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The paint hadn't even dried yet on the door lettering, when she opened the door and stood admiring the name, "Jim Richards, Private Investigations". She looked to me and gave me a million dollar smile and slinked to the chair at my desk, seating herself, slowly crossing a pair of legs that screamed, lick me. She flipped back a shock of blonde hair from her gorgeous face and looked at me with eyes so deep, I was lost in them, then she called my name.
"Mr. Richards," she said in a sultry voice, then paused. Then said again, "Mr. Richards. I want my husband killed."
I suddenly came out of my daydream, staring at a frumpily dressed, middle-aged, mousy, brown-haired woman, staring at me through glasses thick as bottle bottoms. I said, "Excuse me, you want your husband killed?"
"What? Oh, my goodness, no! I said I want him tailed, or followed, whatever you P.I.'s call it," she exclaimed.
"Ah, I'm sorry, I'm a bit jet lagged from a flight back from Las Vegas," I lied.
It had been about five weeks since we did get back from Vegas, and I spent the first week helping Deacon and Lynn pack his belongings to move back to Vegas. I would miss him, we became good friends ever since we first met during the classmate murders, he was a cop assigned as protection for Penny. He was really happy being with Lynn, the detective we met in Las Vegas and they fell in love, and I wished him well. I also envied the hell out of him for moving to Vegas. Penny helped me find an office to work my P.I. business out of and get it supplied and then I opened up shop. I still had a good deal of money left over from the check Penny's TV station gave me for working as her bodyguard in Vegas, so I was able to advertise and wait for the clients to come streaming in. After about a week of no streaming, Mrs. Flagg was my first customer, not the sexy blonde needing protection from a crazed stalker, just a quiet housewife needing closure.
"OK, why do you want me to follow him?" I asked, figuring he was probably trying to stay away from her.
"I think he's having an affair. He's not himself anymore, distant from me, not as affectionate as he used to be," she said, as she was tearing up, so I moved a box of tissues over to her, she thanked me.
She continued, "We've been married for almost three years, and they have been good years, but in the last few months, Ralph, that's his name, has started to act different.
"How so?" I asked.
"Well, our sex activities have diminished to a point where we only do it once every other day, it used to be a daily affair," she smiled.
I didn't really want to hear that, imagining having sex with this woman. I asked, "Do you feel he is cheating on you?"
"I don't know, but yesterday I was going to do laundry and was gathering his clothes, I saw his gym bag and checked it and found a pair of leather shorts, something he's never shown me before. I don't know what to make of it, but I sense he may be straying." she look away from me, as though wanting to say more.
"Is there more you want to say, Mrs. Flagg?" I asked.
"Please call me Elma," she offered. Then paused, thinking of how she wanted to continue.
"Well, our love making has gotten a bit more, well, rough. He has been wanting me to tie him to the bed lately, and asking me to do things to him I've never done before. Spanking, things like that," she said and went quiet.
My brain was slowly melting from the image of being in bed with this woman, I offered, "Well, if I could get some information from you, I can do a cursory investigation to see if there is more to his strange behavior." I worded my intentions carefully.
"I just want him followed for a few days to see what he's been up to. He has been away from home a lot lately, which is why our sex has diminished. He comes home acting happy and then he just goes to bed. It's not him."
"OK, write down everything I would need to know about him, full name, address, place of work, gym he may go to, things like that." I handed her a pad and pencil and she started to write. After about ten minutes she handed me a full page of more info than I need, but it may help. "Now, this card has my fees on it, you decide how you want me to handle this and that will be my charge."
She looked at the card and said the full investigation would be fine, she had money to spend, and she was rather wealthy. She took out a wad of cash and peeled off a couple of hundred dollar bills and set them on my desk, "Here's the advance," she said.
I said I thought I had all the information I needed and would be in touch with her in a few days with anything I can find. She reached into her purse and pulled out a wallet size picture of a very handsome man, she said it was her husband. I asked if I could keep it, and she said yes. I was marveling at how this good looking guy could have hooked up with this woman, but she said she was rich, could be a reason for marriage. She thanked me and left.
I sat back in my creaky desk chair, mulling over what Ralph could be up to. Leather pants, rough sex, spanking, sounds like the boy was getting into kink. I looked at the paper she wrote out for me and down the list of places he frequented, then the picture again. I was feeling like this woman may be in for a big disappointment.
My door opened again and I looked up hoping it was the sultry blonde, unfortunately it was Trapper. He looked at the new door lettering, then looked around my tiny, and empty, office and said, "Well, I was expecting a room full of angry wives looking to catch their husbands in flagrant activities." he grinned.
"Only one so far and she just left." I lamented.
"Talking about that near blind woman who almost ran into me?" he grinned.
"Yep, husband is now into leather shorts and rough sex."
"Sex with her, eww." he shivered.
I showed him the picture and said, "Yeah, imagine that and him."
"What's she got, money or a hot body under all those baggy clothes?"
"Money, she says she's got enough to afford me," I laughed.
"Getting many clients yet?" he asked.
"She's the first, hope it isn't going to be this slow starting off."
"Well, if it helps, I can send a few customers your way. We get a number of housewives who all think their husbands are cheating on them. We tell them it's not a crime to stray, so we can't help them. I'll be sure to let them know you're available." he said.
"I appreciate that. Have you heard anything from Deacon?" I wondered.
"I got a call from my old buddy Weber, asking if I recommended him for a job in Vegas Metro police. I said that he was the laziest, most incompetent goof off I ever had on my squad, but he'd be crazy not to hire him." he smiled.
"You did know he was faking that limp from his hip?" I asked.
"Of course I did, I saw him dancing around the squad room one day, I was going to call him on it, but what the hell, he deserved a little time off."
I grew to like Trapper, as a cop he was good, as a person he was better.
"If it helps, I know a couple of lawyers who occasionally need a P.I. to do some leg work for them, interested?" he asked.
"I'm not crazy about lawyers, but I wouldn't turn the work down," I replied.
"That's good, because I have a lawyer friend who has a touchy case that he needs some evidence gathered, it's out of my jurisdiction and he doesn't want to involve cops elsewhere, interested?"
"If you do me a favor I might," I grinned.
"Do I have to kill anyone?" he smiled.
"Nope, just run a background check on Medusa's husband," I asked.
He laughed and said, "Deal." He took a card out of his jacket and handed it to me. "Mark said to call him, if you take the case."
"You were sure of yourself, weren't you," I said.
He looked around the empty room and said it was a good bet. I made a copy of Flagg's info and gave it to him.
