A Dead Neighbor on Sunday
Spring thaw in Munsterville thawed more than just the ground, creeks, streams, and patches of Lake Munster. It thawed the population, too. After several months of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, the citizens of Munsterville welcomed the first warmish, sunny day, emerging from their winter hibernation with no intention of returning until the end of autumn. No false spring giving way to winter temperatures could convince them to put on their heavy coats again.
Flip flops and shorts weren’t the only things that emerged in spring. So did the criminal activity. Committing and/or solving crimes is more difficult in a parka, so at the first hint of warm weather, the pace of both picked up, plateauing during the summer.
The Munsterville Police Department was known for their dedicated officers, particularly their detectives, as they were charged with solving some of the toughest cases in the city. Those cases usually involved a suspicious death. And to be honest, most deaths in Munsterville were suspicious. After all, it’s not called Murderville for nothing.
Detective DeAndre DeMarte walked into work every day with that thought on his mind. He took nothing for granted on his cases, investigating every aspect and every angle. Some cops thought it was overkill, but he had the record to back up his methods. He was the best detective in the whole precinct, and he didn’t get that by being the best looking (which he was) or the best dressed (ditto). He got that through hard work and because he never let a theory go unchecked.
DeMarte didn’t work with a regular partner. He didn’t really need to. He worked best alone. But sometimes he found himself partnered with the newer detectives when their regular partners were unavailable, either sick or on vacation or whatever. DeMarte didn’t take sick days (he had an incredible constitution) and he didn’t like to take vacations, but Chief Del Marco insisted. She said the city was tired of paying him out on both sick days and vacation, so she made him take his vacation days. And he did. He respected his Chief, even if he didn’t always agree with her.
When DeMarte worked with the newbie detectives, he did his best to impart his wisdom on them. Sure, their partners were probably fine showing them the ropes, but he was the best. Who couldn’t benefit from some knowledge bestowed upon them by the best detective in the city?
Detective Josh Carpenter was on vacation with his husband and kids, so Detective DeAndre DeMarte was paired up with Carpenter’s usual partner, Detective Vince Carthos. Carpenter was a competent enough of a detective, but even his best wasn’t as good as DeMarte’s average. And Carpenter wasn’t even at his best most of the time, especially in the last year. Carthos was practically starved for some decent guidance.
So far, though, DeMarte’s guidance had only be theoretical and offered up as advice; they hadn’t had a single death case that week for practical application and he only had a week left to educate the young detective. There was only so much one could learn doing follow-ups and filing.
“You see,” DeMarte went on, determined to cram as much learning as possible into the short time he had with Carthos, “it’s important to keep an open mind during your investigations. You can’t get tied into one theory. That’s how you get yourself in trouble. If you only focus on one possibility, you miss the evidence you need that leads you to the truth.”
Detective Vince Carthos sat at his desk and nodded. He was focused on reading the report in front of him, but DeMarte knew he was listening. He was too hard to ignore.
DeMarte sat on the corner of Carthos’s messy desk and looked down at him.
“You know, you might benefit from better organization,” he said, looking over the disarray, trying not to judge the young man too harshly.
Carthos looked up at him. “How’s that?”
The man would look forever young with that round cherub face. He looked a little soft, too, but DeMarte thought that might be deceptive. Anyone would look soft wearing a rumpled, slightly too-big suit. DeMarte preferred to look pressed and well-tailored, preferably in something expensive and with a hat. He felt suspects and witnesses alike responded better to that impression. Besides, he’d never been able to pull off anything off-the-rack. It all hung wrong on him. His body wasn’t made for such average clothing.
“Look at your desk, son,” DeMarte said, gesturing to it. “It’s a mess. Do you even know what you have on it?”
“Yeah. Most of it.”
DeMarte clucked his tongue and shook his head.
“See, that’s not good enough. You need to know what every scrap of paper is. You have to keep all of that in your head and at your fingertips. Valuable seconds are wasted if you’re looking for something and you can’t tell one case from another, one lead from another. When you’re working on multiple cases, organization is the key.”
