“i’m lost without you,” i told her, looking deep into her eyes.
we had been meeting in the cafe every day for a late morning coffee and sandwich. the muted notes of the jazz cd floated through the haze of coffee vapors and cigarette smoke.
“that may be so,” she said, smiling, “but you know me for three months only. so are you saying you were lost for the other 27 years before that?”
she was right, of course. i had met her one windy night three months ago, a night marred with rain and sleet, a night when she had walked into her house and found her boyfriend lying dead on the floor, a .44 bullet through his head. i was the investigating officer on the case at the time. it was ruled a routine break-in that went wrong when he walked in. there was a substantial amount of cash missing from the wall safe, along with some other trinkets of assorted value that had been scattered through the two storey townhouse. we promptly arrested a burglar who had been known to be operating in the area, and found some of the loot in his house, and the dead man’s wallet hidden underneath the floorboards. the trial had been swift, and he was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder.
“i’ve always been lost, marie,” i told her, refusing to take my eyes off of hers. “now i find i can’t stop thinking about you, no matter how hard i try. i can’t even seem to focus on a routine case like a break-in without thinking about you all the time. is that wrong?”
“maybe not for you, steve. the more important question now is, are you right for me?”
“even if i’m not right now, i’m sure i can be, if you tell me what i have to do.”
“it’s not for me to tell you, steve. i guess it’s something you have to find out for yourself.” she got up and walked out of the cafe, off to her office in walter towers. i headed back to the precinct, angry at myself for laying my feelings out in the open like that. but she must have known how i felt about her. i’d been having these feelings for her for a long time, and she must have picked up on it at some point. i remembered reading an article in some magazine or the other that clearly stated that women had an inherent instinct for things like this.
“where the hell have you been, whithouse?” asked my partner mark the minute i walked in the door.
“just getting a cup of coffee, durrain. why the hell are your panties in a bunch?”
“because i’ve got fucking internal affairs walking around the precinct, asking me about the de vries case!” he yelled at me.
the words sent a chill up my spine. “the de vries case?” i stammered. “you mean marie de vries?”
“no, i mean santa fucking claus de vries, you asshole,” he yelled. “i thought we had cleared that shit up months ago.”
“so did i,” i volunteered. “did you happen to tell them about where i was?”
“oh, you mean did i tell them that you were now screwing the grieving widow? no i didn’t, asshole, even though they asked if we had been in touch with her since the investigation was closed.”
“durrain, you’re on the fast track to a heart attack,” i told him, trying to keep my cool despite his insinuations about my relationship – or rather, lack of one – with marie. “so what did internal affairs want?”
“the case files, the evidence, the whole shitload. they seem to have found a new suspect in the case, and they wanted to find out how solid our investigation really was.”
“those self-important sons of bitches,” i growled. “did they say who this new suspect was?”
“no, just that they were close enough to an indictment, and they needed more proof…”
the ringing phone interrupted us. a homicide had occured downtown, and we were to look into it. on our way out the door to the car, durrain stopped and apologized. “look, i’m sorry about screaming at you, but I thought that that case was an open-and-shut one, and now internal affairs is pissing all over our investigation with this new suspect of theirs. i’m really close to making inspector, and if they find our investigation was flawed, my chances of a promotion are screwed.” i tried to interrupt, but he kept going. “all i ask is that you cool it with your little romance, so that they don’t start screaming about conflict of interest, or anything like that.”
i was incredulous. “conflict of interest? that would mean…they don’t really think she did it, do they?”
“i don’t know, steve. they seemed quite interested in her, especially her behavior after the murder and shit like that.”
i couldn’t find anything to say to that. the thought that they might suspect marie of the murder hadn’t even crossed my mind.
for a week, i took mark’s advice and didn’t keep our daily coffee date. i lied to her and told her they were sending me on assignment to another state to cover up for my absences. as usual, durrain didn’t seem to have any reaction to it whatsoever, whether positive or negative.
we were quite busy for that one week. it seemed to me that the whole city had gone nuts. murders were piling up one after another, faster than we could solve the previous ones. the entire homicide division were tense and stressed out. three policemen had been killed during a stakeout of a suspect’s house, and the entire precinct, along with the mayor’s office, were on our backs to solve the case as fast as possible. thankfully the case wasn’t assigned to durrain and i, but to lowell and ray, and we could see that it was taking its toll on them. lowell had started drinking heavily again, and had been leaving the bars after midnight every night since the murders.
saturday, the end of the week, found me at home getting some much needed r and r. i had the football game on and was working my way through a case of bud light, when the door bell rang. i got up cursing to myself, and opened the door, to find lowell and ray standing on the doorstep.
