This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer. It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete. You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you. Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.
You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.
Detective Plait set down his coffee and tried to focus on his computer screen. The ballistics report had come back for Henry Levine. It was most likely a consumer round. Plait figured if you had to go, you might as well have your whole head blown out. It was quick and painless but definitely not clean.
The way he was killed said a lot about the character of his killer. The killer was someone who didn’t have much regard for human life and didn’t care about how big a mess he left. His profile for the killer was largely incomplete. Plait had his hunch, but sometimes you had to put hunches aside and stick to the facts. If he had to guess whom the killer was this early in the game, he would have guessed it was some kind of a gang related hit. Gang members usually liked the feeling of empowerment over their intended victims. A close range, brutal death was what they preferred. However, given the age of the victim and the location of the murder, it was hard to believe that it was a gang related killing.
“Hey Bill, did you want to see me?”
It was Eric Green from the communications department. He was a middle-aged man with a friendly face and a belly that entered the room before the rest of him.
“Aren’t you a Ham, Eric?”
“Sure am, W7JWIK.”
Plait handed him the notebook with the radio frequency numbers in it.
“Are you familiar with those frequencies?”
“Sure, these are local two meter repeaters here in the Treasure Valley,” Eric said, handing the notebook back to Plait.
“Do you monitor any of them?”
“I have a rig in my car and one at the house out in my radio shack. So I only listen when I’m in the car or at home. We have some Ham gear at the Communications Center but it’s only used in emergencies.”
Plait picked up a picture of Henry Levine taken from his home. “Did you know this man?”
Eric looked at him closely before answering.
“Nope, what’s his call sign?”
Plait flipped through his legal pad of notes he took at the crime scene until he found the call sign. “N7CDGR.”
“No, doesn’t sound familiar. But there are thousands of Hams in this area. If he was on the local repeaters, it’s a good bet that we could find someone who knows him.”
Plait sat back in his chair and took a sip of his coffee. The problem was, he needed to know if anyone was listening on the day Levine was killed. Something told him that it was going to be hard to find such a person. “Don’t Hams have to give their call signs whenever they talk on the radio?”
“Yup, you should ID yourself before and after conversations and every ten minutes during your talk.”
“Do you think we could find someone who might have been listening to this frequency on a certain day? This man was murdered and I think the killer spoke to him on the radio about a cell phone jammer he was selling on the day of the crime.”
Eric put his hand to his scruffy beard and rubbed it.
“You ever meet old Joe Peterson?”
Plait shook his head; the name didn’t register.
“He was a beat cop for twenty years. Before that he was a Marine. He retired, oh, about ten years ago now. Anyway, Joe’s a Ham, in fact he’s one of the guys who listen to the local repeaters and makes sure people are giving their call signs and not abusing the air waves.”
“Still policing eh?”
Eric smiled. “Yeah, Joe’s the best. Nicest man you’ll ever meet. You should give him a call or stop by his home.”
“Send me his address; I think I will pay him a visit.”
It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that detective Plait managed to get out to Joe Peterson’s place. The principal had called from his son’s grade school to inform him that his son was in trouble for disrupting class again. He hated having to field those calls because he just knew the principal found it ironic that the police detective had a son who was constantly in his office.
Little Jimmy was not a bad kid; he was just having a hard time adjusting to being in a real school. He was in a Montessori school for three years and the class room was not as structured as a regular school so Jimmy was used to being able to wander about and work on whatever project he wanted to. Now that he was in a classroom with desks and a single teacher, he was getting less attention and having to sit for greater periods of time. It was only the first semester so he was confidant that his son would buck up and get with the program, but in the meantime his old man was going to die of embarrassment.
Joe Peterson’s house was in an older neighborhood off of Cole Road. His home was old but in perfect shape and the grounds looked like they were professionally groomed.
There was a flagpole off center in the front yard with a red Marine Corps flag flying proudly under the Stars and Stripes. As Plait walked up the sidewalk to the front door, he heard a dog barking from inside.
