Chap 7 What Little Girls Are Made Of

Mike stared at his computer screen with a new sense of awe. The report from the computer team still meant little in detail to him but taken in toto might provide some glimmer of clarity.

The list of IP addresses—numbers periods and slashes—began to blur together as Mike read the report over searching for some hint of evidence. The terms that stood out—spoofing, proxy servers, and more—seemed as arcane to Mike as the coded language he saw on the internet messages bandied between Melissa and the pederasts she dealt with in her secret life.

 

A single line in the report caught Mike’s eye. The one man on the short list of suspects from the Clinton Street Evangelical Church had a message routed to the dead girl’s IP address through the church from the internet firewall address at his office.

 

“Damn,” Mike whispered aloud to himself. He stood quickly and threw on his coat, racing to the stairway.

 

*****

 

David Jason was an insurance salesman who had supplied policies to numerous members of the Clinton Street Evangelical Church and the internet firewall at his office had been identified by its IP address as one that had connected to church’s network and through that to Melissa Anson’s home computer to exchange internet messages. The content of the message could not be determined from the report—either erased or missing—but the simple fact that a straight line could be drawn from the man to Melissa was at least a start in a case not fraught with leads.

 

Mike arrived at the man’s office at 5:05 in the afternoon, just as the salesman’s secretary was leaving. Introducing himself brusquely Mike held out his badge longer than needed, he wanted the secretary to feel some discomfort in case she might have a confession to share with a sympathetic ear. Mike like to press his advantage with the people near his investigation. Many times someone close to a suspect blundered into some statement that helped Mike in his questioning. Every piece of information surrounding an individual could be used to impress upon a suspect the range of overall knowledge Mike hoped to portray.

 

He wrote a position paper on interrogation that suggested many miscreants “wanted” to confess and by assuming a stance of having all the facts at hand could be used to convince someone that they would only be “clarifying” what an investigator already knew. The method had been used often with a great deal of success since Mike’s paper had been published in a trade magazine.

 

The instant Mike spotted the man skulking out of his private office he thought he saw a look of guilt surrounded him like a aura of smoke enveloping the man, permeating the air around him.

 

Mike didn’t want to come alone to question Jason but Jerry had to deal with his wife at her obstetrician’s mandatory eight month check up. This was Jerry and his wife’s first child and Mike had been instrumental in the department’s policy concerning husbands with pregnant wives. It simply stated that all efforts should be made to give police any and all time off to assist their spouse with appointments and child rearing. This was another one of Mike’s many suggestions designed to keep good and effective cops on the job. This policy, as most of Mike’s policies, had reaped benefits quickly.

 

David Jason held out his hand to shake and Mike thought he saw a flash of fear, concern, something in the man’s eyes.

 

Swallowing hard the man blurted out, “Is this about the Anson girl?”

 

Mike cocked his head slightly. “Why do you ask?”

 

“It was a terrible thing. My son is… uh a member of the youth group. And uh… often um… communicated with her…” The man’s eyes darted around the room.

 

Mike let his gaze follow the secretary as she wandered back her desk where she peeled off her coat and laid it over the back of her chair.

 

Slowly swiveling his eyes back to the man Mike asked softly, “Can we talk in your office?”

 

The man nodded quickly and headed through the doorway to his inner office in nervous strides.

 

“Um… Pastor Watts told us that you, uh… the police would be asked around about… um… about… that girl. Do you have any clues?” The man shot.

 

With a look of calm painted on his face Mike replied simply,  “I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.” Mike now knew Watts had told his people that the police would be asking questions, but how much more did he tell them? Mike wondered.

 

The man’s head bobbed nervously. “Um… okay. My son sometimes would use my computer to send emails to… um other… uh youth group… uh… kids.”

 

Now Mike was sure that someone was feeding more direct information to Pastor Watts and through him to the congregation. Watts knew about the computer at the church when Mike slipped up at the man’s office but only department personnel and who ever had tapped into the investigation ahead of them. Mike pulled in a deep breath to slow the rising anger he felt inside his chest.

 

Mike sat down and stared up at Jason who fidgeted, still standing, behind his chair.

 

“Let’s talk some. Please, sit down.”

 

“Oh.. yeah… Okay.” Jason finished as he slumped into his high-backed leather chair.

 

Mike looked at his open notebook for a moment as he gathered himself. He underlined the “focus” one more time before he brought his gaze up to meet the salesman’s. Mike knew this man was like Pastor Watts: a man who spoke to others with conviction in order to sell them something. Mike saw TV evangelists as hucksters selling packaged religion to the least media savvy groups: immigrants, shut-ins, elderly but at least this man was providing for a real world need in Mike’s estimation.

 

Mike’s lingering gaze was collecting every nuance of the man’s behavior. Something was making this man tense and Mike was hoping the man might trip over his own words and spill some secret detail.

