Mary Larson was tired, hungry and didn't much feel like smiling at people she didn't know anymore. She was sitting down, in the kitchen of the Guardian Angel mission, rubbing the back of her neck. She'd been there for the last three hours, and the good thing was, there was only an hour to go. She was in her mid twenties but still thought of herself as a girl fresh out of college.
The floor was dirty, but not grimy. It was mopped with dirty water every night, and the dirt that was there had crystallized into a form that was harder than most fossils. The walls of the kitchen were a dingy yellow, and the huge ovens and pots and pans had the look of having made too many meals over too many years. She smiled to herself, thinking that maybe one night she came down here, she should just dip the whole kitchen in Tarn-Ex to make the look as if they were as clean as they could be.
Every Wednesday, Mary came down here, braving the Quad Cities bus line to serve meals to the homeless. There were times at home when she tried to think of more she could do, but when she was here, all she thought about was getting back home to her own quiet neighborhood in her own quiet room, alone. She got so depressed looking at the same people week after week. Many of them said that they were on the verge of the one break they needed to get off the streets, but they would always be there the next week, saying the same thing.
It had all started a couple of years ago, while watching HBO's Comic Relief. After laughing through Louie Anderson's act, he talked about how money was nice, but time was what was really needed. Mary was going to just call in and donate enough to get a sweatshirt until that. She had looked at her life, and realized that all her dreams of helping people she had had in college were gone. She worked part-time in an art gallery, and kept the house clean and that was it. All those nights down in the Scarlet Tavern, talking about how the baby boomers had given up on their ideals, seemed pretty contradictory to the life she lived.
It wasn't easy to find out how to help, she called most of the agencies, and they really didn't have anything she could do. Most of the volunteer positions available were for people who had some kind of training in psych, which was her worst subject. Then, she met Joan at the gym. Joan was one of the people she'd seen in the gym since she joined, but had never talked with. One day, however, Joan was talking to one of her friends about the volunteer work she did, and how hard it was to find people who would help. Mary thought that it must be fate, and asked about it.
Joan was in charge of the mission, She worked in an office during the day, pushing papers that were sent to people who didn't read them to be thrown away, recycled into paper that would get more reports printed on them. She was a nice, middle aged woman who kept her air of grace even when she was wearing a stained apron and carrying a spatula. She grabbed a chair and sat down next to Mary, still smiling, but the exhaustion was starting to show on her face as well.
"All we have to do is wait for the last few stragglers to leave, and we're done for tonight," she said.
Mary smiled and said, "Harvey will be here until we tell him that its closing time. He never wants to leave."
"Do you blame him? He had two pairs of shoes stolen in the last week. He wants to sleep inside, but he doesn't want to have to do what anyone tells him to do it. "
The reality of that statement sank in to Mary. Here she was, a nice, middle-class woman getting ready to complain about her tired feet, and in the other room was someone who faced the possibility of waking up with nothing on his feet, and no money to get anything to put on them.
They tried to help as best they could, but no matter what they did, it wasn't enough. Mary wished that there was a way to do more that didn't take so much out of her. In the dark little corner of her mind, she secretly wished that she's never volunteers, then she wouldn't have to see or deal with the problems of other people. The problem was, now that she had seen it, she couldn't turn away.
"Is Mark still giving you grief about working down here?" Joan asked.
"Yeah," Mary answered, looking at her feet, unable to let Joan see her expression, "he keeps saying that I should be spending my time in a 'more positive way.' He thinks I get too depressed after I work down here." That was, of course, the nice way to say it. In reality, he had told her that he was tired of her wasting her time with people she wouldn't give the time of day to if she hadn't met Joan. They'd had a bitter little argument that lasted until he went to work, and she had spent her day either picking up the house, fuming, or at the art gallery, fuming.
"I can see that. It's hard to see people, do all you know how, and still it doesn't help. If it weren't for the few people who come back and tell me how they were able to put their life together, I wouldn't be able to stay here at all."
