Chapter 1: Rape, Murder, Investigation
Being a detective was something Amber had always wanted to be. She never thought that one day she would be the detective everyone needed and relied on. She never could have guessed that one day all of New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey would know her name. She never knew that she would be considered the top detective around. But she was and it was nice. It wasn't wonderful, having to look at dead body after dead body but that was something you could adjust to. She could never get used to it but it didn't leave her lying awake for hours like it used to. No, she was a professional now. She knew what her job was and she never backed down, not even if it could put her very life in danger. Solving crimes was in her blood. Both of her parents had been detectives and now it was her turn to take up the position. She had to follow her parents' footsteps and save the people in her city and the cities around. These thoughts passed through her mind over and over again every time she got another call about a homicide like the one she had received this morning from Captain Morgan. She was on her way to the scene now, ready to solve another case. Her thick black curls were pulled back today because of the rain and she wore jeans and a black blouse, her usual attire when going to a crime scene. She turned onto the street Morgan had mentioned and easily found her destination. Police cars and an ambulance were parked out front and the area was blocked off with bright yellow tape, a familiar sight. She parked behind a police car and stepped out into the pouring rain. She didn't bother to bring her umbrella, knowing she would be inside most of the time she was here. She showed her badge to one of the officers and entered to the house. She was led to the master bathroom, the scene of the crime. Her partner, Nathan, was already there. His bronze hair hung loosely and he wore slacks and a button-up shirt, which was black like her blouse.
"Morning Amber," he said, "This one's different from our usual."
"Hello Nathan," she replied, "How different?"
"The victim was bound with duct tape and placed in the tub. The tub was then filled until the victim's face was covered and she was left there. She drowned before she even woke up," he said, sighing, "Once Forensics gets here they'll take a sample of her blood and let us know if she had any toxins in her blood. But it's pretty obvious there was foul play here."
"So she was raped? Why are we handling this case then? We're homicide, not rape."
"We're handling this case because the rape team is handling another case right now. They assigned it to us because Captain knew you could solve it."
"No pressure or anything right? Let's get started then. What was her name?"
Amber pulled on a pair of latex gloves and walked over to the body which was still in the tub.
"Her name was Amanda Smith. She was twenty-two and around 5'5". She liked to jog every morning and everyone she knew loved her."
She lifted the victim's hands, inspecting them. They looked like dried up prunes.
"She was in the water for at least two hours. How long has she been dead?"
"It's hard to tell. The water was freezing so it's a little tricky. Coroner says she died between eight and nine a.m."
Amber nodded, placing the hand back in its original position. She lifted part of the tape around her wrists; red marks covered them where the tape had been.
"She was bound long before the water was placed in the tub. I'd guess she's been bound for at least four hours. So about an hour or two before she died. It would have taken her only minutes to die, if even that. Since she wasn't breathing normally it was probably less than five minutes."
"A quick death then. Better than slowly."
Amber nodded absently. She looked over the body and noticed something on her leg.
"Nathan, I think this woman had knee problems or recently had surgery. Check out the area around her knee. There's a tan line from either a brace or a bandage. This means she wouldn't have been at her full strength, making it harder to defend herself."
"Do you think her killer knew that and that's why he attacked now, while she was at her weakest?"
"More than likely."
The Forensics team entered the room and took a blood sample. They placed it under a scanner, checking for toxins.
"She was definitely dosed with something. Probably morphine or chloroform." One of them told her.
"So her attacker knocked her out and then raped her? And after he was done he placed her in a tub and drowned her? I don't know. She was probably raped before he knocked her out and then when she struggled too hard he dosed her with some morphine. Doing so made his job easier. He then bound her hands and legs and placed her in this tub. He probably cleaned up before filling the tub with water. And then he escaped out either the back door or a window. Unless he left through the front door, knowing no one would suspect him of anything. If he did then that means the victim knew him or the neighbors did and thought he wouldn't do something like this. We need to get everyone who lives on this street in for questioning, find out where every male was between six and nine a.m."