 

“So, why did you mention that your son used your computer to contact Melissa Anson?” Mention her name often Mike reminded himself. Keep her a person not “that girl” Jason had mentioned.

 

“It… uh… it was, it was in the papers.” The man stuttered.

 

“Was it?” Mike did not know what exactly had been printed in the papers but wanted to see if Jason would blunder into something that had been withheld from press statements. Mike scribbled in his notebook: “Look at the newspaper articles for email references.”

 

“Uh, the email… thing. It was um… in the papers.”

 

The ringing of the phone in the outside office jangled. Jason quickly snapped up the phone and spoke into it.

 

“Muriel, would you hold my calls, please?” The man hung-up and cleared his throat.

 

Under his previous entry Mike quickly wrote: “Ask Watts, if the email was in the papers.” The only person outside the police who would have known about the email information was Watts, though it was only an assumption at that time. If someone gave the pastor information regarding access to the man’s computer Mike wanted to know who it was, and more importantly, why?

 

Immediately Mike jotted down one more line: “Who knew about the computer access at the CSEC?” CSEC was Mike’s note hand for Clinton Street Evangelical Church.

 

The interview produced nothing of any value in Mike’s mind but the evasive nature of the man’s answer sparked an interest. Mike moved the man to the top of his list now. But now Mike needed to look more closely at the possibility that Watts was being fed wider information that he was merely passing on to the congregation.

 

Mike slept better that night than he had in some time. He felt the questioning of Jason might yield something and a weight was lifting from his shoulders.

 

*****

 

“Bill, who’s feeding information to that church?” Mike shot as he fell into the chair in front of his boss’s desk.

 

Bill glanced up quickly before he returned to the file he was scribbling in. “Knock, knock. Come in.” Bill snapped sarcastically.

 

Mike sighed heavily. “Someone is preempting our investigation, Bill.”

 

“So what do you want from me?” Bill shot back as he leaned back in his chair, his hands spread wide. “What the hell do think is gonna happen when you start poking around at some fucking… TV church with a half the east coast tuning in every fuckin’ week… I’m…” Bill stopped himself and stared down at his desk to gather himself. Looking up quickly he continued. “Mike, I’ve had a couple phone calls already from, political hotshots, askin’ me… fuckin’ asking me… why the department is stirring up the pot at that fucking church instead of… uh what did they say? Oh yeah. Instead of hunting for the killer of a thirteen-year-old girl!”

 

Mike was taking the brunt of Bill’s anger and frustration and now felt his approach, while effective, might have been a little clumsy in the face of the diplomatic implications.

 

“I’m sorry,” Mike mumbled while Bill continued his tirade.

 

“Fuck, sorry! God damn it, Mike. Do you have to piss off everybody to get the answers you want?”

 

“Bill, I might have hit on something.”

 

The man stopped mid rant and snapped, “What?”

 

“One of the guys from the church knew what I was gonna ask before I asked it…”

 

“And?” Bill barked.

 

“Well, Bernie gave me some info and then told me that someone up the food chain is uh, looking over our shoulder. But his guy, David Jason knows something. I don’t know what.”

 

Bill stood up quickly and skirted around his desk to shut his office door. Moving back to his chair Bill sat down slowly, his mouth open as if to say something. At last he blurted out, “They’ve been checking on us from the first step.”

 

“They?”

 

“You didn’t hear this in my office,” Bill pointed a finger at Mike. “Somebody wants to be kept… in the information loop… from some…where on high. Okay? I’ve been told to give someone, you don’t need to know who, but someone above my head, the information they ask for…” Bill finished with an embarrassed look on his face.

 

Mike drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

 

“Mike… they don’t want anybody to know. Got it?”

 

“Bill, some…one is compromising our investigation. This Jason told me yesterday that his kid…”

 

“Did you do that alone?” Pushing aside a stack of files Bill glared at his calendar.

 

“Yeah…” he murmured. “Jerry had…”

 

“I know what Jerry had,” Bill snapped as his finger glided to a stop on a date. “He was doing an appointment with his wife.” Mike nodded. “Wasn’t it your idea to do all interviews in tandem?” Mike nodded again sheepishly. “That thing at the church was okay, going solo, ’cause you had a backup sitting out front in an unmarked car… but… did anyone know where you were or what you were doing?”

 

“I’m sorry, Bill. I fucked up, on that… but the guy knew something. And he was tipped off. I looked at the newspaper and there was no mention of email and he knew to tell me upfront that his son used his office computer to email Melissa Anson. He said it was in the paper.”

