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Retribution, p.14
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       Retribution, p.14

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  ‘Yeah, maybe if you drop seventy-five pounds and shrink five inches, Bear. No more pastelitos? Dominick kneeled down and watched as Bobby swabbed the brown substance off the floor and placed the three samples in separate long, sterile cylindrical tubes.

  ‘I can still wear the ties. Seems a shame to waste these clothes. How’d it go with the Blues Brothers out front? I bet that fucking maricón, Stevens, threw a tantrum.’

  ‘Not good, Bear. Let’s just leave it at that. Not good.’

  ‘Well, I’ve got everything pretty much wrapped in this closet – which is the size of my bedroom, by the way. This fuckin’ nut job is so neat, too. Too neat, if you ask me. You know he organized everything? And I mean everything. He’s got this black suit bag marked, “Tuxedos”, as in plural, on the outside. Then he’s got a box marked winter sweaters, and another that says winter shoes. Maybe he’s not our guy, ‘cause he sure as hell sounds gay to me. Or could be he’s a frustrated homo who hates women because they remind him of his mother. Now there’s a motive. At least it explains Bowman’s problems with the world today. And listen to this – I found his Halloween costumes in a separate box, all folded neat and shit. Must like to play dress up, too, ‘cause he’s got a ton of shit in there: a sick alien mask, a Batman mask, this Frankenstein head, and a cowboy hat and pants with those gay-looking leather no-ass patches – ya’ know, those flaps – to go with it that they wear over their jeans.’

  ‘They’re called chaps, not flaps.’

  ‘Yeah, whatever – chaps. And then get this – just imagine this prick at your kid’s birthday party – he’s even got a clown mask in there, too.’

  Dominick stared at the smear patterns on the floor. Two feet away in the corner stood the yellow webbed feet of the stuffed egret. The luminol that the techs would spray soon would glow wherever blood had been. In the course of his years as a homicide investigator, Dominick had seen whole rooms, including spatters on the ceiling, glow a ghastly yellow in the dark. What would this quaint-looking little shed look like when the lights were turned off? What gruesome picture would it paint for them in the dark?

  ‘Well, just take it all, Bear. We don’t know yet what’s going to be important in this case and what isn’t.’

  26

  Although there actually wasn’t that much to read, it still took her some two hours to get through all the police reports and then the hospital records and lab reports. Halfway through, she had to stop and walk around the apartment, put on a fresh pot of coffee, fold the laundry, wipe the counters – anything to get away from the enormous weight of the memories that rushed her brain. It was amazing how she couldn’t remember what she ate for lunch most days, but she could still recall every second, every sound, every smell of a slice in time that happened more than a decade ago. Partway through reading the statement of her ex-neighbor Marvin Wigford, she went into the bathroom and vomited for the second time that day. In it he had stated how Chloe would dress ‘provocatively’ for the men in the building and ‘parade around the courtyard’ wearing outfits that ‘a woman from a Catholic university shouldn’t have been wearing’. Then he concluded that ‘it was no wonder that something like this happened to her, because she made men hard on purpose.’ Pangs of guilt and blame that she had fought back for so many years tore at her soul once again, and even though she knew intellectually that his statements were simply the ramblings of a demented and perverted person, she still felt dirty and ashamed. There was a part of her, deep down, that had always felt responsible for what had happened, as if she had done something to bring this upon herself. For years, her mind had entertained a zillion things that she could have done, should have done, differently and then the zillion other paths her life would have followed. She had found that that was indeed the hardest part of the therapy – learning not to blame yourself.

  After the side trip to the bathroom, she had returned to the balcony and watched the boats go back and forth for a while longer, sipping what must have been her tenth cup of coffee for the day. It was almost rush hour and across the Intercoastal in Pompano Beach, the streets were beginning to crowd with cars. Her beeper had gone off a few times, bringing her back from the past to the welcome reality of the present, and she had made sure to call everyone back. The phone calls temporarily took her mind away from the police reports and witness statements, away from the cold, familiar fear and the panic and the blame that was again building inside her head. Particularly the phone calls she fielded from Marisol the Annoyed. She took Lucy out for a walk along the water before darkness made such a thing impossible.

