When twenty-two-year-old Joe Dziedzic moved from his boyhood home in suburban Chicago to the Bay area, he did so under difficult circumstances. Despite having been absolved of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of a Hispanic teen, the rookie Patrolman chose the path of least resistance and reluctantly resigned from the Cicero Police Department. Gary Wilson, his partner, stayed on with the department, only to be killed in the line of duty four years later responding to a bank robbery.
Before walking away from the job he loved, Dziedzic told supporters he no longer had the stomach to contend with the intense pressure coming from activist groups calling for his prosecution on manslaughter charges. He knew leaving town wouldn't silence their calls, but putting distance between him and his detractors would, at least, dull the roar.
Only six months on the job, Dziedzic along with his partner had responded to a breaking-and-entering complaint phoned in by a security guard standing watch over an unoccupied high-rise apartment building in the center of town. The officers gained entry to the building through a jimmied service door at the rear of the structure and began a careful climb up the back stairwell. As they approached the fourth floor, they encountered a group of teens coming down the stairs toward them walking three abreast.
According to the incident report penned by Dziedzic, the teens were behaving in an aggressive manner. It was then that he drew his service revolver and assumed a defensive posture. In the same moment, he spotted what looked to be a handgun being carried by one of the young men in the dimly lit stairwell.
When the teen saw the police, he raised the metallic object to eye level and pointed it at the officers. Dziedzic interpreted the move as a threat to himself and Wilson, who had turned away momentarily to make a quick visual sweep of the stairwell behind them. He hadn't seen what Dziedzic had.
Relying on his training to guide him, Dziedzic made the split-second decision to defend himself and his partner, and fired a single round at the perceived aggressor. Shot in the chest, the teen fell backward before tumbling ass over teakettle down the stairs, coming to rest at Dziedzic's feet. Mortally wounded by the defensive gunshot, the young man died there on the damp concrete floor before the paramedics could arrive, that in spite of Dziedzic's attempt at rendering first aid.
The object the juvenile was carrying turned out to be an ordinary tire iron the trio had used to pry open the back door. The second and third teens did not attempt to flee nor did they offer any resistance. Neither was armed.
Fast forward thirty-three years and Joe Dziedzic is a senior captain with the SFPD. It was widely anticipated his name would appear on the soon to be released selection list for promotion to commander. If he were selected for advancement, Dziedzic, who was fast approaching his fifty-fifth birthday, would then have to decide if he would stay on and accept the promotion or submit to compulsory retirement at his current grade on his next birthday. Promotion to Commander would allow him to remain on the job until age sixty.
Joe Dziedzic's unexpected appearance at the station took Tony Rains completely by surprise. Until now, he hadn't actually had reason to interact with Dziedzic, who replaced Lou Collins' as commander of the MCU after Collins abruptly retired. Dziedzic was Collins' deputy at the time and the logical chose for the job. Rains only knew Dziedzic by reputation, which was one of a hard-nosed, old-school bull. Exactly the kind of cop Rains preferred and worked hard to emulate.
Just as he often did at the end of the day, Rains checked in with Ray James on the desk to review the first shift blotter report before heading home for the night. He was standing with his back to the main entrance and did not see Dziedzic walk in. James saw the senior captain and quietly alerted Rains.
"You've got company, Skipper," he said nonchalantly pointing with his chin.
Rains turned to see Dziedzic marching purposefully toward them, his hands clenched tightly at his sides.
"Evening, Captain. I'm Tony Rains, the station commander. What brings you to the mission?" Rains said offering the visitor his hand.
"I know who you are, Captain Rains, and I can only assume you know who I am?" Rains knew exactly who the visitor was but took a long moment to decide how much sarcasm to weave into his response.
"I do, but for the hell of it, tell me anyway," Rains said.
"Cut the bullshit, Rains. I need to talk to you in private," Dziedzic said looking at James.
"Excuse us, Ray," Rains said. "We can talk in my office. This way, Captain."
Rains walked off assuming Dziedzic would follow. Ten steps later he looked back to see Dziedzic hadn't moved.
"Whenever you're ready, Captain, I'll be in my office," Rains said then disappeared around the corner.
"Good to see you, Ray. You've been well?"
"All good, thanks, Captain," James said purposely keeping the exchange short.
"The Skipper's office is down the hall," the sergeant said pointing to his left.
James knew Dziedzic from his rookie year with the department when Dziedzic was a sergeant and sector supervisor. James is a year younger than the captain and had spent two years with the San Francisco County Sheriff's office before joining the force.
Rains was seated at his desk when Dziedzic finally caught up with him.
"Have a seat," Rains said.
Rains' dog Fred was fast asleep in the corner seat forcing Dziedzic to take the less desirable chair nearest the door.
"Yours?" he said pointing at the burly Pug.
"No, Fred and I have a different arrangement. I'm his." Dziedzic smiled for the first time since he entered the station. Leave it to a dog to warm the room.
"I've got a similar deal with the wife. She gets the stomachache and I'm the one that farts. I'm here about the hospital case, Tony."
"Isn't that nice, we're on a first-name basis," Rains thought quietly then said, "That's what I figured. So what's on your mind, Joe?"
"Will George Reagan be staying on as the lead investigator on the case?"
"Yeah, George and his partner Frank Colson."
"From Central, that Colson?" Dziedzic said crossing his arms which left him appearing uneasy at the response.
"Yes, one in the same. Al Marsh transferred him over after Ron Bush retired. He and Reagan are still feeling each other out, but if you're worried about them being able to manage the case, don't be."
"I'm not worried about them if you're not. You know your people a hell of a lot better than I ever will. I guess you've already heard their initial take on the situation?" Dziedzic said.