Mary sighed. That was part of it, but there was so much more. It was almost as if Mark wanted her to help people as long as she didn't have to have contact with them. Who knew what he thought. All she knew was that he would be a dink for a day or so after she came down here.
"Why don't you get out of here. Your bus will be showing up in the next ten minutes or so, and we can clean up around here," Joan said.
Mary thanked her and got her jacket. Maybe it was time to start looking for some other way to try to help the world. This one was so tiring. She stepped out the back door into the alley, and walked out to the street. It was dark, and the street lights didn't do a whole lot to make things look any better. There were only a couple of people walking around, and what few shops there were on the block were closed hours ago. She didn't even see any of the people who had been in the mission earlier, they probably have either moved to another p[lace they could be inside, or they'd bedded down for the night. She thought for a brief second about what she would do if she didn't have a nice soft bed waiting for her and shuddered. It was so alien to her, not being able to take a shower whenever you wanted, having to search for a bathroom, and all the other things she took for granted.
When she got to the sign that designated the bus stop, she pulled her jacket a little tighter around her, as if that could keep the thought of such things for becoming reality. She looked at her watch and tried not to look at the people who were walking across the street. When she did glance over, the first thing she looked for was that they weren't looking at her first. For some reason, she only felt safe watching people if they weren't looking at her. When their heads turned toward her, she checked her watch again, knowing that it would be only a few seconds closer to when the bus would arrive.
For a brief second, there was a short, sharp pain in her head. It was as if, for a brief second, there was something pushing inside her head. For that brief second, the pain was blinding, but when she was able to notice it, it was gone.
"Mary...." She heard behind her. It was Mark's voice.
She turned and saw him, standing in the alley she had come out of. He was wearing an old, faded denim jacket, and a big smile on his face. At first, selfishly, she thought that he was down here to give her a ride, and she was thankful that she wouldn't have to ride the bus. Then, she realized that he was down here to make up for the fight they had had earlier.
"Mark? What are you doing down here?"
He simply smiled and beckoned her to him. In a haze of nostalgia, she walked over to him. He hadn't worn that old jacket in years, and in it, he almost looked as he did the first year that they were married. The argument they had had earlier faded, and once again, he was the kind, handsome man who had promised to show her the world and make it all the more real to her.
The short headache she had experienced was forgotten as she was grabbed in a big hug. She could smell the "Chaps" cologne that she had bought for him on their first month's anniversary. It was always her favorite scent, even though he liked the more expensive after shaves. After they embraced, she looked deep into his brown eyes, and noticed that there were little sparks of gold interspersed between the brown crystals therein. Odd, she thought, as she had never noticed them before. He grinned, as he always did when he was about to do something thoughtful, and grabbed her hand in his. They walked into the alley, and she thought briefly about how the light had been on in the alley just a couple of minutes before.
Harmony Gray had been able to get to bed at a decent time for the first time in the last three weeks, and she was taking advantage of it by dropping into a dream sleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. She was lying out on a raft in the middle of a lake, with the sun beating down on her. In a way, it was like the lake where she had spent her last vacation, but there were fewer trees and no people. As she was floating, she heard the bell of a far away boat. She tried to ignore it, but the boat was getting closer, and the bell sounded again.
The next thing she knew, she was awake, and the phone next to her bed was ringing. "Goddammit," she muttered as she picked up the receiver, "yeah."
"Gray, we need you down here at the station. I think you've got an addition to your case." It was Paul West, her supervisor. It had to be pretty big for him to be at the office this late. He always left at 5:30 on the nose, unless there was a fire in his desk.
She rubber her forehead, wanting to just ignore it and go back to sleep. She didn't have that option and she knew it. She stood up slowly, not wanting to leave the cozy warmth of her big down comforter. As she slowly trudged to the bathroom, she tried everything she could to shake the cobwebs out of her head. No use, she thought, I'm going to have to take a shower if I want to be lucid tonight.
