• 15 June 2017
The final part of‘Bloodprint’, from the series of short stories based on the case files of former DCI Aldous Milner.
The final part of‘Bloodprint’, from the series of short stories based on the case files of former DCI Aldous Milner.
‘Today is the day’, Milner said as he locked his office. Patrick had just arrived and the two had wasted no time indoors. With news of the cops discovering the victim’s identity the previous day had come another bombshell: in the DA’s eyes, Campbell had the motive, the means and the opportunity to kill Albert Brunner and the preliminary hearing had been moved backwards considerably and was due in just another two days. Either Milner had to bring out a confession or Patrick would have to watch in court as the DA related its perfect story and his every attempt at explaining the truth would look like fiction.
‘I hope you’ve got it right.’ Patrick said as they took the lift down.
‘No time for that, Pat.’
Milner called his assistant, Jerry Baldwin, as soon as the lift door opened. ‘Jerry, updates, now.’
‘So far it’s all gone according to your plan, but we may have a problem.’
‘Hold on.’ Milner said to the phone, then pulled Patrick aside towards a few isolated seats in the lobby of his building and turned on the speaker. ‘OK, Jerry, this here is Patrick, he’s our client, the lawyer. Go over everything from the start so he’s updated on the situation.’
‘Alright.’ Jerry said over the phone. ‘Two days ago Mr Milner gave me a simple assignment. He had a picture and some data about a fellow, Brian, and I was supposed to find his next of kin. Mr Milner had reason to believe that he had a brother.’
‘Go on.’ Patrick said, interested.
‘I looked up the guy first, his las name was Reed. I tried to track his life down as far back as I could, even went all the way up to his school based on his social media accounts alone. It was evening by the time I got my assignment so I couldn’t do much. So far, though, it’d been a piece of cake. Turns out he did have a brother, so I got his name down. William Lane Reed.
‘Yesterday I called up Mr Milner and we discussed how we’d proceed. Mr Milner suspected that William was likely dealing in drugs. He may have also been arrested before. I looked up the data and turns out he had. He’d done two years for possession and six months for theft a long time before that. He was out on parole, he was reporting to his PO every single day — ’
‘Was?’ Patrick interrupted.
‘Exactly. Was. He stopped making appearances a week ago. His parole officer didn’t suspect anything since he never had to make daily appearances, just weekly ones. As far as his PO is concerned, therefore, everything’s square. He turned up last week, he has till the end of this week to turn up again.’
Patrick and Milner exchanged glances. Patrick looked blankly and Milner smiled.
‘His PO had a last known address that was not on public record,’ Jerry continued, ‘but I told him he was a person of interest to us and he agreed to slip us the details on condition that we keep things under wraps and never bring up his name on trial.’
‘How do we explain how we tracked him down in court then?’
‘Mr Milner said he’d take care of that.’
‘Well, that’s about it. I’d been staking out the place since early evening yesterday and there’d been no sign of unusual activity. A little TV time, this and that. Around ten, though, he comes out for a walk, goes straight up the road, makes a turn towards a dead end and guess who he’s meeting.’
‘No, the guy in the photo.’ Jerry said.
Patrick’s eyes widened. ‘Do you have pictures?’
‘Nothing usable, sorry, but I saw that they exchanged something. Looked like tickets. Could be passes for the train so the guy can walk out anytime he likes or if things get heated. Our guy William walked back home so I decided to follow the other guy. He went straight back to the city, holed up in an apartment on the west end, two blocks from Tyrese bridge.’
‘You’re there now?’
‘Yes, Mr Milner asked me to keep an eye on him. I’ve given him William’s address. He said you two would get there this morning.’ Jerry said. ‘Oh, and Mr Wilson, I’m dead beat. I need a temp watch.’
‘Sure, Jerry.’ Milner said. ‘Call in someone to cover for you. You did good, kid.’
He cut the call, sat back and watched Patrick. The lawyer had eased up a bit knowing that they had, at least, the name of a potential killer. How Milner would confront him Patrick had no idea. The lawyer’s eyes were fixed on the ground, deep in thought and he did not notice when Milner placed another call.
‘Hey, Hank.’ Milner said. ‘It’s that shoddy detective you wish you’d never met.’
