The Rookie Club: Dead Center - lightnovelgate.com
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Hailey frowned. "She was killed in her office, then moved?"
"Yep. Not nearly enough blood here for a primary site. She'd stopped pumping blood before she was moved. I'd say at least ten minutes before based on the blood quant.i.ty, but that's a guess." She pointed to the building. "Roger Sampers has a team up there. Down here, we've got some tire tracks. Maybe eight sets of good ones. We'll cast them.
"Also, we found prints in the car-a lot of them, actually. Some are clean-they might belong to the deceased or to the perp. The rookie cop touched some stuff. I need hers to rule them out. I've got fibers and hairs-it's a heyday of c.r.a.p in that car."
Hailey looked back at the vehicle Natasha had been driving. It was a gold Ford Taurus, department issued. She frowned. "Sydney, it's a department car."
Sydney raised gloved hands. "I know. It's going to be a nightmare to sort out. Can you get us a list of who's been driving it?"
Hailey nodded. "No problem, but it'll be a dozen people in the last two weeks, easy. We'll need to go back further to rule them all out. These cars don't get cleaned much."
"Go back a month. Most of the good prints will be newer than that. We'll find as many as we can. You're the one who's got to find a suspect to match them."
"No prints on the skin, then?" Hailey asked.
Sydney smiled. "One very nice index finger."
Hailey looked over at the tall, thin rookie. "Hers?"
Sydney nodded. "Pretty sure. We'll check it, of course, but it's on the neck, right at the jugular."
"Checking for a pulse," Hailey thought out loud. "Anything else?"
Sydney let out an uncharacteristic sigh. "Not yet."
"We'll get him."
Sydney nodded. "It's why we do it."
Hailey smiled, excused herself, and pulled one of the uniforms away from the scene. He was on the skinny side, short reddish-brown hair and light eyes that seemed too young to be on the face of a police officer. She read his name badge. "Officer Grossen-"
"Grossenbacher," he said. "Means 'big river' in German."
"Okay, Officer Big River, I need you to compile a list of everyone on the scene right now. Get full names, phone numbers, when they arrived, and what they saw. Get your partner to help."
He jerked his right hand into the air as if starting to salute. He caught himself, stopped, his face going red as he turned away quickly. She glanced down at his shined boots. Army, she guessed. Law enforcement was a natural succession for people who'd served in the armed services. Always took a while to get the military out.
Hailey scanned the crowd until she found what she wanted. Get the worst over first. As Hailey crossed toward her, Jamie fumbled with her pack of cigarettes, shook one loose. Her hands seemed to shake as she lit it. If possible, Jamie looked more uncomfortable than she'd been at the awards banquet. Through the haze smoke, Hailey smelled a mix of something like lavender and peppermint.
"I figured you'd want to talk to me," she said as a flame flared from her lighter with a hiss. When she opened her mouth, Hailey noticed that her teeth were still clean and white. A sign of vanity, Hailey took it for good news. Deeply depressed people often had no regard for hygiene. Despite some of the signs, maybe Jamie wasn't as bad off as she could have been.
"Just what you saw."
"Nothing," Jamie responded, blowing smoke over her shoulder although the wind returned it directly into Hailey's face. "I got here about quarter to eight. I was just stopping through on my way down to the lab building to check on some evidence from the Osbourne a.s.sault last night."
"Emily Osbourne was attacked and raped in the stairs last night."
"Oh, G.o.d," Hailey said. "Is she-"
"She'll live," Jamie said flatly.
"When I got here, I ran into Linda James. She told me."
Hailey shook her head. "Where were you last night?"
"You have a time of death?" Jamie asked.
Jamie dropped her cigarette, stamped it out and then retrieved her b.u.t.t off the pavement. "I left the station at about two. I was here for maybe an hour, so maybe it was two-ten or so. We pulled our suspect in after the rape exam. Washington was with me."
"You nail him?"
She shook her head, looked away. "On the way home, I stopped for gas and cigarettes."
Hailey was poised to write.
Jamie shook her head. "I can't think of it." She rolled her hand through the air. "The one with the tiger."
"Exxon," Hailey supplied.
Jamie nodded. "Exxon. Off the Central San Rafael exit. On Irwin, maybe. I paid cash. Marlboro Lights. Kid behind the counter had red hair, skinny, some tattoo on his forearm. A lizard or something. Oh, and one of those little squares of hair under his lower lip. What do the kids call that?"
