More corrections this week as I didn’t have an ounce of time to add to the story this week….
“How did she die?”
The question hung in the air over the people surrounding the cold steel table upon which a body laid covered in a white blanket. The medical examiner pushed his thick glasses up his nose with a latex-gloved finger before replying in a disinterested voice, “Looks like a mugging. Stabbed in the back eight times and then whatever she had on her was taken. She was found beside a car in the Summer Hill Mall parking lot.”
The man that had asked the question rubbed the day’s worth of stubble on his chin, “Eight times? Sounds like something more than a mugging Doc. No mugger than I know of would spend the time to stab his or her victim that many times. Too easy to be seen or get caught.”
Doc looked back at him before shrugging, “You want facts Tom. That’s all we have here. Nothing else to say about her. Eight wounds with a knife or similar object. No sign of other harm to her. Before you ask, no signs that she was raped either.” He turned away from the table and stripped off his gloves, “Just the usual senseless crime in the big city.”
After Doc left the room, Tom stared at the body for a while. It didn’t make sense. Why her? She was nobody. Nothing special. She probably had a family and he would have to see them next. That was the part he hated most of all. Having to walk up the lawn or path or whatever. Knocking on the door. The person opening it for a moment with hope in their eyes that their loved one would be there waiting. But instead they would see a middle-aged brown haired and brown eyed man in a rumpled suit flash a badge, ask to come in and then a little while later leave the home with wrecked lives in his wake.
He sighed and grabbed the clipboard that held her ID…
And came to an abrupt halt in his thoughts.
There was nothing there. No name. No address. No other ID. Nothing.
He was mulling over in his mind the procedures for filing a Jane Doe report, when a woman’s voice broke into the room from behind him, “We’ll look after her from here, thank you.”
Turning to look over his shoulder from his right he answered, “She’s a Jane Doe. My file. You have…”
He found himself looking at a woman about his height. She had short blonde hair in a bob cut, blue eyes. Slim of build. Cute in her own way, he supposed. She was holding a folded piece of paper in her hand, “Paperwork. I’m here to claim my Sister.” She handed him the paper as two burly men in dark suits entered the room behind her.
Tom didn’t bother to open the paper. There really was no point. They would not have managed to get into the room without having the paperwork to do so, nor would they be able to leave with the body if they didn’t. He watched her go over to the table, lift the top of the sheet from the body, then with a nod say to the men, “It’s her.”
They wasted little time then, within moments they had moved around both himself and the blond before taking hold of the table and rolling it out the door.
As she turned to follow the men pushing the table from the room, Tom called after her, “I’m… sorry for your family’s loss.”
She hesitated in mid-step before replying without looking at him, “Are you really? Or are you just parroting the words that your regulations say you should say officer?”
Tom found himself unable to bring himself to say to her that it wasn’t just words. That he hated his job. That he hated not being able to find the ones that did these things and bring them to justice. Instead he said to her, “Not all words are lies Ma’am.”
Her answer gave him pause, “No. No they are not. But neither are they all truths either.”
He watched her open the small blue purse she held. For a moment, she seemed to be considering her next actions carefully, as if she was about to reveal something that she was not sure she had the right to. A small white card appeared in her hand a moment later. She looked at it before placing it on the countertop to her right, “If you want to attend her services, they’ll be at that address. Tomorrow. Nine in the morning.”
With that she pushed through the door leaving Tom in the room alone with his thoughts, the buzz of the lights, and the card on the table…
And the question in his mind of whether or not he would or wouldn’t…
Tom picked up the card and stuffed it into his inside pocket of his jacket without looking at it. That decision could wait for the moment. Pushing through the door that led out of the room, he turned down the hallway and entered Doc’s office.
Doc’s office was not what you would expect from a medical practitioner. Every other doctor you would ever meet had their diplomas on one of the walls. Books neatly placed on bookcases. Files waiting for them on their desk. All of the stereotypical things you would expect. Doc was not the norm. Doc’s office consisted of a wall of filing cabinets on one side, his mass purchased steel desk opposite to that, and on the wall to your right a single photograph in a frame.
That photograph was of a young Doc with his arm around a cute red head with blue eyes. They looked happy together. Tom always wondered about that picture and what happened to make Doc the old crusty pain in the ass that he was today.
