Merry Christmas To You All Around The World !
Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!
Fa, la, la, la, la.
PART OF VISITING family for the Holidays is going to drop in on those relatives you don’t get to see very often. We devoted part of yesterday to that.
I must admit that Rose and Ray are the only people I know who actually live in a “Gated Community.” Well, that is, if you exclude from “Gated Community” those places where the gates are topped with razor wire and all the residents have colorful nicknames. Rose and Ray don’t have colorful nicknames and I didn’t see any razor wire. But there was one disturbing element, not counting the fact that all of the homes inside the gates cost more than some U. S. Navy warships. Let me explain.
Seven score and fifteen years ago (that’s 1865 in case you don’t want to do the math) Abraham Lincoln had a bad experience at the theater. OK…so it was a bad night for Mrs. Lincoln too, but at least she got to sleep in her own bed that night.
It was not the best of marriages to be sure. He was rather busy with that war thing and Mary, from all reports, was very loosely wrapped. A nineteenth century Dr. Phil might have been helpful, but Abe was 6’4″ and Mary was 5’2″ and they just couldn’t ever see eye to eye.
They did get together on one thing however – having children. They had four sons. Unfortunately only one of them lived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln. The family line continued with Robert’s children and does so until today. I know this because I stumbled across a little
news item about this fellow.
His name is Ralph Lincoln, an 11th generation Lincoln and a third cousin of Abraham Lincoln. This split screen picture (that’s Ralph on the left) does show a bit of a family resemblance but I don’t know if I wholly believe this. After all there have been mornings when, before my coffee, I think that I look a bit like that guy from Game of Thrones.
People are always trying to claim a connection to famous people. There have been any number of people who will swear on a stack of bibles that they are descendants of the last Czar of Russia (and therefore entitled to a piece of the action.) The British Royal Family is always having to deal with “relatives” who pop up on a regular basis wanting a Palace and a Title. My favorite connection to fame has to be the Barack Obama Plaza truck stop in Ireland. I’ve been there and it’s a good place to have lunch and top off your tank. Rubbing gas caps with the rich and famous.
Back to Ralph Lincoln…
In the exhaustive research that I’ve done on this story (all 7 minutes of it) I read somewhere that there are no direct descendants of Abe Lincoln still alive…so, this means that Ralph is an “Indirect” descendant. He claims to be a third cousin of the late President. My guess he is one of those cousins who have been removed once too often. As far as that goofy picture of Ralph alongside of Abe is concerned all you need to do is put on a scruffy beard together with a soulful look and my third cousin Margery would look like Honest Abe.
I don’t know for sure if Ralph Lincoln if actually related to Abraham Lincoln. If he is he certainly has the makings of a unique pick-up line. “Hi, there, Gorgeous. How about if I Proclaim your Emancipation?” Of course, if he is not really related to our 16th President the only advice I can give him (other than “Don’t forget to take your meds) is “Don’t go to the theater. It’s a trap!”
Throwback Thursday From November 2016 – “Going Back For Seconds”
A CRISIS HAS ARISEN. For a number of years we have gone out for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. With just the three of us doing it all at home seemed to be more trouble than it was worth.
When we dined out we headed to a local hotel that put on a buffet worthy of the Roman Emperor’s Palace. There was enough of everything edible there that it would make the Front Line of the Chicago Bears faint dead away.
During the course of the day several hundred hungry Hautians (not Haitians) would show up and eat until they embarrassed themselves. I heard that the Chefs and Bakers were on the Weight Watchers hit list. (But that was just a rumor.)
I must admit that we did our part in this Festival of Gluttony. We gave thanks for all of the usual things, plus the fact that it came only once a year. Any more often and they could have just shifted it all to the nearest Emergency Room.
The hotel did put on a buffet for Easter, but it paled in comparison. It was like trying to compare two squirrels fighting over an acorn to World War Two. The hotel Thanksgiving buffet had become a family tradition.
The Hotel Corporate gods decided that our hotel needed renovation and expansion. Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Get me some carrot cake.) has a number of really fine hotels. The universities and larger businesses have a lot of people coming in and out of town all the time. In late May there is the Indianapolis 500 auto race and the Terre Haute hotels fill up with racing fans.
With the announcement of the coming hotel renovation our hearts began to flutter. How long will the hotel be closed? What about the buffet? It turned out that it was to be a two year long project. They pared the hotel down to the structural steel skeleton – no buffet.
Time to Panic!
For our family the immediate solution was obvious – we got an invitation to dine with friends. That was last year. That invitation won’t be coming again this year. They are out of town, the clever devils.
What are we going to do? The local options are not up to snuff compared to The Buffet.
Some of the possible alternatives that have been discussed are:
So, you see our dilemma. I suppose we could put together a very nice Thanksgiving dinner at home. After all, we are bright, creative, and fully capable people, but it just wouldn’t be the same. After all, the hotel buffet has become our tradition.
I’m going to put on my Thinking Cap and investigate further.
If anyone has any ideas, short of going out and shooting a turkey, they would be appreciated. We do want to have our family dinner – and Marie Callender is not part of the family.
YOU WOULD THINK….AT LEAST YOU WOULD…I MIGHT NOT about what would be the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. When I was asked that question the other day by one of the Alaskan cousins I had to stop and do what passes for thinking in my world.
“What is the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland, Cousin Krafty?”
Knowing these people as I do I immediately became suspicious. Was this a trick question? Was there a gag hidden in there somewhere?
“Biggest?” Did they mean the physically biggest attraction?
“Biggest Tourist?” Did they mean the attraction that would appeal to tourist who is the biggest? What would appeal to that 600 pound guy I’ve seen on TV?
“In all of Ireland?” Are they trying to trick me with world “All” in there? Do they mean the Republic of Ireland or are they trying to slip one past me by using “all” to include the counties of Northern Ireland?
Do you see my problem here? They are family and because of that I am almost obligated to be suspicious of them.
Part 19 – The Conclusion
This was always the best part of any movie. The climax where the bad guy and the good guy stare each other down. Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” Jimmy Cagney in any number of gangster movies, or even Marshall Dillon on “Gunsmoke” every week on TV. Those were fiction of course and nobody really got hurt. This was different. Nate was coming to kill me and I was going to kill him unless cooler heads could prevail, but there were no cooler heads.
Nate was outside and inside was me, Rocky the shifty lawyer, Nate’s weasely little spy the Jockey, and Hailey, the receptionist on what was her first and probably her last day on the job. Matt Dillon at least had Chester, his gimpy deputy, to back him up. I was as alone as I could be.
A lot of people had already died for no good reason. Actually, they had died as a distraction for a cockamamie reason that made less than zero sense. And now I’m roped into the middle of it all as the only person who fought back. More than the Middle – I was there at the Beginning back there in the Mall where I shot Timmy Whathisname, I’m not even sure anymore. I was held hostage by the Middle when that lovely, damaged, girl with a horror movie life, ended hers in my kitchen. Now this was going to be The End, the Third Act, before the last commercials aired.
I looked out of the window toward the van that Nate had used as his firing platform. He was standing by the rear door. He’d left the rifle behind and was carrying two heavy looking pistols – something straight out of a “Dirty Harry” movie.
“Do you feel lucky, Punk?”
I haven’t felt lucky since I was booted off the Force without being indicted.
The others in the reception area saw him too. Rocky tried to go back through the shattered door into his office, but I grabbed him by the collar.
“You’re not going anywhere, Chester. You’re going to try to convince him to turn himself in or die trying.”
The Jockey had crawled into a far corner behind a little makeshift fortress of aluminum and plastic chairs trying to make himself invisible.
The only one who wasn’t trying to hide was Hailey, the receptionist. She had moved back to her desk, sitting there with her bag in her lap. She had a determined look on her face. I imagined that she had lost a number of jobs before and after this one her choices were going to get even poorer. She was not going to make it easy for Rocky, Nate, or me. She was rooting through her bag like she was looking for a way out. She’s the only one I felt sorry for. All she wanted was a job, not playing anybody for anything.
Nate was walking across the parking lot on a beeline to our front door. He cut between the cars ignoring the moving ones, his eyes locked on us, me really, behind the glass. When he got to the last line of cars he stopped, raised both of his elephant guns and fired. The glass panes, weakened, finally shattered and crashed to the ground leaving just air between us now.
“Ellis!” he yelled. I could hear him just fine, even over the screams of some of the shoppers who heard the loud report of his guns and the crash of the panes of glass. “Ellis, you have screwed up everything. You took away my childhood when you took away my Father. When he was dragged away my mother walked away and I was put in an orphanage. An orphanage! I was the only kid there who still had both parents, but that didn’t matter to you, did it?”
“No, Nate, it didn’t. It really didn’t. Your Father would have killed me if he could have and your Mother…well, that happens more often than you’d think, but I didn’t tell her to …” He squeezed off two more rounds. Plaster board wall panels got ripped apart. He still wasn’t aiming. Off in the distance I could hear some sirens. It was about time. I turned to Rocky. “Why are the cops just coming now? This shooting match has been going on for quite a while.”
