[Chapter 6, for those who want it]
In a city as large as this there are AA meetings every night of the week spread between the campuses and churches and community centers. Somehow I found myself at one of those, still holding onto Kraden’s death threats. It was close to dark and I had been driving around looking for a nice quiet bar to have a nice quiet scotch in while I waited for the first round of blood tests to come in. I don’t know why I walked in here but I took advantage of the coffee at the side of the room and sat as far from the stage as possible. I started flipping through the threats.
12 letters. 5 of them had long essays, innocuous little phrases like “Someone should kill you” or “one day you will get whats coming”. These would barely trip our radar, and were likely overactive retirees who were angry that Kraden had had no plan to open the factories back up. a few more were postcards with a picture of Kraden or his family and crosshairs painted over. These are more serious, but too vague to be actionable. I kept flipping through. One of these is not like the others: Long angry letters, implied threats, and one crumpled sheet of waterlogged notebook paper that said, “What happened to Icarus. I want to meet her” It didn’t sound like a death threat, but why was it treated like one by Kraden. I was just examining the return envelope when I realized it had gone quiet.
“Can you hear me back there? Would you like to come and introduce yourself?”
I didn’t look at who had spoken, I just mumbled some excuse and looked at my wrist like it had a watch on it then left quickly.
I sat in my car. The handwriting looked similar to the pad, but was smoother. The letter itself had been crumpled and smoothed flat many times, probably by Kraden. Most of the letters only showed the wear and tear of the postal service, but this one was special.
I started my drive back to the precinct, stopping in a liquor store to grab a bottle of whiskey. This much coffee in me and I’d need some sleep.
I got back, checked on the blood test and was thrown out of the lab by Julian. I then went and grabbed the pad from forensics. I came back up to the office, set my whiskey on the desk and sat down
Side by side the two looked similar. I would send them off to get analyzed anyways, but I was certain of the link. The pad was shakier, but that made sense. Whoever wrote it pulled someone apart limb from limb afterwards. They wouldn’t have been calm
I leaned back and the next thing I knew it was morning.
After a brief employment-inspired pause, Here is Chapter 6! Here is Chapter 5 for those who want it
What I had to do before anything else was to figure out Kraden’s timeline for the night, something to do before the blood-work was in. After that I had to find out who the “She” was and what she had to do with Kraden’s old job as the CEO of Æthenmus.
Walking into Adam Kraden’s campaign headquarters made me wonder if they even knew he was dead. I expected to see at least an intern composing themselves, mopping tears with a tie or tissue. Paid or unpaid, it looked like everyone still had a job to do.
So I walked up to the nearest secretary, “I’m Detective Grant, here to investigate the murder of Adam Kraden”
He didn’t bat an eye, just stared at me for a second and, “Take a seat we’ll be right with you.”
Nothing makes a man feel more unimportant than the bureaucratic power of the waiting room.
I sat and waited for 10 minutes while catching snippets of the office buzz. It sounded mostly like volunteers assuring constituents; saying that his campaign was being taken over by his campaign manager, yes she is a good person, yes she has the same platform, sadly campaign donations are not refundable, the money has already been used.
Then I heard her. “Sir, you are welcome to withdraw your continued funding… yes I understand… But if you don’t feel I can do as good a job as…” She faltered, seemingly unable to say his name, “Yes, sorry… Yes I’ll be fine. Thank you sir. I’ll be fine.” She was a tall woman coming through the cubicles. When she ended the phone call her eyes hardened and her voice was immediately steady as she talked to the aides around her. “Gretchen Thomas, Detective Grant. Its good to meet you.” She didn’t seem to care that I knew the phone call was a performance.
“I hear you’re running for the seat?” She paused for a second, maybe betraying her humanity, maybe evaluating what I knew. I didn’t trust her.
“There is a lot of money in this campaign. It goes to waste or I run for the seat” The aides around her studied their phones. “My office?”
I followed. She led me to a small room off the side of the large office. Probably Kraden’s. “Haven’t moved yet?”
“I’m going to turn it into a lounge. Something for the volunteers” She sat down and straightened her desk, not looking at me. Everyone is guilty of something and I wasn’t here to be her friend.
“I need to know what Kraden was doing last night.”
“I have his schedule right here-“
“No, I need to know what he was doing last night”
A look of understanding dawned on her, “I don’t understand.”
“His schedule tells me what his schedule was last night, I want to know what he was doing.” Her face was tight. “I’m not press, this is a closed investigation. You can tell me right here or I can drive you to the precinct and do it there.” It was an old trick. But the old tricks worked.
After chewing the inside of her lip for a few seconds, “He had an interview at 7 for a late-night show. After that he came back and was signing letters until he left.” She was lying. She knew I knew she was lying. I’ll still have to do this the hard way.