Joe answered the door with an excited bulldog in his thick arms.
“Sorry about the noise, he’s my intruder alarm.”
“No problem sir. I’m detective Bill Plait from the Boise PD.”
Joe looked at him with a warm smile.
“Yes, Eric mentioned you would be stopping by. Come on in Detective.” Joe opened the screen door and put a big hand over the bulldog’s mouth to quiet him down.
“Be quiet Sarge, he’s a friend.” Joe said to the dog.
Plait stepped inside and waited for Joe to shut the door and put the dog down. Sarge came over and started sniffing Plait’s shoes, it was apparent from the animal’s playful demeanor that he was not a vicious killer. Plait reached down and rubbed the squat dog behind his white ears. Sarge let out a muffled bark and then was quite content.
“He likes you Detective. Usually he’s slow to warm up to strangers.”
“I’ve always been a dog person.”
Plait stood up and shook Joe’s out stretched hand. “You can call me Bill.”
“Bill, can I get you something to drink?”
“No thanks, I’m fine. Did Eric say what I was interested in?”
Joe motioned for them to sit down in the front living room. Plait took a seat on the couch and Sarge followed him for more affections. Joe sat down on his favorite reading chair, surrounded by bookshelves stocked with military history and electronics books.
“He said you were investigating the death of Henry Levine.”
“Murder actually. He was shot in the head execution style.”
Joe shook his head in disgust. “Man what is the world coming to? Henry was a harmless old man never mean to anyone. A lot of Hams are going to miss him.”
Plate looked around the small room. It was evident that Joe lived by himself, there was nothing womanly about the decor of his living room. From the dark patterns of the furniture fabrics to the framed pictures of Marines in combat and military vehicles, Joe was interested in the kinds of things that only men truly appreciated. Plait felt right at home in the place and he wished that he could spend some time chatting with Joe about his career in the Marines and his time on the force, but today he had a job to do.
“Did you know Henry at all?”
Joe nodded, his crystal blue eyes shined from under bushy white eyebrows. “He came to our club meetings quite regularly and he also checked into the morning net we run on the local repeater. I didn’t tune in every morning for the net, but when I did, he always seemed to have something interesting to say. If memory servers, he used to work on the rail lines, years ago,” Joe said.
“Did he ever mention anything about selling his gear online?”
Joe thought about that for a moment then shook his head slowly. “You know, I’ve tried to recall anything about the man that would have seemed strange or out of place in the last few days and I keep coming up blank.”
“Did you happen to hear him on the radio yesterday at all?”
“No. But there is more than one repeater here in town; he may have been on another one. I try and listen to both when I can, but yesterday I had some other things going on and was in and out most of the day. Tell you what I can do though, I can contact some of my other Ham buddies and see if anyone heard him talking.”
“That would be great, Joe,” he said taking out a business card from his jacket pocket. “Can you give me a call if you find out anything?”
“You betcha I will. Do you have any leads on the case at all?”
Plait shook his head slowly. “Looks like a random murder, except for the manner in which he was killed. Mr. Levine was a fairly honest man, near as I can tell. Going to be hard to pin this on drugs, it could be a revenge killing. But we haven’t found anyone who had a grudge with him.”
“I wish I still had a badge, I’d love to help you out on this one. I’d hate to see something like this go unsolved.”
Plait agreed. He stood up and shook Joe’s hand. “Good to meet you Joe, I wish it were under better circumstances.”
“Likewise Bill, likewise, I’ll get right on the phone and I should have an answer for you soon on whether anyone heard Henry on the radio yesterday.”
“Thanks, oh and if you would keep this off the air waves, our killer might still be listening.”
“Will do, sir.”
He let the detective out the front door and held back a panting Sarge. “Have a great and wonderful day Bill!”
Bill waved goodbye as he headed back to his car. Something told him Joe wouldn’t find out anything, but it was a nice way to end his day, making a new acquaintance. Joe probably appreciated having something to investigate.