Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Police”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Nine

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Nine

 

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.

Crazy.

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

Timothy Collins

***

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.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eight

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eight

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.

“JUSTITIA CONDEMNABITUR”

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.

Nah.

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.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seven

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” 

Part Seven

It had been years since Tim O’Shea had heard my voice, but it was still fresh enough in his memory to make him freeze in his chair.

“Go away, Ellis.”  His voice was flat, displaying no emotion. No anger. No interest. He could just as easily have been a bus driver calling out the next stop along his route.

“Go away.” He still kept his back to me.

“I’d like to talk with you, Tim. I need some help on a case and you’re …”

“You’re not a Police Officer anymore. You have no case.” He slowly started to turn around. “Get out of here. You don’t belong here.” He had that part right, but still, I needed him.

“Tim, Please. This has to do with those three shootings – at the hospital, the gas station and the Mall. I’ve already spoken with Martindale about this.” I figured a little misdirection might help. It was technically the truth. We had spoken only he’d grilled me like a store brand bratwurst.

“Please?”

He was facing me now. His eyes squinting through some dirty glasses. He took his time as he looked me up and down. “You look like hell. Where you been living – at the bottom of a gin bottle?”

He was not far off.

“You’re not looking so hot either, Tim. When’s the last time you got your hair cut by somebody other than Stevie Wonder?’

A smile cracked across his face. That face of his looked like it hadn’t seen the sun in years. Did he ever get out of his basement lair?

“How long has it been, Mack?”

“I don’t know, Tim. It seems like a lifetime.”

“At least. You say you talked with Martindale about this?”

“Yes.”

“I did too, you lying Son of a…”

“OK, I admit it,” I jumped in on him. “I did stretch things a bit about that, but…”

“Martindale told me that he thinks you’re tied into that mess somehow and that you might try to get me to save you some legwork.” He paused and took off his glasses, blowing on each lens. “Well, Martindale is a dick. I read the papers.”

He turned around again and leaned in close to a computer screen. That had to be bad for his him somehow. He stuck out his arm pointing at a folded chair leaning up against a bank of file cabinets.

 “Sit down.”

For the rest of the morning I fed Tim names and any information I had and he nodded, grunted and let his fingers march back and forth across his keyboard. I couldn’t follow it all. He had three monitors going with changing screens displaying a number of official looking documents and pictures of the three shooters at various ages. Tim O’Shea was cooking.

He tackled the trio of killers one at a time. He was able, starting with just their names and their father’s names, to burrow back in time. Their school records and any juvenile brushes with the Law even those records officially locked or expunged. Nothing seemed to be off-limits or out of reach. He was able to find medical records, employment applications, and even school records on them.

Nate Williams Sr. was a career criminal who had the proverbial long as your arm record. He passed on his tendency to lie, cheat, and steal on to his son at an early age.

Nate Williams Jr. made his debut in a courtroom at the age of 9 when he stabbed a playmate with a plastic fork for his lunch money. He stabbed him in the eye. That was the part that got him the attention of the Police. Little Nate spent a year in Juvenile custody for that.

When he got out and was placed back with his family young Nate seemed to keep it together and behave himself – or at least he never got caught. It wasn’t until Daddy lost control one Sunday afternoon in a gas station mini-mart that Junior seriously got pulled into the family business.

According to Grand Jury testimony while Daddy was inside the mini-mart gathering up some cash and pistol whipping the clerk, young Nate stayed in the car. After a couple of minutes he got restless and came inside to see what was taking so long. He came through the door just in time to see the owner of the mini-mart come out of his office with a gun. Being the faithful little son Junior called out a warning and watched his father turn and put two rounds into the owner’s gut. He lived, and testified at Daddy’s trial that Junior was a part of the whole thing.

I was put on the case and in a couple of days I was able to follow the slime trail and track Nate Williams the Elder to the crawl space in his mother’s house. Me and another officer dragged him out while his mother screamed “Police Brutality.” Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I paused long enough to give his Mommy a healthy punch in her ample gut. She stopped screaming and nobody saw a thing according to the perfunctory report…except Nate Junior who saw his Grandmother doubled over on the floor.

For all of that ugly nonsense Daddy got 15 to 30 years in the meanest prison in the state. Six years into it he was shanked in the exercise yard for some reason that someone thought was important.

Nate Williams Junior went back into Juvie even though this time all he had done was react like any kid would have.

And so, a long standing resentment was born that vomited again onto the world in the same gas station mini-mart where a number of years before a boy had seen his father shoot a man in the stomach.

No matter how tragic and screwed up a road Nate Williams, father and son, traveled down theirs was a rose covered pathway compared to gauntlet that Leslie Ann Wolas had to run.

Throwback Thursday From August 2016 – “Leave The Gun, Take The Donuts”

Throwback Thursday From August 2016 –

“Leave The Gun, Take The Donuts”

donut1

WHEN I GET UP EVERY MORNING one of the first things I do is turn on the TV to catch the Weather and local news. The Weather helps me to decide on how to dress and the News either confirms or dispels my decision to get out of bed at all.

