Det. Brown had been staring into the Chief’s office the whole time, trying to make out how the chief was reacting to Cooper’s actions. He didn’t want him fired or anything, just disciplined a bit. That’s why he called the officers. Brown assumed his life would be safer if Det. Cooper just calmed the fuck down sometimes, checked the boxes and filled his paperwork like the rest of the detectives. Like Brown had done for years, the bare minimum required of a homicide detective. But Brown knew Coop; for a long time enough now, the man had to go that extra reckless mile. He had to kick down the doors and shoot in the air when he arrived and burn it down while he walked away. He came with a certain flair; most days that was the best thing about him, not every day, however; certainly not on the day he threatened to shoot a civilian. Brown knew he wasn’t scared of the man and his recklessness, just a little intimidated. Cooper was completely detached, an island fully sufficient relying on its own Ecosystem. A bomb could drop around him and he would still act the same. He’d probably start a race of hardened species incapable of weak emotion but they’d probably be miserable with no murders to solve. Brown thought jokingly. The shouting from the Chief’s office stopped. The two men in the Chief’s office now spoke confidentially, keenly. Brown could instantly tell that Coop had somehow managed to rope the Chief in. A skill unique to only Coop and maybe the Chief’s wife. Brown doubted the magnitude of the latter.
Seconds later, Coop was walking towards Brown. He had that look on his face. Brown knew it well. The look of curiosity and thirst for justice was intense. There was something that didn’t sit right with Cooper about this case, about Manning and Coop was willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find it.
“Hey! Rat!” Coop yelled looking straight at Brown, walking intently towards him. Brown was rattled, not sure if he should reply on account of his obvious ‘betrayal’ to his partner when he called the police on him. He resolved to remorse, only slightly genuine.
“Now Coop listen. You were off your loose hinges! You had a gun in her face!” Brown sounded frantic, getting up from his seat to ‘defend himself’.
Cooper began to shout, “This guy thinks it would be amusing if I was impotent.” The station fell silent in anticipation. Brown walked closer to Coop now realizing his punishment for the ‘betrayal’ would be public humiliation. He was almost whispering,
“I can make it up to you, Coop.”
Coop smiled, “Maybe he’s just mad my girl’s prettier than his. Huh? Huh?” He nudged Brown playfully, while the officers in the station burst out in roaring laughter. The ‘punishment’ was over. Coop got serious, wiping the smile off his face like it was never there.
“Tell me you talked to Fischer before she left.”
“Of course I did. She wasn’t very forthcoming about that time.”
“What’d she say then?”
“She said if any one killed Estelle, it was their father. Louis Manning, now about 70. Lives in one of those greasy old people homes. You know, the cheap ones….” Coop nodded, urging Brown on. Brown was the compassionate one. Civilians saw him as the equivalent of a cuddly crime fighting bear. He could get through to anyone, especially children. Coop, on the other hand, was the hard guy. The guy who beat it out of a suspect and knew when you were lying. They made a pretty good crime-fighting team, Soft yet Hard.
“Why did she think that? How bad was he?”
“Well, for one he molested them, all three.”
“Half-brother, youngest. Tell you about him later. So yeah, he touched them, abused them, beat them and a lot of other things that she didn’t need to delve into. She said he ‘loved’ her most. Even slept in her bed almost every night until she and her sister moved out. Even then, he’d show up at their house drunk and well….. Have his way. That’s not even the best part.”
“What is?” Coop played along because he could see Brown’s eyes light up. He could tell Brown was not a believer in the Manning Suicide either.
“Louis, the father. Left town for sixteen years just after they discovered Manning. Didn’t even attend the funeral. Now police ruled it a suicide so no one ever came looking for him but he stayed until the statute of limitations had run out. That’s if he raped her. And she was never given a proper autopsy and no rape test.”
“So our killer may be a rapist. Let’s get the lab to run a full autopsy on Alicia Doe, rape test included. No fucking up this time.” Brown pulled his little brown notebook from his breast pocket and began jotting.
