Four heads shot up then looked at each other.
“What did we do?” Brian Rafe asked his partner.
Henri Brown shrugged. “Better question is what did the four of us do?” His eyes narrowed as he got to his feet. “Hairboy! What have you done now?”
“ME?!” Blair Sandburg protested. “Why do you think it’s about me?”
His partner, Jim Ellison, patted the younger man’s shoulder. “Because it usually is, Junior.” He got to his feet as well. “Come on. Let’s face the music.”
“But I DIDN'T do anything!” Blair hissed in response as he followed his partner. He glared over his shoulder at Henri. “C’mon, guys! It’s only a few minutes past eight! There hasn’t been time to do anything! I really didn’t!”
“Well, I didn’t either,” Henri replied. He glanced over his shoulder.
Rafe put up his hands as Jim knocked on their Captain’s door. “Don’t look at me.”
“Hell of a way to start the day,” Henri shook his head.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” Rafe muttered as he followed the other detectives into Simon Banks’ office and quietly closed the door behind him.
Simon at behind his desk and waited until the four men had taken their seats. “I’ve been on a long phone call, gentlemen. A rather unhappy call. Would you like to know why?” He watched as the four men exchanged quick glances.
Blair started to answer, but Jim shoved an elbow in his partner’s side. “Yes, sir,” Jim quickly answered.
“His Honor, the Mayor of our fair city, plans to open the new garbage treatment facility at the landfill tomorrow,” Simon growled. “Fortunately for him, they decided to have a test run today. Imagine their surprise when they discovered a body in the separation chute. Thankfully, it didn’t happen tomorrow when the press was there.” He leaned back in his chair. “Immediately after His Honor tossed that into my lap, he proceeded to give me another one. It should have gone to Homicide. But it seems that Capt. Blackmore has had a couple of run-ins with the victim so it would be considered a conflict of interest if Homicide handled the case. So it becomes the property of Major Crimes.” He slammed his hand down on his desk. “Have I mentioned that I hate politics?!”
Once again Blair opened his mouth and received an elbow in his side. This time from Henri.
“Yes, sir,” Jim quickly answered again. “Who’s the victim that Homicide isn’t getting?
“Martha VanDorn. That’s going to you and Rafe. Brown and Sandburg. You’re on the garbage treatment case.”
“Sandburg’s my par…”
Simon glared at both Brown and Blair. “Do you think I want to hear any arguments about this? Well, I don’t!”
“Makes sense, Captain.”
The three detectives stared at Rafe in surprise. “Considering the VanDorn family’s public position regarding minorities, Jim and I are the best ones to investigate that murder.”
“Since when do we allow the victim’s family to dictate who investigates what crimes, sir?” Jim coldly asked.
“Since it was determined this would be the best way to proceed,” Simon grumbled. “I don’t like it either. But we can either investigate the crime or spin our wheels arguing about who investigates.” He glared at Jim. “I want this one solved quickly. The less time that bunch of morons has to bitch about how inept the police department is, the better off everyone will be.”
Jim nodded. “That’s the reason Capt. Blackmore’s department was pulled from the case?”
Simon grunted. “Apparently Capt. Blackmore got in the victim’s face a while back and told her exactly where she could go, how to get there, and what she could do once she got there.”
The four detectives refrained from smiling. The Captain of the Homicide Department ran a tight ship, but her red-haired temper had flared more than once during her career.
“Conner’s attending that Seminar in Seattle, and Joel’s helping out the Bomb Squad with some presentation by a vendor today,” Simon continued. “He’ll be available later this afternoon to assist on both investigations. If necessary, I can try and spring Conner from the rest of this week’s session; but I’m hoping both investigations will be cleared before then.” He handed one of the file folders to Jim and the other to Henri. “That will be all.”
The four men got to their feet and quietly left the office.
Outside, Blair turned to Jim as Henri and Rafe walked back to their desks. “Jim, what about…”
“Everybody here knows I’ve got a lot of allergies.” Jim smiled at the euphemism used by Major Crimes. He glanced at the other two detectives. “Rafe will call if anything happens.”
“I don’t like it,” Blair muttered as he pulled on his jacket. He hesitated when the other two detectives joined them at Jim’s desk. “Rafe, take this.” He handed the other detective his backpack.
Rafe automatically took the backpack then frowned. “Why?”
Blair glanced at Jim then back to Rafe. “There’s stuff in there that will help in case Jim gets an allergy attack of some sort.”
Henri grinned when Jim rolled his eyes.
“Look, if something happens, just call me,” Blair continued as they walked towards the elevator.
Rafe nodded. “Like what?”
“Uhh…itching, headaches, earaches, breathing problems…” Blair glared at his partner. “He probably won’t mention anything at first.”
“Ah.” Rafe slowly nodded. “Okay.”
“Don’t worry, Hairboy.” Henri clapped a hand on Blair’s shoulder as they entered the elevator. “My partner’s a good detective. He’ll figure it out.”
Blair exchanged a look with Jim then sighed.
“Probably already has,” Jim quietly spoke as the elevator doors closed. He wasn’t surprised when neither Henri nor Rafe answered him.
Henri grinned at the expression on Blair’s face when they exited his car at the landfill. “Garbage is garbage, Hairboy,” he replied. “Personally I’d rather have this garbage than the garbage our partners are gonna wade through.”
Blair grunted but nodded in agreement. He glanced at the man rapidly approaching them. “Guess that’s our witness?” He made sure his badge was prominently displayed and followed Henri.
“Detectives! Your forensic people refuse to leave until you give the approval! We’ve got to get this mess cleared up before the press gets wind of this!”
‘As opposed to the wind already here?’ Henri managed to keep from snorting. “And you are?”
The thin-faced man stiffened. “I’m Ambrose Keller. Special Assistant to the Mayor.”
“Uh-huh.” Henri studied the man for a few seconds. “I’m Detective Brown and this is Detective Sandburg. Did you discover the body?”
“No, thank Heavens! I’m here to represent the Mayor’s interests. Now when…”
“We’ll need to speak to the witnesses before we can talk to you about anything.” Henri politely nodded and walked towards the structure ahead of them.
Keller glared at Henri’s back then turned to walk with Blair. “Detective Sandburg, I’m sure you can understand how sensitive this matter is.”
Blair smiled and nodded. He patted Keller on the arm but remained silent.
Inside the air-conditioned building, Henri looked around. He waved at a few of the forensics technicians that he recognized then walked towards the uniformed officers. “What’ve we got?” he asked.
“The technicians were in the middle of a test run when a bunch of red lights appeared on their control panel,” Officer Stacey Drake explained. The young officer glanced at her older partner who smiled and nodded for her to continue. “Apparently, these warnings indicated that the separator chute was overloaded and that whatever was jamming it was really big. So they shut it down and opened the chute to investigate.”
She led them up a series of ladders and pointed to where two members from the Medical Examiner’s department stood with two white-garbed technicians. “Garbage is sent through this main chute. Computers and sensors detect what type of garbage is in the chute,” she eagerly explained. “Stuff like plastic, cans, and bottles are detected so robotic arms can pull them out for recycling. Organic garbage is then pulled out and taken to another facility where it’s turned into compost recycling. Other types of garbage are then crushed and discarded.” As they reached the top level, she turned and grinned. “This system is a godsend to environmental concerns.”
