The crime scene was, well, a crime scene. Nothing too spectacular besides the hyperventilating grad student the paramedics were checking out in the corner. Adessi and I glanced at each other and read 'Must be the vic's son' in each other's eyes. Which sounds incredibly romantic, but is actually more of a survival technique amongst cops.
Rivera and Ethan were back at the station, doing the background digging that's vital to any case. We always split up like this because Adessi's good with people, and I can get the truth out of them; plus Rivera likes paperwork and forms to a ridiculous extent.
The first responder was a lady I knew fairly well – Sergeant Shannon Sloane, the triple S. The last time I had seen her she'd been kicking the fire department's ass at the annual basketball game. She looked almost exactly the same, probably thanks to the fact that she had played the full game in boots and BDUs – having done this once during the academy, I really don't recommend it.
Looking up from her notepad with all the impatience of, well, a first responder who doesn't want to spend any more time standing around a crime scene they're not going to actually investigate, she saw us and waved us over. A particularly unneeded action, considering we were already headed over to her.
“That the victim's son?” I asked, jerking my head at the still hyperventilating guy in the corner. It's always good to double check.
“Nope. Victim's son's friend, came in with the son. The son's over there.” She pointed a few feet away from the paramedics, where an incredibly bored looking guy was standing, head cocked impatiently as he waited for his friend to get over himself. Ah, my kind of guy. Except for the part where he was wearing a leather jacket. People and their leather jackets. They always thought they were so damn cool in them, strutting around. How annoying.
Adessi gave her an incredulous look. Oh yeah. Generally, people aren't bored by the demise of their parents. I mean, sad, yeah. Angry, sometimes. Happy, occasionally. Bored? Definitely an odd reaction. Sloane shrugged. “The paramedics thought he might've been in shock, but he's not giving off any signs of it. It looks like he really is just bored by this.”
Well, at least we knew who to talk to first. Mr. Owen Wolters couldn't have picked a more suspicious response if he'd tried. Which, actually, he might've. That was an intriguing thought. I don't know, if I was ever suspected of a crime I didn't commit, I think I might try to make myself look completely suspicious. It would, at least, be totally funny for me.
“Mr. Wolters?” Adessi asked, all polite and sympathetic, which I wasn't thinking would be the correct response, looking at Owen Wolters. And sure enough, the guy actually rolled his eyes at my partner. Which I should feel annoyed by, but was instead only incredibly amused by. Curiouser and curiouser...
“Just call me Owen. Arden was the only Mr. Wolters, and you know what happened to him.” A dark smirk there, and I felt my opinion of Owen rise every moment he refused to show sadness over the demise of an idiot like Arden Wolters – even if he was his son. Plus, the guy could laugh at the pure awesomeness of video killing the radio star.
Adessi raised an eyebrow. “You don't seem too torn up over your father's death.”
The dark smirk turned into an ugly sneer (that was still quite pretty on Owen, he'd obviously been blessed by the genetics fairy). “Arden was only my father in that he donated the sperm and some money over the years. And a last name that I never fucking wanted.”
Ah, so that was how it went down here. I'd seen this situation far too many times over the years – oddly enough, mostly in work and college, not so much in my early schooling. Probably because it was a Catholic school in a working-class neighborhood, meaning that everyone felt guilty if they ran out on their kids, even if they were fifteen when the kid was born.
“If you hated him so much, why did you come to his townhouse today?” Adessi asked, annoyed with the sneering twenty-something. The being a dad thing was coming into play again; he was imaging his own kids acting like this after finding him dead and it was pissing him off. I felt like telling him that there was no way his kids would act like that, because he was a good father and they quite clearly adored him. Now, their mother, on the other hand...
“He asked me to. Called me up at school yesterday, told me he had to talk to me urgently about something. I mean, I still wouldn't have come, but he mentioned that it would effect me and my mother too, so I agreed to come.”
Adessi frowned as he took notes in cop shorthand (also known as “What the hell did I just write? Potatoes swing on doors? Huh?”). “Did he give you any idea what it was about?”
Owen shrugged. “I assumed he was being blackmailed or something, but that could be because I watch too much television. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't have cared at all if he hadn't said it involved my mom. Arden was a complete asshole. Have you heard his show?”
Adessi looked blank, so Owen turned to me. I nodded. “Well, that was only half as bad as he is in real life. All the undergrads at my school are completely in love with him – you should see some of the papers I have to grade as a TA. I swear there hasn't been a stupider set of college students since colleges were first set up.”
“Well, thanks for the info. You have a number we could reach ya at if we have anymore questions?” I asked, finally managing to slip in a word edgewise.
“Yeah, just call up Regale State's anthropology department and ask for Owen. They'll know how to reach me.”
“Okay, thanks. You can go, although I'd take your friend over there to the hospital before going back to school.” By this time, the paramedics had given up on the guy and packed up their gear. It wasn't like he was in life-threatening danger, and they had jobs to do for people who were.
