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A Partner In Crime

the Detective: 9

©11 The Media Desk

      I had had my 'trainee' for about a week when the assistant chief walked in with a file and looked my way.
      "Oh, no, here it comes," I mumbled.

      The premonition had been lurking in my mind that once I turned in my retirement papers I would end up with a really messy high profile case that needed to be handled with kid gloves dumped on me. And so it happened. The one thing I didn't count on was having to train my own replacement who had never worked something like that at the same time.
      One Tuesday when I had the news on while I got ready for work I heard about the mysterious disappearance of a co-owner of a construction company. I had hoped that it wouldn't come my way because some of the names mentioned during the report had political ties, and the victim had his name on the high school football stadium. But the premonition had settled somewhere down around the waffles I ate for breakfast and it stayed there all morning.

      And now here it was, the owner's car had been found with blood all over it, but the owner was nowhere around.

      The prime suspect was one of the minority partners in the firm that had a falling out with Mister Fallsner, who owned half the company. The other half was owned by two different individuals, but one was an absentee owner who lived, and was known to be, in Tokyo, while the other was local and had seriously disagreed with Fallsner over the firm's preferential use of union labor at the expense of overall profit to the firm.
      Mister Johnson was the owner with the labor issue, and he got quite vocal at a meeting where the senior management of the company was discussing the construction of a new subdivision. Fallsner had already signed the contract with a couple of the unions for their part of the work, which would eat into the profit the company would make because the price per unit had been previously negotiated with the overall site developer.

      Mrs. Fallsner was unable to provide any details other than her husband had left for the developer's meeting and had never come home. At midnight she called his cell phone and left a message, but as he was known to have 'outside interests' she just thought he was doing that.
      Then they found his car the next morning at the construction site.

      "Yes'r detet'v, he thret'n'd him," the construction site manager said. At least I think that's how he said it.
      "Johnson threatened Mister Fallsner in the meeting." I asked him to clarify the point.
      "Yes'r. I's sittin' right thar besides him."
      "You were sitting next to which man?" My trainee asked.
      "Mess'r Johnson, and he says 'I's got's halfamind to kicks yer ass.' Yes'r."
      "But that isn't a death threat." I said.
      "Ya shud'a heared him says it."

      The company's lead executive administrative assistant was also at the meeting, "They've never liked each other, sometimes they'd get to yelling at each other until Mister Collins would come over from the office next door and ask if I was all right."
      My trainee pointed to each side of the office, "which office next door?"
      "Collins Insurance Agency," she answered and pointed to the left.
      "Oh, OK."
      I just nodded and moved on, "Had Mister Johnson ever threatened Mister Fallsner before?"
      "All the time, and Sam would threaten him right back. But I don't think they'd ever actually, you know, had a fist fight over anything."

      Later I stood in the parking lot with my trainee and thought about our next move.
      "Should we go speak to Mister Johnson?"
      Johnson, knowing he was the prime suspect, had 'lawyered up' in a hurry and had alibis and witnesses for everything he'd done since he'd been in the third grade.
      "Not yet. Let's go look at where they found the car again." I said.

      The car had been found in the middle of the development site, but something hadn't seemed right. And now I thought I had a handle on what it was. On the way out to the site I called the lab tech that had worked on it and asked her to meet us out there.
      I parked my car right where Fallsner's had been and got out carefully and looked around. The site had been closed due to the investigation, but the developer was starting to make noise about getting back to work, this might be the last time we were able to see the undisturbed scene and I wanted to make the most of it.
      "So it was right here?" I gestured to my car.
      "Yes, sir."
      "And the ground was like this?"
      She looked down, "yes."
      "There was no blood on the ground, no sign of a struggle, no nothing."
      "No, sir. There weren't even any fresh footprints near the car. Not that we could see anyway. It's not the best surface for that."
      "And there was no sign that they'd used one of those to cover up tracks or anything." I pointed to the row of heavy equipment not far from a new foundation hole.
      "No, sir."
      I don't like puzzles, I never have. I'm good at solving them, but I don't like them. I walked around my car and looked at the ground. The dirt had been machined smooth at one point, then crisscrossed with everything from wheelbarrows up for the last several weeks. If somebody didn't want their tracks seen, it wouldn't have been hard to arrange it. But there was so much blood and tissue splatter inside the car from the massive head wound that was the obvious cause of death that I didn't believe that some of it hadn't landed on the ground outside the car, especially since the driver's door had been found open with the window down. The only area inside the car not covered with debris was where the killer had been sitting in the passenger seat. That and under where the victim had been sitting behind the wheel.
      "No sir, we went over it with the lights and took samples, there was no blood outside of the car."
      "So he was killed someplace else, the body taken out of the car, and then the car brought here," the trainee surmised, correctly I might add, "but where was it done?"
      "Exactly," then my eyes fell on a huge construction dumpster sitting on the other side of the foundation. "Let's go see if we can find it."
      "I've got the gear in the van, I'll follow you," the lady lab tech said.
      "I'm just playing a hunch. It might be a wild goose chase."
      "The lab's come to like your geese."

