Chapter 7: Talk of Vampires
Cassidy was not sure what to think about the regulars at booth three. The thought of these well attired and arguably elegant people dragging bodies out into the Greenbelt wilderness did not fit inside any motive that she could imagine. She was engaged in a continuous search for a reason why these socialites would want to kill attractive strangers. This weakness in the idea made her far more inclined to believe that the crime was the work of a disturbed loner or a drug crazed cult. Nonetheless, when she returned to her home precinct Cassidy did a name search in the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle database. It did not take her long to attach the two faces she saw in The Cavern to the pictures connected to the registration records for Ryan Sandoval and Alexandra Hays. The remaining four names were harder to pin down because she had no idea what they looked like, but she was able to find four individuals with these names who were in the right age range, who lived in the vicinity and had residences that were equivalent in value to Ryan’s and Alexandra’s. It became clear to Cassidy that Brooke Chapman, Ronald Hollis, Christine Meyer and Evan Pritchard, along with Ryan and Alexandra, were comfortably fixed financially, so much so that their financial portfolios did all the work. Cassidy also checked to see if they had any local police records or any warrants and found none. After this Cassidy submitted a request to the NCIC database for any criminal records anywhere concerning these six individuals. She then set off for home with the understanding that this was likely to arrive at her desk Monday morning.
It was a quarter to three in the morning, Sunday, when Cassidy parked her car outside of her home. The street on the block where she lived and the streets leading up to it were quiet and still. Her only memories of being up so late as a NYPD Police Officer went back to when she worked the overnight shift. This she did as a patrol officer with a partner. It was usually shortly past sunrise when she returned home back then and, more often than not, it was on a weekday. This quiet was not a disposition of her home block that she was accustomed to seeing. The dark stillness of this moment caused her to feel as if she was alone and that the houses up and down the street were vacant. This feeling was supported by the realization that her house was empty.
Cassidy had just reached the landing at the top of the stairs that led to her front door when a darkness appeared to soar by overhead in total silence. It was like a shadow flying through the air. She had only perceived a hint of it at the top edge of her vision. She looked up in a hurry to catch sight of it, but it was already gone from view, assuming it was anything at all. She could not stop from considering the possibility that it was just a flicker from one of the street lights or a bird. She shortly dismissed it as something of no concern to her and opened the front door to her house. Inside all the lights in the house were off. She could think of no reason to change this. She was neither hungry nor thirsty. She had eaten a candy-bar and drank some water at the precinct. She groped her way up to the second level and to her bedroom and turned on the light there. After setting her watch, wallet, keys and cellphone on the nightstand, she took off her overcoat and blazer and put them away in the closet. She then removed her belt holster and hand gun and put them away in a lower nightstand drawer. She then took a seat on the end of the bed and prepared to remove her shoes when a creak from the house rafters caught her attention. Cassidy came to an immediate standstill and listened for more of what she just heard. There was silence behind the initial sound. She continued to sit still and listen. Cassidy did not want the noise of her own movements to drown out the sound a second time. After several seconds of waiting she thought to abandon the effort and reached down to unfasten her shoe when a vibration startled her back into an erect posture.
Cassidy routinely set her cellphone to vibrate while it was on her person, and she regularly forgot to change this when she put it down. Its reverberation off the top of the nightstand took her by surprise. She whipped about to take note of the sound with a momentary expression of shock and then relaxed behind her understanding that it was only her cellphone. An instant behind this it dawned on her that this was a strange time for someone to be calling. She was not on-call at the precinct. Her mind jumped to two possibilities. It was a wrong number call or something of importance had occurred. Cassidy opened the line after the third ring.
“Hi, I am calling for Detective Tremaine,” the voice on the other end of the line declared.
The connection was bad, but Cassidy was still able to comprehend what was said and note the foreign accent in the voice of the person who said it.
“Speaking, who’s this?”
“I am Grigore Stefanescu,” the voice on the other end answered.
“Who?” Cassidy questioned before thinking.
An instant after speaking Cassidy recalled the name from the Romanian file, but before she could acknowledge this Grigore spoke back.
“Grigore—Stefanescu, I need to speak with you,” Grigore reported with an inflection of desperation.