“Has he been acting weird the last few days? Anything out of place? any calls or mail?”
“Not that I remember.”
“Where do you keep your death threats?”
This made her sputter, “They weren’t serious, there were only a few- we never bothered to report them. How did you know?”
“A leap of faith.” A progressive reform campaign mounted by an ex-CEO? Of course there were death threats. “I’d like to see them.”
She walked into Kraden’s office. It was neat and well organized. On her way in Gretchen passed the desk and straightened out one of the pencil holders offhandedly, like it was second nature. “He kept them in his desk. He liked to flip through them to remind him that he was doing the right thing”
It would have been funny. “Was he ever threatened in person?”
“No.” She was holding onto the death threats. I held out my hand and she reluctantly passed them to me. “There were always protestors, but-“
“What time did he leave last night?”
Her face fell a bit. Not an act like the phone call, but something like guilt or empathy. “I don’t remember”
“Call me if you do. We’ll be in touch Ms. Thomas.”
She showed me out of Kraden’s office and went back to hers. I walked out to the main floor of the office and everyone there was working furiously. They had been listening. I smiled and turned to the room.
“Hello everyone!” I wasn’t shouting, but I didn’t need to. They all stopped, “Hello! My name is Michael Grant, I’m a detective. We need to construct a timeline for Mr. Kraden’s last few days.” I reached into my coat and pulled out a silver case, I pulled a small stack of business cards out of them, “If any of you have seen anything out of place or weird or even worth knowing, please contact us.” I held the cards up high and walked over to the large chrome coffee maker. I made myself up a cup and put the business cards on top.
As I left a few people in the office decided it was time that their mugs needed refilling. This might have been worth the drive.
Another Chapter! Chapter 4 Here
I knew that crime scene. I’d seen it before, spread over a loading dock in an alley in midtown. A scene I left chasing a man who was running from the scene. He was covered in blood. A man who I fired at and accidentally hit a lady further down the alley. She later apologized for getting in my way. The bullet is still in her collarbone, and she baked me a cake to say sorry.
The worst part was that the body disappeared when I got back to the loading dock.
So I took a squad car back to the precinct and I stopped on the highway to grab a bottle of water out of the trunk. I was getting lightheaded. I’d have to twist some balls to get the blood-work off of the scene by tonight. Its not that I didn’t appreciate what the techs did, I just wanted to have some real evidence to follow before I started chasing ghosts. Ghosts seemed to like long car rides anyways.
“I don’t want you to start looking into this” Misha was right, of course. My only stake in this investigation was supposed to be the murder of Adam Kraden.
“But there is too strong a chance that it could be linked.” She knew I wasn’t wrong.
“Michael, you have a pad of paper that doesn’t say anything and-“
“It doesn’t mean anything!” It didn’t mean much, but it meant something.
“Look at this thing, Misha.” The evidence bag and the pad was between us on her desk. “Kraden was holding this before he died.” I flipped it over, showing her the bloody fingerprints on the back.
“Then tell me what to do about it.”
“Nothing. Not yet.” Misha wasn’t happy. A dead politician and a commissioner who didn’t approve in her choice of detective was enough to make anyone jumpy. For Misha? She was pissed. I didn’t like waiting to drop the worse news on her, but I’d rather she kick me out than spend another hour yelling at me.
“Why,” She pinched the bridge of her nose and measured her words carefully, “The Hell. Are. You. Here.”
“I wanted to let you know that this might be more complicated than the murder,” I heard her mumble a small ‘fantastic’ before I continued, “And also that I am adding the midtown files to this case. The body I witnessed is concurrent with the way Kraden was killed.” I was scared for a second that she was going to lunge over the desk and kill me with a paperweight. She didn’t. I would later wish she did.
“This is my career on the line too. If you fuck up, I fucked up”
“Do you trust me?”
“No, but I believe you.” This wasn’t the response I expected.
Being witness to something like Midtown and then having no evidence to back it up and having no one believe you- It’s an awful thing. You start to become obsessed with proving it. The midtown file was nothing more than my report and some nearby security camera footage.
What I wanted to do was to dig back into it, to link it somehow to Kraden or to find any lead at all. I wanted to make it real. And the worst part about this was that just in the early dark hours of this morning I was driving around trying to make myself finally let go of it. I wanted so bad to let it go. But then I see the parts of Kraden laid around his living room. Now I can’t.
I was back at my desk sipping a cup of coffee for twenty minutes before I even realized I had gotten the file. It was open on my desk. I forced myself to close it.
