|Primary Characters:||Lilly, Scotty|
|Description:||Lilly and Scotty are back from the sect, but still feeling the aftereffects. A case brings back bad memories for both of them.|
Vera and Jeffries didn’t return to Philadelphia until late in the evening the following day. The day after, they were back at work, to report in person to Stillman. From their desks, they could see that Stillman was busy, talking on the phone, going through reports. Vera walked over to the coffee machine and poured two cups. Adding generous amounts of sugar and milk to both of them, he brought them back to their desks and sat down. He began to sip from his own, and pushed the other across to Jeffries.
Something was weighing on Vera’s mind and he was reluctant to even mention it to his old friend and colleague, Jeffries. In that building out in the woods, he’d found something that worried him. Jeffries hadn’t been with him when he searched the room from which the younger Renfrew brother had made his escape.
When he found the used the condoms, Vera had remained standing hunched over the bed, deep in thought. There was something about the setup of the room, added to what he’d learned from the other witnesses that really bothered him. Scotty and the boss’ son had been taken to Thomas Renfrew’s room and as far as anyone knew, they hadn’t returned until very late. In fact, Scotty hadn’t returned at all.
None of those facts meant anything separately, but – when taking into consideration how the older brother, Christian had taken advantage of so many young women, was it being too imaginative if one suspected the younger brother might have been into young men? Vera was strongly tempted to let the condoms disappear, even if it meant letting the creep get away with what he’d done. It would be surprising if even one of the young men in question would admit to having been sexually assaulted by a man old enough to be their father.
On the other hand, his job might be on the line if he was caught tampering with evidence. Worse, the whole case might be a failure, if he didn’t follow procedure. In the end, he let the condoms drop into the evidence bags and went on with the search of the premises.
Now he was afraid to make his report to the boss. What if he would learn that their colleague and friend, Scotty, had been sexually assaulted while on the job? What if the boss’ son had? Maybe he should have taken the chance of eliminating the incriminating evidence after all. Vera, like every other cop, knew what could happen to a colleague who was outed or even – Vera had heard about a case from New York, and another from California, about a cop who had been raped by a suspect. One of them had killed himself, and the other had suffered a nervous breakdown and had been forced to resign. He didn’t want to see that happening to young Scotty.
Now Vera couldn’t keep his concerns to himself anymore. As always when there was something on his mind, his impulse was to unburden himself to his partner.
“Yep. Thanks for the coffee.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. Listen – at that house, I – found something disturbing.”
Jeffries flashed him a crooked grin.
“What wasn’t disturbing about it?”
“I know, but I was talking about – something – to do with Scotty and – the boss’ son.”
When mentioning their boss and his son, Vera glanced worriedly over his shoulder, towards Stillman’s office.
“Oh. Let’s hear it then.”
“I – uh – found some used condoms in Thomas Renfrew’s bedroom.”
“Oh. From the same night Scotty and Matt were there? I see your point.”
“Did I do the right thing?”
“What did you do?”
“I bagged them and sent them along with the rest of the evidence.”
“You did the right thing. Contaminating a crime scene – it just can’t be done. You know that. First rule.”
“What’s the first?”
“Keep your eyes and ears open, your mouth shut and your ammo dry.”
“The last one wasn’t from our rule book. I think that was from the army, but otherwise, you’re right. So, what do you think?”
“I think it was odd that Scotty took a shower that night.”
Jeffries’ eyes shot up. Good point. Why would the kid do that unless –
“Whatever happened, you had to do your job. We can only hope that -”
Yes, what could they hope? That Renfrew had raped someone else? Somehow Jeffries doubted the brothers could find anyone who consented to have sex with them, unless that hellcat of a girl who had marked Jeffries’ hands so they still hurt, was considered a consenting adult.
In the meantime, Stillman was sitting at his desk, trying hard to keep his eyes open. Since he’d learned that his children were missing, he hadn’t had one single good night’s sleep, and since they’d lost touch with Scotty, practically nothing. He really needed to sleep, but the preliminary report from the lab had just arrived by fax, and he forced himself to read it again. If he focused properly, maybe he’d find that it didn’t say what he thought it was saying.
No matter how he looked at it, the facts didn’t change. According to the report, his son had given oral sex to Thomas Renfrew the night Lilly had been attacked and Scotty had managed to get her out. The same report said that Scotty had given oral sex to Renfrew as well, on the same night, maybe only minutes after Matt.
This was a nightmare. Stillman didn’t know how he was ever going to be able to tell his wife about this. It had been hard enough to tell the Welches that their son wasn’t coming back. That reminded him. Not only did he have to ask Matt about what was in the report, but he’d need to try again, to make his son tell him what he knew about Andrew’s death. Last night, the boy had been too dazed to be able to make much sense. Laura had put him to bed, but by now, his head should be clearer and it was time to question him again.
At first, when Jenny had told him that the baby she was carrying was Andrew’s and that because of her condition, no one had laid a hand on her, he’d experienced such an intense sense of relief. Now, it was as if the nightmare was still going on. His son. Their baby. In bed with a man. A man older than his father. Stillman wanted to bury his face in his hands and blind himself to the images those words created in his mind, but no matter what he did, they wouldn’t go away.
After a while, he managed to regain control over himself. There was more in the report. The Sheriff and his men had dug up Andrew’s body and with it they had found two dead babies. One seemed to have been stillborn, the other’s cause of death was still unclear, but there were no external signs of violence. The newborn was still alive, but Stillman had been told it was touch and go. At least the mother was getting better. Unless there were complications, it was clear that she would survive.
The rest of the girls were testifying about rapes and about coerced marriages. Only three of the women claimed to have been entering into the marriage of their own free will. It was interesting to note that Thomas Renfrew’s wives were the ones most content with the arrangement. While they had to wait on their ‘husband’ hand and foot, apparently he’d never actually consummated the marriage. Considering his true preferences perhaps that wasn’t surprising.