Cassidy remembered Grigore Stefanescu’s name from the Romanian police file, but she did not understand why she was getting this call. She made no such request, and she could think of no need for this conversation.
“Who gave you my number?”
“Poliția Română,” Grigore returned in his Romanian tainted English. “They say you investigate my case.”
Cassidy noted the concern in the man’s voice and suspected that he thought her interest in his case was about him. She promptly spoke to dissuade this.
“No, no, I was doing research for a crime that was committed here in New York,” Cassidy explained with an earnest delivery.
“I need to tell you what happen,” Grigore returned with growing anxiety in his speech.
“Sir, this is something different. What happened to you has nothing to do with the case I’m investigating,” Cassidy explained quickly.
“Yes, it does,” Grigore contradicted just as quickly. “You have to know. I have to tell you.”
Cassidy was beginning to believe that she was speaking with an unstable person. By her assessment of the tenor of his voice he seemed to be bordering on paranoia. She quickly concluded that it was better to let him speak so that she could be done with him.
“I have to know what?” Cassidy questioned with a hint of exasperation.
There was a notable moment of silence before Grigore spoke again. His speech was less hurried, but his voice was shaky.
“We let them out. We did it.”
Cassidy recalled what he had told the Romanian authorities and surmised what he was speaking of.
“You mean the, ah—Strigoi?” Cassidy questioned with a look of disbelief that she was having this conversation.
“The vampires,” Grigore countered with an intonation of alarm.
“Vampires?” Cassidy questioned back with a shake of her head.
“Yes,” Grigore confirmed with a hint of hysterics. “We dug them up. We let them out.”
Cassidy was not prepared for this conversation. It took her a second of thought to determine how she should respond to this assertion.
“Are you saying that vampires are responsible for the murders here?” Cassidy questioned suspiciously.
“Yes!” Grigore insisted excitedly.
Cassidy took a second to consider this retort and then spoke to Grigore in a condescending tone.
“I don’t think so, Mr. Stefanescu, but thank you for…” Cassidy returned with a shake of her head.
“You have to listen to me,” Grigore interrupted with a shrill voice. “I’m telling you the truth.”
Grigore’s interruption freed Cassidy from the fear of offending him. She no longer felt the need to soften her responses. The only thing she felt at this moment was a need to be done with him.
“Listen, Mr. Stefanescu,” Cassidy spoke in a challenging tone. “I’m a New York City Police Detective. I don’t believe in ghost stories and monsters.”
“You will,” Grigore insisted an instant behind Cassidy’s remark.
“And why is that?” Cassidy countered with an inflection of exhaustion.
“Your city is infested with vampires,” Grigore answered with a surprisingly stern delivery.
The dread in Grigore’s delivery took Cassidy by surprise. The thought of hanging up on him was momentarily halted by the intensity of his sincerity. Shortly she reacquired her unstable opinion of Grigore with the thinking that this story was preposterous, but she elected to not hang up on him out of regard for his feelings.
“So, are you saying I should start sharpening wooden stakes and wearing a crucifix, Mr. Stefanescu?” Cassidy questioned with a miniscule of ridicule in her tone.
“You must to listen to me. You must believe what I say,” Grigore insisted with desperation in his voice. “You are in danger.”
Exasperated by the fact that her effort was not dissuading her caller from this objective, Cassidy asked a question she expected to bring this conversation to an end.
“Okay, Mr. Stefanescu, let’s say I believe you. What should I do?”
There was a moment of silence behind Cassidy’s question. At the end of it Grigore gave his reply with a stark one-word answer.
Cassidy took a moment to absorb this dire warning, and then she responded to it with a somber address.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Stefanescu, but I don’t believe in vampires.”
“You will,” Grigore returned gravely.
Grigore’s last response had convinced Cassidy, finally, that this conversation was over. She was no longer willing to entertain the rantings of an emotionally unstable man.
“Goodbye, Mr. Stefanescu,” Cassidy responded with stern brevity.
Cassidy disconnected the call an instant behind her last word. Nothing that Grigore Stefanescu said gave her reason to believe that there was a common cause between the death of her victims and the four bodies in Romania. It had to be a freak coincidence. Shortly after hanging up the phone she relegated the entire conversation to a bizarre incident that was to be forgotten. A short time later Cassidy was asleep in her bed.
