Forum for Death
By Shelleigh B.
On the calendar, the week of the 25th to the 31st of December's known as the last week of the year. In reality, it's affectionately known as "Hell Week", especially to the detectives of the 27th Precinct. "Great, did you see the paper?" Detective Mike Logan grumbled to his partner, Lennie Briscoe. "Supposed to be a full moon."
"Oh, the joys of working on Christmas Eve," Lennie replied. "Course, I'm Jewish, so I celebrate Hanukkah."
Mike tossed his pencil onto his desk. "Gimme a break, Lennie. Your ex-wife was Jewish, not you, and the only thing I've seen you celebrate is the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup. I don't think that's listed as a national holiday yet." He got up to refill his coffee cup.
"Hey, there's a first time for anything, right?" Just then, the phone rang. "Homicide, Briscoe. Hold on, slow down. Gimme the address again. Got it. We're on our way." Lennie put the receiver back. "Let's go, Mikey." Lennie grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair.
"What happened?" Logan asked as he donned his long brown leather coat. "Someone have too much Christmas cheer and fall out of a window?"
Lennie shook his head. "Janitor found a girl in a dumpster."
"What a way to start off the shift. Just hope this isn't how the rest of it's gonna go."
"So, speaking of Christmas, what are you and Tonia doing tomorrow?"
"We're meeting Brendan, Mary, Frank, and his family at the parish. You wanna join us?"
"Nah," Lennie said, pulling into a parking space. "The girls and I are actually getting together."
"I guess Christmas really is the season of miracles, huh?"
"Actually, it was my irresistible wit and charm that finally won them over."
"Oh, yeah, that's what I like most about you, too," Mike joked as they entered the office building. A CSU man met them at the door. "Happy holidays, guys. Unfortunately, the vic won't be getting any more presents." He led the pair outside to a dumpster at the back of the building. "Janitor was throwing trash bags out and discovered her."
Mike leaned over and peered in. "She was found like this? Nothing's been moved?"
"Right, Logan, we have a habit of rearranging crime scenes. Just our little way of celebrating April Fool's Day year round," the CSU guy replied. "Nope, everything's just like we found it. We even left the scents the same."
"Thanks," Briscoe said. "You could've at least sprayed pine scented Lysol or something."
"But then you wouldn't get the full effect."
"Merry Christmas to you, too."
A uniformed officer interrupted them. "Detective, we found her purse over here." Mike followed the patrolman over to a side alley. Logan put on a pair of gloves and picked up the brown handbag. "Megan Lindsey, 24, Kew Gardens," he said, looking at her ID. He shuffled through her billfold and the other contents of her purse. "Passkey, probably to an office here...yep, here's her badge, Lechtner Industries."
Lennie walked over to them. "Talked to the janitor, Mr. Nelson. Says he was dumping the trash and noticed her then. He's been here since five, but hadn't made it up to her floor yet."
Mike nodded. "Let's go back and see what CSU's come up with." The detectives returned to the dumpster. Someone from the ME's office was just finishing a cursory look-see. "Whatcha think, Dempsey?"
The portly, balding man looked up. "Strangled, I say, from the bruising pattern on her neck. Other assorted cuts and contusions, too. Looks like she put up one hell of a fight. Here's one for ya, though. Look at the blood pattern on her shirt." Mike and Lennie leaned over the dumpster's edge and looked at the white silk shirt the victim was wearing. "See the X over the left side?"
"What, X marks the spot?" Logan wondered.
The ME shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows? If you're done, I'll take her in for an autopsy."
"Yeah, go ahead," Lennie said. "Let us know as soon as you finish." The body was taken away and the crime scene blocked off. "What kind of sick bastard would do something like this, on Christmas Eve, no less."
"Why should the holidays be different from any other time of year? I just hate having to notify the next of kin. Isn't there any way we can wait to tell 'em?"
"Nope, sorry. What happens if she was supposed to be somewhere for the holiday and she doesn't show up? At least if we tell 'em, they won't spend all day worrying."
Mike sighed. "I hate it when you're right, Len. I really hate it. Okay, the ID said Lechtner Industries. Let's start there and see what we can find." Briscoe and Logan went back into the office building and looked at the listing of offices posted next to the elevators. "Here," Mike said, pointing to one of the names. "Lechtner Industries, 14th floor, suite 1412." Lennie punched the elevator button and he and Mike made their way up to Megan Lindsey's office.
