Scene One: Behind the Dumpster
It would be a beautiful day if you were someplace nice; but hanging out on a patch of dirt surrounded by dumpsters full of food-scraps definitely doesn’t qualify. At least there are four or five uniforms hanging around, keeping the local rubber-neckers (mostly staff from the take-away places that back onto the lot) away from the crime tape as a couple of crime scene technicians finish their scene sketches and fill out their paperwork.
As Detective Greg Stevens and Detective Matais Guerrero pull up behind the medical examiners’ van, the smell of the rotten food fermenting in the L.A. sun rolls into the car. They approach the body as the ME is stripping off her gloves.
Nolan: “The victim is male, early thirties, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the body, and a single shot to the face. My preliminary analysis suggests that the shot to the head was at close range, but we’ll be able to confirm that back at the lab. The crime scene boys have taken the initial photos, and when I was doing a liver probe to calculate time of death, I found this.”
She hands Guerrero an evidence bag with a wallet.
Stevens switches over to thermal vision for a moment, blinking as his eyes adjust to the bright glow of the big metals bins. It is well past eleven, and their heat casts a pseudo-light over the scene that his senses interpret as green. He is momentarily disoriented, as his brain tries to reconcile the normal image with the thermal highlights; his partner and the ME burn almost as brightly as the dumpsters, but the body becomes less distinct, fading into the ground.
Stevens: “I guess you are stuck with us, eh? He has to have been here a while to get this cool; last night, would you say, doc? The multiple gunshots brought him down, the one to the face to be sure he stayed that way. Were the shots to the body in the front or back?”
While talking, Stevens casts his trained eye over the scene, noting the yellow evidence card next to a single small-calibre casing, the tissue splatter surrounding the head like a halo, and the lack of blood from the rest of the body. The ground is covered with the footprints of the people who use these dumpsters every day, dragging sacks of garbage to their final resting place; any trace of a scuffle would be lost in the noise. (S: 0 Evidence Collection)
Nolan: “How do you know… of course. HCIU. You’re right, temperature and rigor suggest he died twelve to fourteen hours ago. The shots that hit his torso appear to have entered from the rear. Like I said, I’ll have more for you when we get the body back to the lab, but Detective Hutchins thought you’d want to look at the scene before things got moved.”
Nolan: “A white middle-class guy shot behind a strip mall? He figured the guy for either a druggie or a john, and that he’d ran into something bad—which means there’ll be no connection, no leads, and next to no chance of closing the case, and that means it was going to hang around his desk like a bad smell; or so I gather from all the bitching he was doing on the phone, instead of looking at the scene. Until the local TV crew turned up, that is; oh, he did a great line in reassuring cop then, with a healthy side order of determination to bring the perpetrator to justice. And after that, well, the wallet turned up, and he was off the hook.”
Guerrero, nodding: “Right, a news item; I wondered why the guy has so many fans.” He glances to the people trying to gawk from the police lines, and then turns to his partner. “So, what do you think, Stevens?”
Stevens “If he was shot in the back, he most likely fell face down, and then needed to be turned over for the face shot; so whoever did this at least had to handle the body a bit to do that. Maybe we can pull something off the body back at the lab: hair or fibres that don’t fit. Has anyone checked down that way for more casings?”
Stevens gestures in the direction the feet are pointing. “We’re missing some casings, and maybe stray bullets around here. With the lack of blood and extra casings, I’m thinking this is a dump site, not the murder scene. We’ll need to canvas the area, see if we can get some witnesses, or if anyone heard the gunfire. We can see if anyone saw a large car or SUV around the time of the gunfire too, if it is a dumpsite. You see anything else I’ve missed, Guerrero?”
Guerrero opens the wallet slightly inside the bag. “Cash and credit-cards intact, and he’s still got his watch, so it’s not a robbery.” He squats down and looks at the casing. “It’s a .32 Auto, so it’s probably a small pistol, maybe a concealed carry; not a huge boom, but I guess someone might have heard something. Given pattern of the splatter, I’m betting we’ll be digging a bullet out from under his head—that’ll give us something to match against, at least.” (G: 1 Evidence Collection)
He looks at the body more carefully, ignoring the bloodstains. “Let’s see: he’s still in his office shirt, see the clip marks from the badge? I guess that means he didn’t go out last night, or didn’t make it home.” He looks up at Stevens. “I think you’re right—it’s a dumpsite. Let’s get some uniforms knocking on doors, see if anyone heard…” (S: 0 Sense Danger; Rolled 3 against 2)
Suddenly, there are screams from the crowd as a flaming bottle arcs towards the detectives; a voice bawls, “Mutie lovers!”
