Final Exam: A Legal Thriller (2 page)

BOOK: Final Exam: A Legal Thriller

“No, I wouldn’t think so,” Nelson said.
Tierney looked over Nelson’s shoulder and could see across the way that a small crowd was gathering on the sidewalk and looking through the glass windows at the front of the building.
Following the taller man’s gaze, Nelson turned and glanced back at the front of the building before returning to Tierney and saying, “Why don’t you take me upstairs and show me where it happened, Mr. Tierney.”

“Of course, right this way.”

Tierney led Nelson around the corner to a bank of elevators.
“Detective Cole arrived a few minutes ago and is already upstairs,” Tierney said as the elevator arrived.
The two men walked inside and Tierney pressed the button for the 6th floor.
Tierney turned to face the detective expecting more questions, but Nelson said nothing.
He merely looked straight ahead and up at the numbers over the door as the lights changed.
A bell sounded.
The elevator slowed to a halt and the doors opened.

As he stepped across the threshold, Nelson turned to Tierney and said, “Thanks Mr. Tierney.
I’ll let you know if I need anything else.”

He had been dismissed.
Disappointed and slightly put-off, Tierney stepped back into the elevator, watched the doors close in front of him and rode it back downstairs.
Nelson stepped through a pair of glass doors into a small reception area.
A uniformed officer greeted him.
The officer gestured down the hallway to Nelson’s left.
“The victim is located down the hall and around the corner to the right, sir.”

Nelson looked in the other direction, down the hallway to the right.
He turned back to the officer.
“Can I get there if I go around this way?”

“I believe so.”

“Thanks, I think I’ll take the scenic route.”
Nelson appeared like a man out on a Sunday stroll, sipping his Diet Coke as he traveled down the hallway.
The floor appeared to consist of offices on the outer perimeter of the building, but it was unclear what was on the inside.
All he could see so far was wall.
When he reached the end of the hallway, he turned left.
He saw a somewhat shorter hallway in front of him with offices again to his right along the outside of the building.
About a third of the way down on the left-hand side, he saw a glass door.
Next to the door was a long string of windows.
When Nelson reached the windows, he stopped and looked inside and the floor plan became suddenly clear.
He could see an endless string of tall bookshelves running down the middle of the room, which appeared to cover the entire middle portion of the 6th floor.
There were long tables on either side of the shelves and workstations scattered throughout the room.
This was the library, or at least part of it.

Nelson paused for a moment and scanned the room in front of him.
No one inside studying at the moment.
As he moved a few steps further down the hallway, he could see the entire expanse of the library, all the way to similar windows at the opposite end.
He could see police officers and evidence technicians working on the other side.
When he reached the end of the hall, he turned left again.
To his right was a large, metal door marked, “Stairs.”
Down at the end of the long hallway in front of him, he could see more evidence technicians and a uniformed officer.
Next to the uniformed officer, he recognized a tall, powerfully built black man - John Cole.
He was also a detective.

Cole turned when he heard Nelson approach and called out, “Hey Scott, how’s it going?”

Nelson nodded.
“What have we got here, John?” Nelson said with a sigh.

“Deceased white male,” Cole began, “early to mid-fifties.”


“Daniel Greenfield - one of the professors here at the law school.”


“One of his colleagues, another professor, stopped by the office to drop something off and, well, he walked in on a pretty bad scene.”

“Cause of death?”

“Blunt force trauma to the head.”

“Blunt force trauma to the head?” a voice cackled from inside the office.
“He got his brains beat in with a baseball bat.
That you Scott?”

“Yeah, sure is, Ham.
Happy New Year.”

“Not for this guy,” the voice replied.
A moment later, the Deputy Assistant Medical Examiner, Dr. Hammed
, emerged and faced the two detectives.
He was a thin, studious-looking man, who had come to America from his native India in 1970 to attend medical school.
He began to extend a gloved hand, stained with the victim’s blood, but then drew it back.
“I’d offer to shake hands, but I don’t think you’d want to.”

“Probably not,” Nelson agreed.
“You say beaten with a baseball bat?” he continued.
“That’s some way to start the
new year

“This guy never made it to the new year,”
“By the state of the body, I would say he’s been there a few days already.
Depending upon whether they had the heat on over the holiday or not, I would place the time of death at probably Saturday, maybe even Friday.
Friday would be what, the 28th?
Say the 28th or the 29th.
I’ll know more after I look into it a little.”

“So, he’s been just laying there in his office dead for four or five days, that’s what you’re telling me?” Nelson asked.

“Sure looks that way.
See, it’s not really that surprising.
What with the holiday, this being a school, no students around, he might have been the only one here when he got it.”

Nelson nodded.
“Not quite the only one.
When can we come in and look around a bit?”

said stroking his chin with the top of his wrist, “I’d give these guys a while yet, but you can probably
your head in the door and get the general gist of things.”

