The Matter of Homeland Security
The Matter of Homeland Security
Captain Noonan, the “Bearded Holmes” of the Sandersonville Police Department, was sitting in the office of Police Commissioner Lizzard across a vast mahogany table from the Special Assistant for Law and Order and Homeland Security for the Mayor of Sandersonville. He, Noonan, was not alone with Lizzard and the Special Assistant. The heads of every division of the Sandersonville Police Department was present, including the minions of the unions that represented the administrative assistants and secretaries, janitors, computer operators, filing clerks and cafeteria staff.
The order of the day was how to make Sandersonville a city safe from terrorists, terrorism, terrorist threats and foreign terrorism. The plan, which had been formulated by Lizzard and the Special Assistant in secret for “security reasons,” was ingenious in its use of public funds. It doubled the responsibility of the Police Department while, at the same time, ‘re-assigning’ 15% of the Police Department’s budget to the local Home Security office of the Mayor. When asked how the Police Department was expected to pay for the increase of activity with a decrease in revenues, Lizzard was quick to point out that the “Sandersonville City Council had appropriated this money for law and order which is exactly how it is being spent.”
In a blatant political public relations maneuver, Noonan was then asked by Lizzard for his opinion on the entire matter. Noonan was about to tap dance an answer when, blessedly, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning, he spotted his assistant, Harriet, administrative assistant for the Police Department and common-sense maven, with a sizeable note in her left hand. Noonan offered his apologies and wandered into the corridor outside the Commissioner’s office with Harriet while Lizzard asked the same question of Captain Harding of Traffic. Noonan did not hear Harding’s response as the door shut behind him before Harding spoke.
When Noonan opened the note he read the following: “I knew you wanted out of that meeting. You’re out. You owe me. I want to go home early today.” There was a smiley face with Harriet’s name printed beneath it.
“This is blatant extortion,” fumed Noonan as he looked back at the door to the Commissioner’s office, “but quite effective. OK.”
“I was sure you’d appreciate the way I asked,” Harriet said. “Now that you are out of your meeting, another one of those unusual cases was called in about an hour ago.”
“What was it about?”
“You know I don’t write those cases down! Half of them are so convoluted I can’t keep anything straight and the other half sound like practical jokes.”
“You did get a name and a phone number?”
“Oh, I got those all right. I also got the corpse number, the license plate of the ice truck, registration of the hot air balloon and I’ve put in a request through NCIC for the files on the two perps.”
“OK. Sounds like I’ve got a wild one this time.”
“You have no idea. Of course I won’t be able to assist you since I’m leaving early.” (pause) “As in right now.”
“You can’t do that! There’s paperwork to file. It’s only, only,” he looked at his watch, “2:15!”
“OK. Then why don’t you go back into that room?”
Noonan was not pleased with that prospect. “OK, at least get me the name and phone number for our friend with the strange case.”
“You will love that too.”
Noonan didn’t know what she meant by that but when he got the name, he wasn’t sure she had got the name right. The phone number was a Washington D.C. extension but the name was not written correctly. “This is the name?”
“That’s what he told me. I wrote it that way letter by letter, number and symbol.”
Noonan looked at Harriet’s handwriting again: Jo67$%Nop$~.
“This is a joke, right?”
“If it is it won’t be on me. I’m out of here. You,” she said as she tapped him with her index finger on the center of his chest, “have a nice day.”
With that she was gone.
“Jo67$%Nop$~.” Noonan said to himself, “I wonder if the period at the end is part of his name or the end of the sentence.”
He dialed the number and it was picked up before the first ring was completed.
“Heinz Noonan I presume?” came a strong masculine voice.
“That’s right. Is this J-o. . .” That was as far as he got.
“Absolutely,” returned the voice. “You have reached the Office of Homeland Security’s Domestic Intelligence Office. We don’t have names here, security you know. The fewer people who know who we are, the less chance there is of a security leak.”