It’s in moments like this that we see what is important to people—Nolan is reaching desperately for the body-bag to protect the scene when Guerrero’s flying tackle knocks the ME off her feet and behind a dumpster. The uniforms push back the crowd, or go for their guns, or simply look stunned; and Stevens dives for cover… and without pausing scrambles around the back of the dumpsters for a view of the crowd. The teens in their fast-food uniforms and hairnets have scattered back from a skinny white guy in a sunglasses and a baseball cap, his black bandanna pulled up over his mouth, who is running from the scene as fast as his legs can carry him. Stevens’ eyes dart for details (dark jacket, jeans, generic trainers, short dark hair) even as he hears the crash of the bottle and the hot wash of heat from the fireball.
The two nearest uniforms hesitate, and then start to run after the thrower; Stevens hears Nolan bawling at the technicians to get an extinguisher as he grabs the heavy body-bag to help smother the flames. “Get the fire out!” he yells, but it feels like minutes before he is swathed in white powder.
Stevens shrugs: “I hope those uniforms have not had their morning doughnuts, because there is no way I could catch him from here. Doc, you said the wallet turned up after Hutchins’ little press conference, right? How the hell did that guy know that we are ‘mutie lovers’? And he had a molotov cocktail handy? Something is hinky about this. We’ve barely been here five minutes!”
Nolan waves him away like a pesky fly: “Yes, yes, Hutchins’ precious media circus was long gone, and he was looking for any excuse to get out. The idiot tossed me the wallet as if it wasn’t vital evidence and strolled to the line, declaring to I don’t-know-who that if it was a damn chrome case, then it was a lixer problem. The windbag.”
Guerrero looks thoughtful, and grabs a passing crime scene technician. “We’ll want any pictures you have of the crowd, especially those in the direction that Hutchins left in; and take some more.” When the tech looks doubtful, Guerrero makes shooing motions, and the tech dutifully starts taking pictures.
Guerrero: “So, either they knew he was a mutant, or they had a friend in the crowd who overheard, eh? Well, it looks like our friends in uniform are going to have a lot more interviewing to do.” He yells at the remaining policemen, and they start rounding up the stunned crowd.
Stevens starts dusting himself off, muttering about how that powder really gets in everywhere, when, with no warning, one of the staff from the local restaurants makes a break for it; but she is nowhere near as athletic as the thrower, and the remaining uniform on that side of the lot easily tackles her.
Guerrero is talking to the uniforms on the other side, so Stevens approaches the woman. She’s in her late teens, a chunky girl with limp dishwater blonde hair, her apron dirty and her fast-food visor knocked askew. She struggles with the uniform, and shouts, “Get the dang mutie away from me! No! Keep out o’ my mind, freak!” She looks around frantically, avoiding Stevens’ gaze, and starts muttering under her breath. “Niney-nine bottles o’ beer on the wall, niney-nine bottles o’ beer…”
She’s suddenly shadowed from the late morning sun as Stevens looms over her, and asks “You suddenly got some place else to be, lady?”
She looks panicked, and makes darting movements to the side, but the uniform is holding her tightly; she tries to continue her muttered song, but she’s too scared to keep up the rhythm, and falters and sputters out. Stevens continues, implacable and confident. “Interesting that as soon as my buddies here start talking to the crowd, you run for it. You got something you should tell me?” (S: 0 Intimidation)
She slumps. “Goddamn it, what’s the use? Y’all are just gonna pull it out of my head with your damn devil-powers anyhow, ain’t cha? Ain’t ‘gainst no law for a girl to call her boyfriend, anyway. Ain’t no way for me t’know what he was gonna do, neither.”
Stevens: “You gonna tell me your boyfriend’s name, and where I can find him?” (S: 0 Intimidation, 0 Bullshit Detector)
The girl sneers, though it’s obviously reflex bravado. “You better hope Al don’t find ya, ‘cos when he hears what you done to me, he’s gonna kick your ass. He’s stomped scarier chromes than y’all, and ain’t never got caught, neither.” She bites her lower lip, and says, ”’Sides, I don’t where he lives or nuthin’. Don’t even know his last name.”
Stevens shakes his head at her pathetic attempt at two obvious lies in a row: “You’re gonna have to do better than that. Or do you want me to see what else I find when I dig it out myself?”
Her eyes bug out, then she clamps them shut and starts muttering, “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall…”
Stevens shakes his head and sighs:”Pass me her phone, Martinez”
The girl’s eyes snap back open. “What? Y’all can’t do that!”
Stevens: “This phone was used to co-ordinate an attack on police officers. Sounds like evidence to me.”
The girl starts to swear as Stevens steps away; it is the work of seconds to unlock the phone, find that the last call was placed to an ‘Al Larkin’, and what his address is. He pulls out his own phone, taps in the number, returns the the officer holding the girl, and says: “How are our two boys doing?”
Officer Martinez: “Martinez here; Officers Hinkley and Singh, what’s your 10-20?”
