The next noise Otis heard was the sirens of the approaching police cars. He watched the red and blue lights as they sped down the lane. A dead body where there shouldn’t be one warranted a little haste, though Otis fretted that Velvet might have gone into hysterics on the phone and that’s what caused the quick response. She must have had some of her wits about her, though. The lights disappeared around the far side of the building and then reappeared in the back lot.
The first responding officers, uniforms, quickly roped off the scene and set up generator powered lights, flooding the area with such bright light that Otis thought he could see every flaw in the concrete. One of the uniforms, a young guy that was probably only just out of school, ushered Otis to stand out of the way, but still inside the tape. A second uniform, obviously the veteran as he was nearly as old as Otis and carried himself in a similar manner (he’d seen it all), asked Otis for a rundown of what had happened, and Otis gave it to him in a succinct and professional manner.
Just before the detectives arrived, Velvet emerged from the building and came to stand with Otis, only she stayed on the outside of the tape. She looked better than she had before, though her arms were crossed tightly over her ample chest and she trembled a little like she was cold. The night was chilly, but not that chilly. Otis felt bad for her. He reached over and gave her shoulder a firm pat. She smiled weakly in return.
The two of them waited and watched in silence as the detectives talked with the uniforms and surveyed the scene, taking pictures and notes. A forensic team arrived and then the death investigator. Once the death investigator had her notes and pictures, she, the younger detective, a forensic officer, and one of the uniforms pushed the dumpsters apart to create a space around the dead man instead of pulling the man out. After even more pictures and some consultation, the senior police detective, a handsome black man in a pressed navy suit, walked over to Otis and Velvet. Otis stood up a little taller, smoothing down the front of his jacket.
“I’m Detective Josh Carpenter,” the man said, producing a notepad and pen from his pocket. “Are you the security guards who found the deceased?”
“That’s right, I did,” Otis said, voice firm and authoritative, professional. “I’m Guard Otis Gorski. As soon as I found the body, I alerted Guard Velvet Li,” Otis nodded to Velvet standing just behind him, still on the outside of the tape, “to call the police and Mr. Kobel.”
“Would that be Manfred Kobel?” Detective Carpenter asked, scribbling something in his notepad.
“That’s right. This is his warehouse, part of Kobel Industries.”
“I suppose that saves us the time of calling him ourselves,” Detective Carpenter said, glancing at Otis.
“Mr. Kobel insists that we call him any time, day or night, if something happens at one of his facilities,” Otis informed the detective, who nodded and scribbled.
“Very hands on kind of boss, huh?”
“He likes to know what’s going on with his businesses,” Otis said. “Can’t blame him for that.”
And Otis didn’t. He knew Velvet had no love for him, but he was overall rather indifferent to the man. He was just a boss and Otis had always been indifferent to those. They had their own agendas and as far as Otis was concerned, his job as a security guard had very little to do with that. He walked the grounds he was supposed to walk, watched the property he was supposed to watch, and collected his paycheck. That didn’t mean he didn’t take his job seriously because he did; Velvet Li would be first in line to tell anyone who questioned it. But the way he did his job had nothing to do with a loyalty to any particular boss. His loyalty was to the honor of being a security guard.
“Hey, Josh! Guess who are vic is!” the death investigator called to the detective.
“I don’t have to guess, Lu,” Detective Carpenter replied, still scribbling. “Because you’re going to tell me.”
“You’re no fun at all.”
“You’re enough fun for both of us.”
Otis watched the death investigator hand an ID to the other detective, a much younger, whiter, cherub looking man whose grey-brown suit looked as though it had never existed without a wrinkle. He hurried it over to Detective Carpenter.
“Detective Carthos, this is Guard Gorski and Guard Li,” Detective Carpenter said, taking the ID from his partner without glancing at it. Otis nodded at Detective Carthos, who returned it. “Please take Guard Li,” he gestured to Velvet, “to a quiet spot for questioning.”
Otis looked at Velvet, a little concerned that she wouldn’t be up to it. But she looked a lot more alert than she had before. In fact, she looked downright feisty.
“What do I have to be questioned for?” Velvet asked, on the defense and ready to bite.
“Everyone has to be questioned, Guard Li,” Detective Carpenter said.
“I didn’t do anything,” Velvet said, and Otis held his breath instead of sighing loudly like he wanted to do.
“No one is saying you did, Guard Li,” Detective Carthos said, a little more gently than Detective Carpenter had spoken to her. “It’s just standard procedure.”
“They just want your statement about what happened, Velvet,” Otis said, trying to sound supportive and not annoyed.
“I saw a dead man’s legs by the dumpsters, damn near fainted, and called the police,” Velvet said. “There. That’s my statement.”
This time Otis didn’t restrain his vocal sigh or his annoyance.
“That’s a very good start, Guard Li,” Detective Carthos said, cutting Otis off. It irked him, but it was probably for the best. He and Velvet could really go at it when they were both in a sporting mood and now was not the time for that. “But if you could recount the events leading up to finding the body and making the phone call, it might help us understand more about what’s going on. Maybe even tip us off to who the killer might be. After all, something unimportant to you might be important to us.”
Velvet looked the detective up and down suspiciously. Just as Otis was about to open his mouth to tell Velvet to talk to the damn detective and answer his questions, the death investigator called out to the assembled uniformed officers.
“Time to put this man on a gurney and get him home to the morgue. Who’s going to help me?”
Velvet’s dark skin paled and the fire in her eyes went out without so much as a puff of smoke.
“Fine, I’ll talk to the detective, but over there.” She pointed behind her. “Around the corner. I’ve already seen more of that dead man than I ever wanted to.”
“That’ll be just fine. Lead the way,” Detective Carthos said with a smile.
Detective Carthos nodded to his partner and then walked past Otis, ducking under the tape and following Velvet as she hurried around the corner.
“Is she going to be all right?” Detective Carpenter asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” Otis said, turning to him. “She’s a tough girl. Really good at her job. I sort of took her under my wing when she first got here. Showed her the ropes. She’s a good girl. It’s her first dead body, I think. The first one is always a shock.”
“Ah. I see.”
Detective Carpenter looked at the ID in his hand, a flicker of recognition crossing his face. Otis wondered who the dead man was since both the death investigator and the detective seemed to recognize him.
“Who is in charge here?”
Otis turned around already knowing what he would see. All of the noise and bright lights of the crime scene must have blotted out the headlights and sound of the car coming up the lane.
Manfred Kobel had arrived.