At precisely 6 a.m. Bob McIntire pulled his blue Ford Fusion into the parking garage at the Orlando Herald. Careful not to smudge finger prints on the fresh cleaned glass doors and chewing on a half-eaten bagel he'd purchased at Panera, he scanned an electronic access card and entered the building.
He exchanged a courtesy “good morning” greeting with the security guard just inside the door and headed for the stairs. He topped the stairs and rounded the corner toward the center row of cubicles. Careful not to spill the Panera coffee, but not so careful to prevent bagel crumbs falling into the computer keyboard, he sat the stryofoam cup down on a napkin and turned to boot up his PC. He noticed the blinking message light on the telephone and turned his attention toward checking voicemail; e-mail would have to wait for later.
He took a slurp of coffee as the first message played. It was a message from a co-worker about arriving late to work--something about a sick child needing a sitter. He heard a second message from one of the senior editors about the agenda for a meeting scheduled later in the day for all the section editors and senior reporting staff. He
It was short and to the point, but just what McIntire had been hoping for. He replayed the message again to ensure he had transcribed the phone number correctly and saved it into memory before disconnecting.
Now almost 6:15 a.m., he hoped it wasn’t too early to call, but decided it was the perfect time to call. Maybe he’d actually answer this time. They had been playing phone tag for a couple days, but in two attempts the previous day there was no answer.
The phone rang exactly two times before a voice on the other end answered.
“This is Detective Rowland,” the voice on the phone said. “Who is this?”
Confused that a detective had answered the phone, he replied, “Bob McIntire with the Herald. I’m trying to reach Mr. Chad Reese. Is he available?”
“How do you know Mr. Reese?” the detective questioned, preferring to be asking the questions rather than answering them.
“He left me a message on my voicemail and I’ve been trying to reach him. I’m returning his call. Can you please put him on the phone, I really need to talk to him,” McIntire continued.
“Mr. Reese can’t come to the phone right now,” detective Rowland explained, comfortable now that he had confirmed McIntire’s purpose for calling, he continued, “but, we’d like to talk to you Mr. McIntire. Can you meet me at the police station in about an hour?”
McIntire agreed to be there within the hour.
“Now we’re talking,” he thought to himself as he disconnected the call. Confident that he’d found his next big story, McIntire finished the remaining coffee and headed to the police station.
The walk from the Herald to the Orlando police department took 10-minutes. McIntire entered the lobby of the building, passed through the metal detectors and walked straight ahead toward the elevators.
He checked the department listing and building map posted on the wall near the elevators, but didn’t really know what he was looking for anyway. Finding nothing to help him identify Detective Rowland’s location in the building, he turned toward the information desk to his left and just as he was about to speak the receptionist behind the partition greeted him.
"May I help you sir" she asked.
"I have an appointment with Detective Rowland," McIntire explained.
“Detective Rowland is part of the Homicide Division, sir. They are located on the third floor in suite 310. Have a great day” she said and McIntire turned toward the elevators.
“Homicide,” he said softly as he turned to board the elevator continuing to think out loud. “I wonder what that has to do with Chad Reese.”
As the elevator reached the third floor the door opened and McIntire exited the elevator into large open work bay with desks aligned in simple rows and stacked high with paper clutter and various piles of manila folders. It was still early, but there weren’t many people working in the department.
Finding someone to assist him proved harder than it should have been, but just as he started to walk toward the back of the work bay and speak in the direction of a woman eating an apple and reading a newspaper, the elevator door opened startling him a little. As McIntire turned toward the elevator to see who it was, a man in blue dress pants and suit coat appeared out of an office located along the north wall of the big room.
“Who you looking for?” the man asked.
“I’m Bob McIntire with the Herald, I have an appointment with detective Rowland,” he replied.
“You just found him,” motioning toward the hallway in the back of the room the detective turned and started walking, which implied that McIntire should follow. Rowland led him down a brightly lit hallway and after making a left turn into another large bay filled with cubicles, they arrived at a conference room situated in the far corner of the office.
“I’ll be back with you in a minute,” Rowland said. “Have a seat in the conference room.”
The room smelled of stale pizza and the conference table was stained by coffee spills. The windows on one side faced a brick walled building next door and the adjoining wall was littered with motivational quotes about persistence, determination, integrity. A little irritated that the detective arrived late to his own appointment, McIntire released a gasping sigh of impatience and took a seat at head of the rectangular conference table.
