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I looked up at the massive oak door, knocked twice, and then waited. The echo of the brass door knocker sent a chilling sensation through my body like an electric shock. A small, frail woman cracked open the door and peeked her head through. She almost looked sickly, but it might have been the illusion of her messy hair pinned up high on top of her head. A thin, oddly-colored hand reached out to open the screen door separating us from this woman.
“ H-Hello.” Ahemmm. She coughed into her hand to clear her throat.
“Hello ma’am. I am Haley Founda of the New York Crime Scene Investigation Unit, and this is my partner, Andrew Mercen. We are going to need to ask you a few questions concerning your daughter.”
“Oh, right, right. Ugh, of course. Ugh, please come in. Watch your step, the floor is a bit uneven. W-would you care for some coffee, tea, or just plain water maybe?”
“ No thank you ma’am,” I stated without second thought. “ We are on a tight schedule and we just need a few answers and then will be on our way.”
“I see,” coughed the old women.
We were seated in what appeared to be their dining room. The oak table where we sat matched the color of their door and had five places set for dinner. I could feel the tension in the room as I looked around at the artwork on the walls. There appeared to be an oddly weary theme to the paintings. I glanced at Andrew, who looked as if he were attempting to collect his thoughts while examining the dreary contents of the room.
Finally, Andrew spoke up. “ Are you Mrs. Harold, the mother of Sammy Harold?”
“ Oh, well you see, Sammy is my grandchild. I am visiting for the week. I live in California. I am having a little bit of difficulty getting used to the rain.” The old woman proceeded to ramble on about her life in California, including the weather and the fact that there was a drought.
Finally, Andrew interrupted. “I’m sorry to interrupt ma’am, but is Mrs. Harold available?”
“Just hold on one minute.” She placed one hand firmly on the table and slowly hoisted herself up. She walked in the direction of the stairs with a bit of a wobble.
“ I think she was stalling,” whispered Andrew.
“ You mean when she was going on about California?”
“ Yeah, that or she really felt the need to give us her life story.”
She did seem like she had something in the back of her mind, but then again, don’t we all? A tall, middle aged woman in high heels strode into the dining room. Her hair also was pinned up on her head like her mothers, but hers was combed and carefully placed. She walked with purpose and the hint that she did not have time to be wasted.
She stuck her hand out in front of me, “ Hello, Janie Harold. I was told that you had some quick questions for me.” She emphasized the word “quick.”
“ Yes, please take a seat,” answered Andrew.
“ Yes, I was planning on sitting in my own house, but thank you anyway. So how can I help you?” she inquired as she folded her skirt to sit down in a chair. She then looked up with a guileful look on her face.
I stepped in, “When was the last time you saw your daughter?”
“ Ugh. This morning before school.”
“ Did she say she had something to do after school?”
“ So are you aware that your daughter was assaulted and is now in critical condition in the hospital?” I questioned.
She looked down at the ground with a blank expression. Her lower jaw stuck out slightly as she swayed her head back and forth.
“ No, I was not aware.” A soft, clear tear slid down her cheek, however, her face remained solid and expressionless. She gazed upon the ground for several moments, then finally spoke nonstop for several sentences. “What happened? I have been so worried about her lately. She has been distancing herself from her father and me and hanging out with a new boyfriend who works at Smitty’s car repair shop.”
When she finally took a breath, I jumped in. “I’m really sorry to bring you this news. I cannot tell you much about what happened other than that she was found by a passerby and brought to the hospital by an ambulance. You can go see her at Mercy General.”
Her calm appearance suddenly turned into a flood of tears.“H-How embarrassing,” she cried as she ran off.
“We will be calling you very soon ma’am,” a yelled after her shrugging my shoulders towards Andrew.
When Andrew and I reached the car, we got in and drove off without saying a word. We were both trying to put together what we could from the little information we had. We arrived at the station shortly. As the elevator doors opened to our floor, our boss, Jenny walked in and motioned for us to stay. She then pushed a long finger on the lab floor button. Jenny was about my height, shoulder-length red hair and blue eyes. A rare combination. She smoothed away a stray hair from her face as she turned to face us.
“ I need you guys to come down to the lab to see what Abby has gotten off the swabs we took from Sammy, and the evidence we managed to save from the crime scene.”
I leaned back into the elevator, hitting my head on the side harder than I meant to. As I reached for my head, the elevator dinged and the doors opened, revealing a lab of about three different computers, multiple desks, and lots of lab equipment I knew I would never understand.
“Abby, show us what you got,” demanded Jenny.
“ Yes, sir,” replied Abby with a friendly salute. Abby had her own style, she liked to wear black, and lots of it. She had numerous tattoos on her arms and legs. She usually wore her black hair in two full pigtails. Her everyday accessories seemed to be a spiky belt with a matching bracelet, and a huge cup of some form of a caffeinated beverage. Abby glided over to a desk covered in plastic baggies.
“So, this is what we managed to bring back from the crime scene: a pen and a bat. The pen even has a set of letters on it...GEH.”
“OK. We’ll need to track down what those letters mean. And I’m sorry, did you say a bat?” I questioned.
“ Yeah, you know like... hey batter, batter, batter...swing.”
I was about to say something else when Jenny butted in, “So Abby, is the bat our weapon?”
“ Well you would think so. But I ran the bat for finger prints and found none.”
Jenny looked impatient, “ So Abby, why did you call us down here?”
“Take a look at this.” She skipped over to the door, her heavy boots clinking the whole way. She dimmed down the light and tossed us all a pair of goggles.
