The 5 Stages of Grief

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Book 5, Acceptance / Chapter 1, Lt. King

Sam’s calm exterior did nothing to describe his emotion, his molten heart spilling over, increasing the weight already thrust upon his shoulders.

“You’re what?” The shocked look on his friend as if he’d been slapped, still lingered even minutes after he’d been given the news.

“I’m leaving. I’m moving back to Boston.”

“What the fuck for? I mean, Jesus man, you’re the best we’ve got. Everybody knows it.”

“Apparently not everybody.”

Scott stared at him, perplexed. “What’s that supposed to mean? Everyone says—”

He cut him off. After all, what did it matter what everyone supposedly said? “They passed me over again.”

“For Captain? Are you kidding me? I heard you had it in the bag. That—”

“They gave it to Johnson.”

“Johnson! That fuck isn’t worthy of shining your shoes! How the hell could he get the promotion and not you?” The heat in his Sergeant’s face left no doubt of his anger, his confusion. Sam couldn’t blame him as he felt the same – well, maybe not as confused.

“Johnson’s not white, simple as that. It’s a political maneuver by the Mayor. It’s an election year and they probably figure it will help win them some votes. Anyway, it’s not such a bad thing, Chloe’s old man and I go way back. He’s pulled some strings. I’m driving up to Boston for an interview. Apparently, I am the right color for the job there.” His grin was contagious. His friend caught it and smiled too.

Scott looked at him a minute, studying his face. “This just bites – for me, I mean…” the words hung for a while. Rhonda poured them some fresh coffee though remained silent, sat down at the table beside the Sergeant.

“Who are they going to dump me with, Butler? I won’t work with that jerk-off. He will prob—”

“Whoa there, Sergeant! Let’s not jump to conclusions.” He couldn’t hide his face splitting grin. “I’ve heard and on pretty-good authority, that you’re up for my job—”

“Shut the front door! Are you serious?” It was Rhonda. He’d not expected her to jump in. They were both staring at her.

He smiled, nodded his head. “Very – but there would be some conditions attached….” He felt his face heat, his chest constrict a little.

Scott sat still, staring, stunned, speechless.

Again, it was Rhonda who spoke up. “Like?”

He didn’t skirt the issue, there was no point and besides, that wasn’t his style. “A.A., it’s not an option.”

Rhonda turned to Scott, searching for signs, who shook himself from the stupor that had immobilized him. Sam watched the two of them, the scene as it unfolded in front of him – a life-altering moment, a monumental decision for his closest friend. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath.

“I’m telling you – it’s like a bloody circle. There are deaths, murders, in three, maybe four…. What am I saying? We’ve no idea how widespread this might be, and all trails lead back to the same guy.” The Sergeant was frustrated, they all were. Every lead appeared a dead end. No, he corrected himself, not dead – cold – very, very cold.

They were still there, the three of them, his whole investigative team and one of them not even official. Actually, he’d get fired with cause if anyone ever caught whiff of the fact they had Rachel helping. Yet why should I give a shit? For the first time in his Baltimore career, he’d been denied extra assistance upon request. Yet, as always, he’d found a way to get the job done anyway.

Rhonda was on the computer, signed in with his name to give them the highest level of security. That, in itself, could land me in jail, he thought, grinning every time he heard her punch the keys. Of course, there was Scott – he, being lead investigator of this thing and the man in charge. And last but not least, as they say, there was he, Lieutenant Sam King.

Most guys could never put themselves under one of their men, but Sam was not most guys and besides, Scott was his closest friend and he owed him this. To help him break this case would mean he was a shoe-in for his replacement. It was the least he could do for all the things Scott had done for him over the years. He’d made Sam look first-class that was for damn sure.

The Sergeant had them huddled around the kitchen table in their tiny apartment. The intensity sizzling from him put an extra spark into each of them, helping them stay focused. It wasn’t always easy with Rhonda sitting there – at least not for him. Not only was he positive he’d seen her perform before under her stage name, Pink – enough said. She was barely contained within her outfit and he was waiting for her to explode from it any moment.