One day a week or so ago the lovely Dana Winklepleck (Anchorwoman) ran a story that grabbed my attention like a hungry pit bull on a pork chop.

Dateline: New Albany, Indiana.

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Dana Winklepleck

New Albany, Indiana is not so close as to be in the “I can see my house from here,” category, but it does qualify as “Local.” The gist of the story is as follows –

A man and his wife woke up from their night’s slumber, much like we all do I suppose. The wife then expressed her yearning for some donuts. Since there were no donuts in the house she sent her loving hubby-bubby out on a mission to get her some donuts and return. She told him exactly what she wanted and sent him on his way.

This is the point where things began to go sour.

The husband went to his wife’s favorite donut shop and placed his order.

“I’m sorry sir, but we’re all out of those donuts until tomorrow.”

Uh-Oh.

With trepidation in his heart, but no donuts in his hand, he returned home. Wifey did not take it well. She launched into a monologue of her opinion of hubby’s abilities as a shopper and potential father. Hubby did not take this well.

Tired of being verbally worked over by his wife, he tried to leave the house (Not a bad idea, if you ask me.). He tried, but she wasn’t finished with him and blocked his way to the door. It was

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at this point that the failed Donut Quixote lost his temper and tried to push his angry Aldonza out of the way.

I guess that she had assumed that this physical altercation was going to stay one-sided. When he pushed her, this seriously intense donut fan escalated things and stabbed her husband in the chest with a Grill Fork. I assume that while he was out looking for her donuts she decided to cook up some bacon or, given her temper, the neighbor’s dog.

donut fork

Not to be intimidated by mere stab wounds, he pulled the fork out of his chest and made his escape from the house. He may have gotten outside, but it seems that she followed him down the street continuing to say nasty things about him.

Someone eventually called the police, who found the husband sitting on the ground holding his chest. They took him to the hospital. They took her to the jail.

Of course, criminal justice being what it is, they are both facing criminal charges – her for that impetuous forking, and him for shoving her in an attempt to escape.

I’m thinking that he has a better chance of being able to go out for donuts sooner than she does. And I hope that he buys what he wants and she can go pound a cruller.

That woman has the worst eating disorder I’ve ever heard of – short of that scene from “The Godfather.”

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

donut2

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Six

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” 

Part Six

Technically and legally I have no direct access to police records. When I left The Force, or rather it left me, I lost my key to the door that opened on a world of information, but I hadn’t lost Tim O’Shea. At least I hoped not.

Tim O’Shea had been on the force longer than me and because of a couple of injuries in the line of duty he had been moved to desk duty. He had shown a knack for the technical side of the badge and after some retraining he was put in the IT Department as a clerk. He was a quick learner and within a year he became “Tim The Computer Guy” who everyone turned to when they needed to track a suspect’s path via the world of Bits, Bytes, and Mega-Whatevers. If a Person Of Interest had ever so much as played an online video game Tim O’Shea could track him down and tell you what he had for lunch. I was counting on that level of investigation.

Rather than go back downtown and through the front door again and face running into anyone who might not appreciate me doing their job for them – and doing it better, I parked a block away from the HQ building and came through the City Offices entrance. A visit to the Building Code Enforcement offices on the lower level provided a quiet backdoor access to the Police IT section of the basement.

O’Shea had his own office filled with more electronic gear than that Gates guy in Seattle. He was down in the building’s basement where it was always cooler than the rest of the joint thanks to the ancient A/C system. No matter what the setting the top floors were too hot and as you went down everything got cooler. Down in the basement it was like a picnic cooler in Winter. Lettuce could sit on a desk down there and stay fresh until Spring.

O’Shea’s domain was different. He had set up his own environmental sphere – temperature and humidity controlled 24 hours a day with multiple backups for every system. Nothing was being left to chance or political interference.

Yeah, Tim O’Shea was the right man to see…that is if he’ll let me through the door.

The O’Shea Problem

The hard feelings between us go back a number of years and like all too many long standing problems – there was a woman involved.

I left the police ten years ago, partly at the urging of the powers that be, partly by the sadness in my troubled heart, and partly because of a woman named Josinda – Josie for short.

Josie was a civilian clerk in the City offices that shared some floor space in our building and I didn’t know, I swear, that she and Tim were a number. Apparently it was a bigger number in his mind than in hers because she said “Yes” when I asked her out for a drink. Tim did not take that very well. In his eye I was, I think his phrase was “Claim jumping” to let me know how he felt. I didn’t know how he felt about her. She didn’t either. She broke it all off with Tim and me both. It was no big deal to me, but to O’Shea I had ruined his life. I tried to explain it to him, but he didn’t, wouldn’t, or couldn’t believe me and a good working relationship crashed and burned. That hurt more than not getting closer to Josie. I was over her in about an hour and a half, but having Tim O’Shea shooting daggers at me everyday hurt.

All of this was a long time ago in the past as far as I’m concerned, but friends still in Blue tell me that Tim still gets somewhat icy when my name comes up.