‘What do you want?’
‘I’ve got a tip for you.’ Milner said. ‘If things go as I hope, the Skyscraper murder will be busted wide open today.’
‘That’s already an open and shut case. What the hell are you talking about?’
‘I can save your Department a lot of bad press. You’ve got the wrong guy and I’m going to make the real murderer confess. You can join me or you can rot in your office like you usually do.’
‘Go to hell, Milner.’
‘Alright,’ Milner smiled, ‘I know a hundred other cops waiting to catch a break.’
Milner waited as he heard the cop sigh. He counted: one-thousand-and-one, one-thousand-and-two, one-thousand-and-three… and Hank’s voice came back on the line.
‘When and where?’
Milner told him, asked him to bring backup if necessary and cut the call.
Patrick looked at Milner again. ‘The cops?’
‘Always a good move to have them with us when things are going down the way they are.’
The lawyer could not hide his curiosity anymore. ‘How the hell are you going to make him confess, Milner?’
‘You know what’, Milner said, ‘I have absolutely no idea.’
Milner knocked on the door quickly and confidently. Behind him, Patrick kept shuffling around. It was as if the man had never met a criminal outside the safe confines of a courtroom. He had always wanted to put criminals behind bars but not forever. He believed it was equally important to help them work their way back into society and make them want to live there safely, both for their own good and that of others. Of course, three strikes was still out and by all indication, the man he was about to stand face-to-face with had just had his third strike: thievery, possession, and murder. A sinister climb up a dreadful ladder.
Along with Milner and Patrick was Detective Hank Sutton. On Milner’s insistence he had asked his team to stay hidden. He did not want to spook the perp into running away or doing something worse, like shutting down or lawyering up or shooting himself. It had all happened before.
‘What do you want?’ They heard a voice from inside the house.
‘We’re friends of Brian,’ Milner said, ‘open up.’
‘I don’t know any Brian.’
‘Alright, we get it, he told us you’d do this.’ Milner said. ‘Now open up, we don’t want attention.’
There was a long pause at the end of which the latch on the door clicked open and a large, bearded man opened the door. He looked like a bear. Milner, Patrick and Hank were all quite sure they could not fight him if it came to that, which left Patrick and Hank with one choice: play along with whatever Milner does. And Milner himself had no option either besides talking this man into confessing or somehow volunteering information.
William closed the door and turned to face the three men. He looked just like Brian, Milner thought. Brian somehow enlarged and stuffed with rocks, perhaps. They sat down by a table, but William did not.
‘OK, talk. I told Brian to stay away or the cops would link us.’
Suddenly, Milner asked, ‘Does idiocy run in the family?’
Patrick stiffened. He was white and out of breath and wished he had never walked in. This man was a career criminal. He had probably met and beaten down guys twice the lawyer’s size (or the detective’s or the cop’s for that matter). It was not a good idea to provoke the guy and Milner was doing exactly that.
‘We are the cops.’ Milner continued. ‘And the building is surrounded by cops. So if you know what’s good for your brother, sit down and talk.’
Patrick wanted to say something but could not. Hank was watching silent, trying his best to hide his fear. If this did not go well, he had a lot to answer for back at the precinct.
William’s expression did not change. He sat down as calmly as he had been all this while.
‘How did you find me?’
‘Brian.’ Milner said. It was a lie.
It was a lie and Patrick knew it. Bad idea.
But Milner went on. ‘Your parole records told us you’d been showing up daily at the Department for some reason and then, suddenly, you vanished. We talked to your brother, explained to him how things would go downhill if we couldn’t track you down and he gave us this address.’
William smiled. ‘You’re lying. Brian wouldn’t have given you this address.’
‘Why?’ Milner wasted no time in replying. ‘Do you suspect someone else?’
‘OK, so you met me, I’m here, my parole record is perfectly fine. Time for you to leave.’
‘Not yet.’ Milner said.
Neither Patrick nor Hank could quite figure out how Milner was so calm.
‘I heard you’ve found a job.’
