UCLA, Molecular Sciences Building…Monday, Feb 23, 2009…6:30pm
The familiar yellow barrier tape that identifies every crime scene still blocked most of the first floor hall as well as the entrance to room 1187 which housed the SEM Lab. Detective Rebecca Tran was squatting next to a chalk outline where the body of Ernie Namura had been found. She stared intensely at something just under the foot of the soda pop machine. Suddenly, her partner, Bob "Iggie" Ingram burst through the double doors and out of the lab. Subtlety was not the man's long suit, a factoid requiring little or no clairvoyance.
Rebecca had been assigned to Iggie (what kind of a nickname is that anyways) for all of 48 hours and she already knew more about the lout than she cared to. She shuddered to think that there were still 88 days left until the end of her 90day probationary period. She decided to leave that in God's hands. Like many second generation children of Vietnamese immigrants she had been raised staunchly in the Catholic faith. And while she had her own views of faith and religion, she respectfully honored her family by following their wishes with regard to her spirituality. Besides, if prayer works like the Parish Priests promise every Sunday at St. Finbar in Burbank, then the lieutenant would take pity on her when her time was up and assign her to a real mentor, like Josh Stanford maybe, that would be sweet!
Detective First Grade, Joshua Job Stanford (how Old Testament), now there was a rock solid cop for you! While names rarely define a man, Josh lived up to his namesakes, with the strength of Joshua and the patience of Job. Twenty-five years on the force with half a dozen commendations and an arrest record that rivaled Elliot freaking Ness! The man was a station-house legend. Another perk was she needn't worry about getting hit on as the legend was well known as a choirboy as well. He and wifey had a Ward and June Cleaver marriage, string of pearls and all. There were only a couple of personal vices of the non-smelly kind to deal with, unlike Iggie, the stinker! Other than his severe sweet tooth (a dyed in the wool Snickers-a-holic) and a peculiar addiction to a regular poker game with yours truly, Richard "Whitey" Roode and my circle of ne'er-do-wells, Detective Stanford was, dare I say it, perfect. In my defense though, young Rebecca and I had only just met, and I sensed that her first impression was sort of positive. I think that I convinced her that I was less of a Neanderthal than ole Iggie. Of course I was still an uncouth ex-cop and a haole to boot! What the hell, the less she saw of either of us the better off she'd be! Yeppers, as soon as Becca made her 90 days, bammo, she'd hit up Celaya for a new partner. Who knows, maybe hit the jackpot and draw Detective Stanford, it could happen.
Iggie stopped in his tracks as soon as he saw her. The young lady was a looker that was for sure, and seeing her in that position beside the bloody chalk outline reminded him of another time in his life, one that he kept deeply buried for sanity sake. Most of those memories weren't that healthy anyway. But the sight of her squatting like a peasant at a cooking fire brought a smile to his face. The memory she triggered was a pleasant one, and that would be all he had to say about that. He cleared his throat to announce himself, trying not to startle her. He didn't, Becca she was entranced as she studied the crime scene and wrestled with her probationary purgatory.
"Detective Tran," he said in a tone louder than he intended, his voice echoing down the long empty hall. She didn't respond.
That got her attention and she stood but did not turn to face her partner. Iggie sensed the wheels turning in her brain and he waited patiently, uncharacteristically, for a reply. She stood silent a moment longer then spun 180 degrees to answer her partner.
"Did I hear right, the boss thinks Dr. Looney may have this," Rebecca asked, tapping pursed lips with an index finger? She continued to tap while she waited for Iggie to answer her rhetorical question.
"That's not what he said. What he said was that this guy is dead because we blew the surveillance and lost track of the Looney broad," Iggie answered, slightly agitated that she wasn't really listening. That was so rude he thought.
"So, she was here, maybe working, maybe horsing around, whatever, and she left. Why would she come back here to kill him? Why didn't she do it before she left? Why would she risk being seen coming and going twice? That doesn't make sense to me," Becca wondered aloud.
