“Come on, Carol,” Levon asked for the third time. “You gotta go. LaFiamma will be mighty disappointed if you’re
not there.” Sgt. Levon Lundy stared down at Sgt Carol O’Brien as she cleared off her desk. It had been a slow week
and Houston’s Major Crime Unit was empty except for Levon and Carol.
“I’ve got some things I need to do,” Carol insisted.
“Twenty minutes. Just come by, … wish him ‘Happy Birthday,’ .. have a beer. He’ll be happy.”
“I don’t really feel like … partying, Levon,” she admitted quietly. Levon sighed as he watched the pain show on
Carol’s face. He pulled up a chair and sat down next to her desk.
“It’s been over a year, Carol,” he said gently. She took a deep breath then slowly exhaled and looked over
Levon with eyes that glistened with tears.
“Maybe if I hadn’t watched him die ….” (1) Levon reached over and put his hand over hers.
“How did you do it, Levon?” She closed her eyes for a moment to keep the threatening tears from spilling over
and Levon lightly squeezed her hand. “How did you get over loosing Caroline?”
“I almost didn’t. But having friends that care helped.”
“Twenty minutes?” she asked. Levon nodded and smiled.
“Are you still going on about that, LaFiamma?” Levon asked as he and his partner entered ‘Chicken’s’, a rustic,
but popular, barbecue restaurant named for the owner.
“Yeah,” Sgt. Joe LaFiamma insisted. “It’s nearly Thanksgiving, and then it’ll be Christmas, and before you know
it, New Year’s. And then there’s a whole new year for you to forget.” Levon chuckled as he sat down at a table.
“Sit down, LaFiamma, and have something to eat. I’ve already got next year’s calendar. You can mark your
birthday in big red letters.”
Before Joe could think of an answer, Chicken walked towards their table. He was holding a small cake with
several lit candles on top. Several people from the office appeared around Chicken and they all began to sing “Happy
Birthday.” As they finished the verse, Chicken placed the cake on the table in front of Joe.
“Happy Un-Birthday, LaFiamma,” Chicken said. Joe looked around at the smiling faces, still unable to think of
something to say.
“Well, aren’t you supposed to blow out the candles?” Levon asked. Joe blew out the candles as requested and
the crowd applauded.
“Thanks, everyone,” Joe said.
“Happy Un-Birthday, Joe,” Carol said as she leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. Levon watched with a
satisfied grin as everyone made an appropriate comment before they wandered back to their tables.
“Sit down for a minute, Carol,” Joe asked as she turned to leave. She hesitated and then pulled up a chair.
“Okay, Lundy,” Joe conceded, “you’re forgiven.”
“Better watch it, Joe,” Carol warned, “next year he’s liable to take out an ad in the Houston Chronicle.” Levon
chuckled then winked at Carol.
“Thanks,” he told her, “I hadn’t thought a’ that yet.”
“Hey,” Sgt. Esteban Gutierrez asked as he sat down across from Carol, “are you going to stare at that or cut it?”
“Just waitin’ for you, Esteban,” Joe told him, “just waitin’ for you.”
Joe and Levon strolled out of “Chicken’s” together after Chicken told them he intended to close up and go home.
They stopped a couple feet past the doorway.
“Nice night,” Levon commented as he looked up at the night sky.
“Yes, it was,” Joe agreed. “Carol actually laughed several times.” Levon slowly tilted his head to look at Joe.
“It’s okay, Levon. Nothing wrong with killin’ two birds with one stone.” They stared at each other for a moment;
then Joe began to walk toward the Jimmy. Levon laughed softly then, with a slow shake of his head, followed Joe to
Levon strode across the damp grass; his gait slow and even. This was not how he wanted to spend the
holidays. Thanksgiving was less than a week away and he had hoped to be able to enjoy it. He stopped when he
reached a thick group of bushes. A red tennis shoe was all that was visible. He crouched down to the right of the shoe
and slowly moved a branch. The face that stared up at him was young and badly bruised. Her unseeing eyes were
frozen in terror. Levon gently let the branch fall back to mercifully cover her face and he stood up as Joe stepped up
“You okay, partner?” Joe asked quietly.
“Yeah. Some things you just never get used to.” The voice that answered Joe was hoarse. Levon knew that her
face would stay in his mind a long time.
“Tell me about it,” Joe agreed.
“Good morning, gentlemen.” Joe and Levon turned in unison to face the man who had just greeted them. Joe
was always amazed at how detached the man always seemed as he went about his job of investigating the crime
“You’d better look at this.” Levon took the wallet that the man held out and looked at it for a moment. It was dark
blue with white daisies, very feminine. He opened it and looked at the picture on the license. The smiling face was
young and happy and, now, would never smile again. Bridgett Bradford. Levon sighed and glanced over at the small
group of reporters being held at bay several yards away.
“What’s wrong, Lundy?” Joe asked when he saw the expression on Levon’s face change from anguish to
exasperation. Levon focused his attention on his partner for the first time since they had arrived.
“It look’s like she’s the Assistant D.A.’s daughter.”
“The couple that found the body were just walking through the park,” Joe explained to Lt. Joanne
Beaumont. “They thought they heard someone crying and they went to see if someone needed help.”
“I don’t suppose it could have been the girl?” the Lieutenant asked.
“’Fraid not, Lieutenant,” Levon answered. “M.E. says she probably died sometime last night, long before the
couple went out for their morning walk.”
