No beta reader for this part, so please excuse any mistakes! I was going to put the entire episode in one page, but it was getting too long (almost 7,000 words, roughly 15 1/2 pages).
Scene art is still in progress!
But anyway, the first part of two of episode one, please enjoy!
All six agents proceeded to file in the room. The faint smell of paint lingered in the air, drawing Hayden’s attention to how new the agency actually was. One side of the room was lined with windows, while at the other, a large window pointed toward the hallway. From what he could see, it was a one-way window; he hadn’t been able to see through the window into the room from the outside, presumably to protect the privacy of the clients and to guard the secrecy of each case. Toward the front of the room, a large screen was bolted to the wall, on it, several files were projected. Several desks, lined with computers and other necessary office supplies, stood in the center of the room.
“String of burglaries. The evidence we have suggests that the crimes were likely committed by the same person or persons. All cases involved public officials in the city of Sensurren. It appears that documents were targeted in each home; nothing of significant material value was taken, although the damage done to the homes were substantial,” briefed Dan, as he replaced the currently projected files with several photos, highlighting the destruction left behind by the perpetrators.
“The most recent burglary occurred on Senator Bernfield’s residence. Important documents, allegedly about a subject vital to the upcoming elections, was swiped by the thief. No previous casualties have been reported in any of the earlier cases, however, in this case, the housemaid, thirty-four year old Beverly Harris, appeared to have confronted the thief. She was pronounced dead at the scene by first responders.” He paused to replace the photos with a picture of the victim. “The senator’s daughter, Victoria Bernfield, was also home at the time and was taken into the hospital in good condition for evaluation, but is expected to make a full recovery.” From there, Dan stopped to look over the team. “Prepare to head out. Nevitt, Kirchner, to Sensurren Regional Hospital. Obtain testimonies from the Bernfields and the Harrises. Griffith, Landreth, with me.”
Describing the house as, well, a house was misleading. It was more of a mansion, straight out of what one would expect to see on a celebrity reality show. The outside of the house was painted white, the garden trimmed to perfection. From what Hayden could see, not a leaf was out of place. Caution tape surrounded the perimeter of the house and onlookers stood outside along with the media. Their appearance drew even more speculation, or so it seemed.
Wasting no time, Dan barked out orders as he drove them to the Bernfield residence. Leanne was in charge of processing all evidence in their van, which conveniently doubled as a lab station. She was also to investigate any records and/or possible leads while he and Hayden investigated the crime scene. To Hayden’s amusement—and bewilderment—the team leader had listed off the duties, all without batting an eyelash and while driving full speed toward the scene. Sensing his troubles, Leanne brushed against his shoulder, giving him a reassuring smile when he turned to look at her. It served only to further support the fact that she had had many years of experience on the job, and working with Dan, than he did.
“If you miss anything, you can ask me later,” she had said in a voice low enough so Dan could not hear. “Not many agents can handle our team because of this, but he does really have good intentions, underneath the mask of terror that he wears.” Leanne ended her statements with a silent smile and proceeded to look out the window, as if the conversation had not taken place at all. Dan, if he did notice the conversation, did not make any comment.
The victim, 34 year old Beverly Harris, was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of the wounds sustained in the attack. Local police officers were on scene as well, as the jurisdiction had only just been passed to the FCIA. While the first responders had confirmed the victim’s death, the coroner had not yet arrived to make a more through examination of the corpse. “We have our own medical examiner and coroner. I don’t trust the ones they sent.” Dan had said simply, leaving no room for debate.
As the exited the vehicle, Dan immediately set out for the house. Hayden had been assigned to make a sketch of the scene, while the team leader took on the task of photographing. Leanne placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, enough to stop him from following right behind Dan. “If you find anything that you want analyzed, take it to me,” she explained gently, yet quickly. “It’ll take a little while, though. But I’ll report back when I have the results. You’ll get a message from me on your pager.”
They had each been assigned a pager, which doubled as a walkie-talkie in order to communicate. From what he could see, it appeared that the pager could also display simple documents on its small screen as well.
“I’ll also report back when Cad and Evie obtain the testimonies. And…don’t let him scare you too much. Even though he doesn’t show it, he really has high hopes for you. The rest of us do too. Good luck out there.” With that, she gave him a reassuring nod and returned back inside the vehicle to process the existing evidence.