      "Where are we going?" The trainee asked me in the car as I drove slowly out of the construction site.
      "To the dump."
      "If Fallsner was killed by somebody familiar with the construction business, and they didn't do it here or at their yard, then it was someplace else they knew well and had access to where they could dispose of the body and whatever other evidence they had easily. There's a window sticker on the windshield to let the car into the landfill."
      The landfill was a massive complex, but I was betting they hadn't gone across the scales or out to the main dumping area. I stopped just inside the gatehouse and looked around, then I saw what I wanted. "There, that looks good."
      It was a narrow road that branched off to the left of the main road just before the scale house. Just as a guess I would say that it was some sort of patrol or service road used by vehicles with only four wheels instead of the massive rigs coming and going loaded with trash.
      I turned down it and was followed a moment later by the lab van and then by an old pickup truck with a faded stripe down the side that turned out to be the landfill's security officer.
      As I drove the lane deteriorated slightly with sizable ruts here and there and the occasional puddle of suspicious looking off colored liquid in it.
      "I'd say right about here," I slowed down and looked at the mound that rose along the passenger's side. My side of the lane was littered with litter, spotty grass, and an eight foot tall chain link fence. But the spot I stopped was out of sight of the main road and was still passable for a passenger car.
      "Oh, it stinks." The trainee observed as we got out.
      "It's supposed to."
      The lab tech got out of her van and looked around, "Well, now what?"
      "We look around."
      Then I had to explain to the security guard what we were doing, he said he'd call the manager and let them know we were there.

      I walked down the lane until the ruts got too bad for a passenger car to pass easily, then I started back to my car, looking at the ground.
      "Check this out," I said after a couple of minutes of starting at the grass and dirt and litter along the side of the road. There was a clean spot that had dark splotches here and there.
      It took only a few minutes for a preliminary test to come back that identified the spots as blood. As to whether it was human or not would take more time, but now we had something to work from.
      "OK, we need to comb that." I pointed to the side of the mound of the landfill.
      This part of the mountain of garbage was fairly fresh, it had been worked and reworked by the bulldozers and even while we stood there and looked at it, a small landslide of fill dirt and trash tumbled down escorted by a flock of birds.
      "We're going to need help."
      I grinned, "That's what academy cadets are for," and took out my phone.

      They arrived in a bus, with plastic gloves and face masks.
      "You're looking for anything connected to the case including the decedent or any of his possessions, the murder weapon, or other evidence," the training officer said to the class. "This is not a training exercise, this is a murder investigation, anything you find could be the evidence the detective needs to close the case and arrest the murderer. Understood?"
      The class said they did, and we put them to work.
      "What we're after probably isn't too deep, but it may have been contaminated by birds." I said gesturing to the disapproving wildlife.

      "Detective! Detective, Over Here!" A young man shouted who couldn't have possibly been old enough to be a police cadet.
      I walked over to where he stood waving at us.
      He had been well trained, he'd come across a wallet and some other items that looked fresh, and he hadn't touched them once he'd uncovered them.
      I picked up the wallet by one corner and jiggled it until I saw something in it with a name, "Samuel H. Fallsner. Good work cadet."
      The lab crew went through the area with shovels and tweezers. They found some other items of his, including his change purse and cell phone. But not him.

      His body was found several feet away in a hollowed out area of the hill that had been recovered with loose dirt and garbage. The gaping head wound from the gunshot was even worse than I had expected.
      The cadet that had found the body had run retching to the other side of the road and proceeded to add a fresh protein spill to the grassy area. At least they hadn't done it on top of the corpse. Then the lab crew set to work.
      "Keep looking, the weapon is here someplace," the training officer said.

      "I'll tell her," I said to the captain when he asked me who should inform the widow that we'd located her husband's body.

      We left the landfill and drove out to the Fallsner's house. The home was wall to wall with family and most of them started crying as soon as they saw me and my trainee.
      Mrs. Fallsner told them she wanted to talk to us alone and we went into a small sitting room off the main hall.
      "We just found him, we're waiting on the positive ID, but I'm sure it's him." I said to Mrs. Fallsner.
      "When can we make the arrangements? You know, to bury him?" She asked me wiping at her eyes as her lower lip and jaw quivered.
      "I'm not sure ma'am. The coroner's office usually handles that side of things."
      "Well, OK," she said, "but you're sure it's him?"
      "Yes ma'am, from the photo you gave us I'd say it is pretty certain that it was."
      She nodded, and took a deep breath. "Thank you, officer."

