Friday – December 12, 2025

-Chase Kramner-

A body was found on the roof of an eight-story condominium complex by the cleaning crew about to work on the windows in the early morning hours. The body is positioned face down, arms straight back and to the sides. It is not in a perfectly flat position, the buttocks very slightly elevated as if the torso slumped down upon death. The face is against the gravel on the roof, facing left with the left eye still open. The right eye exploded when the bullet fired at a downward angle into the skull of the victim exited. Everything in my head is screaming execution.

Her driver’s license we found in her pocket — which is very strange — gives a few pieces of information to work with. Willow Goldberg. Female, age twenty, Caucasian. Willow was rather plain looking, and that always sounds mean to say, but that is how I categorize them. Her short dyed black hair is not on her driver’s license which shows a long-haired blonde girl, and neither is the neck tattoo. Her skin is unmarked when she had this picture taken two years ago when she turned eighteen. Now she has a neck tattoo of a crow with extended wings, viper fang piercings, a nose ring, and four piercings on her left ear.

Awfully big change for just the two years.

The lab techs are doing their sweeps, starting with the crime scene photos of her body and the surrounding area. The blood spray is in front of her body, starting thick then becoming more like mist as it widened. The pooling of the blood spread under the gravel, creating the illusion of large rocks in a lake of red.

Jill is not leading the charge today, as she had her twins a few months ago, and will be on maternity leave for at least an additional month. Her and the Chief had twin girls; Piper and Lydia. Poor bastard. I have missed her expertise, but her lackies have been doing an admirable job.

The techs also dust the doorknob to the roof, and then down the railings a full floor. Not much in the prints department. Her body has not decayed much, and they chock that down to it being December, and cold as fuck up here. Not much birds or bugs to eat away at her. There was no missing person report on her, and that could mean it was a relatively recent time of death.

On the physical evidence side, I do not think we will find much. There is no shell casing that we have managed to find. We could get lucky and find the slug in the gravel, but it might have ricocheted off the roof entirely or the angle of trajectory is straight off. If this was an execution, that means it was likely a person not prone to leaving the police much evidence. Which makes the driver’s license even more peculiar. There are no injuries on her body, not even defensive wounds, which means she very well could have known her killer and accompanied them willingly.

I double check her driver license again, this time looking at her address. It is outside of the city, but still within the metropolitan area. It is likely her parents’ home. I guess that will be my first stop after I wrap up interviews here.

I send the uniformed officers on a scavenger hunt with her picture to see if anyone had seen her recently. They start at the top two floors, then move onto the first floor and begin interviewing the employees of the building. I get a radio call to come to the first floor and talk to one of the doormen. Or doorwoman I should say.

“I’m detective Kramner, I was told you recognize her?” I ask, showing her the picture again to refresh her mind. “Name?”

“I don’t know her name….you meant mine. Daphne Mason,” she replies, and I pull out my small black, leather bound notebook. Daphne appears to be in her early twenties, and likely works here part time. I see a college textbook on her desk open with a laptop and notebook next to it, meaning she is a student working while going to school. I can see her potential testimony falling apart from a half decent defense lawyer just bringing up the fact she could be easily construed as distracted and non-observant.

“Date of birth?”

“August 17, 2004.” Damn I am good.

“Number and address?” I ask. She provided me a dorm room at the University and her cell phone.

“You recognize her?” I ask again.

“Yes officer,” she starts. I am a detective, but I will let that slide. “She lives here. I don’t know what floor, but I see her come through the lobby every day. At least every day that I’m here. Using the door fob to get to the elevator,” Daphne says, pointing at a sensor residents place a device next to that opens the door to the elevators.

Willow was a resident here? That is rather shocking to believe. Willow was younger than Daphne, and was living here? Perhaps she did not live here alone. “What does the rent here look like?”

“None of these are rentals. Buying the condo, roughly four hundred,” Daphne explains. Why did she know that off the top of her head? Whatever, she must have looked into it due to boredom.

“Was she ever with anyone?” I ask.

“Not that I can recall. I have never held a package here for her either. She was typically just through the lobby and into the elevator,” Daphne says.

“How long has she been here?”

