Chapter 3:

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

Reads: 75

And just like that, she had promised some little kid that she would find her brother for her. Police officers were told early in their careers never to make promises. It gave hope to the citizens and it was something the detectives might not be able to deliver on. Cooper didn’t operate like that though. She gave Ashley a promise because she wanted this little girl to know that everything in her power was being done to bring her foster brother back.

 

Most officers when confronted with this scenario felt a sense of overwhelming responsibility, but instead she felt a rush of energy wash over her and it was something she was used to it. The feeling she got every time she found herself in a situation where someone needed her help and she realized that she was the only one in position to do anything about it.

 

But on top of that, it was something she was good at. She wasn’t just an ordinary citizen that went out of her way to help others. She was a Detective of the Houston Police Department and it meant she had the resources as well as the skills to get results. That was why her friends and colleagues usually turned to her when they were in a real bind.

 

When one of her friends needed a person to step in and tell an obsessive guy that he needed get take the hint and get away from her, or when a bully was bothering one of their kids at school, Cooper was usually the one that got called in to help. Even something as simple as helping someone move. Cooper had the ability to organize and assign everyone involved to a task that would get the job done fast.

 

Finding a 16 year old kid was a different deal altogether. Now, she had found plenty of lost kids at major events around the city before. But this was on a much larger scale. Looking for a lost kid in the middle of a parade isn’t that hard because there is only so far he could have gone in such a short amount of time. David Romero was taken from his house and could be anywhere.

 

But the initial steps were the same. Step one was to check all the places on the list that Ashley gave her. The list included friends and favorite hangouts. Cooper didn’t think that he would likely be there, but she still had to cover all the bases. So after dropping Ashley back off at her house, she immediately visited all of those addresses. Fortunately for her people had already gotten off work so there was always someone at every place she went to. And after knocking on each door and explaining who she was and what she wanted to know, the people answering the door were actually pretty nice about telling her what they knew. Unfortunately it wasn’t much.

 

Cooper struck out on the first step of the process, which meant she had to move onto the second step. If this were an official HPD case she could use the police databases to their fullest extent and have an extra officer or two to do help do the legwork of tracking leads and gathering information. But this wasn’t an official police investigation, and if she used police resources to help find this kid she risked her boss catching wind of what she was doing.

 

But she wasn’t completely out of luck. She had resources that weren’t affiliated with the police that she could tap into. Sure, those resources might’ve been a little less… ethical than others, but they were still effective and she’s used them before even when conducting official police business.

 

The person she was looking for lived in an apartment complex. She had been there enough times before so finding the specific apartment was easy, and she knew he would be home because he worked out of his apartment. She knocked on the door, heard a voice from inside say it was open so she turned the knob and walked in.

 

“Hey, Man-man! What’s up?” said Andre, the owner of the place.

 

“Hey, Andre.” Cooper casually greeted Andre from the doorway. “Wait a second… what did you just call me?”

 

“I’m just trying out a new nickname.” Andre reluctantly answered.

 

“Well, try again.” Cooper stepped through the hallway and went further into Andre’s place.

 

She had been here a few times in the past but she was always overwhelmed by the place when she visited. There wasn’t a light-bulb on in the place. The only light in the entire apartment came from computer monitors and LED strips that were placed on the edges and corners of the room, making the room look like something out of the Matrix or Tron.

 

On one side of the room he had wall-mounted six giant computer monitors in two rows of three. Nearby on another wall he had the exact same arrangement. He didn’t have a computer desk like most people did, instead a keyboard and trackball mouse that were both on a tray attached to the bottom of the middle computers of his set-up.

 

On the opposite side of the room he had shelves filled with computer and electronics equipment: everything from processors, motherboards and video cards to switches and routers. All of the wires from these machines were carefully organized and concealed along the bottom of the walls and the machines themselves were somewhat hidden. Only a few LED lights and the low hum of the computer fans blowing on each processor and video cards could be sensed by an outside observer as clues that each of the machines were actually running.

