“Bishop is looking for you,” Chastity greeted as I pushed through the station door.
The Bishop was the nick-name of Lieutenant Anthony Figuera, so given from the fact that the man was an actual bishop for the LDS church. He was one of those people who were just plain born for leadership; stuck out head and shoulders above a crowd and all that nonsense. He was a good guy. He knew how to play the political side and he played it well. I either envied or pitied this quality in the man depending on the day.
I walked to my desk and dumped the junk in my arms onto my chair. The October morning had been chilly and I suspected, despite the weather reports, there might be snow in the valley in the very near future. My cheeks and nose were still red and stinging when I refilled my coffee and walked into the Bishop’s office.
His door was open and he sat chewing on a pencil, staring absently at a report splayed open in front of him. I tapped at the wall to get his attention. He looked up, took the pencil out of his mouth, and used it to signal for me to close the door.
Bishop was a solid man who was just a few years younger than me, but time had been less cruel to him. His hair was still jet black with little grey though you could see that his hairline was clearly receding. He wore large glasses with the big square rims that reminded me of the kind my grandfather wore when I was little. His Hispanic roots were present in his facial features and skin tone.
“Where have you been?” He asked as I took a seat across from him.
“There was a death in the family.” I said somberly.
This news clearly took him by surprise. He sat up straight. “What?”
“I mean, we all knew she wasn’t long for this world, but it’s always too soon. You know?”
I watched as the subtle changes slowly took over his face. His mind was assessing this development and he was becoming what I jokingly called his alter-ego. He was no longer Lieutenant Figuera, he was now "Bishop Figuera." He was preparing himself to bare the burdens of his wounded flock.
“I’m having her trucked into the parking lot so anyone that wants can pay their respects.” I added as an afterthought.
“Wait, what?” The pity was gone and his confusion was back.
“Yeah, Bertha was a dear friend to some of the officers. I figured that it was only fitting that they get a chance to say their farewell.”
Bishop stared at me while his brain made the proper connections, then his entire face pinched shut and he closed his eyes. I imagined him slowly counting to ten as I struggled to keep a stupid grin off my face when he had opened his eyes again. My lieutenant was a man well known for having limitless patience. While most everyone saw this as one of his finest qualities, I couldn’t help but take it as a personal challenge.
“Burton, you have a gift at making me think unpleasant thoughts.” He sighed.
“I know sir. I’ll miss her too. The trick is to think only about the happy times. This isn’t the end of her life, but the beginning of her eternal glory.”
“You know? Day by day it becomes harder to find reasons why God would fault me for shooting you.”
I grabbed my gut with both hands and shook. “Just think about my unborn child. You could never live with yourself killing someone in their third trimester.”
He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “If you could be serious for a second, I don’t think I have to tell you that this one’s not going to be any sort of pleasant.”
I took a sip of coffee and managed a “Yep.”
“Just give the word and I’ll pass the file to someone else. I know you’re probably dog-tired and no one would blame you.”
I gave him a half smile. “You know for a bishop I find it telling that you’re such a convincing liar.”
He shrugged. “Yeah Weston would probably blame you, but I think your friendship (he made air quotes on this word) will survive the hurdle. He practically demanded that you take the lead on this.”
“And your take?”
“Well, truthfully, it’s one of those rare moments when the stars align and me and the backseat drivers seem to be on the same wavelength. Your name would’ve been first on my list for this case anyway and I don’t typically get to make my own decision and appear accommodating. Still, I have no qualms passing it on to someone else.”
I sat up and took another gulp of coffee. “No need to fret. I’m running at maximum and it’s not going to be an issue.”
“Good. Is there anything we have yet that I can pass onto Weston to cool his gaskets for a bit?” Bishop asked as I stood to walk out.
“Well, I did have a thought on something,” I said with a shrug.
“And we both know Weston has it bad on this because of his fifty safest cities campaign. I don’t suppose you know which source he’s citing for the claim?”
Bishop sat back with an amused expression on his face. “Some Census thing or other maybe. I don’t really know.”
I wasn’t surprised by his lack of interest in the campaign. It wasn’t a huge source of pride amongst Sandy officers because it’s hard to believe that our hard work and dedication had created some sort of impenetrable crime bubble around the city. People just decided to kill each other a mile further north or south than usual is all. However, I knew he was aware of more than he was letting on.
“O c’mon you have to know something of how it works.” I pushed.
He sighed and sunk low in his chair. “Alright if it’ll help,” He paused a beat, “But none of what I say leaves this office. Got it?”
I drew an ‘X’ on my chest with my index finger. “Cross my heart.”
“From what I’ve heard it’s some stupid point system given to felony reports in each city. Violent crimes like murder and rape are given the most points followed by less dangerous crimes, B and E and the like. I don’t really get into specifics. Then points are deducted if the case is solved, for example if an unsolved murder takes place it counts as twenty points against the city, however if the murder is solved it’s only ten.
“Anyway, last year’s points were added up and Sandy had one of the fifty lowest scores in the nation. It was a fluke of course, but Weston’s people got wind of it and found it pretty impressive. We were the only suburb of a capital city and we had the highest population of any cities in the top fifty. Of course, most of them were just Podunk, USA. Population: the Smith family tree.”
I frowned. “So you really have been shoveling off the big stuff to whoever would take it?”
Bishop sat up straight.
