Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 7

Autopsy Results

The coroner’s office was in a small building that didn’t give much consideration to the living. The magic, as Lu Jones said, happened on the first floor; everything above them was administration. The break room was up there, too, but most people hung out in the death investigator’s office. Lu said it was more fun there. Vince wasn’t so sure about that.

Nobody was in the office when Detective Carthos and Detective DeMarte arrived. Which was a shame. It would have been an excuse not to go into the autopsy room. And Vince could have used the comic relief from Lu or Jerome. He was still reeling from the stunt DeMarte pulled with Christabelle Calder. Absolutely astounded by the fact that he actually insinuated that she was somehow involved in Lister McKinney’s death. This was the excellent detective that all other detectives in the Munsterville Police Department were held up to in comparison. This was supposed to be the gold standard.

Gold standard of crap. The only thing Detective DeAndre DeMarte was concerned with was making himself look good and he had no reservation about bludgeoning people with his authority while he did it. Detective Carpenter might have been tripped up by the Winchester Harmon case, but he was nothing but thorough and respectful. He’d never once been embarrassed to be associated with him.

Vince followed DeMarte into the autopsy room. It wasn’t his favorite place in the world to be, but it was all part of the job. The room was brightly lit and smelled strongly of disinfectant, which was better than what it had smelled like on other occasions that he’d been there. Dr. Pascal stood at a table on the other side of the room, an old woman laid open before him. Vince was surprised that he’d gotten through the autopsies so quickly to get to the old woman that Lu had bumped. It wasn’t even ten o’clock yet; he wasn’t supposed to get to her until after lunch.

There were three other tables between Vince and the autopsy in progress and he still felt too close.

“Good morning, Dr. Pascal,” DeMarte called across the room. He didn’t look like he wanted to get any closer and for the first time since his two weeks of DeMarte hell had started, Vince agreed with him.

“Good morning, detectives,” Dr. Pascal called back. He was a short man with wild eyes. To this man, everything was interesting, everything was an adventure. “I’ll be right with you.” He muttered something in Russian -his mother’s language, according to Lu- and looked at the assistant weighing the woman’s organs. “Grant. I need you to do a full toxicology work up on Mrs. Jefferson here. Include all of the heavy metals and known poisons.”

Vince shrunk back a step. Lu said the old lady’s death looked natural, but Dr. Pascal wanted to test for poisoning. He hoped Lu wasn’t going to get into trouble for bumping the old lady’s autopsy back.

“Now, gentlemen,” Dr. Pascal said as he stripped off his gloves and dumped them in a biohazard disposal bin. “You’re here about Mr. McKinney, yes?”

“That’s right, Doc,” DeMarte said.

***

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Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 6

Back to the Neighborhood

Vince unlocked his front door, grateful to be home. He’d taken his dear sweet time eating his dinner and then gave DeMarte an extra twenty minutes, but the man still hadn’t contacted him in any way. Vince even checked his desk before he left just in case he missed him. He hadn’t.

Tossing his workbag in the nearest chair and slinging his suit jacket over the back of it, Vince made his way to the bathroom for some antacids. It wasn’t so much the fast food dinner upsetting his stomach (though he really should try to eat better), it was the not knowing. Vince knew that DeMarte had been at Revolutionary Medicines, but how long could he grill Revolution Dude about his cousin’s death without arresting him or Revolution Dude invoking a lawyer? Not long. So, what had DeMarte been doing? And where had he been doing it at?

Vince popped a couple of the fruit flavored chalk tabs and let them dissolve a second before crunching them up. He headed to the kitchen for some water.

His phone rang. Vince fished it out of his pants pocket and his stomach clinched at the name on the caller ID.

“Carthos.”

“It’s DeMarte. Where are you?”

“At home. Where are you?”

“At the station.” He sounded a little peeved. “When did you leave?”

“About ten minutes ago. I guess you just missed me.”

“I guess.”