“I see. I guess you were expecting my call.”
“We are always expecting a lot of calls. Every call that comes in is routed by the master computer to the proper desk. Had you called from a phone different from the one that received the initial call, you would have been re-routed through electronic security.”
“I see. Well, I’m here. What can I do for you?”
“We have an unusual case in an unnamed city and we’d like your assistance, speaking department to department, of course. No notes or any paperwork.”
“Security reasons,” Noonan snickered silently, “I understand.”
“Absolutely. Now. Here’s what we have. We have an unidentified corpse in a morgue. It was discovered in a free flying hot air balloon that came down in a grocery store parking lot in the center of a city. Upon examination of the corpse it was found to be thawing. The police quickly found the meat wagon that had housed the corpse, at least until it was placed in the hot air balloon. The two drivers of the ice wagon are being held as material witnesses since it is not known for sure if they knew that the corpse was in the meat wagon.”
“How could they not know?”
“The meat wagon is a for-hire vehicle. It is a refrigerated van and they do not do the loading or the unloading, just the driving. Something to do with health regulations. They made 15 deliveries over the previous two days so the corpse could have been in any one of the 15 establishments. The corpse didn’t have the time to freeze in the delivery van.”
“How do you know that?”
“Charge slip in the corpse’s tuxedo is for May of 1962.”
“So you’ve got a cadaver found in a hot air balloon who was frozen in 1962 and stored in any one of 15 meat packing establishments. Sounds like a homicide investigation. Why is the Office of Homeland Security interested in the case?
“Because the corpse had a briefcase chained to her wrist full of top-secret documents.”
* * *
Far too many of Noonan’s cases were strange for him to be surprised at anything. He was used to the bizarre and unexpected. He was also immune to odd, particularly when it came to the criminal mind. With more than 25 years on the force and 7 with the United States Marshal’s Service, he had seen enough to lead him to believe that the possibilities of evil were unending.
“OK. I presume you gave my assistant the names of the drivers because she’s put in a request for some NCIC files.”
“That’s correct,” replied Jo67$%Nop$~.
“By the way, what am I supposed to call you? All I have is this collection of . . . “
“Security. Security. Just use the first two letters. Joe. Call me Joe. That’s good enough.”
“Is someone else answers the phone and I ask for Joe; will they get you?”
“No one else will answer the phone. Security. The Joe is for your convenience.”
“Does this case have a name and a number, to avoid confusion if you are handling more than one case?”
“I take care of those details. You just deal with me.”
“OK. But I’m going to need some more information. You said the corpse was a ‘she’ but she was wearing a tuxedo. A tuxedo is a men’s outfit. Do I have that right?”
“Yes. I’m just telling you how the corpse was found.”
“OK. For starters, how old was the woman? What is the official cause of death? What else was in the tuxedo pockets? What did the receipt for the tuxedo say? Has the woman been identified? Was there a boutonniere on the corpse? What kind of shoes was the woman wearing? How do you know the corpse was transported in the ice wagon? Who owns the ice wagon? Have you checked all 15 establishments and if so, what did you find? If not, why not? Who owns the hot air balloon? How much fuel was in the balloon’s tanks? Do you know from where the balloon was launched? What time of day was the corpse found? Who actually found the balloon? How far apart are the 15 establishments from each other? How far away from any one of them did the balloon come down? Was there anything else in the balloon or the ice wagon? What kind of documents were in the briefcase? When were they stolen? Are the documents originals or copies? How old is the briefcase? That’ll be OK for a while.”
“I’ll get back with you,” said Jo67$%Nop$~. The phone went dead.
“Noonan looked at the phone in amazement. “Well, thank you, Joe,” he said into the dead receiver.
* * *
Two hours later Noonan got is call back. There was no perfunctory greeting or casual small talk. The instant after Noonan said “Noonan,” Joe started speaking.
