform officers be a female, in case Megan Dupree required consoling.

Once he had executed the warrant on the Branch Manager and received the requested records, Luke attended at the scheduled rendezvous location in Ocean Street. The lack of parking spaces meant the unmarked police vehicles had to double park in the one-way street.

Luke instructed him team of officers to initially wait in their cars while he firstly spoke to Megan. He would call them in when he was ready to conduct the search.

Luke chose this course of action as a courtesy to Megan. It would be distressing for her to open the door and be confronted by six police officers glaring back at her. He wanted to ease her into the search warrant carefully.

Megan was jovial when she opened the door to Luke. ‘Detective…twice in the one day…This is becoming a habit,’ she smiled. ‘Come in…what can I do for you this time?’

Luke entered without answering and stood in the foyer.

'Can I get you a coffee or something else…? She indicated towards the rear kitchen. 'You were lucky you caught me, I am just in from work.’

Luke shook his head. ‘No thank you…I’m fine.’

Megan smiled. She looked at Luke with a questioning gaze, waiting for him to tell her why he was there.

‘I just wanted to ask you some questions about the night you came home from Manhattan.’

‘Sure,’ Megan said.

‘You mentioned that when you came home you went upstairs and looked in on Emily…’

‘That’s right.’

’Can I ask…How did you know Emily was in her bed at that time?

Megan returned a puzzled look at Luke. Her brow dipped. ‘I don’t understand Detective…’ she shook her head. ‘I…saw her in her bed,’ she said.

‘OK…’ Luke said trying to tread as carefully as possible with his questioning. 'Yes but…did you actually see Emily in the bed…? What I mean is…Was what you saw a body shape under the covers, or did you actually see Emily in bed…you know, her head, or an arm protruding from the covers?’

Megan thought for a moment. ‘I stood at the door to Em’s room and looked in…’ Megan began. ‘I saw her in the bed…’ she said. ‘But no…’ she shook her head, ‘come to think of it, I didn’t see any part of her body…just the shape of her body under the covers.’

Luke nodded his understanding. ‘OK. You mentioned that Kirk told you not to wake her and he closed the door back over,’ he said.

Megan nodded. ‘That’s right. He said she had been waiting up for me to come home…’ she said. ‘And if I woke her she would be too excited to go back to sleep…I hadn’t been home all weekend you see, and we miss each other when I go on these work trips.’

Luke nodded. ‘I understand. Can you tell me… did Kirk spend a lot of time on his own with Emily?’

‘Oh yes, he was great with her, especially on weekends. He took her to the parks and things, on walks… he played with her a lot. He loved her…and she loved him,’ Megan said.

‘Were you always with them when they played or visited parks?’

‘Sometimes…but not always,’ she answered with a puzzled expression.

‘Who bathed Emily in the evenings?’ Luke asked.

Megan frowned. Her eyebrows plunged into her face forming a distinct “V” above the bridge of her nose. ‘I did…we both did. Look, what’s going on Detective…?’ Megan asked. ‘What are you saying to me?’

Luke asked if it would be better if they took a seat, but Megan abruptly insisted she was fine standing where they were. She again asked Luke what was going on. Why was he there?

He started by asking if she was aware of any plumbing problems in her house recently; any pipes bursting. Megan said she was not aware of any such issues. She again asked why this form of questioning.

Luke continued to proceed carefully.

'I noticed fresh paint on the basement wall this morning when we were down there – the dark blue colored wall,’ Luke began. 'I recall that you mentioned there had not been any renovations in the basement for years, even though the wall had clearly been recently painted.

’Yes, but that was based on as far as I knew, but that didn’t mean that some renovations hadn’t happened without my knowledge,’ Megan said.

The time had come for Luke to play his trump card. ‘When I noticed that the basement wall had been repainted, I conducted some inquiries to see if any building supplies had been purchased while you were in Manhattan…’ Luke removed the printout from Harrisons Hardware and Building Supplies from his folder. He handed it to Megan.

