Authors: MK Alexander
“I figured that.”
“Well thanks for the info, Eddie.”
“Hey, did you talk to Murray?”
“Are you going up Thursday… open mic?”
“I was thinking about coming, bringing my standup bass. We could do that tune of yours… the one we jammed on before.”
“Yeah, that’d be cool.”
I got back to my apartment around nine. I’d forgotten to eat dinner and looked in my own freezer. Not much at hand. The refrigerator was even emptier. Fish sticks? I asked myself but couldn’t bring my stomach around. Luckily I found a frozen spinach lasagna entree hidden in the back. I crammed it into the microwave then turned my attention to Chief Inspector Tractus Fynn. Couldn’t hurt to do a little research. First, I found a bad Wiki page. Incomplete and not up to standards: Amsterdam Police, Second prefecture, awarded Interpol Investigator of the year, 2011… Fynn seemed to be a detective with the National Crime Squad, or a Captain, a Chief Inspector in the Special Investigative Services. Aside from the usual biographical information, there was a startling lack of objectivity on the page. It almost seemed like the editor was out to get him, or impugn his credentials…
came to mind, as in casting them. I had no luck tracking the sources. There was nothing on Facebook— no surprise there. No Twitter feed either. His Linked-In profile was rather sparse; in fact, he hadn’t connected to a single person. Then I found a more obscure listing on EuroTrader-dot-org. It seemed to be in Dutch and the auto translator was not all that effective. I could recognize the word
, and something about
uncanny investment abilities.
Nonetheless, it said nothing good about this guy, and even claimed that he was a fraud, an impostor. I couldn’t make out exactly what that meant.
My next project was a little more complicated. I gathered all the photos I had. I scanned in what I needed quickly enough and started with Jane Doe number two. I singled out three crime scene shots from yesterday: a profile, a full frontal face, and an angled shot. I compared these with what I had from the county records and from the old issues of the
. I brought all the pictures into Photoshop. After a little resizing, a little rotating, and playing with the layers, I got them to match up perfectly. I super-imposed the shots on each other, taking special care to align them by the eyes. The final result: an exact match… eye to eye, chin to chin, freckle to freckle. Jane Doe number two was Debra Helling. Impossible.
I didn’t have as much to work from for the first victim. Still, Clara’s face from 1975 also seemed to be a near match to Jane Doe number one. I’d have to call Durbin, but then I started thinking about Clara’s dog, Roxy. I reached for my phone and dialed the animal shelter. A recording answered. Damn. Why am I not surprised? It’s almost ten o’clock. I was about to disconnect when the message machine was interrupted by someone picking up.
“Patrick?’ the voice asked.
“Yeah, hey… this is Patrick…”
“It’s me, Alyson.”
“Alyson, how are you?” Oh my god, Alyson, I thought. We had a brief but passionate fling last season. She was a waitress at the Oyster Bar. Dark, pretty, voluptuous, and if I recalled correctly, kind of skittish. She was one of the few people who had seen the inside of my apartment.
“I’m good… saw your caller ID, so I picked up.” She giggled nervously.
“I had no idea you worked at the shelter now.”
“Oh… yeah, about three months. So, what’s up? Why are you calling? Not to talk to me, I’m guessing.”
“Alyson… how can you say that?”
She giggled again. “I know you all too well, Patrick.”
“Huh, okay, I am surprised you picked up— but I’m glad, really.”
“Patrick, what do you want? I’m closing up now and I need to go home to bed.”
“Sorry darling, and yes, I do have a question.”
“What?” she asked impatiently.
“Um... any strays picked up in the last couple of weeks?”
“Just the one.”
“Not a yorkshire terrier by any chance?”
“Well yeah… why is he yours?”
“No, not mine… Alyson, can you do me a huge favor?”
“Just go to his cage and say,
“Roxy. See if he answers to that name.”
“Alright, but this is weird. Hang on.” The line went dead for a couple of minutes. In the meantime my email chimed. It was Jason. He had found Inspector Fynn on a flight manifest. I was starting to read the details when Alyson came back to the line. “Well, I’ll be damned. His name is Roxy.”
“Are you sure?”
