Shortly after his boss left, Pete had seen enough himself and cleared the scene for forensics to do their thing. They documented every detail with photographs, marked off each thing that was out of place and anything that might lead to the identification of their suspect. He watched forensics from a distance, hoping one of them would find something that might give homicide a lead. Something juicy like a fingerprint would be perfect, but even Gibbons knew that was asking for too much. Highly unlikely, Pete thought to himself, this killer looked to be too meticulous and organized to make such a careless mistake. He was going to have to dig around and look for the answer himself through investigation. Pete left the apartment and went straight to the female officer standing in the hallway.
“Who found the bodies?” he calmly asked.
“The maid,” she quickly answered. “She was coming in for work in the morning when she found everyone dead.”
“That’s one hell of a head start,” Pete said as he let out a deep sigh. “Since the maid arrived around eight and the kids left school around three, that means these bodies were here for at least fifteen or sixteen hours, and before that another eight hours after the kids left for school.”
“That’s plenty of time to torture the victim,” the officer replied.
“It also means the suspect knew the maid’s schedule,” Pete added as he paced the hallway. “Where is she now?”
“She’s been taken to the hospital,” the officer answered. “She had a nervous breakdown and had to be removed.”
“We’ll get to her later.” Pete scanned the hallway. “Do we know who was home when this was all going down?”
“Not really,” the officer answered.
Pete liked to ask the uniforms questions. While their job was just to stand there, they always listened and had just as much intel about the scene as anyone else.
“Let’s ask then.” Pete walked to the closest door.
He proceeded to knock on almost every door and when someone was nice enough to answer, he identified himself, showed his credentials and then asked a few simple, non-evasive questions, such as did they hear any loud noises between two and four in the afternoon the previous day? Did they see the kids come home? Have there been any incidents with the people who resided in 1301? By asking simple questions such as those, Pete was able to gather the intel he needed without giving away anything himself. If anything, his questions made it sound like a domestic disturbance rather than a grisly homicide. This was necessary to make sure specific details were not spread, which always had a habit of making the six o’clock news. He interviewed several residents on the thirteenth floor and everyone gave the same statements: they didn’t see anyone suspicious and didn’t hear anything during the time when someone was being tortured and killed.
Just because there wasn’t a gag on Mr. Steinbach’s mouth didn’t mean there wasn’t one there when he was being tortured. That would certainly explain why no one heard anything, Pete thought to himself as he checked his notes and knocked on another door. No answer. He knocked again.
“I’m sorry, but no one’s there,” one of the neighbors came out to let him know.
“Do you know where this person is?” Pete asked.
“She went to New Hampshire to visit her mother,” the neighbor answered. “She’s been gone at least a week.”
“Does she have a dog sitter?” the officer in the hallway asked.
“No,” the neighbor replied. “She doesn’t have any pets.”
“Why did you ask that?” Pete asked the officer.
“I heard something in there while I was standing guard,” the officer answered. “Either someone was stealing her stereo or…”
“Or it could be our suspect,” Pete said as he pulled out his gun.
The officer beside him also drew a gun. Without warning and in an effort to take the possible suspect or thief by surprise, Pete kicked the door down and immediately walked in with his gun at eye level and started to search the apartment. Both Pete and the officer behind him swept the apartment rather quickly and there was no one there.
Pete tossed up his hands. “We need to find out whose apartment this is.”
The officer passed him one of the letters from a table near the door, a power bill addressed to the tenant of the apartment: Jessica Hauser.
“I’m sure she won’t be pleased to hear she had a freeloader while she was visiting her mom,” the officer said with a grin.
“In this neighborhood, I doubt it.” Pete tossed the mail back onto the small desk then noticed that the door to the balcony was open. Once he got outside, he saw a rope tied to the end of the balcony, which led down to a fire escape twenty-feet below. He held up the rope.