Nine Lives - A Dafydd Owen Story - Ep1
Sarah and I were having lunch at a downtown sushi bar when the news broke. This place catered to a lot of banking and business types so they had a couple of big-screen TVs showing news and financial channels. The one tuned to the local CBS affiliate suddenly flipped up their special report graphic. "Police in the twin cities metro area are appealing for information regarding university student Carole Miller. Miss Miller apparently vanished from a concert at "The furball" in the Minneapolis warehouse district on Saturday night. When the concert ended her friends couldn't find her and she has not returned to the student housing unit she shared with three other students at the U." A picture popped up of a cute tabby girl - typical university age, late teens or early twenties - as the news anchor started talking about how good a student she was and all the "personal interest" stuff that they padded out a one-line news item with. Sarah just sucked air and hissed. I looked at her and said what was on both our minds.
"Three days? They're looking for a body."
"Don't get me wrong here, Dafydd, but I hope so.. because if she isn't dead already, she's probably wishing she was."
It was a sad fact that when cute young women vanished, it usually went one of three ways. Some were found having gone over the hills with a boyfriend or girlfriend their parents wouldn't have approved of or simply having run away from a situation they couldn't handle. Those taken for sex usually turned up dead within a few days. Some, however, turned up many years later - broken and destroyed by years as a forced participant in the sex trade. They were usually addicted to drugs by then, their pimps using that to control them. Don't get me wrong here, I know there are girls - and guys - in that business because they want to be. If they were the only participants in it, that industry would get no argument from me. The lowlives who pull in vulnerable kids or who snatch somebody and force them to it.. I have a dark place in my heart reserved for them and if I find one I'll probably take 'em down if I can.
We finished our lunch and headed back to the offices. Sarah was working a divorce case where a local entrepreneur was playing around on his wife and I needed to prepare some court filings to spring my client from the county lockup - the charges were bullshit and the county attorney knew it. She was just stalling on principle and I was determined to rub her muzzle in it.
We're both PI's and I'm also a lawyer. We make our living off scum like this.
Two days later I got a call from Lt Anderson. He was one of my main contacts at metro homicide. We hadn't needed to talk in a few months since I'd shot up a dirty cop and his hired guns at my cabin. I made a quick guess at why he was calling me.
"Paul, the Miller girl, right?"
"Right as usual, Dafydd. There's somebody I want you to meet. Can you pick me up in a few minutes?"
"Sure, I'll be out front of your office in 10."
Heading out to the front office I looked over at Liz. Damn. Since Sarah and I became a couple she'd stepped up her efforts to flirt with the boss. What was worse, I knew Sarah was egging her on. How a blouse that tight stayed together over her chest I'm not sure I even want to know. It wasn't sheer but it didn't need to be for it to be obvious there was nothing underneath it. It was bad enough that if there was a predator loose in the cities I'd be worried about her.
"I need to go meet with Lt. Anderson. May be a new case, may be something else. I'll let you know."
"Of course, Mr Owen. I'll hold your calls and take messages."
"If you take one from the Hennepin county attorney, call me and relay it immediately. Everything else can wait until I get back."
"Yes, Sir. Are we still on to hit the range after work?"
"As far as I know right now, yes. Don't know if Sarah can make it yet." She smiled. Most offices went out for happy hour, this one met at the shooting range.
When Paul directed me into the parking garage of an office building in Brooklyn Center I was pretty sure who we'd be meeting. We rode the elevator up to the local field office of the FBI.
"Lt Paul Anderson and Dafydd Owen, to see Agent Arsenau."
We were given visitor badges and escorted to a conference room. Within a couple of minutes a rather impressive gentleman came through the door. He was an alligator, his muscles bulging against his suit. I should probably recommend a tailor, because he was dressing off the peg and his body really didn't suit it.
"Good afternoon gentlemen, I am Agent Cyrus Arsenau. I have to say I am uncomfortable with this. Why should I bring in some local PI who has a reputation for playing fast and loose with the law?"
"Because he has contacts like you wouldn't believe and he finds things in crime scenes our best teams can't spot."
"Doesn't do me any good if I can't use what he gives me!"
It was time for me to open my mouth. This guy had pissed me off but his attitude was understandable so I wasn't going to let that stop me or make me snarl at him. I kept my voice calm and reasonable, like I was dealing with a difficult witness. "Agent Arsenau, whatever my other reputation may be, I also have a reputation for freely assisting local law enforcement on certain cases and I currently see no reason not to extend that same courtesy to federal agencies. Do I need to reconsider that viewpoint?"
"Mr Owen. I simply do not see that you have anything to offer us that our own resources cannot accomplish."
