Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
San Francisco Fire Chief Greg Mullins took a quick glance into the elevator cage as he walked toward the apartment where the girls lived. He could not bring himself to linger on the thoughts of the pain the small dog had gone through. “Scully, take the pictures of the dog and cover him up. Make sure he gets transferred out of here pronto.”
“Will do, Chief,” and he opened the rickety gate, lifted his camera to a higher angle to get the shot of Sweetie Pie. He looked down to make sure his footing was secure on the floor where the gap emptied into mechanics of the old style elevator.
“Don’t fall in, Scully. You’re too valuable to lose,” said the Chief. “And Scully, make sure the elevator is locked in the off position. I don’t want any injuries for anyone, you hear?”
“Yep. I’ll double check and put up a sign downstairs and on every floor.”
When Chief Mullins stepped into apartment 24, he could hardly believe his eyes. This was not the usual trashing, it was as if a shock wave had shattered every item to small pieces.
“Hey Chief! Take a look around. You will not believe what’s been done in here. What was that call you got about this place?” asked Mickey. Mickey had been his best and most trusted friend since grammar school in the North Beach district. Their families still celebrated Easter together every year.
“It was a tip, Mickey,” and keep that to yourself for now, okay?”
Mickey looked at him for a second. Then his eyes seemed to flicker, and he said, “Sure, Chief. Whatever you say.” He continued checking out the stove’s gas lines.
“Whoever did this really had it in to destroy these girls. Every possible sentimental item has been splintered, or smashed to bits,” said Joey.
“Sure looks like it, Joey,” said the Chief.
“Hey, boss. I found one thing not broken. It’s the record from West Side Story. There’s not a scratch on it,” said Frank. “I found it standing up against a corner of the room, but its album cover has been torn in quarters.”
“Make sure you expedite for prints on those items.”
The Chief wandered from room to room. Other than to check the apartments in question for fire and gas hazards, it was not his department’s responsibility to investigate further as there was no fire. His department had a special field group for that type of work. However, because the call had come in to his office, from Eric, he was giving special attention to all the details he and his men could record before the SFPD arrived.
Foremost in everyone’s mind was that this might be the work of the Bush Street Serial Killer. The various teams worked according to procedure to check out the whole building. Front, sides, basement, and roof – inspections had to be performed everywhere. Every resident of the building would be asked if they had heard any unusual or loud noise earlier in the day.
“Hey, Mickey. Let Jonsey finish with that. Come with me. We’ve got a lot of apartments to check out.”
As they walked down the carpeted hallway to Krista’s apartment number 28, Mickey said, “Do you hear the silence from these apartments? Where is everyone? Usually there’s someone crying because they’re scared, or someone is yelling because they’re mad and scared. What’s up?”
“I’m not sure, but we will soon. Let’s go through as many of these apartments as we can before the PD get here.”
“I think I hear their cars wailing down the street now,” Mickey said.
The two men rushed down to where more of their team had been in Krista’s apartment number 28. “The gas lines and wiring look okay in there boss, but the old lady on the floor has had it. Might be the work of that guy we’re looking for,” said Pete, who was a team leader.
Chief Mullins and Mickey took a quick look around. “I don’t see anything out of place here,” said Mickey.
“Well, it looks like the only damage here is what happened to this poor old lady,” said the Chief. “That’s a wide cut in her throat,” he paused and then asked, “Has anyone called the Coroner’s office yet?”
Pete answered, “Yeah, boss. Just as soon as we saw the body, we called the Medical Examiner’s office. We haven’t touched the body
“Damn! I hate this,” said the Chief. “We can’t even cover her up until the cops get here.”
“Well, we’re here now, Mullins. You can quit your complaining,” said the Detective who walked in noiselessly.
“About time, Fontino,” replied the Chief as he snapped at the detective’s brown tweed sports jacket and eyed his slacks. “Aren’t you overdressed for this job today?”
“Nope. I had a meeting with the people in IA along with the Commissioner. Guess who’s in charge of the Serial Killer Investigations now.”
“Nah! Not you! You’re still wet behind the ears,” and Chief Mullins laughing along with his friends Mickey and Fontino.
Detective Fontino walked over to view the body. “Any ID on her? Is this her apartment?”
“Nothing confirmed yet. Supposedly, this woman is the owner of the small dog sliced by the killer. Someone got the elevator to stop halfway in between floors.”
“What I can’t figure is how the killer squeezed out safely through the narrow opening in the gate. It has me wondering, how about you?” Mickey added.
“I’m thinking about it. The fingerprint guys should be able to help when they get results,” said Fontino.
Meanwhile, is there anyone around to make identification? How about some other close neighbors?”
“That’s been bothering me and Mickey just now. Seems like there’s no one around. Even after all the sirens, fire trucks, and your police cars. There’s not a peep from these apartments.”
“That sounds strange,” agreed Fontino. “I’ll have my men go door to door starting on this floor.”
“Some of my men are about to start that as well. We have to check every apartment for damage to the gas lines and electric wiring now. You know,” he paused, “all this may have been a ruse to distract us from the murderer’s real target,” said Chief Mullins.