Even from a simple glance at the outside of the residence, it was clear that the Bernfield family was one of considerable wealth. Hurriedly, Hayden scrambled to follow behind Dan, who had just entered through the back patio door, as the front door was blocked off for investigation. A lavish, red carpet lined the entire first floor; only in the kitchen did it let up to reveal pearl-white marble floors.
A grand staircase stood on one side of the entrance way to the front of the house. The body of the victim, Beverly Harris, rested faced down to the side of the stairs. Near the victim’s head, a well carved oak stand stood. Bloody handprints could be seen on the leg of the stand. Fragments of a broken, white decorative jug were on the ground next to the body. Two large blood stains tainted the pure red carpet, giving it a dark red hue where the body laid. It appears that the victim had sustained injury to the head as well as to the torso during the confrontation with the suspect.
Pulling out his small sketchbook, Hayden knelt down near the body. The metallic stench of blood radiated from the corpse. Thankfully, the smell and sight of blood did not faze him. He spotted three first responders to the side, near the front door and immediately moved to question them.
“Excuse me,” he began, drawing the attention of all three. “I’m Hayden Griffith with the FCIA. May I ask a few questions about the victim?”
They seemed compliant enough, so Hayden proceeded.
“I understand that the victim is thirty-four year old Beverly Harris. May I ask when you were called to the scene?”
One first responder answered, “We received a call at approximately nine this morning. It took approximately five minutes to reach the victim from the time that the call was received, so around 9:30, I believe. We were the first on scene…the police came shortly after. The victim was pronounced dead upon our arrival.”
“Cause of death?”
The first responders glanced at each other before another offered an explanation. “The coroner should be able to answer that.” It seemed like he wouldn’t be able to get any further response from them regarding the topic, so he continued.
“Who made the call to the dispatcher and when was it made?”
Another first responder replied, “The daughter of the homeowner. Victoria Bernfield. According to the dispatcher, she reported seeing two masked men invade her home. It was then that she made her way up to her room to hide from the burglars. The dispatcher stayed on the phone with her for the entire time. At the end of the call, she reported walking down the staircase, only to find the victim on the ground, bleeding profusely. It was then that we were called. That was approximately 9:25. We arrived here five minutes later.”
Thanking the first responders for their time, Hayden made his way back to the body. There were two large bloodstains on the ground: one next to the victim’s head, the other by her torso, likely due to several stab wounds. It seemed like a blunt object had been used to hit her on the head; blood had flowed profusely from the site of impact. Blood loss was a very probable cause of death, but Hayden couldn’t be sure, considering that he had had no prior medical experience. Assuming that the first responders had been correct, the woman had now been dead for approximately five hours, seeing that it was quickly approaching two in the afternoon. Several people in uniform made their way down the staircase, catching Hayden’s attention. His dark red eyes followed them as they made their way down, evidently preparing to leave. Meeting them at the head of the staircase, Hayden stopped them, to their utmost dismay. Unlike the first responders, they were clearly less than pleased to see him; he was greeted with scowls and dark, unfriendly faces.
“What do you want, kid?” One officer demanded, looking to be in his sixties and clearly the officer in charge. The remaining officers stood behind the man.
“I apologize for interrupting you, but I am Hayden Griffith from the FCIA. I would like to ask some questions, if that is alright.” Hayden informed the officers, presenting his badge and ID. The head officer looked less than impressed, moving his arm aside and pushing his way past Hayden, to Hayden’s surprise.
“We don’t have time for your games.” Another officer clarified, a smirk on his face.
“FCIA. More like the outcasts of the FBI.”
“I heard that they’re the failures from the FBI, made a separate agency so they wouldn’t further ruin the reputation of the FBI.”
Hayden opened his mouth to speak up, but all officers stopped in their tracks abruptly. In confusion, Hayden turned toward the head officer. In front of him, Dan stood towering over them. The officers, Hayden noted with amusement, were nearly cowering in fear. He couldn’t blame them, though, Hayden was confident that Dan’s glare was enough to stop a fully grown grizzly bear right in its tracks.
“You got a problem?” demanded the head officer, though his voice wavered slightly from what Hayden could detect.
