Every Move She Makes
Ask any homicide inspector and he—or she—will tell you the same. Just before the end of shift on any given Friday, Murphy's Law prevails. If you have plans, you might as well cancel them, because someone's bound to find a body. Such is the life of a cop. Mine at San Francisco PD was no different.
On this particular Friday in early November, I got the call precisely twenty minutes before I was due to leave on a weekend trip to Napa. My ex-husband, DA Investigator Reid Bettencourt, intended the trip as a means to bring us back together, though God only knew where he was getting the money—he still owed me three thousand dollars for bills I was left with after our divorce. I, having no intention of getting back together with him, agreed to go—Dutch, of course, and was dressed for the occasion in a winter-white cashmere sweater, tan plaid wool skirt, and soft leather boots. I wore my shoulder-length hair pulled back in a clip, leaving a few trendy strands loose to frame my face and bring out the brown in my eyes. It was a gray, windy day, and I was en route to Reid's North Beach flat when my pager went off, alerting me to the homicide out by Pier 24. I telephoned Reid from the car.
"Why can't Scolari take it?" he asked.
"I'm sure he will. Once he gets there." Sam Scolari, my partner, knew I was on my way out of town and had promised to cover for me. So far he had yet to answer his page, which left me no choice. "I have to respond. You know the routine." Reid should. It was one of the reasons we divorced. I was at the beck and call of fate, and he didn't like it. "Drive on up. If I get off in time, I'll meet you for dinner," I said. "If not, we'll make it breakfast. Hopefully they'll hold my room."
"How are we supposed to make this work if you're not there?"
"Short of making the body come back to life, I don't have much choice." Come to think of it, I'd had the same problem with our marriage.
"Scolari's doing this on purpose."
"Gotta go," I said, having no wish to get into it with him about my partner. "I'll call you."
I drove inland, past Pier 24, parking behind two patrol cars in front of a single-story brick warehouse that occupied one full block, making sure I kept my Irish-Italian temper in check. It was not the weekend away with Reid I was sore about missing. It was the weekend away, period. I wanted to go anyplace where I didn't have to look at dead bodies.
An officer stood sentinel at the door, and as I approached I did a double take. The officer, like me, had dark eyes and chestnut hair, reminding me of my older brother—until he spoke. It was not my brother's voice. That I would never hear again.
I composed myself, and showed my gold inspector's star. "Kate Gillespie. Homicide."
"Body's inside," he said. "Medical Examiner's investigator hasn't gotten here yet."
I pulled a small spiral notebook from my overcoat pocket. A gust of wind tore at the pages, made it difficult to write. I glanced at the officer's nameplate to copy it. Robertson. Star 3632. "Who's the reporting party?"
"Sully?" Kyle O'Sullivan was a senior officer assigned to Mission Station. He liked the action, and I couldn't picture him working this area. Too quiet. "What's he doing out here?"
"Working security next door."
"Next door?" I looked up from my notebook, but didn't see another entrance.
"Hilliard and Son's. Entrance is around the corner. The warehouse is split in half. Cinder block right down the middle. From what Sully says, it's just a storage facility. No pharmaceuticals."
"Didn't know they had a facility out this far," I commented, jotting the information down. Hilliard and Son's Pharmaceutical Research was probably one of the single largest employers of off-duty San Francisco cops. My father had worked security there while he was an officer at the department, and I'd heard that's where my partner, Scolari, had earned his extra money, too, putting his wife through medical school.
"Where's Sully at?" I asked.
"Left as soon as Fisk and I got here, and secured the crime scene. Said he was going to Tahoe for the weekend."
"Must be nice." Had I wanted to get off on time ever again, I would have remained a patrol officer. Even then you rolled the dice.
"And the morgue gave a ten-minute ETA for their investigators. That was five minutes ago. Oh, and I got a statement from Sully before he took off. Said he was driving around the premises in a Hilliard and Son's security truck. Saw some kids climbing in that window over there." Robertson indicated a broken window at the east end, and a Dumpster below it. "They told him they broke in on a dare. Heard the place was haunted."
