Big Crime at Fort Small
The Crime Aftermath
U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agents Barbara Adams and Vincent Platt are at an abandoned barracks area of Fort Small. There are many Military Police (MPs) in the area. Special Agent Barbara Adams is one of the few women Special Agents in the CID. This is her first murder case. Special Agent Platt summarizes the situation:
These barracks were vacated three years ago. It was just luck they sent a work detail here to clean up the area. Otherwise they might not have found the body for months. She was killed somewhere else and dumped here.
Special Agent Adams interjects, “She put up a struggle?”
“Yes, she’s been dead about three days.”
“There is no ID on her.”
“We’ll check missing persons and AWOLs.”
Air Force Sergeant Jamie Bergere enters his barracks after work. He is a short, skinny 22-year old man. At the CQ Desk a radio is playing “Silly Love Songs”. Jamie stops by the CQ desk to say “Hi”. Sergeant Allen Reinheart asks, “Did you hear the news about Rosie?”
“What? What happened?”
“Somebody killed her.”
“What? I was watching television with her the other night.”
“They found her body this morning.”
Air Force Sergeant Rose (Rosie) O’Connell is working in the payroll office. She files some papers, that have the Bicentennial logo on them. She, and the others, close down the office and leave for the day.
Sergeant Rose (Rosie) O’Connell, in uniform, cheerfully walks to the dormitory. She’s an attractive 22-year-old woman. Two airmen, in civilian clothes, are by the door. Rosie cheerfully says, “Hi” as she walks past them and into the dormitory.
One airman says, “She’s been banged more times than a screen door.” The other adds, “An old screen door.”
Rosie steps out of her dorm suite. She is in jeans and a T-shirt. As she walks down the hallway Jamie, in uniform, enters the hallway. They exchange greetings.
“Do you have to work this weekend Jamie?”
“No, I’m off this weekend.”
“Did you just come from the chow hall?”
“Yea, they have chicken.”
“Again? I like chicken as much as the next person, but not seven days a week.”
“Oh, Rosie, would you want to come to the Dinning Out with me?”
“How much are the tickets?”
“I’ll pay for the tickets.”
“What is the date?”
“The Thursday after next.”
“Do I have to wear a uniform?”
“No one will object if you don’t. It is semi-formal so you’ll have to wear a long dress.”
The Investigation Begins
Special Agents Adams and Platt question Sergeant Bergere. Adams sums up what Bergere told them.
You were alone in the TV room and she walked in just after 11:30 PM last Friday. You know the time because the 11 o’clock news had just ended. She left, alone, about 20 minutes later. There was no one else in the TV room while you were there. Is this correct?
Bergere gives a nod and Platt firmly tells him. “When we ask you a question you give verbal answers, not gestures, understand?”
“Yes, and yes, what Agent Adams said is correct.”
Special Agents Adams and Platt interview Senior Airman Barbara Cannon, Sergeant O’Connell’s roommate.
Adams asks, “You didn’t think it was unusual when she didn’t come back to her room last Friday?”
“Look Rosie was a nice person, but sometimes she stayed out all night.”
Adams, “She had a boyfriend?”
“No one steady.”
Adams and Platt are in O’Connell’s and Cannon’s room. They are rummaging through O’Connell’s things. Platt finds a Polaroid picture of O’Connell and Bergere. O’Connell is in a long dress and Bergere is in a mess dress uniform.
“Look at this.”
“The last person to see her alive.”
“Yes, I think we should tag along on an ‘inspection’ of his room.”
The First Sergeant unlocks the door to Bergere’s room and Adams and Platt enter. They immediately notice a Polaroid picture in a frame standing on a nightstand flanked by two plants. The picture is similar to the one O’Connell had. They give each other a knowing look.
Adams and Platt are questioning Bergere.
Platt: “Why didn’t you tell us you were dating Rose O’Connell?”
Bergere: “What are you talking about?”
Platt: “We saw the picture of the two of you on the nightstand in your room.”
Bergere has a flash of anger in his face then fights to regain composure. Platt presses angrily.
“Why didn’t you tell us she was your girlfriend?”
“I thought it was ‘Just the facts Ma’am’?”
Platt grabs Bergere’s shirt.
“Don’t get smart with me punk.”
Bergere tries, unsuccessfully, to hide his fear as he glances at Platt’s hands.
As planned, Adams taps Platt’s shoulder. “Why don’t you take a smoke?”
Platt unhands Bergere then points his finger at Bergere. “I’ll finish this later!”
When Platt leaves the room Bergere, struggling to mask his feelings, speaks in a scripted like voice.
“If you want to ask questions, I’ll answer them. If he or you, tries any more ‘rough stuff’ I’ll ask for a lawyer and the lawyer will get rough.”
