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All the little pieces, p.24
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       All the Little Pieces, p.24

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  ‘That is weird,’ she said taking another big chomp. ‘A wannabe athlete?’

  ‘Most smart guys lacking in the muscle department who didn’t make the team and hold a grudge grow up to become doctors or work on Wall Street; their revenge is financial success. But I’m no shrink and I’m no profiler, Maldonado. I don’t know what significance hoarding unused sports equipment has to do with this investigation, except maybe one day the guy hopes to use it. He also had all that movie memorabilia crap, too. Could be he’s a two-bit collector.’

  ‘Or a hoarder. I watch that show; they’re nuts.’ She shrugged. ‘Maybe he has a fascination with fame. Athletes, movie stars,’ she said as she slurped a thick, chocolate milkshake.

  He gave up on the rabbit food and set about fixing his coffee. ‘I played high school football. Thought I had a shot at playing pro. Then I went to college and was the smallest third-string cornerback on the bench. I feared for my life on the field.’

  She raised an eyebrow.

  He patted his stomach. ‘Of course, I wasn’t carrying around this luggage back then, ya know. This is from the soon to be ex-wife. It’ll be gone soon, too.’

  ‘I noticed – no fries for you, any more. No more Dove candies in your desk, either.’

  ‘That’s where they were going.’

  She smiled. ‘This soon to be ex of yours. Was she a good cook?’

  ‘Nope. I did most of the cooking. She couldn’t boil water, but she looked real pretty, so I let it slide.’

  ‘That’s pretty sexist. Karma comes back around in the weirdest way, doesn’t it?’ she asked, draining the very last drop from her shake with an annoying slurp.

  ‘Yup. When she left me, I drowned my sorrows, not realizing how many calories it took to get good and drunk. Plus I stopped cooking, since it was just me. All the food comes in packages for two or family packs. Very depressing. I only get the twins every other weekend and on Wednesdays and they always want to eat out.’

  ‘I did notice you lost a few pounds.’

  ‘No, you didn’t.’

  ‘Yeah, I did. I didn’t know if you wanted anyone to notice.’

  ‘Well, thanks. I want to start running again, but ya gotta walk before ya run or the doc says I’ll blow out a knee or an organ. I used to do half-marathons, believe it or not. Running helps me get rid of stress.’ He looked down at her plate. The burger and large fries were gone. The milkshake was a dead soldier. ‘I thought you were sick.’ She’d missed out on the search of Poole’s apartment because of a doctor’s appointment. ‘What did the doc say? You’re not contagious, are you?’

  She turned red. ‘Don’t make me feel guilty because you had half a salad.’

  He shook his head. ‘I’m envious, is all.’

  She pushed the empty plate to the side of the table. ‘So when the DNA comes back, if we get any off the hat, and we have a profile, what then?’ she asked, ignoring his question.

  ‘We pop it in CODIS and the FDLE database and see what we come up with.’ FDLE maintained a database of DNA samples obtained from solved and unsolved crimes in the state of Florida and also from felons who were compelled to provide a DNA oral swab upon being convicted of a certain enumerated felony, which included burglary, sexual battery, lewd and lascivious behavior, robbery, kidnapping and murder. CODIS stood for the Combined DNA Index System – the national DNA database system maintained by the feds.

  ‘And if we don’t get a match?’ she asked.

  ‘I’m not waiting on one; that would be gravy. There’s a good chance this guy has no record, although he might’ve offended before. Before Santri and the fibers, the crime scenes and bodies were squeaky clean. That tells me that either one or both of them might have had more practice making perfect before Emily Foss and Jane Doe. So we’re gonna do some old-fashioned police work, Maldonado. Now that we know that Poole had a partner, we’re gonna pull his life apart to find who it is. Because Poole didn’t just meet some guy in a bar and they agreed to go a-hunting for women. The key is their relationship. For weeks I’ve been looking for the relationship that Poole had with all the victims, when that link might very well have actually been between his partner and the victims, which is why I never found it. Maybe the partner does the hunting,’ he finished as they paid the bill and started for the car.

