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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chapter nineteen

       “What do you mean that the evidence is inconclusive?” David found himself practically yelling into Dr. Jamison’s face, his eyes wide and disbelieving.

            David and Billy had gone to the morgue to complete the rounds and pick up any new evidence that Lauren Jamison had discovered. The problem was that there was none.

            “The girl had intercourse only seconds before dying, she was smacked in the head by lamp that we have in our possession and she was shot. Now you are telling me that you cannot extract a single piece of information from all of that? Can’t you send the slug to ballistics and get a match on the gun? That would be a place to start.”

            Lauren’s jaw muscles danced a rapid jig as she struggled to control her temper on live television, “Please don’t tell me how to do my job, Detective. I pulled out the slug but it is in half a dozen pieces because it was low caliber and shattered. The lamp was wiped clean by our culprit after the fact, so that is about as useful as a paperweight, and whoever our killer was used a condom during intercourse. The only really useful piece of information that I have obtained is that Darcy’s vaginal walls show little to no signs of bruising or tearing, which heavily indicates that the sex was either consensual or the single most gentle rape in the history of mankind.”

            David’s face flushed with anger and he glanced over at Billy’s camera self-consciously, “Look, we have to find something that we can use. We’re running out of time.”

            The doctor nodded, her brows knitting in what David assumed was empathy, “I know you want to solve this as quickly as you can for the parents’ sake, but sometimes results take time.”

            Off screen, Reindt wiped sandwich crumbs from his mouth and grinned at his assistant, “Look at that! That is screen gold! Drama sells!”

            David folded his arms, “Yes, results do take time. Doubly so if you are withholding findings for the sake of ratings.”

            Reindt’s smile evaporated, “Wait…what the hell?”

            Dr. Jamison’s eyes widened and she glanced helplessly at the camera for a second, “Now why the hell would I do that?”

            “To give the audience at home time to come up with their own findings so that they drive up our ratings.” David found himself babbling. His heart lurched in his chest and he knew that he was dancing dangerously close to being in hot water.

            “I would never do that, David.” Dr. Jamison’s eyes were wide and full of hurt pride, but they were so intensely focused on David’s face that he knew immediately that she was lying, “I’m a professional, no matter what you may think of me, and I want justice for Darcy Tucker as much as you do.”

            Reindt hissed to his assistant, “Cut! Cut back to the studio, damnit!”

            The technicians signaled that they off the air as the show switched to Eddie Glaise giving a demonstration of blunt-force trauma, and Lauren turned on David so fiercely that he thought she was going to hit him.

            “What the fuck was that?” she demanded, “You know as well as I do that I am required to withhold specific details! How dare you call me out on live television! If I come up with anything remotely complex I have to either dumb it down or exclude it until some sofa-bound jackass comes up with a layman version of it on their own.”

            “I’m sorry,” David let out a deep breath, “This whole thing frustrates the hell out of me.”

            “So get a therapist!” Lauren snapped, “Don’t take it out on me!” she turned on her heel and walked stiffly away.

            Billy Margate had recorded the entire altercation and he was whistling nervously as they left. “You just touched the third rail.”

            “I know.”

            “Why would you do that? The most important thing to Atlas is maintaining their credibility. What do you think would happen to ‘One Week Window’ if viewers thought that it wasn’t all real?”

            “It isn’t real, god dammit! Don’t you get that? Someone might as well have staged this murder. Can you imagine anything more perfect for ‘One Week Window? Think about it: Darcy Tucker is tall, blonde, and beautiful. She is sexually assaulted by someone she knows, then shot execution style and there’s virtually no concrete evidence. How the fuck does that happen?”

            “This can’t be the first time you’ve had a difficult case?” Asked Billy.

            “Of course not. That’s why I’m so upset. This has happened before.”

            “Not Tim Richmond?” Billy asked.

            “Yup. There are just too many similarities.” He let out a long breath and cupped his brow, “Let’s get a cup of coffee.”

