Motive, means, and opportunity – Episode 1

The Jaded Detective

The victim was found just after dawn by a man walking his dog.

Detective Louis Bryson was just about to call it a day, or in this case since he was on the graveyard shift, call it a morning, when the call came in.

Why was it, he thought, that victims were always discovered by someone walking a dog.  Maybe the dog was walking them, because at that hour of the morning, if he owned a dog, he would be on autopilot.

And that was because Detective Louis Bryson was not a morning person.

He hated mornings, he hated traffic, and he hated people, especially in the morning peak hours.  Everyone always seemed angry and irritable.  It was bad enough going home, against the flow.  Worse when he had to drive out to a crime scene.

Like now.  The only thing saving his sanity was classical music.

The crime scene was a car parked in a designated parking area of the Queens Botanical Gardens.  How the car got there, who the victim was, and why the victim was there were questions he was going to ask.

He was stopped at the gate by an officer assigned to keep people out.  He showed his shield and the officer let him pass.

Crime scene investigators and the medical examiner were already on the scene, as was another detective, Sam Worthey, who was usually assigned to work with him.  Bryson was a hard man to work with, but Worthey had become used to his eccentricities.

Worthey had started walking towards the car the moment he saw Bryson pass the cordon and was at the door when Bryson stepped out.

Bryson had seen the lone car sitting off the roadway, back in rather than driven in, telling him the killer knew he had the time to do what he had to and that it was not a quick or opportunistic killing.  At first glance, this looked to be deliberate and planned.

A quick look around showed that it was unlikely there would be any witnesses who could identify the possible killer from the buildings, or the roadway that bordered the park.  He saw the man, and the dog sitting obediently by his side, who discovered the victim.

Worthey followed his eyes and when it stopped on the man he said, “The man who discovered the victim, Jack Bentine.  The dog’s name is Freddie, believe it or not, and they were going for a walk starting shortly after 7 am from a residence three streets away, on their usual early morning exercise in the park, for the dog that is, and found the deceased at approximately 7:15.  Not the best start to the day.”

“Do I need to talk to him?”

“No.  Got the details, and asked him to come to the station to sign a statement.  Pretty shaken up.”

“Then tell him to go.”

Bryson watched Worthey go over to the man, have a brief word, and then come back. 

Bentine shook his head and left with the reluctant dog.  He was going to miss out on his morning exercise.

Bryson walked towards the car and stopped about 20 feet short.  He looked closely at the ground, moving slowly towards the side of the car.  No footprints.  The surface was rough but very hard.  Pity, it hadn’t snowed overnight and left behind some very clear footprints.

He asked the investigators in and around the car to give him a few minutes, and he waited until they moved out of the way.

The door was open.  A closer look showed the man had been shot in the side of the head, blood spatter stretching to the other side of the car.

The victim was still in the driver’s seat.  The driver’s side window hadn’t been wound down, and the bullet had been shot through the glass.

So, had the killer been waiting, either in the parking space or somewhere near?  He looked around.  Nowhere to really hide.  So, was it possible the killer was waiting for the victim to arrive, which could mean the victim knew his killer?  It didn’t seem to fit the facts.  The scene seemed to Bryson to be a little off.

Another look inside the car showed the key to the car was in the driver’s hand, so that meant the victim had arrived, took the key out of the ignition, and was about to get out of the car.  Would he do that if the killer was standing in the spot?  Possibly not.  Bryson thought in the same position, he would just wind the window down, and not get out of the car.

Last night was very, very cold.

So that would mean the killer wasn’t visible to the victim when he arrived.

The victim was dressed in a suit, tie still on, so he had come from somewhere requiring formal clothing, work, a meeting, or dinner?

He took a couple of steps backward where Worthey was waiting.  He motioned the investigators to return.

“Do we know who he is?”

Worthey was holding an evidence bag with a wallet in it.  “Yes.  James Burgman, 45, currently single, but recently exiting from a very nasty divorce, in which his ex-wife is very angry.”

“And you know this because?”

“I read the newspapers.  It’s been in the news.  I didn’t need the wallet to identify him.”

“Approximate time of death?”

“Josie thinks sometime between midnight and two am.  She’ll know more when she gets the body.”

Josie was a good pathologist and was rarely wrong in her first estimation.”

“CCTV?” He had to ask just in case he missed something.

“One camera covering the carpark.” 

Worthey pointed to a spot where there were tree branches and, if he looked carefully, the metal of a pole.  Not easy to see it for the branches.

“And the bad news?”  He could detect the disappointment in Worthey’s tone.

“Casing only.  The unit has been in the repair shop for over a month waiting for a new board.  The fancier they are, the easier for them to fail.”

Or had it been sabotaged by a well-informed or well-prepared killer?  Whoever it was, this wasn’t a crime of opportunity.

“Was there a mobile phone or anything else?”

“We haven’t found one yet.”

Perhaps the killer took it to cover the fact he may have called him or left a message to come to this park.   It might be a break if Burgman had a mobile phone account.

“Right.  I’ll tackle the wife, and let her know what’s happened.  You see if you can track down a mobile phone or account, where he worked, and if possible, what he was supposed to be doing last night.”

Worthey groaned inwardly.  There was another case he was working on, but it looked like it would have to wait.  “On it.”

© Charles Heath 2023

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