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Pink Panther Ch. 02

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This story is part of an ongoing series. The chronological order of my stories is now listed in WifeWatchman’s biography.

Feedback and constructive criticism is very much appreciated, and I encourage feedback for ideas.

This story contains graphic scenes, language and actions that might be extremely offensive to some people. These scenes, words and actions are used only for the literary purposes of this story. The author does not condone murder, racial language, violence, rape or violence against women, and any depictions of any of these in this story should not be construed as acceptance of the above.

Part 11 – Third Time The Charm

“This is Bettina Wurtzburg, KXTC Fox Two News!” shouted the lovely redheaded reporterette at 7:00am, Tuesday, September 26th, from in front of the State Office Building on Courthouse Square. “Fox Two News is following the strange story of the golden Statue of Artemis!”

Bettina continued: “The State Museum in Pottsville was stunned by the apparent theft of the Statue of Artemis, a gold statue that was discovered in Egypt in the 1950s. However, Pottsville Police Detective Shane O’Brady discovered that the gold artifact, which had been removed from its highly secure vault, was covered in clay and left in a cabinet in the museum! Police and the SBI’s vaunted SIS Corps are totally confounded as to why the Statue was not stolen but left behind.”

Bettina went on as tape showed riots in Midtown being stopped: “In State news, massive demonstrations at the State Capitol were dispelled by aggressive Midtown Police Force actions! Midtown Police Chief Frank Soltis has said he will not tolerate abusive, lawbreaking tactics in his jurisdiction, and he made that clear by sending in his newly reconstituted SWAT Team in to make arrests and dispel the peaceful protesters! Chief Soltis once worked under Captain Sean Moynahan, now the Police Chief of the TCPD, so the brutal Police tactics are no surprise to anyone!”

Bettina continued: “And the demonstrations were protesting the Governor’s actions to crack down on undocumented workers by bringing civil rights charges against companies that hire them, with BigAgraFoods being the Governor’s first target. Legal experts believe the Governor has no chance to prevail legally, and political experts are saying that these actions will result in the Governor’s impeachment and removal from office! Additionally, State Republicans fear that a ‘wave’ election cycle will destroy the Republican ‘brand’, and give both Houses of the State Legislature to the Democrats!”

“Also,” said Bettina, “the State Journalism Awards Dinner is this Friday night in the City. The gala event has always been one where State celebrities, journalists and politicians gather for fun, humor, fellowship and awards. But this year, Governor Val Jared has said he will not attend, citing what he of all people wildly claims is Press corruption and false reporting. Other Republicans, such as Sean Stockton and this District’s Representative, Billy Williams, have also said they will not attend. However, Lt. Governor Graham Collins made a point to issue a statement that he will be at the event, and U.S. Senator Russell might even make an appearance.”

“And now let’s go to Nick Eastwood with Sports!” said Bettina. “Nick!”

“Thank you, Bettina!” said the handsome young blonde Sports reporter. “The Bulldogs will be playing a cross-division game against Western State this weekend, traveling to the western edge of the Conference several States over. State Tech will play Protestant, and the Wildcats will be welcoming Eastern State, the newest member of our Conference! Meanwhile, the eyes of the Nation are on the Alabama-Ole Miss game for supremacy in the SEC West, while Georgia goes to Knoxville to play Tennessee, a game the Volunteers always expect to easily win. Back to you, Bettina!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The John Hardwood ‘news’-cast only discussed the Governor’s actions in the most bitterly unfavorable of terms, not mentioning the crackdown on the demonstrators, which I knew had been led by now-MPD Sergeant Gregory Charles.

“They did it again.” said Captain Teresa Croyle as we began the Angels meeting. “Bettina didn’t mention that a security guard died at the museum, and Hardwood didn’t even bother covering the museum break-in at all.”

“But that Shane O’Brady guy did make sure to take credit for your discovery of the Statue of Artemis, Don.” said a not-too-pleased Captain Cindy Ross.

“No big deal.” I said. “I’d just as soon my name not be mentioned. But how did you know that I was the one that found the Statue?”

“Norm Chow told me and Tanya last night.” said Cindy. “We all went out to dinner while you were at Molly’s, since Jack Muscone is in the City. Some serial killer named Red Brookstein killed some people in northern Virginia, and they’re consulting with Jack, since he busted the guy some years ago.”

“I see.” I said. “At least no one is mentioning the Pink Panthers, eryamanda yeni escortlar the discs that were found at both crime scenes.”

