Continued from Chapter 4.
It was approaching 6 a.m. when Colin finished interviewing Maxine Charleston. As the night began to dissipate, the soft red and orange hues of the sun glowed at the east end of G Street far off in the distance. The morning was chilly and clear, none of the pollutants in the atmosphere detracting from the liquid blue of the vanishing night. Only the brightest of the stars still made their presence known.
Someone had brought coffee and, of course, donuts.
Trudeau was emerging from “The Spike” clothing store along with the Flash and Detective Joplin. Detectives Robertson and Nunez had been relieved and had gone to their respective homes for what was to be a short nap.
Ali Smith, the lab tech, was busy marking items of evidence at his van which had now been pulled adjacent to the scene. Ali, named during his parents’ quasi embrace of the Nation of Islam during the ‘60s, was responsible for the collection of all evidence at the scene. Wearing latex gloves to prevent contamination, he carefully bagged and tagged, itemizing each piece of evidence, while dictating his report into a hand-held tape recorder for later transcription. Smith would follow the bodies to the coroner’s office to retrieve the clothing of each victim as well.
Shorthanded and under budgeted, the result of a less than sympathetic mayor and city council, Smith would complete his task alone later that day. Yet he could be expected to be called out again that evening and complete subsequent tasks the same as this one, errorless.
It was also Ali who, after a multitude of photographs by the Flash, had gently placed a yellow tarp over and around Pete’s body, all the while speaking to Pete as if to reassure him. As Colin and Joe approached the van, Ali said nothing, but acknowledged them with his sad and tired eyes.
“It’s a mess in there,” said Shelley as she approached Colin and Joe followed by Detective Joplin. Robert Joplin, from Team One, had been working with the Flash and Smith when Team Four had arrived. He offered to stay on.
Joplin was a dead ringer for the late Wally Cox and was well known for his descriptive, often poetic crime reports. In a simple drunk in public arrest report, he had once written that the subject “reeked of the fetid odor of stale urine.” When asked the meaning of the word “fetid” by his sergeant, Joplin had replied, “It’s was one of those big words Sarge…you know, like ‘mayonnaise’.”
“She’s not kidding,” added Joplin. “We should be able to get some prints of the suspect, though. Looks like he fell down. Left some great full handprints in the blood. Footprints too, almost looks like a woman’s shoe. We even got some fabric impressions, probably pant knees.”
“Don’t count on it, more like “pant-ies,” said Joe. “Ol’ Wicked Wanda decided to add her signature to the scene.”
He pointed toward Lt. Jorgenson, the blood stains on her pants and shoes clearly visible now, as she gave an interview to the three local television stations and a gaggle of assorted other reporters and curiosity seekers.
“Buy ’em books, send ’em to school and what do they do? Eat the teacher,” said Joplin. “You would think the Chief could put her somewhere like parking control so she wouldn’t be such a menace to society.”
The remark earned a quiet chuckle from the group.
“What have you got?” asked Colin returning to the task at hand.
“Well, preliminarily, it looks like Pete walked in on this thing,” said Shelley. “My gut feeling is, it wasn’t a planned ambush, but he was ambushed. He never even pulled his revolver.”
“He took two rounds,” she continued, “Looks like double-aught buck. The first hit his left knee and knocked him down. The second round hit him in the face and neck. I’m surprised his head is still attached. He just bled out, no one could have done anything,” added Shelley, not wanting to, but supporting Jorgenson nonetheless.
“In the front of the shop,” continued Joplin, “there is a young white female adult. From what we can tell, she died from one blow of a machete we found. Judging from the position of her body, she was probably standing when she was hit and fell straight back. She was hacked from the top of her right shoulder to the middle of the clavicle and rib cage. Just spilled her insides out,” he completed with a grimace.
“There’s a small storage area in the back of the store,” Shelley continued, taking over the narrative and reviewing her notes. “The third victim is in there. He’s a white male adult. We found him with his jockey shorts around his ankles and nothing else on. He was shot in the right knee, groin, chest and face, probably with a small caliber hand gun. He has a lot of jail cartoons; looks like AB.”
The cartoons Shelley was referring to were prison tattoos indicating the victim’s affiliation with the white supremacist prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood.
“Hell of a lover’s quarrel,” said Joe.
Ignoring him, Colin asked, “Was the place open for business?”
“No,” Shelley replied, “looks like a forced entry. One of the glass panels in the front door has been broken out.”
“They’re made of smoked glass,” interjected Joplin, “We didn’t notice it at first. Castillo probably missed it too.”
“Anything else before Joe and I take a look?” asked Colin.
“Well it’s one of those leather and lace shops,” said Shelley, “everything for the discriminating sadomasochist. Oh yeah, both victims inside have three small scratches on their face. Like little tiny fingernail scratches, but way too small,” she added as after checking her notes.
“Ready to take a look, Joe?” asked Colin.
“I’d rather gargle bees…let’s get it over with,” replied Joe
Colin asked the Flash to stick around in case they found something new.
The sun made its appearance as Colin and Joe headed across the street toward the late Pete Castillo.
It was Colin who gently lifted back the yellow cover. Standing, he looked down at the lifeless form of Officer Peter Ernesto Castillo. The low morning sun cast a warm red glow over the otherwise dead white complexion of the silent face. Sightless eyes, wide open, surveyed the concrete sidewalk. The jaw and neck were a mass of torn flesh and coagulated blood.