"It seems every P.I. on TV or in books has a cop on the inside, looks like I'm yours," he said with a wink.
"Oh, well, I start at the bottom and work my way up," I grinned.
He laughed and headed for the door. "Remember, this isn't Las Vegas, there's no glamour here."
I said I was going to put up flashing lights around my door to make me feel like I was still in Vegas. He smiled and went out the door without saying good-bye, he did that a lot. I sat for a moment looking at my door, trying to remember where I put that flashing light rope from Christmas. What the hell, I just might do it.
I called Mark Benson, attorney at law, and introduced myself. I said that Will Trapper said he may need some help with a case, and Mark thanked me for calling. He asked if I could come to his office tomorrow, so he could show me what he needed. I said I could make it, we agreed on 1 p.m. and I said I'd be there. I hung up, put the appointment in my Palm, and then looked at Ralph Flagg's information again, wondering where to start. I decided to see what Trapper came up with on the background check before I ventured out. I straightened out my office for the hundredth time, and decided to call it a day.
My office was in a small professional building in Fraser, that had cheap rent, otherwise it would be more than half empty. I went out to my faithful '89 Crown Vic and drove up Garfield Road to 15 mile Road, and then out to Jefferson Avenue. I pulled into Penny's drive and parked on the side of the garage, then went in but didn't see Penny right away. I called to her, no answer. I went to the back enclosed porch and looked out; I could see her sitting on the small boat dock for a boat we didn't have. I walked down to the water and she turned to me and smiled.
"Hi, sweety, home from a hard day investigating." she said. I sat next to her.
"Yep, I racked my brain trying to come up with things to do. I played about 30 Sudoku games on my Palm; I'm up to twenty minutes per puzzle now." I grinned. "But I do have two cases now." I said proudly.
"Wow, what adventures are you going on?" she beamed. "Murder, kidnapping, drugs, or chasing bad husbands?" she smiled.
"Chasing a husband in leather shorts," I replied. She looked puzzled; I explained my visit with Elma Flagg, Ralph's wife. Then I told her about Trapper throwing a case my way for a lawyer friend of his.
"Ah, lawyer, you really going to take it?" she said knowing I disliked them.
"It's a paying gig, so I'll put up with it. How was your show today?" I asked.
"I had two women on who were teaching wives to spice up their marriage with a little bondage and some light S&M." she grinned.
I stared for a second and said, "You're kidding? Did you TiVo it so I can see it?"
"Yes I did, as you know I do everyday, Mr. Smart P.I., why, are you into bondage now?"
"Well, as I said, my client thinks her husband is getting into some weird areas now, I like to be informed about the subject," I explained. "Did they talk leather and whips?" I asked.
"You'll have to watch the show to see, I'm not going to explain things twice to you," she smiled.
"What ever happened to that stripper pole you wanted for the house," I asked, changing the subject.
She just smiled and said, "It's on order. I'm going to book a stripper on the show who teaches women to work the pole for exercise and the fun of it."
"Or profit, you could start a nice little sideline entertaining gentleman callers," I said.
She ignored me and continued, "The show is getting a stripper pole for the demo and I claimed it after they're done with it. My producer said only if he could come and watch. So, I'm selling tickets."
"$20 for men at the door, plus nice tips, we'll make a killing," I grinned.
"What do you mean we?" she said.
We talked a bit more, then I helped her up and we went in the house. I went out to the family room to get the TiVo ready to watch the show and Penny said she was going to throw some grilled cheese on the stove. I said that was fine with me. I sat waiting for Penny before starting the show, which was now being picked up by the CW network, running mornings around 11 a.m. and Penny was pleased with the reaction she was getting from the ratings. She was getting on more controversial guests and subjects to keep up the interest; I hoped all the weirdness didn't rub off on her. She brought me two grilled cheese, two beers for both of us and we sat and watched her show. She never really liked to watch herself on TV, but since the show went nationwide, she wanted to watch for things that needed improvement.
The show opened with the new format, no longer showing Penny around Detroit, the show had to be more generic. It had some nice pictures of her in front of places she's never been to, wonders of special effects. She came on and said "Welcome world, I'm Penny Wickens, and this is 'Penny for your Thoughts.'" At least they kept her show name. She announced that today's show dealt with spicing up your marriage with a little leather and lace, also known as bondage and S&M. She introduced her guest today, Mistress Terry and Mistress Dyan. They both wore the traditional black leather bustiers, choke collars, spiked heels and mesh nylons, but Mistress Dyan was wearing a cat-woman like mask. She said she was a single Mom and was protecting her identity.
"Single mom's of the world rise up and snap your whips," I smirked. Penny whacked me. "Sorry," I offered.
We watched the show as the two women explained a little about SMBD and the beneficial effects on a marriage if practiced properly. I wondered if Ralph had watched this show. Or Elma. They went into various paraphernalia for hog tying your man and some simple whips and paddles for stimulating his libido. I was just about covering my eyes over the toys they had, I looked at Penny and hoped she didn't get any ideas. She glanced sideways at me, smiled and made a strange little growl. I just said, "Forget it."
She laughed when it ended, and said I should have no fear of being handcuffed in the night, although the thought was intriguing. It was just now 9 p.m. and we had been watching TV for a while when the phone rang. I answered.
"Is this the famous Fearless Fosdick?" came a male voice.
I said, "I am," and asked, "Is this the famous Dick Tracy?" I heard Lynn's voice saying she was there. They were on a speaker phone, I waved Penny over, and she came.
"How the hell are you two doing?" I asked, holding the phone so Penny could hear.
Deacon was now talking, "Great, we are all settled in and I'm on the Metro squad now, they put me in Detectives, because of my natural abilities."
Lynn interjected, " Bull hockey, I kissed a lot of ass to get him on, don't let him fool you."
"How's things in Michigan?" Deacon asked.
"Same crappy weather, same lousy economy, same high unemployment, otherwise really good." I joked.
They both laughed and Lynn said, "Penny, I've been watching your show every morning at work, I lock myself away and watch it, you are really good at it."
Penny blushed and said, "Thank you, but most of it is special effects."
They sounded happy and we talked a while longer about what was going on in our little worlds. I told Deacon about Trapper helping me with my cases now; he said he was going to call him tonight to say thanks for the praise he gave Weber. I told both of them we missed them and Penny said we'd be out next summer for a vacation. So be prepared for more murder and mayhem when we get there.
We said our good-byes and hung up. I looked at Penny; she had a sad look on her face. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"I just miss them, and the fun we had in Vegas," she said.
"Fun? I was nearly thrown off the tallest building on the west coast, you were almost kidnapped, I was shot in the chest and you nearly killed Nick North with my gun. That was fun?" I was amazed.