"She looked better here," Logan said as he picked up a picture off of the desk.
"You would, too, Mikey, if you'd been stabbed. Of course," Lennie quipped, "that might improve your appearance."
"Bite me, Lennie," Mike shot back.
"No offense, but you're not my type. I prefer the petite, blonde hair kind, preferably named Olga or Trixie."
"You had me worried. I thought you were talking about Tonia and I thought I was gonna have to bust your chops."
"No way, Mikey, Tonia's your girlfriend, though she deserves better," Lennie chuckled. "Here's the girl's datebook." Lennie took out a pencil and flipped through the pages. "Nothing jumping out. We'll get CSU up here, then take it back to the precinct."
While Lennie was skimming through the appointment book, Mike glanced through her Rolodex. "Here's the next of kin, Milton and Gladys Lindsey. Same address as the vic, probably parents."
"Hey, Miller," Lennie said to the CSU man. "Do your thing in here and make sure that date book and that Rolodex make it back to the 2-7, okay?" The man nodded as Briscoe and Logan left and made their way to Kew Gardens.
"Did Megan have any enemies that you knew about?" Mike asked the elderly couple seated on the couch.
"She never mentioned anyone. Everyone liked Meg," Mrs. Lindsey sniffed and dabbed her eyes with a Kleenex, then looked over at her husband. He squeezed her hand and nodded in agreement.
"Was she seeing anyone?" Briscoe inquired.
"Not on a regular basis," Mr. Lindsey said.
"Did she normally work on Christmas Eve?" Mike asked.
"Not usually. It had something to do with a merger her company was working on," Mr. Lindsey answered. "I'm sorry I don't know more details. You could contact her boss, Greg Alexander. He'll be able to tell you about that."
Lennie and Mike stood up, thanked the couple, and told them they'd keep them posted. "Damn! What kind of a boss makes you work on Christmas Eve?" Mike wondered aloud.
"You mean besides Cragen?" Lennie said. "Don't tell me you're gonna start on your tirade of the haves vs. the have-nots again, are you?"
"Okay, I'll spare you this time. Why don't we go back to the squad room and see if CSU's finished with Ms. Lindsey's belongings?"
"Nothing unusual in here," Mike remarked, flipping through the date book. "Lunch with mom or dad a couple of times a week...wait a minute, here's something." Mike looked over at his partner, who was on the phone. "Check her Rolodex for someone, initials AMC." Lennie looked through the Rolodex, then shook his head and mouthed, "nothing here." Mike leaned back in his chair and pondered the situation.
As he did, Cragen burst out of his office. "Lennie, Mike, in here, pronto." They went into Cragen's office. "You're not gonna believe this, but we've got another body in a dumpster. Sounds like the same scenario."
"Geez, what a way to celebrate Christmas Eve," Logan commented. "Where's this one at?"
Cragen gave them the address, then added, "Guys, let's not let the media get wind of this, okay? I'd rather have visions of sugarplums dancing in my head than visions of freakin' headlines dancing across my desk." He chased them out of the office and slammed the door behind them.
"Did you get that message, Mike? I don't think Cragen wants you to tell Tonia about this."
"Yeah, yeah, I got it. Hasn't he figured out that, even though Tonia's a newspaper reporter, she doesn't blab? She does have some sense of decency." Mike said as they drove to the crime scene. After going over the scene, they interviewed friends and family of the latest victim, Sarah Cunningham, but came up with blanks. They talked with Sarah Cunningham's boyfriend, verified alibis, and then went to Max's Diner to eat. As their food arrived, Mike's pager went off. He went to the phone and came back a short time later. "Third time's the charm, Len."
Briscoe put down his fork. "Don't tell me, another victim?"
Mike nodded. "About three blocks from the last one. CSU's already there. Cragen wants us to head on over and see if we can find a link." The two paid for their meals and went to the scene.
Later that evening, Mike and Lennie were back at the 2-7 going over evidence from the three cases, trying to find anything the three women might have had in common. Suddenly, Mike slammed his hand down on his desk. "I think I've got it! Lennie, hand me Sarah Cunningham's appointment book." He took the book from Lennie and flipped to a page. "Here, Wednesday the 17th, AMC, seven o'clock, same as Megan Lindsey's book. Check Marcia Olson's book." Lennie did so, and confirmed that hers was marked with the same initials. They checked all three victims' rolodexes and address books, but found no one listed with those initials. Mike picked up the phone.