"Why six a.m.?"
"She died between eight and nine a.m., she was bound for an hour before that, making it seven a.m. So she had to have been raped some time before that."
"Right. I'll get someone to round them all up."
Amber nodded and stood, pulling off her gloves. She turned to one of the officers standing in the room and told him to fetch the coroner. He nodded and left the room. She exited the bathroom and joined Nathan in the hall.
"It's a bad one huh?"
"It's sick, that's for sure. Who goes around raping and killing a woman?"
"A pervert, that's who."
"Well, let's find out which one."
She walked out of the house and saw that people were gathered outside by now, wondering what was going on. An elderly woman was trying to persuade one of the officers to let her through but he wouldn't move. Amber walked over to the two and took over the situation.
"What's wrong ma'am?"
"My daughter lives here. Has something happened to her?"
"What is your daughter's name?"
"Her name is Amanda. Amanda Smith. I'm her mother, Julia Smith. Has something happened to my daughter?"
"I'm afraid your daughter has been murdered Mrs. Smith. I'm very sorry for your loss but I can assure you that I will find who did this to her. I always do."
The woman broke down, tears streaming down her face, "Thank you," she said between sobs.
"It's my job."
She left the woman with one of the officers and walked to her car. She drove down to the station, ready to question the neighbors about their whereabouts the night before but was stopped by Morgan before she could.
"Amber, I need to speak with for a second," the Captain said.
Captain Jim Morgan was an older man. He was around fifty and had worked as Captain since before her parents had come to this department. He had silver hair that was wispy and looked as if a strong wind gust would blow it off. But the Captain's presence was still intimidating and made even the toughest criminals tremble in their cuffs when he was angry.
"What is it sir?" she asked, closing the door to the office.
The office wasn't large but it wasn't small either. There was a large desk near the back wall and bookcases lined the left wall. The right wall was lined with filing cabinets, each drawer filled with solved cases. On the walls hung diplomas and newspaper cutouts, most of them were the cases Amber had solved while some were cases solved by her parents.
"Are you sure you're okay taking this case? I know it's not easy to work a rape case after what happened to your mother but I know you can solve it."
"I'm fine Captain, no worries. My mother was careless and let her accomplishments go to her head. I won't let that happen with me, sir."
"Alright, I knew I could count on you."
Amber smiled a little and left the office. For a moment she was overcome with a sense of grief at the thought of her beautiful mother, lying broken and beaten in a ditch. She had been fifteen at the time and it had scarred her for life. But she had never let that get in her way and she wasn't about to let it start holding her back now. She had come too far and had matured a lot since that morbid day. But in a way it had also been a fateful day. That was the day she had finally decided to stick with the family business if only to find her mother's killer. She shook her head, throwing away the dreary thoughts. She squared her shoulders and walked toward the interrogation rooms. She noticed that some of the neighbors had to wait outside because no other interrogation rooms were open. She sighed, knowing this was going to be a long day.
After almost seven hours of questioning she was no closer to fining her killer.
"This is getting us nowhere," she said to Nathan.
"Nope. This girl lived in the perfect neighborhood. Nothing ever goes wrong and everyone is friendly to one another. They stay out of each other's business and don't bother one another. That's just not natural in New York. Isn't everyone supposed to hate their neighbors?" Nathan asked being a bit sarcastic.
"That's what I always thought but apparently there are some places that aren't like that."
Amber was on her fourth coffee and yet she still felt like she was about to collapse from exhaustion.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Almost midnight. I can finish this up. Why don't you head home and get some sleep?"
"Alright, I'll see you in the morning."