“In the order in which you asked. The woman is mid-twenties and has not been identified. Official cause of death is listed as angina with a coroner’s note that indicates that this is unusual for a woman of this age and thus foul play is suspected. There was a boutonniere — and I don’t know how you guessed that — which was an orchid. Inside the pockets of the tuxedo and pants there was a ring case that was empty, a house key and a rabbit’s foot on a key chain, lipstick and eye shadow and a packet of breath freshener. The receipt for the tuxedo was from a rental from a company that went out of business in the 1970s. It was an expensive tux for those days, $120 for three days in May — 24, 25, 26 — Thursday, Friday, Saturday. It was rented to a John Hastings. There were ten Hastings in the phone book that year, five of them are still in the city, none with a John or Jack. No high school lists a John or Jack Hastings as a student, there is no missing person report for a John or Jack Hastings that year or five on either side, no criminal record of a John or Jack Hastings, no driver’s license and no IRS listing anywhere near the city in question. There were lots of missing person reports for women in their 20s, several that could be our Jane Doe but nothing definitive.”
“Nice,” said Noonan. “Go on.”
“The woman was wearing high heels. We don’t know for sure that the corpse was transported in the ice wagon. We found a cumber bum in the ice wagon. It was the same color as the tuxedo and had lipstick smeared on it, same color as the lipstick in the tuxedo pocket. It was assumed that the corpse had either been in the ice wagon or that the cumber bun had inadvertently been taken into the ice wagon from where the corpse was frozen. The ice wagon is owned by an independent operation in town. It’s been in business for a dozen years, not so much as a traffic ticket. The drivers have records, but you know that because you requested their NCIC files. All 15 establishments were checked. All are clean. All are reputable. There was no Hastings associated with any of them as owners or clients. The hot air balloon was stolen from a rental outfit. They don’t know exactly when it was stolen. Their rentals are extensive and they didn’t know it was missing until we asked them about it. It was last checked out a month ago. There was no fuel in the balloon’s tanks, probably the reason in came down in the parking lot. The fuel valve was on a low setting. We don’t know from where the balloon was launched; we just know it came down in a supermarket parking lot about six in the morning. The manager came out and found his car covered with a balloon. He called it in and the police discovered the corpse.”
“So no one saw the balloon in the air?”
“Not really. But this is the kind of a city where balloons are seen aloft all the time. Seeing a balloon in the air is not noteworthy. With its fuel capacity that balloon could have been in the air for eight or nine hours. We’re guessing it was sent up during the day and when it ran out of fuel and the temperature dropped that night, so did the balloon.”
“Yes, drop. The 15 establishments, as you call them, are scattered all over town. The four largest are bunched in a warehouse district. The other 11 are scattered 20, 30 miles from each other. The closest meat packing company to the parking lot where the balloon came down is about six miles as the crow flies, ten miles if you have to drive. The balloon was empty and all the ice wagon had in it on investigation was lots of sides of beef and pork. The police searched the sides and found nothing. The sides are still in the police crime lab.”
Noonan was ticking off the items as they were given by Jo67$%Nop$~. “Now to the files.”
“This is very sensitive,” said Jo67$%Nop$~. “Very hush-hush.”
“I can imagine,” replied the Chief of Detectives.
“Without disclosing the contents, they are from the Department of the Commerce and are photocopies. The briefcase was new in the sense it was not of 1962 vintage but might be four or five years old. There were no fingerprints in or on the briefcase, by the way, even though you didn’t ask that.”
“I didn’t think there would be so I didn’t ask,” replied Noonan. “What was the exact nature of the documents?”
“That I cannot tell you. But I can tell you that they relate to transportation issues, primarily railway border crossings. They were stamped Top Secret and the Department of Commerce confirms that the documents are Top Secret, current in the sense that the information on them is still useful.”
