There wasn’t much left of the body when it hit the floor. At least that was the conclusion the detective came to as he examined the scene before him.
Tom Cort, a veteran of the Detroit Police Departments’ New Homicide Division had been working at his desk during the early hours of that Friday graveyard shift when he was called to the scene of what was first described as a possible suicide. The ‘scene’ was the posh residence of many of Detroit’s’ high powered, well-connected families. The Jennas Tower was indeed a tower. Cort saw it from a distance every day commuting to the downtown post.
Everyone argued about the ‘Tower’. It was visible (when the air was clear) for miles. Built of space-age materials and cutting-edge engineering, it was either an edifice to Mans’ Achievement or an eyesore built to rub the collective nose of working class in the extravagance of the extremely rich.
Right now, it was only a place Tom did not want to be. He could tell something was not good. For something as common place as suicide or murder, the cops that met him at the entrance to the Tower had acted…well…weird. It was almost as if they had been spooked by something.
Tom had worked out several formulas for explaining deaths during his years in the department. He found that by tracing through the formulas and finding the one that fit best, he could achieve a relatively high ‘solve’ rate for his cases. None of his formulas included what he saw when he stepped into the Tower.
He noticed the quiet first. About fifteen cops were milling around, trying to attend to the routines required for a death, and trying not to cast side long glances to the center of the courtyard in the middle of the Tower. Several residents were standing in the hallways that wrapped each floor. By looking over the railings, they enjoyed an excellent view of the proceedings below. No one was talking. If they had to communicate, they whispered.
Tom was reluctant to break the silence, but it was time to get to work. And if he didn’t get to work soon, he might just let that spooky feeling get to him. He called out “Who is in charge of the scene?” The whole Tower, already moving in slow motion, seemed to freeze. Every head had swung around to look at him, but for long moments nobody spoke. Finally, a quiet voice by the police barricade laser said that he was in charge and Tom made his way toward the voice.
An officer separated himself from two pale looking uniformed Tower security guards and met Tom several feet from the ‘Do Not Cross” laser. “I’m Sergeant Wolnicki. We responded to a 911 initiated by Tower security. Price, my partner, and I cordoned the courtyard and tried to keep people out”.
Looking around, Cort didn’t think much effort had been put into the latter exercise and suggested that they scan the residents, get their statements and usher them back inside their homes.
Wolnicki sent Price off to take care of the residents and turned back to Cort. “I haven’t seen as many of these as you have, I know, but still…” his voice trailed off and he looked ill as he continued “…I got sick when I saw him, I got sick when I saw all that blood. Man, the guy’s room…we didn’t go in, but what we could see….” Wolnicki looked unsteady and leaned against a potted fichus tree. “I’m gonna carry this nightmare forever”, he said as he leaned over and tried to vomit the contents of an already emptied stomach into the roots of the fichus tree.
Tom turned to the barricaded area and hesitated. This is wrong, he thought to himself. This whole thing is wrong. It doesn’t fit any of my formulas. It doesn’t fit what I know should happen at a ‘normal’ homicide/suicide scene. What’s different? What’s wrong?
Tom stepped through the laser. Ignoring the alarm he set off, he noticed a pattern on the floor. At first he thought it was the design of the polished granite. As he looked closer, he noticed the color, a brownish red, and the texture, a flat finish compared to the highly polished gloss of the granite.
“It’s blood, sir.” a voice behind him spoke the words. Tom turned from his kneeling position and looked into the whitewashed face of one of the Tower security personnel. “It’s blood.” the man repeated.
“When did you notice the body?” Tom asked.
The security man ran a hand across his sweating forehead and pulled at his already loosened collar. “We both watch the monitors from 1:30 to 3:00 on orders from the Tower manager. Especially the parking lot ones. We’re supposed to be ready in case one of the residents shows up at the door a little less than sober, you know? Help ’em in and get ’em to the elevator and all. Well, we both thought we had…well…felt something was happening on the other screens, so we flipped around the circuits until we found him.” The man was sweating profusely and seemed unable to stop shifting his eyes and licking his lips. The guy has lost it, Tom thought. Another enforcement job opening in the city of Detroit. Para-professional though it may be, it was still a related field, and Tom felt sorry for the man.
“What’s your name?”
“Uh, I’m Johnson”, the man stuttered. “My partner is Jensen” and he spelled his partners’ name for Cort. “We’ve been a team for a long time. They call us the Band-Aid bunch. You know, ‘Johnson & Johnson’, Johnson & Jensen.” Johnson nearly smiled at that, but just then his eyes shifted to the body just 50 feet away, and the smile vanished.
“Johnson, what did you see on the monitors?”
Johnson’s’ eyes re-focused on Tom. “He wasn’t dead when we saw him. He was moving a little, like trying to slap at something where his face was supposed to be.” His voice was fading to a whisper and Tom leaned in to hear him. “We picked him up on the #4 camera. That’s the one at the top of the Tower that points to the floor.”
“So, you saw him after he jumped … after he hit the floor?”
“No, he didn’t jump. I can’t say he was pushed, but, no, he didn’t jump either. When we first saw him, he wasn’t on the ground floor. We checked that right away on cameras 1, 3, and 6.” They shot horizontals of the courtyard, he explained. “Those didn’t show anything.”
Tom looked up to the roof of the Tower 113 floors above him. Thinking through Johnson’s words, he couldn’t put the chain of events together. Where was the man when camera #4 caught him? Was he at the railing on one of the floors? If not, Johnson caught the man’s flight to death.
“Did you first see him at the railing?”
“No-he was in mid-air; I swear he was. We watched him there just spinning like crazy and moving his arms, slapping like. I wouldn’t believe it myself until we watched it again on the cards.”
“Discs! You’ve got this all recorded?” Tom asked.
“We’re still running. Never stopped. Kept #4 overhead and 1, 3, and 6 going until things seemed like they were over. You want to see ’em?”
“Yeah, I do. I can’t picture what you’ve described, and I hope the cards clear it up.”
“Oh, they’ll show you what happened, but they won’t help you understand what happened.” Johnson rubbed his eyes and said “I’ll make copies and get ’em to you. It’ll take a while, ’bout half an hour to pull and copy the running cards. I’ll get ’em out to you if you’re still here.”
“I’ll be a couple of hours, anyway.” Cort told him. “Hey, did you notice anyone in the building that was not accounted for?”
“No. Everyone that is here, or was here, was clocked in. You need me for anything else I’ll be in the Security Room. Price can show you where it is. But, hey, I’m telling you, you’re gonna change the way you look at things when you see this stuff! You may even change your religion!” Johnson turned and walked around the perimeter of the court toward the elevator bank.
Tom walked over to a bank of screens and touched the appropriate links to open the building directory. The layout was impressive and the words on the screen seemed to brag about the fact that this building was unique in the entire world. No other residential building of this height was built with an inverted measurement. That is, the base of the building was smaller than the top. The courtyard emphasized this effect by exaggerating the dimensions of the exterior of the building. The courtyard was approximately 150 feet across here on the first floor, but 113 floors above, the opening expanded to 400 feet. The result was that if you looked up from the floor, the opening appeared to grow, opening toward the glass roof directly over the courtyard. The glass was electronically controlled to limit the amount of solar energy that entered the building during the summer months. Looking up, Tom saw that the glass was clear, and he could see stars twinkling. ‘Clear sky tonight’, he thought.
He touched some other links and got the resident count, emergency exits, parking structure, elevator banks and security information.
Tom turned his attention back to the courtyard. He walked toward the body noting the patterns and density of the blood on the floor. The pattern could have been caused by falling from a spinning object, he thought.