“Did they see anyone else around?”
“No. There was no one. The woman thought it was odd because she was sure she had heard someone crying.”
“It was probably the wind,” Joe offered, “or a stray cat.”
“Yeah,” the Lieutenant acknowledged reluctantly. “All right. This is obviously going to be a high profile case, so
Carol and Joe Bill are checking the cases her father prosecuted for someone with a grudge. You two concentrate on
the girl, her friends, boyfriends, roommates, you know the drill. Someone has to know or have seen something.”
“Yes, M’am,” Levon sighed as he started to leave.
“Oh, and we need it yesterday,” she added. Levon looked over at Joe but Joe only shrugged before he followed
Levon out of the Lieutenant’s office.
The young woman sitting at the bus stop watched the building across the street intently. Her dark blonde hair
was shoulder length and did not appear to have been brushed in quite a while. She wore a white t-shirt and faded
jeans that covered her shoes. As she sat on the bench, she hardly moved but her blue eyes intently scanned the faces
of everyone who entered or exited the building. The building she watched so closely was Houston Police Central and
she seemed to be watching for someone in particular. Whenever a bus stopped, she waited patiently for it to move on
and then resumed her scrutiny.
“Looks like most of her friends are off at school,” Levon said as he dropped the phone back on its cradle.
“Why do you suppose she stayed here in Houston?” Joe asked.
“Why?” Levon demanded defensively. “Something wrong with the University of Houston?”
“I didn’t say that. Her friends all went away to college and most kids jump at the chance to be away from home.”
“Well, not this one,” Levon answered quietly. He looked down at the photos on his desk; the photos that coldly
told about the last minutes of a young girl’s life.
“I don’t think the answers are in those photos, Lundy.”
“I keep thinking I’m missing something,” Levon insisted. “When I first saw her I felt like there was something I
should remember. Like it was a dream or I’d been there before.”
Joe watched his partner slide the photos around his desk, looking at them one more time before carefully laying
each one inside the manila folder. Levon slowly closed the folder and left it sitting in the center of the desk.
“We’ll go up to the University tomorrow,” Levon announced as he stood up and pushed his chair under the desk.
“We’ll talk to her best friend, Theresa Roberts. Bridgett’s mother says they’ve known each other their whole life.”
“Levon, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a young girl die,” Joe asked quietly. “What’s different?”
Levon stared straight ahead as he picked up his hat and set it carefully on his head. He adjusted it slightly and
then turned to glance down at his partner.
“When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”
Joe looked around the college campus as he and Levon slowly walked towards the library. It was a comfortably
warm day that seemed even nicer here on campus. Watching the students move leisurely around made Joe feel
nostalgic for his own college days.
“Lundy, do you ever miss A&M?”
“I don’t know. Never really thought about it.”
As they neared the library, a young girl moved away from the front of the building and walked towards them.
“Are you Sgt. Lundy and LaFiamma?” she asked.
“Yes, M’am,” Levon answered. Joe and Levon followed her to a table by a tree. Joe sat across from her and
Levon remained standing.
“I hope you don’t mind being outside,” she began quietly. “Bridgett and I were going to work on a project this
morning. I don’t feel much like doing that now.” Her attention wavered and she glanced back at the library.
“Miss Roberts,” Levon prodded gently and she slowly turned back to look up at him. “Could you tell us about her
friends, people she knew …”
“Do you think one of us killed her?” There was the beginning of panic in her voice as she looked from Levon to
Joe and back to Levon.
“No, of course not,” Joe assured her. “But she may have told someone something that may help us find out who
“Bridgett has lots of friends, but she doesn’t really talk to them, you know? I probably know more about her than
“Was there anything she was uncomfortable about? Someone she was afraid of?” Theresa just shook her head.
“No. Everyone liked Bridgett. She was happy. Her and Terry …..” As she paused her eyes began to fill with
tears. “Oh, no. Terry doesn’t know.”
“He’s up at A&M. He never comes home. He’s always at school. He’s trying to finish early so he and Bridgett
can get married.” She looked at Joe and then up at Levon as the tears she’d been holding back began to fall.
“Who’s gonna to tell Terry,” she whispered between sobs.
“Well, that went well,” Levon grumbled as he slid behind the steering wheel of his dusty, red Bronco.
“Yeah,” Joe agreed. “I sure don’t want to have to tell her father it’s a random killing.”
“Maybe Carol and Joe Bill will find something.”
“Yeah,” Joe agreed, unconvinced. “It’s a nice campus,” he commented as they drove away from the college.
“I know,” Levon said.
“Did you like A&M?” Joe asked cautiously. Levon sighed realizing that Joe wasn’t going to stop probing.
“I mean you were a star football player,” Joe continued. “That had to be great.”
“I was a kid. Of course I liked it. It just would have been nice if …..” Levon shook his head wistfully.
“… if you could’ve stayed,” Joe completed.
“I always knew I wanted to be a cop and there was Caroline …. It’s like there’s college and then there’s real life.”
“Yeah, I know,” Joe admitted sadly. “College holds all of the knowledge and none of the answers.” Levon
glanced over at Joe. He was staring out the window, but Levon knew he really wasn’t seeing anything. They had both
suffered more than their share of loss in their lives. It was an integral part of their personalities and maybe it was what
kept them together despite their differences. He started to say something, but thought better of if and left the words
“So far, it looks like Mr. Bradford just doesn’t have any enemies.” Joe Bill explained to the Lieutenant as he and
Carol O’Brien stood around Joe and Levon’s desks.