“I’ll get that done. We going to see Manning the Murderer?” Brown chuckled at his own joke. Cooper didn’t laugh with him though, he stared into space thinking.
“No Brown. I have a feeling about this. Not a good one. Let me go see him, shake the trees before we brand him.”
“Alright, Coop. But it’s right there in front of you. ‘Man abuses and murders his daughter and four other women.’” Brown said resigning to the fact that the case could not go on until Coop was sure.
…Young girls they do get weary, wearing that old shaggy dress, yea……… Coop anxiously listened to the dial tones from his phone as the radio played calmly in the background. He loved Otis Redding, so did…..
“Yes?!” The voice on the other end was smooth, sweet and composed. It made Coop think of ice-cream, creamy, cold, relaxing.
“Jill? Hello.” He managed to get that out sounding a little like himself. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs how sorry he was or how he felt his heart sink far past his stomach when he heard her voice for the first time in a long time, but he didn’t. He just said hello.
“Denny? Is that you? Oh, thank God! I thought you were dead, shot in the line of duty or something. I buy the paper every day to be sure you aren’t. How are you?” Jill’s voice remained calm, almost excited even. There was no shred of anger or remorse just concern. Pure wholesome concern, the kind Coop needed a whole bowl of. He trembled at the thought that she might have just forgiven him, just like that. He didn’t deserve it. He never did.
“I’ve been… I’ve been…. I’ve been good, Jill. I just wanted to hear your voice. How are you?” He struggled to sound like himself, strong and unweakened by her. Because he was, weakened, even miles away the sound of her voice sufficed to tear his hardened shell down.
“You didn’t call, D”
“What?” He heard her but he couldn’t muster the courage and maturity he needed for this conversation.
“I said bye forever and you didn’t call. I really thought you would. I thought I’d break Coop, get Denny and ride off into the sunset. But you didn’t call. “
“Jill…. Wait….” She cut him off
“You know I knew you wouldn’t. You couldn’t. Your mind wouldn’t let your heart be.” Cooper was confused, speechless to say the least, “It’s my fault.”
“What? Jill, No!” She cut him off again.
“I know what you’re going to say, Denny. I’m a good girl, I deserve better. But I fell for you, that’s my fault. God knows you kept telling me not to. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left. You need me more than I need some of these things from you. “
“I’m working this new case.” He deflected the emotional
“Oh jolly! What’s it about?”
“Young girl, little younger than you was found with her wrists slit for her. Everyone wants a suicide but when I see murder baby….”
“It’s murder, baby.” They laughed. The tension had passed, they were Oh Kay! “But seriously D. isn’t it hard?”
“Nope. I mean I already roped it the Chief and……”
“Not that, baby!! Cause of your mum! She…..” Cooper froze, he was five minutes from the retirement home. He knew he had time to talk about this but….
“Hey Jill, Got to catch a bad guy. I’ll call you later.” He hung up. He pulled into the retirement home parking lot.
He sat at the reception for fifteen minutes before Mr. Manning wheeled himself into the room. It gave him too much time to think. He knew that Jill still wanted an apology, even though she acted like she didn’t. He also knew he was not in the position to give one, not if he wanted to keep seeing her. He also knew that it was at least a little unfair to keep her like that; waiting for crumbs of his affection. Why did she do this to herself! It was all very complicated, to say the least. He didn’t want to be distracted so he couldn’t let Jill and her his feelings distract him. He snapped back to reality as Mr. Manning ‘parked’ in front of him.
“Mr. Manning? I’m Detective Cooper. I’d like to ask you some questions.”
“Sure, Officer.” It’s Detective, scumbag. “Let’s talk in the garden.” Walking behind this foul human being, Coop winced. A man like this, a demon, evil everywhere worst of all deep in his soul. Evil enough to molest his children. His own kids! The devil himself!
“This is a good spot. So what’s up, Cap’? “
“It’s Detective, Sir. I’d like to talk to you about your daughter.” Mr. Manning’s wrinkled face lit up and his lips curved as far as they could.