“Carpenter always tells me there’s no real right way,” Carthos said. “Though he did tell me I needed to keep my notebook in better order. And I agreed with him on that. I can get a little sloppy there. But I know the system of my desk.”
DeMarte looked at the detritus covering the used wooden surface. He shook his head in disbelief. There was no way this was a system or any way to be a detective. It pained him to think that this detective was lost before he had a chance to save him. But DeMarte wasn’t one to quit, not even when it all seemed lost. He’d still put in his best effort with Carthos. It was possible that he might be able to salvage something out of the man and make him into at least a competent detective.
“Detective Carpenter is a decent detective. Very…knowledgeable,” DeMarte said. “He must have told you the importance of organization. There’s no way he could let something like this fly.”
“It gives him anxiety to look at my desk sometimes, yeah,” Carthos said with a grin. “But I can always find what he needs, so he doesn’t say too much about it. Besides, his desk can get just as unruly when we’re busy.” Carthos quickly added, “But he can always find what he needs, too. I think it’s important that the system work for the person. Not everyone can handle being so neat.”
“And what do you call this system?” DeMarte asked, wrinkling his nose.
Carthos surveyed his desk.
“It doesn’t have a name,” he said. “I’m not going to patent it.”
DeMarte laughed. “For the best, I think. You’d never be able to sell it.”
Carthos gave a strained smiled. One thing DeMarte had noticed about him was that he didn’t have the keenest sense of humor. Which was a shame. Carpenter could be quite a funny guy. He must have felt suffocated working with Carthos all the time.
“You know, you should really come over and check out my desk,” DeMarte said. They’d gone over a lot in the short time they’d been together. It’s not like DeMarte had run out of things to teach Carthos, but there was something demoralizing about needing to go over something as simple as how to properly keep a desk. “Not only do I have the patented ‘DeMarte System’, but it’s also so good that anyone can work it. Because you can’t overlook the importance of other people being able to find what they need on your desk. When someone is covering for you and needs to follow up on one of your cases-”
DeMarte turned at the sound of his name and saw a uniform approaching at a hustle. He had a slip of paper in his hand.
“That’s Detective to you, Officer,” he said as he stood up, straightening his jacket.
“Sorry, sir,” the uniform said, not sounding very sorry. He handed the slip of paper to DeMarte. “Call from dispatch. Body in a garage over on Hollyhock Road. Lieutenant told me to give it to you.”
“Thank you, Officer,” DeMarte said, dismissing him. He looked at the slip of paper. Scribbled on it were some quick details: male, sixties, head wound, and the address. “Let’s go, Carthos.”
Detective DeMarte led his protégé out of the station and to his unmarked car, parked right up front. He had his game face on, his game attitude in place. It was all relaxed, easy-going DeMarte before; now he was serious.
Hollyhock Road had become notorious in the detectives’ room. The Winchester Harmon case the year before had earned them all (even DeMarte, much to his chagrin) a sound tongue lashing from Chief Del Marco about their credibility and their responsibility to the public and being made fools of because they weren’t observant enough or smart enough. She chewed out all of the detectives, but it had been Carpenter’s case. He was the one who botched it, looking at a suicide (an obvious suicide, if anyone asked DeMarte) like a homicide and wasting resources to investigate it like one. There was being thorough, and then there was being oblivious, and in the Winchester Harmon case, Carpenter had definitely been the latter. To his credit, Carpenter did solve a challenging suspicious death a few months later (a homicide staged to look like a suicide), but the damage to his reputation had already been done. DeMarte valued his own reputation more than Carpenter valued his, it seemed. And the example he set for his inexperienced partner during that case was pitiful. No wonder Chief Del Marco pulled Carthos to work on other cases whenever she got the chance. Trying to save the poor guy from further corruption.
He glanced over at Carthos as they pulled out of the police lot.
The Winchester Harmon case had been a disaster for the young detective. This one would be different.
Detective DeAndre DeMarte wouldn’t be fooled.
It’s the last season of Murderville and we’re going back to where it all began. Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and see how the whole thing wraps up.