A perfect warm autumn breeze blew over the still idling car where the body of the parking checker was found. A few birds circled happily overhead, enjoying the last gasp of a waning summer. Pretty young girls and boys wandered around the grounds of the midwestern college campus, book bags full of life yet to be grasped. They looked to the police cars, the meandering directionless patrol officers, the detectives with their notepads and found nothing they needed to concern themselves with and moved on. Life was short for other people. Theirs would be brilliant and long and successful and certainly not end with a gunshot to the temple while employed as a parking checker.
Megan Brown looked down from the extended arm of the corpse to the pool of blood gathered under the door of the tiny vehicle. Prancing away from the pool were the distinct bloody footprints of a squirrel, bounding off in the direction of a robins egg blue house with a brilliant and impeccable green lawn, as if it were groomed constantly to keep out the predations of the brilliantly colored leaves that swirled around it. It was the sort of house that you could easily picture the welcome mat – cheery, with faux grass and a picture of a grass skirted girl from Borneo providing welcome.
She looked to one of the nearby officers who didn’t seem to know quite what to do with themselves.
“Officer?” He was a young lad – a rookie with a bright and eager to please but inattentive face.
“Yes, ma’am?” At 37 she truly hated it being called ‘ma’am’. She smiled pleasantly at him.
“I’d like you to track down that squirrel and arrest him.” He blinked stupidly at her. “Chop chop! Pronto! Get a move on. Fugitive on the loose!”
“Better do it, kid.” Her partner, Detective Riggins chimed in. “She is a superior officer.”
The unlit cigarette in Riggins mouth bobbed as he said it. He was older by almost twenty years and had just managed to quit smoking three weeks before. Brown’s clothes still hadn’t been washed enough to get rid of the smell, but then she didn’t quite clean them with the necessary regularity either.
The boy was cute. He looked around to his partner with a puzzled and hurt expression but his partner was trying too hard not to crack up. The older one managed to pull it together just long enough to offer a shrug at him.
“Are you serious ma’am?”
“Yep.” She waved a dismissive hand off in the direction of the perfect lawn. “Stick to this side of the street though. Those squirrels over there are simply bystanders.” She pointed at the wide wooded expanse in front of the University Art building where hundreds of the little gray things bounded aimlessly around searching for their winter war chest.
“And look for the red pawed one. If nothing else we can get him on fleeing the scene.”
The young officer looked one more time to help from his partner. But the partner was wandering off to direct traffic – pretending to pay no attention. He walked off slowly, shoulders slumped, head to the ground tracking the bloody footprints. When he was far enough away the Partner started to laugh as hard as he dared.
“He might need smaller cuffs.” She said.
“Do we have the owner of the other car yet?” Riggins asked no one in particular which made the non-response he got understandable. The parking checker had been leaning out to issue a ticket when the bullet got him which meant that the car he was ticketing was now parked in and would remain so for a while. Megan glanced at the other car and then went back to circling the parking checker without saying anything.
“What are you thinking?” Riggins asked. Technically, he was her superior. A thirty year decorated officer with twelve in homicide to her three, but he’d been happy to take a back seat to her instincts for a while now.
“I’m thinking heart attack.” She said, straightening up and trying to put a serious expression on. The inside of the car was a nightmarish painting of red. Three chunks of something pinkish sat on a stack of unwritten tickets. Part of the man was out the window, arm outstretched with the computer generated ticket still pinched in his thick and short sausage fingers. The rest of him – and there was a lot – seemed to have been poured into the drivers seat like a thickened cake batter.
Megan pointed to a box of donuts underneath the stack of unprinted tickets. Underneath the viscera coagulating down his front appeared to be the remains of yet another donut – what would prove to be his last meal.
“The driver of the car got pissed because he had a heart attack and couldn’t move.” She continued. “So he shot him. And now he still can’t move. It’s that or I was right the first time. The squirrel did it.”
“I like your first theory, Brown. If junior can’t catch him I’ll put out an APB on a small furry rodent, bloody paws, bushy tail.” Riggins added.
“May have stolen some nuts. Very dangerous. Carrying a flash suppressed .308. ”
“Any distinguishing characteristics?”
“Tattoo of an acorn on his left shoulder.”
“You really think it was a .308?”
