Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
If Kim hadn't expected to be doing a B&E when she got into this business, neither had I expected to be doing one in the company of a pint-sized half-Korean woman who, I suspected, was considerably tougher than I am. I've done a few before, breaking into and entering places in order to get evidence I could get no other way, but I've never enjoyed it. It's scary being in a place where you're not supposed to be, and although the chances of someone coming in while we were in Larry's apartment were much less because he'd lived alone, emotions aren't rational things. And it wasn't just me this time; Kim was with me, and if we got busted she'd go down with me. That was a responsibility I'd never had before, and I didn't much care for it.
We met on schedule, and walked over to the apartment complex, which was just a mile or so away. It was familiar ground to me, from the time when I lived there. It had been years, but it was still familiar. I remembered the first trip Cecelia and I took out to my desert place; though I hadn't been there in 10 years by then, the closer I got the more familiar everything had been, until I could almost have driven the last quarter mile up the driveway with my eyes closed.
I didn't dare close my eyes while walking. We had to cross first Montgomery, and then Jefferson, and Albuquerque traffic views pedestrians as annoyances who receive as little courtesy and consideration as possible. I don't know how blind people do it, but I've seen a few with their white canes walking along. I wouldn't dare risk the traffic without two good eyes.
We acted like we belonged where we were, but we looked all around too. Kim's mother, it developed, had been an Albuquerque police officer, and her brother still was, and she'd been a cop for a few years, so she'd imbibed something of the police officer's situational awareness. I of course had been a cop and had been an investigator ever since I quit the department, and so seeing everything around me has been automatic for most of my life. No one seemed to be out in the central courtyard of the apartment complex, and Larry's sliding glass door was in deep shadow. We were both wearing dark clothing – my jeans were a fairly new pair that were still dark blue, and I'd put on a shirt that was mostly brown; instead of my faded jean jacket I was wearing a long black duster Cecelia had gotten for me a few years back to commemorate my favorite movie, Once Upon a Time In the West. I don't wear it much, but it was handy for this job. Kim had on black BDU pants and a black t-shirt under a dark cloth jacket, and her brown skin gave her a bit of an advantage in being inconspicuous. I'd commented on that on the way over from Albertson's, and she said that her brother looked almost pure white, while she had gotten all the Korean genes. She was me in reverse – my brother Memphis looks like a blood, while I look pure Anglo, yet we had the same Indian father and white mother.
There in the darkness outside Larry's apartment, we crouched down and were silent for a time. We could hear cars on Montgomery and Jefferson, a loud television from somewhere above and to the left, an occasional voice from various apartments, and once the squalling of a tom cat looking for a girlfriend, an unexpected sound in December. No one approached us, no one hollered at us, as far as we could tell no one saw us. Certainly no one crossed the courtyard for the 10 minutes or so we waited.
Finally Kim whispered, "Let's do it."
I took my pocket knife out and opened the dull blade, the one with the rounded tip. While Kim kept watch I poked and prodded at the latch of the door. It quickly became clear I wasn't going to be able to flip it open. I didn't want to break anything if I could help it, so I started an attempt to pry the door off its track. That was somewhat risky, for the change in angle of the glass could reflect light that we couldn't see, and alert someone. And if I got butterfingered and dropped it, the door could break and wake up everyone in Bernalillo County. But it was the best next step since I'd forgotten my lock picks and hadn't thought to have Kim bring hers ... at least I assumed she owned a set. As I worked I wondered at someone who knew he was going to break into a place, and still managed to forget his tools.
Finally I got the door out of the track. Working very carefully, I slid it aside and leaned it against the stationary pane. I left just enough opening for me to slide through. Kim fit through easily – under other circumstances she might have twitted me about my earlier crack about her size, for being small was clearly an advantage just then.
Kim had insisted on using her fingerprint kit, and I had to admit when I saw it that she'd been right. I have a kit, but it's not nearly as complete, since I rarely need it and fingerprints aren't as helpful as TV makes out anyway. Hollywood would have us believe that if a crook just looks at a room he leaves about 43,048 clear and usable prints, and that every print you feed into the system comes back with a clear match. If it were really that easy, the cops would catch every criminal and we'd have a utopia.
We weren't going to try to get prints from everywhere, just the likely places a visiting killer might have touched. I hoped there were some. Even if Teebeau hadn't wiped anything down – an act which, though it destroys prints, is itself a clue – a horde of cops had been in there the day they found Larry's body, and since they'd early on concluded that he'd committed suicide they wouldn't have made any effort to preserve whatever prints there might be.
I shone my tiny light wherever Kim indicated, and she used her brush and powders and tape to locate and lift prints from the kitchen table, the end table beside the sofa, Larry's desk and computer, the coffee table, the inside knob of the front door, the front of the refrigerator, and various surfaces in the bathroom. Neither of us thought it likely that Teebeau had been in the bedroom, or had done any cooking. By the time we were done we'd spent three hours inside and were sweaty and uncomfortable. I could see the sheen of it on Kim's face, and felt it on mine, and the trickles down my ribs. Even in winter, with no heat on, the adrenaline and concentration warmed us up beyond what we would have preferred.
When we were done, we squatted just inside the dismounted door for 15 minutes or so making sure no one was outside. Putting the door back on its tracks was much easier than dismounting it had been; I've done it plenty of times, though always before from the inside; sliding glass doors do sometimes dismount on their own. We looked around, and then moseyed out of the shadows as though we belonged where we were and had never even thought of committing a crime.