His radio crackles: “Singh here; we’ve lost sight of him. We think he’s gone to ground.”
The girl looks triumphant as Martinez turns to Stevens and says: “It looks like we’ve lost him, sir.”
Stevens: “We’ll see about that.”
Stevens activates an application on his smartphone; there is a pop-up with a wall of legalese, enumerating the situations where this application can be used, and Stevens presses his thumb against the pad, promising that the appropriate paperwork will be filled out at a later date; almost immediately, a local map appears, with a marker attached to Larkin’s cellphone number.
Stevens: “He is on East 12th Street outside Anny’s Bridal store just next to the sidewalk, maybe under a car? Tell them to hold transmit once they are in position.”
The radio goes silent for a moment, and then plays back the sounds of a quiet street. Stevens rings Larkin’s number, and almost immediately Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” starts playing in the background; then the radio goes silent, as the officers have a collar to make.
Martinez blinks: “What the… I mean, what? How? Uh…”
Stevens: “Nice, eh? It’s great when they carry their phones on them.”
Stevens waves his partner over as he tells the cop to take her away for processing.
Stevens: “Looks like the friendly neighbourhood fire bomb was just because Hutchins has a big mouth. We should leave the uniforms to canvas this area, while we find Mr Jackson’s family and give them the bad news.”
Scene Two: Driving to Customs
Guerrero: “So, how do you like your first day so far? You know, it’s weird—there are some guys who join the unit, but you never see them use their powers. That kind of makes sense for a guy like Blackwood, since talking to reptiles doesn’t come up that much in the line of duty; but some people, it seems like they want to pretend that they’re normal. That’s their business, I guess; but it’s the sort of thing that people in the office notice, y’know?”
Stevens: “What, that cocktail back there? That guy took me by surprise is all. I guess I just have not practiced using my powers that much, and I just reacted like most people would. You didn’t notice me trying to show off to Bree back there with my thermo-peepers? What I reckon is that some of the guys forget we are cops first and lixers second. They expect us to be flying around and blasting things with our minds, when really, we do most of our work just like any other cop. Anyway, this is exactly the kind of case I transferred to the HCIU to get into, so day 1? Pretty good so far.”
Guerrero grins: “You’re not big on talking in subtext, huh?”
Stevens shrugs: “Sending cell phone messages from underground trains? No, not big on that.”
Scene Three: Customs
It could be any office anywhere, except for the occasional rumble of a nearby jet engine, and the runways out the window. The shift supervisor shrugs.
“His parents live out of state, in New Mexico, I think—it’s in the file I gave you, along with his address. He wasn’t married, never brought anyone to the anything social; I think he had feelings for Cook, but her boyfriend wasn’t keen, so…”
He shrugs again.
Stevens: “Had he been acting strangely in the last month, late to work, calling in sick, maybe just acting weird, anything out of the ordinary?”
The shift supervisor pulls out a stick of gum, and starts chewing. “I’ve been in the job fifteen years; I remember when they started hiring Heightened. The brass had big plans for how they were going to eliminate smuggling, and sometimes if you had the right powers, they didn’t look too hard at your resume. We got a some real problem cases in the early years; a bit of theft, sure, but most of those we caught pretty quickly. There were some, though… a couple of them were caught taking stuff from peoples cases, like used underwear. And one of them we caught with a thumb-drive full of passengers’ holiday pictures.”
The supervisor settles into his seat, and continues: “Jackson has been here for five years… sorry, had been here five years. He wasn’t like that; he was just… quiet. Never talked to anyone in the break room, never came out with the guys for a beer. Not until Cook arrived about six months ago, anyway; when she turned up, he came a couple of times, but he didn’t talk much, and after that, nothing. He was pretty much back in his routine, as far as I know. It’s a damn shame.”
He turns and starts tapping. “Let’s see… he took a sick-day last Monday. And before that, nothing… yeah, he took a couple of days off to move apartments five months ago, but that’s it.”
Guerrero: “Did he have any hobbies—was he in any clubs that you know of? Fliers on his desk, that sort of thing?”
The supervisor thinks, and then shakes his head. “No. Like I said, keeps himself to himself.” He pauses, and then says cautiously, “Maybe birdwatching? I think I saw a book on birds on his desk once. And I guess… he sometimes came into work with a camera bag or something? Honestly, I didn’t really pay attention; he just came in, did his job, and went home.”
Stevens: “Was he involved in any big busts lately, maybe the kind where the people he caught might want revenge on him personally?”
The supervisor makes a “who knows?” gesture with his hands. “We stop tonnes of contraband every day: drugs, counterfeit merchandise, alcohol, some illegal workers. But it’s not like we advertise who catches what, or he’s the only one who finds anything. He’s pretty good at some stuff, like spotting knockoffs—but I guess microvision helps with that.”
