Authors: E. H. Reinhard
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers
“Good idea.” The captain used his fork to clean the last stray bits of frosting from his paper plate. He licked them off and tossed the plate and fork in the trash. “So what was the homicide in North Tampa that was called in?”
“GSW to the head. The guy had been dead for four or five days. Stink, blood and flies everywhere. The works. His neighbor called it in.”
“Anyone see anything? How did the neighbor seem? Fishy?”
I lifted an eyebrow. “Patrol was going to do a little door knocking in the neighborhood and see if they could rustle anything up. The neighbor who called it in was a little off. The guy is a Vietnam vet that didn’t seem all that happy with the state of the neighborhood. We don’t have a positive on the deceased yet, but the neighbor gave us the home owner’s name and description. It could be our victim. Neighbor said homeowner had, quote, gang banger kids. He also said the homeowner owned a forty-four.”
“What about the neighbor? Firearm owner?”
“And proud. Told us it was his Constitutional right.”
“There was a bunch of bloody footprints through the guy’s blood pool. I snapped a photo and checked it against the shoes the neighbor was wearing, no match.”
The captain rocked back in his chair. “No match against what he happened to have on his feet.”
“Kind of the way I was looking at it too. We’ll either rule him out or arrest him as more evidence comes in.”
The captain glanced over at his wall clock. “I have to head out, Kane. We’ll spitball this stuff more in the morning. How late are you staying?”
I stood up. “Not too much longer. I’m going to tidy up some of my notes from the day, change and head over to Lefty’s to meet Callie. She gets off early tonight.”
“Sounds good. See you in the morning.”
“Talk to you later, Cap.” I walked from Captain Bostok’s office over to Hank’s desk. He was powering off his computer. “I’m heading out, Kane. What’s up?”
“Nothing, was going to finish a couple things and shoot over to Lefty’s. Callie gets off in a couple hours. Wanted to see if you wanted to go grab a beer?”
“Love to. Can’t. Karen says it’s date night so I have to get my ass home to take her out. She wants to grab dinner and go dancing.”
I laughed. “You’re a dancing machine nowadays huh?”
He dug through his desk drawer for his car keys and rolled it shut. “Just leave it alone, Kane.”
“But you make it so easy. What kind of dancing is on the menu for tonight?”
He squinted and mumbled. “Ballroom.”
My smile went ear to ear. “Well isn’t that nice.”
Hank looked at me and scrunched his eyebrows. “Are we done here?”
“So does Karen lead and you follow?” I smiled and waited for his response.
“We’re done. Catch you tomorrow.” Hank pushed in his chair and walked past to the sound of my laughter.
I shook my head and watched him walk down the hall. He was still within earshot, so I gave him one more for the road. “Don’t sprain an ankle.”
He flipped me the bird over his shoulder. I headed to my office. Out of the blue I caught a whiff of death. I put my nose to the lapel of my suit. The smell from the North Tampa house had embedded itself into the fabric. It would need to go to the cleaners and I needed to get it off before it stuck to my skin.
I went to the closet in my office. A couple of extra work shirts and slacks plus another three outfits that would qualify as street clothes filled the inside. Callie had made a point to take care of my laundry the last couple times she’d been over. I tossed on a T-shirt and shorts and sat down at my desk to organize my day’s notes. Fifteen minutes later, I locked up for the walk over to Lefty’s.
It was a nice evening in the lower sixties. The sun had just set. Most of the remaining light was blocked from the buildings of downtown. The four block walk took about ten minutes at my snail’s pace. I opened the front door of Lefty’s and walked in. A handful of people milled about. There were two guys playing pool, a couple eating at a table and Jeb the regular. I sat at the bar and looked down at him. “Hey, Jeb.”
He tossed a wave. “Lieutenant.”
It was about the extent of our conversations. Callie filled me in on the guy. Jeb was a retired Postal worker whose wife thought he was working part time. He came in daily, sat in the same spot and ordered the same thing—ginger ale. He went home to his wife around nine every night.
Callie came out from the kitchen. She flipped her long black hair back with her finger and walked toward me. “Hey, you.”
