The Hand Of Justice – Chapter Five

“Six months ago, Stella’s husband died of some rare blood disease.  Doesn’t that just figure?  But Stella was determined to keep the store going.  She wanted to do it for him, because she knew that’s what he would have wanted.  She appreciated everybody who came into buy something and when they left, she would wave and say ‘have a beautiful day’.”

Richie asked what happened.  Floyd said, “apparently, it was the same piece of shit who hit her every time.  He told her to empty the cash register but this time she said no, so he shot her.  The bullet hit her liver and shredded her aorta.  She died a slow and painful death.”

Richie asked if there were security cameras.  Floyd said, “ they couldn’t afford cameras but there was an eye witness.”

Richie’s ears perked up.  “Are they going to speak up?”

Chris mumbled under his breath.  “Not if they want to keep breathing.”

Floyd said, “this guy seems to be a pretty credible witness. He’s down at the station, giving our sketch artist a description. It’ll be posted all around town.

He swirled his coffee around his cup and softly said, “Stella was a beautiful person and she was my friend.”

Suddenly Floyd turned his attention to Maude, who was dutifully filling the sugar containers.  He said “Maude, don’t you ever get tired of hearing about death and dying?”

“That’s your job,” Maude said.  “That’d be like you asking me if I ever get tired of hearing about waffles and eggs.”  That prompted a round of welcomed laughter.

Richie motioned for Maude to lean over.  He said, “I see your lonesome dove is back.”  Maude smiled and said “yes, I noticed.”

Maude said, “you know, one of these days I might meander over there and ask him what his story is.”  Richie said, “why not today?”  Maude said, “I don’t know.  Some people like their private lives to stay private, and he strikes me as one of those people.”

Richie laughed and said, “well, if you decide to talk to him and he doesn’t say anything, let me know and I’ll arrest him on the spot for failure to speak.” They both laughed out loud and Maude whispered to Richie, “maybe he’s a secret agent or a CIA operative, or maybe he just doesn’t have any chairs at home and comes here to sit down.”

“Maude,” Richie said,  “you’re a force of nature.”  Maude smiled as she refilled his coffee cup and said, “that’s not the first time I’ve heard that.”

Three days later, the boys came in and they were buzzing about Stella’s case.  An anonymous tip had come in about a body matching the description of the suspect.  He was found lying in front of the door of Stella’s store and was surrounded by an almost carpet of flowers that had been placed there by mourning patrons.

Floyd was called to the scene just after the coroner arrived.  He stood by as the “victim” was pronounced and heard the cause of death.  “He was shot at close range.  The bullet pierced his liver and shredded his aorta.  Put it this way.  He died a slow and painful death.  I’d put TOD at around 2 this morning.”  

Richie arrived to help control the crowd and keep the scene uncontaminated, when somebody on the sidelines caught his eye.  As he was trying to place him, he realized that he was looking at the lonesome dove. Richie looked at Floyd and said, “do you see who I see?”  Floyd said, “yep.  It’s Maudes’ lonesome dove. Do you want to talk to him or do you want me to?”  Richie said, “it’s your case.  You talk to him.”

Floyd walked over and said, “good morning, sir.  Can I see some ID?” The lonesome dove asked, “is there a problem?”  Floyd said, “no sir, but I’d like to see some ID.”

The dove said, “my name is Brock Harrington.”  Floyd said, “okay, Brock Harrington.  Can I see some ID?” When Floyd looked at the license Brock handed him, he noticed the address was just a few blocks away.  He also noticed that the name on the license didn’t match, and asked Mr. Harrington why. He said, “Brock Harrington is my pen-name. I write true crime novels and I have been keeping up with you and your officers, and your cases.”

Floyd was a little confused and a little more suspicious. He said, “okay, can I ask why you are here? Do you know anything about this murder?”

Brock said, “I’m a bit of an insomniac and when writers block hits, I sometimes go out at night and just walk around, for inspiration or ideas.  The peace and quiet helps clear my mind”.

Floyd said, “okay. That answers why you were here. My next question is, did you see anything?” Brock said “well, early this morning, I was walking down the street and just as I turned the corner, I heard what sounded like a muffled gunshot.  I wasn’t sure so I kept walking, but then I got curious and turned around. As I walked back around the corner, I saw somebody walking away.” 