“I started here at the start of the semester, and she’d been here the entire time. So at least August of this year,” Daphne replies. I thank her for her information and leave her my card in case she remembers anything.

Willow’s license said she lived in the suburbs, but she could have in fact lived in the building. It is an old license, scheduled to expire on her twenty first birthday in two months. Willow very likely lived with her parents when that license was issued to her. I am definitely talking to them next.

I walk out of the condo and see an officer parked just outside on the street. News media is already outside — fucking vultures — but thankfully my Shield is clipped to my belt and under my suit jacket. Rubbernecking is already happening with horns blaring at people down the street to not gawk at the media and police presence. Across the street people are standing around, just watching the scene.

I walk through the shot of a reporter and straight to the officer who rolls down her window.

“Detective,” she says.

“Sergeant Hill,” I say, leaning against the roof of the car.

Patrol Sergeant Lauren Hill who commands the uniformed officers in patrol zone two. Strawberry blonde with hair pulled behind her head in a tight bun with glasses over her metallic blue eyes. Beautiful without makeup, and the outlines of her body even under her uniform are apparent. Let me spell it out, big o titties with other curves to match. Athletic curves, not that body positivity with a side of diabetes nonsense.

Great looks and body aside, she is a Sergeant, and she likes to remind others at every opportunity. Sergeant Hill is a dedicated and decorated officer and has been for the last seven years. Some of the more senior guys tell me she reminds them of Jill when she was in uniform. The same no-nonsense attitude and by the book procedural officer who still knew when to lighten up just enough to form relationships and network. She even took the detectives exam a few days ago and the precinct is eager for the results.

“Need something?” Sergeant Hill asks.

“Address lookup,” I say and hand her my notebook. She runs her finger down the leather binding with a smile, then looks at the address from Willow’s license.

“Give me a sec,” Sergeant Hill says, typing in the address on her squad car’s computer, then hands the book back to me.

“Address is the claimed residence of Clifford and Savannah Goldberg,” Sergeant Hill says once the results come in. “Willow Goldberg their daughter?”

“Looking like it. Didn’t want to waste my time before I drove there. Thanks,” I say, tucking my book into my jacket inner breast pocket and walking toward my car. I look over my shoulder, and I can see Sergeant Hill is leaning over to watch my ass leave.

I call up Detective William Kaiser to let him know I am at the car waiting for him. The Kaiser comes out of the condo a few minutes later, him wearing his badge over his neck on a lanyard, and he is immediately swarmed by the press.

“Detective, what can you tell us about the murder upstairs?”

“Who is the victim?”

“Are there any suspects?”

“When will the police department make an official statement?”

“I am not authorized to answer questions at this time, if you want information contact our media liaison office, thank you,” The Kaiser says and pushes his way past them and quickly ducks into my car. I pull away from the curb and merge with traffic, and the media disengages once we do.

“Fucking vultures,” The Kaiser says, mimicking my opinion of them. He then tucks his shield into his shirt. “Now I know why you wear it on your belt.”

“That address, should we take eastbound or go north first?” I ask, reaching into my pocket and handing him my book.

“East, you’d have to drive through a few bumble fucks otherwise.” The Kaiser replies. I make my way to the interstate, hoping the snow does not flurry up to horribly on the drive.

The drive to the suburbs — a nice little town called Blue Valley — takes us a little less than a half hour before we pull up to a quaint two-story house with a small porch and a snow-covered lawn. When we were halfway, I had The Kaiser call up the local police so they could be present when we tell them. When I must leave the city to investigate, I also give the locals a heads up. It is just the polite and professional thing to do.

A squad car is already outside of their home when we arrive, and we all exit our vehicles at the same time.

“Detective Kaiser?” He asks me, but I shake my head and The Kaiser introduces himself. He shakes his hand then turns to me. “Sergeant Haskell.” A portly officer with a rather impressive moustache. Maybe I will grow mine out.

“Detective Kramner.”

“Thanks for letting us know you’re here, city don’t normally give us a heads up when their officers are around,” Sergeant Haskell says. I am a Detective.

“Just so you’re aware, we’re informing next of kin,” I say, and he nods in understanding.

“Worse part of the job.”

