Good, Old-Fashioned Cop Work



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NPCs by Chi-town

Scene Title Good, Old-Fashioned Cop Work
Synopsis May not cut it this time. However, for lack of Ghost-Busters, Leland Daubrey's going to do his damnedest to get to the bottom of this.
Date May 23-31, 2009

Flushing, Queens — Residential Area: Dead House

Demolished ruins.

Flushing is kind of an unattractive name for an urban region, and this part of Queens didn't really require assistance in that department.

As soon as the beach, coiffed gardens and carefully-maintained willow trees of the retirement homes give way, you have blank-eyed strip malls long since gone bankrupt, low-income housing with walls tarred in graffiti and a car literally abandoned in a ditch. The drop-off is as stark as the line of destruction where anoxic putrefication and deep-water stagnation eats a coral reef up from below.

Behind the demolished house, the ruin of a subway railway stands tall on concrete pillars, silhouetted against the ashy overcast sky like the weather-beaten spine of a massive carcass. The house itself is so many scattered parts, by now, much of it caved back into the very basement from which the explosion had found its origin. Floorboards turned up and riven walls tossed in between scorched glass, abbreviated plumbing glaring exposed through the ground. Yellow tape tells civilians, No.

Officer Hyata had been the first one on the scene— herding neighbors, mostly, and he is standing beside Leland now. His coat scratches and drags over twisted window frames and jostles a chair leg which has no chair attached. He points at one scorched square. "That's where we found the phone," which is still pending DNA testing— somewhere. Swiveling, he then indicates the chalked figures ten yards off. "Both bodies. Close together."

A man and a woman, the press had said, the details carefully culled. That they had been related; that the woman had been only a teenager, still, practically a girl.

"Look like a fuckin' meth lab explosion," says the ever-tactful, ever-sensitive Detective Leland Daubrey. "We got an ID on the stiffs yet?" He steps through the scene, rubble crunching under the heel of a well-worn pair of leather shoes.

The cop takes a minute to examine the scene, to take in the whole of it, as if that would give him a better idea of what went down here. "Any residue from the bomb? Anything we can trace?"

He drops to a squat, (because that's what cops always do at crime scenes) and surveys the scene with a practiced eye, looking for anything that shouldn't be there that the uniforms might've missed.

A thin strip of wire is curled around the dismembered chair leg beside Hyata, wrapped tight and snapped short undoubtedlby the force of the same pressure wave that had ripped the furniture apart. The base of the wooden shaft is notched and nicked by something thin and hard that had applied pressure for some time; not the damage of fire or blast trauma.

There is also what seems to be a smear of desiccated lettuce slapped up on the base of the wall on Lee's other side. Ridged stem, veins, and everything.

"Yeah," Hyata says. The meth lab thing, the stiffs. He shuffles his hands into his coat and pulls out a thickened manila folder. "Andrew McAllen. The girl was— Ang… Ong— 'Angharad,'" not quite correctly pronounced; not one that the newscasters had been permitted to release, due to her legal minor status. "Powell. Explosives were C-4— definitely illegal, like the guns they had down in the basement. Doesn't seem like they were hunting ducks.

"Phone records in here, too. And a list of Internet stuff." Papers shuffle between thick fingers. He holds the sheaf down to Leland and sighs.

"They got any priors? Connections to any groups? Sure looks personal." Leland snaps on a pair of gloves and reaches for the wire. With his other hand, he tugs an evidence bag out of the inside of his coat. He's no munitions specialist, but that's what the labs are for.

"What's that name? Icelandic? Dutch? She an immigrant?"

Before reaching for the folder, Lee takes another good look around. But when it comes to explosives, he only has a vague idea of what he's looking for. "Bomb squad been called yet? This place could use a going over. And don't fucking tell me they're all backed up. This is gang-related. Drop the 't' word if it gets their attention." Terrorist. Buzzword in law enforcement these days.

McAllen stares up from the flat of the page, grizzled features and pepper-colored hair implying the sort of ageing that puts steel in a man's eyes, not cataracts. He was almost sixty, but built like a brick shithouse, still; his feet, tagged in this photograph, sort of hung off the end of the autopsy table. His shoulders are massive. Scars notch his outer-arms— defensive wounds old and browned with age, and caluses ladder the one hand that remains intact.

His paperwork implies that it is false. There's a birthdate and place there, sparse credit history, a nod at education from decades past, but the family dead-ends, he hasn't seen a doctor in years or held a job.

