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Undercover secrets untol.., p.4

Undercover Secrets, Untold Lies, page 4


Undercover Secrets, Untold Lies

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  “A lot of tragedy in your family,” commented CC. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.”

  Gwen only nodded sadly, and they sat in silence for a few minutes while they ate. Gwen hated like hell that she still hurt so badly inside when she talked about her family, and couldn’t stand the look of pity on CC’s face.

  When Gwen finally looked up from her plate, CC was staring at a table of noisy patrons and not at her any longer, so she launched into filling CC in on all that had transpired at the task force meeting. The pain of Gwen’s past quickly dissipated as the two women discussed the case.

  As she was picking through the remnants of the pile of onion rings and fries they’d shared, Gwen’s cell phone rang.

  “Detective Meyers,” she said curtly.

  “Gwen, you’d better get over here,” Jenny said nervously. “I got a call from my last contact, Cyndi Jeffries. She asked me to hurry. She was frightened. I’m at the flophouse now where she lived. She’d asked me to meet her down the street for a cup of coffee, but when she didn’t show, I came to the address my other contact had given me. She’s dead.”

  “On my way,” Gwen said quickly, getting the location and signing off.

  She filled CC in on the latest development and signaled for their check.

  “I’d like to come along if you don’t mind,” CC said.

  Gwen winked and smiled. “I found out this morning, you’re officially on the task force and as my new partner, you’ll be sticking with me closely. Maybe we can get some good trace this time before the animals start tromping the scene to bits! Welcome aboard!”

  Chapter Seven

  The flophouse was in one of the poorest sections of Scarletsville, not far from Main Street where the hookers, drug addicts and pimps made their living. Three quarters of the buildings had been boarded up for years, but that didn’t stop those who were down on their luck or spaced out on drugs from making them their own. Rusted out vehicles and garbage adorned many of the front yards, sagging porches drooped precariously, and peeling paint rippled on the cheaply made wooden structures. The stench of backed-up sewers assaulted their senses as they screeched to a halt in front of the address Jenny had given them.

  They had to be careful walking the cracked sidewalk, choked with tangled, out of control weeds. Someone had shoveled the width of a ten-inch shovel blade, but left patches of ice that could easily throw someone sprawling onto their rear.

  “I’m so glad you’re here!” Jenny announced, opening the door as soon as they got up to the porch.

  “What time did you get here?” Gwen asked, pulling out her notebook.

  “Fifteen-fifty-eight. Uh, about twenty minutes ago,” Jenny answered. “The screen door was unlocked, the inner door wide open. I walked only as far as the living room calling for Cyndi. I checked for a pulse, and when I couldn’t find one, I called you. I’ve been waiting at the door so I wouldn’t contaminate anything.”

  “Good girl,” Gwen complimented her.

  “Uh, if you don’t need me, I’ve got paperwork to catch up on back at the station.”

  She looked greenish. Finding a dead body was not an easy matter even for veteran cops.

  “Sure,” Gwen said kindly. “And thanks. You handled this very well.”

  “Thanks,” Jenny said, hurrying out the door, just as the coroner’s assistant and evidence tech entered. Gwen had called them on the way over.

  The coroner’s assistant was already inching forward, gazing intently at the floor as she walked, and was pulling tweezers and evidence bags out of her backpack simultaneously. She and the evidence tech had bagged three mysterious items by the time they reached the body.

  “Hello, Doctor Lindsey,” Gwen greeted her. She had worked with this woman a few times before. The short, heavyset Lindsey looked like the grandmotherly type with close-cropped steel hair and a double chin, but she was anything but pleasant. She grunted in return and kept working. The tall, Hispanic, gangly evidence tech was unfamiliar. After introducing himself as Javier, he raised his eyebrows and followed his boss.

