Macbeth said, “Things are not always what they seem.” Boy, was he right!
Once when I was young, I grabbed a bottle of Coke and shook it with all my might. Then, just to see what would happen, I popped the top off and the soda shot in all directions. I got coke over everything, walls, ceiling, carpet, everything. That’s the image that came to my mind after I entered the lab. It was obvious that something very bad had happened there. Furniture was thrown about; test tubes were broken. A computer monitor lay on the floor on its side with the front broken out. Papers were all over the floor along with two sprawled bodies - obviously dead. The position of the bodies showed that they had struggled with their assailant. Forensic specialists were busy checking under fingernails, looking for hairs, or any other evidence which might help identify the killer.
“I didn’t find any evidence of a breaking in. The scientists either knew the 'perp,' or it was someone who was invited in,” said Clarence.
“Well, maybe the cameras will help in that area,” said Tencha, “I’m more interested in what the killer wanted? Is something missing here? What were they working on that might be worth killing for?”
I entered the Police and Courts Building, which houses the primary division of the Dallas Police, and went to the third floor. On this floor is the best Detective division in the entire city, or at least, so they say. Dallas is known by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for having excellent cops, but I had my doubts on the team I was going to be working with. I stepped into the spacious office area and walked up to the nearest desk. A black man, probably a detective, was talking on the phone and was obviously distracted by the conversation. I leaned down a bit and whispered to him.
He pointed to his left with his thumb and kept on speaking on the phone. I looked in the direction he indicated and saw a sign on one of the office doors that read: “Detective Hortencia Lopez” on it. I went to it and knocked on the door.
“Yea?” she shouted, “Come in.”
I opened the door and entered taking a quick glance around the room. Hortencia Lopez was definitely a neat freak. Except for two pictures, only award plaques mounted the walls. One picture was a calm scene of a stream flowing down the middle of an open grassy area, surrounded by a forest; the other one showed an older police officer receiving an award of some kind. I didn’t know the man receiving the award, but the one giving it was the Police Commissioner.
Normally I expected to find lots of clutter on a person’s desk, that wasn’t the case here. The computer display sat to her left with a keyboard sitting parallel to it. Her calendar pad was straight in front of her and the pencil container had all the pencils leaning in the same direction. All the erasers faced up. The only thing slightly out of order was her coffee cup, it rested on its coaster with the handle facing away from her.
I entered the room and announced, “I’m FBI Special Agent Carlos Sanchez.”
She stared at me for a moment before she spoke. She had had a bad morning and wasn’t in the best mood for “visitors.”
“Well, FBI Special Agent Carlos Sanchez, what can I do for you?”
“I’ve been assigned to work with you on the Scientist’s murders”
“Assigned by who?” she looked perplexed.
Hortencia (whom I found later preferred to be called, “Tencha”) was about 5'5" in her stockings, and in pretty good shape. She was pretty, but looked tough enough to handle the “bad guys.”’ She was a Chicana, the female expression of the word Chicano; those born in the United States of Mexican descent.
“Is your boss around?” I said smiling, “She can probably best explain …”
Tencha opened her mouth and stopped when we heard the door being opened behind me. Through it stepped a black female dressed in a grey pin-striped business outfit, with a small US flag pendant on her left lapel. The outfit screamed, “I am the one in charge here!” She was about 6 feet in her heels, and obviously overweight. But, she moved well for her size.
“I’m Senior Detective Martha Jackson,” she said looking directly at me, “You must be the FBI agent?”
“Yes, mam,” I responded and then gestured toward Detective Lopez, “FBI Special Agent ...”
“Yes, yes, your boss told me that you’d be here today, but he didn’t tell me that you were good-looking,” she flirted.
“Uh, yea,” I said, flushing slightly, “He seems to always leave that part out.”
“Why do we need the FBI in on this?” Detective Lopez cut in, “This is our case and it’ll be our collar.”
“Look, Detective, I’m not here to take credit for anybody’s case,” I said, “I’m here because the FBI thinks that what the scientists were working on was important.”
“What were they working on?” asked Tencha.