Dan simply stared at him, the frown etched deeper than Hayden had ever seen it, in the two hours that he had known the team leader.
“We’re with the FCIA,” he said—or rather, threatened—in a low voice, sharp enough to pierce through the tension in the air. “We have some questions to ask you.”
The head officer growled before reluctantly looking from Dan to Hayden and back to Dan. The team leader looked expectantly at Hayden; he could sense a faint satisfaction in the leader’s eyes before he returned to terrifying the officers.
“What information do you have regarding this case?” Hayden pulled out his notepad, scanning the crowd of officers. They shifted, looking to the team leader for assistance.
“This is the home of Senator Thomas Bernfield.” Reluctantly growled the head officer, “At approximately 9:05 this morning, the dispatcher received a call from a female, identifying herself as Victoria Bernfield. She reported hearing glass broken and the presence of several strangers in her home. Immediately, she made her way to her room to hide from the suspects. The ordeal lasted less than 15 minutes.”
“Information about the victim?”
“Thirty-four year old Beverly Harris, a married woman who worked in the Bernfield household as a maid. Victoria Bernfield identified the corpse.”
The agent glanced at the officer briefly before noting the information down. It appeared that Victoria Bernfield was the first to stumble upon the body, or so they were told.
“I see. How did the perpetrators enter? Are there any potential motives known at this time?”
“Through a sliding glass door toward the back of the house. Miss Bernfield had reported that the apparent target was her father, the Senator’s room. The door was found to be kicked in and the cabinets and drawers ransacked by the suspects. No item of apparent value was taken; it appears that the perpetrators had aimed for some documents that the senator had. We do not yet know what these documents contained.”
Hayden noted down the information, before asking, “Do you have a description of the suspects?”
“The suspects were males, wore black ski masks, looked to be around in their twenties or thirties, presumably around five feet seven. She reported briefly seeing a glimpse of them at the top of the stairs before she fled into her room. We are currently searching the perimeters for suspects of that description. That is all.”
Seemingly satisfied with the information, Dan stood aside to let the officers did. They quickly did so, shuffling out as quickly as they could without turning back.
“Thank you…” Hayden said to the team leader, who no longer had the death glare plastered on his face. He gave a small, barely noticeable nod before returning to photograph the crime scene.
From the briefing that Dan had given on the way to the residence, it appeared that two rooms were of particular importance: the senator’s office and Victoria Bernfield’s bedroom. Ascending the staircase, Hayden made his way past several doors until he reached the end of the hall. An oak door stood, slightly ajar. A gold plaque that read “OFFICE” hung on the doorframe. Pushing the door lightly, Hayden entered the room. Clearly, the police had already examined the room, for the room looked to be in quite a dreary state.
Bookshelves lined the room. Books were thrown from the shelves and thrown on the ground. A broad brown desk sat at the head of the room. Papers were scattered on the ground haphazardly. Carefully approaching the desk, Hayden noticed that the Senator’s computer remained on the table, looking relatively unscathed. It appears that the perpetrators had not aimed to steal the device. There was a fine black powder on the mouse and keyboard, suggesting that the officers had attempted to obtain fingerprints from both. Hayden, too, moved to obtain his own sample to send to Leanne.
The desk looked worse than the rest of the room. Piles of papers lined the ground, making it difficult to navigate anywhere near the desk without stepping on any of it. Drawers were thrown open and dug through. Broken glass covered the ground, suggesting that someone had broken something on the desk. Drawing samples of the glass fragments with tweezers, Hayden placed them into an evidence bag to be examined by Leanne later. Grand windows stood behind the desk, covered by dark red curtains.
No additional, meaningful evidence could be obtained from the room, from what Hayden could detect. He proceeded to the next room: that of Victoria Bernfield.
The room was mostly white, accented with lavender. Unlike the carpeted, marbled floors from before, the floor was lined with wood. A faint floral scent could be detected, likely from the candle on the white desk that stood against the wall closest to the door.
Only one part of the room looked disturbed—the closet. From what he recalled, the perpetrators had not entered this room. Only Victoria Bernfield, herself, had entered in a desperate attempt to hide from the thieves. The sliding door had been thrown open; clothes inside were thrown aside. Careful not to disturb the room, the agent made his way toward the closet.
