Chapter 5:

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

Reads: 56

Cooper woke up the next day still a little angry at the turn of the events at the Parsons residence. This was just something she had never had to deal with before in her life. If she had tried to do what Larson had done on an official case, she could have been looking at a suspension. At the very least she would’ve gotten a stern word from her boss.  Those kinds of intimidation tactics are fine when they get results, but clearly his plan didn’t work at all.


She was having difficulty trying to figure out what he was trying to do. Did he really think claiming Nate Parsons cheated on his wife would get him to open up in a way that would get information from them they couldn’t have gotten from other means? The alternative explanation that it was an intentional play to get her off a case that he considered a “waste of time”. After all, Larson seemed like the type that would agree to help her out just as an elaborate means of messing with her.


After they left the Parsons house last night, they didn’t speak a word to each other as she drove him back to his house and then went home herself. The possibility that any chance of her finding Ashley’s brother might have been squashed by Larson… she didn’t know what to think of it. She had to put it out of her mind for the moment because her boss was expecting a report updating the status of the case she was actually supposed to be working with the headless victim.


Lieutenant Marvin Anders barreled out of his office. The tall, muscular law enforcement officer walked the halls of the police station as if he owned them. In a way, he did own them. Sure, he had his own superiors to report to, but within these walls he was the law and it was his responsibility to keep his guys in line. He usually stayed at the station and delegated tasks to his detectives and officers, but he liked to jump into these cases every once in awhile to make sure everything was running smoothly.


“We have an update from the medical examiner.”  Lieutenant Anders told Cooper.


Cooper hoped it was good news. “Did he ID the victim?”


“No. His DNA wasn’t in the system unfortunately.” Anders said. “Anything on your end?”


Cooper pulled a folder off of her desk and opened it for the first time. She hadn’t even looked at the papers inside until this very moment because she had been busy thinking about investigating this potential abduction case. To her boss she was able to make it look like she knew what was on the file because she was good at talking and reading at the same time.


“They found a few things. The mold we gave them of the tread marks matched a type of tire commonly found on a lot of Ford trucks. So it doesn’t really help us. He was dressed in nice clothes, but it wasn’t anything particularly unique we could use to track the clothes to a particular store.”


“So all we know is that it’s a guy that has enough money to buy nice clothes got killed by a guy that drives a truck? Any trace on the body?” Anders asked.


“Just some bits of leaves and dirt.” Cooper read from the file. “They were able to narrow down the area where this guy might’ve lived, but since we don’t have an ID that doesn’t help us too much.”


“Is that all?”


Cooper flipped through more pages in the file. “Oh hey, it looks like there was a faded receipt in the guy’s pocket. A lot of the information had already rubbed off but they might be able to reimage it or whatever the fancy technique is called that they use to get the picture back.”


“That’s great news. If they can somehow narrow it down to a specific store, maybe we can find someone that has seen this guy. Or a credit card number would be even better.” Anders said. He was ready for the case to break so that they could get some real progress on catching this guy. “Why didn’t you tell me that news first? That was the biggest item in the report by far.”


“I-uh...” Cooper tried to think of an excuse that wouldn’t make it obvious she didn’t know what was in the file before reading it just then. “I just read the items in order, I didn’t think it mattered.”


Anders eyed her suspiciously but didn’t pursue the questioning further than that. “You know that there’s another reason I stopped by your desk today, right?”


“What reason would that be?”


“Your name popped up in a complaint this morning.” Anders said. “But it was a complaint to the Social Services Houston office.”


“I don’t understand.” Cooper said, trying to remain calm.


“They don’t have an Amanda Cooper employed, but obviously we have one employed in the Homicide Division here which is why I got the call.” he explained, looking at Cooper’s eyes hoping to gauge her reaction. “Now, normally in these circumstances I would just tell them it must’ve been a mistake of some kind, because I know my detectives wouldn’t use their badge to investigate something they have no business being a part of.”




“But then again you have been known to cowboy up and take matters into your own hands.”


