by Michael J A Tyzuk
I woke up in bed with a hangover and a stranger.
Neither event was terribly surprising to me, considering how hard I had hit the bottle the night before. I was on sick leave, recovering from a rather severe case of post-traumatic stress after having been forced to kill my partner during the course of a murder investigation, and my recovery had not been going well. So, against the advice of my therapist, I decided that what I needed was a night of drinking and debauchery.
I remember most of what happened. I remember that the excessive amounts of alcohol I had been drinking had served to make me somewhat randy and wanton, and so I had gone hunting. I really didn’t care who or what I took home with me, nor did I care if they were male or female. The only thing that mattered was that Tamara was going to get herself laid.
As I lay there and looked around at the state of my bedroom I felt it safe to conclude that my objective had been achieved. The dress I had been wearing was wadded up on the floor in a puddle surrounding my shoes. My bra and panties had been lobbed here and there. Another dress was puddled on the floor nearby, and that’s when I rolled over to see who it was that I was in bed with.
She was tall, athletic in build, with pale skin, shoulder length blonde hair, thin lips, a button nose, and pert little pointy breasts. She lay there beside me with an expression of complete and utter contentment on her face. It made me feel good to know that I was still capable of making someone smile like that at a time when I really didn’t feel like smiling about much of anything. Then it occurred to me that her skin was about five shades paler than it should have been. I reached out and touched her shoulder.
Her shoulder was cold.
She was quite dead.
This is not a good way to start the day.
* * *
So there I was, lying in bed with a hangover and a corpse and thinking to myself that sometimes life just isn’t fair.
I rolled out of bed and padded into the bathroom, grabbing an old terry cloth robe from my closet in passing. I performed my morning routine and downed a painkiller for the headache. Then I went into the living room, sat down in front of my terminal, and dialed the emergency response number for the police department.
“Acheron City Emergency Services,” a pleasant female voice answered.
“This is Detective Sergeant Tamara Tomson,” I said. “I wish to report a dead body in my bed.”
There was a long pause on the other end. “I beg your pardon, sergeant, but could you repeat that, please?”
“Certainly,” I said agreeably. “There is a dead body in my bed.”
There was another long pause. “Okay,” the voice replied hesitantly. “What would you like to do about it?”
Had I been awake completely I probably would have torn a strip off the poor girl for asking a question like that, but I was just too tired to do something for which I may be forced to apologize later. “Well,” I said sweetly, “I was thinking that it would probably be a good idea to send down a detective and a forensics team to check things out. And while we’re at it I was wondering if it might be possible to have the Medical Examiner sent down as well to get this bloody corpse out of my bloody bed and down to the bloody morgue where it belongs!” I roared.
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t too tired after all.
The emergency services voice promised to send somebody down as soon as possible and disconnected. I shook my head in frustrated disgust, muttered some choice phrases regarding people’s children, and went back into the bedroom.
Now, as a professional detective I know intellectually that the last thing I should do was mess with the scene in any way, shape, or form. On the other hand as a professional detective I had an insatiable curiosity, and I was also more than a little embarrassed to find that I didn’t even know the poor girl’s name. I was randy enough to sleep with her, but I couldn’t be bothered to learn her name before doing the deed with her. That really makes me look good, you know?
So I went into the bathroom and grabbed a pair of rubber surgical gloves from the box I keep under my sink. Don’t ask me why they’re there, because you really don’t want to know. While I was at it I also grabbed two pairs of tweezers.
I went back into the bedroom and performed a systematic visual inspection. Somewhere in this room there were two purses. One of them was mine and the other was the property of this mysterious stranger who had died in my bed. Locating mine was the easy part, for it was right beside the puddle that was my dress and my shoes. Locating the other one took an extra moment but wasn’t all that difficult. It had been tossed off to the side and was lying on its side in front of my dresser.
I knelt down in front of my dresser, pulled on the gloves and took a pair of tweezers in either hand. I took hold of the purse itself with the tweezers in my left hand and took hold of the zipper with the tweezers in my right hand. I pulled the zipper open, then reached inside the purse and extracted the walled with the tweezers in my right hand. I laid the wallet down on the floor and used the tweezers in both hands to open it and take out the ID card.