“Rosie was brutally murdered. That is rough stuff.”
“That is why I haven’t said the magic words. She wouldn’t consider me her boyfriend. I asked her to the Dinning Out. I took her to the movies twice. I don’t know if she would consider any of those dates.”
“Would you consider those dates Jamie?”
“I guess. I didn’t call them that when I asked her.”
“Jamie, why the picture on the nightstand?”
“She lives down the hall from me. When I found out she was dead I felt I should do something so I bought a frame and the plants and set up a sort of shrine. Silly I suppose.”
“Jamie, of all the women in the barracks, why did you ask her to the Dinning Out?”
“I asked two other women. Then I asked her and she said, ‘yes’. I thought I’d look pathetic going there alone.”
“What were the names of the other two women you asked?”
“I don’t want to bring them into it.”
“Jamie, we have to verify as much as we can of anything you tell us. You want to be cooperative Jamie.”
Jamie gives the Adams the women’s names. Adams asks Jamie a few more background questions which Jamie answers.
“Jamie, did you know she had a reputation as a loose woman?”
“Every pretty WAF[i] is either given a reputation for being loose or stuck up.”
“So, you have heard that said about Rosie?”
“Yes. Tell me Agent Adams, if it was a ladies’ man who was killed would his love life be the only motive you would investigate?”
“We will investigate all possible motives.”
“I am glad to hear that.”
After questioning Jamie, Adams and Platt check out what can be verified. They discuss their findings. Adams summarizes; “One woman who turned him down because she doesn’t believe in dating and the other didn’t want to go to a military function.”
“With Bergere we have time, place, and motive, but no proof.”
“Maybe the motive had nothing to do with her promiscuity?”
“There were no drugs in her system, it doesn’t fit the profile for a robbery.”
“She worked in payroll. Maybe it was more than petty theft?”
“A funny story about payroll. My first partner when he was in-processing to a post on his first undercover assignment the guy in payroll saw an irregularity in his pay. The guy was from New York and they have two volumes, loud and very loud. The guy called up to check out the irregularity and the guy at the other end told him he was a CID Agent. The payroll guy goes to his very loud voice and says, ‘Oh, he’s a CID Agent’. First assignment blown on the first day by some idiot in payroll.”
Adams and Platt laugh. Then Adams suggests, “Should we check to see if there are undercover OSI agents in that unit?”
“Yes, we have to investigate all possibilities.”
[i] The term WAF, for Women’s Air Force, was obsolete in 1976 but still commonly used by Air Force personnel.
Enter Air Force Office of Special Investigations
An Air Force OSI Agent Bill Walker, in a Sergeant’s uniform, enters a small office where Adams and Platt are waiting. He’s a tall man with a medium build. His har and mustache are clearly out of regulations. Adams and Platt take out their badges. Agent Walker isn’t impressed.
“What are you two doing? I’m undercover. What are the people going to think when they find out I’ve been talking to CID agents?”
Platt shoots back, “They’re going to think we’re investigating the murder of Sergeant Rose O’Connell.”
“If I knew who did it, they would already be under arrest.”
Adams speaks in a calm voice. “Did any of the people you know speak about or allude to her?”
“No, when she turned up dead a couple of people mentioned it. They didn’t give the impression they knew her personally.”
Platt follows up, “That doesn’t make any sense. She was well known around the barracks and in the NCO club.”
“The main targets of my investigation live off base.”
Platt attempts to close the conversation, “Let us know if you hear anything.”
Adams adds, “O’Connell worked in payroll. It’s possible she was able to figure out you were getting paid more than your rank.”
“You mean she might have known I was an OSI agent?”
Platt interjects, “Exactly.”
“It might be a coincidence. The dealers I know have been dealing pot and pills. I’ve been trying to get their supplier. Their supplier also deals in hard stuff. I haven’t been able to find out who that guy is. These dealers did mention how that guy had been very suspicious lately.”
Sergeant O’Connell is alone in her offices as she looks through personnel records. She writes down the telephone number for Sergeant Richard M. Rummel on a slip of paper and puts the slip in her clutch.
Rosie, in civilian clothes, is in a telephone booth in her dormitory. Rummel answers the phone.
“Yea, who are you?”
“I’m Rosie, Sally Wheelon use to be my roommate. I have some information that will be of value to you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can’t talk over the phone. Can we meet somewhere?”
It’s 11:50 PM. Rosie steps out the dormitory’s back entrance. She crosses a one lane road and walks across a picnic area to another one lane road. She waits a few minutes then a Chevy van drives to her. The van has elaborate artwork on its side. The back bumper has a sticker that reads, “If you see this van a rock’in don’t come a knockin.”