The next installment of What God. [Chapter 3 found here]
Some things don’t bear explanation. Every cop there was wondering who could have managed to tear Kraden apart like that. I was wondering how his wife and daughter could have stood to listen to him scream. 50 people in this house combing it for evidence and only 1 paramedic taking care of the two women outside wrapped in heat blankets
I walked out of the garage, past a few buckets full of sick and a few more expensive cars. Ms. Kraden sat in the back of the ambulance with her daughter. The wife sat with a face of stone, her daughter was beside her shivering and breathing oxygen from a tank.
“Ms. Kraden, I’m detective Grant-“
She even sounded stone, “Someone already took my statement, detective.” I was glad that at least somebody had taken some time away from the bloodbath in the living room carpet. Messes like that tended to occupy the attention of men in my position. I had no wish to spend more time in there than I had to.
“I know. I’m going to ask you to go through it again.” It was the worst part of the job; asking someone to relive what they had gone through. But repeated tellings of the incident can often reveal more than good forensics. Every time you make someone retell a story they process what they saw and and heard, leaving out the unimportant bits and dwelling on the more important ones.
“He came in late. He often did. Because of work.” Ms. Kraden didn’t believe herself but I let her continue, “He came in. He cursed a bit, I thought he stubbed his toe. I was upstairs sleeping. He then started talking, like he was on the phone. Then he started yelling, something like ‘I didn’t have anything to do with that, I left the company, how should I know’ then the screaming started.” I was marking all of this down when she stopped. I let her breath, studying my notes.
“They said it must have been more than one” It was the daughter.
I looked to Ms. Kraden for permission, but she was staring off into space. “What do you mean?”
“When they were talking there was only two sets of footsteps. My dads and the other persons.” She went back to the oxygen. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling.
“Did you hear him speak? Did he do anything else? the other man?” But I still had to ask. This was about more than Kraden.
“I only heard the footsteps. It could have been anyone.” She looked terrified, holding onto the oxygen mask like it was the only thing keeping her here.
I let them be, thanking them both. I told them I would keep in touch. It was a lie, but lies are comforting.
We have two scenarios. Either Kraden saw someone he knew well enough to know exactly why they were there, or the attacker delivered their message without speaking.
I went back to the living room and started looking around. A number of techs started trying to call for my attention but I waved them off. “Was there any paper recovered?” I asked the room. None of them answered. “It can be blank, a scrap, almost anything. Hell, I’ll take a whiteboard.” That seemed to help them along. A small tech walked up and passed me a blood-covered pad in an evidence bag. I gloved up, pulled it from the bag and grabbed a nearby pencil. The old tricks still worked. I shaded the top of the pad, the only part that wasn’t soaked in blood. In that I saw a relief of the last thing that had been written there. “Where is She” in bold, blocky print.
I got someone with a camera to document and had the pad sealed back up. I then went outside and threw up.
The next chapter of the novel What God, At this point, I might just release it chapter by chapter until I get to the end. Enjoy! What God Chapter 2
According to my watch the 30 minute drive had taken 3 hours. The side of my mouth was wet. I was sleeping.
Its amazing how much 3 hours of sleep feels like a hangover. The difference is that coffee and a hangover makes you feel accomplished, coffee and 3 hours of sleep feels like cheating. But I didn’t have any coffee, so I just felt like crap. Some days life doesn’t measure up to what the cereal boxes told me it should, but I don’t have any cereal.
We were parked outside of a nice house: professional landscaping, expensive Maseratti. And of course there were the cops. Most crime scenes tend to be pretty sparse. Usually you see a few cops on the tapeline and a small spattering of forensics and detectives. I walked up to the sergeant who drove me here and took his coffee.
“Chief Mala told me to let you sleep-” He started to apologize as I walked away. I was thankful, but not thankful enough to thank him. I raised my coffee to acknowledge that I had heard and kept walking.
Probably 150 cops, and only a third from my precinct. There were pockets of state police and a spattering of suits. Halfway through wondering why the circus came to suburbia the name Kraden found a place in my mind. Ex-CEO of Aethenmus, a biotech and pharmaceutical company, former state senator gearing up for the November election. He’ll be on the ballot to represent our great state in the House.
The suits were Secret Service. Damn it.
As much as I wanted to start in on the case, I wanted to step on the toes of the Feds even less. I scanned around for someone to give me the green light to do my job. Even thinking that left a poor taste in my mouth. A few seconds of looking found me Commissioner Levy arguing with a few of the suits. He was talking.
“I don’t see why you can’t just take the investigation over yourself”
The first suit, looking a little bit like a line-backer’s older brother, didn’t agree. “There is a protocol to these things Gordon, and it is there for a reason. I thought you’d be happy that we weren’t coming in to-“
“I just think that with who is on this-” I am not a man who likes to watch other men squirm. I interrupted him before he tried insulting me.
