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  • George Young

Southern Manhattan Suffers Historic Drop in IQ - Continued

“Mister Davenport? I’m Detective Cooper.”


Officers Murkowski and Lee deposited Roger into an interrogation room, which contained a single window that looked out over the surrounding harbor of southern Manhattan. He sat at a bare metal table that had two loops at either end. Roger assumed these were for handcuffs. The chair underneath him, wooden with a thin burgundy colored cushion, however, was secured to the table by a bicycle lock. It did not allow Roger to shift its position.


Cooper, as Groucho Marx might have described him, stood well over four feet tall. Actually, Roger estimated his height at around 5’6” and the detective carried about 200 pounds on a large, but overburdened frame. He had a well-chewed toothpick in his mouth, which he laid down on the edge of the table away from Roger when he introduced himself.


“Now, Mister Davenport, why don’t we get off to a rousing good start, and you tell me how you knew about the murder on Theater Alley,” said Cooper as he took another wooden chair from a corner of the room and sat. Roger swore he heard the chair groan under the weight of the detective.


“I told you,” said Roger. “I saw the images of the killing on Google Earth.”


“Yes, I remember. You also told me your name was Mike Williams. Sounds like there were two lies that evening.” Admonished Cooper.


“Am I under arrest, detective?” asked Roger.


“No, but we do take things like this very seriously, and your unwillingness to provide a real name, for whatever reason . . . let’s just say that makes my antenna go up.”


Cooper rested both of his beefy hands on the table; interlaced the fingers; and thumped his thumbs together.


“Did you look at the screen capture I turned over to you?” asked Roger.


“I gave it to IT, and they’re checking it out for authenticity.” Replied Cooper. “It is very easy to fake things in photographs nowadays. Don’t you agree, Mister Davenport?”


Roger pushed back from the table, and met the detective’s eyes.


“What are you saying, detective? That I fabricated the screen grab of a murder? I didn’t have time to fake it. Your IT person took it off my phone because I emailed it to myself.”


Cooper drummed his thumbs faster and locked eyes with Roger, who finally lost the staring contest and looked away.


“What do you do for a living, Mister Davenport?” Asked Cooper, his voice clear and direct.


“I’m a senior creative director at Tip of the Spear. You know that,” he replied.


“And would you say you have expertise in the area of photo retouching?”


“I would – hey, hold on one second. First of all I explained how your IT person got it from me, and the authentication tools today are exceptional, especially at police stations.”


“Exactly,” said Cooper.


“I don’t like where this is going, detective. Why don’t we just wait for the results,” said Roger. “And then we’ll see.”


“We have the results,” said Cooper. “And they’re inconclusive. Sort of like a biopsy result. We just can’t tell if the cancer is malignant or not.”


“I’m not sure that was the best analogy.” Offered Roger.


“But you know what I mean, Mister Davenport?”


“Sadly, I’ve not been the recipient of an inconclusive cancer diagnosis,” said Roger. “Or had a relative or family friend have to go through that, so, no, I don’t know what you mean, and that screen capture? Not doctored.”


“You say so. My IT guy says it’s inconclusive, and that’s what I’m working with.”


“Maybe your guy should get better at his job,” said Roger.


Cooper coughed and restrained himself from laughing.


“You know something, Mister Davenport,” he said. “I’ve been hearing that around here a lot lately. I’ll suggest it to the IT department. I’m sure that will help your case. Now, let’s talk about Memorial Day.”


“Fine, but I won’t be changing my story.”


Cooper queried Roger for about 30 minutes before he literally threw up his hands, which Roger found soothing since it meant the detective would stop obsessively tapping his thumbs together. Cooper moved his bulk out of the chair and charged out of the interrogation room. He made it obvious that Roger would be kept inside for some time by slowly locking and unlocking the door and testing it twice. He stormed away down the hallway.


Roger spent the next five hours in the room, and got his release just as the sun broke the horizon on southern Manhattan.


***


The police officer at the front gave Roger back his cell phone, wallet, loose change and keys, along with a handkerchief. A habit he acquired from his father. Roger always carried one.


He walked out of The Gotham Police Precinct, a newly renovated building situated between Old Slip and Governeur. Roger worked his way north back towards John Street, but decided to stop at an early morning breakfast place at the intersection of Maiden Lane and Water Street.


After he sat down at a table for two, he turned on his phone, which fortunately still had about 35% battery life showing on the screen. His news feed popped up.


Body found inside Louise Nevelson Plaza.


Roger sat two blocks from Louise Nevelson Plaza. He ran out of the café just as the exasperated waitress appeared at his table to take his order.


“Geez, you should wait until I bring the food,” she laughed.


He stopped running a block from the park. Roger looked around the area. He slowed to a walk and redirected his approach to the park, looking for as much cover as possible.


He walked several blocks further north and east until he passed out of his neighborhood and arrived at a French café in SoHo called Balthazar. Roger again sat a two-top and ordered a café Americano and some pastry. He waited until he had finished the coffee before pulling his cell phone out of his pocket.


The waiter came by. Roger ordered another Americano.


The auto-feed on the screen still showed the same headline. Roger double-clicked on the notification and punched in his password. The full article, nothing more than a couple paragraphs, opened.


The NYPD, during standard patrol, stumbled on the body of a young woman shortly before dawn in Louise Nevelson Plaza. The park is in lower Manhattan.


The woman, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, had been stabbed multiple times.


Anyone with any information should contact the NYPD immediately.