After a quick shower, she threw on a pair of slacks and a warm cotton blouse. It was a little too casual for police work, but they were calling her out of bed, they would have to deal with it. By the bed was her canvas bag she kept all of her work stuff in. Years ago, she learned that no matter what she did to try and make sure she put things where could remember them in the morning, she would spend twenty minutes once a week looking for her badge. Harmony Gray was a detective in homicide, and the case that Paul had called about was the 'Bum killer' who had offed five homeless men in the last month. She slung the bag over her shoulder, and hoped she could get out of the house without disturbing Max.
Max Winter, her long-time roommate, was still up, and able to be disturbed as she went out into the living room. He was wearing a pair of sweat pants, a T-shirt and had the TV remote control grafted to his hand. He was in his early 40's, and was now one of the city's fastest rising District Attorneys. He didn't look like much of a lawyer as he scanned the channels, looking for something to watch. He would hover over a channel for a second, and then flip onward.
"Hey, I heard the phone. What's up?" he said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
You heard the phone and still let it wake me up? she thought angrily. He'd been a jerk all night, ever since she told him that she wanted to go to bed early. "There's a break in the case," she said, not wanting to give him any more information than she had to. She was still torque off at him.
"Another alkie slashed?" he asked. Always the model of sensitivity, she thought at first, then stopped herself, since she had referred to the case that way when she was first assigned.
"I don't know. They just told me to get down there. I wish you would have intercepted the call, I needed a decent nights' sleep, you know."
"I didn't hear the phone, it was in the bedroom with you. Besides, Paul would have made me wake you up anyway."
He was right, but it really didn't matter. She was itching to start the fight again, but it would be pointless. Whenever they fought, nothing got resolved. They would both promise to do better, and three weeks later, they'd be fighting over the same crap again.
"Look, I don't know how late I'll be...." she began.
"I'm going to be going to bed in a bit. Just try not to have a big party when you get back. Some of us will have to go to work tomorrow morning."
She knew he meant that as a joke. Whenever she had to go in for these late nights, she was able to stay home however many hours she was out the night before. It just didn't feel like laughing at. She passed on the urge to say something sarcastic, and just said, "I'll call you tomorrow at work and fill you in."
"Be careful, honey," he said as she went out the door.
"I'll do my best," she replied. As she walked down the stair of their apartment building, she thought about the fact that she was leaving again without a good-bye kiss. It gnawed at her until she was behind the wheel of her Ford Taurus, slamming a Warren Zevon tape in the tape player. If there was a way to drive with her eyes closed, she would have done it, so that she could sink into the music and clear her brain from all the extraneous crap floating in it.
The precinct was pretty quiet when she got there. The nice thing about the Midwest was, unless you're in a huge city, people pretty much still went to bed at 11:00, and the activity level would drop. When she was in Chicago, doing her internship, it was the exact opposite. Sure, there was an upswing of activity when the bars would close at 2 am, but for the most part, the night shift was when the paperwork and filing got done.
Paul was waiting for her in his office, with one of the guys from forensics (she could never remember any of the names of the people in that department). Paul was in his early 50's, bulky, but not fat, and had close cropped gray hair. He was dressed in a suit jacket that had seen better years, a white shirt and brown dockers. The guy from forensics was in a brown shirt, brown pants, and a tie that was brown. She thought for a second that he probably had a closet full of clothes that were all the same color. Blue for Monday, brown for Tuesday, and so on.
She had stopped at her desk to get her file on the case, and a yellow legal pad to take notes on. When she got into Paul's office, she realized that she had forgotten a pen, and grabbed one off his desk before she sat down. His office was near the center of the building, and had, at one point, been a closet. When Paul was promoted, he asked that they take out the walls, replace them with glass walls and venetian blinds so that, if he wanted, he could be at the center of his department. Inside the office was a pair of chairs facing a desk that had a high backed, old chair behind it. Paul didn't allow himself many luxuries in his office, but the chair had been one that he demanded. At one point, it had been old Mayor Orwig's chair, and he wanted it taken out of storage and installed in his office.