I feel like I really don’t have a viable second choice. If I want to dig into these three killers it’s got to be Tim O’Shea or nobody and Nobody stopped talking to me a long time ago. 

***

What a lopsided triangle that was: Me, Tim, and Josie. I innocently asker her out – for a drink and nothing more, I swear. She said “Yes” and before I knew what was happening Tim got PO’d at me. Then Tim got PO’d with Josie. She got PO’d at both of us, saying, loudly, that she was not going to be the prize at a Police Turkey Shoot. She called us both “Cop Bastards” and walked away. When she told off Tim in the office in front of everyone it all really hit the fan.

He blamed me for everything. I tried to tell him that I wasn’t cutting in on his turf – claim jumping – and that I was the only innocent leg of the triangle. He didn’t buy that at all. Nobody bought it and all of a sudden I am being cast as an evil and sneaky SOB.

I may have been innocent in that mess, but I got laid more in the six months after I got tagged as “The Bad Guy” than I had in the previous years. Some women just like the Bad Guy who’d steal another man’s woman. I didn’t put up much of a protest. Nothing I could say would overturn the rumor machine and, anyway, I was having a real good time of it. I considered it a payback for my reputation being sullied.

After that six months of fun and games things calmed down. My Groupies figured out that I wasn’t such a scumbag after all, and once Josie was out of the picture and stopped feeding the rumor mill, everybody took a breath – except for Tim O’Shea. To him I was still the Devil incarnate – a combination of a Casanova in a blue uniform and the actor Richard Burton. Well, let me tell you, Josie was no Elizabeth Taylor.

The sign on the door should have been enough to stop me from going any farther.

“Knock, Phone, Email, or send a Postcard, but DO NOT just walk in.”

I figured that since I was already on his “Least favorite persons” list I had nowhere to go but up. I twisted the doorknob and pushed open the door. Without even turning around in his chair to see who was violating his space, O’Shea yelled, “Can’t you read?”

“Not very well, Tim.”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Five

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Five
Digging back in time on those three people is not as easy as I thought it would be. I assumed that the newspapers would have everything computerized, available at the touch of a button. They did for maybe the last five years or so, but beyond that – not so simple. The newspapers in this town are still firmly locked in the 20th century.

To go find the coverage of the events that, theoretically, put their fathers and me in the same frame had me sitting in front of an ancient microfilm player cranking away on those dusty little handles.

Once I located something relevant I was faced with another problem. When I busted Daddy #1 – Nate Williams Senior, I was a lot younger, but trying to read about it now I was faced with the fact that I had today’s eyes. I had my Driving glasses with me, but I am going to have to face reality and Reality is telling me that bifocals are in my future – like yesterday. I couldn’t get much past the headlines so I had to drop a few bucks to get printouts.

I stopped at a discount store on the way home and bought a pair of those cheap “Reading Glasses” for a couple more dollars. Add in the cost of parking downtown and some lunch from a food truck and this “research” was getting costly.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Four

“This is Detective Martindale. I’m calling in reference to the shooting at the Mall yesterday.”

“I figured as much when you started talking. Look, I’ve already given all of my details when I answered your boy’s questions yesterday so I don’t…”

“I want you to come down here. We have some more things we need to know from you. I understand you were on the job once so you know where to come.”

“I told your boys everything, in detail, about what went down…”

“Ellis, get your ass down here or do I have to stop being polite and have you brought downtown in a black and white? Get sober and put on your pants. Be here in thirty minutes or I send out a car to embarrass you in front of the neighbors.”

Click.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Three

Television news is little more than the worst of 19th century “Yellow Journalism” without the ink stains. The Head Honchos of the network News Departments aren’t the slightest bit ashamed to say, “If it bleeds – it leads” when it comes to their merchandising of the News. This day with the three coordinated shootings was Christmas Morning for them.

The local TV stations had cameras and perfectly coiffed “Reporters” dispatched to the three scenes within eight minutes. They were sticking microphones in the faces of the bleeding and traumatized victims, some in their final moments of life.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Two

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Family Matters

Part Two

My stomach was hurting. I decided to take a walk around the Mall hoping it would ease up and then I’d stop for a beer. That was my plan if you could call it that.

Five minutes into my leg stretch I was down by the Food Court, looking at the window display at Victoria’s Secret.

It was no secret to me. It was 5:40 PM when the world began to rock.

It sounded like a shotgun blast. Someone screamed. Someone else started to scream, but was cut off when a second report from the shotgun cut it short. A third and fourth shots echoed through the Mall. People started running away from the noise.

I hit the floor and scooted on my aching belly up to the corner of the storefront. I could see the shooter. He looked to be in his mid 20s. He was reloading his single barrel shotgun for another go at the shoppers who were down or still within his range. He was laughing, looking at the mess in front of him.

I slipped back out of his sightline and reached down to my right calf, lifted my pantleg, and got my short barrel .38. The sight of me with my weapon started a fresh round of screaming, but the shoppers were going in one direction and I was crawling in the other.

Read more…

Not A Way To Start The Day

 

WHO SAYS THAT NOTHING EVER HAPPENS AT ST. ARBUCKS?

