Authors: Victor Methos
Stanton examined every inch of the Millers’ home. From the massive pool and hot tub out back to the pantry containing only gourmet supplies. He was informed by one of the responding officers that the Millers had a chef who came five nights a week, but they hadn’t been able to reach him. Stanton opened a file on the Millers in his phone and made a note to follow up with the chef.
The boy outside had been identified
: Adam Gilmore Cummings, eleven years old. His family lived four houses to the south, and they had reported the boy missing a couple of hours before. Stanton was glad he didn’t have to be the one to notify them that their son had been found.
Stanton was outside as the medical examiner’s people zipped up the body and hauled it away.
The techs had found gunshot residue on the boy’s forehead, indicating he’d been shot from no more than five feet away. If the shooter had been any farther away than that, only a few particles from the explosive primer or propellant would have been present, probably not enough to detect.
Stanton had saved
Richard Miller’s interview for last. He had called in only the kidnappings, and was adamant that he hadn’t known about the murder. Not entirely unbelievable, as the boy had been shot and not a single neighbor had called in the strange noise. People in this neighborhood seemed to prefer to stay out of things.
Richard was sitting on a fine white couch when Stanton approached him. Amber liquid
and ice filled the tumbler in front of him. Stanton could smell the alcohol on his breath from practically ten feet away.
“Richard, my name is Detective Jon Stanton
. I’m with the Homicide Detail of the Honolulu Police Department. I’m one of the detectives investigating this case.”
Richard nodded but didn’t say anything. His eyes
drifted over the room, as though he were taking it in for the first time. Stanton sat next to him, as close as he could without touching him. Richard was displaying signs of nervousness and agitation. Stanton thought he might be able to push him a little further with a slight discomfort.
“Your wife’s name is Sharon, and your daughter is Eliza. Thirteen, is that right?”
“And the last time you saw either your wife or your daughter was this morning when you left
“Yes, that’s correct. I leave at eight every morning. When I got home in the evening, this is what I found.”
“My partner said you were surprised when she informed you of the young boy’s body outside.”
“What kind of question is that? Of course I was surprised. You wouldn’t
be surprised if your neighbor’s corpse was found outside your house?”
Stanton placed his elbows on his knees, leaning slightly forward to give the impression of relaxation. “You didn’t see him when you pulled in?”
Richard shook his head and looked down to the carpet. “No, I saw his bike. But I thought one of the neighborhood kids just left it out. This is a really safe neighborhood, and people leave things out.”
Stanton remained silent
for a moment. Most people didn’t handle silence well. They would rather say something—anything—to avoid sitting in silence with a stranger. Richard’s reaction was even more overblown than the average reaction Stanton had seen. He began rubbing his hands together, and his eyes darted around the room, occasionally landing on Stanton’s face.
“Is there anyone that would want to hurt you or your family?”
“No. Not that I can think of.”
“I was told you’re an attorney. Any disgruntled clients?”
He scoffed. “They’re all disgruntled, Detective. Take your pick.”
“Does your wife have any enemies that you know of?”
He shook his head. “No. I don’t have a clue who would want to hurt my wife and daughter. We keep to ourselves.”
Stanton was an expert in the Facial Action Coding System first published in the late
seventies. People unconsciously make small facial movements, called microexpressions, that last only split seconds when relaying information. Generally, people couldn’t control their microexpressions. Though the expressions couldn’t prove a person was lying, they could prove underlying emotions were not being addressed.
Dr. Paul Ekman
pioneered the use of microexpressions to detect deceit, and he co-authored a study known as the
in the psychological journals. Ekman wanted to know how many people could intuitively read microexpressions well enough to distinguish deception. He called this type of person a “Truth Wizard.” Of the twenty thousand participants, only fifty could accurately read microexpressions well enough to tell if another person was being deceptive.
Stanton, a graduate student in psychology at the time, had been one of the fifty.
But Stanton didn’t need any of his training or research to know that Richard Miller was being less than truthful. Perhaps
he wasn’t out-and-out lying, but he wasn’t telling the whole story, either. And Richard knew that Stanton knew, and it was making Richard even more uncomfortable.
“Mr. Miller, my only concern is finding who killed that boy, and finding your wife and child. If you know something, you should tell me now.”
He glanced at him. “No, I don’t know anything. If I did, I would, of course, tell you.”
Stanton nodded. “Just so you’re aware, the type of man that could kill a young boy from no more than five feet away could do all sorts of horrible things that you might not be able to imagine.”
“It’s just a terrible, terrible situation. If I hear from them, you will be the first one I call.”
Stanton rose. He took a card out of his wallet and left it on the coffee table. “That has my cell. Call anytime, day or night.”
Stanton scanned the room quickly before he said, “Nice house,” and walked away.
Laka outside, where she was coordinating with the uniforms to interview all the neighbors. He watched her directing the officers. Not a hint of bashfulness or politeness. Just direct authority and power. Her uncle had the same quality.
