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Book Chapters

Guiltless Chapter 5: The Mayor

Jan , 11

Kate stared through the glass as Carl Gotti showed Shawn an A4 sized printout of Ryan’s face.

The club patron took the grainy photograph and leaned forward, his face scrunched in a scowl as he looked at it.

‘Yeah that’s him, that’s the guy who assaulted her. Ryan Chow’ he said.

‘Are you sure?’ inquired Gotti.

Shawn reached up and stroked his goatee.

‘Hell, I’m sure. You ask the VIP folk or my crew and they’d say the same. That’s the guy I tell ya.’

‘Mr. Curtis. We’d like to have a word with your employees. It’s standard procedure, I’m sure you’ll understand.’

‘Yeah, sure. Knock yourselves out.’

‘Thanks for your help.’

‘If I said the same ‘bout your hospitality I’d be lyin’’ growled Shawn.

Gotti smirked and Kate felt the urge to wipe it off his face from her position behind the mirror. She was sure the businessman wanted to hit Gotti. She would willingly turn a blind eye. Carl had few friends in the Metropolitan Police Department.

Devino grunted beside her. ‘I hope Savvy whacks him in the face. What are the chances of a Judge dropping an assault charge on the grounds Gotti’s an ass?’ he said.

Kate smiled as she looked at Devino’s faint reflection in the one-way mirror. He caught her eye and winked.

‘I’m willing to run with it, Scott. I can think of at least three Judges who’d jump on a loophole just to watch Gotti squirm. Heck, any other Mayor would give Savvy a medal for a great service to humanity.’

The banter, in a roundabout way, did wonders to vent her frustration at Mayor Grey. She realized she didn’t care anymore, the invisible strings holding her world together had started to unravel. Today was beginning to feel like the end of another chapter in her life, a transition was coming soon. A transition as a result of a choice she had made well over a year ago.

Devino’s smile slipped as he turned to look at her.

‘I was wondering what was up’ he said. ‘You’ve been distracted lately, and doing cute things like getting involved with our investigation. Hey, I’m not saying I don’t like having you looking over my shoulder, it’s just…’

Kate went through a spectrum of emotions, from apprehension to relief, at his words. If Scott believed her feud with Grey was the only crisis she faced she could live with that. ‘Call Myers  and bring him up to speed on the identity of our suspect. Let’s get an address. I want you and Raker down there pronto’ she said.

Devino gave her a thumbs-up.

‘Will do, Chief. Got a few questions to ask a potential witness named Mandy Gross. She was the victim’s last contact. We’ll be done before the address comes through’ he said.

‘That’s fine. Just keep Gotti out of my hair.’

She shook her head as she watched Shawn Savvy storm out of the interrogation room. Gotti had a reputation for being a pain in the ass. It seemed the bald headed Head of Homicide enjoyed toeing the line between solving cases and bullying potential witnesses. The DC Office of Complaints could only be held at bay for so long. But the results came first didn’t they? They could live with a few ruffled citizens, or at least Gotti thought so.

Her phone rang. She sighed and reached into her jacket. She still had a press release to attend to. She pulled the phone out and looked at the caller ID. Her mood leaped instantly. It was Ben.

‘How’s my pumpkin?’ he said.

She laughed.

‘That’s hardly endearing’ she said. ‘Halloween’s around the corner. Are you planning to carve me up?’

‘Someone’s thinking about homicides a little too much’ countered Ben with a chuckle.

‘Have you taken your drugs?’ she asked.

‘I have, right on schedule. That’s enough about my problems. You got out early today, does it have anything to do with the murdered student?’

His words hit her like a thunderbolt.

‘That isn’t public knowledge yet. Where did you hear that?’ she spluttered.

‘Patrick Bateman’s following the story.’

Kate cursed.

‘We have a suspect’ she said. ‘And a press conference in two hours. Carl says the Mayor requested it.’

‘Knock ‘em outta the park. Dinner’s on me tonight. I’ll cook’ said Ben.

Tears well up in Kate’s eyes, not at the gesture, nor the words. They both knew what was left unsaid.

‘I’ll cook, while I still can.’

