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 (9 page)

Hands in his pockets, he made his
way back to Jim.

“How are you making
out?”

Jim lifted his head. Allan saw that
he was back at the start of the trail.

“This is the parent drop.” Jim
pointed to it. “The drip pattern is different from the others. On
this type of surface, drops will be more prone to have irregular
edges and satellite spatter as you can see. But this first drop is
rounder, typical of a person standing still. The others suggest
movement. The directionality is toward the end of the
wharf.”

Allan’s gaze moved from the first
drop to the body of Brad Hawkins. In his mind, he measured out the
rough distance.

“These bloodstains seem out of
place,” he said at last.

Jim nodded. “I don’t think they
came from the victim. Possibly the suspect cut himself during the
attack.”

Allan considered this. “But why the
void? There must be a twenty foot gap between this blood trail and
the victim.”

Eyes narrow, Jim rubbed his jaw.
“We can assume from the placement of the body and the trail here
that the blood never came from the victim.”

“Serology
will determine that,” Allan replied. “It might be
possible that we’re standing in a second crime
scene.”

“Could be, Lieutenant.”

They expanded the perimeter of the
scene. Much ground could be covered with additional manpower, so
uniformed officers were brought in to assist with the neighborhood
canvass. Up and down stairs they went, banging on doors, hoping
someone out there had heard or witnessed something.

Other officers were assigned the
undesirable task of searching the recesses of alleyways and picking
through commercial and residential dumpsters around the waterfront.
They were armed with a description of two viable pieces of
evidence—a knife and the black notebook belonging to Brad
Hawkins.

In case the suspects had discarded
the murder weapon on one of the tugs moored at the wharf, the
Regional Director for ECTUG gave permission to board and search
them.

Nothing was found.

Allan called in the Regional Police
Underwater Recovery Team. Within thirty minutes, their Boston
Whaler came jouncing down the harbor, its outboard motor whipping
the water into foam. The team anchored near the tugboat wharf, then
set to work sectioning off the water into grids using a floating
marker system. Each section would be thoroughly searched, one at a
time.

Wearing Farmer John wetsuits and
full SCUBA gear, two divers entered the water and disappeared
beneath the waves. One back-up diver remained onboard as part of
the surface team in case of an emergency.

Watching them, Allan knew the odds
of finding any evidence would be slim. The proverbial needle in the
haystack. If someone had tossed a murder weapon off the wharf, the
currents could have carried the item a great distance away before
it reached bottom. To make matters worse, the harbor floor was
already littered with shipwrecks and other debris.

His watch read 10:23. There wasn’t
much time. He had a death notification and then the autopsy at
11:00. He went to the mobile command post and signed himself out of
the scene.

As he walked to his car, he saw the
press pool take notice of him. As one mass, they moved in his
direction. Flashbulbs went off. Microphones were thrusting forward.
Voices shouting questions.

Allan ignored them. He jumped into
his car and sped away.

12

Halifax, May 9

10:33 a.m.

 

The parents of Brad Hawkins lived
in an early twentieth century Queen Anne style home in the
south-end of Halifax. Blue with white trim, the house was two and a
half stories high, gable-roofed and fronted by a large porch with
tapered box columns.

Standing at the front door, Allan’s
stomach was in knots. He found himself hoping no one would answer.
This was the toughest part of the job—telling families their loved
one had been murdered. No matter how rehearsed, how heartfelt,
Allan felt his words always sounded empty, meaningless.

Slowly, the door opened. The old
woman who peered out at him looked to be in her late fifties. She
had graying hair, a round face and pale skin. The thick glasses she
wore magnified her blue eyes.

“Missus Hawkins?” Allan asked,
reaching into his sport coat and taking out his leather badge
case.

She angled her head, regarding him
cautiously. Allan sensed himself being appraised. For a brief
instant he imagined the woman thinking he might be a canvasser for
a fundraiser or a Mormon handing out pamphlets.

“Yes.” Her voice was polite, but
wary.

“I’m Lieutenant Allan Stanton from
the HRP Major Crimes Unit.” He held up his credentials. “Is your
husband home with you?”

“Who is it, Barb?” came a rough
voice behind her. The door opened further to reveal an older man,
slight of build, with thinning white hair and intense gray eyes. He
came up behind his wife, resting a hand on her shoulder.

He looked at the
shield and ID, then to Allan.
“Police.
” His lips seemed to barely
move. “What’s this about?”

Allan inhaled a deep breath. “May I
come inside?”

“We can hear what you have to say
from here,” said the man.

“Very well.” Allan put away the
badge case and folded his hands. “Your son is Bradley Hawkins,
correct?”

In unison, they answered,
“Yes.”

Allan’s mouth suddenly felt
dry.

“There was a stabbing down on
Lower Water Street,” he said quietly. “Your son was
involved.”

The father’s face twisted, as if
suddenly wounded. The mother put a hand to her mouth. Behind the
thick lenses, her eyes grew huge.

“Is he all right?” She spoke
through her fingers. “Is he at the hospital?”

“I’m sorry.” Allan hesitated,
staring at the tremor that had started in the woman’s hand. “Your
son didn’t survive his injuries.”

Doubling over, the mother emitted
an anguished wail that made Allan flinch.

“No,” she repeated in a shrilling
voice. “No, no.”

The husband reached out for his
wife, embracing her.

“No, Frank.” She wrenched herself
free. Face covered with her hands, she hurried out of the entryway
and disappeared into another room.

“Barb
…” Frank called after her. He
took a step forward, then stopped.

