Part I: The Impeccable Solve Rate of Dick and Bitch

Disclaimer: (insert serious tone) Under no circumstances should this series be confused for a commentary on the conflicting national opinions towards the police force. It’s just a fictional, serial mystery. Not everything is political. Enjoy.


Introduction


To be clear, my name’s not Bitch. It’s Fredrick. Somewhere down the line there was a bit of confusion involving an incompetent child with an underdeveloped tongue who pronounced my name “bish” without fully understanding the implications that mistake would have for the rest of my adult life.

So here I am, Bitch McCallen, detective.


Dick Lagarzo is my partner. Dick’s name is actually Dick.



Part 1


We were more than a couple of drinks deep and out for a smoke when the call came in from Arthur.

“McCallen, I got one for you and Lagarzo.” A pint glass shattered inside the window we were leaning against and I grimaced waiting for the reaction. “What was that? Thought you had work to do for that robbery.” Some bellowing from inside the bar followed the crash. “Jesus. What are you two dipshits doing?”

“Just looking over some paperwork at my place.” I glanced at Dick, he looked bored and cold. “Hey Dick, careful with those glasses, they were a gift from my mom! And quit yelling, Arthurs on the phone.”

“Shut up Mac,” Arthur said, “I know you’re at some piece of shit bar. Is Lagarzo with you?”

“Yea, hold on, I’ll put you on speaker.” I vaguely heard Arthur protest as I brought the phone away from my head to press the speaker button. “Ok Arthur, hold up let me just catch him up.” I turned to Dick with a deadpan look. “He said, shut up, I know you’re at a piece of shit bar.” Turning back to my cigarette and speaking into the phone, I said, Ok Arthur, Dick’s all caught up. Let’s hear it.”

Dick snorted and turned away coughing out laughter and smoke.

“Hold on Arthur,” I said, interrupting whatever he was saying. I smacked Dick to shut up. “I can’t hear ya, Dicks breaking my moms glasses in the kitchen.” That made Dick laugh harder which made me crack up and the two of us squatted to the concrete leaning on each other in silent gales, holding our cigarettes away from our heads.

We finally caught our breath for a second and Dick yelled into the phone, “Arthur? You still there?” Which made me erupt all over again.

“Yea, I’m fucking here. I wouldn’t be if it weren’t important.”

“Ok, ok sorry boss. What’s going on?” Dick slapped my chest to shut me up and we both brought our heads in a bit nearer.

“I’ve got a case. Murder. Body was found in the river a little while ago, called in by some poor lady. Can you come in?”

“Now?” I asked, horrified.

Dick interrupted, “Don’t take this like we don’t want the case, Arthur, but neither of us can form a fucking sentence. If the dude’s still dead in the morning can we grab it then?”

Arthur hung up.

Dick shrugged and handed me my phone.

I scrolled through my contacts and clicked on Chief Allen (Arthur). I typed Thanks boss, we’re on it. See ya in the am and handed it to Dick for approval. Dick typed something then hit send, put out his cigarette and walked back inside. I checked the new message. He had added a kissy face emoji. I snapped my phone shut, put out my smoke, pulled my mask up and followed Dick out of the cold.


“Roger, get us another pitcher, buddy.” Dick said. The bartender turned and retrieved an overflowing vat of Bud Light.

“Bitch?” he said to me.

“Nah, thanks Roger.” I said, “I’ll drink Dick’s cat piss tonight. Paydays not ‘til next week.”

Roger nodded and turned back to the bar.


We settled back down at our favorite table in the back corner.

Dick poured a glass for me, then himself, then took a little sip and smiled. I snorted at the fat grin on his face and shook my head. Such a simple guy.

“Arthur’s gonna be pissed.” I said, putting both hands around my frosty glass.