"On first pass, the bomb squad thinks the C-4, detonator, everything— was probably theirs, from the time it would've taken to move it in and set it up otherwise. Neighbors say they only moved in a few weeks ago and there were boxes and boxes.

"Hey. Hey, maybe the guy was smoking a cigarette and— threw the cherry into the wrong box of…" the joke loses momentum, peters out into a funereal silence to match the rubble around and below them. McAllen had received many phonecalls from booths; the last one cutting out at the date and time of the explosion. His quarters had held two combat carbines and a dizzying array of knives and semi-automatics. Also: grenades. Hyata rubs his nose with the back of his wrist. "She was from Wales.

"Report says her mom got hit by lightning three years ago. Her story—" summarized in brief on the last page of Leland's report, "said different." It was pre-Bomb. Of course: no one believed that men could call lightning or lance electric bolts out of their palms then.

Leland grunts. Yeah, no surprise. He grunts. But it's a thoughtful sound. He purses his lips. "Fuckin' hell. You thinking what I'm thinking?" He flips through the paperwork, makes note of the details, the files on the man. "Quiet people, seemingly ordinary people with guns and bombs in their basements? Family dies under weird circumstances?" Yeah. Humanis First. He doesn't want to say it out loud, because somehow that gives them credibility.

"Fuck." Another good reason not to confirm it is that the Feds'll take it away. Felix's boys. Weird conflict of interest when your best friend's a case-stealer. And then, rather deliberately, with knowing looks to Hyata. "Looks to me like we don't have a clear motive. Don't know for sure what these two were wrapped up in. What've we got on the phone? Anything other than calls from booths? I want a list of the booth locations. See if I can't spot a pattern."

That is creepy and unpleasant on a number of levels, and Hyata doesn't want to think about it either. He is supposed to be giving out parking tickets and running down speedsters, pushing the occasional robber up against the wall. Those kinds of suspects and culprits don't own military-grade hardware. At the same time, it's the most exciting thing to happen in this neighborhood in months, so—

"No clear motive," he agrees, dropping his arm. Dark eyes flit at Leland, and then away again. "The booth the most recent call was made from is just a few blocks that way. The main road." He turns again, scuffing on the concrete and the tinkle-scratch of sharded glass. Points down the street. "There were a couple private numbers there. Take-out restaurants, a Wal-Mart, 'bout— four disposable cells purchased locally. Guess you can't exactly call 'em up and ask what was up with McAllen, huh?"

Leland's face contorts as he tries to piece things together. He flips through the file again and looks around at the scene. He's seen things like this before, and he doesn't like the profile that's coming together. "We got a time stamp on that call? Or a TOD on the stiffs? I wanna know if we're looking at a gang or one lowlife with a hate-on."

He starts to pace around the scene, imagining what the place looked like before it was blown to pieces. "Did they let him in, or was it just tossed in? Or did he break in and set something with a timer? Fuck…" he rubs his face. It's harder to focus on the work when he knows some bastard in a nicer suit than his is going to take credit for any work he does do. Ah, cop politics.

"Nine twenty-two PM in the evening was the call… seems like the two died about twenty minutes later. The male later— same amount of 'catastrophic'—" he'd picked that word out of the file special, when he read it, "blunt and burn damage."

The autopsy does, however, indicate the girl had suffered a substantial amount of knocking around before the actual explosion, not to be confused with the wear of over-taxing exercises and physical training that had pushed her body fat levels to precarious lows. "The lab guys checked the locks. Doesn't look like forced entry with the…" there's a haphazard motion of Hyata's forefinger in the air. "Scratch marks. From lock picks and stuff. Y'know."

Lee probably does. Moreso than the hapless Japanese American, anyway. Hyata seesaws slightly on his feet. "Neighbors were out in the afternoon, didn't see anything in the evening. Do you… do you think—" Furtively, he lowers his voice, and a casual cigarette habit further reduces his register to a velcro scratch. "Do you think he was invisible?"

Leland just gives Hyata a look. You know the one. It writes are you a fucking moron? across his face. "I think…" he grits his teeth, "…that he knew them. That they had reason to let him in." Invisibe? Jesus. What are they teaching kids these days? "Be smart uh, Hyata? Don't go jumpin' to Evolved conclusions. You can use fucking weird abilities to dismiss just about anything. And there's still a lot of completely normal thugs out there, all right?"