The picture on the ID card was a perfect match for the dead woman in my bed. Her name was Tanya Brown.
* * *
By the alarm clock on my night table it had been half past nine in the morning when I had awakened to find myself lying next to a naked dead woman. It had been a quarter to ten in the morning when I had called Emergency Services and asked to have the body removed.
It was ten thirty in the morning when the police had arrived, trailing a medical examiner behind them. I thought about raising a little hell over how long it had taken them to get to me, but I knew from experience just how busy the police could get in this city some days and I kept my mouth shut.
The medical examiner in question was an old friend of mine, Doctor Gerald MacGregor. Gerald took hold of me as he stepped through the door and enfolded me in a bear hug. “Good God, Tamara, are you all right?”
I returned Gerald’s hug and gave him an extra little squeeze before putting an arms length of distance between us. “I’m just fine,” I assured him, “but I think there’s someone in the bedroom who could benefit from your services.”
Gerald nodded, squeezed my shoulders and gave me an encouraging smile, and then went upstairs to set to work.
The next figure that I noticed come through the door belonged to the detective assigned to the case. He was at least a head taller than I am, lanky and long limbed, with intense deep-set blue eyes and thinning brown hair. He saw me and approached me, his hand extended. “Detective Sergeant Tomson?” he asked. I nodded and shook hands with him. “I’m Detective Jeremy Bennett and I’ve been assigned to this case by Lieutenant Dubois. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”
“Certainly,” I said and let Jeremy back into my living room. I dropped into the comfortable armchair and folded my legs under me. Jeremy sat down on the middle cushion on the couch.
Jeremy pulled a data pad out of his jacket pocket and started to make notes. “When did you first encounter the victim?” he asked me.
“I met her last night at a bar,” I answered and identified the bar. “We seemed to hit it off famously so I invited her back here for a drink or four or five or six. This morning I woke up to find her in bed beside me and quite dead.”
“Were the two of you intimate the night before?” I answered yes. “Do you remember being intimate with her last night?” Another yes. “You said that the two of you had some more drinks before you went to bed.” I nodded. “What exactly were you drinking?”
I had to think about that for a moment. “Well, I finished more just under a fifth of vodka,” I answered, “and my companion drank generously from a bottle of wine. I’m not a big wine person myself, but I keep a bottle around on occasion because some of my friends are. As I recall she had just over three quarters of the bottle to herself.”
Jeremy made some notes. “Do you know where the wine bottle is now?”
I nodded and took Jeremy into the kitchen, pointed out the bottle sitting upright and corked on the counter. Jeremy withdrew an evidence bag and a pair of rubber gloves from his pocket, donned the gloves, and inserted the wine bottle into the evidence bag. He gave my almost empty vodka bottle the same treatment.
That’s when Gerald came down the stairs with his preliminary report. “It looks as if she died when her heart stopped,” he said, “but I don’t know yet why her heart stopped. I won’t know until we get her down to the morgue for an autopsy.”
Jeremy nodded. “All right, then. Arrange transport of the body and tell the forensics team outside that they can start working now.” He turned back to me as Gerald left to take care of his end. “I’m going to have to ask you to come downtown with me and answer a few more questions,” he told me.
I nodded. “I expected that. Would it be possible for me to go upstairs and grab a shower and a change of clothes? I don’t think the other homicide detectives would appreciate it if I showed up wearing just a robe.”
Jeremy grinned a wicked grin. “Either that or they’ll want you to dress like that all the time,” he agreed. “Go ahead. I’ll be down here waiting to give you a ride.”
* * *
I took my time in the shower, as I didn’t want to walk into police headquarters smelling like a resident of a brothel. It was bad enough that my bedroom smelled like a whorehouse, but that couldn’t be helped right then. However, I did make a mental note to deal with it later.
