The office was empty when Sharon and Andy arrived. Most of the lights were off and the air was warm and stale. Sharon immediately closed the blinds in her office, removed her blazer, and turned down the thermostat. They each sat at their desks working quietly on paperwork while they waited for the rest of the team to return from the crime scene.
As soon as Sharon heard the loud foot falls of Nolan she looked up and caught sight of the team beginning to drift in. Pushing back from her desk she grabbed her blazer, ever the professional, and put it back on despite the heat. Giving Andy a tap on the shoulder she walked over to Sykes' desk, wasting no time diving into the case, "Okay, where are we?"
Still standing, Sykes moved to the board, "Patrol responded to a call that came in from dispatch about suspicious smells coming from the house. Apparently a neighbor was out gardening near the property line and kept getting a whiff of something rotting. She knew that Mr. Williams was out of town and thought maybe something was leaking — those homes are on septic. Anyway, they arrived at the residence just after 12pm, when no one responded to their knocks they walked around and peered through the windows, saw our victim lying on the kitchen floor and called it in."
Walking up behind Sykes, Nolan continued, "The keys to the house were laying on a stack of mail, but no sign of her car, purse, or phone." He held up an evidence bag with the mail, "Everything is addressed to the homeowner, Micah Williams. There were no obvious signs of a break-in, so she may have known her attacker."
Sharon turned her attention to Nolan, "What do we know about the homeowner? Where was he during all of this?"
Tao rounded the room to his desk and sat, "According to neighbors, out-of-town on business. The woman that called it in said Mr. Williams moved into the house about 8 months ago. Polite, but mostly keeps to himself. Seems to be gone a lot for work."
Sharon nodded repositioned herself between the team and the board as she took in the early bits of information. The newest member to the team Detective Camile Paige was still getting a feel for how the team worked in these settings. She was unaccustomed to such an open dialogue regardless of rank or expertise. In her hands were preliminary crime scene photos the techs printed before the left, she stared at the crime scene photos, "These are pretty vicious, she took a lot of hits. Feels personal. Someone really didn't want us to be able to ID her. Maybe and ex or an abusive boyfriend?" She handed them to Nolan who grabbed a few magnets to attach them up on the board.
The room fell silent as they took in Paige's suggestion. She was right, the beating was vicious and suggested a lot of rage. While an important detail, not one that gave them a lot to work with at the moment. "It looks like she stopped at the market on the way to the house, there was a carton of spilled milk and a reusable shopping bag nearby. Based on the food in the fridge I would guess she shopped at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Maybe we could get video surveillance of our vic," Tao offered.
Standing behind Sharon as she stared intently at the murder board, Andy scanned over the photos of the kitchen Tao gave to Paige to add to board, "Yeah that's some pricey organic food, not stuff you'd find at Vons," Andy offered knowing those markets very well since becoming a pescatarian.
"Okay, let's work with that," Sharon responded. "Lieutenant," she gestured towards Provenza, "What do we have on the car?"
He moved around to his chair, shooing Paige out of the way, making himself comfortable, "The BMW in the garage belongs to the homeowner, Mr. Williams. We aren't sure if the victim was using that car or if her car is missing."
"She could have taken an Uber to the house," Andy offered up.
She hummed thinking for a moment, "So what are we thinking happened here? The driver follows her in, to help with the groceries then attacks her?"
"Could be," Andy said, "Or maybe it's like Mike said and the guy followed her to the house from the store. It wasn't her house. How did he know she'd be there?"
Provenza smirked, "Well you know what I always say—" he paused for effect, "it's always the boyfriend it's always the boyfriend, it's always the boyfriend."
Sykes shook her head while Tao rolled his eyes, the newer members of the team merely looked at the Lieutenant inquisitively. They were less familiar with Provenza's guidebook — Crime Solving 101.
Andy felt his blood pressure rising, some days dealing with his partner was harder than negotiating with the boys to eat their vegetables at dinner. Pointing at the badly beaten face of their Jane Doe on the board, "Yeah we know already, but we don't know who the victim is yet, how could we know if she even had a boyfriend!"