"Where're they at now?"
"Got 'em separated. One in my radio car, the other in Fisk's. He's inside with the body."
I looked over at the black and whites parked nearby. Sure enough, the kids, maybe about ten years old, peered out the window of each car, their frightened gazes watching my every move. Probably scared about being blamed for the murder.
"Let's get them transported to the Hall, put a couple volunteers with them, hot chocolate, the works." "The Hall" was what we called the Hall of Justice, a one-stop-shopping of county facilities housed in a seven-story building that included not only the police department and most of its investigative units, but the courts, the jail, the District Attorney's office, and nearly every other county agency you could think of.
I pushed open the warehouse door, stepped into the musty darkness, still harboring the hope that this would turn out to be a simple homicide, something that wouldn't take more than a couple hours of my time, max. I'd be on the road to Napa by seven tonight at the latest. Plenty of time for dinner and a bottle of wine, preferably something heavy, red. Cabernet sauvignon reserve.
Above me, timbers creaked from the force of the wind. What little light there was came from the same broken windows the kids had apparently climbed through, that and the beam of the other officer's flashlight. Fisk, I presumed, eyeing his uniformed figure standing in the northwest corner next to several stacks of wooden pallets in the otherwise empty building. My footsteps echoed across the concrete flooring, and as I neared I could make out something large and white between the stacked slats of wood. Not until my sight had adjusted to the dim light could I see what the pallets hid, a chest freezer and any thoughts of dining in a four-star Napa restaurant were replaced by visions of fast food eaten at my desk. In my experience, simple homicides rarely involved corpses hidden in freezers.
"Body in there?" I asked.
He eyed my gold inspector's star, nodded, and lifted the freezer lid. A fog of cold air swirled up from the interior. It dissipated, and I looked in to see a man curled in a fetal position. I drew latex gloves out of my pocket, put them on, reached in to lift his arm. It didn't budge. He was either in full rigor, frozen solid, or both. His clothes were covered with ice crystals. Apparently the freezer wasn't frost-free.
Pulling my mini Streamlight from my coat pocket, I turned it on and took a look around, noticing the cobwebs behind the appliance, the buildup of dust on the enameled surface. I aimed the beam onto the corpse's face, the ice particles lighting up like diamonds. His hair, whatever color beneath the ice, was short, neatly cut, straight and parted to the side.
Scolari showed about ten minutes later. I glanced up from my note taking when I heard him enter. At six-three, he towered over me by a good eight inches. As usual, his tan sport coat and navy pants were rumpled, but still he was an imposing figure, even with his slight paunch and graying hair.
We'd been partners for about a year, working together daily, yet never becoming close. At thirty-six, I was the first female homicide inspector SFPD ever had, and although Scolari never came out and said it, I suspected that he resented not only the notoriety I'd received from the position, but also being partnered with me. Even so, I respected him. He was an outstanding homicide inspector—maybe one of the best. And he'd saved my life once in a shooting incident. These past few weeks, though, things were even more tense between us, and I had yet to discover why.
"Gillespie," he said by way of greeting, his voice sounding hollow in the cavernous space. "A little overdressed for the occasion?"
Normally I let his comments bounce right off, but I was more than irritated. Had he answered his page in a timely manner, I wouldn't be here right now. "You getting your calls by carrier pigeon?"
"Yeah. It got lost on the way." He gave a pointed look to the uniformed officer, and I let drop the subject about him being late. Judging by the expression on Scolari's face, he was in a worse mood than I. "What'dya got?" he asked.
"The lonely repairman." I stood aside to let him view the body.
He put on a latex glove and peered in. "Yeah, he's lookin' pretty lonely right now. Sort of like the ice sculpture for the policeman's ball," Scolari said. He allowed Officer Fisk to have a look, then lowered the freezer lid. Careful not to disturb any possible prints, Scolari inspected the handle and the exterior of the appliance. "Been looking for one of these things. What'dya figure it holds?"
