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Part II: Wednesday
Detective Frank Rhyne stared glumly at the mound of paperwork burying his desk at the Justice Center. It just doesn’t pay to take vacations, he thought. Leave - even for a measly day - and all hell breaks loose.
The police detective flipped through yet another file dealing with an armed robbery on the north side. He took a sip of his cold coffee and grimaced. “Ugh!” He glared balefully at the offending mug as he set it back down on the blotter. “Traitor.” He picked up the file again and continued reading.
The phone on his desk buzzed. Saved by the bell! He picked up the handset and shoved it between his ear and shoulder. “Detective Rhyne..... Really? Who? Alright, send her up.” He hung up the phone and rose. Stretching the kinks out of his back, he picked up the objectionable mug and lumbered towards the coffee machine located by the elevators. Visitors were a good thing.
By the time Rhyne had finished making the perfect cup of coffee, his guest stepped off the elevator and looked around. While her back was turned, he admired the long legs and dark hair, perfect rear. The woman’s black slacks were well tailored, as was the burgundy blazer she wore. He sighed, reminding himself he was married and she wasn’t interested in him anyway. The man braced himself as he watched her turn his way, the pale blue eyes shocking his system despite the fact he should have been used to them by now.
“Xe!” he bellowed. “Whaddya up to?” He moved forward and shook her hand. “Coffee?”
“No thanks, Frank,” Xena answered. “How’s it going?”
“Well, you know how it is, Xe. A little of this, little of that.” The detective lead the woman back to his desk and gestured for her to take a seat. “Don’t mind the mess,” he offered, indicating the mountain of paperwork.
The woman chuckled. “Was the vacation worth it?” she teased.
“Hmmmm..... Give me a couple of days and I’ll get back to you on that.” He took an appreciative sip of his coffee and set the mug down. “So, to what do I owe this visit? Work or pleasure?” He leered at her, wiggling his eyebrows.
She leered back at him. “Work, of course. Your wife is a hellcat and jealous to boot. I ain’t going there.”
Rhyne let out an explosive breath, frowning. “Damn it! Gonna have to get that woman under control!” He smiled at the brunette before him. “So, work it is. Is it something I can do or something that I’m going to get in trouble for?”
Xena looked pensive for a moment. She had spent a good portion of the night working on a plan of action. First, she had to shut down the easier avenues in her search. “The latter, I think.” Her blue eyes studied him as the smile left his face. “I need to look at your female mug shots, Frank, and I can’t tell you why.”
“Jesus, Xe! You know the captain hates your guts! If he catches you messing with files, I’m dead meat! Bye bye, promotion!”
The woman shrugged nonchalantly. “I have it on good authority that Captain Baines has left for a long lunch with a ‘friend’. Usually, these lunches last about two hours.” She leaned forward and stared at Rhyne intently. “C’mon, Frank, you know I can be in and out in less than an hour. He’ll never even know I was here.”
The detective shift uncomfortably under her gaze. She was right. As usual. And, he owed her. Hell, she took a bullet for me. He sighed and scrubbed at his face, frowning unhappily at his coffee. Coming to a decision, he nodded, smiled, and stood up. “Come on, then. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’re outta here.”
Xena returned the smile. “Thanks, Frank, I really appreciate it.”
“Yeah, well just remember that next time I need a favor.”
“Oh, I will, I will!”
Rhyne led her to a desk on the other side of the room. Above it were shelves of large binders. He pulled one down and opened it up. Several photos of women looked back up at him. “All these,” he indicated the black binders, “are female suspects. The blue ones are male. Happy searching.”
“Great! Thanks!” The woman pulled out a chair and settled in.
“Sure you can’t tell me why? It might help narrow down the search.....”
“Um, no, I can’t, Frank. You know how it is, client confidentiality and all that,” Xena lied.
The detective grunted in acknowledgement. “Well, I’ll be at my desk if you need me. And I didn’t let you in here, should Captain Baines return from his lunch early.”
The man shook his head in amusement and wandered back to the mountain on his desk. He sat down heavily, took another gulp of coffee, and began to wade through the files.
An hour had gone by when he heard someone call out a welcome to the captain. Shit! His eyes darted to the table he had left Xena at. The table was empty. All binders were in place. He silently whispered a prayer of thanks to whatever god was listening and got back to work. Taking a sip of his now cold coffee, he grimaced and glared balefully at the mug.
* * *
Xena pushed through the glass door of the Old Town/Chinatown Police station and approached the desk. Her search at the Justice Center had been successful. She had one piece of the puzzle. Now for the next one.
