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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chapter Four

             It was company policy that the detectives on ‘One Week Window’ wait a full twenty-four hours after the network picked up the case to discuss it with the bereaved family. 

While the executive powers-that-be insisted that this policy was enforced in order to gather the most evidence available before presenting it to the family, the true reason, David suspected, was to get the family as emotionally stressed and on-edge as possible so that any drama that unfolded could be filmed and thrown to the ravenous audience like a bone to a starving dog.
            David’s knuckles were tight on the wheel, his eyes red-rimmed from his lack of sleep the night before. He’d been up most of the night with the evidence given to him by Atlas Communications, and even though he’d poured through the scenario of the murder over and over again. The case didn’t make sense: Darcy Tucker probably knew her assailant and there should have been overwhelming evidence. Instead, there was no video from security cameras mounted on traffic lights and the physical evidence on Darcy’s body yielded no definitive matches. It was mostly because of this that David had been called in the early hours of the morning to go investigate the last person on the planet he would have guessed that he’d be visiting: the CEO and owner of one of the most profitable companies in the hemisphere as well as a majority of Atlas Communication’s hefty stocks., Henry Ferrier.
In the passenger seat, Billy snored peacefully with his camera cradled in his lap like it was his child. David had picked up the cameraman on his way to Aeroworks Engineering, as it was his duty to do so every day, and although the man drove David nearly mad with irritation, his was surprisingly grateful for his company that particular morning.
They pulled into the parking lot of Aeroworks Engineering, the second largest engineering firm in the country David adjusted his tie, and when Billy linked away he grunted, “Let’s go.”
The lobby was sheathed almost entirely in expensive granite, and only a waifish person of no immediately discernable gender manned the formidable desk that stood sentry at the center of the room.
David cleared his throat and walked over to the receptionist and cleared his throat, “Uh, hi there. I’m Detective David Armstrong, and I’m here for a ten o’clock meeting with Mr. Ferrier.”
The receptionist looked up and smiled coldly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Armstrong, but Mr. Ferrier left a message for you. He says that he is very sorry to have to cancel your meeting, but he will give you a call later today.”
“I’m sorry, what?” David’s jaw actually dropped, “He didn’t see the need to give me a call before I came here?”
“No, apparently not.” The receptionist gave a demure shrug and returned their attention to the computer screen in front of them. It gave David no pleasure to notice that on the screen were the spinning figures of ‘One Week Window.’
“Listen, there is evidence that ties Mr. Ferrier to the victim of a crime, and he is seriously slowing our investigation by-“
“Mr. Armstrong, I seriously doubt that being someone’s ex employer is enough to implicate them in a murder,” the receptionist sniffed, “He will give you a call later.”
“It is detective.” Billy’s camera audibly zoomed in on David’s twitching jaw as he corrected the receptionist, but the detective didn’t lose his temper like Billy was hoping he would. Instead, he turned on his heel and left without another word.
However, when they had returned to the car, David swore loudly and climbed into the driver’s seat with an unnecessarily loud slam of the door. Billy eagerly trained the camera on him, but David put a hand over the lens.
“What the hell? You can’t do that!”
David snarled, “If you air me yelling at Atlas Communication’s majority share holder, how well do you think that will go over?”
Billy scowled but lowered the machine, “Point taken.”
They reached the Tuckers’ house roughly thirty minutes later, and David sat for a moment in the car before going inside. The Tuckers knew as much as the rest of the world did about their daughter’s untimely end, but it was still customary for the chief detective to have a candid talk with them about the circumstances of Darcy’s murder.
When David knocked on the door, Darcy’s father answered it. From his haggard appearance, David deduced correctly that James Tucker had been waiting impatiently upstairs in the house for his arrival all morning. The man who answered the door didn’t look like at all like a James Tucker that anyone he knew would recognize.  His shirt was stained, his eyes were swollen, and he looked like he was looking for any handhold be it a person or a piece of furniture to grab onto. He gave the detective a watery smile and cleared his throat twice before he invited Armstrong inside. David returned the smile and mentally steeled himself for what he knew was going to be a difficult case. James Tucker would need more than a week’s time to heal from this tragedy, hell, he would need a lifetime or more, and that sort of time was not something that the television company funding the investigation was interested in.