“There’s gotta be a connection, sir.” said Cindy. “Jerome was trying to pull an all-nighter looking into it, until I ordered him to go home at ten o’clock last night.”

“I’m glad to see the kid is working his tail off.” I said. “By the way, what are Joanne and Theo working on?”

“They’ve been working on BigAgraFoods’s involvement with Larry Wheeler’s death.” said Cindy. “I asked them to extend that to this Rusty Dawson case, and assist Jerome and Teddy.”

“And Vice?” I asked.

“It’s quiet.” said Cindy.

“A little too quiet, sir.” said Teresa. “I always hated it when I was in Vice when it became this quiet. It usually meant something bad was about to happen.”

“Okay, Ross.” I said. “Have Mary have her people start asking questions and sniffing out plots. Croyle, what are you doing about SpecOps, now that Charles is in Midtown?”

Teresa said “That’s something I wanted to ask you about, sir: when does Hewitt get out of Purgatory? He’s the best candidate for Lieutenant for SpecOps.”

“You’re prepared to back his nomination all the way?” I asked sternly, peering hard at Teresa. “And take responsibility for his actions going forward?”

“Yes sir.” she said, not flinching one bit under the pressure I tried to put her under. “He deserves a second chance, and he’ll make the most of it.”

“Says the Captain who made the most of her second chance.” I said, secretly pleased with Teresa’s choice and her willingness to go to bat for him, as I once had for her. “Okay, then. I’ll back you up all the way. I’ll take it to the Chief.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

9:30am. My personal cellphone rang. It was my wife Laura.

“Hello, Darling.” she said. “I’ve been offered two tickets to the Wildcats game this weekend, and it might be the perfect time to take Carole to her first game.”

“Sounds great… except I have two unsolved murders in these here parts to solve.” I replied.

“Which you’ll solve before we go, or after we return.”

“We?” I asked.

“Yes.” my wife said. “I booked a reservation at the Plaza Hotel. The Conference always gets a bloc of rooms, and I got one of the University’s. While you take Carole to the game, I’ll do some research at the Science Library there.”

“Okay, then, sounds like a plan.” I said. After we made our goodbyes and hung up, I thought about it. Taking one’s firstborn child to his or her first college football game… that’s something special…

And then my phone on my desk rang. Helena said it was Tom Conlan, Director of the SBI…

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“All Director Conlan told me,” I said as I drove my TCPD SUV along the highway to the City, with Chow riding shotgun and Orosco in he backseat, “is that a body was found in the Marriott Grande Hotel, and it may be related to these other cases.”

“Must’ve found a frisbee on the scene.” said Chow. “By the way, are we going to be shot on sight by the City Police?”

“I don’t know.” I said. “But that’s definitely why I’m driving this vehicle instead of the SBI SUV.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Hello, Sapper.” I said as I came up to the large black man, City Detective Sapper Warren. “What’s keeping you busy today? Oh, hi Robin.” I said as City Detective Robin Ventura came up the hallway. “You guys know Lieutenant Chow and Lieutenant Orosco?” Greetings were made all around.

“Yes, we have an interesting one, Commander.” said Robin Ventura. “Come this way.” She led us down the hall to the cordoned-off area, then to the janitor closet. Looking inside, there was a big linen hopper on wheels, used to transport sheets and towels and such to the big washing machines in the basement. Looking inside the big basket, I saw the body of a young Hispanic woman.

“Her name is Selena Martinez.” said Sapper Warren. “Age 26. Lives near the City University campus, where she takes— well, was taking, classes part-time. She was enrolled at the University several years ago, then transferred to City U. She’s been working here for the last four years, never late to work, never a problem with her… until this morning, when she didn’t show up and didn’t answer her cell phone. But they didn’t worry about it until they were getting ready to start cleaning the rooms, and that’s when another employee found her. This is the floor she normally works with her cleaning crew.”

“Any idea how she died?” I asked.

“Gunshot wound to the back of the head.” said Sapper. “Small caliber, didn’t exit, but you can see the bulging and bruising around her right eye.” I nodded, and Sapper said “Our CSIs have already been through here. We’re waiting for the M.E.’s Office to come pick up the body. They usually are slow about getting here.”

“Silver lining of that,” I said, “is that we got to see the body. So how do employees enter the hotel?”