Stanton hung back until she was done. She turned and caught his eyes
, and they both grinned.
“Sorry, I know you’re the senior detective here,” she said.
“Nothing to be sorry about. You have a presence they respect.”
“Well, presence or a three
hundred-pound uncle who’s their boss. Either one works for me.”
Stanton took in a deep breath and scanned the neighborhood. The sun was coming up
, and the sky had turned a dull gray. “We’re short uniforms. I’ll help canvas the neighbors. Can you make sure to get a written statement from Richard Miller?”
The other officers hadn’t yet started canvassing the north side of the street, so Stanton marched in that direction. Canvassing a neighborhood was an odd experience. Officers got an irregular assortment of people from those who welcomed the opportunity to help the police, to those who just wanted them to go away as quickly as possible.
he first house belonged to a middle-aged woman who treated Stanton almost like a door-to-door salesman. She hadn’t seen or heard anything. Next was a family, and the father grew upset that the police had dared to come knocking on his door at such an hour. A single man was next, a business owner who sold shipping containers to large companies and managed to work that into the first few minutes of speaking to Stanton.
“Did you see anything out of the ordinary at all?” Stanton asked him.
“I didn’t see anything, but I heard what I guess was a gunshot.”
“I don’t know, like two. I didn’t look at my clock. But I heard this like,
, and it woke me up. I didn’t think anything of it.”
“Did you hear anything after the pop, like a car driving away?”
“Yeah, yeah, I did actually. A car turned on and took off. But it didn’t sound like a car. It was more like a big truck. One of those really big trucks, ’cause the engine was all deep.”
“I appreciate your help. If you think of anything else, please let me know.” Stanton handed him a card. “Do you know anything about your neighbor, Richard Miller?”
“Rich? No, not really. Other than his wife, I never talked to them.”
“What was his wife like?”
The man hesitated.
“It’s really important. I’m investigating the death of a young boy
, and it just happens that Sharon Miller is missing on the same night.”
“She was… flirty.”
“Yeah, like, she was always hitting on everyone.
I know she had an affair with Mark just up the street. It actually broke up his marriage.”
“Where does Mark live?”
“That house right there, with the pillars on the front porch.”
at the house. It was massive, with a front lawn like a soccer field. “I appreciate your help.”
Mark’s home was
a mansion. Six Corinthian pillars took up the porch. And the property was fenced off. Stanton hopped over the fence. He hoped Mark didn’t have a lot of dogs.
minute after the first doorbell ring, Mark answered the door, wearing only thin, tight underwear that showed off the musculature of his legs. He was a muscular man—overly so, Stanton thought. His arms were the size of melons, and the muscles in his stomach bulged, but the stomach itself was distended, as if he’d just eaten a large meal. He was breathing hard, and sweat was pouring out of him.
Who the fuck are—”
“I’m Detective Jon Stanton with the Honolulu Police Department. I’m investigating the homicide of one of your neighbors. I had to hop the fence, hope you don’t mind.”
Anger was drawn on the man’s face. “Hell yes, I mind. Why do you think I put the damn fence up?”
anton grinned. “I don’t know. But I can see the needle marks going up your thigh to your buttocks. If we search this house, how much steroids are we gonna find?”
“You can’t search shit. You don’t have probable cause.”
“The track marks give me probable cause. And coming to speak to you about a murder is a legitimate reason to be at your door. Now, would you like to talk about the murder or about what’s in your house?”
The man’s face flushed red. His upper lip curled into his mouth as though
his anger were so intense that his body just couldn’t contain it anymore. Stanton didn’t move or flinch. The man’s face finally softened. The thought of jail, particularly jail without his steroids where his muscles would wither away, didn’t seem to appeal to him.
“What do you want?”
“You had an affair with Sharon Miller, and she’s missing now. Where were you last night?”
sneered. “You think I’d kidnap that ho? She’d fuck anything that moves anytime. No one would need to kidnap her.”
“She was promiscuous?”
“No, she wasn’t promiscuous. I had a girlfriend in high school that was promiscuous. Sharon was a nymphomaniac. She went to this theater once and did an orgy with like five dudes. Didn’t know any of them, just went to a movie theater and got guys to go into the back of the theater and do it. I found out that kinda shit later. After we were done. And I was right here asleep in my bed all night. My car hasn’t moved.”
“She told your wife about you two?”
“Yeah. She actually asked my wife if she was interested in a three-way. That’s how my wife found out. Sharon was so fucking stupid, she didn’t realize that normal people don’t do stuff like that when they’re married.”
“Did she and Richard belong to any swinger
s’ clubs that you know of?”
“Richard didn’t. Sharon used to tease him that he couldn’t get another woman. I always felt bad for the little dude.”
“But not bad enough to stop sleeping with his wife.”
“Hey, that’s life. The strongest get the
Stanton glanced into
Mark’s home. Weights were spread out over the living room, and posters of half-naked girls covered the walls. “And who gets your woman now?”