  Cyndi was an emaciated black female with beautiful, unblemished cocoa-colored skin. Her smudged makeup had been applied generously—dark red lip gloss, thick black eyeliner. An unnatural red blush with tiny sparkles glistened on her cheeks. Long, manicured nails were painted the same deep red as her lips. Her glossy black hair was braided into tight dreadlocks, with copper-colored beads woven into the knots of hair. Purple and green bruising was starting to deepen in color around her neck and a small trickle of blood oozed from the back of her head. Lindsey had the tech take several pictures before carefully turning Cyndi’s head. Gwen saw that she had a triangular wound at the top of her skull where the hair had been ripped away, possibly caused by hitting her head on the wooden crate in front of the ripped, green vinyl sofa.

  The room’s furnishings were what Gwen liked to refer to as “junkyard style”—old, worn and battered. A wooden desk in the corner was deeply scarred and the bottom shelf of a four-shelf bookcase had a hole in it large enough to put her arm through. There were no pictures on the walls or any knickknacks, which would have lent a personal touch to the surroundings. A dirty, lime-green overstuffed chair had lost much of its padding and tilted to the right with one of its wooden legs missing. The dull brown parquet wooden floor was partially covered with a dirty area rug with a paisley pattern in green, brown, red and black.

  Cyndi was wearing a long-sleeved, oversized denim shirt over a pair of red bikini underpants. Her legs and feet were bare. It was hardly dress one would wear to answer the door to greet guests. She had to have been surprised by her attacker while getting ready to meet with Jenny at the diner down the street, unless she was familiar enough with her attacker to have let him in half clothed.

  “I always find it hard to imagine that people actually live in these kinds of surroundings,” CC said grimly. “This place is filthy.”

  “It’s like this and much worse when they’re desperate, especially when they’re hooked on drugs,” Gwen replied. “It’s hard to imagine Kathy staying in this place. I mean, she always seemed like such a clean freak.”

  “I guess you’re right. The drugs give you a whole new perspective on things and what’s important to you,” CC agreed.

  “I’m going to vacuum her shirt and the carpet around her,” Javier said, letting them know they were in his way.

  Javier pulled a tiny, battery-powered vacuum from his backpack and carefully covered every inch of the shirt’s front. Doctor Lindsey helped hold the body at an angle so he could access her back. Javier then skillfully placed the filter into a plastic evidence cylinder, labeled it for the lab, and repeated the process with the surrounding carpet.

  While they were finishing their examination, Gwen got up to check out the rest of the house. The walls leading to the bedroom were a dirty yellow, streaked brown in places where the roof had leaked rain and melting snow. The only items in the tiny bedroom were two single mattresses on the floor with rumpled gray sheets and blankets, and three cardboard boxes filled with clothes. There was a small bathroom with sink, shower, and commode to the right of the bedroom. It was the only room that looked like anyone had attempted to clean, except for rust stains embedded deeply into the yellow, faded porcelain surfaces. The counter next to the sink was stacked with an assortment of makeup in every brand and color—lipsticks, blush, foundation, eyeliner with matching eye shadow, nail polish, facial creams. On the floor in the shower were several brands of shampoo, hair rinse and scented soaps.

  Gwen opened the wooden cabinet next to the sink. Under a stack of towels was a shoebox filled with drug paraphernalia—pipes, rolling papers, needles and syringes. A plastic baggie contained only a thin film of white powder. She left the box on the counter, and made a note to have the techs test the baggie for what she was certain was cocaine.

  When she returned to the living room, Gwen found Javier and CC examining with a magnifying glass a locket embedded in the folds of
the dead girl’s neck. It was a gold necklace with a heart-shaped charm about the size of a dime.

  Javier looked up and said, “The doctor had to leave, so I’ll continue gathering evidence. She said she’d e-mail her report.”

  “Okay,” Gwen sighed, wishing she had been able to talk with the doctor before she’d left so quickly.

  “Do you know Kathy’s birth date?” CC asked softly.

  “Uh, late October. I remember in school we teased her about being born so close to Halloween.”

  “There’s a beautiful opal mounted on the front. That would be the right birthstone, and the name Kathy is inscribed on the back.”

  “My God, she’s wearing Kathy’s necklace?” Gwen asked, momentarily dazed.

  “Looks like it.”

