Do I remember the scene along Route 9? I’d love to tell you that it has blended in with all of the other cases I’ve worked on, but unfortunately I cannot claim that luxury, as one does not easily forget their very first case.
The truth of the matter is, this area doesn’t get much “action” for lack of better, more respectful terminology. So you may be able to imagine how I felt when I rolled onto the scene behind the wheel of my Interceptor:
It was a 45 minute drive from headquarters and I had been on full alert the entire way, mind racing wildly with a multitude of thoughts. I had been trying my best to block out all emotion and doubt, with much success.
When I got word from the Chief that he had assigned me my first case, I felt both relieved that I had finally been given a chance to make a name for myself, and confident in my ability to do the job.
Then he told me that it was a murder.
I was stunned. It’s not typical practice for a newcomer in the field to be assigned a murder case from the get-go, and even less typical considering the fact that we were in rural Maine.
Maine had only seen 23 homicides in 2012, and in the few years since, had dropped down even further. Most homicide detectives would jump on a case like this, not only because of it’s brutality but mostly because of how few and far between cases like these were. But all of the H.D’s in my department had either turned it down or had “too much on their plates to do anything else.”
I expected to be given a robbery case, as these were far more common and more often than not had no casualties, so being hit with a homicide astounded me. But there I was, called in to the Chief’s office.
He was a man of fine taste, decorating his office with intricate paintings and a few small sculptures. He seemed to be trying very hard to transform the particularly conservative, plain room he called his office into a room reminiscient of the Baroque period.
The chair I was sitting in was not to be left out of place with the refined delicacies of the rest of the office. It was luxuriously cushioned with large, rounded armrests. A few things stood out that broke the illusion that you were transported into 17th century Western Europe, most notably the very large, straight, gaunt desk in the middle.
Seated behind the desk on a chair that lacked the practicality for an office setting and instead could be easily mistaken by the uneducated eye as some sort of throne complete with clawed feet, was the man himself Mr. Wilson, the Chief.
He was a very large man, standing 6’5” and 250lbs. His fitted Italian suit and designer cologne screamed that of a very elegant man. The juxtaposition of his suit to his choice in decoration was quite comical, but no one dared comment on it for Chief Wilson was a man of a certain demeanor that confused people until they got to know him very well. His personality fluctuated between sarcasm and intensity so fast that whispers through the department would be made regarding his level-headedness or…lack thereof. There was never any doubt of the Chief’s competance though and he kept the department running like a well-oiled machine, so any nasty rumors were soon dispelled.
“You’re more than capable Mariello” the Chief assured me, pulling me back to reality “Your records show nothing but praise and the work you’ve done as an officer shines far above the rest.” He leaned in closer over his cherry-finished, pristine desk, losing his signature grin and taking on a more serious tone. I caught the scent of his cologne. Versace, I guessed. “Don’t prove me wrong Detective.”
Flashing red and blue lights brought me back from my thoughts as I refocused on my surroundings. I thought I had been lucid but clearly I had drifted off into my own head for the past several miles. It wasn’t every day that you were heading to your first case. “Get your head in the game. Keep your eyes on the prize” I repeated to myself a few times to psyche me up and get leveled. It was a catch phrase of my Dad’s from as far back as I could remember. His mantra, as he preferred to call it.
Forensics had already taped off half of the road but allowed oncoming traffic to move slowly by, guided by a large woman in a bright yellow vest, holding a “Stop/Slow” sign. They had no choice but to let traffic through, alternating sides, as Route 9 was the only method of travelling between Pleasant Grove and Hazleton.
I pulled halfway off the road, aiming to park just outside the tape but began to be redirected by the woman with the sign, so I flashed my strobe lights on and off to send her back where she was really needed. Tally that up with the pros of having a Stealth model.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Why would a rural town in Maine have a Ford Interceptor Stealth?” Bonus points for your intuition. I had transferred up to the Pleasant Grove Police Department from Miami when my now ex-wife had wished to live closer to her parents when her Father became ill. As a token of my service and as a goodbye present of sorts, I was given the Interceptor that I had been using down there. You can say I have been blessed with great people in my life.
I came to a stop and took in the scene before I stepped out.
Every once in awhile, a vehicle would slow to a crawl, rubbernecking the scene. Even fewer would have the gall to begin to point their phones out of the window for a picture, but when this was seen, the driver was instructed to put the phone down, and was told that this was a crime scene. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to be compliant and went on their way. Maine was quaint like that around these parts.
Forensics was busy taking photos, writing notes, observing their surroundings and studying what must be the wreckage of the Harley I had read about in the case briefing. One of them had the humbling duty of making sure all traffic kept their pace and that no one snapped any photo or video. The majority of Forensics were huddled around what I assumed to be the body.
I got out of my car and walked toward the scene, ducking under the tape. As I did, I noticed the tire marks in the soft earth, just to the outside of the cracked pavement. There were two side by side and the first thing that came to mind was that the culprit was driving some sort of dually like a Dodge Ram Mega Cab.
I looked around at the evidence markers that were already placed. One sat near the twisted body of the Harley. Another, next to the body of the victim, 52 year old Dennis Coge. A third, on the ground just above the wreckage, closer to the forest. Upon closer examination I noticed a portion of a footprint. It was a small portion and fading to meld back into the earth, but it was something.
Surprisingly enough, there wasn’t a marker on the tire tracks. I pulled aside the nearest agent and corrected that. If it were a single tire impression, it may not be viable as evidence but not too many vehicles were dually.
I made my way to the body and the agents moved aside after noticing I was the lead detective.
“How long has he been dead?”
“Less than 24 hours, sir.”
I looked at the man, dried blood all around him, soaked both into his clothing and the earth surrounding him. His femur protruded from his right leg. His head and neck deformed and heavily bruised. Around his neck was a blue zip tie.
“What do you make of that?” I motioned to the unorthodox weapon.
“It’s a Uline industrial zip tie sir, designed to contain a few hundred pounds of material”
“We expected a GSW, maybe a blade wound. Blunt force at the worst. No one has ever seen death by zip tie before.” The young agent held a tone that had a slight sense of entertainment to it. I shot him a look that took it right out of him.
“Unorthodox sure, but the fact of the matter is that a man was strangled to death on the side of the road after receiving brutal wounds from a vehicular accident. A life was lost here, agent..”
“Thomas, sir.” he stated, quieter this time.
“Thomas.” I looked at him intently. “Anything else you can tell me while I have you?”
“Nothing that I know of.” He hesitated, then quickly added “sir”
I looked again at the body, a sickening feeling growing at the pit of my stomach, quickly rising to my throat. I wouldn’t let it get the best of me, not on the job. But seeing the terror frozen into Mr. Coge’s unblinking, glazed over eyes instilled in me a certain type of unsettling fear that would never leave my soul for as long as I lived.
One thing is for certain, I thought as again I carefully took in the scene. We aren’t dealing with a man. We are dealing with an impulsive, rage-filled monster.
It began to snow softly onto the crime scene, as Mr. Coge was carefully put in a body bag.
“A monster” I repeated.