The first five chapters

Chapter 0
Robert Harrison sat on the bench  waiting his turn for the batting cage. An ordinary man’s mind would have been sifting through any number of random thoughts such as reliving the day at work, how he would be greeted by his pissed off wife  because he stopped at the batting cage again instead of coming home right away, or, possibly, how cute his secretary looked today in her sexy, low-cut, dress. But ordinary didn’t describe Robert Harrison. No such mundane thoughts passed through his mind. Instead, he thought about the next step in his plan.  He carefully noteding which bats were used most often, how many people used the bats without gloves, and where their hands were when they picked up the bat. He wanted to be sure some bats were picked up by the barrel, not the grip.
The last man exited the cage on the left, but Robert didn’t get up immediately since he took his bat with him. Robert knew the bat belonged to the man as he had seen him bring the bat to the cages with him. Thus, he waited until the man in the cage on the right came out of the screened-in enclosure to put his bat back in the box of loaner bats. Instantly, Robert sprang to his feet  to retrieve the bat before anyone else got the chance. He grasped the bat at the very tip with his gloved hand to avoid disturbing any fingerprints on the barrel. He kept his head tilted away from the area camera. He’d discovered earlier there was just the one camera at the facility. Therefore, he had nothing to be concerned about.
He entered the enclosure, put some quarters in the machine to enable him to take a few cuts with the bat to avoid suspicion. After he hit several machine-pitched balls, he surreptitiously watched the booth until the young punk working there got distracted byanother customer. Before he left the batting cage, however, he picked up a discarded baseball cap. He smiled to himself when he saw several hairs inside the capd. A couple seemed to have the follicular tags important for DNA testing. Silently he wondered what had caused the hairs inside the baseball cap to be pulled out by the roots. In truth, he really didn’t care. He only cared  that the hairs were there. He stuffed the cap inside his pocket, exited by the gate farthest from the booth, then walked directly to his car. He threw the bat in the back and drove away, being careful not exceed the speed limit.
Chapter 1
Robert Harrison looked around to make sure they were absolutely alone. Then he said to the homeless man, “In the alley,”
“Why the alley?” Ian Vander asked the stranger.
“We have to have a little privacy or everyone will want a drink of your bottle.”
“Good idea.”
After they had walked about three quarters of the way down the alley, Harrison unscrewed the lid  of a small bottle of whisky he pulled from his pocket . “Here you go,” he offered the bottle to the homeless man while slipping his hand under his coat.
“Don’t you want some first?” Vander asked.
“Nope. The bottle’s all yours.”
As soon as Vander tilted the bottle  back to take a drink, Harrison whipped out the softball bat he’d stolen from the batting cage. He smashed Vander in the face faster than Vander could react. He thought the bottle made a nice shattering sound. The smashing of the man’s head reminded him of the melons he used to pulverize with a stick in his youth. The erupting spray of blood proved to be remarkably satisfying, especially the spurt from his neck caused by the shard of glass severing the jugular.
Before Vander crumpled to the pavement, Harrison hit him again. This second strike plus the tear in his neck from the glass made Vander’s head settle on the pavement at an unnatural angle. The sharp crack of the bat against Vander’s skull had made Harrison’s blood run hot with a quickened pulse that causedHarrison to hit Vander three more times. A slightly insane grin creased Harrison’s face as he said, “You deserve it for wearing that jacket.” He couldn’t believe the ugly sports jacket, with the checked design of dark red, orange, blue, brown, and possibly other colors.
“Sure is nice to have such an enjoyable job,” Harrison thought, tossing the softball bat into the nearby dumpster.
He hoped he hadn’t smudged too many prints when he hit the homeless man. Even if he did smudge a few of them, there should still be enough fingerprints to drive the police berserk. He smiled at the thought.
He walked to the street carefully looking around. No one. He walked back to the crumpled form, pulled out a digital camera to take a number of snapshots as evidence of his kill. “Damn the stupid bastards  rule of taking pictures of the body,” Harrison thought. The need for the flash made him the slightest bit nervous which is why he’d picked this particular dead-end alley with only one way in. Since none of the buildings had windows facing the alleyno one could possibly have  seen what he’d done.
