Authors: Alex MacLean
Tags: #crime, #murder, #mystery, #addiction, #police procedural, #serial killer, #forensics, #detective, #csi, #twist ending, #traumatic stress
A third time.
It was there all right. Even over
the creaking tugs and the pounding pulse in his ears, it was there.
Somewhere close-by came the faint crackle of static from a two-way
“Copy, Brad.” Another sound made
Greg shiver. Out of nowhere, his own disembodied voice carried back
Brad or at least his radio was
nearby. For a moment Greg stood there, peering about. In the open
expanse, it was hard to pinpoint the location.
Is he playing a
. Like earlier.
His watch displayed 5:38 am. So
close to quitting time.
He approached the Impark lot. Only
when he reached it did he see the dark mass lying in the middle of
From this distance, he couldn’t
make out any features. Then the beam of his flashlight found it.
Greg froze. The mass, illuminated now, became a human body.
Immediately, Greg knew the uniform as well as he knew his
Fear rising, Greg ran to the
Head west, feet east, Brad Hawkins
lay face down in complete stillness. There was a pool of blood
beneath his mouth that looked sticky to the touch. His eyes were
fixed open. Greg moved the light across them. The pupils showed no
The back of Brad’s jacket looked
wet. There was a small slice in it between the shoulder blades. The
radio he had never gotten to use was still in its case on his
Some vestige of discipline told
Greg not to touch the body. He stood and took a step back,
struggling to comprehend. He threw the beam across the parking lot.
Several feet away, shards of glass sparkled across on the pavement.
A broken flashlight lay nearby.
Greg reached into his jacket and
took out his cell phone. He swallowed and clumsily stabbed at
numbers on the keypad. The ringing became a male voice on the other
“Nine-one-one. What is your
Greg looked at his partner once
more. His mind felt numb.
“I’d…” He stammered, unable to get
the words out.
He cleared his throat. “I’d…I’d
like to report a murder.”
Halifax, May 9
Allan reflected on Greg’s
“Did Brad describe this truck to
you?” he asked at length. “A make? Color?”
“No, just that it was a truck.
Really narrows it down, eh?”
“It doesn’t help much. And you
don’t recall seeing a truck leaving the scene or passing by when
you went searching for Brad?”
Greg looked thoughtful. “No. It
would be something I’d notice at that time of night. We get people
loitering down here all the time. Young couples making out. Hookers
and their johns. Drunks fresh out of the bars, unable to drive
home. Teenagers smoking up.” He paused, a finger to his lips.
“Check Brad’s pad. Maybe he wrote down a description of the truck.”
He reached inside his jacket and brought out a notebook with a
black cover. “It’s like this one.”
Allan took the notebook. As he
examined it, he realized that it was very similar to the one he
carried himself. The notebook was spiral bound with a flip-up
“Your company supplies these?” he
“Are you sure Brad had his when he
started his shift?”
Greg nodded. “Oh, yes. I saw
“Was there anyone in particular
you had trouble with in the past? Anyone who had put up a fuss when
asked to leave? Someone who stands out in your memory?”
“No. The men we found with the
hookers were more embarrassed than anything. Some of the drunks and
teenagers had mouthed off to us from time to time. But all left
without incident after we threatened to call you guys.”
“Had either of you checked the
parking lot earlier in the night?”
“Yes. A few times.”
“You don’t remember seeing the
truck at that time.”
“No. Earlier the lot was full of
cars. People out at the bars. After they closed, the lot was empty.
“Thank you.” Allan returned the
notebook. “You’re free to go. Once your thoughts have had time to
settle down and you think of something you may have overlooked,
please give us a call.”
For a moment, Greg looked over at
the body of Brad Hawkins. When he turned back, Allan saw that his
eyes had suddenly become wet.
“I hope you catch whoever did
this,” Greg said weakly, and then walked away.
He didn’t look back.
Allan watched him briefly and then
focused on the Ident crew as they walked toward the scene. It
consisted of two men—Jim Lucas, an African-Canadian who had a
baldhead and sported a shadow of a goatee. Topping six-four, he had
the muscular contours of a linebacker. Then there was Harvey
Doucette, born and raised in Montreal. He was tall and rangy with a
crew cut and a projected air of calm.
Until they forensically cleared the
scene, no one else would be allowed inside. The path used by the
first officer would serve as their entry point. After reaching the
body, the two men set up a privacy screen to hide the body from
prying eyes. Then, fanning out from the body, they began to search
the lot for evidence. They moved with slow deliberation, inches at
a time, examining pieces of debris that could serve as useful
pieces of evidence.
Each man had a job to do—Harvey
placed evidence markers next to objects for retrieval, while Jim
took long and close-range photographs. Neither man spoke much.
Their movements were without sound, ghost-like figures in a
Standing several feet away, Allan
could see the victim’s eyes were locked open. On the pavement below
his mouth was a small puddle of blood he had regurgitated at the
moment of death.
Spiral in hand, Allan turned to a
fresh page and began a rough sketch of the crime scene, using a
stick figure as the victim. At the bottom he included a legend to
identify each object of evidence by number. The body. Fragments of
glass. A broken flashlight.
