The call came in just before the shift changed. The dispatcher pushed his brain from neutral to first gear. It had been a quiet night—until now.
Two cruisers roared around the corner of First Avenue and Cedar Street, coming to a teeth-rattling stop in front of a dilapidated house. Four policemen tumbled out, hitting the pavement at a crouch. Two raced toward the back while the other two headed for the front door.
Bitsy Miller and Kevin Donnelly sat defiantly in their respective interrogation rooms. Outside, two detectives wondered who would be the first to blame the other for the bullet-ridden body of the man found crumbled at the bottom of stairs in the old house.
The captain briefed the officers under his command about a little girl who had been reported missing. Her mother had called her daughter’s best friend to ask when to pick Ally up after a sleep-over, only to discover that there had been no sleep-over. Ally had been gone since leaving for school.
Donnelly demanded a lawyer while, next door, a street-smart detective worked on charming Miller into fingering her boyfriend for the murder of his stepfather.
On the steps of the police station the cameras rolled as the teary-eyed parents of Allison Henry asked the public for any information about the whereabouts of their ten-year-old daughter. Officers were already out canvassing the school, the neighbourhood, and a nearby park looking for anyone who had seen the little girl.
Two of the ‘boys-in-blue” stopped for coffee at Hot ‘n’ Sweet. Just as they walked through the door, a boy pushed past them clutching two loaves of bread and accompanied by shouts of “Stop, you little thief!” from the annoyed shopkeeper, Sammy the Greek. The kid was literally “collared” by one of the officers as he slipped out the door.
A nanny walking her charge in the park near Allison’s school told police that she had seen the child in the playground waiting by the swings. She hadn’t seen anyone approach her. When the woman returned that way ten minutes later, the girl was gone.
Kevin Donnelly’s public defender arrived at the station with a thin folder outlining the forensic evidence in the case. Everybody’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon, including those of the victim.
The two officers walked through the dingy hallway of a rundown apartment block. With Jimmy Jackson in tow, they stopped at 5-C and knocked loudly. The place smelled of mold, sour cabbage, and the sweet odor of illegality. On their third knock, the door opened as far as the cheap chain would allow. A half-face, grey, lined with pain, and tinged with fear, looked out at them.
Allison Henry’s schoolbag was recovered in a dumpster on the opposite side of the city from which she had last been seen. Police again canvassed a neighbourhood. No one had seen anything.
Sandy Jackson rested on a gurney in the emergency room of a local hospital while a doctor examined tests and x-rays taken since her admission.
A tired Bitsy suggested that the shooting was accidental. The old man had tried to kill her. He and Kevin had struggled for possession of the gun. It didn’t explain her prints and four bullet holes in the body.
The shopkeeper lingered at a discrete distance as a worried and exhausted Jimmy waited with his mother. Sammy refused to press charges once he discovered why the boy had tried to steal the bread. He hung around, keeping an eagle eye on the situation just in case he was needed.
A car crept slowly along a back road several miles outside of the city. The driver reached across and gently touched his passenger.
An exhausted lab technician called to tell detectives who had last touched the trigger of the murder weapon.
The day shift dumped their ongoing case files on the desks in the squad room, collected their messages, and settled in. Another 24 hours and hope was fading for Allison.
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