The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 16

There are reasons that most police departments have chaplains. The Red Hawk department didn't, not having enough money to run such a program, but there were a couple of officers who were what Baptists call bi-vocational ministers – they worked a secular job to support their preaching. And I of course have been a preacher for years.

Cecelia made use of all of us. She talked to whomever was available when she needed someone to talk to, but she talked to me the most, since not only did she see me the most, but we've been counseling each other for years. And as time went on, her nightmares receded and she stopped looking out into nothing – seeing, as she told me, the corpse lying in the woods. Police work, if you put any effort at all into it, is hard on the soul.

It was a bit more than a month after she rolled on the DB call that a couple of reports came across my desk. One was the medical examiner's report. He was still waiting for some toxicological test results – those can take months if the lab has enough of a backlog – but he had done the autopsy and the conclusion was that the victim died of having his skull caved in with some heavy, fairly sharp object. It might have been an ax or a hatchet, it might have been a piece of angle iron, it might have been anything with enough of an edge to penetrate and enough weight to crush. He didn't believe it was a sword or knife, but I wasn't so sure on that point – a machete might do it, and I knew for a fact that a claymore, the old Scottish broadsword, could have done the damage. Of course, it wasn't likely that anyone in Red Hawk was carrying around a sword with a blade that could be as much as six feet long – for one thing, how would he conceal it?

The other report identified the victim. There were DNA results still pending – those could take months too – but fingerprints, dental records, and comparison with photos available via the National Crime Information Center made it pretty conclusive that the man was Héctor Rodríguez Rios, an illegal alien who had done time for burglary in Oklahoma and Texas, and who was a suspect in some other crimes, including rape, in those states as well as Kansas and New Mexico.

Rodríguez – in old Spanish tradition Rios was his mother's maiden name – had come from Honduras originally, back in 1992. Somehow he'd never gotten deported, although he had never had a green card nor made any effort to get one. He had connections to organized Mexican crime, and there were hints that he was somehow affiliated with the vicious MS13 Hispanic gang.

Well, his death wasn't any great loss to society, but that didn't mean that his murderer was a saint. Quite probably whoever killed Rodríguez was as bad if not worse, and deserved to go down just as surely as Rodríguez had. Of course that was all moot – my job was to enforce the law, which meant finding whoever did the crime, arresting him, building a prosecutable case, and letting the court do its job.

I leaned back in my chair, thinking. Red Hawk's department wasn't set up to handle a case that might very well involve evidence in multiple states. Like most local cops, I wasn't eager to call for federal help, but it seemed to me that if I could keep 'em under control, the Fibbies – the "special agents" of the FBI – might be able to help.

But first I'd check with the people who had to work the case. I picked up my phone and hit three digits. "Dispatch, this is Dori," came the response.

"Yeah, Dori, this is Darvin. Where's Allen Mills on the board?" I meant the status board, which allowed the dispatcher on duty to tell at a glance which officers were on duty, whether they were at lunch or whatever, when their next shift was – all that sort of thing that's essential to running an efficient dispatch operation.

"He shows in the station, Chief." No matter how hard I tried to informalize them, most of the people I supervised persisted in using my title rather than my name.

"Cool, thanks." I hit the hook – what used to be the hook, anyway, until they redesigned phones – and lifted my finger. I got dial tone, and punched in another three digit extension.

"Investigations, this is Officer Mills."

"Allen, this is Darvin. Could you break free long enough to see me in my office, or you need me to come over there?"

"I'm hip deep, Chief – which is why I'll break free. I'll be there in two." As far as I knew Mills had never been in the military, but sometimes he sounded like he had.

"Cool – I'll be here."

And I was. He came into my office a couple of minutes later and sat down across from me. He knew – everyone did by now – how to tell whether I was going to chew someone out, compliment him, or just talk business.

"First, Allen, read these." I handed him the two reports.

He did, nodding at a couple of places. "The ID is good – it gives me more to grab hold of. So far I've been spinning my wheels."

"Refresh me, Allen – what did y'all find at the scene?"

"The body is about all. There was almost no blood, so he didn't die there. That dragged trail you found seems to be the route where the perp brought him in, but you looked it over for eight hours and couldn't find anything useful – no tracks, no threads that couldn't have come off anyone in the country, no nothing. That lighter you found might have a connection, but it doesn't look like it – the thing was bone dry, and though there wasn't any rust it looks like it had been there for a while, and anyway it wasn't near the trail. No prints, of course – even if there had been some in the first place, which is unlikely on that sort of surface which went around in someone's pocket, weathering wrecked them."

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