Megan accepted the document and commenced to read.

‘You will see that a number of items, including a 10 x 4 feet sheet of drywall and tools and accessories were purchased on the Saturday you were in Manhattan.’

Megan continued to read the printout. Luke removed the delivery docket and showed it to Megan.

Megan’s eyes lifted to the delivery docket. Moving slowly, she accepted it from Luke. 'You will see on that delivery docket from Harrisons Hardware and Building Supplies that they delivered a 10 x 4 feet sheet of drywall to this address on the morning of Saturday the 3rd. Do you recognize the signature on the bottom of that docket?’

Megan’s eyes didn’t move. She nodded slowly while staring blankly at the delivery docket. ‘Yes…it’s Kirk’s signature.’ Her confused eyes lifted to meet Luke’s. ‘Why was all this purchased…?’ she asked.

Luke didn’t answer her question. He opened the file in his hand and slid out a copy of the transaction statement from their joint account, which he obtained under warrant.

While holding onto the record he indicated to Megan the $220 transaction at Harrisons Hardware and Building Supplies on Saturday the 3rd of this month verified the purchase was paid for from their account. And given she was in Manhattan at the time, it verified the purchase was made by Kirk. Megan held a prolonged stare at the banking record in silence.

Luke motioned towards the street. ‘I have a team of specialists waiting in the street at the moment…’ he said, Luke removed the search warrant from his file. ‘I want to look behind the wall in the basement,’ he said as he handed the copy search warrant to Megan.

Megan accepted the warrant and glanced at it briefly. Without reading it she lifted her pained eyes to Luke. ‘What for…What are you looking for behind my wall, Detective…?’ Megan asked.

Luke’s experience in reading people told him deep down, she already knew the answer to that question.

‘At this stage we don’t know what is behind there… that is why we’re looking,’ he said. ‘All we do is drill some small pilot holes in the wall and pass a camera on a cord through. If nothing is there I will personally fill up the holes myself…’ Luke said.

Luke assumed by Megan’s silence that she would not offer any immediate resistance to the search. While she stood reading the warrant Luke opened the front door and moved out onto the front landing. He waved to the officers waiting in their vehicles parked in the street, motioning to them to come in.

Megan accompanied the police search team down into the basement. She stood off to the side with her arms crossed. A female officer stood by her side.

Luke asked Phil Duff to show Megan the camera and explain to her how it works – as a courtesy.

Phil removed the camera from its hard case. It was a yellow device with a shape that resembled a tradesman’s drill. There was a control panel with a small screen located on the top, facing the device operator.

Attached to the front was a flexible cable about three feet long that had a small camera with LED lights attached to the end.

Once the cable and camera was inserted into the wall it was manipulated by the control panel.

Megan appeared to be watching the impromptu demonstration, but she didn’t appear to care.

Phil informed Megan that they would drill a small inspection hole in the wall and pass the camera through to see what is on the other side.

Megan stood with her arms across her body, like she was embracing herself. Her expression was morose as she watched the Crime Scene Investigator drill hole after hole in her basement wall, thread the camera through and after finding nothing, move on to the next space of wall.

After about thirty minutes without success, Luke started to question if there was anything behind the wall. He started to consider that maybe there had been a burst pipe.

While the search continued Luke’s attention was drawn to a male voice at the top of the basement stairs. It was Kirk standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the light from the foyer behind him. He had just returned home from work and noticed the commotion in the basement.

Kirk quickly descended the stairs and moved towards a distressed Megan.

Being of average height—about 5 feet 9 and around 150 pounds, Kirk was a lean built man with a pale complexion.

‘What the hell is going on here, Megs?’ Kirk asked as his eyes flicked to the CSI officers, each of whom had momentarily ceased what they were doing and watched Kirk’s entry into the room.

Megan ran and embraced Kirk as he stepped from the stairs. ‘They think something might be behind the wall.’

