Authors: Kelli Sloan
Chasing a Lead
“Are you sure this is the right place?” David asks as we walk up the stairs in the apartment building.
The apartment building is in contrast to Mrs. Jackson’s home. Her residence was a dustless home but this apartment block is almost a garbage site. Bags of rubbish sit on the stairwell and the stench is overpowering.
I’ve seen plenty of buildings like this, but it makes me sad to hear children in the background. Children shouldn’t have to grow up like this.
Nobody should have to live like this.
I stop near one apartment door where I can hear a young child crying in the background.
“You can’t save them all, Sarah,” David remarks as he indicates for me to keep walking up the stairs.
As much as I want to, I can’t save everyone. Reluctantly, I keep walking up the stairs.
We arrive at the third floor, and David knocks heavily on the apartment door of Robert Jackson, the grandson of the victim.
“Robert Jackson?” I call out when there is no answer, “My name is Detective Sarah Morrison. I would like to have a word with you.”
But there is no answer.
David lands two more heavy knocks on the door and we await the answer.
But there is no response.
We nod to each other and our hands rest on our holsters as I turn the door handle. The door opens easily and it is clear that this is a door that has been broken into many times.
Inside the apartment is a mess of many different things – clothes lying about, empty pizza boxes, a damaged television and an old, worn-out couch. I’ve come to expect that drug users own apartments like this, but that still doesn’t prepare you for the squalor.
The stench in the room is strong and it smells like it hasn’t been cleaned in months.
“Drug addicts aren’t known for clean houses,” David whispers when he sees the look on my face.
We move through the lounge room, looking for any sign of movement.
“Robert Jackson?” I call out.
There is no response and no sign of movement.
“Robert Jackson, my name is Detective Sarah Morrison and I am from the New York City Police Department. I want to ask you a few questions.”
I slowly creep into the apartment, past the worn-out couch.
David follows closely behind me, his hand resting on the gun in his holster.
“Robert Jackson?” David calls out.
When we find no movement in the lounge room, I move to the kitchen.
The kitchen is just as bad. There are dirty pots festering on the sink, mold on the walls and leftover food on the benches.
How can anyone live like this?
I spot the rusted kettle sitting on the stove and I place my hand around it.
Instantly, I draw my gun.
David questions me with his look.
“The kettle is still warm,” I whisper to him, and David draws his gun as well.
“You check the cupboards, I’ve got your back,” David whispers and stands at the entrance to the kitchen, his gun drawn and pointing into the lounge room.
I gently, but swiftly, open each cupboard door to check for any movement.
“Clear,” I state softly to David.
“We just want to talk, Robert. You’re not in trouble and we only want to have a chat. We know you’re here Robert,” David calls out before he begins to move down the hallway.
I follow him with my gun still drawn.
We quietly sneak around the hallway of the apartment, looking for any sign of movement.
David cautiously enters the first bedroom, and I stand at the door watching the rest of the dwelling.
“Clear,” he whispers after checking the room.
He steps back out into the hallway and indicates that he will check the next room. I move to the side to check the bathroom opposite.
The stench only gets stronger as I approach the bathroom.
My heart is beating hard as I know Robert is here somewhere.
He is hiding for a reason.
Cautiously, we creep to the next rooms.
My hand reaches out to the bathroom door.
I see David fall to the floor, and I swing my gun around in that direction but before I find the target, something solid hits me on the back of the head…
A Dangerous Place
When I begin to come back to consciousness, I notice it is dark outside the window. That means I have been knocked out for at least two hours. I am lying on my side, my head is fuzzy and there is a high-pitched ringing in my ears.
I go to stand but I can’t move my hands or legs.
“You’re tied up tightly,” I hear a creaky voice behind me.
Turning my head to look at the sound, I see the redness of blood covering my eye.
I can taste blood too.
“Who are you?” I question as I try to move my hands but they are secured tightly behind my back.
“I think you know that,” he walks into my vision.
“I am,” a mid-twenties male smiles with yellow teeth.
He is weathered and rough looking, but I can see that he is the grandson of Mrs. Jackson. They have the same facial features.
“What are you doing?” I ask him.
