Appointment With Death
Shadows Over Seattle: Prequels #4
By Timothy Bateson
October 31st, 2013
This is the report of Officer Agnetta Dottasen, West Precinct of the Settle Police Department.
At approximately twenty-thirty hours, I was driving southbound on Queen Anne Avenue North, listening to the radio chatter between dispatch and other units. My partner, Officer James McClaren was out sick, so I was riding solo with the reluctant permission of Lieutenant Reilly.
I was returning to the precinct after having followed up on a phone call from one of my informants. It turned out he’d been drinking again, and his story held together about as well as a piece of tissue paper in a bowl of hot water. And I’d told him that hot water would be what he’d be in next time he called to waste police time.
I’d just turned south onto Queen Anne when a message from dispatch came over the channel.
“Dispatch to all mobile units. We have a possible zero-fifty-two in progress at the McCaw Museum, on the corner of Fourth and Mercer.”
A zero-fifty-two meant a suspected non-residential burglary, which under normal circumstances could mean that one or more display pieces were being stolen. Had the burglar broken in last month, then they would have been able to grab any several sculptures, some of which had been valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.
However, I happened to know that, at the moment, there wasn’t anything famous, or of value on display. The McCaw only housed traveling exhibitions, and they were currently playing host to recreations of local wildlife in their natural environments. Some of the animals had been caught, stuffed and mounted, while all that remained of others were the pelts.
I’d taken a tour of the exhibits just a couple of days ago, and it had been an interesting collection. What had impressed me most was that each of the animals in the display had a reference sheet that gave details of how and where they had been killed, or died. One display had caught my attention because it included two creatures that I hadn’t considered when thinking about predators of the area.
In hindsight, their presence should have been obvious.
The centerpiece showed two hunters, with rifles, hidden in the underbrush, waiting to get shot at a mother wolf and her cub. Just imagining the potential outcome of that scene sent a shiver down my spine, even now.
I couldn’t imagine what a burglar might have been after from the collection, but I was curious enough to want to know. I was also close by, so I decided to take the call from dispatch, and investigate. I picked up my radio from the passenger seat and hit the transmit.
“Ten-four dispatch. This is car twenty. I’m southbound on Queen Anne, approaching Galer. I can be onsite in five.”
“Ten-twelve car twenty” I’d been put on hold, so I assumed the dispatcher was checking on the locations of other officers in the area before giving me the go-ahead and investigate. “Ten-Four car twenty. Please proceed to that zero-five-two. Patrol officers en route to assist, Lieutenant Reilly’s orders.”
I smiled to myself. Reilly had always been a little protective of his officers, especially some of the more recent recruits. I’d be having some stern words with him when I got back to the precinct. He knew I was more than capable of handling myself.
“Ten-four dispatch. I’ll rendezvous with patrol on site. Has anyone spoken to the museum staff?”
It might have been an obvious question, but I asked anyway. I wanted to be sure that this wasn’t a prank call from a bored college kid, or someone trying to garner interest for the exhibition.
“That’s a negative, car twenty. We are still trying to reach museum security or any of the senior staff.”
“Let me know if anything changes, dispatch. Car twenty out.”
I’d continued driving toward the McCaw Museum as I was talking to dispatch because the longer it took an officer to reach the site, the more chance we had of losing the burglar. I’d lost a few suspects because it took too long to respond to a call, and I never liked losing to criminals. I turned my lights on and hit the siren to let people know I was responding to an urgent call, and raced through the turn onto Mercer Street.
I left the lights running as I pulled over about half a block from the McCaw Museum, grabbed my radio, locked the doors and started heading toward the building itself. I was about half-way there, when a side door opened, and I saw one of the patrol officers coming out. He was talking on his radio as he spotted me and waved.
I smiled and waved back, recognizing Jon Masters wasn’t too hard. We’d worked together ever since I’d joined the West Precinct. Slowing my pace as I approached, I waited for Masters to finish his report, before saying hi.
“Hey Agneta, I wondered who dispatch was sending over to deal with the pickup on this one. Have to admit, it’s always good seeing ya, Red.”
He’d been calling me that from day one, because of my bright red hair, and somehow, from him, I didn’t mind it. If it had been anyone else, I’d have been having serious words. I was curious to know more about the break-in, but this was Masters’ collar, so I let him take his time.
As he was about to speak, his radio squawked. “Roger that, Masters. I’ll let mobile know”.
He looked back at me, with a smile, as he thumbed the radio “Ten-ten, dispatch. Mobile has just arrived. I’ll let her know.”
“Let me know what?” I asked as I looked back toward the open door, expecting Jon’s partner to be bringing out a prisoner. Instead, she came out empty handed.
“Hey Taft, where’s your prisoner?”
