The phone rang and was answered, “Schmit how can I help you?” Michael Schmit had been a detective sergeant for three years when he decided there was more money and less rules outside the department.
“Mike you got to help me! They are setting me up! I didn’t do it!”
“Rick is this you? Calm down. What are you talking about?”
“Bette, . . . Oh, yes it’s me. Bette is missing and the cops are saying I did it.” Rick Lawson was a small-time hustler earning a living off the leavings of others. He was the kind of guy that was important to only himself.
“OK, Rick, where are you, we need to talk.”
Rick met Mike at a bar near the park on River Drive. It was a corner bar frequented by blue-collar workers. “Cheers,” was a TV show but had nothing on this place. The people here lived in the neighborhood, they had known one another for years, they had even gone on picnics put on by the owner of the bar. It was a comfortable place to have a beer before going home, not like the dives you see in the movies.
Rick was near panic. He was a bundle of nerves. He was shaking and sweating. Mike said, “Rick, get it together. I’m here now. we will work this out, but you got to talk to me. Give it to me straight, what happened.”
“It was two days ago. I had just dropped Bette off at her place. I should have been a gentleman and walked her to the door, but I only waited until she went into the lobby of her building. When she reached the elevator, I left. That was the last time I saw her. Then next thing I knew I was taken to the substation. I met Sargent Adams. They don’t teach you guys manners do they. Adams and his partner practice bad cop and even worse cop.”
“So, what’s the bottom line?”
“They told me that at about one in the morning there was a fight in Bette’s apartment. They said it got so loud the neighbors called the cops, and they found the place a mess and Bette had her head split open. They are sure I did it. Mike, I swear I had nothing to do with it. I love Bette. I would never do anything like that to her.”
“OK, I believe you. So, what do you think happened?”
“Come on man you are the X-cop! Why are you asking me?”
“I’m asking you because you Know more about Bette than I do. Who are her friends? Who does she hang with when she isn’t working? You know stuff like that, but most of all, who might hate her enough to what to hurt her this bad?””
“Don’t you think I been trying to figure this out? I got nothing. She was a saint, everyone loved her. She never did anything to anybody. You knew her.”
“Well, tell me what you know about where she died.”
“Adams said she died in her apartment.”
“Was anything taken?”
“No. Nothing. Adams said the doors were locked and nothing was touched. That’s why they think it was me.”
Mike wasn’t getting anywhere with Rick in this state so took him home, got him as calm as he could without drugs and left him, but not before making sure he would not go anywhere without telling him first.
Mike still had some connections at the department, and had worked with Adams before. They were not the best of friends but did get along. He was sure he could talk to him and not be shut down.
As part of his retirement he got a badge and ID card with a concealed carry endorsement on it. The card got him past the desk and the endorsement got him past the metal detector. He took the elevator to the third floor where he met Detective Adams. He filled me in on all that they had and that wasn’t much more than what Rick had said.
They had a saint murdered in a most gruesome way, by who, and for what?
Good cops always start at the scene of the crime. Think about it, where else would you start. When Mike was at the department nothing was said about surveillance cameras. He knew if they were there Adams would get around to them, but he wasn’t going to wait for him. He pulled at Bette’s apartment and parked about 100 yards south of the main entrance.
He was very careful in his approach, making sure to take in all the buildings and any cameras that may be looking at the surrounding area. Nothing. The lobby was small. There was no desk clerk just an elevator, but over the entry door looking at the elevator was a camera.
To view the tape required the permission of a building manager. How ‘bout number 1? There he was and yes, the tape could be looked at.
The police report indicated the coroner placed the time of death at about 2 a.m. He began to play the tape at 11 p.m. Between 11 and 1, three people entered the lobby. At 11:30 p.m. a man and woman entered together. The manager said they were a couple and lived in apartment 7. He also said they lived there for 6 years and never caused a problem. At 1:15 a.m. a woman entered and the manager said he had never seen her before. There was no other activity until 2:45 a.m. when the unknown woman left. She hurried out of the elevator and looked directly at the camera and just as quickly looked down and hurried out of the building.
There was something that caught Mike's attention. She moved very fast but something was wrong. He ran the tape back and then forward but at a much slower speed. When she stepped out of the elevator, he could see splotches on her dress and stains on her legs. Hint, blood and brain splatter. There was something else, a full face. He paused the tape and pressed print. He had the face of a murderer. He made sure the manager knew that the tape would be evidence and had to be saved, before he left.
As a detective Mike had access to facial recognition software at the PD, but being an industrious cop, he installed a working copy at home. No, you’re wrong. He was a good cop. Well yeah, he may have used it a time or two a little south of right but only a little to get warrants that led to arrest and convictions. When he got to his office he keyed into the program and within 20 minutes he had a DMV match. It gave him the name and address of Mary R. Milton of 1521 Vernal Height’s.
After a short drive Mike pulled in front of 1521 and parked. Even from the curb he could tell something was wrong. The front door was slightly ajar. Mike pulled his gun and made the same cop entry he had made so many times before. The room was clean and neat, nothing like his apartment. To his left was another door and it too was ajar. He pushed it open revealing a bed with a female form sprawled on it. He made a quick check and, yes, she was dead.
“Adams, Mike here. I got something you need to see!” He then finished filling in the homicide detective, giving him the address and hanging up the phone.
While waiting for Adams, he searched the rest of the house. There were pictures and all the other things left by years of family life. In the bathroom he found a half empty bottle of sleeping pills. Finally, on the bed was a note. He picked it up just as Adams entered. Without reading it he handed it to Adams.
Adams read it and said, “No. Damn it, No.”
“What’s wrong,” Mike asked.
“I told her that we found the guy.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Thirteen years ago, her brother was hit and killed by a hit-a-run driver. We developed info that Bette was a person of interest. Bette had an alibi and there was no damage to her car. We worked the case and got nowhere, until two years ago Bette was still a POI.”
“What changed that?”
“New info. We found Barry Fullerton. At the time of the accident he was a computer tech. He had been out with co-workers and had one too many. Well to make a long story short a kid stepped in front of his car and bang. He stopped but knew he couldn’t cover his drinking. He went home. He called his car in as stolen, and had it fixed right after it was recovered. When we brought Barry in 13 years of living with guilt spilled out. He copped to everything. I even told her she could come to court for the sentencing. I told her she had the wrong guy.