Curious Collusion – Det. Cooper Series

“So did you catch him? You’re here for back-up, aren’t you? Coop? Coop?” Brown appeared at Coop’s side out of nowhere when he walked into the station. His grin beaming from ear to ear. Last time he checked, they were inches away from catching a murderer; scratch that, a serial killer with a suicide fetish. Being a homicide detective that was like a home run or a three pointer that puts your team up by one just before the buzzer goes off, and Brown was gunning to be the MVP. It was a big break for this team! But Coop didn’t speak at first, he only maintained a stone-cold look on his face; the face of a man calculating and associating.

“Back at square one, Brown!” Coop sighed loudly as he dropped himself in his chair. Brown taking his next to him. He flipped through the Nursing home’s visitors’ logs as Brown just stared at him. Brown knew to give Coop a moment when he had been let down by a lead; he was prone to violent outbursts of emotion. Brown had to break the silence, he had relatively good news; news that took them to square two at least.

“Not quite. Autopsy report came back.” Coop’s eyes lit up a little, he sat straight and stared at Brown as he flipped through the medical file on his desk. “Turns….. Out…….” He dragged the lead, searching for the page

“Spit it out! Porky Pig!” Det. Coop insensitively quipped. Brown gave Coop a sharp look before he continued.

“It turns out Alicia Doe, 28 was indeed raped by her assailant.”

“What’s the Bad news?” Coop was skeptical.

“How did you know there was bad news?”

“I just know. Now spit out.”

“Well, we run the……. Samples”

“The SEMEN samples?” Coop smiled at how easy it was to get under Brown’s skin. His own personal doormat. He used him to vent and to reassure himself because history had shown Brown to never ever challenge him even when he should have. They were just a team like that.

“Yes. Those samples. And guess what??”

“Brownie!” A nickname Coop used to toy with Det. Brown, “I swear on my mother’s noose…..”

“OK! There are no matches for the sample. Which is weird because…..” Coop cut him off

“It would mean the assailant has never been arrested or even registered in this country. He’s never donated blood or even gone to the hospital for any sort of check-up. He’s a ghost?”

“He is a ghost!”

“Well, spank me and call me pretty, we just uncovered the tale of the serial killing ghost.” The middle-aged men burst into loud hearty laughter; even though they both knew they were no closer to finding Alicia’s murderer than they were when they found her dead in a stranger’s house with her wrists slit.

Three minutes of hearty laughter later, Coop went back to the Visitors’ Logs, chroming each page for something that would blow the case wide open. Even a little inkling pointing toward the killer would have been enough at this point. As he ran through the names in the Visitors’ Log, he couldn’t keep his mind from straying to the thought that he may be wrong. Every few years, a girl kills herself in a strange place, so what? How could that mean there was a serial killer? What if there was no ‘serial killer’ and these ladies just killed themselves as some people are often prone to do? Why did he have this feeling deep in his stomach every time he thought about it? Or talked about it? Why did it bother him so much when he had seen it himself? The arrival of a human being to their breaking point and their choices thereafter were nothing new to Coop. This is something he knew all too well. He was only 22 years old when he came home after a few months away and found his mother hanging from the rail of the staircase. She hadn’t been dead long, maybe an hour or two. He must have still been on the drive there. They had just spoken that morning. She had mentioned a break-up from one of the countless random men she’d seen after Coop was born but she didn’t seem bothered or even torn up about it. She knew he would find her, she did it anyway. She was aware of his character and inability to open up to anyone but her, she did it anyway. She knew he loved her more than anything, she did it anyway. Coop only shed tears while he cut her down. Seeing her body fall from the first floor to the ground with an enormous yet lifeless thud, then covering her with a white sheet, unable to fathom moving her any further, Coop never shed another tear after that. Not at her funeral, not when he spoke about it, not even when he thought about it. He just knew he had lost a large portion of himself when she died, he had cried for the lost parts of himself. He would never cry about it again. He would never be the same man again. He joined the Police Force soon after that and the rest was history. Till he met Jill. Jill! His mind screamed. Cooper gathered the remaining unexamined Visitors’ Logs and left suddenly without a word.

Whitney Houston was belting out notes perfectly in Cooper’s car. He drove out of the station to the apartment complex with one thing on his mind. “Jill can fix this. Jill can fix me.” He parked his car close to the one he bought her about a year before. He could tell it hadn’t been driven in a while, he could tell by the layer of dust he had distorted when he ran his finger across the car’s top.  However, It didn’t bother him; at least not as much as it should. When he bought it, he knew she wouldn’t drive it. It was just another gift he used to dissuade his guilt from forcing him into doing what he knew he had to do. Jill was a patient woman, more patient than he knew people to be. He couldn’t believe it at times. For five years, this woman stood by him, with her budding youth, no real title or recognition and even less in terms of respect. He was an old stubborn man, he knew it, he carried himself the way he did because of it. He had always expected her to leave him, walk off into the proverbial sunset rendering him just a messy part of her history. And she did, over and over again. She also came back over and over again too, holding no grudges, asking for no apologies.

