Valley of Long Shadows (John Hansen)

1

DEATH OR CONSEQUENCES

2:17 a.m. Not since Vietnam had Otis seen the likes of it: a car, wrecked and shot to pieces, rear window blown out, bullet holes in the dash, a dead white female slumped onto the steering wheel, a dead black male adult lying face-up on the rear floor, his face bloody from bullet wounds, a double-barrel shotgun lying on his chest, an unconscious white female being hastily eased from the front passenger seat into an ambulance by two attendants. With a patrol car escort, the ambulance sped Code Three for the ER, their sirens striking up a chorus like wolves howling in the night.

Otis saw for himself that Hitchcock and Sherman were uninjured before he reported to Sergeant Breen.  

“Before she lost consciousness, the survivor told us the dead guy is Tyrone Hatch,” Breen told him. “she also told us Hatch is holding a missing woman from Everett, named Claudia, prisoner in the house they came from. She said it’s a small dark brown house within a block of Eastgate Chevron. Find it and see if the woman is there. I’ve notified King County; it’ll be in their jurisdiction.”

Arriving in the neighborhood in minutes, Otis quickly found a house matching the description. He radioed the address to Sergeant Breen before he approached.

Drapes closed; lights on in the front room; front door locked. The doorbell didn’t work. Otis pounded on the door; no response. The garage door opened easily; a white older model Lincoln was inside, its interior empty, its engine warm. He radioed Breen after he ran the plate.

“Sarge, lights are on inside, no one answers the door. A white Lincoln registered to Tyrone Hatch is inside the garage. It’s the one described in the Seattle PD bulletin. The door from the garage to the kitchen is unlocked. Request permission to enter the house under exigent circumstances.”

“Proceed, Three Zero Seven,” authorized Breen.

Otis drew his revolver and stepped into the kitchen and stopped.  He immediately detected a faint but familiar odor.

“Police officer! Anybody home?” he shouted. No reply. Stacks of dirty dishes and stale food on the counter weren’t the source of the smell. He moved to the edge of the hallway and stood stock-still, his back against the wall, listening intently. Nothing. The odor led him down the hall. All his senses were on full alert. The house was quiet. The first two bedrooms were open and empty. The third bedroom was locked.

Otis kicked the door open. The smell was here. He swept the room with his flashlight.  The body of a naked woman lying face down in a single bed pushed against the wall, partly covered with a sheet, her face was turned to the wall. She was young and white, had long brown hair and very dead. The splotches of early stage post-mortem lividity on her skin indicated the time of death was about two hours ago. He holstered his weapon and flipped the light switch. He lifted her wrist: it was limp; no rigor mortis yet; skin cool to the touch. The hall thermostat read sixty-five degrees. He returned to his car to report.

“Three Zero Seven to Four Twenty, Channel Two.”

“Four Twenty on Two, Three Zero Seven. Whatcha got?”

“A deceased white female appears to be in her twenties in bed in one of the bedrooms. Early stages of lividity. No rigor yet. Probable time of death within two-three hours. No obvious injuries.”

“Ten-four,” Breen replied. “Secure the scene. I will update County and the Medical Examiner. Stay there until they no longer need you.”

City photographer Frank Kilmer arrived and surveyed the bloody wreckage of close quarter battle. Known for his dry gallows humor, Kilmer chuckled as he twisted one end of his waxed handlebar mustache. “Well, well. This’ll pull some heads out of the sand at City Hall— ah, let me correct that—it will jerk some heads out of the sand!” An experienced professional, Kilmer methodically took preliminary Polaroid shots of the car, the exterior, its location, the bodies inside, the bullet holes, and the bloody interior before switching to 35 mm roll film and flash. 

The ME investigator arrived. He bagged the hands of the woman driver in brown paper sacks, sealed at the wrists with tape. He found a driver’s license in her purse, identifying her as Mae Driscoll. Two detectives helped him remove her body from the driver’s seat. The back of her clothing and the seat fabric were drenched with blood. Rain resumed as they placed her body on a gurney, covered it with a sheet, and slid it into the investigator’s van.