Cooper’s heart was beating at a million miles an hour. She realized what must’ve happened long ago. She had given her real name out last night at the Parsons residence. And when Larson antagonized Nate Parsons by accusing him of having an affair, it probably made the guy mad enough to want to file an official complaint with the organization they thought they came from. Had Cooper known Larson would do that, she might’ve been a bit more careful about giving out her real name.


If her boss really believed that this was more than just a mistake, she was in trouble. She could be looking at a suspension for her actions. Lieutenant Anders didn’t tolerate his detectives going rogue and doing whatever they wanted. But she also knew that she would already have been suspended if he was certain she had done something wrong. And, being a former detective himself, was certainly fishing in hopes that Cooper would slip up and incriminate herself.


“What is this person accusing me of doing anyway?” Cooper asked.


“They said the person that went to their house yesterday, claimed to be investigating a runaway, and accused the husband of having an affair before being asked to leave. That sort of thing is right in your wheelhouse.”


“How is that sort of thing in my wheelhouse?”


“You have a reputation around here, Cooper, of running around playing superhero. If you found out somehow that this man was cheating on his wife, I wouldn’t put it past you to follow them all the way home just so that you could expose him.”


Cooper inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. As it turned out, he was completely right that she had been there, but wrong about the how and the why. For some reason the fact that Larson had in fact made the comments about the affair had been lost in translation somewhere along the way. And it looked like Anders was completely overlooking the reason she claimed to be there and thought that it was all about accusing a man of having an affair. She would be able to talk her way out of this easily.


“What do you think happened? You think I just followed some strangers home and tried to publically expose the husband of cheating on his wife in his own home with no physical evidence to show for it?” Cooper asked rhetorically. “Why would I give out my real name if that was what I intended to do? Why would I even go into the house? I could get all the information I needed once I found out where they lived. Then it would be easy to get the wife alone and tell her in private. Since when has antagonizing people in public been ‘in my wheelhouse’?”


Anders seemed convinced enough to back off. “Ok Cooper. Maybe this was all an unfortunate coincidence. However I feel like I must use this episode to remind you that I don’t tolerate detectives that try to use their authority outside of investigating official crimes.”


Cooper flashed a fake smile. “I’ll keep that in mind.”


“That’s fantastic.” Anders sarcastically said. “In the meantime, while I have the lab guys running their tests on the trace they found yesterday, why don’t you and Detective Green look into people that have recently gone missing to see if we can find our headless victim?”


“I’ll get on it right away.”  


With the medical examiner unable to find anything leading to an ID, that meant Cooper and Green would have to go about this the hard way. With literally no leads to guide them, all they could do was look into people that were reported missing that loosely fit the description of their victim. Fortunately a lot of the guys on the list were in the system, and they could be excluded because their DNA didn’t match the victim’s either.


That still gave them about 10 names of people that had been reported missing in the Houston area. Green and Cooper split the list up and went to all of the houses to talk to the individual that filed the report in the first place. For most of the morning and into the afternoon all she did was visit the addresses on the list and try to get as much information as she could as well as a DNA sample. In nearly all of the cases she was able to get an old toothbrush or anything at all that had DNA on it that might match the person they had in the morgue.


Once that was over with, all they could do was wait for the results. Cooper knew that none of this was likely to matter because what they were doing was a long shot anyway. With nothing else to do, she decided to take the rest of the day off and work on finding this missing kid. At least she knew who she was looking for with that case.


She knew Anders wouldn’t like that she was freelancing, but she didn’t care. If this had become an official case, they would’ve already closed it after talking to the foster parents. She knew what she was doing was the right thing to do.


It sucked how much politics and bureaucracy played into the decision making in the Homicide Division. She understood why the rules were in place. They were there to give the young detectives a method and structure to follow and keep the old veteran cops from abusing their authority for their own personal gain. And obviously the reason they couldn’t look too deep at what looked like a simple runaway was because they just didn’t have the resources to investigate every small crime out there.


But she wasn’t a high flying rookie or a corrupt veteran, and she was working this second case during her own time mostly. She should be allowed to give her time to someone else that needs it. At the very least she shouldn’t be forced to go around behind the back of the Lieutenant for someone else.