Noonan thought for a moment. “Will the discovery of the documents change anything for the Department of Commerce? That is, because the documents relate to railway border crossings and you can’t move a railway. Will it tighten up security at those border crossings?”
“The Department of Commerce doesn’t monitor border crossings. The United States Customs does. The documents in question — and I am way out on a limb here — relate to security measures for getting products across the border from Canada. Security codes, paperwork and the like. Someone can drive across the border in a car with little hassle. Cargo requires permission to enter the United States, codes and paperwork. That’s the kind of material that was found in the briefcase.”
“Did the material relate to any one type of cargo?”
“Not the way you mean. They were no documents relating to electronic equipment or bananas. It was the rotation of codes for cargo entry. In other words, when a train comes in from Canada, the individual wagons are searched by different teams of Customs agents. Food specialists search the wagons with bananas, for instance. Other than things like explosives, drugs and illegal aliens, Customs is particularly concerned about fruits, vegetables, live animals, insects, rotten meat. The codes for those items change frequently, every three days.”
“But these codes were current?”
“Day One, the security people tell me.”
“How many people had the codes?”
“Anyone who shipped those items I told you. They had to have them for that day.”
“How many people are we talking about?”
“Figure 1,000 companies and each has a five-person shipping department.”
“What good would those codes to a terrorist?”
“A terrorist can’t put a nuclear device in a railway car and just let it cross the border. Everything requires a code for the day. Without the code for the day, the cargo doesn’t cross the border. With the code the cargo gets across the border where Customs Agents look it over. The codes are the first step to getting something into the United States.”
“How do the cargo companies get the codes?”
“They call ahead. They tell the Department of Commerce they are going to ship, say 10 tons of office furniture in from Prince Rupert. The Department of Commerce contacts the Customs Service. The Custom Service waits until the day before the cargo is expected to arrive at the border and then issues the company the codes for the day. After that, the cargo has three days to get across the border. Then the codes change.”
“Do the banana people get the insect codes, for instance?”
“No. The banana people get the food codes. But the larger companies ship bananas and beef and peaches and potatoes. It’s too complicated to issue a specific code for bananas and another one for beets and another one for peaches and another one for potatoes. A very large shipping company might have thirty codes on any day including bananas, computers, and office furniture, whatever.”
“So the codes found on the corpse were for all products meaning that they came from a large company or a large transportation company?”
“Once three days have passed the codes are worthless, right?”
“So the top-secret information found was good for three days, the first day being the day the corpse was found. Two days later all the codes changed?”
“What’s the problem? The borders are still secure, the codes have changed.”
“Because we need to know how the codes got into the hands of someone who wasn’t authorized to have them?”
“But if they are useless, what difference does it make?”
“They are useless this time. Who knows about next time?”
Noonan thought for a moment. “Let me look over the NCIC files and I’ll get back with you, say tomorrow morning.”
“The threat to homeland security should never be underestimated. I will expect your call about 10 a.m. your time.”
Before Noonan could respond, the phone went dead. “And thank you very much again, Joe.”
* * *
If Noonan was expecting the NCIC files on Herman Draper and his half-brother George Sanders, the drivers of the refrigerated truck, to be informative he was disappointed. Both men were small time crooks at best. Draper had a record for bookmaking, prostitution, selling marijuana to an undercover cop, DUI and DWI (two different states) and GTA. Sanders wasn’t even small time. Larceny of a case of beer while inebriated, driving with a suspended license, soliciting a sexual act and DUI.
After looking over the files, Noonan left his office and headed for the largest meat packing plant in Sandersonville. At first the proprietor, Salvatore Vincenzo, was less than enthusiastic to see a man with a badge wanting to nose around the freezers. It sounded suspicious, like the man with the badge was actually from the Sandersonville Health Department or, perish the thought, had been hired by one of his ex-wives — three in the city — to see if his accounting of his assets matched those he had filed in court papers — thrice. Noonan assured him that he was not interested in the quality of his product, simply the methods he used to distribute the meat.
