A blog where Stephanie M. Belser test-drives her fictional stories.
Expect the occasional
"stall, spin, crash & burn".

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 8

NB: I am going back from time to time to review and revise what came before. The chapters that are posted will reflect those revisions of the earlier story line, but I will not be uploading the revisions. So if you read a chapter that doesn't quite hang with the earlier ones posted here, that is why.

Chapter 8

Lena had created a small spreadsheet so that she could keep track of the FOIS letters she had sent out and the response received. Most of the state and local government agencies had made their peace with the requirements for freedom of information and disclosures and complied. Those that didn’t eventually came around because the statute granted the requesting party the right to have their attorney’s fees paid by the losing government body if the requesting party sued. After the fourth or fifth county found themselves paying a couple hundred thousand dollars for both sets of lawyers, word got around.

Soon, Lena began sending out follow-up letters to the agencies that had not responded. Those letters quoted the FOIS, reminded the agencies of the “you lose, you pay” provision and included a copy of the original letter. That pried responses out of almost every agency left, until the only agency who had not responded was the state forestry service. That told Lena something, but she didn’t know what.

When it came right down to it, private investigating was a sideline for Lena. But then again, it was for the other handful of men who did that kind of work in the Northern Kingdom. Most of them were either retired cops who were trying to supplement their pensions or process servers. Lena was both the only one who was also an active lawyer and the only woman who did investigations.

Oh, there were a number of young folk, children really, who did store detective work, or as they preferred to be called, “loss prevention specialists”. That was pretty marginal work, it barely paid better than flipping burgers down at the Barf-N-Go. Still, that gave the kids experience in testifying in the two percent of the cases where the shoplifters were too stupid to not take a plea bargain. And it likely looked nice on their applications to get on a police force somewhere.

Lena had that impulse burned out of her. She had been a reserve Grover City cop during her last year of college. She went full-time for three years, then went back to reserve duty when she went to law school. There were things that she had seen as a cop, evil things. Things that she would have refused to believe that people could do to each other, if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes.

She had told her grandfather about them, just once, not too long before he died. he had sighed and said: “Ah, Lenochka, if only you could have talked to your great-grandfather, just once, about the Civil War. He could have told you stories about what he saw people do to one another that would have curled your hair and turned it white.” In Lena’s family, the “Civil War” was the one just after the First World War in the old Russian Empire. She knew that her great-grandfather regarded the American Civil War as little more than a polite skirmish.

But regardless of what Great-Grandfather Ivan might have thought, what she had seen had blasted her. The day that she was sworn in as a lawyer was the day that she walked into her sergeant’s office, handed him her service revolver and shield, and left the job. The only thing that surprised her was how many of her fellow officer privately told her that she was doing the right thing.

One of the things that she had to do today was to place a call to Mrs. Johnson. She had told her that this investigation would be slow and tedious, that investigations are not quick, not like they are on TV or in the movies. If the killing of Jasper was a methodical and deliberate act, then Lena would have to be just as methodical to smoke out the murderer. Mrs. Johnson was not terribly happy, but by the time that Lena finished the call, Mrs. Johnson had a better idea of the sheer amount of legwork that this case was taking.

Lena then turned to on compiling the responses to her letters to all of the different law enforcement agencies. As she had started out to do, before she was so rudely interrupted by a would-be burglar, she eliminated from consideration every shooting that took place at short range, was more or less self-caused, or for which the shooter was known to the victim. None of that information was trashed, for like every decent lawyer, Lena kept every bit of information that she received.

There were seventeen cases that initially met her threshold for further review. Where a lead investigator was listed, she placed a call. Of those, maybe half of the investigators were still working. The others had retired, died, quit or moved on to other law enforcement jobs. Almost unanimously, the answer that she received was on the lines of “this is an active file, go screw yourself, peeper.”

That simply would not do. She flipped through her phone listings and found the one for State Police Captain Ed Drake. Ed had been on the Grover City force when Lena was there. She had known him to be a decent cop, although he had moved over to the staties seven months after she had been sworn in. She left a message with Ed’s assistant that she needed to talk to Ed about an interesting matter. The assistant called back three hours later and said that if Lena could be at the state police headquarters at 2pm in two days, that “the Captain” would be happy to buy her a cup of coffee. Lena accepted the time.

Lena had it in mind to get up early that day, drive down and do some serious shopping. She wasn’t much for “retail therapy” or for fashion, for that matter. It was own that the one thing she missed about being a cop was the uniform, for that meant that she didn’t have to spend any time thinking about what to wear each day to work. Flying down would have been more enjoyable, but then she would have had to rent a car for several hours. Better to just drive.

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