Blair nodded. “Theoretically, it should reduce the landfill problem pretty quickly.”
“Not to mention the positive effects on recycling,” Drake enthusiastically nodded. “People claim it’s too much trouble to separate their garbage for recycling. Now, it’s taken care of for them!”
“Thanks, Drake.” Her older partner, Sgt. Sam Worth, interrupted with a roll of his eyes. Frowning at Henri, he continued. “When the technicians arrived and opened the chute, they found a dead body.” He sighed. “Young woman. Pregnant.”
“Aw, dammit,” Henri moaned. He took a deep breath. “Let’s get on with it, Sandburg.”
Blair resolutely refused to look over the railing down to where he could hear Keller arguing with one of the officers. “How controlled is access to this facility?”
Worth pointed to one of the white-garbed technicians. “This is Dr. Evie Thomas. She’s the lead engineer.”
“Doctor?” Henri asked with raised eyebrows.
The dark-skinned woman smiled. “I got my doctorate in systems engineering.” She proudly looked at the chute behind her. “Did a lot of the design work on this baby. Never thought it would help solve a crime, though.”
‘Yeah, no use hiding bodies in the landfill if they’re going to wind up jamming up the chute,’ Henri silently agreed. “I’m Detective Henri Brown and this is Detective Blair Sandburg. What can you tell us about the security?”
“Pretty tight,” Evie admitted. “Plus a lot of us have been here for the past week making final adjustments and tweaking the computer’s sensors.”
“But the landfill itself?” Blair asked.
Evie shrugged. “Probably no more than normal, but I wouldn’t know.”
“We’ve got the security guard downstairs,” Worth explained. “One guy for the entire landfill. Never has been hard for people to just drive up and dump their stuff. He’s pulling the tape from the security camera, though.”
“So it wouldn’t be hard to dump the body,” Henri reasoned. “Just their bad luck they dumped it in the pile that was going to be run through the system sooner than later.” He nodded to Worth
He turned to see Blair deep in conversation with one of the technicians. “The chutes are pretty straight with very few bends at this point,” the technician explained. “It was designed that way to prevent something from clogging up the chute a couple of times a day.”
“So basically, garbage is loaded into trucks and dumped into the chute?” Blair asked.
“A controlled dump,” Evie corrected.
Henri knelt next to one of the ME’s. “What can you tell me?”
“Female. I’d say early-20’s. Hard to put a time of death right now, but I’d say less than twenty-four hours…maybe closer to twelve. We’ll be able to be more precise once we get her back to the morgue. Don’t think we’ll get anything useful off the blanket she was wrapped in, though.”
“Cause of death?” Henri quietly asked.
“No obvious gunshot wounds or stab wounds. That’s all I can give you right now.”
“Except she was pregnant.”
The ME heavily sighed. “Yeah, I’d guess about seven months.”
“Dammit,” Henri again swore.
“I wonder why Capt. Blackmore got into a confrontation with this Martha VanDorn?” Jim mused as he drove towards the south end of Cascade.
Rafe grunted. “Never does any good.”
Jim glanced at the man sitting next to him and inwardly smiled. Rafe’s ‘GQ’ look just didn’t go with the interior of the ’69 Ford truck. “What do you mean?” he finally asked.
“People like the VanDorns think they’ve got the inside track to heaven.” Rafe shrugged. “There’s no arguing with them when they stand up and say that black people are genetically inferior, Jews are Christ-killers, and anyone who isn’t white is too stupid to know their place. Every other religion is Satanic since it’s only what they believe is that will get you into Heaven. All Catholics rape children, Muslims are pedophiles, and everyone in general is heading straight for hell. They’re convinced they’re right, and everyone else is wrong.”
Jim frowned. “To be honest, I never paid people like that much attention,” he admitted. “Sandburg’s probably ranted a time or two about them, though.” Then he sighed. “Guess it wouldn’t have done any good to send Henri or Sandburg on this one.”
“No, it would just have given them a reason to refuse to cooperate,” Rafe agreed. He stared out the window on his right. “Assuming they’d even let them in the house.”
Jim’s jaw tensed. “Wonder how much trouble they’ll give us?”
Rafe slowly turned his head to stare at Jim. “Maybe not much if you let me take the lead.”
Jim’s eyes widened as he glanced at the other detective. Rafe’s South African accent was suddenly far more pronounced. “Rafe?”
“The VanDorns are originally from South Africa,” Rafe quietly explained. He turned his attention back to the window on his right. “I think they’ll respond better to me.”
Jim slowly nodded. “Makes sense,” he agreed. “Okay, you call the shots.”
Rafe stared at Jim in surprise, then slowly smiled. “Is it this easy for Sandburg?”
Jim snorted. “No, I make him work for it. That’s why he does most of the grocery shopping and cooking.” He was relieved when Rafe chuckled. They rode in silence for the rest of the journey. However, when they turned onto Summer Street, Jim exploded. “What the hell!?”
Television trucks blocked the street, preventing them from reaching the house in the middle of the block. Angrily, Jim parked at the corner; and the two detectives got out of the truck. As they approached the crime scene, Jim growled, “Who’s supposed to be in charge of crowd control?”
“Maybe him?” Rafe pointed the uniformed officer obviously being interviewed by Don Hass of Channel 7 News in the front yard of the house of the crime scene. Two other uniformed officers were vainly trying to prevent reporters from advancing on the small two-story house and the forensics van parked in front of the house.
Jim quickly approached the officer being interviewed. Haas saw him approaching and smiled. “Detective Ellison!” he greeted and turned in his direction. From the corner of his eye, he saw the uniformed officer he’d been interviewing turn an interesting shade of green.
“Officer…” Jim glanced at the name plate on the officer’s uniform. “Turner. A word, please.”
“Detective Ellison, what can you tell the citizens of Cascade about this horrendous crime?”
Jim turned to Haas and coldly smiled. “If you’d been paying attention, you would have noticed that I just arrived. And since this is a crime scene, not to mention private property, move back!”
Haas, startled by the sudden change in Jim’s voice, automatically to a couple of steps. “You’re saying the front yard is a crime scene?” he demanded.
“Until forensics tells me otherwise, yes,” Jim nodded. “And clear that street! You’re blocking traffic!” Turning away from Haas, he pulled Officer Turner to one side. “Since when do you give interviews, Officer?”
“I just thought if I gave them something that…” Turner stammered.
“You give them nothing!” Jim raged.
“I’ve called in extra crowd control,” Rafe quietly spoke as he joined them. “I’ll help the other officers clear out this crowd.”
Jim held up a hand to stop the younger man. Turning back to Turner, he demanded, “Who’s your supervisor?”
“Sgt. Kilpatrick,” Turner glumly replied.
“Consider yourself on report. Now go enforce crowd control,” Jim ordered. When Turner walked away, Jim pulled out his cell phone. “I’ll call Kilpatrick and finish up out here,” he told Rafe. “Why don’t you start with him?” He nodded towards the now-open front door.
Rafe barely nodded and took a deep breath, then turned and walked towards the house. ‘God forgive me.’