Satisfied he had the pictures to please the “Bastard with all the money,” he carefully checked the body for something unique. Not only did he have to take the pictures, but he also had to find some type of souvenir on his victim of which to take a picture. “Stupid requirement,” Harrison thought. But if he wanted his money, he knew he’d better follow his instructions.
He’d seen his victim wearing a rather distinctive ring. He looked closer, but in the dim light he couldn’t see the ring very well. He could only see  the big gem. He doubted the authenticity of the gem, but he didn’t care because he only needed the proof.
Harrison moved the man’s ring finger into plain view taking  more photos. He made sure he got Vander’s face as well as the hand bearing the ring. Then he removed the ring which came off easily, seeming to be the wrong size. At a different time in Vander’s life the ring had probably fit more tightly. While leaning over the body he noticed fuzz on the jacket. Curious, he pulled out a small flashlight to shine on the fuzzy portion. “Ah hah,” he said to himself. “Hairs.” The coat seemed to be covered with them. Since Vander had a scalp as bald as a billiard ball he really doubted the hairs were his. “Perfect,” he thought, pulling out a small plastic zipper bag contianing a pair of tweezers. He picked up several of the hairs putting them in the bag then shoving the bag back in his pocket. Maybe the hairs would allow him to indulge in has favorite pastime much like the hairs in the baseball cap he’d gotten at the batting cages. Without a doubt, his favorite pastime had to be screwing with the cops. He relished it.  He absolutely loved it. Even though he generally didn’t get to see or even hear about the problems he caused the cops, he reveled in imagining their tediously fruitless searches based on his completely irrelevant clues.
Done with his pictures, Harrison placed the camera on the ground, a few feet away from the body before walking over to the dumpster where he pulled off the top black ski mask to shove under the bat in the dumpster. He smiled to himself again, visualizing the cops harassing the guy who’d originally worn the ski mask. Then he walked to the other side of the alley to carefully pull off the other ski mask he  had under the first one. This he stuffed in the black-plastic bag he had brought along for the purpose. He followed with the blood-splattered long coat and  coveralls he wore over his own clothes, being careful to transfer the plastic bag with the hairs he’d gathered from the coat. Even the small leather harness he’d created to hold the bat under his coat went in the bag. He exchanged his shoes for ones he’d left near the dumpster. The ones he took off also went into the bag with his rubber gloves. No fingerprints.
He retrieved the camera which slid neatly into his shirt pocket. He buttoned the pocket to avoid any possibility of  losing the camera.
He smiled as he thought about what he could buy with the $10,000 cash he would, theoretically, be getting in his mailbox in the next few days. He had faith the money would appear, since everything else had been so  carefully orchestrated. First, he had been paroled from his ten-to-life term after only two years when all reason dictated that impossiblity. Even the envelope he recieved as he checked out of the prison was an oddity with the tagged car keys to direct him to the car in the parking lot. The car proved to be  in excellent condition with a souped-up engine as he even discovered when he drove  out of the parking lot. On the front seat he discovered an envelope containing $5,000 in cash, a fake driver’s license with his picture in the name of Robert Harrison, several credit cards with the same name and a short note simply telling him to drive to Denver, get settled into a nice apartment, before calling the enclosed number within three days. The envelope even contained a list of suitable apartments with  apartment references and  a job reference for the inevitable background check. , He didn’t deal with the additional information in the envelope until several days later.
Without a clue about what was happening he did as the instructions said since , he had no other plans. He drove to Denver from Canon City where he’d been paroled. Then he chose an apartment from the list which  turned out to be much nicer than any apartment he’d ever lived in before. He discovered the driver’s license, credit cards, and references worked like magic. Finally he rented a rat-hole of an apartment not much better than the prison cell he’d been in. For this he used his own name. .
He immediately called his parole officer, whose number had been given to him before his release. The parole officer informed him of the home visit within two weeks. Harrison gave him the address of the rat-hole. The parole officer said he would call before he came, to avoid wasting his time visiting an empty apartment.
