In Murder For Me, the first book of Russell Little’s murder series, O.C. Simms is the Chief Detective for Homicide with the Houston Police Department. While investigating an attempted capital murder, he must battle sociopaths, psychotics, and his own department’s bureaucracy.
This story is about O.C. Simms as a young officer just beginning his career. You will discover traits that will make him successful. You will also learn how O.C. got hoodooed.
“You have a call Simms,” barked another arson officer. The old investigator sat behind Simms and the corner of his desk rubbed against the back of Simms’ chair.
“Who is it?” Simms asked.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you? You know everything. Are you picking up or not?” The old investigator took a breath, and said, “It’s some lady, she said she was afraid to say her name, but had to talk to you for your own safety. Maybe you can explain to her the seventeen reasons she’s wrong.”
Simms answered, “Hello.”
“Yes, I gotta talk to police officer O.C. Simms,” said a hoarse, raspy woman’s voice with a deep Southern drawl, like you would have heard in New Orleans thirty years ago; probably caused by spending too much time in smoke filled bars.
“Who is this?”
“You Officer Simms?”
“Actually it’s probationary police officer….”
“Yes, and what’s your name?”
“Can’t say. Gotta stay ‘nonymus. Scared. You should be too. I could get caught right now. That Miss Thompson you investigatin’? She’s hoodooin’ ya.”
Get Me a Coffee
O.C. joined the Houston Police Department as soon as he graduated from Texas A&M. His grades and test scores were so high that his first assignment was in the police division that coordinated with the Houston Fire Department Fire & Arson Investigation Division. Men and women worked years in the street to get promoted to an investigative division, and then this tall, odd-looking college boy skipped all the work and was dropped in the middle of them. The assignment caused a ripple through the veterans in the Department, and they paid him back with grief.
“Simms,” called out Officer Wright, one of Simms desk neighbors, a forty-year-old black woman.
“Don’t yes ma’am me. Go get me a coffee.”
Officer Hile, a round-bellied officer, over sixty, watched from his desk across the large open room. “Get me a coffee too,” he said.
One-way glass windows allowed their supervisor, Thomas Sanders, to hide in his office and watch everyone. Hile was standing next to Wright’s desk when Simms got back with their coffee.
As Simms handed him his coffee and sat Wright’s on her desk in front of her, Hile said, “And stop reviewing my closed files, Big Head.”
Big Head was Simms’ divisional name of endearment. Wright gave it to him one day when Simms tried to explain why her old Audi wouldn’t accelerate from a stop as fast as other cars. “You think you know everything, Big Head,” she said then.
Simms answered Hile, “I’m just trying to learn from the best.”
“Bullshit. Then why do you keep pulling old evidence out of storage and telling me what I missed? Go tell that to the arson guys at the Fire Department.”
“I’m just learning.”
“I’m tired of your learning. Start double-checking Wright’s cases.”
Officer Wright wrinkled one brow, “You won’t if you know what’s good for you.”
Miss Thompson’s shotgun house east of downtown had just the day before been totally consumed by fire. Supervisor Sanders made the house fire the rookie’s first case because it was obvious that there was no arson and that they could close it quickly. The Fire Department’s investigator’s had already called and reported what they saw at the scene. Simms’ supervisor accompanied him to the burned-out house–the worst damage was in the den.
Thomas Sanders, 5’5’’ and one hundred and fifteen pounds in a heavy coat, said the homeowner reported that their Christmas tree had been in the den and that is what caught fire–from a bad light they guessed. Sanders continually pushed his heavy black glasses back up his nose.
“It’s obviously just a dried up tree. This isn’t arson.”
At first he followed Simms as they climbed into the charcoal stinking remains of the home, but then Sanders stopped when it got too dirty. He watched Simms move from black, burned frame to debris pile.
“Simms calm down, just let it go.”
O.C. stepped over and through burned remains, leaned down to the black Christmas tree holder, ran his finger over it, and tasted it.
“I think we should get this tested.”
“Of course we will. The lab at the Fire Department will collect it, but the owner, a Miss Thompson, said they had two bottles of scotch wrapped under the tree, so that’s what they’ll find,” Sanders said as he tiptoed and hopped from clean spot to clean spot and then back to the front lawn.
“Come on. And what’s wrong with you? You walk like a robot.”
O.C. watched a lab inspector put the holder in a large, clear plastic bag and said, “Don’t think you’ll find anything. But this was a hot fire. Might be ether. No residue with that.”
“Dammit Simms, just let the experts handle that.” Sanders said.
The lab inspector wore a white breathing mask, his eyes briefly glared at O.C., and then he went back to collecting evidence.
Baby Cop Investigates
Later, when O.C. received the lab report from the Fire Department, all he could do was push it away. The report said “…no sign of accelerant residue.” No sign. No shit. Simms’ untrimmed mustache twitched. He leaned back and rested his black, pointy cowboy boots on top of his desk. “Those lab boys don’t listen,” he said aloud. He was stuck in the division, a baby cop right out of college that all the veterans ignored.
Sanders told him to close it and move on, but O.C. kept asking questions. He stopped by the Fire Department offices and checked their investigator’s reports. He talked to neighbors who told him the woman that lived there and her friends were always threatening them with hoodoo. They explained to him that it was their name for voodoo, that’s what people called it in the Houston Hoodoo community, and that she’d always get one of her friends to call them and try to scare them into doing what she wanted.
He questioned the homeowner, again and again. And he was right. He was right or the lady wouldn’t have called to tell him that he was getting hoodooed.
The normal thing to do would be to hang up and take it as a harassment call. One gets those while investigating people, but O.C. wasn’t normal. He couldn’t help himself.
“Now, who are you?”
“I’m ‘nonymus. I called to warn ya. You’re in danger, and I’m afraid.”
O.C. kept standing and then sitting as he spoke to ‘nonymus because this call confirmed he was right: the fire was hot. Officer Sanders, the Fire Department’s investigators, their lab, and all the veterans that sat in desks around him were wrong.
“You in danger,” ‘nonymus said. “You’re against someone and they hoodooed ya.”
“What? What’s hoodoo? You mean voodoo?”
“She got hoodoo on ya. She has a doll and it looks like ya, and she gonna hurt ya ‘cause what you’re doin’. I’m just so scared, ya know? I’m scared for ya. Had to call.”
“Now you need to tell me who you are in order for me to take you seriously.”
“Can’t. I’m too scared she’ll find out. I keep tellin’ ya, I’m ‘nonymous. And I’m so scared. You should be too, she got a doll and hoodooed ya.
The phone voice spoke faster now, “They goin’ do things to that doll, and it’s gonna hurt ya.”
What a great prize that doll would be, O.C. thought.
“After they finish sticking the doll or whatever they’re going to do, can I buy the doll?”
There was silence from the phone for a moment, and then she said, “No. This is serious. I’m scared for ya.”
“I appreciate that, but I’d like to buy the doll when she’s finished, to remind me of my first solved arson.”
She hung up. She never called again, and it didn’t save her friend, Miss Thompson. The caller was trying to scare O.C. into stopping his investigation so he wouldn’t get hurt when they poked or pinned the doll, but all the call did was confirm he was right. When Miss Thompson’s neighbors saw O.C. wouldn’t give up, they told him they had been threatened to be quiet, and that she admitted starting her house on fire with ether!
The Hoodoo Doll
After she pled guilty in court, Miss Thompson walked up to O.C. in the hallway, smiled, pulled O.C.’s doll from her bag and gave it to him. “No charge.” And then she walked away.
O.C. kept the Hoodoo doll on the bookshelf of his office from then on to remind him that he was right–and of his first solved case.