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TALES OF THE TOWN: Part 26

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Rosey’s Investigation Expands

Mrs. Wu was furious at her daughter, at her husband, at Danny, at everyone. She exploded at the bridge game she played every Wednesday with her lady friends; a minor bidding mistake by her partner sent her into a towering rage. She remained in poor health, with frequent headaches; Dr. Wu gave her Xanax. The big house they had lived in for more than twenty years was silent and gloomy during the daytime when the doctor was at work. At night, when he came home, things were tense.

Dr. Wu told her about his interview with the police detective, Brown.

“What did he want?” Mrs. Wu asked her husband.

“He’s investigating those homeless killings.” Mrs. Wu had heard about them on local T.V. news broadcasts.

“What do you have to do with any of that?” she demanded.

“I don’t know,” her husband replied. “I guess he’s checking every lead he can. I got the impression they don’t have a clue.”

“Well, what did you tell him?”

“I told him what I know: nothing.”

“I don’t understand. Why did he want to talk to you? You’re just a Kaiser doctor.”

“I treated the first victim.”

Mrs. Wu’s eyebrows shot up like a rocket soaring into space. “Really, Edwin? You didn’t tell me that.”

“There was no reason to. And I didn’t want to upset you, what with—well, all the stuff with our daughter.”

Mrs. Wu reached for a cigarette from a small box she kept on the mantle.

“Gladys, you’re smoking again,” her husband told her.

“And why not? It steadies my serves. God only knows they need steadying. You’re no help.”

Back at police headquarters, Rosey also was thinking about Dr. Wu. An interesting character, he thought. Slippery. What more did Rosey know about him? An investigation showed that he had had a prior run-in with the law: in 2008, the Wu’s neighbors had called police about a domestic incident, when one night loud screams and crashing sounds came from their house. When officers arrived, they found Dr. Wu with a black eye, a very drunk Mrs. Wu with lacerations on her face, and a terrified Cindy—then only a teenager—hiding in an upstairs closet. It proved impossible to determine who had started the fight, or why; neither Dr. Wu nor Mrs. Wu was arrested. But the case remained on-the-record.

Rosey was curious. Police departments have ways of finding things out that the public does not. Rosey dug, prompted others to dig, and found: Dr. Wu had been in psychotherapy for anger-related issues. This had occurred in 2009-2010—within a year or so of the domestic violence incident. Rosey took due note.

The discovery of the newest homeless victim, one Homer Coolidge, while not entirely surprising nonetheless shocked Oakland. It was downtown, not on the furtive edges of the city but in its heart. Moreover, this murder was particularly violent: the victim had been, not only shot in the head as were the others, but mutilated in the face. Rosey knew enough of the academic side of serial killers to understand that, at some point if left unchecked, the killers gradually escalate their level of violence. They grow bored with their initial technique and seek newer, more creative  and dramatic ways of expressing their towering rage. In his study of the literature, Rosey knew that such a development foreshadows, not a diminution of criminal activity, but an escalation of it.

That day Rosey started on his workspace, as he thought of it. He cleared a large section of a wall, hitherto jammed with memos and shelves, and decorated it with small yellow index cards, each with the name of the 15 known victims. Beside them he posted, on white index cards, the names of persons of interest. These included everyone he had already interviewed: Devon Camber and Dr. Wu among them. They were not “suspects.” They were not even potential suspects; but they were all Rosey had. That was how investigative work happened: you started with what you knew, no matter how trivial or insignificant it seemed. From there, you took baby steps laterally. Sometimes, leads evaporated into the nothingness they really were. But sometimes, you stumbled across something shiny and meaningful.

Thus Rosey determined to add two more persons to his interview list: Mrs. Wu, obviously, who probably knew more about her husband than anyone, and could implicate or exculpate him accordingly. But whom should he talk to about Camber? There was no wife, no family members in the Bay Area. The councilmember knew everyone, and was known by everyone, but seemed to have few personal friends. There was a rumor—but that’s all it was, scuttlebutt—that Camber had a girlfriend; a cop on the beat reported this. But no one knew her name, or where to find her. Rosey decided to find out.

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