Chapter 2
Josh Brayburn lay there for what seemed like hours deciding whether to answer the call of his bladder or succumb to the heaviness of his eyelids. Finally, yielding to the inevitable victor he rose to plod toward the bathroom looking back at the emptiness on the opposite side of the bed. Even though two years had passed since Jennie, his wife of less than a year, had been killed he sometimes thought he still sense her presence in the shape of her body making indentations in the bed..
With a sigh, he turned to continue his trek. Flipping on the light, he winced at the sudden brightness. He didn’t really need to see, but could still hear Jennie’s admonitions about his inaccuracies in the night. Thus, his habit to turn on the light requuired no conscious thought.
Thejangling phone disturbed jangled these thoughts streaming through his mind.
“Brayburn,” he said as he picked up the handset.
“Danvers here,” said the voice of his frequent partner.
“Yeah, Tom,” Josh said. “What is it?”
“Sorry to call so early.”
“No problem. I was alrea dy up. Had to pee.”
“Regardless. You shouldn’t get called out at 4:00 in the morning.”
“But you’re going to anyway, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, unfortunately.”
“What is it, Tom?” Josh sighed.
“A homeless person was  killed downtown.”
Another sigh, “Okay.” Josh hated investigating such killings thatseldom got solved, as the homeless were notoriously closed mouth even when the victim was  one of their own. Working on such cases almost seemed like a waste of time. He knew some of his police brethren gave them short shrift; sort of like the murder of a hooker. They generally didn’t think the slaughter of such people really mattered in the grand scheme of things. He felt the homeless and the hookers were people like anyone else deserving of no less than all the police could do. It would help if the homeless and  hookers would be a little more forthcoming when asked for help.
“How soon?” Tom interrupted Josh’s musings.
“It’ll take me about forty-five minutes. As I…”
“It’s  okay,” Tom interrupted. “I’ll tell them.”
“Thanks, Tom. I’ll be there sooner if I can.”
“Understand, Sir.”
“Stop that,” Josh said. Even though Tom’s senior, he hated to be called Sir whichand Tom only did to irritate him.
“Sorry, Sir.”
“Enough, Tommy” Josh used the name he knew the other hated as much as he hated to be called sir. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“All right. You win. Just don’t call me that!”
“Fair enough,” Josh hung up.
He threw on some clothes saying, “Alright, Missy. Time to go out. Sorry about this, but I don’t know when I’ll be home.” Opening the kennel door for the miniature beagle, who took her time walking to the kitchen door to be let out, stretching every few steps.
“Come on, slowpoke,” Josh said to her. She looked up at him but did move a bit faster.
Missy had been Jennie’s dog. He ‘d never been a pet person, especially since his job kept him away from home for long stretches at a time, but he couldn’t bear to part with Missy. When he looked at her, he couldn’t help but think about Jennie.
He waited by the door until Missy had finished her business. Then he put her back in her kennel which he didn’t always do. , Considering the time , he thought it  best.
He grabbed a medium weight jacket on his way out the door. Even though  October hadn’t brought winter to Denver, the nights were still a bit too chilly for him if he didn’t wear one. Some of the guys at the precinct seemed comfortable when they were out, sometimes in short sleeves, but he’d  much rather be warm since he didn’t believe in pretending to be macho to show his toughness..
About to step out of the door, his phone rang again. He thought about ignoring the call, but, unless he missed his guess, he knew  she would know he was  up as she always did.
Chapter 3
“Brayburn, here,” he said answering the phone.
“What are you doing up at this ungodly hour?” As he suspected, the call came from his neighbor, Mrs. Jessie Franklin.
“What are you doing up?”
“I couldn’t sleep, so I’ve been reading a book. It’s a good one and I couldn’t put it  down. I’m guessing you got called in.”
“Yes ma’am, I did.”
“Why so formal, Whitebread?”
“Sorry, Momma,” he used the name he had adopted the year Jennie had been killed.
“That’s better. I hope you weren’t planning on sneaking away.”