“How do I ship my meat? How much do you know about meat?” Vincenzo suspicions were still active.
“I know it tastes good after it’s been on a barbeque?”
“Good enough for me,” said the Tuscan. “Meat comes from cattle,”
“I guess I do know one other thing about meat,” Noonan broke in.
Vincenzo thought that was humorous. “You are a very funny man. That was very good. But to continue, shall I?”
“The meat is inspected immediately after it is butchered. It is stamped in the slaughterhouse and then flash frozen there. Then it is shipped to distributors such as me. We, in turn, ship it to the grocery stores and restaurants in the form they want it. A large supermarket would want its meat in sides. A restaurant will order the meat in steaks.”
“Can I come into a packing plant and order one steak?”
“For you, yes. Once. But no. We don’t sell retail. Now we have a lot of customers who come in and buy a side of beef which we butcher and wrap and store here in our freezers. When they want steaks, they just come in, open their lockers and get out what they want.”
“So they have actual lockers?”
“That’s right. Do you want to see one?”
“We have a special on pork this week?”
“Just the lockers are fine.”
The lockers varied in size, the smallest still being large enough to hide a human inside — lengthwise.
“I know what you are thinking,” Vincenzo said the moment Noonan looked at the freezers. “It might be possible but unlikely.”
“What am I thinking?”
“That someone could slip a human body into the locker.”
“You’re right. I was thinking that.”
“Yes, it is physically possible. But very unlikely. First, the customer doesn’t stock the freezers, we do. The customer just checks in and takes out what he wants. Second, we don’t let the meat stay in the freezers stay too long. It won’t last forever. If we haven’t seen any activity in about a year, we call the customer and advise them to clean out the locker.”
“How many people don’t do anything for a year?”
“Oh, lots. They get the meat, eat well for a few months and then let the rest of the order sit. We have to remind them the meat is there. We don’t want them eating meat after it’s been frozen for a year.”
“What you mean is, you want them to buy more meat rather than keep the meat they already have.”
“It’s a cruel world. Yes, but after meat has been frozen for a year it gets tough. Usually when someone cleans out their locker, they give the meat to charity.”
“Do the police ever check the lockers for a body?”
“Not unless they have a reason. Most companies like ours maintain a sharp eye on the lockers. We could get sued for bad meat. We are talking about a food here. This isn’t like storing something in a rent-a-locker or a storage facility.”
“What are the chances that a body could be stored in a meat packing plant for 40 years and not be discovered?”
“About zero. You’ve been watching too many episodes of Cold Case Files. First, there are a lot of people in and out of these facilities — all parts of them. In addition to meat inspectors, who do not announce their visits and look everywhere, there are health inspectors and delivery people and mechanics and customers. Lots of people. The bigger the storage unit, the more people who visit.”
“How would you do it?”
“If I had to do it, I’d put the body in a home freezer. But that’s risky. You’ve got nosy neighbors and power failures. They might not have all that many visitors but you still have to get the body into the freezer. That means there is a trail from the victim to you. That’s how the police catch people.”
Then Noonan visited a balloon rental business. All he learned was that it was not the fuel in the tank that gave the balloon its airtime but the quality of the operator. “On a low setting it would take a while for the balloon to rise, particularly at night. The balloon would have to have been launched from a vast open area because the balloon would be rising so slowly it would take a while to clear trees and houses and hills.
Though he regretted having to do it, he placed another call to Joe. This time the phone rang and rang and he got no answer. Five minutes later he got a return call.
“How did you know it was me that had called?” Noonan asked Jo67$%Nop$~.
“We’re putting in a new security system that double checks all phone numbers. Security, you know.”
“Yes,” replied Noonan wondering how much that was going to cost the American taxpayer.
“Do you have an answer?”
