by Al McDermid
Detective Kaplan pushed her partner, Detective Buchanan, out the interrogation room and closed the door behind them.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Buck,” Kaplan said, poking the big detective in the chest.
“What?” he said. “You’re not believing these clam-slammers are you?”
“Boy, aren’t you just the paragon of sensitivity,” Kaplan said.
Buchanan snorted. “You’re not a dyke, so what do you care?”
Kaplan, who was no longer cowed by her partner’s bulk, nor impressed with his seniority, could do nothing but shake her head. Maybe he was once a good detective.
“Why don’t you go roust some hookers or something,” Kaplan said. “Maybe fix a parking ticket.”
“Cute,” Buchanan said around the unlit cigar perpetually stuffed in his face. “Psychics. It’s all bullshit. You should know better.”
“I do,” Kaplan said, “but I still think there’s something here. Besides, if there is even one chance in hell of finding these two women, I have to take it.”
“Two women?” Buchanan said. “You mean that missing reporter? We don’t know her disappearance is connected.”
Kaplan suppressed an urge to roll her eyes.
“The missing reporter that’s been bugging me for an interview since this case broke,” Kaplan said, “and who was last seen talking to the killer’s half-sister? That missing reporter? It’s too much of a coincidence to ignore.”
“Last seen by the woman sitting on the other side of this glass,” Buchanan said, jabbing his thumb in the direction of the interrogation room. “Yeah, one hell of a coincidence, but we’ve got nothing else. Might as well run with it. I’ll go get some coffee.”
Maybe he was still a good detective, Kaplan thought as she watched the two women on the other side of the two-way mirror. Maybe, but if these woman had something, anything, he’d never get it out of them.
“I knew coming here was a mistake,” Tina said. “Cops. Fuck ‘em all.” She crossed her arms and looked down at the table.
“Tina,” Lorraine said. “They’re on the other side of that window.”
“Yeah. So what,” Tina said. “Hey, donut munchers. Investigate this.” Tina raised her middle finger and gestured toward the glass.
“Tina!” Lorraine said. As someone who worked in corrections, she didn’t necessarily respect the police, but she understood who had power, and the myriad ways that power could be abused.
“Let’s go,” Tina said, pushing her chair back to stand.
“Please,” Lorraine said. “That phone call creeped me out. Even if she was who she claimed to be, why call me? And how’d she get my number?”
“All right,” Tina said, “but if that slab of bacon makes one more crack, I’m walking.”
Kaplan took that as her cue and reentered the room.
“Hope you’ll forgive my partner,” Kaplan said as she placed the paper tray with three New York-typical blue and white paper coffee cups on the table. “He’s from a different era.”
“Would that be the Paleolithic or the Neolithic?” Tina asked.
“Coffee?” the detective asked, placing two cups on the table in front of the women. Lorraine accepted hers.
“Pass,” Tina said, though it was the same bodega coffee she always drank. “Is he out there? Your fat-assed partner?”
“No,” Kaplan lied. “Just us three.”
“How cozy,” Tina said. “Maybe we should form a coven.”
“If we could conjure the whereabouts of the two missing women, why not,” Kaplan said. “How about you telling me again what you saw.”
“So you can disbelieve me all over again,” Tina said. “No thanks. We’re wasting our time, Lorraine. I want to leave.”
“Do you have a pressing engagement?” Kaplan asked. “I know you were just fired from your job at . . .” she made a show of looking through her notebook . . . “The Verbena Bar.”
“How do you know . . .” Tina said. “Of course, you know. Fucking Gestapo.”
“I’m sorry, Detective, she’s . . .” Lorraine said.
“Don’t you dare apologize for me.”
“It’s all right. Let’s talk about the phone call instead.” Kaplan looked at her notebook, this time needing to. “You said the caller claimed to be Harriet Pennington, and that her son is Sam Pennington, the so-called Lighting Killer. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” Lorraine said. “She was told that her son was the Lightning Killer. It seemed strange because it’s been in the papers. How did she not know that?”
“She said she’d been told?” the detective asked. “Those were her words? Told? Told by whom?”
“Some reporter,” Lorraine said. “She didn’t mention a name.”
“And you don’t know why she called you?” Kaplan asked.
“Are cops naturally retarded,” Tina asked, “or do you just like to hear yourselves talk? You asked that already, and got an answer. Why don’t you check your fucking notebook?”
Lorraine gaped at her partner, who in turned glared at the detective. Kaplan ignored her.
“Please go on, Lorraine,” Kaplan said.
“The woman claiming to be Pennington said that her son wasn’t the killer and that you could help prove it.”
“She didn’t say how?”
“We didn’t get that far,” Lorraine said. “She called at the worst time. I told her I had to go and broke the connection.”
“You broke the connection?” Kaplan asked. “You work for the Justice system, why would you . . .”
“Justice System,” Tina said. “Now there’s a euphemism for you.”
“Tina, please,” Lorraine said. “Yes, it was a bad time. I had finished dealing with a troubled inmate, one who has no business being in the system to begin with, and I was meeting my boss when the woman called.”