Amber drove slowly down the dark, slick streets to her apartment. No lights were on in her complex, so everyone was either out or asleep. She was thankful that tonight at least would be peaceful. She needed that right now. She climbed up the seven flights of stairs to her apartment and walked inside. She flipped on the entry light and dropped her keys and badge on the table that sat against the right side of the wall. Her apartment wasn't large but it worked for her. She was hardly ever in it anyways, preferring to spend her nights solving cases. But tonight she needed to get away from it all, if only for a few hours. She slipped off her shoes and carried them to her closet, dropping them on top of the trash bag she had set out for rainy days like this. she walked back out to her small living area and kitchen and made some leftover pizza. Plopping down on the couch she sighed happily and propped her feet up on her coffee table. She flipped on the T.V. and ate her pizza, glad to be home. After the movie she was watching ended she retired to her bedroom for the night, sleeping restlessly for the first time in years.
The next morning Amber was awoken by the sound of her phone ringing loudly in her ear. She groaned and answered it grudgingly.
"Hello?" she said groggily.
"Amber, we've got a new lead in the case! You need to get to the station!" Nathan's voice said through the phone.
"Alright, I'll be there in ten," She said, instantly awake.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and rushed to her closet. She grabbed her slacks and a red blouse and her shoes from the day before. She grabbed a Pop Tart from her pantry on her way out the door. She drove as quickly as she dared down the wet streets as she hurried to get to the station. When she arrived Nathan was in one of the interrogation rooms with a man she had never seen before. He had short black hair and emerald eyes. His clothes were a little tattered but they looked as if they were made to look that way. She waited impatiently as he questioned the man. When he finally finished and entered the room behind the two way window she was biting at her nails.
"So, who is he?" she asked.
"He is Amanda's ex-boyfriend. Apparently she broke up with him and he didn't take it well. The neighbors said he tended to become violent when he was angry and Amanda called the cops on him a few times because he would try to beat her. He denies all of this but I have twenty witnesses that say otherwise."
"That makes him a prime suspect. No wonder he's denying it. He's probably already heard that she's dead and he's scared. Either he's guilty or he knows that's what we're thinking. Of course, he could know something and won't spill because it could risk his life."
"If that's the case then we're digging into something deeper than I thought."
"Let me talk to him. We can judge his innocence by the way he acts. If he is our guy, he'll act like a total pervert."
"I don't know Amber. You never know what these guys are thinking."
"I'll be fine, no worries."
Nathan looked at her with concern as she walked out of the room. He knew she could handle herself but the question was could that man? Amber walked into the hall outside the interrogation room and let her hair down. Her curls fell down her back lightly and draped over her shoulders. Provoking a pervert wasn't too hard, she just needed to put the right amount of pressure. She breathed deeply and entered the room. The man inside looked up as she entered and his eyes instantly widened. He smiled at her and winked, causing bile to rise in her throat.
"Hi there pretty lady. You can't be a detective around here, you're too hot for that," he said, his voice making her skin crawl.
So he was definitely a pervert, but was he their pervert.
"This job just speaks to me. Now, what's your name and where were you yesterday between six and nine a.m.?" she asked, taking a seat across from him.
"My name is Stephen and I was at home, watching T.V."
"Were you alone?"
"Yes I was."
"So no one can verify that you really were at home? Is that correct?"
"Now if I say yes you're going to assume that I killed Amanda, am I right?"
"We don't assume around here. We investigate and prove theories. Assumptions lead to false accusations."
"Oh I see, so you're going to theorize how I killed Amanda right?"
"Oh, we already know the how now we just need the who. It shouldn't take long to find some fingerprints on the tape that bound Amanda. Then we'll be able to figure out who the killer is."
Stephen looked like a scared little child when she said this. She knew that she was getting closer to the truth with every question she asked and every statement she made.
"Now, do you want to tell me where you really were yesterday between six and nine a.m.?"