  Gwen remembered Kathy’s smooth, creamy skin and suckling at her earlobes, running her tongue down her neck. Kathy had never taken that necklace off. The sturdy but delicate metal links were 24-carat gold and the opal a perfect oval. When they’d taken a break from their lovemaking and finished eating bagels with cream cheese and orange marmalade in bed, Gwen had stuck her finger in the sweet and sticky jelly and swirled it around Kathy’s breasts, licking them clean afterward. Kathy had jokingly scolded her for soiling her precious pendant.

  “Gwen, are you okay?” CC asked, breaking her reverie.

  “Oh, ah…yeah. Sorry. It does look like the one Kathy always wore. Find anything else?”

  “I have two short hairs I discovered stuck to the sole of her right foot. They look silver gray in this light, but they could be eyelashes powdered with her makeup. Doesn’t look like there are roots, so I doubt we’ll be able to get DNA, but we should be able to confirm pretty easily whether or not they’re Cyndi’s or someone else’s,” Javier volunteered.

  “Well, at least that’s something. At least we have something to go on. Do you need more time?” Gwen smiled.

  “You two can leave if you’d like. I’m used to working alone,” Javier said brusquely. “Besides, I’m sure the doc will be sending me some help. We can’t be too careful.”

  “Take as long as you want. Here’s my cell number if you find anything I should know about immediately,” Gwen said before she and CC headed out the door.

  Chapter Eight

  It was nearly eight p.m. and time to meet the rest of the team at headquarters before they finished interviewing neighbors, returned to talk with Javier and the rest of the team that had assembled, and wrapped it up at the crime scene. The coroner confirmed by e-mail that Cyndi had been dead for only minutes before Jenny had found her. She had, perhaps, even scared the perpetrator away when she arrived. A small window in the bedroom had been left open, and would have been an easy route out of the apartment for the killer. The alley behind the house would have allowed him to escape unnoticed by anyone from the street.

  When they entered the squad room, they saw Jenny sitting quietly by herself toward the back of the room. She was writing in a small notebook. She was still pale, but looked more serene, having lost the “deer caught in the headlights” gaze she’d displayed at the crime scene.

  CC and Gwen came up to her and Gwen said cheerfully, “Hey, kiddo. How are you doing?”

  Startled and obviously still jumpy, she said, “Oh, hi. Okay, I guess.”

  “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” CC whispered. “You’ll get used to it.”

  “Yeah, it’s difficult even for us, and we’ve been first on the scene dozens of times,” Gwen confided.

  “Really?” Jenny asked, her eyes wide.

  “Really,” both CC and Gwen said in unison. The three women started laughing, easing the tension, just as Scott and Brad walked in.

  “We could use some of that humor,” Brad said with a smile. “What’s so funny?”

  “Sorry, Brad,” Gwen replied. “It’s a woman thing. You guys wouldn’t understand.”

  “Try us,” Scott said kiddingly, poking Gwen in the arm lightly with his fist.

  “In your dreams,” Gwen shot back. “Okay guys, what do you have for us?”

  CC reddened, as if remembering something she had forgotten to tell Gwen about. “Geez, I almost forgot. I found a cell phone under the couch when Javier was working on Cyndi. He bagged it and put it in the evidence locker.”

  “Great find!” Gwen exclaimed. “Brad, can you get the lab on it ASAP when we’re through here?” She ran to the whiteboard to add it to the list of evidence, starting a new column for information regarding Cyndi. In a broad stroke, she drew an arrow from Cyndi’s name to Kathy’s.

  “You got it,” he said, pulling out his notebook.

  “Talked to the boyfriend, Jerry Kingley,” Scott told them. “Definitely not our guy for the murder, but he could be the father of Kathy’s unborn child. He admitted they’d been intimate for the past year. He’s worried sick about the father. Says Kathy always said her father was nuts, though he’d never met the guy and has no idea who told the captain he’d been dating his daughter. They’d kept it secret just for that reason. Seems the captain liked to break up any serious relationships Kathy had. He hadn’t seen Kathy for the past week because he was in Illinois with the National Guard. I confirmed he was out of town when Kathy was killed. No way he could have done it even with an overnight pass. Several witnesses were with him in a Guard meeting until nine p.m. and they were up at dawn for war games which lasted all the following day.”

