By Laura Wills
CHANDLER--This reporter had the enviable task of interviewing the city's toughest homicide detective, Sam Harper. To read more about his recent case click here.
LW: You look tired, Sam. What’s been keeping you up these days?
SH: Not much, the usual; nine murders, a power-hungry drug dealer bent on getting his hands on an ancient relic, a few miserable scraps of evidence, and a religious fanatic.
LW: Wow, what a mix, but I don’t understand. If you have evidence, what’s the problem?
SH: It’s circumstantial at best. What little trace evidence we found on the bodies led to a dead end. We have nothing.
LW: What about your partner, Dave Mann? What’s he think about those murdered teen boys?
SH: He’s convinced the murders are gang related.
LW: You don’t sound convinced.
SH: I’m not. The killer has a pattern—you know, a signature that tells us it’s him. Gang killings aren’t precise. To quote Jack, our medical examiner, kids act on impulse. They leave their victims where they drop and don’t scheme an elaborate cat and mouse game with the cops. Everything they do is for show. They don’t strip their victims of their identity and dump the bodies in the bay.
LW: Is that what you think this is? You think the killer is playing with you?
SH: Not intentionally, no. My gut’s telling me something went wrong. He had to change gears. Either way, we’ll find him.
LW: I trust you will. Heard you had a little clash with a reporter from the Chandler Times. Think she’s involved?
SH: Jennifer Blake knows a hell of a lot more than what she’s saying. Every move the woman makes is more telling than a four-page report. She balked when I questioned her about two of the victims.
LW: Big surprise.
SH: That’s what I thought. Nothing in common between the two men other than the fact that Blake was in contact with them hours before they were killed. Of course she claims to be innocent.
LW: Of course. So how do the cursed ring and the Christmas Eve prophesy fit into the case?
SH: How do you know about the ring? We didn’t release any information to the...
LW: Don’t change the subject, detective. I’m a journalist remember? It’s my job to know. So how about it?
SH: Off the record?
LW: We’re friends aren’t we? Sure, it’s off the record.
SH: Right. According to my source, it’s the stuff rumors and legends are made of. Historically, it’s destroyed everyone who has ever possessed it. The question is, why the hell is our suspect killing anyone who gets in the way of him finding it?
LW: Seems you have your work cut out for you with this case. Wish I could help. The last time we talked, you said once you made the decision to enter the police force, it’s all you wanted to do. Any regrets?
SH: None. It’s who I am, what I do. What else is there?
LW: So what’s a day in the life of a detective like?
SH: A good day in Homicide is the day we make an arrest; when all the pieces come together and they point straight to the killer.
LW: And a bad day?
SH: Every minute until we make the arrest.
LW: What about you?
SH: What about me?
LW: You’re on call 24/7. How do you handle the stress?
SH: I play the piano and ...
LW: Rhythm and blues with a splash of jazz and a Scotch and soda on the side.
SH: Nice to know you remember.
LW: How could I forget?
SH: I surround myself with people I care about too. Mostly I’ve learned to live with it. I mean ... Dave and I never know what we’ll be up against. We go into homes most people don’t want to drive by in broad daylight. We knock on doors without knowing who’s hiding behind them. It could be a felon pointing a weapon or a weeping child. It’s all about timing. A minute lost pushes the case an inch further into the cold case stack. So we watch the clock. The sooner we can get to the scene of the crime, talk with witnesses, and check for evidence, the better our chances are of solving the case.
LW: And that’s when you catch the killer?
SH: No. That’s what I do to find a potential suspect.
He left without another word. I’m not sure what the glint in his eyes meant in the brief moment before he walked away. All I know is that it left me with a slight yearning in my heart and more questions than answers. He didn’t even give me a chance to thank him. Maybe next time I’ll buy him a drink. I do so want to know more about the doggedly determined persona behind the badge.