Despite the late hours, Cassidy’s internal clock would not allow her to sleep past 8 a.m. the next day. She felt no hurry about going to her parents and retrieving her children. She already knew that her mother and father had no plans for the day. Because of this she decided to use the remainder of the morning attending to household chores. It was shortly before 2 p.m. when Cassidy arrived at the home of her parents to collect Cynthia and John. Margaret promptly invited her to stay for dinner. This offer was motivated by the fact that Cassidy’s older brother and his family were coming for that purpose. Margaret was already preparing a dinner big enough for all under the assumption that Cassidy would stay.
Aaron Tremaine, his wife; Diane, and their children Joseph; 10, Sharon; 8 and Mark; 5, arrived at shortly past three in the afternoon. This was a rare opportunity for Cassidy to visit with her older brother and his family, speaking in comparison to Jared and her parents. Aaron’s home in the Bronx made casual and coincidental meetings between them unlikely. They were never so affectionate toward each other to incline them to visit and reminisce. Their meetings usual came about because of Daniel and Margaret. It was common for them to exploit chance meetings at their parent’s home to reconnect. This was one of those occasions.
“How’s the investigation going?” Aaron questioned.
The kids were outside at this time, and Aaron felt free to bring up the subject now that the adults were comfortably situated in the living-room and fixed with soft drinks.
“Would you believe me if I said it was going okay?” Cassidy questioned back.
It was Cassidy’s belief that everyone expected her to fail. It was this insecurity that prompted this response.
“I probably would have if you brought it up without my asking,” Aaron returned with a smile.
“Those types of crimes are never easy,” Daniel casually interjected.
“Are you talking about those bodies that were found in the Greenbelt?” Diane questioned with a confused expression.
Diane gave little attention to the specifics of her husband’s work. Generally, she took it all in as a whole and then dismissed it. The subject was distasteful to her. Despite this feeling the news of the Greenbelt Nine, and her sister-in-law’s involvement with it, did stick as a memory. It was this recollection that prompted her question.
“Yeah, it’s the only thing I’m working on right now.” Cassidy advised Diane with a look.
“Do you have any leads?” Diane questioned with an inquisitive inflection.
“We’re investigating a suspicion,” Cassidy answered with a noticeable absence of confidence.
“Why were they killed?” Diane questioned hesitantly.
Diane was not sure if it was okay to ask Cassidy about her investigation. Because of her marriage to Aaron she understood that speaking of an active investigation to anyone outside of the family was not allowed. But she did not know if Cassidy was aware of her discretion in this area or if it made any difference to her.
“My partner thinks they were robberies,” Cassidy answered without hesitation.
“But you don’t?” Aaron asked knowingly.
Cassidy gave the question a moment of thought before answering with an absence of conviction.
“It doesn’t feel right.”
“Trying to understand why these people do what they do is a waste of time,” Daniel grumbled out with an air of indifference.
“I hear you went to a few clubs last night. Do you think that something is going on there?”
Aaron’s inquiry was motivated by the needs of the conversation. He was not particularly interested in the state of Cassidy’s investigation, and he doubted that she would give him all that she was doing.
“There is support for that thinking,” Cassidy returned. “But we haven’t been able to find a club that connects these nine victims.”
“You wouldn’t,” Daniel disputed with an I told you so inflection. “Those killings are the work of some random nutcase. He’s a stranger. Somebody that nobody knows.”
“I don’t think so,” Cassidy returned in defense of her investigation. “I think they all knew this person, and I think they trusted him or them.”
“Them? You think that it was more than one person?” Diane asked with a look of surprise.
Still in a defensive mode Cassidy answered this inquiry with more than a hint of resolve.
“I think it might be.”
Aaron was still taking it all in with only a casual interest. He did not share his father’s disfavor for Cassidy’s chosen profession or for the detectives in general. He was aware of this ongoing dispute between his father and his sister, but it did not involve him so he gave it no attention. His curiosity about the case is what prompted him to ask another question.
“Do you at least know what happened?”
“No, not a clue.” Cassidy responded with a shake of her head. “We’re still waiting on forensics for that.”
“I take it that you have no information on their movements,” Aaron assumed with a questioning inflection.
“The missing person investigations did the footwork on that,” Cassidy explained with a look of puzzlement. “There’s no record on where they were going or how they were planning to get there.”