"Yes, it was. I miss it now we are back in boring Michigan."
"OK, I'll try and stir up a little murder and mayhem for you here, just give me a week or two," I laughed.
We watched a little more TV, I got on the computer and checked my emails, remembering the ones from the classmate murders, or I should call it the cheerleader murders. I had nothing important, so I got off and grabbed my girl's hand and pulled her to the bedroom, saying that I saw a couple of things on her show we might try. She asked if I had my handcuffs, I pulled them out of my back pocket and she laughed.
The next morning the phone rang, I answered. "Still in bed? It's time to get to work," came a voice. I asked, "Who the hell is this?"
"It's Trapper, I got some hot info for you, if you're working today?" he sounded excited.
"I'll be in around 9, my usual time to start," I moaned. He said he'd be there, and hung up.
I looked at Penny and asked if she knew where the damn keys for the handcuffs were, as I held up my hands, still cuffed together. She just laughed.
We found the keys, but Penny insisted on teasing me a bit longer before I was extricated from the cuffs. I got ready and was on my way out, after seeing Penny off to her show. It was taped around 9 a.m. for broadcast at 11 a.m. on the east coast, and rebroadcast same time on the west coast, three hours later from here. I got to my office and found Trapper sitting on a chair in the lobby waiting for me.
"About time you got to work," he smiled.
I looked at my watch, it was just 8:40 and I said, "Trapper, do you have any concept of time?"
He grinned, "You'll need my info for your investigation into your little pervert and possible murderer," he was glowing. "I want in on this bust if you get him."
I was puzzled, opened up my office, we went in. Trapper planted himself in the client chair at my desk; I sat in my creaky desk chair and looked at him. "OK, what's so exciting?"
"I ran the background check on Mr. Wonderful and came up with some interesting facts. First, he has been married two times prior to Elma, both rich women. They both died mysterious deaths. Wife number one, died in a car crash, no links to hubby, he was out of the country. Wife number two commits suicide by hanging; hubby is out with drinking buddies the night in question. I ran a check on his driver's violations; he had three tickets for illegal parking in Pontiac in the last two months, all on the same street. I called a friend of mine on Pontiac PD and asked about the street in question. It has a party store, gas station, three ordinary houses and one huge mansion that houses a legal and above board bondage club. Coincidence, I think not." He took a breath.
"I think I should be watching Elma, not Ralph. Did he inherit the money from his first two wives?"
"Well, he lived high on the hog as they say, and most the money was gone by the time of the wives’ deaths. Sounds like a quicky divorce to me, once the money dried up." he grinned.
I looked at Trapper, and said, "If Elma dies mysteriously; I'm going to feel really bad that we didn't do something. But what can we do?" I wondered.
"Well, he's been cleared of both his late wives’ deaths, so can't bring him in on that. I guess you'll have to tail him and see what he is up to. May make him nervous if you were a little obvious about it." Trapper said.
"Yea, but he might take it out on Elma. She's not exactly Cindy Crawford, but she is a human being. I don't want to see her hurt." I said.
"Well, then you may just have to confide in her and ask her to hide out from him till you get something on him. Think she'd go for that?"
"I don't know, she enjoyed the sex he provided her, she may not give him up fast. You know the "bad boy" syndrome." I said.
"Jimmy, being a detective creates many problems that you have to work out, which one is the most appealing and one that gets nobody killed. Now you have to do the leg work to find out more about your bad boy," Trapper smiled. "Please keep me informed, not in an official capacity, but just curiosity on my part."
Trapper took a folded sheet of paper out of his inner coat pocket and dropped it in front of me. "This is the rest of his background check, military, he was a combat medic, financial, of course he's got money, or Elma does, and criminal record, none. He's been a good boy." Trapper finished.
"Yea, the perfectly nice man next door who happens to be a wife killer," I said.
Trapper got up, "I heard from my friend Mark that you're taking his case."
"I'm going to see what he's got today and I'll decide then," I said.
Trapper headed to the door, "Well, keep me in the loop, I'll see what I can stir up on the perfect husband." He smiled and went out the door.
I looked at the report Trapper gave me and thought about how I was going to attack this. I could bring in Elma and tell her my suspicions, but I really didn't have much to go on. So I would have to follow him for a couple days to see what he's up to. Elma still has money so he probably wouldn't harm her yet.
My door opened and I looked up, finally into the bluest eyes on any gorgeous blonde I have ever seen, she smiled and asked where the Davis Travel Agency was. I was crushed, but told her upstairs, she went out. OK, I came so close. Not that I would cheat on Penny, not in a million years. She was all I could ever want or handle, but just having a sexy femme fatale as a client made me feel like I arrived in the world of P.I., kind of a Sam Spade thing.
Around noon, I went to get a bite to eat at my favorite place, Subway. I was watching the people around me wondering how many of them could be killers or closet perverts. I was cynical about people, I believe that 80 percent of people are basically stupid, 18 percent are trying to get what they can from the first 80 and the last 2 percent just didn't give a damn about the other 98. I was in the 2 percent. Not that I didn't totally care about people, I do care about things, I just don't want to have to put up with stupid and conniving people. As a detective I would try to cut through the bull and get some justice for those in need.
I was at Mark Benson's office building in Roseville at 1 p.m. and entered the very expensive looking layout that screamed big lawyer fees. I was asked by the receptionist who I wanted to see, I told her. She got on her phone and made a short call, smiled and sent me through a door to his private office.
"Mr. Richards, thank you for coming in, have a seat," the shark smiled. "Will has told me good things about you."
"Well, he has a tendency to gloss over things," I said. "What kind of law are you into?" Jumping right in.
"This office handles both divorce and criminal," he said.
"Aren't they both the same?" I joked. He laughed and said he'd have to remember that.
"What do you have for me, Will said you needed some evidence gathered?" I asked.
"Yes, I have a case of murder, my client, David Weston, says he was with a woman on the night his wife murdered at their home here in Roseville, but we can't seem to find the woman to establish his alibi."
I had read about the murders in the papers, I was a bit familiar with the facts but wanted to hear this lawyer's slant on it.
He pulled a file folder from his cabinet and handed it to me. "This is all the info on the case that I could get from him, I don't disbelieve him, but the circumstances are a bit shaky."
"Was she a hooker or a happy home wrecker?" I inquired.
"My client says he met her in a bar in Mt. Clemens, they hit it off and ended up in a motel down off Groesbeck Highway in Fraser. The motel has record of his renting the room, but the desk clerk doesn't remember any woman with him. Roseville police figured he rented the room to try to set up an alibi, then knocked off his wife."
