Were they dealing with terrorists and exotic poisons?
October 2, 2013
A VG Serial: ToxiCity
“Got a minute?” Doyle stopped Matt in the hall the next morning. “I’d like to see you in my office.”
Matt forced himself to nod. His head pounded from too much Roditis; even three Advil’s hadn’t dulled the pain. Memories of last night, foggy and indistinct, strafed his brain. Georgia figured in most of them.
Doyle led him into his office. “Close the door.”
They both sat. Doyle picked up a newspaper on his desk. “You see this?”
Matt shook his head.
“They’re talking about all these exotic poisons and pathogens. Fringe terrorist groups, for Christ’s sake. We can’t let this go on, Singer.”
“Since when did the press let the facts get in the way of a good story?” Matt said tiredly. “Who leaked?”
“You tell me.”
“I called a few toxicology experts around the country.”
Doyle shot him a cryptic look.
“The consensus so far seems to be poison.”
Doyle threw down the paper. “Look. The mayor called. The village is uneasy having this hanging. It’s not good for Glenbrook. It’s been two weeks. You have a cause of death. It’s time to make this go away.”
Matt stared at a photograph on the wall. Shot during a recent national campaign, Doyle was shaking hands with the President. Posed underneath a red, white, and blue banner, the two men were surrounded by a Congressman and the governor of Illinois. Matt thought of the picture of Julie Romano pinned above his desk. “We still have some leads to run down.”
Doyle flicked his lighter and touched it to his pipe. “Did the tox screen come back?”
“They did it on an expedited basis.”
Smoke rose from Doyle’s mouth. “And?”
“It was clean.” Matt tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. “So was the heavy metals.”
“But they did rule out arsenic and lead.”
“They also eliminated cyanide and strychnine. There are a couple of other screens we could do, but bottom line, there are thousands of substances that could trigger the same symptoms. We can’t test for something we don’t know about.”
Doyle swiveled in his chair. “You just made my case, Singer. You can’t win. Let’s wrap this up. The press ‘ll start saying we’re boneheads anyway.”
A muscle in Matt’s jaw clenched. He owed Julie Romano more than two weeks. “The ME’s going to do some histologies and look at tissue samples. And the Crime Lab wants to study the cultures again. And we’re still looking at how the body got into the dumpster.”
“What about suspects?”
Having recanvassed the school and Romano’s building, Matt knew more than he wanted to about the people in Romano’s life: the woman down the hall who was cheating on her husband, the student who shoveled a few lines of coke up his nose between classes, the old man upstairs who never took a shower. But he didn’t have anything new on Romano. He looked down. “No one says anything bad about the woman.”
“So find something. How hard can it be? She was a dyke.”
“She wasn’t out,” Matt said. “And people with something to hide can appear to lead perfect lives.”
Doyle peered at Matt. “What about the student who saw her in the drug store?”
“The girl says Romano had her arm around a woman but dropped it when she saw the kid coming down the aisle.”
“You get a description?”
“Pretty vague. The girl’s mother insisted on staying with her for the interview, and by the time we sat her down, the girl was freaked out. Officer Davis went back to the drugstore and asked around, but nobody remembers.”
Doyle set his pipe down.
“We do know there were no signs of forcible entry at her apartment. If that means anything.” Matt looked up. “And we might have a lead on a gay woman who knew the victim, thanks to Georgia –Officer Davis.”
“She’s working the investigation?”
Matt chose his words carefully. “She’s helping out. In her spare time.”
“Can she handle it?”
“She’s done a good job so far.”
Doyle grunted. “What else?”
“The crime lab is analyzing the picture we found in Romano’s apartment. By the way, I’d like to keep that under wraps for now. Along with the fact she was gay. And we’re still checking out the sister. She works for a paving contractor in Niles. We put out a LEADS, and we’re waiting for VICAP. So there’s still work to do.”
Doyle gazed at Matt, his fingers fondling the stem of his pipe. His expression was contemplative. “I’ll give you one more week.”
Matt knew he was expected to be grateful.
“By the way,” Doyle’s face melted back into his usual acid countenance. “I’m ‘gonna have to do a press conference in a couple of days. You’ll brief me?”
Doyle steepled his fingers. Matt thought he might suggest a new direction, recommend priorities, offer some words of encouragement. “I guess I need a haircut.” He sighed. “Okay. Go out and be a hero, Singer.”
Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.