The first to arrive on the scene was lead detective Luca DeMaurier, a French man who had been transferred to the streets of Bedford Heights from Scotland Yard two years previously. He was a tall man, as polite as the French can be, with evenly tanned skin from the harsh English sun, short dark hair, and a thin goatee which he like to stroke in times that required deep thought. He had come immediately after the 911 call from the most level-headed of the group who found the crime scene. Racing down the St. John Boulevard, he reached the alleyway at precisely 7:30. He took one look at the single bullet hole in the passenger side window and the two bodies, each with a bullet embedded in his head, and recognized the work of a professional, or extremely lucky amateur; the latter being highly unlikely.
"So, what did you see?" DeMaurier asked for the third time.
The blonde girl trembled under the gaze of the French man. All she could do was stammer unintelligibly.
The famed detective rolled his eyes. He could crack hardened criminals in two hours, but he could not get an answer from a child. "Do you speak English?" he asked angrily.
The girl nodded her head frightenedly.
"Zen answer me! What did you see?"
"Nothing," she whispered. "Just this." She gestured to the armored car.
"So you saw no people around, just zee car?"
She nodded again.
"Did you hear anyzing, perhaps earlier in zee morning?"
She shook her head. "I heard a car speeding away around six-forty," she said, "but it was far away, and I could have been imagining it."
"What is your name, and where do you live?"
"Sally Rogers," she responded. "In the apartment complex back there. Number 4A."
DeMaurier received the same answers from the others, as well; all they saw was the aftermath, and some heard a speeding car at 6:40; and all seven of them lived in the Sunnydale Apartments.
"If you don't mind, detective," the oldest ventured, "then can we go? We're late for school."
Just then, up drove DeMaurier's bumbling partner, Officer Bill Gehrig.
"I am so glad you are present, Gehrig," DeMaurier said, when the rotund man approached the detective. "I need you to take zee children to school so zey will not be late." Turning to the children, he added, "None of you must speak of zis to anyone; keep all zee details silent."
They nodded and scrambled into Officer Gehrig's minivan; the two oldest had a small argument over who would get the front seat.
As they drove away, DeMaurier turned his attention back to the crime scene. The engine was still running, he noted, as one of the medical examiners opened the doors to
He circled the armored car, examining the unhinged door and noting that the cargo hold was empty. "Odd," he remarked to the Crime Scene Officers searching for trace evidence and fingerprints. "What were zey transportating, and where is it?"
He continued his circumambulation of the armored car, stopping at the bullet hole in the passenger-side window. Measuring the size of the hole with his eyes, he concluded that the bullet was most likely a .357. Sniper bullet.
"Alloa, Doctor Meeller," DeMaurier called to the pathologist crouched over the bodies. "What goodies have you for me today?"
Lilliana Miller rocked back on her heels and ran her fingers through her short blonde hair. "I put T.O.D at around an hour and a half ago, give or take some minutes."
DeMaurier checked his watch. "Seex-zerty," he remarked.
"Your Time of Death puts zem dead at ‘af-past-seex," DeMaurier explained. "Some of zee children noted a car speeding away ten minutes later, at seex-forty."
"In my professional opinion, Luca," Miller said, "A car was not used in shooting these poor men. I'd say a sniper was involved."
"Zank you, Doctor," DeMaurier said, and sat on a Dumpster, stroking his goatee, using what he had discovered to formulate a possible theory. A sniper shoots the drivers around six-thirty, then breaks into the armored car and steals the cargo? But that's impossible in ten minutes. So the sniper had a partner. The sniper shoots, and the partner breaks into the car, takes the cargo, and speeds away in his car. Plausible.
When Gehrig returned to the crime scene, DeMaurier approached his partner.
"What's the game plan, Sir?" Gehrig asked, pulling out his notepad.
"We are going to interview zee people in zee apartment complex, to see eef anyone noticed anyzing wrong zees morning."
"You mean like the murder?"
"Of course I mean ‘like zee murdre'!" DeMaurier exclaimed. "And zee robbery."
Gehrig's eyes widened. "Was it the mob, you think?" he asked eagerly.
"Monsieur Gehrig," DeMaurier began, "Since zee beginning of your career, how many times was zee mob eenvolved?"
"Well, never," he responded dejectedly. "But I've always wanted to take down a Godfather."
DeMaurier sighed and shook his head resignedly. "Come along, Gehrig. We've potential witnesses to interview."
"Can I handle this one, Sir?" Gehrig asked. "My wife keeps asking when I'm gonna take the lead."
"Be my guest, Gehrig."
He knocked on the door to Number 1A. The door opened to reveal a grumpy-looking man clad in a dirty white muscle shirt and boxers.
"Good morning sir," Gehrig said cheerfully. "I'm Officer Bill Gehrig, and this is my partner, Detective Luca DeMaurier. We're investigating---"
"The only thing you should investigate," the man snarled, "is why you harass hardworking guys like me before noon!" He slammed the door in their faces.
"Don't tell Madame Gehrig about zat," DeMaurier said, and reached past Gehrig to rap sharply on the door.
"What is it this time?" the man growled, opening the door again.
"Police," DeMaurier stated, showing the man his badge. "Two men were murdered zees morning, not two hours ago. Deed you notice anyzing...peculiar...around seex-thirty?"
The man scratched his arm. "I told youse; I don't like bein' bothered before noon!" He made to close the door again, but DeMaurier grabbed the side and forced it back open. "And we don't like being obstructed by eegnorant bulls like you! Have you anyzing to tell us about zees morning?!"
"No," the man said, glaring at the Frenchman. "I was asleep!"
"Merci," DeMaurier said, releasing the door.
The man shook his head. "Damn Frenchies," he muttered, closing the door.
"Sorry, Sir," Gehrig apologized. "Guess I messed that one up."
"Not at all, Gehrig," DeMaurier reassured him. "Have anazor go; give Madame Gehrig a story tonight."
"Thanks, Sir," Gehrig smiled and knocked on the door of 1B.
"You noticed somezing zees morning?" DeMaurier repeated, holding his pencil over his notebook expectantly.
"Yes, I did," the little old lady of 3C said. "It was half-past six when I woke up. You see, my hip was acting up again."
"What did you see?" Gehrig asked.
"Well," she began, "not so much saw, as perceived."
"Explain, s'il vous plait."
The woman rubbed the cross around her neck before responding. "The curtains were bent, so I went to straighten them out. And I noticed something odd going on in the alley. There was this large vehicle - a van, I think - just stopped. Then these two figures approached the van and did something; I couldn't tell what. One of them went in, and took out this large box. The other one left, then a car came; and the first one got in. And the car sped away. It made that awful noise, you know, the noise that means it's going too fast. It went that way." She pointed to the right.
"What kind of car, Ma'am?" Gehrig asked.
"A dark one," she replied. "I'm sorry I'm not much help. I've been trying to get on without my glasses."
"You were quite ‘elpful," DeMaurier reassured her. "'Ave a good day."
She smiled. "You, too, sonnies," she returned and closed the door.
"How was she helpful, Sir?" Gehrig asked. "She didn't give any descriptions of the perps, or of the car. She could've made the whole thing up!"
"Zee car was ‘eaded east at a high rate of speed," DeMaurier explained. "We can get zee camera footage of zee car. And we zat zee killer ‘ad two partners. Let us finish zees interviews and ‘ead back to zee station."