"You mean how many frozen dinners?" I asked.
"Pot pies are real cheap right now. Think it'll fit in my apartment?"
"Sure. You can stick it in your living room. Use it for a TV stand."
"No lock." He eyed the pallets. I knew how his mind worked, that he'd come to the same conclusion I had. With no way to secure the freezer lid, the guy had to be dead or unconscious going in, unless someone weighted the top to keep him from escaping. The pallets, however, were full of cobwebs, the dust undisturbed. They didn't appear to have been moved in a while. "How long you figure he's been in there?" Scolari asked.
"Twelve hours, fifteen minutes and..." I glanced at my watch, "thirty-nine seconds." Fisk's gaze widened slightly, as though he might be taking me seriously. "Amazing what they teach you in homicide school," I said, since Scolari's question was purely rhetorical. Neither of us would know until the autopsy was performed, and even then it would be a guess.
The most the pathologist would be able to determine was an approximate time of death before the body had been placed in the freezer, assuming he was dead when he was put in. His fetal position and his closed eyes suggested he may have been put in alive. Hypothermia, suffocation?
Before I could speculate, the Coroner's investigators and then the crime scene investigators arrived. They did their bloodhound routine, videotaped the scene, snapped their photos, dusted the outside of the freezer for prints, and looked for further clues in the vacant warehouse. Scolari and I also made a search, but found nothing that stood out, and so Scolari left to do a premise history on the warehouse. All that remained was the transportation of the body, the arrangements having been made by the Coroner's investigators. Unsure what evidence might be disturbed should the ice crystals melt, they called for a crew to move the freezer, body and all, straight to the morgue.
It wasn't until after the freezer was moved that I wondered what power source had been used to run the appliance. I strode over to the dust-free square where the freezer had sat. there was a line in the dust made by the power cord that disappeared behind the pallets. I followed it, trying to find where it had been plugged in.
Scolari returned right about that time. "The last tenants were evicted six months ago," he said. "It's been vacant ever since. You'll never guess who."
"Okay, Scolari." I admit I was annoyed. I wanted to be on the road to Napa, not here at a homicide playing twenty questions with my partner, despite that it was only Reid waiting for me. "Tell me."
"Your dear friend. Nick Paolini."
I hoped like hell Scolari was joking, but even in the worst of moods, I didn't think he'd do that to me. Nicholas Paolini was an affluent businessman who specialized in soliciting donations for a worthy cause—namely Nicholas Paolini. Over a year ago, when I was assigned to the Narcotics detail, I'd arrested Paolini on drug charges.
Had that been the end of it, hearing his name wouldn't have bothered me, but I'd received numerous death threats since then, all attempts to keep me from testifying at his trial.
"You okay?" Scolari asked, watching me carefully.
"Yeah, fine." I was determined not to let him see how much the very mention of Paolini's name bothered me. Shining the light at the corner where the two walls met the floor, I saw the receptacle end of a black extension cord dangling about an inch off the floor. I ran the beam of light up the cloth-covered cord, revealing its frayed and tattered length; the thing must have been as old as the building. It disappeared into the ceiling, presumably over to the other side of the common wall of the warehouse next door.
"Wonder if Hilliard and Son's knows their electricity's being sucked to store a frozen corpse," I said.
Scolari didn't answer. He shuffled out, and I wondered what was up with him. It wasn't like him to let me get in the last word.
I followed, squinting in the afternoon glare. Thinking of Paolini, I shivered, feeling as cold as the body we'd found.
Scolari called the main Hilliard and Son's facility to get someone to let us in next door. While we waited, I leaned against the side of the building, watching Scolari pace. At one point, he paused beneath the Hilliard and Son's sign above the entrance. "Who would have guessed?"