“Would you believe it was a false alarm? The night guard says she has no idea who called it in, and she’d just completed a full walk of the interior when dispatch reached her.”
“Any chance she’s lying to cover for someone?” I knew the thought had probably already crossed his mind because Masters had the kind of mind that worked that way. But he was also a good judge of character, so I knew to trust him when he told me that he’d ruled out that possibility.
“In that case, Jon, I’d better see what else dispatch has on the cards for me. I’ll catch you both back at the precinct, and you can fill me in if anything changes on this one.”
Before climbing back into the cruiser, I looked back toward my colleagues. Masters and Taft talking to the museum’s night guard. Whatever they were discussing must have been amusing, because I saw Masters laughing. I almost wished I could join in, but without my partner riding along, I was pretty much relegated to supporting regular patrol officers. And that meant getting back on the road.
I opened the door of my vehicle, as I radioed dispatch. “Car twenty to dispatch.”
“Go ahead, car twenty”. The dispatcher sounded tired, but then she was probably coming up on the end of her shift. It wasn’t an easy job because they were the ones filtering many of the incoming calls, and sorting out which ones required a response, and which didn’t.
“McCaw museum was a ten forty, so what’ve you got for me next?” I smiled as I spoke, trying to make the end of the shift a little easier.
That tiredness seemed to kick up a notch, as the response came back “We have a ten fifty-seven on the corner of Broad and Second. Caller is barely coherent, and Patrol is unable to respond immediately.”
I looked at the traffic as I climbed into the cruiser, and buckled up. I was already pulling out into traffic, with my lights and siren running, as I continued to talk to the dispatcher. “Ten-four dispatch. I have some traffic ahead on Fifth, but if you can green light me all the way, I can be there in less than a couple of minutes.”
It was an unusual request to make, but with a hit-and-run accident, there could be lives hanging in the balance.
“Ten-four car twenty. Notifying traffic control. Report any sightings of a dark grey sedan loitering near the scene. Three other units are inbound to assist, but will be at least a couple of minutes behind your arrival.”
The dispatcher knew as well as I did that sometimes the drivers involved in a hit-and-run drove away because they were worried about getting in trouble, or already were. But some stopped near the scene of the incident because their guilt wouldn’t let them drive away without finding out what happened. Fewer still returned to the scene, so they could see first-hand what was happening in the aftermath of the accident.
It was human nature to fear the consequences, but if the driver was anywhere in the area, we had to take them in for fleeing the scene. But right now, that wasn’t my primary concern. I was already turning off Fifth Avenue, toward the Space Needle, and was maybe five or six blocks from the accident.
Knowing that foot traffic around the Space Needle was likely to be slight, I put my foot down. I kept a close eye on the sidewalks and junctions, not wanting to be responsible for another RTA.
“Ten-four dispatch. Car twenty out”
Thankfully, the combination of siren and lights must have been enough to warn people of my presence, and I slowed as I approached the corner of Second Avenue.
Pulling in behind the growing crowd, I was sickened by the morbid curiosity that seems to drive some people. I revved the engine on the cruiser trying to let people know I was here, but none of them seemed inclined to move, so I hit the siren and started to pull forward, slowly. And finally, the stragglers at the back of the crowd seemed to notice me, clearing the way for me to advance a little closer to whatever had their attention.
It took maybe thirty seconds for the last of the crowd to disperse enough for me to pull the cruiser into the junction. I turned he cruiser side-on into the junction, blocking access to the scene from Broad Street. There was enough space front and back to enable other mobile units to pass if needed.
I climbed out of the cruiser and got my first look at the scene of the accident. A motorbike lay off to one side, facing the wrong direction, and there was no sign of the rider. At first glance, it didn’t look too bad, until I started to follow the skid mark back toward where the impact must have occurred.
Pieces of fiberglass formed a trail between where the bike went down, and where it finally came to a stop. They were most likely parts of the cowl and fairings, shorn off either by the impact or as the bike scrapped over the tarmac. From where I was, I couldn’t tell if any of the debris was from the car that had hit the bike, or not, but it didn’t matter. I had to find the rider, and make sure he was okay.
But where to start looking?
I tried to do a quick reconstruction of the accident in my head. Based on the debris, and the state of the bike, I knew that the impact had probably happened in the front right quadrant. The second set of skid marks gave me an indication of which way the car was traveling at the time of impact, and I was surprised to see that they were turning from Broad Street onto Second. That suggested that they had hit the bike on the right front side, pushing it across the street and back down Second toward Clay Street.
In the end, it wasn’t too hard to locate the rider, because a couple of pedestrians were waving at me from in front of a parked vehicle, on the other side of the road. Now that my attention had been drawn in that direction, I was able to see the boot and hand sticking out from around a parked SUV. No doubt they belonged to the victim in this scenario.
