Det. Cooper sat nervously outside the Chief’s office. He could hear the Chief ripping one of the officers a new one, questioning his intelligence and threatening to strip him of his badge. He was anxious. He even got rid of a hang nail or two while he waited to see Chief of Police Mitchell. He and Mitchell were good friends and even better as partners in the force. So if Mitchell told him to pull the plug on the Manning rehash case, then he had to pull the plug. What of that insubordination with Manning’s sister? It sure didn’t help his chances. He could have taken the beating (to him it would have been more like pecking), he actually deserved it but somehow he felt he had to defend himself. With a gun in her face, Coop? There’s easier ways to lose your job. Cooper figured, two week suspension and a few more weeks of petty cases would do the trick but he couldn’t be completely sure if that would cut it for the chief. He feared that the Chief would only settle for his badge and gun. Mitchell wouldn’t fire me, would he? Well he can if he wants to; or if someone at the top wants him too. But isn’t he the top? Cooper wasn’t sure. His demons played tug of war with his future delving deeper into the unknown. Speaking of the top, maybe I ask him about who pulled the plug on Manning’s homicide case back then. Maybe, he starts a task force because he sees big things happening behind the scenes. Gets me to head up the task force. We catch a serial killer or two; maybe even catch one in the act, save the poor victim in real time. The media will eat it up. Front pages will scream it. Then two, three years down the line, they’re calling me Chief Cooper, Chief of Police! Cooper had just begun to crack a smile when Chief Mitchell flung open his door and let the officer out.
“Make sure you keep me updated. And fix it before it becomes another bigger goddamn mess” The chief said patting the nodding officer’s shoulder as he walked away. He then looked down at where Cooper sat. He didn’t smile; he just stared with his bloodshot sunken eyes. He claimed they always looked that way but Cooper knew better. They only looked like that when he was pissed off; really pissed off. Chief Mitchell was breathing heavily, so heavily that Cooper in his seat felt the drafts of warm air coming from his mammoth nostrils. Cooper could see them widen then shrink back to their original size then widen again. Mitchell’s giant shadow cast over Cooper’s sitting self, making him feel like a child in the presence of an adult preparing to discipline him. Chief Mitchell intimidated Cooper immensely, mostly because he knew that the chief would not be pleased with his behaviour. However Cooper was not one to act timid; His pride did not allow it. He had learnt from his early police days that faking it may just be the only way to make it in the force. He gathered his wits, deciding to tap into his old partner relationship with Mitchell. If it still counted for something, that is.
“Bernie my man!” Cooper played off the trouble he was in and the way he felt sitting timid in front of the Chief
“Do I look like a huge purple fucking dinosaur? Get in here, Coop!”
“It’s spelt different, Mitchell.” Coop remarked as he followed the chief into his office.
“I don’t care if it dresses different too. Don’t call me that! I’ve been telling you that for years. Sit yourself down.” Cooper was suddenly reminded of the good old days. Mitchell had to have been the first and best partner Coop ever had. Their relationship was deep and riddled with history. They had taken a few bullets for each other yet their relationship remained light characterized by jokes, gags and pranks. They were like two inseparable school boys. Part of why Cooper was so respected in the force was his relationship with Mitchell. When you saw Coop you saw Mitch; that’s just how it was.
“Ok, Mitch. I know you’re probably mad about Lynnette Fischer.”
“And?” Mitchell cut him off patronizingly, glaring him menacingly waiting for him to slip up.
“And well, she was going for Coop’s Chest of Treasure. She was basically begging me to shoot her in the ovaries.” Coop cracked a smile; acknowledging the cunning reference to his ‘below the belt’region.
“Really? Cooper! You were going to shoot a civilian for grief hysteria? Grief hysteria that you gave her! You go over to this woman’s HOUSE! To upset her with all that talk about her sister being murdered twenty years ago then you point a gun in her face?” Mitchell paused, Coop wasn’t smiling anymore “THAT WAS OVER THE LINE!”
“I know. I’m sorry” Coop dropped his head slightly, feigning regret and remorse.
“You’re sorry? Why I should lock you up for police brutality! I make you a detective and this is how you repay me? Why are you up Manning’s ass anyway? That case is as dead as Manning and you know it!”
“Well, someone killed it. I didn’t. And if I recall correctly, neither did you. Anyway, we found another DB; similar circumstances. I made the connection. You know that I always had my doubts about Estelle.”