By the time I finished my shower the body had been removed and the forensics team was just wrapping up. I padded out of the bathroom and into my large walk in closet, closed the door behind me. When I walked out I looked something like a normal, functioning human female. I had put on a tank top and wrapped a long floral print wrap-around skirt around my hips and a sweater around my shoulders, and slipped my feet into a pair of convenient sandals. I tied my long auburn hair into a braid that I draped over my right shoulder, grabbed my purse, and went downstairs.
Jeremy handed me into his speeder like a gallant gentleman, and handed me out again when we grounded outside headquarters. He held the front door open for me and stayed beside me as we climbed up the stairs to detective country.
As soon as I walked into the squad room for the homicide crew I was bombarded with greetings. Some of the guys took advantage of my absence to claim a hug, some claimed a quick feel, and one of them felt obliged to propose to me. Jeremy endured it all patiently, waiting while I saw to each of my admirers. Then he escorted me to his desk and sat me down in his guest chair.
“I’m going to get straight to the point,” Jeremy told me. “As it stands now, you are our prime suspect.”
I nodded. I had been expecting that. “Do you believe that I did it?” I asked.
Jeremy shook his head. “Personally, no,” he answered. “I’m usually a pretty good judge of character, and I don’t believe that you are a cold-blooded killer. I especially don’t believe that you would be inclined to kill someone with whom you had been intimate just hours before.” I tried not to wince but Jeremy caught me doing it anyway and arched his left brow. “What’s that all about?” he asked.
“My last partner, Alan Morris, died because I killed him,” I told him
Jeremy nodded. “Yes, I know, and from what I understand you really didn’t have a choice,” he said. “He wasn’t willing to surrender himself and you were required to use deadly force to keep him from killing more people. Considering what I read about the implant that was found in his brain I have to wonder if he isn’t better off dead.”
I had often wondered the same thing myself, but this was neither the time nor the place for that kind of discussion. “Alan and I made love the night before I killed him.”
Jeremy whistled appreciatively. “That is a bit of an emotional load to bear, isn’t it?” he said and shook his head. “I don’t know what to tell you, Tamara, but I stand by my original assessment. I don’t think that you killed this girl. There isn’t any reason why you would want to, nor is there any reason why you would be forced to. And I do not believe that you are the type to actively consider and then execute the cold blooded killing of someone with whom you have had intimate sexual relations.”
On the one hand I appreciated the show of confidence, especially coming from someone who didn’t really know me all that well just yet. On the other hand, though, I had to wonder if I really deserved it. Whether I had been forced to take the actions that I had taken or not, the fact remained that I had pulled the trigger and killed a man that I had loved with all my heart and soul. How in the name of God do you get past something like that?
Jeremy’s terminal pinged for attention and he turned to the screen, tapped a command into his keyboard. “Forensics here,” a voice said through the speaker. “We’ve completed our analysis of the wine and vodka bottles you’ve provided us with. I think you’re going to want to come down and see this one for yourselves.”
* * *
The forensics tech was shaking his head in sheer amazement. “This is a work of art,” he claimed as he gestured to the bottle of wine sitting on the workbench.
“I take it there was something in the wine,” Jeremy ventured.
The tech nodded. “A substance was introduced into the wine before the bottle was purchased by Detective Sergeant Tomson,” he explained. “We knew from the moment we first examined the bottle that the wine had been poisoned. We’ve even been able to identify the poison. This bottle has been laced with aurapine.”
Jeremy and I both whistled at that. Aurapine is a derivative of anesthazine, only about a hundred times more powerful. Less than twenty milligrams of the stuff can kill a man in a matter of seconds. “How much aurapine was in the wine?” he asked.
“And how did they get the Aurapine into the wine?” I added.
The tech frowned. “With so much of the wine already gone it’s difficult to say just how much Aurapine was in there,” he admitted. “However, based on how much Aurapine was present in the remainder of the wine contained in the bottle we estimate that about sixteen milligrams was introduced into the wine.