“Blood spatter is pretty wide. Maybe a hollow point. Took off most of his head. It looks like a regular sniper round or hunting rifle. And whoever did this was doing him a favor.”
“How do you figure?”
“He was diabetic. You can tell by the marks on the finger from where he did his testing. I bet if we dug around we’d find some insulin but he’s also had a heart attack, maybe more than one.” She pointed at a bottle of regular aspirin sitting on the dashboard.
“He couldn’t just use that for headaches?”
“When was the last time you took regular aspirin for a hangover, Rig?”
“Anything else there, Sherlock?”
Brown squeezed between the two parked cars and peeked her head carefully through what would have been the passenger side window of the parking enforcement vehicle. She reached in and turned the key, finally shutting the car off. She turned the dead mans hands over.
“Victim was an aficionado of some stringed instrument – either stand up bass or Banjo. I’m leaning towards Banjo. He was recently divorced, has an older child – daughter – who he hasn’t seen in a while.”
She pulled herself out and looked into the window of the other parked car whose window was open a crack so that the car would keep cool in the warm autumn sun. She stuck her nose to the crack in the window, pulling out a second later.
“Owner of this car isn’t a student. He’s probably a teacher, more likely a full professor.”
“How do you know it’s a he? The car’s pretty clean.”
“Recently clean.” She said. “No scent. Gals would have a scent – makeup, prolonged use of perfume, hair spray. He’s tall and probably works in literature, archaeology or philosophy. More likely archaeology. He’s probably also divorced and it was a bad one. This car is a recently purchased used POS. Those paper mud mats are still in the back. I’m guessing he’s paying out of his ass in alimony which is why he’s driving this hunk of shit. Which also leads me to believe that he has a wandering eye and wandering fingers. Whoever he is though he had nothing to do with it.”
Riggins stared vacantly at her and rolled his unlit cigarette around in his mouth. He’d long ago gotten used to Brown’s ridiculous powers of observation but even in spite of his experience he still couldn’t twist as much of what he saw into the conclusions she did.
“Alright.” He said. “I’ll bite. How are you reaching these magical conclusions this time?”
Brown pointed at the three story Art Building and started walking across the busy street to it.
“I’ll talk while we walk. In addition to the pinpricks for the diabetic testing, the victim had callouses. On both hands. If he’d played guitar the callouses would be more pronounced on his fret hand. Also, because of the way the callouses were on his fingers I figured it was a banjo. Not that that matters at all. He’s divorced – the usual ring finger mark but it’s pretty old – more like an impression than the customary tan line which some people – particularly large people – get when they’ve been wearing a ring for a very long time. I’d bet he had to have the ring cut off his finger when it went.”
The front of the building looked old and academic with two large double doors at the top of cracking and neglected concrete steps that had probably been initially poured when Megans mom was young. She looked at the empty space on her own ring finger as she grabbed for the polished brass bar of the door. She panicked for a careless moment, thinking that she’d lost it and then remembered the truth with a pain in her chest she could actually feel.
The wind kicked her hair into her face again and she pulled it behind an ear for a moment as they walked in. It wouldn’t stay there. It never did.
The inside of the building was oddly quiet for being so cavernous. Tall ceilings echoed their footfalls. Sunlight from the large windows made reflections of wall notices on the polished composite marble floor. Sound from a class for african dance bounced off the walls and down stairwells from one of the floors above them.
“As for the other driver. Who cares?” She lowered her voice to reflect the acoustics of the building.
“You don’t actually know, do you?” He liked to challenge her, even though he was certain she did.
“Alright. Fine. There were some rock chunks on the back seat that seemed to have been worked chert pieces. As for his divorce and the other stuff… well… he’s a college professor. It just sort of goes without saying.”
“What exactly are chert pieces?”
“Its a type of rock good for making arrowheads and spearpoints.”
“And how do you know this?”
Her eyes narrowed at him which reshuffled the landscape of her forehead into something less than pleased. It was the sort of expression that told him everything he needed to know while keeping it all a well guarded secret.
“So what are we doing here?”
“We need roof access. Got to find a janitor.”
“Custodial engineer.” He corrected. “The shooter could have fired from one of the windows.”
“In the middle of the day? During classes? Come on. You’re not old enough to be getting soft in the skull on me.”
