Monday, November 12, 2007

A Murder In Washington, DC

The following is a short story based on information traded with a random partner via email.

The assisting minister said “Go in peace, serve the Lord” To which the congregation replied “Thanks Be To God!”.

Hamish MacDonald bolted into the parking lot via the back door, and headed to his car. His pager had alerted him to an incoming call from the dispatch center, which was always a bad sign… especially on a Sunday. Bad sign or not, he wasn’t going to take the call in the middle of the service… Lutherans don’t do that. Especially since today was Reformation Sunday. After the last chorus of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, the service ended and MacDonald could call back to the bosses and see what they wanted… even though he already knew what the problem was.

You see, MacDonald is a cop. A homicide detective. There had been a murder.

The details were few, because the crime had taken place in a sensitive location, but what MacDonald already knew was enough to give him some things to think about while he made the 25 mile drive from Woodbridge, Virginia into DC. The traffic was mercifully light as it is only on Sunday morning in this area… and since it was nearly noon, and the Redskins had 1 O’clock kickoff time, most people had already gone wherever it is they were going to watch the game from.

MacDonald took the 12th street exit off I-395, and as he drove toward the National Mall, he decided that he wouldn’t stop at first district headquarters… what would be the point? He already knew that there was a body at the National Air & Space museum… he already knew that the crime had taken place, and there were no witnesses… well, at least no witnesses that had spoken up, yet.

When he got to the museum, he spoke with the uniformed officers securing the crime scene, who told him that no one had entered the area since they had arrived on scene, and that the museum employee who found the body, Caren Cramer. Was waiting to speak to him in a nearby office. He could talk to Cramer later… he had a crime scene to process.

“Well, no sense wasting any time” he thought… “time to go look at the stiff… er, the departed“.
The Smithsonian security officers, along with a uniformed DC police officer, took MacDonald to the second floor maintenance area located just behind the interior mock-up of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), in the Apollo exhibit. The body was laying face down, in pool of blood, that looked like it came from a massive head injury. MacDonald gave a brief, silent prayer for the soul of the deceased, and got right to work. The deceased was a white male, in his middle to late thirties, with brown hair, and he was wearing a suit.

There were crime scene technicians and a team from the coroner’s office waiting to finish their work, so MacDonald let them finish doing all of the things that they needed to do, from checking for fingerprints on doors and walls, fingerprinting the victim, to taking copious photographs of the scene from various angles.

Once all of that was done, MacDonald and his newly-arrived partner, Abigail “Abbie” Carter, searched the body. The search turned up most of the usual stuff, twenty four dollars and sixty one cents in cash, a partially used farecard for the Washington, DC subway system, best known as “The Metro”, an inexpensive-looking cellular telephone, and a key chain with the keys to a Ford. There was also a wallet with the usual credit cards, auto insurance, health insurance, and a drivers license, all in the name of one Julian Krasnovski.

Once all of the items carried by the victim were catalogued and bagged for evidence, it was time to remove the body. The coroner’s office took care of the removal in short order, pausing only for the police photographers to take a picture of the body’s face… Nothing conclusive there, though MacDonald, since the face was covered with dreid blood.

Considering the degree of rigormortis, the body had been there for at least a few hours before it was discovered. The coroner’s people placing the time of death at approximately 7 A.M. “Well,” said MacDonald to Carter, “that’s a start. At least we know when Mr Kasnovski got whacked… now all we need to do is figure out who did it and why” Carter rolled her eyes and said “Great, Mac… this shouldn’t take any more than an hour, maybe two to figure out, right?” MacDonald laughed and scolded his partner with mock severity and said “That’s about right, Abigail (she always bristled when he did that… apparently her dad always called her that), but don’t interrupt your elders while they are solving crimes. Now, let’s go talk to our witness.”

Caren Cramer was twenty six years old, white, with red (almost orange) hair and bright green eyes… a real stunner. When MacDonald and Carter came in to talk to her, she gave them both a very frank look of appraisal, that you seldom see from most people so young. “Maneater” MacDonald thought, but fortunately for him, and perhaps not so fortunately for Cramer, MacDonald wasn’t susceptible to that kind of thing… he had been married for nearly 14 years, to a smart, sexy woman, and he got all that he needed at home.

