Lieutenant Braun led three other officers quickly up three flights of stairs of an apartment complex in Baltimore. The hairs on his body were standing straight up and his left arm was prepared to draw his nightstick. An anonymous tip had come in twenty minutes earlier claiming a woman by the name of Sheila Williams had not been to work in three days and nobody had been able to get in contact with her. Braun never liked anonymous tips about missing people. Why anyone reporting a missing person would want to remain anonymous was never good. It usually meant they were hiding something.
Braun opened a door at the top of the third flight of the stairs which led to a long carpeted hallway. He turned his flashlight on looking at the numbers on the first door on each side. The one on the right was odd, 301, and the one on the left was even, 302. "The right side," he whispered forcefully back at his officers. 303,305,307,finally309. Braun drew his nightstick and tapped the door with it. "Baltimore police! Open up!" The command echoed down the hall and could undoubtedly be heard by everyone on the floor. Braun didn't personally care as he gave out a short hard breath. "Baltimore Police! Open up!" he shouted one more time. Still, the only sound was the echo of his raspy voice down the hall.
Braun turned around and gave a quick nod to his fellow officers. Each drew their glocks from their belts. Braun and a rather well built female officer stood in front of the door. She gave the door a hard kick. The door gave out easily and the officer lost balance. "It was unlocked," she whispered.
Braun shined his flashlight looking for the light switch. When he found it directly to his left he flicked it on and shut his own light off. Everything seemed in place. A bunch of magazines were set on the kitchen table. A collection of clipped articles were piled on a coffee table in the living room. The carpet in the living room looked recently vacuumed and the white tile floor of the kitchen reflected brightly.
"Sir?" a short and thin officer whispered gruffly. "All of these clippings, they are articles written by Connor Warren."
"You are once again looking into things too much Rutherford," Lieutenant Braun sighed. "She probably is or was a human rights fan, that's all that you can probably get out of that. Unless you plan on writing her eulogy if she's dead I'd suggest looking elsewhere."
Officer Rutherford bit his lower lip and without any further words stepped away and continued searching the house. He began searching in a small compartment under the coffee table.
Lieutenant Braun rolled his eyes and looked over to see a black officer searching the bathroom. "Robinson," Braun called. The man turned around to face the Lieutenant and stared at him with anticipation. "Come with me to the bedroom," Braun ordered. "She's probably in there if she is here."
"Yes sir," Robinson replied slowly following Braun. Pistol at the ready Robinson stepped in front of the Lieutenant before reaching the bedroom and flicked the switch. There was not a sign of any suspicious activity. The bed was neatly made and like the living room, the floor hadn't been walked on much since it had been vacuumed.
"Suicide," Robinson whispered.
"How can you be so sure?" Braun asked. "She's not in the room." Braun didn't often question Robinson. The officer had extremely good intuition. There just wasn't really an easy method of suicide. The ceiling wasn't high enough to hang from; a gunshot would have alerted neighbors to call the police. Overdose didn't seem likely; usually those who overdosed died in their beds. Regardless of his skepticism, Braun replaced his nightstick and Robinson replaced his glock. On the left side of the room running parallel to the bed was a sliding door closet.
Robinson slid the door open and his suspicions were immediately confirmed. Sitting on the floor propped up against the closet corner was a pale and highly attractive woman. She had long black hair with a dark purple extension. But the most unexpected sensory detail was the strong scent of peanut lingering in the closet.
"Goddamn," Braun muttered.
"Peanut allergy," Robinson confirmed pulling out a jar of a store brand of creamy peanut butter with a spoon in it. "She killed herself using her own allergy… obviously we can't confirm the suicide until we can get the fingerprints on the spoon."
"There is no sign of foul play," Braun replied. "What criminal would try to chase down a potential victim with peanut butter and then leave the evidence there?"
"A stupid one I suppose," Robinson sighed.
"Beyond stupid," the female officer behind them replied. "Try fucking stupid. The question now is who is she?"
"Well, I'd assume Sheila Williams," Braun replied.
"You assume right and wrong at the same time," Rutherford interrupted. He came dashing in with some newspaper clippings and a wallet in hand. "I was looking through her purse when I found this sir." The young officer handed what appeared to be a business card over to the Lieutenant.
"Escort Sheila Williams," Braun mumbled.
"She was a prostitute sir," Rutherford explained.
"Thank you, I might just promote you to Captain obvious if you keep this up," Braun replied sarcastically. "What else you got?"
"This is a newspaper clipping back from October of 1991."
Braun took the paper clipping from Rutherford's hands and looked at a black and white picture of what appeared to be a father and his teenage daughter. The text under the picture stated, "WorldrenownedhumanrightsactivistandjournalistConnorWarrenwithhissixteenyearolddaughterVanessabackinAugustataconferenceatCornellUniversity."
"The article is about when Mr. Connor's daughter ran away. Nobody has claimed to have found her," Rutherford continued. "Don't you think that is a strange article for just an average admirer to keep? Upon further inspection of her purse I found this." Rutherford pulled out a birth certificate of a Vanessa Warren.
The Lieutenant accepted the certificate and looked at it himself. "Goddamn, she's twenty six years old," Braun sighed. "Obviously, the girl made a wrong turn with her life.
"Mr. Warren is at Syracuse tonight as a guest speaker for some sort of journalism seminar," Rutherford explained. "Should we give the University a call?"
"Yeah go do that," Braun replied.
All four officers were silent as Rutherford looked up the number for Syracuse University. Rutherford dialed the number and waited. Silence ensued as all three officers stared at Rutherford with slight frowns.
"Yes, I am Sergeant Rutherford of the Baltimore Policed Department and I am looking for tonight's speaker Mr. Connor Warren on an urgent matter," Rutherford said with confidence. "Yes I am well aware that I may be interrupting but I think the matter will be considered most important to him." Rutherford's face grew a slightly red as he clenched the fist not holding the cellphone. "I cannot disclose any details to you. I need to talk to Mr. Warren now."
A long silence lingered in the already eerie bedroom. Rutherford swallowed and took a deep breath. Everyone knew, he was now on the line with Connor Warren.