"Right." Jamie fiddled with the b.u.t.t of the cigarette like she wanted to light another one. "Stupid-looking thing."
The details were good. Any cop knew that details were what made a story believable. Some things would be hearsay, but details like that could be checked. "And before the interview?"
"I was at the awards thing with you until I got the call on Osbourne. It was-what-close to nine o'clock? I went straight to the hospital and from there to the station. Came back this morning. In between, I was at home."
Hailey hesitated a moment. She hated to ask but there was no way around it. "And at home. You were alone?"
Jamie paused, drawing a deep drag on her cigarette and blowing it out over her shoulder. "Alone."
Something about the way she said it made Hailey hesitate. "You sure, Jamie? If you weren't alone, it would make it easier. I can be discreet."
Jamie smoked a moment, then dropped the cigarette to the ground and stamped it out.
Hailey waited. "You were alone," she prompted again.
"I've got a dog named Barney. Don't know if he'd be convincing in cross-examination."
Hailey crossed her arms. Sighed. "This isn't fun for me, either. You think I want to interrogate a friend? But everyone's going to be asking the question. You had motive. Big motive. Public motive. I get you out of the mix early, I can find the real killer."
Jamie picked up the cigarette b.u.t.t and put it in her pocket. Then, turning, she faced Hailey for the first time. Jamie was taller than her by a good three inches, and she looked like h.e.l.l. Dark circles, no makeup. She'd been up most of the night with a rape case, back early. From her appearance, Hailey would have guessed she'd been dragged out of bed a few days ago.
Jamie paused. When she spoke, her voice was soft and void of humor. "Don't feel like you have to lie. We're not friends, Hailey. Feel free to bring me in if you have more questions. Sorry I couldn't provide a better alibi." Then she turned and walked away.
Hailey didn't watch her. The guilt bobbed to the surface like a buoy released from deep waters. Jamie was right. They weren't friends although once upon a time, they had been. Sort of. In the way that women like Hailey and Jamie made friendships. Without the hand-holding and weeping of other women. And without the intimacy, too. They didn't share. Not much. Some not at all. The job was heavy enough. Hearing the wounds caused at home, in their private lives, would only make their heavy loads harder to bear. After the incident with Jamie's ex-husband and Natasha, people had dispersed. At first, they took off all at once and rapidly, like tree full of birds fled at the sound of gunshot. Women who had been her friends left. Many didn't look back. Hailey liked to think that she wasn't one of those, but she might have been. Less because she blamed Jamie or took Natasha's side but more because her own life was quickly growing complicated enough to absorb all her energies.
Jamie would do well to drop the defensiveness. It made her seem suspicious and, as far as Hailey could tell, going after Jamie was the wrong move. At the very least, Jamie didn't fit the crime's MO. Though Natasha was found in her car, the evidence indicated that she had been killed in her office. That meant that the perp had killed Natasha, then moved her. No drag marks around the car meant she'd been lifted. It would take a man's strength to move Natasha's body. Plus, not many people would move a dead body-the very act indicated that whoever killed her also cared for her. Maybe the killer was trying to save her; maybe he was going to hide the body. Either way, Jamie was not the right fit.
As far as Jamie as a suspect, motive was a little thing, too. Sure, Jamie had reason to want Natasha dead eighteen months ago when she'd found them in bed together. But if she'd really had it in for her, why let all that time pa.s.s?
Hailey was also confident the killer wasn't anywhere near here now. Every cop knew to look in the crowd first. Jamie wouldn't be that stupid. It didn't change the fact that after the shooting incident, people would point to her first.
Hailey would have liked to rule her out early. An alibi would have done it. Barney the dog would not. Taking a moment to pause, Hailey searched the crowd for Mackenzie Wallace. Propped against a black Chevy Blazer, the rookie stood stretched out, arms crossed, one ankle hooked across the other. Her lean legs were like the neck of a violin, strings taut.
Hailey approached and waited until the woman's gaze shifted to hers. Fear was stark in her eyes.
"You're new?" Hailey asked though it was redundant to what she already knew.
Mackenzie nodded, looked down, ashamed. "My first dead body."
Something like grat.i.tude flashed in her expression. Young, naive, awkward were the words that came to mind. "Thanks."
