Blood Crumbs: Chapter 22Mature

    “Liver temp and rigor both indicate that time of death was around eight and ten PM last night.” Canar said he pulled a long thermometer out of the incision he had made to the side of Landon Turner’s torso.

    I nodded as Jared walked into the room, followed by his bald tech and Cleopatra right behind.

    “There’s trace blood around the drain in the bath tub and in the grout. I’ll see if there’s enough for samples but I’m not going to put a rush on that stuff.” He said and frowned at the body.

    “Something wrong?” I asked.

    “Yeah, this guy is moving way too damned fast. I mean, we’ve still got samples from all over the Ramirez place to process and now we’ll have a whole slew of new evidence. Even the preliminary stuff that we’ve talked about hasn’t made it into official reports yet.” He said and I let out a grunt.

    “Are you saying we need to hand over this crime scene to state?” I asked carefully. Both murders occurred in Sandy, so I could make a reasonable argument to keep the case under myself for the time being. I didn’t want to let this out of my hands.

    “Ha! Are you kidding? State has homicides other than this one to deal with. Nothing will get processed any faster with them; in fact, it would probably slow the turnover of evidence.” He said. “I mean, the fact that we got the DNA turn around so fast required calling in a favor.”

    “Well I hope you’ve got a couple more of those to use.” I said looking over at a new Tilak on Turner’s forehead.

    “As soon as Canar gets it to me, I’ll send it to the lab. I have a feeling they will approve our private testing facility again. We could have it sometime tomorrow or the next day if we’re lucky.”

    “Tomorrow?” I frowned, the odds were slim that the DNA of the next victim was even in our database, but they had been slim for Turner as well. We needed that sample back.

    “Yeah, Burton, tomorrow. Don’t make me go into the details of the process. It involves words like ‘restriction enzymes’ and ‘electrophoresis sheets’ and ‘radioactively charged probes’.  Suffice to say, it takes time.”

    “Those three phrases alone almost put me to sleep, so I’m going to go ahead and trust you on this one.” I said.

    “I think they sounded interesting.” Gavin jumped in.

    “It’s actually quite fascinating.” The bald tech said. “A blood sample is taken and the white cells are separated and burst open to release the DNA…”

    I tuned him out until he finished and almost laughed at the look on Gavin’s face.

    Gavin stared for a moment. “You lost me at electro-whatever sheet.”

    “Better than me,” I said, “I stopped listening after the first big word.”

    “Restriction enzymes?” The bald one asked. “Well those are-“

    “No…not ‘restriction enzymes’.” I cut him off. “I stopped at ‘Fascinating.’ I’ve been around long enough to know that whenever one of you scientific guys says ‘fascinating’, I know the next words out of their mouths are going to be complicated and boring as Hell.”

    Canar coughed as he tried to stifle a laugh.

    The tech looked somewhat offended by my words but Jared patted him on the shoulder. “It’s alright, Danny, not everyone’s frontal lobe can have such a refined palate as ours.”

    Canar stood up and walked to the door. “I’m not seeing much in the way of new evidence here, and since the photos have been taken, I’m going to go ahead and move Mr. Turner to autopsy as quickly as possible.”

    Thaton walked in as Canar left. “Burton, you got any photos of the first vic?” She asked.

    “Yeah, I have some eight by tens of Ramirez in the file in my car, I’ll grab ‘em. Someone out there thinking they might recognize him?” I said nodding to Jared and walking outside.

    “Could be, certainly having the photo will make the canvassing easier.”

    “Anything so far?”

    “Well, I was able to confirm that Turner was seen outside mowing his lawn yesterday so he probably wasn’t taken at Ramirez’s place then moved here or anything. Mostly the neighbors are stand-offish.” She said.

    “Recognizing any faces?”

    “Nope. So far it seems our killer doesn’t feel the need to be a spectator to the mayhem if that’s what you’re getting at. Just to make sure though, I have Officer Bowen coming in to confirm. He ended up doing most of the canvassing at the Falling Waters so he’s the best to tell us if he sees any cross over.”

    I pulled the file out of my car and handed Thaton a photo. She took it and her notepad and walked over to a young woman with a baby in her arms and a small boy hugging her leg. As I walked towards Turner’s house my eyes were drawn to his neighbor’s porch. Sitting on a small plastic chair was a twig of a woman. A large blue oxygen tank on a pull-cart sat next to her. A tangle of clear plastic tubes winded from the tank and up to a small device affixed to her nose. In her hand she held a large cigar that glowed faintly as it put off a fragrant smoke. I found myself crossing the yard in her direction.

    Her hair was done up in curls and she had a light blue tint to it. Her skin was leathery with a deep tanish-sunburnt hue. Up close, her seeming frailty magnified to a skeletal figure. Every vein pushed against her skin and suddenly I felt I had used the term ‘skin and bone’ to describe others much too liberally in the past. She wore a pink muumuu with a bright flower print pattern on it and thick brown steel-toed boots adorned her feet. There was a fire in her eyes and something about the set of her jaw that let me know only her body was losing the fight with time. Her spirit was as strong and vibrant as ever.

    “Hello, ma’m, my name is Detective Burton,” I said politely. Her porch had a small table set between two chairs, her own and an empty one. Two coffee mugs gently wafted steam into the air.