“At least not anyone who wants to kill him or his family,” Carol continued.
“What about Bridgett? Boyfriend problems? Jealous friends?” the Lieutenant. asked.
“It looks like everyone who knew her, liked her. If we’re talking about someone she didn’t know, no one knows
about it,” Joe said.
“And her boyfriend hasn’t left A&M for the last month,” Levon added. “He can account for all his time for the past
three days. Plus, supposedly they’ve never had an argument.”
“So someone just killed her because she was there?” None of the detectives chose to answer the Lieutenant’s
question as she looked around at each one. “Okay. Let’s concentrate on Bridgett. Start checking on the backgrounds
of people who work at the college. Look into any incidents in the past year. If we have to, we’ll talk to every person on
that campus.” The Lieutenant glanced at her people once more then returned to her office.
“Are we allowed to go home, or is this going to be a round the clock kind a’ thing? Joe asked.
“Well, I’ll start with the professors she may have had classes with,” Carol said as she returned to her desk.
“I’ll see what I can find out about the rest of the staff,” Joe Bill offered. “Maintenance, Security, people she might
have had some sort of contact with.”
“I guess we can try to track down everyone she spoke to the day she died,” Joe said.
“Good idea,” Levon agreed then stood up and turned to leave.
“Hey, where you going, Lundy?” Joe asked.
“Got somethin’ I need to check out.”
“Terrific!” Joe growled as Levon left.
The young woman slowly walked across the trampled grass towards the bushes near the center of the park. She
had a black knit cap pulled down around her unruly hair and a blue jacket now covered her white T-shirt. The yellow
police tape that had surrounded the area earlier was now torn and lying on the ground. A man came up behind her and
watched her for a moment. He had been rifling through a trashcan when he noticed her walk past him.
“They found a body here, you know,” he told her. She didn’t look at him or even react to the sound of his voice.
She just continued to stare at the ground.
“I know,” she said finally. The man waited for a moment but when she didn’t seem to be interested in his story,
he returned to what he had been doing.
She knew there was something she should tell the police, something that would help, but it was buried deep
in her subconscious. She sighed and a tear rolled down her cheek as she tried to remember.
“Take a look at this,” Levon said as he dropped a folder in the middle of Joe’s desk.
“What is it?” Joe asked as he opened the folder.
“Case I worked on when I was in Homicide. No clues, no leads, no reason for this girl to die. I always kinda felt like I let her down somehow.”
“So, what does Patti Aldridge have to do with Bridgett Bradford?” Joe asked as he leafed through the papers in the folder without much interest.
“Patti was a student at the University. She died from a blow to the head, but she had been beaten as well. We always kinda figured she probably fell and hit her head. She was also found in a park.”
“This is pretty thin, Lundy. We all have a case or two we can never forget, but …”
“I think they’re connected, LaFiamma, and I think it’s someone at the University. Someone who’s still there.”
Lt. Joanne Beaumont sighed. As she leaned back in her chair, she pivoted slightly and looked out at the dull, gray
sky. A wicked storm front had moved in and effectively cut off the sunlight. She rubbed the back of her neck trying to
discourage the threatening headache and turned back to her desk. She looked out into the office and watched her
detectives working quietly at their desks. Quietly. It was the day before Thanksgiving and the office was quiet. Even
Joe and Levon’s familiar bickering was absent. Maybe it was the storm or maybe it was the senseless death of a
beautiful young girl that had drained the festivity from this year’s holiday.
The Lieutenant was watching so intently that she was startled by the appearance of a woman who entered the
outer office. The middle-aged woman was attractive and well dressed. She had stepped inside the office and was
watching the detectives at work, much like the Lieutenant had been doing. The woman had entered so quietly that the
detectives did not see her until they saw the Lieutenant leave her office and walk across the room.
“Mrs. Bradford? Would you like to sit down in my office?” Mrs. Bradford did not answer but she allowed the
Lieutenant to lead her gently to the chair just inside the door to her office. Joanne waited for her to speak, but her
haunted eyes seemed to be focused on something just beyond the Lieutenant.
“Can I get you something?” Joanne asked softly. “Maybe a glass of water?” Mrs. Bradford slowly brought her
attention back to the Lieutenant.
“No. Thank you, Lieutenant. I know you must be doing everything you can … but, … I have to ask, … are you
sure you’re doing everything possible to find the person who killed my little girl?”
“Yes, I assure you, we are.”
“Do you have any idea why someone wanted to … hurt … Bridgett?”
“Not exactly. These things take time unfortunately.” Mrs. Bradford sighed and looked back over her shoulder
towards the people working in the outer office.
“Shouldn’t … they be …. “ Her shoulders sagged and she sighed once again.
“Mrs. Bradford, is there someone I can call for you?” The woman quickly turned to face the Lieutenant and sat
up straight in the chair.
“No. Lieutenant. The last time I saw my daughter we argued. I wanted her to attend a dinner with us. It is good
for my husband to be seen with his family. She said she had other plans. I told her that her plans weren’t important.”
For a moment, her voice became clear and strong then her resolve slowly began to waiver.
“I didn’t even say goodbye,” she finished softly.