“Officer Holt, please,” she inquired of the desk sergeant.
“Yeah, sure, Xe, hold on,” the sergeant said, picking up the phone. He spoke into it and hung up. “He’ll be right out.”
“Thanks, sergeant,” Xena smiled. She idly wandered back to the window and stared out at the street. As she waited, the Max line trundled past. She automatically scanned the few people boarding and unboarding the public train, searching for a familiar young woman.
She turned around with a smile. “Emil! How are you?”
Returning the smile, the officer said, “Great! And yourself? Been getting enough work?”
“Oh, can’t complain. Lots to keep me occupied.” She dropped her voice. “Of course, this is a business call.”
Holt sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. “Of course,” he agreed. “Let’s go back to my desk. You want a soda or something?”
Xena declined and the two headed further into the station, finally stopping at a rather neat desk. He offered her a chair, and she gracefully sat down, waiting for Holt to settle himself.
“Well, what can I do ya for?” the officer finally asked.
“I’m looking for information on a young woman. She has a record and I need to see it.” She watched Holt raise his eyebrow and she raised her hands and shook her head. “Client confidentiality,” she intoned.
The young man pursed his lips thoughtfully and stared off into space. He knew he could help. Probably wouldn’t get into too much trouble. Hell, pretty sure bet I won’t even get caught passing the information out. Still, can’t make it too easy. “What’s it worth to ya?”
Xena raised an eyebrow. “What do you have in mind?”
The dark woman rolled her eyes and looked disgusted. “Oh, please! Your rugrats?! Do you think I have the patience of Job or something?” Her blue eyes twinkled and she fought to keep the smile from her lips.
Holt tried to look offended and failed miserably. Chuckling, he shrugged. “That’s the offer on the table, lady. I have Saturday off and would like some quality time with the spouse, if ya catch my drift.”
His visitor considered quietly, studying the officer with pursed lips and tilted head. Leaning forward, she said, “Okay, Saturday, noon, your place. I’ll bring the steaks and hot dogs. We’ll have a nice barbecue lunch in the back yard and then the boys and I disappear to the Fun Center or a movie or something.” She raised her finger in mock severity as the officer brightened and opened his mouth. “There are conditions!” She held up her finger. “One, Marjorie fixes that wicked potato salad, and, two,” another finger joined the first, “you don’t use the time to create any more rugrats!”
Holt laughed. “I can guarantee the first condition, Xe, but the second.....? You’re asking a lot!”
“Alright, alright, just one condition then!” She leaned back in her chair, waving irritably. Then she grinned.
“It’s a deal!”
* * *
The tall brunette stepped out of the police station in satisfaction. Piece two in place, she thought. At least she knew why the kid probably hadn’t gone to the cops. Street kids usually don’t have much to do with police unless forced into it.
Xena strolled to her black Mustang and mentally reviewed the information she had gleaned from Holt. Rickie Gardner, nineteen years old, had been in trouble for at least three years in Portland, alone. There were some things on her rap sheet from North Dakota, so chances were that she had run away from there. No runaway report ever filed - making her a throwaway kid. Most of the charges were shoplifting and drug charges, with the occasional loitering and curfew violations. Few times in JD, probation and the like.
Last known address was the Greenhouse off of Burnside, a youth shelter. But that was a couple of months ago. With the weather turning nice lately, chances were she wasn’t involved with the Greenhouse program, right now. Kids had a tendency to live for the moment, especially if they were wild ones. The woman smirked. And she should know wild childhoods. Hers probably had been a hell of a lot wilder than most of these kids would ever see!
She turned off the alarm on her convertable and climbed in. Time to play a little hide and seek. Fortunately, chances were that the kid was in the downtown area. Most of the street kids were. Either that or the Hawthorne district on the southeast side. Xena put on her sunglasses and started the engine. She slowly pulled into traffic, mind actively churning at the problem.
A half hour later, Xena was dressed in shorts, tank top, and roller blades. There was just too much distance to cover on foot, yet a vehicle search wouldn’t get her any closer to her quarry. This way, she’d have access to search under bridges and along walkways. She adjusted the fanny pack at her waist, settled her sunglasses on her tan face, and began the search along Waterfront Park, dodging pedestrians, bicyclists, and Rose Festival workers.
* * *
Approximately twenty blocks away, the object of the search was excitedly speaking with a friend near the park blocks.
“No! Damn it, I’m serious! I saw that serial killer last night!”
