Read Progeny Online

Authors: E. H. Reinhard

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers

Progeny (6 page)

BOOK: Progeny
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Carmen walked into the kitchen with a duffel bag draped over her shoulder.

Angel observed Carmen looking at the man lying dead on the kitchen floor. “Did I do good?” Angel asked.

“Very good, dear. Let’s go get the garage set, and then we’ll drag him out there.”

Angel scooted herself from the stool and went to go help Carmen prepare.

Chapter 8

I got home around eight after a stop at the store for a few groceries. Callie claimed to love my homemade spaghetti and meatballs, which was good because it was about the only dish I had confidence in making without screwing up. If I timed everything right, it would be done right around the time she got home from her class. Butch sat on the barstool across the breakfast bar, watching the preparation of the meatballs. He ran his little sandpaper cat tongue around the corners of his mouth.

“You’ll get one when they’re cooked,” I said.

He hopped off the stool and came over to weave around under my feet.

“Twenty minutes,” I said.

He meowed a response and dug his head into my leg.

I set the timer on the stove, moved Butch away from my feet, and slid the meatballs into the oven. After getting a pot of water heating up on the stove, I washed up, grabbed my laptop from the living room, and sat at the breakfast bar.

Callie had left me a note saying we were set to look at the house Saturday morning at ten. I figured I would take another look at the place while the meatballs cooked and the water for the noodles heated up to a boil. I pulled up the property on my computer and let out a long breath. The place was perfect. The house was the oldest registered in the county and was listed with the historical foundation for the area. All the old charm was preserved, with modern touches. It sat on the lake with five acres of land, both qualities I wanted—land and water. The open space would provide plenty of room for Callie and my son or daughter to be outside and play. I clicked through the photos for the umpteenth time. I went back to the listing and read over all the inclusions. Then I stared at all the zeroes in the asking price.

While we could technically afford it, I had reservations—a good number of them. I thought I’d be with Samantha forever when we moved and bought her dream house out in the suburbs. While my present situation was entirely different, that memory remained. I needed a voice of reason, so I dialed my father.

He answered within a single ring. “Carl.”

“Dad, how are you doing?”

“Fine. Fine. I’m starting on the upstairs out in the shop this weekend. Sommer is coming by to lend a hand.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I told him if he kept coming by, I was going to put him to work. When I brought it up this week, he said he’d be over on Saturday with a couple of cold ones to lend me a hand.”

“That’s good. You should probably still be taking it easy, though.”

“Ah, I’m fine. A couple bullets in the keister won’t slow me down. So what’s up?”

“I need some fatherly advice.”

My father chuckled into the phone. “I’m listening. Wait, did you ask Callie to marry you yet?”

I heard the water boiling, so I walked over and dumped the noodles in. “No. Not yet.”

His voice rose an octave. “What the hell are you waiting for?”

I rubbed my head. “The right time, I guess.”

“You’re not having second thoughts, are you?” he asked.

“Not in the least, Dad. I just… I don’t know.”

“You don’t think she’ll say no, do you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, then do it. I’m pretty sure whatever time you pick will be the right time for her.”

I took a seat back at the breakfast bar. “Yeah. Anyway, not the reason for the call. I need some home-purchasing advice.”

“Okay. Lay it on me.”

“We’re looking at a house on Saturday. It’s perfect—five acres, on a lake, beautiful.”

“So what’s the problem?” he asked.

“The price.”

“Do I want to know?”

“Double what my condo was.”

“Ouch. Can you guys afford that much?” he asked.

“Technically. The condo here is paid for, and it should sell quick for a good amount. With the money I got back from the house Samantha and I had, plus what I have left over from Mom, I’m okay.”

“What about Callie?”

“Her grandparents left her a sizable amount. Dollarwise, like I said, we can afford it.”

“Well, then what the hell is the problem?”

I was quiet for a moment. “Scared that I’ll have to end up swinging it on my own. I’ll be sitting there with my giant dream house, alone.”

“No, no. You can’t think like that, Carl. Callie isn’t Samantha, and nothing says that history is going to repeat itself. If you guys fall in love with the place—and can afford it—buy it.”