"Did the police sweep the room?" I asked.
"The room was cleaned by the maid by the time forensics got there. Bed sheets were changed and washed so any evidence was destroyed."
"Is your client out on bail or still in jail?"
"The judge denied him bail for the gruesomeness of the killing; his wife was hacked and decapitated. The judge wasn't sympathetic."
"I'll need to talk to Weston, can you arrange it?" I asked.
"Sure, I'll call the county jail and arrange it. So, I presume you are taking the case?" He smiled.
I pulled out my rate card and handed it to him, "Only if you can afford me, this case would take the number 10 special, my most expensive rate."
He laughed and said, "I think I can afford it. You want a retainer advance?" I said I did, he got on his phone and told someone to cut a check and have it to the receptionist ASAP.
"Can I call you if I have further questions?" I asked.
He handed me his card after writing down his cell phone number, "Call anytime, this case goes to trial in a week and I have very little to go by. I'm going to count on you."
I said, "I'll give you my first rate investigation." I smiled and got up. He rose and we shook hands. I went out the door, picked up my check from the girl at the front desk and left the building.
I finally looked at the check once I was sitting in my car, and just grinned.
I drove back to my office to organize my attack on the Weston case and Elma's. I was going to give priority to the lawyer because the case was coming up next week and I had little to go on. I didn't think Ralph would do any harm to Elma yet, and I could follow him in between checking on my murder case.
There was no blonde sitting in my lobby waiting for me; instead Buck was sprawled out on a chair with his eyes closed. I flicked his nose and he came alive, ready to fight. I stepped back and yelled that it was me.
He calmed and said "Hey, Jimmy, what's happening?"
"How long have you been camped out here?" I asked.
"Only about a half hour, I just came by to see if you were still alive."
I opened the door and he went for the client chair, I told him about my meeting with Elma and Trapper, then about the lawyer.
"Yah, I read about that Weston murder. Husband claims he was screwing some woman while his wife was being hacked up," he said.
"Yes, Buck, that about sums it up. I've been hired to find the mystery woman."
"While you find her, I can follow the kinky husband around," he said.
"I'm sure he'd notice someone as big as you tailing him. I'll find something better for you to do. Like intimidate witnesses who may have seen my supposed murderer and his pick-up on the night in question."
"Ya, I can rough them up," he smiled.
"No, just look scary," I laughed.
"I can't have any fun," he lamented.
"Scary is fun," I smiled. He agreed.
"So, I think we should start at the bar they met. You OK going into a bar?" I said knowing Buck was a reformed alcoholic, so I had to ask.
"No, problem, they serve diet Sprite, don't they," he said.
I took David Weston's picture out of the file Benson gave me and we headed out. Buck wanted to drive so I let him; we headed up to Mt. Clemens, driving up the same roads we traveled during the Classmate Murders. It was déjà vu.
In Mt. Clemens, we drove down Walnut Street and parked down a side street. We walked around till we found the Midnight Bar and went in. It was dark, smelled of beer and urine, not a high class place. Buck and I sauntered over to the bar and I signaled to the semi-attractive barmaid. She slowly walked over and leaned on the counter, flashing a pair of breasts in a tank top that barely held them back. Her tank top said "Available for Nursing." I resisted.
"And what will you two cuties have?" she asked in a cigarette abused voice.
"I'm Jim, this is Buck, and you are?"
"Call me Dolly, but I answer to just about anything," she smiled.
I ordered a Pepsi and Buck grunted out diet Sprite. She stared at us, and asked if we were cops.
"No, I'm private, my friend here is my enforcer," I said smiling.
She looked at Buck, he was standing tall, all six foot three of him, and he grinned at her. She went to get our drinks, I watched her to be sure she opened the cans in front of me. She did. She brought them back and I said I didn't want a glass.
"I clean my glasses regular," she said defensively.
"I've never liked messing up a glass when I can drink from the can, no offense."
"So, you two aren't here for the ambiance of this joint, and the cops have asked every question I could answer, so what do you want?"
"Did they show you a picture of David Weston?" I said as I flipped it to her.
"Yep, they did, although this one is different."
"How so?" I asked.
"It doesn't look like the other pictures I was shown. Where'd you get this one?" she asked.
"From the lawyer, is this very different from the ones the cops showed you?"
"Yeah, it's a different face, close, but I'm good at faces and this one is different."
"So have you seen the face in this picture?"
"Yeah, I've seen him in here a number of times, he's a stalker. Watches for lonely women, then hits on them and they all follow him out of the bar.
I looked at Buck, "Why would the cops show a different photo of this guy? They covering up something, or got the wrong guy?"
I would have to call the lawyer about this, "The picture the cops showed you, you couldn't identify the man?"
"I told them I hadn't seen the face they showed me," she said. "I don't follow the news so I didn't see the guy, other than what they asked me."
I was confused. "The night of the murders, do you remember this guy in here?" Pointing to my picture.
"I worked that night, yeah, he was in here."
"Did he leave with anyone?" I asked.
"I remember a quiet brunette that he talked up. I didn't see them leave together though. After a while, he and she were gone, but I didn't see them leave together."
"Could you identify her or maybe know her?"
"She comes in maybe once a week, she says she's trying to get away from her family so she comes here to have a few bracers then goes back home."
"When was the last time she was here?"
"When I saw her with the guy in that photo, last week. Hasn't been back yet."
I took out my business card and said, "If she comes in, please call me right away." I handed her the card and a twenty dollar bill, she smiled at both.
"You got it, P.I., I'll call right away." She went off to take care of some guy yelling for a beer.
I looked at Buck, "Something's wrong with this picture, the big picture, not the little pictures, you know what I mean."
He laughed. "Yeah, I do. The cops either got the wrong picture or someone is trying to frame Weston," he said.
"Yep, my thoughts exactly." I pulled out my cell phone and called Benson, I got his voice mail, and I hated that. I left a message to call; it was important and hung up.
"Buck, are you interested in a swimming pool for your backyard?" I asked.
He looked at me with a puzzled expression, "Why, do I need one?"
"No, but that's what Ralph Flagg sells, pools and spas. May as well go fit him in, while we wait on the mystery woman."
We downed our drinks, I waved at the barmaid and we left. It was good to be back out in fresh air. The bar had that smell like Mt. Clemens used to have all over, a stink from the mineral baths that were a rage back in the 20's to the 50's. The whole town had a sulfur, rotten egg smell to it. The years had taken away the baths and the smell, now the air was fresh again.