 

“So… po-pos need my help?” Andre asked.

 

“It has nothing to do with the police.” Cooper clarified. “But I do need your help.”

 

“Ok. Shoot.” he simply said.

 

Andre was a genius programmer by day. He ran his own small software company and made a decent amount of money to live off of. But by night he was a hacker. He wasn’t the type that tried to hack someone’s bank accounts to steal money. He was more of the activist type that exposed bad people’s secrets to try and ruin them. But his actions were definitely illegal, and the things he did made a lot of wealthy people mad. So if anyone ever connected the actions he did to the person that did them, he would be in deep trouble. As a result, he was a little paranoid when it came to authority.

 

Andre was forced to deal with the police one time because of a case where he came up as the result of a lead in a murder investigation. They brought him in for questioning and as luck would have it, Amanda Cooper was the one doing the interrogation. For awhile it looked like he was their number one suspect. But Cooper found the evidence to clear his name and catch the real bad guy.

 

Ever since that moment, Cooper had earned the trust of Andre and he has been Cooper’s go to guy when the regular methods of investigation just weren’t cutting it. Cooper knew that Andre wasn’t like a lot of greedy hackers and liked that he cared about the big picture more than hitting it rich by taking advantage of someone else. And at the same time, Andre liked that Cooper did what it took to get the job done, even if it wasn’t by the book. The two of them had worked well together when she got his help for a few cases.

 

“I need help finding a 16 year old kid.” she began.

 

She went on to explain the whole story. She went through all the details: that a foster kid had gone missing in the middle of the night and he wasn’t at any of his usual hangout spots. She told him everything, including the fact that his foster sister was the one who came to her with the problem.

 

“Have you tried looking into the runaway army?” he asked.

 

“The what?”

 

“The runaway army.” he repeated as if it were obvious. “The government recruits runaways at a young age to use as cheap military soldiers. They are perfect since they have no more family connections so they aren’t missed if something happens to them.”

 

“There is no such thing as the runaway army. Nothing like that exists.” Cooper explained.

 

“Of course no one knows that they exist, the government gives them new identities.”

 

Andre, because of his paranoid personality, progressive philosophy and activist lifestyle, seemed to see conspiracies more often than the average citizen. To him he was just finding truth where some people were too blind to look or see the big picture, but to others it sounded like he was crazy.

 

“Is that kind of like how they used to say kids would run away and join the circus?” Cooper asked, trying as hard as she could to keep a straight face.

 

“That makes no sense whatsoever.”

 

“I guess not.” Cooper could have continued the argument but instead decided to redirect the conversation back to her problem. “In any case, I’m not sure he ran away, even. The girl that came to me for help swears up and down that he wouldn’t have run away without telling her. So maybe something happened to him. I just want to know if there is some way you can track him.”

 

“There really isn’t much I can do. I could find all of the information you want on David Romero. He probably doesn’t have much of a record but I’ve gotten more with less before. The problem is I don’t know if any of that would help you find the guy. It might give you a few leads to check out if that.”

 

“There isn’t anything you else you can do?” Cooper asked.

 

“Maybe I could try the runaway army angle and see what I came up with. It’s possible I catch a lead before they give him a new identity.”

 

“Wait… you can do that?” Cooper wondered. By ‘that’ she meant infiltrate non-existent government programs.

 

“They might be a secret government organization, but I know their secret and they don’t know I know. That gives me the advantage.” he replied.

 

Great, she thought, so while he’s looking into an obvious dead end. I’m without a plan to find this kid.

 

“Is there anything I can do while you are doing that? I have to be more careful about using my police resources. This has to be completely off the books. So if you have another idea that might help me out, ANYTHING at all, I’m all ears.”

 

“Actually, I know of a guy that might be able to help you.” Andre said. He started navigating through his computer at lightning speed, clicking buttons and furiously typing on the keyboard. Then something printed out from a device nearby.