“I know. It’s just a hard memory to get over. Samantha and I did the same thing. Great house, were getting ready to start a family, and then poof, gone.”

“Well, get over it. No one knows the future, Son. Did you think that I knew when you came to visit I’d get shot in the ass? That’s why you’re not asking her to marry you too, isn’t it? You’re scared it won’t work out in the future?”

I tapped my fingernails on my right hand against the top of my laptop. “Maybe.”

“Carl, listen close. Are you listening?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

“Stop being stupid. Don’t waste a second of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be an old geriatric like me. Ask that girl to marry you, buy that house if you want it, and get ready for your son or daughter. Get married and be happy. Stop pussyfooting around.” He fired his words off like a drill sergeant.

I was silent.

“Did you hear me?” he asked.

“Yeah, I got it.”

“Good. I’ll have Sandy send you down a bill for my counseling.”

I smirked. The timer for the oven went off.

“Thanks, Dad. Hey, I have to run, I’m in the middle of making dinner.”

“Sure. Call me after you look at the place and let me know. And do what I say.”

“All right.”

“Love you, Son. Bye.” He hung up.

I flipped the screen on my laptop closed and went back to tending the food. Butch went back to observing. As I pulled the meatballs from the oven, I heard the front door open. Butch leapt from the chair to go and meet Callie at the door. She wouldn’t get his usual foot thrashing—she would be greeted with love. I believed he was genuinely happy to see her when she got home. I watched Callie as she lifted Butch in her free arm, set her school books down on the table, and walked into the kitchen.

“Hey, babe. What are you cooking?”

“Spaghetti.”

“Really?” she asked.

“I told you I would make you dinner.”

“Good. Because we are starving.”

She often spoke as if she was two people, which I guessed she was, technically. I was beginning to accept the thought of becoming a father, which was good because I didn’t really have another option.

Callie rubbed Butch behind the ears and set him down. She came to me and kissed me on the side of my face.

“When did you get home?” she asked.

“Eight-ish.”

“How is your case?”

I shrugged. “Kind of up in the air at the moment.”

“I heard some of what was going on over the radio. Is it true what they were saying? Skinned?” she asked.

I nodded. “It’s bad.”

Callie let out a breath. “I don’t know how you can stomach dealing with that kind of stuff.”

“It affects me. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t, but my job is making sure the people who are capable of doing those sorts of things are removed from society. Enough about work—how was class?” I asked.

“Same as usual. I just have to get it done. Do you want some help with the food?”

“Um. Do you want to do the garlic bread? I’m just about set with everything else.”

“Sure.”

My cell phone buzzed and vibrated across the granite breakfast bar.

“Want it?” Callie asked.

“Yeah, I better. It’s probably work.”

Callie scooped up my phone and held it out to me. I wiped my hands on a paper towel and took it. The captain was calling. I clicked Talk.

“Cap.”

“I just got a call. We may have something,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “What?”

“We got a call at the station about an hour ago from Green Gardens. It’s an assisted living community off of West Hillsborough Avenue—just a little west of the river. One of their residents went missing from his apartment there. His description matches approximate age, height, and weight.”

“Do we have a name and family contact information?” I asked.

“The name is Henry Pullman. I have the name of this man’s daughter as the contact. I’m going to have you and Rawlings head over to this Green Gardens place in the morning and see what you can get.”

“How are we even going to know if it’s this guy? I mean, we’ll probably have to get a match via DNA, but we’ll need a sample.”

“That’s one of the things I want you to get from Green Gardens. Try to find something of his in his apartment. We can’t very well ask this guy’s daughter, if that’s who we’re dealing with, to identify a skinned body as her father.”

“Okay. What time will someone be at this place to meet Hank and me?” I asked.

“Come into the station first. Be here by eight. I’ll try to get something set up over there at nine. I’ll let Rawlings know and see you guys in the morning.”

“Sounds good, Cap.”

He clicked off.

“Did you get a break in the case?” Callie asked.

“It might be something. How are we looking on that bread?”

