Production No. CVT510
Gabrielle and Lark
MEET THE CAST
The holiday season was finally over, and things could get back to normal; whatever normal was. Normal for most people involved the drudgery of their jobs and thinking how long it was before their next three-day weekend. Normal for the Major Crime Division of the Cascade Police Department was another thing altogether.
"Ellison, Sandburg. My office, gentlemen." The two men thus summoned looked at each other, Captain Banks wasn't usually quite so... well, polite. He didn't even bark out the invitation, simply called out in a normal, slightly-louder-than-conversational tone of voice.
"Uh-oh," Blair murmured almost silently.
"Yeah," Jim replied, standing up. "Well, let's go see what's hit the fan." The two men walked across the bullpen to their superior's office; Jim tapped once on the door and they entered, closing the door behind them.
Without waiting for them to sit down, Simon launched directly into the assignment.
"Looks like a murder-suicide. Wendell Bridger. Member of..."
"I know who he is, Sir," Jim interrupted, "I've met him, before. What happened?"
Simon scowled at the interruption, but continued with the explanation anyway. "His daughter found him this morning. The uniforms are there now, securing the scene and waiting for you." He held out a slip of paper with an address on it "Go forth and investigate, gentlemen," he said, dismissively; waving them out of the room and returning his attention to the reports he was reviewing and his coffee, which was getting cold.
Jim, as usual, drove. As they exited the station garage, Blair asked, "So, who is Wendell Bridger, and how do you know him?"
"He was a sometimes business associate of my father's. He's older than my dad, and his current wife is younger than you are. Rumor has it that his kids hated her." Jim kept his attention on his driving, weaving adroitly in and out of traffic as opportunity allowed.
"So, you think it might be a double murder, instead of a murder-suicide?" Blair asked, sorting possible scenarios in his mind.
"Won't know until we get there, Chief." They made the rest of the trip in relative silence; Blair preparing himself for the dead bodies, Jim thinking of the man he'd known growing up.
Pulling up in front of the house, they noticed the four squad cars. Three of the officers were keeping curious neighbors back from the house, while another stood guard at the door. Nodding at the officers as they passed them, they made their way to the house.
"Hey, Roberts. How's it goin'?" Jim asked the blond man about his own age who stood guarding the door.
"Pretty good, Jim. It's a mess in there, though," he warned. Blair took a deep breath and swallowed hard, steeling himself to follow his partner inside.
"Thanks, Doug. Who else is here?"
"Well, Thompson, of course, and a new rookie, Queens."
"Oh, I know him," Blair blurted out. "We were in the academy together. Good guy." Jim nodded and led the way into the house.
Doug Roberts muttered something as they passed that made Jim smile.
"What?" Blair whispered.
"He said that he was a great guy, he managed to get outside before contaminating the crime scene. That's something that Roberts didn't manage to do on his first homicide, as I recall," Jim replied
With a hard swallow, Blair said a very quiet little, "Oh," and fell silent, concentrating on not embarrassing himself or his partner.
Entering the house, they were directed by another uniformed officer to the upstairs bedroom. Just outside the door, Sergeant Thompson was talking softly to a very pale young man, obviously the rookie, Queens. Looking up, the bantam cock of a sergeant spotted the detectives and gave the rookie a gentle shove toward the door with the admonishment to keep an eye out for the coroner's men.
"Hey, Ellison. How they hangin'?" he asked, his ever-present, unlit cigar being mauled as he spoke.
"Same as always," Jim replied. "What do you have?"
Jim glanced over the shorter man's head into the bedroom, grimacing at the amount of blood and carefully blocking Blair's initial view of the scene.
"Looks like a regular murder/suicide, is all. Woman shot through the heart, man shot in the head. Powder burns, gun by his hand... the usual." He looked at Blair, "Who's this?"
"My partner, Blair Sandburg. I guess you two haven't met before?" Jim seemed a little surprised.
"Don't think so. Heard about him, though." He turned to Blair; "You're the hippie who was in the middle of all that science fiction crap a few months back, right?" Thompson's tone of voice wasn't accusatory or anything like that, merely curious.
With an uncertain glance at Jim's smiling face, he replied, "Uh, yeah. That was me," he smiled nervously.
"Ain't it a crock what the media gets into and throws out to feed the public?" He glanced up at Jim, then shook his head and chuckled dryly, "Ellison as Superman? Nobody who knows him would ever believe it. Heard you had to toss out your term paper over it, though. Sorry to hear that. That slimeball of a publisher oughta pay you the money he offered just to keep you from suin' his ass."
Sergeant Thompson finally took the well-chewed cigar from his mouth and spat shreds of tobacco into his hand before examining the remains of his stogie and sticking it back between his teeth. "Anyway, kid, don't let this rock-pile worry you none. He's a good cop, in spite of his lousy attitude," and with that, Thompson slapped Blair on the shoulder and headed for the door. "I'll let you two do your little detective thing. See you later, Superman. Take care, kid," then he was gone.