  ‘So to find this guy, Muttonchops—’

  ‘Which he’s likely shaved off – a long time ago. Especially after the sketch of his buddy, Derrick, showed up on the news.’

  She nodded as she climbed into the passenger side of the Taurus. ‘OK. But muttonchops are pretty rare, I would think. People would remember someone who had a weird beard, right? Running a sketch might help us find him, like it found Poole.’

  ‘I intend to run a sketch, and assuming Faith Saunders can be as detailed with him as her daughter was with Poole’s description, we might get something. Problem is, we were unbelievably lucky to get a hit on a sketch with Poole – it’s almost unheard of. Second, it’s been over a month and I’m betting those chops are long gone, if they were ever real in the first place. They could have been part of a costume, for all I know. Third, muttonchops are not as uncommon in certain parts of this state and this country as they are in Miami. And last, Poole is not particularly social; I doubt his friend is. To find this guy I think we need to look at Poole’s friends, co-workers, relatives.’

  ‘Haven’t we done that? I, personally, have memorized his résumé.’

  ‘We washed the pot; we didn’t scrub it,’ Bryan replied as he pulled out of the parking lot. ‘Serial killer partners are rare. It’s hard to find someone who not only shares such a deviant way of thinking, but one who is willing to act on those anti-social thoughts. It’s a big leap to let somebody in on your twisted fantasy for wanting to butcher a woman – it’s another ginormous leap to pick up a knife and gut her. I’m not a shrink, or an expert, like I said, but historically relationships like that take a lot of trust. Think marriage, long-term friendship, sexual partners, relatives: Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck were a couple dubbed ‘The Lonely Hearts Killers’ who murdered twenty women; Fred and Rosemary West tortured and killed at least ten women together in Gloucester, England; Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were live-in lovers – they raped and killed five kids. Ronnie and Reggie Kray were twin brothers. Buono and Bianchi were cousins. Leopold and Loeb were college friends. Ottis Toole and Henry Lee Lucas were both friends and homosexual lovers. Lake and Ng were friends and survivalists. Bittaker and Norris, ‘The Toolbox Killers’, did time together in California.’

  ‘For someone who claims he’s no expert, you sure sound like you know what you’re talking about. I’m impressed.’

  ‘If we pull up everyone we can think of in Poole’s past, maybe we can run those names with the victims and see if we can find a link there: school chums, names he did time with in juvi, co-workers from every job he’s ever worked. Then there’s social media; that’s a bitch. We have his hard drive from the first search warrant. I think we need to go through it a little more carefully, look for names that continue to pop up, weird chat rooms, weird associations. Maybe cross-check that with the co-worker and friend list.’

  ‘Ugh. That sounds like a shitload of work.’

  Bryan shrugged. ‘Looks like we’re getting that task force. You can thank the Little Shack of Horrors for that. The press mob at the scene helped, I’m sure. Before the DNA was even back, Veerling was on the phone with the sheriffs of Hendry and Glades.’ Gordon Veerling was the sheriff. ‘Once the DNA came back yesterday and confirmed that the blood sprayed all over that place belonged to three murder victims – Foss, Kruger and Santri – that sealed the deal. Now we have to find out whose foot was in that bucket. And the other … parts.’

  Tatiana made a face. ‘That was beyond grotesque. And you were in there alone in the dark … It gives me the shivers.’

  ‘Aw. That’s sweet – you were worried.’

  She shook her head. ‘It makes my skin crawl. Thank God it wasn’t
me in there. So whose foot is it? And … innards?’

  ‘I’m thinking Noelle Langtry; we’re getting a DNA sample from her mom for a genetic comparison. We can then match it to the parts we found in the shack. That will take a few more days. There could be more victims, Maldonado, but we didn’t know anyone was missing so we weren’t looking. What a cluster fuck.’

  ‘Why is this guy still out walking around? Tell me that.’

  ‘The ASA wants direct evidence connecting Poole either to the shack or to the victims. Or at least direct evidence connecting him to his partner, who she can then connect to the shack because of the fibers he shed like dog hair all over it. Romolo thinks it’s still too circumstantial to make a case for first-degree against Poole. And she doesn’t like to lose. If she goes for the death penalty, a life sentence means the guy got off.’