Floyd said, “what time was this?”  Brock said, “it must have been around two-ish.”  Floyd said, “can you describe him?” Brock said “not a him.  A her.”  Floyd said, “her?”  Brock said, “yes, a woman was walking down the street.”

“Did she get into a car or anything?” Floyd asked.  “No.” Brock said.  “She just kind of disappeared into the darkness.”

“And what makes you sure it was a woman?” Floyd asked.  Brock said, “I saw her as she walked under the street light.”

“You didn’t think to follow her?” asked Floyd.  Brock said, “no, I didn’t.  If it was a gunshot I heard, I didn’t want to be next.”

Floyd scratched his head and said, “you’re not fabricating this to add some interest to one of your books are you?  I know you’ve heard us talking about a blonde woman.”

Brock said, “believe me.  I thought that idea was just as far-fetched as you did, until I saw her. And the description is right on the money.  She really is a beautiful, willowy blonde.”

“Okay,” Floyd said.  “I want you to come down to the station and give us a statement.” While driving and thinking back to looking at Brocks’ license, Floyd couldn’t contain his laughter when he said Peter Trickel, huh?” 

It wasn’t the first time somebody had made fun of Brocks’ real name.  Floyd said, “I guess I can understand the pen-name now. Did you piss off your mother or something?” Brock smiled and said, “my mother said if she ever had a boy, she was going to name him Peter, after ‘Peter Pan’, her favorite character. I guess she wanted a little boy who would, at least in her eyes, never grow up. She just didn’t envision marrying a man named Trickel, I guess.”

Floyd didn’t like Brock for the murder, but he did his duty and asked him if he minded being tested for GSR.  Brock, without hesitation, cooperated and just as Floyd suspected, it was negative.  Floyd took his statement and told him the usual.  “If you can think of anything else, give us a call.”

The next day when they all met at the Waffle Shack, Gary said, “so, you’re not liking the dove for the murder?”  Floyd said, “nah.  He didn’t have anything to do with it.  He’s just a novelist who has been eavesdropping on our conversations to get ideas for his next book…but get this.  He says he saw our mysterious blonde woman walking down the street.”

“Get out of here,” said Gary. 

Floyd said, “I believe it’s going to be an interesting twist to his next book, even though he sort of denied it. For all I know, he paid saggy britches Jack, and Sammy the Rat to tell us they saw her.” Gary said, “are you serious? You really think that’s a possibility?

Floyd said, “hell, I don’t know. Anything’s possible, but no. I don’t think he paid anybody. But it is interesting that he described the same woman Jack and Sammy did. And, as far as I could tell, he was as sober as a judge.”

Everyone laughed when Chris said, “well, that depends on which judge you’re talking about. We all know there’s a few of them who take a little nip now and then. You know what they say. ‘Justice is blind, and sometimes it’s blind drunk’.”

It got quiet when the lonesome dove walked in. He nodded to the guys and sat down in his regular booth. Floyd quietly said, “speak of the devil.” Then he said, “you know guys. Something’s been gnawing at me for a while now.” Richie asked what he was talking about.

“Think about it. We’ve had three anonymous tips. We’ve found three dead bodies, and those dead bodies were killed the same way as the person they killed…or supposedly killed. The times of death were all at two in the morning and let’s not forget the supposed ‘beautiful, willowy blonde’ sighting after every death. I tell you guys. It’s made me have one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments. Is it coincidence, or is there something to it that we just haven’t figure out yet?”

To be continued______________________

The Hand Of Justice – Chapter Four

The next morning, Chris came walking in, and seemed to delight in reciting a poem he had composed.

Red Dog’s dead and in the ground.
His remains will not be found.
Where he went, no one will tell.
Let’s just hope he burns in Hell.

After a few raised eyebrows, all the boys ordered their coffee and decided it would be a good day for a big breakfast.

Maude loved that the boys kept her in the loop, and listened intently while they talked about the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Red Dog, and how there were absolutely no leads whatsoever.