She was so distracting, he’d even called Scott aside for a little man-to-man. “Scotty,” he trailed-off then gathered himself and began again. “I honestly don’t know how to say this, my friend, so I’m just gonna come right out and say it. Rhonda’s clothes buddy…. I mean, she looks like a stripper.” He was sure his face was ten times as crimson as it felt.

Scott’s, on the other hand, wasn’t red in the least. “She is a stripper, Sam. Or should I say was and not more than a week ago. What am I supposed to do – pretend she wasn’t?” Scott laughed then added, “Do you think it’s the mammoth tits that give it away?”

Rhonda heard him and turned from the sink where she’d been tidying up. “What about my tits?” She asked as she grabbed hold, one in each hand, and gave them a shake. She wasn’t stupid, she knew he’d been looking at them, her – hell, everything and all day. His face felt so hot he thought he might explode.

She walked over and gave him a hug, her breasts practically pushing the wind out of him. “It’s useless regretting who we are Lieutenant and I’m not ashamed I did what I had to in order to get by. Last week I was a stripper named Pink. I know that you know because I never forget a face – not even the shy ones.” She smiled, reached up to mess his hair. “This week, I’m not. Once again, I’m Rhonda Sinclair and my man is a Sergeant in the Baltimore Police Department and if all goes well, soon to be Lieutenant.” Rhonda glanced at Scott, who now stood blushing.

“The fact my clothes are still Pinks, is simple. Until this case closes, we have no time to go shopping. I know how to be a lady, Sam. Though, I’m afraid my massive tits may lead people to think otherwise.” Her grin was contagious. “And don’t even think reduction. My Scotty likes them too much the way they are. Don’t you honey?” Sergeant Whitford didn’t need to answer as his beaming smile said it all.

“Now, does anybody mind if we get back to work?” Their leader had spoken.

“Let’s go over it one more time to make sure we’ve got it ,” Scott said. Sam had to admire him – he was going to make a damn fine Lieutenant. If he chooses to accept their conditions, that is. No matter, he’s a brilliant cop, one of the best I’ve ever worked with. He’ll land on his feet, with Rhonda’s help. He was surprised how much he’d come to respect her and in such a short while.

“Who’s got Marcus?”

“I do.” Sam snapped out of his reflection, began shuffling through his papers and pulled out the report. Of course, Marcus was the easy one as they’d all been working on the guy and shared the most information on him.

“Without bogging us down in the obvious, what’ve you got on him?”

“Marcus Smith. We’ve yet to confirm his last name. Thirty-seven years old, loner – of course, does not appear to have a job or a fixed address. Says he’s a courier and yet can’t give us the name of a company he’s worked for in the last ten years and frankly we just don’t have the time or manpower to search very hard.” The Lieutenant paused a moment to take a sip of his fresh poured coffee – it was the third pot, his fifth or sixth cup – then looked up. Scott gave him the nod to continue, the indication that he understood it was not Sam’s fault. He continued, “No relations, girlfriends, family – not that we can find. No pets. No nothing. Doesn’t exist outside of his relationship with the Doctor.” He put the Marcus papers off to the side and looked up.

“Oh-yeah, I almost forgot. He also – according to testimony – is the one who killed the Doctor’s wife, a Mrs. Joanne Reichmann. As well as his secretary, Debbie Wilkinson and his maid, Gloria Thompson. Though the maid doesn’t appear premeditated like the others. More of a wrong-place, wrong-time situation for the poor woman.” Finished, he pushed back in his chair and pulled a cigar from his breast pocket. Rhonda got up immediately and opened the window, Scott pushed over an ashtray. He still couldn’t believe they let him smoke the things in their apartment. They not only didn’t mind they encouraged it, said they enjoyed the smell.

“Next,” Scott said, looking over his notes. “And in no particular order as there is still too many holes to set one, is Jeremy. Who has Jeremy?”

Sam grinned as Rhonda raised her hand. She was so proud to be here, working with them, using her brain. The fact that they were working on multiple murders didn’t seem to faze her at all. She would have made a tremendous cop, he thought to himself.

