Southern Suspects – Chapter One
It is said that the last day of someone’s life should be unexpected. For Daniel Warsaw, it was. The life of a fresh-faced brunette boy, star quarterback of the football team, and track star at merely seventeen years old was taken rather savagely. So far, the story goes that he was lured away from the football end-of-season party and murdered on his own turf – by his own turf, I mean literally. On a seven a.m. run, Janet Siebens found him sprawled in a pool of his own blood across the 50-yard line of Jezebel Island High School’s football stadium. His set of bloodied footsteps were followed by muddy ones. The assailant was wearing some sort of soft-soled sneaker, where no special prints were made. This was infinitely planned.
But who would want to kill a kid? What would their reasons be? If it was one of his peers, which it most surely was, why would they want to strike a seemingly popular, sweet boy? That’s what I was aiming to discover.
As the new Lead Detective of the Jezebel Island Police Department, this would be one of my few opportunities to prove myself. The island was nearly famous for being a safe community – I couldn’t lose this guy’s trail. As I pondered over the five crime scene photos taken by my mediocre CSI team, I was interrupted by our new intern. Josie was a fresh graduate from Jezebel High and was already notorious for her nosiness and clumsiness. She had gazed over my shoulder at the photos before knocking my fresh coffee all over them and me. Of course, on today of all days, she would be in my business.
“I am so sorry, Ms. Davies – it will never happen again, I promise!” She fluttered anxiously around the room, tossing a pile of napkins to me – not like it would aid my soaking slacks at all. Sometimes I felt like I was surrounded by idiots at this station.
“Josie, just go – all right?”
“All right. I’m sorry.”
She stepped outside of my office rather quietly and continued down the hallway, hopefully not to spill a coffee on the Chief of Police. I left my office heading down the opposite way she had – instead, toward the bathroom. I began to wet the growing stain on my pants, trying to save what little sanity I had left.
“My last good pair of pants…” I thought, growing angrier at myself. “Pull yourself together, Samantha.”
Some people say I’m too hard on myself, but I don’t think I’m hard enough. As the youngest person on the force and one of three women, you have to be able to hold your own. Being in such a position of authority, despite having its perks, also has its serious downsides.
When I was brought onto the force, I was 25 – fresh out of college in the Ivy League and inexperienced. I was one of five detectives in our department- again, the only woman- working along with four men who were all much older than I. When Detective Johnston retired about a year after my arrival, we were all vying for his spot as lead agent. I think we expected my co-worker, Detective Bradley, to get the position. He had the most experience since he came from Chicago’s city patrol, and was the oldest of us all at 60. We had begun to get along after my short time on the force, but all of that changed when I was selected to replace Johnston. They changed their mind about me when I took on a position of authority. Well, ironically, all of them except Bradley.
Apparently, Bradley was offered the position, but didn’t want it anyways. He said it was too much commitment for an old man like him. Later, he told me that he persuaded Chief Barnstable to choose me. I could hardly understand why- all of the cases I had been assigned were small and insignificant, such as elderly caught in hit-and-runs, and robberies at the grocery store. But in my congratulatory conversation, Chief Ron said he selected me since I had different experiences, I was well educated and smart, and I was young enough to really enjoy working in the field. He wanted a leader who was excited about their job, and compared to the other detectives, I was.
I just wish somebody could have told me that being promoted before your more experienced colleagues would put you in a difficult position. Well, I should have been able to guess that on my own. Now, at 27, I felt more alone than when I began this job. And it was minor setbacks like this stupid coffee stain that got me down the most.
After getting a portion of the stain out, I took off my office-casual cardigan and wrapped it around my waist, trying to block the remainder of the coffee blotch from view. Spilled coffee was nothing to cry over, but I wasn’t looking for ridicule from Detective Sanderson or Detective Blake.
Detective Sanderson was a tough Bostonian, tall and reaching his mid-fifties- his mid-fifties bringing a mid-life crisis along with them. It seemed his idea of fun was ridiculing me for every mistake I made, and uttering inappropriate comments at work parties, claiming drunkenness for every single one. I absolutely despised him.
Detective Blake was just 45, but he was always as tired as an old man like Bradley. Despite his three teenage daughters weighing him down, he was never tired enough to miss a mistake or mock my office simply for being organized and bright. All of his comments just added fuel to Sanderson’s fire- they were a detrimental duo.
I didn’t understand how Bradley could get along with them – he was so nice, and knew when to joke and when not to. You would think Bradley would be the most impatient with me as the oldest of the bunch, but he didn’t mind me one bit. I always try to remember what he told me on my first day of work, his southern twang coming through on the significant words – “Davies, we all make mistakes. Everybody here acts like they don’t, but they make plenty- probably more than you or me. They’re the immature ones- I’ve just learned to let it go.”
I returned to my office but was startled to find Detective Blake in my chair with one of his officer cronies looming behind. Blake was very close with many of the police officers on the force, and I could swear he would tell them not to take me seriously. Blake and the officer had taken the crime scene photos from my desk and were analyzing them- far from permissible in this stage of the case.
“You should have known better than to leave them out, Davies.”
“I went to the bathroom for two minutes-”
“What’s on them? Coffee? You can’t drink from a mug since you’re a lady?”
“Yeah,” the other officer chimed in. “you need a sippy cup, Ms. Millennial?”
“Bug off, would you?”
“When were you going to brief us on the murder? This is why someone with such little experience shouldn’t be a head detective. Even I’ve done a murder- I know what to do better than you.” Blake’s stare was growing, his scarily light blue eyes seemed to pierce my soul.
“I was going to request better photos from our inept photographers, then begin a meeting and press conference. These photos are horribly taken – I am having serious concerns about our CSI team.”
“I think you can get an awful lot from these pictures.”
“There’s never enough evidence. If we mess this case up- if we mess up this investigation- we will lose all the people’s faith.”
“At this rate, it would be faster to go see the scene yourself than get pictures. CSI’s just a bunch of sleepy joes.”
Blake and the officer left my office, but it wasn’t long after that I realized he had made off with one of the photos- the one of the dead body. I followed him down the hallway, taking the picture from his back pocket. He just snickered and kept walking on to the breakroom.
All the pictures could tell me were that the footsteps indicated a chase, the body was bleeding from the neck and chest, and the victim collapsed over the 50-yard line. It wasn’t dragged, it just dropped there. I only knew the victim was Daniel Warsaw since his parents had identified him.
I sat back in my chair, gazing out the window. What a brutal murder for such a little island.