“Just some more questions. Was the corpse frozen in a sitting, standing or fetal position? Does the city in question have any vast open spaces nearby? Were there any power failures in the city immediately prior to the discovery of the corpse? Did the ice wagon make any other kinds of deliveries other than meat and did they make any other deliveries the days prior to the corpse showing up? Finally, have you actually seen the material from the pockets of the tuxedo or were you reading from a list?”
“I can answer all of those questions. The corpse was vertical. The city has lots and lots of open space around it. I’ll check on the power failures. The ice wagon makes all kinds of deliveries. We just checked the ones that had to do with meat packing because the corpse was frozen and the cumber bun was frozen. Do you want a list of the other deliveries?”
“And, No. I didn’t actually see the contents of the tuxedo. I read the report. What are you looking for?”
“First, look to see what kind of a ring was in the ring case. Was it a man’s or a woman’s? Was there anything inside the ring case other than the packaging? Was the corpse wearing a ring and if so, could that ring fit in the case? Finally, the tuxedo was rented to John Hastings. Yet the tuxedo was being worn by a woman and I presume it fit. Could that tuxedo have been rented to a Joan Hastings instead of a John Hastings?”
“I’ll check,” and with that the phone went dead.
Ten minutes later Joe was back on the line. “We’re running out of time here. Who knows who else might use those codes?”
“I wouldn’t worry about that yet. Do you have my answers?”
“There were a number of power failures, most of them small. Nothing city wide. A handful of blocks here and there. In addition to the meat delivery storage facilities, the ice wagon made ten other stops . . .”
“I won’t need that now,” replied Noonan. “Tell me about the ring case and the receipt.”
“The ring case is for a woman’s ring and there was no ring on the corpse. The receipt could have said ‘Joan.’ It was quite damaged by the melting corpse.”
“You have an answer?”
“Maybe. I’m flying a bit blind here because I usually have more to work on. Here’s what I think happened. The corpse in question is a Joan Hastings which her true name is probably. I’m assuming it’s her true name because I doubt that a tuxedo rental store would let loose of a $120 tuxedo without making sure the person had ID — even if she were paying cash. She’s not a high school student; she’s too old. I doubt she was going to a wedding because the tuxedo had been rented for a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Usually the day in the middle is the event day. Affairs being what they are, you eat, drink and dance into the wee hours. So you’d return the tuxedo the next day. The next day, in this case, was a Sunday so the shop would have been closed. Whatever event she was going to was on Friday.”
“Go on.” Urged Jo67$%Nop$~.”
“As she rented the tuxedo and the tuxedo has an empty woman’s ring case in the pocket, I’m led to believe that she’s was a lesbian. Perhaps she was going to do suggest a surreptitious ceremony that was consistent with what lesbian couples did in those days.”
“That’s a reach.”
“No. Not really. There is not a scrap of evidence that a man was involved. There is nothing in her pocket to suggest that a man was involved. Even the boutonniere suggests a female involvement. Men traditionally have boutonnieres that are a carnation or a rose. An orchid suggests it was given by a woman.”
“OK. For the moment I’ll go along with that.”
“Joan did die of angina. There are no other signs of foul play so I’m lead to believe that she died at the celebration. More likely after the celebration. Had it occurred during the celebration, there would have been too many people who knew she had succumbed. She probably lay down on a bed and died.”
“How did she get frozen?”
“Whoever was with her moved her into a personal freezer. Or rushed out and bought a freezer. In the 1960s lesbians couldn’t trust the police. Just the publicity would have ruined the woman. Considering Joan Hastings was dressed in an expensive tuxedo, I have to assume that her lover was fairly well off. Single women in the 1960s who were fairly well off had good jobs. Scandal would have ruined her so the only logical choice was to freeze the body and wait for an opportunity to dispose of it some other way.”
“That makes sense. This city is a hot weather city.”