The closet looked as if it could practically be its own room, seeing that it was more than large enough to fit several people comfortably. Clothes were, for the most part, hung up, aside from those pushed aside, presumably in Victoria Bernfield’s haste.
Victoria Bernfield’s bedroom, Hayden noticed, stood right beside the senator’s office; if the burglars had been in that room, it was likely that everything could be heard from the closet.
Seeing as there was no useful evidence to obtain from the room, Hayden exited the room and descented down the staircase back to the crime scene. Dan was nowhere to be found and the scene was relatively empty now, with only a few stragglers left behind. Moving outside, he made his way around the house, searching for any possible evidence. As he approached the front of the residence, he spotted onlookers outside, pushing up against the gate in a vain attempt to obtain information from those inside. Security hovered closely around the gate, assuring that the crowds did not grow too unruly.
Curiously approaching the gate, Hayden immediately regretted his decision, as the crowds looked more than thrilled to spot him.
“Excuse me sir, what progress have you made regarding this case?” A reporter demanded. Security guards barked warnings at the crowd.
“I’m sorry, I cannot reveal any details while the investigation is still underway,” Hayden replied, putting on his best smile. A couple of people pushed to the front, shouting some things at him. Among the voices, he heard a conversation that sparked his interest.
“He deserves it. Obviously John makes a better candidate that he does. Serves him right for lying to us!”
Hayden frowned, wondering if had any role in the crime that had taken place. The crowds began to grow increasingly hostile and Hayden was unable to further extract any information from them. A guard directed him to return to the house, as his presence only served to stir up the onlookers even more. Without a word, Hayden complied, glad to escape from the chaos.
He spotting Dan in the living room, evidently searching for any sign of intrusion. A shrill sound startled Hayden, leading Dan to briefly turn to the agent before returning to his duties. Quickly realizing that the sound had came from the pager, he scrambled to look at the device.
“Hayden.” Leanne’s voice could be heard through the device.
There was a brief pause before he heard a light chuckle.
“I apologize, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“N-No, it’s alright….did you have something?” He rubbed the side of his cheek to unconsciously hide the tinge of red that had briefly appeared on his face. At this point, he was sure that he was no more than a liability to the team; Dan and Leanne had gotten everything under control and here he was, nearly jumping three feet into the air from a mere ring of the pager.
“I’ve gone through the phone records. Nothing particularly notable. However, the neighbors may have seen something. It may be worth questioning them.” Hayden nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. “Other than that, everything else looks relatively normal. I’ve looked into the Senator’s and his family’s credit cards and their bank accounts, but it doesn’t seem like they were tampered with. The victim’s bank account also appears to be untouched. It’s probably safe to say that money wasn’t the primary motive here.” She ran through the information easily.
He could hear the faint sounds of typing in the background. “Have you found anything more about the victim?” Hayden asked, quickly jotting down the information.
“Yes, I’ve done a quick background check on her. Beverly Harris, thirty-four years old at the time of death. Her record is completely clean; there aren’t any signs of any crime or wrong-doing that I could find. No affiliation with any particularly notable groups. She had been employed by the Bernfield family for a number of years.”
Growing increasingly uncertain about the reason for the victim’s death, he wondered, “Any possible motives?”
He heard a sigh. “None that I could find. She seemed to be well-liked by the family. Senator Bernfield had previously hired many other housekeepers, but they came and went until Harris was employed.”
“So it’s possible that she was just there at the wrong place and the wrong time.” Hayden muttered softly.
“Right,” Leanne confirmed. “It’s unfortunate, but quite likely considering the information that we have.”
The line went abruptly quiet.
“Oh, sorry,” She replied, though her voice was nearly drowned out by the sound of her rapid typing.” I just got reports back from Cad and Evie. It seems like they have finished questioning the senator’s daughter and the family of the victim. I’ll send the notes to you now to look over. As a whole, nothing seems to lead to a possible motive, suggesting that the murder was likely accidental, as we suspected. Although we can’t come to a conclusion just yet, everything we have so far points to that.”
She pauses for a moment as she finishes sending the files. The pager beeps and lights up several times. “There, I’ve finished sending the files. Can you report this to Boss as well? I’ve also sent him copies of the testimonies, but I haven’t filled him in on the information that we’ve obtained just yet.”