Vince smiled at the man’s irritation. He didn’t know if DeMarte would make a fuss about him leaving the station without him (he probably would, if only a casual complaint to another detective to give Vince’s reputation a little smear), so he decided to take his pleasure in aggravating him.

“I wish you would have let me know you were leaving.”

“You were following up with forensics. You were gone so long that I figured you’d gone home for the night.”

“Never assume, Carthos,” DeMarte said, his voice sharp. Vince winced. “As a detective, you should know better than that. Cases can be lost because of assumptions. And as a junior detective,” Vince noted the extra aggressive emphasis, “you should always check in with your senior on a case before you do anything.”

Communication goes both ways, Vince thought, but he said, “Yes, sir.”

“Now,” DeMarte said, his voice shifting from disappointed dad to superior detective, “I need you to do some research for me.”

“Okay,” Vince said, uncertain.

“I know you’re at home.” Vince heard the smirk in his voice. “But this could be an important lead. I need you to find a female private investigator here in Munsterville. She’s about early 30’s, blonde, with pink streaks in her hair.”

“Okay,” Vince said, hustling from the kitchen to the living room so he could fish his notebook out of his coat pocket and write it down.

“She was supposedly working on a cold case about a missing person. She questioned both Mr. McKinney and Virgil Clapp about it because they and their other cousin were playing in the park the day she went missing. She might be involved in Mr. McKinney’s death.”

Vince froze, notebook in hand, pen still unaccounted for, confusion slamming him to a halt.

“What? How?” Vince asked. DeMarte wasn’t just grasping at straws; he was grasping at anything that resembled a straw. What the hell had he been doing?

“It’s important to investigate all of the leads. You know that,” DeMarte said. “This came up while I was talking to Mr. Clapp. It’s possible the woman pushed Mr. McKinney a little too hard during her investigation. I’m still looking into the case that she was supposedly investigating. An anonymous tip apparently solved it, but I’m not so sure. It doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of something.”

Vince rolled his eyes. The surface of what?

“I need the name of that investigator by eight tomorrow morning. We need to jump on this.”

Vince wanted to tell him no, but instead he said okay and hung up.

He stared at his phone for a moment, attempting to get his blood pressure under control. After a few minutes of futility, he put down his phone, found his pen, and wrote down everything he could remember about the private investigator he was supposed to find. He was tired. He didn’t want to do anymore work tonight. He didn’t want to look for any private investigator. He didn’t want to indulge in DeMarte’s delusion. It was a pointless search. This wasn’t a murder. No matter how many leads DeMarte followed, it wasn’t going to be a murder.

But he was going to do it anyway.

###

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Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 5

Family Secrets

Unlike a lot of other places in Munsterville, Revolutionary Medicines closed at ten on Sundays. It had been a few hours since DeMarte had first talked to Virgil Clapp but as the owner of the business, he was sure the man was still there. He wanted to have another chat. Whatever the man was hiding needed to come out.

DeMarte parked in the lot in front of the shop, the brightly lit front door calling to him like he was a moth.

The bell above the door jingled when DeMarte opened it and like a retail magic trick, a young man appeared from a backroom. He stopped when he saw DeMarte, looking him up and down with suspicion.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

DeMarte noted the less than friendly tone.

“I’m Detective DeMarte. I’m looking for Virgil Clapp or Revolution Dude as he’s called now.”

“Dude,” the young man hollered, not taking his eyes off DeMarte. “You got a visitor.”

Revolution Dude came out of the backroom, glaring as soon as he saw DeMarte.

“Can I help you?” he asked as he walked behind the counter to stand next to his employee.

“Friendly staff you have here,” DeMarte said, indicating to the man with the stone face.

“Never had any complaints about Burt,” Revolution Dude said.

“I bet not.”

“What do you need, Detective?” Revolution Dude asked. “Another one of my cousins dead?”

“Should they be?”

“We’re all getting up there.”

The two men had a momentary stare down. DeMarte just smiled. He loved these kinds of challenges.

“I came back to ask you a few clarifying questions about your cousin,” DeMarte said, approaching the counter casually.

