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North Coast Current

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North Coast Current

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Sunday Serial: ‘Haunted Bones’- Chapter Two

Sunday+Serial%3A+%E2%80%98Haunted+Bones%E2%80%99-+Chapter+Two

Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.
The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.
— Tom Morrow

Chapter 2

Back at the station, Joe was at his desk going over his notes when Danny walked in. Detective Lieutenant Brad Hastings motioned for him and Danny to come into his office. Hastings was an eighteen-year veteran cop in his mid-forties, large frame, square-jawed, and a slight paunch to his belly. His moustache and sideburns were already gray.
The team of Saenz and Stein had earned the distinct reputation for being thorough and closing their cases. Hasting trusted their assessment and their ability to get the job done in an orderly fashion so they could hand it over to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
Shortly after Joe and Danny brought Hastings up to speed, they decided to return to the beachfront home. They wanted to study the scene again before the house was cleaned and returned to the owner. But for the moment, the doctor remained in the hospital.
Like a writer editing and rewriting a script, both detectives believed in reviewing the crime scene numerous times in hopes it would help provide sufficient evidence ensuring a successfully closed case.
Once arriving at the house, the two detectives walked into the bloody bedroom. The first thing Danny decided to study was the walls near and around the couple’s king-size bed.
“What’re we looking for, pardner?” Joe asked.
“Anything the field evidence team might’ve missed. But more specifically, I want to take a look at this wall,” Danny replied, studying the dark brown paint.
“Hell, I don’t see anything but a dark wall,” Joe replied.
“Yeah, that’s all I see, too. But I want to take a closer look. How about handing me the photographs the techs took.”
Thanks to the technology of digital cameras, photographs became available to investigators as soon as the memory chip from the camera was downloaded into a computer and printed onto glossy photographic paper now available at any office supply store.
Stein handed over the manila folder carrying twenty photographs of the house interior. Danny shuffled through the pictures looking for the ones of Harriet’s body on the bed and of the headboard. Just some of the wall above the headboard could be seen. No picture of the entire wall had been taken.
“Are these all we have?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Danny looked at the photos of the headboard next to the wall and then turned his attention directly to the wall. He got closer lightly dragging his left hand from point to point.
“I don’t see any photo evidence of blood specks on the wall above the headboard; yet, I can see some right here,” Danny said, pointing to specs that appeared to be very faint blood spatters.
“I can see how they might’ve been missed. Hell, I didn’t see them until just now when you pointed it out,” Joe said.
“That’s why they call us detectives. We’re supposed to see stuff no one else does,” Danny said with a sarcastic chortle following the faint bloodstains up the wall. They appeared to stop about halfway up.
“You have to look very close, but you can see a line of spatters. But they fade out just about right here. You really need a magnifying glass to see this stuff.”
“Like Sherlock Holmes, huh?”
“No, I’m serious, Joe. This is significant.”
“How so?”
“Well, if we can tell where the perp was standing when he beat Mrs. Dobbins, we might be able to determine the type of weapon the perp used. I’m sure these spots on the wall are blood.”
“You think maybe the perp used a golf club?” Stein suggested.
“Possibly. Why don’t you look around to see if Dobbins has a set of clubs around here somewhere?”
“Probably does. Don’t all doctors play golf on Wednesday afternoons at the country club?” Joe quipped with a chuckle. Danny remained silent still looking at the specs on the wall.