Riggins shrugged a bit. Old enough or not he certainly felt old in comparison with her energy and quick brain.
It wasn’t easy finding a janitor. The building was pretty large to begin with. Three stories formed into a vast square. In some ways it was deceptively vast. From the outside it was big but inside it seemed even larger and designed in some obscure academic era where getting lost in the halls was part of the education. They checked each available bathroom and janitors closet and came up with nothing. Once Riggins thought he heard a lugubrious voice intoning some personal janitorial tragedy through the medium of a walkie talkie but – with the bizarre sound characteristics of the architecture – by the time he thought he found the source it was long gone.
When they finally made it to the roof it was under the care and guidance of a harry and half drunk maintenance technician whose terrible cloying cologne smelled of apples long left to rot mixed with turpentine and vodka. Both Riggins and Brown caught the wild burning sage undercurrent of recently smoked weed that seemed to have been soaked into the mans clothes. He made a quick exit after unlocking the door to the roof.
Megan strode directly to the edge of the roof, her dishwater blond strands freeing themselves in the breeze.
“Well our shooter is short.” She said. “Real short.”
“How do you figure that?” She pointed at the little half wall at the edge of the rooftop. It was no larger than a foot and a half tall. If anyone had tried to use it as a rest for a rifle it would have been very problematic – too tall to lie prone but still too small to kneel, unless you were very short.
“There’s also the footprints.” She said pointing them out. It was hard to tell what they were from his perspective. Just impressions in the drainage gravel. “I’d figure about 5 foot, maybe five – two.”
“So a dwarf?”
“Not a dwarf. Or little person seeing as we’re in the mood to correct people. Someone with dwarfism would have a different and wider gait. This is normal. So just a really short man. And he’s calm. Confident. There’s no marks on the edge from a rifle tripod and no sign of skipping when the gun went off so he was holding it steady freehand when he fired.”
“He could have used a photographers tripod. We are in the art building.”
“There would be marks in the gravel for that.”
Megan took a few steps toward the stairs to the third floor from which they’d just come. The rooftop continued a long way to the north pointing at the tall building that was devoted to the humanities – english, history, philosophy. Beyond that was the communications building. At the far end was another access point to the rooftop. She walked a little ways in that direction and then stopped suddenly and bent over something.
“He’s a flashy guy. He’s got money and likes to show it off. What you or I would generally refer to as a dick.” She called back to him. “He likes to be thought of as a big man even though he isn’t so he’ll be driving something nice. Something really special.” She looked over the rooftop to the line of parked cars across the street that ended in the double parked tragedy now ringed in yellow police tape. “It would be expensive and expensive looking. I’m guessing a sports coupe or a nice sedan like an audi or BMW.”
But there was nothing parked on the street of that description. It was a commuter college with serious parking issues so there were tons of cars parked on the street, but none of them of the sort that screamed ‘rob me’ as the shooter’s most certainly would. The only thing close was a bright shiny yellow Hummer or ‘Hate Vehicle’ as she liked to call them.
“Now you’re just making shit up.”
Meg gave him her patented patient and innocent look that suggested she knew exactly what she was talking about but there was a distinct possibility she was full of shit. It was often confused for her long suffering partner look because it was basically the same except for the emotion behind it.
Riggins nodded and looked at the parked cars.
“There’s the nice Hummer.”
“You would think it’s nice because your a fascist. No. This is a guy who likes to be taken seriously, remember? Anything ginormous like that would make him look ridiculous. His car would be a symbol of himself. You know how guys get. Well it’s like that only serious. Like a personal totem. It represents what he thinks about himself. My guess is the shooter took offense to the Checker getting between him and his totem.”
“Oh. You think?” Riggins asked sarcastically as his phone rang.
“Shut up. Sarcasm isn’t your thing. It’s not something simple. It’s not just a parking ticket.”
Meg’s hand radio crackled to life from her jacket pocket and she snatched at it.
‘…Report of a parking enforcement vehicle stalled on the north end of campus near the dorms…” it said.
“That’s not our car.” She said.
“No.” He said, the lines of his face merging to become serious. Riggins keyed the button on his own radio and spoke into it. “This is Detective Sergeant Riggins on top of the Arts building. Repeat last.”
“Copy.” Crackled the dispatch voice. “Report of a stalled and idling parking enforcement vehicle near the corner of Maryland and Edgewood near the campus dormitories. Campus police are responding. Over.”