“I got it,” Hayden replies, glancing at the screen of the pager, then at Dan who stood relatively close by. He wondered if the team leader had caught most—or even all of the conversation. Dan showed no sign of it, however, as he studied the crime scene.
“Oh right,” Her voice nearly made him jump again, “you can view the files by selecting file manager on the pager. If there are voice recordings, those will also be attached.”
Hayden replied, “Ah, okay. Thank you very much.” He could hear a giggle on the other end.
“No problem. Let me know if you have any evidence that you would like me to process.” With that, the conversation cut off and Hayden was left to his own thoughts. Silently, he scrolled through the home screen of the pager. A small envelope symbol in the lower right corner signified that new files had been received. Upon opening the files, four sound files were available for examination: two from Cadmus and two from Evelyn. He tapped the name of the first file, a file called “Testimony: Serge Harris”. In response, the screen lit up once before transitioning to a black screen. Placing the pager close to his ear, Hayden listened closely to the message that followed.
“Serge Harris?” Cadmus’s voice could be heard from the pager speakers.
Wearily, a male voice answered Cadmus, the exhaustion evident in his voice.
“Yes sir, that’s me.”
“I’m sorry for the loss of your wife,” There was a pause. “I am Agent Cadmus Nevitt with the FCIA. We’re investigating this case in order to find out who committed this crime. May I ask you some questions?” Another pause. “Thank you very much. I would also like to record this conversation with your permission”
A moment passed in which, a nod or some other sort of affirmation presumably occurred.
“May I ask when you last saw your wife?” It was obvious that Cadmus picking his words with great caution. His voice was carefully controlled as he proceeded with the interrogation.
“This morning….we were supposed to go out tonight…” The man’s voice cracked, “It was her birthday last Sunday. She was working that day so we promised to eat out tonight. She was looking forward to it so much…and the kids, they were looking forward to spending time with their mom…my oldest is seven! Just seven years old…” He was audibly in tears now. “It’s just not fair! Why her? She did nothing wrong! Why…”
Another pause. The man’s sobs could be heard in the background. The voice clip shut off and Hayden drew his eyes back to the screen. Notes appeared on the small screen.
“Victim was apparently well-liked by her employer. No evidence of any hostility between the victim and anyone else.”
The document ended there. With a sigh, Hayden stopped the clip. Everything so far suggested that the victim was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. An innocent life torn away too early.
Proceeding down, he noted that the file was named “Testimony: Sam and Tanna Harris”—the victim’s children, if he wasn’t mistaken.
“Hello, you two must be Sam and Tanna Harris?” Evie’s voice could be heard, gently speaking to presumably the two children of the victim.
“…who’re you?” A boy’s voice could be heard. Likely the older child, Sam Harris.
“My name is Evelyn Kirchner. I’m an agent with the FCIA. We’re here catch the bad guys that did all of this.” It appeared that Evie was attempting to assure the children that she wasn’t anyone suspicious.
There was a pause before a girl spoke up. “Police?” She was most likely the younger child, Tanna Harris, four years old.
“In a way, yes.” Hayden could hear static, as if Evie was picking up the recorder to show the children. “This is to catch the bad guys. Would it be okay if I ask you two something? I talked to your dad earlier as well.”
There was another pause. “Will you catch them?” The boy asked. “The bad guys. You have to promise that you’ll catch them!”
Clenching the pager slightly, Hayden’s frown deepened.
“I promise. But I need your help to catch them, okay?” This Evie was unlike the energetic ball of energy he had encountered at the agency; this was the trained, experience Agent Evelyn Kirchner.
“Thank you.” Presumably, the children had agreed to speak. Evelyn continued in a calm, stable voice, “When was the last time you saw your mom?”
“Last night…” The boy answered hesitatingly. “She read me a bedtime story before I went to bed…” The girl piped in. It was the first time that Hayden had heard her speak since her first outburst. Evidently, the little girl did not completely understand the situation. “Daddy told me that she won’t come home. Where is she? Daddy said she became an angel in the sky, but I don’t want that! I don’t want her to go!” The girl was in tears now.
