Chapter Three

The East Metro District Office is a sprawling complex alongside Interstate 94 on Oakdale. Shared with the Department of Transportation, the building is serviceable, but nothing fancy. Cade parked his unmarked Chevy Impala next a deer damaged cruiser. In Minnesota, deer crashes were not uncommon. In fact, Cade was recently called to the scene of a trooper—in his first shift in a brand new Patrol cruiser—who had hit a deer while traveling 120 miles an hour. As one might guess, the deer was vaporized and the cruiser totaled. The trooper fortunately was unhurt and back on the road the very next day—in an older Crown Vic this time.

“Hey Dawkins, the new captain’s looking for you,” was the greeting Cade received as he pushed through the entrance. Cade gave the trooper a thumbs up and wound his way through the clutter of admin desks. Receiving glances and a few smiles, he said his hellos to the staff that kept the place running.

Nick Javier, a trooper built lower to the ground than most law enforcement officers Cade had come across, was chatting up a brunette admin. “Hey Cade, the captain’s been asking for you. Her first day here and she’s already looking for trouble.”

Cade paused and walked back to the pair addressing the pretty admin, who had several inches over the shorter trooper. “Keep an eye on this boy,” he said nodding to Javier. “Did you know Nick’s the only trooper that you can see his feet in his driver’s license photo?”

They were both laughing as Cade continued to the back where the captain’s office was located. He’d heard Capt. Rejene had worked her way up the ranks, after starting her law enforcement career out of state in Charlotte. Most recently, she’d been in charge of the Patrol’s Rochester district. This was her first day in her new position.

Her office door was closed, the previous occupant’s name still stenciled on the smoked glass: Capt. Dickey. Cade had been more than happy to see that officious prick transferred away in the aftermath of the multi-million dollar theft from patrol headquarters. Which coincidently, had been the case that had made Cade Dawkins a household name in the twin Cities. At least for the several weeks the media had been interested, before moving on to greener pastures.

He could see a woman with her back to him as she reached up to place a photograph on a bookcase. He caught himself staring at her calves as she strained for the top shelf. Focus, he told himself. This was his new boss and he’d better be careful. Cade was self-aware enough to know he’d always bristled under authority and needed to choose his words carefully when dealing with higher ranking members of the Patrol.

Cade knocked lightly and pushed open the door. “I’m Cade Dawkins,” he offered as he took her in. She had on the white dress uniform shirt, a navy skirt and burgundy pumps. Brown curly hair, dark eyes, clearly too good looking to be my boss.

“Capt. Leah Rejene.” She shook his hand with a firm grip. “Pleasure to meet you.” She seemed to be sizing him up as the awkward silence filled the room.

Plopping himself in the chair across her desk, Cade leaned back and asked, “Can I run something by you?”

“Sure.” Capt. Rejene took her own seat.

“You’re aware of the Lake Elmo fatality this morning?” A nod. “May be nothing, but I’m seeing a red flag I can’t ignore.”

“Go on.”

“Crash—Sgt. Simpson—brought me out to the scene. The victim had spun off the road at approximately 2:30 a.m. Her vehicle had run aground in the ditch after spinning out on the highway. Initially it appears she was killed by the facial trauma brought on by the violent spin. However, her seatbelt was not fastened and yet there were seatbelt burns on her collarbone. And something about the way her clothes were… it looked as if she’d been groped.” Capt. Rejene winced.

“Her skirt was pushed way up, her blouse was unbuttoned too far—too far for her coming from a work event. Our victim was an event planner and she had been hosting a banquet in downtown Minneapolis.”

“Tell me about the road evidence.”

“Straight section of two lane highway, yaw marks leading to an S pattern scuffs, as the victim tried to correct, then over corrected and ultimately lost control and goes off the road.”

Capt. Rejene jotted a note down on a desk pad and looked up. “The ditch stopped her forward progress?”

“That’s what Crash said.”

“Was there any other damage to the vehicle?”

“Yes, there was a crease in the driver’s rear quarter panel. It may have been a recent parking lot souvenir.”

Rejene leaned forward. “It also may have been a bump designed to spin her off the highway. Sounds like a PIT maneuver.” A Pursuit Intervention Technique, the maneuver is taught at law enforcement academies the world over to end dangerous high speed pursuits. Cade had been taught the technique years ago and had the opportunity to use it successfully. Here’s how it works: The police vehicle pulls alongside the fleeing suspect, the officer’s front tires roughly lined up with the target’s rear tires. The officer bumps the suspect, forcing the pursued vehicle to abruptly turn sideways in the direction of travel, causing the driver to lose control—resulting in either a spin out or coming to a quick stop. When done correctly, very little damage will be done to the vehicle and the officer and suspect will have no injuries.

