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A tale of deceit, betrayal, dark choices, and murder that reviewers describe as "gripping," ”full of suspense and thrills," and "hard to put down."Inspired by a shocking true story, Come What May, the debut book in the new Ben Malone detective mystery series, is a high-stakes thrill ride through the gritty underbelly of the City of Angels and a look at the darker side of human nature.Ben Malone is a veteran Los Angeles Police detective with a bright future ahead of him. Or so he thought until he is caught up in a run of bad luck and his life starts falling apart. The worst of it, his unfortunate entanglement in a spate of fatal on-duty shootings at a time when activists are protesting the use of deadly force by police and rioting all over the country. On edge and questioning his judgment, Malone's LAPD superiors speculate that he may be too quick to use deadly force.Relieved from street duty, Malone is sequestered in Robbery-Homicide Division's Cold Case Homicide Section to keep him under wraps while he undergoes department-mandated psychiatric evaluation. His work-related problems compounded by a vindictive ex-wife intent on bleeding him dry financially sends Malone into a spiral of depression that soon has him drinking too much in the attempt to cope.Initially resentful over his reassignment to the cold case section, Malone's attitude starts to change when he and new partner, Detective Jaime Reyes, come across the files of a cold as ice, 23-year-old unsolved murder case. The more they study the case, the more certain they become that the theory pursued by the original investigators was completely wrong.Since the decades-old murder does not fit the unit's criteria for reopening a cold case for active investigation, Malone and Reyes embark on an "off-the-books" investigation. Predictably, that creates some problems, especially for Malone. It quickly becomes clear that there are powerful forces at work both inside and outside the LAPD determined to keep the truth behind the murder buried along with the corpse.The more resistance he encounters, the more unwavering Malone becomes in his unwillingness to let sleeping dogs lie, even when things start to get increasingly personal. His persistence in digging up bones from the past begins to threaten his very career with the LAPD. Even when the investigation sends him hurtling into more trouble than he ever dreamed possible, Malone is unrelenting. He is determined to solve the mystery and to uncover the truth behind the brutal 23-year-old unsolved murder, Come What May.
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Published by Fedora Press at Smashwords
Copyright © 2017 by Larry Darter
Excerpt from Fair Is Foul and Foul is Fair by Larry Darter Copyright © 2017 by Larry Darter
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Come What May is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
Print editions of this book are available from most booksellers.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair by Larry Darter. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
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In acknowledgment of your faithful support and endless inspiration.
About the Author
It was an unseasonably warm late-January morning, even by Los Angeles standards. Seated in the passenger seat of the nondescript gray Ford sedan parked at the curb a block west of the exit from the Vista del Lago Townhomes, the predator watched patiently. Finally, the red 1992 BMW sedan rolled through the gates and turned west towards Sherman Way. The distance and glare from the early morning sun made it impossible to identify the driver of the brand-new BMW. No matter. The predator knew who owned the car.
It was already twenty minutes after seven, almost an hour later than expected. The bitch was usually out of the house and on her way to work by six-thirty. The predator glanced at the driver of the Ford, nodded without speaking and then opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. After the predator had closed the passenger door, the driver started the car, pulled out into traffic, and drove away.
After walking briskly to the pedestrian entrance, the predator pushed on the wrought iron gate. It yielded easily. The lock had been disabled the night before. After entering the grounds, the predator walked quickly to the west side of townhouse #307 to the garage side door. The door was locked. That had been expected and planned for. A screwdriver was produced and pushed between the latch plate and striker plate. The predator applied leverage to the handle of the tool and a shoulder to the lock stile. The door popped open easily and soundlessly. The predator entered the garage and unlocked the door before closing it quietly. The focused beam from a small flashlight illuminated a black Audi 5000 parked inside and then swept to the door that opened from the garage into the townhouse. That door proved to be unlocked, and the screwdriver wasn't needed.
The predator placed an ear to the door and after listening intently and hearing nothing beyond it, opened the door and stepped inside a utility room that opened onto the dining room and kitchen. To the left was the living room. At the far end of the living room, across from the front door was the stairway leading to the second floor. After treading quietly up the stairs, the predator arrived on the second-floor landing and crept carefully to the open door of the master bedroom.
Mary Beth Anderson was lying on her right side on the king-size bed, facing the doorway. She had planned to sleep in, but it hadn't worked out. She was a habitual early riser, usually at work at her orthodontic practice this time of morning on weekdays. But she had a stomach bug and had decided to stay home for the day. Her husband had awakened her before leaving for work, and she hadn't been able to fall back asleep. She had asked him to drive her car so that he could drop it off for the scheduled oil change appointment she had booked the previous week. She was debating about getting up and calling her dental assistant to have her appointments for the day canceled before the patients started arriving. She had asked her husband to do it, but sometimes he forgot such things. Just as she decided and was swinging her legs off the bed to get up, a figure appeared in the open doorway.
Recognition was instantaneous for both. It would have been difficult to say which was more surprised to see the other under the circumstances. In an instant, the predator revised the plan, pulled a snub nose Model 36 Smith & Wesson .38 revolver and fired two hastily aimed shots at Mary Beth.
The hypothalamus portion of Mary Beth's brain immediately kicked into overdrive, activating the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system, producing the classic fight or flight response. Instinctively knowing there was nowhere to run when she saw the gun, Mary Beth was already in motion springing up and off the bed and charging her assailant.
Both bullets missed their intended target. Instead, they struck the bedroom window beyond the bed, blowing out the glass which then fell and crashed in jagged shards to the driveway below.