Even Evie seemed stunned. “I know…” Her voice was even gentler now, taking another tone that Hayden had never heard from her before. “I know it’s hard to understand, but the bad guys are still out there. We have to stop them before they hurt anyone else. Your mommy is watching over you right now. You know, the sky isn’t so bad. I heard there’s lots to do there, and I bet the view is great from all the way up there! And those fluffy clouds, I’m sure that they make great pillows.”
It was tough to hear Evie attempt to reassure the miserable children, but he kept listening. The children had nothing more to add. The voice clip ended there.
With another sigh, Hayden moved on to the next testimony, labeled “Testimony: Victoria Bernfield”. Senator Bernfield’s daughter, she had been taken to the hospital for evaluation, or so Hayden recalled.
“Excuse me.” Two knocks could be heard. A faint voice answered, but it was too faint to comprehend.
“Victoria Bernfield? I am Evelyn Kirchner, an agent with FCIS. I would like to ask you some questions about what you saw today, if that is alright. With your permission, I would like to record our conversation.” Evie’s voice had none of the playfulness that it usual had. It seemed like her conversation with the Harris children took a bigger toll on her than he had thought. Her choice of words was also notably different, fit for speaking with an adult.
“Where were you at the time of the burglary?”
“I was…going up the staircase. I had gone down eat lunch. As I was going up, I heard the backdoor get smashed. These two men—well, I think they were men—came in. They wore black masks, covering their faces. I ran up the rest of the stairs to my room.”
“I see…what happened next?”
“I got to my room and locked the door,” The woman paused for a moment, “I heard them coming up behind me and I panicked. My phone was in the room, so I called the police. They ran past my room though, into my father’s office. The police say that it only took fifteen minutes, but it felt much longer than that.”
“Do you have an idea of what they were aiming for?” Evelyn was cautious with her questions, like Cadmus was. Their years of experience were evident in their way of proceeding.
Victoria hesitated for a moment before replying. “I think they were after some papers. I’m not quite sure. But it didn’t look like they took anything else…”
“Do you know where Mrs. Harris was at the time?”
“Beverly? Oh she was in the basement…she was cleaning up in there..” The woman’s voice started to shake. “She must’ve heard the noise and came up to see what was going on… I heard her scream.” She was nearly in tears now. “But I was so scared, I didn’t go out to check on her. When I heard the front door slam, I went down stairs and she wasn’t moving. I…it was my fault wasn’t it? If I had gone down….maybe she would still be here.”
“We don’t know that, it wasn’t your fault.” Evie reassured her.
The following questions didn’t provide any more information. Hayden took a deep breath before proceeding to the last file, named “Testimony: Thomas Bernfield”.
“Senator Bernfield?” It was Cadmus again.
“Yes?” A man’s voice replied. “May I speak to you? I am Agent Cadmus Nevitt from FCIA, the agency put in charge of investigating this case.”
The man gave a grunt in response.
“May I ask for permission to record this conversation?”
Another grunt. It didn’t seem like it was going to be a productive conversation. Cadmus didn’t seem to pay any mind, however.
“I understand that your house was broken into at approximately nine in the morning today. Were you home at the time, Senator?”
“No I wasn’t. Had a meeting with the press.” The senator replied, sounding not at all impressed.
“I see. I understand that your daughter and the victim, Mrs. Beverly Harris, was home at the time. Is that correct?”
A grunt in affirmation.
“From what I know, it seems like some documents in your office were stolen. Is this true?”
“Right. Some documents of my upcoming plans to deal with the contamination crisis in the water district.”
“I see…do you know of anyone who would want those papers?”
The senator paused for a moment. “My rival, John Disteger. You see, the election’s coming up. He wants my seat, so he’s doing all that he can to discredit me.” Hayden senses some bitterness in the senator’s words. “If anyone were to steal those papers, it would be him and his cronies.”
“Thank you for your time, Senator.”
A final grunt could be heard before the voice clip ended.
With all of the information he obtained from the documents, Hayden decided to report to Dan.
The team leader was hovered over the body, a small, sleet-blue device in his hands. It looked like a radar, of some sort.
“Boss?” Hayden carefully made his way toward him, careful not to disturb the scene.
Dan gave a grunt acknowledging his presence. “Perfect timing. I was about to test the VsFB.”
“The VsFB?” The device in his boss’s hands, he presumed. Vaguely, he remembered the director’s words about a machine that would help them solve the cases.