“The aurapine,” the tech continued, “was introduced into the wine by injecting it through the cork.” He tapped commands into a terminal console and a screen on the wall lit up, showing a graphical scan of the cork from the bottle of wine. “As you can see, the injection was accomplished with a very thin hypodermic needle.” Sure enough, we could see the tunnel that the needle had carved through the cork.
Jeremy harrumphed and folded his arms across his chest. “It seems to me that it would have made more sense to use a pressure injector to get the aurapine into the wine,” he mused. “If he had used a pressure injector then you guys wouldn’t have found the tunnel made by the hypodermic.”
“No, we wouldn’t,” the tech agreed. “However, we still would have been able to tell you what happened because there would be traces of aurapine in the cork itself. The advantage of using a needle is that all of the poison gets into the wine.”
“So, this was done deliberately,” I ventured.
“This was done deliberately,” the tech agreed.
Jeremy turned to me. “Someone wanted your friend dead in a big bad way to go to all that trouble.”
I shook my head. “I’m not so sure that it was my friend that they were after,” I said. “Hell, I’m not even sure that it was me that they were after. Think about it; How in the Name of God could the people behind this scheme ensure that this particular bottle made it into my hands on the night that I bring someone home from the bar with me? What reason would anyone have to want to do this to me?”
Jeremy’s eyes went wide as he saw where I was going. “And if you weren’t the intended victim, then just who was?” he wondered.
* * *
The autopsy results confirmed that Tanya had been killed by aurapine poisoning.
Jeremy and I talked about it and decided that the best way to prove me innocent at this point would be to find another poisoned bottle, one that had not been in my possession. Given the nature of the method used to poison the bottle I had it seemed unlikely that the perpetrator of such a scheme would stop at poisoning just one bottle. So, what’s the best place to find multiple bottles of wine, some of which may have been poisoned? How does a liquor store sound?
Jeremy and I decided to start our search with the same store where I had picked up the bottle that had poisoned Tanya. We borrowed a hand scanner from forensics, enlisted their help in configuring it to scan for aurapine, and off we went.
The fellow behind the counter smiled at me when he recognized me, and I returned his smile as Jeremy and I went deeper into the store and stopped in front of the wine rack. The bottles were neatly arranged, with the brand that I had purchased positioned prominently front and center. Château de Martin, it was, from the Martin Vineyards here in Acheron City. Jeremy took out the scanner and passed it in front of the bottles, stared at the tiny screen when the scanner beeped. “I was afraid of this,” he said.
I felt my shoulders slump. “They’re not poisoned, are they?”
Jeremy shook his head. “On the contrary, they are poisoned, exactly the same way your bottle was.”
“You enjoyed doing that to me, didn’t you?” I accused.
“Of course I did,” Jeremy admitted. “Abuse of my colleagues is one of the few pleasures I get on this job.” He turned and gave the fellow behind the counter the high sign, beckoned him over. “Were you aware that all of these bottles are poisoned?” he inquired politely.
The attendant frowned. “Poisoned?” he repeated. “How could they be poisoned?”
Jeremy showed him the results of the hand scanner. “Why don’t you take us into the back and let us check the rest of your stock, all right?” The attendant nodded vigorously and lead us into the back. We used the scanner on the crates of Château de Martin that hadn’t been opened yet and came up with the same result.
“When did this shipment come in?” I asked.
The attendant shrugged. “About eight days ago?”
Jeremy turned to me. “When did you pick up that bottle you had?”
“About six days ago,” was my answer.
Jeremy cursed. “That tears it, then.” He took his communicator out of his pocket and called the discovery in to Kevin while I helped the attendant pull all the bottles of Château de Martin off the shelf and then left him to inform his boss.
* * *
Under the circumstances getting a warrant to search the Martin Vineyards was pretty easily accomplished. While we were waiting for the warrant Jeremy and I called all of the local liquor stores and told them to pull their stocks of Château de Martin. Once that was accomplished we went to pay the Martin Vineyards a visit, warrant in hand.
To be continued...
A previous adventure of Tamara Tomson, “Remote Control,” concluded in in issue 62.
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