Mary Beth managed to reach the doorway before the gun discharged again. She slapped the gun aside, simultaneously aiming a shoulder at the predator's chest with her momentum propelling her forward. Caught off guard by the suddenness and ferocity of Mary Beth's counter-attack, the predator was slammed back against the wall and the revolver thudded to the floor. Having never been in a fight in her life and seeing the gun on the floor, Mary Beth immediately pivoted from fight to flight and ran down the hallway toward the stairs. The predator paused only long enough to scoop up the dropped pistol and then gave chase.
Mary Beth stumbled down the stairs and headed straight for the front door. She frantically turned the lock and tried to release the deadbolt. She almost made it.
Arriving at the bottom of the stairs only steps behind her, the predator spied a heavy silver vase on a wooden stand positioned beside the landing, grabbed it up on the way to the door and bashed Mary Beth in the head with it. The blow stunned her, but she didn't go down. She turned to face her attacker and tried to get her hands up to protect herself. But the vase was already coming down again, and the predator smashed it into the left side of her face causing a laceration above her left eye. Faint and dizzy, Mary Beth did the only the thing that came to mind. She wrapped both arms around her attacker's neck, twisted, and used her weight to pull them both to the floor on the tiled entryway. The predator again lost hold of the gun and the vase skittered away across the tile.
Fueled by pure terror and adrenaline, Mary Beth maintained a death grip with her arms wrapped tightly around the predator's neck as they rolled and struggled on the floor for several minutes. In desperation, the predator viciously bit Mary Beth's exposed upper left upper arm and feeling the arm relax slightly, followed up by driving an elbow under Mary Beth's chin breaking her grip.
The predator rolled away, got to a crouch, and stumbled to the lost pistol. Grabbing up the weapon, the predator spun and aimed just as Mary Beth got shakily to her feet. Time seemed to move in slow motion. Just as she started to turn to run towards the dining room, the predator fired. The bullet struck Mary Beth in the chest just above her left breast. While she wasn't completely aware she had just been shot; her legs lost feeling and her knees buckled. The room started to go dark. She collapsed to the floor on her left side. The bullet had punched through the skin and underlying subcutaneous tissue before entering the chest cavity. It then passed catastrophically through the descending thoracic aorta before lodging in Mary Beth's spine. Her last conscious thought was a feeling of regret that she hadn't gone to work that morning as usual.
The predator approached Mary Beth warily, ready to fire again. Mary Beth's eyes were open. Her bruised and bloody face frozen in a look of surprise. There was no movement, but the predator wanted to be sure and fired two more bullets into Mary Beth's chest from point blank range. Mary Beth Anderson didn't feel a thing. Her heart had already stopped. She was already dead.
The predator couldn't believe how fast things had spun completely out of control. Mary Beth's quick reaction and decision to fight back upstairs had been completely unexpected. Neighbors might have heard the gunshots. The police might already be responding. But the predator fought the nearly irresistible urge to get out of the house immediately and flee. Some damage control was necessary first. The scene had to be staged to camouflage what had happened.
After glancing about the room a quick plan was formed. The predator moved quickly to the entertainment center against the far wall. After ripping out the electrical cords, the VCR and DVD player were swept off the shelves, stacked, and placed beside the door to the garage. On the way, a set of car keys hanging from one of the wall hooks beside the door was noticed and grabbed. The getaway plan was greatly simplified.
After stepping out the door into the garage, the predator punched the button on the wall beside the door. While the garage door was going up the predator hustled into the Audi, put the key in the ignition, and started the engine. There was no need to take the electronics. Leaving them stacked beside an exit door should be enough.
Nothing had gone according to plan that morning, but the predator was satisfied with the result. There certainly were no feelings of remorse. The bitch had got what she deserved. Reversing the Audi out of the garage and down the driveway, the predator spun the wheel, shifted the gear selector, and drove away.
For several reasons, long years would pass before anyone came even remotely close to solving the murder of Mary Beth Anderson.
In morning traffic, the 7.9-mile drive from Malone's apartment on Hollywood Boulevard to LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles took a little over fifty minutes.
The Robbery-Homicide Division (RHD), located since January 2013 on the fifth floor of the Police Administration Building (PAB) on West First Street, occupied a modern, large, open floor plan that provided the cubicle-dwelling LAPD detectives access to natural light from the unevenly spaced windows. Offices, interview rooms, and a conference room lined the perimeter of the floor.
The office of Lieutenant James Turner, currently Malone's immediate supervisor, was at the far end of the floor. The office door was closed which was not unusual given the noise level in the open detective workspace. But the blinds on the windows facing out on the floor were also closed which was unusual. Malone smiled. Someone else must have moved up on the old man's shit list. Maybe the boss wouldn't notice he was twenty-five minutes late to work, thanks in part to the morning traffic. The anotherreason he got a late start was that he was nursing the mother of all hangovers. He hadn't even had time for the coffee shop drive-through on his way into work. He would have to make do this morning with the less than spectacular break room blend. He detoured to the break room and filled a white Styrofoam cup from the coffeemaker before heading to his desk.
While regarded as an exceptional investigator with an exemplary case clearance record, Malone’s assignment wasn’t to the distinguished and prestigious Homicide Special Section made famous by the many high profile crimes the section had investigated over the years. The section had investigated such notable cases as the Tate-LaBianca murders, the Hillside Strangler murders, and the Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman murders. Instead of assignment to the section immortalized in countless fictionalized movies, novels, and television shows, Malone found himself temporarily assigned to the Cold Case Homicide Special Section, one of the peripheral sections of RHD.
The temporary assignment was just the most recent example of why 2015 thus far had not been exactly a banner year for Detective Ben Malone. Another example was the fact that his two-year marriage had ended in March with a final divorce decree. It wasn't that he was unhappy about the divorce. Relieved would be a much better characterization of his feelings on that subject. However, his bitch of an ex-wife was slowly bleeding him to death, financially speaking, through the monthly alimony payments.