Doc was sitting behind the desk, a bottle of some cheap dime store beer to his right, his concentration on a file in front of him as he wrote something there in the chicken scratch that was common for doctors around the world to use.
Tom took the chair on the other side of the desk and then said, “It’s early for having a beer Doc.”
As he put his pen down and reached for the bottle the answer was, “Nightshift rules Tom. Whatever helps you make it through the shift.”
Tom frowned but didn’t push Doc on this. Doc was one of the few people that still tolerated him. Not quite a friend mind you, but at least Doc would listen. He said in return, “Our Jane Doe was claimed. She was rolled out of here a few minutes ago.”
Doc just about choked on his beer, “Claimed? I wasn’t told? Who released her?”
Tom blinked, “Err… I did. She had paperwork and…”
With a slam of the bottle on his desk Doc said, “Gimme the paperwork Tom.”
It took a moment to draw it from his suit before handing it over still folded up. Doc opened the paper and then shot him a look, “Did you look at this Tom?”
A shake of his head was the answer…
Doc tossed the paper at him as he reached for the phone on the desk, “Nice paper. No work.”
Tom blanched as he looked to see that the paper was… Empty. Blank. Nothing.
Just like Jane Doe herself.
It took a short time, but it became clear that whoever had claimed the body, had gotten out of the building unopposed and unseen. What was more frustrating was that parts of the surveillance cameras in the building would randomly turn off and then back on again leaving gaps in their coverage.
Doc pointed a finger at Tom, “You have any ideas?”
Tom didn’t hesitate, “Nothing. Didn’t give me a name or anything. I figured that a woman and her muscle wouldn’t get down here without clearance, so I didn’t think to challenge her.”
With a grunt, Doc turned back to the phone dismissing Tom…
Which was fine with him.
He stood up and walked from the office heading towards the elevators. After pressing the button for the main floor, Tom fished out the card she had left on the counter. He almost expected it to be as blank as the sheet of paper she had given him. Why didn’t he look at it? He should have. At the least he should have asked for her name or Jane Doe’s name. Something.
Finally the card was in his fingers and he considered the address printed there in a cold formal font…
S. Realm Enterprises, 69 69th Street. We make dreams.
The bell sounded as the elevator doors opened.
Tom had an appointment to keep in a few short hours and some answers to get from that woman over this…
Tom didn’t go directly to the address on the card. No, that wouldn’t be proper if there was a funeral there–especially not at four in the morning. First he went back to the small unremarkable apartment that he called home. He had lived in the place for just over 12 years now.
Exiting the subway he crossed into the first rays of the sun pushing their way into the concrete jungle that was his city. A sort walk with the warmth of the sun on his back brought him to his small apartment. It was a simple basement apartment that he could slip in and out of at all hours and not bother the people that he knew were his neighbors but whom he had, in all truth, failed to get to know.
Moving down the twelve steps from the street to his door he fished out his keys and then rammed one of them into the lock. For a moment he dwelled on the past and why the place meant as much to him as it did.
That could be summed up with one word.
With a grunt to push the memories away, Tom opened the door to discover the small calico cat that was the last living thing in his life to connect him with her. She purred questioningly at him and he replied out of habit, “Yeah. I know. Look like crap and smell like it too, right?”
His answer was a flick of the cat’s tail and then it walked away no longer interested in him for the moment. Much like he was with the world today for some reason that didn’t matter right then.
The floor creaked as he tossed off the clothes he’d worn that morning. Fishing around in his hall closet, he found his funeral suit, shoes and tie and changed into that.
It didn’t take long. Before leaving again, he tore open a tin of cat food, filled the old porcelain dish that was the cat’s and left some drinking water before leaving again, catching a cab and heading off to… Somewhere else again…
The cab came to a rough stop as Tom heard the cabbie grunt, “69 69th Street bub. Nine-fifteen plus the tip for the fare.”
Tom looked out of the window with some surprise. 69 69th Street was… odd.
This was one of the more fashionable, modern parts of town, with gleaming steel and glass buildings, corporate logos plastered all across them. The typical chain stores with their signs screaming at people to buy something within their doors…
But not 69 69th Street… No this place was, well, calm. Quiet. Unassuming. Among all of the rushing around, this building was a throwback to earlier times in the city, a brownstone four story building set back from the curb a short way. The windows gleaming in the sunlight made whatever was within invisible for the moment.