 

“Oh?” Cooper replied with some enthusiasm. She couldn’t wait to hear this person that could possibly help her with the case.

 

“I remember he used to consult directly with the police before. I think he might be retired. I haven’t heard from him in a while but I think he’s still in town.” Andre explained. “Here’s his phone number and address.”

 

“So how do you know him?”

 

“I don’t.” Andre admitted. “I just like to keep tabs on the different people that work with the police. He fell off the radar a long time ago but before that he was really involved with the cops before that.”

 

“You say he retired?”

 

“Or he’s off the books for some other reason. Maybe he’s going undercover.”

 

“Right…”

 

“…or maybe the Feds got to him because he saw something he shouldn’t have.” Andre casually added. Cooper tried to find the words to reply to that statement but thought it was just best to leave it alone.

 

“I’ll try to get in contact with him right now. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.”

 

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

 

Cooper drove to the address that Andre had given her. The place was in Pearland, a suburb on the southern side of town. Pearland over the past decade was one of the fastest growing suburbs in the state of Texas and had grown to be one of the major areas of the Houston metropolitan area. Year by year, more and more strip malls, convenience stores and shopping centers crowded the main commercial streets of the town. New subdivisions were built to house new residents of the town, replacing the acres of horse pastures and farmland that existed before. For this reason, there was a lot of clashing of new and old in the city.

 

If someone went a block off the main roads they would see the dense residential neighborhoods that most middle class families lived in. Going further out they would pass the newer subdivisions, most of which had just been built in the past twenty years. A little further than that was the outer area of the town that had been relatively untouched by the rapid growth that the city had taken part in.

 

That’s where this guy lived; the outer part of town. Cooper was able to match the address she had been given with the number on the mailbox. The house looked good for its age but obviously a bit run down. The dark red paint on the wooden siding had long since chipped at some places, but everything for the most part was still standing and intact. From the outside it looked like your average single story, one bedroom house.

 

As she turned into the gravel driveway, she could see the garage at the end. Someone was working on a car inside, probably the owner of the house and the person she was looking for. The guy’s hair was a little scruffy, like he hadn’t combed it in awhile. She guessed that he was in his thirties. Otherwise he obviously took pretty good care of himself. He glanced in her direction when he noticed that a car had pulled into his driveway and parked. She got out of her car and begun to address the man.

 

“Thomas Larson?” Cooper asked.

 

“Who wants to know?” he replied.

 

“I’m a detective with the Houston Police Department.”

 

“You guys think I killed someone?”

 

“No, no, no. I’m here because I might have a job for you.” she tried to explain. “You used to consult with the police on cases right?”

 

“Yes.” Larson replied, eying her suspiciously.

 

“This isn’t an official police case, and it’s actually rather simple.” Cooper said. “But because I can’t use any official police resources I’m looking for people with experience helping out with investigations that aren’t associated with the police anymore. You were on the short list of people to contact.”

 

Cooper didn’t tell him that he was the only one on the list, and that if he declined she would have a really hard time finding another person that could help. She didn’t want to give him that bargaining chip to use against her if she didn’t have to.

 

“Well, I have time. I’ll listen to your proposal.”

 

“Ok.” she breathed a sigh of relief before explaining to him what the facets of the case were. “It’s basically a kidnapping case. A 16 year old kid disappeared from his house last night, and we’re trying to find him.”

 

She went into more detail about the case. For the second time in only a few hours she went through her point by point breakdown of everything Larson needed to know. She didn’t leave anything out in an effort to sell the job to him. She didn’t know who this guy was, but she knew that if she were to build some trust with the working relationship the best thing to do was to be honest and upfront.

 

“You are wasting your time you know.” Larson said.

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Because he wasn’t kidnapped. You are going to be investigating a case and there will be nothing to find. Therefore, you are wasting your time.” He put it simply.