The temporary duty assignment was the result of Malone's involvement in three separate fatal on-duty shootings during the preceding eleven months while assigned as a detective at the Hollywood Station.
All the shootings had been righteous. In all three incidents, the armed suspects were hardcore felons. All three had made the same fatal error, attempting to take on a cop whose weapon was already out of the holster. None of them had been equal to the task.
The Force Investigation Division, the DA, and the civilian Board of Police Commissioners had exonerated Malone in all three incidents. But the common-law wife of the last dead suspect had filed a wrongful death suit which was slowly making its way through the civil court system. His supervisors at Hollywood, not to mention the chief of police, had already felt more than a little uncomfortable over the three shooting incidents before the plaintiff’s attorney filed the civil lawsuit. Given the politically correct climate of the post-Rodney King and Rampart Scandal LAPD, the lawsuit was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
An absence of demonstrated wrongdoing aside, the brass decided a change of scenery would be good for Detective Malone, and more importantly for the LAPD. Since there were no grounds to pull him off street duty, assignment to the cold case homicide unit seemed like the next best thing. It seemed a no-brainer that he would find it far more challenging to find suspects he deemed in need of a double tap while working homicide cases that had gone unsolved for years.
Unlike recent homicides, where most suspects and witnesses typically still lived in Los Angeles, with cold cases it was common for those same people to have moved far away from the city. A good many of them statistically might even be deceased themselves.
Malone understood the theory of working cold homicide cases. Rumor had it that more than 9,000 unsolved murders committed since 1960 were in the LAPD case files when the department formed the Cold Case Homicide Special Section in 2002. With relatively few cases cleared and more added year after year, those numbers he assumed were likely not much different a dozen years later.
While the annual number of homicides committed in Los Angeles had declined dramatically since the early nineties, the LAPD homicide clearance rate of around 95 percent from back in the sixties had also declined to somewhere around 70 percent. The clearance rate for cold case homicides was obviously far lower. Working with that kind of odds didn’t interest Malone. He simply felt his talents were better and more productively used working active cases. Consequently, he was not at all pleased with his current duty assignment. In fact, he was more than a little annoyed with it. In his view, the brass was punishing him when he had done nothing wrong. Personal feelings aside, Malone had a superior work ethic and would give his best efforts working the cold cases. He really couldn't do any less. That was just the kind of cop he was.
Malone threaded his way through people and cubicles until he arrived at his assigned work space. It too was temporary. There hadn't been any available cubicles when he arrived for duty at the unit two weeks ago. Instead of a desk, he was given space at one end of the long table in the conference room. His temporary partner, Detective Jaime Reyes, occupied the other end of the table. Malone and Reyes were often summarily evicted when someone needed the conference room for its intended purpose, meetings. At least they had an office with a door whenever they were in possession of it.
Reyes was a couple of inches short of six feet and muscular. Not like a body builder but more in an athletic sort of way, like a football linebacker or a boxer. His jet black hair was cut in a fade and styled with hair product. He had large dark brown eyes which seemed to be perpetually smiling. Malone figured Reyes was about his age, early thirties. Reyes had a quick and infectious laugh. He didn't seem to take life in general too seriously. He was a likable enough guy and seemed a competent detective. As far as partners went, albeit a new one, Malone didn't have any complaints.
Reyes was also on temporary assignment to the Cold Case Homicide Unit. Malone assumed he too was doing penance for some real or imagined sin against the LAPD gods. He had asked him about it. Sort of like one con in San Quentin asking another, "What are you in for?" But Reyes had not been particularly forthcoming. He brushed aside the question by saying his assignment to the unit was just a bureaucratic screw up that the brass would clear up soon and his happy ass would be back at Van Nuys before the end of the week. He had said the same thing the week before, but he still wasn't back at Van Nuys. Reyes was already at the table when Malone walked into the conference room. He looked up when Malone walked through the door.
"Malone," he said. "Nice of you to join us, bro."
"Give it a rest Reyes," Malone said. "Traffic sucked, and I woke up a little late."
"Dude, you look like shit," Reyes said. "I don't like your chances if Turner sees you and decides to give you a PBT."
"I'm not drunk, Reyes," Malone said. "Just a little hungover, nothing serious."
Reyes winked and laughed, closed a file he had been reading, and shoved it down the polished table top towards Malone. "Check this one out," he said. "It's an interesting read, but it won't be a keeper. We can check that one off the list and ship it back to records division."
Malone glanced at the full cardboard file box in the center of the table. "Yes, well there are still plenty more where that one came from my friend. But how did you eliminate this one from contention so fast? You always have three cups of coffee before you start work and you couldn't have had more than a twenty-minute head start on me."
"There isn't any DNA evidence to be analyzed for one thing," he said. "And look at the date. The murder happened in 1992. Dude, we were both probably like ten years old back then. That case is so cold it is blue bro. What are the chances we'd find any new evidence or witnesses? And the original witnesses are probably scattered to hell and back. Some of them maybe already died of old age."
"If you're so sure then let's just mark it off the list, and I’ll start the next one," Malone said.
"No," Reyes said. "Go ahead and read it, bro. While I don't think it's worth re-opening, when I read it I got the impression that the original investigating detective had the theory of what happened all wrong. Probably one big reason why the case was never cleared and went cold. I'm curious to see if you see it the same way. Besides, it's Friday, and they have a meeting scheduled for the conference room this morning. We aren't going to get any real work done anyway."