The twitch in William’s eye was so slight that anyone who wasn’t watching him intently would never have noticed. All three men on Milner’s side of the table, thankfully, were looking at nothing but William.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘The window cleaner on Campbell’s building was your old buddy. The guy who lives near Tyrese bridge. You asked him to take the day off, went in his place, went up the Cambell’s office. You knew nobody could track you and you wouldn’t be on any cameras. If you’d gone inside the building you’d draw suspicion, so you came up from outside, to clean the windows.’
‘What Tyrese bridge? Campbell who? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘Then sit back and be a good listener.’ Milner said sternly. ‘Because you did end up cleaning the windows. You tried to open them up from the outside, pushing through. Your friend had told you that Campbell keeps his windows opened just a crack. But the dumb guy that you are you ended up cutting your hand on the glass. Your blood sprayed all over. It sprayed on the window and you cleaned it up, but you did a horrible job because you’d left little smudges there. But nobody would notice. What you didn’t know was that some of your blood had sprayed on Campbell’s blueprints that were less than a foot away. Maybe some even dropped on the carpeted floor. We’ll know when we check.
‘The other day, I’d been to the restaurant where your brother works. I broke a glass accidentally.’ Milner paused. ‘Or maybe I broke it on purpose. I broke the glass Brian drank from and picked up the pieces of the rim. His saliva was on it. His DNA. The records matched to those found on the window. You see, DNA is an interesting thing. You can wipe the blood, but even if you leave a smidgen behind, we can still pick up some DNA. It was a match, but not like I suspected. It was a fifty-percent match. Guess what that means? Identical twins. Brian had a brother. You.’
William remained silent, but more out of disbelief than adamance.
‘Campbell was a regular at the restaurant. Your brother waited his table everyday. He saw the work he brought with him, he saw the deals he made, he saw the money. He got greedy. He told you about him. You got greedy. When I first visited the scene of the murder, I noticed there were pictures of a wedding on Campbell’s desk. He’d worked on some architecture, maybe interior stuff, maybe decor, I don’t know. But it was a wedding. Guess who was Campbell and had got married recently? Brian Reed. I noticed your brother’s new ring at the restaurant the day I met him and it was a doubt I had, nothing more. But I’m a detective and when I have a doubt, I pursue it until I’m satisfied, so I worked a plan to get his DNA.
‘What I’m not sure of is who planned the whole thing. Let’s get to that later, though. First, for your plan to work, you had to get Campbell to the wedding. You’d trick him there, blackmail him, then make money. The guy was rich, you’d have cut of his wealth. It all went according to plan, but you didn’t predict that he’d hire an investigator. And you didn’t expect him to try to pull a quick one over you. So then it went to a whole new level. It was a question of your self-respect, I suppose. Whatever the case, that man double-crossed you and he had to pay for it. You had to bring him down somehow.
‘But then there was the investigator. What would you do about him? He could track you down, perhaps. He could point fingers, he could talk, you’d have been guilty of possession again. Life in prison. You had to take him out too, so, once again, I don’t know who planned it, but it was a good plan. Two birds. You kill the investigator and blame it on Campbell. That way the investigator would be dead and Campbell would be behind bars. As a plus, you could help yourself to whatever money the architect had lying around. The body would be found in Campbell’s office, the victim would have photos of Campbell looking like he was selling drugs, and that’d give Campbell a reason to kill in the DA’s eyes. It was perfect. More perfect than you could’ve manipulated it yourself.’
William said nothing. His face was slowly losing colour. Milner’s narration had ramped up the tension in the room. Patrick sat stiff, not knowing what to do or think, and Hank sat with one hand over his weapon beneath the table. The cop knew that Milner was playing a dangerous game and if William did not take a bite out of Milner’s story, all hell would break lose. He’d have to fire to incapacitate William the bear, and he’d have a lot of explaining to do and paperwork to complete. That was the part he hated the most.
‘Go ahead,’ Milner continued, ‘call your brother. Ask him if a glass broke that day. But commend him too, he did a good job of cooking up that story trying to divert my attention towards a non-existent fellow who supposedly had a fight with Campbell. None of that happened. Desperate move, but a slick one too.’
‘You’re accusing me of things you cannot prove.’ It was the first time William had spoken since the detective had started his narration.