The Major Crime Unit was dark except for a desk lamp sitting on Sgt. Lundy’s desk. Levon sat at his desk reading
and re-reading the files that he already knew by heart. He knew that the answers were somewhere in the sketchy text
and plain words that filled these pages, somewhere in the pictures showing graphically the pain these girls had
suffered in their last moments. Bridgett and Patti were both pretty, young co-eds like dozens of other pretty, young
co-eds. What singled them out? What made them different? Why did someone choose these two girls to kill?
Levon leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms out to relieve the stiffness in his shoulders. He picked up
his coffee cup then walked across the office to the small coffee room. After he emptied the last of the pot of coffee
he’d made earlier into his cup, he switched off the machine. He’d gone through a whole pot of coffee; that meant he’d
been here too long. As he sipped his coffee, he leaned back against the counter and looked out at the dark office.
Jaimie had taken Eric to spend Thanksgiving with her in-laws. Since they had not seen each other since her
husband died, Levon hoped that Eric would enjoy seeing his grandparents and that the memories would not spoil the
holiday for Jamie. (2)
It had taken him over an hour to convince LaFiamma to spend Thanksgiving with his current girlfriend. She didn’t
have family in Houston and she wanted to make dinner for her and Joe. LaFiamma was reluctant about letting Levon
spend the holiday alone, but Levon managed to make him realize that they already spent far too much time together.
What he couldn’t tell Joe was that he wasn’t alone. Mother Minnie had gotten him through most of the tough times in
his life and he knew her love would always be there to get him through the rest of his life.
Caroline. Loosing her was still a quiet ache in the bottom of his heart. He wondered if he would have been able
to walk away from this case if Caroline was still alive or if she would have been waiting patiently for him while he
obsessed over the solution that eluded him.
“Yes, LaFiamma,” he admitted to himself, “I said obsessed.” He chuckled as he emptied the rest of the coffee in
the sink then rinsed out the cup and set it on the counter. He didn’t really want the coffee and maybe it was time to go
As he left the coffee room, he realized that someone was standing next to his desk, just past the yellow glow
from the lamp. He carefully walked towards his desk, keeping his eye on the motionless figure.
“Angela?” he asked when the young woman stepped into the light. He recognized the dark, blonde hair and
faded jeans that covered her shoes. She looked the same as when he first saw her at Christmas, two years ago. He
and LaFiamma had been looking for a girl who had been kidnapped and Angela had seen the man who took her. (3)
“Hello, Sgt. Lundy,” she said as she turned to look at him.
“How did you get in here?”
“A door was open.” She glanced down at his desk and as her eyes wandered over the papers lying there, she
sighed. “He watched them.”
“What?” Levon asked as he took a small step towards her. Angela slowly turned back to face Levon.
“He followed them.” Her gaze was steady and he felt as though she wanted him to understand something. He
shook his head to break her concentration.
"Who, Angela?” he demanded.
“I … I … don’t …..” Her voice faltered and she frowned in frustration.
“Angela, if you know something, you have to tell me.” He reached out and grabbed her arm.
“I .. can’t .. remember,” she stammered. As his hand tightened its hold, he watched her eyes widen in fear. She
stepped back and pulled her arm from his grasp.
“Angela, tell me,” he insisted. He moved towards her and she backed further away from him. The phone on his
desk began to ring and he turned to look at it, annoyed at the interruption. When he turned back to face Angela, she
was gone. The phone continued to ring as he watched the door softly swing closed.
Feeling confused and frustrated, Levon picked up the insistent phone just to stop the ringing.
“Lundy here,” he said impatiently. “Jaime! How the hell …. .? No, I’m fine. How ‘bout you? … Oh, that’s great.
……. Sure, I’ll be waitin’ ….. You be careful coming home now, ya’ hear? ……… See ya’ Saturday.”
Levon smiled as he replaced the phone. Jamie’s call had helped to ward off the bad mood that was about to take
hold when Angela had disappeared so abruptly. He looked around the office once more, set his hat on his head then
headed for home.
-.-.-.-.-.-.- -.- -.-.-.-.-.-.-
Twenty years. How could time pass so quickly? He had been with the University for twenty years. The grass
under his feet was still wet from the storm but the air smelled so clean as he walked across the empty campus. He
loved the empty halls and the quiet grounds. As time progressed he had lost his desire to teach, to open young minds
to the wonders that knowledge could bring. He had watched in disgust as the students became unruly and
disinterested. School had become merely a place to mark time as long as mom and dad were paying the bills.
He reached his office without being fully aware of the steps he had taken. He unlocked the door as he had done
nearly every day for the past years then went inside, gently closing the door behind him. Normally, he would have left
the door open in case a student happened to actually have a question. Today everything had changed. Today, even if
there had been students here he still would have closed the door. Today they told him his wife was dying. There was
nothing left to do. Nothing left to try. The disease had won. Days, they told him. It was only a matter of days.
He sat down at his desk and began to cry.
Joe was humming softly as he walked through the open doors. He was only a little bit late but he knew Levon
would have some smart remark. As he walked to his desk he noticed the files on Bridgett Bradford and Patti Aldrige
spread out on Levon’s desk but Levon was nowhere in sight. He sat down and looked around the office. Carol was on
the phone, the Lieutenant was in her office with the door closed and Joe Bill was at the computer. Joe picked up his
cup and went to get coffee. On his way back to his desk, he stopped and took the files from Levon’s desk.
