I know…I know… I released these chapters out of order, but I have my reasons
madness. Either way, I hope you enjoy this and I’d love to hear what you think of it so far!!
I sat in disbelief, dumbfounded by the vapid car sounds…Click, click, click.
I just cannot win. “Of all days, do NOT do this!”
My shrill voice carried and echoed in the empty police garage parking lot. The tone of desperation in it pissed me off even more. I was in my apple-red Chevy Impala, in its assigned lot 2B-18, sitting several moments now in an apparently stalled vehicle.
Suddenly inside my head, a woman’s happy laughter followed up by her voice floated up from the depths of my buried memories. It’s fine, Lindsey. I’m just going down to Harvey’s for a burger then off to bed. Take the night and I will see you tomorrow. We’ll catch up then.
I could still hear the audible click as she hung up the phone.
It was Tawnie’s cheery voice.
I was the one to find her the next morning behind the dorm. The image of her bloody corpse flashing before my eyes. She was on a grassy hill, splayed out on display atop of her soiled nurse’s uniform, hacked apart by an ax. Other witnesses had found me later passed out at the base of the hill.
Stop! I have no time for this. I shook my head, frantically banishing the thoughts back to their subterranean vault. Stop, just stop…
Taking a deep breath, I held it and mentally recited a prayer before turning the ignition once again. Click, click, click cliiii….
I exhaled then punched the steering wheel hard with my fist. “You son-of-a-bitch! I’ve gotta go!”
“Detective Korrey…I think it’s dead,” a gravelly voice spoke out, right behind my left shoulder.
I jumped and let out a surprised yelp, twisting violently to see who it was. A patrolman with a thick head of red hair and a bushy goatee had been leaning down into the driver’s side window. He straightened immediately backpedaling with his hands raised to calm me. “Sorry, ma’am. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s…it’s okay,” I stammered. “You just caught me off guard.”
Carefully, I removed my hand from the grip of the pistol at my belt. Behind him and to left was another patrol officer waiting, slightly shorter and thinner, with short-cropped brown hair and a patchy brown beard. He caught my eye and gave a quick nod.
My cheeks grew hot. I was embarrassed by my startled reaction.
“We are just coming on duty. Did you need us to jump your car for you?” The first officer offered. His badge plate said O’DELL.
Sighing loudly again in frustration, I paused to collect myself, pulled my hair back behind one ear, then said, “Normally, I’d take you up on your offer, but I’m already running late. I’m supervising a prisoner extradition pick up this afternoon. It’s not something that can wait. I hate to ask this—”
He cut me off. “But you’re gonna need us to drive you there. The Phil?”
“Yeah, I’m due at the airport by 11:30.”
The other, younger officer looked at his watch, his face tight with obvious irritation. “It’s going to be close with downtown traffic at this hour.”
“We’ll make it happen, detective.” O’Dell extended his hand to me through the open window. “Officer Shawn O’Dell. That’s Officer Josh Brandon.”
I shook his hand and smiled up at him. “Detective Lindsey Korrey of Homicide Division.” I didn’t know these officers, but I was relieved they respected my position enough and were willing to help me. Pulling any type of rank was always emotionally hard for me to go through with. Often as a woman in charge, I’m usually challenged or hard-pressed in situations when I had to give orders or take lead.
I opened the door, grabbed my purse and locked the car. “Where are you guys parked?”
Officer Brandon pointed to a patrol cruiser in the opposite corner of my vehicle. X1718 painted on the door and hood. “You’ll have to ride in the back, unfortunately.”
“Dispatch to X1718. Do you read?”
Officer Brandon leaned down and swept up the receiver. “X1718, copy.”
Officer O’Dell, the older officer, the obvious veteran, was driving as protocol. During the first couple of years, rookie patrol officers rode with seasoned, trained patrol officers until they proved themselves. He spoke out loud to me. “I’m going to take the 611. If we’re lucky we can take it then head down to the I-75 to 291 which will loop back to the east side of the airport.”
He was making an effort. I liked that. I didn’t get the same sense of commitment from Officer Brandon.