Tom paid the cabby and then started towards the wrought iron fence that marked the edge of the property. As he walked along the cobblestone path towards the front doors, the odd thought came to him that it was like following the yellow brick road. Amused, he wondered if that woman that he met in the morgue was named Dorothy or not. He noticed that, to either side of the path he walked, there were a series of park benches and trees for shade in the small space that had been carved out…
He then registered the fact that there were no people sitting on them or milling around. If there was a funeral to be held here or at least a remembrance of someone shouldn’t there be people here waiting to enter or at least trying to comfort each other? Or did he mishear the time of the gathering, being either too late or too early for it?
Either way he was here and time was ticking away…
Taking the four steps to the front door, he noticed the bronze nameplate of the company by the door and the little buzzer and speaker to call for assistance.
Which he pushed.
The speaker crackled and a somewhat distorted female voice asked, “Yes? Can we help you?”
Tom was going to start with the usual lines that all police gave, but then remembered the conversation he had with that woman and said, “I would… if it is possible, like to pay my respects to a sister that passed away…”
There was a short pause and then the voice replied, “One moment please and someone will let you in…”
It was a short wait of perhaps five minutes before the thick wood door was opened and, to his surprise, the blonde who gave him that blank note in the morgue stood there. She didn’t seem at all surprised to see him, although, for a moment, she brushed her hands to smooth out the black silk dress she wore before greeting him with, “Good morning. Please do come inside.”
Tom shot her a look, but accepted the invitation and stepped over the landing…
And just about lost his breakfast as he did. For a moment he thought that he was going to leave a wet chunky spot on the carpet, but then the feeling passed and he found himself looking at the blonde as she shut the door and locked it again.
He coughed and then was about to read her the riot act, arrest her and take her downtown when he realized that they weren’t alone…
And there was a funeral or wake or something going on.
The immediate area around him was filled with couples milling around talking in hushed tones. Several of them were looking in his direction and that of the blonde with looks that ranged from disinterest to bemusement to… desire?
The blonde gave a little cough to get his attention and added with a nod of her head, “Will you join me in the sitting room please?”
Tom was torn for a moment between hauling her away and getting more out of her, but finally decided that it all looked legit in his eyes. Making a scene at a funeral would not go over well, and he wasn’t sure but he thought that a few of the people in attendance were city officials… high up ones.
Very calmly, Tom replied to her in a low voice, “Lady. You have no idea just how much trouble you have created. Where’s your sister? I’m going to have to take her back to the morgue. She was attacked and there is an investigation going on. You can’t…”
The blonde shook her head and then with a nod, offered, “Please. Just come over here into the waiting room with me? We can discuss this there and I’ll try to answer your questions…”
Tom finally gave a grunt of agreement and then followed her away from the crowd deeper into the building.
She led Tom towards a white trimmed doorway in the wall that opened into a good-sized room. It was not your typical business waiting room with year old magazines and hard cold plastic chairs. No, this place was class. Cherry wood furniture, bookcases filled with what looked to be expensive writings, a large ornate rug in the middle of the room and a small fireplace in the wall that was unlit for the moment.
Taking a seat in what looked to be a Victorian high-backed chair, she waited a moment before asking, “Would you like a seat?”
Tom shook his head, “No thanks. Lady, you are in all sorts of trouble.”
Turning to him she said, “I’m sorry for misleading you, but there was little time and I didn’t have a choice in the matter.” She smiled a bit, “My name is Camilla Addison. I’m sorry that I didn’t introduce myself when we first met, but I wasn’t prepared for you to be there. Might I know your name as well?”
Tom offered in return, “Thomas Selleck.”
Camilla placed a hand over her lips and attempted to not giggle as she managed to get out, I’m sorry. It’s just that…”
Tom nodded and allowed a small grin, “Yeah, I know. My mother was in love with the television show, but my dad wouldn’t let her name me Magnum… It’s an ice breaker at parties, however, when I have a fake moustache on…”
She placed her elbow on the arm of the chair and then put her head against her hand, “I’m sure it would be Thomas.”