  When she got back, it took her another hour to finally finish reading the rest of the reports, including her own statement, where she recollected, in excruciatingly vivid detail, every conscious moment of June 30, 1988. It began with the fight with Michael in his car that had spilled into the courtyard, and rambled to when she awoke to the taste of latex on her lips and the crushing weight on her chest, the pain of him as he climbed on top of her, his penis entering her while she struggled uselessly underneath. Finally, blessedly, it ended with her last conscious memory, when the cold knife angrily sliced across the delicate skin on her breasts, and she watched as her white sheets slowly turned to red. Now, back on her balcony, back in the present, a hand moved protectively to her breast, the other to her throat to free the invisible weight of fear that crushed her larynx and made it almost impossible for her to breathe.

  The phone rang just then. The caller ID on the phone said the Queens DA. She wiped the tears from her face and answered in the most sane voice she could muster.

  ‘Hello?’

  ‘Is there a Miss…’ The voice on the other end struggled as he obviously read from an illegible piece of paper. ‘… Too so there?’

  ‘This is Ms Townsend.’

  ‘I’m sorry. My secretary left me a butchered name that looked like Tooso. My apologies. This is Assistant District Attorney Bob Schurr of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office returning your call. Is there something I can help you with?’

  She tried hard to gather her thoughts together. ‘Yes, Mr Schurr, thank you for calling me back. Umm, I need to know the necessary protocol to extradite a felon back to the State of New York.’ She was all business now. The prosecutor in her had taken over, and this whole matter had somehow happened to somebody else.

  A long pause. ‘Okay. Are you an attorney?’

  ‘Yes. I’m sorry. I’m with the State Attorney’s Office in Miami.’

  ‘Oh. Alright, then. Who’s the subject, and what’s the warrant out of New York for?’

  Well, there’s no warrant as yet. It’s an unsolved felony crime that we think we may have located a suspect in.’

  ‘Unsolved? You mean there’s no indictment? No warrant?’

  ‘No. Not yet. The authorities down here have only just recently identified a possible suspect through interrogation and investigation.’ She knew she was being vague.

  ‘Oh. Have you spoken with the investigating New York detectives? Are they procuring a warrant?’

  ‘Um, not yet. I believe the case has gone to the Cold Case Squad. We are reaching out to the detectives with that unit, as we speak, to secure a warrant and whatever else is necessary under New York law to arrest the subject here in Florida.’

  ‘Well, an indictment would be a necessary first. Then they can get a warrant for his arrest off the indictment, and your detectives down there can execute the warrant and pick him up and hold him down in Miami while we start the extradition paperwork up here. But, we may be getting way ahead of ourselves. How old is this case?’

  She swallowed. An uneasy feeling came over her and she remembered something that, as a prosecutor, she should not have forgotten. ‘Um. I believe the crime occurred more than ten years ago, but I’d have to check with the detectives who are working it down here.’

  Bob Schurr whistled low under his breath. ‘Ten years? Uh-oh. Tell me that you want to extradite this guy for murder, and I’ll say okay.’
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  ‘No, it’s not a murder.’ Now her palms were sweaty. She didn’t want to know the answer to her next question. ‘Why the “uh-oh”?’

  ‘What’s the crime you’ve got this guy on? Assuming, of course, it is a guy. You haven’t said.’

  She cleared her throat and hoped she sounded normal. ‘It’s a sexual assault. A forcible rape. And an attempted murder.’

  ‘That’s what the “uh-oh” is, then. You’re out of luck, I’m afraid. The statute of limitations on all felony crimes in New York is five years. Except, of course, murder. There’s no time limit on that. If there was no indictment handed down within the first five years after the crime happened, you can’t touch this guy because the time’s up.’ His pause was met with silence, so he continued. ‘I’m sorry. This sort of crap happens all the time, especially in sex cases. You finally find the guy through a DNA match, and there’s nothing you can do about it. They’re just now starting to indict the DNA strands themselves in the cases where they don’t have a suspect name and the time is running out. Maybe they did that in your case – did you check with the cold case detective?’