 

Cooper was speechless. She couldn’t believe he could be so overtly negative about her case. And he didn’t even try to beat around the bush; he just said what was on his mind. He must’ve read the look of surprise on her face because he started to speak again.

 

“You must’ve known already, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. It would have been nothing for you to write up this report and make this an official case, but that means someone would’ve taken a quick look at it and come to the same conclusion I have.” He explained. “The statement from your only witness doesn’t even point to a crime having been committed. Add in the fact that he’s run away in the past… and then there is the whole issue of why someone would kidnap a 16 year old foster kid. No motive. Waste of time.”

 

Of course, Cooper should have suspected that someone who used to consult with the police would come to the same conclusion that she expected any detective to get to. She just didn’t expect him to be so brash about it. A fellow detective would’ve turned her down simply because they didn’t want to get in trouble with the boss if they caught onto what they were doing. But Larson seemed to be declining her request because he didn’t think it was worth doing.

 

“This kid’s sister spent nearly an hour on a bus so that she could come to the police station and tell me that something is wrong.” she said. “Do you think she would do that if this were just another run away attempt? This little girl thinks something is fishy about this and I believe her.”

 

“If you want to just ignore logic and believe that something else is happening just because you want it to be true… I’m certainly not stopping you.” Larson said.

 

“I’m not ignoring logic. I know that after all the work we do it might turn out he just ran away. I know that’s how it looks. But what if it turns out something seriously wrong is going on? It could be a few days before we realize it and by then it would be too late. Is that not worth checking out a few leads just to make sure?”

 

“Yeah, sure you could waste your time if you want to, but why should I waste my time? What do I get out of this?”

 

“Well, I would certainly owe you one. In the future you might need to call in a favor or maybe a reference for a job. Plus there is potentially the satisfaction of knowing you saved someone’s life.”

 

“I don’t need a reference or a favor from you, Miss….” Larson trailed off, realizing that he didn’t know the name of the detective in front of him. “I’m sorry I never caught your name.”

 

“It’s Detective Amanda Cooper.”

 

Larson paused, and Cooper took note of the look of recognition in his eyes. It was the moment she had been dreading this entire conversation. Her last name was pretty famous in the city of Houston because of her father, and even more so among people that worked with the police. She had to go through the same short exchange every time she introduced herself to someone new and they made the connection, just like Larson just did.

 

 “Cooper, eh? You wouldn’t happen to be related to the late Captain Cooper by chance?” Larson wondered.

 

“He’s my father.”

 

“I didn’t know he had a daughter.”

 

“I get that a lot actually.”

 

Interesting, Larson thought. He started putting the pieces together. This detective had come to my house trying to recruit help for an off the books case she was working on. She could’ve thrown her name out as an introduction when they first started talking, and it might’ve increased her odds of successfully recruiting me because of her father’s reputation. But she didn’t. And the reluctant look on her face when she told me her name tells me that there is something more to their relationship.

 

When Larson first heard Cooper tell him about this kidnapping, he knew it wasn’t something he would be interested in. It sounded like an open and shut case and just a matter of doing the legwork to find out what was going on. Larson hated legwork. But he liked a good mystery. He would love it if he had a complex puzzle in front of him that he had to sift through to find the truth. Cooper’s strange behavior regarding her father was the type of thing he had been itching for ever since he quit being a consultant. And he knew as long as he was around her, it gave him the opportunity to figure out what the real story was.

 

“Do you already have a lead?” Larson wondered.

 

“Their foster father didn’t get along with David, so that was the first lead I wanted to check out. Plus, I figure it might be a good place to dredge up other leads.”

 

“When were you going?”

 

“Right after I leave here most likely.” Cooper asked. “Wait… does that mean you want to go?”

 

“Sure.” he said, with a smile on his face. “It’ll be fun.” 


Submitted: June 04, 2013

© Copyright 2020 agentkirb. All rights reserved.

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