Not me.

Just the other morning as I was trying hard to be a calm, sober, and mature adult, but not having much luck. I was at St. Arbucks slurping my coffee when a young man lurched through the door. He looked to be in his twenties but had a baby face that made him look about fourteen. But there was something “off” about him.

After he came through the door he stopped and took his time looking about the room. He made no move toward the cashier’s station. My first thought was, honestly, that he was considering who he should approach to try to get some “spare change.”

I could not have been more wrong.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Family Matters

Part One

It was 5:25. People were getting off work and heading home. In another fifteen minutes, no more, it was all going to hit the fan. The Pasty-faced redheaded kid checked his watch again, smiled, and shook his head. He patted the small pistol in his pocket. He relaxed in his seat in the burger joint across the street from the busy gas station/mini mart.

Sitting in the bus shelter across the street from the County Hospital Emergency Room a second person, a young woman with short hair and tattoos on both arms cradled a .45 caliber pistol in her lap, underneath a folded copy of today’s newspaper. She was waiting for it to be 5:40. Then all hell would break loose.

On the other side of town, outside of the Mall, another young man sat in his car. His knee was bouncing in nervous anticipation. The shotgun that he used to take duck hunting was on the seat next to him. He looked at his watch. It was two minutes later than it was the last time he checked it.

***

I couldn’t sleep. These days whenever I go to a funeral my own mortality jumps up and slaps my face. It won’t let me sleep or eat anything more than the BRAT Diet. For three days I’m limited to Bananas, Rice, Apple Sauce, and Toast until my stomach settles down.

I’m eating like my Grandmother – if she was still alive. She raised me, but that was a pile of years ago. She passed away when I was 28 and in Afghanistan wasting a year of my life. I didn’t go to her funeral.

Today I was at another funeral. My sixth one this year. I sat there at the funeral home on another hard as a brick folding chair trying to not be there in my head. A guy I knew a little sat down next to me. I needed quiet. He needed to chat.

“Half the people I know are dead,” he said in a failed whisper. I nodded and felt obligated to say something.

“What about the other half?”

“We’re waiting for the test results on them.” He giggled. The jackass giggled in the middle of the eulogy for the guest of honor. I got up and walked out. I was done. When I got to the parking lot I vomited.

It was a few minutes past 2 PM, but I already knew that it was going to be rice and apple sauce for dinner. I thought that maybe a nap might help.

On the way back to my apartment my brain took me on a tour of my life – not all of it – just the parts with death. I’d seen too much of it. I’d caused too much of it and now I could see my own. My Grim Reaper wasn’t dressed in a black robe and carrying a scythe. No, he was dressed like me and had a short barrel .38 five round revolver just like mine.

I made the mistake of telling that to the Department Shrink I was forced to see after a justified shooting. Six months later I’m being taken out to dinner and handed a book on golf. I’ve never played golf in my life.

The nap thing didn’t work. I got out of bed, dressed, and to hell with the thought of rice and apple sauce. I needed something real, some buffalo wings and a beer. The beer mainly. Something for my stomach to really complain about. I figured that “Wings Over The World” – a new joint at the Mall was as good as any other place to self medicate my gut.

It was a little after five o’clock.

***

Halfway through that basket of hot wings my stomach began to fight back. Maybe I did have an ulcer. I couldn’t handle the hot sauce. I got a “to-go” box from the cute young hairy kid who was acting as waiter, cashier, and bus boy. He showed talent for the bus boy part anyway. I’d paid for those wings – I wasn’t going to leave them for the rats to eat. I stuffed some extra napkins in my pocket and headed for the door.

It was 5:40 PM.

The man crossed the street against the light and walked up to the man filling his Toyota’s gas tank. One shot and he dropped the nozzle to the ground. He fell on top of it.

Another shot and the driver who had just pulled up to the pump looked at the end of the gun barrel in his last second on earth.

The man with the gun laughed as he walked into the mini mart and emptied his gun into the two people in line buying soft drinks. And the cashier. Before leaving the shooter looked up at the security camera, smiled, and blew it a kiss.

There were thirteen people looking for help in the Emergency Room waiting area. At 5:40 a young woman walked through the automatic door and walked down the row of chairs firing one shot after another. When her pull of the trigger got only clicks she turned and walked beck out of the opening doors. She tossed the pistol into the row of short hedges lining the ER driveway. Ignoring the screams from inside the building she crossed the street and boarded the bus that had just pulled up to the corner.

No, No, No and No.

Artist’s Rendition

OK…I’M AS FREE THINKING AS THE NEXT GUY and even more so than the guy next to him, but even I have to draw the line somewhere.

Not everyone in the world has good luck in dating and looking for true love.

The perfect, or rather highly imperfect, example of this comes in the person of Mr. Christian Nichols, 21, of Oldsmar, Florida. Mr. Nichols is currently incarcerated for “Looking for Love in all the wrong places.”

Extremely Wrong.

