Lola sat stunned while Regina voraciously ate a full stack of pancakes while flipping through the photo album. She knew her friend had a lot to say after learning of Regina’s wild night with the stranger.
“How’d he find you? How’d he find your house?” Lola asked.
“I don’t know. He wasn’t there when I woke up to ask any questions. He never left anything like a note or anything around. I don’t know what to think or where to start looking for him.”
“You said he tasted like mentos?”
“What does that mean?” Regina asked with a shrug.
“Usually that’s a sign of a smoker,” Lola accessed slowly taking bites but deep in thought. “And he didn’t hurt you?”
“He scared the crap out of me and he was truly angry at me, but he didn’t hurt me… in a bad way,” she admitted blushing.
Lola cackled clearly understanding Regina’s meaning. “And you did take that pill, right?”
After she had told Lola about the unprotected sex, Lola stopped at a pharmacy and went to pick up a day after pill. Regina was so grateful to have Lola in her life because that was the last thing in the world she would have thought about.
Regina nodded gratefully. “And I’ve set a timer for the other pill,” she said. “Don’t worry. I’ll still go see that doctor tomorrow.”
“I’ve heard about him and no you don’t want to date him,” Lola warned.
“What do you mean? What have you heard? Is he a good doctor?”
“Oh he’s a good doctor, but I’ve heard he’s got a big you know what.”
Lola gave a weird wink and wiggled her pinkie finger oddly.
Regina blushed twirling the ring the stranger had put on her finger around. “How could people know about that!” she asked appalled.
“I heard it was exactly twelve inches and about the circumference of your wrist. I heard one girl got lockjaw just going down on it.”
“That’s terrible. I can’t believe that, but if that’s true, I’m really not asking him to be any arm candy at all.”
Lola cackled again just as Regina was about to close the photo album but her eye lit upon a photo of her mother standing with someone at the police headquarters back in the day in front of the plaques of fallen officers. They were so close to the officers in the picture she could see the faces of the officers and she frowned.
“Did you see this?” Regina asked her friend pointing to the picture.
“That’s a picture of the old mayor. Your mother was his office clerk back in the day,” Lola said. “I saw her old resume in the front of the album.”
“No, I’m talking about that picture on the wall.” She flipped to the beginning of the album and showed pictures of Juanita when she was in college. “Doesn’t that woman look familiar?”
Lola stared hard but didn’t seem to see what Regina was seeing.
Regina suggested, “Let’s go to police headquarters and see if we can find this wall.”
“Probably not. They closed that old precinct and opened one in the former casino building.”
“I’m sure then they have this somewhere there we can go look at. Fallen officers are important to the police department. They’ve got to be somewhere.”
Lola rolled her eyes in exasperation. “What are we looking for?”
“This!” She pointed to the picture and Lola followed her finger before looking up at her. “Maybe it’s a sister or something.”
“No, I don’t think so.” She gathered her jacket. “Let’s get the waitress and get this to go.”
Protesting with a pout, Lola said, “I’m not done.”
“Eat and drive, Lola. You know my mother will do her afternoon check in and lying to her is becoming harder and harder. This I won’t be able to explain and she’ll just make me think I’m crazy.”
Lola looked at the picture and frowned. “Yeah, let’s hurry up.”
He caught Paul looking at him strangely for the sixth time that morning. “What?!” he questioned anxiously.
“I should be asking you that. You haven’t left your chair for the past hour or went out on a cigarette break. You haven’t touched your nicotine gum in your drawer and you haven’t looked agitated for a minute. It’s like you’re totally focus on the case and nothing else.” Paul looked very amused. “What the hell did she do to you?”
Tobias was tempted to say something but he knew Paul wasn’t speaking of Regina. “Let’s just say I got a realization about what I wanted.”
“But you’re wearing the same clothes you were wearing from yesterday? What realization did you get?”
“Not to go home when you know you’re wrong.”
Paul burst in laughter slamming his fist on the desk.
“I don’t see anything fucking funny,” Sheila snapped appearing out of nowhere on the side of Tobias’ desk.
Tobias stood out of homegrown respect. “Good morning,” he said politely.
“Good morning?” she asked incredulously. “You spend an evening out without coming home after we talk and you’re saying good morning?” She hit him in the chest. “You got nerve, Tobias. I can’t do this! I can’t compete against a job you have no intentions of ever putting above anyone.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You were supposed to come home to me last night and instead you were here! Here! In this godforsaken place that smells like rats! Rats and feet! How could you want to be here?” she screeched hysterically still hitting his chest.
“We shouldn’t talk here,” he said calmly. “We should talk-“
“No!” she cut him off. “We’re talking now and you’re going to make a decision. You choose me or this job, right now Tobias! Right now!”