Malone nodded and dropped his six-foot, two-inch frame into his chair and pulled the file in front of him. He ran a hand through his reddish-brown hair trying to take his mind of his splitting headache so that he could concentrate. That reminded him that he was a due a haircut. He had meant to get his hair cut days ago but had forgotten about it. He had let himself go recently in more ways than one. He hadn't been running or going to the gym. He had put on a few pounds. He was drinking a little too much. He silently resolved to do something about all that starting with a haircut. He looked at the faded label on the folder which read, "Mary Beth Anderson." He opened the file or as it was known in cop-speak, the murder book.
The first item Malone saw was an 8 x 10 photo inside a transparent document protector. The photo was of a young woman with light-brown hair, a broad face with high cheekbones, and wide-set blue eyes under dark, arching eyebrows. She had a Scandinavian look. The "big hair" hairstyle was a dead giveaway as to the age of the photo, but the woman's attractive features were timeless. The photo looked like those taken for a college yearbook. Next, he found the report written by a patrol officer first responder.
In almost all instances, the first officer to arrive at any homicide crime scene is a uniformed patrol officer. He or she usually arrives in response to a radio transmission based on an emergency call made by some citizen who has either witnessed the crime or has stumbled upon the homicide. On arrival, the patrol officer determines whether the victim is alive or dead and then takes necessary actions based on the circumstances. The patrol officer detains any potential suspects and witness and secures the scene. The first responding officer summons a patrol supervisor to the scene,and in turn, the supervisor calls for detectives when circumstances are suspicious and suggest the deceased was the victim of a homicide.
Later the first responding patrol officer writes an offense report that details the circumstances surrounding his or her arrival at the scene and all the basic pertinent facts learned by the officer after arrival. Offense reports are simply a recitation of facts not in dispute. There are no opinions expressed and no theories expounded. That's not the job of a patrol officer. That's the job of the detectives who work the scene.
Malone skimmed the report to acquaint himself with the basic facts of the case. He learned that the victim had been twenty-eight years old at the time of her death in January 1992. She was found deceased inside the townhome she shared with her husband. She had last been seen alive by the husband early that morning when he left for work. It had been a workday for the victim too but according to the husband she had taken a sick day due to a stomach bug. The husband discovered the deceased on the floor of the living room in their home a little past six that evening when he returned from work. He had gone to a neighbor's house to call the police. He and the male neighbor had then returned to the scene to wait for the police to arrive.
Malone noted that the reporting officer had observed that electronic equipment had been disconnected, removed from the living room, and stacked near a door leading to an attached garage. According to the victim's husband, the equipment had been on an entertainment center shelf and connected to the television when he left for work that morning. The circumstances suggested that a burglary might have gone sideways and culminated with the murder.
Malone turned the page and looked at a series of full-color crime scene photos, the same type of photos he had seen many times during his career. These were a little faded and washed out. Back in 1992 digital cameras weren't in common use. Crime scene techs were still shooting and developing film.
The first photo was of the exterior of the townhouse probably taken from the street. It clearly showed the house numbers beside the front door to establish the address of the scene. The garage door was up, and there were no vehicles inside the garage. In the next shot, Malone saw fragments of broken glass on the driveway and then a close-up of the second-floor windows above the garage with missing glass. The fourth photo was of a garage side door followed by a close-up of the door's striker plate with appeared to have tool marks, possibly evidence of forcible entry.
Malone continued flipping through the photos until arriving at one that depicted a female lying on the floor on her left side near a couch with her back to the camera. Another photo snapped from the opposite angle showed her from the front. She had a substantial laceration above her left eye like the cuts boxers sometimes get from taking a hard punch to the eye. There were also some contusions, other minor lacerations, and noticeable scratches on her broad face. Her eyes were open, lifeless but clearly blue. She had medium length light brown hair that looked like the hair of someone who had just recently got out of bed. She was wearing only a white tee shirt and panties. She had a fair amount of dried blood on her face, but clearly, she was the same woman from the 8 x 10 portrait at the front of the file.
After several more photos of the deceased from different angles, Malone looked at a photo of a couch covered in tan fabric. There was a purse resting on the right-hand cushion next to the arm of the sofa. The next photo showed the contents of the purse dumped and arrayed on one of the couch cushions. In addition to the expected mirror, hairbrush, and cosmetics there was a pocketbook, a significant amount of cash, and several credit cards.
There were several photos of the living room that suggested a violent struggle. Two large tower-type stereo speakers were laying on the floor. There was a silver metal vase laying on the tiled entryway floor. Malone sensed from the photos that Anderson had not gone quietly. She had put up a protracted fight.
The last photo showed a VCR with a DVD player stacked on top beside a doorway. The DVD player had on its surface what appeared to be a blood smear. If it was blood, that could be some telling evidence. Malone was so intent on the contents of the file and the questions that were occurring to him in rapid-fire fashion while he worked through it that he hadn't even noticed that he had taken a memo book and pen from his shirt pocket and had started making notes.
Finished with the photos, Malone flipped through several pages of witness statements and the autopsy report straight to the case summary prepared by the original primary investigator, a detective out of the Van Nuys station who had drawn the case. Malone copied down the detective's name, "Kenneth Myers." He then read the summary.
The theory Myers developed about how the murder went down was clear. He saw it as a burglary that went sideways. The victim was at home sick on a weekday she would have normally been at work. She was asleep upstairs but woke up, possibly awakened by a noise downstairs. She went to investigate and surprised the suspects in the middle of a burglary. Myers for some reason assumed there were two suspects. Perhaps the victim confronted the suspects or maybe she resisted, and they just decided to shut her up. She was beaten with a metal vase according to the summary and then shot multiple times. She died at the scene of her wounds. The suspects had then fled the scene in the victim’s husband’s car.