Blair shook his head. "What was that?" he asked, a little shell-shocked.
"That, was Sergeant Wiley Thompson. I think he was a cop before there was dirt. He's been a patrol sergeant just about forever. He used to work the night shift, but I guess they finally forced him to rotate to days for a while," Jim explained. "He's a good man to work for. Just not very ambitious."
Blair looked back in the direction Thompson had disappeared, "Yeah. He's really something, all right," he agreed. "Well, I suppose we'd better do what the man said, huh? Our 'little detective thing'?"
"Yeah. I guess so. You ready, Chief?"
"As ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."
The scene itself wasn't nearly as bad as Blair had pictured it. Mrs. Bridger lay in their bed, sprawled across on top of the covers, just a bit of blood seeping out from under her body. There was a small, dark hole in her negligee, with just a trace of blood at the entrance wound. The other uniformed officers had the housekeeper and the daughter who had found the bodies in another room, quietly waiting to be interviewed. The coroner had been called, and the attendants had arrived and were waiting for the go-ahead to collect the bodies. Jim paused in the doorway, Blair peering cautiously around him at the scene.
Laying one hand on Jim's back, Blair softly spoke. "What do you see, Jim?"
"Let's do a sketch, first. Have the photographers been here yet?" He called loudly to the other uniformed officers.
"No, sir. We're still waiting for them."
"Thanks. We'll wait for them, too." Jim remained in the doorway and, with Blair's grounding influence, did a sensory scan on the room. He murmured his findings. "Single shot to the heart for the woman... you don't want to look at the man, Blair," he added, able to see from the doorway that the man's face was badly deformed from the bullet he'd taken to the head. The gun lay by his limp right hand.
"The gun's on the floor, not in his hand," he added.
"Is that unusual?" Blair asked.
"Not necessarily. But a lot of times, at the moment of death, their hands will spasm; you know the term 'death grip'?"
"Uh, yeah, but I thought that referred to hanging on for dear life."
"No. It means a death spasm that will make it nearly impossible to remove an item from the deceased's hand without breaking fingers. Happens a lot with handgun suicides. Considering the direction of the bullet, I'm a little surprised, is all."
"Maybe a clue to it being murder instead of suicide?"
Just then, the photographers arrived and Jim entered the room with them, indicating how he wanted the pictures taken, pointing out angles and items he particularly wanted documented. Blair clenched his jaw and holding on to his natural revulsion at the scene, swallowed hard once and took a look. Mr. Bridger lay supine, stretched out on the floor, his hands out somewhat from his body, perhaps from falling down; although, Blair thought he should have maybe crumpled down, instead of laying quite so spread out. He could see a small hole under the man's chin, with his features somewhat distorted by the gasses from the muzzle of the gun; and, of course, the back of his head was pretty much missing. Some of the grey matter had splattered across the bed and the dead woman. Blair found himself alternately repelled and fascinated by the scene.
Once the photographers were finished, Blair pulled out the small, spiral-bound notebook he'd taken to carrying, where he wrote down any notes or questions he might have. He carefully began his sketch of the crime scene. Jim did the same. Later, they would compare notes, but for now, each man wrote down his impressions; without picking up on the other's possible bias. Once the crime scene sketches had been completed, they started gathering evidence.
"See the powder burns and residue on his chin?" Jim asked.
Blair nodded. "That means that the muzzle was either touching or really close when the gun went off, right?"
"Uh huh. Hmmmm." Jim's brows furrowed and he squinted his eyes just a bit to take a closer look. "Interesting angle of trajectory. It's a lot lower than I would have expected."
"What's so unusual about it?" Blair asked.
"Well," Jim pulled out his own weapon and held it under his jaw, "To shoot yourself at that angle, you'd be holding the gun like this," he demonstrated, "and firing with your thumb. The normal way, is to hold it like this," again demonstrating, holding his gun normally, lifting his hands and the gun turned upside down, "See the difference in the angles? It's just a little strange."
"So, maybe murder made to look like suicide?"
"Maybe." Jim carefully touched the skin of one of the bodies, "Dead about four hours, I'd guess."
Blair just nodded his acceptance of this guess, knowing that Jim's sense of touch was nearly as accurate as a thermometer when it came to judging temperatures. They finished their preliminary investigation and went out to question the housekeeper and the daughter who had found the deceased.
"So, Mrs. Crandall, you're saying that you didn't find it unusual that they were still apparently asleep at ten-thirty in the morning?" Jim asked.
"Well, it was a little unusual, but not completely unknown. Generally, Mr. Bridger would come down about nine and have breakfast. Mrs. Bridger seldom came down before noon, so I wasn't too concerned about it." The woman had been in Mr. Bridger's employ for more than thirty years, and Jim accepted her report easily.
