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3S Round Robin

Chapter 3

by Stace “Angel” Burroughs

 

 

Diana started sorting out and organizing all the files and whatnot she'd brought home for the case. The wall overlooking and adjacent to her computer was beginning to look like an over-crowded post office bulletin board. It was an eccentric collage of the gruesome. She pulled back the sleeves of her sweatshirt and started pouring over notes and reports. As the minutes turned into hours, Diana pinned up newspaper clippings, victim photographs, a map with push pins marking crime scenes, and crime scene photos. "Hmmph," she sighed shallowly and walked to the kitchen. Surely this was going to be a long night…which was great, considering she had crime scenes to look at in the morning. The amber haired detective walked into the kitchen and washed the newsprint off her hands. A half-drunk, tepid mug of Kona coffee in one hand and the other in the pocket of her Levi's, she walked back to the wall of knowledge.

 

She started hearing the conversation at the station echo in her mind as she looked over the various bits of facts on the wall. Was everything that was in the paper correct? .... Everything they printed was correct. Bennett took a sip of her coffee. "Well, sure it was - there's a first time for everything," she mumbled. Every woman was killed after dark in the park, with their throats slit. After pulling her hair into a pony tail, she took a sip of her coffee and looked at the map. The newspaper. Vincent said he'd been to the park lately, but it'd been well after midnight. Some jogger sees Vincent in the shadows and now the whole department is looking for  "a tall guy in a cape…with a strange face" - as if that didn't describe a third of the people in the Village, much less the city.

 

'That was the night the second girl was murdered, and her body was found in the north end of the park near the ball fields by The Pool…upper west side of the park, 3 miles or so from where the jogger saw Vincent on the lower east side by the Zoo.’  If it were not for the fact that she knew the stranger in the cape, as it were, that might not be a far stretch - but still a stretch.

 

Diana refilled her coffee cup. "Ah...hot, fresh coffee," she smiled to herself as she walked back over to her think tank. Staring at the Central Park map, she folded her colt legs Indian-style in the computer chair. Bennett took a swig of her coffee, glancing at the crime scene location and back to where Vincent was spotted. He works on one side of the park and lives on the other and he always jogs home through the park after work.  Her azure eyes flashed as the thoughts surged in her mind’s eye.

 

Midnight. Bennett thumbed thru file after file looking for the report. Well after midnight. She heard her own voice echo in her head. Kind of late to be jogging, wasn’t it?  Newspaper. It was in the newspaper. Her eyes scanned the board, deft fingers pulling the article and thumbtack off the wall in one fell swoop.

 

"Who the hell goes for a jog thru Central park far after midnight on their way home from work?" she thought aloud. It struck the detective as peculiar when it was mentioned in passing at the station…almost the same feeling she was struck with a few years ago when the D.A.'s office was charging Elliot Burch with the death of John Moreno. With very limited information, she'd gone downtown for the interrogation of Elliot and one of his body guards.

 

“Elliot Burch. Can you believe it?” asked Joe Maxwell, the then new district attorney.

 

“No,” she replied. She didn’t. Not for a minute. Regardless that he supposedly had motive, his body guard's testimony put him there at the time of the gunshots, and had indicated he had blood on his clothes. Like his body guard saying, he was paid almost $70K a year to do what Elliot Burch said, and he was told to wait in the car. Too many things didn’t add up.  Likely Elliot Burch told the bodyguard to shut the hell up, too, and keep it to himself - and he was singing like a canary to Maxwell.  That didn’t add up to her.

 

Sometimes they were small things...such little things that most people didn’t see them. But to her these smallest of things sang out like the song pulled from the rim of crystal wine glass, resonating within her being, almost as though standing too close to a bass speaker at a concert. It wasn’t massive, but something about this jogger's testimony was like the faint ring of a tuning fork. It was a feeling.  It seemed almost like convenient misinformation. But who? Or why? Or both. The fiery haired detective walked to the kitchen and refilled her coffee mug. Something here was definitely screwy. It seemed as though someone was trying to pull her off the scent, as it were.  

