Chapter 10:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 87

After their conversation with Bennett they had tried to find Hummel at the convention center somewhere. If he had been involved in embezzling from the charity, maybe he could confirm the arrangement he had with Bennett for them. It was also possible he had more to say on the issue that they couldn’t get from Bennett. Unfortunately the man was nowhere to be found.

 

So Cooper and Larson just left the banquet and once again she headed towards Pearland to drop Larson off at his house. The half an hour it would take to get there gave them plenty of time to discuss the case.

 

“Do you know who it was that tipped you off about the embezzlement?” asked a curious Larson.

 

“What?” Cooper replied back with a confused look on her face.

 

“That friend of yours that called when he told you about the evidence suggesting embezzlement… did he say who tipped him off that something might be wrong?”

 

“He didn’t say.” Cooper was caught off guard for a moment by his question. She didn’t want to have to explain to Larson that she was working with someone that was using a means of investigation that was ‘technically’ illegal. And ‘technically’ she told the truth.

 

“Ah… so there was no whistleblower after all.” He concluded.

 

 He knew that if this friend of hers that called her and told her there was evidence that someone was embezzling from the charity, her first action would have been to ask where he got his information. She was, after all, a detective. And any detective worth anything in the city would instinctively ask questions like that about new information. If she didn’t even bother asking the question at all, it meant she already knew the answer.

 

“Yeah, there wasn’t one.  But it shouldn’t matter, we have the facts.” Cooper said. “Or at least Bennett’s version of the facts.”

 

“Do you have a reason to doubt his story?”

 

“He didn’t really strike me as an honorable man.”

 

“It would be easy to make a few calls and confirm everything.”

 

“And I plan on doing that, but for now he’s still looking really good for this kidnapping.”

 

After the conversation she just had with Bennett, she was almost certain he was the guy that was behind this. There was hard evidence putting him in the general vicinity as David at the same time he was abducted. And when they confronted him about it he suddenly got very secretive and didn’t want to answer the question.

 

“I don’t think he’s the guy.” Larson said.

 

“After everything we heard from him you think he has nothing to do with this?” Cooper couldn’t believe Larson didn’t think he was involved.

 

“Exactly.” he began to say. “Think about it. The theory is that out of a petty disagreement with Alan Woods he decided to kidnap him in order to undermine the award ceremony. If he decides to commit the crime himself, does he risk keeping his phone on? That seems like a rookie mistake.”

 

“Maybe he just wasn’t thinking and forgot to turn his phone off before committing the act. He’s not exactly a seasoned criminal. It certainly doesn’t mean he’s not our guy.”

 

“That’s not the only thing that bothers me about all of this.” Larson continued. “When you questioned him earlier you bluffed him into admitting that someone had embezzled money out of his charity. The only reason it worked was because he was afraid of the bad publicity that would come from an investigation, right?”

 

“I’m with you so far.” Cooper nodded in agreement.

 

“But then when you questioned him about the phone call he received that placed him within a mile of David’s house, he didn’t want to address it and dared you to call his lawyer if you wanted to pursue the issue further. If he had any information to offer about David, why wouldn’t he give it to us to get to prevent his charity from receiving bad press like he had before?”

 

“But if he was completely innocent, what is he doing out in the middle of the night that he doesn’t want to explain to the police?”

 

“There aren’t too many reasons to be out at that time of night. I assume it’s something he just doesn’t want to become public. It might be illegal, or it might just be embarrassing. But he’d rather risk an investigation than let it get out.”

 

She let out a sigh of resignation. “I guess you’re right. I still want to eventually talk with Roger Hummel and maybe even Alan Woods again and see if I can ask him more questions. I have a feeling that whatever is going on, the charity is involved in some way.”

 

“Speaking of questions, I haven’t forgotten about our arrangement.” Larson said.

 

“What arrangement?” The moment she finished her question she remembered the agreement she made with Larson to get him to help her in the first place and sighed again, this time in frustration.

 

“You owe me two answers.” Larson said.

 

She wasn’t even sure what two contributions to the case he was counting, but she didn’t feel like arguing that the number should be higher or lower. “Ok, shoot.”

 

Larson decided to take a few moments to decide what questions would give him the information he wanted in the most efficient way possible. He had already learned that she hadn’t communicated with her father since she was a teenager. He could conclude based on that that there must’ve been some event in her past that made Amanda Cooper turn her back on her father.

 

That’s when he thought of the perfect question to ask.

 

“When did your parents get divorced?”

 

It was a simple enough question designed to narrow down the list of possible reasons behind Amanda’s animosity with her dad. If her parents got divorced when Amanda was a little kid, then it was likely that the anger she had came from something the late Captain had done to his wife. But if the divorce happened after Amanda left the house, then that meant it was some action he had done that specifically to her.

 

“They didn’t.” Cooper answered.

 

“That’s not possible.” Larson said.

 

“That they didn’t get divorced? Why?”

 

“Because when he was alive, he was never seen in public with another woman and he never referred to a significant other. He must’ve gotten divorced before he became Captain of the Homicide Division.”

