The shift from first-responding officer to lead investigator involved quite the jump in responsibilities, so while Amber navigated the treacherous logistical shoals of setting up a crime scene in such a public place, I showed my badge at the cordon and popped up the street for two cups of coffee.
When I returned ten minutes later, she had nearly finished. More than a dozen patrol cars were parked haphazardly in front of my building, their still-flashing lights casting everything in stark blues and whites. The Police Arm had gone so far as the close the whole street. Spotlights illuminated a patch of ground in front of the building across from my own, the body hidden by the medical examiner’s van. Another van—crime scene technicians, probably—whispered past me and stopped at the edge of the gaggle of police vehicles. I nodded to Constable Sharps, one of the uniforms seconded to Amber’s Investigative Unit, and she let me into the inner cordon.
Amber stood on the step before the row of doors into my high-rise, already looking distinctly frazzled. I handed her a cup of coffee.
“I’d been wondering where you’d gone off to,” she said, taking it and inhaling deeply of the aroma. She held it up before her and pointed at it. “This is the foundation on which we build cases.” She seemed about to say more, then leaned slightly to look around me. “Underwood’s waving us over. Come on.”
I am not possessed of the constitution necessary to linger over murder victims, but, to my surprise, this one was less gruesome than many of the others I had encountered. Were it not for the odd way his legs rested, the gunshot wound through his nose, or the bruising evident on all his exposed skin, he could almost have died peacefully. His parachute laid on the ground, a tangled, twisting line pointing in the same direction in which his head pointed.
“He fell about sixty stories,” said Emily Underwood. Unlike the rest of Amber’s Investigative Unit, Underwood was a shared resource. Bearing the rank of Technician-Captain, indeed she nominally outranked Amber. They moved in different circles, though, and the issue of rank seemed not to enter into their concerns. “His chute slowed him down some. He hit the ground like he fell from twenty-five.” She coughed. “That’s not as pertinent as the single gunshot to the face, delivered at short range. The muzzle flash burns may tell us something. There’s no exit wound, either, so once I get him back to the morgue, I’ll see if I can find enough bullet for a ballistic analysis. Don’t get your hopes up, though.”
“Perhaps this is a silly question,” I put in, “but if there isn’t an exit would, would it not be easy to find a bullet?”
Amber blinked at me, then looked skyward out of the corner of her eye. Coming to a conclusion, she laughed. Patiently, I waited for it to pass. She shook her head at me. “Five years you’ve worked for the Investigative Arm, and this is your first gunshot victim,” she said. “Anyone with a gun and any premeditation at all knows to use frangibles.”