He turned serious again, “Miss Addison, you understand that you have broken several laws with what you have done and I will have to arrest you for them.”
She just smiled, “I don’t think there will be a problem.”
Tom was getting frustrated and it began to show, “A missing body, a theft, and you think there won’t be a problem? Why would that be, Ma’am?”
Camilla explained, “I am sure that whatever is needed to make that issue disappear is being looked after as we speak Thomas. My… group is not without it’s resources and connections within city government and the powers that be in your city.”
He paused to consider that and then said, “Group? Are you suggesting that you are part of the Mafia or something illegal?”
The oddest smile came with the words, “Not the Mafia, and nothing that your rules would see as illegal as such Thomas.”
He had the feeling he was being played with, much like when his cat would tease a mouse before killing it. The frustration grew as he answered, “We should continue this discussion downtown Ma’am.” Tom was not happy with the situation and found himself falling back on his training to try to take control of the situation– if he had ever been in control of it from the moment he had met Camilla.
She shook her head and replied, “I think that will not be where we need to go next Thomas.”
He gave her the obvious reply, “And just why would that be Ma’am?”
A new voice came into the room behind him, “Just because.”
Tom spun around and just about fell over from shock…
Standing there, in a red dress, was Jane Doe… very much alive and from the look in her eyes, not exactly happy with what was going on…
It was her. One hundred percent Jane Doe, complete with mid-length curly red hair and green eyes. He found himself thinking that she looked better in the red than under that white sheet in the morgue. Tom’s next coherent words were, “What the hell is going on?”
Jane replied coldly, “That’s a good question isn’t it?”
Camilla shot her a look, “That’s enough. Show some manners when we have a guest here.”
The reply was a snort of derision.
Camilla tapped her right hand on the arm of her chair before she sighed, “Have a seat Thomas. She’s not who you think she is.”
He took the chair to her right still in shock. He was absolutely sure that this was Jane Doe. That he had seen her on the slab. Dead. But there she was angry and looking for trouble. With a sigh Tom ran his fingers over his chin as he attempted to gather his thoughts. In doing so he managed to reply, “Must be the end of the world. Dead people walking the streets.”
Camilla reached out a hand to touch his arm and explained, “Identical twins. We always had a problem telling the two of them apart. finally got to the point where we made them get tattoos…” A short nod in Jane’s direction, “Mind you, her sister was not as frustrating to deal with.”
The glare in Jane’s eyes made it clear that she didn’t like Camilla. Nor, Tom thought, that she thought much about him either.
Tom couldn’t believe that she was right. This was the Jane Doe in the morgue. The face, the hair; It was her all right he was sure. Identical twins? Weird things did happen, but this was just out of the ballpark. Still he found himself asking her, “So what’s your name, then? Can’t be Jane, can it?”
For an instant, she seemed to be considering her answer very carefully. The look in her eyes of barely contained anger didn’t change for the seemingly endless moment before she came to a decision. Uncrossing her arms, she put them behind her back and then shifted her hips a bit before answering, “You can call me that if you like.”
Tom wasn’t sure at first if she was playing him or not. When someone was being evasive they looked guilty, nervous, unsettled. Jane looked as if she was ready to snap someone in half if they weren’t careful what they said or did.
But somehow calling her Jane felt right. Whether or not it was her real name was another question. He figured that he could et something out of Camilla or that, when he took the two of them downtown, there would be some real answers given. Still, he couldn’t do that right this minute, and so he glanced at Camilla, “Are you all this helpful when it comes to answers?”
Camilla chucked, “Ask a direct question and you’ll likely get a direct answer Thomas…”
He pondered that as he looked at Jane standing there, unconcerned with him, the police, it seemed, or anything else.
Save the anger within her that was almost like a black cloud hovering over the room.
Seeing that she wasn’t leaving, he took that to mean that she would answer more questions from him. Tom decided that it was in his interest to get some basic information out of her, so he sorted out the questions he wanted answers to, picking out the ones that were quick and meaningful. Then he said, “Jane it is, then. What’s your sister’s name? The one who was lying in the morgue and Camilla and the goons took out last night?”