It was a low blow, but
Mark deserved it. His anger had returned, and a vein in his neck was sticking out. But Stanton already had what he needed from him. He would put Mark on a list of suspects for the SIS unit to test for gunshot residue.
“Thanks for your time,” Stanton said
as he stepped off the porch.
“Hey, how’d you see the track marks?”
“I didn’t,” Stanton said with a smile. He hopped over the fence again and landed on his heels on the other side.
The day dragged on slowly. There were at least sixty homes Stanton wanted checked
, and he had only two officers to help him do it. By noon, sweat stuck to his back and dripped down his forehead into his eyes.
Stanton sat down on the curb, the hot island sun on the back of his neck, and took off his shoes. He stripped off his
soaked socks then put his shoes back on. The officers were making their way toward the three remaining houses. It was time to head into the precinct, and he had almost nothing to show for his efforts.
After several hours of walking, the drive in the
Jeep felt like heaven. Stanton stopped at a drive-thru and ordered a turkey sandwich with mango jelly, chips, and a Diet Coke. He ate on the road as he drove back into downtown.
Once back at the precinct,
he dabbed at a spot of food on his shirt before heading up to the bullpen and his desk. The homicide table—his portion of the division—was nearly empty. Everyone was out for lunch or working cases. He sat quietly at his desk and transcribed the notes in his phone into a Word document on his computer. He checked the Spillman database and ran a few of Richard Miller’s neighbors’ names through, hoping he’d come back with a few priors for kidnapping or sex offenses, but the worst that came back was a white-collar fraud case and a few DUIs.
Stanton noticed Kai in his office. The big man was eating a sandwich
half as long as his desk, and when he saw Stanton, he nodded. Stanton walked over and sat across from him.
“You want some?” Kai asked.
“I ate. Thanks. Can I ask you something, though?”
“Are you trying to set me up with your niece?”
grinned and took a bite of the sandwich. “Why not?”
“You’ve seen my luck with relationships, Kai. I’m not the ideal husband over here.”
“You got a good job, you don’t drink or smoke, you go to church every Sunday, and you’d never raise a hand to her. What more can an uncle ask for?”
“She needs someone younger. I’m not sure I could keep up.”
“You haven’t even been on one date. Take her out and see how you feel.”
Stanton tapped his fingers against the desk. “She’s gonna make a great detective. You should see her with the uniforms. Totally calm and in charge. No second-guessing.”
“She’s always been like that. She played football in middle school just because they said girls couldn’t play. She was good
, too. Receiver. She could run faster than any of them boys.” He wiped his lips with a napkin then took a long drink out of his jug of soda. “I saw the kid up on the board. Eleven years old, huh?”
Parents still together. They had to be informed this morning that their son died.”
Kai shook his head. “That is the one thing I
ain’t never liked about this job. Never. Some people can make the families feel better. I can’t. It was always hard.”
, too. Anything I say just comes off as empty.”
He leaned back in his seat, loosening his belt a little. “What you think of the boy?”
“I don’t think it’s random.”
t might just be a drive-by shooting. Maybe teenagers trying to shoot the house and hitting the boy.”
“No, I don’t think so. It was close range.
And the neighborhood’s upscale, not the type of place for a drive-by shooting. The blood spatter and tissues were on the sidewalk, too. He wasn’t found on the sidewalk. He was found in the bushes. Someone moved his body. A drive-by shooter wouldn’t do that. They would shoot and then get the heck out of there as quickly as they could.”
“Somebody he knew?”
“I don’t think so. I think he came upon something he shouldn’t have. It might not have even been last night. He could’ve seen something the day before that… a month before, who knows? But I think he saw something he wasn’t meant to see. And they did that to him for it. Maybe he saw the kidnappers of Sharon and Eliza Miller.”
Kai shook his head and leaned forward for another bite of the sandwich. “Well, if anyone can find the
, it’s you. But you got enough on your plate. Technically, child crimes goes to JSD. Give the case over to them if you want.”
Stanton was quiet
for a moment. He certainly had other cases to work. The board—the homicide whiteboard up near the bullpen—had eighteen open and active homicides, six of which were his. In the Honolulu PD, as in most major police departments, anything having to do with children—from child abuse and sex crimes, to child murder—was handled by a special child crimes section. In San Diego, when Stanton had been there, it was called the Child Abuse Unit. In Honolulu, it was the Juvenile Services Division. Though they had a broader mission here in terms of education and following up on runaways, child crimes were their specialty. Their detectives received specialized training to deal with parents and relatives as well as suspects and victims. Perhaps they would be better suited to handle the case than Stanton would have been.
“So,” Kai said, “what’s it
gonna be? You want it or not?”
Stanton thought back to the boy’s body. He’d been thrown in
to the bushes like a sack of refuse. No dignity had been shown to him whatsoever. “No, I’ll take it.”
Kai shrugged. “It’s yours. Go get the