“You know me better than that. I’d never actively throw cases out the window. However, you know as well as I do that we’re bordering five other cities and sometimes these things become a jurisdictional pissing match; especially on the big stuff. Utah isn’t exactly the Mecca for ambitious young professionals to make a name for themselves.”
I nodded thinking back to McAllen and his transfer to New Orleans.
“So Weston just wanted us to stop marking our territory.” I said
“Exactly. It’s not even blurring the ethical lines and I make sure every case gets its proper investigation.”
“But you can’t say it’s something that leaves a particularly pleasant taste in your mouth.” I added.
He shrugged. “Welcome to politics, my friend.”
“So why take this case at all? I’m sure some of the other cities would love to jump at this one too.”
“You see, Burton, this is where you fall off the political tight-rope.” Bishop said fiddling a little with his tie. “Sandy, through some divine bit of luck truly hasn’t had a murder within its city limits in nearly two years.”
“Weston can afford to take a few points and hope we don’t drop out of our safest city slot because what he can’t afford is to look weak on crime. We can’t claim to be a safe city and then ask other people to do our grunt work when it comes to anything remotely high profile. Besides, you solve this bad boy in a week and he shows just how swift Sandy justice can be.”
My stomach churned and I thought longingly of the antacids waiting for me at my desk. I took a sip of coffee instead.
“Hmmm well then you’ll have to tell me if my line of thinking is good news or bad news.” I added.
“I’ll wait for Jared to get back with me, but my initial report is things were too clean for how messy his place was.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Too clean, forensically.”
“So you’re not hopeful on getting much evidence.” He said sitting back in his chair a looking up at the ceiling. He pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “This is the part where you explain why having no evidence is good for us.”
“Good for us? Nope, it’s awful for us. But what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily what’s good for the gander.”
He met my eyes with a pained look. “One; you butchered that saying, and two; I’m pretty sure even then, you’re using it wrong.”
“Really? How about, Hacunna Matatta?
"What did I say earlier about making me have to shoot you?”
I raised my hand in mock surrender, “Too clean means that I’m not thinking this was our guy’s first rodeo.”
Bishop put his elbows on his desk and sat forward. I had his undivided attention.
“My gut tells me that I should take all this data I spend today getting and throw it into VICAP and see if I get a hit.”
The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program or VICAP database was a federally monitored collection of violent crimes. The M.O. (modus operandi) of these crimes were all placed into the database and a search was run. Sex, age, ethnic decent, and other facts of the victim along with a detailed description of the how, where and when of the crime were catalogued and compared with every other solved or unsolved violent crime submitted. The database was compiled for one main reason…
“You’ve got one dead body and your mind is already jumping to serial killer?” Bishop said in frustration.
“Look I don’t think we have just one dead body. I mean, yeah we have one dead body but from everything I’ve seen at the scene, and if what Jared tells me is accurate, then this guy is not a first timer. Nothing about the scene said crime of passion, and our killer had a flare for the dramatic. Guys like this don’t just materialize with that kind of skill.”
“You have yet to get to a part where I see any of this stuff as good news.”
“Well, like I said, for us, none of this is good, at all. But from Weston’s perspective this means that this perp didn’t start out in his fine city. Some other place, with some other mayor didn’t do their job tracking down a killer when they had the best chance to do so.”
“Weston will be cleaning up someone else’s mess.” Bishop caught on with a grim smile. “He might look pretty good when we catch this guy.”
“You mean, if we catch this guy.” I said, “I’m no Vincent D’onofrio.”
Bishop stared at me for a second. “D’onofrio? Wasn’t he the guy that blew his brains out in that movie Full Metal Jacket?”
“Full Metal Jacket? The man played a brilliant homicide detective on a prime time television show for nearly a decade and you’re going to jump on Full Metal Jacket?”
“Fine, how about that movie The Cell. He played a serial killer in that one.”
“Wow, ok you win. If you’re going to admit to watching a movie starring Jennifer Lopez just to beat me in an argument about pop culture references, I tip my hat to you sir.”
“Hey, The Cell was a pretty good-“ Bishop stopped himself mid sentence as he realized the absurdity of the conversation. He cleared his throat and began picking at his tie again. “Yes, well you’ll do your best on this case I’m sure. As far as telling Weston anything about your gut, I think I’ll hold off.”
I smiled and nodded.
“If we get a hit on VICAP, we will let him know, but I don’t want to get him up in arms on unsubstantiated claims. Who knows how he would react.”
“Until then, I’ll keep everything business as usual. Work it like a normal homicide. I’ve got a lead on some old domestic disturbance issues involving our vic while I wait for Jared and Canar to get back to me with some results.
“Good. I’m still trying to find out where the money went for my new detective. For the time being, if you need any help on this case, you ask whoever you need. They got a problem; tell them to talk to me. Keep me informed.” He said picking up the file he had been glancing over when I first walked in. I took my exit cue and headed for the door.
“Burton.” Bishop looked up as I was crossing the threshold. “That wasn’t just a send off. I mean it. I want to be in the loop on everything.”
I threw a phony salute.
“You got it chief. First I plan on hitting the little girl’s room. Too much coffee and I’ve had to tinkle since the crime scene. Of course using the victim’s john seemed a bit tactless, even for me, considering our victim had died mere feet from the toilet. Then a refill on my coffee and a trip down to records.”
“Don’t get cute.”
“With a mug like this? I couldn’t get cute even with the help of one of those makeover TV shows.”
“Bishop is looking for you,” Chastity greeted as I pushed through the station door.