"That Hilliard's nickel and dime stock would take off like bats outta hell." His gaze narrowed as he stared up at the sign. A vein in his temple pulsed. "Wish I'd bought some."
You and me both. I kept my thought to myself, however, since at the moment, Scolari seemed to be suffering from a major case of sour grapes. Hilliard and Son's researchers had taken the pharmaceutical world by storm. What started with an expedition in the jungle to find ingredients for Hilliard's wife's environmental project, Lost Forest Shampoo, ended with the discovery of a rare plant that had the potential to cure a number of cancers. Suddenly they were converged upon by Fortune 500 conglomerates eager to assimilate the moderate-sized company. I imagine those who had missed the boat with Apple computers, Microsoft, and California Cooler felt the same way.
"Why were you late?" I asked, figuring from his mood that he didn't want to talk about Hilliard.
"Signing loan papers."
"New car for the wife."
Then again, maybe the subject change wasn't so good an idea. "The wife," as Scolari so eloquently put it, was Doctor Patricia Mead-Scolari, a pathologist at the morgue. She'd recently booted Scolari from the house after allegedly walking in on him with his pants down around his ankles and a records clerk beneath him. "I don't think a car's gonna do it," I said.
He stopped his pacing long enough to give me a sarcastically paternal look he felt was his right to bestow. "I'm supposed to take advice from you? A woman whose marriage lasted all of what, five, six months? Hell, you've barely been divorced six months. Come back and talk to me after you been married twenty years."
I didn't comment. I knew better. Scolari made it a point to voice his disapproval of Reid as well as my failed marriage, though what made him an authority, I didn't know. Reid and my brother Sean had been college friends, up until the time Sean died of a drug overdose twelve years ago. Their friendship played a small part in why I married Reid, mostly because Sean had always been the biggest influence in my life. In fact, Sean's overdose was what made me want to follow in my father's footsteps and become a cop—to fight the ravages of drugs.
The arrival of a gray Nissan pickup put a halt to any further conversation about my marriage, which was just as well. A man exited, and as he approached, his sport coat blew open in the wind revealing a gold pen in his white shirt pocket. Something about his craggy face and pale blue eyes looked familiar, though it wasn't until he held out his hand that I placed him.
"I'm Dexter Kermgard," he said. "Chief security officer for the lab."
"Dex?" Dex Kermgard, a regular in my father's late-night poker games, used to be an officer, before circumstances and opportunity led him to the more lucrative job at Hilliard and Son's.
He gave me a searching look. "Son of a gun. Kate Gillespie. How are you?"
"Fine," I said.
"Haven't seen you since—well, forever."
Since my brother's funeral. Dex had left SFPD under a cloud about twelve years ago, right after my brother died. He'd killed a man in a narcotics-related offense and his use of deadly force as well as some missing drug money had been brought under scrutiny.
"I hear you made Homicide," he said. He reached into his left coat pocket, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He held the pack out in silent offer; I shook my head. "So, how do you like it?"
"Not bad. You remember my partner, Sam Scolari?"
Their gazes locked. Dex broke contact to light a cigarette. "We go way back," he said on the exhale. Scolari simply stared, the vein in his temple pulsing again. Although Dex had been absolved of any wrongdoing, his reputation as an officer had suffered—there were still those in the department who believed him guilty. Scolari, apparently, was one of them. For a moment I thought Scolari intended to ignore Dex's outstretched hand. Finally he gave it a gruff shake.
"You better be taking good care of this girl, here," Dexter said, seemingly unfazed by Scolari's reaction. And then, as if he suddenly realized the significance of our presence, he tensed. "Anything I should be worried about?"
"Hopefully not," I said. "At the moment, we can't release any details—but if possible, we would like to get inside the warehouse. Have a look around."
After Dexter tossed his cigarette into the gutter, he unlocked the door to let us in. "It's used primarily to store old research files. They're scanned into the computer banks, then boxed up and sent here."
Row upon row of metal shelves revealed just what he said. File boxes. Thousands of them.
