Authors: Victor Methos
Dark and filled with smoke, the bar was the type of place a man like Richard Miller wouldn’t be caught in a million years. The dance floor was in back, and a mirror hung over the bar, one of the bars anyway. Another one was on the second floor. The acute lack of women was noticeable. The clientele wanted to get drunk, not pick up girls. Richard only went there late at night, and he dressed so that no one he knew would recognize him.
at that moment, he didn’t care if anyone noticed him. He was wearing his two-thousand-dollar suit with the pocket square, his hair was just perfect, and his shoes were so shiny he could see his reflection in them. He sat at the bar on the second level, staring at the dance floor.
The beer he’d been nursing
for the past half hour was nearly gone, and he motioned to the bartender for another. The bartender, a well-built man with a sleeveless shirt, slid the beer over to him and leaned forward.
’re usually happy to see me, Rich.”
“I’m just not feeling it today. One of those days, I guess.”
“What happened? Mrs. Miller again?”
“Yeah, basically. You ever felt like the world was a tuxedo
, and you were a brown pair of shoes, David? ’Cause that’s what I’m feeling right about now.”
, cheer up. Tomorrow’s always another day.”
“Yeah, there’s that
, I suppose.” He swigged a few gulps of his new beer. “Were you ever married, David?”
“Nope,” he said, wiping the counter with a fresh rag. “Never saw the point. You don’t eat the same breakfast cereal every morning
. Why would you want to wake up next to the same person every morning?”
, I guess.”
David put his elbows on the bar and looked
Richard in the eyes. “You really love her, don’t you?”
He nodded. “
Despite everything I feel and all the terrible things that happened, deep down, I love her.”
“Then what are you doing in here? Go be with her.”
He swallowed. “I did something terrible, David.”
His brow furrowed. “
Richard felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket and took it out. The call was from a number he didn’t recognize, so he let it go to voicemail.
“Sorry,” he said.
“No worries. So what did you do?”
ed some beer. Before he could answer, he received a text message. All it said was, “You want to talk to me about Sharon. Call me.”
“Sorry, David. I better take this.”
“Sure, we can talk later.”
When David was out of earshot, Richard called the number. It rang
twice before a man with a high-pitched voice answered.
“This Richard Miller?”
“Yes. Who am I speaking with?” Richard had to plug his other ear with his finger to hear.
“You don’t know me, but I know you. I know Tate, too.
And the thing with your wife. I got your number from his phone.”
heart dropped into his stomach. “What do you want?”
“Tate isn’t going to kill her, man. He went out and bought a bunch of fake blood
an’ shit to send you a pic.”
, what’s he gonna do?”
gonna sell ’em. Both of ’em.”
“What do you mean
them? To who?”
“To some pimp, man. He’s
gonna turn your wife and daughter out. Then they get shuffled around from city to city for a while. If they fine enough, they get moved overseas. Arab countries and shit. Them camel jockeys love white girls.”
Though no one else could hear the conversation, Richard glanced around. Everyone was busy in
their own groups, not paying any attention to him. “What are you talking about?”
“I told you, man. He’s
gonna sell your wife and daughter. We’re talkin’ slavery, man.”
“How do you know this?”
“’Cause I’m right here with him. But you know, it’s the true man that takes that extra step to make somethin’ of himself. You know?”
“I don’t understand. If you’re with him, why are you calling me?”
The man sighed. “You as stupid as a rock, ain’t you? I want money. All of it. Everything you were payin’ Tate to me. And I get your daughter back for you. I don’t think you give a shit about your wife.”
“Well, no, no
, I want them both back. Get them both back for me, and I’ll get you your money. Every penny.”
“You hired us to—”
“I know what I hired you for, but I want them both back now. Unharmed.”
silent a beat. “Okay, but none of this escrow shit. I want a bag with cash, and we do a trade.”
“Okay, fine, whatever.”
“Gimme some time, and I’ll call you back when I got ’em.”
The line went silent. Richard stared at the screen. He quickly program
med the number into his contacts. Then he sighed and placed the phone down on the bar, staring at it. “David, better get me a vodka and cranberry juice. Don’t think I’m going home for a while.”
Evening fell over the island, and the sun began its descent into the ocean as Stanton watched from a window at the phone company. The manager was in the middle of dinner with his family, and he did not seem pleased to get the call to come in for the records.
ager stomped by them then glanced back. “You the cops?”
“Be out in a minute,” he groaned.
Forty-five minutes later, they were still waiting
. Stanton guessed the manager could’ve retrieved the information a lot faster, but he wanted to make them wait as punishment for missing dinner. Laka had been occupied by her phone the entire time.
“You don’t have to stay, you know,” he said.
“I’m your partner. That’s what partners do, right?”
He grinned. “Did you have a partner in Vice?”
“No, we worked in teams, so there really wasn’t any need. We’d set up underage drinking stings, prostitution, stuff like that. Kai told me you’ve never worked Vice. You didn’t really strike me as the type.”
“And what type would that be?”
“Those guys are crazy. Some of them get blowjobs from the hookers before we bust them, get drunk at parties when they’re there to make a collar, stuff like that.” She glanced up at him and put down her phone. “I can tell by the way you’re looking at me that you don’t approve.”
