“Three victims in a week!” Capt. Sholt declared from under his dense mustache, looking at the three photos pinned to a large board. The board shook a little as he banged his palm against it. “And not a single lead”. He turned around and faced the only two people in the audience. “They have been kidnapped in broad daylight from their homes.”
Lieutenant Musk was leaning over the table with a newly opened notepad. He had a pencil tucked over his right ear. His back had not met the chair since he sat on it. His eyes had forgotten to blink; giving his undivided attention on the board. Musk did not look like a policeman, let alone a lieutenant with thirteen years with Detroit PD under his belt. He weighed at least two-hundred-fifty pounds. His belly filled the space between the chair and the table. The buttons seemed to struggle to keep his shirt intact. His face looked like a person heading to a football game. But with hours of tailgating parties behind him. His eyebrows looked like a roof of a hut and his mouth made an inverted smile.
Standing beside him leaning against the wall was Detective Fisher. Fisher was a lanky young man who stood six feet tall. He had joined the team a month ago. He joined the police academy on a sportsman’s scholarship. He woke his teammates from the university track team for practice, every single day. That too at 5 am. He did not like to sit during any briefings of meetings. He did not like to cool down during the day. His eyes looked like he was about to take a leap from his mark in his first race ever. The smell of burnt coffee was in the air. Fischer shunted between the Capt. and the board as he was trying to understand the briefing.
“From their homes?” Fischer had one eyebrow raised when he interrupted Capt. Sholt.
“Yes. There has been no ransom call on any of them, yet. We have wire-tapped their homes.” Capt. said his palm facing up. “Their homes were ransacked when they were picked up. Possible signs of a struggle.”
“Thirty-three year old Silvia Crooks, a high-school teacher,” Capt. said using his open palm to point at the first photo.
“Forty-nine-year-old software professional John Dawson.” Capt. pointed the second photo by one hand and Lieutenant Musk’s notepad with another. Musk scribbled the information.
“And a nineteen-year-old student from Wayne, Ethan Bell. Ethan is some kind of a boy wonder. He did his masters at the age of eighteen and is pursuing his PHD.”
“Wow! Too distinct profiles. No pattern.” Musk said shaking his head. “We will dig through their lives. People they used to meet. Bank accounts. Police records.”
Capt. pointed at Fischer and looked at Musk “I will have detective Fischer tag along with you on this case, Musk. He can bring in some new perspective to our little game here. You are a great teacher. I am sure he will be up to speed soon. I want you guys to visit the crime scene one more time. We have to get to the kidnappers before there is another victi…”
Capt. Shost could not complete his sentence as his cell phone rang. His “summer of sixty-nine” ringtone was set for the CSI team. ‘Best days of my life when the crime scene investigators call?’ Fischer thought to himself as no one saw his fleeting smile.
“The school teacher has come back home,” The Capt. said as he hastily picked his suit up from his chair. The chair squeaked as Musk got up. Fischer was already holding the door open. The trio put on their winter coats as they head out of the door briskly.
“Hi.. I am Silvia’s husband, Robert. I called you as soon as she came back. She has gone through a lot, captain.”
Robert had put his hand on her head as Silvia stared at the floor. Her face looked like an empty canvas completely devoid of any expression. The couple was sitting on a leather couch with armrests. She held her face between her hands as her cheek bulged out through them. The two policemen sat on the chairs in front of them while Fischer stood leaning against the wall. The house was filled with the fragrance of roses. Musk noticed a bouquet on the table tagged ‘Welcome Back’.
“That’s what I brought her. This might cheer her up.” Robert said as he saw Musk’s eyes going over the tag; his hand occasionally caressing Silvia’s hair. “I would have kept it in the vase by the front door but the kidnappers broke it while they were taking Silvia.”
Fischer took a seat beside his seniors while he stared at the woman who had forgotten to blink. He brought his brows together turned his face slightly as he tried to observe something through the slits of his eyes. He leaned forward to see Silvia’s face better. He sat up clearing the curious expression off his face, quickly, as he saw Robert shift his gaze to him.
“We completely understand. There are a few questions we would like to ask. Routine investigation.” Musk said as he opened his notepad.
“Ms. Crooks, can you describe the kidnapping? How many men were there? What vehicle were you taken in?” Musk really made it sound routine as he listed the questions one-by-one.
Silvia still held the same pose. She never blinked.
“Ms. Crooks, I know it is hard on you, but we want the answers. There might be more victims.” Capt. Shost said pointing all ten fingers towards Silvia as he tried to make an eye contact with the victim.
“There were two men in a black van,” Silvia’s lips shivered as she started narrating the incident. “They knocked on the door. Put a blanket on me as I opened the door. They picked me up and put me in the van.” Her whole body was shaking.
“Any idea where they took you?”
“No. I woke up in a dark room. I was never moved from there. Used to get food twice a day. My hands and legs were tied.” Silvia said showing the rope marks on her wrist and ankles.
“Do you remember what kind of food they gave you?” Musk pretended to write something in his notepad.
“No. Please, can you guys leave me alone? Please.” Silvia’s nostrils flared as her body shook. She looked like she was about to cry.
“OK Gentlemen. She will need some time to recover. Please come later”
Musk and Shost looked at each other and got up from their seats. Fischer remained in his seat unaware of his surroundings.