The dead man in the back seat had gunshot wounds to the head. After Kilmer finished taking photographs, detectives removed the shotgun and the medical examiner’s investigator bagged and sealed the man’s hands in brown paper bags and removed a wallet from the man’s pants pocket, finding sixteen hundred dollars in denominations of twenties, fifties and hundreds. A Washington driver’s license identified him as Tyrone Hatch.

Kilmer handed the wallet to one of the detectives. “I’ll photograph the money and the serial numbers, but you should record everyone anyway in case my shots aren’t clear enough,” he said.

When they lifted Hatch’s body from the car, one of the detectives noticed a small blue automatic pistol lying on the right rear floor.

“Hello! Look at this, Frank.”

After Kilmer photographed the pistol, the detective lifted it with gloved hands, removed the magazine and a live round from the chamber, placing each in small paper evidence envelopes.

“Don’t put your camera away yet, Frank. Look at this,” the detective said, pointing at another spent shell casing on the back seat.

“Aha. Bet this little gun fired this little shell, tonight,” Kilmer speculated.  He snapped more photographs.

Using tweezers from his evidence kit, the detective placed the spent shell case into a coin envelope and sealed and marked it. He didn’t mind the duty of evidence collection on this call-out. He was new to detectives. It was good training. To protect the chain of custody, he alone gathered, marked and documented the recovery of each evidence item. At the end of his assignment he approached Hitchcock and Sherman, carrying two evidence envelopes.

“Roger and Tom, I’ll need you to give me your guns for ballistic tests, then head to the detective office to write your statements. You’ll be issued temporary replacement weapons before you go back on duty.”

Outside the hospital emergency entrance, Dr. Rhonda Kringen and a nurse shivered in the cold as the ambulance arrived. “Who is this girl?” she asked no one in particular as she checked her vital signs.

“ID in her purse says she’s Linda Ogilvie,” Officer LaPerle answered.

“Gunshot wounds to the thorax. Get her into surgery now!” Orderlies whisked her to the surgery room.

“Let’s get these clothes off her,” Dr. Kringen said to no one in particular as she rolled the victim side to side to remove her coat and scissor away her blood-saturated clothing. An intern wiped the blood from Ogilvie’s abdomen, revealing two bullet entrance wounds, one to the lower left rib cage, another in the center of the abdomen.

A nurse struggled to find a vein in Linda’s arm large enough to receive an IV. Another nurse placed an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth while Dr. Kringen drew a blood sample and handed it to a nurse. “Get this to the lab for typing - fast – we could lose her!” 

Dr. Kringen assessed the damage as she helped roll the gurney into x-ray.  “She’s lost a lot of blood for someone so small. I hope a bullet didn’t nick her aorta. Get the on-call thoracic surgeon on the phone.”   

X-rays revealed one bullet mushroomed and lodged intact at the tip of the lower aorta; the other pierced her liver and spleen.

“She’s O Positive,” a nurse reported.

“What happened to this girl, Officer?” Rhonda asked LaPerle as she worked.

“She made the mistake of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with wrong people. She was passenger in a stolen car with two armed felons. Two officers recognized the car and tried to pull it over. The car crashed in an attempt to flee, the felon hiding in the back ambushed the officers as they walked up to the car, but they killed him. Before she lost consciousness, this gal told us the driver shot her. The driver is dead, too. I’m here to receive clothing and any bullets you remove as evidence.” 

Rhonda’s hands stopped at the news. She looked at LaPerle, fearing the answer to her next question: “Where did this happen?”

“In Eastgate. The officers were Hitchcock and Sherman.”

Rhonda’s knees buckled. She caught herself in time but her blood seemed to run to her feet. “Is Roger … I mean … are they …“

LaPerle smiled reassuringly. “Not to worry, Doc. Neither has a scratch. They’re probably at the station now, writing reports before they go home. “

It was past 6 a.m. when Hitchcock and Sherman finished writing their statements. Hitchcock remembered firing his weapon only once; yet six empty shell cases were recovered from where he dumped them to reload. He remembered only one shotgun blast, not two, and feeling a light spattering on his chest; seeing a man aiming a shotgun at him from the back seat and shooting to stop him from firing again. He remembered thinking he and Sherman must have killed him.