"Captain James could arrange for some time off," Hailey said.
She shook her head, stood up straight, and rubbed her hands together. She dwarfed Hailey. Over six feet tall. "I'm sorry. I've tried to remember everything."
Hailey drew her notepad out, poised her pen. "No need to apologize."
Mackenzie nodded, like it was a criticism. "It was still too dark to see clearly and only one thing stands out."
"Another car. I only saw it from a distance. The rear left brake light might have been missing a small section. The bottom right corner looked broken." She glanced away then back. "Like I said, it was just a glimpse."
"That's helpful. Anything else? Type of car?"
"Only thing I saw were the taillights. Domestic, I think, and square. Made me think of an older model pickup. Ford, I'd guess."
Hailey made notes, then looked up. "That's a lot of detail to remember about a car you only saw for what-"
"Less than thirty seconds. I used to work for the rangers' service in Yellowstone. We tracked poachers and hunters in the park at night. Helps to be able to recognize cars by their taillights."
For whatever reason, Hailey had the image of Mackenzie, wearing a cowboy hat and riding horseback in pursuit of a car with a moose on its roof rack. Too many of the children's cartoons probably. "Nothing about the color?" Hailey continued. "The car's color, I mean."
Mackenzie shook her head. "No good light, so all I saw was black. Could have been any color."
"Reflection from the taillights didn't help?"
Hailey smiled softly. "Always makes the car look red. I'm guessing this one wasn't."
"Red's pretty conspicuous," Hailey agreed.
"Not what I'd choose if I were going to murder someone." She seemed to swallow the last words, shook her head. "G.o.d, I'm sorry. That was inappropriate."
"We all do it," Hailey said.
The rookie didn't answer.
Hailey asked a few more questions, but the taillights were the best clue Mackenzie could offer. Hailey figured the description narrowed it to somewhere around twenty-five thousand cars in San Francisco alone. Better than the almost three hundred and sixty thousand she'd have otherwise.
Hailey thanked the rookie for the help and saw Mackenzie's gaze drift back to the empty car. The body was now en route to the morgue for autopsy.
"It gets easier."
Mackenzie looked at her. She furrowed her brow. Intense. "Does it?"
Hailey saw Jamie leaving the scene, moving away like a much older person. The red ember of her cigarette glowed at her side. Hailey considered where Jamie was in her career. How far up she'd climbed. How far she'd fallen back down. She sighed, shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe sometime." Probably not, she thought.
Mackenzie seemed to understand the elusiveness of the answer.
As Hailey walked away, the rookie's gaze swung back to the crime scene. Hailey guessed she'd see a dead Natasha in her mind for longer than she could imagine.
Stepping out of the car at Hunters Point, Jamie zipped her flimsy jacket to combat the hostile wind. People milled around in front of the building. She'd suffered enough talk this morning. And last night. d.a.m.n Tim. He swore he'd turn himself in first thing this morning. He'd begged her to give him time for a shower and a change of clothes. Promised he would take the ones he'd been wearing in with him as evidence. He'd be honest and smart and he would not, under any circ.u.mstances, mention that he had come to her house.
How would that look if her ex-husband had come straight to her, covered in his lover's blood? The lover who had effectively ruined their marriage. How quick her brain was to blame Natasha. He did it, too. But she was the instigator. Now here she was and there was absolutely no sign that he'd spoken to anyone. And then she'd lied to Hailey Wyatt. Why hadn't she just ratted out the b.a.s.t.a.r.d? d.a.m.n, she was dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Not as dumb as Tim, though.
She just hoped he didn't do anything stupid. Anything else.
Blowing the last breath of smoke out her nose, she dropped the cigarette. She stamped out the b.u.t.t, picked it up, and threw it away. She'd save a h.e.l.l of a lot of time if she'd just litter, she thought. h.e.l.l, if she didn't smoke.
But that wasn't going to happen. She'd already given up drinking. If she was going to quit smoking, too, she might as well just jump in a freshly dug hole and start shoveling the dirt over her own face.
The lab was down a hallway to the right, but Jamie turned toward the bathroom. On the women's room door hung a sign that read, "Temporarily closed for maintenance."
"No way," she mumbled, shoving the door open.
"Closed," a young voice called back.
Jamie walked in and found a gangly teenager on his hands and knees in the far corner of the bathroom.