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Friday, May 12, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 40


Chapter 51

Luna knew that interrogating Thomas Tutter would be tricky.
As she packed up her things in the cafĂ© and walked back to her car, she formulated a cover story that she hoped would serve her purposes. When she talked to him, she needed to approach the Patrick Brogan death from an angle, and she had to do it in a way that would catch Tutter off guard. Her boss at the FBI, Frank Hagland, had taught her the non-confrontational interrogation technique that he called “blindsiding.” If you knew how to read body language and behavioral abnormalities like microfacial expressions, the approach was nearly foolproof. Hopefully Thomas Tutter’s reaction would tip her off to whether he had anything to do with it.
But first, however, in order to make her cover story work, she had to collect some information about the inmates who were confined in cells in the same area of the prison on the night Patrick Brogan died.

Chapter 52

The Allegheny County Jail was only a few blocks away from the medical examiner’s office. The cluster of modern brick buildings loomed on a strip of land between the Duquesne University campus and the Monongahela River. It was a large and busy incarceration facility, with an average population of three thousand inmates. The ACJ performed about fifty bookings a day.
As Luna went through all the bureaucratic hassle of being admitted through security and into the administration building, the image of that empty toilet paper roller popped back into her mind. Could the killer have used it as a spool to wrap thin rope or cable to tie Patrick up while he was still asleep? A big man could have suffocated Patrick with the plastic bag and then raised the body high enough to attach the bag to the beam and make it look like a suicide...
But Patrick would have fought hard, and there would have been evidence of that. Scratches, bruises—
Tape! Duct tape, maybe. The roller could have contained just enough tape to bind his wrists and ankles...
But by the time Luna entered the prison’s administrative offices, she had dismissed these possibilities. If Patrick’s wrists or ankles had been bound, the autopsy would have revealed it—there were no marks left of any kind on his extremities, and tape would have left an adhesive residue. His skin had been carefully examined for this as well—the pathologist specifically mentioned it in the autopsy report.
Luna was ushered into the assistant warden’s office, which had a window on the river side of the main building. He was a pleasant, heavyset man in his forties by the name of Josh Sheridan. When he saw Luna’s badge, he raised an eyebrow and quipped. “Is the President coming to inspect our jail?” He raised his finger. “No, wait—he’s coming to give us an award, right? A surprise award. Best county jail in America!”
Luna chuckled at his jokes, and she told him she was investigating a suicide that had taken place fifteen years ago at the jail. She opened her small notebook and turned to the page that had the basics of Patrick Brogan’s death she had copied down from the autopsy report. Apparently the ACJ was organized into “pods” rather than cellblocks, something Luna had not seen before.
She said, “The deceased man was in Pod Twelve, Cell Five. Would it be possible for me to have a quick look at that cell?”
“You want to see it after fifteen years has gone by?”
“I just want to see the layout. I can’t tell you any more than that. It’s classified.”
This wasn’t exactly true, but it served its purpose.
“I can show you a photo of the—”
“I’d really like to see the actual cell, sir, if you can swing it. Even if I just look through the bars from the outside.”
“This is a modern prison,” Sheridan said, almost with an air of arrogance. “We don’t have bars, we have doors and windows.”
Luna nodded. “Right.”
“Also, we don’t call ’em cells anymore, we call ’em units.”
“Okay.” Gosh, Luna thought, I’d hate for any of these poor rapists, murderers and thieves to realize they were actually being incarcerated. She wondered what they called the orange jumpsuits that the jail provided—complimentary member loungewear?
When Sheridan saw that she would not take no for an answer, he turned to his computer and clicked on the keyboard. While he did this, Luna picked up one of his business cards, and glanced at it. His cell number was listed as well as his desk extension.
“Can I have one of these?”
“Knock yourself out,” Sheridan said, still looking at the screen. “Okay, Unit Twelve-Five is occupied right now, which is no surprise. We’re overcrowded as hell, like every other damn facility in this country...” He glanced at his watch. “But the prisoner is probably outside in the exercise yard right now. I can let you look through the window, but that’s all. To go inside would require a mountain of paperwork, even from you, and I’m sure you don’t want to be bothered.”
“A look through the window would be fine, sir.” She paused and added, “At this point.”
Sheridan noticed Luna’s ominous addendum, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t seem to be defensive about her visit, which was refreshing—she had thought he would be.
Grunting, he rose from his desk, but before leading her out of the office, turned back to her and said, “Pretend I’m giving you a tour of the facility and just showing you one of the units, as an example? That would be best.”
Luna nodded. “Got it.”