“I’m not sneaking anywhere,” he said defensively. “I got called in, as you said.”
“But you ain’t leaving without a snack.”
“No, Momma,” he knew better than to argue with her. “What do you have in mind?”
“Why don’t you just come over on your way ou t and see.”
“I’m about to leave now.”
“I’ll be at the front door.”
He slipped on his jacket as he went out the front door. Then he walked the few steps to her house to  knock, but the door opened before he had a chance by a small black woman, so slim as to look almost emaciated. Many years older than his mother would have been, she still had a smooth, unwrinkled face with an ever-ready smile. “What you got for me, Momma?”
She held the door wide, beckoned him in, and indicated he should to sit on the couch. She turned heading toward the kitchen.
“I can’t stay long,” he said as he walked to the couch, glancing at the picture near the door. He had seen the picture many times showing her and her husband along with their two boys on a beach, all smiling. “I’ve got to…”
She turned quickly, stopping him short by fixing her gaze on him. “You will take the time to eat a muffin or two,” she said in a tone he knew would brook no argument.
“When have I not taken time to eat your muffins? Blueberry?”
She didn’t say anything for a moment as she disappeared from sight in the kitchen. “What else would they be?” She handed him a plate with two large muffins and a cup of fresh coffee.
“Coffee?” he said quizzically.
“I made a pot for myself. I told you I couldn’t put the book down.” To illustrate the point she picked up a book written by the most popular author of the moment from the table beside her chair. .
He nodded. “I’ve heard he’s good. I haven’t had the chance to read him yet, however.” He took a big bite of the first muffin.
“Well, you can have it after I’m through.”
“That’d be great.” He indicted the plate of muffins, “And these are great, too, as always.”
“Thank you kindly,” she smiled. “Happy to be of service to our boys in blue.”
 “I’m hardly a boy anymore, and when’s the last time you saw me in uniform?”
“Beside the point,” she said with a dismissive wave.
“Anyway, these are wonderful, as is the coffee,” he said sipping the coffee.
“Glad you like them. Where you going?”
“Now, Momma. You know I can’t talk about the call.”
“I didn’t ask about the case. I’m only curious as to where you’re off to.”
He knew there couldn’t be any harm in telling her that. “Downtown Denver.”
“I don’t know anything yet,” he took the last bite of muffin. “And, I’d better be on my way.”
“Want another muffin?”
“Trying to make me fat, Momma?”
“No chance of that,” she said, glancing at his muscular, 6’2”, 180 pound frame while passing over his Caucasian, 33 year old face as well. His face had always been blemish free which hefreely admitted was pure luck. Bright blue eyes sparkled above his medium-size, almost too-straight nose. Cavity-free teeth showed when his easy smile split his face above his square slightly dimpled chin..
“There would be, if I ate too many of these luscious muffins,” he handed her his plate while taking his last sip of coffee.
“Some more coffee, at least?”
“No, thank you. But the coffee was terrific, thanks,” he stood up.
“What’s happening with your love life?” she giggled softly. She frequently asked him such questions, even though he seldom gave her a straight answer.
“If I’d been going out regularly, I’m sure you’d know it.”
She feigned a hurt look. “You accusing me of being nosey?”
“No, Momma. I only meant…”
“That’s okay,” she interrupted. “You know I’m only teasing.”
Though being only partly serious but indeed a bit nosey about him, he really couldn’t help but be a bit accusatory. She had taken him under her wing and been more of a mother to him than just a neighbor and friend after his wife had been found murdered . It had been at that time when h’d, jokingly, called her Momma for the first time. She’d simply smiled, nodded  and said, “That’s right, honey.” From then on, the name  stuck. She had continued to take care of him during the funeral process through the long trial for Jennie’s killer afterward. She, as well as some of the other neighbors, had brought him more food than he could ever have eaten. He’d been forced to take some of the food to the precinct to share. They had also provided constant support throughout the ordeal. In the last few months, she’d even fixed him up with some of her friends’ younger daughters. A couple had been nice. If he’d even been the slightest bit interested in a long-term commitment, one of them might have been a good pick as they’d shown interest in him if he could  judge such things. “And  Heather,” he thought wanly, “beautiful but relationship careless Heather. . It seemed as if she didn’t really want to be with him.”