“I’m Detective Grant, this is my investigation. Its good to meet you” To the Agents. And to Levy, “Commissioner, its good to see you again.” Gordon Levy: the man who invented politics with a femur for a club and a yard of mammoth hide. He scowled at me.
“I’ll leave you to it, Grant” And he walked away.
Gordon Levy was one of the first people to advocate for my imprisonment after the Midtown shooting. When that failed he wanted me fired, then suspended, and then demoted. The only reason I wasn’t was Chief Mala and a few retired cops with some pull. I got lucky and I am not shy about saying so.
The linebacker shook my hand first, “Grant, it is good to meet you.” The agent next to him, a smaller and very nondescript man, also stuck out his hand.
I shook, “Should I just call you Agent, or do you-“
“I’m Hatterfeld,” The linebacker smiled, “Thats Smith.” Hatterfeld gestured to the small man beside him.
“I think, gentlemen, that I have a crime scene to get to,” Somewhat hoping that they wouldn’t follow me in.
“Keep us posted, Grant,” Said a southern drawl. It must have been Smith. I kept walking.
The following is the second chapter of a work-in-progress novel. Please let me know what you think! First Chapter Here
“You’ve been going to meetings, right?” Misha Mala, chief of police. A beautiful woman, if that was your sort of thing.
“Went to my first last night” I was sitting down in the single chair that sat on the other side of her desk. She was standing. I wasn’t in a place of power.
“Is that why you were out in the middle of the sprawl at 7 in the morning?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about” The rest of the office seemed to buzz a little bit more than usual, the copiers overactive, the typing more frantic, the coffee more pungent.
“I have a problem, Detective Grant,” Usually she called me Michael but today she said the words like my mother using my middle name. A warning; beware who enter here. “30 seconds and you’ve lied to me twice. First off, you said that you’ve been going to meetings for the last 3 weeks. Second, I have dispatch telling me you called in a fire far from the edge of our jurisdiction. So what do I believe, Michael? I gave you a-” I had shaken my mug to see if the coffee was working and after staring at it for a while I realized it hasn’t kicked in yet. She noticed.
“You were saying, Chief Mala?” I usually called her Misha.
“Are you drunk?” One could dream.
“I just spent the last 10 hours driving. I’m just tired”
“You lie to me about the meetings, about where you were last night, what in the hell should I believe, Michael?” My gamble seemed to have worked, she used my name. This is an improvement.
“I’m not an alcoholic, Misha you know that. Now, I’ll go to your meetings, but I don’t want to be accused of- Look, I don’t get drunk, its not economical. It takes 3 Manhattans to get me buzzed, Misha, I can’t keep that up on my salary. If you want to give me a raise to help me become an-“
“Just shut up.” There was a smile. She’d never admit it, but there was. “You’ve got to do this. After midtown, you have to play the game. You shot an innocent woman” It was a bit unfair putting it like that. She lived and barely has a scar. Just the wrong place and wrong time. It wasn’t exactly fair for Internal Affairs to call it assault, though, the lady just got into my line of fire. “Its bad enough you don’t seem to care at all, I don’t need-“
“I thought the bad part was the fact that I was under stress and… seeing things? As you put it?” I was firing at a figure running from a murder scene. The body at the scene was barely recognizable. No ID was ever made because no body was ever found.
“Why did you lie to me about the meetings?”
“Changing the subject I see.” I continued before she figured out that I was the one who changed it first, “I don’t want to go to a grown man’s pity fest.” A moment later and the regret hit me hard.
“I can kick you out of this department so quickly the door tears your ass off” Her father was an alcoholic. Years of going to meetings had saved his life. What she had only admitted to me once was that it had saved hers as well.
“I’m sorry.” I was. “Misha, I don’t have anything in common with those people. I know I have to play out this political crap, I just didn’t feel like wasting my time in a place I don’t need to be”
“So why drive all night?” Why indeed.
I didn’t know the answer to that question and I should have. I got out of the meeting chock full of caffeine and nicotine, a chemical intake that passes for sobriety in those circles. “I started driving. Couldn’t sleep”. It was true enough, or at least the best answer I had.
“Christ, Michael.” She stopped, considering something for a second, “Look, we’ve had a big case come in. Can you handle it? Do you want it?”
Want is such a weak word. “Please God, give me something to do.”
“I could get used to being called God. Can you drive?”
I started to answer, and almost got half a breath out before-
“Don’t answer that-” She called out into the pit, “Hey Sergeant! Give Grant a ride to the Kraden site, let him sleep some in the back.”
God is such a weak word for what she is.