 

"Let’s not jump to conclusions, Bennett," she said aloud to herself. Too many law enforcement people and attorneys seemed to her like kids with ADHD in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. They're on the right track. Then something derails them because, on the surface, it fills the checklists of motive, location, and evidence; and they see a case they can prosecute. Then eventually, they find they've been barking up the wrong tree, and by that point the trail is cold and it takes twice as long…if they ever crack the case and get their guy.

 

But she definitely should keep this in the back of her mind. What Diana really needed was to see and feel the crime scenes, the places where the victims lived and worked…talk to the jogger witness and see where it is that he works and lives in relation to everything. As of right now, she only had part of the whole of this case. Hopefully tomorrow would change that - at least to some degree.

 

 

***

 

 

Jamie turned up the wicks on both oil lamps on her study desk as she continued to delve into her homework for class. Thank god she didn’t have this class till tomorrow. It was calculus homework, and it was tough; so it was a good thing she was getting at it early today. But it was a challenge, and she was always up for that. It was kind of funny. Most of her classmates in college hated all the peripheral classes - math, sciences etc - unless they had directly to do with their major course of study. Granted some of it wasn’t Jamie’s favorite stuff, but she did like various aspects of her classes…even what some of her fellow students would consider to be the mundane, required classes.

 

She smiled. Must be the difference in growing up Below versus growing up Above, the earthen-haired young woman thought to herself, her trusty mechanical pencil steadily working out the proof to the next calculus problem . Well, surely it wasn’t that simple, but she wondered if it had something to do with her seemingly different point of view on so many things versus some of her classmates.

 

Yes, there's more fun stuff, she thought as she scribbled the next line in her equation, but its important - like geometry to billiards, this stuff was useful in so many ways, and most people just didn’t see it.  

 

A picture of a blonde, mop haired man popped into her head for a split second, like a camera flash.

 

Mouse.

 

Jamie chuckled to herself. If there’s anyone who could stand to learn some more math, it’s Mouse. She was still figuring out a way to show the young savant more knowledge from the college classes she was taking. She knew that he’d never make it into a formal class, but some of the things she was learning about in her variety of classes was stuff that Mouse did already. In his round about way, he understood a lot of science and math. Jamie could see it in his inventions and projects. It was just a matter of getting the young tinkerer to latch onto it. To do that, he’d have to recognize its worth, its value to him and how it was applicable to what he did. Make it relatable. Therein was the trick, and Jamie knew it. The young woman pulled her pencil from her work. “Oh, and that's been a cinch,” she laughed aloud to her self. It had taken some work, but he was getting some use out of practical physics and geometry in the hands-on setting with his inventions. It’s the high math he could use now but that was a bit more abstract and was going to take a bit of work. Mouse was great at things that he’d deemed important…not so good at the less imperative, inconsequential things.

 

Vincent taught Mouse how to talk after he’d been found wandering the tunnels as a young boy. One would think Mouse would be well spoken from that…well, between Vincent and Father. Not so much. Mouse had found some worth in communication but hadn’t really cared much about sentence structure, grammar, and the like. Which apparently wasn’t that important, Jamie thought to herself, because we all understand his semi-broken English pretty well at this point.

 

Suddenly Jamie heard sharp breathing and heavy footsteps moving rapidly in the direction of her chamber. She turned quickly sideways in her chair towards the threshold. Simultaneously, her mop-haired friend burst in, skidding to a halt in the middle of her chamber.

 

“Is Jamie okay?!!”  Mouse spit out between gulps of air, bent over with hands on his thighs.

“Mouse working - heard park not safe - and Jamie.…” he managed as he tried to catch his breath.

 

“Yes, I’m fine!  But, oh my *God*!!!!”  She smacked his chest in faux horror. “Mouse!!! I could have been here in my underwear, and you just barged in!!!!”  Jamie exclaimed, working hard to keep a straight face.

 

Mouse turned beet red, and his eyes widened like saucers.  “Mouse didn’t think.…” he sputtered. “didn’t mean to on purpose!!!!”  

 

It was then that Jamie burst out laughing - and the tinkerer knew he’d been had.

 

Mouse clapped his fists on his hips trying not to laugh, “Jamie!!” he exclaimed like a serious Peter Pan.  Soon they were both laughing, in spite of the circumstances that led the young man there.  She cocked her chair to the side and scooted it back - motioning to the chair next to her. “Jamie uses the park entrance. Vincent says is off limits......so now what?” asked Mouse as he plopped down in the chair.