“Dispatch. Confirm location of call. Over.”
“Vicinity of Edgewood and Maryland near the dorms. Over.”
“Roger. Relay radio traffic from Campus Police to this device. Over.” Riggins looked at her quickly. “You don’t think it could be another one?”
“Oh yeah.” Meg grinned. “Didn’t I mention he’s not done?”
“I’m going to try to get Parking Enforcement out of here and get Swat down here.”
“Good luck.” Meg said, rubbing her finger where her ring once was. “Tell Garvey I said…” Just the mention of SWAT filled her fond memories of laughing and post raid gambling debts she still owed, the weight of gear, the sound of flashbangs, her old MP5 she’d named Curtis. She wondered if Curtis missed her. She wondered if he fired as true, if the new guy that replaced her had altered the sights. It made her nauseous to think she’d given that up. And for what? Still… Homicide was good. It could have been worse. She could have been transferred to Narcotics or Vice.
Riggins waited for her to finish her sentence but she chewed on it instead.
“Don’t tell him anything. In fact, don’t mention I’m here. In fact, if he shows up, hide me. I think I owe him fifty bucks on the superbowl.”
“Garvey says hi!” Riggins said behind her as she passed through the open door of the roof access.
She passed into the aura of the same janitor’s oderific toxicity at the bottom of the narrow stairs. His eyes were bloodshot and the smile he gave her didn’t meet them. There was a mop in his hands attached to an empty bucket on wheels and he leaned against it as if to do otherwise would cause him to puddle on the ground. Her eyes drifted over his name tag before coming back to the smile.
“All done up there, officer?” He leered, scratching a blurry and indistinct tattoo that crawled out of the neck of his work shirt.
“Almost. Detective Riggins is on his way down. But leave it open. We’re going to need to come back.”
“You bet.” He replied in the traditional stoner inflection that made it unclear whether anything she said had been heard. The custodian gazed away over her head down the much more busy hallway. Doors swung open emitting streams of students but no bell had rung. In seconds it was full of noisy kids flinging book bags over their shoulders, rushing quickly to make it to the next class.
Meg joined the stream. Most of the students headed south out of their classes, flowing quickly around a sharp corner and on to the west, then down a flight of stairs then another to the bottom floor then again to the west. Small tributaries of traffic flowed into other rooms or out the great double doors to the southern exit but most continued west. Emboldened by other joining streams of students they surged through the western exit and outside into a common area where they were joined by more currents from other buildings all of which meandered towards the Student Union.
Few, if any, of the students seemed to know about the double tragedies that just occurred on either end of the campus. Some seemed wary and huddled against buildings but for the most part the world carried on as it always had. Blissfully unaware students wandered casually past her, careless nomadic academics sped to the next lecture, the next piece of useless knowledge. Girls, like the one she once was, smiled happily and fetchingly at the pretty and confident boys who they hoped to grow tired of before the reverse happened. It was a universe buzzing with the potential energy of heartbreak – academic, artistic, romantic, economic, spiritual, political.
She pushed on in the energy of this stream, into the food court of the commons with it’s artificial stink of artificial sizzle mingling with perfumes, colognes, hairsprays, books, computers. The stream made a quick route into the Union where all the streams from across the academic universe went to pool collectively, but here she followed a tributary out into the large open air common area outside.
It was a large central square between several buildings and further bounded by some raised gardens and planters upon which dreamy undergraduates struck romantic studious tableaus, books in hand, cigarettes in mouth. She stopped halfway through the commons. Directly before her was the giant, shapeless brick sprawl of the university library. Once the glue that drew all the disparate segments of scholastics together, now the tomb where books went to be ignored and mourned. It was very tall and divided the campus from the more rustic student residences situated across a street on its other side. At the far end of those residential dorms was their second victim.
The library was actually two large buildings connected by a third at the top. It was five or six stories with a terrific view of the dormitories and the long expanse of walkway that led towards the school and it had a great unobstructed view of the commons. Through the archway formed by the third building she watched an african american pilot her small Parking Enforcement vehicle nervously down the street to the west. Hopefully she was heading home.
Meg looked around. It had only been a few minutes since leaving the Art building but already the sudden surge of students had trickled to just a few stragglers who had no where to go quickly. She checked her watch and looked up and around.