The radio crackled with life and a Dispatch Officer, Sheila Carter, cut in, “X1718, head over to Brandywine St & North 21st Street. A male child has been found abandoned.”
“Speak with a Fen and Chun Zhao. They’re the owners of The Golden Hour Dragon Restaurant and found the boy in their parking lot.”
Josh glanced at his partner, who nodded his approval back at him. “Copy. Show X1718 en route, Dispatch,” Josh responded.
“Uh, guys…” I spoke up. “Remember, I cannot be late.”
“Detective Korrey, I understand your concern. I do. However…” O’Dell shrugged. “It’s an abandoned kid. We don’t have a good reason to give if we don’t get him first and something happens to him while we are at the airport with you.”
The weight of his argument settled on me. My shoulders sagged. I had no answer to it.
“Look, it’s a simple stop and pickup. Then we’ll take you to the airport before heading back to Headquarters with the kid.”
In the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of myself. My lips were squeezed into a line and worry lines creased my forehead. I couldn’t find any sound excuse to override the officer’s points.
His voice dropped down low and conspiratorially, “This isn’t a normal prisoner transport, is it? This is about the ‘Nurse Catcher’, am I right?”
Josh’s jaw dropped and he snapped his head back to openly stared at me.
Shit! Here it comes.
I reluctantly nodded. “Yes. A week ago, Lawson Torv was captured in San Diego, and we’re flying him in to face charges for the three murders here. It’s been hush-hush to keep the press away. He’s used chaos and crowds to escape before so we’re not taking any chances this time.” I tried to ignore Officer Brandon’s scrutiny, but I was embarrassed again.
“You’re that detective?” he muttered.
“Josh!” O’Dell admonished him.
The young officer abruptly turned to face ahead.
“I know how important this is for you. And I told you I’m going to get you there, okay?” Shawn continued, trying to reassure me. “We get in, get out, nothing much to it.”
I took a quick glance at my cell phone. It read 8:37 AM.
Twenty-three minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of The Golden Hour Dragon. Immediately, we spotted an older Chinese man sitting next to a white, brown-haired boy with a bowl-haircut, skinny build, and scabby knees. He had on a pair of sunglasses, a fur-lined yellow winter jacket, and dark blue jean shorts. The boy didn’t appear to be in any distress or worries.
The two patrolmen got out first then Officer O’Dell opened the back door to release me. I stayed behind and leaned up against the cruiser, crossing my arms and watching.
Officer Brandon strode over and squatted down in front of the boy. “Hi there, champ,” I detected an obvious change in his demeanor. He was good with kids.
“He hasn’t said a word,” the older Chinese man stated. “My name is Chun Zhao.” He nodded to Officer Brandon then to Officer O’Dell and me.
“Do you know where he came from or which direction?” Shawn asked.
Anxiety was building up inside me. My instincts told me there was something wrong with the whole scene. I couldn’t put a finger on the why of it, but the feel of the situation set my teeth on edge.
“No. Actually, it was my wife, Fen, who found him standing on the corner.” He pointed at the intersection of Brandywine and North 21st. “He was standing there, dressed like this, staring up at the streetlight. I was afraid he was going to cross it alone.”
Shawn inquired, “You’ve never seen him before then, Mr. Zhao?”
He shook his head no.
Josh followed up with, “And there was no one else with him or walking around? Do you think someone left him here?”
“I didn’t see anyone and, no, I don’t think Fen did either.”
Leaning in closer, he examined the kid with his eyes but didn’t see any apparent bruises or cuts. Smiling at the boy, he straightened then unpinned his silver badge. As he held it out before the boy’s face, he said, “Do you know what this is?”
He waited for a response. The child studied his hand then looked up into Josh’s face. He made no attempt to smile or respond, only continued to stare.
“It means I’m a police officer. Do you know what a police officer does?”
Shawn said when the boy didn’t answer. “It means, as an officer I protect you. You can trust us. We won’t hurt you.”
The boy slowly turned his head away and faced the cruiser.
Shawn mistook the boy’s message. “She’s also an officer. We’re here to help you. You’re not in any trouble. We just want to make sure you get home okay. Your mommy and daddy have to be very worried about you.”