When Levon finally rolled in, Carol and Joe were comparing the two files trying to find a pattern. As he sat down,
he set his hat on the corner of his desk. It took a few moments for Joe to realize Levon was across from him.
“Oh, Lundy, Carol’s found out that Bridgett and Patti both had an English class with a Professor Brewer and a
history class with a Professor …”
“Galloway,” Carol finished for him. “Are you all right, Levon?” Joe looked at Levon, noticing for the first time the
haggard look to his eyes.
“Yeah, you look terrible,” Joe agreed.
“I’m fine. Have you talked to either of the professors?”
“Brewer is away for the holiday,” Carol told him, “and we haven’t been able to reach Galloway at home or at the
“Thanks, Carol,” Levon said quietly. Carol glanced at Joe and he nodded his head slightly, acknowledging her
concern. Carol returned to her desk and Joe pretended to look at the files on his desk.
“So,” Joe asked while he shuffled through the papers, ”how long were you here last night?”
“Why?” Levon put down the pencil he had been toying with and stared at Joe, silently daring him to probe any
further. Joe stopped pretending to be interested in the files and stared back at his partner.
“You’re loosing it, Levon.” Joe watched the anger flare in Levon’s eyes but he didn’t back away.
“Fight, dammit,” he thought. “Tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Joe waited for the outburst but the
anger slowly faded away and Levon leaned back in his chair.
“Maybe you’re right,” Levon conceded. Joe didn’t argue or agree; he just waited for Levon to explain. Levon
expected Joe to throw his hands up and walk away in exasperation but Joe just watched Levon silently.
“Angela was here last night,” Levon said finally.
“What did she want?”
“I think she may know who killed them”
“Did she give you a name?”
“Said she couldn’t remember.” Joe rubbed his forehead while he thought about what Levon had told him.
“Well, it’ll take too long to find her,” Joe concluded, “but, if she remembers, she’ll be back. Till then, I guess we’ll
just have to solve this case by ourselves.” Levon looked across the desks at his partner and smiled. Joe relaxed
because he knew that smile. His partner was back.
“Thank you for seeing us, Professor Brewer,” Levon said as he and Joe entered the small book-lined office.
Professor Brewer was a tall man with light brown hair and penetrating blue eyes.
“I don’t see what help I can be, Sgt. Lundy.”
“Patti Aldridge and Bridgett Bradford were both students of yours,” Joe explained. “Anything you can tell us
could be helpful.”
“Patti was quiet, an average student. She didn’t seem to interact with the other students much. Bridgett was
popular, bright. She seemed to get along with everyone.”
“Was there anything similar about them at all?” Levon asked. “An attitude? Something they were involved
“No. They were very different. Do you think the same person is responsible for their deaths?”
“We don’t know, Professor,” Joe explained. “Right now we know that they both attended school here and they
both were in your class and one of Professor Galloway’s classes.”
“Galloway? Have you spoken to him?”
“Not yet, why?”
“Well, he may not be here today. His wife is very ill. I think she may be dying. He spends a lot of time at the
“Thank you, Professor Brewer,” Levon said as he handed him a card. “If you think of anything, please give us a
Joe knocked on the door for a third time. As he and Levon turned to leave, the door opened slightly.
“Professor Galloway?” Joe asked.
“Yes,” the man answered.
“I’m Sgt. LaFiamma. This is Sgt. Lundy. We’d like to speak to you, please.” The man eyed them suspiciously but
after they showed their badges, he let them into the office. His office was similar to Professor Brewer’s. He was an
older man and he looked tired.
“What can I do for you, gentlemen?” he asked as he walked around his desk and sat down.
'We’re investigating the deaths of two of your students,” Levon explained. “Patti Aldridge and Bridgett Bradford.”
“Bridgett? She was just a girl, flighty, inattentive. Like the rest of them.”
“Professor Brewer said she was a bright student,” Joe said.
“Was she? I didn’t notice.”
“What about Patti Aldridge?”
“Patti Aldridge? Doesn’t sound familiar.”
“It was about five years ago,” Levon said.
“I’ve been here a long time, Sergeant. After a while they all seem the same.”
“If you remember anything, Professor, please give us a call,” Levon said as he set his card on the empty desk.
Angela watched Joe and Levon walk across the campus. When they reached Levon’s red Jimmy they stopped
and talked for a moment before getting into the truck. After they drove away, she began to walk around the grounds.
Despite the amount of people moving about, the campus was quiet. She watched the students socializing, moving
from one class to another or just sitting quietly studying. As she approached a building, she saw Professor Brewer
leaving. He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry but when he passed her, he slowed his pace slightly as glanced at her.
Angela waited for a moment but he continued on his way. Watching him leave, she noticed the old, battered briefcase
he carried and she smiled. He had told the class it was his father’s.
Angela sighed and resumed her tour around the university. She ambled down every walkway; she looked at
every building, every tree, and every bush. Eventually she found an empty spot and sat down on a bench to rest. She
closed her eyes for a moment as she breathed in the cool air and listened to the soft medley of sounds that drifted
-.-.-.-.-.-.- -.- -.-.-.-.-.-.-
Professor Galloway left his office at the usual time. He did not rush through the minor things that had to be
completed for the day. He carefully put everything away, finishing with the things that he slowly returned to his
briefcase. As he closed the case, he looked at the clean, empty desk with satisfaction then left the office.