“What about Marian?” Momma didn’t give up easily. “I heard she really liked you.”
“Marian’s a beautiful woman, and we did get along well.”
“Well then?”
“I’m just not ready, Momma. Besides, I work too much.”
“She knows who you are, what your are, and how much you work and is willing to overlook it.”
“And just how do you know that?” he snapped, but immediately wished he hadn’t. After all, she really hadn’t done anything wrong.
He continued in a softer tone, “How are Ben and James doing?” He knew asking about her sons to be a safe subject that  would get her mind off him and  his love life, or lack thereof.
She knew his tactic. “They’re just fine,” she continued with that small giggle of hers. “Trying to change the subject are we? Pretty slick, Whitebread.”
“Yes, I was,” he admitted. “Besides, I’ve got to go, and you need to get some sleep. You have to stop letting those books keep you awake.” He almost added, “And you need to keep your nose out of my business,” but…
“It doesn’t matter. Nothing to get up for anyway.”
“That may be, but you still need sleep,” he said as he opened the front door.
“Yeah. I suppose so,” she said, tilting her cheek for a kiss.
He obliged, planting a brief kiss on the proffered cheek. “Thanks again,” he slipped out of the door.
“Any time,” she guided the door closed giving him a small wave.
He returned the wave to the already closed doorit.
Chapter 4
Josh worked for the downtown district, but he actually lived in Brighton, a few miles north of Denver. Before getting married, he’d lived in downtown Denver, but Jennie wanted to live outside the city. He had to admit, after living there for the past couple of years, he actually enjoyed being away from the traffic and the crush of people.
While on his way, he called in to get the precise address of the killing where he arrived about thirty minutes after leaving. As he pulled up, he immediately spotted his partner. Tom saw him arrive waiting until he approached.
“What we got, Tom?” Josh said, as he drew near.
“Homeless, and it’s bad.”
Josh nodded, walking into the alley with Tom. One cop car had pulled into the alley to provide lights for the scene. There were also several tripods bathing the area not illuminated by the headlights. Josh spotted Harold Spivak, the head medical examiner, leaning over the body, as well as one of the CSI techs, Katharine, or Katie, Keys taking multiple pictures.
“What do we have here, Harry?” Josh said.
Before he could answer, someone about halfway down the alley hollered, “I think I’ve got something here!”
Josh, Tom and a couple of patrol officers all walked over. Katie, and  her boss, Joe Cummins, also walked over to the dumpster, where the cop had been standing when he had called out.
“What you got, Farley?” Joe said. Farley Burgins shined his flashlight into the dumpster. There, on the top of the trash, they could all see a softball bat with blood on the barrel.
Joe said, “Looks like you may have found the murder weapon.” Katie immediately took several pictures of the trash container - a couple from the front and a couple from each end.
“How do we get the bat out of there without disturbing anything else in the dumpster?” Josh looked at Joe.
Joe looked directly at Katie. “I guess someone will have to go dumpster diving.”
“And that someone would be me, I presume” Katie said with a half smile.
Joe shrugged. “You presume correctly. It’s your turn after all.”
“Yes,” Katie sighed deeply, “I suppose it is.”
She handed her camera to Farley then went back to her car to don her protective coveralls. Joe and Josh helped her over the edge of the dumpster. She then maneuvered as well as she could over to where the bat lay on top of the trash. Gingerly she picked the bat up by the knob below the handle.
Joe shined his flashlight on the bat saying, “Ths definitely looks like blood, and a lot of it. As I said before, I think we may have found our murder weapon. We’ll bag it and tag it, and get it  back to the lab. We’ll let you know what we find out,” he said to Josh and Tom. He held out a large evidence bag into which she promptly dropped the bat.
Katie shone her light where the bat had been. “There’s more blood here.”
“Take pictures, Farley,” Joe said.
“Absolutely.” He snapped several pictures of the area where the bat had been as well as nearby.
