Tuesday morning. As soon as Dan Bierley received his temporary judicial assignment in the marital division of the Ninnescah County District Court, he requested the Police Chief – whom he had known each other since grade school, and had a hard time not calling him Dennis – to fax all police reports on missing persons and spousal abuse to his home every morning. “So I can have them during marital motion day – just in case.” He received his first report that same morning. Christ, Shirley’s husband reported her missing. Bierley placed his first call of the day.
Bierley reached the Chief at home. “Chief. Dan Bierley. Sorry to bother you again. Won’t take long. I just wanted to thank you for your department’s quick response to my request for daily notices about family abuse and missing person filings. Helps in divorce court. I appreciate it.”
Silence. Bierley hesitated. His mind hovered. If I do this, the damn thing’s gonna consume me. If I don’t, I’m dead. Decision made.
“Chief, you doin’ anything about the Tyler missing report? Seems like an awfully long time for a husband to wait to report a missing wife.”
“Not as long as some. It’s usually some type of scrap. Wife sometimes just walks out. Maybe to avoid being hit again,” the Chief said, while he took notes. “We usually wait a day or two before we follow up with this type. The husband didn’t give us much to go on.”
Bierley asked about a couple of other missing person reports, then, “Who’s assigned the Tyler case?”
Jeremy Anderson? Bierley pictured Anderson, the old high school lineman, sitting behind an undersized metal desk with a plastic Missing Persons sign, wearing the too-tight plaid sports jacket, and loosely knotted necktie that he wore to his shotgun wedding. Now, however, supplemented by a sagging face and exhausted shoulders. Bierley eased back and stretched, rolled his head left and right. Detective Jeremy Anderson was perfect. Susceptible to flattery. Weak, and needs to be thought of as an Alpha male. He snorted a wet chuckle. Caught himself, and, after a moment, placed his mouth close to the phone, spoke, his words partially uttered, partly mumbled, “Chief, I … camping … brief assignation.”
The Chief said, “I understand. It won’t. Not a bit of daylight. Never happened.”
The Police Chief made a note to call his head of detectives to speed-up the Tyler case.
The detective room lights were still dim early that same Tuesday morning. Anderson looked up. Shit, the boss is walking straight toward me. What now?
The Chief tapped the edge of Anderson’s desk, said something, and walked away. “Yes sir, immediately. I’m on it.” Chief must have got a call.
Anderson’s phone rang. “Damn.” He set his coffee cup down. He pulled the phone off its cradle. “What.” Caught himself. “I mean. An’ son. Missing. How can I help? May I have your name?”
Seán gave his name and wife’s name. He had heard nothing since he left the police station the day before. “Mr. Tyler. Good morning. We do not have any more information. I’ll call you as soon as we do. I have a squad meeting in about thirty minutes. Might get an update then.”
Seán slumped on the edge of his bed his hands on his lap – one hand formed a fist, the other an opened palm as if expecting something. He considered his options. Drive all over Berdan searching. Sit and do nothing. Make more calls, get the same responses. If anyone knew anything, they’d call me – no one’s called.
He walked to the kitchen, and, for the first time since Monday morning, ate something.
During the squad meeting, Anderson felt heat rise from his neck and face. He turned red. Rage did that to him. He clenched his teeth. His jaw hurt.
The sergeant began the morning report. First item – Shirley Tyler. A judge had called the Chief; the Chief had called the captain; the captain had called the sergeant. It was rolling downhill – headed straight into Anderson. If it continued, he’d be buried with no resurrection possible.
Anderson sketched out his theory. Missing person. If missing, by the grass? Or, by the sod? If by the sod, she may have been killed. And the husband’s our initial suspect.
Back at his desk, Anderson called Seán. “Mr. Tyler, I’m going to drive over to the hotel to get additional information. Would it be okay if I asked you some questions?” He started, “Mr. Tyler what route did you drive Sunday before and after dinner at the hotel restaurant?” He listened for Seán’s response.
The detective was in high gear. Why did the husband wait a week? Why did…? Why didn’t…? Why not…? What if…?
Get a baseline early. How did the husband respond to non-threatening questions with no motive to lie? Compare it to later responses. Keep notes. Stay alert.
On his return from the Ninnescah Hotel, Anderson slowed his car to a crawl. “Well, I’ll be damned.” He looked again at his notes. Make, model, color, tag number. He stopped to confirm his finding. The VIN number. Shirley’s Toyota. He called it in, took photos, then called Seán.
“Mr. Tyler, could you give me some more information about your wife’s car?”
“Could you tell me where you saw it last?”