He was heading for his car when he saw her. She was sitting quietly on a bench and he only saw her from
behind, but he recognized her. It was impossible, but he recognized her. He stopped walking; he even stopped
breathing as he watched her. After a moment, he took a deep breath and decided to change direction. It would take
longer to get to his car, but there was really no need to hurry.
Professor Brewer stepped through the double doors hesitantly. Even though the doors were open, the office
appeared to be empty. He was about to leave when a tall blonde came through a door to his left and walked towards
“I’m Sgt. O’Brien,” she said. “Can I help you?” Momentarily at a loss for words, he looked at her without
“Are you looking for someone?” she prompted.
“My name is Michael Brewer,” he said as he recovered his composure. “I was hoping to see Sgt. Lundy or
“Oh, Professor Brewer, please sit down. Perhaps I can help you.” He followed her to her desk but neither he nor
she sat down.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“Not really.” He tilted his head and looked at her but left his question unsaid.
“I took one of your night classes a couple years ago,” she explained. “There’s really no reason for you to
“O’Brien? Carol. I remember you were a police officer, but …. a Sergeant?” She turned away, slightly
embarrassed, so when she looked back at him, she made an attempt to appear more professional.
“What did you need to talk to Sgt. Lundy about?”
“Or Sgt. LaFiamma.”
“Or Sgt. LaFiamma.” She motioned for him to sit down and he took the chair at the side of her desk and she sat
in her chair.
“Well, I’m not sure if this will be of any help but they did ask me to tell them if I remembered anything.” He
pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolded it and handed it to her. “It was my first year at the university, about
eight years ago. One of my students disappeared.”
“Christine Bennett,” Carol read from the newspaper clipping he had handed her.
“Yes. She was very bright and had so much potential. I hadn’t thought about her in a long time then when I was
leaving yesterday she suddenly came to mind. I don’t know how this could possibly help, but I just thought it might be
Joe and Levon saw the Professor as soon as they walked into the office and immediately went over to Carol’s
“Professor Brewer?” Joe said
“The Professor thought this might be connected to the case we’re working on now,” Carol said as she handed the
clipping to Joe. Joe looked at the grainy photo in the article.
“No, Christine, Christine Bennett,” Professor corrected. Joe handed the paper to Levon.
“Angela,” Levon agreed after he looked at the picture.
“That’s what I thought, too,” Carol said, “but it happened eight years ago.”
“Professor,” Levon said, “this says that you and her mother were the last people to see her.”
“Yes. It was a Saturday. Christine brought me a paper she had just finished. She was quite proud of it and she
wanted me to look at it.”
“You were there on a Saturday?” Joe asked.
“Yes. I was new and eager to do a good job. I wanted to be a good teacher. I believed I owed that to my students.”
“And you don’t anymore?”
“No, Sergeant, time and experience have replaced the extra hours.”
“So what happened when she gave you the paper?” Levon asked.
“She left. She was going to spend the day with her family.”
“It says that you and her mother were the last ones to see her,” Levon continued. “Where was her father?”
“Her father died when she was a baby. Her mother re-married a few years later.”
“So was her stepfather there?”
“Yes, but he had gone back to the car to get something and when he returned Christine had run off.”
“Run off? Why?”
“Her and her mother argued. He went after her but he never found her.”
“You seem to know a lot about this girl,” Joe commented.
“I spoke quite a lot with her mother at the time of her disappearance and we kept in touch for many months
“Professor Brewer, do you know if Christine had a class with Professor Galloway?” Carol asked.
“Oh, I doubt it. Professor Galloway is her stepfather.” While Carol, Joe and Levon looked at each other in silence
the Professor stood up slowly.
“If you don’t need anything else from me, I really should be getting to class,” he said.
“Do you mind if we hold on to the newspaper clipping?” Levon asked.
"No, of course not.”
“Why don’t I walk you to your car, Professor,” Carol suggested as she stood up and took his arm lightly.
Joe and Levon watched Carol and the Professor leave the office before going to their desks. Joe looked over at
Levon thoughtfully as he put his coat on the back of his chair.
“She could do worse,” Levon said, answering the question in Joe’s eyes, and Joe chuckled softly in return.
“So, if Angela is Christine Bennett, why’d she stay away so long?” Joe asked after they were both seated at their
“Maybe she was afraid of someone.”
“Someone who’s still around.”
“Someone who killed Patti Aldridge and Bridgett Bradford.”
The woman in the hospital bed seemed to be hardly breathing. Angela sat at her side, holding the woman’s hand
in her own. The window shade had been pulled down to prevent the morning sun from streaming in and the light in the
room had been turned down as much as possible. Occasionally Angela reached over with her free hand and lightly
touched the woman’s cheek. She had been there over an hour when the woman took a deep breath and slowly opened
She looked around the dimly lit room until she saw Angela. She stared at her for several minutes without making
“Hello, Mother,” Angela whispered.
“Christine, you’re here.”
“Shh, shh,” Angela said when the woman’s eyes began to fill with tears. “It’s all right. I’m here now.”
“Are you ….” Speaking was too much of an effort and she didn’t finish the sentence.
“I’m fine. You need to rest.”
“I’ve waited .. so long.”
“I know. I’m here. You can sleep now. Sleep as long as you wish.”
