The Devil in the Details

Friday, May 15, 2020 3:27 PM MDT

In the few hours that past, Gwen had done a week’s worth of work.  She was a person that could focus intently on one task, but could also stop and take care of another detail and then return to the original task without missing a beat.  The pressure of a P1 case only made her focus on the murder scene more intense.  Gwen was efficient, but thorough.  Every detail, picture, and fact had been referenced and entered on her tablet screen she carried with her.  The tablet never left her hand, or if she needed both hands she could attach it to her arm.  It was roughly the size and thickness of small yellow note pad of her grandfathers.’  He had a bunch of them in a filing cabinet in their garage when she was a child but she hadn’t seen a real yellow pad for years.

All the data Gwen entered was transmitted immediately to her personal server and to two backup servers.  She could access the case file anywhere in the world.  As a matter of protocol, Tommy, the ISPO, assigned the encryption key code in the flash form that he sent her to authorize her to be the LCI on this case, however, no one but Gwen’s team would be authorized to access the case file unless she was removed from the case.

After walking around the building several times, both inside and out, she had an exact knowledge of the layout of the murder scene.  In her mind she had worked out the possible scenarios of how the killer had entered the building and how the victim was executed.  In all scenarios the victim must have voluntarily come to the building, entered it, and kneeled on the floor.  Perhaps it was all done at gunpoint, but based on the lack of marks on the body and no evidence of a struggle at any of the entrances; the victim did not fight back at any point.  That allowed Gwen to rule out almost all ‘kidnapping/murder’ situations.

Gwen couldn’t be positive, but Elizabeth McKay must have known the murderer and likely came to the warehouse unaware of his or her intent.  That was the only scenario that made sense.  If that was the case then the murderer had been able to convince McKay trust him or her.  That gave Gwen some hope.  A person can gain the trust of a few people who will be gullible enough to walk into a murder, but it is nearly impossible to get 14 people to do it.  It was likely that McKay was the closest person to the murderer; therefore it was unlikely the other 13 potential victims would be as trusting.  In addition, McKay likely knew some or all of the other potential victims and they knew her.

At about noon Gwen decided to leak the information and victim’s name to the media.  She knew that it would increase the chances of identifying the murderer and make the potential victims on the alert for any strange requests from people they knew.  Gwen figured she had at least five or six days and maybe a month before the murderer would try to kill someone else.  This murder probably took a month or more to plan and execute, so Gwen would have time to assemble a team and train them in her style of investigation before they would have to deal with another body.

As the LCI on the scene she had to oversee the handling of the scene including and the removal of the body. She had dismissed the paramedics soon after arriving. She knew the body would have to lay there for several hours and she respected the time of others. All of the police administrators left within an hour of her arrival this morning. They knew hanging around would be inappropriate, as their job was to hand off murder cases, not investigate. One patrol unit stayed according to the policy that was established back in 2016 when a murderer came back, or perhaps had hidden out at the crime scene, and killed the LCI and the CSI team.  After that it was determined that at least two patrol officers must stay on scene until everyone leaves.

The CSI team had finished up an hour ago and left. A recovery unit picked up the body and was now driving out of the parking lot.  Gwen had been in contact with the landlord and a representative had stopped by and given Gwen the run down on the property…who leased it last, who had access, who looked at the warehouse in the past year, etc.  The building rep transmitted the details to Gwen as they talked.

The most of the doors were the old style key locked doors, but two were card/keycode locks.  The bad news was that the locks had not been changed in at least six years.  The rep told Gwen that the building had been rented by five businesses and one church in the past six years so the number of people who might have had access to a key was impossible to determine.  Either the murderer was smart or lucky, or both.

By now Gwen had over 150 flashes regarding this case in her IN box. Technology was great, but it was overwhelming and unforgiving. Every document she received, every response she gave, or didn’t give would be a part of the case and subject to being presented in court. Attorneys would pour over her flash traffic looking for things they could turn against her and the case the DA would make in court. If the DA couldn’t get a conviction then police administrators would be even less forgiving than the attorneys.

As Gwen walked out of the shadow of the building she squinted in the bright sunlight.  The sun still felt strong and warm.  Gwen looked down along the side of the building and saw her new car.  She had almost forgotten that she had it.  Her old car was a used 2014 model that didn’t have all the new communication and data technology.  Gwen could work out of the passenger seat in the new car and have access to more office functions than were available in most brick and mortar office buildings.  She headed to the passenger side of the car and then realized she should leave the area.  If Gwen stayed to work it would mean the patrol unit would have to stay and guard her. She opted to go get coffee somewhere and sort through the ever-growing digital file of messages.