            Twenty minutes later, the two men sat Atlas’s cafeteria and sipped their coffee. “I was onsite at an investigation eight years ago. I was in the midst of an investigation when a man I had never seen before in an innocuous blue suit was wandering around the crime scene asking both officers and reporters for directions to me. I left the front of the victim’s house and intercepted him before he tripped and hurt himself. The man was intently focused on a small manila folder that contained a series of crime scene photos. His hands were pinching the papers so tightly that I thought Isaac could probably lift his fingerprints.

“I still remember the man’s tone,” he continued, more to himself than to Billy, “He was direct and professional, but I could also tell that this man didn’t make idle trips.  He introduced himself as Officer Crowne, Bailiff for Judge Freeman.”

Billy nodded but he was physically uncomfortable and mentally terrified that David was going to relate every detail.  “So what’s the big deal?  A bailiff for some judge comes to a crime scene.”

David rolled his eyes.  “Billy, Bailiffs infrequently come to crime scenes. They work in courtrooms.”

After a moment of silence as Billy digested this, David went on, “I had no idea how serious a situation this was; by all accounts, Crowne should have been little more than out of place but he asked me to get into an unmarked police. All he was willing to tell me was that he had been asked to bring me to the courthouse for a meeting regarding a case. Once in the car, Crowne gave me the file while they we road downtown. The atmosphere was frankly tense because I could tell that Crowne wasn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer and I wasn’t used to taking orders anymore.”

Billy interjected again and David was beginning to get mildly irritated at these interruptions. “Doesn’t Crowne have to have a summons or a subpoena to bring you in even if he works for a judge?”  Billy already knew the answer but he couldn’t resist pissing David off a little.

“No, not as such.” he didn’t elaborate, and it made him smile to see Billy’s irritation, “When we arrived at headquarters, Crowne grabbed me by the elbow and simply told me to run. When I asked him again what was going on, all he was willing to tell me was that I would soon know. We then entered a small office and I found myself in the middle of what looked like a battle ground.

 “John Matthews, who had recently been named Chief of Police and Chief of Investigative Services was arguing violently with Superior Court Judge Nancy Freeman who I recognized from her ruling on a highly publicized murder case. They were practically screaming at each other while her clerk desperately assembled arrest and search warrants, and even though Crowne had been about as quiet as a bull when he came crashing in, no one noticed us.”

“Dave, could you possibly draw this out any longer? The next seven years of my life don’t have much planned.” Billy scowled.

 “It turned out that a Mr. Cosworth, Chief of Biochemical Research at Richmond Laboratories spilled the beans about Richmond fabricating evidence for ‘One Week Window.’”

Billy’s smirk faded and he blinked, “Wait! I think I remember when all that went down.”

“Yeah, it turned out that Richmond Industries was replicating DNA evidence. They were using existing samples from people who had already been convicted or were under investigation for crimes that were not solved within the seven days. They were doing this so that Richmond Laboratories could maximize their chances to win. Not only had innocent lives been endangered by these unimaginably selfish actions, but the recently murdered had been denied their well-deserved justice, and one killer or more had been allowed to go free or was still on the street.”

David took a deep breath, “And just who do you think sanctioned this DNA replication? Who gave the order to tamper with evidence?” he trailed off, and Billy knew better than to answer one of David’s rhetorical questions. After a short, awkward pause, David went on, “Five. Five investigations in all were severely fucked up. I was given arrest warrants for all of the executives, technicians, and investigators at Richmond Laboratories, and we set about emptying Richmond Industries of personnel.”

“You are arrested all of them?” Billy asked in awe.

David nodded slowly, “We had to move quickly before all the evidence disappeared, if you know what I mean. Mr. Cosworth’s absence from the Richmond facility has started to raise suspicions.”

Billy blurted out the burning question. “Why doesn’t everyone know about the Richmond case?”

“Because that case calls into question of Atlas’s credibility.” David shrugged, “And, as you just told me, that can absolutely never happen.”
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