“Everything is just about set. Grab some plates.”

I did and took them over to the kitchen table.

Chapter 9

Angel and Carmen closed the front door of LaSalle’s house and walked toward their car. Each carried a white plastic garbage bag draped over a shoulder.

“How long do you think we’ll have until they find him?” Angel asked.

“I’m not sure. The cops are smart, baby. After they find him, they’ll put it together. The rest will be warned. How many on the list are still here?”

“Another three. That’s all that’s left.”

“We’ll have to work fast.”

Angel held down the button on the Ford’s keypad to pop the trunk. The women tossed in the two bags, filled with LaSalle’s skin.

Angel slammed the lid closed. The two women got into the car and left the neighborhood.

“Who’s next?” Carmen asked.

Angel pulled the list from her pocket. “Maggie Carpenter. She lives in Clearwater.”

“Clearwater, huh? Your father and I had some good times there back in the day. That was our stomping ground for a while. I’d use my feminine wiles to lure the guys in, and your daddy would take care of the rest.”

Angel smiled. She reached over and rubbed Carmen’s hand. “I’m glad you found me, Mama. I was so lost.”

“Me too. Those people weren’t going to keep me away from you,” Carmen said.

“Do you think I can try to do the next one by myself?” Angel asked.

“Is that what you want?”

“Kind of.”

“Do you think you’re ready?” Carmen asked.

“I can handle it.”

Carmen smiled. “I’ll ask your father.”

Chapter 10

Hank and I left the station a few minutes after nine. We would have liked to go earlier, but the press was thick back at headquarters. The media was putting together headline after headline of the skinned man in Robles Park. I was sure that, by midday, they would have the city in a full panic. Each newspaper and television channel would be splashing the name Jack Redding across their headlines.

We neared the Green Gardens retirement community. From what the captain had told us, the director, a Penny Bell, would be expecting us. I saw the complex up ahead on our right. I clicked on my turn signal and pulled in. We pulled up to the small manned guard shack at the front, and I lowered my window.

An older man poked his head out from the open doorway of the building. “Here to see?” he asked. The man’s voice carried a northeastern accent—New Jersey was my best guess.

“Penny Bell,” I said.

“Sure. Head on over to the main entrance. Down the drive here and to your left.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Have a good Friday, gentlemen. Enjoy your weekend.”

I raised my window and followed his route. We found the covered main entrance for guests and parked at a rounded yellow curb. Hank and I stepped out.

“What’s the plan here?” he asked.

“We need to know if this is our victim or not. If he’s not, we’ll have to pass it off. We’ll have the director take us through his quarters and see if anything looks out of place, ask a couple questions from the staff, and see where it takes us.”

Hank nodded.

We walked to the dark wooden front doors of the entryway and pulled them open. A brightly lit lobby lay before us. The carpet was gray flowers. The guest chairs were pinstriped red and green. A small table stood in the center of the room. Filling the air was a unique smell, which I assumed to be a mix of old-woman perfume, cafeteria food, and cleaning supplies. The reception desk was ahead of us to our left. Hank and I walked over.

The woman working the front counter gave us a look and smiled. “How can I help you today?”

“Lieutenant Kane and Sergeant Rawlings to see Penny Bell,” I said.

“Sure, one moment. I’ll let her know you’re here.”

“Thanks,” I said.

The receptionist left from behind the desk. Hank and I stood at the front counter in silence while we waited.

A few minutes later, a middle-aged, dark-haired woman came from the doorway behind the front counter. She wore a pink blouse under a dark-gray blazer with matching slacks. A charm necklace hung from her neck—the bracelet around her left wrist matched.

“I’m Penny. You’re the officers wanting to know about Mister Pullman?” she asked.

“Correct,” I said.

She opened the small gate and let herself out from behind the front desk. “Why don’t you come with me.” She waved for us to follow her down the hall.

We did.

“I’m going to take you to speak with Janet Crowe. She is Mister Pullman’s caregiver. She’ll be able to help you with whatever you need to know, as well as give you access to his apartment.”

BOOK: Progeny
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