I raced across the street, as the first of my backups arrived on the scene. I had to trust that they’d close off the area, while I attempted to ascertain the situation with the biker.
“Car twenty to dispatch. Requesting a ten-fifty-two at that ten-fifty-seven on Broad and Second. Biker down, possible injuries. I’m investigating now.”
“Ten-four car twenty. EMTs have been listening in. I have a confirmed unit inbound to your location.”
As I came around the front of the SUV, I saw the biker laying there, while an elderly woman spoke to him in a calm, soothing voice. I was thankful that they were wearing a helmet, but I could tell that there had been a significant impact because the visor had several cracks running through it. Somehow, through everything it had held up through the collision, and whatever subsequent impacts had occurred.
I did a quick visual assessment of the biker and realized he was not much older than his early twenties. The angle of the left leg indicated that it had been broken, and quite possibly in more than one place. I suspected a concussion was also likely, despite the helmet. However, there was little I could really see through the thick layers of leather and padding he was wearing.
The only big question I had was whether there were any internal injuries, and I wasn’t going to be able to tell anything more without an assessment from the EMTs. In the meantime, I had to do whatever I could for the young man, at least until the medical team arrived.
Getting down on my knees, I leaned in to talk to the biker. But a hand on my arm stopped me leaning in too far, and I glanced around to see who was there. Looking around at the old lady, I searched her eyes for anything she might have heard. But she kept her expression neutral, and I couldn’t get any kind of read on her. I almost asked her to remove the hand, but there was a gentle reassurance in that touch, and I suddenly didn’t have the heart to ask.
I leaned forward again and reached out to try to lift the biker’s visor when I felt that hand squeeze my arm. She was her shaking her head at me, and there was a sadness in her eyes that hadn’t been there before.
I looked at her again, and it was only then that I saw her nurses uniform under the heavy jacket. She probably had a much better idea of her patient’s condition than I did, but I still wanted to assure them both that help was on the way.
I didn’t reach for the visor again as I spoke. “Hey there. I’m Agneta Dottasen, with the SPD. I know you’re probably in a lot of pain right now, but we have EMTs on the way. I need you to just lie still for me, okay?”
The words came on a whisper, interspersed with quiet coughs, and I had to lean close to hear them. “Sure, officer. It’s not like I can move much anyway.”
I took his gloved hand in mine, as I talked. He sounded so weak and scared, despite the attempt at humor. And that coughing had me worried that there might have been cracked ribs or even internal bleeding.
“What’s your name, kid?”
Beside me, I could see the nurse fingering the beads on a rosary, and her lips moved in silent prayer. And I joined her in one of my own – hoping beyond hope that the EMTs would get here in time to save this young man’s life.
“Morris, James Morr…” His words were cut off by another coughing fit, and I worried that he might be doing himself even more internal damage. I just held his hand through it all, feeling a little uncomfortable about it, but hoping it brought him some comfort.
“Where were you heading, James?”
“Costume shop. I needed something for the party.” His words and breathing seemed to be getting slower, and I could see he was trying to fight through the pain to answer me. But I had to keep him talking because if he did have a concussion, keeping him conscious was important.
I pushed his visor up so that he could see me a little more clearly, and I looked down at his pained features. I finally saw just how much pain he was in, but there was a spark of something defiant in his eyes, as he fought to remain with us. How he was still conscious I had no idea, because even with what little I could see, it was obvious that he’d taken at least one serious blow to the side of the head.
At this point, it didn’t matter when the damage had been done, but the helmet might have been the only thing that had stopped the wound from being immediately fatal. Instead, it had provided just enough padding to prolong his suffering.
I tried to put a smile on my face for him. “I have a feeling you’re going to have to miss the party.” It seemed like such a stupid thing to say at the time, but he gave me a weak smile.
“Yeah, looks that wa….” was the last thing he said to me, as I listened for the next breath. It never came.
I felt the beginning of tears, as the old nurse pulled me into her shoulder, and slowly gently prying my hand from James’. “Do you hear those sirens dearie?” She asked me quietly, and I realized that I’d been so caught up in keeping our patient talking that I’d not heard the ambulance pull up.
Gentle hands pulled me up, and up onto the sidewalk as the EMTs got to work. “Let them do their job, sweetie. This your first fatality?”
I couldn’t even answer, as the tears poured from me, my body shaking with shock. Thoughts raced through my mind, only to get lost, found, and lost all over again in the jumble of emotions that I normally held so carefully in check. Even if anyone asked me, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them why this boy’s death hit me as hard as it did. But, in those short moments of conversation, he’d somehow kept hoping, despite everything.
… To see how this story ends, watch out for “Appointment With Death (Shadows Over Seattle: Prequels #4)” coming late 2018, early 2019