We drove down Groesbeck Highway to the Lazy Daze Pools and Spas, parked and went in.
From his picture, I could tell Ralph was setting his sights on us and strode over quickly. "Afternoon, gentlemen, interested in a pool or maybe a spa to rest your weary bones?" He rattled on about this pool or that spa and herded us around the store, before we could even say anything.
I hated hard sell salespeople, and I didn't like Ralph from minute one. I really couldn't see what Elma saw in him, other than a glib tongue.
"Excuse me, take a breath, I am looking for a spa that can handle about 15 to 20 people," I said.
His eyes glowed, "Now why would you need a spa that large?"
"I have friends that are into having a good time, if you know what I mean. We have sort of a club, and we get a little loose with each other, and I thought a spa would be a nice ice breaker."
"Hmm, is this a swingers club, may I ask?" He was drooling.
"I hate to put names on things, but it's something like that. We get into keys, swinging and kink," I spread it on.
I almost could see his eyes roll back into his head. He paused for a bit then said, "Is it a private club, or can anyone come?"
"Well," I moved my head to his name tag, "May I call you Ralph?" He said I could. "I'd have to get approval from our group, but if you were interested, I could see. Are you a member of any other clubs that I may mention to give you a rep?"
He smiled, "I'm a member of the Dark Dungeon B and D Club in Pontiac. Is that something that would qualify me?" He was anxious now.
"That may help, we don't do very much bondage but we like swapping, you into that?"
"I enjoy it, but my wife is not into it at all. Would that be a problem?"
"Well, we have members who are in the same position, more women than men, but it's not a problem. Give me your card and I'll see what I can do to get you an interview. There is a membership fee, too, a grand to join, it helps fund our parties."
He was salivating now and handed me his card, "I have money, no problem."
"OK, I'll be in touch soon." I looked to Buck and we went out.
Buck smiled and said the boy is hot to trot.
My thoughts were on Ralph and what a sleaze ball he was. I was wondering why he was working at the pool place if he was living off Elma, I'd have to ask her about it. My other mystery was why did the police show a different photo of Weston, did someone screw up or was there a cover up for some reason. Did they not want the barmaid to ID him so they can say he lied about being with the woman? I was hoping for the photo screw up, and not some conspiracy to cover the murder of his wife. Why would they want to cover it up, do they have an idea who actually committed the murder and are protecting someone? I was hoping Benson could sort the mess out.
As we were heading back to my office when my cell phone rang, it was Benson. "Hello," I said.
"Jim, got your message, I was in court. What's up?"
"I have a mystery. I showed the picture of Weston that you gave me, to the barmaid at the bar where he supposedly picked up the mystery woman, and I was told that was not the same picture the police showed her, not the same guy."
He was silent for a minute, "You're saying the police showed her a photo of someone who was not Weston?"
"I think that's what I said, yes. She said they had a picture of someone else, and she said the guy in their photo wasn't in the bar that night. The picture you gave me, she said he was, and with a woman. What's going on?" I asked.
"Good question, I'll have to call the DA and find out where they got their picture. You really sure about the barmaid?"
"She didn't seem like she wasn't trying to screw the pooch, I took her at her word."
"OK, I'll do some checking here and get back to you. Are you going to follow up on your findings?"
"Yeah, I'm going to try and track down the woman who was seen with Weston that night at the bar. I'll let you know what I find."
"Thanks for the heads up, I'll check on it." He said good bye and hung up.
We were just pulling back into my parking lot and I looked at Buck and said, "The plot thickens."
We went in and I saw Elma Flagg sitting in the lobby. "Elma, is there anything wrong?"
"I'm sorry, I was just hoping you had something for me," she spoke quietly.
"Well, you were just here yesterday, I have done some investigating, and I could fill you in, but I really think I need to gather a bit more info before I give you my findings. Just to be accurate. Can you wait a day or two more?"
She looked sad and said she would. I introduced her to Buck as my assistant, and Buck did his charming way of greeting her. She smiled wide at Buck, giggled, and said she'd let us go to do our thing. I said I did have some info, but I'll let her know at least by the day after tomorrow. She thanked me and left. I felt bad for her, the rat she was married to. I entered my office followed by Buck and checked my answering machine. No messages.
"That skunk Ralph should be hung out to dry for hurting that sweet woman." Buck growled.
I guess Buck saw more to Elma than I did, that made me feel a bit bad that I may have misjudged her. She was not the most beautiful woman, but that sad creature I saw in the hall, just melted my heart.
"I'm going to see to it that Ralphy boy goes down hard," I swore. "Son of a bitch."
It was now about 3 p.m. and we had accomplished a little bit of good. I was happy to know Ralph was a creep and tomorrow I would bring his world to a speedy halt. I had recorded our conversation at the pool place with my new Palm Treo cell phone, for proof to play for Elma. I looked up to the wall and admired my last Palm Treo that saved my life from a bullet in the desert of Vegas. I attached it and the bullet that nearly took my life, inside a nice small display case I bought at a craft store, and got a little engraved plate to say why it was on the wall. As soon as I got back to Michigan, I bought another Treo, and hoped it would protect me like its predecessor.
I told Buck to go home and we could start early in the morning, but not before 9 a.m., so I closed up shop after he exited, and got to my car when my cell phone rang, the caller ID said it was Benson. I answered.
"That was quick, find out anything on the photo?" I asked.
"Not yet, but I got you the interview with Weston at the Macomb County jail. Just go in and mention my name to whoever is at the sign in booth. They'll take it from there."
"Thanks, I'll head up there now, if you could find out about the photos, I don't want to be caught uninformed when I snoop."
"I'm making it a priority, I called the DA's office and I got someone inside checking on it. I'll let you know as soon as I hear."
I said thanks and hung up. I drove up Groesbeck Highway to Elizabeth Road, where the county jail, court house and Sheriff's offices were, parked and went in to the jail waiting room. There were a good number of people sitting around waiting for incarcerated loved ones to get out or to post bail. They all had that same tired, miserable look on their faces; like they had it with junior's little crime sprees and wondering why they should put their houses up in lieu of bail.
I went up to the two inch Plexiglas protected booth and talked into the round metal plate that housed the microphone, and told the woman deputy my name and my purpose. She looked at a clipboard of paper and pointed to a door on my left. I went in and got to another Plexiglas booth and explained again my purpose. A big deputy came out and had me place all my personal property, and gun, on a tray and he placed it in wire cage giving me a ticket to retrieve my stuff. They let me keep the file folder I carried, after looking through it for, I presumed, weapons or explosives.