‘Like what…?’ Kirk snapped, as he frowned at Luke.

Luke showed Kirk the list of items that Kirk purchased from Harrisons Hardware and Building Supplies on the 3rd of this month. Kirk snatched the list from Luke’s hand and briefly examined it.

‘So…what about it…?’ He held the list out to Luke. ‘Is that what this is about…?’ he gestured to the CSI’s at the wall. ‘Unbelievable…’ Kirk shook his head as he turned away from Luke and ran his fingers through his hair.

Kirk spun back to face Luke. He aggressively jabbed a finger at the wall. ‘I bought that stuff because a pipe burst under the house and I had to replace it…I had to cut the wall to get in to where it was located.’

Kirk took hold of Megan’s hands. ‘I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to worry about it,’ Kirk said with convincing compassion as he looked into Megan’s eyes. ‘I fixed the problem, but I had to repair the wall afterwards,’ he said.

Megan was convinced. Her eyes narrowed. Her glare shifted to Luke. Her expression was as clear as if she had uttered the words - Are you satisfied now?

Luke did not buy Kirk’s little theatrical display. ‘Can you show me what part of the wall you replaced?’ Luke asked.

‘What…?’ Kirk asked, a little too quick for Luke’s liking. Kirk’s eyebrows were arched as he rubbed a nervous hand through his hair.

Luke instantly knew Kirk’s story was bullshit. Years of interviewing guilty offenders, often for violent and horrific crimes had taught him how to read a guilty suspect’s tells; their body language.

One of the most popular responses by a guilty person to a tricky question was “What?”, or “can you repeat the question?” It’s a ploy often used to buy some time while they think of a suitable response. And that was exactly what Kirk just did. Rubbing his hands through his hair indicated a nervous reaction.

Luke re-asked the question to Kirk. This seemed to infuriate Kirk. He ranted about not putting up with this shit as he removed his mobile phone and made a call.

Luke recognized that this was also a way to avoid identifying the part of the wall he repaired. Attack is often the best form of defense by the guilty.

After a while it was evident Kirk was talking to his lawyer on the phone.

‘Are they able to damage my wall like this…?’ Kirk asked the person on the phone. ‘I don’t know, I haven’t seen it,’ Kirk said. Kirk arrogantly clicked his fingers at Luke and held his hand out. ‘The search warrant…’ Kirk said beckoning with his hand. Luke handed Kirk his copy of the search warrant.

Luke watched Kirk read it out to the person on the phone.

‘They can’t do that to my wall, can they…?’ Kirk asked. His expression tightened. ‘Yeah, but how can they just–’ Kirk stopped mid-sentence. He nodded as he listened. ‘Well who’s gonna repair the wall when they’ve finished?’ he asked. ‘Right…OK…I understand…’ Kirk ended the call and returned his mobile phone to his pocket.

Kirk waved the back of his hand at Luke. ‘Call me when you’ve finished,’ Kirk said then moved towards the foot of the stairs.

‘Before you go…’ Luke began. ‘You still have to show me which part of the wall you replaced,’ Luke said.

Kirk stopped and paused momentarily with his back to Luke before slowly pivoting around to face him. Kirk’s eyes flicked to the wall, then to the CSI’s who were waiting for his response. ‘I can’t remember…’ he flicked a hand out towards the wall. ‘It was over there somewhere…’ he said.

Luke realized exactly what Kirk was doing. He was avoiding showing the area of the wall he had replaced, and that concerned Luke. It was apparent to Luke that if Kirk had repaired a burst pipe, as he claimed and there was nothing sinister in his actions of repairing the wall, then Luke felt Kirk would have no hesitation to point out the exact section of wall he repaired.

But clearly he was avoiding doing this. Luke turned to the CSI’s and nodded. ‘Keep going guys,’ he instructed. Luke watched Kirk ascend the stairs. He motioned with his head to a male officer to follow Kirk upstairs. ‘Stay with him until you hear from me,’ Luke instructed the officer.

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