“He’ll be ok.” Dick said, still smiling. Dick rarely smiled and it looked a bit foreign on his big Italian face, like the skin wasn’t accustomed to stretching at those angles. Dick wasn’t unpleasant, he just functioned at an optimal capacity when thoroughly pissed off about something; the more minor that thing, the more fired up he’d get, the better he’d think. I’ve overheard a couple guys on the force describe him as a man of few words, which just misses the mark wide and low. Dick would never correct them, though. Only his mother and I knew he wouldn’t shut up if only he liked you. He wouldn’t hurt those boys’ feelings by telling them, so I kept my mouth shut too.

“Alright,” he said, “This robbery.”

“No, no.” I said. “You know we’ll be taken off it tomorrow if they’re giving us that murder, let’s give it a rest.”

“Yea, but that’s tomorrow,” he said. “Might as well solve this one while we’ve got the time.”

I shrugged. That’s how Dick worked.


The night got fuzzier after the next pitcher. We closed the robbery file around 2am having figured it all out like a pair of geniuses. It’s always a nice, arrogant feeling when you can pass off a case file to another detective with a pretty convincing lead already lined up. We celebrated with a whiskey shot on our way out, hoping its warmth would last us as we hunched ourselves over our cigarettes and began the walk east toward the river and home.


The next morning I swung by to grab Dick with coffee and egg sandwiches. He looked like a sick, wet dog as he shuffled from his door to the passenger side.

“You look like a sick, wet dog.” I said when he sat down next to me and slammed the door. There was a drip of water sliding down his face from his sopping wet hair.

He grunted and nodded and took the coffee I held out for him. “I showered.” His explanation.

“Yea I see, drying off is the next step, try that next time.”

Dick chuckled a little and wiped some droplets from the back of his neck. “Just fucking drive and don’t be in a hurry.”


We took our sweet time getting ourselves into the station, zig-zagging through the foggy streets eating our breakfast and drinking our coffee. I loved driving these streets at sunrise. I loved the feeling of waking up with the city.


As we trudged into the office, Dick plopped our robbery case file on the coffee table by the door, “Up for grabs.” He said to the room. A couple heads lifted and eyed the coffee table, but however eager they were, they didn’t dare be the first to jump up. Everyone knew it was likely solved, everyone could use the freebie towards their solve rate, but pride alone would ensure that file stayed right where it was until both Dick and I were well out of sight.

Arthur had already left a note on my desk requesting we see him immediately so Dick and I dropped our bags and made our way up to the chief’s office.

“Sit boys.” The chief was standing by the window. It was a gross day, a normal Portland November, gray sky and rain sliding down the glass panes. We sat and waited in silence. My head was pounding but the coffee and four Advil I swallowed on the drive in were sinking their way into my bloodstream and the morning was becoming more and more pleasant.

“So.” The chief said, turning away from the window, but remaining on the ledge watching us closely.

“Morning Arthur.” Dick said, excessively too late to sound natural. I snorted into my coffee and Dick turned to me looking tired as hell. He was not waking up as quickly as I was.

The chief ignored him, flipping open the file next to him. “Ok. Dead body found in the river. Couple stab wounds to the chest. The team is down there now, and Wallace has got the body. You missed her this morning for her brief and she wasn’t happy.” Emma Wallace is the coroner. She likes us. Or rather, she finds us amusing. I don’t actually think she likes us at all, but she’s good for a beer every so often so we like her. And she’s very good at her job, that helps too. “Witness is yet to be ID-ed. White male in his 30s by the look. Runner. Or so it seems. Found in running clothes. Called in by a random woman walking her dog around the river at 1am. Leslie’s her name, insomniac. What are the goddamn chances of that? Walks down there with her pup and a flashlight a couple nights a week and saw him floating there.”

“Homeless guy? Another jogger. Jogging partner.” Dick rattled off his first thoughts of possible suspects.

“Yea, well exactly.” Arthur said. “Anything’s possible. No leads yet. No witnesses yet.”

“Got it.” I said. “We’ll head down there.”

The chief stood with the file stretched out for us. “Jessie was there last night with his team, but he was going back this morning and knows you’re coming.”