“Which one?

DeMarte appreciated this little cat and mouse that ol’ Virgil was trying to do, but it really wasn’t fair for the man to be playing with an expert.

“How about both of them?” DeMarte said.

Revolution Dude stared at the detective for a second and then looked at Burt.

“Go ahead and take off for the night, Burt,” he said. “I can handle the last few hours alone. Aurora Dream will be here in the morning to open.”

“Right,” Burt said.

He moved out from behind the counter, glaring at Detective DeMarte for the duration of his walk to the front door. The bell over the door tinkled a jolly notice of his less-than-jolly exit.

“Is there a reason why you’re pestering me about my cousins?” Revolution Dude asked, getting DeMarte’s attention. He turned to him with his patented, pleasant smile.

“There is always a reason why I ask questions. I’m a detective. That’s what I do.”

“I see you didn’t bring your other detective with you.”

“He’s working other leads.”

Mr. Dude snorted. “I bet.”

The temperature of the shop rose a degree or two in the moment of heated silence.

“What are you not telling me about your cousins?” DeMarte asked.

“Who said I’m not telling you something about my cousins?”

“You are.” DeMarte smirked. “I could tell by the way you answered a few of the questions I asked this afternoon. You were a little too quick with your denials.”

“So? I don’t need to think about a question I know the answer to.”

“No?” DeMarte chuckled. “It’s funny how the questions you knew the answers to so quickly involved both Mr. Gorski and Mr. McKinney.”

Revolution Dude said nothing.

“Now, here’s what I think,” DeMarte said, taking a little stroll around the shop as he spoke. It really was a marvel of the sixties. The shelves were lined with all sorts of essential oils and other such natural medicines. DeMarte wondered if any of them could be used in a nefarious way. Maybe Mr. McKinney fell over because he was poisoned. “I think that something transpired between you and your other two cousins. Something that you don’t think is anyone else’s business, but maybe it is. Something you don’t want anyone else to know. Definitely not me.” DeMarte indicated to himself and smiled. “It may not be something illegal. It may not have anything to do with Lister McKinney ending up dead in his garage. But I bet it does. And that means it’s something I need to know.”

DeMarte ceased his strolling, ending up nearly opposite the former Virgil Clapp at the other side of the small shop. Revolution Dude looked at him for a solid minute, staring hard at him. But DeMarte was a professional. He wasn’t going to break the gaze; he wasn’t going to break under the gaze.

“Both you and Otis Gorski said that you both went to Lister McKinney’s house back in February. Now, from what I’ve gathered talking to both of you, this isn’t the sort of thing that happens very often. It must have been a special occasion. So, what was it? What was so important that the cousins had to get together to discuss it?”

***

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Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 4

Mountains and Molehills

Vince probably shouldn’t have slammed DeMarte’s car door like that, but his frustration had peaked. DeMarte’s behavior at Revolutionary Medicines was disgraceful. Instead of informing Revolution Dude about his cousin’s death and asking a few questions, he’d practically grilled the man on the spot. Vince had been a little offended when Revolution Dude had said he might need a lawyer to talk to them, but it turned out that he was right. That DeMarte was held up as an exemplary detective ate away at the lining of Vince’s stomach. Following up on Otis Gorski and Revolution Dude was pointless busywork, but Vince was glad for it because it got him away from DeMarte for a while.

Vince understood the principle of DeMarte’s insistence that they investigate this case thoroughly, but in practice, it made no sense. The more people they talked to, the more it looked like the man had been drunk and had an accident. Maybe he wasn’t looking for the zebras when he heard the stampede, but there was no reason not to expect horses here. Yes, Revolution Dude was clearly not telling all, but that didn’t mean anything. Families have secrets and not everything needs to be said, especially to a couple of police detectives. Guilt wouldn’t necessarily be a motivation not to talk.

What worried Vince was that DeMarte hadn’t yet figured out a motive, though he was certain the cousins were at the center of a crime. He was fishing and Vince didn’t like that. He might catch something that he didn’t intend.

