This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1152 words.
By the time I got into my uniform and out to the motel, two of my deputies had already sealed off the scene. Bill Phillips was a solid guy, ex-army, and very reliable. He had already called in for the forensic team, and advised the State Police too. He met me at my car. “Sheriff, it’s that cop from Renton. Seems like a burglary in his room went wrong. Shot with his own gun, by the look of it. The room’s trashed, and I can’t find any of his personal stuff. Someone has been in his car too, you can see the trunk is still open. Night manager claims to have heard nothing, and there are only two other guests. I have them all in the lobby, waiting to take statements”.
I thanked him for his efficiency, and followed him to the room, after slipping some plastic covers over my shoes. “We have all been using covers and gloves, Sheriff. Any prints or marks will not be any we have left”. Bill pushed the door open for me, and I looked in. Doherty was on the bed, wrapped up in the sheets and blanket, with two pillows to the side of his head. He was only wearing underwear, and all the blood was around his head and neck, with splatters up the wall. Bill spoke from behind me.
“One shot, I reckon. In the throat, and out the back of the neck. Looks like he was struggling with the perp on the bed, and the pillows might have deadened the noise some. Strange thing, one of the other guests only heard someone messing around with the car. He got up and checked, in case it was his car, and saw the door open to Doherty’s room. Then he went and got the night manager”. I turned and walked out. “So he was shot with his own gun, how do you come to that conclusion, Bill?” He pointed behind me. “It’s on the floor of the room, other side of the bed. A nine-millimeter automatic. I reckon if it had been the perp’s, he would have took it with him”.
I heard the sirens before I saw all the flashing lights. Three cars sped up the driveway, and two of them had State Police markings. A heavy man got out of the unmarked car, and looked around. “Where’s the Sheriff? I want to talk to him now”. It was Doherty’s Captain, from Renton. I guessed he would want to take over, and he did. I was happy to let him, and after Bill filled him in on what we knew so far, he stared at me, visibly shaken. “I haven’t lost a man from my squad in the eleven years I have been in charge. I want whoever did this, Sheriff, and I am counting on your full cooperation”.
Forensics showed up, and they set up floodlights, took lots of photographs, and did all the usual stuff those people do. The Captain told me that the Staties had roadblocks all over, and the helicopter was up too. “This time of night, can’t be that many cars driving around. I have issued orders to stop everything, wherever they see it”. He wasn’t too interested in my input, so I didn’t bother to suggest that whoever had done this might be on foot, perhaps even still hiding close by. The Captain was fixed on a car being used, so I let him get on with it. If any mistakes were going to be made, they wouldn’t be made by me or any of my guys.
Two hours later, and they had taken statements from the other guests, and the night manager. He confessed that he had been sleeping in the back, until he was woken up by the worried guest ringing the bell on the counter. More State cops had shown up from Renton, including some detectives from the same squad as Doherty. Some of them were grinning, and none seemed too bothered that their colleague was dead. A full search of the room showed that there was no wallet, no car keys, and most of his notebooks and files were gone too. The trunk of his car was empty, save for the spare wheel, and an empty gun safe. The Captain came to find me.
“Looks as if whoever did this just grabbed everything and left. The files and notes will be no use to him, so I reckon they might have been dumped. He’s sure to have blood on him, and if he was struggling with Liam, he may have injuries too. I would appreciate it if your deputies could start looking around for anything that was dumped by the roadside. I have someone checking the hospitals in case he tried to get treatment, but someone should check any doctors in Riverdale too, as well as any who have offices on the roads leading out of town, north and south”. I nodded, and instructed my guys to do as he had asked. As Bill walked to his car, I caught his arm. “Bill, get everyone in who is off duty. And get that new girl too, Barbara. I know she is green, but she can sit in the office and answer the phone”. He nodded. “Will do, Sheriff”.
It was getting light by the time the medical examiner allowed the men to take the body out of the room and put it into their small truck. The Captain looked exhausted. “We are taking Liam’s body back to Renton, Sheriff. I take it you won’t have a problem with that? Some of my men will be staying on to cover the crime scene, and I would be grateful if you and your guys helped them with whatever they need”. He extended his hand, and I shook it firmly. “Sorry to meet you in such circumstances, Captain. You can count on us to help all we can. Contact me anytime”.
I drove back to the office, where a very relieved Barbara was pleased to see me. I told her I was sorry, but she would have to stay on duty, and I walked to the back to make some calls.
Mrs Riley sounded sleepy when she answered. “Mrs Riley, it’s Clay, Sheriff Farlowe. Can you tell Duke that the afternoon meeting at the river is cancelled today please? The detective from Renton is no longer available”. I didn’t make any small talk, and hung up when I was sure she understood. Freddie answered his phone after just one ring. His voice sounded thick with sleep. “Freddie, it’s Clay. No need to show up at the river this afternoon, something has happened to that detective. I will call you tomorrow”.
Sitting back in my chair, I stretched hard. My bones felt weary.
I wasn’t going to get any rest today, that was for sure.