A tallish frizzy haired boy drifted by, enjoying the last of the warmish weather in a light colored checkered short sleeved shirt which she just managed to grab with her fingertips before he completely passed by. With her other hand she grabbed the radio from her coat pocket. The boy swung back as if on a rubber band.
“What the fuck lady?” He said before his eyes went wider at the sight of her sidearm and badge. The look of instant panic that came over him told her if she looked hard enough she’d find a small, well wrapped bag of herbs on him.
“Does your mother pay you to use that mouth at school?” He didn’t try to shake her off. Another good indicator that he wanted to be cooperative and give her no reason to search. “What’s that building right there?” She pointed to her left which was a long, squat two story thing made in the middle of the past century of brick and windows.
“Criminal Justice, Poli Sci, shit like that.” He said much more brightly. She let him go but he stood there a moment, curious.
“Got any weed on you?” He turned his body away a little to the right, towards the library. Right pocket then, she thought.
“Right front jeans pocket.” She said smiling. He gave her a resigned and terrified look as though he would shortly release whatever was in his bladder and then he started to put his hand in his pocket as though he about to hand it over but she managed to stop him. “Christ kid. Don’t show it to me. I’d have to arrest you. Get the hell out of here and don’t be stupid. Put it in your shoe next time.”
She keyed the button on the radio.
“What the fuck Meg?” She heard Riggins say. He didn’t sound happy.
“Open radio, Rig.” She warned. “Is Garvey on?” She waited a second.
“Go for Garvey.” Her old boss had a much higher voice than one would expect for a SWAT officer for which he got an enormous amount of shit.
“You need to get a sniper team up on top of that big white building on the north side of the Library.”
“Roger that. Got Tim and Cheshire heading there now.”
“Put your team on the south side of that building, facing the library.”
“But the north side has a cleaner line of sight on the road, longer time on target. And what about the other building? The LIberal Arts building?”
“He’s not going to go for that one. If he gets up there at all it will be on the library. Trust me. And Rig? You’re going to want to have some plainclothes guys covering the roof access to the library.”
“Roger. What are you going to do?”
“Try to make sure he never gets there.” She said. “I’m going radio silent for a bit. Out.”
“Negative, Brown. Stay on this channel. Over.”
She turned left towards the Poli Sci building. It seemed to fit. She pushed through the glass doors into the two story building. It was quiet and darker than she expected but that was only because the school was raining gold and treasure on the chancellor’s staff and the business school that it could no longer afford to repair the light fixtures on the ‘lesser’ colleges. The sounds of muffled lectures behind thick doors came out to her from all sides but she checked the doorways anyway, one hand resting on the butt of her pistol.
When she got to the end of the hall she found what she was looking for: a building directory. She scanned the list quickly and jabbed the nearby ‘up’ button on the elevator which proved as efficient in operation as the light fixtures. The button lit up but no elevator appeared and no motors for it sparked to life.
She took the stairs.
The upstairs hallway was a long racetrack lined inside and outside with faculty offices and department offices. A beautiful, subtle scent of books, sharpened pencils and learning wafted pleasantly through the cool and darkened hallway, mingling here and there with more pungent odors, burning coffee, rancid fruit or incense.
She made her way to the department offices of the Criminal Justice department, passing the closed doors of the faculty. Once or twice one of the doors was open allowing her a quick look inside. They were tiny things. Barely enough room for a desk and a chair and some of them were shockingly spartan – like something that would serve better as an interrogation room than an office. Some, however, were very creative. They crammed high utilitarian bookshelves, posters, ornaments, knickknacks. Through the open window of one she saw a huge rattan wall partition dividing a few feet inside the door from what must have been just a few feet on the other side, colored light like a tiki lounge could be made out on the other side. At another office door she stooped to look through the plain vertical blinds at an interior that was silhouetted against the sunlight outside. From what she could see of it it was upscale, nice. An expensive leather executive chair sat behind a mahogany, well ordered desk upon which a very nice laptop computer sat open. She checked the name on the door and moved on.
She’d turned down the radio to barely a whisper but in the relative silence of the nearly monastic setting she heard it just fine. It was Garvey again.
“Brown. Got the team on the History building, north of the library. Copy?”