By the time Rafe climbed the three steps to the open front door, he had his badge in hand and had reverted to his childhood accent. “I’m Detective Brian Rafe of the Cascade Police Department. I apologize for that.” He looked over his shoulder to where the uniformed officers had been successful in stringing up crime scene tape across the front of the property. “I assure you, those responsible for this will be disciplined.”
“I’m Christopher VanDorn.” The tall middle-aged man briefly glanced at the news trucks in the middle of the street. “Are you from Homicide?”
“No. Major Crimes.” Rafe calmly waited while the man’s pale blue eyes stared at him. “I’m afraid I must ask to enter.”
“Of course.” Christopher briefly hesitated then moved aside.
“My associate, Detective Ellison, will join us as soon as that mess outside is resolved,” Rafe advised. He stepped inside the house to a small hallway. To his left was a dining room while a living room was on his right. Looking past Christopher, he saw Serena Chang in the living room supervising the forensics technicians and personnel from the Medical Examiner’s office. “My condolences.”
“God’s will,” Christopher automatically answered. Then he caught himself. “Or rather I should say Satan’s will…murder of a Godly woman.”
Rafe briefly bowed his head. “Who found her?”
“I’ll answer any questions you may have. Christopher, your brother and his children need you.”
Rafe turned around to see a tall, thin, elderly man standing in the hallway behind them.
“Yes, Father.” Christopher glanced at Rafe. “Detective Rafe, this is my father, Deidrich VanDorn.” He then silently walked up the stairs to the second floor.
“Mr. VanDorn.” Rafe held out his right hand. After a moment’s hesitation, VanDorn took it for a brief handshake.
“You’re not from here,” the elderly man stated.
“No. I’m originally from Johannesburg.”
VanDorn briefly smiled. “My parents emigrated from Capetown when I was seven. They believed they would find a better life here.”
“Did they?” Rafe curiously asked.
“They gave themselves over to fornication,” VanDorn frowned. “Divorced and remarried. I broke ties with them when I turned eighteen for the salvation of my own soul.” He quickly turned around as the front door opened.
Rafe saw the old man’s scowl and stepped forward. “My associate, Detective Ellison. This is Mr. Deidrich VanDorn.”
Jim nodded at the older man then glanced into the living room.
“Ellison, I think you should assist in there.” Rafe nodded towards the living room.
Silently, Jim entered the living room, allowing a small smile on his face when he knew Rafe and VanDorn wouldn’t see it.
“I’m afraid there are questions that need to be asked.” Rafe nodded towards the dining room.
VanDorn sighed and led the way to the large table in the living room.
Once they had sat down at the polished table, Rafe opened his notebook. “The deceased was your daughter?” he asked, even though he knew the answer.
“Daughter-in-law,” VanDorn corrected. “My wife and I were never blessed with daughters. Martha was married to my youngest son, Gordon.”
“Are they the only ones who live here?”
“Yes,” VanDorn answered. “I live next door with my son, Christopher, and his family.”
“Who discovered the body?”
“Gordon.” VanDorn sighed. “He had been out of town and returned this morning. Found her lying in the living room.”
“I’ll need to speak with him,” Rafe advised.
“He’s extremely distraught,” VanDorn coldly answered. “I doubt he can tell you anything.”
“You’d be surprised what witnesses see that they don’t immediately remember,” Rafe firmly replied.
“I was expecting someone from Homicide to investigate,” VanDorn admitted.
“I believe there had been a confrontation between the deceased and Capt. Blackmore of Homicide,” Rafe calmly answered. He carefully added. “It was felt that would create not only a conflict of interest but also undue stress upon your family.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand why the police department, who is supposed to protect the public, allows unsuitable people in positions of authority.” VanDorn glanced across the hall to the living room where Serena Chang was talking with Jim. “That…Captain Blackmore person, for instance. A thoroughly disagreeable woman.”
“I’ve never worked in her department.” Rafe casually doodled on his notepad. “I’m in Major Crimes.”
“Captain Banks’ department?” VanDorn’s mouth curled.
“Currently, yes.” Rafe raised his head to stare at VanDorn. “Who knows about the future?”
“And what is your rank, Detective?”
“First Grade,” Rafe calmly answered.
“Are you an ambitious man?” VanDorn asked.
Rafe permitted a small smile. “Aren’t we all ambitious? Desire to correct the faults around us?”
The two men eyed one another for several seconds before VanDorn nodded. “My son is upstairs with his family. I hope you’ll be brief.” He stood to lead the way upstairs.
“I’ll be just a moment.” Rafe stopped in the hallway and got Jim’s attention. “I’m going upstairs to interview Gordon VanDorn, the husband. He’s the one who found her.” He looked at Serena. “Anything I need to know before I go? VanDorn says his son found her when he got back from a business trip this morning.”
“That could account for the dried blood on the carpet,” Serena mused. “I’d estimate she was killed sometime last night, but there’s no way to pin it down better than that with what I have right now.”
Rafe nodded and looked at Jim.
“I’ll catch up with you,” Jim promised. When Rafe left the room, he turned back to Serena.
“You know, the last time I saw a place this clean was when I dropped off that file at your place,” Serena teased.
Jim grunted. “That’s because you didn’t take a look in Sandburg’s room.”
Serena smiled then looked around the room. “Take a look yourself. This is one seriously clean room. Not a speck of dust.”
“No signs of a struggle either. Somebody cleaned up after the murder,” Jim noted. “Cause of death?”
“Unless something else is found at the autopsy, looks like blunt force trauma to the head.” Serena indicated the nearby fireplace mantle. “Blood on that granite mantle top so I’m guessing hitting that put her down on the floor. Dan’ll be able to tell me when he gets her.”
“There’s an awful lot of blood,” Jim noted.
Serena nodded. “Most of it’s soaked into the carpet and dried on the surface. We turned up a couple of the rugs and the edge of the carpet. Blood’s still wet there.” She saw Jim frown. “What?”
“Just wondering if all that blood is the victim’s,” Jim pondered. “Make sure you get plenty of samples and type them all.”
“Think the victim got a piece of her killer?” Serena guessed.
“Let’s hope so,” Jim nodded. He walked out of the room and across the hall. He studied the dining room for several minutes then walked down the hall to study the kitchen and small laundry room. Then he returned to the doorway of the living room and motioned to Serena. When she joined him, he quietly spoke. “The rest of the house is clean but not like this room.”
“Somebody cleaned up in here.” Serena frowned.
“More importantly, somebody knew they had time to clean up,” Jim grimly added. Then he frowned as something caught his eye. Carefully walking across the room to where two large bookcases stood side-by-side, he knelt pulled out a pair of gloves. Putting them on, he reached under one of the bookcases.
When he stood, Serena was next to him with an evidence bag. Her eyes widened as Jim dropped a small cheap-looking clasp earring into the bag. “The victim wasn’t wearing earrings.”
Jim studied the few pictures on the fireplace mantle. “She’s not wearing any in any of those pictures either.”
Serena looked at the pictures. “Neither are the other women.” She looked down at the evidence bag. “So another woman was here.”
“Looks like,” Jim nodded. He stepped forward and studied the pictures on the fireplace mantle. “Something’s missing,” he muttered. “Where’s that crystal award?” He pointed to a photo of Deidrich VanDorn posing next to a crystal award sitting on the mantle top. He focused his sight and read ‘Deidrich VanDorn - Creative Use of Space Award – 1993’.