“I am not at liberty to speak on that right now, Detective Lopez,” I said, “But I promise to share what I can, after getting permission.”
“I think I should be the one to make that decision since this is my case, she said, starting to stand, “This is just classical FBI crap.”
“I am not the enemy,” I responded, “Just like you I have rules to follow.”
“Look,” she said slightly grimacing, and sitting back down, “I’m not trying to be a hardass. What I’m saying is that I want to know any piece of information that might help.”
“Right now,” I said, “We don’t really know if our information is related to this case for sure, and if it is not, we cannot release the information. “
“Well,” cut in Senior Detective Jackson, “Now that we have that out of the way, I want you two to play nice with each other. Special Agent, your boss made it quite clear that you would follow my directions while working with us.”
I just nodded my head to show I understood.
She continued, “By the way, where’s Clarence?”
Tencha gestured a thumb toward the open area of the office.
“He said something about needing to make a phone call.”
“Well,” said the Senior Detective, “Get him and head over to forensics. They have something for you.”
As we walked by, Tencha gestured to Clarence, who was still on the phone, that he needed to follow. He stood and followed while continuing to speak on the phone.
“We’ll need to take the elevator,” said Tencha, “The Forensics lab is in the basement, and I hate stairs.”
As we walked to the elevator, Tencha leaned over to Clarence, gestured at me with her thumb and whispered to him.
“FBI Special Agent Carlos Sanchez,” she emphasized the word “special” as though it was something funny.
Clarence turned to me, without removing the phone from his ear, raised both of his eyebrows, with a small tilt of his head as an acknowledgment, and smiled. I smiled in response. The elevator arrived and we entered.
“How much have you learned about the case,” I asked.
“He won’t give up information, but wants to get information.”
Picking up on her sarcasm, I said, “I’m just …”
She gestured for me to stop with her right hand and a shake of her head and said, “Just kidding. So far we believe that it had to be only one man, though the evidence seems to point to more than one person committing the crime.”
“Why do you think that, Detective Lopez?”
“Well, the cameras show a man entering the lab around 11:00 am, which the coroner says was approximately 20 minutes before the scientists were killed. But the only person seen leaving was not the same man, and that was at 11:30. There is no evidence that the man who entered at 11:00 ever left, and he wasn’t one of the scientists who was killed. We’re kind of baffled about this. And, please call me Tencha.”
“I don’t care!” the shout came from behind us. We turned to look at Clarence who snapped his phone shut. He glared at it and then looked up to us.
“A tiny problem with the better half,” he grinned apologetically.
The elevator door opened and we all stepped out into the forensics division. Detective Lopez stepped out without even gesturing for me to follow, though I did exactly that. She headed down the aisle, turned to the right and kept on walking. She was obviously familiar with the forensics lab. She came to the Forensics Director’s office and entered without knocking. I followed her in, with Clarence taking up the rear.
“Where is he,” Tencha asked of a woman sitting behind the only desk in the small area. Her nameplate read “Nancy Drew, Secretary.” I wondered how many people had joked with her about that.
“Doctor Smith said to go right in,” said Nancy Drew.
She looked away from Tencha and over to me, and smiled. I smiled back.
“And you are?” she said with obvious personal interest.
Tencha merely rolled her eyes and said, “None of your business.”
Nancy Drew just ignored her and handed me a business card.
“Just in case you have any questions,” she smiled every word.
“Oh God!” remarked Tencha, as she pushed open the Director’s door.
I smiled at Nancy, turned and followed the Detective. We entered the office and Clarence closed the door behind us.
“Sit down,” the Director said smiling, “sit down.”
He gestured to three chairs in front of his desk, and we sat down. He sat at his chair and picked up a folder. He handed it to Tencha.
“This is FBI Special Agent Carlos Sanchez,” she said pointing at me, “He’ll be working with us on this case.”
“The FBI,” he said, raising his bushy eyebrows, “my, my. Well, as you’ll find in the folder, we have identified the scientists’ fingerprints, but we also found two additional sets which we have been unable to identify even using the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System. We were unable to get a hit. We included all the data we were able to gather, I hope you can find something we didn’t.”
