Read Grave Situation Online

Authors: Alex MacLean

Tags: #crime, #murder, #mystery, #addiction, #police procedural, #serial killer, #forensics, #detective, #csi, #twist ending, #traumatic stress

Grave Situation (7 page)

A witness or suspect?

To him, everything appeared to be
in order. The integrity of the crime scene was being well
protected. Only the body, face down in its absolute stillness,
looked out of place here. Everyone avoided it. Doctor Coulter,
Allan saw, had yet to show up.

Tired, he rubbed his eyes. It felt
like weeks since he had a peaceful night’s sleep. His face in the
rear-view mirror showed the strain of exhaustion.

The job? Or everything
else?

Over time, Allan had developed a
thick emotional hide that allowed him to distance himself from the
tragedies he encountered. It was something investigators needed to
do in order to survive. Lately, however, Allan felt that he lost
his ability to block it all out. Things he saw on the job seemed to
trouble him—the classic sign of burnout. He knew of other officers
who had gone through the same crisis, but seldom discussed it.
Machismo was the hallmark in this profession.

In Allan’s situation, perhaps these
feelings of late could be blamed on a mix of factors: the wreckage
of his personal life, the separation from Melissa, his absence in
Brian’s childhood. Then there were the unacceptable injustices he
had to somehow move on from.

Like Mary Driscow.

Unbuckling his seatbelt, he
considered the case before him now, the evidence yet to be
gathered, suspects and witnesses yet to be questioned, connections
yet to be made. What would the victim profile reveal? Could a
motive be established from it?

With most murder cases, he spent
little time mulling over the rationale behind them. It was best, he
knew, to stick with the essentials that would bring a conviction.
Victims were not around to explain what happened and suspects
rarely told the truth. Physical evidence and credible witnesses
helped convict the guilty. Motive, when discovered, only revealed
how truly senseless the crime had been.

How will this case go?

Allan shut the car door and felt
the harbor breeze on his face. Above him the sky was a rich blue.
Traces of clouds drifted along the horizon.

He circled to the trunk, popped the
lid, and took out a 35mm camera. He proceeded to take several
pictures of the crime scene from multiple points of view, both
looking into and outward from the site.

Around him came the murmurs of a
city waking up. Soon, it would be alive with urban
bustle.

Across the street, a small crowd of
onlookers had gathered at the corner of South and Lower Water
Street. Mindful that a suspect could be among the group, Allan
surreptitiously snapped photos of them. As he looked around, he
realized that no cameras or reporters were present.

He put the camera back in the
trunk. From a black case, he removed two pairs of latex gloves and
slipped them on his hands one over the other. He shut the trunk and
then walked toward Sergeant Malone. The sergeant was a veteran of
the Halifax Regional Police. He was tall and hawk-faced with alert
blue eyes.

As Allan approached, Malone went to
him, holding out the clipboard. Attached to it was a crime scene
log in/out form. Below the last name in the column, Allan added his
signature, the date and time.

“So what do we have?” he asked,
handing the clipboard back.

The victim, Malone described, was
twenty-seven-year-old Brad Hawkins. He had worked as a private
guard for a contract security firm called Twin City Protection. A
co-worker, who went looking for him after he failed to answer his
radio, discovered the body.

“Do we know who the next-of-kin
is?” Allan asked.

“Taken care of.” Malone ripped a
page from his notepad and gave it to him. “Mister and Missus
Hawkins.”

Briefly, Allan studied the address
on the paper.

“I’m going to have the mobile
command post set up across the street,” Malone added. “Behind SIU’s
van.”

Allan nodded, satisfied. “I think
we need to get barricades put up down here as well. Close off
Salter, Bishop, even all the way down to Morris. We need to keep
people out of this area. We should also contact the local radio
stations so they can put out a travel advisory.”

“I’ll take care of it.” Malone
walked off, keying his shoulder mike.

Allan headed toward the officer
Malone had been talking to.

Reaching him, Allan asked, “Are you
the first officer?”

The young man nodded once.
“Yes.”

Allan took out his spiral again.
Below the time of his arrival at the scene, he wrote down the
officer’s badge number and name, Craig Ellis.

“What time did you get
here?”

Ellis consulted his own notepad.
“Five-fifty-one. The call came into dispatch at
five-forty-five.”

“Did you touch anything?” he
asked.

“No, sir. I only went close enough
to the body to see if the victim required medical
attention.”

“Did anyone else disturb the
scene?”

“No.”

“Did you see anyone in the area as
you arrived?”

Ellis shook his head. “No one. Just
Mister O’Dell.” He gestured to the guard standing several feet
away.

“Has Coulter been
notified?”

“Yes. He should be arriving
soon.”

Allan felt the eyes of the guard,
watching.

Voice hushed, he asked Ellis, “Has
the gentleman over there given you a full statement?”

“Yes, he has.”

“Good. I’ll read your report when
you pass it in.” Allan thanked the officer and walked toward the
guard.

“I’m Lieutenant Allan Stanton,” he
said, reaching out.

“Greg O’Dell.”

Through their handshake, Allan
could feel a tremor in the guard’s grip.

“Did you witness the crime?” he
asked.

Greg glanced at the victim. “No. I
found Brad this way.”

“Can I see some identification,
please?”

A curt nod. “Sure.” He produced his
wallet and fumbled out his driver’s license from it.

“What’s your relationship with the
victim?” asked Allan, taking notes. “Are you friends outside of
work?”