Guerrero: “Microvision? But his card said x-ray vision.”
The supervisor nodded. “Yeah, well, it’s not like it’s an Article 18 power, but ever since that court case, the Customs department decided to have register anyone who had x-ray vision; it’s their ‘get out of facing the public’ card. No-one has claimed to get cancer from microvision yet, so there’s no reason to list it.”
The supervisor says: “I’ll go get her. Talk to her here, if you want; I’m getting a coffee.”
Guerrero: “So… microvision and x-ray vision. And cameras. Hmm.”
Stevens “We will need to have a look at this guy’s computer, see what kind of ‘birds’ he liked to watch.”
Madeline Cook knocks on the open door. Her mid-length brunette hair is tied up in a bun; she wears glasses and has a neutral expression. She is moderately good looking, but not outstandingly so; medium height and build, and her uniform is neatly pressed.
Guerrero: “So you weren’t friends with him? Or… more than friends?” (G: 0 Flirting)
Distaste flashes across Cook’s face: “No! God, no! I mean, sorry, I know he’s dead and everything, but he… no. He seemed… fine. Quiet. He was good at his job, I think. But no, I didn’t work even work with him much.”
Guerrero: “So you didn’t see him at work much. But what about outside of work?”
Cook looks uncomfortable: “He came out to drinks a few times, but he stopped coming.”
Guerrero: “And that’s the only times you saw him outside of work?” (G: 0 Interrogation)
Cook bites her lip, and then says: “Look, I don’t know how he found out where my boyfriend lives, but once I started working here, he started turning up in the neighbourhood—I’d see him in the Seven-Eleven as I walked past, or he’d come into the Starbucks and order something. Ken tried to talk to him about it, but Irwin claimed that he lived around there. And I know that’s a lie, because back when I first started, he said he lived near the zoo, and that I should ‘come over and check it out’.”
Guerrero: “This talk that Ken had… what kind of talk was it? Was it a loud kind of talk?” (G: 0 Interrogation)
Cook shakes her head, and says quickly: “Oh no, Ken’s not like that at all. I mean, he does weights and stuff, so people think he’ll be all tough and macho, but he doesn’t pick fights or anything; he’s really calm, really zen. You could see that having Irwen hang around got under his skin, but he’s way too centred to let it get to him—he just told the guy where to get off, you know?”
Guerrero: “And this quiet talk; did it work?” (G: 0 Bullshit Detector)
Cook says: “Yeah, kinda? He was still, like, there? In the background? I tried to just ignore him. I mean, we both did.”
Stevens: “Was he still doing this right up until yesterday? When was the last time you saw him?”
Cook shrugs, nodding, and says: “I guess; we mostly saw him weekends. Outside of work, I mean. I saw him yesterday, at work.”
Stevens: “Do you know of anyone who was closer to him around here? Who did he work with the most?”
Cook thinks for a moment, and then says, “Chester. Chester Briggs. They don’t put Chester on front desk duty either, so they have a bunch of shifts together, and their desks are next to each other. I think he’s in doing paperwork now—do you want me to show you?”
Stevens: “We would appreciate that. Thanks for your help.”
Scene Four: Chester
Chester is a slightly overweight middle-aged man in his forties. He has short red hair parted neatly and firmly in the middle, with a which gives him an old-fashioned look. He is very neatly dressed—his trousers have knife-edge creases, his shoes are polished until they’re gleaming, and his absolute attention is on the computer screen.
Guerrero: “Do you want to take this one, or shall I?”
Stevens: “I’ve got it.”
Stevens walks up to the desk, and glances at the paperwork arranged with clinical neatness on the desk; stationary is arranged in regimental rows, everything in its place. Stevens says: “Good morning Mr Briggs. I am Detective Stevens, this is Detective Guerrero; we are investigating the death of Irwin Jackson last night. How well did you know Mr Jackson?”
Chester doesn’t look up from his work. In a quick, calm monotone, he says, “My name is Chester, everyone calls me Chester.”
Chester pauses, and turns his chair around; and for the first time it is obvious why he is not usually made to deal with the public. His face is an angry demon mask, yellow cats eyes beneath flaring red brows, the nose too high and the mouth too wide. Guerrero flinches, and then flushes, embarrassed by his reaction; Chester doesn’t seem to notice, and continues in much the same tone.
Chester: “I knew Mr Jackson. He was my friend. He was good at his job. I am good at my job. I notice when things aren’t right. Sometimes we would work together. I was good at telling him where to look. I hope we get someone else who can do the same thing.”
It is somewhat unnerving—the voice and demeanour is almost diffident, when the face suggests he should be snarling his answers.
Stevens: “When was the last time you saw him?”