She keyed the button on the radio to confirm receipt. The next voice she heard was Riggins.
“Two detectives inside the library and officers covering roof access. And we’re at the second scene. Male victim. 36 years of age. Parking enforcement. Looks like he took the shot from one of the dorm rooms. I’m there now. No casings. No perch like the last. Clear footprint in what looks like a puddle of beer. Copy?”
She keyed the button again.
“Brown. Give location. Over.” She didn’t respond to that. Instead she turned into the department office and smiled brightly at the receptionist behind the desk who smiled brightly back. When the smiling was over she shot a quick check of her watch. She had less than fifteen minutes left.
Ten minutes later, map and class schedule in hand, she pushed through the heavy double doors into a large lecture hall in the history building. The kids were already starting to get restless, stowing pens and notebooks into their back packs. The lecturer stopped in mid sentence at the sound of the door opening. The last thing he said was some disparaging comment about Ptolemy and his inaccurate conclusions about the solar system in it’s relation to deductive reasoning in investigations. Meg had a special place in her heart for Ptolemy – she liked the wonderful simplicity of putting humanity at the center of the universe. Somehow, in spite of all scientific evidence to the contrary, humanity had never quite understood the error and still did it constantly. And somehow it was perversely fitting under these circumstances.
“Can I help you miss?” he asked with a pronounced tone of irritation. The rustling of the students took on a different rhythm as they turned to look at her, some shooting her the scathing look of people who had actually been paying attention, some looking with total disinterest.
“I believe we had an appointment.” She said simply, standing in the aisle between the seats. The professor looked down regretfully at the lectern before him. From her vantage point he seemed like a groomed and primped chimpanzee behind it.
“I’m afraid I don’t have anything in my schedule…” He said as if he were actually looking at his itinerary. She took a few steps down the aisle. He flipped pages of the book in front of him with one hand.
“It’s a recent appointment Professor Gardiner. I believe your office requested it about two hours ago? They must have forgotten to inform you.”
“And your name?” He asked cautiously and with a slight grin.
“I think you know who I am.”
He slowly flipped another page of the notebook on the lectern. He had an almost perfectly square head with what once had been called a lantern jaw. The part of that jaw that contained his mouth peeled back even more into a smile. The rest of the jaw was covered with stubble so uniform in length and consistency it looked like it was airbrushed on. His hand left the lectern and brushed back what appeared to be highly polished hair from his temple, though not a single hair was or even could have been out of place. Even from this distance she could see the thick knuckles of his phalanges. They were like dockworker hands.
“So” He said slowly. “How did you find me?”
All around her she could feel the temper of the room change from annoyance to curiosity. People who had been one step from leaving suddenly found something interesting going on and settled back into their seats to see how it all turned out. Of course there were only two people out of the whole bunch of them that knew this was exactly the wrong attitude to take. But those same two people knew it was too late for anything else.
“I’m not here to give a free lecture on observation in theory and practice, professor. We had an appointment and I expect you’ll honor that.” She said a little more firmly. The game was over. It’s time to take the last step, was what she meant.
“Of course.” He tried pleasantly. “Class is almost over. I’ll be with you in…”
He pulled the gun very fast but she’d been expecting it since she walked through the door. He went out like an angel. Arms outstretched as though plaintively begging for standing in heaven or cursing his onrushing placement in hell. Pistol in one hand. She was surprised to find him left handed. Interesting. The casings would eject into his face. She hadn’t expected that with the way he’d been turning the pages with his right. But of course he couldn’t go out alone. It had been part of his plan the whole time so he fired at the crowd that now pooled out like an extension of the explosions from her gun. Only one of the students fell. Six more bullets followed the first before that happened.
He was still breathing when she climbed up on top of the podium to kick away his pistol. His breath was coming ragged like a tattered flag and he knew it was immanent.
He looked up at her, blood bubbling from his smiling simian lips.
“Thanks for keeping our appointment.” He said before the ragged choking noise in his chest stopped.
Meg looked up. The room was silent except for the groans of the one student who’d been shot. A few huddled uselessly into corners that couldn’t have protected them. She saw one crawl from behind a theatre chair. Another had tried to use the folding writing surface as cover and was still trying to figure it out. Outside she could hear the yelling, the running, the screaming.