Jane didn’t flinch as she answered, “Patricia.” And not another useful word came from her after that to ant of his questions. But it was obvious that there was a great deal of hurt in her eyes, hurt that was feeding her anger. Tom found himself deciding that as odd as the story was so far, there didn’t seem to be a lie in it he could touch. It was also obvious that Jane was hiding something from him that he would need to figure out.
Rubbing his chin Tom mumbled to himself, “Magnanimous women will be the death of me I’m sure.”
Jane smirked and offered, “You never know what the future brings. Patricia didn’t.”
Tom managed to bite back what he wanted to say, which was that she should get off her high horse and try to be less of a bitch and more of a human being. He found himself looking at Camilla and thinking, “I wonder how she’s related to her?”
Camilla saw him look at her and began to explain, “Jane… has been out of the country for a while. She came back early this morning after we sent word a few days ago that Patricia had gone missing. She arrived shortly before you did Thomas, and…”
Jane finished the sentence, “I was told she was dead. A wonderful way to return to family isn’t it?”
Tom couldn’t argue that point either.
Camilla told Jane firmly, “The detective is here to look into what happened.”
Jane actually rolled her eyes before giving him a dismissive wave with her right hand, “So you are here to investigate why she was killed then? Or are you here just to make waves in our lives?”
Tom gave her a hard look as he answered, “You want tidal waves lady? Just setting aside what happened to your sister, what you people did in the morgue is a no-no. She was taken from the morgue improperly. There is an investigation going on about that. It’s not my problem but I’m here because I am involved in it. Now, your sister is my case, and maybe I can figure out what happened and why and find the one that did this. That’s why I’m here. I have to start somewhere and…”
He looked at Camilla, “…You were good enough to leave me the clue to this place at least.”
Jane gave a little snort of derision, “Police. Useless beyond words.”
He managed not to growl out the words, “Lady, I don’t know where you were and I don’t give a damn either. This isn’t some two bit country in the middle of nowhere. Patricia is my case to solve, and I’m going to. I’m not going to let this just slide by into the unsolved case files, and you know why?”
Jane just watched him in silence until he answered with a smirk, “I have my reasons.”
Camilla chuckled at his words before saying as she clapped her hands softly, “Touché…”
Tom was about to start asking some pointed questions of them both when there was a soft cough from the hallway. Standing there patiently was a man of the cloth. He looked like the sort of man that you’d like to have as your uncle: a kind face; eyes that held the glimmer of mirth and joy he carried with him; the stature of years of listening, understanding, seeing and helping; a life filled with the joy of doing good work wherever he was needed to be.
He carried a small, old book that Tom took to be a Bible in his left hand — a hand well weathered with time and doing the work of his life. But it was also clear that his hands were the source of comfort as well as guidance where it was needed. He didn’t command the room with his size. No; that, it seemed, was not his way. It was more his easy smile and welcoming stance but, most of all it was just the calm understanding that surrounded him.
He smiled pleasantly to them all before saying, “We’re going to be starting the service in a few moments. Would you care to join us?”
To Tom’s surprise, both women replied in soft voices with deference to him, “Of course. We’ll be right along.”
He nodded at the reply and then said to Tom, “You are welcome to join us as well, mister…?”
Tom stood up and then offered his hand, “Selleck. Thomas Selleck.”
The twinkle in the pastor’s eyes became a little more mischievous as he accepted the hand and gave it a firm shake, “You need a mustache.”
Tom chuckled, “Thanks for the tip. I’ll get right on growing one in the morning.”
The minister laughed in return, “Excellent. We need something to smile over. Patricia would be mad as all get out if there wasn’t some joy here today.”
Then. with a pat of Tom’s shoulder and a wink, he disappeared down the hallway. Tom watched him leave before he commented to the two women in the room, “Seems like a good man.”
Camilla had stood up and offered, “The best. Come on. He’ll be disappointed if the whole family isn’t there.”
Jane turned away with a last scowl at Tom before vanishing into the hallway. He looked at Camilla and said, “Well, I suppose she’s on my not friends list.”
She slipped her arm around his and said, “Well, maybe I can be on your friends list instead?”
He replied to that with, “Tell me the truth after this. Explain to me what the hell is going on and you go to the top of the page Camilla.”