Chester answers immediately: “Irwin went down the hall at 5:07pm. He was wearing his coat. He was looking at the takeaway menu for Imperial Thai. He used to go to Thai Palace on a Wednesday, but then he moved. He has tried three other Thai restaurants since he has moved.”
Stevens: “Did you guys ever get drinks together after work? Any shared hobbies?”
Chester: “I don’t like to drink. People get angry. I like to go home after work. I like jigsaw puzzles and clocks. Irwin liked cameras. I like old cameras, but Irwin liked new cameras. Irwin liked taking pictures. Some pictures are interesting, but I do not care to take pictures.”
Stevens: “Do you know what his plans were last night?”
Chester: “He was going to eat. But I do not know what else he was going to do. Sometimes he would tell me about movies he had watched. He has cable, and he has a dvd player. So he might have planned to watch a movie. I have a dvd player, but I do not have cable.”
Stevens: “Do you know of any problems he had been having, people he had upset?”
Chester tenses. (S: Stability Test 0; rolled 4 against 2)
Chester: “When… when Irwin could see Cook, he wouldn’t hear what you said to him. You would have to say it again. She got annoyed at him. He had to talk to the supervisor. He had to cut it out. So he tried to cut it out. And he annoyed a lot of people who didn’t want to pay their tariffs and taxes. An antique dealer complained. But he had a six Chinese jade snuff bottles in the hidden drawer of a 17th century English oak escritoire. He had to pay for them. He is lucky that we did not keep them. But he did not think that he was lucky. He was very angry. He said that he did not know they were there, but I do not think he was telling the truth.”
Chester: “I am sorry. When someone leaves, they are meant to pack their things. Irwin could not pack his things, so I thought I should do it for him. Would you like me to put everything back where it was?”
Chester nods. “I made a diagram of where everything was, and I used labels. I am very thorough.”
Guerrero pulls the inventory out of the box; as Chester says, it is very thorough, with two diagrams—one showing where the items came from, and another where they were stored. Guerrero scans the items, and then raises an eyebrow; he shows the list to Stevens, pointing to a small thumb drive that had been concealed inside a plastic zip-loc in a pot-plant. Stevens nods in acknowledgement, and turns back to continue his questions when he catches something out of the corner of his eye: the edge of a piece of paper peeking out from between the two filing cabinets. Carefully fishing it out with a pair of tweezers, he finds that it is a receipt from a pharmacy for a prescription—Paxil, prescribed to Mr Irwin Jackson by a Dr V. Carver.
Guerrero looks into the distance: “Paxil… that’s a trade name for paroxetine, I think. It’s an anti-depressant, sometimes used to treat things like PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder.” (G: 0 Forensic Psychology and Medicine) He looks back at Stevens and shrugs. “What can I say, a lot of the girls I go out with are crazy.”
Chester thinks. “When she would walk by, he would not look at her really hard. And he stopped waiting in his car so that he could walk into work at the same time by accident. And he didn’t go to the kitchen to get coffee two minutes before she got up to get coffee.” He pauses, and then says, “I think he was getting better at doing it. I don’t know what he did when wasn’t at work.”
Chester nods: “He was starting to get fatter. Someone who was very angry rang him about pictures that he took, but Irwin said that he did not take them. At lunchtime, he did not look at pictures he had taken of birds at the zoo any more. Sometimes he would go to lunch later or earlier, but then he would bring back a sandwich and eat at his desk, so I do not think he was eating lunch when he went away. Two weeks ago, he seemed very sad—he had been crying. But he was not so sad last week.”
Chester: “Three weeks ago, he said he did not like it. He said it was boring. He said he needed a change. But last week, he rang someone with the same name as his old landlord and asked if anyone had taken his old place. He said he would like to move back. He said he had changed his mind. The supervisor was here, but I don’t know if he was listening.”
Scene Five: Driving
Guerrero loads the box in the trunk; as they get into the car, he asks, “So, what do you think?”
Stevens: “I have a feeling I know what we will find on that thumb-drive. If he went to the extreme of moving closer to this girl, who is obviously not interested, we have a real piece-of-work on our hands here.”
Guerrero nods: “The Quade diagram does not look good for this guy. Stalking your co-worker? Bad sign.”
Stevens: “We should check out if he made it to Imperial Thai, it may help us with our time-line, then we can check out Jackson’s apartment. We can also chase down this Doc Carver, see if he can tell us anything. And there’s the thumb drive…”
Guerrero: “Well, we’ve got a laptop in the back, but if he’s that far gone, I think that it’s safer to let the lab boys handle it. Or you could ask Sparks for a favour.”
Stevens: “Why would it have to be me asking for the favour? You already owe Sparks for something?”
