Wet snow looked like a spilled cherry snow cone spreading from beneath the man’s downturned face. Detective Nate Richards of the Treasure Valley Metro Police looked down at the body stretched out on the ground at his feet. A quick glance suggested a single blow to the side of the man’s head had ended his life. Nate shook his head, dislodging snow from his loose curls, the white flakes contrasting against the coffee-colored tone of his skin. He shivered, I hate winter. Nate looked up, momentarily drawn by the halo that encircled the streetlight as its russet glow illuminated the night sky.
His partner, Detective Chris MacGilvery, worked a short distance away, talking to the on-scene patrol officer. The unbroken surface of the snow, pristine in its whiteness, made the whole scene eerily bright. MacGilvery cupped his hands and blew into them, attempting to thaw them out, his gray-blue eyes reflecting the light from the snow. He had been assigned as Nate’s partner when Nate’s previous partner, twenty-year veteran Sabrina Jackson, retired after being shot in the line of duty by a rogue cop.
Looking up with the memory, Nate flexed tight muscles in his jaw and stooped to better examine the body. Remembering his scripture reading from that morning, Hebrews 9:27, “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Nate wondered where this man’s soul was now.
He looked over the crime scene, trying to decipher its secrets. Shaking his head from side to side, he considered the snow. It was not helping; no footprints led to or away from the body. The snow will have to be collected and sifted for possible evidence. He rubbed gloved fingers across his chin.
“Mac,” Nate called out, “witnesses?”
“None. A man walking his dog found the body and called it in.”
Nate made his way over to Chet Baraza, the patrol officer in charge, and looked in the direction of the sirens sounding in the near distance. “I guess we can tell the paramedics to downgrade,” Nate said, extending a hand to Baraza.
The group of patrol officers laughed. Baraza chuckled and shook Nate’s hand. “He’s DRT. Dead right there, man; this one’s not going anywhere on his own. He must’a dropped like a sack of potatoes. Farrumph!” the officer said and gestured as if dropping a heavy load.
Wheels crunched in the snow as the paramedic van pulled up and rolled to a stop just outside the crime scene. The overhead lights flashed brilliantly against the snow, perforating the velvet drape of the night sky. The already too bright landscape sparkled like an oversized diorama as the red and white lights of the van played against it. The driver, a middle age balding man, stepped from the van. “What’d’ya got?” he asked nobody in particular.
Nate dipped his chin toward the body. He looked back at the driver and shook his head from side to side in a slow sweep.
Pulling on rubber examination gloves, the paramedic bent over and examined the four-inch gash in the temple of the victim, paying particular attention to the jagged edge. He stood and whistled, blowing air through pursed lips. “Wow, that’s…,” he began. “That’s…that’s bad.” He looked over his shoulder at his partner who was quickly pulling gear from the van. “Bag it, Jeff, this one’s DRT. Better call the coroner, Nate.”
Mac finished talking to the witness and, after getting his contact information, released him to leave. Turning to face the group of officers, he jogged-skidded his way back across the thin sheet of ice on the street to join Nate and the others near the body.
Nate locked eyes with Mac before they both turned to face Baraza. The veteran street cop pulled his note pad from his breast pocket and frowned as he prepared to check his information against what the detectives already had.
“The old guy,” he said, indicating the RP (reporting party), “called in a medical assist man down at about twenty-fifteen hours… just after the first call came into dispatch about what sounded like a single gunshot being fired.”
Nate looked back at the body of the unidentified man lying face down in the snow. “Anybody pull I.D. yet?”
“Naaa, it was obvious he was dead. Thought we’d wait for five-one to call it, and of course you guys.”
“So, you’re a doctor now, Baraza,” Mac chided.
Baraza frowned, feigning injury. “You don’t need an M.D. in front of your name to know you can’t live with a hole like that in the side of your head. I’m thinking long gun, .22 caliber maybe.”
“That much damage from a twenty-two?” Mac asked, arching a brow.
“Heavy load, low velocity at close range,” Baraza finished. “Maybe a tumbler; of course it’s just my guess. But I’m only a lowly street cop, not like you bright boys up there in Criminal Investigation Division.” He smiled sarcastically and, with a tap of his fingers, tucked his pad back into his jacket pocket.