The place smelled of dust, but even so, appeared sterile. Fluorescent lights overhead and the cement floor painted white below made it seem as though we'd stepped into a different world from that on the other side of the wall. We walked down one aisle toward the back, past neatly stacked boxes, each dated and labeled with unpronounceable compounds. I suspected the company gave them those convoluted names to keep the public in the dark as to why one simple prescription for the newest antibiotic could possibly cost twenty-five dollars a pill.
Dex gave us a running narrative, probably to avoid direct conversation with Scolari, who was pointedly not making eye contact with him.
"I don't know who occupied the place before Hilliard and Son's," Dex said, looking back at me over his shoulder as he led us to that end of the building, "but I understand it was built in the forties, and was retrofitted in the sixties with cinder block separating this side from the other. The electrical on this side has all been reworked, and is self-contained, if that's what you're wondering. Since we were using it to store files, we had a sprinkler system installed, and the lights put in..."
Personally I found the file boxes more fascinating, especially as I began to recognize a few of the brand names I read on some of the labels. Some had color names. Project Yellow, and Red. Others were more scientific sounding, such as Virunex, the plant derivative that was supposedly the promising cure for some cancers. There must have been three dozen file boxes on this drug alone.
Scolari wandered about, looking for any hint of the power cord. False ceiling panels impeded our visual inspection, and we couldn't tell if the cord made it to this side of the building.
I looked around and saw a ladder on wheels. It reminded me of something you'd use to board an airplane with, only on a smaller scale. "How about this?" I asked.
I wheeled it toward them and the cardboard lid of a file box fell to the floor. I picked up the top, but the file box it belonged to, labeled "Project Green," was just out of reach.
"I'll put it back later," Dex told me, so I set it against the bottom row of shelves, out of the way.
Scolari climbed to the top platform of the ladder. He lifted a ceiling panel, then shined his flashlight, eventually discovering the power source. "Got a mouse condo sittin' on top of it," he called down. "Looks like it's been here forever."
He climbed down, while Dex related more of the building's history. Hilliard and Son's bought the warehouse after the earthquake of '89 damaged their storage facility. They leased out the other half, which had had two tenants since then, most recently an export business—undoubtedly Paolini's front.
After Dex locked up, he took my hand in his, shaking it warmly. "It was good to see you again, Kate. Give my regards to your aunt."
Scolari took my spiral notebook from me, scrawling something in it as though taking copious notes of our visit. He managed a curt nod when Dex left, never looking up from the paper. The moment Dex got into his car, Scolari quit writing.
"What was that all about?" I asked.
"Don't like the guy. He was a bad cop."
"He was cleared."
"Was he?" With that, Scolari returned my notebook. Without another word, he headed to his car, leaving me to wonder what had crawled under his skin.
At the Hall, Scolari and I interviewed the two boys, but learned nothing more than what we were told at the scene. Their parents arrived about twenty minutes later, and we released the kids with a stern warning about trespassing on private property.
"Whoever stuck that freezer in there knew that power cord had juice," I said after they left.
Scolari didn't answer. He took his mug and poured himself a cup of day-old coffee. I found his quiet as unsettling as the thought that Paolini might be involved in this latest homicide. It was well after eight P.M.
Outside the wind had died, allowing the fog to slip in. I wanted nothing to do with Paolini, except to see him in jail. I'd settled that part of my life. "Let's see if we can get a lead on the last two tenants," I said, "make a connection to the deceased."
Scolari grunted something sounding like a response. He swallowed the sludge he'd poured, then sat to type his daily report.
We were alone in the office, and after finishing my own report, I felt compelled to say something. We'd just viewed a corpse together. Sometimes we tended to forget how much the dead really affected us. I thought about the car he'd bought.
"What'd you end up getting? For your wife?" I asked, pulling on my coat.