“He turned his head to the side, pricked up his ears and started barking.”
“But this is very weird, Patrick.”
“I’m looking at his collar.”
“And he has a license from nineteen seventy-five.”
“Are you sure?”
“Maybe it’s a retro-chic thing. I gotta show this to Doctor Samuels.”
“Does it say anything else?”
“His name… oh, and on the back, the owner: Clara Hobbs, Fourteen Breezy Way… that’s in the Village.”
“What’s this about?”
“Oh, just a story…”
“Do you know the owner?”
“Sort of… all I can say is she won’t be picking up Roxy anytime soon.”
“Too bad, he’s a cute little guy, looks like a mini Chubaka.”
“The famous wookie…”
I tried to think what she meant. There was an awkward pause.
“Is that it?” she asked.
“I guess. But thanks, Alyson, thanks a lot. Maybe we could hook up for lunch or coffee or something.”
“I’d like that. Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow?”
“Definitely. Hey, talk to you later, and thanks again.”
As soon as I hung up I turned my attention to Jason’s email. There it was, Tractus Fynn, passenger on KLM flight 6051. Arrival, JFK, February 28. Jason, with his ruthless efficiency, also added rental car records and a hotel booking. It seems the inspector had been staying at the Fairhaven Holiday Inn since March second. I immediately called Eleanor Woods and sincerely hoped she hadn’t retired for the evening. I needed Durbin’s home phone.
“Hey detective, sorry for calling so late,” I said hesitantly. I had never called his house before in eight years. “Um, Eleanor gave me your number.” I could hear the muffled sound of a little kid crying in the background.
“Patrick?” Durbin asked and seemed very surprised. “What’s up?”
“Did you talk to the inspector yet?”
“Fynn? No, not since this morning.”
“He didn’t call you?”
“No… what’s up?”
“Wow, I don’t know where to start… we went through missing persons, nineteen seventy-five, nineteen seventy-six, and we found a match, two matches… and there’s a third girl—”
“What the hell are you talking about, Jardel?”
“A match. The photos... they match your victims.”
There was along silence on the other end of the line.
“You still there?”
“I’m here. I’m just not understanding what you’re saying. How can there be a match? It’s impossible.”
“That’s what I thought too.” I laughed nervously. “Let me ask you a question.”
“What?” the detective shot back, clearly annoyed.
“Jane Doe number one… the crime scene— any dog prints show up? Like, really small paw prints?”
“How the hell did you know that, Jardel?” Durbin asked almost with anger. “We never released that to the press.”
Given his response, I decided not to use Roxy as my lead. I changed tacks. “Well, I’ve been doing a little research and came up with a few things that you should probably know about.”
“What, these murders?”
“Yeah that, and about this inspector.”
“Can’t it wait till tomorrow?”
“I guess… when are you meeting with him again?”
“In the morning, around nine thirty.”
I paused. “Then you should know now... or at least before you see him again.”
“What’s this about?”
“It’s a little complicated.”
“Okay well, first on the murders. I did this Photoshop thing on the last victim.”
“Yeah, I matched the missing person’s photo to the one I took yesterday at the scene. Super-imposed one face onto the other.”
“It’s the same person. I’m absolutely sure. Their faces match exactly, freckle to freckle.”
“Where are you going with this?”
“Not sure, but I thought it was important.”
“I guess it is, but how do you explain it? Assuming you’re correct.”
“I can only come up with two good explanations.”
“And they are?”
“Don’t laugh…” I did, nervously. “They’re either clones, or their bodies were frozen for thirty-odd years.”
“What the f---, Patrick?”
“I know, I know— sounds crazy, right? But how else can you explain it?”
“You could be wrong.”
“I’m not, I promise.” I paused. “How about Doc Hackney, the coroner? Did he find anything weird?”
“Like maybe freezer burn?”
“What the hell?
“I’m grasping at straws here. I can’t really explain—”
“Alright, thanks Patrick.” Durbin cut me short. “I’m gonna have to sleep on this.”
“Wait, there’s something else.”
“Like that’s not enough?”
“It’s about the inspector.”
“What about him?”