“There’s a black ski mask with what looks to be blood spatter on it,” Farley said to Katie.
“Already saw it,” she said. “Open an evidence bag and I’ll drop it in.”
“Right away,” he said as he handed the camera to Joe.
“Anything else of interest?” Joe asked as she cautiously picked up the ski mask careful not to smear any of the blood.
“Nah,” Katie said, “But I think we had better print the entire dumpster. Who knows? We just might get lucky.”
“Good idea,” Joe agreed. “Farley, why don’t you take care of that?”
“Will do, Sir,” Farley began walking to the CSI van to get his kit.
“And,” Joe added, almost as an afterthought, “You better bag the rest of the trash to see if there’s anything else with blood. You can process it better back at the lab.”
Katie glared at Joe for a moment before she said, “No problem,” even though she was knee deep in trash already and would probably stink for hours.
Josh walked over to the body again. “What’ve you got for me, Harry?”
“Well,” Harry said, looking up as he pulled the temperature probe out of the body, “I would say he died about two hours ago, which,” he looked at his watch, “was about 2:30. And, though I wouldn’t be willing to sign a paper to that effect, I’m certain COD was blunt force trauma.”
“That’s pretty obvious,” Josh said as he leaned over the body to get a better look. “How many times was he hit?”
“That’s hard to judge at this point,” Harry said, “But I would guess at least three or four times, and with quite a bit of force.”
While they were talking, a patrolman walked up saying, “Yuch.”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded, “Pretty gruesome, isn’t it?”
“It is,” said the newcomer, “but I was actually referring to the jacket.”
“Watch it,” Harry said. “I used to have one just like that.”
The newcomer looked at the medical examiner with a rather startled expression, but didn’t say anything. He simply moved off, presumably to see if he could help someone.
“Well,” Josh left the subject of the jacket alone, “I think we found the murder weapon. There was a baseball bat over there in the dumpster with a lot of blood on it.”
“Sounds plausible.” Then, turning to his assistant, “Let’s get him out of here.”
“Yes, Sir,” Johnny Blevins, Harry’s assistant said.
“Be careful not to disturb any evidence we might’ve missed, since the lighting isn’t too good here.”
Johnny looked insulted for a moment before the look passed. After all, he was fairly new and Harry sometim es bordered on over-cautiousness. He said, “Of course…”
“Who was first on the scene?” Josh said.
“That patrolman over there.” Harry indicated a tall, slender, uniformed patrolman standing off to one side.
Josh nodded moving off in the indicated direction. “You were first on the scene?”
The patrolman nodded, “My name is Alex Lender, and this is my beat.”
“Did you know the victim?”
“About as well as I know any of these people down here. His street name was Bowler.”
“Yeah, he had a ring that’s usually only awarded to people who bowl a perfect game, but I didn’t see the ring on the body. He was very proud of it, so I’m sure he wouldn’t have willingly parted with it.”
“Well, maybe that’s why he was killed, to get the ring,” Josh said.
“Well, I suppose that’s possible. But I really don’t think so. The ring was pretty worn and I doubt if it would really be very valuable to anyone anymore except Bowler.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I used to bowl, so I know those rings are pretty valuable. They’re worth about a thousand bucks or so. Keep your eyes open. See if anyone shows up with that ring.”
Alex just nodded and then they were interrupted by Harry, “Josh!”
“I think we may have found the cap to the bottle under the body.”
“Good. Joe!” he called, turning in the direction of the dumpster, “Can you handle the bottle cap that Harry found? I’m going with Alex here.”
“Of course,” Joe turned to where they were  carefully placing the victim in a body bag.
“Tom!” Josh called.
Tom looked over from his discussion with the CSI people. “Yeah?”
“Alex and I are going to see if we can find anyone who might know what happened. See you back at the station.”
“Want me to come with you?”
“No, you finish up here. Alex and I can handle this.”
Josh turned from the scene noticing someone at the end of the alley. “Oh great. The fourth estate is here.”
“Sir?” Alex said.
“Please don’t call me that. Lieutenant or just Lieu or even Josh will do.”