“There’s sincan escort bayan an employees parking lot in back.” said Ventura. “They come in the service entrance there, which leads down a hall to locker rooms in the basement.”

“Cameras on that area?”

“Yes sir.” said Ventura. “But no videotape. And no cameras in the locker rooms; people get dressed in there, so it would be an invasion of privacy.”

“I understand.” I said. “So it wouldn’t be a problem for people dressed as employees to come in, shoot this girl in the head in the basement, throw her body into this basket, and bring it up to this janitor closet and leave it.”

“Why bother doing all that?” Ventura said.

“No idea. Oh…” I said as if it were a sudden thought. “Was anything unusual found on the body?”

Sapper and Robin looked at each other, then Sapper said “I should be used to you doing things like that, Commander. Yes, we did find something. Jones! Bring that pink thing over here!” A tech came over with an evidence bag… containing a clear pink disc golf disc… an Innova Panther.

“I’ll bet there were no prints on it.” I said as I held the evidence bag and looked at the disc, then handed it to Chow for examination.

“You’d win that bet, too.” said Sapper. “It was in the bin next to the girl. Think it’s a clue to her death?”

“Absolutely.” I replied. “It’s obvious, but what’s the clue that tells me of its importance?”

“I’d think it’s just some kid’s toy left behind in a room… oh, I see.” said Robin Ventura. “No fingerprints means it was handled with gloves or wiped down. Otherwise it’d have some kid’s fingerprints on it.”

“Excellent!” I said. “That’s exactly right… the absence of prints is the clue. But I’ll also say this… these Lieutenants and I have been investigating two other cases where discs just like this… Pink Panthers… have been found at the crime scenes. And that’s why I’m here now…”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After leaving the crime scene processing to Sapper Warren and Robin Ventura, I drove Chow and Orosco to SBI Headquarters in Westphalia. SBI Director Conlan had asked us to come by. We went to his office, and he led us to his Conference Room, which was adjacent to his office.

“Wow.” said Conlan after we briefed him on the Selena Martinez crime. “What could possibly be connecting these three crimes? Beyond the frisbees, that is…”

“I’m not sure, Director.” I said. “We haven’t had a chance to get data on Selena Martinez, and I haven’t gotten much on Butch Fulmer, either.”

Just then there was a knock at the door, and Conlan’s secretary opened the door. “Sir, the FBI Agents are here.” Into the room walked FBI Special Agent in Charge Jack Muscone and FBI Special Agent Martin Nash.

“Hi guys.” I said, getting up to greet them, as did everyone else. After shakings of hands all around, we all sat back down.

“Inspector Troy was just briefing me on the murder in the City.” said Conlan.

“What do you think, Don?” asked Jack.

“I know what he’s going to say.” said Nash. “No data yet.” Everyone laughed.

“I get the feeling this guy has worked with me before.” I said as I waved my red crowbar in Nash’s general direction. “But you’re right, Martin. As I was just telling Director Conlan, we have nothing on Selena Martinez yet, I haven’t gotten a chance to look into Butch Fulmer yet. The only connection so far is the Pink Panthers, the disc golf discs found at each of the three crime scenes.”

“Think that’ll lead to other connections?” asked Muscone.

“Yes, eventually.” I said. “As all of you in here know, the more bizarre and less commonplace a crime is, the more distinct features it has, then the more likely we’ll be able to reach a successful conclusion. If someone had not left the Pink Panthers at the scene, it’s likely we’d never connect these crimes at all.”

“Commander,” asked Nash, “do you think someone is leaving these discs just to mess with you?”

“That, I don’t know.” I said. “If they’re doing it to draw my attention to these cases, they have been more than successful. But the ‘why’ of it, the motive? Who knows what dumb criminals are thinking when they do dumb things like this.”

“That’s for sure.” said Jack Muscone. “Anyway, Martin and I stopped by to brief you all on what the FBI is doing with all this. Senator Samuel Russell is the squeaking wheel that is about to get the grease. He hath protested too much, and certain elements within the US DOJ and the FBI are starting to seriously look into him and BigAgraFoods. This Rusty Dawson murder is just adding to all the sewage accumulating around the Senator.”

“The word ‘sewage’ is too kind for that man.” I said. “Any connection to Butch Fulmer?”

“Lindy has just begun looking.” said Martin Nash. “She’d like to work in cooperation with you guys at the TCPD, but Myron Milton won’t work with us at all, Captain Ross isn’t unfriendly but is not exactly bending over backwards ankara escort to help, and everyone else seems to be walking on eggshells regarding us.”