“MTA, taxi…?” Aaron inquired with a shrug.
“They weren’t dressed in clothes that suggested they were traveling by mass transit,” Cassidy returned. “I suppose it’s possible, but the missing person investigations found nothing on CCTV to confirm it. A couple of the victims had cars, but they were found at the residence of the victim. And there’s no record of calls for a taxi or dispatches to the residences of the victims.”
“So, someone picked them up,” Aaron questioned more that stated.
“That’s the prevailing theory,” Cassidy answered back.
Aaron was a little surprised that he did not get a definitive answer to his last inquiry. After a pause to display his confusion, he asked a question with a suspicious inflection.
“No eye witnesses?”
“A couple, but one is not sure he was seeing the victim and neither had information about the car other than it was dark colored sedan.”
Aaron went silent after this answer. He did not know what more to say or think about Cassidy’s investigation into the Greenbelt Nine. Shortly into this silence Diane seized the moment and asked a question with an expression of surprise.
“You don’t have any suspects?”
“I have some people of interests,” Cassidy confessed with some show of reluctance. “But I haven’t been able to find a way to make them fit the crime.”
“But you think they could have done it?” Aaron spoke in a questioning manner.
“To be honest, it’s more likely that I’m just trying to find a way to attach a strange group of people to a bizarre crime.”
“What’s your next step?” Aaron continued with indifference.
“Tomorrow I’m going to interview more friends and family members of the victims and hope that I can find something that connects these nine people.” Cassidy explained with a hint of a shrug.
Diane was intrigued by Cassidy’s strange group of people. The subject had taken on the flavor of a murder mystery within her mind. The fact that Cassidy made no mention of them in her plans for tomorrow prompted her to inquire about her plan for them.
“What about your strange group?”
“I’m in the process of peeling away their life story as we speak,” Cassidy explained in a matter of fact manner. “I should know by the end of the day tomorrow if they have any criminal records or were a person of interest in any crimes. And I will continue to look into their backgrounds, but if I don’t find something that sends up a red flag then I will have nothing to support further investigation.”
Diane was a little disappointed in that answer. This strange group of people had captured her imagination, and she had some hope that there was some secret to be uncovered there. Cassidy’s response deflated this hope a great deal, and she settled back into the reality of the moment and inquired no more about it. The other family members could think of nothing more they could query Cassidy on about this subject either. It was clear to them all that she had nothing concrete to say about her investigation and all thought it best not to dwell on it any longer. The conversation moved to a new topic and never returned to the Greenbelt Nine.
It was approaching nine o’clock at night when Cassidy stepped back inside her home with Cynthia and John. She shortly put the children to bed and then followed them into slumber. When she awakened, it was Monday morning. She went into her day as she had done a hundred times before. When she arrived at work, early as usual, she started her day by reading through the E-mails that had accrued since she last viewed her mail box. She was not long into this when the translated Romanian police file from Dr. McCullough came to her attention. With some reluctance, she decided to read through it. This was done out of a need to be thorough. She had, by this time, abandoned all thinking that there was any relevance in it to her investigation.
“Good morning bright eyes,” Alan greeted as he walked up to his desk.
Cassidy looked up from her computer monitor and noted him with a smile and a “good morning.”
“So, what’s on the calendar for today?” Alan questioned as he hung up his coat.
“We go back to questioning friends and family and try to find something that connects these victims.
“Sounds like a plan,” Alan endorsed with artificial optimism.
Alan sat down behind his desk and had just turned on his computer when he took notice that Cassidy was reading something that had her deep into concentration.
“What are you looking at?”
Alan’s question awakened Cassidy from her study. She gave Alan a quick look and then turned back to her monitor as she responded to his question.
“I’m reading a translated version of that Romanian file.”
“I thought we abandoned that as a possible lead,” Alan returned with a look of surprise.
“We did,” Cassidy spoke back. “But it’s here so I’m giving it a look through.”
Alan acknowledged this answer with a nod of his head. He turned his attention to the E-mail in his own mail box. He was nearly a minute into this when Cassidy told him that she had gotten a call from Grigore.
“He called you?” Alan questioned with a stunned expression.
“I think Janice referenced me when she did a search for indentations that matched what she found on our victims.”
