James F. Timmins
File One: Three Card Monte
He sat with his back to the wall taking long, slow breaths of the cold night air.
He could see her across the street through the thin curtains, sitting, reading some meaningless work of fiction no doubt.
He had found her one day as she sat reading in a coffee shop. She was a girl, wearing no make-up, dressed in dull earth tones, with hair up in one of those nasty buns women wear.
She did wear a pair of square-framed glasses and he noticed that she often looked over the top of them, reminding him of his eighth-grade teacher whom he had a crush on.
He used to practically drool watching Mrs. Greer as she sat on the edge of her desk.
She would teach lessons on Chaucer and Shakespeare, perched with her bare legs crossed, looking over the top of her glasses at the class.
His intended victim had a similar body type and mannerisms but not nearly as alluring to the man as the teacher was to the boy.
He had decided then that the girl, who reminded him of his first crush, would be his first victim.
Her name was Vanessa and she was married to a man who worked late most nights, much like this night.
She would often wait up for him to get home, mostly reading and occasionally watching television. He was a stock trader in the Asian market and by the looks of the place he had done OK.
She got up, went to the kitchen then returned with a glass of wine, closed her eyes after a short sip, and leaned back in the chair.
It was time. He opened the case on the floor by the window and began to assemble the HR Precision Pro Series 2000 HRT Sniper rifle.
It had 3 rounds of magnum caliber bullets and he had no fear of the 30-yard distance or the damage they would do.
He looked at his watch and it was 12:01 a.m., April 4th. He lined her up in his crosshairs. Sorry honey, it’s a necessity.
Monday. Why would anyone like Mondays? Sure, the occasional holiday for some long ago President or Flag Day or whatever, other than that, they were a drag.
I rolled over and hit the snooze button on the alarm, which would give me an extra nine minutes of precious sleep.
I set the alarm eighteen minutes before I actually needed to get up because I’m a sucker for the snooze alarm.
Kicking off the covers, I got out of bed, pressed brew on my drip coffee maker, and headed to fulfill my morning ritual of the three S’s. Shit, shower, and shave; in that order.
I opened the refrigerator and poured a glass of OJ as the rich aroma drifted up from the coffee maker.
After downing the glass of OJ, I poured a nice hot cup of black coffee, which burned the back of my throat, but that’s the way I liked it.
I enjoyed my bachelor status and the apartment reflected the lack of a feminine touch.
It wasn’t that it was dirty, as I am reasonably neat, each room devoid of clutter, everything placed where I wanted it.
I did collect artwork and my tastes varied but my prize possession was a gilded Te-Guan-Yin statue of the Asian Iron Goddess of Mercy which stood alone in a corner.
An ornate wood carving depicting the feeding of a dragon as a backdrop behind her.
The living room furnishings were stylish but masculine, consisting of a soft black leather chair and couch set, a glass coffee table, and an oak bookcase filled with works of fiction and textbooks.
An oriental area rug given to me by my late grandmother partially covered a light hard yellow pine wood floor. Every room was neat, organized, and just the way I liked it.
I enjoyed the company of women and dated occasionally. My last relationship was filled with crazy intense sex and just as intense arguing.
It wasn’t long before we agreed the relationship was like oil and water. Since then, I had not met anyone that appealed to me once the night’s passion was through.
I was out the door and down the stairs at 7:30. As I waited for my partner to pick me up I did a few morning stretches.
A Chevy painted in black primer paint with oversized mud tires pulled to the curb in front of me.
My partner’s truck sat higher than most street vehicles providing a good field of vision but was a little conspicuous.
This truck was not one that you could hide in a crowd. The inside was clean but lived in, with worn black rubber mats and dark grey leather seats that were rubbed smooth in spots.
“Hey Claire,” I said as I looked down at the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin wrapper on the floor by the stick shift, “littering in the city gets you a five hundred dollar fine.”
“Fuck you, Jack,” she said with a smile as she popped the last morsel into her mouth.
I climbed in and she punched the gas as we sped out into traffic.
She preferred to drive and her truck had a three-fifty under the hood and plenty of muscle for the city streets. Not many cops rode around the city in trucks so it gave us some obscurity.
Clarita Sanchez’s parents were Mexican immigrants and had insisted on Americanizing the children’s names. Hence, Clarita became Claire.
She was a tough young cop; small, wiry, and a hell of a shot. She’d never drawn her gun as far as I knew, but at the range she was dead on, besting some of the SWAT team’s top marksmen.
When she and I were first assigned together I had serious reservations. I wasn’t sure I could work with this little spitfire, but she has proved to be a great partner.
She normally dressed in baggy sweat pants or jeans and sneakers. She wore tees, sweatshirts, and occasionally a sweater that always hid her figure.
Her curly long hair was usually tucked into a Boston Red Sox baseball cap.
I had once bumped into her at Old Orchard Beach as she made her way onto the pier and she had looked pretty good in a tank top, shorts with her hair let down.
We talked briefly about the weekend but most of the drive downtown was made in silence.
This was fine with me as my conversation skills didn’t really kick in until my travel mug needed a refill which was the first thing I head for at the station.