One thing Malone found curious was that the suspects hadn’t removed any property from the victim's house. According to the summary, the suspects had taken only the black 1991 Audi 5000 that belonged to the victim's husband from the garage. Myers related in the summary that the husband had left his car at home and had driven his wife's car to work that day so that he could have it serviced for her.
After completing the original case summary, Malone turned the page to a supplement prepared by Myers two days after the murder. It detailed the recovery of the husband's stolen Audi 5000 on the date of the supplement. Uniformed Van Nuys patrol officers had located the vehicle. It has been found abandoned in a strip mall parking lot located a few miles from the murder scene. The keys had still been in the ignition. A crime scene team had processed the vehicle for evidence, but according to the supplement, nothing relevant was discovered or collected. The vehicle had later been returned to the registered owner.
Another supplement, also prepared by Detective Myers, followed the first. It was dated two weeks after the previous one and detailed the occurrence of a similar burglary in the victim's neighborhood a few blocks away. Myers had summarized that burglary.
According to the female victim, she was awakened by a noise downstairs and went to investigate. She had discovered two Latin males disconnecting her stereo who then physically restrained her. According to the victim, she was bound with electrical cords, told she better keep quiet if she didn't want to get hurt, and had then been left on the living room floor. The suspects took the stereo, television, jewelry, and a few hundred dollars in cash from her purse. After the burglary, the suspects had left the residence with the property through the front door. The victim had eventually managed to free herself and had called the police.
Myers used the burglary to support his murder theory. He assumed it was the same suspects that had burglarized Anderson's townhouse and subsequently shot her to death. He had transported the burglary victim to the Van Nuys station and had her describe the two Latin male suspects to a police artist who drew composite sketches of them. The sketches and physical descriptions of the two suspects had been distributed to patrol officers and selected businesses in Van Nuys as well as neighboring LAPD divisions. The sketches and descriptions were also published in the LA newspaper and broadcast by local television stations. Initially, a few tips came in, but none of them panned out. The suspects were never apprehended or even identified. The leads quickly dried up. No similar burglaries were reported. No new leads had been developed, and the Anderson case had gone cold.
Malone wanted to look at the autopsy report and evidence logs before committing to any firm conclusions. But a few things were already clear to him.
The second burglary victim had not been shot to death. She wasn't even shown a gun. She wasn't physically assaulted beyond being manhandled and tied up. After she had been bound and neutralized, the suspects continued for several minutes with the burglary. They actually removed property. To Malone, it also seemed important that they didn't just stop at some electronics of nominal street value. They also took jewelry from a bedroom and cash from the victim's purse. The victim's vehicle had been parked in the driveway but wasn't taken. That suggested the suspects had their own transportation nearby. Certainly, they wouldn't likely have wanted to risk being seen by neighbors carrying a stereo and a television down the street. The modus operandi had been completely different in that burglary, yet Myers used the case almost exclusively to buttress his burglary gone sideways theory for the Anderson murder. Malone saw some serious holes in that theory.
Malone flipped back to the crime scene photos and found the close-ups of Anderson's gunshot entry wounds. There were three chest wounds. It was reasonable to assume any of the three could have been fatal without immediate medical intervention which obviously hadn't occurred. There was an obvious difference in the wounds which showed up clearly in the photos.
The two lower chest wounds clearly showed stippling or "tattooing." When a bullet leaves the barrel of a firearm, it is followed by superheated gasses, burning gunpowder, and some amount of unburned gunpowder. The presence or absence of gunpowder residue on a victim's clothing or the edges of an entry wound indicated whether a gunshot wound was contact, close, intermediate, or distant.
While it varied depending on the type of firearm and ammunition used, Malone knew that typically when stippling was present, the bullet had been fired at close range, within 36 inches. No stippling indicated the bullet had been fired at a distance, at least from further away than 36 inches. The wound above the victim's left breast had been fired from some distance away explaining the lack of stippling.
The other two wounds were not contact wounds but very close. Hence the stippling. The killer was very close to the victim when those two shots were fired. It seemed like those were the coup de grace, two final bullets to make certain that Anderson was dead. That just didn't fit with an interrupted burglary turned violent. Why would the suspects have done that? It didn't make sense.
Malone knew that residential burglars tended to be non-confrontational criminals who relied on stealth and actively tried to avoid contact with homeowners. Few of them that he had ever encountered carried a gun. Guns were for confrontational criminals like armed robbers for example, not burglars.
While he could imagine a burglary suspect bringing along a gun as a safety measure and even that a suspect might then use the gun as a last resort if confronted by a homeowner, it didn't follow a burglar would shoot someone three times, intentionally committing a murder. Why would he? If he got popped for burglary, he was looking at maybe 2 to 6 years in prison if convicted. On the other hand, if he intentionally murdered someone while committing a burglary and was caught, in 1992 he would have been looking at the needle. In Malone's opinion, the murder of Mary Beth Anderson hadn't been the result of a burglary gone sideways. It had been an execution.
Malone was flipping backward to the autopsy report when a woman walked into the room and said, "Sorry guys but I'm going to need the conference room in a few."
Malone looked up and saw an attractive, petite Latina standing inside the doorway who could have been near fifty but could certainly pass for forty. Dressed in a stylish and tailored black pantsuit, she was very attractive even though middle age had obviously started to take its toll at the corners of her eyes and mouth. Her stylish straight black hair was shoulder-length, and her bangs fell at an angle to either side of her forehead. She was smiling but just for an instant Malone had the impression that there was something dark and menacing just beneath the surface of her almond-shaped, dark brown, almost black eyes.