“I’m married
with three kids. It’s hard for me to have time for
buddies
in my life.” He
paused, adding quietly, “My relationship with Brad was mostly work
related.”

Briefly, Allan appraised him. “Do
you work together as a team?”

“At times through the night we
did. At other times we didn’t. We always kept in touch by radio. If
something went down, we were only a click away.”

“Was Brad married?”

“No. Long-term
relationship.”

“Did he ever mention having
problems there?”

“No. I assumed everything was all
right. He never really talked about it much.”

“Prior to discovering the body,
did you see anyone leaving the area?”

“No.”

Allan gave him back the driver’s
license. “Did Brad radio you at any point to report
trouble?”

Frowning, Greg looked down at his
shoes. “Not exactly.” He ran his fingers through the stubble of his
brown hair. “He was about to check on someone in a
truck.”

Allan scribbled
in his spiral. “I know your thoughts might be a bit cloudy right
now, but try to be as detailed as you can. And
please
, try to leave nothing
out…”

10

Halifax, May 9

3:46 a.m.

 

Stars speckled the night sky. Low
on the horizon, the large moon was a dim smudge. The cool breath
drifting in from the harbor was a welcome reprieve from the bizarre
heat wave the province had languished through the last
week.

Is there
something to this global warming hoopla?
Greg O’Dell wondered
.

He raised his wrist to his face,
checking the time. 3:46 am. Just over two hours and his shift would
be finished. The security firm he worked for was contracted out to
provide after-hour protection against break-ins and vandalism to
many waterfront businesses.

Greg stood in Sackville Landing,
near a sculpture of a huge rolling wave. Constructed of
ferro-cement, the wave was twelve feet high and painted bluish
green. Ahead of him, beyond the docks, the black water coruscated
with light.

It was quiet here, serene with the
murmur of the harbor. The atmosphere of the waterfront was much
different in the daytime—a beehive of locals and visitors. There
was a rich history to see—a reflection of old, the promise of new.
Eighteenth and nineteenth-century architecture blended with modern
buildings encased with glass.

Greg carried a flashlight in his
right hand. After flicking it on, he played the beam around.
Lampposts lent the dock a touch of light, but their pale glow
seemed only to deepen the shadows.

Slowly, Greg crossed the landing,
making his rounds again. As he stopped close to the water, his
two-way radio suddenly crackled to life.

“Copy, Greg.”

He recognized the voice as
belonging to his co-worker, Brad Hawkins. Greg pulled out the radio
from his belt and pressed the talk button. “Go ahead.
Over.”

“Better watch your back,” Brad
said. “There’s a suspicious person coming up behind
you.”

Greg turned his head without moving
his body. In the periphery of his vision, he saw a shadowy figure
approaching. He swung around, lifting the beam.

It was Brad himself. He came into
the light with a broad grin on his face. Both hands rose in feigned
surrender.

“Don’t shoot. I come in
peace.”

Greg managed a smile. “You’re lucky
we don’t wear guns.”

“If we did, I wouldn’t be so
bold.”

Greg chuckled. “Pretty quiet night,
eh?”

Brad nodded, putting away his
radio. “Surprising, really. Not too many Saturday nights like this.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Come on,” Brad said. “We should
finish up.”

Together, they made their way
through the waterfront, checking doors and windows. To cover more
ground, the two men split up. Brad went back the way they had come.
Greg made his way to Historic Properties on Upper Water Street
where many waterfront warehouses built by the city’s earliest
settlers still stood. Today, they were renovated into boutiques,
cafés and pubs.

The streets were empty. A car or
two passed by. There was no one on the sidewalks.

Halfway through his rounds, Brad’s
voice came over Greg’s radio again.

“Copy, Greg.”

“Go ahead. Over.”

“I’m going to check out a truck
sitting here on the waterfront.”

Greg looked at the time. 5:01 am.
“What’s your location?”

“I’m coming up to the Impark lot
by ECTUG.”

“Anyone around?”

“No one outside that I can see.
The dome light is on in the truck. Only see one person inside that
I can tell. Could be someone beside him.”

“Is the person male or
female?”

“Male. Guy is probably drunk and
came down here to sleep it off.”

“Do you want backup?”

“No. I can handle it.”

“Copy that. If you have any
problems, radio me.”

“I will. Over.”

Greg continued his rounds. When he
finished at Historic Properties, he walked toward Lower Water
Street. He tried the doors and examined the windows at the Maritime
Museum of the Atlantic. All secure.

The time was 5:28 am. Brad still
hadn’t radioed back.

Curious, Greg decided to check on
him. He took out his two-way.

“Copy, Brad.”

Waiting for a reply, Greg breathed
in. Slowly, he began counting to himself. When he reached fifteen,
he got on the radio again.

“Brad. Are you there?”

Still no reply. Something was
wrong. Brad always answered his radio.

Dead
battery?
Greg wondered
.

He knew the Impark lot was close.
Radio in one hand, flashlight in the other, he started
walking.

Dawn was breaking quietly over the
horizon. Through the fading dark, vague shapes began to take on
distinctive qualities.

Greg reached Sackville Landing once
more. A short distance away, he could make out the profile of the
ECTUG building outlined against the sky, the peculiar silhouettes
of two tugboats moored at the dock.

“Copy, Brad.”

Silence.

Greg came to the tugboats first.
The Impark lot was straight ahead.

“Brad. Are you all
right?”

Abruptly, Greg became very still.
There was a sound. Holding his breath, he clicked the talk button
on his radio, once.

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