He shrugged. “It’s a bad neighborhood. Nobody wants to get involved.”
Nate held his weapons down at his side as he crossed the last bit of pavement and stepped through the hole that once held a floor to ceiling pane of glass. We were now all together, the Jockey, the Lawyer, the Receptionist, the Ex-con looking for blood, and me, the guy with a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was seriously outgunned in any way you wanted to look at it.
What we had there was the world’s worst “High Noon” showdown. We were no more than ten feet apart. If he hit me with one of those huge lead slugs it would rip me apart. If I hit him first he would go down like a rag doll. Either way it was going to be ugly. We stared at each other, waiting for some visible signal that one or the other was going to move. Nobody made a sound and I swear I could hear everyone’s heart beating.
That startled us into action. It came from the corner behind the nest of chairs. The Jockey. Without taking his eyes off of my eyes Nate lifted the gun in his left hand and fired. That ended their friendship. That damned jockey was trying to get us to kill each other yelling out like that.
The silence that followed included a ringing in my ears.
We stood there waiting for the other one to make the first move. It was probably no more than ten seconds, but it felt like an hour. Then it happened.
A single gunshot. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t Nate’s. He couldn’t miss me being as close as he was. Whoever fired didn’t miss either. I saw the fatal surprise on his face as his brain made room for the piece of fast moving lead that had entered above his left temple.
Where? Who? It wasn’t me. It didn’t come from outside. The Jockey was out of the picture. Rocky hadn’t moved in minutes. A voice spoke up. It was Hailey. Still sitting at her desk she had a Smith & Wesson chromed pistol in her hand. A tuna sandwich wasn’t the only thing she had in that bag. She looked at me standing there with my mouth open.
“I’m sorry Mister, but I wasn’t going to let him or anyone mess things up for me anymore. I’ve had to deal with his type ever since I was sixteen. They don’t think about anybody or anything that isn’t them.” Turning her focus to a stunned Rocky, she pleaded, “Boss, please don’t fire me. I really need this job.”
All Rocky could do was nod.
This young woman, who’d gotten dragged into this picture in the last reel, took charge when the rest of us stood there looking at each other afraid to move. That’s the way these things go. Everybody knows that if they make that first, expected, move that they are likely to die in the process. It is the person who sees that their reality, their life, has been placed in jeopardy who says, “Enough!” and ends the nonsense. Hailey has been fighting all her life and she saw that today could be her last day on earth through no real fault of her own.
That gal is my hero.
Three up and now three down. No more killing. No more terror.
Outside the broken windows three Black &Whites pulled up. When seconds counted they were just minutes away.
(Next Week we will be taking a break until…?)
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”
“I’ve been meaning to get that squeaky door fixed,” said Rocky. I hushed him, not wanting to give our visitor any clue as to our location. His ignorance was our only advantage.
I could hear footsteps, but they weren’t coming our way. It sounded like someone was opening desk drawers in the reception area. I had to sneak a peek. This wasn’t making any sense. I opened the office door just enough to get a look.
“Oh, for God’s sake. Hailey, I thought I told you to go home or anyplace away from here.”
“Oh, hello again, Mister. I heard you, but I forgot my lunch bag. I fixed a tuna sandwich and I didn’t want to leave it here over night. It would be stinking by tomorrow morning. I’ll just get it and be on my merry way.”
I poked my head back into the office to tell Rocky what was going on. With my head through the door focusing on Rocky I heard the door squeak again. I turned around not wanting to be standing there with my back to the door I saw that Hailey and I had company.
“Well, fancy meeting you here Mr. Barry Livingston, Private Detective.” It was the little jockey who shared the headroom with Nate Williams in the attic flat on Wilson Street. This place was getting crowded.
What brings you here,” I asked him. There were too many people and too many surprises happening all at once. I had counted on it just being Rocky, me, and Nate Williams. Now, all of a sudden, it was turning into a crowd with too many guns. I wasn’t sure if the jockey had his pistol on him, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
With all of the voices coming from the waiting area Rocky couldn’t resist coming out to join the party. The look on his face told me that he already knew the jockey.
“Good afternoon, Rendell. Nate asked me to come down here and talk to you. He seems to think you’re setting up an ambush or something.”
The jockey was laying it out correctly. That’s what it was – an ambush. He went on.
“And aside from the cutie pie here,” he said waving his stubby fingers and winking at Hailey. “I know the rest of you and wouldn’t trust you as far as I could drag your dead bodies. So, what’s going on here? I’m supposed to find out and call Nate and let me tell you – he ain’t happy.”
He looked at Rocky, who looked at me, and I looked back at the jockey who by now was looking at Hailey and making gross little kissing noises. Hailey was looking back at him and grinning. I think I know why Rocky hired her.
I walked up to the jockey to get his eyes focusing on me.
“Where is Nate now?”
“I don’t know for sure,” said the little weasel,” But my best guess is that he’s out there somewhere but close enough to see what we’re doing in here. He might have a rifle.” That got everyone’s attention and, as if on cue, a bullet crashed through the glass front window. It wasn’t close to anyone, but close enough.
“Rocky had dived behind a chair and yelled out at the jockey as everyone scattered, “Are you wearing a wire? Did he fire when you mentioned the rifle? I told him to stop with all the shooting.”
I headed for the door into the inner office. Everyone, go into the office. He can’t see us there,” I yelled out to everyone. Again, as if he could hear us a second shot slammed into the wooden door to Rocky’s office. The slug shattered the cheap wooden veneer. He wanted us out where he could see us.
I crawled over to the jockey who was behind a potted plant of some kind.
“I’m asking you the same question. Are you wearing a wire? Can Nate hear us?” He said nothing. He didn’t look scared either. That changed when I put the ugly end of my heavy .45 under his flabby little chin. “Tell me now or I’ll blow your head off and search your dead body.”
It didn’t take him long to weigh the situation and without saying a word he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the small plastic microphone and transmitter. He then pulled an earpiece from under his greasy hair. Not only was Nate able to hear us he had been telling the jockey what to say. That game was over.
I took the earpiece, wiped it on my pant leg and stuck it in my ear. I moved away from the jockey who understood my unspoken warning – that if said one more word it would be his last.
I shifted over beside Hailey’s desk where I could get a clear view outside and into the parking lot. I slipped the microphone into my shirt pocket.
“Hello, Nate. Guess who? This game is over.”
The second he heard my voice and knew that it was now a real two way conversation he unleashed a three shot fusillade into the lawyer’s storefront.
“Is that you, Ellis?” I heard him scream into my ear. “Is that you?”
“It sure is. I thought you were coming down here to see me. Instead you send your little pudgy Munchkin. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me? I’m older than your father. Do you remember him, Williams? The world’s worst bank robber.”
That earned two more shots through the shattered front window. I dissed him deliberately so he would shoot again. This time I spotted his muzzle flash coming from the back of a Ford van parked on the far side of the lot about sixty yards from the front door. That would be a turkey shoot from that distance. He didn’t hit anybody by choice so far.
“Shut up, Ellis! Shut up! You listen to me. I’m calling the shots here, not you. You killed two of my friends…”
“I killed just one. The other one, the girl, ate her gun rather than go back to you. So, if anything, you killed her, not me.” Another twinkle of light and another round dug into the plasterboard on the far wall. Most of his shots probably went through the thin walls and ended up in Rocky’s office. It was bound to be a mess in there. At least I hoped so.
“Listen, Nate, we’re all getting bored with this little penny arcade game of yours here. I talk you shoot another round into the wall. And so on, and so on. You said you were coming to see me, to kill me. Well here I am. Come and get me – or are you too scared to face me, man to man? Either get your ass down here or go home and play some video games until the cops kick down your door. Make a move, dammit!”
Silence. No gunshots. No speaking. Nothing?
He had to be thinking it over. I’d laid out his only options. It was either me or go home and end up in the hands of a dozen SWAT Team cops dressed in Kevlar who will not be gentle with either him or his bullet riddled corpse.
“Let’s go Nate.” I started to whistle the theme song from that TV game show that’s been on for fifty years.
“Nate, you bore me.”
Silence, and then I heard his voice crackle in my ear.
“I’m coming down, Ellis. Get ready to die.”
Next Week – The Conclusion of “Family Matters”
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen
“What did he say he wants?”
“Nate, my friend, he said that he wants to put you in the Gas Chamber.”
Nate Williams must have started yelling because Rocky pulled the phone away from his ear. I could hear him screaming quite clearly.
“What? He’s not a cop anymore. Tell him I’m on my way and that I’m gonna put him in his grave! You hear me, Rocky? Tell him!”
The shyster didn’t have to. I heard every word.
That’s about it. That was the conversation between Nate Williams and his weasel of a lawyer. I said that I wanted to find Nate and now he was going to find me.