  ‘I don’t get it,’ Tatiana said, shaking her head. ‘I mean I do, but I don’t. The guy is the last one seen with a girl who ends up dead and whose blood is found all over a slaughterhouse. When does the cavalry arrive?’

  ‘Tomorrow’s the meeting with the sheriffs from Glades and Hendry. We’ll meet their warm bodies then. And Amandola’s giving us Genovese.’ Pat Genovese was a seasoned homicide detective, two desks over. ‘And you, Maldonado, ya know, if you’re still up for it. Unless you’re thinking of jumping ship and going back to kiddie crimes.’

  ‘Now it’s my turn to be touched. That’s sweet of you to think of me. Of course I’m up to it. Do I have a choice?’ she said with a short, nervous laugh. She lowered the window.

  He looked at her quizzically. ‘’Cause you don’t look up to anything right now. You look green.’

  ‘I was remembering the body parts in the bucket and I just ate a burger. Who the hell knew there was so much evil in the world? It makes me sick.’

  ‘And you’re a homicide detective? You need a new profession, Maldonado,’ he said as the light changed.

  ‘No, it really makes me sick. Pull over.’ Her head was halfway out the open window, nose in the wind, hair flapping in the breeze, like a dog.

  ‘Jesus! Hold on!’ He pulled over and she jumped out of the car, disappearing into some bushes off Australian Avenue.

  The phone rang as she ran out. ‘Nill,’ he answered, raising the window so he wouldn’t have to listen to her yack.

  ‘Detective, it’s Dave Smiga in Serology at the lab. I just faxed you your report, but I knew you wanted to hear the results right away.’

  Tatiana climbed back into the car. ‘You look mighty happy,’ she said weakly after he’d hung up with Dave.

  ‘You don’t,’ he replied.

  ‘You can drive, now,’ she said, pointing at the road. ‘What? I’ve got a virus.’

  ‘Really?’ He eyed her suspiciously. ‘Spit it out – you’re pregnant, aren’t you?’

  ‘Just ’cause I’m a woman and I threw up doesn’t mean I’m fucking pregnant. Your driving makes me queasy; you hit the brakes too much.’ She leaned her head against the window.

  ‘When are you due?’

  She sighed. ‘May.’

  ‘Can I ask, where’s the dad? Who’s the dad? Is it one of us?’

  ‘I thought you were gonna ask me how it happened,’ she said with a tired laugh. ‘He’s a dick; he’s gone. And he’s not a cop. I’m doing this on my own. I can’t lose this spot; I worked too hard to get it. I always wanted to be Homicide. Every other girl wanted to be a vet, but I wanted to catch murderers. I’ll tell the LT and the Chief when I’m headed into the delivery room, and I’ll be back at my desk the following Monday. They’ll never know I was gone.’

  ‘OK, Wonder Woman. I’m not gonna blow your cover.’

  ‘Why are you still smiling like that? Like a creepy cat who ate a canary. ’Cause you figured out I was knocked up? Good for you, Detective.’

  ‘Nope. Although I am pretty proud of that, since you are being so cagey. I’m smiling because the lab called while you were busy yacking off.’

  ‘Yeah? And what did they have to say?’

  ‘Looks like we’ll be combing through Poole’s address book and Facebook page tonight. The DNA’s back on that Yankee hat. It’s the same guy that left us a piece of his shirt and sprinkled it all over that shack. The dots are starting to connect. Poole has a partner, Mama Maldonado. Now we have to find out who he is.’

  53

  If Bryan had any illusions that finding the connection to Poole’s partner would be easy, he was wrong. Even with a task force of brains picking apart Poole’s life year by year from the time he started to crawl, they were coming up with nothing. The two detectives from Hendry and Glades – Austin Velasquez and Dave Minkhaus – travelled to Deltona to interview teachers, principals, and classmates from elementary through his second year of high school, when Poole went to Haines City. They’d hoped to come back with a long list of friends that Poole had made over the years – they didn’t. There were none. The task force pulled social security records and tax returns and detectives personally visited every place Poole had ever worked in the state of Florida: Walgreens, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, AMC Theaters, Universal Studios for a summer, H&R Block, Ernst & Young. Fast food to college internships to career moves – there was nobody. No one Poole ever ate lunch with consistently or went out for a beer with. No one that he socialized with. Other than the names of a couple of girls he’d dated casually through work, there was nothing serious, and of the girls who could even remember him, all said there was nothing remarkable about him: quiet, reserved, shy. Forgettable. Derrick Alan Freeley Poole was the very definition of the word ‘loner’.