He told me to follow him through three sliding doors, each having to be buzzed in. We got to a row of small rooms, one of which he told me to wait. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, the door opened again and another deputy brought in Weston. At least this guy looked like the picture I had.
He sat across from me, still handcuffed and was shackled to his chair. The deputy said he'd be right out side if I needed help. I looked to Weston and introduced myself.
"May I call you Dave?" I asked.
"Yeah, whatever," he said quietly.
"I've been hired by Mark Benson to find the woman you were with the night your wife was murdered. Are you going to help me?"
"I didn't kill my wife, I told them that, and they say I lied about that night. Yeah, I'm going to help you."
"OK, starting from the beginning, you were in the Midnight Bar in Mt. Clemens and met with the woman in question. What was her name?"
"She said her name was Cindy. She didn't want to talk about herself too much, since she was married and wasn't in the bar to be picked up. I chatted her up a while and she started getting looser, the drinks helped. She said her husband was always out of town and she was tired of sitting around waiting for him."
"She didn't tell you where she lived, city or anything that might help?"
"Nope, she was very secretive about it."
"OK, Dave, now give me your take on why your wife was murdered?"
He sat quietly for a while, I was getting impatient. "Help me out here, Dave; you could be put away for a very long time."
He leaned forward, said quietly, "You're here to help me, right? Everything I tell you is privileged, right?"
"Just like your lawyer." I said.
He paused again, and then said, "My wife had a little business on the side, something our family never knew, or our children. Noreen, that's her name, had a little office where she would do therapy for people. People who had issues with authority."
"What kind of authority issues, Dave?"
"Do you know anything about dominance?" he asked even quieter. I had to lean in more to hear him. He continued, "Noreen would help people who wanted to be submissive to another person, usually because they were in a position of authority over other people and it ate at them. So Noreen would be their dominate figure, making them feel less than what they were."
I was stunned, three times in a week this subject came up. "Noreen was a Dominatrix?" I asked.
"Yeah, they call it that, but she didn't like the name. She referred to herself as an 'attitude adjuster'. She wasn't in it for the bondage stuff or sex; there was absolutely no sex with her clients. But the stuff she did was still bondage no matter what you call it. They came, took it in, and left happy. And she was paid well for it."
"Did you tell the police about this?"
"Hell, no. They would have spread it to the media and it would have destroyed our families."
"Well, all destruction aside, this might have given the police something more to go on for her murder. It might have cleared you."
"I don't think so, Noreen never really talked much about her business, but she did say she had some very powerful people as clients. They could be behind it, and I'm the scapegoat. I don't think I'm going to beat this."
"Not if I can do anything about it. Where was Noreen's office, and can I get in?"
"It's in a little strip mall, on Gratiot Avenue by Utica Road. At the end of the building. There's a small sign on the door saying 'Noreen Black, Attitude Therapist. Black is a name she made up. You can talk to Willy, in the novelty shop, he's the building manager, he'll get you in. Just say I sent you, he knows me."
I told him I would be back and I would do everything I could to clear him, hopefully without damaging Noreen's reputation. I signaled to the guard and he came in and unshackled Weston, then they went out. Another guard took me out to the room where I got my property back. The deputy asked if I was trying to clear Weston, I said that's what I was hired for. He just stared at me like I was a bug and said nothing. I thanked him and went out.
Why did I feel like things were going to get complicated?
It was now just after 5 p.m., and I was getting run down. I headed to the house and Penny. I got there and her car was in the drive, she must have been out today after her show, since she usually puts it in the garage. She opened the door as I came up, and latched on to me giving me a good tonsil search.
"What did I do to deserve that, and why aren't you in sexy lingerie for a greeting like that?" I kidded.
"I just missed you, and glad you didn't get shot today," she said with a smile.
"You had some kind of sex talk on your show today, and now you're horny?" I hoped.
"No, we discussed family trees, and how to trace your ancestors. It was a good show."
We both went to the couch and sat. I laid my head back and related my day to her. She sat nodding her head as I talked; she started looking like a bobble head. I said I wanted to watch her show so she went to turn on the TiVo and we watched. I made my usual comments about the show that I made every day, she listened and we discussed ways to keep her show interesting.
She bounced up and said she had a lasagna in the oven and it was about ready. We ate on the couch and watched TV for a while. Around 6:30 p.m. my cell rang and the caller ID said 'private', I didn't like those calls. They were usually some sales person, but I answered, ready to yell at someone. It was Benson.
"What's up? Any good news?" I asked.
"The Roseville cops say there was a mix up with the pictures. The primary detective on the case got the file from another cop who started the case but was pulled off at the last minute. He hadn't met with Weston, just had the picture, so he used that. That's what they're saying, I'm doubtful, they did a lot of tap dancing around the thing. Something's up. The primary detective's name is Ben Lincoln," he said all in one breath, I could see why he was a lawyer.
"Well, I got some revelations to tell you too. There may be something more to this case than we think." I told him of my discussion with Weston today and that I was going to search the office in the morning. He took everything I said in, and I could tell his wheels were turning.
"People in high places, maybe murder to cover up impropriety by some official person who felt threatened, by being revealed as a submissive," he spoke.
"You trying to take my job now?" I laughed, "I deduced that too. Tomorrow I hope to dig up some info at her office. I'll let you know what I find."
He said thanks and hung up. I looked at Penny and asked if she wanted to take a ride to play detective. She said it made her all goose bumps and agreed. We went out to my car and drove over to Gratiot Avenue and down to Utica Road. I scanned the corner for the right strip mall and spotted a novelty shop, figuring that was the one. Guess that's why I'm a detective. I parked out front and Penny and I went in to the small store. It was filled with all kinds of gags, novelties and a bit of magic props. I was looking over their selection of tricks when a rather smallish man came up and asked if he could help me.
"I'm looking for Willy," I said.
He smiled and said, "You got him, what can I do for you?"
"Dave Weston said you could help me get into his wife's office." I showed him my I.D. and he looked closely at it.
"Wow, a real private eye. First one I've ever met. Sure, I can let you in. Too bad about Noreen and Dave, they were such a nice couple. I wasn't sure what to do about the office, but Noreen paid three months in advance like clock work, so it's still there till I hear from Dave. Hold on while I get the key." He skittered off and I noticed Penny was looking at some toys in the adult section, I said not to get any ideas.
She pointed to a blow up doll, and said, "I'd agree to a three-way with that."
I laughed, remembering our adventures at the strip bar in Vegas and the hot dancer who hit on Penny. Willy came back and led us out the building and down to the far end on the side of the building, where there was a small office.