Milner shrugged. ‘That’s not what you should be worried about.’ He stood up and looked down and William Reed. ‘The fact that I don’t know who planned the con and who planned the murder means I can’t prove it and you can’t prove it without implicating yourself. And that means I can blame that on anyone. On you, on your friend who’s in his flat right now, under the watchful eyes of my men. Or,’ he paused, ‘I can blame it on your brother.’
Patrick remained still. Was Milner bluffing? But it was William’s turn to stiffen.
‘Your brother saw Campbell everyday. Your brother had more than enough reason to be jealous, to want some quick cash. It was your brother’s wedding to which he invited Campbell with intent to con him. Your brother was paid paper and your brother was infuriated. And your brother then came to you and asked you to talk to that window cleaner friend of yours. You, innocent as ever, agreed. Your brother then went into that room and murdered the private investigator. Your brother accidentally cut his hand and left traces of his blood at the crime scene. Your brother’s DNA is a near-match to that blood. Enough to raise everyone’s suspicion because why would a waiter’s blood be found inside the office of one of his richest clients on the same day a murder occurred? You’ll be out here a free man and your brother will stand trial and eventually go to prison for life.’
William stared at Milner for what seemed like several minutes.
‘It was Nick’s plan.’
Patrick took a sudden breath, shocked. Hank loosened his grip on his weapon.
‘Keep Brian out of this. He did nothing. I forced him to look for potential victims. I threatened him so he showed us your guy, the architect.’
‘I’m not convinced.’ Milner walked to the door. ‘Pat, Hank, let’s leave. This gentleman clearly knows nothing about the crime. We got it wrong.’
The other two silently arose and followed Milner’s instructions. The detective held the door open for them and then shouted to the cops waiting outside.
‘Have them mobilise the second unit by the restaurant. He’s our guy. Name’s Brian Reed, he masterminded the whole thing. We have enough to take him to trial and put him away for a long time.’
‘Enough.’ William screamed from inside the house. ‘I’ll confess. I write it down. But if you touch my brother, you get nothing.’
Milner’s plan was working. It was as thin as ice on a warm lake but it was essential that William believed he had the upper hand and that he was saving his brother’s life.
‘You lay a finger on Brian,’ William went on, ‘and I’m going to make sure you all pay for it.’
Hank stepped for ward to say something but Milner put a hand across and stopped him.
‘You want your brother to stay free, get a pad or a sheet of paper, and start writing.’
‘Brian has always been the good guy.’
‘And you can keep it that way.’ Milner said. ‘Here, use my pen.’
That evening, Milner and Patrick sat in the lawyer’s office along with Campbell and Hank. The state had decided to drop charges against Campbell in light of a sudden, unexpected confession from a former convict. It was all over the news: the murder, the con, the innocent, honest architect who had been wrongly accused, first of dealing in drugs, then of murder. It was a warning to all citizens to keep an eye out and not receive things strangers handed them; to go to the police if anything happened and not try to fend off blackmailers. It was a good day for Campbell and it was just another case solved for Milner.
‘You took quite a gamble there.’ Patrick said. ‘It was risky. I was scared half to death. You bluffed your way through it.’
‘Not at all.’ Milner said. ‘Besides the fact that we had nothing more than circumstantial evidence against Brian at that point and that I made up that story about how Brian may have done it, everything was the truth. I did break that glass to get a sample of his saliva, I did get that DNA tested. In fact you went to Force labs to collect the reports, remember? And you’re paying for it.’
‘It was the only sequence of events that made sense if Campbell here was innocent. And I’ve met convicts like William before. Poverty, situation, friends, company led them down the wrong path. And they seemingly got stuck there. But the one thing they value, the one thing they’d be willing to do anything for, is the others in their family. Their brother, sisters, parents. They’d do anything to keep them out of prison. It’s human nature, I suppose.’
‘As much as I hate to say it,’ Hank said, ‘that was good. It was a stupid move, it was dangerous. But I don’t think he’d have cracked any other way.’
‘And you were ready to shoot if you had to and save us all.’ Milner said. ‘You had your hand on your weapon the whole time, Hank. Thank you.’
The cop got up and walked to the door. ‘Alright, then, see you around. Got a lot of paperwork. Not everyone celebrates after a case like you do, Milner. Some of us fill in paperwork.’
The men laughed. A tear rolled down Campbell’s eyes.
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