“What did he want?” Alan queried with a look of curiosity.
“He wanted to warn me,” Cassidy answered with smile and a slight shake of her head.
“Warn you of what?”
“He says New York is infested with vampires,” Cassidy returned with a smile.
“Vampire, vampires?” Alan questioned with a look of incredulity.
“That’s what he said,” Cassidy answered with a shake of her head.
“So, he’s telling us to start looking for Dracula?” Alan questioned with a shrug.
Cassidy gave the question a nod as she continued to read. Alan turned his attention to his own E-mails so that she could do this without disruption. The silence between them lasted for several minutes. At the end of this time Cassidy snatched up her phone and dialed out.
“Dr. McCullough,” Janice announced after bringing her desktop phone to her ear.
“Janice, this is Cassidy, in one of the pictures there is writing on the cave wall, but I can’t find a translation for it.” Cassidy questioned without hesitation. “Where is that?”
“The pictures in the Romanian file?”
“Yeah, there’s some writing on the cave wall in one of the pictures, but I can’t find a translation for it.”
“The Romanian authorities probably didn’t think it was important enough to notate the translation into the file,” Janice reported with an air of disinterest.
Cassidy was immediately confused by this explanation. It took her a moment to conclude what it suggested.
“So, the writing isn’t Romanian?”
“No, it’s Latin,” Janice explained in a matter of fact manner. “Whoever wrote that was probably alive when the Roman Empire stretched across Romania.”
“Can you find someone who can translate it?” Cassidy questioned.
“I’m sure I can dig someone up, but why?” Janice questioned back with an inflection of curiosity. “It’s just a two-thousand-year-old scribbling on a cave wall. What relevance could it have to the case.”
“Someone took the time to photographic it,” Cassidy answered passively. “I want to know what it says.”
“Okay, I’ll find someone who reads Latin and get back to you,” Janice advised.
Cassidy hung up the phone behind her last remark and went back to reading. She abandoned the file after several minutes more of study and then turned her attention to Alan.
“Are you ready?”
Alan was just finishing up on his E-mails when he responded. He concurred that he was ready to continue their investigation. They shortly readied themselves to leave for another day of questions and answers with the acquaintances of the Greenbelt Nine when Alan brought up an observation from one of his E-mails.
“I noticed that the background checks on those six Cavern Nightclub regulars you spoke of didn’t find anything. Are we crossing them off the list?”
“Not yet,” Cassidy answered as she slid her second arm into her trench coat.
“Why not?” Alan questioned out of curiosity. “There’s no police records concerning them, no arrests, no warrants, no investigations. There’s not even a speeding ticket on any of their records.”
“Yeah, but I still find something odd about them,” Cassidy returned with a look of contemplation.
“What’s that?” Alan questioned as they began to move toward the exit to the room.
“I don’t know,” Cassidy responded with a look of confusion and a shake of her head.
Alan gave this a moment of thought and then responded to this answer with a look of resignation.
“Well, here’s my opinion for what it’s worth. I think investigating the six of them is a waste of time.”
“You could be right,” Cassidy acknowledge as they moved into the hallway. “But I can’t shake the feeling that something is off with them.”
“What?” Alan questioned with a stunned expression. “Name me one thing that is out of place with any of them?”
“That’s just it,” Cassidy returned with a more confused expression. “They’re too clean. Their names don’t come up anywhere.”
“There’s nothing uncommon about that,” Alan challenged.
“Not for one person,” Cassidy countered. “But I would expect to find a black mark on at least one of them—a minor notation, a ticket, a jury summons, something.”
“Okay, maybe that’s unusual,” Alan began in a conciliatory tone. “But I wouldn’t call it odd.”
“You want odd?” Cassidy questioned back with a hint of defiance in her tone. “Try this. All six of them were born in the same year.”
“What’s odd about that?” Alan disputed. “They probably met each other in high school or college.”
“No, they didn’t,” Cassidy quickly disputed. “They grew up in different states, and they attended different colleges. And now here they are all together and the best of friends.”
Alan gave this a moment of thought before giving it a one-word response.