She wasn’t familiar with this warehouse area so she tapped the tablet screen and it lit up.  She touched the button on the touch screen that said, “Find Me”.  Instantly she had a live view of her location from a satellite in orbit. It showed her car, the parking lot, the building. She touched the reverse zoom icon and the image pulled up and showed about a ten block area. She had coffee shops on auto label and a coffee cup appeared on the image just a few blocks east of her current location. She closed the car door and said “Start” and the car began to hum.

Her tablet rang as she walked into the Starbucks. She grimaced. She hated talking on her phone in places where people were socializing. She turned around and went back outside. Before she answered she looked at the number. It was one of the LCI’s she had contacted to join her on this case.

Jake was older. He used to handle murder cases and had been very successful, but four years ago he decided to only handle large theft cases. Gwen had worked with him a few times as an intern and after she got her license she asked him about his decision to change. He told her that one day after a murder-suicide case he was paid $10,000 for proving the obvious…the husband killed his wife and child before killing himself. Jake then wondered if the husband realized that someone was going to make $10,000 off of his deranged act of cold-blooded murder. Jake decided he wasn’t to take any more money because someone’s violent act. Gwen knew this case would be a tough sell, but she wanted Jake on this case and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“How’s it going Jake,” she began.  “Gwen, I know that tone,” he replied.  Gwen reminded herself that you don’t get to be a good LCI without being able to read the prosody in the voice.  “I need to contract you,” Gwen said.  He paused for a moment and then said, “You lose something?”  Gwen took a short breath and then said, “I’m the lead on a P1.”

For a moment Jake felt a little burst of pride that Gwen was selected for the most important case an LCI could be assigned after only a few years on the job, but he knew exactly what this meant and why she was calling him.  “So you’ve lost your mind…I don’t do those….no value,” he said.  Gwen was not going to let him brush her off.  She said, “Look, it’s big and I need your help in finding two more LCI’s to help us.  You can stay in the office and keep us on track.  I need you on this case.”  Gwen voice didn’t noticeably change when she said ‘I need you’ but Jake could tell that Gwen was being absolutely sincere.

Gwen had natural abilities, but she had correctly identified her weakness…the lack of long-term experience.  Jake saw that her plan to have him to run the inside of the case was the perfect solution.  In his career he had never been the lead on a P1 case, but he had been on a P1 team five times and he saw lead LCI’s succeed and fail.  This late in his career he had no desire for the pressure of being the lead, but a P1 case was just too good of an opportunity to thumb his nose at and he could be a valuable mentor for Gwen and the rest of the team.  Still, he didn’t want to look too easy.  He said, “Let’s get together and talk it through…but I’m not saying ‘yes’, understood?”  “Understood,” she replied.  She smiled.  He just said ‘yes.’

Gwen gave Jake the information to access the case file and made plans to meet Jake at 7 PM and then went back inside.  She could leave Jake to pick the other two LCI’s and he could task both of them out throughout the course of the investigation.  Using him as a resource and task master would free her up to follow the investigation in the field.

She was feeling very pleased with herself until she saw a red light flash on her tablet.  It was a new flash and in the description it said, “FBI – URGENT.  This was not good.  Were they taking over the case?  She had hoped that since they didn’t show up at the crime scene that they were uninterested in her case….that’s right, she reminded herself, it was her case.  She opened the flash and saw that it was a request for operational progress briefs every 48 hours.  It would have been better if the FBI would not be involved at all, but this wasn’t as bad as she feared.  She would just put two daily reports for the DA together and submit them to the FBI.

The rest of the backed up flash traffic were mostly predictable.  She was pleasantly surprised that $300,000 was already deposited in her investigation fund and that four credit cards were waiting for her at Denver C & C Center.  Unfortunately, she had to pick them up by 5 PM or wait until Monday.  She headed out to the car.  It would look bad if police administration had expedited her credit cards only to have them sit on someone’s desk all weekend.  This is one of those issues that would haunt her even though she wouldn’t have anyone to give the credit cards to until Monday at the earliest.

Gwen’s was clearly irritated.  She was the lead LCI on a P1 case and her priority right now was an errand.  She knew she needed to get her team on board quickly so she didn’t get caught up in little details like picking up plastic late on Friday afternoon.

The Earlier Fortnight Chapters

Chapter One & Two

Chapter Three