“I haven’t worked that out yet,” Robert walks around in front of me, “But I’m surprised you are awake first. I hit you a lot harder than I hit your friend and he’s still asleep. You must be one tough lady.”
“Where is David?”
“Next to you.”
I move around enough to see David in the same situation as me – lying on the floor with legs tied together and hands tied behind our backs.
“We’re police, Robert. This is not a good idea,” I struggle with the rope around my hands.
The rope isn’t tight but it isn’t loose. I should be able to get my hands out with a bit of struggling but I cannot let Robert see me do that.
“You’re right. I’ll have to dispose of the bodies before anyone else comes,” Robert states with a gun in his hand.
I recognize the gun – it’s mine.
“Robert, we can sort this out. The painting…”
“I don’t want to hear about the painting!” he snaps.
There is anger in his yellow eyes.
“We know you took it.”
“Of course I took it! I can’t believe you cops were dumb enough to go after the billionaire.”
“You set him up?”
Robert laughs, “Of course I did.”
“How’d you get his DNA on the crime scene?”
“Nathan Templeton hired me to clean his library last year. I was doing odd jobs to earn some money after that bitch of a grandmother cut me off, and Nathan offered me a job. I saw the Vin Gang paintings hanging in his library and I mentioned that my grandmother had one. But he already knew that.”
“Are you saying Nathan hired you because of your grandmother?”
“He had done his research before he hired me. He knew who my grandmother was and what she had. He had been trying to buy the painting off my grandmother for years.”
“Nathan offered you money to steal the painting?”
“He did,” Robert smiles, “But that was a year ago and I didn’t take his money. I didn’t need it back then. I told him it was my grandmother’s prized possession and I wasn’t going to take it.”
“But you took it eventually?”
“About a year later, I took the painting,” Robert nods.
“So you stole the painting thinking that Nathan would buy it?”
“I stole the painting thinking someone would buy it. But Nathan was the right person to set-up for the blame. I stole gloves and a beanie from the library I was cleaning, and I never used them, so it was easy to find his hair on there. I just planted that at the scene for the DNA evidence. It was too easy.”
“Who bought the painting?”
“Nobody yet. It seems that the market for a stolen Vin Gang painting is quite small. Drugs dealers won’t swap paintings for drugs.”
I pause and take all the information in.
“We can work this out, Robert.”
“I don’t want to work this out!” he snaps.
He looks like a man on the edge. He is twitching as we talk and he does not look far away from requiring another hit of drugs.
“You don’t have to do this, Robert.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Because I have got myself in such a deep hole, this is the only way out.”
“Kidnapping police officers is not a way out.”
“I won’t kidnap you then. I’ll just kill you.”
“You won’t do that, Robert.”
He laughs, “Don’t tell me what I will or won’t do! You’re in no position to control this situation.”
“Who was the witness?” I stall for time.
“The witness? What witness?”
“The witness for the stolen painting.”
“That was Gerald, one of my friends from university. He owed me a favor so I asked him to stand outside the apartment all night and pretend that he saw Nathan breaking in. Gerald was a very good actor at college, and judging by the way he convinced you guys, he still is a good actor.”
“And the security footage?”
“That was a matter of breaking into the security office. It’s funny, you know.”
“That the security office is the least secure place in any building. It was easy to break in and steal footage for a night.”
“You won’t get away with this Robert.”
“Maybe I don’t want to get away with it. Maybe I want to get caught. Maybe I want this pain to end. Can you end this pain for me Detective?”
He is clearly referring to his drug addiction, “We can get you help. We have professionals that can help end that pain.”
“I don’t want their help,” he replies, “They’re no help at all! They tell you how you should feel. They have no idea what I’m going through.”
“I understand,” I reply.
“How could you understand?”
“I lost a sister to drug use.”
“The cop’s sister was a user? Well, that’s a sad story,” Robert smiles sarcastically.
“She was a good person with a bad habit. I can see that you’re the same,” I try to calm him down.
“I’m not a good person,” he laughs, “I stole my grandmothers favorite painting to pay for drugs! That does not qualify me as a good person.”
“Good people can make mistakes.”
