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Friday, January 28, 2011

("After the moment passes and the impulse disappears. You can still hold back. Because you don't crack easily…")…Billy Joel…1986

Chapter Twenty-four

Hollenbeck Station…Monday, Feb 23, 2009…10:00pm

The look on Rebecca Tran's face was pure elation! She was so sure that her slick piece of police work would land her in tight with her CO, that she was actually scribbling Josh Stanford's name all over her note pad like a High School freshman crushing on her homeroom teacher. It was somewhere between cute and pathetic. Cute because, well, she was very cute! It was pathetic because her CO, Lt. Oscar Celaya is rarely impressed; and almost never enough to actually inspire action. I suspected young Rebecca's bubble was about to be burst.

Oscar's office door opened abruptly, swinging hard enough to bounce off the wall and rattle the windows. Startled, Becca jumped out of her chair and walked around her desk when she saw Iggie and the lieutenant heading her way. Her partner was grinning like he'd just run over a small child. But the LT looked as if he were about to eat one! This wasn't a good sign and Becca suddenly felt bile rising from her stomach, burning her esophagus.

"Is this what you call smart police work Detective Tran," roared Lt. Celaya angrily?

"Um, what do you mean sir," she answered meekly, retreating half a step and crossing her arms defensively. Truth be told she was she was fighting the urge to bolt. More bile reached her throat and burned uncomfortably, causing her voice to crack a bit. She tried to look cool, calm and collected but was obviously failing. Iggie smirked like a true tattletale and she could see that the lieutenant wasn't buying her little Miss innocent act.

"What do I mean? Are you serious Tran? Look sunshine, if you expect to still have that gold shield on your belt when you leave here tonight I suggest you drop the cute stuff. Don't you know cute is wasted on me? I'm ten years past my prime, hopelessly married, and a card carrying member of the 'he-man woman hater's club', you got it," Oscar ranted! He always was pretty entertaining when he ranted and raved. To be honest I kind of missed that.

"Yes sir, I didn't mean anything, I'm just confused about what's the issue here," Becca replied finding her voice? She scooted back around her desk to put a physical barrier between her and her psycho boss. She didn't know this guy but had heard some terrible stories about his temper.

"The issue Rebecca is that you removed a potentially critical piece of evidence from an active crime scene without contacting CSI. That is a clear violation of protocol detective, you should have known better," Officer Ingram offered condescendingly.

"Put a sock in it Iggie, I don't need any help scolding the rookie," quipped Lt. Celaya.

"And just so we're clear, you're walking on the same rice paper as your partner here, you got that!"

"Right, sorry LT, my bad," Iggie stammered apologetically. He stepped back a couple of feet, crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes, waiting for Oscar's eyes to look Becca's way again.

"Anyway, like laughing boy here said, you blew it Tran. You contaminated a crime scene, a Cardinal sin in police work. Fortunately for you it's also a common sin among rookies like you, so the blame belongs to Iggie, he should have known better," Oscar said, transferring the heat from student to teacher.

"Wait just a min…" Iggie started.

"I told you to can it Detective Ingram, that means shut up and listen," Oscar said, cutting Iggie off in mid sentence.

"Sir, it's not all his fault, I'd already started to…" Becca began. Oscar raised his hand like a beat cop stopping traffic at a busy intersection.

"Spare me Tran. I appreciate your loyalty to a guy you barely know, but the fact is this is the second time in 24 hours that the BOTH of you have fouled up on this investigation," Oscar said, scolding his new detective as he took a seat on the corner of her desk. He removed his glasses and slowly rubbed his tired eyes. After a moment he sighed and put his glasses back on his face.

"Ah, I'm getting too old for this job'" he said looking down at Becca who had seated herself while he was massaging his temples. He studied her young face for a few seconds and waited for her to make eye contact. When she did they considered one another without words, sizing each other up so to speak. Finally Oscar broke the silence.

"You have a lot of potential Tran, I mean that, you wouldn't be here if I didn't think so," Oscar said sincerely. Becca remained silent, stunned by the sudden change in the lieutenant's demeanor? She allowed herself to relax enough to reply without squeaking.

"Thank you sir," she replied smiling weakly, secretly scolding herself for smiling!

"Look, I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water. This is your first case with us. And let's face it. Iggie isn't exactly teacher of the year, are you professor," Oscar said, turning to glare at her partner? Poor Iggie seemed to actually shrink about an inch under the heat of that stare.

"No excuses sir," Iggie replied without making eye contact. Every good Marine knows there is only one way to answer a question like that from a commanding officer. No excuses sir. Oscar let him off the hook, returning his attention to Becca.

"So heres your next move young Tran. I want you to take this flash drive upstairs to IT and have those nerds see what’s on it. I'll clue you in right now there's nothing except the vic's homework and personal shit," directed Lt. Celaya.

"What makes you think that," Becca asked?

"It's a hunch Tran, a hunch, you never heard that term before? Forget it! Look, because I'm a 35 year veteran in this town it's a goddamn good hunch," Oscar answered tiredly.

"Yes but…" Becca started.

"No buts Tran! This isn't rocket science. You have got to know your subjects. The principle character in this murder scene is Dr. Looney, work-a-holic egghead professor. Next is Whitey Roode, well known low-life. After that comes whoever killed the poor slob that Doctor Feel-good may or may not have been boinking. Last and definitely least is our victim, Ernie Namura. Forget him, he's insignificant, a statistic only," Oscar said, accentuating each point by raising a finger one at a time. Rebecca perked up scooting closer her chair closer to the desk. Even Iggie had looked up from his shoes and moved closer to the conversation.

"But I thought you liked Dr. Looney for this murder? Iggie thought so too?"

"Well you're both wrong. I like Dr. Looney for being the key to solving this puzzle. Actually, I was hoping that Whitey Roode would be the perp. But unfortunately it's not adding up that way. As big an asshole as Whitey is, he's no murderer. No sir, whoever did this thing does it for a living. It's too neat. And that's how I know that your flash drive is useless. The murderer left that for you to find. Well, it was left for you or Whitey, depending on who got there first," Oscar explained, standing up to stretch.

"Oh Lordy, I'm way too old for this," Oscar whined, arching his back.

"If Whitey and Dr. Looney are clear where does that leave us," asked Becca?

"It means that our unknown subject is playing with us. He planted that stick under the soda machine knowing we'd find it easy enough. Then, he left us to play grab ass with Whitey Roode while we deciphered a device containing bupkis. The real target is Judy Looney. She took whatever was worth finding with her when she left the lab," Iggie said joining the brainstorm.

"Give that man a prize," Oscar replied sarcastically.

"Now here's the sixty-four thousand dollar question, where is Dr. Looney now," Oscar asked looking down at Becca? Suddenly she was afraid, not for herself, she was afraid for Judy Looney!

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