"I dunno, maybe she didn't kill anyone? Maybe she witnessed it? By the way rookie, the lieutenant didn't imply anything more than we fouled up. You're reading too much into his nickel lecture sweetheart," replied Iggie.
Ignoring him, Becca turned and walked over to the soda machine, drumming her fingers against it for a second before squatting down beside it. She looked back at Iggie and then got down on her hands and knees, putting her face flat on the floor and looked under the machine. Becca reached as far as she could for a shadow toward the back. She could feel his eyes on her ass and was more than a little uncomfortable.
"I better not catch you smiling Detective Ingram," she said.
"Don't flatter yourself Tran, I've seen better," quipped Iggie defensively!
"No you haven't Iggie, I've got a world class tush and you know it," she grunted as she strained to reach further back.
"Damn it! I pushed the darn thing out of reach," Becca exclaimed, standing abruptly and brushing off her slacks. She turned to Iggie and gestured for him to come and help her.
"Come on Iggie; help me scoot this thing away from the wall. There something under there that the CSI guys missed. It could be important," she asked.
"That thing must weigh a ton Becca, let me find something to stick under there and swat whatever it is out from under it," Iggie complained.
"Oh come on, we can move this together. It'll give you a chance to show off for me," Becca teased, forcing a smile.
Iggie sauntered over to help her begrudgingly. He walked past her and wedged as much of his skinny frame as possible between the soda machine and the wall. The darn thing was as heavy as he had feared and his first attempt to impress her failed miserably. Grunting he tried again unsuccessfully. He pried himself out from behind the big ice box and looked around for his helper. Becca appeared before he could bellow for her, handing him a back-scratcher she had found on a bookshelf in the lab.
"Here, try this," she said.
Iggie swiped it from her hand with a jerk and gave her the universal "are you kidding me" look that every father dishes out in exasperation at least thousand times or better in life!
"You could have told me to wait before I ruined this sport coat," he whined as he squat down to swipe at whatever was under the soda box.
He reached in from the side and swept the back-scratcher toward the wall. The object slid out and rested against the wall, easily within reach. But before he could straighten up to grab the thing Becca leap-frogged over him and intercepted it. She stood quickly and held the thing to the fluorescent light above, examining it closely.
"Jesus Becca, you almost broke my back jamming your knee into me like that, what the hell?"
She ignored him and studied the object. Picking away at some lint and crud she placed the small thing into the palm of her hand. It looked to her like a USB flash drive, but it was much smaller than anything she had ever seen, smaller even than the SIM chip for her cell phone? It wouldn't fit into any computer she that knew of? Nevertheless it was electronic, she was certain of that much. After all, her father was a Boeing EE and her mother was an IT programmer at the same company, so Becca had been around devices like this from an early age. In addition, her older brother Brandon was a computer geek of epic proportions, and she meant that in a good way, because the guy was brilliant!
"So, what've we got there," Iggie pressed?
"I'm not sure? But judging from the Ernie's outline down there it's possible that he either dropped or tossed whatever this is? I have a hunch that whoever killed Ernie may have been looking for this," answered Becca.
"You're way too green to have hunches rookie. Let me see that thing," Iggie said condescendingly. Becca rolled her eyes and glared at him slightly.
"Really? Tell you what, I'll hand this over if you can tell me what a USB is," she replied, closing her fist around the tiny devise.
"USB, right, how about U SURE BETTER hand that over detective, and I mean right now!"
Becca frowned realizing that he could pull rank. Reluctantly she gave the evidence to her superior. Half pouting and half pleading she gingerly placed the devise in the boney hand he held out to her just like an old schoolmarm would. Iggie retrieved a small envelope from his coat pocket and dropped the devise into, never breaking eye contact with his young charge. Rebecca held his gaze but if looks could kill there would be second outline on the floor right where Becca was standing. Lowering her eyes she shuffled past Iggie toward the exit. At least the ride back to the station house would be quiet for a change. Rebecca Tran decided that thinking militant thoughts might be cathartic; but acting on them is often suicidal, career-wise.