“You were seeing your boss to resign, is that correct?”
“How is that possibly relevant?” Lorraine asked, herself now tiring of the questioning and thinking that maybe Tina had been right, that coming to the police had been a bad idea.
“I don’t know,” the detective admitted. “Must be tough though, quitting your job on the same day your . . . Tina, loses hers.”
“We’ll manage,” Tina said. “Thanks for your concern.”
Kaplan looked at Tina, then back at Lorraine.
“About the phone call?” Kaplan continued.
“Well, I saw no reason for her to call me, so I thought it was a prank. If it wasn’t, I figured she’d call again. Or call someone else. You, for example. Your name’s been in the paper.”
“Which this woman apparently doesn’t read,” Kaplan said. “Did you consider returning her call?”
“Blocked number,” Lorraine said. “Like I told you, I was on edge and harried. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have taken it.”
“All right,” Kaplan said. “We’d like to put a trace on your phone, in case she calls again.”
“Absolutely not,” Tina said.
“Ms. Porter,” Kaplan said. “You don’t have a record, as far as we know, so I do not really understand your antagonism toward the police, but you did come here to help. We want the same thing, to find Jane Kiley and Rita Thomas. Don’t you agree?” Tina crossed her armed and glared. “Let’s forget the phone call for now. Could you please tell me what you . . . saw?”
“By the way you asked,” Tina said, “you already don’t believe me, so why bother.”
“I’m willing to believe,” Kaplan said. “Indulge me?”
“Yeah, okay. It was in a basement, and I saw—”
“A basement, or a basement apartment?”
“More like a basement, but furnished.”
“All right. Go on.”
“I saw Jane Kiley strung up by her wrists, tied to some kind of pipe. I couldn’t see her face, so I don’t know if she was dead or unconscious.”
“How do you know it was Kiley?” Kaplan asked.
“I don’t,” Tina said. “It’s a guess, but the hair and clothes fit what I read in the paper.”
“Those being?” the detective asked.
“Red hair, and she was wearing either a slip or nightgown.” Kaplan nodded. “Torchy was strung next to her in the same way. She was naked but conscious. She said, “Don’t kill me. Please, don’t.”
“To whom did she say this?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t see anyone else.” Tina left out that Torchy had been talking to her, and that she was somehow in the place of the killer, which was impossible, since he was locked up in Rikers. Kaplan looked doubtful. “It’s not like I have any control here. It doesn’t work that way.”
“You stated earlier that you didn’t know how it works.”
“I don’t, you simple bitch,” Tina said, “but I do know what’s not possible.”
Kaplan gave the younger woman a hard stare, which Tina returned.
“Anything else,” Kaplan said.
“I could hear music, Greek music, and smell Greek food. Or Mediterranean, anyway.”
“A lot of Greek places in the five boroughs,” Kaplan said. “That could be anywhere.”
“You’re right,” Tina said. “It could be Athens for all I know.”
Someone rapped on the mirror from the other side.
“Hold that thought,” Kaplan said, then stood and stepped to the door.
“I knew that fat bastard was out there,” Tina whispered.
“Will you cool it,” Lorraine said. “This is their house. You need to keep that in mind.”
“Just so you don’t forget that coming here was your idea.”
Detective Kaplan finished conferring at the door, closed it, and returned to her seat.
“When you spoke of seeing Ms. Thomas, you called her ‘Torchy.’ Do you know her?”
“Yes,” Tina. “She’s been in the bar. I told you that as well. She was stalking the killer’s sister looking for an interview. Didn’t you write this shit down the first time?”
“It’s a complicated case,” Kaplan said. “I just want to be clear as to all of the parts. And you also know Ronnie Stanski?”
“You know I do,” Tina said. “She’s a regular at the Verbena Bar.”
“Isn’t it your interest in Ms. Stanski that led to losing your job?”
“What!” Lorraine said.
“That’s total crap,” Tina said. “Is that what Glory said? Because she’s a nasty, jealous, lying bitch.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lorraine said. “We’re leaving.”
Lorraine stood; Detective Kaplan and Tina stood with her.
“You can go,” Kaplan said, “but we’d like Ms. Porter to remain and answer a few more questions.”
“Is she being charged?” Lorraine asked.
“It would be in her best interest to stay,” Kaplan.
“That’s unlikely,” Lorraine said.
Kaplan looked at the mirror, the door opened, and in stepped a young, tall, and severely blonde woman, an assistant district attorney.
“Let ’em go,” the lawyer said.
Lorraine and Tina put on their coats and gathered their bags. At the door, the ADA stood aside with just enough room for them to exit.
“Have a better one,” Tina said to Kaplan as she passed.
“Will you c’mon,” Lorraine said, taking her partner’s arm.
“Now what?” Kaplan asked as she watched the two women disappear down the hall.
“Follow Porter,” the ADA said.
This story follows on from On the Inside - #6
This story continues with Sam in Fragments - #8
published 18 April 2015