“The Ninnescah Hotel parking lot,” said Seán. The same questions? I gave him this information yesterday. Maybe he’s just making sure.
Anderson continued. “Sir, let me go over something.” He repeated questions from the day before, then repeated questions asked a few minutes earlier. He judged Seán’s responses.
“I’ll be-” Anderson halted. Nope. Don’t say a word. Catch him off guard. “Thank you, sir. I’ll be in touch.”
Detective Anderson parked his unmarked car one block from the Tyler house. He approached the house, veered onto a neighbor’s lawn, walked the sideyard, looked over the chain link fence, took photos of the back of the Tyler home. He followed the same procedure on the other side of the house.
At the front door, Anderson shifted his mind-set. It was time for his rusty trust-and-reliance detective persona. But first, a harsh, demanding incessant knocking. Seán froze. Not a salesman. Not now. He peered out the window, caught the eye of Detective Anderson. Seán’s eyes widened.
Anderson continued his stare. Suspicious reaction to someone standing on the porch. If that poor bastard’s guilty, and I solve it, no more ass riding for me.
Seán opened the front door about three inches. Their eyes met again. Anderson flashed his badge, “Mr. Tyler, you remember me, I’m Detective Anderson, please call me Jeremy. And I need your help.” He looked straight at Seán, lowered his eyes, then his head, and asked, “May I come in, sir.” Seán pulled the door open, and stood in the space between the door and door jam.
Anderson repeated, “May I come in, sir?”
Seán opened the door, and Anderson entered. “Mr. Tyler, I have some questions.”
Both men settled in the front room. Anderson noted the feminine touches. Polished old oak floors. A large earth-tone rug under the furniture. Two matching bronze finished lamps, the kind he had seen at Target, rested on medium-blond maple end tables. Lace valences with sheer curtains.
Seán pulled the living room curtains, and offered some water. Anderson did not answer, but said, “Mr. Tyler, I need your help. I’m aware I don’t have a good telephone manner. I’m sure I created a bad first impression, but I want to find your wife. Missing person cases are personal to me, and I want us to work together on this.”
Seán’s mouth began to form a response.
Anderson resumed talking immediately. “What we need to do is…” He began to outline the areas of mutual benefit – driving the city together, touring the house, reading the personal papers of the family.
“Personal papers?” Seán asked.
“Standard procedure. Insurance policies, letters. Even diaries or journals. Reading habits. Movies seen. T.V. shows rented, watched, recorded. It’s a long list. But we need to do it to find your wife.”
“Let’s start. First, Mr. Tyler, would you be willing to take a polygraph test. Merely to eliminate you as a suspect.” Easy first step by Anderson. Most people were eager to take it.
Anderson’s eyes widened. He caught himself, attempted a nonchalant attitude, “It’s a standard thing. Let’s just do it, and get past it.”
“And why not?” Anderson’s face scrunched from forehead to upper lip.
Seán met the detective’s eyes. “If I pass it, it means nothing. If I get nervous and fail it, you guys stop looking for her.”
“You have my word, we won’t stop.” Anderson took a breath, then continued. “Why would you fail?”
“Body heat, surface moisture. Plus, nervous people can fail. Imprecise science. False positives overturned by courts. That’s why. Let’s go on to something else. Let’s find my wife.” Seán said.
Anderson shifted. “Never mind then. What’s the first step you’d like to take? We’ll start there.”
Seán exhaled. Stood, twirled a coaster, then said, I’d start with who Shirley went camping with.”
“Yep, she was going camping right after we finished dinner last Sunday. But I don’t know with who or where.”
Anderson switched rails so quickly he caught himself off-guard, looked at the oak floor for a moment, then smiled, “I’ll meet you at the police station. Just follow me. We’ll take separate cars. You think of any information about the camping-” Interrupted himself, and said, “Just bring whatever you think might help.”
They shook hands and left the house together.
With his car in the lead, Anderson drove five miles under the posted speed limit. When they passed Shirley’s abandoned car, his eyes returned to the rear-view mirror. He noticed Seán’s head did not turn.
At the Police Station, Anderson jumped from his car, walked at a brisk pace toward Seán. “Mr. Tyler, I just got an emergency call on my radio. I’m going to have to get inside on another matter. We’ll have to meet tomorrow. At noon. I need you to be here then, Thanks.” Anderson pivoted and hustled to the station door.
Seán clamped his lips together in a biting action. What just happened? He kicked the asphalt with the heel of his workshoes. She’s on the backburner. He drove back to his house and past his wife’s car, and, once again, failed to register acknowledgement.
Did you miss Episode one?
Watch Out Next week for Episode (3)