“Twenty years, Coop? You’re dredging up old wounds all over when you should have gotten over this nineteen years ago. This city does not pay you to clear your doubts and cleanse your fucking soul, it pays you to put murderers behind bars. Now unless you’re going to arrest Estelle Manning for killing Estelle Manning twenty years ago, I suggest you let it go.” Cooper stood now to look Chief Mitchell in the eyes
“That was not a suicide, Chief. I know it. I smelt something fishy with these dead girls turning up in other people’s houses. Supposed to have killed themselves? But no weapons on site? Mitchell, you see it, right?” Mitchell’s eyes narrowed as he began to see Cooper’s point.
“Girls? Tell about these cases.”
“Can I get the rookie to do that? I’m trying to catch Hysterical Lynette before she leaves the station.”
“I already let her go. I wasn’t going to arrest for having a cop’s gun in her face. In fact she was so worked up, I promised her I’d arrest you for insubordination.” They both cracked up laughing in unison. Mitchell had a lot of power but none that he planned on using to arrest Cooper. The fact that he had to use it to calm Lynette down made it funny. Coop continued as if filling his partner in on the details of their new case.
“Ok so; A few days ago, we found Alicia; slit wrists in the Morgans’ master bedroom. They were on a two week vacation before they found her; she had been dead a while. Looks 30, but she was holding a card for her twenty-eighth birthday, so we assumed she was killed at 27, before it happened. No murder weapon found.” Mitchell began to lean into the case groaning in agreement, Cooper urged on.
“Then two years ago, Mary Jenkins, twenty-seven. She slit the blood vessels in her toes. I saw the crime scene photos; it was brutal! Not her place, not a weapon in sight.” Mitchell began to pace and nod. Cooper knew that was a sign that he too was not so sure about all these ‘suicides’
“Four years ago, Clare Blanks, twenty-seven. Slit her wrists, left her at a stranger’s house. She was found, the murder weapon wasn’t. See! Just like Manning! Except Estelle was the only one we found at her place.” Mitchell began to chip into the investigations, getting suckered into working with Coop again, just like old times.
“But Estelle died 20 years ago. The next girl comes sixteen years later? Could we have a copycat or an apprentice coming out of the cracks?”
“I have a theory, Chief. There may be more girls, we just never found them; maybe because he masked his murders with suicide scenes. He was shy then. Wanted to make a statement but didn’t want everyone to know he was the one giving it.”
“So what’s changed?” Cooper’s eyes lit up
“He’s gotten over his stage fright, so to speak. He’s bolder with every kill. He feels more justified all of a sudden. He wants us to hear him, see him, feel him giving the statement. That’s why he left the card at that last one. He wants us to see the pattern.” Mitchell smiled, realizing that even though Coop had just dropped the ball he had a damn good reason just like he was taught. The smile faded fast as he morphed from Coop’s partner to chief again.
“Ok! You’ve got something. I’ll give you a week to run with it then I pull the plug and put you back on parking duty.”
“Thanks Chief!” Cooper turned to leave
“Oh and Coop! How is that daughter of yours getting on? ”
“Yeah, Chief. She’s doing fine. She just bagged a summer internship in Spain. She’s out there right now building dams or houses or something. Me and her mum are very proud”
“And that hot piece that you love so much but won’t commit to?” Coop smiled at the chief. He was always teasing him about his love life, since they met.
“Oh, Jill?” He laughed a little. “Hotter than Jalapeño poppers on a summer’s day.”
Coop walked away realising that he hadn’t spoken to Jill, his ‘special friend’ since she’d called him cold and unfeeling a few months ago. He had resolved to apologize at a later date but his ego hadn’t changed at all since then so he hadn’t apologized after all. He figured as she always did when they fought, she would return, content with what he gave her knowing he was either unable or unwilling to give her more. But not this time. Cooper was as unromantic as he was a wet blanket. With Jill however, he felt a lot more strongly than he had any woman even the mother of his children; even his own mother! She challenged him while accommodating his comfort. She laughed at his jokes and didn’t cower when Cooper’s temper hit the roof. She understood him more than any other person living, yet there were parts of him that still puzzled her; like not wanting to get married or have children, and caring more about his murder victims than his family. She bought Cooper’s daughter birthday and Christmas gifts every year and signed them “Love, dad”. She visited his mother regularly. She was the human representation of the thin string that held up Cooper’s love life. Since she left three months ago, Cooper’s daughter had moved to Spain to get away from him and her mother while Cooper’s mother called frantically for few months before giving up as her calls always went unanswered. He hadn’t noticed that either. He needed to see Jill but first…
“Chief! Wait!” Cooper looked back and called out to the Chief who was welcoming another officer for a verbal thrashing, “You didn’t say who killed the Manning case.” Mitchell shifted uncomfortably then looked at the officer.
“Just go in and wait for me.” The officer obliged; then the chief walked to Cooper and whispered,
“It came from the top, Coop. But I’ll fix it.” He then walked back to his office, while Cooper stood there puzzled.