Serena looked around. “It’s not here. Think the killer took it?”
“If it was used on the victim,” Jim grimly nodded. “Do we have a point of entry?”
Serena nodded and led the way to the laundry room at the side of the kitchen. She opened a door which led into the driveway. The two forensic technicians glanced up then returned their attention to their work. Serena pointed at one of the windows at the back of the garage. “Broken from the outside.”
“Awfully small window,” Jim muttered to himself.
Serena grinned. “Well, you’d probably get stuck,” she admitted. “But not impossible for someone else to squeeze through.”
“The connecting door to the house was unlocked?” Jim asked.
Serena nodded. “Must have been. There’s no lock on the garage side to be picked. The lock and hinges are on the house side of the door.”
VanDorn led Rafe up the staircase to the second floor. He paused in front of a closed door. “Please keep your questions brief.”
Rafe silently nodded and waited.
After a moment, VanDorn opened the door.
A middle-aged man sat on the side of a double-sized bed, slowly drinking from a mug. He turned when the door opened and red-rimmed eyes stared at them.
“Detective Rafe, this is my son Gordon VanDorn.” The old man brusquely introduced them. “You’ve met my younger son, Christopher. This is Anna VanDorn, Christopher’s wife.” He indicated the two younger men standing by a nearby window. “These are Gordon’s sons, Edward and William.”
Rafe politely nodded then approached Gordon. “My condolences on your loss, sir.”
Gordon sat the mug on the nightstand next to the bed. “What do you want to know?”
“First of all, is there somewhere you and your family can stay for a few days?” Rafe gently asked. “It will take a while to process…the scene below.”
“My son and grandsons will be staying with family members,” VanDorn quickly answered from the doorway.
Rafe nodded, keeping his eyes on Gordon. “If you’ll give me that information, I’ll personally see that you’re kept informed as to when you can return. I can also give you the names of some companies that can assist with the clean-up.”
“Drumming up business for your buddies?” Anna sneered.
Rafe calmly shook his head. “I have no connection with them, Mrs. VanDorn. I merely mentioned it out of courtesy.”
Anna snorted then jerked when VanDorn snapped, “Enough, Anna! Stop being a fool!”
Rafe watched as Anna obediently bowed her head. Then he returned his attention to Gordon. “I need to ask you some questions, sir. In private.”
Gordon glanced at his father then nodded.
“We’ll wait outside.” VanDorn motioned for the others to leave.
When the door had closed, Rafe crossed the room to the small writing desk and retrieved the straight-backed chair. Placing it next to the bed, he sat down and removed his notebook from his jacket pocket. “What time did you find your wife?” he gently asked.
“I returned about 7:30 this morning.” Gordon emotionally replied. “I’d been away on business…in Portland. There was some sort of conference at the hotel, and there was a lot of noise and partying in the rooms around me.” His face twisted in disgust. “People drinking and acting like animals. Kept waking me up. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I finally complained to the management and checked out about 1am.” He lowered his head.
“I need to know who you were meeting with and where you were staying,” Rafe advised.
Gordon raised his head and glared at the detective. “You think I killed my wife?” he demanded.
“I need the information to eliminate you as a suspect,” Rafe calmly replied. “The sooner the better.”
“I had appointments all day yesterday with the Portland City Planning Commissioner, Mel Hunter, and his staff. The first meeting was at 8am. We met pretty much all day then had dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. I spoke to my office about 4:30pm, then called Martha around 5. I got back to my room at the Radisson on Clover Street a little after 9:30.” Gordon sighed. “My niece, Joanna, is my assistant. She’ll get you the specifics.”
“Thank you.” Rafe nodded. “What happened when you came home?”
Gordon closed his eyes. “I pulled into the driveway. I was so tired that I left my suitcase in the car. I just wanted to get some sleep. So I unlocked the front door. I called out to Martha but no one answered. I didn’t think much about it at first. She could have been next door with Anna.” He took a deep breath. “I glanced inside the living room and…saw…her lying on the floor. I thought she’d…maybe a heart attack or stroke…” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Then I saw the blood…so much of it…” Shuddering, he wiped his face with his hands. “I ran next door for help. Christopher and Anna came back with me. Father stayed to call 911 but we knew…she was dead.”
Rafe jotted some information in his notebook. “Your sons don’t live here?”
Gordon shook his head. “They’re both married. They live across the street in that duplex house. Christopher called them on their cells. They were on their way to work.”
“When was the last time you spoke with your wife?”
“I called her just before noon yesterday and then just after 5pm,” Gordon answered. “I didn’t call her when I got back to the hotel because we retire early. She would have been in….asleep…” He took another deep breath.
“Would your wife have opened the door for someone?” Rafe continued when Gordon shook his head. “Someone at the door? Asking for help or to call someone a mechanic or a taxi?”
“Absolutely not,” Gordon denied. “She would have offered to call someone in that case but never allowed anyone into the house.” He bitterly smiled. “We receive so many death threats, you know. Because of our commitment to the Lord’s work.”
“Had she received any personal threats?”
“What do you mean?” Gordon frowned. “You mean against her personally?” When Rafe nodded, he shook his head again. “No. Just the usual threats of death and dismemberment from the heathen outcasts.”
“Have you received any more threats than normal?”
“They come in cycles,” Gordon admitted. “Whenever we protest, we receive more death threats than usual.”
“Like when you protested the opening of the Aids Hospice Center last month?” Rafe asked.
Gordon slowly smiled. “That was a glorious protest. Those people should die in the ditch like the dogs they are. Expecting people to put up with their filth in their own neighborhood! Where children play! Rut around like animals in a field then expect everyone to feel sorry for them when God’s judgement is delivered upon them!”
Rafe looked up at the knock on the door. When it opened, he saw Jim outside. With a murmured apology to Gordon, Rafe walked to the door.
“I’m going to check outside,” Jim muttered. “Looks like someone broke a window in the garage and came in through the connecting door to the house. The door had to have been unlocked from the inside.”
Rafe nodded. “I’ll finish questioning the VanDorns.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Don’t let your…allergies flare up. Your partner would kill me.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “He’d kill me first,” he muttered.
Rafe closed the door behind him and returned to his chair. “My apologies.”
Gordon wearily nodded.
“How long had your trip to Portland been planned?”
“For a while,” Gordon admitted. “It was originally scheduled three months ago. But the City Planning Commissioner’s wife gave birth prematurely, and it was rescheduled. Like I said, my niece, Joanna, can give you the specifics.”
Rafe nodded. “Just a few more questions. Why didn’t you park in the garage?”
“We use it for storage.” Gordon looked confused. “Since we only have one car, it’s more convenient to park it in the driveway.”
“And the door to the garage? Is it kept locked?”
Gordon shook his head. “Not normally. We’re in and out of the garage a lot. The garage doors themselves are securely locked.”
Rafe stood. “Thank you, sir. I’d like you to come down to the station later to verify this information and sign a statement.”
“Tomorrow,” Gordon firmly replied. “Today is a day of mourning with my family.”
Rafe nodded. “I’ll need to speak briefly with the others.”
An hour later, Jim looked at the man slumped in the corner of the truck. “Want to stop for something to take back to the station for lunch?”
Rafe shook his head and closed his eyes. “Not for me, thanks.”