We nodded as we stood.

“And grab a breath mint on the way out, you both stink like cheap shit.”


We grabbed our bags, the coffee table by the door was bare, as expected, and we made our way back out to the car.

“Fuck me, my head hurts.” Dick said.

I reached for the glove and gestured toward the Advil. He grabbed the flask instead, took a swallow, gave me one and returned it to its home. The whiskey felt good dripping into my stomach. Settled me a bit and a calm melted over me as we pulled out of the station. The misty rain created a light fog over the city. The streets were slick and I cracked the window in the back seat to give us a nice breeze.

“Homeless dude.” Dick said again.

“I don’t know.” I said.

“I do. That’s why Arthur gave it to us.”

“I don’t know.” I said again.

Dick was born and raised in New York. He moved out to Portland for a girl who didn’t stick around. Stuck here and hating everything about this city, Dick’s perspective is often a bit biased, leaning towards pessimism when it comes to the deterioration of the city. Especially the homeless crisis. When we were cops, we spent most days replying to homeless annoyances: vandalism, refusals to leave the premises, indecent exposures. It gets to you for sure. It’s not why anyone joins the force. As Ds we don’t get that as much, but Dick can’t shake those biases.

We lapsed into silence. John Prine was on the radio and our hangovers melted away as we cruised off to the river.

There was a small parking lot right by the scene and a small fire station looking over the water. I pulled up as close as possible and watched a couple of young firefighters hosing down one of their trucks as I turned off the gas.

“This cool?” I yelled over the torrential sound of the hose gesturing toward our car. We got a thumbs up and made our way towards the activity by the water.


The site was taped off and Jessie's team of about seven people were bagging what evidence they could scavenge. Jessie was leaning against his car writing on a notepad. We walked up to him and he smiled when he saw us. Jessie was our young crime scene specialist. Hyper detail oriented, the young kid was a whiz. Clean cut and looked just about out of high school.

“Hey guys,” he said, shaking our hands, “Glad to see ya, but shocked Chief Allen put you on this one. It’s looking pretty standard. Likely a homeless lunatic.”

I looked around. “Punishment, maybe. Arthur’s not pleased with us at the moment.” I said.

Jessie grinned.

“I don’t know.” Dick said, “We’ll have to take a look.”

Jessie nodded and led the way to the river’s edge. “We’re done walking grid down there so look around all you want, careful in surrounding areas though, haven’t expanded our perimeter past the tape. We have divers on the way to get in the water and see if there’s anything down there that may have fallen off the body. I’ll suit up myself and head down, but runners don’t usually carry much. No murder weapon yet, so I’m hoping that’s down there. It seems like it happened quick, the attack. Not much struggle if you’re looking at blood splatter and mess. Seemed to have all happened right here. Rain doesn’t help and neither do the footprints of other walkers and joggers. We focused on the twenty by twenty grid around the main scene and are going to continue our search out from there.”

Jessie was talking too fast. He was thorough and eager, but I liked to get eyes on the crime scene before getting his report, before my perception of things got muddied. Dick had already walked away. Jessie drives him crazy for that exact reason, but Dick’s too nice to yell at the kid.

“Funny that the body was floating right here too and didn’t drift.”

“Jessie!” I said with a little bite I didn’t fully intend. “Can you give me a sec? Let me look around and we can compare stories.”

“Oh yea, sure! I’ll be by the car.”

Dick came walking back over, “Poor kid is smart as all hell, but doesn’t pick up a single goddamn social clue.”

“Cue,” I said, “social cue.”

“Fuck off.”