She remained in deep thought for most of the drive to Andre’s apartment. Because of yesterday’s events, she didn’t have a lead she could look into. Even if she thought Nate Parsons looked good for the abduction, there was no way she would be allowed to talk to them again. So she needed another angle, which is why she was back at Andre’s knocking on his door.


“Who is it?” Andre said from inside.


“Amanda. Open up.” Cooper answered.


Footsteps could be heard on the other side of the wall, and then finally the door opened. Andre’s eyes were barely open and he looked sluggish. It was as if he had just gotten out of bed. It was a new sight for Cooper, who usually only met with Andre after work hours when he looked more active.


“Why are you waking me up this early?” he asked.


“It’s 2 in the afternoon.” she told him.


“That’s way too early.”


“When did you go to bed yesterday?” Cooper wondered.


“I always try to get to sleep around 8 on the dot.”


“8 o’clock? That’s like 18 hours of sleep.”


“No, I mean 8 in the morning. Who would go to sleep that early?”


“When do you normally wake up then?” Cooper asked.


“I have my cell phone set to wake me up at 4 every day.” he said. Cooper let the mention of his strange sleep schedule go without comment.


He walked into the kitchen, leaving Cooper sitting in the other computer chair in the living room. She could hear the sound of doors opening and closing, followed by him getting something out of the refrigerator, and then the clanking of dishes on the counter. A few moments after that, Andre came back out of the kitchen carrying a tray in both hands. On that tray was a bowl of dry Frosted Flakes and a glass of milk right next to it.


“You don’t like milk in your cereal?” Cooper asked.


Instead of directly answering the question, Andre said, “You know that the milk in the cereal thing is just an attempt by the government to get more money to the milk industry.”




“I mean, who decided that it was a good idea to put milk in cereal anyway? They turned it into this cultural thing and no one questions what they are doing.”


“What makes you think that?” Cooper wondered.


“You know how Ritz puts suggestions on the back of their boxes for clever ways to use their product? And in the same way the people that made baking soda suggest to throw a box in the refrigerator to make it smell better. It’s all so that you’ll buy more of their product.”


“Yeah. That’s just clever marketing tactics.”


“True, but only the government can change the culture of the country so much that everyone in the nation eats milk with their cereal and doesn’t question it.”


“I don’t understand why this is a problem. Besides, you have the milk in a glass right next to the bowl, so you are still drinking milk and eating cereal.” Cooper tried to explain to Andre. “You might as well just pour the glass into the bowl. It’s the same thing.”


“Yeah, but it’s my decision.” Andre said with an emphasis on the last two words.


Cooper was often baffled by Andre’s view on certain issues. This was certainly one of those times. She tried to wrap her head around the logic he just used, but after that failed she decided it would be better to once again let it go.


“So how did it work out with that Larson guy I sent you to?” Andre asked.


“Terrible.” she answered.


“That bad?”


Cooper went on to tell Andre the highlights of last nights encounter with the foster family. Including the part where Nate Parsons had basically admitted he didn’t want the foster kids anymore. His statement gave a clear motive to want the kid gone, and with a shaky alibi he had cemented his status as number one suspect early on in this investigation.


She ended the story saying. “So from my point of view it looks like we have a pretty good suspect. And just when I’m putting the clamp down on him to try and get him to talk, Larson decides to accuse the guy of cheating on his wife! So of course he throws us out of the house and now we have nothing. We weren’t even able to confirm his alibi. He never even told us the name of the bar so I couldn’t go check if I wanted to.”


“Did he really say that to the guy’s face?”


“Yeah, can you believe it?”


Andre shook his head, but he didn’t say anything because he was lost in thought. “Actually… that would explain the hotel room he paid for.”


Cooper’s head jerked towards Andre at hearing the word ‘hotel’. “What are you talking about? Hotel?”


“When you told me what you were going to be doing yesterday, I looked into his credit card history. All of his recent purchases were all off the south loop. I assume that’s where he lives and works, right?” Andre asked and Cooper nodded in confirmation. “Well the only thing that didn’t match up was the hotel room he purchased on the north side of town about once a week, sometimes twice a week.”


“You’re kidding!”