‘That would be wonderful, Ben’ she whisepered.

The line went dead. Tonight would be something to look forward to. Something vaguely familiar. Nothing was going to spoil that.

Just enjoy it while it lasts, Kate. For both your sakes.

Not even a murder on the door step of the DC Metropolitan Police Headquarters.

***

Carl Gotti helped himself to another whiskey as Scott Devino walked in. The Detective glanced at his boss’ conspicuous silver flask as its contents were decanted into a coffee mug.

‘What do you have for me Scott?’ said Gotti.

‘Nothing. Raker and I are heading out to take a witness statement then bring Ryan in for questioning.’

Gotti sipped his whiskey, ignoring Devino’s disapproving stare.

‘I’ll need something quick’ he said. ‘I’ve gotten hold of the victim’s grandfather in San Francisco. He says he hasn’t been in contact with her in the last three years. He left her a trust fund as soon as she turned 21. He agreed to come over today to identify her.’

‘What about her parents?’ asked Devino.

‘You don’t know? Both dead. Kevin Garretts and Noora al-Baziri, killed in a drug fuelled boating accident twenty three years ago.’

Gotti leaned back in his chair. ‘ Personally I think the trust fund sounds interesting. We could work that angle. Who stood to gain from her death?’

Devino shrugged and turned to leave. ‘Dixon’s compiling a list of Jazmin’s known associates. If anything looks fishy we’ll let you know.’

‘Of course you will, I expect Raker to be in charge of this investigation. Now, are you sure I can’t pour you a drink?’

Devino walked out and shut the door behind him.

‘I guess not’ muttered Gotti as he raised the mug to his thin lips.

***

Kate mulled over her notes on the investigation as she walked through the heavy wooden doors of the Wilson Building. The refined but boxy building, with its arched windows, housed the Chambers of the Mayor on Pennsylvania Avenue.

She was recognized, and expected. No one made a move to stop her as she walked through the sea of aides, computers and phone calls.

The Mayor stood in the thick of it, along with Rita Simmons, one of his closest personal assistants. Early thirties; wavy black hair; pretty. Her cream cardigan and pale blue skirt contrasted with the Mayor’s charcoal grey suit as they pored over his schedule. Kate caught snippets of their conversation as she approached them.

‘Move my ten ‘o’ clock meeting with Briggs to one-‘

‘You’ve got the FDA meeting at one.’

‘Cancel it, Briggs is jetting out this evening and we’ve got to come to an agreement today. This press conference has messed up my schedule.’

‘Mayor’ said Kate.

He looked up and flashed a pearly white grin.

‘Chief Hounslow. Always a pleasure, excepting the present circumstances. Let’s talk in my office.’

His voice was glib but his gaze stony. Kate forced a smile to defuse the tension. The Mayor knew what Kate thought of him, and despised her for it. Her feelings were mutual. Rita nodded at Kate and shuffled away. The Mayor turned and walked to his office. Kate followed and shut the door behind her. The Mayor and Police Chief stared at each other as a news anchor broke the murder story on the television across the room.

Bateman.

A step behind Susie, but no less thorough.

‘Fill me in on what’s happening. There are whispers of a girl murdered outside a night club in Foggy Bottom’ said the Mayor.

‘The whispers are surprisingly loud and accurate, considering we haven’t given a press release yet’ retorted Kate as the Mayor walked around his large oak desk and sat in his plush, high-backed chair.

‘Indeed’ he said. ’Do you have a suspect? And can I offer you a pretzel?’

Kate shook her head.

‘We’ve got footage of a man leaving the alley where the victim was found, minutes after she walked in there. The club owner identified him. My detectives are bringing him in as we speak.’

The Mayor glanced at the victim’s picture plastered across his television screen.

‘Pretty’ he said. ‘Do you know who the girl is?’

‘Granddaughter of Paul Garretts.’

The Mayor nodded.

‘Has he been notified?’

‘He’s on his way to identify the body.’

‘You understand being Mayor requires me to maintain…useful relationships.’

‘Are you talking about Garretts or Bateman, Mr. Mayor?’ snapped Kate.