I tell everybody that I bust that if you keep clear of trouble, trouble will keep clear of you. Think of it as a law of nature, I guess. That works on this side of the law, too. Eventually, people will find out how they behave. There’ll be investigations, Vice will be disbanded and spread to other units, and every case they have ever worked will be under suspicion. I’ve seen it before.”
He nodded. “His corruption ran deep. He used the police force as his personal army. But it’s the same principle. The only way to avoid bad things happening to you is to avoid the situations that bring those things about.”
“I’m not sure they see it that way. I think they see it as harmless fun.”
“We have the authority to arrest and even kill civilians. We have to take that seriously. Fun shouldn’t be part of it.”
The manager opened his office door. He grumbled
something under his breath and handed Stanton a USB drive along with a stack of documents. “All his phone records for the past two months.”
“I appreciate it
. Thank you.”
The manager stormed out without saying anything further. He waited for them by the door, holding it open.
“I think he’s gonna lock us in if we don’t leave,” Laka said.
, and Stanton flipped through the papers as they rode the elevator down in silence, listening to the soft music.
checked her phone and grinned at Stanton. “Looks like you hurt someone’s feelings,” she said.
“Debbie. She said you were going to go out with them and never showed up.”
“I completely forgot about that. I thought it was just kind of a pity invite.”
“No, definitely not. She’s into you.”
Stanton, despite himself, thought he was blushing. The manager looked to him and rolled his eyes.
Once they were in his Jeep, Stanton immediately flipped to the phone records for the current day and searched all the calls Richard made after they’d spoken at one o’clock.
At 1:29, two minutes after Stanton had visited Richard,
he’d placed a call to a local number. Stanton called into the precinct and asked for Records.
Harold Finks mumbled.
“Harold, this is Jon Stanton. I need a number r
un if you have the time, please.”
He exhaled loudly. “Fine, what’s the number
Stanton read it to him. He heard keys being pressed on a keyboard
, then Harold said, “It’s registered to a Tate Reynolds. Residence here on the island. Looks like he had an address in Los Angeles before that.”
“Can you text me the address, Harold? And any relatives that pop up?”
“You want a criminal history to save you a Spillman search?”
. Thank you.”
“I’ll send that over.”
“I really appreciate it.”
“Well, you’ve always said
Stanton placed the phone down on the center console. He looked
at Laka. “He called a number after I left him. Tate Reynolds. Harold’s getting me his address and criminal history.”
sending a text. “Well, I’m starving. Can we get some dinner while we wait?”
at the curb in front of Sushi Gaku on King Street. He hopped out of the Jeep and met Laka at the back. A group of young men walking by on the sidewalk stared at her as they passed, impressed by her figure, her tight shirt, or the gold badge clipped to her waistband. Power was an aphrodisiac for men, too.
The restaurant was busy
, but he and Laka didn’t have to wait long. They sat at a window booth, and Stanton turned his phone on vibrate then placed it in his pocket. Laka set hers on the table. They were from different generations. Stanton hadn’t grown up with cell phones, and she had.
“Can I ask you something?” she said.
“You have a PhD in psychology, right?”
“Why in the hell are you a cop?”
“I think I always knew I would be going into law enforcement of some kind. I thought the doctorate would help me in that.”
“Were you thinking FBI?”
“I have a lot of friends in the FBI, and I was offered a spot with them. I turned it down.”
“Wow, really? Most cops dream
of going federal.”
He shook his head. “There’s something about the way they garner power. Illegal phone taps, reading people’s emails without a warrant
—something about it strikes me as dangerous. I don’t think I’d fit in well there.”
“We didn’t have much to get a warrant on Miller.”
“We worked the system by finding a judge that would agree with us. It wasn’t my proudest moment, and maybe I shouldn’t have done it, but it’s a far cry from arresting someone under the Patriot Act and holding them without an attorney for weeks at a time.”
She looked out the window. “I never thought I’d be a cop. I thought it’d be more the opposite when I was young. I ran with a gang and was smoking pot and getting drunk every night. This was when I was like seventeen.”
transformed as though an unwelcome memory had flashed through her mind. “I, um, was running with some bad people. And they did something that… I just didn’t think people were capable of.”
“No offense, but we haven’t known each other that long.”
“I understand. I didn’t mean anything by it
. I was just curious.”
“No, I shouldn’t be so secretive. I just haven’t ever told anyone.”
The waiter came and took their orders. Stanton’s phone vibrated in his pocket as the waiter asked him if they needed one ticket or two.
“One, please,” he said, taking out his phone. Harold
had sent a text with an attached document—Tate Reynolds’s criminal history.
The history read like a textbook
on a permanently revolving-door prisoner. He began in property crimes, like car theft and robbery, as a juvenile and had graduated to crimes against persons by the time he was seventeen. He had several convictions for aggravated assault, and his longest stint in prison—eight years—had been for robbery. But two charges that had been dismissed interested Stanton the most. Twelve years ago, Tate had been charged twice with kidnapping. There were no notes indicating why they had been dismissed.
“We need to go pay Tate Reynolds a visit,” Stanton said.
“Can we eat first?”
Stanton wanted to get over there, but he placed his phone down and said, “Sure. We’ll eat first.”