Today someone had drained the coffee without making another pot. Mondays.
Captain Jonathan Spacey called me from his office. I hadn’t decided if I cared much for old Jonathan even after ten years of working for him.
He was fair enough but he could be an arrogant prick. Maybe that was part of what they taught you at captain’s school, Prick 101.
Didn’t matter much really, except it was still Monday, the coffee needed to brew, and it was too early to figure out if this was a prick day for Captain Jonathan.
“Good morning, Captain,” I said with all the pleasantness I could muster.
“Hey, Jack,” he said without offering me a seat, which usually meant I was headed somewhere.
He was wearing a pinstripe suit, which for a cop meant you weren’t on the streets, a red power tie, and a kerchief in his pocket. Christ, I don’t even own a kerchief.
I did notice that his shoes were not as glistening as they usually were.
“Shoeshine stand not open today, Captain?” I asked as I leaned on the door jam.
“Come in, wise ass.”
“It’s Monday and I haven’t met my morning quota of coffee,” I replied.
“I need you and Claire over at 10 Neal St. There’s been a shooting. A thirty-four-year-old female was taken out through a window from across the street.
Patrolmen have sealed the crime scene. Let me know what you get.” With this, he pushed me out as he shut his door.
I motioned for Claire to follow me and we headed for the crime scene.
The apartment building was an old brownstone, in what normally was a quiet residential section of the city but today it was a zoo.
The print reporters were lined up and the local television crews were there along with a handful of rubbernecks.
Yellow crime scene tape was strung around the apartment building threshold. An officer named Guillian met me at the curb and nodded up to the side of the building.
The 5th-floor window had a chunk taken out of it and I noticed tiny pieces of glass sprinkled on the sidewalk. This area had also been taped off.
Again officer Guillian nodded, this time towards the door and we proceeded inside and up the stairs.
He waited until we were out of earshot of the reporters before he gave me a rundown of the situation at hand.
“Victim’s name is Vanessa Willis,” began Officer Guillian. “Age 34, works mornings and afternoons over at Cookies and Crème.”
We entered the elevator and he pushed number 5. “She lived on the fifth floor with her husband, Fred Willis, age 36.
He works odd hours at an Asian stock trading company, Klausse and Wallace, at 100 Congress St. He's here now, though not doing so well.”
We exited the elevator and entered the apartment immediately to the right. Nice place, lots of old wood molding and hardwood floors with an oriental style space rug.
The furniture in the main room looked comfortable and matched the red, blue, and gold print of the rug.
My impression was they were middle class on the rise, based largely on the LED screen television, which I knew I couldn’t afford.
The victim still sat in an antique rocker, which looked like it was a family heirloom. There was not much left of the back of her head as the exiting bullet had taken a large section of her skull with it.
Her face was covered in blood. I noticed a blood-splattered photo of her on a reading table beside the rocker.
She was sitting on the grass with, whom I assumed was Mr. Willis, and noted that although plain, she was attractive.
There was a stand-alone reading lamp still on beside the rocker and a copy of Diana, An Autobiography next to her.
There were tiny glass fragments on the floor reflecting off the morning sun like small diamonds.
The hole in the window was dime-sized, small cracks extending like fingers outward from the center.
The bullet that had taken out Mrs. Willis had passed through her and ended up in the stud behind the painted sheetrocked wall.
I squatted in front of the bullet and looked back towards the hole in the window.
According to the trajectory, it appeared that the shot came from the sixth-floor apartment across the street, but a bullet can change trajectory after hitting something, just ask JFK.
Officer Guillian was trailing me like a puppy. “Anybody check out the 6th floor across the street?” I asked.
“Yeah, Officer Wright is over there now. He is guarding the apartment that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th windows belong to,” he said as he turned back a page in his notes.
“The apartment belongs to Jason and Martha Headleton.
Both have been out of town since Saturday, according to the neighbor across the hall, a Mrs. Warner, widow, 72, and resident busybody no doubt.
There were signs of a break-in around the lock. The apartment is vacant. Wright is keeping watch over the place for you.”
“Ok, where is Mr. Willis?”
“In the bedroom, first door on the right. Like I said, he’s not doing well.”
“Don’t imagine he is.” I looked over at Sanchez and nodded toward the hall that led to the bedroom. She made her way through the forensic team and knocked on the door.
A gunshot echoed through the corridor as everyone dove for the ground. I looked over at Sanchez as she sat with her gun drawn and her back against the wall beside the door.
I drew my gun and barreled into the door and rolled right. I could hear Sanchez moving behind me going left.
Laying before me in a complete mess was Mr. Willis. He had taken a shotgun and nearly decapitated himself.
“Son of a bitch, Guillian. Why the fuck was this guy in here alone? Whose bright fucking idea was that?” I yelled as I stood.
Guillian quickly came in the room with his gun drawn and looked at the scene wide eyed, “Shit.”
“Shit. I guess shit. Son of a bitch.”
“Man, I just left him when I heard you arrive. He was upset but…”
“But what? His wife is out there dead, her brains scattered around the room, and you leave him alone.”
I felt Sanchez put her hand on my arm. I was working myself up into a rage and she knew it.