Once inside, David muttered words of consolation and clasped James’ hand in a warm shake, both of the men awkwardly stiff at the intimacy of the moment.  Finally, the detective broke away and allowed the man to lead him to the kitchen, where Holly Tucker was waiting. Detective Armstrong, for all his failings and misgivings, had become an expert at one simple but important skill after almost twenty years of giving the worst possible news to families; he had come to know how to operate virtually every coffeemaker known to the Western world; he even kept a supply of high-quality roast in his car in case the family’s supply was low. It wasn’t much, but David had always felt that a cup of hot coffee in a person’s hands helped restored what little normality still existed in the family’s life and David knew that he had approximately thirty minutes before Darcy’s sister arrived and an hour before her brother flew in.  He needed to have those few minutes alone and undisturbed with the Tuckers before they collapsed into despair again.
David couldn’t help but notice how ironic it was that his team and the teams watching online were working feverishly to assemble and analyze evidence and he was making coffee. He shook his head to himself and once the machine was merrily working away he turned back to the broken couple. It was infuriating how helpless he felt, confronted by the family’s raw emotions, knowing he had no connection to them beyond rehashing the misery that just hours before lay on the carpet.
David began as he always had under these trying circumstances. “I’m not going to insult you and ask how you are. I’m sorry, but the last thing you need is fluff when you want facts. I am going to need to ask you a number of questions and unfortunately, our discussion is being broadcast as you can see.  I know it sounds cruel to put you and your wife on television and on the web at this miserable time-“
            “We know what your show does, detective.” Mr. Tucker’s voice was ragged from emotion, but his eyes held David’s unfalteringly, “We both hope that the exposure will help find who…” he trailed off, and after a moment he recovered, “Just go ahead and ask.”
Armstrong glanced at James’ wife, Holly, who was staring blankly into space, her face a mask. David turned to his cameraman, Billy, who had been following him silently like a tall, tee-shirt wearing ghost to make sure that he was capturing the images and everything that was said. When David was confident all was ready he asked the first question, “Why was Darcy at your home last night?  She does have her own apartment?”
            James cleared his throat while looking at Holly.  This married couple, like so many others, were able to agree upon who would talk for the two of them even though no words were exchanged. James slid a hand onto his wife’s shoulder, and this pseudo-telepathic transmission reaffirmed for David why the Tuckers were not suspects; not that he needed more confirmation.
“Darcy drove here last night sometime around seven o’clock.  We could tell she was upset but she didn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering her.  I don’t know if you have children, Detective Armstrong, but there are times when you have to wait until your children are ready to share.  She encouraged us to not to change our plans and she promised us she would make some popcorn, wrap herself in a quilt, and watch a movie. She told us that she wanted to have breakfast with us when we returned the next morning-
David stiffened as one of the executives directors from the network, who had been camping out in the company’s tarp pavilion on the lawn since late the night before, burst into the room with a cell phone clutched in his hands so tightly it seemed like the man was worried that it would escape.
“Detective Armstrong, it’s Mr. Ferrier on the phone-“
David turned and glared at the man, “Tell him to wait.”
The director gasped as if he’d just been hit in the gut, “Uh, no. David, when Mr. Ferrier calls, you answer.”
David’s lip curled in a delicious snarl as he answered, “Tell him that I’m very sorry I have to cancel our meeting, but I will call him back later today.” he turned back to the Tuckers with a genuine smile on his face, “I’m very sorry about that, it was incredibly distasteful. Please, keep going.”
The director let out two large lung-fulls of silent, hysterical breaths and scurried away as both of the Tuckers looked at David with expressions of deep gratitude and newfound trust on their faces.

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