Worse, he might catch something that he turned into a fish story to save his own face.

And Vince had an idea of what that could be.

***

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Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 3

Next of Kin

Otis Gorski was Velvet’s partner in security at The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road. Vince had already met the man during their investigation into Simon Sidney’s death there. Gruff and professional, Vince couldn’t say he relished the idea of waking him up to inform him of his cousin’s death.

The car ride was silent, DeMarte with his laser sharp focus fixated on the road and Vince stewing about what DeMarte might have thought about that comment from Miss Vernee Dean and how to broach the fact that he was somewhat familiar with Otis Gorski as well. There was nothing conflicting about it, as far as Vince was concerned, but DeMarte might think otherwise. He might remove him from the case.

At that thought, Vince cleared his throat.

“I think you should know, Detective, that I met Mr. Gorski previously on another case,” he said, and then he waited.

DeMarte said nothing, just stared straight ahead as he smoothly navigated Sunday afternoon traffic.

“He was a witness in the Simon Sidney murder case,” Vince went on.

Nothing.

“He’s also works with Mr. McKinney’s neighbor, Velvet Li.”

DeMarte huffed.

“Carthos, I don’t need to know your whole life.”

Vince sat there dumbfounded for a few seconds before nodding.

“Okay.”

The rest of the ride was silent, for which Vince was both grateful and apprehensive. DeMarte’s face was unreadable.

They arrived at Otis Gorski’s house and Vince was all too happy to let DeMarte lead the charge to the front door, knocking hard. Otis Gorski wasn’t exactly pleasant when he was awake; Vince couldn’t imagine he’d be much better after being woken up.

The front door opened within a minute, and Otis Gorski stood there, fully dressed and looking wide awake, catching Vince by surprise. He thought for sure that the man would have been sleeping for his impending shift. But then, Velvet did say that Otis was a little weird.

“Mr. Gorski?” DeMarte inquired and he nodded. “My name is Detective DeAndre DeMarte. This is Detective Carthos. Is it all right if we come inside and talk for a minute?”

Mr. Gorski cast a glance past DeMarte to Vince and frowned.

“Don’t tell me they found another body out at the warehouse,” he said.

“No, sir,” DeMarte said with a smile as Vince shook his head. Seemed Mr. Gorski remembered him. “Can we talk?”

“Sure.”

Mr. Gorski led them inside, leaving Vince to shut the front door behind him, and into a living room that featured furniture that was probably bought used twenty years ago.

“Have a seat,” Mr. Gorski instructed. He sat in a well-worn, almost broken-down recliner and Vince sat on the couch. DeMarte looked like he didn’t want to sit anywhere, but he did after a second, on the edge of the couch leaving a respectable distance between himself and Vince. “What can I do for you?”

“Are you related to a man named Lister McKinney?” DeMarte asked.

“Yeah,” Mr. Gorski said, guarded, and for the first time, the resemblance between the living man and the dead man dawned on Vince. Same thin build, same bald head, same set of the mouth. They could have easily passed for brothers. “He’s my cousin. Why? What’s he done now?”

Vince looked over at DeMarte, expecting him to exchange a look with him, but DeMarte kept his focus on Mr. Gorski.

“I regret to inform you that your cousin has been found deceased earlier this afternoon,” DeMarte said, totally professional.

Mr. Gorski stared at him for a moment, almost in disbelief, and then slumped back into his chair, a soft sadness clouding his face.

“Well, damn. That’s a shame. How did it happen?”

“We’re not sure right now, Mr. Gorski. At the moment, we’re investigating it as a suspicious death,” DeMarte said.

Mr. Gorski raised his eyebrows. “Really? Why? I figured he just drank himself to death. That’s what he’s been doing. Pretty dedicated to it, in fact.”

“Maybe so, but he was found dead in his garage with a significant head injury,” DeMarte said. “It’s important the we investigate all angles of this case. We don’t want anything overlooked.”