“Miss Cramer?, I’m Detective MacDonald and this is Detective Carter of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department” he said while both Detectives proffered their police identification. “We’d like to talk to you about what you found this morning” Cramer immediately replied: “Well, I’ll tell you what I told the other guys already, I am the floor supervisor for the early shift at the museum. It’s my job to make sure that all of the exhibits are clean and presentable before we open for the day. I arrived just after 6 this morning, and after I clocked in, I took a look at the schedule to see what, if any, special events were taking place today. There weren’t any, so I started my walk-through to make sure everything was ready I started at the far end of the hall, across for the Skylab exhibit, and checked for clean carpets, the restrooms, and the exhibit spaces themselves. Everything was normal… until I got to the Apollo area. When I walked in, all of the recordings and auto play animation was already running. I saw that the maintenance area door was slightly ajar… which is unusual, because all maintenance doors are supposed to remain shut at all times… that’s why I walked into the space, when I stepped in I saw… well, I found the body.” Carter immediately asked what Cramer had done next… had she touched the body?, how did she conclude that the victim was indeed dead? Who did she call?, did she leave the scene to get help? Cramer answered all of her questions, but by the time she was done, her tone had gone from cooperative to wary.

MacDonald noted the change in tone, and he and Carter shared an exchange of arched eyebrows when Cramer abruptly asked why she was being interviewed a second time. MacDonald told her that the uniformed officer’s initial questions were just used to establish a few facts and that the homicide detectives always started from the beginning in order to get all of the information first-hand. Cramer insisted that she understood all of that… and practically sniffed at the Detectives that she wasn’t an idiot (she was a Georgetown graduate, after all). What she meant, she said with the tone that is usually reserved for the particularly stupid, is why MacDonald hadn’t gotten all of this information from the Federal investigators that arrived even before the uniformed city cops showed up?

“Oh shit,” thought Hamish, “not again”

Miss Cramer…” he began, “actually, I prefer Ms.” she interrupted. “Of course,” he relented, “Ms. Cramer” can you tell me the name of the agency that the investigators were from? Did they show you any identification?" “Of course", she replied, “I’m not some twit who just believes that someone is a cop just because he says so… I was raised in Detroit, and in Detroit, you don’t believe anything anyone tells you just because he says so… not even the parish priest.” Carter said “Oh, you must have been a real pain in the ass in Confirmation, with that attitude” Cramer actually smiled for the first time since they had arrived, and then actually laughed! The loud, braying sound was incongruous coming from that delicate face, and she then proceeded to launch into a tale of her exploits with the nuns in the convent school she had attended. MacDonald actually had to cut her off in order to get back to the discussion of these Federal investigators that she had mentioned.

“Oh... them,” Cramer said “their identification said that they were from the FBI, but I’ll tell you, they didn’t really look like those clean-cut guys you usually associated with J. Edgar Hoover’s boys. MacDonald asked what she meant by this, and Cramer told him that both of the men that she talked to were white, of average height, nondescript suits, and had longish hair. One of them actually had a goatee. One thing she could tell about them, though, was that they were both in excellent physical condition. Carter asked how she could tell what kind of shape they were in, and Cramer asked her how hard would it be to NOT know “after all,” she said, “we’re young single women… we notice these things in men, don’t we?” noting Carter’s blank stare, she went on: “Oh… batting on that side of the plate, are you? Well… whatever.”

“Ms Cramer, I think that’s enough for now, but I am certain that we will want to talk to you again soon, so please make yourself available… we have already taken the liberty of speaking to your supervisors so that we won’t have to visit you at your home. Here is my card, and that of Detective Carter as well. If you think of any details that you might have forgotten about discovering the body, or the FBI agents you mentioned, or anything else, please give us a call”

MacDonald and Carter left the museum and stood near the Independence avenue exit, and pooled their facts while the tourists lined up patiently to go through security. Mac just shook his head, remembering when he first came to Washington, DC as a young Marine in 1986. When he first came to town, the public could just walk into the building. All of that went out the window after 9/11. Security was one thing, he thought, but the problem is that most of the security measures put into place since 9/11 were only useful in deterring the odd crackpot. Anyone who knew anything about security knew that the person determined to wreak havoc, didn’t try to bring a small explosive or gun through the proper doors. Vehicle-borne explosives were the real danger, and short of banning vehicle traffic, there wasn’t a single bloody thing you could to to protect yourself from it… not in an urban environment, anyway.

Setting that tangent aside, Mac and Carter knew that something bad was happening to their investigation, even before it got started… but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to see this thing through. Both MacDonald and Carter were veterans of the United States Marine Corps… and Marines don‘t know the meaning of the word “quit“.… the first thing that they needed to do was to talk to their Captain.

“Feds? What the f*** were they doing there? Who the f*** called them?” Captain Roy Martin thundered, “that’s all I need, the Feds getting in the way. You two be careful, but I want you to continue to investigate this like no one said anything about Federal involvement in this case.”