“That’s what we thought as well. The entire thing gets stranger though.”

Capt. Rejene’s forehead wrinkled. “You have my attention.”

Cade stood up, handing her his iPhone. “Here’s a picture of the deceased, Holly Janek. Several weeks back we had another late night one car fatality out near Bayport. Check this out.” He pulls a photo from the file on the attorney, handing Capt. Rejene her picture. “This was the victim, Attorney Jennifer Allard. See any resemblance?”

Eyes shifting between both images, Capt. Rejene asked, “What was the conclusion on the Bayport fatality? Any damage to the vehicle?”

“A lot actually. The victim’s BMW rolled after leaving the highway. It was thought she swerved to avoid a deer or possibly another vehicle that crossed the centerline. Like that. But we never knew for certain.” Cade leaned back in the uncomfortable chair. “Sometimes you never know for certain. There’s no traffic cams on these rural highways.”

Standing up, Capt. Rejene moved around to the front of the desk. Clutching her notebook, she leaned against her desk. “I agree this is highly suspect as far as coincidences go. You’ll need to look into both victims, see if there’s a common bond, Something beyond physical appearance. Go check on the lawyer’s vehicle, see if there’s any indication that a PIT maneuver had been used there as well. Work with Zink, we need to know what we’re up against here. Maybe these are just coincidences, but it doesn’t feel like it.”

Cade was half out the door, when she stopped him. “Dawkins. I’m a bit of a control freak, but a nice control freak. Keep me in the loop, and I’ll give you plenty of rope. If there really is a nutjob out there killing blondes on our highways, we need to stop it. Yesterday. Until we know something though, something for sure, this stays quiet.”

“Jurisdiction issues?”

“Exactly. We’ll be required to pass this off to the BCA if this becomes a full blown murder investigation. I want to keep the investigation here with the patrol.”

Having worked for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension—Minnesota’s version of a state police force—Cade felt no small amount of professional rivalry where the BCA was concerned. And as a former BCA investigator himself, he had the same skills their investigators had. Cade was more than happy to hang onto the investigation as long as possible. He smiled at his new boss. “I can see we’re going to get along just fine.”

 

The east metro division had two fulltime investigators on their payroll. Although Cade had been with the Patrol for just a year, he was considered the senior investigator. The other, Rob Zink, was a recent transplant from St. Paul. He’d worked as a patrol officer for years in the capital city’s west side. Switching between law enforcement agencies wasn’t uncommon, sometimes you simply needed a change of scenery to keep your career alive—as well as your sanity.

Cade found Zink at their shared investigator desk. It was a unique arrangement, both investigators had opposite sides of the same desk much as they had opposite shifts. There was overlap on three of the days each week, which gave the two a chance to et to know each other. Each investigator had their own cases, but would assist the other as needed. Clearly not overloaded by his caseload, Zink had his feet up and was playing with an iPad.

“Angry Birds?” Cade asked as he sat across from Zink.

“No, Horny Penguins.”

“Not going to ask. What you do with your screen time is your business.”

“Funny,” Zink says, looking up over the device. “So you meet the new boss?”

“I did. Better than the old boss.” Cade sized up his investigative partner. Zink was a large man—some may say beefy, Cade thought Zink was just overfed—with a mop of blonde hair sitting on top. “She said I should bring you in on something, that is, if you’re not too busy.”

Putting down the tablet, Zink smiled. “Lucky for you, court doesn’t start until tomorrow. Have to testify in the Dearborn highjacking. Court never follows their own posted schedule though. Wouldn’t surprise me if it gets pushed until next week.”

Cade pushed the paper file across the desk. “Remember the one car fatality, the Bayport attorney, last month?”

“Jennifer Allard.” Zink opens the folder, scanning the paper. “This was my case. What about it?”

Cade slid his phone over. “Here’s my one car fatality this morning.”

Zink’s left eyebrow went up. “Really?”

“Really. Could be the same woman. And there were enough flags to suggest she was bumped off the road, molested and killed. Capt. Rejene wants you to help look into it. See if there’s a connection between the two victims.”

Zink stood up, tucking his shirt in below his ample middle. “I’m intrigued. Where do you want to start?”

“Let’s go look at Allard’s vehicle. It’s in the Lakeland impound lot. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

“It’s been a while since I got lucky.” Zink smiled, “Too long actually. Let’s go find us a connection.”