Doctor Coulter’s black van arrived
at 7:15. The medical examiner was a short man, clean-shaven with
salt-and-pepper hair and keen blue eyes. There was an air of
composure about him; seldom did his deadpan expression ever
His assistant was named Lawrence
Sodero, a trim, bright-eyed young man in his mid-twenties. He wore
wire-rim glasses and an Ivy League haircut. To Allan, Sodero seemed
bit of a preppy.
Like the Ident techs, both men were
dressed in protective coveralls. They opened the rear doors of the
van and removed a gurney before walking into the scene after being
given the ok to do so.
As Coulter reached the body, he set
down a black bag he’d been carrying. He would touch or move the
body as little as possible. He knelt by the head, checking the jaw
and eyelids for stiffness.
“Body is still flaccid,” he noted,
as if to himself. “Death was recent.”
Allan walked over. “We have a
statement that puts the time of death somewhere between four
fifty-five and five thirty.”
“I’ll try to narrow it down the
best I can, Lieutenant.” From the black bag, Coulter removed a
digital thermo hygrometer to record the environmental temperature
He took out a probe thermometer,
not unlike one used to check meat in an oven. Straddling the body,
he inserted it through the abdomen into the liver, waited a moment,
and then pulled it out. He recorded the temperature in his
Meticulously, he examined the
surface of the jacket where the blade had gone through.
“There’s a single stab wound to
the victim’s back. There could be more. At this point, I won’t know
of additional injuries until the autopsy.” Eye narrowing, he picked
up part of the jacket at the shoulder, looking hard at something in
Allan moved closer. “What is
“There’s a blood impression on the
back of the left shoulder. Looks like a swipe mark as if the
suspect had wiped off the murder weapon.” Coulter looked up, his
lips a straight line. “A final dishonor to a dishonorable
“Could you check the pockets?
We’re looking for a black spiral bound notebook.” Allan held his
own up. “Similar to this.”
Coulter and Sodero gingerly rolled
the body, turning the dead man onto his back. Cautious of needles,
Coulter lightly patted each pocket before dipping his fingers
inside. The jacket pockets were empty. From a pants pocket came a
set of keys, some loose change. From another, a black wallet.
Coulter opened it to reveal cash and credit cards.
“I guess we can rule out robbery,”
he said. “There’s no notebook on the body, Lieutenant. Only a pen
in the breast pocket.”
where’d that go? With the killer?
“Do you have a time set for the
autopsy?” he asked.
“Do you want to
“If I may.”
Coulter smiled. “Too impatient to
wait for my report?”
“You know me, Doctor. I like to be
provided with as much info as early into the investigation as
“Does eleven o’clock sound
Allan checked his watch. “Eleven
should be fine.”
“See you there.”
Allan stood off to the side as
Coulter tied paper bags over the dead man’s hands to protect any
surface trace evidence, locks of hair or skin tags in the event he
had struggled with his attacker. Before putting the body into a
black bag, he and Sodero wrapped it in a clean sheet of polythene
and secured it with tape.
Allan watched them carry the gurney
to the back of Coulter’s van and slide it inside. In quick
succession, they slammed the doors shut.
Coulter lifted his hand in a wave
and shouted, “See you at eleven.”
Just then, someone else called out,
Allan turned to his right and saw
Jim kneeling over something at the edge of the parking
Jim waved him over.
“What’d you find?” Allan asked as
he approached him.
“Blood.” Jim pointed down to a
series of red drops. “A fresh trail of it.”
Together, the two men followed
them. Spaced roughly two feet apart, the blood moved across the
remainder of the parking lot toward the tugboat wharf, then past
the ECTUG building where it came to a halt at the end of the wharf.
The bleeder had obviously stopped there for some time. The last
drop was much larger than the rest, over an inch in diameter. That
suggested blood dripping into blood.
“The trail ends here,” remarked
Allan, peering out at the Halifax harbor.
The smell of sea salt was strong.
Under the climbing sun, the water sparkled. Gulls circled the
public boardwalk nearby. Beneath the sound of lapping water came
their faint cries.
Jim kneeled down and began
measuring the drops. His camera dangled from a strap around his
“The coarse texture of the cement
destroyed the shapes of these stains.” He shook his head,
frustrated. “They’re too distorted to accurately determine the
angle of impact. Measurements mean nothing. These are passive
drops, however, acting on gravity alone. But they didn’t come from
someone who was bleeding profusely.” He paused a moment, looking at
the sky. “I’m going to have to collect samples. This blood isn’t
going to last too long once that sun starts beating down on
Carefully, he placed a scale and a
numbered marker beside the last drop. Focusing his camera, he
snapped off several pictures. Then he took out an IntegriSwab from
his field kit. Uncapping the top of the tube, he pushed the swab
forward and dipped it into the blood, moistening the tip. He then
pulled the swab down inside the tube and capped the top. Next, he
slid the IntegriSwab into its own box and labeled the side of it.
One by one, he repeated the procedure with the other drops,
methodically working his way back.
Allan remained where he was, taking
in the scene, trying to envision the chain of events that resulted
in the death. As he looked over the ECTUG building, he realized
that it afforded him a sense of privacy. From the street, no one
would be able to see him.
What went on
Did Brad Hawkins happen upon something he shouldn’t have
For a moment, he glanced at Jim,
who had stopped briefly to reload his camera.
Who’s the phantom bleeder? And why
is there no return blood trail?
Slowly, Allan went over to the
ECTUG building, tried the door. Locked. Around the building he
examined the windows on both floors. All intact.