“Aint that right,” The Kaiser says, and moves toward the porch of the house first. He walks across the shoveled driveway and then cuts across the walkway. Three steps up the porch and then he rings the doorbell. We all stand quietly at the door for less than a minute before we see eyes peer through the window on the side of the door.

I hear the chain slide off and a deadbolt snap. The door is opened by a middle-aged man dressed in a long-sleeved button up shirt that is tucked into his jeans without a belt. I will let Sergeant Haskell start the conversation.

“Evening Mr. Goldberg, these two detectives are from the city?” Sergeant Haskell begins.

“What did she do?” Clifford asks before he says anything.

“Is your daughter Willow Goldberg?” I ask.

“Yes, what did she do?” He asks again. Clifford does not seem the least bit surprised officers are here to discuss his daughter. This may not even be the first time.

“May we come in?” I ask, and Clifford nods while looking almost annoyed and leaves the door open as he walks inside. I let The Kaiser in first and follow in behind Sergeant Haskell. I close the door behind me, and hear Clifford offer us water or coffee. We all politely decline.

“If she needs to get bailed out, I already told her I am not going to ever do that. I’m not funding her behavior,” Clifford says, assuming we know anything about what she was like before. “Is it drugs?”

“Sir, I’m not a narcotics detective. I’m a homicide detective,” I say, and his entire demeanor sinks. He looks between all three of us, pausing on his local officer for the longest, before Sergeant Haskell nods to him.

“Did she kill someone?” he asks. What makes this question worse, is that it was his best-case scenario. If she killed someone, it meant she was still alive at least.

“No,” I reply, and I know I do not have to finish that statement. “Sir we’re here to inform you, she’s dead.” We are told not to euphemize when we inform next of kin.

Clifford opens his mouth to speak but tries to breathe at the same time and gasps. His hand jumps to his mouth, and now I can hear his breathing. His eyes turn red trying to hold back his tears, and a few drops escape when he blinks. He looks away from all the other men in the room and leans against his table.

“How?” Is all he can muster to ask.

“Gunshot,” I reply.

“Do you know who?”

“We have no suspects as of now, and this is still an active investigation. I am already bending rules of disclosure,” I say, just to let him know we are not withholding from him and we are taking it seriously. Quite frankly I have nothing to withhold from him.

“If you’re able sir, we need to ask you a few questions regarding your daughter,” The Kaiser says, and Clifford does not seem to be getting himself under control. He leaves the room and I hear what I will assume is a bathroom door shut.

“I hate this part,” The Kaiser says, inhaling deeply and releasing a hard exhale.

It takes a half hour for Clifford to compose himself. He calls his wife and asks her to come home but does not explain why. He just tells her to get home as fast as possible. We wait to begin formal interviews until Savannah Goldberg arrives as well. When she arrives and sees police officers, her first assumption was like her husband’s; Her daughter must have gotten into trouble. One look at her husband shattered that assumption. We had to wait an additional twenty minutes, and even then, Savannah excused herself because she could not handle it at this moment.

“When we arrived, you ask what your daughter did. Why? You didn’t seem surprised a police officer showed up,” I start, Clifford looking at the table and nodding.

“She was a good kid,” Clifford said, already choking up again. He had an emphasis on the ‘was’ that caught my ear.

“When was the last time you saw her?” I ask.

“About a year ago. Last Christmas actually. She needed money. She always needed money. Every month, then every week. I finally had to say no. Savannah would give her something, but I had to stop her as well. We needed a united front,” Clifford said, then looked up at us.

“What did she need money for?” I ask.

“Drugs,” Clifford bluntly replies.

“When did she start using and what?” I ask.

“Cocaine. I can’t be sure when though. Not long after she met him,” Clifford replies, as if we know who ‘him’ is.

“Who did she meet?” I ask.

“I never knew his real name. That’s what every father wants. His daughter to come home with a guy named ‘Screwball’,” he says, shaking his head. Just thinking of that guy made his fist curl and his lips purse.

“You think he got her hooked…”

“…I know he did,” he interrupts, “He looks the part.”


“White, tall, six feet and change. Leather vest with tattoo arm sleeves. Piercings. He looked like a punk,” Clifford summarized.

