Sarah Guppy | Hong Rui Choo
7.35a.m. Cold hard winter rain hits the West Bronx pavements, pummelling the roads and sidewalks with merciless precision. Forecasts say more rain over the weekend so that the nearby lake in New York’s Botanical Gardens threatens to rise, disrupting remaining wild birds that haven’t already flown off to milder shores. Detective Inspector Linda Schwartzski listens to the radio while driving to work this Friday morning. She’s drinking her customary hot coffee while driving, a small vice but just one of the things that helps her keep running in this harsh city dealing daily with two legged types of wildlife, some of which only come out at night. More’s the pity. Although storm conditions aren’t expected, excess rainfall poses continued inconvenience for motorists and pedestrians, _said the sober reporter. So be prepared._ That’s a laugh, one could never be prepared for every eventuality in life she thinks, parking her car in the 48th police precinct staff car parking lot, recalling the messy divorce which she’d not seen coming. It was over five years ago, but had scarred her deeply. Relationships with colleagues or partners were hard work that required maintenance and stock taking.
“Morning Leon, the usual suspects already clocked in? Great weather, huh. Doesn’t seem to stop the meat wagons though from rolling on, twenty four seven. Let’s see what the weekend brings apart from water. Want a hot donut?”
“Morning Miss Schwartzski, you on call right over the weekend? Lucky old me gets to go and visit my grandchildren in down town Queens. Looks like we’re not going to get out though, not when it’s like this.”
Leon, an elderly African American doorman and parking attendant, munches on the offered donut smiling his customary easy going grin. She likes the way he always calls her Miss, even though she’s forty nine. He’s a retired working police officer who’s seen the way violent crime; particularly drug related, has proliferated over the last twenty years. Linda likes him, buying him birthday cards every year and enjoying the secret in code jokes that only those who ever worked in law enforcement really understand. She takes the half-finished coffee and donuts up in the elevator to her third floor office. Last time it rained this much was over three years ago when some underground water mains blew its metal guts apart flushing out the city’s total nut jobs who actually rowed to work. But the flood waters had also thrown up three dead bodies right across the city during one night. Listening to phone messages, DI Schwartzski hopes the weather isn’t some terrible omen.
3. 17pm. The weather isn’t the only thing that continues to sit uneasily with Schwartzski as late afternoon arrives. Those friggin’ donuts earlier are still sitting on her stomach refusing to move. She’d given some to Elena, her secretary and two to boss Chief Fubrissio. The phone on her desk rings, breaking concentration. It’s Chief Fubrissio, his tone urgent, tense.
“Schwartzski, come through to my office right away please. Just had a call from Officer Ryan, your personal favourite colleague I know, about a body found in Belmont district, East 180th Street. About half hour ago. Badly beaten up, so much so she’s nearly unidentifiable.”
She’s been working with Elena on her in and out trays tidying up records, filling out missing details on to paper files that had not been transferred from the database. These things that shouldn’t happen but that did unfortunately, given numbers of incompetent officers who were either in the wrong job or who just couldn’t be bothered. The mention of Officer Ryan made her flesh crawl; he’d harassed her at work after she’d rejected his advances, preferring to climb steadily up the career ladder instead. He was jealous she’d realised, the stream of jokes about her hooked Jewish nose hid both resentment and continued secret lusts. But she’d not become a cop to play stupid little power games. Fubrissio, looking grim, hands her the slip of paper with the address. He likes Schwartzski, recognising another hard working immigrant’s off spring.
“The body’s badly beat up, not pretty. A shooting in the head. Name’s Maybelle de Souza, about your age, according to her ID and passport. New Orleans driving license. Not sure what she was doing in these parts but maybe somethin’ to do with the fact there’s a high class casino only two blocks away. Officer Ryan’s waiting on you to verify and the district pathologist’s been called. Ignore Ryan, he’s still sweet on you. Deep down.”
5.28pm. The bullet’s embedded deep in the head alright the district pathologist says, breaking the silence by humming under his breath.
“From the size of the hole I’d say it was fired from a S&W model 19 revolver, so nothing new under the sun.”
Outside, the rain’s slowed but it’s still drizzling. He puts minute scrapings of bloody flesh on to glass slides, examining the body that belonged to Maybelle de Souza clinically but not without compassion. Officer Ryan’s finished taking the necessary photographs, he’s been eyeing Linda’s smart trouser suit ever since. Avoiding eye contact, she watches the body being zipped in to a bag by a paramedic before politely questioning both men.
“How long do you think she’s been dead? I notice marijuana smoking paraphernalia. Let me know if there’s evidence of sexual assault, body fluids.”
“Officers are searching the area for her car with the named number plate. No luck so far which leads me to think the killer just drove off. And it’s obviously very significant there’s no actual purse found.”
She feels two pairs of critical male eyes as she leaves the apartment, driving off towards home, an apartment on Jerome Avenue. There’s been no other calls from the office but of course the bleeper phone is on until late. In case of developments.
9.09pm. Troy drifts off to sleep, blond hair puffing up on the pillow. He’s the golden man of insurance and divorce settlings and had saved Schwartzski’s pride and broken heart when she needed it. He’s married, they know they shouldn’t be sleeping together but they can’t help it. They provide safe harbours for each other and relish love making to the sound of rain. An empty wine bottle lies discarded on the carpet. Her bleeper phone goes off just as she’s about to lock the door. It’s Fubrissio. In the background there are sounds of some late night deli’s coffee machine. Like her, he’s an addict.
“Shwartzski? Sorry to trouble you, but then I guess it’s not that late. Thought I should be the one to call given circumstances. We interviewed the casino owner and got a description and security camera footage of them leaving the club late Thursday night. We’re looking at film now but no sign of number plates as the camera doesn’t extend to the street. But there’s another thing I have to tell you, Linda. Eugene got back to me from the pathologist’s office and there’s something weird about the deceased’s DNA. I don’t know quite how to say this but it seems to closely match your family DNA. Don’t you suspect your mother down in Louisiana of having a daughter adopted?”