Chris jokingly said, “oh!  Well, let’s not forget the phantom. What was it Richie?  The Beautiful, willowy blonde that baggy pants John said he saw?” Floyd said, “you mean saggy britches Jack?”  Chris rolled his eyes and said, “yeah.  He was there and apparently seeing beautiful apparitions, while falling down drunk.” Richie looked at Chris and sternly said, “that’s enough.”

Floyd said, “you know him, don’t you Richie?”  Richie said, “yeah, but he didn’t really see anything and I’ll tell you guys something.  Every one of us takes an oath to uphold the law, but I’m not going to spend a whole lot of my time trying to find the killer of a killer.  All I know is that piece of scum is off the streets and it’s a better world.  Now if something happened to fall onto my desk one day, I might take a look at it.  That is, if I don’t have anything better to do, like play a round of golf.”

After a hearty laugh, Richie asked Gary how his case was going.  Gary said, “oh, you know.  Nobody knows anything.  Nobody saw anything.”

Floyd said, “there was one the other night, wasn’t there?”  Gary said, “yep.  She’s the fourth.  Throat slashed almost to the point of decapitation.  There’s been one every week.”

Chris said, “is it their John?” Gary said, “we think it is but we’ve got nothing to tie him to the murders, except familial modus operandi.”  Chris said, “whoa.  Who are you trying to impress with those big fifty-cent words?  Do you think they make you sound like a hot-shot or something?”

Gary was a little peeved by Chris’ remark but let it go and continued his conversation.  “We get the call when somebody finds a body.  The last one was thrown into a dumpster and she was only sixteen years old.  Nobody really cares about them because they’re just nameless, working girls and none of them will talk to us because they’re afraid if they do, they’ll end up in an alley, or a dumpster. Remember that one girl who came to us because she was afraid? She’d gotten a pretty brutal beating by her John. You know, the one they call the Six-Foot Savage. The poor girl. I guess she thought we could protect her somehow, and we might have been able to…if she’d just quit working. Kind of makes you wonder what happened to these girls, doesn’t it? They just get forgotten.”

Floyd asked who was working the case with him.  Gary said, “McAvoy.”  Floyd laughed and said, “shoot, we call him Drunken Hines McAvoy.  Haven’t you ever noticed how many times he needs to run back to the cruiser for a little ‘liquid courage’?”

Gary said, “you mean he likes the sauce?”  Floyd said, “uh, that’s putting it mildly.  You’ve never smelled the fresh scent of Altoids on his breath?” Gary said, “now that you mention it, he does tend to hang back and let me take the lead on all of our calls.  If he’s a lush, how is he still around?”

Floyd said, “he’s short and they didn’t want to fire him.  If they did, he would lose his pension, so they’re letting him ride out his last few months.  Five years ago, his only son blew himself up in his meth lab and McAvoy was the one who found him…or what was left of him.  I don’t imagine you really get over something like that. But I will tell you this, Gary.  You better watch your six.  At this stage in his life, if you got into a gunfight, he’d be the one who showed up with a fork.”

Richie switched gears and surprised Maude when he said, “Maude, where is your lonesome dove?  I haven’t seen him today.”  Maude said, “yeah, he didn’t come in, but yesterday he left a napkin that he had doodled on.” She still had it in her apron pocket and was taking it out when Chris said, “don’t tell me.  It said, ‘run away with me and be my woman’.” 

Floyd and Richie looked at him in a way that Chris knew was a reprimand. What he said didn’t really sting Maude and she quickly retorted, “honey, I’m old enough to be his mother.” She surprised him when she bent down and softly said, “take a break, honey. You don’t have to be a prick every day.”

She had noticed a subtle change in Chris, just as Richie had.  He had developed a sarcastic attitude, and her quip was her muted way of letting him know that she was not his comic foil.  What he said to her, his remark to Richie about the “phantom, willowy blonde” and his snide comment to Gary, were examples of a side she had never before seen, and she didn’t like it.

After a brief moment of surprised silence, they all laughed, and it was apparent that Chris appreciated Maudes’ wisecrack.

A week later, another anonymous tip came into the station about another body being found. Gary and McAvoy hurried to the scene and found the John, aka the Six-Foot Savage, laying in an alley.  His throat had been cut almost to the point of decapitation.  Since it was early in the watch, McAvoy still had a few of his wits about him, and said, “well, this is what I would call some sort of poetic justice.”