  “I have a hard time picturing a member of the National Guard with a druggie,” Brad said, shaking his head.

  “He was gone a lot,” Scott continued, standing up as he talked. He waved his arms in the air as he talked, emphasizing his remarks. “He always let her know in advance, though, when he’d be on furlough. Jerry said she was more a recreational user, didn’t use much when he was around unless they were at a party and others were passing stuff around. He said it wasn’t a problem in their relationship. She told him she could quit anytime. He was surprised when she entered rehab, since he just didn’t think she was a hard-core user.”

  “But they did have a permanent relationship?” Gwen asked. “Or were they off and on again? I can’t picture Kathy with someone like him either.”

  “It was permanent for the little time he was in town. He said she was beautiful, charming, funny. They enjoyed the same things and cherished the little time they could spend together. I found Kingley to be a nice guy. He was realistic though, saying they hadn’t made long-term plans because neither knew when they’d be ready to settle down. He was shocked to hear she was pregnant. Looks like she kept that from him too. Now that she’s gone, he said there was nothing to keep him in Scarletsville, especially with the captain gunning for him. He plans to move closer to the base in Illinois.” Scott gave them a confident look and sat back down, straddling the chair backward and folding his arms against his chest.

  “You don’t think he’s running?” CC asked, still doubtful.

  “No, not at all. He returned my call as soon as he was able and gave me a couple other numbers where I could reach him on base. No, I’d stake my reputation on him not having anything to do with her murder.”

  “That’s good enough for me,” Gwen announced, leaving the whiteboard and moving closer to where the group sat. “Anyone else have anything?”

  “They found a half dozen short silver hairs in Kathy’s vehicle. They’re in the lab now for testing,” Brad offered.

  “I’d like to compare them with the ones found on Cyndi,” CC said thoughtfully.

  “Sure. If you can give me what you have, I can get Charlie right on it. That’s it for the car—we swept it thoroughly, but someone had wiped it clean before leaving it in Kaplan’s field. It’s ready for the junkyard,” Brad admitted, his sharp tone indicating his frustration.

  “By any chance did you notice whether there was a trailer hitch for a snowmobile on the back?” Gwen asked evenly.

  “Fairly certain there wasn’t, but I’ll double-check on that,” Brad said, writing a reminder in his not

  “I still have about a dozen names to contact from her address book,” Scott announced. “By the way, Gwen, you find anything in those notebooks of Kathy’s?”

  “Haven’t had a chance for more than a quick look. They’re still sitting in my den at home. I promise to look through them more thoroughly tonight. Thanks for reminding me.”

  “I’d like to take a look when you’re done,” Scott told her. “I’m still trying to figure out how some of the names I’ve come across fit into her lifestyle. Maybe the journals will give me some clues.”

  “No problem. You’ll have them tomorrow. We should have the tech reports on Cyndi Jeffries first thing in the morning. I’d like you to compare them with Kathy Wright’s, Brad,” Gwen instructed him, walking to the whiteboard again. “Jenny, if you have time maybe you can help Scott track down the contacts in Kathy’s phone book, and CC, I sure could use your help locating anyone who knew Cyndi.”

  “I’d be happy to help, partner.” CC smiled. She got up and walked to where Gwen was standing. Gwen knew they both wished there was more they could add to the evidence columns.

  “Great. Now that we have two murders, we sure can use more help,” Gwen remarked.

  Brad stood and stretched, then said, “As long as you’re begging for more help, we could use someone in Narcotics who’s familiar with the Main Street area. I know you two women are capable, but it might be safer to assign one of the men to help get information from the crazies down there.”

  “Point well taken,” Gwen said. “We can find out if Vice has any informants who may be willing to divulge information. Our perp had to have been in the area quite a few times. I would think he’d have watched the women for some time to know their schedules and determine the best time to nab them. He grabbed Kathy, willingly or not, and entered the flophouse in plain daylight to kill Cyndi. Someone had to see something. You’re right. Someone in Narcotics could prove very helpful. Anything else?”

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