He lay on his left side, his tuffy jacket matted with drying blood. His badge was not visible, but the name tag clearly read, “P.E. Castillo,” underlined by three little stars.Pete’s hand was still clutching the holstered revolver on his right hip. His left leg was tucked under his straight right leg. The white top of the femur and knee cap were visible through the torn fabric of the once tan, now blood soaked, pant leg.
The slight downhill slope of G Street, west toward the bay had caused the flow of blood to pool for the most part behind Pete’s body. Only a small puddle of the blood formed in front of Pete’s face.
As Colin looked on, he had trouble believing this had been Pete Castillo. The same Pete Castillo who had dispensed pearls of wisdom to Colin when he was a neophyte on the street. About driving, Pete had told him, “To survive, never backup, never turn left and if you get in an accident, admit to nothing.” Colin recalled taking a crime report from one of the street people in the Heights and Pete remarking, “Today’s victims are tomorrow’s suspect.”
But Colin also remembered Pete dancing with Theresa at the Christmas party and how his face beamed with pride as they spun around the dance floor, and how her dance partners were carefully screened by the protective, stern-faced father as he sat to catch his breath. That smile under the black, droopy, non-regulation moustache and twinkling eyes gave Pete the appearance of Pancho Villa in his tacky ‘70s ruffled tuxedo shirt.Colin looked down and forced himself to understand that this was the shell Pete Castillo had inhabited and somewhere Pete was encouraging Colin to get the pinche pendejo who did this.
Colin looked over at Joe who was staring transfixed at Pete. Joe had gone on autopilot, focusing and calming himself. He had detached himself completely and was busy reconstructing the shooting in his head. His mouth moved wordlessly as he calculated the distance of the body from the door and the spread of the shotgun wound at the knee and at the face in an effort to determine where the shooter had been standing. Colin mistakenly thought Joe was saying a silent prayer over Pete.
When Joe stopped and looked up, Colin said, “They’ve photographed Pete and completed the measurements, we can get that info from Team One when we meet with them this morning. Let’s get him out of here. Anything else you notice that Joplin didn’t mention?”Joe was about to say “No,” but glanced down one more time. There at the edge of the smaller pool of blood by Pete’s head he noticed something just not quite right. There were smears in the blood behind the body consistent with Maxine’s statement that she had knelt down next to Pete. In the small pool, there were no such smears or disturbances. There was, however, one small almost perfect circle devoid of blood. The area looked like a stencil, not much bigger than a penny.Joe looked down the block at the group with Jessop and Toru, remembering what Maxine had said about the transvestite bending over Pete when she had arrived on the scene. “I’m not sure, maybe nothing.” replied Joe as he pulled his radio out of his jacket pocket.
“Hey Jessop, you on the air?” Joe inquired as he held the radio to his mouth, depressing the mike button.Colin and Joe watched as Carl fumbled to pull his radio out of his back pocket. Over the radio they heard, “This is Jessop, who’s this?””It’s Joe,” he said as he waved, Carl now looking up the street at them. Joe continued, “When you’re through with our city’s fine upper crust down there, hang on to the debutante, OK?””What have you got?” asked Carl over the radio.”I dunno…yet,” replied Joe, “just hang onto it.”
“You got it. Anything else?” inquired Carl.
“Yeah, check it for blood, especially on its hands.”
“Will do,” said Carl, finishing the conversation and waving back to Colin and Joe.
“What’s up?” asked Colin.
“These ol’ eyes ain’t so good anymore, but it looks like sumthin’s missin’,” observed Joe, pointing to the spot at the edge of the blood puddle.
“What are you talking about?” asked Colin, looking down at Pete and the surrounding area.
“There…” said Joe pointing more adamantly, and a bit angered, “There…at the edge of the puddle, see all the blood, and then the one little spot where there ain’t any? There.”
Colin now saw the small spot, or non-spot, but was somewhat put off by Joe’s condescension.
“Yeah, so what?”
“Well…maybe there was something layin’ there, and then ol’ Pete here got shot, and then maybe all this blood here flowed around that something, and then maybe someone picked that something up and just maybe that something is what we call evidence. And since nobody from our fine outstanding Team One mentioned picking up anything, just maybe that person down there of an alternative lifestyle was the one who picked that something up and has it,” replied Joe.
God my head hurts too much to be teaching Homicide Investigation 101, thought Joe.
Colin was furious. Taking a deep breath and controlling his anger he replied, “Listen, I’m sorry if I’m not making the abstract thought jumps you seem to be so capable of, but as I recall we work as a team. So if one of us misses something the others are there so it won’t be missed completely. So cut the superiority crap, you asshole.”
Colin wanted to add the adjective “drunk” to asshole but thought better of it, knowing full well he could just as easily be in Joe’s shoes. Colin also realized it was a pretty damn good observation on Joe’s part.
“Sorry pardner,” said Joe less sarcastically, knowing he had probably stepped over the edge…again. “Why don’t we check out inside. I need to do some shopping.”
He smiled in an attempt to mend fence, also not wanting to incur Scott Raines’ wrath twice in one night.
Colin sighed, rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“OK, OK,” he said. “Pete was a good buddy and maybe my head’s not completely here the way it should be. Just try not to be such an asshole. I’m not the enemy, Joe.”
“Whatever, fine with me. Let’s just not make this a whole day affair, OK?” said Joe.Colin nodded and took one more look at Pete as he followed Joe into the store.
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