There was very little else in the office. A small, two drawer file cabinet was next to the desk, and a computer sat on his desk, little used, and not at all understood. Anything he had to do something other than write something on the word processor, Fred had to grab someone from a nearby desk to show him how to do it.
"Harmony, I have the file on tonight's murder here. It was put together by the uniformed officers that found the body and the folks over in the lab," he nodded over at the forensics guy, "It's sketchy, but I'll go over the highlights for you. The deceased was Mary Larson, age 32, 6945 War Memorial Drive. She was married, and the husband went home about an hour ago. He told us that she worked downtown at the Guardian Angel mission serving meals on Tuesday nights. She always took the bus home, but not tonight. Joan Luzi, who also works at the mission, found the body in the alley behind the mission twenty minutes after Mary left to go home.
"Like all of the Homeless Murders, she was found slashed and the body partially dismembered."
Harmony knew what he was talking about, and in her state, she didn't really want him to go into much detail. When the first body was found, they thought that a wild animal had escaped and was attacking people. They ruled that out when it took a week for the next body to surface and when the lab boys couldn't find any sort of animal that had claws as precise as the wounds indicated. The only way wounds like the ones found could be made was if someone had something as sharp as a razor blade. They were deep, narrow, and precise. It had to be a person. A real sick bastard.
"Unlike the other victims, this was not a homeless person. She lived in a nice neighborhood and was dressed in clothes that had been washed recently. I am making the assumption that this was not a case of the assailant mistaking her for one of his regular victims. She was well dressed, was carrying credit cards and cash, which was left on her by the killer. All of the details are there, in the file. We've been able to keep this out of the papers so far, but I have to think that it will get in this time. It's going to get rough, and I won't be able to keep the reporters away from you all the time. If this story shows up in the press tomorrow, we'll have to do a press conference."
"What are going to tell them? All we know is the killer's M. O. We don't have any other clues. No one can even figure out the sex of this person, let alone any characteristics," Harmony said. She'd been at a dead end with this case since she'd gotten it, and it had caused her no end of grief. Serial killers were rare, they'd never had one before. They didn't call the perpetrator a serial killer out loud, but they all knew that it was. Every killing was the same, a homeless guy, slashed to bits, his body scattered all over an alley. There were usually body parts they couldn't find. Almost as if the killer slashed him up and took some of the flesh with him.
Normally, when they heard about stuff like that, the other detectives on homicide would give a grisly nickname to the killer. Not this time, this was just too brutal and too close to home. Shit like this was supposed to happen in Chicago, St. Louis or Detroit. Not here, in the armpit of the Midwest.
"I'll have some of the guys work on some stock answers for the press. You know, the following up on leads, accepting phone calls, that sort of thing. We'll try to look like we've got more information that we do. Whatever we do, we can't try and convince them that we have a suspect in mind. It'll be too damaging if they find out we don't," Paul said.
"What about DNA? Was there anything at the site this time?" she asked.
"Not that we've been able to determine yet," the lab guy said, "It'll take a couple of days to get back results, but I have no reason to think that this will be any different that any of the other sites. The worst thing about this one is that it is exactly like the other five. Even though the results won't be in for a couple of days, I don't expect anything to be different."
"If there is, you'd best let us know. Anything that's new in this site will be important," she said.
"Agreed. I just don't want to get your hopes up."
"The best thing for this case is a little, not a lot, of attention," Paul said, "if we put the word out, maybe someone has seen something. That could be our only lead, because other than where the bodies were found, there's nothing to tie them together. In fact, with this murder, the only other tie is gone."
They went over what paperwork was what department's responsibility (it always ended up that she had the lion's share of the paperwork to do no matter what department was working in the investigation) and the meeting was over.