Two children, both boys, had been found at the farm. Both children were doing well, and were being cared for by their mothers. It was too soon to say what had happened to the other babies and also how many of the other young women were now pregnant.
Stillman had been told that Eric Landers had been caught, but Thomas Renfrew was still at large.
It was no use putting it off any longer. He’d need to return home and question Matt. For a moment, he wished he could ask Lilly to handle the delicate interview, but he knew he couldn’t do that. For one, it wasn’t fair to Lilly, not to mention the fact that he’d told her to take some time off, after being so badly beaten.
That weighed on Stillman’s conscience as well. If he hadn’t sent Lilly in under cover, she would still be fine. If Thomas Renfrew had asked someone else to finish her off and to dispose of her body, or if he’d taken that duty upon himself – Stillman didn’t even want to think about that. And now, after learning what seemed to have happened to Scotty – he was beginning to wish he hadn’t sent the young man after Lilly.
For a second, he felt a sharp pain shoot through his chest and he wondered if it was the first stages of a heart attack. Maybe he was due for a checkup, but there was no time for that now. He pushed back his chair and got up.
“Vera, Jeffries. I’m going home for a few hours to question my son. You’ll be alright on your own, right?”
“Of course, boss.”
Jeffries could see that something was on the tip of Vera’s tongue and he was willing his partner not to say anything.
The sharp glances from Jeffries did get through to Vera and he began to hesitate again. What was the point in alarming the boss before they knew the truth?
After exchanging uneasy glances for a while, Jeffries and Vera returned to slowly and painstakingly typing in their reports.
Stillman kissed his wife on the cheek and asked about the children. Laura told him they were still asleep, but she’d thought she’d heard Matt going to the bathroom some time earlier. Since Jenny and Matt had been sleeping for at least ten hours each, Stillman didn’t think it would do any harm to wake them up. He said so.
Laura nodded and began to make breakfast even if it was closer to lunchtime.
Stillman first knocked on Jenny’s door. He was glad they’d never got round to converting their old rooms to guestrooms or studies. Jenny was already dressed and was sitting on the window seat looking out. She turned and faced him somberly, but as always there was a faint smile on her lips whenever she looked at her father or mother. Stillman was overcome with emotion and bent over and kissed Jenny’s cheek lightly.
“Hi, dad. Have you found anything more about Andrew’s death?”
“Not really, but they did – find his body.”
“I’m going to the funeral.”
“Of course you are, sweetie. We all are. Are you feeling ok? And the baby?”
“I’m feeling ok and I think the baby does too. It’s not as if I could ask.”
“I know that, darling. That’s good. I was hoping you might want to get a transfer and stay closer to home until graduation. Would you at least think about it?”
“Oh, I’ll do it. It’s just not the same anymore, without Andrew.”
Her tone of voice pained Stillman and he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“I’m glad you’re feeling well. Do you know if Matt’s up yet?”
“I think so. Dad, he’s changed. You know how he was always talking, always laughing? Now he’s quiet all the time. I heard your men talking about them being drugged. Do you think when the drug has left his system, he’ll be the same again?”
“I hope so, darling. Go on out into the kitchen now. Your mother’s got breakfast ready for you.”
“Ok. Dad – you look really worried too. Try to relax. I don’t want you to get sick over this. It was our own fault. We screwed up.”
“Don’t blame yourself, sweetie. Those people have been working on their scam for years.”
Jenny shook her head sadly, but got up, and waddled off in the direction of the kitchen.
Stillman went to knock on his son’s door. There was no reply, so he knocked again. This time he could hear a faint reply from inside. Taking that as encouragement, he walked in.
“Good morning, son. Are you feeling better?”
“What? Oh, I guess so. I got some sleep.”
“Good. There’s breakfast in the kitchen. I just need to ask you a couple of questions.”
Was it his imagination or did a guarded look just creep into Matt’s eyes? It was hard to tell. Matt really had changed, just like Jenny had pointed out. Stillman could only hope it was mainly due to the drug still left in his system.
“Go ahead. I don’t remember much, but I’ll try.”
“Ok. Jenny told me you knew something about Andrew’s death. Can you tell me what happened?”
There was a pained look in Matt’s eyes, which just couldn’t be something he imagined, Stillman thought. In the silence that followed, he had time to wonder if they’d somehow forced Matt to help kill Andrew or at least remove his body. Eventually, when the silence was becoming oppressive, Matt spoke up.
“I wasn’t there when it happened, but I know he tried to escape. They tried to stop him and he panicked. I think he fell and hit his head. He didn’t die right away. We weren’t allowed in that room, but I think he lay there for like five hours or so, before he died. While we were out working in the fields, they must have removed his body, because later on, that room was empty.”
“I see. And you don’t know why Andrew suddenly decided to escape?”
“No. Maybe the drug didn’t work on him.”
“Did you know they were giving you drugs?”
“No, but I could guess. I mean, I was always sleepy and it was hard to think properly.”
It was obvious that Matt was lying. The suggestion that the drug hadn’t worked on Andrew sounded as an afterthought. That was the thing about Matt. He’d never been able to lie convincingly. Jenny could, but never did. She found it degrading, unless she was protecting someone else. Matt, on the other hand, had tried once in a while, when he was a child, but he’d never been successful.
Stillman didn’t feel up to challenging Matt about the DNA evidence, even though he knew he had to. Today, he was feeling every last one of his years. Again, he rubbed at his eyes, to try and clear his sight and to put off the awkward moment.
“Son, I just received a report about the crime scene investigation. According to the DNA found on the scene – in Thomas Renfrew’s room – you and he had sex that last night. What can you tell me about that?”
A look of such horror entered Matt’s eyes, Stillman was worried he’d pushed too hard and that Matt was going to have some kind of breakdown.
“No. That’s not true. I never had sex with that old creep. How can you even say something like that? I don’t have sex with guys.”