“Good thing y’all have me, witch trials notwithstanding, eh Jack?” I said with a grin.

“No doubt about that.” said Jack.

“What do you guys know about disc golf?” I asked.

Tom Conlan said “Do you remember Tom Burleson?”

I nodded, remembering the bearded man found dead as one of Angela Harlan’s victims in the original ‘Black Widow’ case, and who had also been a part of ‘The Swap’ case.

“Burleson was a friend of my brother, Bill Conlan.” said Tom Conlan. “Burleson played disc golf, and he got my brother into it, also. I went and played with them a few times, but it’s been a while.”

Martin Nash said “I know some of you in the TCPD went out and played disc golf at Ronald Reagan Park, sir. Sandra and I played a few times with Cindy and Teresa.”

“I can’t throw things.” said Jack Muscone. “Bad shoulder from an old skiing accident.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s just another factor of these cases.”

After discussing how to investigate in a coordinated way, the meeting broke up. I asked Director Conlan if I could speak with him privately for a moment. After everyone else left the room, he and I sat back down.

“Director,” I said, “I could not help but notice that your calls to us about these cases was not only fast, but you knew of the frisbee discs. Shane O’Brady in Pottsville had completely dismissed the disc as a coincidence and unimportant, and the City Police had barely begun their investigation. So… how did you know the discs were even there?”

“As everyone else says: not much gets past you.” said Conlan. He then sat back and made sure to make eye contact with me as he said “I’ll tell you as much as I can, and I’ll have to ask you to let anything further go, for the moment.”

He began: “Ever since Jared won the Election last year and I became SBI Director, our time has been filled with nothing but investigating and stopping threats to him… some physical and existential, such as assassination attempts, and some more political and sleazy in nature, such as trying to set him up for some kind of financial crimes, and such. It’s wearing him and his family down, and I have to admit it’s wearing me down, too.”

Conlan went on: “But there are people loyal to the Governor, and people who want to see Justice done, and want good clean Government at the State level. If these people speak out publicly, they will be attacked viciously by anti-Jared people as well as the deeply corrupt Media. Don, you may have no idea how corrupt the Media truly is.”

“They’ll resort to murder.” I said. “Is that corrupt enough?”

“Yes, but they are now working with dirty politicians of both Parties, and working hand-in-glove with them, to destroy not only the Governor, but just about every good Institution in this State.” said Conlan. “And you’re right, if they thought they could get away with murdering the Governor, or murdering you, they’d do it in a heartbeat.”

“Anyway,” said Conlan, “I’ve got good people here and there, and I get tips from them, which I can direct towards you and your SIS people. I knew about the frisbee in the Dawson case, as you put it in your reports. In Pottsville, one of my people called and mentioned it, and that’s when I called you. And in the Martinez case, I got a tip from an anonymous source. I don’t know who it was, but I chose to send you up there just in case it was legit… and it was.”

I nodded. “Well, I’m glad you’re keeping your eyes and ears open. It’s definitely getting messy out there. And this ‘Pink Panther’ case… is getting messy in its own right.”

“I’ll tell you one more thing before you go.” said Conlan. “It may be that Jack Muscone is being muzzled by his superiors, but he’s only telling you part of the story about U.S. Senator Samuel Russell. Russell is up to his eyeballs in shit in Washington. Half the FBI is gunning for him, and the other half is trying to protect him.”

I nodded, then Conlan went on: “They were going along, as Jack said. And then… everything just stopped and was dropped. It just went away like the dying wind. No more talk about the Guardians of Justice. They’ve released two more batches of documents, damning stuff about BigPharmaCorp, about that Federal facility you blew up last summer, and about Federal surveillance of American Citizens through their own smartphones and tablets. But the Press didn’t report a word of it to the Public, and it’s as if it never happened.”

I nodded, absorbing this information. I thanked the Director for his information, then left. I had known about the suppression of the GOJ information. What bothered me was Conlan’s explanations of the Pink Panthers at the crime scenes was not really holding water with me…

Part 12 – Digging Deep

Still Tuesday, September 26th. After getting back to Town, I told Chow and Orosco they could go back home and work from there while I worked from my office in the TCPD. To that end, I went to Police Headquarters. I did not even have to ask; Cindy Ross was right behind me as I came into my office. Myron Milton was right behind her, instead of in front of her, only because she outranked him.

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