When she got back to her desk, she dropped the file on top of her IN box. The OUT box was empty, with the night people going from desk to desk, looking for files to put back. It was either that or do something that actually took some thought. Harmony had worked the overnight shift back a few years ago, and the hardest thing to do is to find work that kept you awake, but didn't present too mach of a challenge. After all, it's easy to remember the alphabet at 3 in the morning, it's hard to remember the rules and policies of procedure.
She opened her desk, trying to remember where she put the file on the others who had been killed. In her center drawer was double the required number of pens, pencils and post-it pads. The other two top drawers were full of personal stuff, letters, and various permutations of her resume, photos, snacks and her tax forms for the last two years. The next drawers were where she kept work stuff, and there were forms that used a lot of, so that she didn't have to run to the supply cabinet every time she needed a Material Request Form, and files. She paged through, first in the left drawer, then in the right. Finally, she found it. She plopped it out on her desk, and before she added the new information to it, she leafed through.
Tom Bradley was the first victim. He was 54, had served in the early days of Vietnam, and had lived on the street for five years. He was hospitalized for stomach trouble until his medical insurance maxxed out. Then, he was socked with the bills for the rest of his operation, putting him in so much debt he could never repay it honestly. He had moved onto the street after the bank repossessed his home The one he'd been paying on for ten years. There were a couple of pictures of him, a listing of his relatives, most of which lived down south, and a listing of the personal effects that were found on him. A damned small list. Not even a full page. A man lived 54 years and his whole life was on five sheets of computer paper. Harmony shuddered as she thought about it. Not for the first time, she thought about what her life would be like if it were condensed into a file. Black words on white bond paper.
Al Fraiser had been found the next week. He was 27 and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since he was 14. He was diagnosed schizophrenic, and had never stayed in one place for more than three months. Sometimes, he would leave the hospital after a particularly rough time, look like he was getting things together, then his life would spiral out of control, landing him on the street or locked up. His file was shorter, and when he was found, the lab confirmed that it was the same MO as the first murder. That was when the case was assigned to her. She had written tons of notes in the margins of the file, but very few of them made any sense to her now.
Todd Betts was the third, found five days after Al. Todd was described in the file as a classic alcoholic, and lived on the streets for most of his adult life, begging to get enough money to buy booze. He would go to shelters when it was cold for a meal and a warm bed, but always refused any of the help they had. "Life's too short to be doing what everybody tells you to do. 200 years ago, a man wants to life off the land, he was called a pioneer. Now, he's called a bum," was the quotation one social worker wrote down from an interview. He was 35, and, it was noted in the file, was often playing the harmonica on the street, rather than simply begging for money. Those who lived on the street with him described him as generous, the kind of guy who would give you his last article of clothing to keep you warm. The photo they had of him was almost 15 years old, from a High School yearbook. His eyes were wide and full of fire, but there was a rough quality to him, even dressed for a portrait.
Jeff Tashmann was the oldest. His body was found two weeks after Todd's, in the same alley that Tom's had been found in. It was the least mutilated of the bodies, leading Harmony to note in his file that the others must have had some of their injuries from the struggle with the attacker. He had worked at the tractor factory until the early 80's when it closed up and left for Mexico. He was 55 when they closed down, too young for retirement, and too old for job training. He was 71 when he was killed, and had been on the street for the last 3 years. For a while one or another of his three children had taken him in, but when the last one left town, he refused to move away. They helped him get into government housing, but a few months after they were gone, so was he. The reasons were hard to figure out. Each of the agencies in charge of him had a different reason why he couldn't life there anymore, each one blaming the other. In the end, it didn't matter, he was still on the street. He had tried to get into some sort of housing when he was homeless, but none of them was able to help him because he fell into so many cracks. In the end, it didn't matter.
Colin Martin was the last victim, his body was found just two weeks ago. He was 20 and had just come to town from Quincy, looking for work. His father had kicked him out of the house, telling him that he was old enough to find a job on his own. He had moved there and was putting in applications at every retail store he could find, but since was living on the street, he didn't have a phone number or address for them to reach him at. According to his file, he had been picked up selling drugs and himself, in that order. He's been let out of a holding cell the night before his body was found.