"Thank you. Will you be staying on here, Mrs. Crandall?"
"Yes, sir. Until everything's settled, I suppose."
"That's fine. If we think of any more questions, we'll contact you." Rising, the two detectives left the housekeeper and entered the sitting room next door. There, the deceased's daughter awaited their questions.
"Ms. Bridger, you arrived at what time?" Jim asked the younger woman. She was obviously (despite cosmetic surgery and the finest makeup money could buy) older than her stepmother.
"I got here at ten-fifteen. I simply went upstairs to talk to my father and, well, you saw how I found them." Despite her downcast eyes, there was no sign of emotion from the supposedly grieving daughter.
"What about other members of the family?" Blair asked, giving his partner time to use his senses to check the woman's veracity.
"My brother is in Canada, and my sister is off gallivanting around who knows where."
"Can you think of anyone who might want your father dead?" Jim asked, his tone carefully neutral.
"Well, honestly, it could be any of his business associates. After all, he's not the most popular man in town."
"Anything specific that you can think of? Any sign of depression? Excess stress? Anything odd or unusual in his recent behavior?" Jim asked.
Shelley Bridger laughed, "He was so infatuated with that bimbo he married that all his recent behavior was strange."
"You don't seem too upset that your father's dead, Ms. Bridger," Blair pointed out.
"I'm not. My father and I disagreed on his marriage. I thought he was being an old fool," she positively sneered when she said it.
"And now he's a dead fool," Blair said softly, his words finally eliciting a bit of surprise from the dead man's daughter.
"Who stands to inherit?" Jim asked, turning the discussion away from the unprofitable line of observation.
"Myself, my brother, and my sister."
"No business partners?" Jim asked.
"Thank you, Ms. Bridger. If we come up with any more questions, we will contact you."
"Feel free. May I go, now?" She asked, rising.
"Sure. Go ahead. Thank you for your time," Jim thoughtfully watched her as she left.
"Brrrrr," Blair mock-shivered. "Talk about a cold fish..."
"Yeah, she was pretty cool. Didn't seem to wonder whether they were murdered or if her father killed himself."
"You mean like, she already knew?"
Finished with their initial investigation, and allowing the Coroner's people to remove the bodies, the two sealed the crime scene. After warning the housekeeper that anyone tampering with the evidence of the room would be subject to arrest, they headed back to the station to begin their initial report.
They were back in the truck when they received a call over the radio of a silent alarm, robbery in progress. Jim, with his unerring skill and seeming lack of concern for other motorists, pulled a tire-screeching, frightened-motorists-honking U-turn and, flicking on his lights and siren, floored the gas pedal and headed for the broadcast address. Blair, as soon as he could get his nails out of whatever he'd been able to sink them into to hold him in place during his partner's terrifying maneuver; picked up the microphone and called in that they were on their way. Their ETA less than five minutes... providing Jim didn't get them killed first.
"I heard that, junior." Jim growled as he screeched around a corner, his right arm going out across his partner's chest to keep him in place.
"Jim, it won't do us any good if you get us killed on our way there, you know," Blair said, through gritted teeth.
Glancing over at his partner, Jim sighed and slowed down from his previous eighty miles per hour to a mere seventy-five. "There. Is that better?"
"Yes. Now, before we announce ourselves by crashing through the front of the building... slow down!" Blair shouted.
Jim did just that, driving the final three blocks to their destination at a sedate fifty miles per hour, turning off the siren for the last block and slowing down to park across from the building where the silent alarm had been set off.
There were two patrol cars already there, the officers waiting for the detective or their sergeant, whoever got there first, to tell them what to do. A well-dressed man had come out of the building and apologized, saying that a clerk had accidentally set off the silent alarm. The uniformed officers relaxed and holstered their guns, joking with the man, who then turned back into the jewelry store. Jim squinted, letting his enhanced vision take over, scoping out the place. He was about to turn away when he saw what looked suspiciously like a smear of blood on the front of one of the counters.
Crossing the street, barely noticing the traffic that had to halt to keep from hitting him, Jim joined the patrolmen and the supposed jeweler, Blair right behind him. Surreptitiously sniffing, he caught the smell of cordite and blood, and he knew. Drawing his weapon, he said, very firmly, "I think we need to check this out just a little more, sir."
The man paled and raised his hands, shaking his head. "What gave me away?" he asked.
"I can smell the cordite on you," Jim told him, motioning for one of the uniforms to cuff the man. Leading the way inside the jewelry store, they found the owner and a clerk, bleeding on the floor, both unconscious, and near death. Blair told the uniformed officers to call for an ambulance while he and Jim pulled on the latex gloves they carried in their pockets and began first aid on the two victims.