Without missing a beat Sykes added under her breath, "Maybe she has a girlfriend…"
Provenza sneered, deep down he liked this new more sarcastic Sykes, but that didn't mean she didn't need some schooling now and then. "Isn't it obvious, she was sleeping with this Williams guy. Her ex shows up and kills her, case solved," he clasped his hands together to applaud himself for the insightful theory, "Don't all thank me at once."
Sykes stifled laughter while Sharon took a deep breath to remind herself why she stayed in this job instead of retiring and working for the NFL as she tried to ignore the ramblings, "That's an excellent theory Lieutenant, and perhaps that is what happened. However, until we have evidence of that might we try to first ID our victim?" She didn't wait for him to respond, and jumped right onto assignments, "Speaking of which, I want you to have your team working on IDing our victim. Follow up with Robbie and see what leads we have on that angle. Also send someone to follow-up on the car. Andy I want you and Mike to check out his theory about the speciality market that may be our best chance to get a visual on our victim. It'll also help us with our timeline."
Ever since her promotion to Commander she and Mason were working to implement his new changes to their division. Part of those changes including adding another member to the squad and dividing it up into two groups to improve the unit's overall effectiveness. Despite riding a desk for the better part of a year after both his blood clot and subsequent heart attack, Andy was promoted to Lieutenant III, level with Provenza. A promotion that was necessary to run the two team approach. Initially, Mason pushed for Tao but Sharon held her ground. Tao was a great detective, but he was a specialist. He was great with technology and processing evidence, which made sense given his background in CID, but Andy was the better overall cop. Lt. Flynn had a lot to offer in not just investigating crimes and using your instincts, but working with families and the victims. Things he could teach and pass on to other members of the squad. It took some negotiating but Mason finally relented and despite a rocky start was beginning to see the wisdom of Sharon's thinking.
The unit worked crimes together, but in keeping with the "crimes" they could also tackle two cases simultaneously if necessary. Provenza continued in his role as incident commander, taking charge at the crimes scenes, whereas Andy took charge of data collection from financials to surveillance in RACR. Initially, when the change was announced it was met with grumbles they worried that it would create silos and take away from the fluid nature of how they solved crimes together. Sharon preached patience and as it happened five years ago when they moved towards more integration with the DA's office, things worked themselves out.
Adding another member to the team ended up being the most challenging part of the restructuring. They received a lot of applications, but finding the best candidate to become the ninth member of the team wasn't easy. A few came in from IA, members of her former team that were interested in following in her footsteps and making the switch. Ultimately, Andy's pick won out. A young detective working in missing persons, specializing in exploited women and children. She and Provenza knew each other from way back. After her parents died, she found herself in a bit of trouble. Raising five younger siblings was a rough task for a 17 year-old. Like Rusty, he found a way to help get Camila back on the straight and narrow. Sharon worried she might be too inexperienced and have a proclivity for only following the rules when it suited her, but Andy liked her instincts. Ultimately his argument that "everyone here is damaged goods, we're like a band of misfit toys from that island in that damn Christmas movie you like," sealed the deal.
Having worked in vice and missing persons, Detective Camila Paige was well-versed in using social media, in particular the underground sites, to track people down and gather intel. Andy also stole Amy. She's proven herself as a smart investigator, green and occasionally blurry on the rules, but solid. Flynn brought a surprising calmness that only came from maturity and years on the job. He understood how to push them and teach at the same time, despite his reluctance of becoming a leader he was a natural. On the other side of the slightly redesigned murder room Provenza took Nolan and Sanchez. Nolan had a lot to learn about managing his anger and reintegrating with the rest of the LAPD, something Sanchez was able to help with. Both guys were "do-ers" they needed to be out in the field chasing suspects, something Provenza didn't mind having them do for him - since running wasn't in his vernacular. Meanwhile, Tao and Buzz floated in between, working well together as they always had with electronics and itty-bitty details.
The room became quite for a moment as everyone moved back to their desks, as Sharon headed back to her office. Before he sat down, Andy looked at the board again, tapping his finger to his chin, "You know, we should also check the store parking lots too, maybe we can see what car she got into. The BMW or and Uber or something else. The bus doesn't go up that way, and those heels she was wearing certainly didn't look meant for walking up that steep hill," he gave her a grin and she smiled back, she knew he was making reference to her own feet punishing excursion that day they went to the Getty Villa.