Ever since this whole thing began, before anybody died, he’d been telling people that I was his ultimate target. Well, now his target was waiting for him. Unlike the other people who became his targets this target could shoot back.
I suppose I could have called Detective Martindale and had half of the entire Police Department down here when Nate showed up. I could have done that, but I didn’t for two reasons.
1) Nate wanted me and, damn it, I wanted him – For Leslie Ann if nothing else.
2) Martindale would take his 200 to 1 odds over Nate and somehow screw it up. More people would end up dead.
Rocky said that it would take Nate about forty minutes to get down to his office. I figured that was a lie and that Nate would make it in twenty. I had to get ready.
Rocky picked up his bag of liquor and scurried into his office. I went back to my car to make myself survivable. Nate was younger, probably better armed, and nuts. I was more experienced, afraid to die, and probably nuts too.
I stuck two extra magazines in my back pocket. If things got to the point where I needed them I would know I was in big trouble. I expected this thing to end in a matter of seconds, one way or the other. I opened the trunk and took out one of the few things I never returned to the Force when I retired – the body armor that most people call a “Bullet Proof Vest.” The truth is that it’s not a vest. It’s more like a straight jacket, and it certainly isn’t “bulletproof.” It will stop most lower caliber slugs from entering your chest or belly, but not without knocking you on your butt, and making you helpless if the other guy aims for your head. The outdated model I had was pretty much useless against some of the big hand-cannons that were on the streets now. It wasn’t perfect, but it offered better protection than my “Bud Light” T-Shirt.
It was getting warm, uncomfortably so, or maybe it was just me, so I walked back into the lawyer’s storefront. Hailey, the new Receptionist, smiled and waved at me as I went past her and into Rocky’s office. He was stashing his booze supply into his desk. He looked up, saw me standing there and almost dropped his bottle of Rum.
“Oh, no, no no. You get out of here. Go outside. I don’t want you dying all over my rugs. These things are genuine Persian and cost me a ton of money. I don’t want you bleeding everywhere.”
I sat down in one of his nice leather chairs.
“It’s getting hot outside, Rocky. You wouldn’t want me to get heat stroke and pass out in front of your door, would you?”
Rocky was starting to look like he might be the one passing out.
“Don’t you get it? Nate is coming down here to kill you. He’s crazy as all get out. I’m his lawyer, he likes me, but even I’m afraid of him. When he comes in here he’ll start shooting at anything that moves.”
“Then don’t you think you ought to tell Hailey out there in the waiting room to go to lunch or something?” Rocky was no humanitarian.
“She’ll be our early-warning system. I was going to fire her anyway.”
“Rocky, you’re all heart.” I walked out to the empty reception area. “Hailey, get your purse or bag or whatever you’ve got and get out of here. Go to lunch, anything, but do it now. Things are going to get ugly here in a few minutes.”
She looked at me standing there in my “vest” with my weapon in my hand. She didn’t need a second warning. She grabbed her tote bag and was out of the door in seconds. That girl was smarter than she looked.
When I turned around I saw that Rocky was trying to “Get out of Dodge” too.
“Hold on there, Rocky, you’re not going anywhere.”
“Wanna bet? I told you that Nate is a Looney Tune. I don’t want to be Collateral Damage when he blows you to bits.”
If you take one more step, Rocky I’ll ‘Collateral Damage’ your ass all over your Persian rugs. You are staying here and you’re going to try to talk Nate into turning himself into the Law.
“You’re out of your mind. Nate won’t listen to me. He won’t listen to you either. He only listens to the voices in his head and they’re telling him to blow your brains out.”
“We’re going to try, Rocky. We’re going to try or somebody will die here this afternoon.”
We went back into Rocky’s office. I closed the door behind us. Now it was a matter of waiting. We didn’t know if he would come through the door shooting or what.
It was going to be just me, Rocky, and the door to his office between Nate Williams with his craziness and the M.E.’s autopsy table.
I took the leather chair from in front of the desk and placed it in the middle of the room facing the door. When Nate would open that door he would be framed in the light – if he came in that way.
“I meant to ask you this before, Rocky, knowing how deceptive you are, but where is your back door out of here?” He pointed at the closed door that led to his file room. “Get your liquor bottles, Rocky. We don’t want your client sneaking in on us, do we?” He shook his head without making a sound.
We quickly piled up his fresh supply of wine and other hooch right by the door that opened out into the trash and dumpster area behind the office. We spread the bottles around so that if he tried to jump over them he was likely to kick over one or two of them and give us a warning.
I returned to my chair facing the door. Rocky moved his desk chair back a couple of feet so he could dive under his desk if things went south.
We sat there like two statues for what seemed like an hour, but were most likely no more than five minutes. That was when we heard a car door slam shut right out in front. There was a short moment of silence then the front door into the waiting area opened. It squeaked. So did Rocky.
Three people with pasts I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I may be the kind of person who will give you the benefit of the doubt once, but I’ll never do it twice. These three never, ever, got a square deal in their lives.
Now, through some twist of fate all of them had crossed my path and two of them are dead. One was left and he was the worst. I can’t say that the other two were innocents or harmless. They weren’t. They had both picked up The Gun, for their own reasons, and people died.
It was now down to one: Nate Williams, Junior, and he really was a dangerous man. He killed people with as much feeling as you and I have when swatting flies. He had to be stopped.
Leslie Ann said that he had a plan, a goal, and more people, innocent people, were going to have to die. I was the one, the only one, who was going to be able to stop him. Leslie Ann had trusted me enough to tell me what he was going to do. I owed her.
There was only one person who knew where Nate Williams was holed up – his lawyer. All the cops in the world could lean on him and they’d get nowhere. He’d never break the Attorney/Client Privilege bond for them. It was a matter of Principles – he had none. Any lawyer who would defend Nate Williams and walk with him out of the front door of Police Headquarters was as dirty as his client. The Police can’t touch him. I’m not a Cop and I already feel dirty.
I’ll touch him.
It didn’t take a whole lot of detective work to get that lawyer’s name – Randell…Rockwell Randell. I’ve seen him advertising himself on TV late at night. “When things get rough, call Rocky Randell!”
The man is shameless. His reputation in the Legal Community justifies all of those jokes.
“What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”
“I don’t know. What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”
“A good start.”
Even other “Shyster” lawyers couldn’t stand him and it takes a lot to hit a lawyer’s gag reflex.
With Rendell’s face being so well known, thanks to his infomercials, it was going to be hard to corner him one on one without witnesses. Hard, but not impossible. If I can lean on “Rocky” I can find Nate. And if I can find Nate… Well, that’ll stop all of this nonsensical killing and I can go back to being just another grumpy neighbor.
Rockwell “Rocky” Rendell had his law office in a strip mall in somewhat rundown part of town. He was sitting between a liquor store and a slightly shady gun dealer. He knew where his clients were.
A few decades ago he would have been called an “Ambulance Chaser.” These days he’s just known as the “Most crooked lawyer in town.” He sought out the Lowest of the Low for his client base. He put up a billboard ad that shouted “Just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you did it!”
He specialized in getting people off the hook on the flimsiest of technicalities. Juries would conflict his clients, but if anybody in the courtroom so much as sneezed during the trial Rendell would find a loophole to get them sprung.
He was a real pimple on the rump of humanity.
“I want to see your Boss.”
“You mean Mr. Rendell? He ain’t here. You want to make a, you know, a appointment?”
Rendell sure didn’t spend his money hiring his receptionists. She must have other skills.
“He’s not here? Isn’t that his car outside – the Candy Apple Red Mercedes with the license plate ‘Rocky’ on it?”
A second question must have been beyond her limit.
“Yeah, I guess so. I’m new here.”
There was a name plate on her desk. It read: Natalie Piorkowski.
“Tell me, Natalie, when will Mr. Rendell be back – since he left his car here?”
My name is Hailey, like the comet. That’s the last girl who worked here. She quit or something…and Mr. Rendell said he’d be back soon. I think he’s just next door.”
“Which next door?”
If he was at the gun store I’d come back later. Hailey leaned forward and whispered even though we were the only two people there.
“He’s at the liquor store. He drinks a lot. Expensive stuff too – the labels are in French, I think. So, he should be back in jiffy.”
I’ll tell you what, Hailey, like the comet. I’ll come back later, OK?”
That girl has a great future. I’m not sure in what field, but I doubt that it’s in the Law. Organ donation maybe.
I stepped outside to wait for Nate’s lawyer to appear. I could see him still inside the liquor store pushing a shopping cart half filled with bottles. Rather than confront him inside the store I just leaned up against his car and waited. I watched him pay for his booze in cash. I never saw the clerk card him.
He came out of the liquor store and saw me sitting on the bumper of his Mercedes.
“Hey! Get the hell off my car, Jackass.”
“Oh, is this your car, Rocky? My Grandmother had one just like this.”
“Your Grandmother? Get off my car before I call…”
I cut in.