There was so much blood; yet both victims were still alive. Applying pressure to their gunshot wounds, Jim and Blair told the unconscious pair that they were police and that help was on the way. While one pair of uniformed officers read the suspect his rights, the second pair assisted the detectives in trying to keep the two victims alive long enough to get them to medical care. When the paramedics arrived, Blair had gotten the bleeding stopped on the younger man, but Jim's victim was still oozing blood around the wound despite the pressure being applied.
As soon as the paramedics took stock of the situation, both detectives gladly gave up their posts and stood by, watching them work and hoping that they had been in time to save them. They borrowed some cleaning supplies and wiped the blood from their hands. Within minutes, the EMTs had IVs in place and were preparing to transport the two victims to the nearest hospital. Once they'd been removed, Jim looked up at the now sickly looking prisoner.
"You'd better hope they both survive. We still hang people in this state." He growled. Then, he motioned the uniformed officers to take him away. Looking around the store, he found where the man had broken open the safe and had been in the process of removing a large number of diamonds when he had seen the police arrive.
"So, what do you want to do next, Jim?" Blair asked.
"Now, we secure the scene, see if there's any next of kin, and..." The shop door opened, a little bell tinkling as warning. The two men looked up and saw a middle-aged woman, who was looking worriedly around.
"Jules?" She called out, eyeing the strangers, suspiciously. "Where's Jules?" She asked, her voice rising in panic, "Who are you, what have you done to Jules? Jules!"
Both men pulled out their ID's to show her, "We're police officers, Ma'am. I'm Detective Ellison, and this is my partner, Detective Blair Sandburg. We responded to a silent alarm. We found two men, one about sixty-five years of age, and another about twenty. They'd been shot. We provided first aid and the ambulance left a few minutes ago with both of them. Who are you, Ma'am?" His voice was soft as he attempted to soothe the agitated woman.
"My name is Teresa. Teresa Shoenfeld. My husband, Jules, owns this shop. Our son helps out after school, he's in college." She looked ready to collapse. Blair went to her and gently guided her past the puddles of blood on the floor to the chair behind the counter. She looked around, tears trickling down her face. "Who would do such a thing?"
"We have the man who shot them in custody, Ms. Shoenfeld." Jim said in his gentlest tone. "Would you like me to take you to the hospital?"
She looked up at him. "That would be nice. But I need to close up the shop, first."
"Yes, ma'am. We'll help you, if you like," Blair volunteered.
As they helped her prepare the shop for closing, they asked questions about the stock, whether anything was missing or not. She wasn't positive, but she thought everything was there. Once the premises were secure (Jim had taken it upon himself to clean up the bloodstains), Jim drove Mrs. Shoenfeld to the hospital, while Blair followed in her car. They also contacted other members of the family for her, who agreed to meet them at the hospital. When they arrived, both men were in surgery to repair their wounds. Mrs. Shoenfeld had forms to fill out and, as Jim and Blair sat with her, her daughter and another family member arrived to take care of her. Giving them his card, Jim promised that the man who had done this was in custody and that they were on their way to fill out the report.
By the time they left the hospital, it was nearly two p.m. There was no mistaking Jim's stomach complaining about the late hour. Blair, taking pity on his friend, suggested, "OK. Today only, how about Wonder Burger for lunch?"
Jim's grim, clenched-jawed expression immediately lightened. "My treat," he offered, smoothly changing lanes so he could pull into the drive through lane at the Wonder Burger down the block. "What do you want?"
"The baked chicken sandwich, please, and an orange juice," Blair requested.
When the clerk asked for their order, Jim requested Blair's choices and added his own for a Mega-Wonder with large fries and a cola. Blair didn't even comment about the cholesterol, for a change. As they headed back to the station to eat and start on their reports, Jim cast a concerned glance at his partner.
"What's wrong, Chief?"
Blair brought himself out of his contemplative state and murmured, "Hmmm? What? Oh, nothing, really. I was just thinking, is all."
"That sounds dangerous," Jim quipped. "Which case is bothering you?"
"Both of them, actually. The robber, mostly, I guess. He walked in and shot those people, leaving them to bleed to death without a care. Then he had the audacity to walk out and tell the uniforms that he 'accidentally' set off the silent alarm. Man, that takes a lot of chutzpah."
"Yeah. It does," Jim agreed.
"If it weren't for you, they'd have both died, you know," Blair added, looking at his friend.
"Just doing my job, Chief. That's all."
"What tipped you off?" Blair pressed.
"I looked inside and saw the blood smears on the counter. Then I smelled the blood and the cordite on him." He shrugged, "It worked out, this time."
"Yeah, well, there are three people who are very grateful that you were there, or they would be if they knew the truth..." Blair trailed off, there was no use in beating that particular dead horse any more. Jim just gave him a concerned look and kept his peace, knowing that all he would do was make it worse if he said anything.