“At first I thought it was curious that he bought a hotel room on the other side of town on the same night his foster son David ran away.” Andre said, using air quotes around the phrase ‘ran away’. “But it was every week. He would’ve had to have planned this weeks in advance. So he’s not the guy.”


Cooper was shocked by this new break in the case. She thought that Larson outburst at the Parsons residence yesterday was just a way of messing with Cooper for bringing him on a case he felt wasn’t worth his time, and perhaps put Nate in some hot water with his wife considering his attitude about his foster kids.  She didn’t imagine that any of his accusations were true. It just wasn’t possible. Andre had looked into his credit card history to get this information. So how did Larson do it?


“It’s not possible that he called the hotel and paid for it this week by phone so that he would have an alibi?” Cooper was trying to think of any possible way that Nate could have kidnapped his foster kid and paid for the hotel room on the other side of town at the same time.


“I called the hotel and the manager told me Nate Parsons checked into the hotel room in person that night. He knows it was him because he had to match his driver’s license with the name on his credit card. And when I asked if it was a slightly balding white dude that was kind of skinny he told me that was the guy. So it was definitely Nate at that hotel unless he has a look-a-like that he lets use his credit card and driver’s license.” Andre said.


“Well, I appreciate you helping me out with all of this legwork, even if it means we are back to square one at the end of it. I owe you big time.” Cooper said.


“You know I like being involved in these things.” Andre said. “But if you feel like you owe me one, you can be my mole in the police department if they ever decide to come after me.”


“If you ever commit any real crimes it’s going to be me that comes after you.” Cooper shot back.


Cooper was used to this back and forth with Andre. She felt like she had to make sure he was appreciated for the work he did for basically no reward. Of course, to Andre all of this legwork Cooper wanted him to do was no worse than the sorts of things he would on his free time. And by helping Cooper out with some of her ‘extra work’ he felt like he was doing a good thing, although it didn’t hurt to be friends with a detective in the city of Houston either.


“I actually found another lead for you though.” Andre said.


“Oh really?”


“I did a search using David Romero’s name and a result popped up about a charity banquet that he was supposed to get some kind of award for.”


“What charity is this?” Cooper wondered.


“It’s called Houston Foster Aide. I don’t know what the name of the award is. But I do know of the name of the head of the charity organization and I was able to find an address for the banquet. It actually takes place tonight.”


“You are a lifesaver.” Cooper once again expressed her appreciation for Andre’s help.


She left Andre’s place knowing what she needed to do. But the realization soon hit Cooper how slim the odds were that this would turn into anything conclusive. It wasn’t like a normal lead where she was off to interview a witness or someone with an obvious motive or even someone remotely connected to the case she was working.


The fact that this banquet was going on the two nights after the disappearance of David was most likely a pure coincidence. But this was her only lead. She had to stay positive. Anything she might find out there could lead her one step closer to rescuing David. Any small clue could help.


She still liked Nate Parsons for this. But with his now ironclad alibi and the fact that she wouldn’t be able to speak to them anymore, this was the avenue she would have to pursue. She had to keep on digging and digging until she found proof that this alibi wasn’t up to snuff.


Cooper realized fast that she was going to need to recruit the help of Thomas Larson once again. As much as she didn’t like the idea of working with the guy, she knew that her odds of this investigation being successful would only increase if she had more help. And the guy basically was able to determine that Nate Parsons was cheating on his wife just by making small talk with the man. She didn’t know how he did it, but Cooper was impressed.


So she drove back to Pearland to see if he would be willing to help again. It took no effort to drive there having already been to the place the night before. His house was a few miles off the main road, and a few turns later she was in his driveway. Unfortunately Larson’s car wasn’t. She looked at her watch and saw that it was still way before five.


Of course he probably has a day job, she thought.


She drove away and began the long trip back to her house. She considered dialing Andre’s number to see if he could find out where this guy worked. He could most likely find that information before she could get out of town. But just as she reached for her phone she saw something out of the corner of her eye that made her slam on her breaks and turn into the parking lot nearby.


It was Larson’s car. 

Submitted: June 04, 2013

© Copyright 2020 agentkirb. All rights reserved.


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