Stephen glared at her for moment before sighing, "I was at Amanda's okay? I wanted to fix things between us but she wouldn't answer the door once she found out it was me. So I broke in and I…I raped her. But I didn't kill her, I swear! When I left she was crying on the ground, begging me to leave her alone so I did. I left through the back door and went straight home. It's not a lie, I got home at seven. You can ask my landlord, Mary, she was banging on my door at 6:55 and saw me come in. She yelled at me about my rent before she even let me in my apartment."
Amber stood and left the room, joining Nathan again.
"Nice work. Now we just need to find his landlord and confirm his story. Either way, he isn't going anywhere for a long time," Nathan said.
"Yeah, but now we need to figure out who our killer is." Amber said, knowing this would be the hardest part of their job.
Finding a rapist wasn't hard if you knew where to look. If you want to find a murderer you have to know who to talk to and where to find them.
Amber and Nathan arrived at the apartment complex where Stephen lived ten minutes later. Outside there was a woman and her two children sitting on the steps leading into the complex while on the sidewalk three girls played double-dutch. Amber smiled at the woman as she passed and entered the complex. The inside was dark and run down. A few dim lights hung in the ceiling at regular intervals but most of them were no longer working. The wallpaper was peeling in many places and stains covered the floors. The sound of a baby crying and a man yelling reached them from a room upstairs while just down the hall they could hear a woman yelling at someone.
"Wow, how did our vic meet this guy?" Nathan said, gazing around the building with shock.
"Beats me but I doubt she would hang out around a place like this." Amber said, stepping over a puddle on the floor. They walked up to a shabby looking desk where a woman sat and showed their badges.
"You here for Timothy? 'Cause if you are he ain't here." The woman said.
"No, we're looking for Mary," Amber said.
"Why you lookin' for her? She ain't done nothin' wrong."
"We need to ask her a few questions about one of the tenants here."
"No, another tenant."
"Oh, then Cassandra? 'Cause she ain't around either."
"No, could we please just speak to Mary?"
"Sure, sure," the woman said, "Mary! Ya got visitors. Couple o' cops!" she yelled.
Amber looked at Nathan, her eyes wide and saw the same shocked expression on her face.
"What d'they want?" another, harsher, voice called from a room behind the desk.
"They said they need to ask o' few questions about a tenant!"
"Who they askin' about? Is it Timothy? 'Cause he ain't around no more! Cassandra ain't either!"
"Naw! They talkin' 'bout another tenant!"
No reply came; instead a burly woman came out of the room. She wore an old floral dress that went to her ankles and sandals. Her hair was tangled and dirty and her teeth needed a good brushing. Her tone nails were also in dire need of a trim and her legs needed to be shaved. A stench reached them that smelled worse than the dump down the street.
"What ya want?" she asked, obviously trying to be intimidating.
But neither amber nor Nathan was afraid of this woman, they'd handled murderers and now rapists. She was nothing.
"My name is Amber Stewart and this is my partner Nathan Lubbock. We're here to ask you about Stephen Jones, a tenant here."
"He ain't a tenant no more. Not since this mornin' when I kicked 'im out!"
"Mary, we needed to know if he came home around seven a.m. yesterday."
"Yeah, he came back. Gave 'im a good yellin' too!"
"Do you recognize this woman?" amber asked, showing a picture of Amber they'd found in her house.
"Yeah, she does charity stuff here. She always came on Sundays to help out our tenants. A real doll that girl."
"Did you know that she and Stephen dated for a while?"
"Stephen an' her? No way. She dated Erik Madison up in 208. You can ask 'im yourself, he's here."
"Thank you for your help."
Mary nodded and walked back into her room. Amber walked over to the stairs and waited until they were out of earshot to talk.
"So Amanda was dating Erik not Stephen? Or was she dating both of them?" Nathan said.
"I don't know. We'll talk to Erik and see what we can find out and then we'll go have another chat with out friend Stephen. Let's see if he knew about Erik and Amanda or not. If he did we now have a motive for murder and he's already confessed he raped her."
Nathan nodded; they were one step closer to solving this case.