Stein left the bedroom and looked around the house specifically in all the closets; but also anywhere else a set of clubs might hide themselves. Some ten minutes later, Stein re-entered the bedroom carrying an older set of golf clubs in a black leather bag that had seen better days.
“How about these? Found them in the garage,” Stein said.
“Anything missing?” Stein began shuffling through the bag checking the various clubs. All the numbered Ping beryllium irons seemed to be there. He then pulled out an old Tommy Armour Iron Master putter with a slightly bent shaft towards the middle.
“Looks like he may have missed one putt too many.”
“Probably. Anything else?”
“Well, there’s no driver. Only a three metal wood, a four metal wood, and something called a King Cobra baffler that looks like it’s some sort of a snake killer.”
“Yeah, it’s a club used to get out of the rough,” Danny said.
“Well, it looks like it will. Got rails on the bottom of it.”
“It’s designed to cut through the tall grass so the club head can hit the ball. Lots of senior golfers use them these days because you don’t need a lot of strength to get out of the rough. Using a mid-iron takes more strength. Older folks have been known to sprain or break a wrist.”
“And how do you know this?”
“Got a neighbor who plays the game. Showed me his one time and told me how great it was. But you say there’s no driver.”
“No driver.”
“Whoever heard of a golfer with no driver?” Danny said.
“I don’t know. I hear they’re hard to hit. Hell, Phil Mickelson can’t keep it in a ten-acre field with his.”
“Yeah, but when he does, he hits it a mile and a half.”
“So he does from what I hear. But I doubt Dr. Dobbins does. Maybe he just got frustrated with it and chunked it in the Pacific. You don’t suppose it’s still lying around here, do you?”
“Hell, I don’t know! Go look. If it’s still here, and it’s the murder weapon, you just never know about stupid perps.”
About five minutes later, Stein returned to the bedroom with the missing club. Danny was walking around the perimeter of the room especially looking at the sliding glass doors leading to the deck overlooking the Pacific. The lock appeared unlatched. Interesting.
“Yep, we have a dumb shit on our hands. I found it up in a storage bin over the workbench in the garage. It’s called a Big Bertha and has one helluva big head on it. Look at this sucker.”
“Yeah, it’s big all right. Go ahead and bag it along with that putter, and we’ll give it to the techies to check out,” Danny said believing they had found two good pieces of possible evidence.
“By bag it, you mean put it back in the golf bag?” Joe asked.
“No. Evidence bag.”
“We don’t have any that big. Just body bags and we don’t have any in the car.”
“Well, just put the damn thing back in the golf bag.”
“All right. What do you want to look for now?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know. I think we’re done for the day. Let’s head back to the office and hand this stuff over to the lab guys and see what they can come up with. I’ll get them to come back over tomorrow with Luminol and a black light and see if they can determine exactly what these spatters are. There’s a guy back in the lab who I think is pretty sharp. If its blood, which I think it is, maybe he can tell us what type of weapon was used to cause this pattern.”
“You think so?”
“I do.”
“You think the doctor did this?”
“He’s my first suspect. You?”
“I don’t know, but my gut tells me he didn’t do it. Like, where’s the gun? If it was a pistol, where’s the shell casing? The sliding door to the deck; it was unlocked. And lastly, I just don’t think he could have beaten his wife like that. It was too severe. I just don’t think he did it. Your pretense? I’m sure you have an opinion.”
“I do. I think the old man snapped and set this up like somebody broke in and did it. First off, I think he purposely shot himself in the fatty part of his abdomen. A doctor would know there were no vital organs in that part of the body. Afterwards, he hid the gun where nobody would find it. And I think the gun was a revolver and not a pistol so there would be no shell casing to be found. Lastly, he unlocked the door to the deck on the pretense somebody wearing a ski mask came in.”
“Perhaps. But I still don’t think he did it. Whoever beat this poor lady had a beef with her. Besides, don’t you think that the doctor would have just shot her instead of going to the trouble of beating the shit out of her?” Joe said questioning his partner’s opinion.
“Certainly something to look into,” Danny said with a pause. “But when we get around to answering the whys-and-what-ifs, we’ll get closer to solving the case. And yes, I still think we should take a closer look at
Dr. Dobbins. Evidence points in his direction.”
“I don’t know. But I think we need to tread carefully if more evidence points in his directions. The man is extremely well-known throughout the community. If we’re proven wrong, we’re in deep shit.” “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do this. Run a check on Dobbins and see if he’s ever owned a gun. Then, let’s get these splatters on the wall taken care of. And when Dobbins starts feeling better, we’ll go back and interview him again. If he was lying the first time, we’ll probably catch him on a slip-up. To be a liar, you have to have a good memory to remember what you said the first time. If he’s a bad liar, we’ll catch it. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds like we have a plan.”


When they arrived back at the station, Danny took the golf clubs to the forensic department and to discuss with the tech about using Luminol and UV light on the wall. In the meantime, Joe went to see Lieutenant Hastings to bring him up to speed with the new evidence they had found: the golf clubs and possible blood spatters on the wall.
About thirty minutes later, Danny returned to the squad room and met Joe in their office. He was dejected after talking with the tech. It appears that the use of Luminol on a wall to determine blood spatter patterns wasn’t used anymore because it could potentially cause problems. Based on scientific research, a new technique had been developed that was safer and more reliable. He suggested to Danny to obtain it if he could get the funding; it was expensive. He and Joe mulled their options and decided to confront Lieutenant Hastings about the new procedure—and its cost.
In forensic science, reading blood spatters had become an intricate tool in solving many violent crimes and sending the perpetrators to jail. Most experts on the subject were university professors and researchers. Only the largest of law enforcement agencies could afford to keep updated technology on hand and also a full-time criminologist on staff.
And the Oceanside Police Department was not one of them.
“You know that’s going to cost the department some big bucks, don’t you?” Hastings reckoned.
“Yeah, I know. But those spatters, the type of club used, and the amount of force used on Mrs. Dobbins to form those patterns is, I’m convinced, vital to this case.
“And yes, I was barely able to see some of the pattern with my naked eyes, but I think the whole field needs to be determined to help us come to a conclusion. I’m just now learning there’s new equipment out there better than Luminol and ultraviolet light.
“Lieutenant, we’re sort of in a dilemma right now. We need help. Just guessing at this point is not going to help our case; and you and I both know the district attorney would never take this case to trial just on our guess work. Never in a million years.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m convinced. You’ve made a compelling argument to me. But now I need to convince the captain. Hell, maybe even the DA might kick in a couple of bucks to help. You never know.”
“Thanks Lieutenant. I’m sure the captain will see it our way.”
“Well, let’s hope so.”

The following day, Danny was called to the lieutenant’s office. He had good news. The captain had given the go ahead to summon a criminologist to help on the case.
“Danny, yesterday, before I went to see the captain, I checked with the forensic section of the California Department of Justice just to see about having a criminologist come our way. I was told it might be a month or so before one could arrive. It seems a lot of other small towns around the state are having a rash of murders needing their assistance.
“The reason I called was to get a heads up because I knew the captain would want to go with them first. It wouldn’t cost as much. But because of the time element not working in our favor, I went ahead and called Southern Cal. They said they could have someone down here in a couple of days. But before I committed, I first approached the captain and told him of the situation. And, just as I thought, he agreed we needed to get someone down here as soon as possible even if it was going to cost more.
“So I called USC back and committed. Here’s the name of the professor who’ll be here about mid-morning this coming Friday. Be sure you and Joe get your ducks in a row so he doesn’t have to spend more time here than necessary.”
“How much more is it going to cost?” Danny asked.
“Well, let’s just say if the professor is worth his weight, the captain won’t cut our coffee budget here in the squad room this year.”
“That much, huh?”
“Yeah, now get outta here and go solve some more cases, ya bum.”
“Yes, sir!”
 

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Sunday Serial: ‘Haunted Bones’- Chapter Two