Harmony added Mary to the file, trying hard not to think about how these lives were gone. One the things they kept telling you in homicide was that you would get used to it, but she hadn't yet. Killing a person was easily the most horrible thing another human being can do. You not only take away their past, and their future, but you take them away from everyone whose life they touched. Relatives, friends, spouses, children and anyone else who counted on them. As she placed the file back in the desk drawer, the enormity of it hit her. These are people who might have done something important, or not, but they never had the chance. She often thought about things she would do in her life when she got time, and she knew that these people thought the same thing before they died.
The lateness of the hour caused her to fixate on these thoughts. The impermanence of life, and how when it did end, you didn't have the chance to take care of the loose ends. This was what you got. But, if that was so, why was she still living the way she did? Why did she postpone arguments with people, hoping that things would smooth over?
Rambling thoughts, a sure sign of needing sleep, she thought to herself as she looked at the clock on her desk. 2 am. Morning would not come easily. She left a note for Paul stating when she would be in, changed her voice mail to reflect that she would be in late and turned her desk light off. Her little home away from home.
The ride home was as uneventful as the ride in, except that, for some reason, she wanted to listen to talk radio. Maybe it was because she wanted some kind of human contact, maybe it was so she would have someone to argue with in her car. It made the ride home so faster, and she was ready to drop off to sleep when she got in the door.
Max was asleep on the couch, with the TV on, when she got home. He looked like he had only lasted a couple of minutes after she'd left. As she watched him sleep, she remembered why they had decided to make a go of it. She had been in love with his easy going manner and his ambition, which at time matched hers. But, as the years had moved on, he was still ambitious, and she had decided that the only way for her to go up in police work was to become a supervisor. That was not what she wanted to do. She didn't want to be spending her time assigning tasks, looking at reports and reporting to the City Council over every staple used.
She walked over to the couch and kissed him on the forehead. He stirred slightly, and she pulled the blanket up around him. Most people would complain after sleeping on the couch for the night, but Max could sleep anywhere. At one point he bragged about falling asleep on a park bench while waiting for the bus, waking up the next morning with nothing but soggy clothes for his trouble. Besides, she just wanted to crash, and if she woke him up to come to bed, he would want to know all the details about the murder.
She wandered into the bedroom, turned off the alarm and fell onto the bed. As she drifted off to sleep, she spent most of her mental energy thinking about anything but the photos of Mary Larson's body. However, every time she was about to drop off, the image would come to her, causing her to twitch, waking her up again. That continued for what felt like the whole night, but the last time she was able to see on the clock was 3:30.
The next morning, she woke up at 9:00 am, with the sun pouring in through the window, hitting her square in the face. Max would have been gone for an hour an a half by now, so there was not going to be an opportunity to tell him about last night until they had supper tonight. She wanted to call him, just to let him know what she was feeling, the anger she'd felt last night gone. He would probably be in court, and if he wasn't, this early he would be working on a case for after lunch, so she dismissed her need to talk to him.
She grabbed one of her business suits, and quickly took care of her hair and makeup, just enough that she didn't look like she'd spent the previous night out until 2:30 in the morning. As she was taking care of her morning routine, she cursed herself not for lying in bed and relaxing. She had the time, and Lord Knows she was tired, but for some reason, she just couldn't stay in bed anymore.
As she wandered out into the kitchen, she toyed with the idea of slipping out to the coffee shop down the street and taking a long breakfast. As she filled the coffee pot, she thought about how nice it would be to order up a large decaff, a fruit plate and sitting in the window, watching people hurry along to work. When she opened the refrigerator to get milk, she saw a note attached to the milk with a piece of adhesive tape.
"Sorry we had to fight last night, hope things weren't too bad at the station. I'll see you tonight."
Max had singed it with his typical flourish. She smiled and clutched the note to her chest as she got out the milk and a few strawberries to munch on. Normally, she would grab the paper or turn on the TV to find out the latest news, but since she already knew what it was, she preferred to put in one of her tapes and listen to it as she had her little breakfast.