“hey guys,” i said, surprised at the intrusion. “what’s going on? no vacation for you?”
“unfortunately not, whithouse,” said ray. “can we come in?”
“sure,” i said. “what’s up, boys?” i asked once they were settled on the couch
“we’re investigating the murder of the policemen, and we’re kind of stuck. and then we thought, maybe we’re not seeing the whole picture, you know? maybe we’re too close to the investigation, and we need a third set of eyes to look over the evidence and tell us what we’re missing. so we tried to get hold of durrain, but he’s off fishing somewhere, so we came to you.”
i wasn’t insulted by what might be construed by some as an insult. durrain was a senior officer, having been in the department for years, and would obviously be the first choice for such a request, especially from new officers like lowell and ray, who had joined recently. “we were wondering,” picked up lowell, “if you could come down to the precinct with us and take a look at the evidence as well. we’d really appreciate it.”
i cursed under my breath. so much for getting some rest, but then i’d obviously be paid overtime. “sure, guys,” i said. “give me a chance to get dressed, and i’ll be with you right away.” i went upstairs to put on some clothes, and then the three of us headed out of the door together.
the precinct was mostly deserted, which wasn’t strange for a saturday. we walked up to the homicide division, and into one of the interview rooms. “this is a confidential investigation, whithouse,” said lowell. “we can’t risk anyone seeing and contaminating the evidence.”
i took a seat as lowell went to get the box of evidence. he returned shortly with a box of stuff from the crime scene, and proceeded to spread it across the table. ray explained it all to me, piece by piece.
“okay, so here are the bullets we got out of the cops after the autopsies. as you can see, they are all .44s.”
“where were they shot?” i asked.
“the left side of the head,” answered lowell.
“hmm…execution style, eh? seems to me that it yells gangland connections,” i surmised.
“that’s what we thought as well, especially because they were on surveillance of a suspected gang leader when it happened.”
“then what’s the problem?”
“well, what we can’t figure out, whithouse, is why you would do something like this.”
i sat there stunned, rooted to my chair, unable to move. “what did you say?” i managed to stammer.
“look, whithouse,” said lowell, “we’re both internal affairs. we’ve been investigating you since the de vries case, because we all felt there was something wrong with the case you presented. most notably, the fact that the person you sent to jail still claims that he’s innocent.”
“also,” continued ray, “we thought it was kind of funny that you knew exactly who to arrest after you discovered the murder, and that you found all the evidence that was used against him in the trial, even though durrain was on the scene as well at the same time, and searched the place as well.”
“but we weren’t sure about anything until we spotted you cozying up to the widow after the investigation. then it hit us – maybe she hired you to do it.”
“so we talked to her, and looked at the evidence, and her alibi for the murder checked out, and she kept telling us that she hadn’t known you before the murder. so we were left with you as the only suspect.”
“and then you killed the three internal affairs men we sent in to get the evidence for us. that really wasn’t clever was it, since we matched the ballistics of the bullets to the bullet used in the de vries murder.”
i hadn’t had a chance to speak yet. now i spoke up, in what i thought was a calm, composed voice. “if you’re accusing me of something, i demand to have my lawyer here with me.”
“oh, i’m sorry steve, but the law says that we can interrogate you with no lawyer present, seeing as this is an internal investigation of something as severe as quadruple first-degree murders.”
“i didn’t do it,” i exclaimed. “i had nothing to do with any of these murders!”
“oh, really? then how do you explain this?” said lowell, throwing the gun on the table. the bastards must have dug it up from under the floorboards in the kitchen while i was changing upstairs.
“see, i’m sure that if we test the gun for fingerprints, we’ll find yours all over it. we’ve already talked to the black market dealer who sold it to you, and he will testify, under oath, that you bought it the week before the de vries murder.”
“but what we still don’t understand,” said lowell, “is why you would do something like this in the first place.”
i broke down. i couldn’t take it anymore. the strain of being found out was too much to bear.
through my tears, all i could say was, “i’m so lost without her.”