“Matt, there’s physical evidence that you – and there’s also evidence my officer, Scotty Valens was present and that he too, was forced to have sex with Thomas Renfrew.”
“No way. I’ve never seen that Scotty guy. Don’t know what he looks like. I know who he is, obviously, because you’re always talking about him and – those other cops told me he’d been there that night. But I never met him.”
“Matt – ”
“There’s got to be some mistake about that evidence. The lab screwed up. That happens, right?”
Stillman decided to give up for the time being. He didn’t want to distress Matt further or himself for that matter.
“Yes, son, that does happen sometimes. Ok, I had to ask.”
“Ok. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more but I really don’t know anything.”
“Fine. Go on and have some breakfast now. I was talking to Jenny just now about transferring to a college closer to home. Will you consider that too?”
“Oh, maybe. I mean, I don’t want to think about school right now.”
“Of course. Take your time. No need to make up your mind right away. Matt – I’m glad to have you home.”
Matt smiled mechanically, a smile that never reached his eyes.
“Yeah, good to be back.”
Stillman followed his son into the kitchen and sat down facing his wife. She’d made lunch for him and he felt he owed it to her to at least try to have something. Laura and Jenny kept up a conversation for most of the time, but it was obvious their hearts weren’t in it. Too much was weighing on everyone’s mind for that. As soon as Stillman felt he’d had as much as he could take, he got up, excused himself and returned to work.
He considered going over to Lilly’s place, where he was sure to find Scotty, and confront him with the new facts, but he didn’t have the heart to do it. If Matt had trouble accepting what had happened, how would Scotty feel? The young police officer had to feel as if he’d let his boss down, and apart from that – there was the matter of the deep-rooted homophobia on the force. Any officer who was perceived as having had the remotest connection with homosexuality was on thin ice. Something like this could very well mean the end of a promising police officer’s career.
Stillman decided to wait and see how Lilly and Scotty were doing before sharing any information from the report with them. They probably had enough on their plates, trying to recover from their own traumas.
Just as he had suspected, it didn’t take Lilly and Scotty many days to get tired of the enforced sick leave and ask to be allowed to return to work. Since Lilly had been given a green light from her doctor, Stillman didn’t think there was any point in keeping them at home any longer. He gave them permission to get back to work from the next day.
Lilly’s face was still covered with bruises, and she walked gingerly, favoring one leg. Apparently, someone had kicked her hip. Other than that, she looked fine and acted as if she felt just fine. At times she could be seen gazing surreptitiously at her partner, a worried look on her face, but that was all the change that could be detected in her.
Scotty’s face was harder to read. He always looked tense, or had been since he first started working for their department.
Vera couldn’t stop himself from glancing worriedly at his young colleague too, but he knew he couldn’t ask him to his face if he was ok. Jeffries too, caught himself staring thoughtfully at Scotty once in a while, but he tried to be discreet about it. What had happened at that farm house wasn’t really any of their business. In Jeffries’ opinion nothing could be gained by putting one’s nose into other people’s business.
Another fax arrived with information about the dead babies and the others. Stillman read it and digested the information, then waved at Lilly and the others to come in.
“I just got some more information about the babies. As you know – Vera and Jeffries – one of the dead babies was stillborn. It turns out the other one died of natural causes. The newborn you found there has been stabilized, but it seems it will probably have certain health problems in the future – possibly permanently damaged. The mother is doing fine now, and it seems the baby is going to make it – with certain disabilities. Now it seems the investigation has uncovered a connection with a shady adoption agency. So, the babies were most likely placed in adoptive families. We’ll probably know more about that later.”
To Stillman’s surprise, Lilly was the one who showed the most emotion after learning about what had happened to the missing babies. Her face paled considerably and Stillman noticed how her mouth tensed up.
“I still haven’t found out anything conclusive about how Andrew Welch died, but we’re still looking into that. Maybe questioning Renfrew’s four accomplices will reveal more. Still no word on Thomas Renfrew, and Christian isn’t talking. He’s got an expensive law firm representing him and it seems they advised him not to say anything. Running a cult must be lucrative. Oh, Lil, you’ll be pleased to know that we managed to reunite Maddy with her grandmother. Emily has an aunt who is willing to take her, so both girls will be ok now, I think.”
“Maddy apparently asked about how one becomes a police officer. Vera?”
“Oh, that’s right. She asked me how you qualify to become a police officer and I told her she could apply to the Academy. I mean, unless she’s got a criminal record and so on.”
“I don’t think she does. It’s more likely that she’s been the victim of crimes. I mean, apart from being raped at that farm.”
“She said she wanted to be a cop, just like that cool blonde lady. Who could that have been?”
Lilly smiled pleasantly. Whatever had caused her mood swing had apparently lifted and she seemed more her usual self.
“Looks like we’ll have to send Lil out to the high schools to recruit new cops.”
“Any time. Oh, boss, how are Jenny and Matt doing?”
“They seem to be feeling fine. Matt didn’t have much to say about Andrew’s death though, and I can’t help feeling he’s holding something back. I think he knows more about that than he’s saying, but I can’t force him so I guess we’ll never know, unless one of those men from out there decide to talk. Oh, that’s right. Last night, I heard about the drugs they’d been giving the young men. Scotty, it seems you were given a combination of two or more drugs, all of which make you lethargic and tired.”
“Right. I did feel tired all the time, but I thought that was from the work in the fields. Who would have guessed I’d be doing farm work?”
“Exactly. That must have been a bit of a culture shock.”
“You could say that.”
“Lilly, Scotty, if you feel up to it, my wife and I would like to invite you over to dinner one night soon, to thank you properly for saving our children’s lives.”
Lilly glanced warily at Scotty, then smiled warmly at Stillman.
“Ok, any time will work for me. This week? Or the next?”
“Me too. I’m not really doing anything special for some time now anyway.”
“I’ll get back to you when I’ve talked to Laura about it.”