-.-.-.-.-.-.- -.- -.-.-.-.-.-.-
Professor Galloway stepped out of the hospital elevator and walked down the hall. Every time he walked this
way the hall seemed to grow longer. Every day she was farther and farther away. As he walked by the nurses’ station
they looked up at him sadly. They had watched him come day after day to sit by his wife’s side and hold her hand and
speak soft loving words to her. It made their hearts ache for him.
He walked into her room and pulled the chair close to her bed. It seemed warmer in the room today. As he took
her hand, she opened her eyes and smiled at him.
“Christine was here today, Arnold,” she told him. Her voice seemed stronger today. He swallowed hard before
“I don’t have to wait anymore.”
“No, you don’t.” His voice was hoarse and he fought to hold back his tears.
“I’m tired, Arnold. I want to go to sleep.”
“Go to sleep now. I’ll stay with you.” She smiled at him again then closed her eyes. He held her hand and he
watched the love of his life slip away; then he let the tears fall.
“I haven’t been up here in a long time,” Carol said as she and Professor Brewer walked along the rough path.
“What made you think of it?”
“I don’t know. I think I just needed to be away from everything.”
“Well, it was a great idea.” Carol put her arm around his waist and he put his arm around her shoulders as they
walked on in silence.
“Did you hear that?” she asked. They stopped and she stepped away from him slightly, straining to hear the
“Are you being a police officer?”
“Maybe.” She moved close to him and they started walking again. This time, however, he stopped.
“Okay, you’ve got me doing it. I heard it this time. It’s like someone’s crying.”
“I suppose we’re going to have to find out what it is.” She shrugged slightly and started off into the wooded area
to the right of the path. They had not gone far when they came upon a person sitting on a slight embankment. As they
came closer, Carol realized it was a girl. She sat with her knees pulled close to her chest and her head was resting on
her arms, which were crossed on top of her knees. Her whole body moved with her sobs. Her feet were touching a
small, overturned boat. It obviously had been sitting discarded for a long time because the weather had worn away
every bit of paint and the wood was gray and cracked.
“Can we help you?” Carol asked as they approached the girl. Startled, she looked up at Carol and the Professor.
“Angela?” Carol asked. Angela stopped crying and stood up. Her clothes were dirty and torn and her equally
dirty face was streaked from her tears.
“Christine,” the Professor whispered. Angela looked over at the Professor for a moment and then looked back at
“Are you hurt? What’s wrong?” Carol asked.
“Who knows, Angela? What are you talking about?” Angela looked down at the old boat and sighed heavily.
“He hurt her. And then she died.”
“Angela,” Carol said cautiously, “I don’t understand.” Angela looked up at Carol and sighed once again then bent
over and tried to lift the boat but time had forced the edges to sink into the earth. Professor Brewer walked past Carol
and stood next to Angela to help her. Together they loosened the boat from the ground and tipped it over.
Carol stepped up to stand next to the Professor as they looked down on the skeleton that protruded from the
“Angela, how did you know about …..?” Carol turned to look at Angela, but she was gone.
-.-.-.-.-.-.- -.- -.-.-.-.-.-.-
Professor Galloway walked across the dark campus. The grass was wet and he felt the edges of his pant legs
getting damp and cold. His legs were heavy and every step was an effort but everything was done. There was nothing
left to take care of.
He knew the heaviness in his chest was because in her last moments his wife was thinking of Christine, the
thankless child whose bitter words as she walked away had left her mother in tears. “She had no right,” he thought.
He had tried to sooth his wife’s pain but she had begged him to go after Christine. It was supposed to be a
pleasant picnic at the lake and he was left to trudge through the dirt and bush until he found her. “She had no right,” he
thought again, “none of them did.”
The one who had walked away from her mother leaving her alone. He had watched her laugh with her friends as
her mother cried. And the one who stood in stubborn defiance as her mother drove away in tears. He had tried to talk
to them all but they were willful and heartless. “They had no right.”
He stopped to catch his breath when he reached his office. When his breathing became less labored, he turned
the key and stepped inside. He flipped the switch and the room was filled with soft, yellow light. It felt good to sit
down and he leaned back in his chair to rest. A sudden twinge of pain passed through his chest, but it was gone as
quickly as it had appeared. He took a pad and pen from his desk drawer and set it on the desk in front of him. He
would write it all down, every word, every moment, so everyone would understand. He had not mean to hurt them;
he just wanted them to understand.
When he was done, he leaned back in his chair to rest for a moment. He was growing tired. His chest was
beginning to feel heavy again. He sat up and picked up the pen. As he signed his name on the last page, pain shot
through his chest and down his arm. He dropped the pen and fell back in his chair. He closed his eyes and waited for
the pain to fade.
The remains of Christine Bennett were buried alongside her mother on a gentle winter’s day. The sun was
shining as Sgt. Levon Lundy, Sgt. Joseph LaFiamma, Sgt. Carol O’Brien and Professor Michael Brewer were there to
say goodbye. Carol and the Professor left together and when Joe turned to leave, Levon handed him his keys.
“Do you mind, LaFiamma?” Levon asked.
“No. I’ll wait for you outside.” As Joe got in the Jimmy and slowly drove off, Levon walked across the cemetery.
He stopped at a headstone near a large tree.
“Hello, Caroline,” he said softly as he stooped down to brush some dried leaves from the stone. “There’s some
new people up there maybe you could talk to for me.”