She seemed to be thinking about that for a long time as she stood beside him. Then mysteriously she said, “The truth just is Thomas. You just need to be able to see it for what it is.”
As they left the room, Tom found himself wondering what kind of service it would be…
They followed the crowd towards the rear of the building. As Camilla led the way, Tom attempted to fit what he had so far into some kind of explanation of what was going on.
That wasn’t turning out to be simple.
What he had so far was a dead body that was going to be out of his reach soon. A woman who took that body illegally and didn’t seem to be concerned about the problem with the law she now had. A sister of the deceased who was an identical twin. One who he hoped wasn’t going to take the law into her own hands.
Tom sighed and mumbled under his breath, “A beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
Camilla answered, “Yes it is.”
As Tom turned to explain, they passed through a white marble archway and into what seemed to be a courtyard behind the building. The first thing Tom noticed was that there were trees. lots and lots of trees. Looking up, he found that, with the exception of a small open space in the middle that showed the blue sky above, there was no view up, out, or around the place. It was as if the buildings surrounding the brownstone had vanished and been replaced by trees. He expected to hear the sounds of the city coming through the greenery, but, instead, all he caught was the occasional low conversation from people here and there as they milled around, and the sound of wind in the tree branches making them rattle in the air.
Camilla replied with that odd smile she had, “It usually is.”
Looking around, Tom saw that there were a series of chairs placed from the back of the brownstone towards the middle of the space. Tom figured something like fifty or sixty people could fit in the space comfortably. Then he saw it. A casket made of cherry oak, past the rows of chairs ahead. Camilla maneuvered Tom along the side to the line of mourners giving their respects. As the two of them came closer to the casket, Tom was surprised by what was there.
A grey calico cat curled up beside the casket on a small chair. He looked at it for a moment, noting that some of the people would stop by the cat, offer a few quiet words, and then move off to find a place to sit. He was about to ask why the cat was there when it was their turn to pause.
Tom watched as Camilla twined her fingers together and bowed her head before beginning to whisper to the casket. He didn’t catch all of what she said. Just the occasional words… “Hope… someday…. remember… missing you already… be fine.”
Tom simply looked at the casket and closed his eyes after a moment. He didn’t speak the words but just thought to himself, “Rest well Patricia. Not giving up.” Then they moved away in the next moment. But Tom stopped to give the cat a gentle scratch behind its right ear and received in return a low purr. Tom recognized it as the same purr his cat made when it was content. It raised up its head and then looked at him with a pair of odd blue eyes before it’s tongue darted out and licked the palm of his hand once.
Camilla said with some surprise, “I’ve never seen her do that with anyone but Patricia… Usually she’s a lot meaner.”
Tom answered as he drew his hand away, “Just good with cats I guess.”
A young man serving as an usher came over and guided them towards the last row of the chairs and then indicated where they should sit. After getting settled, Tom asked Camilla, “How big is the family anyway?”
She replied again with that smile, “We’re all here.”
Then Tom saw Jane pausing at the casket for a moment. When Jane went over to the cat, there was a low hiss and Jane glared at the cat before walking away to take her seat. Tom leaned over and whispered to Camilla, “I see what you mean about the cat.”
Somewhere around them all, a chime sounded. Then another. And Another. To Tom’s ear it wasn’t quite wind chimes, but something very old and meaningful which seemed to catch everyone’s attention making the conversations come to an end and the attention of all turn to where the casket lay. As the chimes ended, the mourners rose, Camilla nudging Tom to his feet with her elbow.
Then the minister walked down the center aisle accompanied by a woman with long wild raven colored hair that reached most of the way down her back. She was wearing a flattering black dress and a wide brimmed black hat that covered most of her face from Tom’s view. But he was able to pick out the woman’s red lips and slightly tanned skin. It was obvious that everyone but he knew who this was from the nods and whispered words of sympathy.
“Odder and Odder”, Tom thought as he watched the scene. He wasn’t sure who this woman was, but there was no doubt that she was important. Patricia’s Mother? She seemed too young. More questions and mysteries to pick at…
With some help from the minister, the woman found her place in the front row, and after a word with her and a nod, he left her there and took his place beside the casket and the cat.
Placing one hand upon the casket he began to speak…
((Yes I know this is a bad place to stop, but I have to work on the next part more than I have))