She sat down easily on the podium next to the short, dead man and sighed easily.
“Fuck.” She said to the lecture room. The lecture room agreed in it’s own silent way.
The worst thing she could think of was not that he had killed two people but that he’d made her shoot. She’d be off the street for at least a week after that. That meant a weeks worth of terrible jokes she’d have to make about the quality of the coffee, a weeks worth of uncomfortable pats on the back she’d have to endure, a weeks worth of psychological counseling, paperwork, paper shuffling, pencil sharpening, internet searching, email answering, facebook updating, online games playing. Her Farmville farm had died ages ago and she hated knowing it was from neglect, but it was somehow okay as long as she didn’t have to face it.
“Fuck.” She said again and again the room agreed.
She found the rifle in his briefcase before SWAT showed up. She found the spent casings in his pants pocket just after Riggins showed up. In his office she’d found the keys to his Audi along with the sickly sweet smell of rotting apples, turpentine and vodka. It came from a bottle of aftershave and it looked expensive. It smelled worse than death. She’d made a mental note to shoot any guy she dated who wore the stuff.
“Alright.” Riggins said. “How did you figure this one out?”
“Take a whiff.”
Riggins did but his face gave only the slightest recognition. The connection wasn’t fully made.
“He needed access to the roofs. Professors don’t have that.”
“But professor? Was that a guess?”
“Professor, middle management, junior politician, something like that. It fit the profile.”
“Add that to the location. That says professor. I figured criminal Justice or sociology. Criminal Justice was closer and also fit the nests he already used. Its conveniently located between the first and second victims, and as you can see the walk to what would have been the third nest was right across the street.”
“Alright. How did you figure this guy in particular. You couldn’t have searched every faculty office in the Criminal Justice department.”
“The blinds on his door.” She said simply, shrugging again. “They’d been cracked open a little bit to look out and I had to bend down to look inside, which meant the occupant wasn’t tall, and the stuff inside looked all swank and shit. Not professorial, which leads me to the next thing. There’s no way he could afford the stuff he has on his Faculty pay. He’s a drug dealer. When you find his car on the impound lot my guess is the trunk will be well stocked with goodies.”
“Impound lot.” Riggins nodded. “It fits. Do you know it’s on the impound lot or is that just a guess?”
“Just a guess.” She shrugged. “But it fits. And that’s how he got the janitors keys. He hooked him up. Apparently they share a taste for godawful aftershave too. That should be a good enough reason to arrest him.”
“But why? I mean, really – cause this seems a little excessive a response for getting your car towed.”
Meg shrugged again. Publicly she didn’t give a crap about motives. Privately she thought it was because the little man was affronted at the audacity of being tripped up by a parking checker. The guy fancied himself as being altogether, someone to be respected. Towing his totem away with the supply of his drugs in it was the ultimate disrespect and in his mind it demanded satisfaction. Where he could have just gone and paid his fine and gotten his car back had he been normal, in his mind it required an endgame – to go out on top. Whatever it was it would have required a bit of explaining and she’d lost the mood for such longueur.
“It doesn’t really matter does it?” She said.
“I…” Riggins started. He looked around at the podium covered in blood. Every shot had hit home. “I guess not.”
Megan pulled her pistol for the second time that day and handed it over to her partner who took it carefully. They would have to match ballistics from it to the bullets in the professors body so she wouldn’t see it for a while. That was alright. She had more where that came from.
“What?” Riggins started again as she hoisted herself to her feet. “No quips? No comedy?”
She thought for a second and pulled her sunglasses from her inside coat pocket.
“I guess he wanted to be a master criminal.” She paused dramatically. “But came up a little short.” She threw the sunglasses on with a dramatic flourish that backfired badly when she stabbed herself in the eye with the stem.
“Nice one.” Riggins laughed. He had no idea how much it actually hurt.
She wrote it up at headquarters. Boring. She got pats on the back. Boring. The lieutenant congratulated her. She stuck her tongue out at him.
That night she stopped at a bar and picked up the beginning of a wicked hangover and a man she would inaccurately remember as Colin. In all respects he was passable but in some ways, just barely. She kicked him out without ceremony by 1 AM and slept the rest of the night alone in her oversized post divorce bed. She had terrible sad dreams about a wonderful smile she hoped never to see again.
When she woke up she was still crying.