    “Am I interrupting something?” I asked motioning to the empty chair where the second mug had been placed.

    She bit down on the cigar with her tobacco stained teeth. Smoke poured from the corners of her lips. She pulled it out and smiled.

    “I brewed the second cup just for you, Detective,” She tapped the cigar lightly off to the side. Her voice was horse but there was a feminine quality to it. She motioned to the empty chair. “Now, please, sit. The name is Betty. Just Betty. Ya give people a last name and they feel the need to be formal. The world’s too damn formal these days.”

    I sat down next to her and set the Ramirez file on the small table. “Well, thank you, Betty. In the interest of forgone formality, you can call me George.”

    “Alright George. So, Landon went and got himself dead.” She said quietly as she took a sip from her coffee.

    “Did you know him well?”

    “About the best anyone could know him in his now life,” She said.

    “His now life?” I asked.

    “Well that’s what we called it. Might be silly to some, but he had a life a’fore prison which he regarded as his ‘then life’. He moved to Utah after being release ‘cause he need to get away from things and we called this his ‘now life’.

    “And the years during jail?” I prodded.

    She shrugged. “We didn’t need no name for that time. Landon didn’t ever talk about it and I’m not the prying sort. Figure maybe that’s why we got along as well as we did. Well, that and Pete.”

    “Pete?” I asked. It wasn’t a necessary push; I had already figured Betty would continue her story whether or not I was paying attention. This was a lonely woman who wanted the company. My only job here would be to keep the conversation as closely related to Turner as possible.

    “Pete was my husband. The good Lord took him before he and Landon ever got a chance to meet. Pete was also a negro and Landon was fascinated with our story. Our marriage happened back in the 40’s and society in some places wasn’t ready for interracial unions. Even outlawed it as I’m sure you’ve heard. Utah was different, mind you there were those that frowned upon it.” She laughed as she took another pull of her cigar. “Not least of which was my daddy.”

    Betty grinned noticing my clear discomfort. “This bit of history makes most people uncomfortable. White guilt, Landon called it. He liked it here because he said Mormons felt guiltier than most. Left him alone mostly. Might just be because there really aren’t a large percent of coloreds in the state.”

    “So I take it he didn’t have too many close friends.” I said.

    “Landon wasn’t one to extend the olive branch around here and the neighbors seemed just fine with his seclusion. This neighborhood ain’t full of a bunch of racists…it’s just.”

    “White guilt.” I confirmed.

    “Exactly. World’s going down the shitter these days with all the politically corrected talk tellin’ us what we can and can’t say.” She pointed her cigar at me. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed you cringe every time I say ‘coloreds’ or ‘negro’ instead of African American.”

    “It doesn’t effect you I can see.” I deflected.

    “Nope. You could say I been inoculated against the guilt.” She said with a big grin. She leaned forward conspiratorially. “Got a shot of vitamin Pete.”

    I couldn’t help but laugh at this.

    “Did he have anyone visit him more than most?” I asked.

    “Nope. He didn’t even much care for maintenance people, liked to do all the work himself. He was gifted when it came to repairs. The man saved me a lots of money that would have gone to some swindling crooks.”

    I pulled out a photo of Ramirez from the file between us and showed it to her.

    “You seen this man around at all?”

    She hadn’t seen him. I sighed and took a sip of coffee, it was strong and delicious. I sat and let silence fill the void. Sometimes when you’re questioning someone for information they might have but don’t know what that information might be, silence was your best option. People feel uncomfortable with it and try to fill it with whatever they can. Sometimes, exactly what you need. Betty was not one to disappoint.

    “He was sick, you know.” She said softly.

    “Landon was?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

    “Yeah whoever went and killed him just sped up the timetable. He was terminal. The big C.”

    “Cancer?” I said with a twinge of excitement. If Turner had cancer that would also mean that he had his blood drawn for tests. It might be where the blood droplet from Ramirez’s crime scene originated from.

    “In his butt-hole.” She confirmed with a nod.

    I had taken a sip of coffee and almost choked on these words. “You mean he had colon cancer?”

    “That’s what I said, didn’t I? They couldn’t treat him for it none, he just had to sit back and let it eat him alive from the inside. Said it wasn’t worth it, too risky. Imagine that, the value of human life has an expiration date and it aint when you die.”

    I nodded.

    “It’s why I went back to smokin’ again. I mean what’s the point of keeping something in pristine condition when it’s apparently got no value.”

    “You know that’s not true, right?” I said, “About him being worthless.”

    “Yeah he couldn’t afford it really. And they said the chemotherapy is a poison. Basically they just poison you and the cancer at the same time and hope that it dies first. He was only sixty-five but thirteen years in prison will age anyone ten times that. They said he just wasn’t strong enough.”

    I patted her hand and smiled. “It was painless.” I offered.

    She nodded. “It weren’t that I was his only friend these days either. A woman my age has a tendency to have outlived all her friends. I’m pretty sure he was my last.”

    I finished my coffee and chatted with her about inconsequential things for a small time. When my cup was empty, I thanked her and walked back to the crime scene. I was armed with a new lead and today would be busy.

The End

64 comments about this story Feed