The coroner had already arrived and estimated the time of death at about two in the morning.  Chris and Floyd were both in the area when they heard the call come over the radio, and decided to stop by. Gary walked over to Floyd and told him that the body had been found by “Sammy the Rat.” 

Sammy was one of the local homeless.  He got the name because he lived in the alley with rats.  He would share bits of food he had scrounged from the dumpster, but if he hadn’t found anything in several days, he would catch one of the rats and eat it.

Sometimes he would walk through the town with one or two clinging to his coat.  If they weren’t there the next day, everybody knew that Sammy had gotten hungry and the rat population had decreased by a few.

Chris walked over while Gary was trying to get Sammy to tell him if he had seen anything.  Sammy said, “yeah, yeah, I think I seen something, but it wasn’t like anything I ever seen before.”

Chris stooped down and mockingly said, “I bet you saw a beautiful, willowy blonde, didn’t you?”

Sammy looked up and gestured with his hand like he was trying to touch something.  He said, “yeah.  That’s it. A beautiful, willowy blonde.  That’s what I seen.”

Chris stood up and in a disgusted voice said, “oh boy. We’ve got another crazy on our hands. This guy’s obviously been talking to baggy pants John.”

Sammy looked confused as he asked, “who’s baggy pants John?” Gary looked at Chris and said, “saggy pants JACK.  Then he looked at Sammy and said, “just tell me what you saw.” Sammy again looked toward the sky and said, “I think she was an angel.”

Chris spread his arms out and said, “so, did she have wings…like this?”  Sammy said, “I didn’t see none.  She just kind of floated by but she wasn’t high up.”  Chris said “oh.  So she was one of those angels like in the song…you know…angels flying too close to the ground.”

Sammy said, “yeah.  Just like them.”  Gary was annoyed with Chris and waved him off.

After Chris left, Gary tried again to get Sammy to tell him a bit more.  Sammy said, “well, I was just laying here with Marci and Poodle.” Gary interrupted him and said, “wait, who are Marci and Poodle?” Sammy said “they’re two of my favorite rats. They sleep real close to me.  I had just drifted off to sleep when I thought I heard a noise.”

Gary asked, “what kind of noise?”  Sammy said, “a kind of thump.”  Gary said, “a thump?  Sammy said, “yeah, like somebody falling down or something, but I was sleepy and just a tad bit indisposed, if you know what I mean, so I can’t be sure.”

Then what?” asked Gary.  Sammy said, “then I looked up and saw this angel coming down the alley.  I thought she was coming for me, but she walked on by.  I figured the good Lord wasn’t after sending for me yet, so I just went back to sleep.”

Gary walked over to Floyd and said, “looks like we have an angel sighting.  I guess it’s going to be one of those days.”

Floyd’s radio sounded.  After he answered, he said, “geeze.  Stella’s been robbed again.  Let’s go.”

The next morning at the Waffle Shack, Chris, Richie and Gary were musing about what they were going to do next.  “I guess we’ll have to go back to handing out parking tickets,” said Richie, “and that’s just fine with me.”

Their cases hadn’t been technically solved but as far as they were concerned, they were closed.  Gary said, “hell, we may as well help Floyd with his convenience store robberies.  He had another one yesterday.  Where is he, by the way?”

Richie said, “you didn’t hear?” 

“Hear what?” asked Gary.  “Remember, I was a little busy with Sammy the Rat and his ‘angel’.”  Then he said “do you think there’s anything to the suggestion that Chris made about talking to saggy britches Jack?”  Richie said “I think that’s a good idea.  You know all those guys know each other.”

Gary interrupted and said, “what were you saying about Floyd?”

Richie said, “somebody killed Stella.”  Gary was stunned.  He said, “what do you mean somebody killed Stella?  She got robbed just about every other week but she never got hurt.”

Richie said, “yesterday, she decided that she wasn’t going to give them any more money.  Floyd told her every time they came for money, that she was doing the right thing by just letting them have it.  He said, “it’s not worth your life, Stella.”

Richie said, “this is going to tear Floyd up.”  As soon as Richie said that, Floyd walked in the door, looking much like Chris had looked after the old man had been killed.