"Range Rover. Dark green. Might as well have bought her a Ford Pinto for all it worked. She told me I should've donated the money to the Save the Rain Forest Foundation. She's gone all environmental these days." He eyed the empty coffee pot. Several seconds of silence were broken when a police siren wailed outside our window, fading in the distance. Finally, he said, "She still wants a divorce."
"So what'd you do?"
"Gave her the damn key and left."
He didn't look at me. Didn't even move. There wasn't much I could say or offer. I didn't know him well enough. I gathered the report from the printer, put it in the lieutenant's in-basket, then headed for the door. "See you tomorrow," I said.
"Yeah." He was still staring at the coffeepot when I left for home.
The fog was heavy, even in Berkeley, where I lived. I loved the Berkeley hills, the trees, the vine-covered houses, the deer that wandered down from the eucalyptus groves and the valley beyond. I rented a small apartment with a minuscule view of the bay, if I stood just so to the left of my bedroom window. It was situated on the second story of a house built in the nineteen-twenties, accessed by a mossy brick walk along the north side that led to stairs at the rear. It was set on the hillside, so the backyard was nearly nonexistent, filled with ivy and trees, giving an illusion of privacy from the houses on each side and directly below.
Tonight there was no view as I looked out my window. Muffled wet gray obscured all traces of life on earth, and I thought of my partner, and how I'd left him there, alone, watching the coffeepot. I'd assisted in suicide cases while working on the Hostage Negotiation Team. I don't know why I hadn't seen it earlier, but Scolari had that same lost look, his voice devoid of all emotion.
I called his desk, his cell phone, and the apartment he'd been staying at ever since his wife kicked him out. No answer. I left messages on his voice mail and his answering machine, telling him to contact me the moment he came in. Finally, I paged him, typing "URGENT" at the end of my computer message to call me immediately at home.
I slept fitfully that night, dreaming of Scolari holding a gun to his mouth. The vision of a bloodied corpse was so vivid that I awoke with a start. My alarm clock went off simultaneously, five-thirty, and I had no idea if it was the alarm or my dream that had sent my heart drilling through my chest. I pictured the headlines: SFPD HOMICIDE INSPECTOR COMMITS SUICIDE, and knew I couldn't leave for Napa until I assured myself that Scolari was okay. I showered, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, and headed back to the city. I should have stuck around the office last night, talked to him. Halfway there, I realized I'd forgotten to let Reid know I wasn't coming. I used my car phone and called his cellular.
"Bettencourt," he answered. I heard a woman's voice in the background, thought it sounded familiar.
"Are you with someone?"
"Yeah, room service and the morning news. Where are you?"
"Still in the city. Something came up. Sorry I didn't make it there last night, but I'm going to have to cancel. Do me a favor. Let the hotel know, so I won't have to pay for tonight's room."
There was a hesitation. "Yeah," he said tersely. "Don't worry about it. I know these things happen. I'll see you Monday."
Surprised by his mature response, despite the tone that said he was annoyed, I was glad he wasn't going to wait around. It gave me the freedom to check up on Scolari without feeling guilty for standing Reid up.
At Scolari's apartment, the Saturday newspaper was on his front step. When he didn't answer his door, I got the manager to let me in.
"Sam?" I called, tossing the newspaper onto his couch. His apartment smelled like a dive bar in the red-light district—so much for him being on the wagon—and wherever I looked, there were empty beer bottles and ashtrays filled with cigarette butts. On the TV, on the coffee table next to a half-eaten TV dinner of fried chicken, on the kitchen counter next to a sink full of dirty dishes, in the bathroom on the edge of the mildewed tub, and on a nightstand next to his rumpled bed. My heart thudded when I saw the lump on the floor beneath the comforter. I must have stared at it for several seconds before finally lifting it, certain I'd find Scolari, thankful to see it was only pillows, no body. I scrawled out a note, taped it to his TV, then locked the door after me, fully intending to give him hell for drinking again.