Vera and Jeffries began to drift back to their desks and Lilly and Scotty were about to follow, when Stillman cast a sympathetic glance at Scotty. He debated with himself if he should inform Scotty about the rest of the report. Scotty caught the glance and blushed hotly. Lilly sensed the discomfort he was in and hesitated. She was torn between wanting to stay and offer him her support or – returning to her desk and leaving him some privacy.
In the end, she settled on the latter. She couldn’t hold Scotty’s hand at work. It just didn’t work that way, no matter how much she liked to smoothe the way for him.
But Stillman didn’t say anything and eventually, Scotty returned to his desk. Feverishly, he began to write something by hand, and when he was finished, he put the piece of paper in an envelope. Lilly stared uneasily at him and wanted to ask him what he was doing, but it was clear that he was studiously avoiding her gaze.
When he was finished addressing the envelope, he got up, without making eye contact with Lilly and walked back to Stillman’s office.
“Sir. I understand that you must have found some – physical evidence – out at the farm. Here.”
“My letter of resignation. Take it.”
Stillman’s hands didn’t move from his side. Instead, he got up and closed the door. He sat down again behind his desk and gestured towards the chair facing his.
Scotty placed the envelope on the desktop, but eventually gave in and sat down, in response to the look in Stillman’s eyes.
“I – asked my son about – that evidence – and he denies ever having been in that room. He claims he’s never had sex with that man and he also denies having met you. That’s where we stand. Unless you can tell me something different, I’m just going to have to assume that somehow the lab made a mistake about the tests. After all, that does happen.”
To Stillman’s alarm, he now saw Scotty’s eyes turn suspiciously misty and he was filled with pity towards the young man under his command, who had been traumatized just because he’d wanted to help his boss.
“Son, like I told you before, my wife and I are immensely grateful to you and Lilly for saving our children’s lives. I don’t accuse you of anything. Besides, you, just like all the other young men were drugged. Whatever happened – or didn’t happen – you weren’t responsible.”
Stillman put his hand on Scotty’s shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly.
“We’ll just leave it at that, shall we? Here. Take this back. Tear it up. There’s no reason for you to resign. You’re doing great. We’d hate to lose you.”
Scotty met Stillman’s gaze, seemingly unable to grasp that somehow, he wouldn’t be exposed. Stillman was more or less saying that he was going to suppress evidence and save his reputation, and Matt’s.
“Thank you, sir.”
“We’ll say no more about this. If you’d like to take some more time off, we can arrange it, but if not – there’s a new case waiting for you and Lilly.”
“No, sir, I don’t want to take more time off. I’m looking forward to going back to work.”
“Excellent. Like I said before, we’re really happy with the work you’ve been doing so far.”
“Thanks. I’ll just -”
Scotty got up and glanced towards his desk.
“Go on. I’ll let you know if we find out more about Andrew Welch’s death, but otherwise, I’d say our part in this investigation is over. We can only hope the babies will be found and if possible, returned to their mothers.”
“I hope that too, sir.”
“And Scotty – I’m really sorry. If I’d had any idea – I just wish – Like I said, I’m really sorry.”
Stillman was angry with himself. Words really were insufficient to express the regret he felt over what had happened to Scotty. He wished there had been some way to make what had happened to Scotty and Matt undone, but as it was, all he could do was stand by helplessly and watched the two young men suffer.
Scotty didn’t reply. He merely nodded and walked out.
Later that day, Vera went to see his boss. He’d been agonizing over the DNA evidence and now, he couldn’t take it any longer.
“Yes, come on in, Vera. I have a couple of minutes. What can I do for you?”
“About that report – the DNA evidence – I was wondering -”
“Oh, that. The lab couldn’t make anything of it. Too corrupted, I guess. Our colleagues will have to focus on interviewing the witnesses. Maybe something will turn up.”
Vera still couldn’t get the thought of that night out of his mind. Scotty and Matt had been taken to Thomas Renfrew’s suite and stayed there greater part of the night. What did that mean? Had he really only sent for them to pray and meditate with them as Lilly had suggested? Remembering that Thomas apparently had been married to four women, Vera tried to convince himself that maybe the DNA came from one of them. If he recalled correctly most of Thomas’ wives were in their thirties or even forties. They had seemed less – traumatized than the others. If they’d been there voluntarily then maybe the DNA didn’t mean anything after all.
“Oh, nothing. I’ll get back to work.”
“Right. Carry on.”
The new cold case was a really tragic one. In 1979, a baby had been born, and within minutes of its birth, it had been killed. The body had been buried underneath a supermarket which was being built at the time. Restructuring of the business had made the supermarket obsolete in less than twenty years and for the past five years or so, it had been empty, awaiting demolition. A fire had made that unnecessary, and in the rubble left behind, the small pathetic bones had been found.
The DNA analysis had revealed that the baby was a boy. He’d been Caucasian and hadn’t been suffering from any birth defects other than a low weight. What suggested this was a homicide was the fact that the tiny neck was broken. That was as far as the report went.
Cases involving dead children were never pleasant to investigate and there was something so pathetic and sad about the tiny corpse, which was all that remained of a living being which hadn’t been allowed to live for more than a few minutes.
After reading the file through, Lilly, remained deep in thought. There wasn’t anything but the actual bones, so the box in the evidence room only contained the file with what little that was known about the baby. Eventually, she looked up and faced Scotty across the desk.
“Right. If you’re feeling up to it, we could go and talk to the former owner. He’s still alive according to this. Let’s see if he’s still at that address. That’s all I can think of. We really have nothing to go on.”
“We could find out if a woman who was pregnant suddenly showed up not pregnant but with no baby. It was out in – yeah – quite a good neighborhood. Wouldn’t people notice and remember?”
“It’s worth a shot. But twenty-six years is a long time. I think this must have been a young mother, but say it wasn’t. Say she was fortyish. She could be dead from natural causes by now. The father too.”
“If there was one.”
“There always is, Scotty. Did you believe babies grew in the vegetable patch?”