He flares his nostrils and exhales in a whuff. then rubs his chin. The stubble scratches. This is giving him a headache. "All right. Tell the bomb boys I wanna know exactly where this thing exploded from. I'll go see the bonesaw, see if we have any other details." He starts towards the exit, stops and glances back at the uniform. "And keep any wild theories to yourself, uh? Else this one's gonna get taken off my plate and I will not be fuckin' pleased about that."

Officer Hyata deflates slightly, excitement escaping him as if someone had thrust a particularly cruel needle through the rubber membrane of his balloon. "O-okay," he says, scrubbing a rough hand at the back of his head. "Fine." Grousing. He turns away, jerks a phone out of his pocket. "I'm just saying— McAllen looked like a pro. Something special must've taken him out of the game, a'right?"

Perhaps D'Aubrey can sympathize.

"People've been taking out pros for a long time, Hyata. Doesn't take shootin' fireballs to do that. All it takes is the guard down and a few smart moves." Leland might be right or wrong, but he's also a stubborn bastard. He attacks every situation thinking 'non-Evolved' and only adds in powers if there's no other explanation. Maybe not the best way to do it, but it lets him keep using his old bag of tricks.
That way of going at things might make him obselete one day soon. It's a fear that hovers very real over his shoulder. He feels like an Apple II in a Pentium world.

Queens — CSI Laboratory

Hours later, and the ashtray reliefs and blur of the sky has given away to dull, velour black, a night sky without any moon that had blurred through his periphery before he entered the basement level where the dead people tend to wind up, after a brief ride in their luxuriously-proportioned elevator that Leland had not been permitted to use. It reeks antiseptic down here. A brief word with the roast chestnut cart operator who marketed his wares in the vicinity of the phonebooth from which the last call had been made left Leland with a vague notion of a white boy with a baseball cap, and that was all.

The examiner is older than Leland, and regards the cop with flat eyes through the small windows of his spectacles. His coat is faintly yellow at the left cuff, but not with residue that is fresh enough to catalyze any reactions worth worrying about. Powdered gloves cover his hands, pristine still. Blanketed bodies lay gurneyed behind him. In style approximately as inviting as the cop's own, he asks, "What now?"

The ME get sa coffee just the way he likes it. He may not be the nicest of guys, but he's capable of nice gestures. And he knows how the coffeemaker down here must taste of formaldehyde no matter what. "I wanna know if these two were on anything and TOD. Cause, obviously. You think the bomb did 'em in, or injuries sustained prior?"

"The bomb 'did them,'" the examiner says, after a protracted moment's consideration, final acceptance articulated with a slight lift of iron-yarn brows. Gripping the wrist of his left glove, he peels it loose, revealing the vericose-vined skin of one bare hand. He grasps the coffee cup by the cardboard belt it had been installed in to protect him from the heat, lifts it up, and takes a sip without bothering to actually check the temperature.

It doesn't burn him, naturally. Barring pyrokinetics or plastique explosives of the variety so discussed, such men do not burn. Burns fear them. "The injuries that the female" 'girl.' She had been a girl, " sustained were probably used to subdue her. Mild fracture to the left temple, mild concussion. Bruises on her arms and shoulder, sprained elbow. Whoever did that to her was bigger and stronger, probably an adult male judging from the measure of their hands.

"COD was definitely the blast trauma, tox screens came back clean. Cleaner than your average fifteen-year-old and single middle-aged man."

Leland examines the two stiffs with as much detatchment as he can muster. Which is…not as much as he'd like, even with all his years on the job. The man isn't such a big deal. He's seen a lot of dead men. But no matter if he sees one dead girl or a dozen, it's always going to hit him differently. Dead kids of either gender.

"Any defensive wounds on either?" He makes a few notes in a small pad. His supicions are growing. Zealots tend to be clean of substances and pack a lot of firepower. Especially the self-righteous, evangelical types. Doesn't matter what they're evangelizing.

"The level of fitness on both of these two was astounding," the ME drones on companionably, swallowing another mouthful of heated fluid. "A few old ones. The man had a couple bruises on the arm I could see— seemed old, though, light. Arms aside, girl had soap under her fingernails, might explain why there wasn't anything else in them to find.

"Why are you looking for defensive wounds?" Curiosity gets the better of him, finally. He drags a thumbnail down the line of sealing where the cup's cylindrical wall was joined to completion, squints at the big cop from across the floor. Fluorescent light strips scoop shadows out of the flesh of his eyes, cheeks, make the examiner look more like his usual companions than the sanguine creature who brought him this drink. "Blast trauma and burns were definite COD. You have my assurance on that fact, officer." The words are defensive. His tone is not.

