Manning Mysteries – Det. Cooper Series

Coop was staring past his badge in his hands when Rodger arrived with a scribble pad. Seeing the intense concentration in the detective’s eyes, Rodger hesitated even if he knew Cooper had seen him rush over to his cubicle. “Speak Rookie. What’d you find on Manning?” Coop said calmly raising from his seat. His tone was calmer, more collected than before. Rodger sensed that Cooper was more relaxed now than he was during their previous encounter that day.  “Well, her body was discovered in her new cottage when she was twenty-eight, twenty years ago. Her death was ruled a suicide and the case closed.” Rodger paused, searching his notepad with his eyes. “Something I don’t know, Rookie. Something we missed” Cooper said impatiently but surprisingly cautious not to intimidate the rookie like before.  This case took him back to the beginning, rock bottom, when he had nothing, knew nothing, and most importantly was nothing.

Twenty years ago, he had been a timid naïve rookie who’d barely made it out of the academy with a passing grade. Had it not been for his mentor and partner back then and a lot of strings pulling behind the curtain, Detective Cooper would have been just plain old Officer Cooper, directing traffic, picking up petty offenders or something more degrading. Twenty years ago, people reacted very differently when Cooper walked into the station. His partner back then, Bernstein Mitchell, was a seasoned detective with killer instincts. Mitchell seemed to be the only one who embraced Rookie Cooper back then.  He treated Cooper like a son, taught him everything he knew; most importantly taught him how to hold his own in the force. The day Cooper that found Estelle Manning was his third week on the force. He was still new, with only petty thefts and vandalism on his score card. Mitchel deliberately led Coop into the cottage first. Estelle Manning lay prostrate in a pool of blood on newly polished kitchen floors. Immediately, Cooper lost his composure while it was replaced with horror and discomfort. Cooper had raced out of the room, nauseated and ashamed of his reaction to the first dead body he ever saw. He was horrified, demented, terrified and scarred all at the same time. Of course, Mitchell wasn’t surprised by Rookie Cooper’s reaction.  “The kid was fresh from the academy, believing in rainbows and riding unicorns of course dead ladies scare him” He defended Cooper while the other officers teased and Rookie  Cooper dispelled what was left of his breakfast into the small flower bed near the  door.

Detective Cooper had come an extremely long way from that timid rookie; sick to his stomach in Estelle Manning’s quaint cottage. Now, the site of murder, no matter how gruesome, did not repulse him. Blood became something he had to get used to seeing even if it was his own. Being a homicide detective and all, Mitchell had said it was the only way. Mitchell and Coop were partners nine years after that; up until Mitchell was promoted to the highest rank in the station, Chief and Coop finally became a detective. Despite Cooper’s aloof nature, he managed to form some semblance of a sentimental relationship with Mitchell and Mitchell alone. No partner had ever gotten so close, No officer had ever gotten so close. Mitchell and Coop had always known that there was something suspicious about Estelle Manning’s suicide. Coop had frantically argued that they keep investigating her death, rather than rule it a suicide. Mitchell himself had been conflicted but had executively decided on the suicide verdict after some pressure from the top.

“Well, for starters. She is the only victim found at their own residence, that’s got to count for something, yes?” Rodger tried to indulge the day dreaming Cooper. He got no response but a ‘Please continue’ hand gesture from Brown who had also come over  to weigh in. “Like Alicia, the weapon used to slash her wrists was never found. But unlike the rest, she has family right here in the city.” Right on cue, Coop came back from his reveries of the past. He was not calm anymore; he was back to his anxious obnoxious self.  “Here? Address?” Rodger scribbled it down quickly and carelessly noticing the change in tone. Cooper grabbed it and seconds later, he was revving up the mustang engine yelling at Brown to hurry and get into the car.

***

Exactly forty-four minutes later, Det. Cooper and Brown were knocking gently on Lynette Fischer’s door, Estelle Manning’s last living relative. Cooper impatiently tapped his foot rhythmically on the wooden front porch. Brown knocked on the door again, a bit harder this time. Still no response. Cooper began to become anxious, tapping his foot more vigorously by the second. His eyes darted all around the front yard and his hand drew closer to his holster. He grabbed on his pistol readily and knocked again, even harder than before shouting “Open up! Police” As if from nowhere, a middle-aged lady furiously flung the door open. You could tell that this lady had once been breath-taking; most probably with a smile that could bring peace. However, now she stood slightly slouched, with her eyes sunken, her lips cracked and her wrinkles more pronounced than anyone would care to admit. She did not smile, she only grimaced hard. Cooper in her eyes saw the life he had never seen in Estelle’s even twenty years later and a few years apart in age, the resemblance between them was uncanny. Estelle would have looked like this, Cooper thought to himself.

Brown almost never spoke when Coop was around; he always felt out-of-place. Today was no different. So as Cooper ogled at similarities, Brown stood awkwardly staring at Coop, waiting for him to speak. Coop didn’t come to. Brown cleared his throat. “Miss Fischer?” Cooper and Lynette corrected him in unison, “Mrs Fischer!” Cooper continued. “My name is Det. Cooper and this is Det. Brown. We would like to ask you some questions.  Can we come in?“

“A bout of concern came over Lynette’s face as she nodded and showed them in. “Before we begin, Detective, just tell me this. Is it the children?” Lynette worried out loud while she led them to her living room. Brown was the comforter and the master of reassurance, so naturally he took the emotional doubts and queries while Coop asked the hard questions. “No, Ma’am. This has nothing to do with your children. Is this them?” Brown said comfortingly, pointing to a portrait of them on the wall in the living room. “Yes. What is it then?” Lynette was now a little irritated, knowing that this matter steered clear of her children.

“Your sister, Ma’am. A similar case has brought to our attention. There is now a great possibility that your sister did not kill herself; she was murdered. We were wondering if you could be of any help.” Coop took over swiftly in his calmest voice. However, Lynette seemed to be rid of a heavy burden hearing Det. Cooper’s question. “I knew I recognized you. You’re the guy who looked me and my parents in the face and told us Essie had killed herself.” Lynette spoke calmly at first. “Yes I am.” Came the reply. “Now, you are telling me. Someone killed her.” Lynette’s voice began to grow sour. “Yes I am. “Cooper nodded again. Lynette’s voice cracked “Twenty years! You think you’re right now, Detective?” Det. Cooper spoke more audibly now, taking responsibility. “I was just a rookie then, No resources, no instincts, no knowledge. Fate has brought your sister’s justice in my sights again. This time I’m ready.” He moved closer to her with his words, seeking true redemption and a second chance.

But Lynette was hysterical now. She screamed so loudly, no one could hear her words. She began to fling her arms at Detective Cooper in an attempt to hit, maybe hurt him. Cooper took a slap or two, a scratch here and there, until he felt the need to defend himself. He held her wrists tight over her head, when she began to kick him. Another kick here and there, then she went for his manhood. Det. Cooper instinctively moved to the side, pinned her to the wall and drew his Smith & Wesson in her face. Her body froze and she began to hyperventilate so that she was unable to speak. “I’ve killed people for a lot less, Lady.” Det. Cooper smiled at her and withdrew his weapon. He heard the ‘all too familiar’ sounds of the siren when Brown came in panting. “Brown, did you call the cops? You idiot! I wasn’t going to hurt her. Now Chief will kill me”

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