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Don’t Insult The Dog

 

IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYDAY THE HEADLINES ARE FILLED with the nefarious exploits of criminal sorts who – how shall I say this – think big? Not content with knocking over a bank they pull off a multibank swindle for hundreds of millions of dollars. Then there are the Bernie Madoff sorts who just feed on the greed of those people who think there are “Something for Nothing” ways to Riches and Rodeo Drive. These are Big City News stories, but I think that there is nothing that can compare with Small Town News. In the Small Town newspapers you are going to find stories that would never make the pages of the New York Times.

Where else are you going to learn about the woman who was arrested for barking at a Police Dog?

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Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – “There Is Music In The Air”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 –

 

There Is Music In The Air

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT HEARSAY IS BETTER than actually being a witness to something. A couple of nights ago was one of those times.

Now, I want to put a Caveat, with a capital C, in play here. The following anecdote was told to me by one of the notorious Usual Suspects. For that reason alone I take it all with a fifty pound salt lick. A grain of salt is just not enough.

Let me begin.

Yesterday morning, when I went down to St. Arbucks for a gallon or two of coffee, I was met by a collection of the Usual Suspects who were allowed out unsupervised. And I made the mistake of asking, “What’s new?”

Suspect #1 spoke up, saying that he had been shopping at the Kroger’s Supermarket the evening before at about 8 P.M. so he could find some bargains and/or rain checks. He is a financial wizard.

While prowling through the store he witnessed a disturbance near the front of the store. On the pathway toward the checkout area is where one can find bins filled with CDs and DVDs at bargain prices. This time of year it is mainly Christmas music and warmed over Hallmark Channel movies mixed in with a few oldies that are in the Public Domain.

Our Suspect #1 was nearby and saw a youngish man going through the CDs and DVDs, opening the boxes, taking out the shiny discs, and then snapping them in half and flinging the pieces into the air with great glee – all the while yelling incoherently.

It sounds like the Holiday Season has arrived in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “I don’t want a colorized version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ dammit”).  

Behavior such as this young man was exhibiting in Kroger’s would indicate to me that one or more of several things were going on in his mind.

His meds were either wearing off or just kicking in.

His meds were accidentally left behind on his home planet.

He had convinced his Meth dealer to take a check.

He was the new film critic for the local newspaper.

(Personally, I doubt that this last one was it because the only film reviews they do are of the occasional student film that was created by the offspring of somebody who buys a lot of ad space, and you won’t find any DVDs of those in the Kroger’s Bargain Bin.)

When I used to live on The Left Coast events like this one were not at all unusual in the Supermarkets – especially after dark. I think the moon may have some effect on those who are pharmaceutically enhanced.

I once visited a now defunct market late one Saturday night. I ended up in the checkout line behind a guy who was deep in the throes of the Midnight Munchies. As his desperately needed supply of Ruffles, Little Debbie Cakes, and Pickle Loaf moved down the conveyor belt something either very good or very bad happened and he passed out and hit the moving belt with his face. The clerk didn’t miss a beat as she rang up his purchases. When she got to his head she stopped, bent over and asked him, “Paper or Plastic?” That was enough to rouse him.

“Plastic, man.”

Usual Suspect #1’s story about his visit to Kroger’s brought back that old memory to me from long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Suspect #1 finished his story telling us that it ended as it had to end – the Terre Haute Police came and escorted the disgruntled shopper from the store. I’m sure that, when the officers wrote up their report it carried the Code “5150” – Involuntary Psychiatric Hold.

Some things you just know are going to happen.

It is episodes such as this that have me doing our shopping no later than 6 P.M. unless it is an emergency pizza and soda run. I’ve seen too much, stepped over too many people slumped in the checkout line, and ducked too often to avoid flying pieces of the Johnny Mathis Christmas Album.

I can handle another, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” but I dread hearing someone again saying, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

I Was Getting Desperate

A FEW DAYS AGO I BECAME CONVINCED THAT THE WORLD WAS OUT TO DRIVE ME INSANE. To start off with I am not yet in the groove with the time change thing that drove my internal alarm clock into therapy.

It was a little after 6 AM (Or was it 7AM?). I was crawling through the door at the Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) in search of coffee when I heard an approaching siren that quickly turned into a full blown hook and ladder fire truck. It careened around the corner and came to a halt in front of a Pancake House across the street. At least it wasn’t the Chapel; I would have been forced to wait among the flames for my coffee.

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Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – “Hey, Butterball!”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 –

 

 

Hey, Butterball!

Brace yourself, America! It’s that time of year again when,a39f71f4-51bf-4f24-8b9e-4fe70b5801cb all across the country, people will be preparing Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners by the millions.

For most it will be a joyous chore to feed family and friends, but for many it will be a challenge comparable to trying to fly to the moon in a lawn chair powered by some helium balloons from the dollar store.

Despair not, help is available!

This year, as it has for the past 34 years, the fine folks at Butterball will be running their Turkey Hotline to answer questions and help salvage those Thanksgiving dinners for the less than expert chefs. Not everybody can be Julia Child – nor would you want to be – she’s dead.