Tense seconds passed between them as Bateman continued to reel out ‘exclusive’ facts about the investigation on the breaking news session.

‘Your tone is accusatory, Kate. Patrick is an exceptionally good journalist, and like all good press connections he requires a short leash, with incentives. The nuances of political office remain far above your pay grade. I knew everything you know before you opened your mouth because it’s my job to know. Speaking of which…’

He reached into a drawer and pulled out a folder. He slid the paper towards Kate with an ominous hiss.

Kate flipped the paper around and gasped as her eyes scanned the familiar words. She fought the urge to throw up. This…surely this was going too far!

‘H-how did you get this?’ she demanded.

The Mayor leaned back in his chair, face smug, eyes grim.

‘I’m glad you’re sharp enough to recognize your own resignation letter, Kate. Unsigned, but that look on your face is proof enough you wrote it. “Stepping down for personal reasons.” Would that have anything to do with Ben’s health?’

Kate steadied her trembling hands. They shook not out of fear, but anger.

‘You have no right! My personal life and private decisions are none of your business!’ she screamed.

The Mayor shot to his feet which such force she took reflexive step away from his desk. All pretense of civility had vanished from his face as he glared at her with the utmost contempt.

Au contraire, Kate. This is my city, I could destroy you in a heartbeat. I own you.’

He seemed to check himself, reverting to the carefully cultivated image of a family man as he straightened his tie and sat back down.

‘I’m sitting on it for now. The question is what are you going to do about it, Kate?’

‘I haven’t decided yet’ said Kate. The statement was only partly true but she was too rankled to cooperate with the political pig in front of her.

‘It would make you look better if you do things properly.’

‘I don’t-‘

‘It would make me look better if you leave when I say you do, Kate. Solve this quickly. Step down prematurely and your name will be mud in DC. See you at the press conference.’

Kate turned towards the heavy oak doors which cost more than her annual salary, shoulders heavy, ego bruised.

‘Kate?’

‘Yes, Mr. Mayor?’

‘Get your head screwed on straight. When a journalist wants your statement I want you spitting results and facts, not blanks.’

‘Yes, Mr. Mayor.’

***

Detective Devino parked on the street corner beside Mandy Gross’ apartment complex. He looked across at Sam Raker who sat, stony faced, in the passenger seat.

‘You okay?’ said Devino. ‘You seem a little distracted.’

‘I’ve haven’t had my morning smoke yet.’

‘I see’ said Devino. ‘You know Gotti wants you to take lead on this investigation?’

Raker looked at him, face blank , eyes obscured by pitch-black sunglasses. Devino fidgeted under the intense gaze.

‘That’s news to me’ said Raker.

Devino bristled at the denial.

‘Bullshit. That’s your bone for feeding him details of the crime scene to give him a head start. I know all about your little buddy club. You, Gotti and Bateman.’

Raker’s face remained as blank as slate.

‘If you’ve got a problem, take it up with the Office of Complaints. If Gotti says I take lead, I take lead ’ he said.

He opened the passenger door and stepped out onto the street. Devino mirrored his actions, deep in thought. The bluff about his knowledge of Raker’s involvement with Bateman failed to elicit a response. The junior Detective remained unflappable.

Three consecutive calls to Mandy’s cellphone went unanswered as Raker helped himself to a cigarette on the sidewalk. Devino found it strange, and a little unnerving.

‘She’s not picking up’ said Devino.

Raker took a long puff from his cigarette before glancing up at the glass door which framed the building’s entrance.

‘I thought you were expected?’ he observed .

Devino shoved both hands in his pocket and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.

‘We are running a bit late. I want to believe she stepped out but she sounded too distraught when I spoke to her. Something’s wrong, I can feel it.’

Raker extinguished his cigarette butt on the building wall and flicked it into a trash can.

‘We’re in luck’ he said. He jabbed his thumb at the glass door.

Devino peered through the glass and spied a female resident pushing a pram towards him.

‘You have a door number?’ asked Raker.

‘I do.’

‘No need to get the supervisor then.’

They flashed their badges as she opened the door and rushed into the building. They followed the signs and ran up three flights of stairs. Devino felt a growing sense of foreboding as they reached Mandy’s apartment.

