HAD DETECTIVE ALVAREZ ARRIVED just fifteen minutes earlier he would have heard Gray Reagan screaming I’M SORRY! over and over until he stopped. Instead, a quarter hour later he pulls up to unit 448, steps out of his SUV and walks to the door of the unit. It had yet to be secured from the morning’s search along with Alvarez’s curiosity. He is unconvinced that it is all as innocuous as it appears, especially after Laura Jacobsen’s admission that she had seen the doctor in a storage unit in a green patio chair.
Alvarez lifts the rolling door and steps into the storage space. He lifts the two boxes out of the adirondack and puts them aside, then drags the chair out into the alley and examines it. He tilts it forward, regards the slats on the backrest, sets it upright and examines the broad arm rests, but finds no signs of distress, no residue from tape, no friction points from rope or nylon cord. Nothing. He steps back to look at the chair in its entirety. The oddest thing about the sea-foam green adirondack chair is that it is all by itself.
“Where’s the other one?” he says under his breath. He looks left at unit 450 and sees a lock on the bolt mechanism. He looks right at 446 and sees none. Alvarez walks to it and tries to slide the mechanism but it’s stuck. He then steps on the rolling door’s lip, bring it closed another fraction of an inch, and the bolts frees up and he lifts the rolling door up to expose an empty unit. He moves to the next. It’s locked. And the next, locked.
The next is free and he opens it to find it vacant. Locked. Locked. Vacant. Two locks. He’s reached the top of the alley and crosses to the other side. The first two doors are the larger ten by thirty-foot units, both of which the detective remembers visiting along with Elaine Southwick. He continues down the alley, locked, vacant, locked, locked, and then he stops.
It’s the copious amount of crimson seeping out from underneath the next rolling door that stops Alvarez, so much blood that it is now slowly flowing down the cement gutter that borders the units on this side of the alley. The locking bolt is not engaged and Alvarez lifts the rolling door creating a mist of plasma as the door’s rubber weather stripping pops up and out of the seal created by the spill. The door reaches its apex dripping more blood from its seal on to Alvarez’s head and shoulders of which he fails to take notice. He doesn’t see the empty Gatorade bottle rolling down the alley either. The scene now before him commands his attention in his effort to wrap his brain around it. He pulls his police radio from his belt and brings it to his mouth.
“Control Highland,” reports the radio.
“Alvarez. EMT and CSI to Fort Knox Storage, Corby and Riverside, unit 435. Call their office and have them open the gate. Secure the scene.”
“Copy.” Blip. Buzz. Silence.
He sees who he assumes is Gray Reagan in the other adirondack and between Reagan and himself is who he assumes to be Ian McDaniel laying in a bathtub, exsanguinated from a femoral slash to the artery through his pants just below the groin on his right thigh. Alvarez checks Ian for a pulse but finds nothing. He carefully steps around the tub avoiding the blood soaked slab and reaches Gray. His eyes are taped open but are fixed. He checks Gray’s carotid artery and discovers that he is still alive. There is a tube that appears to go down Gray’s nose taped to his face, and his mouth is stuffed with gauze.
“Alvarez. 10-52 to this location, one vic.”
“Copy. Ambulance and EMTs dispatched.”
“And one dc’d. We’ll need an M.E. on scene.”
“Copy.” Blip. Buzz. Silence.
There’s nothing the detective can do for the doctor. He has no idea where to start, something best left to the medics. He feels something rolling down the back of his neck and reaches his hand back to feel what it is. It’s wet. He brings his hand around and finds it bloody. Not thinking, he takes his other hand and runs it over the top of his head to find that it’s covered as well. Catching his eye above him is the edge of the rolling door, still dripping from its soaked weather stripping.
He leaves the scene and walks to his SUV, retrieves a towel from the back to wipe off his hands and his head, smearing everything crimson, everything he touches. Giving up on the nettoyage he climbs into the SUV and drives it to the opening of 435 and turns on his red and blue strobes and waits for the circus to show up.