“Okay. Let’s do it, men,” Fontino pointed for two of his men to start at one end of the hall and assigned the two others to start at the other end.
He, Chief Mullins, and Mickey headed downstairs. In the lobby, Eric had been waiting to see if anyone else had been discovered, or injured. Introductions all around were brief.
“Hey, Eric. I’m glad you’re here. Remember me? We’ve worked together over in North Beach. The Victoria Pizza Palace, remember?”
“Sure I do. Over on Union Street. It was one of my favorite places. Too bad, they didn’t reopen after the fire. I loved their pizza and lasagna,” said Eric smiling. “You know, I just heard that you are in charge of the serial murder investigations now. What happened to what’s his face from TV?”
“What are you trying to do, Eric? Pull my leg? It’s all over our precinct like the wild fires we used to chase together, Stetson’s been canned for starting a fight over at the hospital. I heard you, were the one he fought with!” Fontino punched Eric on the left shoulder. “Got him in big trouble, didn’t you? Well done, I’d say. I’ve hated that obnoxious egomaniac since the day I met him. He got what he deserved.”
“Chief Mullins!” called a firefighter who leaned over the stairwell. “Come up right now, okay?”
Then Detective Larry Marino leaned over, “Detective Fontino, “You’d better get up here quick, too.”
All four men ran up the stairs, two steps at a time, to the second floor. They entered apartment 26, the apartment next to Krista’s number 28. Inside, the bodies of two young girls about 8 and 10 were dead in the living room. “Their throats were slashed like the old lady in apartment 28. But this isn’t all, guys. There’s one more in the bedroom,” said Marino.
They all turned and went down a short hall. “It looks like the Mom. See, here,” Marino pointed to some family pictures on the fireplace mantel.
“Yeah, I see. It sure looks like her. Anyone else in this apartment?” asked Fontino.
“No, thank God. This place is not big enough for more bodies,” said Marino. “Jeeze. Take a look at this picture. Isn’t that the old lady we found in the apartment next door? Looks like she lived here. She’s in a whole bunch of pictures.”
“Listen up. Everyone here,” said Fontino. “Everything we see here, and do here, everything we learn about these victims, has to remain with us. No leaks. Our heads are on the block. Everyone’s watching for results. This may be the work of the serial killer, but until we have clues to tie him in for sure, I don’t want this case to fall apart. If it does, it will for sure, fall on our careers. Understood?” Detective Fontino looked at each person in the room, one by one. Each person nodded back.
Eric, the youngest of the four men, had wild thoughts going through his mind. He had stepped aside when the two detectives continued on to the third floor. Chief Mullins came over and stood with him by the wall as firefighters and police went back and forth. The whole building was a murder site.
“Thank God, Haley and the girls are over at my aunt’s house,” said Eric.
“They should be calling you soon, right?” asked Mullins.
“Yeah. I think I’ll go outside and call them now. But first, I’m calling in for another team to assist,” said Eric. “It’s a fiend that’s out there,” said Eric quietly to Mullins. What he did to two little girls…it’s fiendish.”
“And I thought what he did to the dog was bad,” said Mullins, and he shook his head in sorrow.
Eric made the calls for more help. He then stepped outside to make his personal calls. Before he made it to the bottom step, reporters were yelling questions at him through the din of honking car horns and drivers yelling, “Move it!” As Bush was a one-way street, every car in sight was stuck.
“Is it the work of the Serial Killer? How many bodies have been found?”
Eric said a few, “No comments at this time,” and pushed through the crowd to one of the ambulances. Police officers had blocked a pathway for the EMTs to the ambulance door. Mrs. Hamlin’s body went in first, then the driver that worked with Eric the night before, carried the bagged and tagged body of her dog, Sweetie Pie. They would be going together to the Coroner’s office.
“This is unbelievable,” Eric mumbled to himself.
“What’s that you were saying, Captain Warner?” said one of the reporters. “I can see your lips move but couldn’t make out what you said.” The question came from a pushy reporter that Eric knew from other murder cases.
“Nothing for you to hear, Tom,” replied Eric, and he waved him off. Tom was one of those reporters who were not only persistent, but trouble. It was best to hold him off politely, for now.
Eric tried to put together what he had heard about Stetson’s firing, and what the whole timeline had been since he sent the girls off to his aunt’s house. And who, he tried to guess, it was that wanted everyone to know about the firing so soon, that they took a chance and leaked the news.
Tired of all the confusion and problems, Eric admitted to himself that he was glad to hear of Stetson’s dismissal, but was surprised that no one had even questioned him about the incident before the decision had become final. Some insider must have leaked it to their advantage.
Now, at least the girls didn’t have to worry as much, maybe. The Creep, as they had nicknamed him, was without his previous authority to roam wherever he wanted. Eric understood how the girls had a hard time referring to the source of their harassment as “Commander Stetson.”
Thinking from their point of view, they might just be elated to hear that Stetson lost his position on the force, and, as head of the serial killer investigation. But, as he had learned a long time ago, things aren’t that easy. Although he was without official police authority, Stetson would seek revenge for his firing and his humiliation. The girls were still in danger.
Copyright 2012 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California