The two men rode back to the station in silence.
Joel Taggart sighed with relief as he reentered the police station after escorting the vendors off the premises. What they offered the Bomb Squad in protective clothing would undoubtedly prevent injuries and possibly save lives. However, sitting through a multi-hour demonstration plus a long question-and-answer period wasn’t his favorite way of spending time.
He paused for a moment, seeing a distraught man speaking with the desk Sergeant. Quietly walking forward, he nodded to the Sergeant.
“Please…let me speak with anybody!” the man pled.
“Perhaps, I could help,” Joel softly offered.
“Captain Taggart, this is Eric Wallace,” Sgt. Burke explained. “He needs to talk with Missing Persons but half of them are out with the flu and…”
“And the others are swamped, I know,” Joel smiled. “I’ll take the report for them.” He turned to Wallace. “I’m Joel Taggart. Why don’t you come with me?”
“Thank you, sir. Thank you.” Wallace walked with Joel towards the elevators. He was a young man in his mid-twenties with shoulder length brown hair and dark brown eyes. His jeans and off-white shirt were worn but clean, and his boots were scuffed and well-worn.
As they waited for the elevator, Wallace handed Joel a picture. “My fiance, Cici Martin. Actually Catherine Cecilia Martin, but she’s always gone by Cici. I haven’t heard from her since yesterday evening. She…” He was interrupted when the elevator door opened.
Joel smiled at Henri and Blair as he urged Wallace into the elevator. When the door closed, he looked at the picture. He saw a smiling young woman in her early twenties with long blonde hair and blue eyes. “If it’s only been…”
“She wouldn’t stay out all night,” Wallace frantically interrupted. “We’re from Spokane and here…we’re staying at a Motel 6 on the east side of Cascade. She was supposed to come back to the motel after she’d met with someone.” He lowered his head. “She’s over seven months pregnant. She wouldn’t stay out all night.”
Behind the two men, Blair and Henri exchanged startled looks. Henri casually leaned around Joel and glanced at the photo. Then he looked back and Blair and curtly nodded.
Blair’s eyes closed in sudden pain then he took a deep breath and reopened them as the elevator doors opened. “Joel, why don’t I take this gentleman to a conference room for you? Henri needs to ask you something about this morning’s presentation that he missed.” Blair forced a smile and touched Wallace’s arm. “Why don’t you come with me, sir?” He led the young man off the elevator and down the hall.
Joel stepped off the elevator and looked at the younger detective.
Henri tapped the photo in Joel’s hand. “Sandburg and I got called out for a dead body found at the new garbage treatment facility at the landfill. It’s her.”
Blair’s heart broke when Wallace identified the picture of the dead body in the morgue as his fiance. The shattered look on the young man’s face silently spoke of the loss of not only the woman he loved but his unborn child as well. “We’re so sorry,” Blair finally murmured.
“Who did it?” Wallace gasped. “Where was she?”
Blair glanced across the table at Henri, the quietly answered. “She was found this morning. You told Capt. Taggart she’s been missing since last night?”
Wallace nodded as Joel gently placed a bottle of water on the table in front of him. “Cici was adopted,” he haltingly explained. “Her adopted parents never hid the fact from her. Her mother gave her up when she was born then died a year or so later. Her father was never in the picture.” He leaned back in the chair. “I fell in love with her in the fifth grade. Before I even understood what love was. We started dating in high school then moved in together. Cici just wanted to be a wife and mother, you know. I got some training as an auto mechanic, and we were living in an apartment over her parents’ garage.” He gasped. “Her adopted parents, I mean. Oh, God, I’ve got to call them!”
Blair put a hand on Wallace’s arm. “We’ll help with that, but we need to know why you’re here in Cascade.”
“They’re better to me than my own parents,” Wallace muttered. Then he shook his head. “When Cici and I found out she was pregnant, we started to make plans to find a place of our own. Then Cici started wondering about, you know, health problems that might run in the family. She was concerned about the baby. Some lawyer had sent her a packet of information when she turned twenty-one. Stuff about her birth mother that the woman had left with him to give to Cici when she became an adult. Cici’d never opened it saying it didn’t matter. Her parents were the people who raised her.”
“But being pregnant made her want to get a medical history?” Henri nodded.
“Yeah. There was a letter from her birth mother. It just said she was sorry she had to give her up but her own folks threw her own when she got pregnant,” Wallace explained. “She’d had an affair with this married guy who had some kids. He wasn’t gonna leave them for her. Cici found her mother’s parents, but they wouldn’t give her the time of day.”
“Did her mother name Cici’s father?” Blair asked.
Wallace nodded. “That’s why we came to Cascade,” he explained. “Cici thought it would be better to see him rather than try to talk to him over the phone. I thought…that wouldn’t be a good idea, but Cici was so hurt when her grandparents refused to see her…”
“I can understand that,” Blair admitted. “Her father lives here?”
Wallace nodded again. “I wanted to go with her, but she said she wanted to go alone. Thought that my being there would maybe make a bad situation worse.” He covered his face with his hands. “I should’ve gone anyway! Never should’ve let her go alone!”
“How did she get there?” Joel suddenly asked.
“Drove our car,” Wallace shakily answered. “I took a cab here this morning.”
Joel slid a notebook to Wallace along with a pencil. “Write down the license number and description. I’ll put out an APB. We might be able to find out something from it.”
Wallace immediately wrote down the license number and description of his car. “She kissed me and said she loved me and that everything was going to be okay,” he whispered. “She promised me.”
“Who was she going to see, Mr. Wallace?” Henri gently asked.
“Guy named Gordon VanDorn.”
Both men turned when their Captain, Simon Banks called out to them.
“Turns out that body Brown and Sandburg rolled on this morning may be connected with your case,” Simon advised. “Briefing in Room 7 in ten minutes.”
Jim nodded and saw Joel leading an emotional young man towards the elevators. “Who’s he?”
“Husband of the dead woman on Brown and Sandburg’s case,” Simon quietly answered. “No way he was involved. Poor guy almost collapsed when he found out she was dead. Managed to give us a statement and help all he could.” He took a longer look at Rafe. “You feeling okay, Rafe?”
“I’ll be fine.” Rafe’s voice nearly broke. “I’ll be in Room 7, sir.”
Simon glanced at Jim with concern when he saw Rafe head for the mens’ room rather than Room 7.
Jim shook his head. “The VanDorns are originally from South Africa, sir. I think it brought back some bad memories. He took the lead in the questioning, and they responded to him.” He looked past Simon to see Henri and Blair. “Looks like this one hit Sandburg pretty hard.”
“Dead woman was seven months pregnant,” Simon growled. He nodded when Jim cursed under his breath. He walked back to his office knowing that Jim would be making a bee-line for his partner.
“How you doin’, Chief?” Jim gently asked.
“Better than the dead woman’s fiance,” Blair bitterly replied.
“Hey, H. Your partner headed to the mens’ room. Something’s bothering him,” Jim advised.
Henri nodded, giving Blair a gentle pat on the shoulder before leaving.
Henri opened the door to the mens’ room and heard the sound of retching from one of the stalls. “Rafe?”
After a few seconds, he heard his partner’s voice. “Not now.”