“I did some checking on this Fynn guy.”
“Well, I’m not sure he’s who he says he is.”
“What the hell do you mean?”
“Did you check his ID and everything?”
There was a long silence. “No, actually I didn’t give it a close look. I just assumed…” his voice trailed off.
“Okay well, the thing is, I checked the flights, the passenger lists.”
“Inspector Fynn arrived here over two weeks ago. He’s been staying at the Fairhaven Holiday Inn ever since March second.”
“I mean, he was here before the first girl was killed.”
“Does he have an alibi?”
“An alibi?” Durbin let off a loud sigh. “You know what, Patrick? I’m glad you did call. I’m going to have quite the chat with Inspector Fynn tomorrow. You did good. I owe you big time. Thanks…” Durbin paused for a second or two. “Listen, I want you there in the morning. Bring whatever you’ve found. And get there early. None of this ten minutes late crap. Meet me at nine.”
The next morning, Wednesday, despite all frantic efforts I was late again. I knew instantly because the smell of fish sticks was already wafting through town. The ovens were on. No ocean breeze today. A fishy perfume with bready overtones. The air was thick with it as soon as I opened the sliders. And Zachary was out like a shot, clambering across the rooftop and down his favorite pine tree. I followed almost as fast, but down my spiral stairs. I slipped off at the bottom, the last couple of steps were really wet and slick. Luckily, I grabbed the railing in the knick of time. Otherwise I would have fallen flat on my face. Still, I was ten minutes late again. I couldn’t help it. I was always ten minutes late. I once tried to set my watch ahead by that much but it didn’t work. I was still late.
With a nod and a good morning to Sergeant Manuel at the front desk, I strode across the lobby of the Sand City Police station right to the chief’s office.
“He’s not here,” Manuel called out but I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I smiled back at him and knocked twice on the door. I could hear laughter on the other side. I could tell it was Durbin’s distinctive, breathy laugh. The other was less familiar. It was certainly not the chief. I opened the door.
“Jardel? Well, good morning. What are you doing here?” Durbin swung around and asked.
I looked to where the chief should be sitting. “Where’s Arantez?”
“Ha,” Durbin laughed. “Amsterdam, Holland— remember?”
“What?” I asked and put my bag down on an empty chair. I cast a suspicious glance over at Fynn.
“For three months. It’s the ICEP.”
“The what?” I asked. I think my head started to spin right about then.
“The ICEP, the Interpol Chief Exchange Program.” Durbin eyed me oddly. “Jesus, Patrick, you wrote the story about it, end of last year— are you forgetting? Arantez was tickled pink. He hung it up on the wall over there.”
Something did come to mind, in fact, it came rushing in: November, three months in the Netherlands… a once in a lifetime opportunity…”
“Glad you’re here anyhow. I’d like you to meet our new boss, Detective Chief Inspector…”
“...Tractus Fynn,” I finished Durbin’s sentence. “We met yesterday, remember?” I said and gave an uneasy smile to the inspector.
“What?” Durbin asked.
“Um… yesterday…” I stared at Durbin. He looked genuinely confused. “The murders, the missing girls… the county records... the photographs?”
“What the hell are you talking about, Jardel?” Durbin stepped closer and gave me a look like I was completely insane.
“Frozen corpses? The Holiday Inn, Fairhaven? Alibi?” I persisted, but my mind seemed to be going blank as I spoke. My memory was fading, exactly as if I were waking from a dream. I was trying to remember, desperately; trying to recall a fleeting event as a far off alarm clock buzzed incessantly. A recollection, a fragile soap bubble was just about to pop and vanish forever. I wasn’t at all sure what I was talking about now.
Durbin glanced at the inspector, almost apologetically. He let go a small laugh. “On a good day, this is Patrick Jardel. He’s our star reporter for the
…” Durbin eyed me nervously again. “I’m not sure what’s up with him this morning… He is known for his strange sense of humor, so maybe he’s putting us on or something.” Durbin had a pained expression on his face.
Inspector Fynn took my hand and shook it in his vice grip. “A pleasure to meet you, Mr Jardel.” He gave me a quick once over. “And we are acquainted it seems?”