Maude handed him a cup of coffee and asked if he was hungry.  Floyd thanked her but told her that he was too tired to eat.

Maude cautiously asked about Stella.  Floyd said, “she was a Cuban refugee.  She and her husband literally floated over here on a boat.  He took any job he could get, and so did she.  He worked construction, dug ditches and did janitorial work.  She cleaned houses during the day and worked as a waitress at night. They lived in shelters and scrimped and saved every penny they could, until they finally saved enough to buy that store.  After they bought it, they slept on the floor in the back room until they could fix it up enough to live in. After they got everything together, they were doing pretty well.”

He looked down and said, “and then came Tommy the Weasel.”

To be continued______________________

The Hand Of Justice – Chapter Three

The mood changed when Maude asked Richie what they would do now.  He said, “there’s nothing we can do.  Just sit and wait, I guess, and pray for a miracle.  Forensics is working the bullet but unless we find the gun and put it in someone’s hand, it’s not going to matter.  It will just be another one of those cases, filed away in the basement with an unsolved sticker on the box.”

Maude said, “surely someone else will come forward.”  Richie said, “after what happened to the old man?  Are you serious?  Would  you?”  He looked down at his coffee cup and said, “no one’s going to come forward.”

Lonesome dove was sitting in his booth as usual, watching and listening and doodling on a napkin.  Maude had never seen him do that before.  She went over with the coffee pot and offered a refill.  He shook his head, put on his hat and got up to leave.

She noticed that he left the napkin.  She picked it up and before she threw it away, decided to look at it. She opened it and saw a conglomeration of concentric circles and sequential lines.  “This is like a beautiful work of art,” she thought to herself.  As she carefully examined the configurations, she stood speechless when she saw a word that had been so intricately woven into the design, it was almost invisible.

After two weeks, life at the Waffle Shack was as normal as it could be given what happened.  Chris was back at work and seemed to be handling himself and his guilt pretty well, although the death of the little girl and the old man had clearly taken a toll.

The boys were surprised when their Lieutenant came walking in and sat down with them.  He said, “we got an anonymous tip this morning and Chris, I want you to go out and take point.  Richie, I want you to go with him.  Peterson is out there now, but I’m going to pull him off.”

“Where are we going, Lieutenant?” Chris asked. “You’re going out Savannah Road to the old abandoned salvage yard to have a look-see, and Richie, you are going to talk to the local hobo.  You know who I mean.”

Richie knew the “hobo,” and he knew his story.  He was called “saggy britches Jack” and he wandered into the yard sometimes to find temporary refuge in a wrecked car during inclement weather.

While they were waiting to settle up with Maude, Richie told Chris about him.

“He’s a pitiful figure,” said Richie.  “I have to go out there now and then to get him to leave.  He was a highly educated man who lost his job after the crash of ’08.  He lost his home and then he lost his wife.  He just never could get it together after that, so he more or less just put a bottle to his head and pulled the trigger.”

Chris asked why they called him saggy britches Jack.  Richie said, “he ends up in the hospital a lot.  He’ll get beaten up by other homeless people or just some random thug.  His clothes are always filthy and most of the time they have to be cut off, so the hospital gives him whatever they have.  They’re not couture, and most of the time they’re way too big, but he doesn’t care.” Chris sort of chuckled when he repeated the name “saggy britches.” 

Richie said, “I don’t call him that, nor should you.  There but by the grace of God, go I, or you, or anybody else. He’s a pitiful shell of a man, but he’s intelligent, kind and I don’t believe that he would do anything to hurt you, or me, or anybody else.  He just got hit by the bad luck train.

When they got to the yard, saggy britches Jack was leaning against the back of a patrol car in handcuffs.  Officer Peterson smiled and said, “he’s all yours, pal.  Says he ‘saw something’, but I wouldn’t put much stock into anything he says. He’s just a drunk.” Richie gave him a look, and said, “yeah. I’ll take care of it.”

A firefighter walked over and said, “you might want to come over here and take a look. We’ve got a dead body back here in a car.  Gunshot to the back of the head, execution style.”  Richie told Chris to go with the firefighter to check out the body while he talked to Jack.