She lingered in the house for a while after cleaning up after herself, and when she could find nothing else to pick up, she decided to go into work. Another tape to keep her company on the drive, so that when she got to the station, she had heard nothing about what the news vultures were reporting about Mary. She doubted that they even gave a good goddamn about her name, she was just the latest slasher victim. Hopefully, they had been able to divert the reporters over into the proper department, she didn't want to come in to her voice mail filled with reporters wanting an exclusive.
She came in through the underground entrance, and took the elevator straight to the third floor, where he department was. When she got there, the place was the usual flurry of activity. People were on the phone, typing away on computer keyboards, and a few were talking to people at their desks. Nothing serious, since anyone they thought might have done something on one of their cases would be interview down in one of the holding tanks.
When she got to her desk, the voice mail light was flickering, but that wasn't what caught her eye first. There was a note, written in black, thick marker, "Come into my office first thing!" in Paul's distinctive handwriting. "Great," she muttered to herself. As she walked to his office, she wondered what could have happened in the hours she had been gone. Her gut twisted as she got to his office and knocked on the door.
"Come in," he said.
He was on the phone, finishing up his conversation as he motioned for her to sit down. "I understand, please don't take my misgivings as thinking your idea is a bad one, I just want to make sure that you've thought of all the consequences of this.....I know.....I take care of it.....you too," when he hung up, he frowned and looked up at Harmony.
"You aren't going to like this, Detective Gray, so I'm going to break it to you as best I can," he said, and she felt the knot in her stomach get tighter, "The mayor went ballistic when the story hit the paper this morning. He wanted to know what we were doing about the case and I filled him in all our leads. It wasn't good enough. He's got a re-election coming up, and all re-elections are tough anymore, especially with the DA's office putting him to the screws on crime. He wanted to know if we were calling in outside help, and I let him know what our options were. Not many at this point, but I told him that we could ask the State boys and the Fibbies to help. He told me to go ahead, but he also told me that he'd made a few calls of his own.
"Usually, he calls Greta Alexander, that psychic down in Peoria, and asks her to consult, but she's in California, working on a missing child case. He informed me that he got in touch with someone else who does the same thing. His name is Janus Trelane, and he lives up in Minneapolis. I don't have any information on him, but if he's anything like Alexander, he'll wander around, make some vague references and then bask in the glow of the TV camera. The problem is, the mayor has gotten in touch of the newspaper that publishes his stories, and they said he would be in town, ready to work on the case tomorrow morning. They are going to fax me a bunch of information on him, but the newspaper's credentials are.....shaky."
"Let me guess, the National Enquirer?" she said, jokingly.
"We should be so lucky. Nope, this guy is with the Midnight Star. They said that he was the real thing and they had all kinds of proof they were going to send to us."
"Fine," Harmony said, wondering why this was such a big deal, "he comes in, putters around and leaves, why is this such a big deal?"
"Because that's not what he's doing. The mayor wants him to work with you directly, like a partner. The mayor is a big follower of this guy, and says that he's to be given all access. He'll have his run of the place, and there's not a whole lot we can do about it."
"Yep," he said, turning his eyes out his window, so that he wouldn't have to deal with Harmony's piercing glare, "you have a new partner."
"No way. This isn't' some bad movie where 'She's a cop, he's a psychic, they're detectives!' I have seniority, and don't have to put up with this crap."
"I'm afraid we do. That's doesn't mean we have to roll out the red carpet, but we do have to give him access or my ass will be grass and the mayor will be a lawn mower."
Harmony wanted to say something. She wanted to shout, or scream or trash something. This case was enough of a nightmare without having to play chaperone for some bullshit huckster.
"Look," Paul said, soothingly, "it's not much comfort, but maybe he'll do his song and dance and get out of our hair. Maybe we'll buy a break on this one."
Harmony scowled, "On this case? We haven't gotten a break yet, why should we start now."