She leaned over the bar and planted a quick kiss on me. “Get off early?”
I looked at my watch. It was a little before six thirty. My shift was supposed to end at five, but I couldn’t remember a time when it did. “Early enough.”
She put her elbows up on the bar and leaned in close. “I got about another hour and a half. Are you just going to hang out?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
She bounced back from the bar. “Good. Want a beer?”
“Sure. Are we doing a shot?” I asked.
“Nah, I’m good. You want one?”
“No, that’s fine.”
She grabbed a mug from the rack under the bar and poured me a cold one. Callie flipped a coaster up onto the bar in front of me and sat down my beer. “Wendy should be in around seven thirty so I should be able to get out of here a little early.”
I grabbed the mug and took a sip. “I’m not in a hurry. Don’t worry about it.”
She leaned in close again and talked quiet. “But I am. I want to get you home.” She smiled and walked to the end of the bar to fetch Jeb another ginger ale.
I sipped at my beer and turned my attention to the television above the bar for the next twenty minutes or so. Callie came back and forth between customers to talk.
Dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt and jeans, Ray grabbed the keys for the Lexus from the hook in the garage and headed toward the car. He hopped in and fired it up. The clock on the navigation screen in the dash read 2:18 a.m. He had been waiting around the house all day to come and scout the bar. A couple hour nap ensured he’d have his wits about him. He hit the button for the overhead door and pulled from the garage, up the cobblestone driveway and through the front gates of the house. The drive would take him twelve minutes, or so the navigation in the car said.
He found a parking spot in the corner of a nearby lot and exited the vehicle. The bar was a block and a half away. Ray’s pockets were filled with tools. He carried a lock picking set, flashlight, a pair of rubber gloves and a mask. A small crowbar was cinched into his waistline. If the police stopped him, he’d be brought in for sure. The Desert Eagle in the shoulder holster under his sweatshirt would make sure that didn’t happen.
Ray spotted the sign for the bar. He walked past the front. A quick glance at the sign on the front door said they closed at 3:00 a.m., but there was no one in sight. No light came from inside. Ray kept walking. Like almost every bar, he counted on them having a service door for deliveries in back. They did. The door stood propped open. He lurked into the shadows of the alley and watched from behind a dumpster of the next building. A mid-forties, hundred and fifty pound man appeared from the rear door a few minutes later. The guy lit a cigarette and stood in the alley talking on his cell phone. When he finished his phone call, he flicked the cigarette and walked back inside. The door was left propped open.
Ray pulled the items from his back pocket. He stretched the pantyhose down over his head and gloved his hands. He reached up into his sweatshirt and pulled out the Desert Eagle from the holster. Ray glanced around the door. There was no one in sight. He slipped inside and took in his surroundings. He stood in a small stock room. A few crates of bottled and canned beer sat on pallets—next to them, some kegs and miscellaneous cases of booze on shelves.
Two stainless steel doors for the bar’s walk in freezer and refrigerator sat to his right. To Ray’s left, was a small office with the lights out. Ray took a few steps forward to a closed swinging door with a window. He peered through the glass. Straight ahead was the kitchen, beyond that, the bar. Ray put his back against the wall next to the door and listened for talking. He needed to be sure the man he saw taking out the trash was the only person still there. After a few minutes of the guy singing to himself and sweeping up the front bar area, it was confirmed.
Ray crossed the room to the small office door and twisted the knob—locked. He sat his gun on the ground. With an eye on the swinging door, Ray took the lock picking set from his pocket. He unzipped the case, selected the proper tools and worked the lock until it opened. Ray zipped the lock kit up and picked up his gun from the floor. He ducked inside the office and re-locked the door from the inside.
The beam of the flashlight shined across the room’s corners. Ray looked for motion sensors or cameras. He found a motion sensor at the top corner of the room and followed the wires down to a metal box attached to the wall. Ray smiled. He waited in the darkness for another half hour until all the lights went out. The sound of beeping from the alarm system arming came from outside the office. He heard the door slam and the sound of it being locked. He had thirty seconds.