“Before you call Nate Williams to come over to save your paint job? Don’t make me laugh, Rocky.”
That took him back a step. He set his bag down on the ground.”You know Nate, Pal? Then you know he is one tough character. I call him and he’ll come over here and…”
“I’d like that. It’d save me a trip. He’s already looking for me and I’m looking for him. Call him. He might save your ego and probably a couple of your teeth. How’s that sound, Rocky?”
Rocky squinted at me like he knew he wasn’t going to be happy with the answer to his next question.
“Who are you?”
“I’m the guy who put his father in prison and now I want to put Nate in the Gas Chamber. Call him.”
He forgot the liquor and reached for his phone.
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fifteen
Detective Martindale started up the steps to my front door. I didn’t budge. I knew that he would want me to go inside with him so he could ask me some obvious questions. I played hard to get. When he got to the top step and noticed that I wasn’t behind him he stared at me and coughed to get my attention.
“You should keep an eye on that cough Detective. We’re coming into Flu Season.” I smiled up at him.
“Ellis. Come.” He called me like I was his dog. If he’d snapped his fingers I would have decked him right in front of everybody. He didn’t. Instead he gave me the crooked finger curl.
“Ellis, inside – now.”
I tossed my cigarette into the gutter and followed him into my home- AKA “The scene of the crime” if he had his way.
The Forensics Crew had photographed the very dead body of Leslie Ann Wolas from every possible angle, taken samples of blood, urine, and snipped a sample of the bloody pile from my carpeting. Now there was a hole in it as well.
The head of the team huddled with Martindale bringing him up to speed – answering all of those questions I knew that he was going to ask me when he started in on me.
I looked up at my ceiling. There were definite spots up there, some red, but more grey ones. Three dimensional spots that I was not looking forward to cleaning off the plaster and paint.
While I was waiting for my turn to make Martindale feel competent I walked around the corpse into my kitchen. I wanted to get a beer. I had my hand on the door of the fridge when Detective Wink barked at me.
“Get out of there! Everything in the kitchen is evidence.”
“What? She shot herself, Mr. Detective. She didn’t hit herself with a beer bottle.”
“I told you to get out of the kitchen.”
I got my beer and walked past Martindale dropped down on my sofa and reached for the Remote.
“Mind if I watch a little TV or is that evidence too?”
A couple of the Forensic guys who were packing up their gear were trying hard not to laugh.
I don’t know if he caught on or what, but Martindale broke off his briefing and came over to me. He didn’t sit down. He stood there looking over me. I guess that might intimidate some people, but no one over 10.
“Ask your questions Detective, I have an appointment.”
“No, yours. I want to ask him how it feels trying to defend the indefensible.”
“Ellis, let’s just get through this and then you can get back to your cartoons, OK?”
“Please. I have to pack.”
“I don’t think I want to sleep here tonight.” I was dead serious about that, what with the smells and the blood stains and the brain tissue on the ceiling.
“That’s a good idea. I don’t want you tampering any more with the Crime Scene.”
“What ‘Crime Scene’? There was no crime here. She committed suicide. I was here, remember? I called you. This is no Crime Scene.”
“Suicide is a crime. Look it up.”
“Really? Well, then, there’s your Perp over there on the floor. Are you going to arrest her?”
Martindale paused, looked down at his notes, and then in a voice that was as tight as a cheap suit in the rain, he began his interrogation.
“Mr. Ellis, when did Ms Wolas come to your home?’
Since he was finally trying to behave professionally, I did too.
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know when she got here. I was eating my lunch in here and she was outside.”
“Did you know that she was going to come here to see you?”
“No. she slipped a note under my door while I was eating.”
“A note? Where is the note?”
“It’s over there stuck to the floor.” I looked into the kitchen. The note was gone. “Or at least it was. I think your tech boys must have it.”
“What did the note say?”
“Open the door.”
“That’s what it said, ‘Open the door’.”
“What did you do?”
“I ate my lunch – most of it anyway, and then…” I gave him a dramatic pause.
“Yes? And then?”
“I opened the door, Sherlock.”
Some days, I admit, I have a mean streak in me that I let run loose. With this man, Detective Martindale, I just can’t help it. There is something about him that brings out the rattlesnake in me.
“Look, Martindale, let’s cut to the chase here. You want to know what she had to say, right? So let me tell you. You can fill in the blanks later, OK?”
He nodded, reluctantly, but knowing that I was saving him some time and work.
“When I opened the door she was standing there with that little Walther pointed at me. I thought it was going to be lights out for me, but she was thinking that I would open the door and shoot her. I was armed with a Braunschweiger and onion sandwich.
“She didn’t come here to kill me, Martindale. Not at all. She came to apologize for getting me all mixed up in this mess, the shootings and how I was their real target. All of it was a diversion put together by Nate Williams. It was to keep all of you focused on the killings so that Williams could knock over every Mom and Pop store in the city.”
“That’s stupid,” interjected Martindale. “There’s 425 of us on the force and three of them.”
“Two. Remember, I shot Timothy Collins at the Mall.”
“Well, Leslie Ann was seriously sweet on Timmy, but she blamed herself more than me for his death. He only went to the Mall for her.”
I swear, that Detective is heartless as well as brainless.
“C’mon Ellis, let’s get to this ‘chase’ you’re talking about.”
I took a long, slow sip from my beer just to get on his nerves.
“Leslie Ann couldn’t forgive herself for her Timmy and she saw no future for herself without him. So…she ate the gun and ruined my carpeting. The End. Now get out of my home.”
“The End, my ass. What about Nate Williams? Where is he? We’ve got two down now and I want to make a clean sweep of it. What did she say about him?
“Nothing, other than she had a combination fear and hatred of him. That’s something I think might be easy to feel for that man.”
Martindale closed his notebook and looked around. The body was still on the floor waiting to be transported to the Coroner.
“Then that’s it, Ellis? That’s all she had to say?”
“Pretty much. I gave you the Reader’s Digest version.”
“I want to hear it all – every word that came out of her mouth.”
“Sorry, but I can’t reveal what is said in the Confessional.”
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fourteen
Detective Martindale must love to shout. He does it almost every time I talk to him.
“I said that I have Leslie Ann Wolas at my place. You might want to come out here.”
“Have you got her tied up? I’ll send out a couple Black & Whites to pick her up.”
I could almost hear a little admonition in his voice, “You better not be wasting my time.” It must have been killing him that I called him like this.
“No, Martindale, I think you’d better come out here yourself.”
“Why, did she ask for me?” he asked.
“No, she’s dead.”
“What?” Yelling again. “If you shot her I will hang you myself!”
He was not going to like this.
“Suicide…On my kitchen floor. We had a long talk before she decided to eat her pistol. So…like I said, you might…”
“I’m on my way. Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch her!”
I’d hate to live with him, yelling all the time. He must be like living with a Jack Russell Terrier.
“Don’t touch her?” No problem there. I wasn’t being paid to clean up a mess like that, but I probably will end up scrubbing the floor – and maybe the ceiling too.
Suicides. They all think that their problems end once they pull the trigger or take the pills. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All they’ve done is shift those problems onto everybody they left behind.
It doesn’t take courage to kill yourself. It’s the exact opposite. If they really had courage they would face and attack what or who – ever was tormenting them. Instead they turn on the gas jet or drive the car into the bridge abutment. They leave behind a gory mess for someone else to clean up. That’s not an example of courage in my book.
When she fell back from sitting upright her head went past the edge of the linoleum in the kitchen area and landed on my living room carpeting. The linoleum I might just tear up and replace. No big deal, but the carpeting would never clean up right. There will always be a shadow of her blood and every time I see it I’ll think about…about everything.
The Forensics people showed up first. Martindale probably had to stop and pick up his blood pressure meds.
The neighbors were going to be getting quite a show with the lab boys traipsing back and forth. They are so jaded. They have seen things done to the human body that would make a statue vomit, buy it’s just evidence and samples to them. I wonder what they dream of at night.
By their standards what Leslie Ann did to herself was downright neat as a pin. No muss. No fuss. They chatted among themselves as they took swabs and samples. Just another day at the office
“My wife’s been taking a cooking class at the Community Center. We have been eating nothing but Italian food for two weeks now. I’m getting sick of all the different tomato sauces.”
“Me and my girl are getting into sushi. It took me a while to get past that gag reflex.”
I had to step outside. I lit up a cigarette and took a long pull. I must be getting old or my gore immunity is finally wearing off after these years away from The Job.
The Forensic Techies moved quickly but they never got sloppy or took shortcuts. They worked by the book. After a few initial questions to get my take on what happened they went to work and pretty much ignored me – except when I opened the front door.
“Don’t wander too far, Mr. Ellis. I’m sure the Detective will want to speak with you.”
“I’m just going to step outside for a breath of fresh air.”
The human body, when opened up, smells. Muscles and sphincters also relax and what is in the bowels and bladder is often set free. On my floor. On my carpet. I might move.