We separated again, walking carefully around the slippery wood. The long dock was part of a popular running loop around the river. I was familiar with the area. An old girlfriend from a few years back loved running this river loop and I tagged along every so often. Across the river from where we stood was the west-side waterfront, the far busier side. That ledge was raised about 40 feet above the river, and served as a launch point for touristy river cruises like the Portland Spirit. In the summer, the waterfront park was used as a venue for city fairs and music fests. Runners, walkers, bikers could fly up and down the path above the water for a couple of miles in each direction. There were a number of bridges that criss-crossed the river through downtown, most with foot and bike paths. Once you crossed one of these bridges to the east side, the crowds thinned and the path dipped toward the water for a mile or so. There were two ramps down to a floating dock where smaller boats could tie up, and kayaks or canoes could enter and exit the water - although I’d never seen anybody actually utilizing it for that purpose, I’d always assumed that’s what the dock was for. Along the dock there were a couple of benches, empty now, but commonly seen with a lumpy mass of blankets taking a snooze. The body was found just about here, floating right off the side of the dock, bumping his poor dead head against the mossy wood with the slight waves off the river.

Dick walked back over, hunching against the wind and misty rain, and looked up at me. He was right to look cold, it was freezing.

“We should go see Emma soon.” I said.

He nodded. “Would’ve been pretty easy to shove someone off this dock if you snuck up quick and quiet.”

I nodded. “Whoever did this is lucky no one else saw them though. It’s usually pretty busy.”

“Would’ve been dark. But if someone was hiding behind the bench.”

“Or ran up behind them, acting like another runner.”

“Yea.”

“Wish it wasn’t fucking raining.”

“Yea.”

“Divers will be here soon, but they’ll take a bit.”

“Yea, I don’t want to be here for that. It’s freezing. Jessie’ll call if they find anything.”

“Yea, let’s go see Emma.”

We made our way back up the ramp to the car, walking slowly, eyes at our feet, looking for anything the team may have missed.

“Hey.” Dick said. He was close to the metal railing on the ramp. I walked over. A faint smear of something dark was visible on the underside of the handrail. I knelt down, watching my feet.

“Could’ve been attacked up the ramp, staggered down to get away, grabbed the rail and fell in the water.”

“Or staggered down, stopped and was pushed in.”

Dick nodded and we kept walking.

We reached Jessie who hadn’t moved, still scribbling on his pad. The divers had arrived, they were unloading the wet suits and oxygen tanks from an unmarked truck.

“Jess, looks like a bit of blood on the railing on the ramp.”

“Yep, we saw that. Pictures are in the file.” He tore off the sheet he was scribbling on. “Preliminary report.” He said, handing Dick the sheet who folded it and stuffed it in his pocket.

“Thanks Jessie,” I said. “We’re going to see Emma, but we’ll call ya with questions.”

“Sounds good, guys. Again, looks pretty standard, but -”

“Thanks kid, we’ll take it from here.” Dick yelled over his shoulder, he had already started walking away.

I held in my laughter, shook Jessie’s hand and jogged after Dick.


“The kid’s too helpful.” Dick said as we got in the car. “He drives me crazy.”

“I invited him for beers later.” I said, glancing at Dick for his reaction.

“You can go alone.” He said reaching for the glove compartment again. He grabbed the Advil this time. “Then again, one whiskey and he’d be on his ass.”


We slid out of the parking lot and I flicked the left signal on. Dick turned down the radio and pressed his phone up to his ear.

“Hey Wallace…...Yea sorry we missed ya, heading to see you now….” Dick looked at me, grimaced and yanked his thumb gesturing to the right. I chuckled, switched my turn signal to the opposite direction and pulled out.

“Yea, we’re just leaving now…..yea we spoke to the kid….yea very smart. Why, you got a crush on him? Bit young for you, Emma….ok, ok, ok….we’re heading to grab a bite, lunch is on me….”

Dick laughed a bit too cutely. I smacked him on the arm.

“Ok Emma, I’ll get you that sandwich….yep, we’ll see you soon.” Dick hung up. “Now that’s someone we should always invite for a beer.”

I stared at him with a fat smile spread across my face. Dick shrugged and turned up the radio. I shook my head laughing and handed him a breath mint. “Fuck off, Bitch.” Dick said, but the big idiot took the mint and turned, still smiling, to look out the window.