“Of course not. I just meant -”
“I know. Shall we?”
“We’d better. It’s not going to solve itself. Not that I have any high hopes about this one.”
“Me neither, but we owe it to this little guy to do our best.”
Lilly nodded sadly.
They drove all the way out to the building where the former owner of the supermarket had lived – in 2000. There was no telling if he was still around, but when Lilly rang the doorbell, eventually an old man came to open the door.
“Yeah? I’m not buying anything.”
“Mr Paynter? Detectives Rush and Valens. Can we come in?”
The old man gazed nearsightedly at them, then inched aside to let them in. A smell of unwashed socks and old cheese and cabbages hit their nostrils.
“Have you come about those kids who turn over the trash cans at night? They’re up to all kinds of stuff in the hallways too. Once they set a fire in the backyard -”
“No, mr Paynter. We’re from Homicide, investigating an old case from 1979.”
“What? You don’t have better things to do? Read the papers. People are being killed today.”
“Yes, I know. The body was found under your old supermarket out on West Lincoln Street.”
“That old place. I thought it was torn down years ago. I sold it back in – 1990. Haven’t thought about it for years.”
“Yes, but you did own it when it was being built, in 1979, right?”
“Yeah, the land was being rezoned and I thought it was in a good spot. Boy, was I wrong. The people who lived out there were either too fancy to shop at a supermarket or they couldn’t afford it. Depends on which part of town we’re talking about. Those who had cars wanted to drive further and those without sure didn’t want to walk or take the bus.”
“Do you remember who handled the construction work for you?”
“Of course, I do, young man. Do you think I’m senile? I’m only sixty-four. It was Joe Kramer and his boy – Kevin – who did all the work out here. He’d been working here since the war. Old Joe died, oh, ten years ago, I think, but Kevin’s still running the old business. Kramer Constructions. It’s in the phone book. Look it up.”
“Thank you. You don’t remember anything odd going on at the time? Something that didn’t seem quite right around the construction site?”
“If I’d noticed something like that I would have called the cops. Nothing – except the usual. Kids trying to get in and play among the scaffolds and the rest of it. Stupid, reckless fools. They’re just the same now, only worse. Older kids coming out there to make out. Wait a minute. They had some trouble with thefts too. Tools, building material. Not that I can see any connection with your murder.”
“Did you have any employees hired before the construction was finished – the parking lot for instance?”
“Yes, yes. The whole thing was costing me enough as it was, so I opened up, hoping people could park behind the store. There was an empty lot there. We had some trouble about that too. The cops complaining and some of the car owners too. People are never happy.”
“Do you recall the names of those employees?”
“I’ll have to think about that. Jeez, it was what – twenty-five years ago? Fiona McReady. Yes, she’d worked for me before so I said I’d offer her the first position. She was – fiftyish, I’d say. A little more maybe. And young Billy Ryder and his friend Vinnie – Moretti. Just teenagers. There were others but – I can’t recall them now. No one stuck around for very long, except for Fiona – oh, and another older lady – Teresa Castillo. At least sixty, I think. A widow with two grandchildren to raise. We had some young women too, but like I said, they quit as soon as they could get married or left anyway, if they found a fancier job. I worked there myself, off and on and my nephew would help out.”
“Poor Gerry. He died four years ago. Cancer. He was only forty. Tragic. Never married. Mrs Castillo is gone too, but Fiona is still around. The boys – Billy and Vinnie – couldn’t say where they went.”
“Thank you, mr Paynter. If we have any further questions we’ll be back.”
“What sort of person was the victim? A young man?”
“What makes you say that, mr Paynter?”
“Nothing, except I imagine those thieves on the construction site would have been men – probably young.”
“No, it was a baby.”
Mr Paynter’s astonishment seemed genuine, but Lilly and Scotty preferred not to make up their minds just yet. It was far too soon to make any assumptions about who the killer was. They asked for Fiona McReady’s address, and after some reflection, mr Paynter came up with it, adding that he wasn’t sure and that they hadn’t exactly exchanged addresses when they ran into each other in the street.
“Thanks. We’ll check it out.”
Since mrs McReady lived in the neighborhood, they decided to visit her first. She turned out to be a well preserved elderly lady, who was in her third marriage. Her husband expressed no curiosity about their visit to his wife, but mrs McReady herself was horrified when she learned about the dead baby. She just couldn’t seem to get over it and returned to it throughout the entire interview.
“The poor little thing. And there we were never guessing it was right beneath our feet. What a terrible, terrible thing to happen. How the poor mother must have suffered. Are you sure the baby was murdered? Newborns die all the time, sadly enough.”
“The Medical Examiner’s report suggests the baby was killed within minutes of being born. Someone broke its neck.”
Mrs McReady’s pleasant face lost all color and tears came to her eyes. She didn’t seem like an oversensitive woman, but the thought of the child’s tragic demise clearly upset her.
“I lost a baby when I was first married. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, isn’t that what they call it now? My boy just didn’t wake up again, when he’d fallen asleep. We never knew what caused it. My husband and I never really got over it, even if I had two lovely girls afterwards. Of course Henry passed away quite early and I remarried and then I had two boys. But you never forget your firstborn.”
“Mrs McReady, do you remember anything about the two young men who were working for mr Paynter at the supermarket?”
“Billy and Vinnie? Yes, of course I do. They were best friends, since kindergarten. Lived next door to each other ever since. Except I seem to recall a falling out between them while they were still working for mr Paynter. I can’t remember the exact year, but they were in high school when the store opened up. They worked there for a while longer, but eventually they left.”
“Any other employees? Mr Paynter mentioned some young women.”
“Yes, there were always new girls coming in, but most of them left very soon. The store never really did well and it wasn’t profitable enough to have that many employees. With me, and mrs Castillo and the boys, it really was enough. Of course mr Paynter and his nephew Gerald were there most of the time as well.”