 

“You can check yourself if you want. He died a married man. And he left everything to his wife. His house, his cars, his pension… everything.” Cooper said. She put a little extra anger into that last sentence; something that Larson immediately noticed.

 

Why did she sound angry that he left all of his stuff to his wife, thought Larson. Simple jealousy didn’t even make sense because all of those things would trickle down to her when her mother died anyway. Besides, Amanda Cooper didn’t sound like the type of person to be driven by greed.

 

And he still couldn’t wrap his head around how the late Captain Cooper stayed married yet his wife as far as the public was concerned was non existent. The media loves to pry into the private life of local celebrities. The fact that he was married definitely would’ve come up.

 

Maybe he had been separated from his wife through the entirety of his career as a law enforcement official. No, Larson thought, if that were true then he probably wouldn’t have left everything to her in the will. In either case, there was one thing he did learn from her answer and that was that the animosity between Amanda and her father was strictly between the two of them.

 

“Why did you become a cop, then?” Larson asked.

 

“Is that your second question? That’s a little too vague for me to answer.”

 

He decided to clarify his point a little further. “Your father was basically a local hero. The things he accomplished in his career are certainly things to be proud of. And it would make sense to want to follow in his footsteps. But for someone like you who doesn’t want to acknowledge that he exists, that certainly doesn’t make sense now does it? So what inspired you to want to become a detective?”

 

Cooper seemed to mull over what her answer would be. She seemed reluctant to say anything, but after all she did agree to play this ridiculous game before hand and it wouldn’t be right to try and get out of it at this point just because she didn’t want to answer the question.

 

“My father was a Marine before he was the Captain of the Homicide Division. I never really saw him growing up. But every day my mother would tell me about the great things he was doing for our country. And you can’t help but be proud.  From that moment on I knew that I wanted to live my life helping people in need like he did.”

 

“So you are saying he is the reason you became a cop?”

 

“Well, not exactly. Because at a certain point you come to the understanding that the things you blindly believed when you were young were stupid in hindsight. I eventually grew up and realized that everything wasn’t nice and sunny like I thought it was. But once I got to that point, it was just my nature to want to help people. That’s the real reason I became a cop.” Cooper said.

 

 The way she spoke it sounded like there was some truth she realized eventually that completely changed the way she saw her father. Now it was only a matter of finding out what changed, Larson thought. Larson was certainly no stranger to the idea of a local celebrity having a secret that would completely undermine the public’s perception of them. Isn’t that how it usually worked?

 

“What about you?” Cooper asked.

 

“What about me?” Larson repeated.

 

“You obviously are good at this detective thing. Probably better than most detectives around. I hear that you went into retirement a few years back. You are under 40 so it wasn’t because you felt you had put enough years on the job. You clearly still have that investigative bug in you given your interest in grilling me about my family. So why aren’t you still working with the police?”

 

“It’s a long story.” Larson answered even though it wasn’t. Cooper knew it wasn’t either. But unlike Larson, she didn’t feel the need to turn her curiosity into an annoying game. So she just dropped the subject.

 

--------------------------

 

The next day at work she learned that there had been almost no updates in the investigation into the murder of the headless man that had been dumped by the bayou. No leads had turned up an ID. No one had reported someone matching his description as missing.

 

They were working on recovering data from the faded receipt, but their initial attempts had only lead to information that couldn’t be used to ID a specific store. They were able to determine that the receipt had come from a major convenient store chain and also see some of the items as well as the time they were purchased: 11:18 pm two nights ago.

 

If they had a database for convenient store receipts like they did for fingerprints, it would be easy to just scan the receipt and find out exactly where it came from. But since they didn’t it was up to Cooper to call every one of those stores in Houston and ask them to fax or email over all the receipts from purchases made at exactly that time. This task took her over an hour to complete.

 

Just as she finished the last call, Lieutenant Anders arrived at her desk glaring at her in silence until she put the phone down.

 

“Can I help you?” Cooper asked, hoping against all odds that she wasn’t the reason for the scornful look he was showing.

 

“For the second time in just as many days, I’ve received a complaint about you.”

 

Cooper froze, immediately recalling everything that happened the night before. Nothing she did was over the line was it? Why would someone go as far as to register a complaint?

 

“Go on.” she said.

 

“Something about being at a charity banquet and flashing your badge around.” Anders said. “Was that you?”

 

“There’s nothing illegal about going to a banquet and asking a few questions.”

 

“That’s not even the best part.” Anders continued, “Because they told me they were from a charity called Houston Foster Aide and that you came to the event asking about some kid. And I thought to myself, ‘why does that ring a bell?’”

 

Cooper had a feeling about where this conversation was going, but all she could do was ride this thunderstorm out.

 

“That’s when I remembered the complaint about you yesterday. The one you denied having a part in where apparently someone used your name and claimed to be from social services? Turns out the complaint was filed by a foster parent. I dug a little deeper and their two kids are major participants in Houston Foster Aide. I’ll ask you one more time…” He paused and moved a little closer to Cooper for effect. It was his go-to intimidation move.  “…did you have anything to do with the complaints filed either today or yesterday?”