“OK, Abbie…" Mac said when they were done with the Captain, "how do you want to do this? You want to work together? Or do you want to start running these things down separately?” “Let’s do this together, Mac, there are always a few things that a young detective can learn from an old dude like you” quipped Carter. “Old dude, my ass” was the immediate rejoinder “First, I am only seven years older than you… and I happen to know that the reason that you wanted to work with me in the first place is because of my Yoda-like status in the first district… that and you have the hots for me.” Carter heaved a huge sigh and rolled her eyes in feigned annoyance… she had asked to be assigned to MacDonald, not because she had the hots for him (she already had a special someone in her life) but because MacDonald was as smart guy, a good cop, and even though he was serious about his faith, he was never judgemental about her sexuality. Mac was one of the good guys, no two ways about it.

“Alright, let’s start with the deader, Mr Julian Krasnovski: There is no indication that he is married or living with someone, and the administrative folks are trying to track down next of kin, so why don’t we see what we come up with at his residence. His driver’s licence and some of the other crap in his wallet give his address as 618 A street, southeast, Apartment 325. Let’s get over there and get started, but first, let’s go over to Burrito Brothers and get something to eat… I’m starving…”

Three days later, MacDonald and Carter had found out lot’s of things: First, Krasnovski had turned out to be a an accomplished violinist, who played for the National Symphony Orchestra. He had been some sort of prodigy as a youth, and big things were expected of him. He had gone to Juliard on scholarship, and was noted as a young man on the rise. He came to the NSO as a fairly young man… and that’s when the bottom dropped out for him. It seems that the young Krasnovski likes to gamble. A lot.

They also found out some things… some disturbing things about Caren Cramer… a cursory background investigation revealed some inconsistencies that caused MacDonald and Carter to want to interview her again. When they attempted to do so, they met a blank wall. The personnel office at the Air & Space museum claimed that they had no employee by the name of Caren Cramer. When they attempted to contact Cramer at the address she had provided, there was no one by that name at that address.

With a gnawing sense of dread, MacDonald went to his Captain to ask his advice, the Captain looked him in the eye and asked him what he was talking about. After going over the case and everything that they had discovered, the Captain took MacDonald and Carter to the office of the Deputy Chief of Police, who introduced them to a certain Mr. Johnson, from the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Johnson told them that what they encountered at the Smithsonian had been declared a National Security Incident, and as such, was under the perview of the Dept. of Homeland Security. They were told that their investigation was being terminated at the direction of the United States government, under the Authority of the USA Patriot act. All notes, evidence, and reports concerning the investigation have been deemed classified at the Top Secret level, and all such materials are to be turned over to DHS personnel immediately, and all personnel involved in the investigation were hereby enjoined from discussing the investigation with anyone.

Please note that this story is a work of fiction. All of the characters are fictitious, and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

Also note that stuff like this happens… and if you think it shouldn’t be happening in this country, it is your moral duty to oust all Republicans from elected office, at any level, throughout the United States.

It isn’t too late... yet.

The source material for this story was given to me by Jen, who can be found here.


Wholly Burble said...

Wow, you had me going, and then whomp, an ending I hadn't expected. I think you had enough going on with that partnership to get them into another "case" where they don't get cut off at the pass. Hope you'll take them out for another spin sometime and let them get their teeth into a case and carry it to the end.

Way to go!! I bet you had fun with it.

Jan said...

I sure hope you don't leave us hanging at this point in the story. I'm a mystery/thriller buff & you got my attention for sure......


anno said...

What fun!! Mac & Carter are my new favorite detective duo, and I hope to see more from them... soon! Any chance we'll learn more about the elusive Ms. Cramer?

Jen said...

Whoa!!!! This is amazing! I really, really hope you'll keep going with this when you're feeling better.

I love Mac and Carter and the whole set up is great.

I want to know how this turned into a national security incident, etc.

I can't tell you how much I loved this. Now, you know that I'm a suspense fan, and this would be just the kind of thing I'd love to find in my local bookshop.

GREAT stuff!

Julie Pippert said...

Riveting! And then left dangling!

I look forward to more.

Using My Words

Flower Child said...

Excellent description of DC. But didn't Burrito Brothers close? We don't have any near us anymore.

soccer mom in denial said...

Woah! I love how this ended. Well, not "love" because of the implication that this happens for real...

Anonymous said...

Really great writing, Bill. Of course if this were a typical novel the detectives would defy their orders, investigate anyway and uncover a big conspiracy. Yours ended the real way, though, which is why it feels like a tease or a twist ending.

You are really making me hope you will finish your novel soon and let me be a proofreader.

Unknown said...

Ah man! I was hooked and now left wanting.

There better be a part II. :-)


Heather said...

What a unique way to make a point.

Great story development...lets hear about another case!

Fourier Analyst said...

Maybe to celebrate a Democratic win, you will grace us with more of this intriguing tale?!