The bond that held them was deeper than marriage he thought, it was pain. His pain which caused hers and her pain which caused his. Still, she brought herself back, she waited for him to get over himself even if it was for a second. It’s what she lived for; the few seconds when Coop opened up and revealed Denny to her. He didn’t bring her a gift this time; he knew that was not what she wanted. He brought her what she needed; Him unraveled and conflicted enough to open up. He smiled to himself. This could be it! This could be the moment that solidified their bond and erased their painful past. This was their metaphorical wedding day. Coop winced as he stared at her door. Another line of thought emerged. Did she want to get married? Would she really be as open to him when he came undone? Could he really give her what would satisfy her? She was older now, probably less hopeful, maybe less forgiving. Was this a bad idea? He did need her, but did she really need him? Coop’s mind screamed insecurities and possibilities at him. He knocked anyway.

The heavy door flung open seconds later. Jill stood there smiling, genuinely just happy to see him. He saw no grudges, he saw no resentment. All he saw was the sparkle; the one he had grown to call his sparkle. The sparkle that came to her eyes whenever she saw him. The sparkle that reassured him of her forgiving nature and her pure heart. His sparkle. Even though she was dressed down for a day indoors, her beauty still took his breath away. In old sweats, no makeup and that smile, he saw through the grime that life had accumulated on her face, the subtle wrinkles, and chapped lips. He saw the love that she had yet to give and the care she was yet to share. This woman was his woman and she understood him enough for him to never have to have him say it out loud. Looking at her face, he was overwhelmed. He suddenly had the urge to do what he didn’t believe in. It was only right.

“Look! I’m an ass……… a jerk. I’m sorry.” She did not say a word, she just hugged him then let him in.

“We shall not linger about in the past.” She said as she offered him a seat, “What’s up?”

“Nothing’s up. I just came to see you and apologize.” Coop lied

“You’re lying. “ She knew.

“I am.” Coop admitted, “It’s the case.”

“What about it?” Jill leaned in inquisitively.

“Well, I thought I’d cracked it. I really did and you know I’m never wrong when it comes to such stuff.” Coop hesitated then tried to change the subject by touching her face. She held his hand against her face before putting it back down, she knew what he was trying to do

“Then??”

“I was wrong.”

“The problem is that you were wrong for the first time in your career?” Second?

“No, that’s not it.”

“Then what is it, Coop? You can tell me. You know you can” He pulled her across the sofa towards himself so that her legs crossed over his thighs. He looked at her and hesitated. She smiled, reassuring him that his weaknesses did not matter to her. She was ready to listen even more so to help.

“I think I’ve been compromised, emotionally. It feels like I only went after this case cause of my mother and how she died.” He paused, looking straight in her eyes, “Like I didn’t want it to be a suicide so I convinced myself it wasn’t. “

“I get it.” He gave her a look that said you do? She nodded. “You didn’t want her to die that way, by her own hand. So you juxtapositioned that onto the girls. “Cooper burst out laughing

“I juxtapositioned it?? Where the hell do you get this stuff! I’m pretty sure that’s not the word you want. You mean…….”

“You know what I mean! My point is; give yourself some credit, Coop! You’re a smart guy and a darn good detective. You had a gut feeling and just because a lead didn’t pan out, doesn’t mean you are necessarily wrong. You know this! You’re just a little thrown off because of personal experience. It’s allowed for some, but not you. You are objective and neutral. I don’t think you should give up just yet.” He hung on her every word, wanting to believe it all. He felt each word touch a part of his broken heart and mend it.

“I don’t know. There’s a lot hanging on this. If I mess it up, I could lose my job and so could Mitch.” She took his face into her hands and looked deep into his eyes as if she was not speaking to him now but to his soul

“What if it was me, Coop? “  He was quiet. “It could be. That’s why I need you to catch that bastard.” He smiled pulling her chin gently towards him to kiss her. Under his breath, he whispered, “I’ve missed you. “

When Jill woke up, Cooper had already made coffee. He was sitting at the kitchen table going through the Visitors’ Logs.

“Morning Sugar……..Ray Leonard. You did some punching in your sleep. Unfortunately, I was the bag.” Coop joked while he got up to kiss her good morning. Jill giggled at herself

“Is that why you’re up so early?”