He looked at Paul for help but his partner pretended there was something really interested on his cell. Everyone else who he tried to make eye contact with suddenly found something else interesting to look at also.
Returning his eyes to Sheila, she looked like she was about to fall apart, but he knew it was wrong to lead her on, not when his heart wasn’t going to be with this relationship anymore. “I’m sorry-“
The force of the slap wasn’t something to hurt him, but enough to make him stop talking.
“Don’t you ever … EVER, talk to me again you son of bitch!” Sheila screamed and stormed out the homicide office.
“Wow! Really?” Paul questioned. “And wouldn’t she be surprised to know you weren’t here all night long working.”
“Shut the hell up, Paul.”
“Aren’t you going after her?”
Tobias sat back down with relief. “I think for the best I should let her cool off, get her stuff out of my house and just hope my place is not on fire before I get home.”
Paul chuckled. “So where were you for real last night?”
He was happy about the interruption as a young officer came over to introduce himself. “Hey, you Detective Tobias Avery? I’m Officer Leo from the precinct. We talked last night.”
Tobias was glad for the interruption instead of answering Paul’s questions. “Oh yes, Officer, I remember. The special attention house on the Sarge.”
“Yeah, well, I looked you up and I thought it was rather coincidental about some things of that case the Sarge closed and your case.” He put a file on Tobias’ desk. “I didn’t have the rank to pull the file, but I went to the library this morning and pulled this old article and compared to what you released to the public.”
Paul rolled his eyes. “What are you? Another officer trying to sneak past waiting in line like all the others to get into this department?”
Tobias knew Paul was a little bitter the officer was showing off, but he didn’t think partner needed to be so dirty to the young officer. The list to get into Detroit’s Homicide department was long because this was a job where you could do for a year, go do another city and outrank people just on street credit. To be able to get out of what people knew was one of the highest city’s on murder in the United States was something to show.
Tobias loved his job and didn’t really care about the title or the pay. He just wanted justice for the victims. Paul loved the title and wanted more pay.
“Nah,” the officer said sheepishly. “When I feel it in my gut something’s not right, I usually dig around until I’m sure. I remember the case details so well when we were graduating that I just couldn’t let it go.”
“Thank you officer, I’ll look this over,” Tobias assured him. “Thanks a lot.”
The officer cut a look at Paul before leaving.
“Snotty brown nose,” Paul seethed under his breath. “Probably just a bunch of shit we already know.”
“Cool your horses, Paul,” Tobias said, opening up the folder. There were old articles about Sergeant Gregory Barker, who headed over a lot of cases. Mainly homicides, but what made them so strange was usually they were hooker homicides and either the culprit was a boyfriend or a pimp. Prostitutes deaths were usually the hardest to solve because either no one saw anything or the scene was too messed up for forensics to do anything. Yet, all his evidence was damn near perfect to present in a court case. Going deeper into the file, there were clippings about the large homicide cases that were linked together about African-American prostitutes being nearly slaughtered and … flowers being put down their throats.”
Tobias’ heart almost stopped. Ripping through the clips, there was an in depth article at the string of murders that abruptly stopped and someone was arrested after killing an officer in a chase after remnants of the flower were found in the suspects backyard, where they’d been grown. In the article the reporter named to specific flower.
His fingers trembled to call Henry.
“Hey Tobias, what’s up?”
“You wouldn’t happen to know if there is a specific name to that dandelion you discovered?” he asked his voice almost trembling.
“Come to think of it,” Henry said, in the background there was a lot of papers being shuffled around. “I sent a sample to the university lab right after we talked and to keep those students busy to see if they could find any unique trace from the plants, and this morning I received an interesting report about the flower itself. It’s called … wait… I can’t find it right now.”
“Prairie Dandelion?” Tobias guessed reading the article in front of him.
“Wow… yeah, that’s it. A rare dandelion specially grown in Illinois, almost an endangered species, which I was surprised to know that. Not like just any regular urban dandelions you could find anywhere. On top of that, this was grown in some special soil to give it a strong smell which permeated the body when I did the autopsy. I’m not complaining because anything smells better than death, but every one of the killer’s signatures had this smell I just couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I went back to the earlier bodies. The flower was shoved so far down while the victim was still alive, it was half digested, but Rita must’ve put up a fight and died before the flower could even be swallowed.
Tobias thanked Henry for his help and continued to look through the file with more detail. Worst case, he’d have to have a talk with this Sergeant Barker or find the man suspected of the killings.
Gravely, he looked up at Paul.
“What? What did that snot nose burden you with, Tobias?” Paul said in dread.
“I think that snot nose just helped up solve our case.”
A loud commotion started in the hallway abruptly drawing everyone’s attention. Tobias was positive he heard Sheryl’s shrieking voice and he bolted out of his chair.