Nelson and Cole followed
to the office, staying in the doorway as the medical examiner went inside.
Nelson took one look at the far wall and let out a long, low whistle.
“I guess someone was pretty serious about this, weren’t they?” he said after a long pause.
“He’s back there behind the desk?”

said pointing.

Nelson stuck his head as far into the left side of the doorway as he could,
to try and see the body behind the desk.
He could see the victim’s left arm and part of what was left of his head.
Nelson stood straight up and looked at the wall again for a moment.
Then he briefly scanned the rest of the room and stepped back out into the corridor.
Cole followed him.
Nelson looked down at his feet.
Water from the melting snow on his boots stained the carpet.
He took another step away from the office and looked up to catch Cole’s eye.
“Well, this looks like it’s going to be a while,” Nelson said.
“Anyone been notified yet?
Anything like that?”

“No, not yet.
The guy who found him, Professor Gordon Hyatt, said he was divorced a couple of years or so ago, and that his wife lived up in Evanston.”

“You mean ex-wife.”

“Yeah, that’s right.
Anyway, she lives up in Evanston.
Somebody was trying to find an address or a phone number for her up in Evanston.
The Dean was working on it.
I think his office is down on the 2nd floor if you want to take a stroll.”

“Yeah, sure,” Nelson replied, taking one last look inside the office before following Cole down the hallway.
“We’ve got to keep a lid on this thing,” Nelson said to Cole as they reached the elevators.
“This guy’s got a wife, or an ex-wife, and probably has some kids too.
For all we know, he’s got a girlfriend or something.
We don’t want these people flipping on the TV this afternoon and finding out that the old professor here got his brains beat out and nobody told them about it.”

“It looks like it’s going to be a heater,” Cole said just as Nelson was thinking the same thing.
Partners were like that.
They could read each other’s minds.

“A heater,” Nelson repeated in a pained voice.
Inside the department, a “heater” was a case that drew a lot of heat, either from the press, the public or the brass at headquarters, sometimes even City Hall.
No one wanted to catch a heater.
“I can feel the tan already.”

Cole slapped Nelson on the back.
“Thank God you’re in charge,” he said with a humorless laugh.
“Do you want to send somebody to the wife’s house?” Cole asked after a long moment when the weight of the immediate future began to settle in on both of them.

Nelson made a face, like he just smelled something bad and it wasn’t the dead guy in the office.
“Nah, I’ll do it myself.
We’re not going to be able to get in there and look around for awhile yet anyway.
Evanston’s not that far.
If I leave pretty soon, I should be able to get back later this afternoon to take a look around.
Besides, I’d kind of like to see what her reaction is when she finds out.
You never know, she might be involved.”

It only took a few minutes for Detectives Nelson and Cole to find out what they needed to know in order to inform Greenfield’s next of kin of his untimely death.
The Professor and his wife, Sylvia, divorced three years ago, although Professor Greenfield really didn’t want the divorce and tried to do everything he could to prevent his wife from going through with it.
They had two daughters, both in their late teens - one a junior in high school and the other a freshman at Northwestern University.
Sylvia Greenfield got custody of the girls, the house, the dog and most everything else from what Nelson and Cole could tell from their few minutes with the Dean and Samuel
, another professor at the law school who burst into the Dean’s office five minutes after the detectives got there.

It was a quarter past one when Nelson merged onto northbound Lake Shore Drive and headed toward Evanston.
Nelson would inform Sylvia Greenfield of her ex-husband’s demise, with Cole handling things back at the crime scene.
Nelson wanted to get back before traffic got too heavy, so he quickly punched the blue Taurus up to fifty-five and turned on talk radio.


Following directions given to him by Professor
, Nelson found Sylvia Greenfield’s home on a nice, quiet tree-lined street about five or six blocks from the Northwestern University campus.
It was a red brick Georgian built sometime in the first half of the 20th Century, with a large detached garage and a big yard.
The house appeared to be well-maintained, and Nelson imagined from first glance that Daniel Greenfield would have had a hard time leaving it.
From what Professor
told him earlier, Greenfield moved from this house to a small apartment near Wrigley Field, primarily chosen for its obvious convenience in attending Cub games during summer afternoons.

Nelson parked the Taurus across the street and made his way up the front walk.
Despite at least a foot of snow on the ground, the walkway was clear and dry.
Nelson rang the bell and turned to survey the surrounding neighborhood.
Nice older homes, mature trees and big yards complete with Christmas decorations.
Getting no response, he turned and rang the bell a second time.
Still nothing.
Eyeing the heavy brass knocker in the shape of a lion’s head on the large wooden inside door, Nelson pulled open the screen door and banged it sharply four times.
Positioned on either side of the front door were sidelights, long rectangular windows covered in sheer curtains.
Nelson peered through the one on the right and could vaguely see all the way through to the back of the house.
There was no sign of life or activity anywhere.
said that Sylvia Greenfield didn’t work, it was possible that she was out running some errand.
Nelson turned to take the walk over to the driveway where he would wander toward the back of the house and check if there were any cars parked in the garage.

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