* * *
A few minutes later Josh Sheridan was leading Luna through the security area at the end of Pod Twelve. She noticed that there was one guard on duty and a few new-looking flat screen monitors that gave various views of the cells in the blocks, which were arranged in a square, with a TV set and some plastic chairs on one side. A few prisoners were slouched in their orange jumpsuits, watching a basketball game.
“Were all these cameras and screens in place fifteen years ago?” Luna said, before they actually entered the pod. The police section of the autopsy report hadn’t mentioned any cameras.
“Fifteen years ago...?” Sheridan thought about it. “No, not back then. We had a couple of simple closed-circuit cameras but no actual recording equipment, just monitors for the guards.”
They entered the pod, and Luna followed Sheridan down the row of “units.” Several of the bored-looking convicts turned and glanced at them.
“The Allegheny County Jail is a modern correctional facility,” Sheridan said, in a rather loud voice, “and this particular pod is designated low security. The units are single-occupancy and generally used to house new, non-violent prisoners.”
Safety reasons, Luna thought. That hadn’t worked out too well for Patrick Brogan.
“Each unit has one bed, a combination stainless steel sink/toilet, a TV set—”
“And a Jacuzzi,” one of the inmates called out.
There was some laughter.
“Yeah, don’t forget to show her the Jacuzzzi!” another laughed.
“I’ll show it to you, baby,” a third man said, grinning at Luna. But when he saw the look on her face, and her physical size, the grin disappeared.
Sheridan led her along the cells, casually glancing through the windows in the doors, and came to a stop in front of Cell Five. “This unit is empty at the moment, if you want to take a look and see what they’re like on the inside.”
Luna leaned down and peered through the glass, hoping to see something to support her latest theory, that maybe the killer had crept into the cell and wrapped rope or wire or tape around and around Patrick, over his blanket and under the bed frame, securing him so that he couldn’t move, the thick fabric protecting his skin from any marks...but her hopes were instantly dashed.
The bed was the type that was bolted to the wall.
There was no space in between the wall and the frame to run any rope or wire or tape through. She turned to ask Sheridan if that might have changed, but he had stepped across the room and was quietly chewing out the inmates who had harassed her.
Luna scanned the rest of the cell, noting the toilet and sink, and the plastic trash can, which was lined with a white plastic bag. She glanced at a half-used roll of toilet paper that sat sideways on a shelf next to the toilet.
She then took a quick glance up at the ceiling, noting the beam that Patrick was found hanging from.

* * *
After Sheridan led her back to the administration building and into his office, Luna said, “How is toilet paper distributed over there? And how often?”
“Toilet paper?” Sheridan said, as if this were a strange question.
Luna nodded.
“It’s normally handed out once a week, one roll to a man. Partial rolls available from the floor cop.”
“What about the plastic trash bags? I noticed there was a bag lining the trash can in the cell.”
Now a knowing look appeared on Sheridan’s face. “I remember—this is about an inmate who hung himself with one of those bags, right? I don’t recall the man’s name...”
“I can’t talk about it, sir.”
“Right.” Sheridan hesitated, glancing at her strong, broad shoulders. “Is this about a threat to the President’s life?” He shrugged casually. “I’m just curious...”
“I can’t talk about any aspect of this. It’s all classified.”
Sheridan looked annoyed, but didn’t say anything. Sometimes having everyone think that the only thing the Secret Service did was protect the President was a good thing.
“And the trash bags?” Luna said.
“The trash bags are distributed by the porters—inmates assigned basic cellblock cleaning. The bags are semi-controlled, mostly to prevent the prisoners from making pruno. That’s prison wine.”
“I know what pruno is, sir.”
“Anyways, trash bags are always a problem in any prison. You can not only hang yourself with them and make wine with them, you can also make one into a single-use shank.” Sheridan shrugged. “What are we gonna do? We can’t ban everything.”
Luna nodded and looked at her notes. “What about a retired guard named Thomas Tutter?”
Now Sheridan was sure to understand exactly what she was doing, as Tutter had found Patrick Brogan’s body and had been questioned by police. “What about him?”
“What kind of employee was he?”
Sheridan leaned back in his chair and put his arms behind his neck, thinking. “A lot better than most, I’d say. Tutter was a lifer, spent his whole career working for the ACJ, one of the ‘old guard’—if you’ll excuse the pun—from the original ACJ facility over on Ross Street. He picked up a few infractions for black market dealings—selling cigarettes and alcohol to the inmates—but nearly all the guards slip sooner or later. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, Agent Faye, that being a prison guard is low-paid, thankless work.”
Luna nodded. “I know that, sir.”
They both just stood there for a moment.
Sheridan glanced at his watch. “If there’s nothing else...”
Luna had gotten so caught up with her speculation about how Patrick Brogan might have been killed that she had almost forgotten the main reason she had come here.
“Would it be possible to see the cell assignment records for the Pod Twelve on the particular dates I’m interested in?” She read off the dates, a span of two weeks centered around Patrick’s death. “I need to know exactly who was in which cell during that period.”
“I’m afraid that information is classified,” Sheridan said.
Luna recoiled. “Excuse me?”
A smile crept across Sheridan’s lips. “Just giving you a hard time, Agent Faye. The Records Department is one floor down. They can help you with that.” He picked up the phone on his desk. “I’ll give them a heads up and make sure they take care of you.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.”

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