Rummel rolls down the window. He is a tall muscular man. “You Rosie?”
“What do you need to tell me?”
“There’s a narc in the unit.”
“Not that it matters to me but how do I know the narc isn’t you?”
“Sally told me you’re a genius. She left the Air Force over a year ago. I’ve been in the unit over two years. If I was the man, they would have thrown the cuffs on you long ago.”
“So, what’s your game I give you some stuff and you give me a name?”
“The stuff I want is cash.”
“I didn’t stutter. You stand to lose a lot of business or wind up in jail. You want a name give me the cash.”
“For $5,000 I need more than a name. I need proof. I’m not going to give you money to get a name you probably pulled out of a hat.”
“I’ll get you the name and the proof when you get me the cash.”
“Next week. Same time, same place.”
Rummel rolls up the window and drives away.
Rosie is in the TV room with Jamie. She frequently checks her watch. When her watch shows 11:50 PM Rosie announces she’s leaving and she and Jamie exchange “good nights”. Rosie steps out the dormitory’s back entrance. She crosses the one lane road and walks across the picnic area to the other one lane road. After a few minutes Rummel drives up in his Chevy van.
Rummel tells her to get in the back. Rosie opens the slide door and steps into the van. The van has a luxurious interior including a rug and couch like seats. Rummel drives as soon as Rosie closes the side door. He tells her not to say anything. Rummel makes a series of turns as he keeps an eye out to see if anyone was following him. He stops the van in an abandoned barracks area.
“You got the proof?”
“I got the proof. You got the money?”
“Show me the proof?”
“Show me the money.”
“Who is it?”
“Show me the money?”
“Give me the name and the proof. Now!”
“Not until I get the money.”
Rummel picks up a tire iron and scrambles out of his seat. Rosie throws open the side door and bolts out of the van. “I’ll scream!”
She runs but Rummel soon grabs her shirt. Rosie yells “Fire!” as she spins around and attempts to knee Rummel in the crotch. She hits his muscular thigh which has no effect. Rummel grabs for Rosie’s handbag. Rosie continues to yell “Fire!” as she claws at Rummel’s face and pulls her handbag away. Rummel strikes her head with the tire iron. Rosie’s lifeless body collapses.
Rummel checks for a carotid pulse. Rummel’s mind races. He scans the area. Rummel picks up Rosie’s body in a fireman’s carry and holding on to her handbag and his tire iron he hurries to one of the abandoned dormitories. He drops her body a few steps inside the dormitory. Rummel runs back to his car and drives away. He pays careful attention to his speedometer to ensure the MPs won’t stop him.
It’s night. Special Agent Bill Walker, known as “Blondie”, approaches an Air Force station wagon. Sergeant Don Covert is alone in the vehicle. He notices “Blondie”.
“What’s up Don?”
“They’re getting ready to send drug dogs through the barracks. They’re going to bust everybody.”
“Yea, I’m glad I live off base. Hey, you best get out of here.”
“It’s OK, I’m the man.”
“You’re the man. You’re going to see the man if you don’t get out of here.”
Walker walks away. A couple of minutes later. Two OSI agents yank Don out of the car. The agents quickly frisk him for weapons and cuff him. “Blondie” walks to Don as an agent reads Don his rights.
“I told you I was the man.”
“Blondie, you can’t be the man. I let you stay at my house on nights you were too stoned to drive home. You can’t be the man.”
Sergeant Covert is in a stark room. He sits at a table as an OSI agent paces. Agents Adams and Platt sit at the far end of the room. The OSI agent explains Covert’s position:
Your lawyer is going to tell you. If you cooperate, you’re looking at 18 months and a Bad Conduct Discharge. I don’t like the situation but these CID agents have even a sweeter deal for you.
The OSI agent leans against a wall as Adams and Platt approach. Agent Adams and Platt sit at the table across from Covert. Adams stares at Covert as Platt talks.
We understand you probably have a name of someone who was dealing in much harder stuff. We have reason to believe that name may be implicated in a much bigger crime, murder one. You give that name, and anything else you may know, and that will help your situation. You clam up and we find out, and we will find out, you could have helped us, then we have to look at obstruction or accessory after the fact. This is time sensitive so the longer you think about it the less valuable that information will be to us.
When Covert gave Adams and Platt Rummel’s name and some related information. The case broke quickly. The local police got a search warrant and Rummel broke under interrogation. Rummel pleaded guild to second degree murder and the Courts Martial Board gave him 20 years and a Dishonorable Discharge. Covert got 6 months and the Air Force gave him a General Discharge. This was the first of many big cases in the distinguished career of Special Agent Barbara Adams.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the names of these characters and real people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Robert Sacchi