Nate cupped Baraza on his shoulder and pushed him, causing him to slide on the ice, barely managing to keep his balance. “I’ll see you in the morning, wise guy.”
Baraza laughed. “Heck, we’ll be back for morning briefing before you even finish your paperwork.”
The men laughed, and Nate turned his attention back to the dead man belly down in the snow. Looking up, Nate saw the coroner’s van pulling into the intersection. The deputy coroner, a tall dark haired man in his mid to late twenties, got out and prepared to bag the body.
“Hold on there, cowboy,” Mac called to the deputy coroner.
Nate waved a hand to get the coroner’s attention. “We haven’t finished here yet—crime scene’s still mine.”
“Works for me, I’ll wait in my wagon. Too cold out here for me anyway,” he said and hefted his bulk back into the van.
Flipping open his cell phone, Nate called the on-call crime scene tech. Rosie answered on the second ring. “Hey, sorry to bother you this early.”
She cut him off. “I’m already en route. Got in late and heard the call go out. I should be on scene in about—Now.” She honked her horn as she parked her van across the street from the crime scene. Rosie, a fifty-something Hispanic woman, was almost as tall as she was round, with a personality just as big. She was a no-nonsense, fresh-off-the-streets type girl.
Bumping the van door closed with her hip, Rosie opened her bag and began to set up her camera. “What do you want?” She asked over her shoulder.
Nate and Mac smiled knowingly as Rosie sorted the varied baggies and evidence containers. “Better get everything. We don’t know what we have yet,” Nate answered.
“You can get me the heck out of here,” MacGilvery added sarcastically and glanced over at Rosie.
As Rosie began to create a photo log of the crime scene, recording the location and placement of items of interest, Nate and Mac stepped back to consider what they had discovered. A half hour passed, and Rosie signaled that she had finished with the preliminary photos and was all set to begin evidence collection.
“Ready?” Nate asked.
“Nope,” Mac said joking.
“Oh, shut up,” Rosie cut in. “We’re ready.”
“Okay,” Nate began, “I’ll walk the route. You watch Mac and Rosie you—”
“I’ll stand by for collection and tagging. It’s not my first ride on this train you know”
Standing near the head of the body, he looked at the scene again. Studying the body’s position, Nate moved around it, trying to determine the victim’s direction of travel at the time of attack. Beginning at the corpse’s feet, taking slow steps moving in a spiral search pattern, he progressed outward from the body. Nearing the head again, he stopped, feeling something hard beneath the toe of his shoe. “Mac…I think I got something.”
Nate knelt down and retrieved a small rectangle shaped piece of plastic from beneath his right foot. Reading the writing on the side of the object, he recognized it to be a sixteen-gigabyte thumb-drive.
Holding the thumb-drive between his index finger and thumb, Nate dropped it into a small evidence bag held by Rosie. She cut her eyes at him. “Next time use rubber gloves, Sherlock.”
He exchanged glances with Mac. “What’d’ya think?”
“I think you should wear gloves.” He cleared his throat and chuckled. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” he answered. “Let’s get it back to the lab, and see what the boys in cyber tech can do with it.”
Rosie didn’t smile. “Let’s just get it dried out, and see if there’s anything on it.”
Nate nodded and continued the swirl pattern outward to about ten to twelve feet from the body. Mac tracked his progress from the side, looking for anything that Nate may have missed.
Nate positioned himself near the shoulders of the body, directing Mac to the opposite side near its knees. “Okay, let’s roll this fellow over, and see who we have here.”
Aided by the cold and rigor mortis, the body rolled easily and rocked onto its back like a saucer settling into place. Its hands and arms splayed, frozen above his head. Blue eyes stared unseeing through ice crystals into the night sky.
“Whoa,” Nate said, “you know who this is?” He reached into the dead man’s pocket and retrieved his wallet. Opening it, he passed the ID to Mac.
Mac forced air through pursed lips. “So, justice finally caught up to old Bobby.”
“When did he get out of prison, anyway? I thought he got fifteen to life on his last jaunt to State.”
“Yeah, fifteen, but only two fixed. He must have made parole.”
“Only two years for child rape.” Nate shook his head. “Maybe he should’a stayed in prison.”