Willy got up to the door and stopped, "What the hell, the door is jimmied." He pushed it open and we went in. The place was definitely ransacked, Noreen's files and papers where all over the floor and the desk was pulled apart. I went into the next room, it was small and had chains and ropes hanging from the walls, and a table with straps on the sides, I presumed used to bind someone down, was overturned. There were other bondage paraphernalia, some I recognized from Penny's show the other day, were hanging or lying on the floor.
"Looks like someone was trying to find something," I said.
Willy just said, “Wow, I've never been in this room since Noreen moved in, this is very interesting." He was picking up bondage toys and had a strange smile on his face.
I said to Penny, "This break-in has got to do something with the murder of Noreen. Someone knew her and her work and needed to get something out of here." She agreed.
I told Willy we'd be in here for a little while and I would see that the door was secured. He said he had to get back to his store and to let him know if we needed anything. He went out.
I asked Penny if she would go get my Fuji digital camera out of the car, she did. I was just looking around, taking in the whole place, trying not to disturb anything till Penny came back. She brought me the camera and I shot up a good number of pictures of the rooms and then I said we needed to see if we can find anything incriminating. I didn't think we would, the place was already hit pretty good. We dug through the few papers that were there, nothing special, just info on treatments as she called them. No names to be found, just numbers to denote her clients. I'm sure she didn't have that good of a memory, so there must be a book or file with names and numbers to go by.
I was going around knocking on the walls, hoping to find a secret panel. Nothing gave. I took a chair with straps on it, out of the back room, and stood on it to see over the tall walled box that housed the furnace, nothing on top. I uprighted the desk and stood up, pushing a ceiling tile over and looked around above the ceiling. I couldn't see anything up there either. The drawers on the desk were all pulled out so I figured the person checked inside the desk. We came up with nothing after an exhaustive search and it was starting to get late, so I said to pack it in. We went out and I made sure the door was secure. I stopped in to let Willy know we were leaving and I told him I would check with Dave about the office. He thanked me and we left.
We got back, Penny pulled her car in the garage and I parked on the side like I usually do. We went in and Penny said she felt grubby from the sex shop and was going to take a nice long bath. She asked if I wanted to join her, I said I was going to make a few phone calls and we could pick up in the bedroom. She zipped off to the bathroom and I got on my phone and called Buck. He was his usual chipper self and I told him all that happened after he left. He said he was just going to have to move in with us so he wouldn't miss all the fun. I told Buck I was going to call Benson and then I would see him in the morning at the office. He agreed and hung up.
I called Benson's cell phone number and got his voice mail. I left a message and put the phone down. I sat back organizing all my thoughts of the day, it was a busy one. Got a few things started and would nail Ralph tomorrow. I would have more info and a possible divorce lawyer for Elma, I smiled. There was not much else I could do right now, so I thought about that offer to share a bath with my favorite girl. Crime could wait one more day, I took her offer.
We were up early and getting ready to go to our respective jobs, Penny said she had a couple of home improvement guys on her show today. I hoped she didn't start remodeling the house now. We kissed and she went off. I always worried about her and that long drive to her studio on the freeways. She was a big girl and I knew she was careful, but there are way too many idiots on the roads for me not to worry. I had to take it in stride.
I got to my office around 8:50 and Buck was there in his usual resting position in the lobby. I kicked his feet this time and he jumped up, but I had backed off.
"Good morning, Jimmy. How are you this fine morning?" He gave me his big walrus smile that always brightened my day.
"Well, I'm hoping we can do some good for the world, and make it a better place to live in," I said.
He laughed. "At least make Elma's life better."
"Yep, and I'm hoping I don't have anymore B&D people popping up." I opened the door to my office and we went in. I sat at my desk, bringing up a camera case just as my cell phone rang. It was Benson.
"Good morning," I said, "I've got some more interesting details for you." I told him about the office mess and what my feelings on the case were and he agreed. Something more was going on. I just needed to find the mystery woman. I said I'd like to talk to the primary detective on Weston's case, Benson said to be careful if there are cops involved. I said I'd watch my hide, and we finished.
I dialed Trapper's number and he came on. I asked if he had a minute to spare, he said crime had stopped for the day just for me, so he had time to talk. I spent the next twenty minutes filling him in on what we came up with on Ralph, then gave him all the gory details on the Weston case. I explained about my checking with the barmaid and showing her my photo and about the police showing a different photo, he said that sounded queer to him, something was off.
"To mix up ID photos come under three headings, carelessness, stupidity or a cover-up," Trapper offered. "It sounds like a cover-up to me." I agreed.
"Do you know this Detective Lincoln on the Roseville squad," I asked.
"I've heard a little about him, ambitious, arrogant, asshole, the three A's of evil," he laughed, "but I wouldn't trust him from what I hear."
"Could he have been a customer of Noreen's and took over the case to cover himself?" I asked.
"Anything's possible. If he was involved in the murder, it would be easy for him to bury the evidence since no one else is going to nose around in his case. Let me snoop around my precinct, see if anyone knows more about him. I'll call you if I find anything," he offered.
"Buck's here with me, want to say anything to him," I asked. He said he had nothing to say to Buck.
Buck yelled, "Catch any good hookers lately, Trapper?"
I heard Trapper growl and say, "You just had to tell him what Weber said, didn't you?"
"Just trying to be fair with everyone, keeping all concerned on the same footing," I said.
"Thanks, Richards, I love you too." He hung up. I was going to have to ask him about his aversion to saying good-bye.
"Buck, are you good at handling a video camera? I don't mean for porn either."
Buck smiled and said he knew which end was which. I opened the camera case and I handed him my Sony Handicam and showed him the functions of the buttons. I said I had a wireless microphone under my shirt and I attached a receiver to the camcorder, turned them both on and spoke into the mic. Buck was listening through the headphones from the receiver, and said it came through loud and clear. I told him to keep listening and went out the door, down the hall, still talking. I was outside the building then came back in. Buck said it never lost contact.
I packed the camcorder in the case, and said, "Time to capture a pervert," and we headed out.
I parked my car in front of the pool store facing the windows. I set the thing up for Buck and told him my plan, he loved it. I went in the building and got some twerpy looking guy in a pastel green shirt. I asked for Ralph and he said he could help me, I asked again for Ralph. He grumbled, and went off to the back room. I waved at Buck in the car video taping me, and asked if he could hear me, he waved. Good, I thought, now to get Ralphy on tape.
"Hey, I remember you," he smiled as he came from the back room. "Any word on my acceptance to your club?" I took his arm and led him to the window, looking back at the display room, saying it was more private up here. He agreed like we had some secret talk to do.