“Yes si…,” he started to say but changed i t to “Lieu.”
“To answer your question. The fourth estate refers to newspaper reporters.”
“And that’s who that is?” Alex pointed to the person they could now make out plainly to be a woman at the end of the alley.
“Yes. I know her. She works for one of the local newspapers still surviving.”
“Hello, Josh,” The tall, slim woman woth long blonde hair said as they approached.
“Hello, Heather. What are you doing here?”
“Well I’m a reporter, and this looks like news to me. Who’s the victim?”
“No comment.”
“Come on, Josh. That’s no way to talk to a friend.”
“Friend? Are we friends?”
“Ouch,” she said with a half smile. “That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?”
“Yes. Maybe it is.” After all, he’d gone out with her several times,  a while back. “Okay,” he added. “A homeless person has been killed. That’s all we know right now.”
“Okay. At least that’s something.”
“The captain will probably hold a press conference about the murder in the morning anyway. How did you get here so soon, and before the rest of the vultures?”
“Now let’s not be nasty. You know I have a police scanner.”
“I remember,” he said. He did remember the scanner as one of the reasons they only went out a few times. Every time they seemed to be getting close, either his pager would go off or, more often than not, she would jump up to turn up her scanner to catch a call. “I imagine the others have scanners as well. Why are you the only one here?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Maybe I’m the only one listening to it at three in the morning.”
“I doubt that very much.”
“Well, maybe I’m just more on the ball then the others are.”
Then they heard the screech of brakes as a television van arrived at the scene.
“See,” she pointed to the van.
“I guess you’re right. But I’m out of here.” He crooked his hand to indicate he and Alex should get out of there. “Lead the way Alex.”
“Yes si…Lieu,” Catching himself againhe took off down the street at a brisk pace with Josh close behind.
Chapter 5
“What do you know about Bowler? Do you know who he hangs out with?” Josh said.
“As I said. I know him about as well as I know any of the guys down here. I think he generally hangs with a guy named Whitie.”
“Have you seen Whitie tonight?”
“Nope. But he doesn’t necessarily hang out in this area. He usually stays about four or five blocks from here.”
Together, they walked up 17th Avenue. They were both looking, but neither saw any street people at all,. After they’d gone about five blocks, they turned south on 12th Avenue to walk to a small park with a fenced-in baseball diamond. There were a lot of cardboard boxes with people curled up in them. Their feet were generally sticking out, covered to their waist or lower by a coat or jacket or ratty-looking blanket. The truly unfortunate ones seemed to be covered with newspapers. There were also a number of them leaning against the fence.
“Is he here?” 
Alex looked around shaking his head. “No Lieu, I don’t see him anywhere.” Then he walked over to a large cardboard box with someone sleeping under a red blanket. He gently prodded the person’s foot, who rolled over groaning. “Alright Dobbins, get up. We’ve got some questions for you.”
Dobbins groggily sat up, wiped his bleary eyes saying with very slurred speech, “Whad ya want?”
“Have you seen Whitie tonight?” Alex asked.
“I da know. I don’ ‘member.”
Alex pulled a one-dollar bill out of his wallet to point  at Dobbins. “Would this help your memory?”
Dobbins brightened a little, but shook his head. “Sorry. I really don’ know if I saw ‘m.”
“Alright,” Alex handed him the dollar, “Go back to sleep.” Dobbins grabbed the dollar laying back down. “This is where he and Bowler usually stay. I’m not really sure where else to look, but we can wander around the neighborhood if you like.”
“Might as well. I’d like to find him before we go back to the station.”
“Let’s go this way then. There’s another place where the homeless congregate.”
They walked a couple more blocks, to another cardboard town. Alex wandered amongst the cardboard boxes as Josh watched. In a few moments he signaled Josh over. There, with his back against a building sat a man with the whitest hair Josh had ever seen.
“No wonder they called him Whitie,” Josh thought.
Alex leaned over shaking Whitie’s shoulder. “Wha…?” he said, coming half awake.
“Did you see Bowler last evening, Whitie?” Alex said.