I sat down on the front steps. Three steps from my front door down to the sidewalk. A few of my neighbors across the way, newbies, were peeking out their windows at the to do going on – people going in and out of my front door, some of them in uniform with sidearms. Seeing me sitting on my steps with a cigarette in my lips assured them that I wasn’t either a victim or a suspect. I waved to them and their drapes dropped back into place.
Yeah, maybe I should move. Get a place out in the country where all of my close neighbors would have four legs and fur. Who am I kidding? I’m a city boy, born and raised. When I see too many trees in one place I get nervous. I need to hear the sound of sirens racing through the night. I don’t need owls hooting at me. What would I do in the country? Probably go nuts and end up like Leslie Ann, the poor kid.
I was halfway through my second cigarette when I saw Martindale coming down the street. Why did he park his car half a block away? Probably a Fitness Freak with one of those fancy wristwatches that count your steps or something. Even from a distance I didn’t like him.
“Good Afternoon, Detective. Welcome to my humble, if somewhat crowded at the moment, abode.”
“Where is she?”
“Mainly in my kitchen the last time I looked.”
“Timmy? He was such a sweet boy.”
“That ‘Sweet Boy’ killed eight people.”
I couldn’t let that pass.
“He would have killed me, Leslie Ann, if I hadn’t shot first. ‘Sweet Boy?’ What was his motive – He didn’t like his snack at the Food Court?”
She looked at me and I could see her underlying rage bubbling up to the surface. Her eyes flicked down to the Walther pistol on the table between us.
“Why did he really do what he did?” she said, her eyes back locked onto mine. “Because I asked him to. He did it because he loved me.”
How much horror has been set loose upon the world in the name of Love? Almost as much as devils have used Religion as their excuse to commit every atrocity imaginable.
“So how in the world is that a motive for mass murder? The idea was yours instead of his? So that makes him ‘Sweet?’”
“Shut up, Ellis! I came here to talk about me, not Timmy or Nate or certainly not you. Forget Timmy. Didn’t your mother ever tell you to not speak ill of the dead?”
“Which dead? The ones at the Mall or at the gas station or the pile of corpses at the ER?”
I was pushing my luck, but I needed to see how she would react to having her nose rubbed in it. She spat in my face and picked up the gun. I guess I found out.
“Ellis…if you say one more word about that boy and I will …”
“I apologize.” I decided to shut up.
“I came here for a reason, Ellis. Let me get to it and I’ll leave you to sit here in your pathetic little life.”
Rather than risk saying anything that might set her off I…picked up my sandwich and took a bite. No sense wasting what might end up as my last meal.
Leslie Ann Wolas, dangerous, and probably as crazy as they come, got up and began to pace back and forth trying to find her words.
“I came here to tell you that this whole thing is a scam. Nate has been running this whole show. I went along for my own reason. I told you…and Timmy, well…. Go ahead and eat your sandwich like a good boy.
“Nate is basically a thief and this whole thing is just a major distraction. While every cop in the city is all hot and bothered by the gunplay Nate will be knocking off everything in sight. Everything but banks thanks to you. Me and Timmy were going to cut out and go to Mexico. You took care of that too.”
She stopped pacing and stood looming over me.
“There’s no reason for me to go now – not since you murdered him” She stood there looking down at me. Me with a sandwich in my hand and a six round pistol in hers and I could see that she was weighing on whether or not to waste a couple of them on my head.
“No reason at all, so here I am. Nate wants me to go along with his crazy scheme, do some more shooting just to stir the pot. I don’t buy it. I told him that if he wants to then go ahead, but I’m done.”
I raised my hand like a third grader with a question.
“What?” she said. “What?” She didn’t like interruptions.
“Where is Nate going to hole up? He won’t go back to that attic on Wilson.”
“Why do you care? You going to go after him? He’ll cut you to pieces, old man.”
I put down my sandwich. I’d had enough. Now it was my turn to talk.
“I don’t recall the last time I heard more absolute bull at one time. All of you actually feel justified with what you’ve done, don’t you? You slaughtered I don’t know how many people there at the hospital. The people you shot weren’t The Hospital. They were not the people who committed the sin of saving your life all those years ago. They were people already in pain like you. If you want to get back at The Hospital go in and clog up all their toilets. You don’t murder people who had nothing to do with your own personal troubles.
“And Sweet little Timmy? You two were going to run off to Mexico as if everything was peachy keen after the two of you decided to help Nate Williams, perhaps the biggest lying piece of trash going, with his plan to rob a bunch of Mini-Marts and Mom and Pop Bodegas. Jesus H. Christ! You’re all nuts. None of you should ever have been allowed to be on the streets alone.”
I was on a roll.
“And somehow you tried to tie me into your twisted reasoning making me the reason you’re doing all of this idiocy. You should just put down that gun and go turn yourself into the police. Go talk to them. Tell them your cock and bull story and you just might avoid a ride on the Lethal Injection Gurney to Hell. If you don’t and the cops out there see you first they’ll show you what it’s like to take a round to the head.
“Now, tell me where I can find Nate Williams, because I want that piece of trash for myself. I brought down his father and I’ll do the same for him.”
I looked at her. She was looking right through me as if I wasn’t there.
“Hello. Leslie Ann? Did any of what I just said get through to you? Did you even hear me? Turn yourself in. Forget Nate Williams and save yourself. He’s dead meat and forget about Timmy too. ‘He was Sweet.’ That’s just nuts. I’m done with you. You’re crazy. Either get help or get out.”
She was still staring off into space. As long as she wasn’t pointing her gun at me I figured I was, not safe exactly, but with a better chance of making it through the day.
All I wanted now was for her to flip on Nate Williams and then to leave, go somewhere, anywhere that wasn’t in my house. I was sure that she wouldn’t turn herself in. she’d spent most of her life avoiding them. I wanted her out, but there was nowhere else she could go where she might get some head help. She was going full speed down a dead end street. Her faraway look snapped back and she was in my kitchen again.
“You’re right, Ellis. I am guilty. I accept that. I was too weak. I let Nate talk me and Timmy into doing these things. Guilty and weak – a bad combination.
“I don’t want to do it again – I don’t, but if I go back to Nate I know he’ll talk me into it again.”
“Where is Nate’s place? Where is he?”
“Oh, you don’t want to go there. Nate is evil. He’ll talk you into doing evil things. Where can I go though? There’s no place for me.”
“I don’t know, girl. I wish I could tell you, but…’
She sat down on the kitchen floor and looked up at me. For the first time I could see tears in her eyes.
“I have no place to go where I can be safe and happy. No place. I was happy with Timmy…but you took him away. Now there is no one. Because of you. You ended it all. Nowhere and no one.”
She closed her eyes, but firmed up her grip on the pistol.
“All I can do now is try to find my Timmy.”
She opened her eyes and looked me square in mine. She took that ugly black gun, put it in her mouth and pulled the trigger.
In my small kitchen the noise her gunshot made startled me. The top of her scalp splattered onto my ceiling in the split second before she fell over backwards with her own startled look.
The tears that had been in her eyes ran down her cheeks and fell onto the bloody floor.
I hoped she’d find her Timmy. He was so sweet.
Look at them. Chances are they’ll be looking back at you. If, while you are looking for them, you notice that everybody is looking at you…well, there you go. You are the Black Sheep in that family. Congratulations.
How does one become The Black Sheep? It starts early. In those formative years when the other kids in the family are setting up little lemonade stands there is one tyke, boy or girl, who starts their own business selling newspapers. What’s so wrong with that? Nothing except that, our lone wolf entrepreneur is selling yesterday’s newspapers to unsuspecting adults.
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Twelve
Now I know how a mouse feels when it’s trapped inside a house full of cats. When a house cat catches a mouse it doesn’t kill and eat it like a feral cat would. No, they play with it. One cat stands on the mouse’s tail while another cat beats the crap out of it. Then they let it go so they can hunt and catch it again. In this scenario Nate Williams and Leslie Ann Wolas are the cats and I am the mouse, being hunted and toyed with.
I thought it was the other way around when I found Nate Williams had been arrested and I’d be able to find out what this nonsense of hunting for me was all about – but he got cut loose before I could get at him. Now I was back to where I started, worse actually, because now he knew I was on his trail. That jockey would blow the whistle on me.
Lacking anything better to do I went home. I saw no sense trying to guess where Williams and his lawyer had gone for lunch. I was hungry myself.
An afternoon at home isn’t all that relaxing when you know that a man who has said that he wants you dead is loose and in a good mood. I know that I sure wasn’t in a good mood.
I was sitting at my kitchen table. My fancy lunch was a sandwich – Braunschweiger and Onion. Who did I have to impress? Nobody. Nobody who couldn’t take me out from a distance.
Sitting there, wondering what to do next, when the answer came sliding under my door. A single sheet of paper, folded, slid under my front door. It didn’t look like an advertisement. There was a new dry cleaner in the neighborhood, but this wasn’t a sheet full of coupons.