Guerrero shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “No, no, nothing like that. Sparks and I… there was a misunderstanding, you know? Don’t tell her I said this, but I don’t think that she’s used to guys as good-looking as me asking her out. Not that I asked her out; I just suggested that we could have a drink some time, and… honestly, she seemed a bit intimidated, so I want to give her some space. Besides, it’ll be good for you to get to know her.”
Stevens: “Yeah, even if I might regret it later, I think Sparks is the one for this job.”
Scene Six: Dr Carver
It is a typical psychiatrist’s office—reassuring walls of certificates and degrees, row upon row of medical books, and even a comfortable looking leather couch. Dr Carver is a affable older African-American, a little on the heavy side, and he is shaking his head.
Dr Carver: “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but patient confidentiality means that I can’t tell you what we talked about during our sessions without an order from a judge. As I said, he started coming to me two weeks ago, we’d had four or five sessions, and that’s all I can say.”
Stevens: “But we’re after your patient’s killer; doesn’t that change things?”
Dr Carver: “Yes—it makes it all the more important that things are done properly. You get a court order, and I’ll happily hand over my files.”
Guerrero: “Okay, maybe we’re approaching this the wrong way.” (G: 1 Reassurance) “Hello, Dr Carver—my colleague and I would like to ask your professional opinion about some matters relating to the proper treatment of an enhanced individual who is seeking help. In purely general terms, you understand, one professional to another.”
Dr Carver’s mouth quirks in a small smile. “I’m always happy to help a fellow professional. Ask away.”
Guerrero: “First question: what sorts of things might a psychiatrist prescribe Paxil for?”
Dr Carver steeples his fingers: “Well, that particular drug has many uses. For example, there is some recent evidence that it may be useful in the treatment of voyeurism; if a practitioner was dealing with a patient who was very distressed about their behaviour, this is a treatment regime they might try.”
Guerrero: “And would you say that this would be a good approach to take?”
Dr Carver: “I’d say that it would be worth trying, if the patient was distressed, although it would not be an instant fix. But the most important thing would be for the patient to want to change.”
Guerrero: “And a patient who makes five appointments with a psychiatrist in two weeks—would you say that a patient like that wanted to change?”
Dr Carver: “Yes, I think it would be fair to say that a patient like that had noticed a problem, and decided to do something about it.”
Guerrero: “And with that many visits, coupled with treatment—in your professional opinion, is that enough time to see any sort of improvement?”
Dr Carver pauses, choosing his words carefully. “It very much depends on the patient. Certainly, a patient could show signs of improvement over that period.”
Guerrero: “Does voyeurism typically focus on one person, or are there sometimes multiple focuses?”
Dr Carver: “Foci. No, usually there is a single obsession; I’d be very surprise to encounter a case with more than one.”
Guerrero: “Is there anything else we should know?”
Dr Carver shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so; but if I can think of anything else, I’ll give you a call.”
Scene Seven: The Apartment
The detectives are getting out of their car across the road from a three-story block of apartments. The garage door to the parking lot under the building is opposite, as well as the main entrance.
Stevens “That was some nice work you did back there, getting that shrink to open up. Real sharp stuff.”
Guerrero: “Eh, you know; you just got to know what they want to tell you, and then give ‘em an excuse. So, what do you want to tackle first, the neighbours or the apartment?”
Stevens “I reckon most of his neighbours will give us the ‘quiet guy, never troubled anyone’ speil, maybe mentioning his camera. The apartment may give us more to ask them about. Let’s check the place out first.”
The apartment is sparsely furnished; there are many packing boxes still taped up, shunted into corners and ignored. Framed photos of birds hang on the walls, but other than that, Irwin Jackson seems to have lived here lightly—the kitchenette is nearly untouched apart from discarded take-away containers, and the bathroom cupboard is empty apart from some spare soap, a packet of generic aspirin and a half-full bottle of Paxil. A camera with a telephoto lens sits on a tripod, and various other photography gear is packed up next to it; a small laptop and a remote sit on the couch, and a cheap flatscreen tv and dvd player perch on a coffee-table opposite, along with a couple of blockbusters from NetFlix. Two near-empty rooms have piles of boxes in them, and seem near-abandoned; a vacuum cleaner sits in one corner.
Guerrero looks at the pictures: “He’s actually pretty good. Probably done a course, but he’s got a good eye for composition.” (G: 0 Art History) He then looks closer. “Huh. Hey, Stevens, look at this.”
Guerrero pulls on a glove, lifts a picture of a flamingo… and flips it over, showing the little pinholes. “Looks like there might have been a picture on the back of these. But who removed it—Jackson, or the killer?”
Stevens: “There is no other indication of our killer being here I can see. I am starting to get a feel that this guy was really trying to get over this obsession. Maybe taking down the other pictures is part of the solution?”