Nothing regarding the previous murder appeared in the article. Nor any mention of a possible connection to it. Standard Journalistic Operating Procedure. ]Anything even remotely smacking of a serial killer is an invitation to panic in New York City. The police would avoid that at all costs and make that clear to news outlets.


“But they were, or are, connected,” he said loud enough to draw the waiter’s attention. He waved them off.


He finished breakfast and walked to Louise Nevelson Plaza to look around.


***


Detective Cooper ended his shift just before Roger exited the Gotham Police Precinct. He took the subway home to his apartment on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. He didn’t notice until he got home his cell phone battery had died. It had been more than two hours since Roger’s release by the time he walked through the lobby door of his building.


He sighed when he saw the black screen, and searched the apartment for his charger. He looked everywhere. He had taken it into the office with him, and had no backup in his apartment.


“Damn technology,” he said aloud.


***


Roger returned to the site of the second murder. He walked the perimeter of Louise Nevelson. The police and crime scene unit were clustered around a clump of trees in the middle of the park. Roger’s screen grab showed the murder took place right at the Maiden Lane and Gold Street intersection, and near recently arrived backhoes, barriers and dumpsters.


The killer had moved the body from the safety of cover to a place more exposed and easier to find. Just as the killer had done on Theater Alley, the site of the first murder.


Roger made a deliberate 360 degree turn and observed the abundant construction work around the park, another similarity between the two murders. When the police presence had thinned out, he noticed the trees where they were working not to be sparse at all, but rather low to the ground and clustered. The body could be hidden there, but more exposed than under a dumpster or backhoe, which would obscure it. This killer seemed intent on leaving more clues than he needed by putting the body out in the “open.”


“The murderer is trying to fool the police with false clues,” he said.


Roger moved towards the cluster of trees. Someone put a hand on his shoulder. Roger jumped.


“I am so sorry.” Came the stentorian tone. “I did not mean to frighten you.”


“It’s okay,” said Roger. He closed his eyes before he turned. He opened them. “At least you’re not Detective Cooper.”


In front of him stood a priest. Black shirt, white color, black pants and shoes. His height average, and the Father looked a bit on the heavy side, but more athletic than fat.


“I’m sorry, Father,” he stuttered. “Just nervous over these killings.”


“Killings?” He asked. “Oh, you’re referring to the one about a month ago over on Theater Alley? Yes, tragic. The loss of young life. Isn’t it?”


The conversation stopped as both men looked, not at each other, but at the taped off sections of Louise Nevelson Park.


“By the way,” said the Priest. “I’m PastorDavid Jones, and I’m a Lutheran Minister. I am not a Catholic Priest. Are you Catholic?”


“Un, no,” said Roger. “I’m not really religious.”


“Understood,” said Pastor Jones. “Did you know the victim, or victims?”


“No,” said Roger. “I just live very close by, essentially between the two of them. I consider it my neighborhood, and, well, uh – “


“Also understood,” said Jones. “Let us hope the police catch this horrible person, whoever he may be.”


Another halt in the conversation, this one longer. Roger interrupted the silence.


“Did you know the victim?” asked Roger.


“One of them, sadly.” Answered Pastor Jones. “The poor soul up on Theater Alley. She attended my church.”


“Oh.” Offered Roger. “Well then, my condolences for your loss, and let us hope the police are close to finding the killer.”


“Thank you, Mister?” He asked.


“Uh, Davenport. Roger Davenport.”


“You’ll have to excuse me, I must go and attend to my duties at the church, Mister Davenport,” said Pastor Jones. “I hope you will forgive me.”


“Of course.”


David Jones walked away from the scene, but stopped after only a few steps. He headed back to Roger, who imagined the Pastor as an undercover police officer about to cuff him any minute. Roger turned and move in the other direction.


“Mister Davenport! Wait!”


Roger stopped, but did not face the Pastor.


“Mister Davenport?”


Roger faced Pastor Jones and put his hands, wrists upright, in front of him. The Pastor looked down and then up. His face had a quizzical look.


“I, uh - ,” stammered Jones. “What are you doing?”


Roger put his hands down.


“Sorry, Pastor,” he said. “Force of habit?”


“No need to explain,” said Jones. “I wanted to see if you’d like to speak with one of my parishioners, a reporter for The New York Times. The paper assigned the murder on Theater alley to this member of my congregation. I have to assume this killing will be added to the assignment? Perhaps you’ll find some solace, or at least some information, that may help you?”


“I appreciate it, but – “


“Please Mister Davenport.” Continued Pastor Jones. “It is my job to assist those in need. You are evidently in need.”


“Oh, I don’t know, Pastor. I’m not interested in attending church,” he protested.


“That’s not a requirement for you to provide me an email or phone number or both. I’ll have the reporter get in touch with you, and you can decide as to whether or not you’d like to continue with a meeting or something.”


Roger cleared his throat and exhaled. He met the Pastor’s glance. He reached into his wallet and handed David Jones his business card.


“Thank you, Mister Davenport,” he said, a smile appearing on his face. “I believe you’ll find this a positive in your life.”


“Alright, Pastor Jones.” Roger said. “Let us hope so. I could use some of that positive stuff in my life right now.”


“Tip of the Spear?” Asked Jones, perusing Roger’s card. “How did you come up with that? That is a very unique name for an advertising agency.”


Jones let himself laugh out loud, a booming expression of mirth, and so much so that Roger found that he too laughed . . . for the first time in weeks, if not months.


“Yes, I get that a lot.”


Pastor Jones put his hand on Roger’s shoulder. The two men exchanged pleasantries; shook hands; and left the scene of Murder #2.




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© 2018 by George W Young