 

Cooper wouldn’t be able to talk her way out of this one, so she decided to fess up. “I’m sorry I lied to you the other day.”

 

“No, you are sorry you got caught.” he said, still trying to stay on the aggressive. “This wasn’t about exposing an affair then wasn’t it?”

 

That’s right, Cooper recalled, he assumed because the complaint was about someone accusing Nate Parsons of cheating on his wife that that was the reason I must’ve been over there.

 

“It wasn’t. What happened was that some little girl came in and told me that her brother had been abducted. I was investigating for her.”

 

“Why didn’t you just report the crime through the normal channels?”

 

“Because I heard her story, it was shaky at best. She said she heard a noise coming from the other room in the middle of the night and when she woke up the next morning he was gone. He had a history of running away, so any normal cop would just assume the same and close the case.”

 

“What makes you think this isn’t a case of a runaway?”

 

Cooper remembered what Ashley said about his brother always telling her before he would run away for the weekend so that she would know not to worry. He hadn’t done that this time, so this had to be an abduction, right?

 

“Call it a cop’s instinct.” She said, and when she realized that he wasn’t buying that answer added. “Look I was doing this on my own free time after I was done with my police duties for the day so I don’t know why this is such a big deal.”

 

“It’s a big deal because if the city gets sued because of something stupid you did then I can’t protect you from the consequences.”

 

“Hiding behind the rules is bullshit and you know it. I’m doing the right thing here! Everyone wants to look the other way and easily accept the fact that this is a case of a runaway kid. I just want to look a little deeper, and on my own time no less. Why am I getting reprimanded because I care about my job more?”

 

“It’s nice that you care more, but I can’t tell that to a judge when you cross the line and it gets you in real trouble.” Anders said, calming down a bit. He realized that Cooper at least had good intentions when she decided not to do something by the book. So he wanted to level with her a little bit. “You’ve been at this case on your free time for two days now. Have you found anything we can use to open an official case?”

 

“Not really.” Cooper said in a bit of a dejected tone.

 

She had a few inklings here and there. The fact that anyone would complain about her questioning them last night was usually proof that they were on the right track, but that wasn’t enough to open an official case.

 

“Then I’m going to have to respectfully ask you to stop.”

 

“You know I can’t do that, Lieutenant.” she sad

 

“Don’t make me do this, Cooper.”

 

“How long have you known me? You are telling me to abandon some kid who is asked me for a favor just because it’s not completely on the up and up. I can’t do that. I made a promise and I plan on keeping it, so I’m not going to back out now. And it’s only out of respect for this department that I’m not going behind your back again to work this case on my free time.”

 

“That’s your problem Cooper. You get too close and you don’t know when to stop.” He said. When she didn’t immediately respond he was left with no choice. “Give me your gun and badge. You are suspended indefinitely.”

 

By now all the other detectives in the room had caught on to what was happening and stopped what they were doing to watch the argument. She could’ve made a big show in front of her peers like they do in the movies, but instead she just calmly pulled out her badge and gun and placed it on her desk. Then she walked out as if she were normally getting off work.

 

On some level she understood what had to happen. She did lie to the Lieutenant initially about what she had done at first, so a suspension was expected. But she didn’t like it.

 

The department was so full of rules and guidelines that restricted people from doing real police work. Those rules were put in place to stop rogue detectives from using their authority for their own selfish means, and they served that purpose well. But they also prevented her from helping people that would normally get overlooked by the system.

 

Cooper wondered if it was all worth it. She remembered Alan Woods’ story about how he initially struggled to start the charity he founded, but through hard work and perseverance he was at a point in his life where he made a real difference in the world. He didn’t have to answer to anyone either. If he wanted to use his own resources to help find a child that had mysteriously disappeared, he didn’t have to make sure it was okay with his boss.

 

Just as she got to her car, her phone rang. It looked like Andre had something for her.

 

“Your timing is perfect, Andre. Have any good news for me?” Cooper needed something good to help brighten her mood a little.

 

“It depends on what you consider good.” Andre said. “I think I might’ve just broke the case though.”

 

“You’re serious? What did you find?”

 

“Roger Hummel is apparently hard to get a hold of. He doesn’t have a home number and his cell phone isn’t being answered. So I was trying to think of creative ways to find the guy. So I looked at his credit history hoping to find some kind of pattern that would give us an idea of where he might likely be at a certain time.”

 

“So you found out his favorite hangout basically?”

 

“Oh no, I completely struck out on that angle. But I found that he recently bought twenty different bus tickets to twenty different locations all scheduled to leave around the same time tonight. Do you know what that means?”

 

Of course she knew what it meant. It was a common tactic for a person who knew that their credit card activity might eventually be looked at by the police to purchase a bunch of tickets so that the police would never know where he was really going.

 

“Hummel is on the run.” 


Submitted: June 04, 2013

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