“I don’t know. Leave me alone.” He closed his eyes again.
“Come on Whitie, wake up. We’ve got some news for you.”
“Huh?” Whitie opened his extremely blood shot eyes to glare at Alex. “What ya got ta tell me?”
“Only that Bowler’s dead. He got himself killed earlier.”
“Say what?” Whitie came a bit more awake now. “Ba… Ba… Bowler’s dead?”
“That’s right, Whitie, somebody killed him. Did you see him earlier?”
Whitie scratched his head drawling, “Nooooo… Wait a minute, yeah, I did saw him earlier. Some guy come up to us and offered Bowler a bottle if he’d go with him.”
“And so he just went?”
Whitie nodded.
“What’d the guy look like?” Josh said.
“Who he?” Whitie said, seeming to notice Josh for the first time.
“I’m Lieutenant Brayburn. Do you know what the guy looked like that Bowler went away with?”
“Naaaa. I didn’t pay no attention.”
Alex shook his head. “The guy was waving a bottle around, and you didn’t pay any attention?”
“I wasn’t feelin’ good.”
“You didn’t see them leave?” Josh said.
“Naaaa. I weren’t payin’ no attention. I just wanted ta sleep.”
“So you have no idea what the guy looked like?”
“I said, ‘I didn’t pay no attention,’” Whitie closed his eyes leaning his head back against the wall.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anything out of him,” Alex said.
“No I suppose not. Think anybody else around here saw anything?”
“Oh, that’s hard to say. Somebody might have seen the guy with the bottle. Who knows?”
“How many of these people do you know?”
“Quite a few since It’s mostly the same crowd. Take Mary over there,” Alex indicated an old lady with her arm wrapped around the leg of a shopping cart. “She’s been here as long as I’ve been on this beat. She knows just about everybody and pretty much all their comings and goings. I can ask around if you want to go back to the station, or you can hang around, and we can ask together.”
“Let’s ask Mary.”
They walked over to her. Alex leaned over reaching to shake her shoulder, but she shrank back. “Sorry, Mary. Did you see Bowler tonight?” She didn’t say anything. “Mary,” Alex said gently, “Someone killed Bowler tonight.” Still she said nothing, but her eyes widened. “If you saw Bowler tonight, it’d be very helpful if you would tell us .”
“I seen him,” Mary said, almost too softly to be heard. “He left with a man. A big man.”
“Big how, Mary?” Alex said.
“He was taller’n Bowler,”
“What else, Mary? Did you see his face?”
“Nah. I only seen him from behind. He was with Bowler, and they went that way.” She pointed south. “Man had a bottle.”
“Yes. We know about the bottle. Are you sure you don’t know anything about the man?”
She shook her head.
“What was he wearing?”
“He was dark. Dark coat, dark pants, darks shoes, or least ways I think they was dark. Course it was dark out. He had a hat or a hood, so I didn’t see his hair neither.”
“Okay, Mary,” Josh said, “That’s fine. Thank you very much.” He took out a dollar giving it to her. This brought out a smile that showed her crooked, broken, and yellowed teeth.
Mary seemed to notice Josh for the first time, even though she had snatched the dollar from him, she looked up at him suspiciously.
“He’s okay. He’s with me.” Alex straightened up indicating they should be moving on.
“Anyone else you know that might be able to give us any information?” Josh said.
“I doubt it. Mary’s about the most observant of all the homeless. It’s always possible, but we would have to interview every one of these people.”
“I think perhaps we should. I’ll get the captain to assign a few more men to help you. Why don’t you hang here for a while and get started. I’ll have the other men join you soon. Meanwhile, I’m going to head back to the station and see what the ME has to say.
“Will do, Lieu. I’ll let you know if I find out anything at all.”
“You do that,” Josh said as he walked away.
By the time he got to his car, the body with those that had been in attendance were  gone. A few techs were left. Katie and Farley were still emptying the dumpster into several large trash bags. Farley noticed him giving a slight wave of acknowledgement. Josh waved back, got in his car, and carefully backed out into the arriving morning traffic.
He drove straight to the precinct.

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