Henri shut the mens’ room door then leaned against the closed door, arms folded across his chest. He heard his partner breathing hard then the flushing of the toilet. He heard the lock on the stall door click then jumped as the door flew back on its hinges. Rafe walked out rubbing his knuckles.
“Feel better?” Henri quietly asked.
“No.” Rafe walked to the sink and turned on the cold water. He winced when he stuck his hand underneath the water.
Rafe shook his head as he flexed his hand. “Gonna bruise, though.” He raised his head and stared at his partner’s reflection in the mirror. Then he sighed. “I’ll explain in the briefing room. I really don’t want to go through it more than once.”
Rafe blinked at the quiet acceptance in Henri’s voice. “Some days I really really hate where I came from,” he muttered.
“How’s Mr. Wallace?” Blair asked when Joel walked into Room 7.
“Not good. I offered to stay with him while he called his fiance’s parents, but he said he wanted to be alone to do it,” Joel sighed. “I took him to Rev. Adams’ office to make the call. Rev. Adams was going to call Dr. Franklin to come over as well.”
Blair nodded at the mention of the precinct Chaplain and department psychologist. “They’ll take care of him.”
They looked up as Jim and Simon walked into the room closely followed by Henri and Rafe. Blair saw Rafe’s bruised knuckles and worriedly glanced at Jim.
“Alright, let’s get started,” Simon began as Henri closed the door behind him. “Brown. Sandburg. Give us what you have on your victim.”
Henri nodded to Blair who cleared his throat. “She was identified as Catherine Cecilia Martin, aka Cici Martin, from Spokane. ME tentatively put her time of death as sometime between 8:30pm and midnight. There were no signs of gunshot or stab wounds. There were signs that she was beaten…most likely that’s the cause of death. Her fiance, Eric Wallace, confirmed she was seven months pregnant. According to the ME, she was killed elsewhere then brought to the landfill. It was just good luck for us that she was dumped in the area that was scheduled to be in the demonstration.”
He took a deep breath then continued. “According to Mr. Wallace, they were in Cascade so she could make contact with her birth father. She was adopted as a baby, and her birth mother died a few years after she gave Cici up for adoption. However, she left a letter with an attorney with orders to track Cici down when she turned twenty-one. He did, and the letter told her the name of her birth father. According to Mr. Wallace, she wanted to contact her birth father to get family medical history for her baby. He says she didn’t want anything else because she considered her adopted parents as her real family.”
“Who was the father?” Jim asked, wondering how their two cases were connected.
Jim’s blue eyes narrowed. “Other than the letter supposedly from her long-dead mother, is there any other proof of paternity?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Ellison! Who in their right mind would WANT to be related to those sons-of-bitches!”
Everyone in the room looked at Rafe in stunned surprise.
“That’s enough, Detective!” Simon snapped. “If you have a problem being objective on this case, you’ll be replaced!”
“Maybe that’s for the best, sir,” Rafe answered.
Simon waited for an explanation. When Rafe looked down at the conference table, he spoke, “I’m waiting, Detective.”
Rafe nodded. “You know I was born and raised in South Africa. The VanDorns also come from South Africa. I’d like to say that all the garbage they talk about wasn’t spoken in my house…but I’d be lying. Apartheid was anathema and to be resisted down the very last degree.” He apologetically looked at Henri. “I swear, I never cared about that. I just wanted to go to school in Johannesburg and get off that farm.”
Henri nodded. “I believe you.”
Rafe took a deep breath. “I was in my junior year at the University. Majoring in journalism.” He wryly smiled. “My father approved since it would give me the opportunity to publish “the truth” as he called it.” His smile dimmed. “There was a young graduate student working on the school newspaper. Nolwazi Shabangu. She was committed to writing actual truth about the changes that were happening.”
He leaned back in his seat. “She once said that truth is truth and shouldn’t play favorites. Even if the story put a negative slant on apartheid, it should be printed if true.” He shrugged. “She got into more than one argument over that.”
“She sounds like an admirable woman,” Blair gently spoke.
“She was. And I did admire her. A lot,” Rafe admitted. “Then one day, she missed a morning staff meeting. We weren’t concerned at first. But when her roommate came looking for her later that day, the entire staff started looking for her.” He briefly closed her eyes. “She was found the next morning. She’d been dumped, naked, at the front gate of the University sometime during the night. She’d been gang raped, her throat slit, and her tongue removed.” He barely heard Blair’s horrified gasp.
“They closed the University for the rest of the semester,” Rafe continued. “There was too much talk of reprisals along with some actual confrontations. I’d been working a part-time job so I went home for a few days to figure out where I could find a place to live until school started again.” His voice became angry and bitter. “My father and brothers laughed about what happened to Nolwazi. My mother and sister said it was no better than she deserved.”
He took another deep breath. “Two days later I went back to Johannesburg. Between some money my grandparents had left me and what I’d saved, I had enough to leave the country. My father had always insisted we keep our passports up-to-date in case we needed to leave in a hurry. I mailed the University the paperwork to officially drop out and contacted the American embassy to get a visa with the intent of emigrating.” He shrugged. “Cascade was as far as I could go and still have money to live on until I got a job. Once I got here, I found work until I could get onto the force.” He slowly shook his head. “Journalism didn’t interest me any more. As soon as I could, I applied for citizenship and renounced my South African citizenship. At the same time, I changed my last name from VanRyf to Rafe.”
Henri opened his mouth to speak, then cleared his throat. “Glad you made it here, partner.”
Startled, Rafe looked up. “The VanDorns responded to me as one of them!” he bitterly replied. “I let them hear an accent…let them believe what they wanted to here.”
Henri shrugged. “So?” When Rafe stared at him, he grinned. “They’re morons. What did you expect? That they’d be smart enough to see through the act?”
“Rafe handled the interviews, sir. I made sure no one gave Serena and her crew a hard time or interfered,” Jim explained to Simon.
Simon nodded. “What did you find out, Rafe?”
Rafe cleared his throat. “Gordon VanDorn was in Portland yesterday. We confirmed this on the way back to the station with the Portland City Planning Commissioner. I also spoke with the hotel manager in Portland, and he confirmed that VanDorn checked out early this morning complaining about the noise in the rooms around him. He’d also called a couple of times earlier in the night to complain.”
“Those calls eliminate him as a suspect since they came from his hotel room,” Jim shrugged. “The hotel manager said no one else complained about the noise, but that he could hear noise in the hallway when he went to the rooms after the second call to warn them. He figured VanDorn was a light sleeper.”
“Gordon VanDorn said he got back from Portland about 7:30 this morning and found his wife,” Rafe reported. “He ran next door where his brother, Christopher, lives. Christopher’s wife, Anna, their daughter, Joanna, and the elder VanDorn, Deidrich, also live there. Deidrich VanDorn called 911 while Christopher and Anna accompanied Gordon back to the house. Deidrich then followed. Joanna had already left for work at the family business, VanDorn Architecture.”
“Anyone else living in the house?” Simon asked.
Jim shook his head. “Gordon VanDorn’s two sons, William and Edward, live in a duplex across the street with their wives.” He consulted his notes. “Ellen and Vicky, respectively. However, the women were out of town along with Deidrich VanDorn’s other son, Phillip, his wife, Linda, and their two children, Ruth and Leah.”
“Where were they?” Joel asked.