Slowly, he turned to Allan. His
expression showed a range of emotions—shock, disbelief,
immeasurable sadness. Behind him came the heavy stomp of footsteps
on wooden stairs and then the slam of a door. The sound made him
wince.

“Are you
completely
sure
it’s him?” he asked.

“He’s been positively identified
by a co-worker with Twin City Protection.”

Frank shut his eyes. “How’d it
hap…?” His sentence was lost in a hard swallow.

Allan exhaled. “We don’t know for
certain. We think your son may have walked into the commission of
another crime. We have officers canvassing the waterfront for
witnesses.”

In a tight voice, Frank asked.
“Where’s my son’s body?”

“With the medical
examiner.”

Frank’s eyes
opened now, wide and brimming. “The
medical examiner?
They’re going to
cut up my boy?”

Allan swallowed. He realized the
devastation the post-mortem would leave behind of Brad Hawkins—a
dissected shell of what their son had once been.

“I’m sorry,” Allan said softly.
“But it’s a legal requirement.”

Awkwardly, Frank braced himself
against the doorjamb.

“My
God
,” he mumbled.
“My
God.

Silent, Allan watched
him.

I hate this.

He waited a respectful
moment.

“Is there anyone I can call?” he
asked. “Another relative? A friend?”

Looking dazed, Frank shook his
head.

“I can have a grief counselor come
over if you wish. Help you through this.”

“There’s no need for
that.”

“I hate to add this, but we’ll
need you or another close relative to come down to the medical
examiner’s office to make the identification official.”

“Later. I can’t do it right
now.”

“I understand.” Allan took out his
business card and gave it to him.

Frank stared at the card with a
somewhat vacant look. “If you would kindly excuse us.” His hand
moved to the door in a gesture of dismissal. “We have a lot to deal
with right now.”

As the door gently closed on him,
Allan turned away. With his head down he walked back to his car and
climbed in behind the wheel. For a long moment he just sat there,
numb, unable to move. When finally he reached for the ignition, he
glanced over at the house. In one tragic moment, he knew, the lives
of Brad’s parents had changed forever.

Edging into the street, Allan
steeled himself for the autopsy ahead.

13

Halifax, May 9

10:57 a.m.

 

The body of a still-clothed Brad
Hawkins lay on a dissection table in front of Allan. The paper bags
hadn’t yet been removed from the victim’s hands. The polythene wrap
and body bag lay on a counter to be later sent to the forensic lab
for analysis.

The morgue was a windowless room
with a tile floor and cement walls painted dull beige. To Allan, it
always had the look and feel of one-part laboratory, another part
slaughterhouse. The harsh surgical lamps. The hanging meat scales.
The steel tables and cabinetry.

The smell of disinfectant that
filled the room seemed to be as strong as the sense of
finality.

Doctor Coulter and Lawrence Sodero
were dressed in green surgical scrubs, plastic aprons and latex
gloves. Glancing at the clock on the wall, Coulter said, “Right on
time. You’re a punctual man, Lieutenant.”

Allan tried to smile. “I try to be.
Though I can think of better things to be doing with my time than
hanging out here.”

Coulter chuckled. “Yes. I bet you
can. You’d sooner be out pounding the pavement for a suspect than
being down here in the dungeon with Doctor Frankenstein and his
sidekick, Igor.”

Allan laughed. “Truer words were
never spoken, Doctor.”

Behind him, Sodero pushed a steel
tray across the tile floor. On it laid a small assortment of
tools—scalpels, scissors, forceps, rib cutters, a bread knife, a
chisel, a Stryker saw.

The examination began with a
thorough inspection of the clothing. With the overhead lamps
dimmed, Coulter moved a blue light over the entire body, looking
for the illumination of trace evidence. He was a cautious man. He
worked slowly and meticulously. Lacking an overhead mic, he stopped
periodically to take notes that he’d later transcribe to his
report.

With Sodero’s help, he turned the
body over. Finding no trace on the backside, the lamps were turned
up again. Coulter then carefully examined the back of the jacket
where the blade had gone through, matching the hole with the
correlative wound underneath. Sodero took photographs
throughout.

The two men rolled the body onto
its back again. Coulter removed the paper bags from the hands and
gave them to Sodero, who neatly folded them and sealed each one in
a separate evidence bag. Then, without cutting or tearing, they
began removing each article of clothing.

Earlier, Allan thought, Brad had
started his day like anyone else. Got up, showered and dressed. Now
he was being stripped naked by other hands and laid on a metal slab
to be photographed and washed by strangers.

Life is so uncertain.

Coulter measured the body and then
weighed it on an overhead scale.

“Height is one hundred sixty-nine
centimeters,” he said. “Weight is eighty-two kilograms.”

He started the examination of the
body itself, inspecting the scalp for any injuries hidden by the
hair. He checked the ear canals for signs of bleeding, the eyes for
petechiae—broken blood vessels suggestive of strangulation or
asphyxia. He moved systematically over the face looking for bruises
or cyanosis, then into the mouth for foreign objects, damaged teeth
or cut lips.

“Rigor has now set in the jaw,” he
said. “The neck is symmetrical. The trachea is in the midline. No
signs of injury to either.”

He moved down the front of the
torso to the legs. After finding nothing remarkable, Coulter
studied the palms and fingers.

“Signs of rigor in the extremities
as well,” he noted. “Nothing to indicate the victim put up much of
a fight. No defensive wounds to the hands, the flexor surface or
the ulnar aspects of the forearms.

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