"Who are you calling?" Lennie asked.
"Tonia. I've got a hunch."
Lennie threw up his hands. "Great, Mikey's got a hunch. Can't wait to see where this leads."
The voice on the other end of the phone answered. "Times, T. Shelley."
"Ooh, I love it when you're short with me," Mike whispered into the phone.
"Hey, Mike, what's up?"
"Hon, I need you to check something out for me. Look at your back editions and see if you can find anyone with the initials AMC listed on Wednesdays, would ya, please?"
"Sure thing. Call you at the station when I get anything. Say hi to Lennie for me."
"Will do. Bye for now," Mike replied, hanging up the phone. "What?" He snapped, looking at his partner.
"Oh, nothing. I just think you two sound so sweet."
"Just be happy I'm happy, would ya?" Mike shot back, then walked to the coffeepot to refill his cup.
A couple of hours later, Mike's phone rang. "Homicide, Logan," he answered.
"Mikey, it's Tonia. I've got something for you." She explained it to him and he hung up the phone, looking confused. "That's it, now I've heard everything."
"What did Tonia have to say?" Lennie asked.
"Let's go into Cragen's office. This is a real doozy." Mike and Lennie walked into Cragen's office. "Okay, here's what Tonia found out."
"You told Tonia?" Cragen bellowed. "What did I tell you earlier? Thank you for making my life so much easier, Mikey."
"Hold on, Donnie. I didn't tell her anything. I just had her check on the initials."
"She found out that an actor named Alex Marshall has a chat on the Internet every Wednesday." Lennie and Cragen looked puzzled. "I didn't get it at first, either, then she explained it to me. AMC stands for Alex Marshall Chat."
"That's your connection?" Cragen asked. "A guy talks to people through the computer and that's what got three women killed?" He shook his head. "This is great, just great. So, know anyone offhand who knows bupkus about computers?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Mike offered, "Tonia."
Cragen collapsed in his chair and put his head in his hands. "I had a sinking suspicion you were gonna say that name. Mike, she's a reporter, for Christ's sake!"
"Who happens to be involved with a detective. Captain, trust me on this one. Remember the Masucci/Beigal case? Who do you think we called to plant the story in the newspaper?" Cragen looked up at him. "That's right, Tonia. In fact, she's been gathering facts on her own for several months now about the anti-corruption task force. Have you seen that mentioned anywhere in the paper? No. I rest my case." Mike leaned back against the door. "She won't mind helping out. She's already offered her assistance."
Cragen let out a sigh of resignation. "Okay, Mike, okay. I'll let you run with this, only because we have no other leads. But, if I see any leaks, anything in the media, I'm shutting it down. Understood?"
Mike nodded. "Thanks, Captain. You won't regret it."
"Too late," he moaned. "Just get out of here and let me roll around in my misery, okay?" He ushered his two detectives out of his office, then closed the door and shut the blinds.
Tonia had offered to check out the chat the following Wednesday. Until then, Mike and Lennie tried to uncover any additional common ground among the three victims, but came up empty. Wednesday evening Mike arrived back at the apartment and found Tonia sitting in front of her computer. He kissed her on the top of the head. "Hey, babe, come up with anything yet?"
"Not yet, Mikey, but it just got underway. Your dinner's in the microwave, just punch start." Mike headed off to change clothes and grabbed his dinner from the kitchen, then returned to the living room. "I think I found something." Mike leaned in for a closer look. "See these two names here?"
"These, Alex's Angel and Marshall's Missus. They've been holding a private chat."
"How can you tell?"
She scrolled up the page and showed him where they talked about going to a private chat room. "So, I just did some searching and found them. They've done a lot of talking about the murders."
Mike just shook his head. He wished he knew more about these damn computers. All this technology went over his head. Thank God his girlfriend knew what the hell she was doing, he thought. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her.
"What was that for?"
"My way of thanking you for being in my life."
"Right back at ya, babe," she said in her best Logan imitation. "Wait a minute, they're talking specifics."
"Is there any way you can tell where they're located?"
"You mean, hack into their computers? Michael Francis Logan, I'm shocked you'd ask me to do something like that!" Tonia exclaimed, a mischievous smile appearing on her face.