Richie uncuffed Jack and took him aside. “Jack?  Can you talk to me for a minute?”  Jack said, “boss, I didn’t do anything.”  Richie said, “I know you didn’t and you don’t have to call me boss.”  Jack said, “okay boss.” Richie said, “just tell me what you saw.”  Jack said, “boss, you’re going to think I’m crazy.” Richie said, “no I won’t.  Just tell me what you saw.” 

Jack shook his head and said, “boss, I really need a drink right now…you know…to steady my nerves.” Richie said, “I’ll get you a drink, but right now, I need you to take a breath and tell me what you saw.”  Jack put his hands over his face and said, “you’re not going to believe me, boss.”

Richie said “come on.  You know me.  I’ve always been straight with you. Tell me.  What did you see?”

Jack said, “boss, I was hiding in that car over there and I heard what I thought was a gunshot. It was a gunshot, right boss?” Richie said, “we don’t know yet.” Jack said, “well, it woke me up and I crawled out of the car. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I figured since I was awake, I’d take a piss. Then, I looked up and saw this beautiful, willowy blonde walking away.  She almost looked like she was floating.”

Richie looked at him, trying not to shake his head in disbelief, and patted him on the back. Jack said, “I swear to God, boss, I saw her.  I admit that I was lit last night, and I was asleep when I heard that gunshot, or whatever it was, but I know what I saw.” Richie said, “okay, buddy.” 

Jack looked at him and said, “see.  I knew you’d think I was crazy.”  Richie said, “I believe you and I don’t think you’re crazy.  I just think you might be a little confused.”

Chris came over and said, “you’re not going to believe who that is back there.”  Richie asked, ”who?” Chris said, “Red Dog.”  Richie said, “are you fucking kidding me?”  Chris said “no.  Not kidding.  It’s him.”

Richie scratched his head and said, “how the hell did he get here? Was he killed here or brought here?  Can you tell?”  Chris said, “it looks like he was killed here.  There’s blood and brains all over the car he’s in, but my question is, how did someone get him here if they did, and how did they get him here without his goons?”

Jack looked at Richie and put his hands together like he was praying. “I told you I thought I heard a gunshot, but I swear boss. I didn’t do it.” Again, Richie said, “I believe you think you heard a gunshot.” Jack quietly mumbled, “but you don’t believe me about that woman, do you?”

Richie didn’t answer. “Let’s wait for the coroner, he said.” The coroner arrived, pronounced and agreed that Red Dog was most likely killed on site.  He put time of death at around 2 o’clock that morning.

As they put Red Dogs’ body into the back of the car, Chris had an almost evil smile on his face as he spit on the body bag. Richie said, “I know how you feel, bud, hell, we all do, but you don’t want anyone seeing you do something like that. Go on down to the station and file the report.  I’ll finish up here.” 

Chris asked what he was going to do about Jack.  Richie said, “he’s not a suspect.  He may be a potential witness, but that’s questionable at this point.  Right now, he’s just a homeless man who’s had a bit too much to drink, and that’s what you’ll put in your report.”

“Seriously?” Chris asked.  “Seriously,” Richie said. Chris leaned over and whispered, “what’s with you and this bum anyway?”  Richie did appreciate Chris’ sudden callousness.  He said, “what happened to you, Chris?  What happened to that caring person you used to be?  What happened to your compassion?”

Chris said, “my caring and compassion got an old man killed, remember?”

Richie took Chris aside and said, “you’re still young and feeling your oats.  I get that.  You think life took a big dump on you and now you think you need to turn into an asshole, right?”

Chris said “right.”  Richie turned and said, “wrong.  One day, you’ll figure it out.  An officer’s best weapon is his compassion.  Remember that.  You had it a month ago and it’s time to get it back. Now go on and file your report.”

Richie put Jack in the back of his car and told him he would take him to a shelter, but Jack wanted to go to the park.  “People try to beat me up at those shelters,” he said. “I can usually hide somewhere in the park and they can’t find me.”

Richie stopped on the way and bought him a hamburger.  After Jack scarfed it down, Richie went to the ABC store and bought him a pint of Vodka.

Richie took Jack to the park, and when he got out of the car he said, “boss, I swear I’m telling the truth about what I saw.”

To be continued______________