The bedroom is in a similar state to the rest of the house—not messy, but not particularly cared for. Dirty washing is heaped in a basket, and the bed is unmade, but the linen is clean. Several uniform shirts and pants hang in the wardrobe, and miscellaneous junk sits on the shelf: shoe polish containers, a pile of photography magazines, an old football.
(S: 1 Evidence Collection) Acting on a hunch, Stevens takes a photo of the wardrobe, and then starts pulling things off the shelf. Once he’s finished, it becomes obvious that something isn’t quite right—the shelf is shallower than it should be. Fetching a chair from the main room, he looks carefully, and hooks his fingers through two almost-unnoticeable holes, allowing him to pull out the backboard. He brings down the cardboard box that once stored printer paper. Someone has sealed it with masking tape, and written on the lid with a black marker: “Don’t open this, or you’ll regret it.”
Guerrero looks suitably impressed. “Hey, a secret compartment, and a hidden treasure! I guess we have to wait for the bomb squad to get here before we can look inside.”
Stevens (S: 0 Forensic Psychology) : “I think this a note written to himself. Part of getting over all of this, but he could not bring himself to get rid of…” Stevens flicks out a pocket knife and cuts the tape ”... his precious pictures. Besides, you don’t write a warning on a hidden, booby-trapped box.”
Guerrero: “How did you know to look up there, anyway?”
Stevens: “The whole rest of the apartment has only the bare bones unpacked, then his wardrobe shelf has a football and old magazines spread out on it? It didn’t fit.”
Stevens gently lifts up the lid to reveal the sad collection of a man obsessed. Everything is labelled and dated: department profile photos, candid shots taken at a distance, food receipts, ticket stubs, a mix cd, lipstick on a napkin, a half-eaten sandwich carefully vacuum-sealed and put away… flotsam from someone else’s life, neurotically scavenged and hoarded, too precious to throw away even when the person is trying to pull back from the brink. Guerrero is curious, at first; but there is something invasive about looking through Irwin’s failure, and he mumbles something about checking the number of pills as he leaves the room.
Looking through the items, there’s nothing that’s newer than two weeks—the items peter out around the time the sessions would have started. And there’s nothing that suggests that Jackson ever entered Cook’s apartment.
Stevens: “He really was messed up, but it looks like he never crossed the line into anything illegal, like breaking into her place.”
Guerrero: “Well, it looks like he was taking the pills on schedule; I guess you’re right, he really did want to change. I liked this case better when I didn’t feel sorry for the guy. Apart from him being dead and everything, I mean.”
Stevens: Walks up to the camera on the tripod. “He wasn’t out with his camera when he got killed either. Lets see what the last photos taken were of on this thing.” (S: 0 Electronic Surveillance)
Stevens pops out the memory card from the camera, and slips it into his phone. The first thing he does is check the trash—17 photographs of Madeline Cook sitting at an outside table at a cafe; her hair is down, and she is laughing. There is a well-muscled man wearing a sports singlet in the edge of the frame of some of the photographs, but he is not the focus of any of the pictures. The timestamps on the photos date to just over two weeks ago.
The photos that have no been deleted are mostly greyscale, black-and-white images of various subjects—a close-up of a tree-trunk, tagged and carved; rubbish spilling out a dumpster; his building at dusk. There are also some pictures of wild birds, all in flight—they’re not as crisp as the ones on the walls, but they are far more dynamic, and somehow more free.
(Want to do anything more with this? -- Svend)
Guerrero consults his phone. “All right, dispatch tells me that there are basically six apartments; according to the maintenance guy, one if them isn’t rented at the moment, and one of the residents has been away for a week. That leaves three apartments, apart from this one—below us in 1A is a Miss Mitchell, an elderly resident who doesn’t drive; above us in 3A is the Florez family, and above and to the right is Mr White of 3B. Who do you want to tackle first?”
Stevens “Lets start upstairs, maybe he creeped out the family a little, enough to make him more memorable anyway. Why don’t you take the lead with them? You seem like a family friendly kind of guy.”
Guerrero shrugs, and heads up the stairs. Knocking on the door, a middle-aged Hispanic man removes a napkin from his shirt as he opens the door on a chain.
Mr Florez: “Yes? Can I help you?”
Guerrero: “Mr Florez?”
Mr Florez: “Si?”
Mr Florez face darkens with rage, and he shouts, “That goddamn pervert! I’ll answer your questions, all right!” The door slams, and there is the sound of him fumbling with the chain.
Guerrero: “I guess you were right about the memorable.”
Mr Florez gestures you over to the couch. “Sit, sit.” Everything is a little bit more worn than the things in Irwin Jackson’s apartment, but it’s obvious that a family lives here. An older computer sits in the corner, and various bits of mail and magazines are spilled over the coffee table.
Mr Florez: “Do you want a coffee? We’ve just had lunch. Maria, coffee for the two policemen!”
