The Carseat in the River: Part Five

The Carseat in the River: Part Five

               As soon as I was cleared for the case, the captain called for a squad meeting. Everyone except the desk jockeys, the rookies, were asked to sit in.

               When we were all seated, the chief stood at the front of the room, hands folded in front of him, lips turned down and eyes grave.

               “Now, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think I need to tell you just how urgent this situation is.”

               Silence met this declaration, and Luna, sitting next to me, grabbed my hand and squeezed, as if to remind herself that I was still there beside her.

               “Now, we have little to go on. Any forensic evidence was washed away when the carseat in question was thrown into the river. And we don’t want to alert the public yet; rumors are already spreading.” He frowned, running a hand thoughtfully through his goatee.

               “I’m going to divide you into groups to tackle different aspects of the case. Luna and Ella, I want you to do another search of the crime scene, see if anything was missed by the first team. Take one of the forensic techs with you.” I nodded, happy to be given something to do.

               “Mensch and Emerson, you two are to canvass the neighborhood around the marsh. See if anyone saw anything suspicious on the days before the carseat was found.”

               Emerson, sitting in the back, nodded silently. I was glad that the captain had paired those two together. Avery Emerson didn’t screw around; she took her job seriously and was one of the best detectives I’d met anywhere. She would keep Kit in line.

               “All of you on desk duty, I want you to comb through all recent missing persons reports, Amber alerts, anything that looks like it might be related to our case. No detail is too small. We need to start piecing things together, and quickly. There’s someone who might be living in this very town who did something horrible. Unforgivable. The sooner we catch this bastard, the better.”

               His voice was calm, but his neck and face swiftly grew red, a vein beginning to throb in his temple. The captain didn’t often lose his temper, but things like this got to him. Hell, he had a wife and two kids at home, a son and a daughter, and he adored all three. So clearly, I wasn’t the only one rattled by this.

               “All right, everyone, dismissed,” He said, and went to Kit and Avery, telling them where to start looking. He was calming down, I thought, but then I saw his clenched fists.

               One of my favorite things about my boss was that he cared. He didn’t just sit at his desk, barking orders. He was always in the thick of everything, always involved. It made him a damn good cop.

               “Come on, Ells, let’s head over in my car,” Luna said, smiling at me. I could see the relief all over her face, and I knew that she’d been just as afraid as I had been, that I’d be boxed out and excluded.

               A forensic tech named Gabby walked over, smiling shyly. “Can I tag along?” She asked. It didn’t matter that the Captain had ordered someone from her department to come along; the girl was so quiet and timid that she was half-afraid of her own shadow.

“Of course, you can, Gabby,” Luna said, and I smiled at her, trying to be friendly. Like Kit, she was brand-new, fresh out of college and eager to get into the field. Though she was practically a ghost, she was a good kid who wanted to help people.

               Pretty good reason to get into this line of work, in my opinion.

               Luna insisted on stopping for coffee on the way over. Even though she’d had the day off, she’d insisted on coming into work, telling the Captain that all hands were needed on deck, all-nighter or not.

               “I’m exhausted,” She moaned as we pulled up to the window. “Of course, an urgent case had to pick up as soon as I pulled an all-nighter.”

               Luna bought coffee for all three of us: two iced coffees with extra espresso shots for all of us, and hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream and sprinkles for Gabby.

               “Thanks!” Gabby chirped at Luna, grinning as she took it from me. She took a sip and her eyes lit up; evidently, she had a sweet tooth.

               **

               We drove out to the marshes, where a large section had been taped off with yellow police tape.

               Despite the croaking of frogs, the quiet rush of the river, the birds calling and the insects singing, a pit of dread opened up in my stomach. It was all too easy for my imagination to fill in the gaps, and I shuddered, trying to appear normal. I’d been included in this by the skin of my teeth, and if it got back to the Captain that I was losing it before we’d even begun, I’d be back on desk duty quicker than you could say ‘Miranda rights’.

               “Are you okay?” Luna asked me, putting her hand on my back. Much to my own surprise, I flinched away from her, spooked.

               “Ella?”

               Gabby was sitting in the backseat, looking between us, eyebrows drew together, but she said nothing.

               “I-I’m fine,” I stuttered, putting my coffee in the cupholder and unclicking my seatbelt. I couldn’t crack up now, not after I’d worked so hard to be included. I had no choice but to keep calm.

               Frowning, as if she knew what I wasn’t telling her, she unbuckled and put her coffee down, climbing out of the car. Gabby scrambled after us, grabbing her bag of tools.

               I set off toward the taped-off area, making sure to put on a pair of gloves before I got close. Things were already fucked up enough without any foreign DNA involved.

               It turns out, though, that there was a clue waiting for us. Something that had been felt behind.

               “Guys,” Gabby said, moving close to the bank. “Check this out. I think the first team missed it,” She added, and her face was pale green, as if she were about to be sick.

               In her gloved hands, she held up a ribbon, bright purple, stained brown with looked like blood.

**