Rowland, a fifteen year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, was a statuesque man in his early forties. He’d worked hard to achieve a certain status within the department and as a detective he was reaping the benefits. A former patrol officer with a street beat on the east side; he’d been promoted to detective and transferred to the homicide division about a year ago.
Being a detective had its’ ups and downs, but for Rowland one of the definite perks of the job was that he didn’t have someone breathing down his neck all the time. Detectives had more leeway to come and go more freely and he definitely liked it that way. On the negative side, they were often called into work early and often in the middle of the night. He left the house in Altamonte Springs at 3 a.m. and drove straight to Chad Reese’s apartment without eating breakfast.
On a “regular” day he would have showered and shaved. His wife Gina would have made him oatmeal for breakfast and he’d spend a few minutes playing and rolling around on the floor with Pixie their three-year old fawn colored Labrador retriever. He had no time for “regular” this morning. But, a guy has to eat when a guy can. On the way back to the office, Rowland stopped by the Waffle House on International Drive for two eggs over-light, a waffle and two cups of coffee. After all, he was detective...it was o.k. to arrive late for interrogations.
Rowland returned ten minutes later with two other men.
“Bob McIntire gentlemen, good morning,” he offered.
“Mr. McIntire, it’s not been a very good morning around here,” Rowland replied. “These are detectives Pullman and Schmidt and they’ll be setting in with us this a.m.”
Sharply dressed in suit pans and sport jacket, Pullman was a lanky man, but very well-groomed, with dark black hair that was beginning to thin around the temples. Schmidt was short, overweight with stringy hair and a comb-over hairstyle. He was sweating profusely.
“Fine by me,” McIntire said, getting right to the point. “I’ve got a few questions about Chad Reese that maybe you gentlemen can help answer. He told me he had some information I might be interested in and we’ve been trading phone messages for a couple of days. Do you know how I can get a hold of him?”
“We’d like to hear the details regarding your relationship with Mr. Reese,” the fat one asked as sweat dripped onto the table, ignoring McIntire’s question.
It was becoming clear to McIntire why he’d been invited to the meeting and he felt uncomfortable with the tone of voice Schmidt had just used.
“I don’t know the guy,” he replied. “I’ve only met him a few times. All I know is that he left me some messages on my voicemail about an article I’m working on. I’ve been trying to contact him for the past couple days.”
The lanky one interrupted, asking, “You never met him before, so that’s your story? Are you sure about that Mr. McIntire? It seems funny to me that you’ve never met the man, but you call his cell phone the day after he’s reported missing. If you don’t know him very well, why were you calling him at 6 a.m.? You seem to be in hurry to speak to him.”
“Missing?” McIntire questioned. “What’s that got to do with me?”
This time Rowland took up the pursuit, “We were hoping you could answer that for us. His parents called us last night, worried that he’s been in some kind of accident. His roommate has been out of town for three days and hasn’t had contact with him. His family doesn’t know where he is and now you call his cell phone. That’s kind of strange, don’t you think?”
“Well, what seems strange to me is why he didn’t have cell phone with him,” McIntire responded.
Rowland continued, “What kind of article was Mr. Reese helping you with?”
“I’m working on an article about the car dealership where he works,” McIntire answered.
Pullman added, “We know you called his cell phone six times in the past week. What’s so important? Why didn’t he call you back? Perhaps he felt threatened by you and didn’t want to talk to you. Were you threatening Mr. Reese?”
“Look, I am not happy with the gist of this conversation and if you gentlemen don’t mind, I’m late for another appointment,” McIntire said as he stood up to leave the room. “So if you have nothing further, I must excuse myself.”
Pullman and Schmidt exchanged looks and Rowland shrugged his shoulders extending the palms of his hands upward conceding that McIntire could leave. They really had nothing to base detaining him on in the first place, but Rowland thought it was wise to invite him down to the station for questioning on the off chance that he might have some information about Chad Reese. He had hoped the exercise might intimidate the reporter into telling them what he knew, but Rowland had concluded that either McIntire was good at acting dumb, or he really didn’t know anything. Rowland followed him out of the conference room, walking closely behind as McIntire headed for the elevator.
Hoping to gain McIntire’s attention before he boarded the elevator, Rowland cleared his throat loudly. McIntire turned, looked at detective and Rowland continued, “Mr. McIntire.”
”Yes?” McIntire said as he turned to face the detective.
Staring straight at the reporter, pausing a few seconds for effect, Rowland pointed his index finger at him and commanded, “Don’t leave town.”