"Good point," she smiled, "Once we know what she left in, ask Buzz to check traffic cams in the area, maybe we can see a car following her," then added, "Also, I want your team to continue following up on the homeowner, this Micah Williams, where is he and why was our victim in his house. He could be our best suspect."
He nodded in agreement and waited for Sharon to step back into to her office before turning to his partner, "Why do you have to be so annoying? It's always the boyfriend? Geez!"
Provenza flipped his arm up at Andy ignoring him, "Nolan, call down to Orderno and see if he has the files ready to bring up. We need to start sorting through those." He looked around the room only just realizing that someone was missing, "Where's Sanchez?" Provenza barked.
Sykes looked around a little reluctant to respond. Nolan gave her a pointed look as he picked up the phone to call down to missing persons. She spoke softly, "Ah, he had to go pick up Mark from summer camp and take him over to his mom's."
He let out a grumble and left it at that. It was exactly what he expected to happen when a single man became a father, he was less dependable than before. Everyone seemed to understand and for the most part was happy for both, but it didn't stop Provenza from getting annoyed from time to time when it his absence became an inconvenience. He pulled out his phone and called the missing team member, "Sanchez. Go back up to the house and see if you can locate the victim's car. She may have taken The Uber, but I have a hunch her car is there and we just missed it. Then get back here." He hung up without waiting for a reply.
A quiet hum came over the room as Andy took Paige and Sykes to RACR to begin their deep-dive with Buzz into the homeowner's background and requesting surveillance video from nearby markets. Meanwhile, Provenza and Nolan reminded in the murder room combing through crime scene photos as they waited for Robbie to brief them on possible missing persons.
Nearly an hour later, Orderno walked out of the elevator and onto the 9th floor. He received the initial request a few hours ago, but he was working another active case at the time . He didn't have a chance to get a jump on it until he returned to the office shortly before Nolan called down. He didn't have a lot of information to share, but hoped it would be what they were looking for.
Turning the corner he noticed how empty the room was, but caught Commander Raydor's eye as he walked in. She gave a nod, putting her blazer back on she stepped back into the murder room anxious to hear what he had to say.
"Robbie, nice to see you again. What do you have for us?" She asked moving forward towards the murder board and perching herself on a empty desk.
"Nearly 30 adults are reported missing per day in the County of Los Angeles. Most of those are voluntary. Here in LA it's closer to 18 a day. I have three missing persons that come close to the description you provided," he opened the folder and began reading the names off as he handed Nolan a picture to post to the board, "Marion Thompson. 32. Reported missing by her roommate. Chantal Banks. 26. Reported missing by her mother. And Aisha Franklin 33. Reported missing by her boyfriend."
"Commander," Provenza said moving from his chair, "None of these women seem like the right fit. Wrong part of LA," he said pointing to Marion, "Too young," he said pointing to Chantal, and "Unless our victim recently got rid of her extensions it isn't her. Are you sure there's no one else?"
Sharon and Nolan looked at each other both surprised that Provenza would even know what hair extensions are let alone the hairstyles of African American women, but filed it away as another gift from Patrice. Robbie seemed more hung up on Provenza's accusation that he brought incomplete files, "These are the only African American women between 27-35 reported missing in the last two days Lieutenant. I'll be sure to put a flag on any other reports that come in, but this is what we have so far," he replied not sure why the Lieutenant seemed disappointed with the leads.
Sharon glared at Provenza annoyed that he was being less than friendly with another division, but stayed focused on Orderno and the case. "Can you keep an eye on any other missing persons fitting our description from LA, Ventura, Riverside, and Orange County? It's possible our victim wasn't local and was just staying at a friend's house."
"Sure, not a problem. If you're able to get any other details or narrow anything after you hear from Morales that would really help," he added in reply.
Sharon nodded, while Provenza bit out "Please do," he said a bit dismissively.
Orderno took the hint and gave a nod to the rest of the team as he closed the folder and backed out of the room.
Before Sharon could chastise Provenza, Andy came back into the murder room, "Commander, Julio found the victim's car. If the registration matches the body at the morgue, we may have a problem."