“No. That case was stuck in my mind. Been up since 3 am. But I think I found something. I also have to leave.” He hastily kissed her goodbye before walking out and shutting the door heavily. Jill’s heart sank with the bang.

Coop took a minute to appreciate his reconciliation with Jill before he sped off to the station. Brown arrived just in time to see Coop arrive and notice he hadn’t changed his clothes since he abruptly left the station the day before. Coop’s face yelled determination and focus. Brown decided against bringing up the walk of shame.

“I found something, Brown” Coop said while they walked into the station.

“Well?? Tell me what it is!” Coop was quiet. He led Brown to one of the interrogation rooms. “Are you going to tell me? Am I the new suspect? Why are we here, Coop?” Coop still did not speak. He peeped around, made sure no one was around then closed the door. He set down the visitors’ logs he had been carrying around.

“It’s big, Brown.”

“How big?”

“Bigger than our pay grade. Bigger than the Homicide Division. Bigger than the Chief”

“That big? Show me!”

“Are you sure? Because when you see this, you can’t unsee it. “

“Yes, Coop! Spit. It. Out.”

“Ok look here.” Coop opened up the logs. “Louis Manning almost always gets one visitor. Only one. The whole time he’s been in the nursing home. This man!” Coop pointed it out on the page. “See his name?”

“Leonard?” Brown answered naively.

“No his last name! Leonard Harris. That’s the mayor’s son. “

“The mayor doesn’t have a son and that last name is pretty common.”

“No. During his first election, he lost, there was a story that broke of his estranged son who had lived with his mother and her husband. They never realized his picture but they did say his name. It was Leonard Harris!! Then look here!” Coop turned the pages so fast, Brown would have sworn they’d tear. “The only other visitor the mayor himself! And he came with his son. Here, Charles and Leonard Harris! ”

“Ok, so they visited him. So what?”

“I know. So, I called the Rookie and had him look into a few things. Like who funded Louis Manning’s years in exile? It was Charles Harris. Who is Leonard’s mother? Martha Manning. Leonard is the lost Manning half -brother! And finally, guess when he changed his name! Oh, you got it! After Estelle Died. How’s that for ‘so what’ Brown?”

Brown stood completely astonished for a few seconds before he belted out gloriously, “We just blew this case wide open!”

“I blew the case wide open. You? Helped.” Coop said as he left the room.

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“Manning Murderer”

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.”

“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.

Chief Mitchell’s Office – Det. Cooper Series

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.

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”

Missing Link – The Det. Cooper Series 

Cooper brought his white mustang to a grinding halt perfectly in his parking spot. It seemed like his partner Det. Brown had been rumbling on and on for hours about something he termed irrelevant. Cooper wasn’t listening, He couldn’t listen, and He didn’t want to listen frankly. He had now ventured to that place where he thought of nothing else but justice. “Hey Coop, are you listening?” Brown called to his attention. Cooper didn’t startle. He just turned his head calmly and said, “No, Brown. Now shut up. I’m thinking.” He took his keys out of the ignition and got out of the car, leaving Brown with his jaw partially open. Brown knew better than to engage him when he had just gotten on a case, especially one as mysterious as this. He was surprised by Cooper’s response nonetheless, basic human etiquette and all.

Coop and Brown had been partners for about eleven years. However, you could not tell by watching them. Cooper had always maintained an air of loneliness and hostility. He had been on the force twenty years and yet no one really knew much about him or his life outside his cases. Brown was surprisingly one of the few who didn’t mind having Coop as a partner. He didn’t care for his just downright mean comments or aloof behavior either but he seemed to understand that those same qualities made his who he was; the best god damn detective in this town. He had simply summed it up to the fact that Coop was a lone wolf so he needed to stand a few steps away at all times. And what were a little foul people skills when you had the best arrest rate in the city, anyway?

Brown took in a few deep breaths; the first to calm himself then the rest to ready himself. He knew Cooper got a little anxious when he was working a case, especially a case like this; no leads, no clues. It was all his passion and drive perhaps, wouldn’t let him calm down until the crime was solved and the criminals were behind bars. Brown hurried behind Cooper who was mumbling things to himself. He spent a few seconds trying to make out what he was saying before giving up and beginning to hum.