“You don’t have to put up your hand, honey,” Scott told her. His smile was kind, not condescending as most cops were with civilians, at least when it concerned police work. Anyone could see he was proud of her. “Go ahead. What’ve you got?”

“Although we can’t be a hundred percent sure – this one going all the way back to sixty nine-seventy – I believe this is our guy.” She looked up for approval. The Sergeant nodded, gave her a wink. She continued, “His name is Jeremy Campbell, born July 17th, 1953. He grew up in New York State to a once wealthy family, though for whatever reason, they didn’t have any money left – just the pretense and attitude. Nothing else seems remarkable – private schools and the like, though there’s no indication they could afford it. That is, until sixty-nine when his mother died. It’s listed in the coroner’s report as an accident. However, the cops seemed to have thought otherwise.” Rhonda’s head jerked up in search of their reactions.

“It’s okay Rhonda,” said Sam, barely holding in his laugh. “We say cops too.”

She grinned, lit a smoke, carried on. “Seems they suspected foul play and Jeremy was their prime suspect…” she let it hang. He could see she was enjoying herself, felt empowered using her brain.

Sergeant Whitford bit. “Well?”

Rhonda giggled. It was mesmerizing the way it jiggled her chest. Sam tried not to look. “Seems they didn’t have enough on him, so had to let him go. I got most of this stuff from your guys’ files with the help of Sam’s code, as any news – and I do mean any news – has been squashed at the source. Apparently, the Campbell’s weren’t poor after all, just the mother. Not wanting to tarnish the name, big-money slipped out of the woodwork and made certain the story went away, which was exactly the same time that Jeremy did. There’s not been the slightest trace of him since.”

Sam watched the Scott’s face as he assessed this information. It was a wonder to watch him work. He had a natural affinity for the puzzles they put in front of him. Not like himself, his progress had been more political. They’d made a formidable team. I’m really gonna miss the bastard.

“Bethany. Isn’t that you Sam?” The voice shook him from another daydream.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, picking up the proper papers from the stack to his left. “Bethany – funny thing this one.” He felt his face contort as it always did when he was thinking. “According to records, and I searched every damn one of them, there’s no such person.” He looked around to make sure he had their attention. He did. “The closest thing I could find, according to the notes from the Doctor and the timelines of when she told him the crime was committed – or should I say crimes, as it was a double homicide and believe me this is a stretch – happened in New Mexico. Back in eighty-four I think. Or was it eighty-five? I can’t remember. I’ll have to check—′

“Never mind that, Sam. What else have you got? You said it was a stretch – how so?”

“Right. Well, the stretch part, and believe me when I say I’m stretchin’, ‘cause this is wild – the actual victims are woman. A Mrs. Valarie Hopkins and her mother.” He turned a few pages in search for the name. “A Mildred Dorfmyer, if you can believe it. What a horrible frickin’ handle.”

The Sergeant didn’t laugh. He appeared lost in thought. “Why do you think the two are the same? As you’ve said yourself – this looks like a stretch.”

Sam grinned. He was hoping his friend would ask. He knew this was a fine piece of work he’d done and just hoped he’d gotten it right. His guts told him he did. “The M.O. my little buddy, it matches the description in the Doctor’s notes – exactly. And get this, the killer – or should I say the suspected killer as it was never proven, never went to trial – is the husband, a Mr. Bradley Hopkins.”

“And where is Mr. Hopkins now? Or should I guess?” Sergeant Whitford was beaming, practically blinding him.

“You don’t have too. You already know.”

“Disappeared? Nowhere to be found?”

“Correct. So far I’ve only utilized the electronic files. Not the best as they’ve yet to upload any pics from that far back into their data-system. It appears Bum-fuck, New Mexico is not up to date with the latest technological advancements.” The other two laughed, especially with the comment coming from him. “Anyway, I’ve got the hard files being couriered up. They should be here later today.

“Anyone wanna place a bet on who this guy looks like – only younger?”

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