“Lynette? I haven’t seen her in ages. What’d she say? How’s she doing?” Doing better far away from you scumbag!
“No, Mr. Manning. Estelle.” Louis’ face cringed and his smile completely disintegrated. “Her body was found, wrists slit, in her apartment……”
“Twenty years ago!” Louis cut him off. Coop could see the man was getting irritable so he was going to keep poking.
Aha! Now we’re talking. “Tell me about her.”
“Why? Can’t you get the old case file? It’s been twenty years, Officer and she killed herself. You said it yourself.”
“I didn’t say she killed herself. I said her wrists were slit.” Coop sat on the bench near him. “We found a girl like we found Estelle. Then another and another. It is now our belief that Estelle was murdered. And no doubt by someone close to her, cause she was the first victim. “
“And you think I did it?? I did nothing but love that girl. It hurt me deeply that she passed away like that.”
“Hmm…. Nothing but love, eh?” Coop paused, staring into the man’s eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of his blackened soul. “Mr. Manning, we know you molested your daughter and the other daughter too, oh and we also know your molested your step son. “
“Suicides are very hard, especially for families.” Especially when you stage them too. The man stared at his fingers, a remorseful look on his face. Coop was not buying it. “I do NOT appreciate you dredging up old pain after twenty years, Officer.” Coop’s patience was waning. Here’s this brutal killer, scratch that, serial killer; one who would rather the victim’s families believe that their loved one killed themselves. This guy was as foul and evil as they come. Yet here he sat whining about how sad he was twenty years ago or how sad he still is about it. He belonged in the abyss of the worst prison this country has and Coop would be responsible for putting him there, locking the door and throwing away the key.
“For the last time, it’s De-Tec-Tive! And something else Mr Grieving Father, I don’t believe you for a second. I can smell crocodile’s tears miles away, Manning. You killed that girl! And now you don’t want to talk about it? Ah-ah Murderer Manning! You’ll talk, you’ll sing like a bird by the time I’m done!” Coop was raising his voice now, bearing over Louis Manning like an eagle going in for the kill. “Why did you leave only a day after her death? Only to return sixteen years later?” Manning dropped his head, “Your other kids. They needed you and you ‘loved’ them. So why the 16 year vacation, huh? Statute of Limitations? ” Coop gripped his weapon ready to subdue the suspect as soon as he confessed. But he didn’t confess, he began to weep instead and continued to weep for several minutes. Coop stared at him, waiting for him to peep the wrong way; then he’d be sure the man was faking. A few more tears in, he couldn’t take it. The devil was pleading mercy in front of him, and he wasn’t buying it.
“Come on! We’ll take a ride to the station.”
“What??” Manning choked on his tears, utterly confused about what the Detective was talking about.
“Answer my questions then. Or we have to do this at the station in cuffs and your favourite colour jumpsuit. They don’t clean anything in that holding cell, least of all….”
“Ok ok ok!” Manning caved, Coop smiled. “I left because I thought that I was the reason she…..” He sniffed loudly. The man was broken. He seemed to have taken a lot of time rebuilding himself too. Coop didn’t like how this sat. This feeble old man, can’t leave his retirement home, needs a full time nurse and worse still he’s in a wheel chair. It would take him a whole lot of energy and an accomplice to pull this off. Cooper began to walk away. He could still hear the man’s frantic sobs. He made his way to the reception. A young attractive lady sat there reading a backless novel with her spectacles worn low. She ignored him at first. He began tapping his fingernails against the reception desk. She looked up, uninterested.
“Detective Cooper,” he flashed his badge. “Can I see all your visitor logs for the last four years?”
Looking back into her book, “No. Those are confidential, Sir.”
“De-Tec-Tive! To you! I can always come back with a warrant and a SWAT team. Bet you’d all enjoy seeing all these old people having a collective heart attack.”
She rolled her eyes before reaching for a handful of hardcover books under her desk. Cooper nodded in appreciation before he took them with him to his car. “Asshole.” She murmured under her breathe as he shut the door behind him.