Whatever Malone thought he had seen beneath the surface of her demeanor evaporated as quickly as a Los Angeles summer rain shower. She certainly had the look, the hard, weathered expression that meant only one thing. She was definitely a cop. Even without the LAPD identification card suspended from the lanyard around her neck and the conspicuous large, gold LAPD shield clipped at the waist of her black slacks he would have made her for a cop. "Hi," she said. "We haven't met. I'm Vanessa Bachmann, Special Assault Section supervisor. You guys must be the temporaries assigned to cold case homicide."
Reyes spoke first. "Yes, ma'am. That's us. I'm Jaime Reyes, and this is my partner Ben Malone. Guess the cold case unit needed some experienced help, so they sent for the A-team, me from Van Nuys and Hollywood loaned them, Malone."
'That's great," Bachmann said. "The unit often pulls in extra help because the cold case section is dreadfully undermanned given their case load. Usually, they only get rookie detectives. So it's terrific that they got a couple of seasoned investigators for a change."
Bachmann turned her attention to Malone. "I've heard your name before. I'm guessing you are "that Malone" since you're from Hollywood."
Malone winced and nodded. "If you mean the Malone that has been involved in three separate shootings so far this year, then yes I am that Malone."
"Yes," Bachmann said. "Obviously, I have heard about that. Seriously, who in the department hasn't right? But I didn't mean just that. I've heard other things about you as well. So, you should know you have a very favorable reputation beyond just Hollywood. At Special Assault Section, we keep up with what is going on out in the other bureaus. We're always looking for trends where we might be able to offer support or get assistance with cases we're working here. So, we hear things, and I've heard from several sources that you have an excellent clearance record on the cases you've worked over at Hollywood Division and I know you guys carry a big caseload."
"Nice to hear I'm known for something besides just shooting people," Malone said. "It's not like I go looking for human targets. Those things happened because the suspects pushed it. Nothing else I could do except let them shoot me instead, and that wasn't going to happen."
"You don't need to justify anything to me, detective," Bachmann said. "I know you were exonerated in all three incidents and that's good enough for me. How long you been with the department?"
"Six years," Malone said. "Three in patrol and just finished my third year as a detective."
"What did you do before you were a cop?" Bachmann asked.
"I was in the army," Malone said.
"Oh, really," Bachmann said. Were you military police?"
"No, infantry," Malone said. "I was with the Rangers."
"Oh, I see," Bachmann said. "My brother was in the Marines, so I know all about the infantry."
Malone glanced at Reyes and noticed that he seemed a bit crestfallen that Malone was getting all the attention from the attractive lady lieutenant, so he decided to throw his partner a bone.
"Oh yeah, the Marines," he said. "Yes, I know whatever the MOS all Marines are infantrymen first. Reyes could probably tell you all about that. He was a Marine too."
Bachmann turned her attention back to Reyes and smiled again. "Oh really. Well, Semper Fi detective."
"Ooh Rah, ma'am," Reyes said with a laugh, clearly happy to be included once again in the conversation.
Bachmann looked at her watch and then said, "Well it was great meeting you guys, but I'm really going to have to shoo you out the door now. We're hosting the quarterly meeting with detectives from stations throughout the city to discuss crime trends, suspect information, and investigative techniques. The meetings help to ensure we're all on the same page across all the geographic boundaries. Sorry to have to kick you guys out of your office as it were. The meeting is scheduled to go until two o'clock this afternoon with a break for lunch. Hopefully, you guys have something to do away from the PAB until then."
"Oh sure," Reyes said. "We've been looking at an old homicide case this morning that we may be re-opening. No time like the present to get out and beat the bushes and maybe do a few interviews."
"Really?" Bachmann said. "An old one huh? How old is the case?"
Malone wondered why Ryes had brought up the case they had been reading. Hadn't he already said that there was no way it met the criteria to be re-opened? Malone assumed he was just showing off for the benefit of the attractive lieutenant.
"It's ancient," Reyes said. "It's a 1992 Van Nuys murder. I was just saying to Malone that we were probably 10-years-olds when it happened."
"Well hopefully you don't think of me as ancient, detective," Bachmann said. But I was a second-year patrol officer in 1992. I remember that year very well. There was a lot of gang violence, a lot of drugs, civil unrest, and a lot of guns on the street. There were a lot of homicides too. In fact, if I recall correctly I think the number of 1992 homicides set a record in LA."
"Yes, homicides in 1992 did set a record," Malone said, deciding to show off a little himself. "According to the coroner's office, there were 2,589 homicides in Los Angeles County in 1992, an eight percent increase over 1991.
"Damn!" Reyes said. "It must have been like a war zone back then."
"I know you guys have specific criteria for what justifies re-opening a cold case homicide," Bachmann said. "So, I'm just curious here. What's the deal with this one? DNA evidence collected that couldn't be processed back in 1992 but that we have the technology to analyze now? I really can't imagine anything else that would meet the criteria for re-opening a case over twenty years old."
"No," Reyes said. "Nothing like that. Malone and I haven't made the decision to ask Lieutenant Turner for authorization to re-open it just yet. We need to review it a little more first. We've just been discussing it because it's clear to us that the original investigator came up with a very weak theory and never really pursued anything else. Last week we cleared a 10-year-old homicide that didn't have any DNA evidence to process, or any new leads to speak of at all. DNA evidence is great, but it's no substitute for good old-fashioned police work."
"So how did you solve that case?" Bachmann said.
Reyes said, "We hit the street and beat the bushes and did some good old-fashioned police work. We interviewed several convicted felons who had moved in the same circles ten years ago when the murder happened. One of them gave us the name of a con doing life in San Quentin. We went up and interviewed him. He gave us another name, the name of a viable suspect. We just kept following the breadcrumbs. Finally, we found a couple of witnesses who corroborated the con's statements, and we had our man. We ran him through the computers and learned that he was doing 20 to life in Arizona on another homicide."
"What happened then?" Bachmann asked.