      On the way out to the car I asked my trainee a question that would let me know if they had potential in this line of police work or should transfer to the traffic division.
      "Did anything strike you odd about her reaction?"
      "She never asked where we found him or how."
      "Ya think she did it?" The trainee asked me trying to sound like the construction site manager.
      "If not, I'd bet she had a piece of the action."
      They looked across the roof of the car at me, "But how do we prove it either way?"
      "That's our job to figure out, Detective."

      They were just wrapping up at the landfill when we got back out there.
      "We got the weapon, and something else," the captain said to me. "A pair of women's shoes. Size five."
      "It's a landfill," I said.
      "These had blood on them."

      One of the things that had stumped me was how so much of the victim's blood and brain tissue and other matter had ended up all over the inside of his car. Especially when I saw the wound. It looked like half of his head was gone.
      The murder weapon solved that riddle.
      He had been shot at point blank range by an antique handgun. The piece that was found turned out to have been made in the 1820's in Europe. A sixty-nine caliber, smooth bore, muzzle loading, percussion cap fired pistol that had been loaded, or rather, overloaded, by somebody not familiar with the weapon. The buck and ball load had exploded, and that was the word, into the side of Fallsner's head from only inches away. Showering everything in the car including the killer, and outside of it since the window had been down, with bits of his skull, brain, and blood.
      Fallsner was a known collector and restorer of antique guns. Several were on display in his office and, from what I'd seen at the home, there as well.

      "We need a warrant for the victim's house and office, I want to see if he's missing a gun and what size shoes his wife wears."
      "She's fairly petite, I'd say around a five," my partner guessed.
      "Let's confirm it."

      Mrs. Fallsner did wear a size five shoe, but she didn't admit to anything else. "Why would I kill my own husband?" she asked us even though we hadn't accused her of the crime. We'd only said a pair of women's shoes had been found near the body.
      "You said he'd been having an affair."
      "He's been having affairs since I met him. It's what he does, but he always comes home to me." She stopped, "Well, he did."
      "We need to confirm that the gun was his.
      "His records are in there, on the shelf next to the fireplace."

      There was even a picture of the French made pistol. Complete with a note on when he'd last fired it. "'Sights are off, shoots to the left.'" I read off the page.
      "At that range it didn't matter," my partner added.
      "No," I said, "Mrs. Fallsner, I'd like to take this to the lab guys for comparison." I said standing up with the book. "Ma'am?"
      "Mrs. Fallsner?" My partner said walking out of the study into the hall. "Have you seen Mrs. Fallsner?" They asked somebody.
      "She was just here, I think she went outside," a woman answered.
      "Let's go!" I said and ran toward the door.

      She was gone.

      Several hours later the highway patrol stopped her by ramming her sportscar and running her off the road.
      She resisted arrest with yet another antique pistol that misfired when she aimed it at the trooper. They took her into custody without serious injury to anybody.

      Later she took a plea to avoid possibility of the death penalty at trial. She said that she had wanted out of the marriage, but if she had filed for divorce she wouldn't have gotten anything because of the language in the prenuptial agreement. She was trying to make it look like Johnson had killed him after the argument, but wasn't sure how to do it.

      After the meeting he came home and she said she wanted to go out and talk. She drove them to the landfill and used his access to open the afterhours gate. Then she drove down the road and parked and got out. They talked for awhile, then he got back into the car and that's when she got in and shot him. But she didn't expect the shot to do what it did. She said she had blood and gore all over her.
      After she had killed him, she then spent several hours in the middle of the night burying him and her clothes at the landfill, then drove his car back to the site wearing only her underwear and a coat she'd had in the trunk, then walked home like that.
      I nodded at the details that fit our investigation. Such as her small bare feet didn't leave much of an impression on the ground at the construction site and made it look like whoever had abandoned the car had flown away.
      After she told her story, the lab crew went back out and found her clothes not much further down the lane than I had walked and turned around.

      For her efforts, Mrs. Fallsner became a resident of the state's hotel graybar for women for the rest of her life, and Mister Johnson, whom she wanted to frame for the deed, became the majority owner of the firm. But he still had to deal with the unions for at least the duration of the current contract.
      And my partner?
      Starting this time next year, they can have all the premonitions they want, I've already booked a whale watching cruise.

-end 9-

For more adventures with The Detective see:
1. The Robbery
2. murder and other fun at The Sun Club
3. The Water Murders
4. Amused To Death
5. Too many suspects spoil the case.
6. The Grand Conspiracy.
7. Murder isn't a Joke.
8. "Sometimes you can't arrest the perpetrator."
9. A Partner In Crime.

the Desk's Fiction Department

[NOTE: All characters, places, events, and businesses/organizations are FICTIONAL. NO inference to REAL anything is to be made. No similarities to ACTUAL anything is intended. This Piece Is FICTION, enjoy it as such. Thank You -the Author.]

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