“You don’t recall anything unusual happening that year? The first year. 1979.”
“That’s a very long time ago. Let me think about it. Well, there was that falling out between Billy and Vinnie. I overheard a violent quarrel, but that might have been a little later. Early 1980, maybe. I’m not sure. Not that summer when the store was being built anyway.”
“Did they come to blows?”
“Yes, it certainly sounded that way, and I could see that Vinnie’s nose was bleeding. When I asked them about it, they didn’t tell me anything. The generation gap, I suppose. They never talked to us older people, unless they had to. I did notice that after that, they weren’t friends anymore. Never talked to each other again if they could help it. And Vinnie left soon after. Billy stayed on a little longer.”
“You don’t happen to know what became of them? Are they still in the neighborhood?”
“No, they moved away a long time ago. Billy’s mother is still here and I think Vinnie’s aunt lives nearby. Gina Moretti, no Cristina Moretti. She’ll know, I guess.”
“Thank you, mrs McReady. You’ve been very helpful.”
Outside, in the car, Lilly and Scotty discussed their impressions.
“Mrs McReady was quite helpful. I’d say we need to focus on those two guys and their fight.”
“They’d been friends since kindergarten and that summer they fell out for good. There has to be something behind it.”
“We’ll have to look into that construction firm too. If the son even remembers. He must have worked on hundreds of other construction sites since.”
“Worth looking into anyway, but if it was one of those young female employees who didn’t stay for long, I doubt if we’ll ever find her.”
“Let’s hope it was someone to do with Billy or Vinnie.”
“Or old mr Paynter or his nephew.”
“If it was the nephew, we might never find out either.”
The construction firm didn’t seem to give them much. Mr Kramer jr did recall the supermarket but nothing unusual about it. He mentioned the same minor inconveniences as mr Paynter, but nothing other than that. Mr Kramer wasn’t married and didn’t look as if he was interested. Scotty glanced uneasily at the middle aged man, but didn’t detect any unnerving interest from him. In fact, he looked like a man who would be more interested in a stamp collection or racing toy cars.
They did find mrs Moretti and she told them that Vinnie had left home suddenly, early in 1980 and had never been heard from again. It was clear that mrs Moretti and the rest of the family had been devastated by the loss of the only son in that generation. Apparently, there had been a sister and a number of girl cousins, but Vinnie had been the only boy.
“Do you remember Vinnie’s friend Billy, mrs Moretti?”
“Of course. They were such good friends, ever since kindergarten.”
“There was some kind of falling out between them in the summer of 1979.”
Mrs Moretti’s eyes darkened as she remembered.
“Yes, I remember. It was after Billy’s girlfriend got sick. She never recovered fully. I hear she’s been in and out of mental institutions ever since.”
“Did she have mental problems?”
“To begin with, I think it was something physical. There was talk that she might have been pregnant, but there was no child, so there’s no telling what the truth was. Poor Lorraine, she had such a strict father. Her mother passed away when she was six. And I for one, hope that the rumors were wrong. She was only fifteen and Billy and Vinnie were seventeen that year. They went to the same school. Lorraine was very pretty and as far as I know a good girl. She never went out with anyone but Billy. Billy adored her and everyone else liked her too. I think they were going to be married.”
An uneasy silence followed mrs Moretti’s account. It dragged on for so long, mrs Moretti glanced at her visitors in surprise.
Lilly pulled herself together and thanked mrs Moretti for the information. Unable to think of any follow-up questions, they merely left.
“I guess we have to find mrs Ryder now.”
Scotty nodded absently.
They got back in the car and drove over to the house where mrs Ryder was said to be living. Scotty rang the doorbell and after identifying themselves, he and Lilly followed mrs Ryder inside.
“I’m not sure what it is you want to know. Is Billy in trouble in some way?”
“We’re investigating an old case, from 1979. A homicide.”
“A homicide? I don’t understand.”
“Mr Paynter’s supermarket where Billy worked burned down recently, as you probably know. The remains of a baby was found underneath it. We’re talking to everyone who had any connection to the spuermarket.”
Mrs Ryder looked relieved.
“I see. Well, Billy doesn’t live here anymore. He has a nice apartment in the city. I’ll give you the address. 1979. That’s a very long time ago. I really doubt if he’ll remember. He was just a boy at the time.”
“Do you remember his girlfriend – Lorraine something?”
“Lorraine LeMarchand. Yes, of course. Poor girl. Billy’s still devoted to her, but of course they couldn’t get married. She was never the same afterwards. How sad.”
“Do you know what happened to Lorraine?”
“No. I’m not sure anyone knew except Lorraine and her father. He was always very strict with her. Worried about her. Her mother died when she was very young and I suppose he felt the responsibility.”
“Wouldn’t Billy have known? He was her boyfriend, right?”
Scotty looked eagerly at mrs Ryder, waiting for her reply.
“If he did, he didn’t tell me about it. After that summer, he was never the same again.”
“We heard that his friend Vinnie Moretti disappeared not long after.”
“That was later. The following year. Some time in January or February, I think. Maybe early March. I remember because we had such a late spring that year.”
“There was some kind of falling out between Billy and Vinnie. Do you know anything about that?”
“No. Not what caused it. I tried to make Billy give Vinnie another chance but he wouldn’t hear of it. Whatever it was, it must have been something really serious. They even got into a fight at work.”
“Yes. One of the other employees remembered that too. And you have no idea what was behind it?”
“No. I asked Billy, of course, but he wouldn’t tell me. He said it wasn’t important anymore.”
“Do you know where we can find mrs LeMarchand and his daughter?”
“Pierre is dead. He was never the same after Lorraine got sick. His health wasn’t good and he died – seven or eight years ago. Lorraine is at a nursing home. She’s doing a little better now, but from time to time she’s back in hospital again. Billy will be able to tell you the address. I’ll get you his address now, if you don’t have any further questions.”
“Thank you, mrs Ryder, that would be fine. We’ll get back to you if we have more questions.”