Total exhaustion hit Hitchcock all at once. The detective lieutenant wanted him to write a second statement. “More detail will come to mind with the second statement,” he urged.

“Sorry, I’m out of steam. This is all I can remember now. I can hardly stay awake; haven’t been this tired since the Army. I’m going home while I can still drive. If you need another statement I’ll do it after I get some sleep.”

“We’ll get you an appointment with a psychologist,” the detective lieutenant announced.

Hitchcock stopped and looked back. “A shrink? What for?”

“For you and Sherman, of course. Good Lord, Roger, you guys killed two people at point-blank range. Aren’t you bothered?”

Hitchcock shook his head no. “There’s nothing complicated about it, lieutenant. The guy ambushed us as we walked up on a stolen car but we killed him first. Besides, Sergeant Breen saw the whole thing. Tell the city to save its money. See you in a few hours.”

Jamie was waiting for him in the driveway, rain-soaked, tail a-wagging, when he arrived. Forgetting the shooting, Hitchcock happily brought Jamie inside, toweled and fed him, got out of his uniform, poured a glass of Old No. 7 with ice, put his feet up and rubbed Jaime’s head with one hand as he drank. 

Gray daylight seeped through the windows of his digs. His body demanded sleep but he mustered the energy to dial Gayle’s number. Without her help, a cop, or maybe two, either here or in Seattle would probably be dead this morning.     

 “Hello?” she answered sleepily.

“It’s me, Roger.”

“Hi.”

“Sorry to wake you but I’m calling to let you know Hatch tried to kill me and another officer last night. Hatch and Mae are both dead. I wanted you to know before you hear it on the news. You saved lives last night, and I am grateful.”

He could hear Gayle sit up with a gasp. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine and so is Tom Sherman, my partner last night. I’ll call you after I get some sleep. There’s nothing to worry about—no one knows who you are.”

As soon as Hitchcock settled into his covers the phone rang.

“Hi Roger, its Eve. I heard it on the news this morning. Are you all right? You aren’t hurt, are you?”

“I’m okay, trying to get some sleep.”

“Sleep! How could you sleep after shooting somebody?”

“I’m very tired, Eve. We’ll talk later. I appreciate your calling me and the other tip you gave me.”

“Ohhh yeah,” said Eve. “There’s more coming in. The nasty little lieutenant is busy. But we’ll talk later,” she promised. Hitchcock unplugged his phone, and quickly drifted off into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Less than an hour later a persistent pounding on his sliding glass door awakened him. “Roger! Get up! Let me in!”

He opened the slider. Rhonda threw her arms around his neck, shaking. He put his arms around her waist, noticing she wore her hospital scrubs—She must have left work to check on me. How about that? he observed with satisfaction.

“I tried calling you, but got no answer. You’re not hurt, are you? How did it happen?”

“I unplugged my phone. No, I’m not hurt, neither is my partner, Tom Sherman.”

“Tell me what happened, Baby.”

“We made a stop on a stolen car.”

Rhonda took a step back, keeping her hands on his shoulders. “Stolen car!” she gasped. “Come on! I treated the survivor, she’s been shot twice and is unlikely to live, and the news says it’s more than a stolen car—a lot more. The officer at the hospital told me the guy who was killed was hiding in the back and fired at you guys first. I can hardly believe neither of you are hurt!” 

“Rhonda, I need sleep. I …“

“Of course,” interrupted the physician in her. “You’re coming down from a major adrenalin rush. Get all the sleep you can. I’ll check back on you later. They better give you and Tom some time off,” she said, kissing her knight fully on the lips.

Rhonda left. Hitchcock sat on the edge of his bed. Maybe I should stay awake to see who shows up next—probably Mom, Joan, or Jean, he speculated. He wondered if Ruby would at least call to see if he is alright. He stretched out on his bed and drifted into a deep nothingness.