"We contacted the Arizona Department of Corrections to arrange an interview," Reyes said. "Unfortunately, they told us the guy had died of natural causes while in custody last year. But hey, at least we cleared the case."
"I don't know," Bachmann said. "I'm just not sure clearing old cases like that is worth the cost and resources it requires. Knowing how I must fight the budget wars every year to get even close to the minimum my unit needs to operate effectively, I think the money and resources could be better devoted towards working active cases. Considering how your 10-year-old case turned out, I really can't imagine there is any real benefit to working a case more than 20 years old even if you guys could actually clear it."
"Funny you should say that, lieutenant," Malone said. "Less than two hours ago, I was thinking the same thing and would have totally agreed with everything you just said. Truthfully, I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself being stuck here looking at all these cold cases when what I wanted was to be back at Hollywood doing something productive like working active cases. But now I'm not so sure that what this unit does isn't just as important."
"How so?" Bachmann asked.
"Well just think about the victim's families represented by all these unsolved cases," Malone said. "Don't they deserve closure just as much as the husband, wife, child, brother, or parent of someone murdered yesterday? Can you really put a dollar figure on that? It would be hard enough to deal with losing a family member to a senseless act of violence alone. I can't even imagine how much worse it must be to go year after year never seeing your loved one even get any justice."
"That's certainly an idealistic view detective," Bachmann said. "I'm not saying we shouldn't give every effort to clearing cold cases where there is a reasonable chance of identifying, arresting, and prosecuting the killer. But at the same time, we must face reality. Resources are limited, and we have a duty to the citizens of Los Angeles to use those resources wisely and effectively. Re-opening a homicide case that's nearly a quarter century old is not, in my opinion, the way we do that. This whole discussion is moot anyway. I think I know Jim Turner well enough to say he isn't about to approve re-opening a 23-year-old homicide case unless there is a very compelling reason to do so. I know I sure wouldn't approve re-opening an old case like that if I were in his shoes. I'd never be able to justify it to the captain."
The meeting attendees started to filter into the room, so Malone picked up the Anderson file and replaced it in the file box which he then moved off the table and placed on the floor in a corner. He and Reyes said their good-byes to Lieutenant Bachmann and headed out the door.
Malone and Reyes took the elevator down to the ground floor and walked out of the PAB.
"So what do you want to do to kill time until two o'clock?" Reyes asked.
"I didn't get any decent coffee this morning," Malone said. "First let's walk over to The Daily Grind on West Second and get some. We can discuss the Anderson case since you already told Bachmann we were going to re-open it."
Reyes agreed, and two minutes later they walked into the coffee shop. Malone ordered two large house brews. They found a table near the back wall.
"Seriously bro, I don't see that old case fitting the criteria they gave us for re-opening it," Reyes said. "I was just trying to make conversation with the lieutenant. Was she hot or what?
"Yeah, she was okay," Malone said.
"Just okay, bro?" Reyes asked. "You blind or what? She was smoking hot. Yes, she is a little older, but I've been thinking about dating older women. They are more settled than the girls our age. They know what they want and are more confident about exploring their sexuality. Plus, they have experience. I bet Vanessa Bachmann could show you a few things in bed that would blow your mind bro. Things you've never even imagined much less experienced."
"I think she is attractive," Malone said. "But she just isn't my type. Besides Bachmann isn't a Latin name, so it's obviously her married name."
Reyes said, "Damn Malone, you're nuts bro. I wish she had been paying half the attention to me that she was to you. I think you could get in her pants without even trying. Like a lot of cops, she is probably divorced."
"Yeah, well Reyes, not going to happen," Malone said. "First I just got a divorce, and I'm not looking to get into a relationship right now. Second, with all the shit going on in my life right now, the last thing I need is getting involved with a superior officer."
"Okay, Malone," Reyes said. "Have it your way, but you're passing up a golden opportunity bro. Waste not, want not I always say. The way she was looking at you and hanging on your every word made it clear. That was as close to a sure thing as you're likely ever to get dude. Hell, if I hadn't been there she might have closed that door and been in your pants before you knew what happened."
"Reyes, you're full of shit, you know that?" Malone said. "Now let's forget your cougar dream girl and women in general for that matter for just a few minutes. Let's talk about the case."
"Okay, bro," Reyes said. "What did you think about Meyers' burglary gone sideways theory?"
"I think it was full of holes, lots of holes," Malone said. "I think that murder was personal, it was an execution. It sure as hell wasn't some tweaked out burglar losing it and popping a homeowner. I just don't see it going down that way, no way and no how."
"Exactly," Reyes said. "When I get back to Van Nuys I'm going to ask some of the old-timers about Meyers. He was way before my time. I've never heard his name mentioned. But there are a couple of guys over there in patrol that I think were there back in 1992, probably even before, who may have known him. Just from reading the file I get the feeling he wasn't the sharpest tack in the LAPD detective box."
"I hope that was the explanation," Malone said. "I hope he was just incompetent. Otherwise, you could make the case that his investigation was borderline criminally negligent. He latched onto that burglary theory like a pit bull and never even looked in any other direction."
"I hear you, bro," Reyes said. "I wish we could re-open it. I think there are a few strings we could pull on and the whole thing just might unravel. But I don't see anything there that would convince Turner to let us re-open it. We're both on the same page. Meyers screwed the pooch big time. But Turner told us two weeks ago what the criteria for re-opening cases are. We're expected to read the case files and to bring to his attention any cases where there is potential DNA evidence in custody that it wasn't possible to process at the time of the crime. Evidence that we now have the technology to analyze. We got nothing with this case."
