Figueroa took two Styrofoam cups from the table that held the coffee urn and was back in less than a minute with two cups of water.
“Would you put the fingers of your left hand in one of these and the fingers of your right hand in the other, Deputy Wardron?”
“No. Explain to me what you think you’re trying to do.”
“Well maybe Commander Sazerac will, while I explain. We can always repeat it.” Sazerac, intrigued, did as she said.
“One cup is hot water and one is cold. On the night of the fire, Officer Bennis had patted snow all over the brother, outdoors, and then ran back into the burning apartment. While he was doing that, I was pulling the woman out of the kitchen. She was hot to the touch and felt like she was starting to blister. When I came back, I felt along the hot wall. The instant Officer Bennis returned from outside, we both touched Mr. Molitor.”
Commander Sazerac said, “I begin to see.”
“Mr. Molitor was dead, but only ten to twenty minutes dead, so his skin was probably about the temperature of mine today. Commander, will you use both hands to touch my forearm?”
Sazerac did so. He smiled. “Amazing. Your arm feels warm to my right hand and cold to my left.” Sazerac turned to Wardron. “The same arm,” he said. “And it feels entirely different.” He gestured to Wardron. “Want to try it?”
Figueroa and Bennis sat in their squad car. Bennis said, “Reminds me of this case I had once.”
Figueroa sighed loudly, but Bennis knew she liked his stories.
“Guy decided to rob a fraternity house late at night, on a night when there had been a late snow. Flat, untouched snow leading up to the door. So he says to himself ‘If I walk in backward, they’ll think it was somebody from inside who stole the stuff, because there won’t be any tracks leading in.’ “
“Not a bad plan.”
“Which he proceeds to accomplish. Picks up a lot of odds and ends, one or two wallets, a ten-inch TV, a boom box, and leaves. Kids get up in the morning’ call the cops, we come in, see the tracks. Well, we’d been onto a guy in the neighborhood we knew’d been doing this kind of stuff. Go pick him up. Now he’s got a problem. He wants to ask about tracks in the snow, but he shouldn’t know anything about it, see?”
“So he says, real cute, ‘You’d think you could tell whether it was an inside or outside job, snow like this and all.’ “
“Yeah. Well, we said, ‘We did and we knew by the tracks it was an outside job.’ He says, all astounded ‘That’s impossible! I faced backward, going and coming!'”
Suze Figueroa giggled. “They get cute, but they never get smart.”
“So you see, Figueroa, it’s like this case with the fire. The way things are is all a matter of which angle you’re looking at it from.”
“Right, Bennis. Got it. Want to do a movie after work?”
He checked around to make sure nobody was watching and put his arm over her shoulders. “Let me take you to dinner, Figueroa. We missed Valentine’s Day.”