“Thank you, Bob,” said Tencha, “I’m sure that it will help us.”
She stood, and Clarence and I followed suit. She shook the Director’s hand and started to leave.
“Uh, Tencha,” said the Director hesitatingly.
“This one doesn’t feel right,” he said carefully, “Something is bothering me about this, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Please be careful.”
“I will,” she said and walked out the door.
The next morning I was sitting in my hotel room when the phone rang. Tencha was on the other end of the line.
“Carlos,” she said, “There’s been another murder.”
I had asked her to call me by my first name as well, hoping that it would help us become more comfortable with each other.
“Can you come to the Oak Cliff area? There’s a park at the corner of Canty and Tyler Streets. I’ll be waiting there for you.”
Dallas is a large city. Over the years it has grown from the annexing of small municipalities which surrounded it. Oak Cliff was a town in its own right until annexed by the larger city of Dallas. The area is located in the southwest part of Dallas, just across the Trinity from downtown. Though the residents of Oak Cliff acknowledge they are citizens of the Greater City of Dallas, they tend to react as though they are still a separate entity. Situated on a large hill, hence the name “Cliff,” Oak Cliff boasts of several well-cared-for parks.
I arrived at the park at about 9:30 am. Though Dallas is a large city, the freeways, err, I mean ‘expressways,’ as they insist there, can get you from point “A” to point “B” quite fast when it’s not rush hour. I made the trip to the park, from my downtown hotel room, in twenty minutes. I looked for the Detective and found her among a group of police officers and emergency medical technicians. Clarence was to the side arguing with someone on the phone.
“Hey, Tencha,” I said, trying to use the vernacular as they do in Dallas, “So what’s going on?”
“It seems that last night this couple,” she said glancing at the two bodies, “were attacked and killed. Somebody walked up to them and shot them point blank.”
“Does this connect to the other case in any way, drugs or something?”
“Not that we can tell yet.” she said slowly, “But what is getting my attention is that the camera on that building there,” she pointed to the park’s Community Center, “shows one man walking past the camera, he went up to them and shot them, but when he walks back past the camera, it’s someone else.”
“Maybe something went wrong with the camera,” I said.
“Well,” she said hesitating, “There is a short glitch in the video after the killer turned away from the victims. Suddenly he is about ten feet away from them walking in the direction of the camera. The funniest thing though is that when the man walked up near to the camera he looked straight at it and smiled as he passed by.”
I looked up at the camera, and back to the couple. I traced the route from them to the Community Center. I was mentally replaying the scene during the time of the murder, looking to see if any clues could be identified from this.
“Is it possible that the man who was smiling when he walked past the camera actually passed later, after the killings?” I asked her.
“I’ve sent the video recording to forensics,” she said, “They should be able to tell us if the recording may have been tampered with, or if there was damage.”
I walked over to the couple and lifted the cover to see their faces. They were Latino, Chicanos, as they call themselves around here. Probably in their early twenties, she had been very pretty and had been very pregnant. They had been shot in the head.
“Were there any witnesses or anyone who may have heard the shots?” I asked Tencha.
“Not any that we’ve found yet, though Clarence and the uniforms are canvassing.”
She looked up and toward Clarence, who was walking across the street while talking on the phone. He was gesturing and arguing into it.
“He’s going to get himself run over if he doesn’t watch out,” she laughed.
That afternoon, we were sitting in her office, when the report from forensics arrived. She reviewed the folder, while I sipped on my Starbucks Chai Tea Latte. I like mine Venti, hot with no water, but with whole milk. I glanced over at Tencha.
“Anything helpful?” I asked.
“Well, that depends,” she said, “The video recording shows that there was a glitch right after the shooting. Also, the recording doesn’t have a time stamp. So we can’t be sure of how much time passed from the time of the shooting to the time the second guy walked back past the camera.”
“So what you’re saying is that it may have indeed been two different men?”
“Possibly,” she said, but I noticed her frown.
“Did Clarence find out anything?” I persisted.