Why didn’t she pick up?

He knocked.

‘Miss Gross? This is Detective Devino. We spoke on the phone this morning. Please open up.’

Silence. He pressed an ear against the door, listening for signs of movement within the apartment. He heard nothing.

‘Miss Gross?’ he repeated, louder this time. More urgent.

Raker rapped the door, his features sharp with impatience.

‘Special circumstances?’ he asked, reaching for his holster.

There was no time for a warrant if she was a flight risk. Devino looked at those forbidding sunglasses and nodded. He crouched beside Raker and pulled out his glock.

Raker retreated half a step and slammed into the door with frightening force. It burst open instantly, hinges squealing in protest as they threatened to give way. Devino swiveled in his crouching position and pointed his glock into the apartment.

‘Miss Gross?! Police! We’re coming in!’

They moved quickly, covering the living room and kitchen in seconds. All clear. Devino’s head spun with questions.

Did she run? Did she have something to hide? Was she a suspect?

Raker, previously intense and purposeful in his search, froze. Devino could have sworn he saw his partner’s nostrils twitch before he made a slow, deliberate turn towards the bedroom. He walked over to the bathroom door, pushed it open, and looked down.

‘Your instincts were right’ he said.

His tall, lean frame enveloped the doorway. Devino walked up behind him and peeked over his shoulder.

His blood curdled.

‘Oh shit!’ he said as he stared at the blonde woman, naked and face down, with a congealed pool of blood under her head. His instincts kicked in and noted there was no sign of a struggle. He scanned  the cramped bathroom and noticed the aspirin.

Raker knelt over the body, pinched her wrist and felt for a pulse.

‘Gone’ he said simply. ‘From the blood’s consistency she’s been like this for half an hour.’

Devino closed his eyes as his hand squeezed his lips. If only he’d gotten here sooner.

‘Would you have made a difference?’ asked Raker.

The younger cop’s voice, quiet and mocking, jarred Devino back to the present. He looked down at his partner.

‘Two deaths within eight hours. What do you think?’ he asked.

‘Nothing’ said Raker. He remained on one knee, staring at the body as though trying to gain some flash of inspiration.

Devino detected a twinge of annoyance in the younger man’s voice. Though more experienced, he felt threatened, and a little inferior. Raker had uncanny instincts. Whenever they disagreed Devino was shown to be in the wrong. Then again so was everybody else.

‘I wonder if she knew something’ murmured Devino.

Raker shrugged.

‘You can think it, but don’t say it. We go where the evidence leads’ he said.

His head turned ever so slightly.

‘Aren’t you gonna call it in?’

‘What? ’

‘It’s all the more imperative we locate Ryan Chow. Get the supervisor. We leave as soon as uniforms arrive. There’s nothing more we can do here.’

Devino walked out of the apartment and noted the inquisitive tenants lurking in the corridor. He pulled out his radio.

 

***

‘It would appear we missed him’ said Raker.

‘No shit’ said Devino.

They stared at Ryan Chow’s empty apartment. A call to the University, with the required warrant, had yielded his address. A squad car, sent from the station, had been dispatched to Mitchell Hall within minutes.

Drawers pulled, closet ransacked. He’d left in a hurry. Something had spooked him, guilt perhaps? It seemed at odds with his calm, nonchalant exit of the murder scene.

Cain’s High, that’s what Raker called it. That feeling of invincibility after taking a life, present in only the most hardened of killers. That was why the biblical character had stood up to his Maker, right?

‘That was Dixon. We just got a hit on one of Chow’s bank cards. A cash withdrawal on 23rd  street.’

Raker walked out of the apartment without a word. Devino stared at him, then it clicked.

‘We’ve gotta go!’ he yelled into his radio. ‘Get all units to 23rd  street. We don’t have much time! Suspect is possibly armed, proceed with caution!’

If he was right, he knew where they needed to be.

On an island platform beneath the northwestern corner of I and 23rd , a station which easily serviced 20,000 passengers daily. The nearest point of escape for Ryan Chow.

The George Washington University Station.

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