The determined shooter emerged from the night shadows and squeezed the trigger three times. The dying victim’s blood flowed into murky rainwater running down the sidewalk. A man waiting on a lonesome bus stop bench gasped, but remained hidden by the bus stop’s weather shelter. Alerted, the killer entered the unlit shelter. While the man sat in silence, the killer leaned in close to him and looked deep into his eyes. And then left him in darkness.
Detective Lissetta Muldoon and her young partner Detective Benito Dalpaz arrived to find blazing floodlights, yellow crime scene tape, four patrol officers, three crime scene analysts, and a medical examiner kneeling over the dead body.
“I understand we’ve got an eyewitness,” Muldoon said to the patrol supervisor.
“We’ve got a witness, not an eyewitness. A blind man.”
Muldoon considered this. “Helpful?” she asked.
“Maybe too helpful,” the patrol supervisor said.
Muldoon and Dalpaz interviewed the witness, Brock Grogun, out of the rain, under a makeshift tarp tent Dalpaz had retrieved from the detectives’ car. Muldoon was tall and gangly, a frizzy-haired carrot-top with a freckled complexion so sensitive she risked sunburn from standing too near a sunny-side-up egg. Dalpaz—a huge man with hungry eyes, a prominent overbite, and a drooping mustache—brought to mind a giant walrus about to crash an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Both detectives towered over the short but rugged-looking witness. And though Grogun’s thin white hair and sagging skin revealed his advanced age, he spoke to the detectives energetically; punctuating his words with a collapsible white cane he waved in his left hand.
“I’m happy to cooperate,” he said. “As I tried to explain to the other officers, I’ve already begun some of the detective work for you. The killer was a husky man, overweight to obese, who wears soft-soled shoes and likes good Chinese food. He shaves with a blade, not an electric shaver, and doesn’t catch a cold easily. Find that man. He’s the one.”
Dalpaz shook his head.
“Anything else?” Muldoon asked.
“I can tell from your tone that you doubt me, but you shouldn’t. Sightless people see more with their other senses than you can imagine.”
“Okay. Tell me exactly what your other senses saw.”
“From the sound of heavy, labored breathing but no sound of footsteps I saw obesity and soft-soled shoes. That labored breath smelled of Sichuan pepper, fennel, and star anise, all used at authentic Sichuan restaurants, like Chu’s, my personal favorite. And from the killer’s musky aftershave scent I saw a man who shaves with a blade. Every aftershave I’ve used for an electric shaver had a light scent. That’s because you don’t need to cover the scent of shaving cream after you use an electric shaver. And the man wasn’t sniffling or coughing as though he’d caught a cold, like many people today. We got a sudden temperature drop from the storm, you know.”
“You smelled shaving cream too?” Dalpaz asked.
“No. A heavy aftershave scent covers that up.”
Dalpaz shook his head again. “Or maybe he used unscented shaving cream,” the junior detective said.
“Not the point,” Grogun said. “A heavy aftershave scent means a blade because electric aftershaves smell lighter.”
Muldoon glanced at her notes. “The food aroma seems distinctive. Can you tell me the address of the restaurant you mentioned, Chews?”
“Not Chews, Detective Muldoon. Listen carefully: Chu’s.” Grogun gave the address.
“What else, Mr. Grogun?” Muldoon continued.
“There was an odd sound. I don’t know what it was.”
“Can you describe it?”
“A soft, gentle creaking sound.”
“Can you describe the sound of the gunshots?”
“Two quick popping sounds. Then a third pop.”
“Loud enough to hurt your ears?”
“No. Not that loud. And I heard someone fall hard onto the sidewalk, of course. Believe me, I know what that sounds like.”
“Thank you, Mr. Grogun. We’ll be in touch.” Muldoon confirmed his contact information and Dalpaz got his permission to swab his hands for gun shot residue, apologizing the whole time. A patrol officer drove Grogun home.