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Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “Halloween, Schmalloween”

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 –

 

Halloween, Schmalloween

OK. THAT SOUNDS A LITTLE CYNICAL, I SUPPOSE. I’m not against Halloween or anything like that. It’s just that it paints me into a corner every year. What kind of costume should I have?  Should I buy something or make it myself? Should it be in good taste or just the usual?

I haven’t gone “Trick or Treating” for years. I finally figured out that people don’t like to part with their Snickers when the bag is being held by a guy with a white beard – a real white beard.

Nowadays I wear a costume when I’m handing out the goodies at the door or when we go to a party. Neither one is as much fun as hitting up the neighbors for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

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Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 – “She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank”

I WAS CHATTING WITH THE USUAL SUSPECTS the other day when the topic of bank robbery came up. Sometimes they scare me. This bunch of Geezers couldn’t rob the Food Bank, let alone an actual – “Money in the vault, Can I see some ID, please,” type of bank. This group would be called the “Don’t forget to take your meds gang.” Even so, they would be a bigger threat than a person I once knew who really did try to rob a bank.

About ten years ago B.R. (Before Retirement) a female coworker whom I knew and liked working with, called in to her Supervisor one sunny morning. She said that she was going to be in a little late because she “Had some business to take care of.” Little did we all know that her “business” was knocking off a bank.

While I and everyone else at work were getting ready for another day on the job, she was out pulling into the parking lot at a local bank.

From later reports it went down something like this –

My coworker drove to the bank, checked her .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun to be sure it was loaded (it was), got out of the car and walked up to the front door of the bank. At this point things began to fall apart for her.

She pulled the handle to open the door – nothing. It wouldn’t budge. The door was locked. It was locked because, in an effort to rob the bank and still get to work, she got an early start to her day and arrived, fully loaded, before banking hours. The bank wouldn’t be open for another half hour.

There is an old adage that says, “Plan your work and work your plan.” My friend, the would-be bank robber, skimped on the first part of that. If this plan was to be as easy as 1 – 2 – 3 you can’t skip the 2 and go straight to 3.

So, there she is – standing at the front door of the bank, holding her shooting iron, and she can’t get the door to open. It was then that she made the decision to try again another day. Perhaps it was best to just go on to work like nothing had happened. No harm – No foul.

No way.

While she was standing there contemplating her “Plan B” the people who worked in the other bank, just across the street, witnessed this entire fiasco and had already called the Terre Haute Police Department. Terre Haute – that’s French for, “Mama don’t ‘low no bank robbin’ round here.”

Before she could get back to her car and go off to work, she found herself surrounded. It was not even 8 AM and her day was not going to get any better.

Since she never really robbed the bank, they couldn’t charge her with that crime, but they had a list of others to present her with.

It turned out, upon further investigation, that she had lied on her job application – in that part about “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” She had done some hard time a few years back for some other failed misadventure. This, of course, made her possession of the .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon a serious “No – No.” Added to that – she had no Concealed Carry permit for the gun – which was not registered anywhere. At least she did have a valid driver’s license – but the car wasn’t hers.

Fast Forward about three years –

I was tooling up and down the aisles of a store in town when I hear a voice behind me call out, “Hey, John!” This happens a lot to me. It is usually a former client or parent thereof – not this time. I turned around and there was our own local Bonnie Parker Wannabe.

“Hi, John. Remember me? We used to work together.”

Now this was one of those moments when you really don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, of course, the first words out of my mouth were,

“Sure, I remember you. Where you been keeping yourself?”

“Oh, I’ve been out of town for a while.”

Courtesy of the State of Indiana.

I really don’t remember the rest of the conversation.

I always enjoyed working with her. She was friendly, confident, and easy to get along with. Lucky for me she never needed an accomplice.

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Conclusion

Pushing his aching body as fast as he could Luco arrived at the Arboretum Gardener’s Shed in fifteen minutes. He called out.

“I’m here, Thayer. Marlee, are you in there? Are you OK?”

Dennis was waiting.

“I’m sorry, Reyes. I’m afraid she’s a bit tied up right now.”

“Dennis, let her go. She’s not invol –“

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Dennis screamed. This is my turf and I make the rules here.”

Luco paced back and forth knowing that every second that Dennis still held Marlee anything could happen.

“Dennis, let’s talk. Come on out here, face to face.”

Dennis looked at Luco through the window shutter, standing there. “Did you come alone, Coffee Boy?”

“Yes, Dennis, I’m alone.”

Inside the shed Dennis, grinning, turned to Marlee. “He came alone. He really is such a Boy Scout.

“Reyes, you come in here if you want to see your little ‘Nursey-Wursey.’ Now!

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Part Thirty-One

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Part Thirty-One

The Game isn’t over until one side wins. The final score has to show the world who the winner is – and more importantly – who is the loser.

The Game is almost over.

1298 Haight Street had turned into something no one wanted and no one could do anything about: a crime scene.

The Hit and Run of Luco Reyes was tied to the smashed window at the café, the constant break-ins at Apartment 6, and the brutal killing of the cat. They were all connected to Apartment 8 and Dennis Thayer, but he was nowhere to be found.

