His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 25
I knew that both Regina Witcombe and Patty were out of town; I needed to know when they would be back, and I chose to start with Patty.
I found the Sonoran Winds Realty website and wrote down the address and phone number. Their main office was located back in North Scottsdale. I’m sure they would offer to give me her cell number, but I didn’t want to speak to her over the phone; for something like this, I needed to be in the room with her, seeing her reactions to my questions about Regina Witcombe.
I called and told the receptionist that I was in Phoenix for a job interview that would last several days. I wanted to meet with an agent and see a few houses.
“A friend recommended that I ask for Patty,” I said.
“Patty?” she repeated. “Might your friend have said Patricia?”
“Yes, my mistake. My sister is also named Patricia, but we call her Patty. I just assumed. I wrote it down . . . Here it is. Patricia Hesslan-Fine.”
“Well, Mister . . . ?”
“Jay,” I said.
“Mister Jay. Patricia is out of town at the moment. But I assure you that all of our agents offer the highest level of service. Any one of them can help you. Would you like to come by this morning?”
I didn’t correct her misinterpretation of my name; for now it would do nicely. “Well,” I said, “this friend felt very strongly that I should speak with Patricia. But she mentioned a few other names as well, so if she’s not available, I’m sure I can contact those other realtors.”
“Well, there’s no need for that. How long did you say you were in town?”
“Through the weekend.”
“Patricia gets back late today, and often does a few showings on Saturday mornings. I’m sure she would be happy to meet with you. Can you meet her here at 10:30 tomorrow?”
I assured her I could, thanked her, and hung up. My stomach felt tight and empty; even with a one day reprieve, the prospect of speaking with Patty Hesslan filled me with as much dread as curiosity. But she was the sole connection I had to Regina Witcombe, and I hoped that over the next twenty-four hours the idea would grow on me. I wasn’t holding my breath.
The previous night, while talking to Amaya, I’d had a kind of epiphany. I needed to confirm it.
More than eighteen months had passed since I was forced to give up my badge, but the wound remained raw and tender. I could handle talking to Kona about police work, barely. But going to police headquarters in downtown Phoenix was still a bit like running into an old girlfriend who had broken my heart. Every now and then I needed to see the place, and as soon as I did I regretted making the trip. In this case, though, I had questions for Kona, and I was hoping she might be able to show me some evidence.
I drove to the heart of the city, parked in a lot a couple of blocks from the building and made my way to 620 on foot. With every step that brought me closer, my blood seemed to thicken, until my heart was laboring with each beat. But I kept my head down and my hands in my pockets.
When I stepped inside I took a long breath. The smell of a police station is almost impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it day in and day out for years at a time. It’s a blend of sweat and old paint, fear and adrenaline, overlaid with a suggestion of nitrocellulose and the acid pungency of stale coffee. Breathing it in, I felt like an ex-smoker who still craves a cigarette when someone nearby lights up.
Carla Jarosa, who had been the front desk officer at 620 since before I became a cop, greeted me with a big hello and a visitor’s badge. I put the badge on and took the stairs up to the third floor, where the homicide unit was located.
I had been hoping that the detectives’ room would be empty except for Kona, but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Kona was there, talking with Kevin, who sat at the desk next to hers. And there were about seven other guys in the room as well, two of them on the phone, another typing in classic hunt-and-peck style, and a cluster of four standing just inside the door, chatting and laughing. They fell silent when I stepped in. One of them had been here when I was still on the job; the other three I didn’t know. But they stared at me; they all seemed to know who I was.
“Hey, Larry,” I said to the guy I knew.
That was about all we had to say to each other. I nodded to the others, and walked past them to Kona’s desk. She and Kevin had stopped talking as well and were marking my approach.
“Social visit?” she asked, her tone dry.
“We need to talk.” My gaze flicked to Kevin. In the past, I would have expected Kona to make some excuse so that the two of us could speak in private, but I’d confided in Kevin at the airport and I saw no reason to stop now. “The three of us.”
He didn’t quite smile, but his shoulders dropped fractionally, as if he had been on edge, and I’d set his mind at ease. “Stairwell?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Sound travels too much.”
Kona stood and gestured for us to follow. We went back to the lunch room, which was empty for the moment. She closed the door and faced me, leaning against it.
“What’s this about, Justis? You may be a hero now, but that doesn’t mean Hibbard won’t give us all kinds of crap if he finds out you’ve been here.”
“I know. I’m sorry. But yesterday you mentioned to me that you were working on another serial murder case. I need to know whatever you can tell me about it.”
The two of them exchanged looks. After a moment Kona shrugged. “I see a pattern,” she told Kevin. “I know you’re not convinced, but I am.”
“Am I missing something?” I asked.
They faced me again.
“Kevin doesn’t believe the killings I mentioned to you are related. That’s why I told you that the patterns hadn’t completely emerged yet.”
“But you think they’re pretty clear.”
Another shrug. “Yeah, I suppose I do.”
“There have been three killings,” Kevin said. “One about a month ago, another three weeks later, and the last about five days ago. The bodies were found in different parts of the city; the first guy had his throat slit, the second had been stabbed in the heart, and the third also had a neck wound, though not as clean as the first.”
“The victims?” I asked.
“A homeless man in his fifties, who was found in Maryvale; a nineteen year-old hooker, who died in west Central City, and an elderly woman who lived in a duplex up in Cactus Park.” He held up a fist. “No pattern to the timing or locale,” he said and raised a finger. “Different wounds.” He raised another finger. “Nothing to link the victims.” He put up a third finger. “‘O’ for three. No pattern.”
“They all bled to death,” Kona said, glancing Kevin’s way before turning her attention to me. “Although we couldn’t–”
A knock at the door stopped her. She opened it a crack. “Give us a few minutes, will you guys?”
Someone mumbled a response.
“Thanks,” Kona said, and shut the door. Facing me again, she went on. “Despite the fact that they bled to death, there didn’t seem to be that much blood at any of the crime scenes. You get that? With all three victims, we couldn’t account for all of the blood.” Kevin started to say something, but she talked over him. “All of the victims were alone in one sense or another: a homeless guy, a prostitute, and an old woman who lived by herself.” Her eyes darted Kevin’s way again. “I’m not saying it was one guy necessarily. But to me it sounds like it might be some kind of weird cult thing.”