“ So, when I turn this black light on you can see some mysterious substance on the bat. See? Now, I already ran this and found that it is in fact none other than the amazing substance we know as engine grease.”
“ So, it’s from a car shop,” I exclaimed.
“ Precisely,” noted Abby, “ and I even got the address of the nearest one to the crime scene.”
Jenny grabbed the address and we ran out of the room, leaving Abby to smile at her great work. It was a short drive to Smitty’s Car Shop. Hopping out of the car, I couldn’t help but notice the feel of desolation. The windows were dirty, some even cracked. A sign that once must have beautifully flashed “Smitty’s” was now only a flickering “Sm.” As we walked in, we were greeted by no one.
“ Wow, great customer service,” I noted.
A man walked out from an office just as I said this. His hair was slick with grease, and his outfit matched his hair perfectly. I lifted my hand to shake his, but he obviously felt no need, and I was glad.
Jenny pulled out Sammy’s picture. “Do you know this girl.”
The man looked hard then thought for a second. “Yeah, yeah. That’s Benny’s girlfriend. She usually comes over on Fridays, but she never showed up today.”
“Take us to Ben, please,” demanded Jenny.
“ Right this way ma’am.” He made an odd gesture to follow him. He led us to a young boy with blonde hair like his, but neater, and a perfectly clean outfit, as if he had just changed.
“Are you Ben?” Jenny questioned.
“Yes, I am.”
“All right, then I’m gonna have to ask you to come with us for some questioning.”
“Um, I’m kinda busy...”
”That was a command.” Ben lowered his head as he walked through the shop to our car. We drove off. Andrew sat in the back seat with Ben. Not a word was said until we reached the office.
Ben sat down in the interrogation room and waited. Andrew plopped down the files on Sammy, “So tough guy, Sammy’s your girlfriend?”
“Yes, and last time I checked that wasn’t a crime.”
“No, it’s not. But assault and battery is.”
“Your girlfriend was beaten about an hour ago and found along the road not too far from here.”
Ben’s eyes flashed acute worry. His hands covered his face. “She’s ok though, please tell me she’s ok.”
“I’m afraid it does not look good, for her or for you.”
“But it wasn’t me. I love her. I would never do anything to hurt her.”
Andrew reached for the lights and dimmed them. He then switched on the black light and approached Ben purposefully. He grabbed his forearm and skimmed over it with the light, stopping at a spot of grease. “Haley, take this to Abby.” I took a swab and rubbed it hard against his skin. I then left the room, a bit happy to be out of there. Interrogations created so much tension.
There was no way Andrew was going to let up now that he had Ben right where he wanted him. Andrew turned on the lights and thrust himself at Ben with great speed, making him flinch and cover his face. “Once we match that swab to the grease on the bat, it’ll all be over. Your game’s up.”
Ben started crying, a cry not for help, but of concern. “I picked her up at the park. We were driving over to the station. I had just come back from a baseball game and she was looking at one of my bats. She kept telling me that I should quit baseball to have more time with her. This got me annoyed. I kicked her out about two miles from the station. I thought she would either come there or go home. How was I supposed to know?” He cried loudly, bringing his head down hard against the table where he sat.
After I had delivered the swab to Abby, I received a phone call from an unfamiliar phone number. “Hello, Haley Founda speaking.”
“ Hello Miss Founda, this is Janie Harold. My husband and I want to come in and find out what is happening with our daughter. We will be arriving shortly.”
“ Ok. I will be waiting by the door.”
I usually don’t let people do this, but I looked at this as a chance to interrogate the dad about Ben, to help get additional information to obtain Ben’s confession. I walked into the lobby and headed to my favorite chair, a small, brownish one. It was very comfortable. I liked to think of it as my thinking chair, but as I went to sit in it I heard my name.
“ Miss Founda, we are here.” Great.
“ Hello Mr. and Mrs. Harold. I am Haley Founda. Please come with me.”
George looked tired and shaken up. He looked as if he hadn’t slept for days. He attempted to comb his hair to the left, but it kept springing up everywhere like a slinky. I led them into the interrogation room next to Andrew’s.
“Please sit down. This will not take long. We already have a suspect in custody...Sammy’s boyfriend, Ben. We just need to get a little information from you about him.” As they sat down, I looked at their attire. Quite opposites, if you asked me. Mrs Harold was wearing a different business suit than the one she had on when we had visited their house. Mr Harold was wearing Khakis with a collared shirt. In his pocket were a few pens.
“So what can you guys tell me about Ben?” Wait! Wait a minute. That pen was familiar. It had the same odd etching as the one from the crime scene! So Ben might not have done it after all. What would Mr. Harold’s motive have been? This makes no sense, but if this was true and he had committed the crime, why were there no finger prints on the bat? Maybe he had wiped them clean. I had to think fast. If he had actually committed this crime and not Ben, I would have to trick him into a confession!
George started in right away, “ Well, we thought he was a bad influence.”
” No, I mean tell me why you framed him for the crime you committed.”
George looked taken aback. “ I didn’t do any such a thing.”
“ Sir, your game is up, we found your prints on the bat,” I lied.
“I was driving home, I thought it was her boyfriend. It was really dark. I just wanted to protect her. She’s my little girl. I was being a good dad,” He screamed.
I cut him off mid-sentence. “George Harold you are under arrest for the assault of Sammy Harold. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.” He made no attempts to break free as I cuffed him.
Mrs. Harold stood speechless. Finally, she cried out, “George, how could you?”
I knocked on the door to Andrew’s interrogation room, when he opened I whispered, “Got him.” Andrew nodded and closed the door.