Back at the office, I was checking the crime scene photographs from the earlier murder of the Asian boy, now identified as Sung Myung Kang, 20 years old, Korean. Kang had a couple of priors for gang-related activities, nothing too serious, mostly drug distribution. He had been a suspect in a shooting, but was quickly exonerated.
“Hey Wonder Boy, ballistics didn’t find any casings, but they did say that the slug recovered from the body was a big caliber, maybe a 9mm, they say it could possibly be a variant. You happy now?” said Rourke as he took a seat at his desk.
“Happier than before.” I replied.
I looked at the evidence gathered. There wasn’t much there to see. That fact alone said a lot about the case. There were no bullet casings, which meant that the shooter took the time and trouble to pick them up. This lent some more credence to my theory of a professional hit, your average schmuck doesn’t even know to pick up bullet casings, they just spray and pray, only a real paranoid pro would take the time to pick up the casings. Your usual dumb gangbanger didn’t realize this, but you were leaving partial prints all over a murder scene with the casings. It was like this: you loaded the bullets into the magazine one by one with your bare hands, or you had someone do it for you, either way, you were pressing your fingers to the brass casings which held fingerprints amazingly well. Most of the time they were just partial prints, of no use for a match but once in a while we got lucky, maybe the shooter’s gun magazine had a tough spring and he had to press real hard to get the bullets on, more surface displacement on the casing resulted in a bigger, better print. The real pros would take the time to carefully load their weapons using gloves, surgical ones usually, which of course left no prints behind, picking up the casings was an added precaution if they’d been careful enough to use gloves when loading the weapon. Whatever the case was, it was certainly not the mark of your amateur ganbanger. I then started looking at the report Rourke had handed me. From the slugs recovered in the body, ballistics had determined that the bullet was most likely a 9 millimeter caliber. The M. E. concurred.
So, a 9 mil, possibly modified, what looked like a triple-tap, usually the mark of a professional hitman, very little evidence, and a guy dressed in black climbing into a big SUV. That’s what we had so far. We also had the victim’s ethnicity, Korean. Yes, there were a lot of fucking gangs in the city, but that didn’t mean that every single minority homicide was gang-related, hell, half our cases were minorities. In this day and age minorities were no longer a minority. It was all politically correct bullshit anyway.
Of course, it could just as well be a gang member with a modified weapon, although they tended to favor slightly smaller calibers that were easier to conceal and dispose of, 32s and what not.
“So, you still like gangs for this?” I asked Rourke.
“Don’t see why not?”
“Possibly modified caliber, big in any case, professional-looking hit, no bullet casings left on the scene. Not your typical gang hit.”
“Who’s to say them gangs aren’t getting more professional? Getting educated, like. Maybe even bringing in professionals from outside.”
I didn’t like to argue too much with Rourke about his theories, we each had very different styles and ideas plus Rourke was a senior detective and contradicting him too much wasn’t conducive to a good relationship.
“Who’s to say indeed?”
“Tell you what. Humor me. Humor old Harry. If it turns out it’s not gang-related, then we can pursue your mystery spy shooter thing? How’s that sound?”
“Yeah. Or, we could pursue both your gang thing and my mystery spy idea, see where things lead.”
“Yah, but you know the captain’s gonna wan’ us to ‘work as a team’ and give him one ‘focused front’ or whatever the fuck it is he calls it.”
“Hmm… let’s see if we can avoid the captain for now on this one.”
Rourke didn’t like that one too much. He had no love for the captain and wasn’t exactly a ‘yes’ man, but he didn’t like to rock the boat either. Rourke’s favorite situation was when he was invisible, he didn’t want to be the center of attention of any kind, it always led to something unpleasant in his book, like scrutiny or more work. He said to me,
“OK, you’re the charming one. Just don’t get me into any trouble.”
“Alright then. You do your gang thing and I’ll look into my mystery spy. I’m going to go down and talk to the ballistics guys, after that we can go talk to some of the gang people we know, how’s that?”
“Sounds good, just pick me up on your way back from ballistics.”
Ballistics was in the basement, close to the Medical Examiner’s office and the evidence room. They had 2 rooms to themselves, one lab and one small, soundproofed firing range to test weapons in. I headed there now.
The head of ballistics was Dan Kassabian, your quintessential nerd. The kind of guy who played paper and pencil Dungeons & Dragons growing up because it was the true D&D. He probably still played it but would never admit it to a room full of cops.
Uncharacteristically, he was actually quite articulate and sociable, for a nerd. He didn’t host any parties or anything, but he didn’t have trouble relating to people or communicating with them. He was a good guy, I liked him, he was efficient in his work and wasn’t above giving people a good-natured ribbing. Apparently, today was my turn.
“Well, well, as I live and breathe, if it isn’t Thomas Harding, Mr. Wonderboy himself come to grace us with his presence.” he said as I walked in. No doubt he’d be hanging with his neighbor Wasik too long, that was the second wonderboy I’d gotten today. Dan was sitting at his desk with a mess of papers in front of him, behind him, in a book case were all sorts of gun manuals, catalogues and magazines. On his desk, he had a bunch of gun parts lying around, some of them looked like they were even mounted on small plinths.
“What’s up Dan?”
“The national debt Tom, but you already knew that didn’t you?” His humor could be quite dry at times.
“Uh huh” was all I could muster, I just wasn’t in the mood. “So Dan, Harry tells me that the bullet fragments the M.E. found on the body could be a modified 9 millimeter?” I asked.
“Yep. Could be. I’m not ready to commit on that yet, but it seems too long for a regular 9 mil. I’d say it could be a 9x39mm which is usually only found in special assault rifles, mostly Russian, it’s not a very common caliber.”
“Well, that’s good, that’ll help us narrow things down wont’ it?”
“Yeah, could be, that’s your expertise not mine, I only report my findings.”
“Where would one get a gun for that type of caliber? I’m assuming they’re not available at the local Target.”
“No idea, I told you, that’s not my expertise.”
Jeez, “OK, Anything else you can tell me about the bullets?” I asked.
“Nope.” He went back to reading the papers he had in his hand. Like I said, good social skills for a nerd.
“So when will you know for sure if the bullet was modified or not?”
“When I run some more tests, like I told your partner. I’m not just sitting here twiddling my thumbs you know.”
“Oh, I know,” I turned to leave, “you’re too busy playing Dungeons & Dragons. See you later Dan.” I wasn’t above some ribbing myself.
“Yeah, I don’t think so.” he said, but his face blushing said otherwise. I left smiling.
I went back to my desk to pick up Rourke. So, a possibly modified 9mm bullet, Dan wasn’t sure, but he also wasn’t the kind of guy to just blurt out whatever came into his head, he was methodical and if he said something it was because there was a high degree of certainty that it was correct. Where did that leave me? Pretty much in the same place I started out in: fucked. I didn’t really know anything new, but what I knew didn’t point me away from my professional hit theory. I’d have to humor uncle Harry about his gang shit, though it just didn’t make any sense to me, but I’d be looking really hard at my professional hit angle.
Oh well, compromise was the cornerstone of any relationship, right?