"That may be the case, Agent. If it is, then you may gain nothing but you lose nothing by having me and my resources available to you. If, on the other paw, my resources would give you some benefit then you potentially lose a great deal by not having them available."
"We follow rules, rules of evidence, rules about when and where we can follow certain lines of inquiry..."
"And I'm not a cop, just a private citizen collaborating with you and offering you the benefit of my resources. You don't even have a consulting contract with my office - although one can be arranged if you wish. It isn't cheap and it will constrain my lines of inquiry somewhat, although any such contract will be worded in a way that makes sure if I do screw up you at least get a fig-leaf rather than leaving you with your balls dangling in the wind. Alternatively you could keep the relationship informal which means you have no responsibility for anything I might do. If you want to make it interesting, make the same personal bet I have with Lt Anderson here? If you're that confident I'll take you up on it."
"What personal bet?" Glaring at Paul.
Paul grinned and replied. "Agent, if he takes an interest in a case, I let him into crime scenes and if he fails to spot anything our own CSIs haven't, he buys me a bottle of high end whiskey. On the other paw, if he does spot something they haven't I buy him one. He's winning, so far, and our CSI team keeps upping their game and maxing out their assessments every year."
I sighed. "Agent, I'm a throwback. Predator instincts like you wouldn't believe. Bad enough that I used to try and suppress them with medication. Now I use them. First in the military and now independently. Let me prove it to you once. On the bet or on my consulting rates, I don't care. If Paul thought it worthwhile to bring me in on this, you might find it worthwhile to give it a shot. Paul is being a little unfair to his CSI team, by the way - frequently when I 'take an interest' as he put it, I'm already peripherally involved through a client although not always and not in this case. He called me because he had a bad feeling about this one and to be honest, so do I."
"Mr Owen, I don't trust you but I'll give you a shot on this. One."
"That's fair, Agent Arsenau. I'm well aware that trust has to be earned. I will not willingly let you down. Let's go downtown." On the way I called the office and gave Liz and Sarah a heads-up that we'd possibly end up working this one.
"This is no good, it's been five days. There's going to be nothing here physical to find."
"Giving up, Mr Owen?"
"Call me Dafydd. No I'm not. Look at the flows. People move between clubs. This is lunchtime traffic, they are flowing between offices, restaurants and bars. It's like a herd. Inside the clubs is where specific individuals are vulnerable, more so than on the street although they think different. That's where one target can be split off and isolated. On the street you're more alert to threats unless you're totally wasted. Anyone snatched off the street has already isolated themselves, somehow. If you're going for anyone specific you do it inside the clubs, where folks are maybe looking to hook up anyway. You make yourself look like you're not a threat, by the time they find out different it's too late."
"You think our unsub was going for somebody specific?"
"Not necessarily, but he had a target in mind. He'd have pulled somebody off the periphery if this was truly random. A particular look, a mannerism or something. He selected her, it wasn't random."
The agent looked like he was about to reply then pulled his phone off his belt. "Agent Arsenau." He listened, I watched his face. Reptilian faces are hard to read but even so I could tell it wasn't good news. He hung up and looked at me. "Dafydd, you're my ride on this trip. Can you take me down to the river by Boom Island?"
"Yeah. We've got a body."
Sarah joined me at the riverbank. I wanted both our sets of eyes here. The girl hadn't been in the river long, she didn't have the horrible bloating that happens with that.. what we could see was bad enough. Carole was naked, her fur matted by the water and by something else around her hands and feet...
The poor girl had been declawed, crudely like it was done with shears and some time before she went into the river because the blood had dried thoroughly enough that the river hadn't taken care of it. Every feline on the riverbank, including Sarah and I, shivered. There was what looked like a big zip-tie digging deeply into her neck.
Sarah and I looked at each other. After a moment, she nodded and I looked around for the big 'gator.
"Call me Cy if we're going to be working together, and we are, aren't we." It was a statement not a question.
"No bet on this one, Cy. It's on the house."
I was really going to need the range time this evening.
I was sitting at my desk reading the ME's report. Violent sexual assault and declawed. Cause of death, ligature asphyxiation. The wounds on her paws were a minimum of three days old and she'd been in the river for less than a day.Too soon for full forensics or toxicology, but stomach contents were minimal. I was building a very dark picture in my mind of how the last few days of this girl's life went. My phone rang and I saw Agent Arsenau's caller ID. I presumed he'd just finished reading the same report. I was wrong.
"It's Cy. We've got another one missing. Taylor Daniels, bobcat, 21 years old. Never came home from a trip out with her girlfriends last night."
"Yeah, I'd say that about covers it."
to be continued...