Ray took the crowbar from his pants and pried at the bottom of the metal alarm box. He reached behind it with both hands and gripped the ball of wires that connected it. With a quick jerk, he ripped the wires from the back of the unit. The alarm was dead. There would be no siren, no call to the police. Ray jammed the wires back into the wall and bent the metal box back down. The owners and employees wouldn’t know that someone had defeated the alarm until they had a tech come out for service. He flipped on the lights and began to search the room. He was after one thing—a list of employees and a schedule. From the small size of the bar they couldn’t have had too many people working there. Ray dug through the desk drawers. There was no schedule there. He went to the calendar on the wall, while it had writing in each date, it was for deliveries and not employees. Another once over of the office netted him more of the same, nothing. Ray turned the lights back out, exited and re-locked the door.
He walked into the stockroom. Ray shined the light across the walls. No punch clock, no calendar. If it wasn’t beer or booze, it wasn’t there. He approached the swinging door to the kitchen and pushed it open. The flashlight shined across the walls of the room, stopping on a large dry erase board. He walked over.
The board had positions and days written on it. Under the word kitchen were the names Bill and Roger with alternating days. From the dates and the word close by his name, Bill was who he saw earlier that locked up. Ray looked over to where it said bar and caught the staff’s names, Wendy, Michelle and Callie. Ray smiled when the flashlight shined across Callie’s name. He looked down the dry erase board for her hours. The word close was next to her name for the next night and again in a couple days. Ray pulled out his phone, turned on the flash and took a photo of the complete schedule for the week. He stuck the phone back into his pocket and headed for the rear exit. He pushed open the swinging door and walked through the stockroom. The deadbolt on the back door was flicked open and Ray walked out. The alley was clear. Ray closed the metal door and used his lock picking set to re-lock it. A noise broke the silence of the alley. The rear door of the next business opened. Two men in kitchen uniforms walked from the back. They stared over at Ray. “Hey, what the hell are you doing?” a man yelled.
Ray stood at the back door with gloves on his hands and pantyhose covering his face. In moments of fight or flight, Ray had never chosen flight. He unzipped the front of the sweatshirt and reached his hand in. The Desert Eagle was removed from the holster. Ray brought it up and pointed it at the two men as they began to advance on him.
They stopped dead. They both put their hands up. The bigger one spoke first. “We don’t want a problem.” They started backing toward the door they came from. They opened it to retreat inside.
“Stop.” Ray thought about the situation at hand. He knew his surroundings enough to know he was only a few blocks from the Police station. He passed it on the way there. If he walked away, the two would call 9-1-1. They might follow and get the plate number from the car he drove. If he shot them, the place would be crawling with cops inside of a few minutes. Ray walked to them. “Is there anyone else inside?” he asked.
The two looked at each other. One of them spoke up. “No. We didn’t see anything. We’re not talking.”
“Shut up.” Ray stood in front of them outside the door they came from. He looked past them. The interior of the building was dark. “Does this place have security?”
The smaller of the two spoke up. “No. Just take whatever you want.”
Ray motioned them inside with the barrel of the gun. “Get your asses back in there. Turn on the lights.”
They didn’t move.
Ray pushed the larger guy in.
The smaller man turned at Ray. The barrel of Ray’s gun met his forehead. Ray spoke through gritted teeth. “Get your little ass inside.”
He walked in.
Ray followed the two into the building. He closed the door and put his back to it. The fluorescent lights overhead flickered on. They stood in the back of a restaurant. A walk in freezer sat to Ray’s left—the kitchen to the right. Stainless steel prep tables lined the walls. Stove tops and ovens sat beyond the prep area.
He held the gun on the two at eye level. “Drop your cell phones on the ground. Kick them over.”
They obeyed. Ray stomped each phone until they were crushed and unusable. He walked over to the door of the walk in freezer and pulled the handle. “Get inside.” Ray motioned through the door with the gun.
The two remained still. They looked at each other.
With a violent shove, Ray pushed the smaller of the two into the freezer. The man fell to the floor inside. Ray grabbed the bigger of the two by the throat and squeezed. He put the gun to the man’s temple and muscled him through the doorway. Ray closed the metal door. He held the two at gunpoint inside the freezer.