Alan and Cassidy gave no more conversation to this subject for the remainder of the day. Cassidy was not convinced of her position and Alan could not dispute that the coincidence of their mutual birth year and super clean footprints was not peculiar. For the rest of their work day they tracked down and interviewed seven more friends or family members of the Greenbelt Nine. Despite this effort, they found nothing to connect the nine victims other than their nightclub hopping pastime. They returned to their precinct and their desks with nothing of interest to show for their efforts.
Alan was not at all dejected by the failure of this day. He was not expecting any great discovery to arise. He believed that anything of significance would have popped up in the first twenty-four hours of this investigation. Experienced taught him that evidence was either there to be immediately discovered or not there at all. He had long concluded that this case was in the latter category. For Alan, this was just another day of accrued work hours.
Cassidy was in a different frame of mind. She hated that another day had passed without a break in the case. This was not because it was an unusual event. Investigations that did not pan out were not uncommon occurrences for any detective. What made this failure especially disturbing to Cassidy was the feeling that she was on the clock with this case. This investigation felt like a personal challenge.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Alan assuaged. “No one expected you to solve this case.”
“I expected to solve it,” Cassidy lashed back at her partner. “You can sit on your ass and wait for retirement if you want, but I still have two more days and I will figure this out.”
Alan was not hurt by Cassidy’s offensive and angry outburst. Life, for the most part, was something that he took in his stride. He understood that Cassidy’s anger reflected how she felt and really had nothing to do with him. He had no doubt that her words would shortly give her feelings of guilt and forgave her as soon as she said them.
“I will see you tomorrow, Detective,” Alan entreated with a smile.
Cassidy was still in the heat of her anger and could not bring herself to produce a pleasant response. After a moment of silence Alan turned away and exited the squad room. Cassidy continued to mope at her desk for a minute more. At the end of this time she grudgingly got up to leave. She was in the 122’s parking lot, and a few steps away from her car, when her cellphone began to ring. She promptly pulled it out of her coat pocket and answered the call.
“Hi, Cassidy, this is Janice. I hope you don’t mind me calling after hours, but I just got the translation.”
Cassidy was at first confused by this declaration. She had already been through the translated version of the Romanian police file and did not understand why Janice was bringing it up again. It took her a moment to remember the writing on the cave walls.
“Oh, the cave walls,” Cassidy acknowledged with a startled articulation.
“Yeah, I thought you wanted that,” Janice returned with a hint of confusion in her tone. “You made it sound important this morning.”
“I wouldn’t use the word important,” Cassidy corrected. “I was annoyed that it was there and there was no translation for it.”
“Well there is now,” Janice returned with an upbeat intonation. “I sent it to your inbox just now, but I can tell you if you want to hear it.”
“What’s the translation, Janice,” Cassidy directed.
“This is not a word for word translation and the pronunciations and accents for the names are probably off,” Janice qualified beforehand. “But it reads like this: ‘I, Christian Domitius Norbanus, declare before man and god my undying love for Constance Ofella. 817 A.D.’ Can you believe that? It’s a twelve-hundred-year-old love note.”
Janice concluded her report with a grin. Cassidy was surprised rather than humored by this and had no reply. After a few seconds, Janice filled in the silence.
“Apparently, the dark age of Romania had its share of Romeos,” Janice suggested with a grin.
Cassidy found nothing amusing about this translation. Her feelings on the subject was very much to the opposite. She gave voice to this feeling a moment later.
“He loved her,” Cassidy returned as though she was speaking to herself. “He knew he was going to die, and his final thoughts were of her.”
Janice took note of the seriousness in Cassidy’s tone and brought her own speech closer to her level.
“I suppose it is sweet,” Janice pondered out. “Who would have thought there were men like that back then.”
“I was beginning to think there were never any men like that,” Cassidy mumbled back.
“You know what your problem is, Cassidy,” Janice began with a lecturing intonation. “You’re a romantic. You have to learn to take men as they come.”
“No, I don’t,” Cassidy corrected with finality. “Thanks for the translation.”
Cassidy disconnected the call an instant behind her last remark.
Griff’s Place was a sport’s bar that Alan frequented after work. Prolonging his time away from home was his primary reason for doing this. This was not the result of any hostility between his wife and himself. He and Helen Mercer were looking forward to his retirement. They were making joint plans to travel the country and the world. His visits to Griff’s Place had more to do with an absence of passion. Over the twenty-seven years of their marriage they had become comfortably apathetic toward each other. Because of this Alan’s hunger for social interaction, Helen’s indifference to his absence and the concentration of people that he knew at this bar, this location became a popular after work destination for him.