 

Bill rocked gently in his chair as he processed Mike’s words. “Shit… Now, I’m sorry. Somebody in the chain o’ command must be pukin’ up information to that church.” Sitting forward quickly Bill barked, “I’ll take care of the information leak. I’ll tell ’em… the truth, I guess. They won’t like it, but too bad.” He cocked his head. “Now, tell me about this Jason character.”

 

Mike filled his boss in on all the details of the previous day’s interview and the pair began to discuss how to proceed while minimizing the damage to the church, if that was possible.

 

They were interrupted by a knock and Jerry Weible stuck his head into Bill’s office. “Damn, Mike. I’ve been lookin’ fer you,” Mike’s partner said excitedly.

 

Mike turned stiffly in his chair. “How’d everything go, yesterday, at the doctor?”

 

“Who cares? Mike, some 15-year-old kid from that church just shot somebody.” Mike spun out of the chair and onto his feet quickly.

 

“What?” he asked with his mouth hanging agape.

 

“Yeah, um,” Jerry pulled a notebook out of his coat pocket and flipped it open to scan the page. “A Timothy Wilson Regan rode his bicycle over to the office of David Jason, some insuran…”

 

“I know who he is,” Mike interjected, astounded at the event.

 

“Well, the kid shot the guy three times with a .380 pistol and then got back on his bike headed out to the office of that guy who was out of the country when the Anson girl was killed…” Jerry looked back up from his notebook at his partner. “I guess… he was going to shoot that guy too, but he’s wasn’t back yet.”

 

“Oh shit, Joseph!” Bill moaned as he rubbed his open palm across his forehead. “You interview this guy and the next day he gets shot by some fuckin’ kid?”

 

“What kid? I don’t know who this kid is or what he’s all about… this is surreal. Fuck!” Mike stomped his foot in anger and confusion.

 

“Well, are we gonna pick this up or what, Mike?” Jerry asked.

 

Yes, yes… yes.” Mike finished with the heaviness of resignation in his voice. “Um,” he turned back to Bill who pursued his lips and shook his head.

 

“Uh uh. This is all on you, Joseph.” The captain said with a growl. “Just do what has to happen and give me the details later.” With a dismissive wave the captain fell back to the files spread across his desk.

 

Mike nodded once and hurried out of the office with Jerry one step behind him.

 

Mike and Jerry arrived on the scene of the shooting, Mike’s car scattering a group of gawkers on the sidewalk outside the two-story office building where Mike had interviewed the victim only the day before.

 

A patrolman pushed forward through the remaining onlookers towards the unmarked car.

 

“Fuck, these people are like fucking ants at a picnic.” Mike whispered aloud.

 

Pushing open his door with his shoulder Jerry muttered in response, “Big doin’s for the little folk, huh?”

 

Stepping out of the car Mike barked at the patrolman still wading through the crowd towards the two detectives, “Get ’em outta here!”

 

The uniformed man nodded and began herding the crowd away from the parking lot where they milled about.

 

“Do you wanna find out if any ’em were witnesses?” Jerry called out.

 

Mike snapped, “Fuck, no!”

 

In short purposeful strides Mike shouldered his way through the group, now dissipating under the stern commands of the patrolman.

 

“Jesus,” Mike hissed as he and Jerry finally pushed through the door and inside the office. A patrolman stood next to the victim’s secretary, seated in a corner. Tears were streaming down her face. Mike rifled through his pocket and flipped open his notebook—keeping it close to his chest—searching for the name of the woman. He had only heard it when Jason talked to her on the phone but he wanted to jog memory: “Muriel.”


“Hello, Muriel. I just heard.” Mike offered to the man’s secretary as he approached the woman.

 

“It’s all your fault,” she bleated. “If you hadn’t been here… questioning him,” she paused to blow her nose before she continued her weepy rant. “… this wouldn’t have happened!”

 

“I’m sorry, but I have question anyone who might be involved with this.” Mike tried to back pedal under her attack.

 

“He wasn’t involved with that girl,” the woman spat. In a low tone she growled at Mike, “He was involved with me.”

 

Mike felt himself suck in his lower lip. This case kept taking turns that blindsided him and he was beginning feel that nagging self-doubt welling up once again. His head spinning, Mike wheeled away from the woman without another word and staggered towards the office where the man had been shot.

 

“Why don’t you leave us alone?” The woman wailed at Mike’s back.

 

He stopped in front of the desk, his stomach churning, and peered at the man’s leather chair now covered in blood.

 

“Hey, Mike.” A familiar voice snapped him back to reality. It was the forensic photographer from the day of the Melissa Anson murder.

 

Mike took a deep breath while he “turned off” his emotions again.

 

“Hey, Tyler, I’ve been trying to catch up to you.”

 

“What, ‘the Great’ Mike Joseph, wants to talk to me?” she asked sarcastically.

 

Mike plunged his emotions deeper. “I needed to know about those photos you shot at the store parking lot that morning of the Anson investigation.”

