Locklear rolled himself out from under Marsh's car, an olive green Alfa Romeo BAT 12. There was nothing classically Italian about it, but it was nonetheless a dynamic body with a powerhouse under the hood. The Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica Corporation had taken a turbo charged V8 Maserati engine and bolted something from Star Wars on top. There were electronically adjustable cooling foils, wrap around tail fins, and wheel coverings that automatically adjusted to an optimal position for either steering or drag-reduction. It was a beautiful machine. Locklear wanted one.
There had been some administration error that had sent the BAT to District 4. The garage mechanics had no answer to how they could have lost a car. Fortunately, some 'gentle' persuasion had encouraged the unlucky officer to retrace his steps. Eventually it had been delivered to District 1, and Locklear had got chance to have a play. It was a marvel to look at, but he hadn't found anything unusual in either the storage compartments or the inner workings. A quick run-over with a forensic team hadn't shown any suspicious chemicals in the boot, foot wells or on the seats. The steering wheel had plenty of prints on it, but they all matched Marsh's. The same was true for the gear stick. On a hunch Locklear got the forensic team to check for traces of kerosene, but none were found.
There was a healthy number of miles on the clock. Clearly Marsh had liked to drive, which seemed to match with the documentation in the glove box. Permits, insurance disks/certificates, and guidebooks to places like Col De Turini in France and the Stelvio Pass in the Swiss Alps
Concept cars like this were very difficult to come by, especially in such good condition. Marsh had obviously done some good deeds to earn him such a favour. But, Locklear couldn't spend all day longing after it. He had to eat. He was meeting Wetherly and Sanchez for brunch, so decided it was time to clean himself up. Locklear couldn't remember the last time he'd got into work so early. He'd delayed breakfast just to spend more time tinkering with this beauty. Pulling a wireless radio from his belt he pressed the button, "Locklear calling Orsen, come in Orsen." He waited for the chief mechanic to acknowledge. Locklear explained he was done with the BAT and was heading off. Orsen exhaled an audible sound of excitement that it was his turn with the car...
Sanchez and Wetherly chatted with each other over cups of freshly ground coffee whilst waiting for Locklear to arrive. The blend was from Guatemala and had a smoky, distinctive aroma. It made a change from the instant rubbish at the Precinct which, if you were lucky, would melt the plastic spoon you stirred it with; it was the only way it would have some flavour.
The 'Old Orleans' diner was a popular place at all times of the day. The atmosphere was jovial and warm, helped by the five star service at bar prices. They looked over the menu. Sanchez amusingly noted that this week's menu was sponsored by Microsoft. It even had the annoying paper clip with a speech bubble that unhelpfully stated, 'It looks like you're trying to order something to eat.' Apple Omelette sounded interesting; Eating Steve Jobs for breakfast was probably the past time for many Microsoft employees since Apple went bust earlier in the year.
The TV in the background displayed breaking news of a Chinese politician who'd been assassinated during the night. It looked like some rebels had finally had enough of the inhumane treatment and had shot him through the head with a sniper rifle. The news quickly moved to cover more important events: the latest celebrity fashion...
They reviewed the notes on Marsh's murder. With limited options presenting themselves, they hoped Jadis would be a turning point. Hopefully Romano would have a location for them today.
The bell over the entrance jingled, and Wetherly looked round to see Locklear wandering in. His lanky frame dodged customers with take-away orders as he made his way to their table. Dropping himself next to Sanchez, he signalled to one of the waitresses for coffee and then reported his findings about Marsh's car. All they had to do next was to wait to hear from Romano.
Romano was having a productive morning. His internet searches for gothic restaurants had revealed a promising result; The Cavern. It was an upmarket eatery on the east side of District 1, not too far away from headquarters. Clicking through the pictures on their website he saw tables covered with black velvet, candelabras, goblets, sconces and other furnishings better suited to Dracula's castle. He was also amused to see the option to have some of the dishes 'served in black' - for a small surcharge, obviously. Surely a blessing for the melanophiliacs and a great money making scheme for the restaurant, all served up by waitresses in gothic Lolita costumes.