"Yeah, I know," Malone said. "But that's what bothers me the most. Clearly, there was blood at the scene. Did you see the blood smear on the DVD player? There was blood spatter on the tiled entryway, on the front door, and on the walls around the door. It looked to me like the victim put up a hell of a fight. There was bound to be something collected. Did you check the evidence logs?"
"No dude," Reyes said. "I read the narratives. I didn't find any evidence logs in the file. It's an old case. Things can go missing when it comes to physical paper files. The department wasn't as computerized back then like it is now. The only thing I found about evidence is what I picked out of the narratives and the autopsy report."
"All I know is I'm not ready to give up on it yet," Malone said. "We don't have to ask Turner right away to re-open the case. We can spend time on it while we're working on the other files. Maybe we'll shake something loose. To start with we could go down to the property division and find out what evidence was collected and booked."
"Okay with me bro," Reyes said. "What Turner doesn't know won't hurt him. Better yet what he doesn't know won't get us in the biz bag with him. We will just keep it on the down low unless we find something. If we do find anything significant, we'll take it to him then. If not, no harm no foul."
"That’s a plan," Malone said.
They finished their coffee, left the shop, and made the short walk to the Los Angeles Police Department Property Division on North Los Angeles Street.
Malone led the way through the double glass doors at the front entrance and Reyes followed him to a chest-high wooden counter. Wire-reinforced glass ran from the counter top to the ceiling the length of the long counter. There was a uniformed LAPD sergeant seated on a stool behind the counter. He looked up as they approached. Malone pressed his badge to the glass.
"Hello, sergeant. I'm Detective Malone from robbery-homicide, and this is my partner Detective Reyes. We would like to see the evidence from a 1992 homicide case."
"Sure detectives," the sergeant said. "Got a case number?"
Malone fished out his memo book and flipped to the page where he had recorded notes from the case file.
"Yes," Malone said. "It's 92-014387."
"Just a moment," the sergeant said.
He turned to the computer on the counter and started typing on the keyboard.
"Victim name Anderson?" he asked.
"Yes, that's the one," Malone said.
"Wait one," the sergeant said.
The sergeant got up from the stool and walked to the bank of file cabinets behind the counter. He searched the labels until he found the drawer he was looking for and pulled it open. He flicked through the folders inside and then extracted a light green, legal-sized folder and then pushed the drawer closed. He returned to the counter and opened the folder. He flipped through the first several pages secured to the folder backer with a two-pronged silver, metal clip. Finding the page he wanted and he used an index finger to trace down a column of numbers on the left side of a pre-printed column with handwritten entries until he found case number 92-014387. Then his finger followed the line across to the right-hand side of the form.
Looking up, he said, "Says here the evidence from that case was signed out for forensic testing by a Van Nuys detective named Sandoval in March 1999. But the evidence was never signed back into the property division."
"Isn't that unusual?" Malone asked.
"Yes," the sergeant said. "It's an old case, but since there isn't a statute of limitations on murder, it's still an open case. Once forensics did their thing, the evidence should have been returned here and signed back in. Although it's not the policy, I guess it's possible the evidence is still at SID."
"Can you give us a copy of the evidence log?" Malone asked. "It's missing from the murder book."
"Sure, no problem," the sergeant said. "It was an actual paper document back then, but we've scanned all the physical documents and uploaded them to the computer system since then. I can print you a copy."
The sergeant returned to the computer, typed for a moment and then pushed print. The laser printer next to the computer spit out the printed document, and he passed it to Malone through the rectangular opening at the bottom of the glass barrier. Malone glanced at it and then folded the letter-sized sheet of paper and put it in his inside jacket pocket.
"Thanks, sergeant," Malone said. "We'll check with SID."
In 2007 the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sherriff Department crime lab capabilities were combined at a single location on the campus of California State University Los Angles, the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center. The center, located about five miles east of the downtown Los Angles CBD off the San Bernardino Freeway, wasn't within reasonable walking distance. It was nearly one o'clock, so Malone and Reyes decided to grab lunch at a franchise sub sandwich shop on the way back to the PAB.
After arriving at the sandwich shop in the 200 block of North Los Angeles Street, Malone ordered a classic Italian sub and Reyes a ham and Swiss Ciabatta Toasty. After getting their food and a couple of soft drinks, they found a table near the window looking out on the street.
"We will need a pool car to get out to SID," Malone said.
Reyes, who had already taken a large bite from his sandwich, finished chewing and swallowed before speaking.
"We should probably hold off on that until Monday," Reyes said. "Don't you think bro? We haven't reviewed more than a half dozen cases this week, and we've already lost the whole morning today. I think the lieutenant is going to be expecting a little more production from us at the weekly progress meeting Monday morning."
"Yeah," Malone said. "You're probably right. We can spend the rest of the afternoon on case reviews. Maybe we will get lucky and find one that gives us an excuse for driving out to SID."
They finished lunch and walked back to headquarters. They arrived back at the empty conference room just after two o'clock. Reyes hoisted the file box back onto the table and grabbed a case file. Malone lifted the Anderson case file from the front of the box where he had left it.
"I just want to look at the autopsy report first, and then I'll shelve this one until Monday," he said.
Reyes nodded, already turning pages in the file he had selected. Malone opened the Anderson file and flipped to the autopsy report. It wasn't an original but a faded, dog-eared photocopy. It began with the narrative prepared by the coroner's investigator that detailed the crime scene, the decedent's location and condition at the time of the investigator's arrival, and the traumatic injuries he had observed. After describing the injuries, the investigator had noted the location of each visible injury by annotating them onto a genderless outline diagram of the human body.
Among the numerous lacerations, abrasions, contusions, and gunshot wounds, the investigator had also noted a bite wound on the victim's left upper arm. Malone had known of both men and women using their teeth during a physical fight.
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