“But once the body was in the freezer, there was no easy way to get rid of it. Joan Hastings had been seen in town so if her body suddenly showed up, someone was sure to talk. So the women just left it. She had a good job — still does — and could afford to keep the freezer going. As long as she kept food on top of the corpse no one would know the difference.”
“That still hasn’t explained the secret documents.”
“Well, actually, speaking as a crime fighter, those documents aren’t all that secret. They are codes that change every three days. Thousands of people have access to those code books.”
“They are still . . .”
“Maybe. But we’re talking about a crime here. Shall I continue?”
“I’m guessing that everything was going along well until last week when there was a power failure. There had to have been other power failures over the past 40 years but this one must have been special. Maybe the freezer was broken. Maybe the outage lasted too long. I don’t know. But for some reason the body could not longer be kept in the freezer. Now she had to get rid of the body. She could have driven it out to one of those open areas and dumped it but that would have been risky. So she came up with a better idea. She stole a balloon and emptied the fuel tanks.”
“That’s pretty heavy for a woman.”
“Not really. If you know what you are doing you can take the balloon and basket apart. It’s lighter that way. What she did was un-assemble the balloon and its basket and reassemble it in the parking lot. All she had to do was dump the corpse on the ground under the balloon canopy. What you told me was that the night manager of the grocery store phoned the police and they found the corpse. If the corpse was on the ground, it would just be assumed it had fallen out of the basket on impact.”
“A clever red herring. Our woman works for a company that has access to those codes. She put the codes in a brief case and handcuffed the case to the wrist of the corpse. The only connection between the brief case and the cuffs is that the woman who masterminded this body dump works for a company that imports things.”
“But the cumber bun was found in the ice wagon.”
“So? That ice wagon makes a lot of deliveries. You said it made 10 other stops in addition to the 15 meat packing stops. At any one of those stops a cumber bun could have been tossed into the back of the van. If it was jammed in a corner or under a grating, it might have been there for days. I doubt that the two drivers are watching the van all the time at ever delivery they make, particularly if the van is empty when it arrives. Why watch an empty van at a place where you are going to make a pickup?”
“What you are saying is that this is a lesbian death that has nothing to do with national security.”
“Yup. It’s not even a murder. Just some woman trying to dump a corpse that died of natural causes. If I was looking for the actual woman, I’d see if I could find a connection between the balloon and the areas where the power failed. The woman you are looking for is in her mid-60s, works for an import/export company and has ties to one of the 25 companies where the ice wagon stopped. But I don’t think you’ll ever find her. The police won’t look for her because no crime has been committed. The only solid clue you have is the freezer and I’ll bet that’s long gone. It’s been replaced. That’s easy to do. One phone call gets your new freezer in and your old one out. The old freezer goes to charity or the garbage dump. It’s gone.”
“So that’s it?”
“Well, not really. I’m sure that Joan Hastings can be traced. She’s from out of town. She was not a homeless person, not if she could put down $120 in 1962 to rent a tuxedo. There’s a record of her somewhere. I’d start with the Census people. There was a census in 1960 and Joan Hastings would have been about 20. She’s in the census. Probably too young to be working, more likely a college student. But she’d be in the Census.”
“So what we have is a body dump?”
“Looks like. Not a thing to do with National Security.”
“This will not look good in my report.”
“Sure it will. You have plugged a leak in the distribution of critical import/export codes. Who knows who might have picked up and used those codes had they been left lying around in a grocery store parking lot?”
“I like the way you think.”
“It’s called creative writing, Joe. I do it all the time.”
“By the way, I do have a question for you.”
“Your name. This mix of letters, symbols and numbers. Is the period at the end a ‘dot’ or a ‘period’ at the end of a sentence.”
With that he hung up.
[Follow the exploits of Detective Heinz Noonan at www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi. See if you can solve the impossible crimes faster than the detective — matters such as a greyhound bus disappearing off the Golden Gate Bridge, how a plane can fly and land with no pilot, crew or passengers and why would anyone want to steal an empty armored car?]