Emma was back at the station, so after grabbing her favorite sandwich from her favorite sandwich shop all to Dick’s insistence, we clambered down to the basement and into the morgue. Our victim was lying, stripped naked, on the table with a sheet pulled up to his waste.


Emma was standing over the body, the fluorescent lights casting a creepy blue glow. She looked like a psycho just staring down at the corpse like that. She jumped when the door swung open and we piled through stripping off our wet coats and tossing them on a chair in the corner.

“Whatcha doing Emma?” I said, pulling my mask down under my chin. “You look like a psycho standing there.”

“She likes a good dead body, this one.” Dick said, handing her the sandwich.

She rolled her eyes. “Just pondering how you’ll both look on this table when I kill you if you miss my brief again.” She said taking the sandwich without thanks and tossing it onto her desk in the corner.

“Woahhh.” I said laughing.

“Yea, yea.” Dick mumbled, gesturing toward the sandwich, “You’re welcome, by the way.”

She ignored that and moved around the table. “Ok,” she said, “Just pay attention, I don’t want to have to do this a third time today.”

“Straight to business, just how we like it.” Dick said.

I snorted and Emma rolled her eyes. “If no one kept you two focused, you’d be wandering around a liquor store all day.”

“Nah, no liquor for him.” I said, yanking my thumb at Dick.

“Yea, Em, I’m a Bud Light guy.” Dick said, arms wide with as much pride as if he had just proclaimed being the son of God.

“Ok, whatever, I don’t care.” She said. “Just listen.”

Dick and I stepped closer to the body and leaned in.

“Three stab wounds.” She said. “Two shallow, one deep. Cause of death is the stab wound straight into the heart, we'll call that the third stab wound for consistency's sake. Entry direction of the weapon angled up, meaning the weapon went in from below. That was just the fatal wound though. The two shallow stab wounds, stab wounds one and two, went straight in. He would’ve died pretty quickly, it was about as straight a shot into the heart as you can get. Jessie said there wasn’t much blood, but if the killer shoved him right in the water, then that explains that. Nothing under his fingernails, no scratches, no sign that he struggled at all.” She paused and we nodded. “There was a lot of water in his lungs, but again, I really believe it was the third stab wound that did it. There are bruises on both knees.” She rolled down the sheet, exposing the lower half of the victim’s body. “Suggests he could have fallen to his knees after getting stabbed. Now look at this.” She walked toward his feet and we inched down the table. There was a deep purple rope burn around his left ankle. “A piece of kitchen twine was tied around his ankle. They cut it loose to drag him from the water.”

Dick grunted.

“Weird.” I said.

“So a quick murder. But the killer still had time to tie a piece of cord around the ankle and tie it to -” Dick trailed off.

“The dock.” Emma said.

“Why?” I said.

“That’s your job.” She continued. “Time of death is pretty good. He’d been floating there for at least an hour when our night walker found him at 1am. Sunset last night was 4:48pm.”

“Yea,” I added. “But that trail gets busy.”

“Exactly,” She said. “And commuters or after work exercisers are rampant up and down that strip at rush hour, so I would bet nothing suspicious could happen until at least 8 when it starts to clear up.”

Dick turned to me, “Could be worth putting some eyes or a camera on the path when the crime scenes cleared up to see just when foot traffic starts slowing down each night.”

Emma nodded. “That gives us a time of death between 8pm, probably a bit later, and midnight, probably a bit earlier. 8 to 12 is a good range, but 9 to 11 is likely our sweet spot.

“You’re a gem in the mud, Em.” Dick said. Then, rubbing his hands on his pants, visibly uncomfortable with that ridiculous comment, he said, “Your gut saying anything?”

Emma shook her head and started unwrapping her sandwich. “I know Jessie said it looks standard, but I don’t know.”

“Why’s that?” I said.

She shook her head again and looked from me to Dick and back again. “The twine.”

“Yea.” Dick nodded.

“That twine is so weird.” I said.

