Brooklyn’s medical examiner was always glad to see detective Frankir Gates; perhaps it was her stamina during autopsies, or it was the box of cookies she always brought with her.
He leaned over the open box and grinned. “My favorite, thanks Frankie. You’re here about Bert Song? Lucky for you, my report is finished,” he said, thumbing through a file. “Ah, here it is. I sketched the trajectory of the entrance wound; the bullet entered the body at an approximate forty degree angle, and please understand that this is based on my examination and experience ….”
He liked reminding officers of his reputation and expertise, so Frankie always obliged. “Of course, Sir, go on.”
“Now,” he said, pointing to an interesting feature, “the angle shows a downward trajectory of the bullet entering at the top of his left shoulder and into the heart.”
“Someone standing behind him, someone taller?” she asked.
“Or the shooter was at a higher elevation, a staircase or at an open window. The shooter had to be within three to six feet away? Fairly close to the victim. If it helps, I heard t he was shot coming out of a door into an alley. There’s always a step-up from alley to the building.”
Having a foot or two above the alley floor helped keep buildings dry. “No windows, so the shooter was standing in the door,” she said.
“That will be for you to find out,” he said, removing another cookie from the box.
By now someone else had been assigned to this case and that didn’t sit well with Frankie. Not when the answer to who actually killed Bert Song was still connected to Mai-Lin.
“Thanks, Doc,” she said, waving over her shoulder as she swept through the double doors.
“You’re welcome!” he called after her, and popped another cookie in his mouth.
Without the use of a precinct vehicle Frankie had to resort to city buses, and checking routes, found one that would take her to within walking distance to the alley where she wanted to go. The bus stopped and she got off and power-walked the short distance to the alley where Bert Song was killed and her career got tipped on its head.
It was as she remembered, a dead-end alley and a single the door at the end, a naked light bulb over the door, her footsteps tracking over decades of oil, soot and packed refuse became pavement. Her team had swept the alley clean of cans, stacked boxes, and large containers so Bert’s crew couldn’t have anywhere to hide and start a fire-fight.
She turned the knob on the door and it opened. Someone forgot to lock up. Except for a few playing cards on the floor, the interior was empty of furniture and any sign that the place had been recently used for an illicit poker game.
Frankie stood in the open doorway as if she were Bert. He sees Mai-Lin pointing a gun at him, and yet, he calmly steps down into the alley. Did he speak? Tell her to put down the gun? She shoots him…or at least she thought she did…Wait… who would be next out the door after Bert? Now she sees it; Bert didn’t put Mai-Lin outside to watch the door, he put her there, a gun with blanks in it, knowing she might try to kill him, and he put one of his men inside the room to watch the door.
Frankie backed up into the room and shut the door. Light filtering through the paper covered windows facing the street was enough for her to see the scene before chaos hit. Inside man would be waiting for the gang to finish loading the gambler’s money into a bag. With a nod from Bert inside man opens the door and Bert walks out. Inside man hears a shot, sees Mai-Lin , eyes wide, a trembling gun in her hand.
When Bert doesn’t fall to the ground, inside man keeps his distance behind Bert but asks if he’s hurt.
Bert flashes a cheeky grin at the question, and in less than the time it took for his boss to avert a lethal threat, inside man seizes his opportunity and shoots Bert dead.
A couple of things became clear to Frankie; Bert guessed right that she might try to kill him, and two; Bert planned to shed himself of an unwanted spouse by claiming self-defense. Except that someone else picked up on the idea.
Who in Bert’s gang was smart enough to seize the opportunity? She’d interviewed these guys at the station, well, except for Bert’s right-hand man, Roland Chieu, who appeared to be missing, and to a man, they all appeared to be horrified that their boss was killed. Hands down, Roland was smarter than all of Bert’s crew put together, and if he could pull this off without getting caught, he was definitely smarter than Bert Song.
Frankie took some notes and stared two comments; get someone to lock the building and talk to Bert’s gang members; one at a time, if possible. For now, she closed the door behind her and stepped down into the alley and looked up at the closed door. The step meant whoever shot Bert was standing in the doorway.
On her walk back to the bus stop, another thought came to mind, and though she was loathe to consider it, she reminded herself that six plainclothes police acted as poker players. All of them were from her precinct and hand-picked for the job. They also had weapons in shoulder holsters under their suit jackets and one or two worked undercover. It was possible that one of them could’ve shot Bert. She could only hope it was one of Bert’s men and not someone on her team, but a call to her captain was now critical.
Frankie decided tomorrow she would start fresh; look for Mai-ling Song, find the traitor in her precinct and redeem herself with her captain and the FBI. She said it over and over again until it was stuck in her head like a mantra.
As mantras go, this one didn’t help much and glancing up, she saw she was half a block from the cop bar where the men and women of her unit traded stories, and where no one ever admitted defeat. And it was the one place she would need to avoid until she could add a victory to her tarnished reputation