The DMV showed that Thayer owned a van, or had. He had failed to keep it registered for the last two years. There was no record of it being sold or scrapped, so it had to be somewhere – just like Dennis Thayer. He had to be somewhere.

Shopkeepers on Haight Street kept reporting that they had seen him lurking about, standing in the shadows watching something or someone. One minute he was there – the next minute he was gone. At night he was heard but not seen.

The people at 1298 Haight Street swore that they heard him in the building. He was going from floor to floor meowing like a cat, but by the time anyone would open their door he’d be gone – into a vacant apartment, into the Park, into the darkness. He was seen sitting on the Buena Vista Park steps across the street. Sometimes he would shout something that someone said sounded like, “I don’t share.” Another time he yelled out a slurred, “Marlee, you’re mine. I own you.”

Marlee had all but quit living in her apartment and moved in with Luco Reyes’ flat on Stanyan Street. Little by little she was transferring her sparse possessions from where she had hoped that she would find the start of a new life, but what had turned into a twisted continuation of the old.

Stanyan Street was a refuge. Every day Luco was getting stronger and she felt safe being with and near him.

The savagery of the killings in the neighborhood had escalated. While there was no proof – no hard evidence, no pictures to make it real, the people on the street knew in their gut that it was Dennis Thayer who had been butchering the Street Kids. The Kids warned each other, but had no place to go, to hide from him. They knew the killer was a man who offered them drugs, shelter from the cold and food. He also led them away to a van, they said, and then to their graves. They were leery of the Police and of any authority that might try to send them back home. They feared that more than they feared “The Man in the Night.”

“Meow, Meow. Here. Kitty, Kitty. Are you in there, Marlee? Can I come in? You know I can – anytime I want.”

Had she heard something or was it just her imagination. Anytime she was in her apartment, even for a few minutes, she felt like she was being watched. She opened her door, a butcher knife in her hand, but he wasn’t there. Was he ever there or had her fear put him inside her head? Did it matter?

She had gone back to 1298 Haight to get her cello, the last important thing not yet moved up the street to the flat above the bicycle shop.

Not wanting to spend any more time in Apartment 6 than needed Marlee picked up the case holding her cello and left the building behind. She’d slipped a small knife into the belt under her jacket. The fog was coming in as the sun was dropping toward the Pacific horizon.

The crowd on Haight Street was beginning to build. Walking all the way to Stanyan Street would be awkward carrying her case. A quick cut down one short block to her usual route, Page Street – a quiet residential street with leafy trees and flowers running parallel to Haight Street.

As she crossed Masonic Street she had to jump out of the way as a gray van ignored the stop sign. It missed her by inches. The van had a bright red circus tent painted on the side and the name, “Big Top Day Care.” The driver was in a hurry to drop off the last of the kids to their parents already home from their jobs downtown.

“Oh, that was close, Missy Marlee. I would have been so disappointed. You know by now that I won’t share you with anyone. I want you all to myself. Don’t be in such a rush to get to your Coffee Boy. No need. I can wait. Just a minute or two more, that’s all.”

Marlee crossed Ashbury Street and passed by an old Victorian style home that was vacant and up for sale. The streetlight above the sidewalk was out casting a shadow over the house. She was struggling with the bulky cello case. It was beginning to feel heavy. She wasn’t used to carrying it this far. She passed the short driveway, not seeing the gray, freshly painted, van sitting inside the open garage.

Marlee paused to catch her breath and get a better grip on the case. She heard a sound behind her.

“Meow.”

She started to turn around, but she stopped when she saw a grinning familiar face. An arm reached around and held her tight against his body.

“Hello, Missy.”

She struggled to free herself, but he had her firmly immobilized.

“Now, now, don’t fight me, Missy. Relax. You’re going to feel something in your neck now, it’s a needle, and in about fifteen seconds your legs will go to sleep.” Marlee sensed what felt like an icicle pricking her neck. “So, let’s stroll over to my van while you still can. In thirty seconds you will start a nice long nap.”

Dennis Thayer half dragged Marlee Owen from the sidewalk and, as she collapsed, lifted her limp body into the back of the van.

As he drove away the van scuffed the cello and case into the street.

When Marlee opened her eyes and tried to move she discovered that she was tied – her hands in her lap with silver duct tape around her wrists. Her ankles were bound with the same tape. There was one more swath of tape across her mouth. She was sitting on a dirty wooden floor with her back up against a pile of sacks filled with mulch.

“Well, hello there, Princess. Good morning. I hope you slept well. I’m sorry I had to knock you out like that. I was a little pressed for time there on the street. In case you’re wondering, it is about 7:30 AM. I gave you a nice…let’s call it a mild sedative of my own design. I wanted you quiet until we got here. You’ll be a bit groggy for a while, but you’re not going anywhere, are you? And we are expecting company.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Dennis said with a smile, “I’ve got to go get ready for our guest.” He pulled two knives from sheaths on his belt. He took out the small knife that Marlee had carried when she left her apartment. He shook his head as he spoke.

“Didn’t your Momma ever tell you to not play with knives? Tsk, Tsk. Such an upbringing.” He laughed as he walked away leaving Marlee bound, gagged, and trying to sort out what was happening through a drug induced veil.