“Well, again. That’s your job.” Emma said, giving us both pats on the shoulder and a wide smile. “Just my gut. Oh and his clothes are in evidence if you want a look, but pictures are in the file. Wasn't found with anything else on him."

I nodded and turned to Dick clapping my hands together. “That’s a lot of info we got today buddy, we should go recap.”

Dick nodded and, predictably, invited Emma to beers with us which she turned down, albeit gently much to my appreciation.

“Keep me updated.” She called after us as the cold, steel door swung closed on our heels.


We heaved ourselves up the steep steps back to the main floor of the station. Without a word to each other, we walked straight past the door to the squad room and out the front doors into the pattering rain. Dick jerked his head to the left and I nodded.

The day hadn’t cleared up one bit, the roads were covered in soggy orange and yellow leaves. Cars tumbled by, spraying water in their wake. After a short cold walk, we veered under a small white awning. The door chimed as we stepped into the dark entryway, carpeted and lit by flickering candles and a fire crackling in the corner. We stood in the doorway for a moment, warming our hands and brains before picking a table in the far corner away from the door.

“Ok.” Dick sighed, shedding layers and taking a seat.

We ordered a beer each and a burger to split. Once our beers had arrived and we’d each taken a few sips, settling into the warmth, I spread the file open on the table.

“Ok, let’s review.” Dick said, sliding a blank piece of paper toward him and clicking open a pen.

Our recap routine for new cases was the same each time. Dick would write while I listed everything we had heard that day from memory. Then we’d swap and Dick would dictate as I wrote. This way we’d have two lists of the initial details we found important and first reactions or conjectures to those details. Once our lists were combined into one, we referenced the file for little snippets we’d forgotten before we dove into the rest of the evidence.

I began, “John Doe, runner, stabbed three times, likely between 9 and 11pm, hardly any struggle, died quick and shoved or fell into water. I'm thinking shoved because of the bruises on his knees were from the initial fall. Twine tied to his ankle and dock, my thoughts - either to prevent the body from floating away, or so it was found quickly, perhaps both. Makes me feel like the killer knew the suspect. Found with nothing on his person, yet, waiting on Jessie. Blood smear on railing suggests either him or the killer moved in or came from that direction after the stabbing. Stabbings are quite low. Entry angle suggests a killer of the same height or shorter. Two shallow stab wounds coming from an inconsistent angle from the fatal wound suggests they happened after the fatal wound. If before, there would likely have been more struggle. Finally, no ID after almost 24 hours, why isn’t anyone missing this guy?” I paused.

Dick nodded and handed me the pen.

He began. “John Doe stabbed three times, third was fatal. Messy killing, planned maybe - just because it’s hard to stab someone accidentally, but erratic. Wound entry came from below, suggests attack from behind or by a shorter person. Done quickly, but takes time to tie twine to an ankle. Makes me think the body was shoved in the water as an afterthought, maybe to remove evidence. Maybe a panic. Bruising on knees.” He paused but held up a hand. “Those bruises, the way you’d fall on both your knees like that, like the victim was in shock, that action feels like a surrender of sorts. That fall takes the place of a struggle. Makes me think the victim could have known the killer.”

I nodded, scribbling that last of his words.

“This is not standard.” I said.

“Not a homeless lunatic afterall.” Dick agreed.

We both took a large sip of our beer and sat in silence for a few moments.

My phone buzzed and we jumped. “Arthur.” I said as I brought the phone to my ear.

Arthur's voice crackled through the phone. “We’ve got a possible ID. Woman reported her boyfriend missing. Fits the description. She’s on her way to the station now. Pray to god you two are sober.”

I chuckled and hung up. “Pound that, Dick.” I said pointing to his beer. “Possible ID.”

He stood as he raised his beer to his mouth. We chugged our drinks, dropped a twenty on the table, slid our masks up and grabbed our jackets.

“Hell yea, game time.” Dick said as we hustled out into the rain.


End Part 1


- Emily Menges