Instead of responding, Dan held the device over the corpse. “Speak the words of the dead… Beverly Harris.”
The device gave a faint glow, the tip of it turning a faint blue color. A gray vapor seemed to be emitted from the device.
Hayden took a step back, startled by the voice. It was a woman’s voice, shouting at something…or someone.
“Stop! You…!” The voice was cut off an a gasp could be heard, then the sound of static.
Hayden made his way toward Dan and knelt down next to him. Dan’s frown had grown. “The victim’s last words.” He muttered, shutting off the device and slipping it back into his pocket.
Grimacing, he vainly attempted not to imagine the confrontation between the victim and the perpetrators.
“So what is it?” Dan’s voice cut through Hayden’s thoughts.
“O-oh, uh, Leanne obtained some information on the case…and I listened to the testimonies that Cadmus and Evelyn obtained.” His face darkened for a moment. “According to Victoria Bernfield and Senator Bernfield, it appears that the suspects entered from the back door and aimed for the senator’s office upstairs. Documents regarding the contamination of the water district were likely taken. Senator Bernfield insists that his rival, John Disteger was likely behind the plot. The victim had presumably gone from the basement toward the staircase when she heard the commotion.”
An incomprehensible expression on his face, Dan was silent as he processed the information. “Our coroner will be here shortly.” He stated in his usual gruff voice. “She should be able to provide more information regarding the cause of death.”
Hayden looked down at the body. A dark blue tarp covered the body, but two large bloodstains stained the carpet, unable to be hidden by the material.
“Excuse me!” A voice interrupted his thoughts. It seemed that someone was arguing with the guards outside. “What do you mean ‘authorized persons’? I’m the coroner!” Hayden turned to the door curiously. A woman was making her way toward him now. Her dark hair was tied up neatly into a ponytail. She looked at him, scrutinizing him. Her appearance alone reminded him of someone…
“Ah…hello, my name is Hayden Griffith. I’m part of the CIU…” Hayden responded, standing up to meet her. Her eyes lit up.
“So you’re the newbie! Leanne was talking about you. Nice to meet you, my name is Nayeli. Nayeli Landreth. I’m one of the coroners of the FCIA.”
Hayden’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re late.” Dan interrupted their conversation. He tapped his foot impatiently.
“Sorry about that, the traffic was quite a pain. And those guys gave me a hard time.” She gave a jerk of her head toward where the guards were. “Lost the kid on the way here too. He should be here in a little while” Dan looked less than impressed at the response, but not necessarily angry. Nayeli looked back toward Hayden and noting his surprise, she grinned. “Right, I’m Leanne’s sister. Just call me Nayeli. They all do anyway. But I bet that you figured that out already. Looking forward to working with you, Hayden!”
With a small smile, he gave her a nod. “It’s nice to meet you, Nayeli.” She seemed satisfied with his response and began to set up her equipment in order to examine the corpse.
Hovering around her uncertainly, he peered over her shoulder as she removed the tarp from the victim’s head. “Would it be alright if I watched?” Hayden asked. Nayeli gave a shrug.
“Sure, as long as you don’t touch anything. The kid—my assistant’s not here yet, so you can help me in the meantime. Would you mind writing down some things? I need to do an initial examination before we can move the body.”
“Of course,” Silently, Hayden moved to Nayeli’s right, far enough that he didn’t disturb her, but close enough that he could watch. He pulled out a slim, brown notebook and a pencil from his bag.
She began examining the largest wounds to the head and the torso first. “So tell me about the victim.” It was more of a command than a request, but Hayden complied without question.
“Right…This is the body of thirty four year old Beverly Harris, the house keeper. It seems like she had gotten into a confrontation with the perpetrators as they attempted to escape through the front door.” Nayeli seemed satisfied with the explanation, so he stopped there. Hayden hesitated, wondering if he should mention the information obtained from the VsFB. However, before he could say any more, Nayeli began to speak.
“Blunt trauma to the head. Considerable hemorrhaging.” Quickly scribbling the information in his notebook, Hayden looked up at the medical examiner.
“Could that have been the cause of death?” He asked Nayeli.