It was there on the floor and I had half a sandwich in my hand. The paper could wait. At this point in my day it was just one more piece of trash that needed picking up. Ever since my last lady friend moved out on me my housekeeping skills have really gotten a bit lax.
A single sheet of paper. I suppose that if I’d gotten up quickly and opened the door I might have seen who left it, but I didn’t. First things first. Finish my sandwich and then open another can of something I really don’t need.
OK…OK. A single sheet of paper and I could see that it had handwriting on it. A love note? Not likely. A “Dear John” letter? Most of the women I know would have tied that paper to a brick and tossed through my front window.
Enough speculation. I got up off my ass and crossed over to the door and picked it up off the floor.
“We need to talk. Open the door.”
“What the…” I said to myself. That note could be a come-on from an insurance agent, a Jehovah’s Witness trying a new approach, or maybe Nate Williams. Unless it was Williams I guessed that they’d be long gone by now.
Here we go with “The Lady or the Tiger” again. Against my better judgment and the feeling in my braunschweigered stomach, I turned the knob and opened the door. It was the Lady – Leslie Ann Wolas and she had small Walther pointed at my chest.
At least it wasn’t the Jehovah’s Witness.
“We need to talk,” she said, but she kept the pistol aimed at me. I was in no position to argue.
“C’mon in, “I said.
I turned around and walked back into my kitchen. I was trusting that she wouldn’t plug me between the shoulder blades. She followed me. I sat down and picked up the rest of my sandwich. It might be my last meal, so what the heck.
I didn’t say anything as she sat down across the table from me staring at me like I was a two-headed chicken. I didn’t say anything and neither did she. It was making me nervous because I didn’t really know if she was stoned, drunk, or just crazy. At any moment she might start seeing things and open fire. I couldn’t take it. I broke the ice.
“You’re the one who wanted to talk, so if you want to start now I’d appreciate it. I had planned on going to the two o’clock matinee at the Cineplex. …Or, if you’re going to shoot me with that thing get on with it and I’ll forget the movie.”
Saying this while gnawing on my sandwich didn’t make me look like too much of a threat. She laid the gun down on the table.
“I need to explain something to you, Mr. Ellis.”
What else could I say to that?
She hemmed and hawed for a minute or so like she was trying to find the right words. Not too hot. Not too cold, but just right. How Goldilocks of her except for that black, ugly Walther PPK on the table – still pointed in my direction.
“First off, Mr. Ellis…I have no desire to kill you for shooting my father or for anything else before or…” I interrupted her.
“I’m glad to hear that, but why that calls to that TV station saying the opposite?”
“Oh, that was Nate’s idea. Motives for our actions and that. A distraction really.”
“But what was your motive? All those people? Why?”
“We‘ve each got our own motives and you were just a convenient coincidence. We are all from here so the odds of our fathers mixing it up with you at some point seemed pretty high.”
“You all had reasons, what you think were good reasons, to shoot up the Mall, that Mini-Mart, and you – the ER at the hospital? I don’t get it at all. I also don’t get why you’re here. Why you want to talk to me?”
She held up her hand to stop my talking. She was getting upset.
“I wanted to talk with you to explain… to explain and to ask for your help.”
“Yes, you see, we had our reasons…”
“You’ve said that before, but I haven’t heard anything coming from you that is even close to an explanation for mass murder. Why don’t you start over and quit dancing all around it?”
She lowered her head and closed her eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to pull herself together or getting ready to lose it and pick up the gun again.
“I…it was that Emergency Room that kept me alive after I was…I should have died. I wanted to die. I deserved to die. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”
“No! No it’s not complicated. I do understand. Your Old Man put two shots into my back. It was a long time before I felt half human again, before I wasn’t in constant pain with every breath. They put me on a ‘Recovery Leave’ for the better part of a year. That just about did me in. It cost me my marriage and I thought of eating my service revolver a thousand times. So, don’t tell me that ‘It’s complicated’ stuff.
She looked at me with the saddest eyes I’d seen since my mother buried my baby sister when I was ten. I might have gotten too hard on her.
“I’m sorry, Leslie Ann. I shouldn’t have jumped on you like that.”
“No. No, you have every right. I haven’t got the courage to take this gun here and finish what was started when I was twelve.”
“Stop that talk. What about the others?” I asked her. “What about Timothy Collins…the one in the Mall?”
“The one you killed?
“Yes. The one I killed.”
“Timmy. He was a sweet boy.”
I SAW A LOVELY FAMILY PORTRAIT the other day. It was quite a crowd spanning several generations. At the crux of the gathering was the Patriarch of the Family – Kirk Douglas. THE Kirk Douglas, the world famous actor, who starred in countless movies spanning decades.
He is 102 years old now and still ticking. His wife is 100 years old and still tocking. Together they are defying time.
When I first saw that Kirk Douglas had cracked the century mark it made me feel positively young, but then I saw that his oldest son, Michael Douglas is a year older than me. So much for that illusion of youth that I was clinging to.
“What do you want to know about Nate anyway? If you already know that he says he wants to kill you – that should be enough.”
It’s hard to argue with basic logic, but I was never good at accepting the obvious. So here I am talking to a jockey with a beer belly who still has a gun in his hand.
“I want to know where he is! I want to find him so I can stop him from killing me.”
“Wait long enough and he’ll find you. Then you two can have a nice chit-chat before he slits your throat.”
“Well, my short not my friend, the trick is that I want to find him before he finds me.”
I didn’t think that was funny, but the little wise guy was giggling.
“So you can slit his throat? I wouldn’t advise trying that. He’s younger than you; in better shape for sure, and he is one sneaky son of a gun.”
This was like talking to a dog. The movement of my lips was keeping his attention, but nothing was getting through to him. Time to start over.
“Let me go back to the beginning. OK? Square one? Are you with me?”
“Shoot, Pal. That’s a figure of speech.”
I really wanted to strangle him by this time.
“Me who wants to know where in the hell is Nate Williams, Jr.? Do you know where he is right now? Today? This very moment?”
“Sure. Why didn’t you ask me that straight out of the gate? Of course I know where he is.”
“Ok then… Where is he?”
The old jockey leaned over and reached down to the floor beside his chair. When he did that he put his pistol in his lap and it slipped off and clattered to the floor. When he straightened up he was holding a newspaper. He folded it in half and tossed it at me.
“Here, read it for yourself, Mr. Sam Spade, Private Detective.”
I grabbed the paper in midair, unfolded it and looked at the front page. The headline was about some senator dropping dead in Washington.
“What am I supposed to be looking at? This story about the dead politician?
“Below the fold! Below the fold! Nate would never merit a spot on top. Are you sure you can read or do you want me to help you sound it out?”
I was being dissed by an ugly gnome who was living in someone else’s attic. Under other circumstances I would have kicked his scrawny butt into next Tuesday, but he was a source.
I turned the paper over and scanned the page below the fold. That was where I saw Nate Williams’’ picture – his mug shot.
“Suspect in Mini-Mart Massacre Captured.”
The story said that he had been nabbed “without incident” while he was sleeping at his home “at 432 Wilson Avenue last night.” I didn’t read any further.
“What the…? Why didn’t you tell me this 20 minutes ago?”
“You didn’t ask – and you weren’t being very polite, lying to me about who you were. Barry Livingston, indeed.”
I’d wasted half a day tracking down this address, getting here through crosstown traffic, and then playing “Twenty Questions” with a smartass munchkin after climbing up that deathtrap set of stairs.
“Why didn’t Martindale call me? I said that out loud.
“That Copper? He’s a dick.” He had the gun in his hand, pointed at my crotch again. “Now, get out of here and don’t come back. I won’t be such a good host next time.”
Nate Williams wanted to kill me and now I wanted to kill Detective Martindale. All he had to do was pick up his phone and call me. I would have slept better last night and I wouldn’t have blown half a day and I think my left knee climbing the stairs at 432 Wilson Avenue.
I didn’t even stop for lunch. I knew that if I did I would end up drunk and try to storm into Martindale’s office. All that would accomplish would be to get myself arrested and tossed into my own cell.
Stone cold sober, but with my stomach grumbling like a St. Bernard, I walked up to the front desk at the Central Station.
“I’d like to see Detective Martindale, please.” I was trying hard to be polite. “If I may.”
The Sergeant looked down at me from his spot at the desk. He knew me, but I didn’t remember him.
“Ellis, he don’t want to see you. Nobody down here wants to see you.”
“Could you tell him that it’s about the Nate Williams Case…Please?”
“There is no ‘Nate Williams Case’, Ellis. Don’t you ever watch the Noon News on the TV? His lawyer walked out of here an hour ago with Williams by his side. It seems that he was able to produce a rock solid alibi. Mistaken Identity or something. Yeah, they were laughing and making lunch plans.
“Now, you…I want you to get out of here before I write you up for being a Common Nuisance.”