  ‘No. I will. Maybe that’s what they did. I hope,’ she said, although she already knew that there was never any physical evidence found from which to extract DNA to indict in her case. Her voice was drifting in and out, and she knew it. ‘Thanks for all your help – I’ll call you back if I have any more info.’

  ‘What did you say your name was again?’

  C.J. hung up the phone. This couldn’t be happening. The statute of limitations. The arbitrary block of time that some stupid lawmakers had set in stone to define what a fair length of time was to bring someone to trial. What was a fair amount of time for someone to wander through life worrying about when their past crimes would catch up with them? What was fair for the defendant? Fuck the victim. Make sure the defendant’s rights were protected.

  The enormity of the conversation began to sink in. Bantling could never be tried for what he had done to her. Never. Never. Never. He could go to the top of the Empire State Building and shout his guilt to the whole world in all its colorful, vivid, gory, disgusting detail and he could still never be tried. He could take the elevator back down and walk away scot-free, and there was nothing that anyone could ever do about it. She should have remembered the statute of limitations, but in Florida certain sex crimes had none, and, frankly, it had never even entered her mind. She had been so focused on how to get Bantling arrested the right way and sent to New York – and how to face her own demons without going crazy again – that she hadn’t thought of answering the question ‘Can he be arrested?’ Her victim blinders were on, and the whole thing had just been a foregone conclusion in her mind.

  She felt as if everything was again coming apart and she needed desperately to pull it together. To think through the fog and the fear that kept pressing against her chest.

  She paced the apartment. The sun had slipped down beneath the sky and the warmth of dusk was ending fast. She poured out the cold coffee in the cup and reached for the chilled bottle of Chardonnay in her fridge instead. She poured herself a glass, took a long sip, and picked up the phone again. It took about four rings before the line was picked up and Dr Chambers answered.

  ‘Hello?’ The sound of his voice was instantly comforting.

  ‘I thought I’d still find you there. Even at this hour. How are you, Dr Chambers? It’s C. J. Townsend.’ She nibbled on a thumbnail as she paced the length of the living room in her stocking feet with her wineglass in hand. She still had not changed out of her suit.

  ‘Hello, C.J.’ He sounded surprised to hear her voice. ‘I was finishing up some paperwork here. You just caught me. What can I do for you?’

  She watched as a dinner cruise floated by. The faint sound of laughter and music drifted up on the air.

  ‘Well, something has happened and I think I may need to see you.’

  27

  Gregory Chambers sat up straight in his leather chair. He could sense the urgency and desperation in C. J. Townsend’s voice, and he was immediately alert. ‘Not a problem, C.J. Not a problem. How about tomorrow?’

  ‘Tomorrow would be good… great.’ She heard the sound of papers flipping, like an appointment book.

  ‘Can you come in at ten o’clock? I’ll just do some creative shuffling to my schedule.’

  She breathed a broad sigh of relief into the phone. ‘Thank you so much. Yes. Tomorrow would be fine.’

  Dr Chambers leaned back in his chair, his brow furrowed. Her voice was definitely cause for concern. She sounded distraught, a mess. ‘Do you need to talk now, C.J.? I’ve got the time.’

  ‘No, no. I need to gather my thoughts. Think them through. But definitely tomorrow. Thank you so much for fitting me in.’

  ‘Anytime. Call me anytime. I will see you tomorrow, then.’ He paused. ‘Remember, you can call me if you need me before then.’

  She hit the button on the cordless and looked aimlessly around the empty living room. The dinner cruise had floated out of sight and the air was quiet again, but for the sound of the wind blowing through the palm trees and the water lapping gently below against the seawall. Tibby II rubbed against her leg and meowed loudly. The day had gone by, and it was time for him to eat yet again.

  The phone rang in her hand and she jumped in her skin, dropping it to the floor. She was too jittery now.

  The phone rang again. The caller ID said Falconetti. She hesitantly picked it up in her hand.

  ‘Hello?’

  ‘Hey. It’s me. I’ve got your AutoTrack.’