 

“I’m not sure,” she began as she put down her blue mechanical pencil. “Vincent said to use the manhole in the alley behind Diana’s loft....” her voice trailed off in thought. “But I’d need help to pry it open and lift it, and if Diana’s not there, I’m not sure how that will work.”  Crossing her arms, she kicked her feet on top of the table with a thud. “I’d thought about taking my crossbow for protection, but it’s too big,” the tomboy said.

 

The gears were already turning in Mouse’s head. “Jamie needs a tool for cover,” he mumbled to himself as he stood and started aimlessly wandering around the room, deep in thought.

 

“Maybe, but it would have to not take up a lot of room, and fit in my backpack.” She was pretty certain Mouse was thinking of a manhole key. While effective, it was far too long to fit in her pack. Jamie knew she needed a “plan B” just in case Diana wasn’t home…for whatever reason.

Suddenly, Mouse came to a halt and cocked his head with a faint grin. “Mouse knows!!!” he exclaimed as he darted out of his friend’s chamber.

 

Jamie scurried over to the doorway. “What are you gonna do?!” she called after him as he sped down the tunnel.

 

“Come! Jamie will see!!!!”  he hollered back.  

 

“Hmmph,” she smirked as she glanced at her schoolwork. Homework was going to have to wait - at least till she saw what exactly he was up to. Sometimes his tinkering had a way of getting him, or others, into trouble. By the time she made it to Mouse's chamber he was fumbling with some contraption.  

 

"Ha!" He handed the device to her proudly. It looked like a very short two-foot long, manhole key, but he'd modified it someway. It didn’t look like the iron ones above. Steel maybe?

 

"But this is too short. I’ll never have enough strength to pry open a manhole cover with this." She handed it back to her sandy haired friend.

 

"Don’t have to be Vincent strong - see?" replied an excited Mouse. He took the tool from Jamie's hands and slid something on the other end that looked kind of like a jack handle from a car jack. He turned it and locked it in place, added a second one, turning it to lock it in place as well. Collapsable, portable manhole key.

Interesting, if it actually does work, the young woman thought to herself. Pulling back a rug, she saw a NYC manhole cover in the stone floor.

 

'How on earth did he get a NYC manhole cover down here?' Jamie mused silently. On second thought, she didn’t think she wanted to know. Apparently this was something Mouse had been working on for a while. He motioned Jamie over as he inserted the tool in the cover. She grabbed it firmly with both hands on the T handle, pulled, and the cover tipped towards her and she spun it to the side. It took a bit of effort, but she did it on the first try - and by herself. Viola! Plan B!

 

Mouse disappeared down, apparently ladder rungs, into the now open passage in the floor. Jamie's brow furrowed. Does this go into a chamber below? Natural cavern? Surely he didn’t dig this out himself! she thought. Then again, maybe she really didn’t want to know that either.  About that time, the blond haired inventor reappeared up the rungs with something wrapped in a sackcloth slung over his back with twine. He handed the item to his friend. "Jamie like."

 

The puzzled look on her face disappeared into amazment as she unwrapped the twine off the sackcloth bag and opened it. "Oh, my god, Mouse! How on earth?!" exclaimed Jamie. His inventions were getting better all the time.  She was staring at not one, but two pistol grip crossbows. They weren't the prettiest things, but they looked reliable and sturdy.

 

"Mouse been working hard," he stated, puffing his chest proudly. He took one of the small weapons. "Have more. For sentries. For safety." He pushed forward then pulled back a lever device integrated into the handle, which grabbed the bowstring and pulled it back slowly. She watched as it automatically locked it behind the retaining latch while simultaneously a bolt the size of a pencil rose internally and set in place. Pushing what seemed to be a safety lock button with his thumb, he pointed it at a cantelope ten feet away on the table. With a click and a sharp thwip of the bowstring, it landed with a resounding thunk in the melon. " Holds five."

 

Mouse extended his little finger. "Pinky swear?"  His eyes sought hers as he said in a low voice, "Secret. Father have a fit."

 

Well that was certainly true.

 

Jamie hooked her little finger in his. "Pinky swear."

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