Cooper hastily walked through the station, absent-mindedly nodding his head to the routine morning greetings. The way people felt about Det. Cooper at the station is the way any leader would want to be perceived. People never approached Cooper because they felt drawn to him personally. In fact, no one ever described Coop as a nice guy. Instead they regarded him with the same sense of respect that is offered to great people who they had never met before. Much like a civilian would regard their dictator president walking unexpectedly past their cubicle. Of course, Coop was not up to be any body’s boss at the station and had never asked to be. They all seemed like dead weight to him however they certainly treated him like their captain. Det. Cooper only asked that they made him feel like he had no boss. In his twenty years of service, he had managed to make it so that he decided which cases to pursue, when and how these cases would be solved. Captains came and went but Det. Cooper and his methods remained unchanged and untainted. They called him the ‘One Man Police Department’; behind his back of course.

“Brown, Get me a rookie. The most energetic ass licking scum you can find.” Coop ordered, settling at his desk as he began tossing away message notes. Brown felt more like Cooper’s assistant, even though they held the same rank. He didn’t seem to mind it though because challenging his position in their relationship meant that he needed to be just as good as Det. Cooper; and that was an unusually high bar to reach for

. Brown returned about ten minutes later with a young man wearing spectacles and the most timid look on his face; probably because Det. Cooper’s reputation preceded him.

He opened his mouth to speak, “My…. My…. name is….” He stammered. Cooper cut him off, “I officially don’t care. I’ll call you Rookie. We don’t have much time, Rookie. A young lady was murdered a few days ago and someone went to a lot of trouble to make it look like she killed herself. Now what I need you to do is pull up all suicide records for the last ten, maybe twenty years. ” The young man’s mouth flew open. “Then I want you to bring me all the cases where no notes, identification or murder weapons were found. Can you do that?” The Rookie nodded.

“I’m going to need you to use your words for this one, Rookie.” Cooper slowed down his pace condescendingly, “Do you understand what I want you to do?” The Rookie stood up a bit straighter and said “yes!”  Coop then returned his eyes to his messages while saying, “Good. I’ll see you and the results in two hours.” The rookie darted away. “His name is Rodger, Coop.”  Brown retorted as he sat down in the cubicle next to his. Cooper said nothing.

An hour and a half later, Rodger appeared at Det. Cooper’s cubicle. He stood silent for a few moments, staring at the detective, waiting for his attention. “Are you going to speak or just hover around me forever” Cooper said without raising his head from the book he was reading on his desk. “I found some files of the nature you requested.” Rodger set a bunch of files in front of the detective. He began opening them as he explained.

“Jenkins Mary, aged twenty-seven, found two years ago same way at the William’s residence. No weapon was found on the scene. Zero suspects too.”  Cooper examined the crime scene photos keenly while making little humming noises of some song that Rodger could not make out.

“Next.”

“A Jane Doe later identified as a Clare Blanks from two towns over. Found on the eve of her twenty-eighth birthday in the park four years ago. It was ruled a suicide but no weapons were recovered. Also no suspects” He picked up her crime scene photos too and examined them closely. He put it aside.

“Next.”

“This is one of your old ones. The files say the case went cold.  An Estelle Manning, Ring a bell?” Cooper’s expression suddenly changed. He slammed the file closed.

“Thank you, uh…… Rookie. I can figure the rest out” He sent Rodger away and stared at the closed file for a few seconds. Then suddenly gathered all the files and his wrinkled coat, and left the station. He dumped all the files at the passenger seat of his car. He could still spot Estelle’s file. Her name called to him, taunting him. He drew in a deep breath then reached for it. He opened it slowly and fixated on her picture. She looked so young and happy, with her teeth gleaming between her pink lips. He swallowed hard as he turned to the crime scene photos. He couldn’t shake the immense emptiness he felt and even worse he couldn’t get over the fact that he had let her down.

You see, Estelle was one of his first and also one of the few of his case victims to whom he had not delivered justice. He was much less experienced than and held a lot less respect among his peers. Way back then, ruling this case anything other than a suicide was too ambitious and overreaching; a mistake a rookie did not want to make. He recalled seeing the crime scene for the first time. It was at her adorable home, where she had planned to start a family he presumed. He had felt so sick to his stomach; he could not bear to stare at it for more than a second. It was all so gruesome and nauseating for a rookie; something he believed would bother him a lot less now.  He remembered feeling like something was off and out-of-place. Something, maybe someone was not right that day. Looking at the file now, something was not right again. He was teleported back to reality by his realization.

He jumped up and out of his car and hurried back to the station. He walked in ferociously and called out, “Rodney..! Or whatever that rookie’s name is. Get me all you can on Estelle Manning before she died. She’s the missing link.”