"I'm looking for defensive wounds, doc…" the man's title clips off of Leland's tongue. "'Cause one, I wanna know if I'm looking for a guy who might have claw marks across his face or a black eye if there are wounds to the knuckles. Even if this guy thought to scrub away DNA traces, still would give me an idea of they got some shots in before they got a bomb shoved down their throats."

He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, then rocks back to lean against the cool wall. "You got any idea how close they were to the damn thing when it went off?"

There's a noise out of the back of the doctor's throat, nose, not quite the caveman huff of air that Leland tends to articulate his thoughts with. 'Too close' would be the short answer. Not inaccurate, but unhelpful. "Right on top.

"Fifteen, twenty feet. The worst of the damage was across their backs and from below," which may or may not identify the anatomy of the otherwise inscrutable mangled parts that he had seen in the photographs, "and from the placement of their bodies, I take it they might have been running. Other than that— I'm afraid you're out of luck, officer. Chances are, your perp— or perps got away without a scratch."

Leland sucks air between his teeth. He examines the corpses, hands dug into pockets. He's silent for a moment, as if willing the dead two to speak to him, to explain what happened here. "In your opinion," a beat, "Was this a pro job? And if so, why an explosion? Why not just shoot them?" There were enough guns around.

The detective's mostly thinking out loud. He doesn't really expect the ME to have an answer. "Thanks, doc. Let me know if you find anyhting new." He starts for the door, then stops, "You run a kit on the girl?" Tension arcs through his back, through his jaw. His stomach tightens.

No guess filters through the austere lines of the old doctor's face. He watches the cop with the sort of sympathy that one very reserved man shows another: nothing that you can see with your eyes or hear with your ears, except in the telltale shape and color of negative space. "Yes," he answers— at the lattermost question, self-evidently. "I did. Test came up negative."

Neither man has any idea of how close that call had been. Fortunate, for their respective peace of mind.

The last of the coffee swirls down his mouth, works down his throat in a swallow. White coat slaps his leg as he leans over, casts the cup into the trash can. It clips the rim, rattles down safely inside in a papery shuffle. "Any bright ideas?" he inquires.

Leland pauses in his motion towards the exit and looks over his shoulder at the ME. He gives the doc a knowing look. Guess. As with the beat cop, he doesn't want to say it out loud, because word might get around and the suits might swoop in.

Terrorism isn't in his jurisdiction. They'll give it to the Feds. Or worse, FRONTLINE or SCOUT.

Then he turns back and hucks his near-full cup of coffee into the garbage. A few minutes in here and the grounds started to taste like corpses. A curse of his chef's sense of taste. "Have a better one, doc." And then he shoulders open the door.

"Never," the doctor responds, before he steps away with a creak of shoe-leather. Straps his glove back on, moves to push a gurney toward the refrigeration unit.

And then—

Over the course of the next ten days, the case that Leland was working on does not change overmuch. A couple witness reports— three different descriptions for memorable individuals who used the phone booth in question, and memorable primarily because they were white and Flushing is generally regarded as a minority neighborhood.

Research turns up McAllen's other alises in conjunction with Humanis First! and a history of bigot politics and assassination work but, unexpectedly, the Feds don't swoop in because there isn't enough to swoop in on. The press throw the potato back and forth for a few paragraphs, and forget Angharad who had not even had a name to put on the page. Though the event was incandescently colorful, lacking more in the way of motive, no one— except, perhaps, Leland himself— has particular reason to think the culprit will strike again. Other cases pick up.

A burglary where a contact left notice of a sensitive item— some sort of Victorian perfume artefact— turned up at a fence's, a few somewhat more spontaneous, low-life felons to run down on-foot and inside the squadcar. A seven-foot guy with a mohawk actually tries to headbutt Lee inside the precincthouse while both his hands are handcuffed behind him. Winds up languishing inside a cell with a split the size of a fish finger bisecting his left eyebrow where he used to sport a piercing.

Morning traffic slows Leland down enough that he's in an almost opportune position when his phone rings where he left it next to the clutch. The vibration setting rattles plastic before the obnoxious chirp of the ringtone splits into the air. "Daubrey," the officer greets him. "Head down to the Bayonne Bridge precincthouse, will you?"

He knows the one. As of the morning news, it got blown up.

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