“St. Louis,” Rafe answered. “Phillip, Linda, Ruth, Leah, Ellen, and Vicky were protesting the National Association of Family Planning’s annual conference.”
“I got confirmation of their airline travel and hotel reservations just before this meeting,” Jim added. “I also spoke with the St. Louis police who confirmed all six were at the protest yesterday. However, they’ve changed their plans and are on their way back to Cascade.”
“Edward and William say they spoke to their mother about 6pm,” Rafe continued. “They invited her to dinner, but she said she had a headache and would stay home. They didn’t speak to her again. They alibied each other that they worked on designing some protest flyers then were in bed by 10pm. They spoke to no one else or left the house. Anna said she spoke to the deceased about 7pm and asked if she wanted to come and spend the night with them, but the deceased refused. She also said no one left the house that night.”
Simon leaned back in his chair. “So we have Cici Martin coming to Cascade to confront her birth father, Gordon VanDorn….assuming he turns out to be her birth father. Gordon VanDorn is in Portland when she arrives. So she would meet the deceased, Martha Van Dorn.” He glanced at the other detectives. “A confrontation?”
“With a pregnant woman?” Blair protested.
Rafe started to say something, then closed his mouth.
“Young woman comes to the house asking for her husband and saying she’s his long-lost love-child,” Henri mused. “I can see that situation going bad real fast.”
“So the two women struggle,” Jim continued. “Neither woman is that big or strong and one is seven months pregnant.” He got to his feet and motioned for Simon to join him. The two men grabbed the other’s arms. “They push and shove around the room.”
“Stuff gets knocked over…pushed to one side or the other.”
“Serena did say the room had been cleaned up,” Rafe recalled. “Except for that earring that Jim found under a piece of furniture.”
“Which matches the one Cici Martin was wearing?” Joel asked. He received a nod from Henri.
“Cici finally shoves Martha back.” Jim gently pushed Simon who stepped backwards. “She stumbles and hits her head on that granite mantle top and kills her. She falls to the floor and dies pretty instantly.”
“Then who killed Cici?” Blair questioned. “Wouldn’t she have called 911?”
Henri shrugged. “I’d like to think so, but would she?”
Rafe looked at Simon and Jim. “You’ve both been married. If someone came to your home while you were out of town and told your wife she was your illegitimate daughter…a daughter born while you were married…what would her first reaction be?”
“See if she was still listed on my life insurance.”
“Go for her weapon.”
The two men glanced at each other then slowly smiled.
“Call me on the phone,” Jim admitted.
“Suppose Martha did call Gordon,” Blair frowned. “He either didn’t answer his phone…”
“He would have been at that dinner meeting,” Rafe interrupted.
“…or he did,” Blair continued. “Maybe she called someone else as well?”
“Like her sons,” Henri nodded. “They showed up to see Cici Martin standing over their mother’s body.”
“And both beat her to death?” Simon asked with a raised eyebrow.
“The ME said that’s what killed her,” Blair pointed out. “Then they take her to the landfill and straighten up the room.”
“Go home and wait for someone to find her.” Jim shook his head. “It plays out in theory, but…”
“But we need more,” Simon firmly continued. “Get the paperwork done to get the phone logs for telephones for all the VanDorns. Home, business, and cells.”
“If they, the sons or whoever, took Cici’s body to the landfill, we’ll need a search warrant for their vehicles,” Joel pointed out.
Simon nodded. “Find out who drives what.” He paused, the continued. “Jim, contact the City Traffic Dept. Find out if any of those new traffic control cameras are located between the landfill and the VanDorn house.”
“We’ve also got a copy of the surveillance camera at the garbage treatment facility,” Blair recalled.
“There was an awful lot of blood at the VanDorn crime scene,” Jim remembered. “I’ll have the lab see if they can match Cici Martin’s blood type to any of it.”
Simon turned and walked towards the door. “Let’s get moving, gentlemen.”
Jim glanced to the other end of the table. “You did a good job today, Rafe.” He smiled at the younger man, the nudged his partner. “C’mon, Sandburg. Let’s put those research skills of yours to work.”
Blair sighed as he got to his feet. He winked at the others. “Is that all I am to you? A research tool?”
“No, you cook pretty well, too,” Jim replied as he walked out of the room.
Joel chuckled and got to his feet. He glanced at Rafe, who stood awkwardly putting his notes in order. “Are you okay, Rafe?”
Rafe glanced up in surprise. “Sure, Joel. Thanks.”
The older man smiled in response then left.
“Let it go, babe,” Henri quietly advised.
“I will,” Rafe assured him. “Just…brought back a lot of bad stuff.”
Henri nodded in understanding. “Just so you realize, you’re still coming to dinner on Saturday. And if you’re not back to normal, I’ll have to tell my momma what the problem is; and then she’s gonna want to go to South Africa to kick your daddy’s ass.” He heard Rafe’s sudden snort as he turned to walk out of the room. “Then we’ll have to get Hairboy to fly there to work his voodoo magic and confuse them with all sorts of talk about cultural taboos and stuff….and you know that means Ellison’ll go with him….”
Rafe found himself smiling as he followed his partner out of the room, listening with pleasure as Henri spun a fantastic story of what would happen to South Africa once his momma, Hairboy, and Ellison all got there.
In the end, it was ridiculously easy to find the evidence they needed. Henri and Blair made another trip to the garbage landfill, victoriously returning several hours later with an object they immediately took to Forensics and put into Serena’s waiting hands.
When the VanDorns arrived the next day to review and sign the statements they’d given to Rafe, they were escorted by Rhonda into a large briefing room. She passed Rafe on the way out of the room and gave him an encouraging smile.
Rafe gently closed the door behind him. “Thank you for coming in. This is a written record of the statements you gave to me yesterday. If you’d review them for accuracy and sign them, you can be on your way.” He walked to the table and passed out folders to the people sitting there.
Deidrich VanDorn. Gordon VanDorn. Edward VanDorn. William VanDorn. Christopher VanDorn. Anna VanDorn.
He paused before sitting at the table and stared at the final member of the group. “I’m sorry. I didn’t introduce myself. Detective Rafe.”
“Phillip VanDorf.” The middle-aged man replied. “I’m the corporate attorney for the family business. I’m here to protect my family’s legal interests. So I’d like to see a copy of those statements as well.”
“At this moment, those are the only copies,” Rafe admitted. “However, as legal counsel for your family, I’ll make sure you get copies once they’re signed.”
“No one signs anything until I’ve read it,” Phillip warned.
Rafe calmly nodded in agreement. He sat in comfortable silence as the VanDorns read their statements then passed them to Phillip who read them. When Phillip completed his reading and passed the statements back to the various family members, he quietly spoke, “Are there any corrections required?”
Phillip glanced at each family member who shook their heads. “Sign them,” he advised.
Rafe watched as the statements were signed and slid across the desk towards him. “Thank you.”
The door to the conference room opened. Jim, Simon, and Henri approached the desk.
“Edward and William VanDorn, please stand,” Simon requested. “You’re under arrest for the murder of Cici Martin and her unborn child.”
“How dare you!” Anna screamed.
Deidrich VanDorn glared across the table at Rafe who returned the glare. “You bastard!” he hissed.
“Coming from you, that’s a compliment,” Rafe calmly replied.