I took a deep breath, then another. It wasn’t much better but I no longer felt like shooting Guillian.
“There were 5 cops in here and the door was open when I left.”
“Enough,” I said as I made my way toward the door. “Check out what time this guy left his office on the odd chance he was the shooter.” I motioned to Sanchez to follow.
Officer Wright was still standing guard at the door when we arrived on the sixth floor across the street. “Hello, Detective, what’s all the excitement across the street?”
“Husband just checked himself out,” I said as I let myself into the apartment.
“Ain’t that a bitch? Think he killed her?”
“Not if the shot came from here, what would be the point?”
“I see what you mean. Where do you want me?”
“Right there is good. Anyone entered the apartment?” I asked as I looked around the tidy living room off the entranceway.
“No, you’re the first.”
Sanchez followed me in, shut the door behind her and we began to check out the apartment. She knew how I liked to work and had developed a similar style.
Maybe I was her mentor though it had never been put that way. I stood in the center of the room and took it in.
Decorated with a rustic theme, it could easily have been a lake house on Sebago Lake if not for the view.
Pine bookcases were filled with a mixture of classic and modern novels, the furniture was mostly made of wood.
There was a small round card table by the window with several chairs that had woven seats like my grandmother used to have.
One of the chairs had been moved off to the side away from the window, presumably to give the shooter room.
I got down on my hands and knees to look across the hardwood floor. It had rained yesterday and as I had hoped, there were slight footprints leading to the window.
Obviously, the shooter had not bothered to wipe his feet at the door. I pointed them out to Sanchez indicating with a motion not to step near them.
“We’re going to need a CSI unit to lift some shoe prints off the floor,” she said on her cell. “Yeah, fingerprints too hopefully.”
I looked across the floor and saw only the prints leading to the window. “Prints don’t lead back to the door,” I said to Sanchez.
“Where did he go, out the window?”
“No. How long do you think it would take for his shoes to dry as he sat here?” I asked as I kneeled 4 feet from where the footsteps ended in front of the window.
“Hard to say. It would depend on how wet they were.”
“Half hour tops I think. The prints near the window are lighter than the first steps.”
“What do you have, Jack?” I heard over my shoulder recognizing the voice as CSI agent Fritz von Gretchen.
He was in his mid-forties and we had worked more than a few crime scenes together. He was good and didn’t miss a thing and was responsible, in a large part, for how I looked over a crime scene.
I had learned a lot of techniques from him and his predecessor Agent Walsh. Their first case together had involved what appeared to be a murder-suicide.
Fritz had found a strand of synthetic fabric on the rug that led to an arrest for double murder.
“Shoe prints size 10 ½ or 11, maybe Cabalas by the pattern.” I indicated with a wave in the direction of the prints.
“Sanchez, can you look over the rest of the place? I don’t think he went anywhere else but check it out. Especially the bathroom, maybe we can get lucky and our perp had a weak bladder.”
Fritz was laying out what he needed to lift the prints when I asked, “Time of death on Mrs. Willis?”
“Around 11 p.m., give or take an hour, judging by the body temperature and the temperature in the room. I understand the husband got home around 6 a.m., some kind of Asian Stock crisis.”
“I wouldn’t know, I still keep my money in the freezer,” I said as I examined the sill. “After you lift the shoe print can you dust the window before I open it?”
“Someday maybe you’ll realize I know what I’m doing and don’t need a director. So while you and Claire are snooping around don’t contaminate anything before I get to it. Don’t touch anything!”
Sanchez returned to the room. “Everything is spotless in the rest of the house, especially the bathroom.”
I looked up at her, “Especially?” I got up and went into the bathroom to see what “especially” meant.
I am a single male and I have never seen an especially clean bathroom, although for this one immaculate would have been my word.
I looked across the floor moving my head to see if I could find any telltale droplets but couldn’t see any.
“What are you looking for?” asked Sanchez squatting beside me.
“Have you ever known a man to not miss on the shake part?”
“Is that when you get piss all over the place?”
“Yeah, it happens either at the end or at the beginning, but never during. But the perp used the toilet.”
“How can you tell?”
“The toilet seat is up. We always leave the toilet seat up. Genetics, I think. This is a married couple’s home so most likely the seat should be down.
Ever nag a man about leaving the seat up, or do you urinate standing up?”
“Fuck you, Jack,” she said with that cute little smirk of hers. “Maybe a cleaning lady cleaned up the place after they left for vacation?”
“No, then the seat definitely would have been down.”
I looked over the sink and it looked wiped clean. I doubted that Fritz would find prints but would ask anyway.
We walked out to the main room and Fritz had just finished dusting the window and casing.
“Clean, Jack. Although I did find this smudge, my guess made by a leather glove,” said Fritz.
I asked him to go through the bathroom as I donned a pair of rubber gloves.
When I opened the window, a piece of paper fell from where it had been stuck to the bottom of the window sash.
Sanchez picked it up and said as she handed it to me, “You can put the time of death at just after midnight.” The note was made up of numbers cut from a magazine and glued to the paper, which read in small font today’s date, 4/4.
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