“In case you remember something. Please give us a call,” Musk said handing over his card. He tapped on Fischer’s shoulder signaling him to get up.
As the trio was wearing their winter coats, a man opened the front door with a quick swing and entered the house. He looked around and located Robert and Silvia. He quickly walked over to Silvia and sat next to her leaning towards her.
“This is Dr. Womack. Silvia’s Psychiatrist.” Robert said sensing the policemen’s severe urge to know who the stranger was.
“And why was she seeing a psychiatrist?”
“She had work-related pressures. Could not keep up with the stress. Cannot tell you more. Doctor-patient confidentiality…” Dr. Womack declared. Then he looked back at her trying to sooth her shivers down.
The three headed towards the door handing over Musk’s card to Dr. Womack ‘if he remembered something’.
“There was something unusual about her,” Fischer said pointing a finger in the air as they were heading to the car. Robert closed the door behind them. The snow was cleared off from the driveway, which made it easy for them to get to the car. They could see the snow removal van in the distance.
“I don’t know. Something about her face. Something…” Fischer said moving his palm in circles; a couple of inches from his face. Musk pretended to think tilting his head to one side for a moment. The captain had a straight face, as he had not heard Fischer.
“I am heading downtown. Why don’t you take Fischer to Bell’s place,” Capt. said to Musk as he got into a different car. “The kid stayed alone. The crime scene is still intact. Both of you might see something.”
“This place is a complete mess,” Fischer said shaking his head. “The kid must have fought the kidnappers before being taken.”
Fischer and Musk wore gloves and started walking through the things that were scattered all over the floor in Bell’s apartment. It was on the first floor of a crowded apartment complex in Hazel Park. Musk went into the bedroom while Fischer continued scanning the living room. There was a knock on the door. A stout bald man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts was standing at the door. His clothes looked like he wore them every day for past month. He was wearing a worn out cap that pointed sideways.
“Yeah… You live in the building?” Fischer asked
“And how did you know that?”
“You aren’t wearing any shoes.”
The man raised his brows, as his eyes widened. His round face filled with a big smile. Musk came out in the living room hearing the conversation
“Fischer… Oldman… Oldman… Fischer” Musk introduced; pointing them with both hands. “Mr. Oldman is the homeowner. Lives downstairs.”
“I was wondering Lieutenant when you will clear out here. I don’t know when Ethan accumulated so much stuff. I gotta clear this out. I gotta earn money from this place, you know.” Mr. Oldman’s smile had got replaced by lines of concern on his forehead. “By the way, the new guy is smart”
“Nice to see a brother so far along,” Oldman said tapping his chest twice with his fist and pointing at Fischer with two fingers. Fischer smiled at the quick gangster thing.
“Just a few days, Oldman. Our forensic team needs to take a look one more time. Besides, the kid may come back. One of the other victims came back.” Musk said putting his hand on Oldman’s shoulder.
“Just like that?” Oldman again raised his brows as his eyes bulged more this time.
“Yes, Oldman. Just like that. Now no more questions. We are in the middle of our investigation here. We will call you if we need you.” Musk used his hand on Oldman’s shoulder to turn him and gently push him towards the stairs
“This guy is a piece of work,” Musk smiled at Fischer. The two policemen went back to their crime scene.
Fischer saw a trophy among the mess. It was one of the brass cups with two ears to it. Like they give the winners at US open. The cup was a good three feet tall. The trophy was lying, horizontally, on the floor as if fallen from someplace high. Fischer noticed that the edge of the cup was dented. ‘Probably because of the fall,’ he thought to himself.
He rotated it to see what the trophy was for. The plate on the trophy said “World’s best”. Fischer carefully picked it up; his hands immediately giving way. “Too Heavy,” Fischer said nodding to himself.
“This could be on this shelf, right?” Fischer asked pointing at a large wooden TV cabinet. The cabinet came up to Fischer’s eye-level. It had three compartments on each side, which could have fit a whole person. With a big space for a sixty-inch plasma. The top of the cabinet was one long plank extending across the length. The cabinet looked unusually big for the size of the living room.
Fischer picked the trophy up like a weightlifter in Olympics and placed it at its original location with a great difficulty. The whole shelf shook and the top plank had a noticeable sag. The sides were no longer straight.
“Nope. The trophy is too heavy for the shelf.” Fischer said still recovering from the heavy weight.
“Yeah… and the crazy guy never assembled it properly. See how frail all this is.” Musk said pushing one side of the cabinet with his finger. He gave a quick smirk at how the whole assembly moved just by his finger.
“But there is no other surface from where it can fall from.” Musk said looking around. “Could not have dented itself just by a topple. It had to fall from somewhere.”
Fischer and Musk looked at the whole scene of the how the flimsy cabinet was bearing the load of this hefty trophy for a minute with folded hands.
“How tall was Ethan?” Fischer asked still looking at the cup.
“Five… Five-one. Why?”
Fischer bent his knees to shorten himself by what he thought was roughly a foot. He stood next to the cabinet. He had to look up at the trophy sitting at the top of the shelf.
“So… the kid must have pushed this down with his hands while he was fighting the kidnappers.”