The light was dim coming through the hard plastic sheets that made up the ceiling of what appeared to her to be a gardener’s shed. She was surrounded by plants and tools. There were mowers and rakes, clippers of varying sizes, a number of ladders and a pair of chainsaws. On a long table were potted plants, orchids, day lilies, and cacti. She was no more mobile than any of the plants.

Dennis moved about the shed placing items in positions that seemed to have meaning to him; boxes, tool racks rolls of plastic. He noticed Marlee checking out her surroundings.

“Wondering where you are and what’s going to happen? I can’t blame you. No, that’s not true. I do blame you, Missy.” Holding his butterfly knife he loomed over her sitting on the floor. He could see the fear in her eyes. He smiled and lowered himself to the floor and sat next to her. Shoulder to shoulder.

“Let me answer your questions. Where are we? We are in the Arboretum in the Head Gardener’s Workshed. No one but the Gardener and his crew come in here and this is a weekend so we have it all to ourselves. The Gardener did come in earlier while you were sleeping. Why he did that I’ll never know. Oh, well, that’s him in the big bag over there.”

Marlee’s eyes widened in terror.

“Oh, Miss Marlee, save the mock horror. You’ve seen cut up men before and you will again. I guess you’re just bad luck. Men come around you and they end up dead. And guess what? It’s going to happen again. Oh, yes. Your precious barista is going to be your next victim. Marlee’s third dead man.

“I dropped a note to him on our way here telling him where he could find us. I told him to come alone or I’d do to you what I did to your smelly little kitten.

“Just listen to me, will you?” He struggled to his feet “Sometimes I just monopolize the conversation. Here, let me get this tape off of you.” He gently peeled the duct tape from Marlee’s face. She screamed.

“Oh, go ahead and scream, you little two-timer. There’s no one within a quarter mile from here.” She spat in his face.

“You animal,” she said through clenched teeth.

“Yeah, right. Would you like some tea? I have a pot steeping.”

“Let me go, Dennis. You can’t get away with this. There will be every police officer in San Francisco coming in here after you and they’ll –“

“No, they won’t. Your little Boy Toy will come here alone. I know his type. He wants to be the hero to rescue his Fair Maiden. So save your breath. And how did you phrase it, ‘You can’t get away with this’? But I already have. I have you here, Coffee Boy will come as ordered, and then I will show you what I can do with all of these delicious tools here in the shed. Get away with it? When I’m done I’ll just walk out of here and disappear into the fog. How ‘Movie of the Week’ is that, Girl? Let me get your tea.”

***

“I’m sorry, Luco, I haven’t seen her. Hold on, let me ask.” With her hand over the mouthpiece, Scar called out, “Has anybody seen Marlee this morning?” Luco could hear the buzz as everyone answered her.

“Sorry, Luco. No such luck. She’s not been in. Have you called her at her place? Oh, OK. Well, I’m sure she’s out and about. Later, Honeybuns.”

This was not like Marlee. In fact it was the opposite of her normal behavior. Every day when she left Stanyan Street to walk back to Haight Street she would call him when she arrived. She called last night, but nothing since then.

Luco began to pace, still painfully, feeling sure that something was wrong. Ever since she found the cat he had been urging her to not go back there at all. When she left him to go to 1298 she said that was going to get her cello and head back to Stanyan Street. That was 14 hours ago.

“Something is wrong.”

Luco’s body was considerably better than a week ago, but he was far from feeling strong and healthy. That would take months, but he could not sit at home alone and wait to hear from Marlee.

Slowly he struggled into his boots, not allowing himself to grunt in pain as he bent to tie the laces. His fear was turning into dread.

At the bottom of the stairs he saw that his mailbox was full. There was also one sheet of paper without an envelope sticking out of the box. His name was scrawled on it in a mixture of large cursive lettering and block printing..

At the top of the handwritten page he read, “Hey, Reyes – Guess who?

“If you’re looking for your skinny bitch, save your time. I’ve got her.”

Every sore and wounded muscle in Luco’s body tightened.

“I’ve got her and I’m going to keep her. I saw her first, and remember – I don’t share.

“Now that I have your attention, you undereducated, minimum wage, pretty boy waiter, I want you to read this slowly.

“I’m a nice guy, really I am, but I can play rough. I imagine you’re missing your blonde widow. Would you like to see her? Talk with her – before I cut her to pieces and feed her to the sea lions at Pier 39? Better hurry then, you gimpy fool. I’ll let you come to see her – us, but if you don’t come alone or try to tip off the stupid SFPD I will make her suffer beyond belief. And then I will disappear forever. Get it, Coffee Boy?

“We are enjoying a cup of tea at the Arboretum. Come to the far western end, to the Gardener’s Shed. We’ll be waiting.

“Ta, Ta.”

A combination of rage and painful memories washed over Luco. He had finally met someone who could fill the hollow space in his heart, but again, some sick and insane man was trying to take her away from him.

“Not again!”

Next Week – THE CONCLUSION

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