  She had forgotten all about that. The day’s events had blurred together. ‘Oh. Okay,’ she stammered, trying to collect her thoughts, trying to sound cognizant, lucid. ‘I’ll, ah, I’ll swing by FDLE in the morning and pick it up. Um, what time are you in?’ She reached again for her wineglass and began the pace again, back and forth across the living room.

  ‘No. You don’t understand. I have your AutoTrack for you right now, and I’m at your condo doors downstairs. Buzz me in.’

  No. Not tonight. She just couldn’t face him. Couldn’t talk to anyone right now.

  ‘Um, Dominick, now is not a good time for me. It’s really not. I’ll just swing by tomorrow and pick it up.’ She slugged down a long sip of wine. ‘Or you can just leave it in my mailbox. Stuff it in twelve twenty-two. I’ll get it later.’ She knew that must have sounded ridiculous, but there it was. Take it any way you want to. Just go away.

  There was a long pause. She reached for her pack of Marlboros, now almost empty, on the table outside. Then his voice broke the silence.

  ‘Nope. No way. I’m coming up, so let me in.’

  28

  It took about three minutes before she heard the ring of the bell followed by the rap of knuckles against the front door. She looked out the peephole and saw Dominick leaning against the door frame, looking down around his feet. He was still dressed in his dress shirt and slacks, with his sleeves rolled up and his tie half off and his collar open. His gold FDLE badge hung on a chain around his neck and his gun was holstered to his side. She unset the alarm and unlocked the door, opening it just a little more than halfway.

  He smiled at her, and she could tell he was exhausted. In his hand he held a thin stack of white paper stapled together at a corner. He waved it through the door.

  ‘Hey, thanks for bringing this by, Dom.’ She took the paper from his hand. ‘You didn’t have to do that. I would have picked it up.’ She didn’t invite him in.

  ‘You said you wanted it today, and so I got it for you today. Last I checked, I did it with three hours to spare, too. It’s only nine.’

  ‘I appreciate it. How did you even know where I live, though?’ The thought that she could be found made her uneasy. She protected her address and gave it to no one. It was also exempt from disclosure on all public records because she was a prosecutor.

  ‘I’m a cop, remember? We’re paid to know these things. Actually I called you
r office and Marisol gave me your home address and I just MapQuested it on the Internet.’

  She made a mental note to make Marisol’s life a living hell in the morning.

  An awkward moment passed between them. Finally, he said, ‘Do you think that maybe I can come in? I want to tell you about the search warrant. Unless you’re too busy.’ His eyes looked past her, casually perusing the apartment.

  She answered quickly, probably too quickly. ‘There’s no one here.’ She caught herself and finished slowly with ‘I’m just, well, tired and I’ve got a headache and… ’ She looked into his face and saw his eyes reading hers, drawing conclusions. She again tried her best at a smile and to look normal. ‘Oh sure, yeah, I’m sorry, just come on in. ‘ She opened the door, and he stepped in out of the hall. They stood facing each other for a moment or two, then she turned away and walked into the kitchen.

  ‘Do you want a glass of wine, or are you still on duty?’

  He followed her in. ‘I thought you said you had a headache.’

  ‘I do,’ she said from inside the refrigerator. ‘Wine is great for headaches. You don’t even remember you have one.’

  He laughed. ‘Well, in that case I’ll definitely take one, thanks.’ He looked around the apartment. It was tasteful, colorful. The kitchen was a bright sunshine yellow, with an exotic fruit border in primary colors that ran at chair level across the room. The living room was painted a deep red, and bold artwork dotted the walls. It surprised him. C.J. was always so serious. He had somehow expected her apartment to be white and gray with maybe a hint of cream for color – and bare walls.

  ‘I like your apartment, too. It’s very bright, cheery.’

  ‘Thanks. I like to use a lot of color. It gives me peace.’

  ‘This place is great. What a view.’ Off of the living room, huge sliding glass doors were open on to a small balcony. He could hear the gently lapping waters of the Intercoastal below and see the lights of Pompano Beach across the way.

 
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