“Any tattoos stand out. Distinctive?”

“All arm sleeves look like a blob of shit,” he says, so I drop that.

“Do you know where Screwball is?” I ask.

“I haven’t seen my own daughter in a year,” he says, now getting angry.

“Sir, I need you to answer the question,” I say, and he breathes and nods.

“Sorry. No. No I don’t,” he answers after calming himself.

“What did your daughter look like last year?” I ask, and he looks rather confused. “Her driver’s license looks unlike the way we found her. What did she look like when you last saw her?” I do not say how she looked. I do not influence his answer by telling him what I now.

“She had cut her hair short, and had dyed it black,” he replies.

“Tattoos, piercings?”

“I don’t recall a tattoo, but she had a nose ring she didn’t have previously.” I believe he would mention the viper fangs. Her dyed hair is a year old and the tattoo is more recent than that.

“Did you have any sense your daughter was at risk?” I ask.

“Every damn day. Not like this though,” he says. Clifford had not spoken to his daughter in a year and when he did, she had a drug problem, a boyfriend named ‘Screwball’, and always had a need for money. Of course he was worried. “I was almost glad when you showed up. Maybe I’d get to find out where the hell she was.”

“Do you know where she met Screwball?” I ask. That is a question I never thought I would ever ask someone.

“The city. Willow is very…was…” Clifford starts, and I hear him suck through his narrowly open mouth. He swallows down his grief long enough to continue. “Was…was, um…very into theater. Musicals she had a particular interest in.” I can tell using past tense words in sentences describing his daughter is taking its toll. I want to stop here, but I need to push him a little more.

“Her junior and senior year she played the lead roles in her school drama productions. Sandy in Grease and Tracy in Hairspray. They actually put her in a fat suit for the role,” he says with a tearful laugh. “She said it was weird she got the part of Tracy because she herself is a lyric-soprano and the role should have gone to a mezzo-soprano. I just nodded because I had no idea what she was talking about.” Neither do I.

“They’re singing voice categories based on octave ranges. If she could do both of those roles, that would put her range roughly between A three and D six. That’s a four-octave range,” The Kaiser explains, and I cannot believe he just did.

“Is that good?” I ask, more out of a weird curiosity.

“That’s Freddie Mercury good,” The Kaiser says, and her father smiles a little.

“She was a very good singer. When she graduated, she went to the city to study theater,” Clifford says, then his smile dissipates, “Shorty after is when she met Screwball.”

“What school?” I ask.

“Ester Heminges Academy of the Arts,” he replies. Never heard of it, but I do not need to in order to investigate it.

All I wanted out of this conversation was a few leads, and I feel that has been accomplished. Screwball is obviously a street name, and it is possible the gang database could have information on him. I will have to ask Narcotics as well, see if the name rings a bell.

“If you can think of anything else that may help, regardless of how remotely, give me a call,” I say, handing him my card which he takes with a nod. We all stand up from the table at the same time, and Clifford escorts us to the door to see us out.

The Kaiser, Sergeant Haskell and I walk back in our previous footprints to the cars on the street.

“I’ll have some of the local officers ask around the neighborhood, see if anyone has seen suspicious activity around the family,” Sergeant Haskell says, and I thank him for offering to do that. Willow’s killer could have come around to gather information. I have seen smaller details break cases.

“Have a safe drive Detectives,” the Sergeant says before leaving in his squad car. The Kaiser and I take our seats in the car, and I turn the heat on to warm ourselves up.

“How did you know that?” I ask, and The Kaiser looks at me.

“Know what?”

“About singing,” I specify.

“Oh. Becky put Ursula into music lessons. When I get her for the weekend, I have the pleasure of listening to her practicing the entire time,” The Kaiser explains. Becky is his ex-wife who divorced him a few years ago and Ursula is his ten-year-old daughter.

“What’s her octave range?” I tease.

“If nails on a chalkboard is an octave, ten, one for each finger.”

It is a little after one in the afternoon when The Kaiser and I return to the precinct. The condo has already provided us the security recordings for the building’s lobby and the exteriors. There are no other cameras. They also provide the window cleaning schedule which is done once a week on Fridays, and the records of deliveries made to residents.