The Case of the Law School Murders, Part 4
by Paul Kennebeck
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of a serial fiction piece by the Docket Committee. Each month a new writer will pick up where the other has left off, offering a new piece of the story.
he autopsy report on the last two murdered law students came back. It showed there was a high content of blood in their veins.
The original tox screen had indicationed the male had been poisoned. Now the coroner stated further tests were needed. The female had died of asphyxiation. The coroner saw no indication that her death was anything other than a "routine" suicide (his word). Don’t ever work with a coroner who thinks his humor—unlike his clients—is deathless.
A large amount of neuroenhancers were found in both of their systems.
Nancy Dixon, her hair in a cute little swirl (How do girls do that?), was right on top of things at our weekly coffee/crime-solve time: "Like the Bible says, ‘The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.’"
"That wasn’t the Bible. It was Dylan."
She perked up. "Hey, ever ask yourself whose side we’re on? The lawyer wannabes who were murdered are the same nasties who cross-examine you on the stand and ask why your crime report left out this, why it didn’t say that, why you didn’t follow this lead or that lead, why the warrant said something that wasn’t true."
"So you think a cop killed them?"
She didn’t laugh. "At least there’s a motive."
This was about the time in the investigation I started getting calls from criminal lawyers who wanted me to contact them as soon we made an arrest. Screw ’em. The only defense attorney that ever paid me back was ol’ Whiplash Willie and he’s been disbarred for years.
Loutik was the worst. "I got mouths to feed, Sunday. Send the killer my way."
"Loutik, hey. We haven’t nicked anyone yet."
"Even better. Arrest someone. If they’re innocent, I may be able to get ’em off. My hourly rates will soar."
It was time to move on. My hearing on false arrest allegations was set to begin. After that was the award ceremony for the arrests I made that weren’t false. Plus, I had to meet Doctor Happy to see if my disability was coming along, and the prescription for pain meds needed to be refilled. Bourbon didn’t work as well as it used to.
The chief stopped by my desk. She never does this. No chief should violate office protocol.
My desk was a mess—something I usually never worry about. The nuns always told me to straighten up my desk. I never did. They were right. I was doomed. Already I felt I was losing a conversation with the chief that hadn’t yet begun.
I thought she was going to ask me about the rumors of me and Nancy. The rumors were no problem because there was no evidence to support them. I can deal with rumors, unless they’re not true. Try to suppress a tantalizing lie.
But no, what the chief had on her mind was much more complicated.
"Detective Sunday," she said. "You know quite well"—that’s the way the chief sometimes talks— "that we police folks do not ever get involved with politics. Unless you’re the chief."
Chief Judy was a good sort—doing all the things a cop knows a chief has to do to be a chief. She has to deal with the Citizens Advisory Board, with activists, with the survivors of the criminals we kill. All I have to do is deal with killers, muggers, and thieves.
"Chief," I said, "we get involved in politics every time there’s a blue flu. Every time there’s a rap from the Citizen Review Board. Every time there’s an attempt to trim our benefits."
The chief’s lovely smile sugared unsavory topics. She smiled now. "How much longer do you expect to remain in uniform, Sunday?"
"Until I qualify for retirement pay, disability pay, hazard pay, military leave pay, vacation compensation, sick leave compensation—"
"See? That’s what I’m talking about."
The chief must have seen the look on my face.
"Listen, Sunday, I am not going to be the whipping girl for every third-rate politico who wants to make news."
She leaned in. I smelled perfume. "You know what those wannabe lawyers wanna be? They wanna be absolved of their debts. The government gave them money. They don’t want to give it back." She made a face. "The government needs the money more than they do."
"Those lawyers want the government to go further into debt. How can Washington afford to absolve millions and millions of dollars of student loans?"
Her voice rose.
"And, Sunday, you want this to be the motive for the murders? That some political activist killed them because they belonged to StudentLoanFreedom.org or because they organized rallies against the student loan debt or testified in Congress about the student loan debt?" She brushed her hand through her gray-streaked brown hair.
"That motive is all we’ve got."
"So these are political murders? So we’re going to be the target of every blogger and pundit who has access to a keyboard?"
I’m late to my false arrest hearing.
"I hate politics," she said. "Take your investigation in another direction."
I watched the chief return to her office. I’m not one to criticize chiefs. It leads to no good. And Chief Judy seems an OK sort—too much perfume, maybe. But the thing that stuck in my mind, the thing that wouldn’t go away, was that in my 29 years of following third-rate leads, every time I was told to take a different path or look for clues in a different direction, something went horribly wrong. D
Read the fifth and final part of the fiction series in the January issue of The Docket. Missed a part of the story? Catch up at denbar.org/docket.