She snapped out of a distant gaze and turned to me.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, we got a couple of statements about hearing shots, but they were conflicting. One person heard two shots, and two others heard three. The evidence shows that only two shots were fired.”
“Interesting,” I said almost under my breath, and then louder, “By the way, where is Clarence?”
“Went to get some coffee, he said something about waiting for a call.”
The next morning I arrived at the Police and Courts Building about ten. When I stepped off the elevator onto the third floor, people were rushing from one part of the office to another. A detective was pinning up some papers to a large bulletin board on the wall. Half of the officers were on the phone, and the others were speaking with each other.
“Hey, Carlos,” I turned to see that Tencha was speaking to me, “I left you two messages on your phone.”
“You did,” I said pulling it out and looking at it, “The damn thing is always doing that to me. I have lousy service. What’s happening?”
“There’s been another killing.”
“What happened this time?”
“Late last night, before midnight, a group of young people was walking along Greenville Street in North Dallas. They got to the Granada Theater just as people were exiting after a movie. They decided to cross the street to go to the 'Aw Shucks', restaurant to eat. Before they got there, they said that a noise drew their attention, and they noticed that someone was being attacked on the dark side of the Theater.”
“Dark side?” I asked.
“Yea,” she responded, “the side not lighted and mostly in shadows from the street lights.”
“Oh, uh, yea,” I said, knowing that this should have been obvious.”
“Anyway,” she continued, “They said it was a werewolf.”
“A werewolf?” I said, raising both my eyebrows and then with only one raised eyebrow, “Were they high or something?”
“That’s the thing, Carlos,” she said, not even breaking a smile, “We tested all of them, they were clean. They said that when the werewolf, or whatever it was, saw them it ran away. “
She stopped and stared with a puzzled look on her face, but then continued hesitantly, “They said that they knew it was a werewolf, and not just some animal because as it started running away it changed into a man.”
I stared back her, sort of sideways, waiting for her to give me the punch line. She was trying to say all of this without sounding as though she was joking and was about to spring the punch line on me.
“No kidding. We’re trying to keep a lid on this until we can do something about it. If people start believing that a real werewolf is running around Dallas, Texas killing people, we are going to have a panic on our hands.”
“Tencha,” said Clarence.
We turned and saw him walking toward us. He was holding his open phone in his left hand, but up to his chest as if trying to mute the sound. He had a DVD in his right hand.
“We were able to get video on the man running away from the scene,” he said with a frown on his face, “and you’re not going to believe this.”
She grabbed the DVD and headed for the nearest computer. Tencha slid the disk into the tray and pressed play.
The video showed the street corner just north of the Granada. People walked in and out of the scene. Suddenly there was a naked man running away from the Theater and heading in the direction of the camera. He ran near the camera, looked up and smiled. Then he kept on running. We stared at the screen for a moment longer and turned to each other.
“Told ya you wouldn’t believe it,” said Clarence, snapping his phone shut.
“That’s impossible,” said Tencha, “That’s one of the scientists that was murdered. He’s in the morgue. He is in the morgue, right, Clarence?”
She had emphasized the word “is” with a glare at Clarence.
“I just called them,” he said quickly, “They said the body is still there. The coroner thought I was trying to put one over on him when I told him that I saw the stiff running around naked on a recording from last night. He asked me what kind of drugs I was on.”
“So,” I asked, “Do we have twins here?”
“No twins,” stated Tencha categorically, “The scientist’s background check showed he was an only child.”
“This is getting really strange,” I said.
I excused myself and left the building.
About five that afternoon my phone rang and I answered it.
“Where are you?” Tencha asked.
“I’m at the Metropolitan Café, behind the Police and Courts building.”
“Stay there, I need to speak with you, and I’m hungry as well.”
Tencha and Clarence arrived within a few minutes. She looked worried, and Clarence was arguing with someone on the phone. He stayed outside, apparently to finish his call, and Tencha came in.
“Hi, how long have you been here?” she asked.
“Maybe ten minutes,” I said, “I discovered that they sell Chai tea lattes here, so I wanted to try them out. They’re delicious. You ought to try one.”
“Think I will,” she said, as she headed for the ordering line.