"I didn't say that. Besides, if I asked you to do that, it would be illegal. If, however, you, being a citizen and somewhat normal person--"
"Mikey!" Tonia laughed, slapping him across the back of his head.
"As I was saying before you assaulted me, you're doing this on your own, not as an agent of the police department. Therefore, since you discovered it on your own, it's legal...or something like that."
"Okay, Mike, if you say so. I just don't want to screw up the case. I mean, what happens if the person gets off on this technicality? Could we live with that on our consciences?"
"Tell you what. To ease your mind, I'll call Robinette and get his opinion. Will that make you feel better?" She nodded. "Okay, you keep watching the chat and I'll call him." He returned a short time later.
"What did you find out?"
"According to him, you're a private citizen, working on your own accord, so it's legal as legal can be."
Tonia breathed a sigh of relief. "Good, because I think I found what you're looking for." Mike grabbed a pen and some paper. "Right here, the one calling herself--or himself--Alex's Angel. See?" Mike leaned over Tonia's shoulder and copied down what he saw on the computer. "I can print it out if you'd like."
"That'd be great. Any luck on locating these people?"
Tonia nodded. "All I did was type in a few pertinent details and, voila! Your possible suspect. Give me a sec and I'll print that out, too." When the printer stopped. Tonia handed him the pages. "Here you go, Mikey. Now, would you do me a favor, please?"
"Go do your job and nail these idiots."
"My pleasure, Tonia. Lemme call Cragen and get him started on getting warrants, then I'll call Lennie." He made the phone calls, then went to the precinct to get started on the paperwork.
Briscoe and Logan arrested Deborah Turner for the murders of Megan Lindsey, Sarah Cunningham, and Marcia Olson. Her attorney contested the warrant, saying it was based on tainted evidence. The judge didn't agree, stating that the evidence collected was done within the boundaries of the law and, therefore, was allowed into the trial. Tonia had to appear as a prosecution witness and testify that she offered her help.
After the trial was over, Tonia, Mike, Lennie, Paul, and Ben Stone were standing outside the courtroom. "I still don't get why she did it," Lennie wondered aloud.
Stone spoke up, "She perceived the other women on the list as a threat."
"Therefore," Paul added, "she thought that by killing off her competition, she'd win Alex Marshall's affections."
"I just can't believe they didn't find her crazy," Mike said.
Tonia looked at him. "It's not crazy to be obsessed with someone. Please, I wanted to grow up and be Mrs. David Cassidy, but," she sighed, "that didn't happen." She linked her arm with Mike's. "So, I settled for the next best thing...being the girlfriend of Mike Logan." Tonia looked up at him. "What? Weren't you ever obsessed with a movie star?"
"Sure, but I never wanted to marry one. I did like 'Charlie's Angels', though."
Tonia laughed and rolled her eyes. "Now, why does that not surprise me? I don't think there was a male back then who wasn't obsessed with them."
"On that note, gentlemen, and lady," Lennie said, "I'm outta here. See ya tomorrow, Mike. Bye, Tonia, Paul, Ben." He sauntered off to his car.
"We should be going, too," Paul said. "We have the McGwire case to prepare for. Tonia, thanks for you help with this case."
"Anytime, Paul," she replied, shaking his hand. "Always glad to do my part to help put the scum of the world behind bars. Plus, I needed a good story and, since this one fell into my lap, I couldn't resist." She smiled as she added the last comment.
"Logan," Stone said, placing his hand on Mike's shoulder, "I'd keep this one if I were you. Miss Shelley, always a pleasure."
"Does this mean I get an exclusive interview with the prosecutor?"
"Of course, just be sure to use a different tape, in case we have to use the other one on appeal."
"You've got it, Counselor. I'll call your office tomorrow to schedule it." The attorneys left Mike and Tonia standing on the courthouse steps. After a brief pause, Tonia looked at Mike. "Well, shall we eat now, Mike?"
"Sure, but I just have one question: what tape was Stone talking about?"
Tonia grinned. "Remember when I called you and explained how I found out about the initials? I had my tape recorder going, just on a hunch I might have to cover my butt."
"Anyone ever tell you that you would've made a damn fine detective?"
"Just you, Michael Francis Logan, but I like being a reporter, thanks, anyway."
"Good, cause I like you being a reporter, too." He kissed her, and then they went to dinner, celebrating the fact that yet another criminal had been put behind bars, thanks to the efforts of law abiding citizens.