The clincher was on the list of staff; the sous-chef, one Jade Moretti, infused her dishes with herbal knowledge from her Wiccan background; Sirloin steak with angelica root for all your protective needs. "Jade ... Jadis," it was close enough for Romano to investigate. The restaurant served food from midday, but there was probably staff in before opening time. Seeing little point in waiting about, he grabbed his jacket and headed to the police parking lot. Jumping on his old but well cared for Harley V-Rod he pulled his Lid onto his head, kicked the bike into life and burned up the ramp.
The mid-morning traffic in Washington was pretty light, but Romano wasn't tempted to push his luck in the winter conditions. The inside of his Lid displayed his speed in luminous green onto the visor, which turned either to amber if he approached the limit or red if he went over. Joined with various police feeds and alerts he felt like a cyborg police officer, despite the fact there was about seventy years of technological differences between his motorbike and his Lid.
Romano voiced the address of the restaurant and his sat-nav plotted his route. A few minutes into the drive, he noticed his destination matched with a reported one-eighty-seven ... a murder. It couldn't be co-incidence. With growing alarm he put a call into Sanchez. They'd all better get to The Cavern as fast as possible.
Flash guns reflected off the walls inside the industrial freezer as the support staff recorded the scene before the team moved in to investigate. The victim, a dark haired woman, wore a long luxurious red dress and lay on a white sheet. Her skin was a deathly white that glistened under the fluorescent light.
Les Edwards, the head chef, had discovered the body. A banquet was booked tonight for a twenty first birthday party, so he'd been first in the restaurant to get a start on the day. It wasn't until he'd opened the freezer that he'd found Jade's body. Now, his face was red with tears as a uniformed officer noted his story.
"Death by hypothermia is not a pleasant way to go," spoke Wetherly as she knelt down next to the body. "Violent shivering, amnesia, walking and fine co-ordination becomes impossible, metabolic processes shut down and then major organs fail. Sometimes the brain is so confused you remove clothes because you think you're too hot. Clinical death soon follows."
Sanchez pulled the head chef to the side, breaking his view of the crime scene to get his attention. It was Jade's turn to clean and lock up last night, so she would have been the last person here. Being a junior business partner she had keys to the building. Probing for possible motives, Sanchez inquired about valuables or cash on site. Les replied that they had a no cash policy, so all customers were required to pay by card. "Personal valuables are kept in lockers," Les pointed to a side room. Sanchez gestured for him to lead the way and they left the kitchen.
Wetherly had been taking a close examination of the body, "There's some discolouration around the nostrils. Also, the exposed skin seems to be covered in tiny ice crystals. That's what is causing it to glisten under the light. This sheet she's lying on also appears to be a garment of some kind. A cape or cloak of some sort, perhaps."
Romano pointed to the produce boxes and trays. Nothing seemed out of place. "If you were dragged in here against your will, you'd at least try to grab hold of something. And if you were locked in, you wouldn't lie down so peacefully. Everything looks neat."
Wetherly agreed. It was a bit too neat.
In the side room Les pointed out the steel lockers where his staff stored their belongings when they needed to change between their work uniform or personal clothes. "Each locker has its own padlock, but we've never had any problems with theft. Most of the staff don't bother to lock them. This one is Jade's.... was Jade's." Les still couldn't get a handle on the loss.
Nodding with sensitivity, Sanchez waited a moment before checking the locker. Inside were the expected chef whites, hair nets, and personal jewellery, but no regular clothes. A puzzling thought crossed her mind, and she needed to clarify something. "Was Jade front-of-house staff yesterday?" When Les shook his head, she continued, "Why was she wearing that posh dress?"
"I don't know," replied Les, hesitant. "I don't actually remember her bringing it in."
Locklear had wandered around the kitchen whilst everyone else was doing their thing. The knives were in place, pots and pans too. No obvious signs of a struggle out here either. He crouched down to look under the kitchen units in case something had rolled underneath but nothing caught his eye.
The back door was next on his check list. It was a strong, wide door that would have been nearly impossible to force open without significantly damaging, and there was no signs of impact on the outside. The door opened into a small courtyard that backed onto an alley. Dumpsters and recycling trash cans were stacked up along one wall, and opposite was an empty bike rack. However, there was a Vesper moped which, after a quick check with head chef Les, was confirmed to belong to Jade.
Locklear walked out of the courtyard to look up and down and alleyway. He watched the rest of the world walk on by at both ends of the street, oblivious to what might be going on. For now though, he was sure the answers lay inside.