I sat there enjoying my burger with the Chai tea. I was almost finished when she returned and sat down.”
“Any news on the FBI front?” she asked as she bit into her burger.
“They said that this case may not have anything to do with what we expected. I may be called back if I can’t find any connection.”
I picked up a toothpick and started cleaning my teeth. I looked up and Clarence had walked in. He had a sheepish look on his face and sat down with us.
“The better half,” he said indicating the phone, “We’re trying to decide on something.”
He looked like he was about to say something else when Tencha’s cell phone rang.
“Detective Lopez,” she said, “Uh, huh, … Yea … Got it. I’m on my way.”
“Problem?” I asked.
“Kind of,” she replied, “The Mayor is very upset with the Chief of Police, and my supervisor thinks it will be a great idea that I meet with him to get him updated on the case. Like I didn’t have enough work already. Now I have to play nice with the Mayor.”
She stuffed the cell phone back in her pocket, looked at me and said, “Politics! Man, I hate politics.”
Later that evening, I got a call from Tencha.
“Carlos, can you please come to the office, I think we may have a lead.”
“Sure thing,” I said, “I just finished showering, and I’ll be there as quick as I can.”
I finished dressing and headed out. On the way down the elevator, I started wondering about the last few days events. The clues and the video evidence was at the same time plenty and nowhere near enough. I wondered how long they would struggle with this case. I left the hotel heading for the Police and Courts building.
As I neared the building I thought to myself, “Something hadn’t sounded right in Tencha’s voice.”
I decided it must be the strain of the case.
I stepped out of the elevator of the police and Courts building and into the third-floor office area. No one looked up at me, which should have been my first clue. I expected to find Clarence sitting at his desk arguing on the phone, but he wasn’t there. I walked toward Tencha’s office, when she stepped out holding her gun aimed at me, Clarence stepped out behind her.
“Carlos Sanchez or whoever you really are. You are under arrest.”
I was caught.
“Arrest for what?” I asked.
I looked around me, there were uniformed officers, as well as plainclothes detectives, and all of them had their weapons trained on me.
“We found the body of the real FBI Special Agent Carlos Sanchez, at the motel he rented when he got to Dallas. Now put your hands up.”
I raised my left hand and with my right, I dropped the smoke bomb I had been holding cupped in my hand. I had known all along that this moment may come, and since I felt something wrong I had prepared the small bomb just in case. It was one of those small things which created a large amount of smoke quickly, similar in idea to the one used by SWAT before entering a place with bad guys who have weapons.
The bomb exploded and quickly filled the room with smoke; I knew they wouldn’t shoot because they could hit each other in the crossfire. So that allowed me the opportunity to press the morph button on the unit with my left hand. The device not only morphs the person, but it changes their clothing as well. All you had to do was to think of what you wanted to look like and you would morph accordingly. I thought about Tencha and felt myself change.
The smoke caused quite a commotion; people lurched forward to try and grab me and bumped into each other. Others were falling on top of each other and tripping and bumping into the furniture. They hadn’t thought out this arrest too well.
Someone grabbed me and saw that I was Detective Lopez, and letting me go, turned away looking for the other me. I headed toward one of the stairwell exits and ran down the stairs. When I exited on the first floor I turned toward the exit and walked calmly. Two uniformed officers looked at me and nodded.
One of them said, “Hey, Detective Lopez,” obviously interested in her.
I smiled sweetly and kept walking.
That was six months ago. Today I am meeting with Samantha Price. Samantha is a black woman with taffy-colored skin. She is probably one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Rich full lips and a body to match. And, on top of that, she is a detective with the Denver Police Department. I hadn’t been to Colorado in quite a while, and it was a time for a change.
Two weeks ago a woman was killed in the downtown district. A witness claimed that it was a gorilla that killed the woman.
One week ago someone kidnapped a little girl. Later her lifeless body was left in the street in front of her house. The only witness was the neighbor from across the street. She said a man carried the girl’s body to the middle of the street, and laid her down. She said that he turned and looked straight at her and smiled. This is a job for the FBI.
I think I’ll be a black man this time.