Keen Discoveries – The Det.Cooper Series

The Mustang that pulled up and parked right next to the crime scene tape was plain, generic, an onlooker even described it as mundane. The manner in which its tyres screeched to a halt echoed of its occupant’s urgency and importance. A rather shabby middle aged man briskly jumped out of the driver’s seat, flashing his badge to the officer on guard. The man immediately recognized the detective even in his loose tie and creased and stained shirt; and raised the tape high enough for him to slip through without much effort. Detective Brown, his partner met Cooper at the door to the magnificently large Victorian-style house.

“You’re late, Coop. Unfashionably late” Detective Brown greeted, referring to Cooper’s appearance. He was in last night’s clothes. He also stank of whiskey, cigarettes and insomnia. Detective Cooper didn’t seem bothered; he had an old saying he lived by. “The government pays me to find murderers, rapists and criminals, not to be corrupt, clean or sober.”

“Tell me something new, Partner. What do we have here?”

“Dead body, Coop. Female, late-30s, Does not live here and doesn’t look homeless either. Owners of the house found her here when they came home for vacation.”

“You gon’ give me a name, Brown? Or do I have to lick your boots first?”

Brown chuckled “Yeah. Just a first name from a card she was carrying. A birthday card.  Alicia”

“A birthday card was all she was carrying? How festive! Cause of death?”

“Take a look for yourself”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

Detective Cooper took out his gloves and began tracing his path to the bedroom with his eyes. He walked keenly to the bedroom, taking notice of every little thing. He stood in the door way for a few dragged seconds. He liked to take in the crime scene, acknowledge the life that occupied it, the death that so suddenly riddled it, the events that transitioned the former to the latter and everything in between.

The bedroom was in an almost perfect state; except for the bed that is where Alicia lay. He stared at her for a second too long. The look on his face changing from casual to disgusted very visibly then to concern all too suddenly. She lay pale and cold, her lifeless eyes still open as if staring out, calling out for heaven and redemption. She lay a bit too perfectly that it bothered Cooper. Her wrists slit and stretched out beside her. Her head perfectly tilted upward, her cold blue lips pursed together almost as if sown there, it didn’t feel like it seemed. Cooper drew nearer to deepen his inspection. He first closed her eyelids before examining her face and neck, she was covered in bruises; the most noticeable being the ones on her neck, they were prominent, pronounced and worst of all they were fresher and deeper than all the other bruises.

“This isn’t suicide, Brown. I can feel it”

“Of course it is, Coop. Her wrists look like a badly sliced hotdog bun.” Detective Cooper was now circling the bed. “Now Coop, I know you like adventure and mystery but this looks like an open and shut case to me.”

“And how is that, Brown?” His tone came off a bit condescending

“Well from here, Coop it looks like Alicia had some rough days here and there. Maybe heartbreak here and there. Until one day, she decides to pull her own plug with a knife to the wrists. She was too scared and immature to face her own life so she finds an abandoned house and kills herself. She’s not the first, it won’t be the last.” Brown explained with a note of finality.

“Wait, Brown. You said this isn’t her house?”

“No. The owners, this nauseating young couple came home from a two week vacation and found her there. I told you that already, Coop.”

“Where are they?”

“Out Front. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan.”

“Thanks Brown. Did you guys find the knife?”

“Who said there was a knife?”

“You did.”

“We found no weapons on site, Coop”

“That’s cause it’s not suicide, you idiot.” Detective Cooper walked away, leaving Det. Brown flipping through his notebook furiously trying to locate the murder weapon. Almost as if his words were meant to awaken Brown’s brain from years of hibernation. He wasn’t as good as Det. Cooper, even he knew it; but in all fairness no one was and it seemed like no one would ever be, Det. Cooper had a way with his work. It was effortless, yet the results reflected much calculation and focus. He related with the crime scene and the victim. It was almost as if he spoke to them and eventually for them.

It was easy to spot the Morgan’s from the crowd. They were shaken up. Mrs. Morgan had been crying for a few hours now, Coop could tell. Mr. Morgan rubbed his wife’s back as she cried into his chest with this frozen stunned look on his face. After a quick interview, Cooper concluded that they didn’t have much to offer in the hunt for Alicia’s murderer. They claimed not to know the victim or anyone who would be comfortable enough to stage a fake suicide in their matrimonial bed. So now he had a dead body, no witnesses, no suspects, partial victim identity and a staged suicide; he knew there was something he was missing, the link, the connection. The onlookers were too noisy now and the crime scene had been deliberately cleaned to leave no trace but Alicia, or her body at least. The answers weren’t at this mansion, Cooper concluded. He beckoned Brown and they rode back to the station. Cooper had Brown read the facts of discovery back to him over and over again, as he mumbled under his breathe calculating.

Watch out for the next part.