She examined the wound more closely. “Possibly contributed to it. Exsanguination…excessive blood loss from her injuries. Probably knocked her out long enough for her body to go into hypovolemic shock.” So he wasn’t all that off with his guess. Hayden noted that information down.
“Do you have any idea of what may have inflicted those wounds?”
Nayeli didn’t respond immediately. After a moment, she muttered something that Hayden couldn’t hear.
She pointed to the wound on the victim’s head. Upon closer examination, there looked to be a residue. “Likely from the weapon. Shards of some material. Perhaps glass. The stab wounds seemed to be from an ordinary kitchen knife. A rather large one. Though we won’t know the exact cause of death until we conduct a more thorough examination.”
With that Nayeli turned back to her work.
“Boss,” Hayden slowly approached Dan, who was looking outside a window. Curiously, Hayden followed his gaze, but found nothing out of the ordinary.
“Cameras weren’t working.”
In confusion, Hayden prompted the man to clarify.
“The property’s cameras. There are some installed, but it appears that they weren’t working. They didn’t record anything.” That was unfortunate. Camera footage could have come in handy at a time like this. “However,” Dan continued, to Hayden’s surprise. “There is only one street that leads to this house.” He paused to turn to Hayden.
“So the perpetrators must have passed through that street, assuming they had made their way to the residence by road.” There had been no signs that any intrusions had been made anywhere else on the property.
“Exactly.” Dan continued, “I had Leanne look through the footage from nearby homes. There were two cars that had entered and left the scene within a reasonable time period. She IDed both cars and found that one of those cars did not belong to anyone in this area.” He pulled a document up on his pager. A picture of a white van was on the screen. “I’ve sent officers to locate the owner of the car. We should get a report within the next hour or so.”
Hayden gave a nod to show that he had heard. “Aside from a vague description of the suspects and a possible escape route, we don’t have anything that directly points to who the perpetrators were…”, he thought with a frown. Assuming that the senator’s assumptions were correct, it was likely that the suspects were, in some way, connected to either the election or the rival candidate. According to Nayeli in her initial examination, excessive blood loss—exsanguination—had been the most probable cause of death. Now the question was…what exactly was used…? And where were the weapons now?
The team leader had moved to where Nayeli was; he could hear their voices as they discussed Nayeli’s findings.
With a sigh, Hayden made an attempt to contact Leanne, hoping that she had obtained some other information before he made a round around the property to gather more evidence. “Leanne? Are you there?”
“Yes I am.” A voice replied almost immediately as soon as Hayden spoke into the pager. “Perfect timing. I was about to contact you. There do not seem to be any fingerprints from anything in the Senator’s office. I have put out a BOLO—that is, a “be on the look out”—for the white van that Dan had mentioned earlier. So far, nothing. However, I did find the owner of the car. It belongs to a middle aged man named Ron Stowers. No criminal background, but it does seem like he is an avid and outspoken supporter of John Disteger…the main other candidate in the upcoming electron. It looks like that could possibly be of interest. Did you have any questions?”
Hayden processed the new information, noting it down in his notebook before replying. “I was wondering if you had any information on the suspects’ escapes.”
“According to the police reports, it appears that the suspects escaped through the front door.” He recalled that the officers had said something similar. He could hear her typing in the background. “Did you have a look around the garden?”
“I did, but nothing looked out of the ordinary.” Hayden answered, tapping his pencil on his notebook in thought.
“Did you look at any places with grass…or soil?”
Grass or soil?
“What do you mean?” He asked Leanne curiously.
“I noticed that there was some mud on the road to the house as we came in. Perhaps footprints may have been captured somewhere where the soil was wet. Although you’ll have to be careful not to mistake the others’ footprints for the suspects’.” She was silent for a brief moment before continuing, “Take a look again to see if you see anything suspicious.”
“I got it. I’ll have a look again. Thank you!”
“No problem. Let me know if you find anything.” Although her response sounded like it usually did, Hayden could detect slight cheer in her voice.
Hayden made his way outside for the second time. This time, there was far less of a commotion. The onlookers had dispersed, although the guards were still patrolling the residence.
A water sprinkler…
A line of bushes and flowers surrounded the immediate perimeter of the house. If there was a water control, he figured that there would be a good place to start looking. He nearly made a full circle around the house before he noticed something being obscured by the bushes.