The Not Exactly Complete Works of Peter Schulman

Circumstantial Evidence

©2010 Peter Schulman


  Chapter 1  

  Chapter 2  

  Chapter 3  

  Chapter 4  

  Chapter 5  

  Chapter 6  

  Chapter 7  

  Chapter 8  

  Chapter 9  

  Chapter 10  

  Chapter 11  

  Chapter 12  

Chapter 1

When the clamor subsided I could hear a man’s voice yelling at my answering machine. I couldn’t make out the words. I hadn’t been to answer any calls this morning so I wouldn’t be surprised if his words were not flattering

This wasn’t the first time I had gone running in the oppressive heat without drinking enough water thinking I could get by.

Lily describes it as my Wile E. Coyote syndrome: I rush headlong over the cliff only to discover there’s nothing under my feet but air. My friends agree, so I suppose there could be some truth to it.

The phone rang again. I picked it up.

An angry voice blustered, “Jonathan Smith?”


It wasn’t bluster; it was his version of politeness. “Where the fuck have you been? I’ve been calling you for over a God-damn hour. Don’t you answer your fucking phone?”

Clearly I answer my phone; he was talking to me. Was he a disciple of my grandmother? She would wait until I finally did what she wanted to accuse me of never doing it.

“I’ve been in the bathroom, barfing.”

His hostility dissipated. “DA says for you to get down to this crime scene.”

“I’m not on call, I feel like shit and I have closing arguments this morning.”

“Well, it ain’t my choice and it ain’t my problem. ADA on call says the DA wants you down here.”

“That’s the DA?”

“Only one I know of.”

The only one I knew of too. I sighed. “Where am I going?” I’m sure the resignation in my voice brightened his day.

“Under the Walnut Street Bridge. Can’t miss it.”

“Thanks ever so much.” My meaning was clear.

Damn. The best scenario was that this would be cutting it close. I’d have to bring a small cask of mouthwash with me.

Why did Doris want me? Another high-profile case?

Screwing up my life is a very personal matter. I lavish considerable care on not fixing whatever the hell is wrong with me. Politics should not interfere with my dysfunctional behavior.


It had been a dry summer. The ground was concrete hard. Even the weeds were struggling to survive. This early in the morning I could see the heated air rising from the rails of the tracks about ten yards from her body on the side away from the Schuylkill River. There were no footprints around the body. Even the cops stomping around here hadn’t made any.

This is why an Assistant District Attorney comes to a crime scene. I’m not here to question witnesses or collect evidence. That’s somebody else’s job. I come to get the gestalt of the crime.

It’s different from looking at photographs or scale drawings. Being here nurtures my intuition. I assess things I’m not aware of at a conscious level.

When I question witnesses on the stand, I know what fits and what bothers me.

The victim was gorgeous and she was naked.

“Smith?”  It was the voice from the phone.

I looked his way and nodded.

“You do look like shit.”  He had a big smile.

The uniform was around six foot three, maybe two hundred twenty-five pounds, mid thirties. If he didn’t leave footprints on this ground, nobody would.

“Her name is Janet Reedy.”

I looked around and didn’t see any clothing or other personal effects. I gave him a quizzical shrug.

“The other guy, the one who called the DA, he recognized her.”

“Who is she?” I asked.

“Don’t know. He said she runs with some pretty important people. Guess that’s why he called ‘er.”

I nodded. There was nothing more to learn from him. I looked around. No suits. Despite the delay in answering my phone I’d arrived before the detectives. It was another of too many busy nights in Philadelphia.

I walked toward the lone member of the Crime Scene Unit, unwrapped a root beer barrel from my pocket and popped it into my mouth. I shoved the wrapper back into my pocket.

“What have you got?” I asked.

He looked up. “Who are you?”

The police aren’t supposed to let a reporter by, so I had to be somebody official. I guess he didn’t want to find himself on the front page of the Daily News because he had made an assumption. “ADA.”

“Not a damn thing yet.”

For that he had to know who I was? I didn’t verbalize it. I had been working on developing some restraint. Lily tells me I should be careful who I alienate. Jamie just says I shouldn’t alienate everybody.

“Any idea how she died?” I asked.

“Looks like her head got cracked on a rock.”

I looked around. Was there anything troubling or telling about this crime scene? Her clothing was gone.

Why had she been here? This isn’t someplace you take a walk by yourself late at night. There was a good chance she knew her killer, had come here with him voluntarily.

I saw no bruising on her back. There couldn’t have been much of a struggle. That increased the likelihood she knew him.

Was it someone important? Great. We’ll briefly lock the bastard up, but God forbid we inconvenience him while trying to prove he killed her.

I headed back to my car. The voice from the phone stopped me. “We got a suspect.”

“That was quick.”

He chuckled. “What can I tell ya? We’re good. He’s over there in the car.”

I walked toward the patrol car. Though I’m curious as the next guy, I didn’t have time to gawk. I was due in court.

He was sitting in the back seat.

“Phillip Patrick?”  I said it out loud to no one in particular in a voice too soft for anyone to hear. I looked back at the body and the area around it. This made no sense. Give him a month and the guy couldn’t leave a crime scene this clean.

He was dressed shabbily in clothing he scavenged. His hair was unruly and his thin face had a week’s growth.

I glanced at my watch. Though I didn’t have time, I couldn’t resist. I opened the door. “Phillip, do you remember me?”

He looked at me thoughtfully. Maybe it was confusion. “You asked me questions,” he said.

“Right. Do you know why you’re here?”

He looked toward the uniformed officers. “The man told me to sit here.”

“What did you do?”

“I sat here.”

“No, what did you do that made them tell you to sit here?”

“I … they told me I had to sit here.”

I looked at my watch again. Enough. I’d find out later from the detectives why they thought Patrick did it if they agreed with the uniforms. Right now I needed to go. Judges are even less forgiving about being kept waiting than women, and I had found women none too forgiving.

“Hey,” I called to my phone buddy. “I need a siren or the judge is going to make my morning so far look pleasant by comparison.”


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  Chapter 13  

  Chapter 14  

  Chapter 15  

  Chapter 16  

  Chapter 17  

  Chapter 18  

  Chapter 19  

  Chapter 20  

  Chapter 21  

  Chapter 22  

  Chapter 23