He takes a long pause and then circles around the room, before coming back to press his face in front of mine, “Shooting you won’t be a mistake. It will be fun.”
A Moment of Fear
Robert is swinging my own gun in front of my face, hovering close to me. I can smell my gun and I can see that he has taken the safety off.
This man means business.
“Do you want to kiss your own gun before it shoots you?” he questions.
I can tell that he is not messing around.
He is not pulling a stunt.
“Why steal the painting?” I stall for time again.
“Why steal the painting?” he smiles with yellow teeth, “Because it’s worth a lot of money!”
“Do you still have it?”
He laughs out loud, “That is the main problem with my plan.”
Robert begins to move away from me, towards his desk. In the moments when he isn’t looking, I struggle to get my hands out of the ropes.
“Here it is,” Robert opens a drawer and removes the small painting.
“That’s worth two million dollars? It’s tiny,” I mention.
He laughs heartily.
“That’s the problem with the general population, they don’t understand art. This painting is a thing of beauty.”
“What are you going to do with it?”
“Sell it. I don’t want to keep it. I don’t think a two million dollar painting would look good on these walls.”
“You can’t sell it now. It’s stolen goods – nobody will buy that.”
“And that is the problem with my plan. There are not many drug dealers willing to pay the amount that this painting is worth. And I don’t have the connections to move it in the right circles.”
“You’re going to sell that painting for drugs?”
“Drugs are more important than little old paintings,” he laughs.
“Why don’t you ask your grandmother to loan some money?” I continue to stall while struggling with my ropes.
“Because the bitch cut me off! She said if I couldn’t afford drugs, then I couldn’t use them. She doesn’t care about me! So I taught her a lesson. I stole her most valuable painting!”
“I’m sure she will help you.”
Robert stares back at me, “Would you like to be shot between the eyes?”
As he moves closer to me, I notice a shadowy figure over his left shoulder. My eyes look towards it but that catches Robert’s attention.
Robert turns to see Nathan’s tall frame step out of the shadow, and instantly Robert points the gun at him.
“Who are you?” Robert asks in surprise.
“I’m Nathan,” Nathan states slowly as he raises his hands.
“Of course you are!” Robert laughs, “How rude of me not to recognize you! What are you doing here Nathan?”
“I came to talk to you.”
“Why?” Robert moves towards Nathan.
Nathan is clearly surprised that Robert has a gun.
“Because you stole a picture I wanted to buy,” Nathan states firmly.
“Now, how would you know that? How would a man like you figure out that I stole the painting?”
“You think I’d let the police do the investigation? I had my own people working to find out where the picture went.”
“But the police worked it out before you did.”
“I can see that. That is impressive because we worked outside the law to find you.”
Robert laughs, “I’ve kidnapped two cops and a billionaire. That’s not a bad days work.”
“I’ll buy the picture from you. Name your price,” Nathan states in an attempt to distract him.
I continue to wrestle my hands in the ropes, trying to pull them free while Robert is distracted.
“You seem to forget that I am the one with the gun! I can hold you for more ransom than that picture is worth! Sit down over there,” Roberts laughs and points next to me.
But as Nathan walks past Robert, he lunges at him, grabbing his hand to force the gun away from us.
As they struggle, both men fall to the ground but the gun springs free.
In the moments of chaos, Robert lands a clean punch on Nathan’s chin, sprawling him backwards until he lands on the floor with a loud thud.
Robert falls on the loose gun and desperately dives on top of Nathan’s floored body. Grabbing Nathan by the throat in one hand, Robert presses the gun into Nathan’s cheek firmly with the other hand.
“You are going to be the first to die today,” Robert laughs.
But my hands wrestle free from the ropes.
With Robert distracted, I spring on top of him, grabbing and twisting the arm that is holding the gun. The twisting forces him to drop the weapon onto the ground and I fall towards it.
I grasp the gun as Robert springs back towards me.
I fire one shot into his shoulder and he flies backwards against the wall.
Quickly, I stand over the top of him with my gun pointed at his head, watching as blood slowly covers his shirt in red.
“Shoot me. End my pain,” Robert says as he looks up at me.
“Not a chance, sunshine,” I smile, “You’ve got years of jail time to serve before you die.”