Mr Florez: “Damn right that pervert caused trouble! At first, I said to Maria we should ignore the letter, he’s just some guy; and then I found out he was sending those pictures to my daughter! So I put the polaroid under her bed like the letter said, and look at it!” He fishes a polaroid out from the debris on the table, and waves it at you. “Black as his sin!” He slams it back down with a thump.
Maria comes in with the coffee. “Quiet down, or you’ll have Mr White over here complaining again.”
Mr Florez sneers slightly, dismissing him from the conversation with a wave of his hand. “That crazy old gringo can go mouldy along with the rest of his mouldy old stuff—why should he care, he doesn’t have a daughter!”
We see the daughter, peeking out from the kitchen; she is in her late teens, good-looking, and worried.
Stevens: “When did you get this letter? Could I please see it?” (S:0 Document Analysis)
Mr Florez nods absently. “Si, si, it is on the table…” He paws through the pile of papers on the coffee table, dislodging flyers and church notices. “Here!” he declares, as he thrusts the letter forward.
It is printed on standard printer paper, neither particularly cheap nor expensive. They have tried to make the document look reasonable, measured, slightly corporate—Arial headings and Times New Roman text, with a logo for “The Organisation For American Decency”. But the contents… it specifically targets Irwin Jackson without naming him, claiming that it is well known that those with x-ray vision are often evicted for spying on their neighbours, and strongly implying that he had recently lost a court case that proved that he had given someone cancer. The letter said that it included a polaroid that should be placed somewhere where it would intercept the gaze of any unwanted peepers overnight, and then crushed with a rolling pin—this should show any x-ray activity, and prove the need to deal with this affront to common decency.
The text… is not particularly clever. It is spelled correctly, but the tone is not quite right; there are a few turns of phrase that are more appropriate to spoken English than the sort of polished letter that this aspires to be, though it might not be obvious if you didn’t have to wade through paperwork for a living. And it claims that the polaroid will have black tracks if the person looking merely glances across it, but will be completely black if the film is exposed to the radiation from the person staring; Stevens isn’t a photography expert, but he thinks that this is exactly the wrong way around.
(Anything else you want to know? -- Svend)
Guerrero picks up the photo to examine it, _ but there is very little to see—the photo is plain black, which means that it has not been exposed before it was developed. Guerrero considers explaining this to Mr Florez, but decides that it may be seen as defending the man, so he simply says: “Please calm down, Mr Florez, and tell us what happened.” (G:0 Reassurance)_
“I get this letter in the mail, but I think, so what? But then I go to the computer to write an email to my mother, she is in Florida, and the chat thing, she pops up. I do not use it, but my daughter does, so I am going to call her to turn it off, when I read what it says—it talks about her… her shape, her… and then there is a link. Ah, I should not have clicked! She is in the shower, and exposed—so! It is not something for a father to see! I go, I bang on his door, but he is not there! So I ring the police, but they say there is no proof that it was him who took the pictures! But I know, I know! So I put the polaroid under her bed! This is it, now I have proof! Now they will have to arrest him! But then I hear that he has been killed, probably by some other father whose daughter he has been staring at!” He pulls at his hair. “Ah, if that monster has given my sweet Luisa cancer! What will we do? He will burn for his evil, that is sure! Once you are dead, there is a reckoning, and he will pay for his crimes!”
The daughter, Luisa, looks frightened by the outburst, and stays lurking just outside the room.
Guerrero says smoothly, “Could we talk to Luisa outside, in the hallway? She’s had so much embarrassment recently, I don’t really want to ask her these sorts of questions in front of her parents—sometimes it’s easier to deal with strangers, you know? Like confessing to a priest.” (G:0 Reassurance)
Mr Florez grudgingly gives his consent, and her mother urges the reluctant Luisa out the door. There, Guerrero pauses for a while, and Luisa pulls out a handkerchief, and starts twisting it around her hand, back and forth. He waits, and then gently asks, “In your own words, tell us what happened, Luisa.”
She stares at her hands, and the words come out in a rush. “It’s just like Papa says, Mr Jackson was a bad man, and he found me on the internet and tried to talk to me. I don’t know how he took pictures of my… my… He was a bad, bad man. But my Papa, he didn’t hurt him, he didn’t touch him! He was going to take him to the police!”
Stevens: (S:0 Bullshit Detector) “You know this makes your father the prime suspect in our case Luisa? Do you know what might happen to him?” Stevens pauses to let her process this a bit. “Did Mr Jackson really take the photos?”
(I am thinking that Luisa has latched onto this as a way to protect her boyfriend, who took the photos. I am happy to make that BS detector a one point spend if I need to. I could also tell her that I can very easily find out who that chat message was from, but her father would probably be in the room. That is only if she needs more convincing if my BS detector does say she is lying. Sorry for the long wait on this.)