Again, there was an oppressive silence in the car, on the way back to the city. Eventually, Lilly made an effort to focus on the case.
“I’d say Billy and Lorraine are the key to this case.”
“Me too. Do you think she had a fling with Vinnie and got pregnant with him? That could explain why Billy was so furious with him.”
“Maybe. She gave birth to the child and – who killed it? Did she do it? Afraid of what her father would think – or did he kill it?”
“We’ll have to ask Lorraine. If she can remember. I’ll bet Billy knows too.”
“It doesn’t make sense, though. If she’d had an affair, why is Billy still so devoted to her? No, there has to be something else behind it. What if Vinnie raped her? I know, it doesn’t really happen that often, but women do get pregnant following a rape.”
“It doesn’t? I didn’t know that.”
“The trauma somehow makes it harder to conceive. At least something to be grateful for.”
“Were you ever -”
“Raped? No. Fortunately not. I did some stupid things I regret, but I guess I was lucky. It might have happened. I was such a fool at that age.”
“Oh. I just thought – you seemed unusually troubled by this case.”
Lilly didn’t reply. She was wondering if it really was time to share all the painful details about her past. It wasn’t that it was Scotty asking her about it. If she could force herself to talk about it, it would be with Scotty, but somehow, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Not now. They needed to get the case out of the way.
“This case – is very upsetting. For personal reasons too. I just don’t want to talk about it right now. Can’t we get the case out of the way first and I’ll – try to -”
“I didn’t mean to pry.”
“I know. Actually, you seem to be quite disturbed by this case too.”
Touche. She was right. Almost everything about the case bothered him. Now he knew how Lilly must feel. The memories from his past were just too painful to discuss, at least not right away. He’d need to think about it and come to terms with it all first. Sooner or later, he wanted to tell Lilly all about it, only not right now.
“You’re right. I am. For personal reasons. I shouldn’t have asked. We’ll talk about it again, later, when – hopefully – we’ve solved the case.
“It’s getting late. How about continuing in the morning?”
“Ok. Come on. I’ll make us dinner.”
“Or we could make it together.”
They were greeted by two cats who claimed to be starving, and their first move was to feed those two. With the cats contentedly munching on their food, Lilly and Scotty were able to finally find a distraction from the two cases that had been worrying them. Their under cover work with the cult still haunted them, but at least for the time being, they were able to think about something else.
When they sat down to dinner, they were feeling quite relaxed. While they were still eating, they didn’t discuss anything work related, but afterwards, Scotty recalled his conversation with Stillman and decided to confide in Lilly.
“Remember this morning when I was talking to Stillman?”
“Yes, after he’d called us all in there and updated us on the case. I noticed something was bothering you, but you – seemed too upset to want to talk about it. Have you changed your mind now?”
“I might as well get it over with. Lilly, he knows. There must have been some kind of DNA left in Renfrew’s room.”
“I’m sorry. What did he say?”
Scotty had to blink to clear his sight. The memory of the conversation was still vivid in his mind.
“He was really decent. I handed him my resignation and he wouldn’t take it.”
“He told me Matt is denying everything and claims there has to have been some kind of screwup at the lab. Stillman said he couldn’t do anything about it, so he was going to let it go. He said – he told me again how grateful he was to us for getting his kids out of there and -”
“I told you it would be ok.”
“I know, but – he even reminded me I’d been drugged and that it wasn’t my fault and that – he was sorry.”
Lilly rose to her feet and took Scotty’s hand, pulling him along to the couch where they sat down. She held him until she could tell he was feeling better. They spent the rest of the evening watching an old movie. Scotty surprised her by enjoying it almost as much as she did. When they went to bed, the girls did them the honor of sleeping on the pillow next to them.
In the morning, they went straight to Billy Ryder’s apartment. They were in luck. They caught him before he left for work. In 1979, he’d been a high school kid and even now, he had the look of a young man, despite all the years that had gone by. There was a haunted look in his eyes, which hinted to Lilly that he’d never fully moved on. That summer must still have a hold on him. She had a strong feeling that if she could find out what that was, she’d have solved the case, or close enough.
“Yes, I’m William Ryder. Will this take long, because I have to get to work.”
“You worked at mr Paynter’s supermarket in 1979.”
“Yes. What’s this about?”
They showed him their ID:s and identified themselves. Billy’s eyes widened and he let them in without comment.
“We’ve found human remains under the rubble. Did you know that the supermarket burned down recently?”
“No. You found a body?”
“The skeletal remains of a newborn baby.”
“What happened to your girlfriend that summer, Billy?”
“She – got sick.”
“Sick in what way?”
“I don’t see what Lorraine has to do with this. Hasn’t she suffered enough? I won’t have you bothering her.”
“We’ll need to talk to her about what happened. If you could tell us what it was, it might make things easier.”
“Lorraine didn’t do anything.”
“Ok. Who did?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Lilly decided to take over.
“Ok, I’ll make this even easier. Lorraine became pregnant that summer. Who was the father?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was it you, Billy?”
“How can you be so sure? She was your girlfriend.”
“Yes, but we had decided to wait. We – did things, but we never went all the way.”
“Who was the father, Billy? Come on, don’t tell me you don’t know. You were her boyfriend.”
Billy looked sick.
“Billy, was it Vinnie? Your friend Vinnie?”
“He wasn’t my friend. I just thought he was. He was a bastard. A sick bastard. All that time and he kept pretending to be my friend. Told me how sorry he was Lorraine was sick, but all along he knew -”
“Knew what, Billy? Did he rape her?”
“They all did it. Vinnie and all the other guys in our class. I didn’t know Vinnie had been looking at her like that. He never let me see that side of him. All the time I was dating Lorraine, he must have been envious of me. He didn’t get that many dates. I didn’t either, but I had Lorraine, so I didn’t care. It was the night of the big game. I was on the team so I had to play. It wasn’t until the game was nearly over, I noticed she wasn’t in the audience. Vinnie and the other guys had found her when she was going inside and they took her into the yard, behind the school and – they raped her. There were seven or eight of them.”