After I left there, I checked a few of the bars he used to frequent before he gave up drinking. I fully expected to find him at Murphy's Law, despite that it was only midmorning. The bartender, named Murphy, was an ex-cop; the patrons, for the most part, current cops. On the wall of the dimly lit bar was a poster listing the various things that could run amok according to the proverbial Murphy's Law. Years ago some officer whose investigation had gotten screwed up had scrawled one of his own right on the wall below the poster. "If your case hinges on a pertinent piece of evidence, you can guarantee that the property clerk will lose it when you're due to testify in court."
Apparently the clerk in question had written one of his own below that. "If Property can't find the evidence, you can guarantee the officer booked it under the wrong case number." The tradition continued, and there were at least thirty or more additions, all pertaining to "what could go wrong, will go wrong" in police work.
No one at the bar, however, had seen Scolari. I was at a dead end, and didn't know where to turn.
Scolari didn't call that night or Sunday either, and Monday, I was definitely worried when I came to work. Gypsy, the division secretary, looked up from her typing long enough to hand me a manila folder on a new case. In her mid-forties, she was tall, redheaded, and had a figure more lethal than the weapons we carried. She was the real boss, regardless of our supervisor's title. "Scolari called in sick, so the lieutenant wants you to get back on the Slasher cases ASAP."
After my weekend from hell, I wasn't sure what to think about her news, delivered so matter-of-factly. File in hand, I wandered to my desk and sat down.
My phone rang. I answered it, thinking more about Scolari than who was on the other end.
"You're dead, Gillespie."
I sat upright at the muffled voice. "Who is this?"
"Testify, and you're dead."
"Testify to what?" I asked, even though I knew. I wanted to keep him talking, hoped to hear something that would tell me who was making the call, or where it was made from. "Hello?" I prodded. There was merely silence.
I hung up, wondering if it was a coincidence that the threats had started up again, now that I was involved in yet another case with a connection to Paolini. He stood to lose a lot when his drug case came up for appeal; namely, three million dollars in assets that were seized along with several pounds of cocaine taken from his Nob Hill home in a search. He blamed me directly because I had posed as the sister of a man, a fellow Narcotics officer, interested in buying a large quantity of cocaine. We'd clicked, Paolini and I. I'd been able to slip past his defenses, and gain his trust.
I phoned the DA's office to let them know of this latest threat. They had their own investigators working the case—my ex was one of them—but I knew better than to expect miracles.
Forcing the matter to the back of my mind, I opened the file folder. I read the report Gypsy gave me, a basic drunk-in-public arrest, wondering how it had found its way to Homicide, until I read the drunk's statement to the officer. He said he'd witnessed a murder of a woman about a year ago, but couldn't remember where the body was. The MO he'd described matched that of five other female murder victims—all were found with their throats slit.
The press had dubbed the suspect the SoMa Slasher, because the murders occurred in the SoMa district, short for South of Market Street. The victims were all brunettes, but their common link seemed to stop there. They ran the gamut from businesswoman to housewife, and even included a prostitute I'd known during my days in Vice.
I interviewed my alleged witness when he came out of the drunk tank, but his memory was even worse now that his blood alcohol content was reaching normal levels. More important, the victim he described, if there was one—his facts became more skewed the longer we spoke—happened to be blonde.
"Kick him loose," I told the jailer. There was nothing more he could offer. In the meantime, I decided to stop by Scolari's apartment again. If he was sick, he wasn't staying at home. My note was still taped to his TV.
I returned to work, spoke with our boss, Lieutenant Harry Andrews. Andrews, a former college quarterback, had opted for a career in law enforcement instead of pro football. There were those who said he had been promoted because he was black. After working for him, I knew otherwise. I told him about my fears and the unusual condition of Scolari's apartment. "This is beyond falling off the wagon," I finished.
"I agree," he said. "Do you know where else he might be?"
"I'll look into it, Gillespie."
I left, knowing he would do his best, but still I worried about Scolari committing suicide.
I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe I should have done more, sooner.
© Robin Burcell
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