  Bryan knew the most significant authority on Poole’s past would be his mother, Bethany Freeley. First he’d tried talking with her on the phone, but she’d been resistant. So he’d flown to Phoenix to interview her. He was back the next day. The woman was a clam – she wouldn’t even confirm that she hadn’t seen her son in over ten years. As for getting any information from grandma, Linda Sue Poole was indeed a mental mess. She couldn’t remember her own name.

  The geniuses in the computer crime lab were dissecting Poole’s Facebook contacts – of which there were eighty-seven, and of those, most were professional associations, like every professional NFL and MLB page and fan pages for movies, TV shows and video games. Considering that most young people Poole’s age had hundreds, sometimes thousands, of friends, and lived their life on social media, the fact that he didn’t was troubling. Now they were busy sorting through emails and chat room visits, searching his cookies, trying to pull up his surfing history, and running his hard drive through REDS to see what files had recently been deleted or written over.

  The most convenient place to hook up with a like-minded sociopath, Bryan would’ve thought, would’ve been in lock-up in sex offender therapy. Tatiana and Pat Genovese had run every guy who did time with Poole during his two years at the Orange Youth Academy, narrowing down the list to who was alive, who was incarcerated somewhere, who was out, who had reoffended, and who was presently living in the state of Florida. They had narrowed the list to thirty-nine, and were currently going through each name, marrying names with intake shots from ten years back and comparing them to the latest sketch Cuddy had done with Faith Saunders – treating each name as if he were the partner, trying to find a relationship with Poole from their end, since Poole’s personal life was cloaked in secrecy. The fact that nothing had popped out yet was both disappointing and frustrating. So Bryan had taken a ride up to Orange Youth to meet with the warden, Ravi Lee, who’d headed up the facility since 1999 and was there when Poole was incarcerated. In addition to looking at the facility, he wanted to look at the disciplinary records that were not kept on computer back in 2004, and interview staff who might still be working there who had known Poole.

  Lee leaned back in a tired vinyl chair in his microscopic office. If this was the digs the boss gets, Bryan couldn’t imagine the cubicles the rest of the staff had to work out of. The room smelled of must and old paper
.

  ‘I pulled his file after you called, Detective. So that I could review it, because I honestly didn’t have an independent recollection of Derrick Poole from ten years ago. We have forty-eight boys here at any given moment. Not one bed is ever empty, which goes to show you the disastrous course our youth are on today, and how poorly parents are parenting. Anyway, I pulled his file and I do remember him, but I have to tell you that what I remember isn’t bad: Derrick was a model prisoner. He got his GED here, took extra classes, including Spanish and woodwork. He got along well with staff. I’ve assembled for you a list of employees who worked here at the time, and outside volunteers, along with their pictures. Everyone who works or volunteers or visits on this property has to provide a photo ID and we maintain those as public records. Some of the staff and volunteers are still with us today, although most have moved on. I’ve also supplied you with the facility’s visitor logs from the period that Mr Poole was incarcerated. Perhaps that will help.’

  ‘Thank you,’ replied Bryan as he thumbed through the staff directory. It was substantial. ‘The visitor logs might be worth looking into.’

  ‘The case you’re here on is … um, quite disturbing,’ commented Lee.

  ‘As was the case that Mr Poole was sent here for. Model prisoners don’t make model people; that’s why they get locked up.’

  The warden nodded.

  Nill set aside the staff directory and flipped through the volunteer folder full of pictures and dossiers. He was about to have them all brought to an interview room so that he wouldn’t have to do this with an extra pair of eyes watching from across the desk, when he spotted a picture. ‘Who’s this?’

 
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