Billy’s face was very white now and his eyes enormous in the thin face. His hands kept clenching and unclenching as if he wasn’t aware of what he was doing.
“I found her and took her home. She didn’t say a word. Didn’t cry or anything. She was – like she wasn’t there.”
“What about the baby?”
“It was born in January. Lorraine hadn’t been able to eat a lot and she was sick most of the time, so the baby was born too early, I think. It died after just an hour or so. After it died, Lorraine told me about who it was. Vinnie. Her dad stayed with her and I went to the construction site – the supermarket had been finished for months, but the parking lot was still not done and I put the baby in the biggest hole and shoveled dirt over it. It was so small it disappeared almost at once.”
“Come on, Billy, you’ve told us all this. Now tell us who killed the baby.”
A puzzled look spread across Billy’s face. He stared at Scotty who was standing over him, holding his gaze.
“It just died. It never really cried or anything. After a while, we noticed it was dead.”
“Isn’t that convenient? Mr LeMarchand is dead and Lorraine is in a nursing home. Who’s to say what really happened?”
“But I didn’t kill it. No one did. It just didn’t breathe anymore.”
Lilly caught Scotty’s eye and he stepped back. She made eye contact with Billy and waited. In the silence that followed, Billy didn’t look away, but he didn’t say anything either.
“I can understand that you were upset. People were talking about Lorraine. You didn’t want her to get a bad reputation on top of everything else. You were a kid. If you handled the baby a little too roughly, it’s understandable. Come on. Wouldn’t you rather get it all off your conscience now, after all these years?”
“I didn’t kill the baby. I killed Vinnie, but not the baby. It just died.”
“The sick bastard. He wouldn’t even admit it when I confronted him. Not at first. Then suddenly he changed. He told me he was fed up with hearing about St Lorraine, my perfect girlfriend. They’d all been laughing at us, he said. The perfect couple. We wouldn’t even go all the way until we were married and we were acting just like a little old married couple. He said – I was probably some closet homo and that I didn’t do Lorraine because I couldn’t get it up. He and the other guys were just giving it to her so she could tell the difference. I – don’t know how I found that old piece of pipe – suddenly it was just there. In my hand. I hit him over the head and in the face until he stopped laughing. Then – I realized he was dead. His head was – The parking lot was finished by then so I – dragged his body over to the empty lot behind the supermarket and – dug a hole and shoved him into it and covered it up.”
It had all happened so quickly, Lilly and Scotty were taken unawares. In the silence that followed, they looked just as stunned as Billy. He clearly hadn’t intended to confess to all this, but as the realization of what he’d done sank in, he was beginning to look relieved. After all those years, he could finally let that summer go and live in the present.
Lilly took a deep breath and read him his rights and Scotty cuffed him. They brought him in, to be booked and a little while later, Lilly was able to write the killer’s name on the white box from the evidence room. It always felt as some kind of closure, to bring the box back and put it back on the shelf. They did it together.
Afterwards, they went out to lunch, to put off typing out the report. They only took time to update the boss and Vera and Jeffries.
Over lunch, Lilly couldn’t help returning to the case.
“I’m glad we didn’t have to question Lorraine.”
“Me too. Lil – I know it’s wrong, but I – can understand why Billy did it. Those guys – they took away her life that night. Her life, her dad’s life, Billy’s – Vinnie’s family suffered too.”
“I can understand that too. The difference is, you or I wouldn’t act on that urge. It’s not wrong to think it, just if you go out and do it. Right?”
“Right. It’s just that – I can’t understand how guys like that think. Not Billy. Vinnie and those others. Are they born monsters or do they become monsters as they grow up?”
Lilly considered for a moment.
“You might not want to hear this, but most of them are probably relatively normal guys. All it takes is one leader. Vinnie, probably. The rest would just follow him. Pack instinct. It’s the oldest crime in the book. And usually, the victim is female. I know, sometimes it’s a guy they perceive as – defective. Basically, it’s the strong against the weak or at least the one who’s different. What motivated Vinnie – that I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was just envy. It’s hard to tell since he’s not around to tell his story. We’ll have to check the DNA from the baby against Vinnie’s body. There’s no reason to believe the body won’t be there.”
“I guess we’ll know when we get back. Oh, we’ll have to get Vinnie a box too.”
“Right. Formalities – but we cracked the case today. I think Billy’s been waiting for this day ever since it happened.”
“Can you imagine what it must have felt like to carry that baby’s body to that parking lot and bury it, knowing his girlfriend was at home, but at the same time she wasn’t there at all?”
“Yes. It must have been a dreadful shock to a seventeen-year-old. Maybe that was what pushed him over the edge. The baby and Lorraine herself.”
“Probably. Are you ready to go back and type out the report now?”
“Sure. Better get it over with.”
They had word Vinnie’s grave had been found and instead of going back right away, they stopped by at the empty lot next to the former supermarket. Of course, it was no longer an empty lot. The gas station attendant wasn’t too happy to have the entire driveway dug up, but he wasn’t given any choice. At least they didn’t have to tear down the actual gas station.
The body was little more than bones, but this time there were clothes and – a wallet with a faded, but legible driver’s licence made out to Vincent Moretti, aged 17. That was all he lived to be, and Lilly couldn’t help thinking that Vinnie had brought his sudden demise on himself.
“Right. Case closed.”
“We got our killer. I can’t say it makes me feel all that great. On the other hand, for Billy’s sake, I think this is better anyway. Now he won’t have to live with his secret anymore. I do feel sorry for his mom, and Lorraine, if she’s in any state to understand. Mrs Ryder will have to decide if she can tell Lorraine about it. Maybe it would be better for her not to know.”
“You’re probably right. Well, we won’t find out anything more here. Let’s get back.”