Joe began to relax as he drove through the front gate then pulled over to the curb to wait for Levon. As he
stepped out of the truck and walked over to the sidewalk he saw Angela coming towards him. He leaned back against
the truck and waited.
“Hello, Sgt. LaFiamma,” she said as she walked up to him. Her hair was clean and brushed and her clothes
“Hello, ….. Angela.” She smiled at his hesitation then turned and looked back into the cemetery.
“It’s pretty, don’t you think?” she asked.
“Yeah, for a cemetery.” She laughed softly then turned to watch him for a moment.
“He does need you, you know,” she said.
“He was dying, ” she told him. Joe straightened up and his eyes narrowed as he looked at her.
“What are you talking about?”
“Inside. He was dying inside because he wanted to be with her. Then you came. You needed him. And you
made him fight.”
“Yeah, well, you got the fight part right.” She laughed and he smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“Take care of each other, Sergeant,” she told him as she turned and began to walk into the cemetery.
“See you around, Angela.” She nodded in agreement as she walked through the gate.
“Hello, Angela,” Levon said as he straightened up. She was standing across from him.
“Hello, Sgt. Lundy.”
“How are you?”
“Good.” He watched her as she stood across from him smiling. She looked young and happy and, for an instant,
he thought about Patti and Bridgett.
“You do make a difference, you know,” she assured him.
“What do you mean?”
“If you hadn’t become his partner he would have gone back to Chicago. He wanted to prove himself to you.”
“You got that right.” She laughed softly and he chuckled in return.
“Take care of each other, Sergeant.”
“Can I give you a ride somewhere?” he asked as he turned to leave.
“No. I think I’ll stay a while.” She looked around the cemetery then returned her attention to Levon. “I think
there’s some people I need to talk to.”
“Okay.” Levon walked a few feet then stopped. When he turned to look back at her, she was gone.
It had been raining. The light rain had once again washed the buildings and streets and left the cool air smelling
clean and fresh. As Angela stood across the street from “Chicken’s,” the smoky scent from the barbecue was
comforting and inviting. Through the wide, open doorway, she could see the people inside laughing, talking and
moving around. She had seen Sgt. LaFiamma and Sgt. Lundy enter the restaurant a while ago and they were now
standing near a large Christmas tree in the center of the restaurant. Angela chuckled softly to herself and shifted her
attention outside. Although it had stopped raining, the clouds still hung low in the sky and effectively blocked the
sunshine. The bright glow from the neon decorations on the outside of the restaurant gaily proclaimed the coming of
Angela smiled when she saw Sgt. O’Brien and Professor Brewer enter the restaurant. They were laughing and,
even from this distance, Angela could see the unspoken words that passed between them when their eyes met.
She watched the restaurant for a few minutes longer, then sighed contentedly and slowly walked away.
Carol and Professor Brewer walked into Chicken’s restaurant where everyone, including customers, was helping
decorate. Joe and Levon stopped putting garland on a large Christmas when they walked up to them.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” Carol said.
“Howdy,” Levon said.
“Welcome to Chicken’s, Professor Brewer,” Joe said.
“Michael,” he said, “call me Michael.”
“Levon,” Levon said as he extended his hand.
“Joe,” Joe told him as they shook hands.
“Do you guys do this every year?” Michael asked as he looked around.
“Yep,” Chicken answered as he came up behind them. “Tomorrow this place is gonna be filled with young’uns.” (4) Chicken handed a box to Carol then moved on to supervise some other part of the restaurant.
“Every year Chicken plays Santa to kids from the orphanage,” Levon explained.
“What can I do to help?” Michael asked.
“Garland. Anywhere that needs garland,” Carol said as she handed him the box.
“Oh, by the way,” Carol said, “you both are invited to my place for Christmas dinner. Michael and I are cooking
and you can bring whoever you want.”
“We’ll be there,” Joe said.
“Yep, let us know if we can bring anything,” Levon added as Carol and Michael moved off to find a place to
“It’s good to see Carol smile again,” Joe commented as he watched them.
“Yeah,” Levon agreed. They had both stopped decorating the tree and Levon still held a piece of garland in his
hand. He looked down at the shiny material in his hand then over at Joe.
“How, ya doing, partner?” he asked. Joe turned and looked at Levon for a moment.
“I’m okay. How ‘bout you?”
“I’m doin’ fine.” They both looked away from each other, at a loss as to how to continue.
“You, uh, gonna see your family?” Levon asked as he looked at the tree. Joe looked back at Levon and smiled.
“Nah,” he said, “but I reckon we’ve got plenty of family right here.” Levon smiled and turned to Joe.
“Yeah, I reckon we do,” he agreed. They stared at each other in silence. No other words were necessary.
“Tree needs more garland, Lundy,” Joe said finally.
“I’m working on it, LaFiamma,” Levon insisted impatiently as he tossed the piece of garland in his hand across a
branch. “I’m working on it.”
Angela walked down the busy city street. She loved Christmas. People were a little nicer to each other and the
decorations made the city sparkle. She smiled and began to hum a Christmas carol. As people passed by her they
first looked at her, wondering who this smiling person was, but after they were past her they were smiling, too, and
humming the same carol.
(1) “Crime Spree” written by Gregory S. Dinallo
(2) "Moving Violation" written by Stan Berkowitz
(3) “A Houston Christmas” written by Arrow
(4) "Somebody To Love" written by Paul Schiffer
** photo by padraiga