When Alan walked into the bar he was greeted by several people, one after the other. Each welcome alerted another of his presence. There were a couple of jests made at his expense and one serious inquiry regarding the disposition of his one and only investigation. He entertained them all with humorous retorts and casual indifference. He shortly made his way to a section of the bar where two other detectives were seated. He positioned himself at the end and commenced to join in on their discourse. He maintained this society for the better part of a half an hour. At the end of this time the two detectives took their leaves and set off for their homes. Alan stayed behind and contented himself by watching the sports news that was on display in the monitors in front of him.
“Do you mind?”
The question came from the attractive young lady that had been sitting at a table across the room from Alan. He had noticed her sitting there as did all the other men in the bar had. Her presence inside Griff’s Place seemed out of place. Alan had never seen her before, and most that came to Griff’s were regulars that he had seen before. She also looked to be too well adorned for a Monday afternoon. There was no large office building in the vicinity. At one time, he entertained the idea that she was a school teacher. This thinking was fostered by the fact that she was engaged in a prolonged study of something on her computer tablet as she nursed a white wine.
“Ah, not at all,” Alan responded as he gave a head gesture to the seat next to him.
Alan gave no consideration to the idea of saying no to the young lady, but it did seem odd to him that she wanted to sit next to him. There were other open seats at the bar. A few of them would have provided her with an open seat to either side of her. He briefly gave thought to the idea that she was coming on to him and dismissed it in favor of the thinking that she was interested in what was being aired on the TV monitor in front of him.
“Are the Yankees any better this year,” the young lady softly questioned as she leaned Alan’s way slightly.
The question took Alan by surprise. Her interest in baseball was expected, but her willingness to converse with him on the subject was not. His mind went back to the thinking that this move to his side was about him and not the television. Flattered by the idea, this renewed consideration of this position had him momentarily at a loss for a reply. He shortly dismissed the thought as wishful thinking and became amused by his own gullibility. With a smile on his face he produced a reply.
“Who knows? To hear these guys tell it we’ve made some improvements, but half the league has made improvements too.”
The attractive young lady gave Alan a pleasant smile in reaction to his reply. She then turned back to her wine and gave it a sip. After a brief silence, she spoke to Alan again.
“Am I correct in believing that you and your friends are police officers, or is this a misinterpretation?”
The fact that this young lady had listened in on his conversation had Alan newly amused by her attention to him. His revised suspicion was that she wanted to talk to him because he was a police officer.
“Yes, we are,” Alan confirmed with a nod.
The young lady gave Alan a broad smile in response and then submitted another question.
“So, am I in a police hangout?”
“Our precinct is nearby and a lot of us like this spot,” Alan explained after making a half turn toward the young lady.
In response, the young lady leaned forward onto the counter and a little in Alan’s direction. A moment behind this she asked another question with a smile.
“What kind of police officer are you?”
“I’m a detective, second grade, homicide,” Alan answered without hesitation.
The young lady continued to hold her smile through Alan’s answer and put a new question to him an instant behind his reply.
“Homicide, I’m impressed. Are there a lot of homicides in your precinct?”
“We are a little above the national average,” Alan answered with a seemingly automatic delivery.
“So, you must have multiple cases that you’re working on?” The young lady leaned in to question while holding a winsome smile.
“No, I only have one right now,” Alan returned an instant behind and with a slight shake of his head.
Alan could not stop himself from giving direct answers to her questions. There was something about the way she spoke, or the way she looked at him, that made him feel compelled to give answers.
“Really, I would love to hear about this case,” the young lady sweetly professed.
In the past talking about his work with civilians was taboo with Alan, but for some nebulous reason that his mind had trouble cogitating into clarity, this rule did not seem to apply to her.
“We’re investigating the Greenbelt…”
Alan was cut off from his reply by a sweetly spoken interjection from the attractive young lady.
“No, Detective Mercer. Tell me while you drive me home.”
“Okay,” Alan agreed with an automaton delivery.
Alan then got up from his seat, paid his tab and escorted the young lady out of Griff’s Place with a look of hypnotic obedience.