 

“They wanted two sets of prints,” she blurted out before he could ask her a question.

 

“Is that… normal?” Mike fired his response at her quickly, as a reaction more than an inquiry. Tyler’s confession seemed odd and he needed a moment to decipher her abrupt admission.

 

She shook her head. “No… but that’s what they ordered.”

 

“Who ordered?” Still in a haze Mike continued.

 

“I dunno know… who ever orders that kind of stuff. It came down to me in a memo.” She mumbled, now clearly aware she had made a mistake in her unsolicited confession.

 

His thumb and forefinger clenched the bridge of his nose as he sighed. A request for additional photographs was directed to her office only, sidestepping Mike altogether.

 

“Did you wanna ask somethin’ else?” She finished defiantly.

 

“I dunno. Do you wanna tell me somethin’ else?” Mike now glared at the woman.

 

“No.”

 

The young woman nervously returned to her grisly task: providing a photographic montage of scene where a man had been shot. Shot by a boy, for reasons unknown but certainly an impetuous action conceived by a naïve mind in a chaotic stage of life. Not unlike the state of mind Melissa Anson had been subject to.

 

A thought burst in Mike’s head.

 

“Wait. Why did you just tell me that someone wanted two sets of prints?” Mike felt his brow furrow at his question and he consciously relaxed to avoid showing his distress.

 

The woman shrugged. “I’m just surprised it took you this long to ask me about it. I figured you would’ve caught on, right away.”

 

“Caught on?” Mike asked cocking his head.

 

“That someone is checkin’ up on you…” Sweeny’s statement floated between them like words in a balloon.

 

Mike’s chest fell as he sighed. “Someone is watching this case. And information is leaking.” Mike licked his lips and took a deep breath. “It’s a levee about to bust, okay. Don’t tell anyone anything without telling me who they are and what they want. Got it?”

 

Tyler grimaced and nodded. “All right,” she answered in a clipped voice.

 

Running his hand over his closely cropped hair Mike paused to choose the right words. “Someone is tipping off the people at the church, so we need to protect our investigation.”

 

“Sure. Anything else?”

 

Opening his mouth Mike stopped in mid-breath. He could see Sweeny might not be on his side. “No,” he said softly but Mike watched her closely as she pressed her camera into her cheek, squinting into the viewfinder. Another flash and she shot a sidelong glance back over her shoulder at him and Mike knew at that instant, she could not be trusted. Possibly someone “on high” promised her some special compensation or consideration if she fed them answers on request but Mike would keep her reined in now.

 

“I want the prints and the negs off this shoot.” Mike said evenly. The woman froze just long enough to reveal her culpability in crisp detail. She had been discovered and Mike wanted her to feel the cold steel of his stare: the one he cultivated to raise the temperature of the coolest suspects.

 

She didn’t turn to face him, choosing instead to hit the shutter release again bouncing a flash of light throughout the small office.

 

“‘kay.” She replied quietly.

 

Mike shoved his hands into his pockets and clenched his fists in disgust. Another flash of light and he stormed out of the office. Stormed out, passed the grieving mistress—Jason’s secretary—passed the few remaining bystanders, not yet driven off by the yellow tape police tape and the marshalling of the uniformed officers.

 

From afar Mike Jerry’s voice called out to him, causing Mike to pull up short of his car door.

 

“Mike, what’s goin’ on?” Jerry asked leaning forward into Mike’s vision.

 

Squeezing the bridge of his nose, staring at the black asphalt, Mike whispered to his partner, “Sweeny, the photographer, is tipping somebody off about… I don’t know.”

 

Jerry shrugged. “All right.” His remark was left hanging as though he expected something more.

 

“And…” Mike sighed. “The kid and that secretary… I had no idea, and…”

 

“Mike?” With the timbre of a good friend Jerry continued when Mike faced him. “That was not your fault. Don’t let her heap this stuff on you. He’s married and she’s the boss’s… whatever. And the kid… I don’t know. But, it’s… not… your… fault.” With each syllable Jerry bobbed his head, like a graceless school teacher revealing an answer to the next exam.

 

Nodding his head Mike replied, “I know, I know. I’m just tired of getting caught in shit I didn’t see coming.”

 

Jerry glanced around at the crowd, now pushed to the periphery of the lot, and the technicians and uniformed police scrambling around the scene. “Yeah, I know. This thing has thrown us more than a couple of curves…”

 

Mike lifted his chin and smiled broadly at his partner. “So… how was Sadie’s checkup?”

 

Jerry slapped his hand on Mike’s shoulder, spinning him towards the car once again, while he chuckled quietly.

 

“Everything’s fine. And don’t worry, I got the secretary’s statement. Let’s get outta here.”

 

The pair climbed into the unmarked police car and sped away.

 

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