* * *

Tom Sherman left the station when Hitchcock did. He had reached the early stages of shutting down. Two hours ago he called his wife to say he would be home late because of some reports he had to write, giving no other details.  Karen heard the news on the radio while fixing breakfast for the kids.  After taking the kids to school she returned home and called her boss to say she wouldn’t be in due to a family emergency.  When Sherman came through the door, he was in the same gentle, friendly mood some interpreted as shallowness. But Karen knew better. She could read Tom better than anyone; he was her man.

“Hi Hon,” he greeted her with a grin which couldn’t mask his exhaustion. “Not going to work today?”

Karen stood in front of him and shook her head, running her hands over him, looking him over for signs of injury. “Nope, told ‘em I’m not coming in today,” she finally replied.

Sherman took her in his arms to ease her fears, but inside he felt withdrawn. “How come?” He asked as if he didn’t know.

 “I heard the news, Tom. Someone shot at you again. But this time you’re home, not in the Army, not in Vietnam. This time I’m here.”  She held him tightly. “My man needs his woman, and this woman needs her man.” With trembling she led him to the bedroom. “Hold me, Tom. Someone tried to kill you, and I’m angry and scared.”

Winning in deadly, close-quarter combat produced the primitive, hormonal rush Sherman experienced in Vietnam. The conqueror in him demanded physical, gratifying intimacy to complete his conquest. The action exhilarated him and he wanted only Karen. Sleep could wait.

Eight a.m. The station. Sergeant Breen had turned in all written reports to the detectives. The last man of his squad to leave was Otis.  He noticed Lieutenant Bostwick looked worried as he passed him in the hallway. Breen thought Bostwick wanted to ask about the officers in the gunfight. Not so…

“Jack, it seems I left my office door open when I left here on the weekend. Some papers are missing from my desk. Do you know anything about it?”

After the city’s first officer involved shooting in which people died, Bostwick couldn’t even ask if the officers were okay. Breen’s gallows humor of the previous night came back into play. He couldn’t resist toying with Bostwick the way a cat toys with a frightened, cornered mouse.

“Yes, Rowlie. I saw your door was open and papers and reports on your desk which the janitor or anyone else could read. As I didn’t know when you’d be back, I thought I would do you a favor—I gave them to Captain Delstra when he came in yesterday morning. ”

Bostwick turned pale and his jaw went slack. “You-you gave them to—who?”

Off duty Breen was a top poker hand; his ability to bluff was unmatched, but this time it was tough for even him to keep a straight face.

“I gave them to Captain Delstra, of course, to keep it going up the chain of command, you know. I didn’t know when you’d be in again.”

Looking like he might as well commit suicide, Bostwick numbly walked into his office, shut the door, plopped into his chair and blankly stared at the wall, paralyzed with fear. He knew Delstra didn’t like him and is nobody to mess with. This spelled doom for his career. Add the misplaced papers to the gunfight early this morning, and the secret plans being laid on the third floor for the department were up in smoke. What will happen to me now? Bostwick wondered.

After five minutes Breen softly knocked on Bostwick’s door. He had a large manila envelope in his hand. “Excuse me, but I’m forgetful after the long shift last night. I completely forgot where I put your papers for safekeeping. Here they are. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.”

Like a drowning man who had finally been thrown a life ring, Bostwick gulped “You mean you didn’t give these papers to Captain Delstra?”

“Captain Delstra hasn’t laid eyes on these papers, Lieutenant. I kept them in my locker all weekend.” No, you scumbag traitor, I gave copies to Delstra and he’s on to you, Breen thought as he looked at Bostwick in the manner a prison guard looks at a prisoner on death row.

“Thank you, thank you, Jack. You’re a friend indeed,” Bostwick said, sighing in relief.

Breen smiled as he left; holding his laughter in check until he reached the privacy of his car, headed for home. 

Bostwick’s phone rang after Breen left. It was his contact on the third floor.

“Yes, of course,” Bostwick replied smoothly.  “There isn’t a shooting review board provision in place because we’ve never had a shooting before, but I’ll get to work creating one right away and make sure I’m on the panel. I can’t guarantee it, but I’ll do my best. I wouldn’t miss this chance for anything.”

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