“What is this nonsense?!” Phillip VanDorn demanded.
“Your nephews lied in their statements about not talking with anyone after 6pm on the night of the murder or leaving their house,” Simon explained as the two handcuffed prisoners were led to the door and into the custody of uniformed officers. “We have evidence showing they placed Ms. Martin’s body at the landfill. Officers are now executing search warrants for their residence and William VanDorn’s van.”
“You don’t have one thing, you damned…” Deidrich began.
Jim angrily growled.
They all stared at Gordon.
“Enough. It’s over.”
“Gordon, shut up!” Phillip demanded.
Gordon shook his head. “I’ve lost my wife. My daughter. My grandchild. And my sons. Enough.”
“Daughter? How do you know that bitch of a tramp was your daughter?!” Anna furiously demanded.
“Because I had an affair with her mother,” Gordon quietly answered. He stared at his brother. “Because that girl had our mother’s face.”
“Gordon, not another word!” Deidrich angrily ordered. “You have a duty to your sons! Your flesh and blood! You’ll say nothing to hurt them!”
“That girl and her child were my flesh and blood as well.” Gordon looked at Rafe. “I’ll answer any questions you have.”
“This is Detective Brian Rafe conducting an audio and video recorded interview with Gordon VanDorn in Interview Room 1 at Central Precinct. The date is March 22, 2001. The time is 10:15am. Mr. VanDorn, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” Rafe pocketed the small card with the Miranda warning back into his jacket pocket.
“Do you wish to have legal counsel present during this interview?”
“What was your relationship with the deceased?”
“Martha VanDorn was my wife. Cici Martin was my da—daughter. Her baby would have been my grandchild.”
“What can you tell me about the deaths of Martha VanDorn, Cici Martin, and the unborn child of Ceci Martin?” Rafe asked.
Gordon shook his head. “I…I was at dinner the night before last…in Portland when my cell phone rang. I saw the call was from my wife and stepped away from the table to answer it. Martha…Martha said this girl was at the front door claiming to be my daughter.” He glanced down at his folded hands. “Martha knew I’d had an affair some years ago. It was a brief thing. Honestly, I don’t even know why I did it. I’ve always loved Martha. She was a good wife to me…a good mother to our sons.”
“What did you tell her?”
“I told her to tell the girl that I’d be back in town the next day, and I’d contact her then,” Gordon replied. “To send her away before…someone saw her at the door.”
“By someone you mean another member of your family?” Rafe questioned.
Gordon nodded. “Yes. I hoped to…I don’t know what I’d hoped to do.” He paused. “I don’t know why Martha let her into the house. Maybe because she was pregnant.” He lowered his voice. “Maybe to find out about Cici’s mother. I never told Martha anything about her.”
“What happened next?”
Gordon raised his head. “I went back to dinner and then to my hotel room and to bed. About 10pm, my cell phone rang again and woke me up. I saw it was my son, Edward, calling. When I answered, he said that I needed to listen carefully to him. He said that his mother had called for him and William to come over to the house. There was some girl there that Martha said was my daughter…that she—Martha didn’t know what to do.”
He caught his breath. “The two of them went over to the house. They…argued. Claiming it was a lie…to embarrass the family. William…started to shove Cici.” He shook his head. “A pregnant woman…married or not…how could he have endangered an unborn child like that?” he whispered.
Rafe waited a few seconds. “And then?”
“Martha got in front of Cici…to protect her and the child.” Gordon wrung his hands. “It was an accident! William didn’t mean to push his mother! Martha fell backwards and hit her head on the marble mantle top! William would never have hurt his own mother!”
Rafe silently waited.
“Edward said…the girl knelt next to his mother and screamed for them to call for an ambulance,” Gordon haltingly continued. “Said she wouldn’t stop screaming at them. William picked up the crystal award Father won years ago and…”
“And struck Cici.” Gordon closed his eyes. “Over and over and over.” He gasped. “And Edward just stood and watched it.” He opened his eyes and wiped them. “Ed…ward said he got an old blanket from his house, and they wrapped Cici in it. They pulled William’s van into the driveway and put her in the back and took…” He began to cry. “…took her to the landfill.”
“What about the crystal award they used on her?” Rafe asked.
“Said they tossed it at the landfill as well,” Gordon sobbed. “This is my fault. If I hadn’t been weak and slept with another woman….”
“What else did they do?” Rafe continued after a few seconds.
“Edward said they came back and broke out a window in the garage. Made sure the connecting door was unlocked and dusted the room. They were worried about Cici’s fingerprints,” Gordon finally answered. “I…I kept making Edward repeat what he was saying. I just…couldn’t understand what…what they’d done. Edward said I had to make sure the hotel knew I was there. Call about noise in another room or something. Then check out in time to make it home by early morning.”
“Why did you go along with it?”
Gordon sighed. “I didn’t want to lose my sons as well,” he admitted. “I just wanted it to all go away.”
“What about the other members of your family? Did they know?” Rafe pressed.
Gordon looked into Rafe’s eyes. “I don’t know. I only spoke with Edward.”
Rafe nodded. “Gordon VanDorn, you’re under arrest for accessory after the fact in the murder of Cici Martin and her unborn child.”
“You have nothing except hearsay evidence!” Phillip VanDorn raged. He’d watched his brother’s interrogation with barely concealed contempt.
“Which will be corroborated by other evidence,” ADA Beverly Sanchez assured him. “Besides your brother’s testimony, we have the lies in your nephews’ official statements, evidence of the phone calls between the deceased and her sons and husbands, video evidence of your nephews dumping Ms. Martin’s body at the landfill, video confirmation by traffic control cameras of William and Edward VanDorn driving to and from the landfill, and Ms. Martin’s blood type was found in your brother’s home.” She smiled. “And we found the murder weapon from your brother’s home in the landfill with Ms. Martin’s blood on it.”
“My nephews are invoking their right to silence,” Phillip announced. “You’d better not question them.”
“As you wish,” Beverly agreed. “The state has no desire to offer them any deals.”
The two attorneys eyed each other for several seconds before Phillip turned and walked away.
“I’d say Gordon is about to be cut loose from the family,” Blair quietly spoke.
Beverly shrugged. “Phillip VanDorn is a very good corporate attorney, but he’s no criminal attorney. Hope he knows one.”
The door to the interrogation room opened. Rafe escorted a handcuffed Gordon VanDorn to a nearby uniformed officer.
Beverly nodded to both detectives and followed them down the hallway.
Blair put a hand on Rafe’s arm. “You okay?”
Rafe wearily smiled. “I will be. Thanks.”
A few hours later, Rafe sat in the break room, a cooling cup of coffee on the table in front of him. He stared at a worn photograph of a smiling young dark-skinned dark-eyed woman who sat cross-legged at the foot of a tree.
Rafe glanced up to see Henri standing next to him, holding his own cup of coffee. “Yeah, she was.” He pocketed the picture as Jim, Blair, Joel, and Simon joined them.
“What was her name again?” Henri asked.
“Nolwazi. Nolwazi Shabangu.”
Henri raised his coffee cup in silent salute. “To Nolwazi.”
“To Nolwazi,” Blair echoed
Rafe slowly smiled as the other detectives repeated the words and gesture.
“To Nolwazi,” he gently agreed.
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