The Secret Friend

Chris M ooney


Darby McCormick had finished hanging the last of the bloody clothing inside the drying chamber when she heard her name called over the loudspeakers. Leland Pratt, the lab director, wanted to see her inside his office immediately.

Darby stripped out of her latex gloves and lab coat and used the sink in Serology. As she scrubbed her hands, she glanced in the mirror. On her left cheek and underneath her eye was a thin, jagged scar partially hidden by makeup. The plastic surgeons had done a remarkable job, considering the amount of damage Traveler's axe had caused. She removed the rubber band holding her ponytail, her dark red hair falling against her shoulders, and dried her hands with a paper towel as she left the room.

Standing behind Leland's desk and talking on the phone was a thin woman impeccably dressed in a sharp black business suit – Boston Police Commissioner Christina Chadzynski.

The woman placed a hand over the phone's mouthpiece.

'I'm sorry, I was looking for Leland,' Darby said. 'He paged me.'

'Yes, I know. Come in and shut the door.' The commissioner returned to her phone call.

Christina Chadzynski was the first woman to hold the commissioner's job, the highest position inside the Boston Police Department. When her name had been thrown into the ring as a potential candidate, the Boston media had anointed her as the 'great hope' to build a bridge between Boston police and community leaders in high crime areas like Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester, where she had been born and raised.

Three years into her term, Boston's homicide rate had soared to its highest level in decades. Politicians decided to offer up Chadzynski as the sacrificial lamb, and the Boston media took the bait. Newspaper columnists and other so-called media experts were calling for her resignation. Chadzynski had failed, they said, because she wasn't devoted to her job, because she was no longer in touch with the common man since she had married Pawel Chadzynski, a former investment banker turned power broker who was active in Boston's political circles. There were rumours Chadzynski was planning a run for mayor's office.

'I've got to go,' Chadzynski said and hung up. She motioned to the pair of stiff chairs set up in front of Leland's government-issued desk. 'Miss McCormick, are you familiar with CSU?'

Darby nodded. The newly formed Crime Scene Investigative Unit was a specialized group made up of the department's top investigators and forensic technicians who responded to the city's homicides, rapes and other violent crimes. Appointment to the unit was by the police commissioner. Darby had applied for one of the forensic positions. She wasn't asked for an interview.

'Emma Hale,' Chadzynski said, opening a file. 'I assume you know who she is.'

'I've being following the case in the papers.' Last year, in March, the freshman Harvard student disappeared after attending a friend's party. Eight months later, in November, the week before Thanksgiving, her waterlogged body had washed up on the bank of the Charles River in a section of Charlestown locals called 'The Oilies'. Emma Hale had been shot in the back of the head.

'I take it ballistics didn't match the slug to a former case,' Darby said.

'We didn't find a match.' Chadzynski put on a pair of thick-framed designer glasses. A significant amount of money had been invested in her hair, makeup, clothes and jewellery. The diamond ring was at least three carats.

'When Emma Hale disappeared, CSU thought it might be a kidnapping – her father, Jonathan Hale, is very wealthy,' Chadzynski said. 'Then another college student disappeared this past December.'

'Judith Chen.'

'Do you know what happened?'

'The papers say she vanished on her way home from the campus library.'

'CSU is investigating a possible connection.'

'Is there one?'

'They're both college students. That's the only connection we have. The slug we recovered from Emma Hale's skull isn't connected to any cases, and all her time spent in the water washed away any trace evidence. The only piece of evidence we have is a religious statue. I'm sure you read about that in the papers.'

Darby nodded. Both the Globe and the Herald, citing an anonymous police source, said a 'religious' statue had been found inside the victim's pocket.

'Have you heard anything about the statue?' Chadzynski asked.

'The word around the lab is that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary.'

'Yes, it is. What else have you heard?'

'The statue was sewn inside Emma Hale's pocket.'


'What did NCIC have to say?' Darby asked. The National Crime Information Center, a nationwide database maintained by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services, was the de facto clearing house for all open and solved cases involving murder, missing persons, fugitives and stolen property.

'NCIC didn't contain any homicides involving a Virgin Mary statue sewn into the victim's pocket,' Chadzynski said.

'Did you talk to the site profiler at the Boston office?'

'We consulted him.' Chadzynski leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. 'Leland told me you recently completed your doctorate in criminal psychology from Harvard.'


'And you've studied at the FBI's Investigative Support Unit.'

'I've attended lectures.'

'Why do you think the killer – whom we are presuming is male – took the time to sew this statue inside a dead woman's pocket?'

'I'm sure the site profiler shared his theories with you.'

'He did. Now I'd like to hear what you have to say.'

'The Virgin Mary obviously holds some special significance for him.'

'Obviously,' Chadzynski said. 'What else?'

'She's the primal archetype for the loving, caring mother.'

'You're telling me this man's got mommy issues?'

'What man doesn't have mother issues?'

Chadzynski let out a tired laugh.

'On some level the killer cared for her,' Darby said. 'Emma Hale was kept alive for several months. When her body was found, she was wearing the same clothes she had worn on the night she disappeared. And she was shot in the back of the head.'

'Do you think that's significant?'

'It suggests that he couldn't face Emma Hale – that he felt some sort of shame or remorse for having to kill her.'

Chadzynski stared at her for what seemed like several minutes.

'Darby, I'd like to place you on CSU. You can appoint anyone from the lab to your team. In addition to your forensic responsibilities, I'd also like for you to act as the second lead on the unit. You'll share investigative duties with Tim Bryson. Have you met him?'

'Just in passing,' Darby said. She didn't know much about the man beyond the fact that he had once been married and had a daughter who died of a rare form of leukaemia. Bryson didn't talk about it. He was intensely private, didn't fraternize with the crew outside the job. Other cops said Bryson was fiercely dedicated to his work, a quality she deeply admired.

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