I don’t know how he did it. “A rock solid alibi” is what the desk Sergeant said.
My aching back.
Williams was all over the CCTV at the Gas Station. Unless he has a twin brother roaming around out there, which I know he doesn’t, Nate Williams, Junior was the shooter and now he is walking the streets again and looking for me…as if I am the cause of all his problems.
If he could have an alibi of any sort in the face of that security camera video what about the others?
Leslie Ann Wolas chopped up the Emergency Room at the hospital and they have cameras up on the wall there too. The other guy, the one I dropped at the Mall, had to be on video too. How could they claim to have been someplace else? Once my bullets put him on the floor his alibi went to hell with him.
I don’t know why it’s been taking Williams so long to find me. It’s not like I’ve been in hiding since I retired. I have moved a couple of times, but that was to save some money on rent. I haven’t even been out of town for more than a day or two in over two years.
If somebody wants to find me I don’t see where all of this showboating has been all that necessary. I’m not in the phone book like Nate Williams, but still…
Some days are not worth getting out of bed for. Some others are not worth getting into bed in the first place. This one was getting to be a day for not worth even owning a bed. I’d be considered a luckier man if I was living in the park and sleeping on a bench.
This morning I didn’t know where Nate Williams was, then I did, and now I don’t again. I’ve had better days hooked up to life support.
432 Wilson Ave. #6. I’m not saying it was a dump. That would be an insult to dumps. 432 Wilson Ave. was a cliché. It was a three story building that had been converted from an ugly single family home into six “Studio Apartments” that should more properly be called “Cells.” Apartment #6 was in half of what used to be the attic. From the looks of it on the outside it wouldn’t be very comfortable for anyone over 5’8”. My data sheet said that Nate Williams Jr. was 6’1”. So, maybe I should be looking for a hunchback.
The entire street had the look that nobody cared anymore about how it looked. Abandoned cars, a couple of waterlogged and moldy sofas, and a soft drink vending machine were huddled against the curb. Up the block from 432 a neglected looking dog was curled up right in the middle of the street. It wasn’t dead. I took a closer look as I swerved my car around it. The dog lifted its ugly head to look at me as I drove past, but made no effort to move. You could probably say the same thing about the humans who lived here.
A couple of old ladies, rocking on their front porches, watched as I came down the block, but if anybody asked them – they never saw me. Nobody ever sees anything on Wilson Avenue.
If there is one thing that I don’t like more than just about anything else its stairs. Too many years of walking the beat and then having some idiot I was trying to cuff kicks me in the knee and did damage. An X-Ray of my kneecaps looks like a picture of a handful of cracker crumbs. Every morning when I get out of bed and stand my body sounds like a bag filled with castanets. So what do I have to do at 432 Wilson Ave.? Walk up three flights of rickety, homemade stairs that were bolted to the outside of the building.
I was not in a good mood to begin with and now I was going to have two swollen knees before I even got to knock on the door at #6. “Nate Williams better be there” I thought, “Watching TV, in his underwear, eating a bag of Cheetos.”
A doorbell. Somebody put in a doorbell. One of those new ones with a built-in camera so they can see who’s coming even before you push the button. Well, there went the element of surprise. Whoever was on the other side of the door could tell I wasn’t there selling Girl Scout cookies.
Just out of spite I ignored the doorbell and knocked on the door. It rattled and wobbled. One good shoulder hit and it would have fallen apart like it was made out of cardboard.
When I knocked I could hear some scuffling from inside, some mumbling and what sounded like a chair being kicked over. Nothing that sounded like a shotgun shell being racked up or a pistol round being chambered.
I knocked again, but I moved off to the side as far as I could go without falling three floors to the driveway. No sense being an easy target. There was more mumbling, but closer to the door. I looked up at the camera. Somebody had spray painted the lens. Nobody was seeing anything with that piece of useless junk.
“The Lady or the Tiger” was never one of my favorite stories as a kid and right now I feel like that Lady standing in front of a shoddy door. I put my hand on the grip of my weapon tucked in the small of my back. If there was a tiger behind that door I wanted to show it that I wasn’t no Lady.
I gave it one more sharp knock.
“Hold on a minute, will ya? I don’t move all that fast anymore.”
A lame tiger?
I sucked in my gut. I wanted to make myself as small a target as possible. I moved the pistol to alongside my leg with my finger ready to hit the trigger.
There is nothing like the sound of a deadbolt slide being pulled. Whoever was in there was opening more than one lock. I counted three of them before things got quiet again. I was about to see if I was going to face a tiger with bad feet or the wrong end of a .357.
I braced myself for…for whatever as best I could standing on a small wooden platform three storoes above the ground with nowhere to go but either down or through the door.
“Hold your horses, I’m coming. This better be good or I’m gonna be mad. Making me get and all.”
The Voice pulled open the door. I’d expected it to open out but it swung inward. I think that’s illegal, but I’m glad it did. There was barely enough room for me out there.
“Whatcha want, Cowboy?”
I had to look down to see his face. This was definitely not Nate Williams, Jr., Senior, or any other member of the Williams family. I moved on with my pre-planned first question.
“Where the hell is Nate Williams?”
“Well, who the hell wants to know?”
Whoever he was he certainly wasn’t intimidated by my presence.
This guy who wasn’t Nate Williams was no more than 5’4″ tall and skinny as a rail except for the beer belly that jutted out from his open bathrobe. He needed a shave. He’d needed it for at least a week or two and he was wearing fuzzy pink slippers. He was also carrying a five shot black revolver pointed at my crotch.
The little guy had the advantage. I was so surprised that my weapon was still hanging limp by my side. I figured that I’d better answer his question.
“My name is Barry Livingston and I’m looking for Nate Williams. You’re not him.”
“Nate Williams? Yeah, you got that right.I ain’t him, Sherlock. and you’re not Barry Livingston. He was a kid actor on television. so, shall we start over?”
He waved his pistol disturbingly close to my posterity.
“I’m not Nate Williams and who are you? Don’t tell me Ricky Nelson or I’ll clear cut your Family Tree roght here and now.”
I decided that I’d better be square with him since he held all the cards and that five-shot.
“My name is Mack Ellis and I’m looking for Nate Williams because he wants to kill me.” That was it, short and sweet.
The little guy laughed at me.He laughed, but he lowered the gun, turned and walked back into the apartment. I put my pistol back in its holster. If he was really going to shoot me he would have done it by now.
I followed him into the very low ceilinged attic apartment. I had the urge to bend over rather than hit my head on one of the exposed beams. If Nate Williams ever actually lived here he must have been desperate.
There was only one old overstuffed chair that sat in front of a big screen TV. Off to the side was a single bed. The “kitchen” The walls were bare except for one lone poster thumbtacked to the wall in the kitchen area. It was a large photograph of a horse and jockey taken in the Winner’s Circle at some track. The jockey looked familiar.
The guy who was not Nate Williams saw me staring at the poster. He had plopped himself down in the big chair.
“Yeah, that’s me a few years and a lot of beers ago. That was after The Breeder’s Cup race at Santa Anita. I won by six lengths on a horse that was so juiced I was surprised that he didn’t leak. Drag the kitchen chair over here and we can talk.
“So…Nate Williams wants to kill you? That sounds like Nate alright. He always has somebody he wants to kill.”
A memory can be buried deeper than Jimmy Hoffa and as obscure as a 1960s One-Hit Wonder – and one tiny thing can make it come roaring back to the front of your conscious mind as fresh as if it all happened this morning. And this morning was not very good. Only one egg in the fridge, bread with a blue tint along the edges, and just enough coffee to get my pulse steady.
I saved O’Shea’s printout on Timothy Collins for last because when Martindale gave me the five cent recap on him the whole story came back to me like midnight after a bad Mexican meal. The details that I thought had faded away re-etched themselves on my brain. It made me feel screwed all over again.
The first time I heard about the Collins family was when somebody broke into a nursing home. Who breaks into a nursing home? Well, this guy did. He figured it was a good place to score a sizeable haul of drugs of all kinds; pain killers, sedatives, and the like. He was right figuring that, but the staff must have been sampling some of their own stash because they decided to fight back. Brave but stupid. Wheelchairs don’t fare well up against a strung out B&E guy with two .45s. Seven of the staffers bought it that night. The one man with the habit and the guns got a boatload of junk the residents hated as much as they hated the Staff. None of them could or would give a decent description of the man.
Collins got picked up in a sweep of the neighborhood. He was two blocks away, stoned out of his mind, and strapped with a .45. He was handed over to me to interrogate. Trying to question a junkie who was starting to come down? I’d have had better luck trying to get a dog to confess to the Kennedy Assassination. Six hours of me doing all of the talking, then screaming while Collins drooled and sang old Irish songs – after vomiting on the table.
I’d always prided myself on keeping my cool with suspects no matter how disgusting they were, but Collins got to me. He was clueless and I was useless. He belched in my face, smelling like puke, and I lost it. I beat the ever loving daylights out of him. By the time the crew watching from the other side of the glass pulled me off of him the damage was done.
