The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event – Noir: A Celebration of Detective Fiction. Please enjoy.
Detective Sloan could read a crime scene like a cheap paperback. Some scenes were a comedy of errors. Criminals — too stupid to live — getting themselves killed while committing robberies. Others were tragedies. Domestic altercations that went too far. Family killing family. Fathers killing sons. Only a few crime scenes were mysteries; this case was one of them.
Sloan looked down at the body on the floor. Brunette. 35. 5’ 4”. Grey eyes that had been blue when she was alive. She would have been pretty, except for the bullet hole in her chest. But Sloan couldn’t think of her like that. He couldn’t make her a person. If he did, he wouldn’t be able to do his job.
The first order of business was to search the body for clues. He had to figure out how she ended up on the floor of the East Village club. The club smelled like stale alcohol and cigarettes. The harsh lighting of the department’s flood lights only illuminated the seediness of the Kit Kat Club. Black lights revealed that no DNA could ever be used in court.
According to his partner, Wanda Williams — the victim — lived on the Upper East Side. She didn’t look like the typical Lower East Side party-goer. She dressed as if she were a kindergarten teacher and wore a slate pencil skirt, blue cardigan, and mary janes. The cardigan would have matched her eyes.
Tell me your secrets, Sloan thought.
Sloan knew that he would get the full write-up from the techs when he got back to HQ. He would receive a list of her Metrocard and credit card activities for the last month. Phone records would be pulled. Security footage collected and catalogued. These days most cases were solved by paperwork. The devil was in the detail.
Her black leather Coach bag sat at her feet. The techs had already gone through and documented the contents — $137 cash, 3 credit cards, iPhone, brush, and some make up. Not a lot — the cash, iPhone and bag would have been missing if it were a robbery.
Sloan stared at the body until the coroner came to remove it.
* * *
Sloan had pinned Wanda’s pictures his crime board; at the center sat her forensic head shot. Her gray eyes stared down at him. Other photos from her cell phone decorated the wall. Pictures of Wanda in Central Park. Pictures of Wanda with her kindergarten class — she had actually been a teacher. Pictures of Wanda at dinner with friends.
Detective Chekan sat down at his desk. Chekan’s desk butted up with Sloan’s and it looked as if they shared one large square table. Papers were piled high, yet each knew the location of every document. Chekan glanced at the wall — he thought it looked more like a memorial than a crime board. “I don’t like the look of this.” Chekan said.
Sloan shook his head. “I know. No leads. No motive. It’s been two days, and the case is cold. We are passed our WOO.” WOO was their shorthand for window of opportunity, for if a murder isn’t solved within 2 days, it typically isn’t solved.
“No. I mean you. This one has you tied into knots.” Chekan said.
“I can’t figure it out. Security footage from the street shows her leaving her house at 9 pm. She left alone. Metrocard footage shows her traveling alone. We have footage of her entering at 9:47 pm. Then nothing. There is no security cameras in the club.” Sloan continued his rant, “She went to meet a man she meet on Tinder. She must have thought the busy club was safe.”
“It’s a shame. She was pretty,” Chekan said, “Any luck on the guy’s Tinder profile?”
“No. Pics were fake. Created on a burner phone. He must have destroyed it by now because we can’t find it by GPS.”
“The gun?” Chekan asked.
“Missing. Slug was a .357. No prints. Doesn’t match to any gun on record.”
“So the case is dead?” Chekan asked, but he knew the answer. He hoped if Sloan said it he would admit it. Chekan also knew his partner better than his partner knew himself. He knew why this case was bothering him. It wasn’t the dead ends. It was Wanda. Wanda resembled Sloan’s ex — Trisha. Trisha was still missing.
* * *
Two days later Sloan packed up the evidence boxes. The case was officially dead, deader than Wanda. The captain had insisted that he close the case. Sloan and Chekan had three other murder cases on the board. Solving crime in the City was like playing sudden death on a gameshow. If you couldn’t solve it quick, you had to move on to the next one.
The last thing that Sloan needed to pack was Wanda’s photo. Her dead eyes stared at him with acquisition. Her dark mahogany hair cut short in a bob. Pale skin made even paler by the flash of the camera. Cheekbones that would have made a model jealous. A pretty young thing still pretty even in death.
Sloan knew Chekan worried about him on this case. She looked so much like Trisha. They were the same age, height, and weight. They had those same amazing cheekbones. Trisha, he thought, the girl who stole my heart, Trisha, the girl who broke my heart.
Both girls were so much alike. Both had been slutting it up on Tinder, he thought, Now, neither will.
Sloan put the photo in the box and sealed it.