"I spoke with George a few hours ago. He got me up to speed." Rains spent the next twenty minutes recounting what information they had gathered thus far stopping short of sharing their theory on a motive for the killings.
"You've broken the primary scene up into six separate locations. We figured that would make it easier to distinguish between the victims," Rains finished.
"I would have done the same thing. So tell me about your run-in with the Moore woman from the DA's office."
"Damn, word sure does travel fast in the PAB. Then you've already heard from Deputy Chief Bennett?"
"I did, he called to get some background on Moore. That's part of the reason I'm here, Tony. I wanted you to hear everything for yourself," Dziedzic said.
"You've got my attention, go on."
"Moore was a civilian employee assigned to the investigative division as a profiler," Dziedzic explained.
“Then she worked in the MCU?" Rains said.
"Yes, for three years. Have you ever heard of the Granny Killer case?" Dziedzic said recalling the serial killer responsible for the brutal murders of fourteen elderly women over an eight-week period.
"I've only been out here two years, but yeah, I heard about the case. It made national headlines."
"Darcy Moore made a name for herself after the profile she developed helped investigators close in on the killer."
"And now she works for the DA. How did she end up over there?" Rains said.
"Clarkson made a play for her directly to the chief. Lou Collins pushed back, but in the end, the chief caved and Clarkson got his way just like he always does," Dziedzic said.
"So is she a lawyer or what?"
“She’s a lawyer alright, and also has a background in psychology.”
"Alight, but what's got you and Bennet all worked up. So what if she's working the case for the district attorney's office?" Rains said.
"For the chief it's more about public perception. I'm only concerned because we haven't got any control over her."
"Sure, that makes sense, but what do you suggest we do about it?" Rains said.
"There isn't much we can do and except keep a close watch on her and where we can, limit her access to case material. You know, make it difficult for her to do her job," Dziedzic suggested.
"Ok, we can shut her out easily enough, but isn't she on our side in the end?"
"In theory, she is, but Clarkson is all about making the department look like a bunch of bungling idiots, hoping a member of his staff breaks the case before we can," Dziedzic argued.
"Ok, I'll talk to my guys," Rains said looking at the time on the lock screen of his iPhone.
"All due respect to Reagan and Colson but Darcy Moore keeps her shit in one sock. Are you sure they can manage her?"
"Don't you worry about them, Joe. And for what it's worth, I don't appreciate you coming down here busting balls and criticizing my team."
"Hang on a damn minute. That's not why I'm here, and you know it, Tony. I'm sure your guys can handle the situation, but it's important that we're all focused on achieving the same result."
"I thought that was a given, Joe. I don't know about you, but we're all about catching a killer."
"You know what, I'm done talking about your hurt feelings. Moving on," Dziedzic said sternly. Rains nodded and sat back in his chair ready to listen.
“Let me tell you what I think went down last night,” Dziedzic began.
“Go ahead,” Rain said with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"First of all, tell your guys not to waste a lot of time on the old ladies. Have them do the usual background check then move on. They were victims of convenience. The same goes for the doctor and both nurses. The only difference there being the rape of young nurse and the brutality of the sexual assault on the charge nurse. That tells us the perp has a dark side."
"Darker than what? The son of a bitch used his bare hands to kill those women," Rains interrupted excitedly.
"Hey, forget the rhetoric for a minute and consider the facts. Those were violent sexual acts that help confirm the murderer was a man," Dziedzic said.
"All due respect, Joe, but I could have told you that walking out of the hospital last night," Rains countered snidely.
"Stick a sock in it, Tony, and listen for once in your life," Dziedzic said frustrated by the pushback. "I've been doing this for a long fucking time, hear me out."
"You're right, go ahead," Rains said without apologizing.
“You're damn right I am, now shut up and listen. Victor Radcliffe was the target. The others died only because they had the bad fortunate of being there," Dziedzic replied.
"We came to the same conclusion. Old man Radcliffe has the kind of history that can eventually get you killed."
"Then I won't waste either of our time detailing my theory," Dziedzic said.
"Are you sure, you've come all this way?"
"Go fuck yourself, Rains," Dziedzic said grinning then stood to leave. He didn't quite make it to the door when he stopped and turned back to look at Rains.
"Have you ever killed a man, Tony?" Rains thought for a minute before offering a response.
"Yeah, and it was the worst damn day of my life," he answered.
Rains had been involved in three fatal shootings thus far in his career. His victims included a shotgun wielding bartender and a gang hitman, both associated with the same case back in Milwaukee. The third was Dr. Nicki Barber, a serial killer responsible for a string of gruesome murders in the district.
“That's precisely the emotion that separates you and me from the piece of shit that killed those people last night. I'm sure you've heard this before, but homicidal personalities aren't wired like the rest of us. Killing excites them, they draw strength from it. What's worse, with every life they take the hunger to kill again grows stronger. That cycle will repeat itself until they're caught or killed."
Rains had heard it before, but not in so many words or with the same genuine emotion behind the message. Listening to Dziedzic share his insight into the criminal mind served as a reminder for Rains that the much senior captain hadn't risen to his position leading the MCU by accident. Joe Dziedzic knew what it took to successfully work the tough cases, the kind others did their best to avoid.
Ten minutes after Dziedzic departed, Rains gathered up Fred and headed home for a bite to eat before visiting with his girlfriend of two years, Maggie Grant. Grant works as a bartender at the nearby Elbo Room. He met Grant within days of moving to the area.
With Fred leading the way, marking ever other bush along the route, they were nearing Rains’ apartment when out of nowhere appeared Darcy Moore standing in the middle of the sidewalk with her arms crossed at the waist.“Shit, if that ain't an angry girl pose I don't know what is. What the hell does she want?" he thought.