There was an investigation and the only thing that kept me from ending up on the wrong side of a courtroom was that Collins didn’t press charges. He was so ripped that he couldn’t remember me kicking the crap out of him. As far as he could testify he thought that maybe he fell down a flight of stairs or maybe he got hit by a bus.
Internally it was a different story. I was “disciplined” for “Improper Action.” That cost me a pay grade and a two month suspension which was waived because they were already short staffed.
The guy who actually shot up the nursing home was caught the day after I’d creamed Collins. He had been thrown out of a hockey bar for being too obnoxious. He shot out their front window before the barkeep pulled his dog-leg from behind a keg and blew away the guy’s knees. There was enough forensic evidence that he’d killed those seven people that even the Pope would have voted to put him on Death Row. I’d kicked Collins and my career for nothing. Everybody lost.
The newspapers reported that I had beaten Collins in front of his kid, cute little Timothy, traumatizing him for life. Not unless the kid was on the Force already at the age of eleven and watching it all through the one-way mirror.
What a joke.
When it came to the kid, Timothy Collins, he went around telling that bullcrap story as if it was Gospel Truth. It made him think he was somebody. He told it so often that I think he began to believe it himself.
Why he hooked up with the other pair of shooters is something nobody will ever know unless he left a diary or something behind. He’s not telling that story anymore. My two hits took care of that. Do I regret that? Hell, No. I may be the thread that connects all three of them to me, but I don’t think the younger Collins recognized me that day in the Mall. He would have cut me to pieces just like he’d done with those other poor whoevers were there in his line of sight.
So there it is. Three people ready and willing to murder. One of them dead by my hand and two on the loose and somehow I am tied to all of them and they call the TV stations to let them know that I am their real target.
Nine pages of data gathered with the help of an old friend who became an enemy, who now is…somewhere in between. I’m not sure if he will move that data upstairs to his superiors. He might. He should, but he might also look upon those nine pages as something just between the two of us and hit the delete button.
I’ll pass on those nine pages to Detective Martindale, but no right away. They have at least fifteen people looking for those two surviving media-loving killers. If I give the guys upstairs this pile of information they’ll be bumping into each other and queering any real sources who might help end this without hailstorm of lead. I’m going to keep this printout to myself for awhile. Close to the vest and very quiet. I’ll plumb my own sources – the ones who are still alive and talking to me. There aren’t that many left, but they can be invaluable. They can dig up information that even O’Shea’s computers can’t. His electric solid-state snitches can tell him how much money they might have, but my people can tell me which pocket it’s in.
Nate Williams Jr.
Leslie Ann Wolas
Which one first – Williams or Wolas?
Those were the two who were still alive and dangerous. Collins could wait. He wasn’t going anywhere. I’d made sure of that.
My first freelancing source of information was courtesy of the phone company. One of the first things people do when they grow up and move out into the world is to get their own place and the first thing they do after they sign the lease papers is to get a phone…a landline even if they already have a cell phone. It’s the grown-up thing to do. They may never use it, but it’s there, sitting on the table in the corner, reassuring them that they are no longer Mommy’s little baby.
Page 477, halfway down the page: “Nathan Williams, 432 Wilson Ave. #6, 675-1298.” He’d dropped the “Junior.”
For all his genius O’Shea had ignored that bit of information. People move so often that it was almost a 100% sure thing bet that Williams wasn’t living there anymore. A useless bit of history it would seem? True, but what O’Shea couldn’t know was that maybe, just maybe, he had sublet his apartment to a friend who knows where to send his check every month.
It couldn’t hurt to ask, but to make sure that it couldn’t I packed three inconspicuous and easily concealed pistols – one on my hip under my jacket, another tucked in the small of my back, and a third in an ankle holster. Being sure that something is safe and harmless is the quickest way into a casket. If everything at 432 Wilson Ave #6 is harmless as a puppy dog then fine and dandy, but if they are friends of Nate Williams Jr. they might be as nasty as a rattlesnake with a fangache.
OK…I had my information. I had my three steel friends, and I had my first question ready for whoever answered the door.
“Where the hell is Nate Junior?”
Now it was my turn to go hunting.
No matter how tragic and screwed up a road Nate Williams, father and son, traveled down theirs was a rose covered pathway compared to the gauntlet that Leslie Ann Wolas had to run.
Greg Wolas was a man totally unfit to be a parent yet there he was a damned fool given total custody of his daughter by the courts. He hadn’t asked for it, but the judge, who wanted to go have an early lunch with some friends, gave it to him so the court could adjourn before his favorite restaurant got filled with the lunch crowd.
There was no doubt that Greg Wolas was the biological father of Leslie Ann Wolas. The DNA test Greg had paid for trying to prove that he wasn’t the father had backfired on him and now, with Mommy on her way to prison for at least a decade or two for stabbing her john, Greg was ordered by the Court to become a loving and responsible parent – a Father, to a five year old girl with strawberry blonde hair and no idea who he was.
That was just in the first two paragraphs of Timmy O’Shea’s printout pages on Greg Wolas, the man who, a few years down the road crossed paths with me. He ended up dead and I was given the standard psychiatric evaluation whenever an officer shoots and kills. The verdict was that I was hasty drawing my weapon. The fact that I took two slugs from him wasn’t an obvious enough reason for me to shoot back. I still have those scars on my back.
Spending those hours sitting next to Tim O’Shea as he exhumed both the facts and the memories of how it came to be that now, years after I “retired” from the Thin Blue Line, there are three people I have no recollection of ever having had any direct contact with, stepping into my life over dead and bloodied bodies.
Leslie Ann Wolas grew. You can’t say she was raised. Whatever she learned about the “Three Rs” she picked up pretty much on her own. The printout showed that she had been registered in seven different elementary schools in three states. Stability was just a word on a spelling test.
For some reason, when Leslie Ann was 12 years old Daddy Greg took off for Atlanta leaving her behind to fend for herself. That was like throwing a rack of ribs into a pit full of starving dogs. As smart as she was she was still a kid. Kids alone on the street simply don’t matter. After a week she was tossed from a moving car outside the hospital emergency room. She was alive, but her body, mind and soul had been violated and abused, passed around like a tray of nuts. Greg came back after a few weeks carrying his own collection of scars and injuries. He discharged Leslie from the hospital and they caught a bus to New Orleans. He needed her body to prove to Welfare that he was her father and therefore qualified for a bigger monthly check.
Throughout her teen years she followed the cliché route of rebellion against everything and that included her father. She walked away from him and disappeared for three years. How and why she ended up in this city again is unclear. Maybe she and Greg had some sort of family reconciliation – genetics overcoming brutal reality. Even more obscure is how and why she went back to that same hospital ER that saved her life and shot the hell out it. They saved her life instead of letting her die.
Maybe that’s why.
Maybe that hospital ER was her personal target and she joined up with Nate Williams and Timothy Collins as just a way to exact her own revenge. Maybe it had nothing to do with me. A real coincidence even though I don’t believe in them.
I killed her Father.
The stupid SOB.
On page six of the printout was a synopsis of how I ended up swabbing the deck of Greg Wolas. This was after Greg and his daughter had apparently kissed and made up, a loving family portrait once more.
Greg had moved up from running nickel and dime scams to try running a string of girls. He was as big a failure at that as he was at being a Father. His string was very short – one anorexic idiot who was as attractive as an open running sore and Leslie Ann. Why she went along with his idea is beyond me, unless it was a combo of trying to help her Father and another level of self-loathing.
Greg and Leslie had picked out a street corner in what was called a “transitional neighborhood.” That meant it was going from being just a slum sliding down the slime track into downright squalor. It was also a heavy drug market corner. I guess Greg believed in that old marketing slogan, “Location; Location, Location.
I was assigned to a task force that was going after the drug activity in that area, as if that was going to make a real difference. That neighborhood was circling the bowl a year or two away from when gentrification would come in and make it chic.
One Saturday night a raid on a number of corners was scheduled. We were going to go in scooping up a bunch of the small fry on the street. It wouldn’t do much except frustrate the drive by customers and take a tiny bit of profit from the men who never visited their corners.
That was also a night that Greg Wolas decided to loiter on the corner keeping an eye on his “string.” The street drug crew didn’t mind. Greg stayed out of their way and they liked chatting with the girls.
When me and the other members of our squad came swooping down on the corner things got chaotic. One nervous druggie pulled his cheap pistol and put a hole in the hood of a Black and White. I came out with my weapon drawn and ran after the punk who shot at us. That took me right into the path of Greg and Leslie Ann who were running in the same direction. I didn’t care about them. I wanted the other guy.
Witnesses said that as I passed Greg he pulled out his own piece and fired at me a little beyond point blank – twice into my back. The hits spun me around and I saw him with his pistol and I fired once. I went down and so did he. After three weeks and losing my spleen I got back up.
Greg never did.