The boy didn’t shift his eyes and kept watching me stand next to the patrol car. An awkward smile of my own formed on my lips.
Shawn and Josh glanced at each other and an unspoken agreement was made.
Officer O’Dell said, “Okay, Mr. Zhao, are you and your wife able to come down to the station later this afternoon and give a statement?”
“Certainly. Is he going to be alright?”
The two officers nodded together. “We’ll take him downtown until we get things straightened and reunite him with his family. Thank you for calling us,” Shawn remarked.
I continued my attempt at a smile, certain my anxiety, and frustration with my lack of time were showing on my face. Josh led the boy by the hand to the cruiser.
I loved children but had limited experience with them. I opened the car door for him to join me in the backseat bench. “Hi there. I’m Lindsey and this is Shawn and Josh. Are you hungry?”
The boy crawled into the back without acknowledging my words. I shrugged at Officer O’Dell and got in.
Normally children seemed to take to me. I always thought I’d be a good mother. Someday. Maybe now that Torv is caught…
You’d be a lousy mom, Lindsey! Jessie had screamed at me one night, one of our last arguments in fact before the divorce. You’re never ever home! And by the way, you can’t have kids if you don’t have sex!
He was right in some regards, but it didn’t take the sting out of his words either. Jessie wanted children and, of course, so did I, but the Nurse Catcher case was too involved, too engrossing for me to consider any other endeavors at the time.
I owed it to Tawnie.
“Alright, champ. We’ve got to take a brief ride to the airport then we’ll see to getting you home to your family. Okay?” Josh said.
Several beads of sweat popped up along the boy’s brow. It was then I realized he was dressed in a winter jacket and had a striped sweater underneath it.
“You must be pretty warm in that. Can I take off your jacket for you?” I asked, but he didn’t offer any reaction. He kept face forward and silent.
Who the hell dressed their kid like this in July? I reached over and tugged down one side and the right sleeve. He didn’t try to stop me.
I found a pair of vertical scratches on the inside of his wrist and a pair of scabbed-over gouges at the base of his neck near his sweater’s collar. Dirt and black, chalky smudges were around his ear as well.
“Did you get hurt, sweetie? How did you get these…wounds?” I didn’t want to say it and upset the boy, but I immediately recognized the wounds as animal bite marks.
From upfront, Shawn uttered a couple of choice curses. “Get out of the way!”
I looked up from the boy and noticed a man, filthy and wearing a ratty t-shirt and a gray hooded jacket. It said ironically SECURITY across the front. Most of the man’s hair on top had fallen out or turned a splotchy white and gray. He stood transfixed and staring intently on the boy. Shawn honked the car’s horn and gestured for the man to move. The homeless man ignored the directions and remained transfixed.
Brandon rolled down his passenger window. “Look! If you don’t move, I’m going to get out and move you myself!”
The rookie’s face reddened as the transient disregarded his threat. “FINE!” he roared then swept up his soda can and hurled it at the bum. It caught him perfectly in the face and splashed leftover soda as it bounced up his forehead and flew behind him.
“OFFICER BRANDON! That was not necessary.” Shawn scolded.
A splash of soda dripped down the man’s leathery cheeks, but his eyes were no longer fixed on the boy. Josh had gotten his attention after all. His gaze was filled with an angry intelligence and malice, but there was something else. It struck me as the look from a man in the throes of insanity — a frantic uneasy restlessness running in tight circles in the dark. I shuddered as the back of my neck grew cold and clammy.
“Move along,” Shawn insisted to the homeless man with force in his statement.
The man shrugged and wiped the brown liquid off his thick chin. He turned and walked back to the sidewalk. As the cruiser went past him, the man pointed with a gnarled, ash-covered index finger at the boy in the seat and mouthed, “I seek you.” There was no longer an expression or emotion on his scrub-covered face.
“Freak!” I called out from the backseat as we pulled away.
An arm curled around mine and a tiny hand gripped my own. I looked over and found the boy had pressed up to my side in obvious fright.