It took us over a week, but we solved the case. Not through any great breakthrough like you see on television all the time, but through typical plodding detective work. Sometimes I'd find myself wishing the job was more like movies and TV showed it, then something like the Hell's Monster serial killer would hit and I'd go “Damn it, brain, why'd you have to jinx us?” So I was trying to make myself just take the job as it was. Anyway, the son didn't kill his father, showing that my instincts were correct when they felt like it. Arden Wolters was actually killed by Owen's hyperventilating friend, a guy by the rather unfortunate name of Ransom Malachi. It seemed he, concerned for Owen, had showed up early at Arden's place and told him to leave Owen and his mom the fuck alone. Arden proceeded to make some rather unflattering comments typical of his show, and they got into an argument that ended when Arden pulled out a gun. Ransom freaked out and cracked him over the head with a large gold trophy (ironically, one of Owen's that Arden had kept), the blunt force trauma of which killed him. (Even if it hadn't been a clear-cut case of self defense, I would have been tempted to let Malachi go free simply because man, anybody with that name has an excuse to be a murdering psychopath.)
We still hadn't figured out who put the amusing broken chunks of VHS down Arden's throat that we'd mistakenly identified as the cause of death at first blush, since Malachi was completely confused by it, but because it wasn't critical, the investigation of that part was put on the back burner. There were more than enough homicides out there for us to solve.
(Rivera and the captain hadn't believed the story the first time through; they insisted that Malachi could have quite easily set it up to look like self-defense. I finally got annoyed enough with them that I spit out, “I really don't think Ransom Malachi is an evil genius. He's not evil. And he's not a genius. Sometimes the crime really is as simple as it seems.” That had gotten me hollered at by captain, my captain, but it was worth it and they finally gave in.)
It was now Sunday afternoon, which meant one thing to me: game night. It was originally called poker night, then we all realized that none of us knew how to play poker or wanted to learn, so now we just play card games and board games (and once hide-and-go-seek with the neighborhood kids). They weren't exclusively police, it just usually wound up with police only because we scare off the other members. Tina Smith, my closest non-work friend who hasn't been in jail for the past five years, came for a few weeks and then told me so long, I'll see you during bowling, y'all are too crazy for me. Tommy, from forensics, usually comes, but he had to work that night on the backlog, which was actually to the point of resembling a log. We could invite whoever we wanted to come along, but we generally avoided taking family members. After all, the point of game night was to have fun, not commit murder.
Tonight it was my turn to play host. All of my co-workers had let me know they'd be coming, although Rivera had to bring her three year old, Sammy, because her husband and daughter were doing some father-daughter Girl Scouts getaway, and Sammy's day care wasn't open Sundays. We all assured her it was fine, we adored the little kid. And I did, really. Adults annoy the hell out of me, or amuse me with their stupidity, but kids are special. I like kids, and I'm good with them (I think probably because I don't treat them like morons, like most adults do; kids hate nothing more than for adults to talk down to them and baby them).
As host, it was my job to provide a table, snacks, drinks, and games. I dug through the closets in my old room, as, growing up, I was the only one in the house who was into board games. And I was obsessive over them. My brother Pat liked to bend rules and be entirely goofy, and when I was eight I actually broke his wrist, I got so pissed off. Considering he was twenty then, you get an idea of how fixated I was on games. (And still am, to tell the truth.)
Aha, Monopoly! I did so love Monopoly. Not near as much as Life, but still a decent amount. Nothing, of course, compared to Trivial Pursuit, but I had been banned from playing that for another three weeks by Rivera. She said I was too damn good at it, and needed to get a life. If she could, she would have blocked me from watching Jeopardy!, too.
I set up on the dining room table, getting beers for Adessi and Ethan, a diet cola for Rivera, a ginger ale for me, and apple juice for Sammy. Snacks were going to be tortilla chips and salsa, peanuts (for everyone else; I hate them), and beef jerky. Hey, who said snacks were supposed to be healthy? And anyway, they all knew that they could get themselves other stuff from the kitchen – I was lazy. This was well-known.
When the doorbell rang, I suddenly remembered my house guest. My currently missing house guest. Shit, where the hell was Max? I had a sudden vision of him lurking in the curtains until everyone was settled in and relaxed, and jumping out with a loud “BOO!”, and getting his dumb ass shot. I loved the guy and all, but he really could be a moron sometimes. And he knew about game night, even if only because I had to explain the beer in the fridge – I hate the taste of alcohol, and Max doesn't drink because his family has a long history of addictive behavior. Last week's had been at Ethan's apartment, so he wasn't able to be his usual moronic self then. And I knew he wanted to meet my coworkers, who he constantly referred to as “the fuzz”, or occasionally “Fuzzy-Wuzzy-was-a-bear”.
The doorbell rang, and I gave up worrying over Max. I had a game night to run!