Now DeMarte glanced over at Vince and Vince ignored him. It was a dig at him and at Detective Carpenter, he knew it. He’d suffered through a lot of those in the last year, though as the newbie he hadn’t been subjected to as many as Carpenter. Unsurprisingly, many of those digs had been made by Detective DeMarte.

“I suppose that’s smart,” Mr. Gorski said. He sat up straighter in his recliner. “I doubt he did anything much more than get drunk and fall over, though.”

“Be that as it may, I’d appreciate it if you bear with us and answer a few questions,” DeMarte said.

“Okay.”

“Have you heard from your cousin lately?” DeMarte asked.

“Not lately,” he said, shaking his head. “Think I might have talked to him on the phone a couple of weeks ago. Haven’t seen him since February, I think. But that’s not unusual. We were real close as kids, but we grew apart as adults. I got a job working overnight and he got to drinking. Those schedules don’t work out so well.”

“So, you hadn’t seen him lately,” DeMarte said, jotting it down in his notebook.

“Not since February.”

“But you talked to him a couple of weeks ago.”

“Yes.”

“Anything unusual about that conversation? Did he sound upset or out of sorts?”

“Nope, just half-lit like usual.”

“Would you know of anyone who’d want to hurt your cousin or any reason someone might want to hurt your cousin?” DeMarte asked.

“No. Not since he stopped drinking bars,” Mr. Gorski said.

***

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Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 2

Talking to the Neighbors

Lister McKinney’s house was something like his garage, organized chaos. It was easy to see that nothing had been disturbed or taken. Nothing had probably been moved in months.

The door from the garage led into the kitchen and Vince was greeted with a familiar sight: a pile of miscellaneous detritus on the kitchen table. His own looked quite a bit like this, only not piled so high. Where he might have a few months, this looked like years. Vince opted to do a walk-through of the house looking for any important papers that might lead him to a next-of-kin, knowing that he was probably going to end up sifting through that kitchen table in the end.

There was a lot of stuff everywhere, no rhyme or reason or filing system, but it seemed like anything Lister McKinney considered important was probably on the kitchen table. He couldn’t find it anywhere else.

Vince carefully sorted through the contents of the table, noting the bills, a few old past-due notices, and the junk mail that never made it to the garbage can. Under one messy pile, he found Mr. McKinney’s checkbook. A quick glance as his finances painted an interesting picture. First of all, the handwriting was incredibly neat, small, block-print, something Vince wasn’t expecting. Secondly, he lived mostly off of social security, the deposit noted consistently during the first week of every month. However, at some point during the middle of the month, there might be one or two other deposits, nothing overly large, never more than a few hundred dollars, and each deposit was noted with either “Otis” or “Virgil”. He set the checkbook aside.

A little more sifting and he dug up an old picture of three boys about ten years old. On the back was the year and the names of the boys. They were identified as the Wyliss boys, but none of them bore that name. Instead, the names Lister McKinney, Otis Gorski, and Virgil Clapp were listed in the pristine handwriting common to women back in the day when penmanship was a valued thing. In parenthesis under the names was the word “cousins”.

Putting together the pieces, it seemed likely to Vince that the Otis and Virgil in the checkbook were the same Otis and Virgil in the picture.

And once again he found himself in bit of a dilemma.

Because the name Otis Gorski was familiar to him.

With a sigh, Vince left the kitchen and went back into the garage. He’d ask Officer Jensen if he could borrow her squad’s computer.

He might know the name, but he didn’t know the address.

#

The neighborhood was pretty lively for a Sunday afternoon in late spring. People were probably out doing yard work, running errands, oblivious to the crime committed on their block. Or so they thought. Detective DeAndre DeMarte was confident that he was going to find a witness or two from the clump standing on the lawn opposite Lister McKinney’s house. No doubt one of them saw something; they just didn’t realize they saw it yet.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” he said as he approached the group, which fell silent as he spoke. He had that way with people. “I’m Detective DeAndre DeMarte. I was hoping to ask you folks a few questions about what’s going on across the street.”

***

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Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 1

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!”

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.

***

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