The pretty Phillipino girl rolled her brown eyes expressively. “Sure, Dreamer..... Whatever.” She shook her head in dismay and grinned at the strawberry blonde.
Rickie Gardner frowned in frustration, green eyes snapping. She kicked angrily at a pebble, sailing it into the street.
The two girls were currently sitting in the shade on the steps of a large golden bricked church. A few feet away three other youths were smoking cigarettes and playing with a leashed german shepherd puppy. Directly across the street was a park, several blocks long, with each block a green oasis for the downtown residents. Various people were enjoying the day - an elderly Asian couple sat in the sun on a bench; two small boys were playing ball with an older man; a few business people were enjoying lunch; students of the university were roaming about and taking their break; a few street punks were doing ‘business’.
Rickie growled and ran her hands through her shoulder length hair. “Well, I did, Tara!” she insisted.
The girl next to her shook her head in disbelief. “Look, don’t get me wrong, but I know you scored some ‘cid off of Alex yesterday.” She peered at her friend. “Didn’t you?”
“And, you did take it last night, didn’t you?”
There was an angry shrug, and green eyes glared at the brunette. “What about it?” she demanded.
“So, you went out to your haunt at the Arboretum to party, that’s all,” Tara also shrugged, albeit less violently. She heard her friend snort in disgust. “Come on, Dreamer,” she continued. “Tell me, did you wake up this morning knowing that you saw this murder? Or did something kinda, you know, trigger it?”
Green eyes grew distant as she considered this question. True, she hadn’t given what she had seen a second thought when she woke up at the squat today. It wasn’t until later, during a quick breakfast of convenience store coffee and doughnuts that she saw the newspaper.... ‘SERIAL KILLER STRIKES AGAIN victim unknown’ Her eyes narrowed in confusion and concentration. “You think that’s what happened?” she asked her friend.
The brunette sighed subtly in relief. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I think happened.” She chuckled and rubbed the blonde’s back gently. “They don’t call you Dreamer for nothing, ya know.”
Rickie took a deep breath and let the tension go. Maybe that was it. Her way over-active imagination picked up the headline and ran with it. Had to have been. Why else would the “killer” have let her get away like that? The girl picked at the strings of her ragged knee length cut offs. I’d have been dead in seconds if I’d really seen anything, she mused. And now, she couldn’t even see the woman’s face. All she could remember were the icy blue eyes. God, they were beautiful. I could drown in those eyes.
With a smirk, Rickie said, “Yeah, just feelin’ like an idiot.” She chuckled to herself. She sat up, stretching her back and shoulders that had been hunched over.
“Well, you ain’t an idiot. You’re a writer.” The Phillipino girl indicated the battered blue spiral notebook next to her friend. “Write it down. It’ll probably make a great story someday.”
“Yeah, guess so.” The blonde looked up and noticed two police officers on horseback entering the park. “Shit, gotta go.” She picked up the notebook and turned to her friend. “I got excluded last week. If they catch me here, it’s a ticket.”
The darker girl nodded in commiseration. She gave Rickie a hug. “See you at the club tonight?”
Rickie stood up, brushing off the seat of her shorts. “Yeah, I’ll be there. About eight?” Not waiting for an answer, she turned and sauntered off, moving steadily away from the police and the park.
* * *
Xena tossed her ‘blades into the trunk of her car. Well, that was a bust, she groused to herself. She flopped into the driver seat in exasperation. It had taken her the better part of two hours to traverse Waterfront Park, cross the Ross Island Bridge and work her way back to Burnside.
Her stomach growled at her. Alright! Alright! I’ll feed you!
Minutes later found her walking out of a public parking structure. She wandered across the street to Pioneer Square - otherwise known as Portland’s Living Room - and headed for the burrito stand. After purchasing a monster sized portion and a bottle of water, she made her way over to the steps near the Tri Met Fountain and settled down to enjoy her late lunch. She planned her next moves, chewing thoughtfully and watching the Square’s patrons.
Next stop, Greenhouse area..... No. Maybe the library. Lots of homeless people use the library for a day center. She tried to remember what the location was of the Transit Project shelter, but it failed her. I know it’s downtown, though..... Northside?
She glanced idly to her right as the Max train pulled up to its station. Taking a pull off her water, she watched the train disgorge its occupants and others step on. Not seeing the tell-tale red gold hair, she turned her vision back to the Square itself. She missed the girl in ragged shorts and midriff t-shirt running across Broadway behind her to hop onto the last car before the doors closed and it pulled away.
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