I carefully looked out to Buck, he waved again, and then to Ralph. "OK, I have just a bit more interviewing to do with you for the review board." He said shoot, he had nothing to hide.
I took out a slip of paper I wrote on, while I was awake in bed this morning and read, "First, are you seriously interested in joining our swingers group?" He said yes, enthusiastically.
"OK, your wife isn't interested in swinging?"
"My wife is a prude; we have sex a lot only because I enjoy it. I could put a bag over her head and be just as happy." That's it Ralph, hang yourself.
"Explain your membership in the Dark Dungeon B&D club."
"I met this chick in a bar one night and we got to talking about sex and she said she was into kinky things. She told me about this club in Pontiac and said she could get me in if I was interested. We drove out there and it was fantastic. Best sex I have had in years." He grinned.
"I thought they weren't into sex in bondage clubs?" I asked.
"Well, once you're in a room, anything goes, but they check on you first, make sure you aren't a cop."
I thought Trapper's friend on Pontiac PD might like to hear that.
I continued, "OK, I said there is a membership fee, you have enough money to fund your pleasures?"
"Hey, my wife is rich, I got funds coming out the ass," he smiled.
"If you're wife is rich, why are you working here?" I had to ask that question.
"My wife says I have to contribute to the marriage, otherwise I get nothing from her. I show I'm working at this stinking job and she gives me my toys. This job is no killer and I get to be away from her." Well, that answered that.
"Have you ever been married before this?"
"I was married twice, tragic marriages, both wives are dead."
"Were either of those wives into swapping or kink?" I asked.
"Hell, no, they were just as frigid as my present wife."
"Ralph, what is your goal if accepted as a member of our group?"
"To have great sex with as many women as I can, isn't that the goal of every man?"
I wanted to punch his lights out, but said, "Oh, yes, we all have that goal, don't we."
"So you're having regular sex at the bondage club, doesn't your wife wonder why her sex is cut back?" I asked.
"I give it to her when she's getting in a bitchy mood about it, doing my duty for the cause," he smirked.
"Do you plan on staying with your wife if you get into our club?"
"Hell yes, as long as the money is there I'll stay, and slip it to her once in a while, keep her happy," he grinned.
I really wanted to punch this guy. "OK, I have enough to take back to the board; I'll get back to you shortly."
He shook my hand and I left. Once in the car, I said to Buck, "You got it all?"
"I'm a regular C.B. Demille. Elma's going to love our movie," he grinned.
We went back to the office and I took the tape out of the Handicam and put it in my fire-proof lock box.
It was now almost 11:30 a.m., and I was wondering what next to do about Weston's case.
I looked at Buck and said, "I'll call Elma in a while and have her come in tomorrow." Buck said he wanted to be there, I said he'd have front row seats and popcorn.
"Hello, super cop," I said.
"Don't try and butter me up, I'm still mad at you for telling Buck about my troubled youth." I could tell he was smiling. "I did a bit of detective work, I do that you know, it's my job and even get paid for it, I talked to some people here who used to work in Roseville. Not a one of them had a good word to say about Lincoln. He has a rep for being a cowboy, doesn't follow the rules all the time, if he can bend them he will. One guy here said he thought Lincoln was into some shady activities, even hints of B&D, sound familiar?" I could tell Trapper was eating it up.
"Well, he could be the link then, but I can't go in and accuse a police detective of murder and conspiracy." I said.
"Not if you want to stay alive, knowing he may be behind it." Trapper warned.
"I guess I'll have to try and prove Weston's innocence and let the police figure out who did it."
"That's a plan. I'll back you with anything you need that's in my jurisdiction, just keep me informed." he said.
I thought he was about to hang up and told him to hold on. "I have a question that I have wanted to ask you ever since the classmate murders. Every time you're done with talking on the phone or leaving a room, you don't say good-bye. It's just a courtesy thing, but you don't do it, why?"
He was quiet for a bit, I gave him the leeway. He hemmed a bit then said, "I'll tell you, but it goes no further than this, you tell Buck and I'll hunt you down and waste you. Understood?" I said I agreed. "I'm telling you this because it's something very personal and sometimes it's good to share with someone. I was young when my father died, I told you before that I was in police academy when it happened and he was a cop, too. I lived with my parents when they moved to North Las Vegas, while I was in academy. One day my dad and I had an argument and I stormed out of the house saying good-bye rather harshly, later that day he was killed on duty in a gang related shoot out. I regretted the way I said good-bye to him. It took me a long time to get over it and two years later, I was living with a wonderful woman and one day we had a fight and I said I was leaving and stormed out, again yelling good-bye to her. She was killed in a head on collision that afternoon. That was the day I stopped saying good-bye, I didn't want to lose another person I cared about." He went silent and hung up.
I was a bit stunned and reached for a tissue. I didn't know what to do now, I thought about going up to the Midnight Bar and asking around about the mystery woman. I reached for the phone and dialed Elma. She came on and I asked her if she could come in tomorrow morning. She asked if I had any good news, I said I would cover everything then. She was quiet and then said she'd be in. Now I felt even worse. Hearing my friend tell me his story and having to burst a poor woman's bubble about her cheating husband. I took refuge in the fact that I was exposing a cheat and hopefully she would deal with it. I would recommend Benson as a divorce lawyer, if it came to that. But I still felt bad.
Around 3 p.m., I was fidgeting with some files on my desk when the door opened and a gorgeous redhead stepped in and asked where the travel agency was, I told her, she thanked me, and left. I thought about opening up my own travel agency. I sure as hell wasn't getting the good looking ones.
My cell phone rang and I looked, just the phone number, didn't know who it could be, so I answered it.
"Mr. P.I., this is Dolly from the Midnight Bar, you told me to call if that woman showed up, well, she's here," she said excitedly. I told her I was about 15 minutes away, and if she could stall her, talk to her, buy her drinks on me, anything to keep her there. I was on my way. I hung up and did my best to keep within the speed limit but was pushing it. I got to the bar and entered.
Dolly saw me and motioned to a woman sitting at the back end of the bar by the wall. I went over and sat next to her, looked at her and nodded my head.
"Go away, I'm not interested," she said, glancing at me.
"Yeah, well neither am I," I said. "But there are other people interested in you. It would be in your best of health to talk to me."
She was silent, and then started to get up, I grabbed her arm and sat her back down.
"Hey, that hurts, I'll call the cops!" she wailed.
"Go ahead; I'd like that, so you can explain to them why you went to a motel with David Weston on the night his wife was butchered. Go ahead and call the cops, or do you want me to do it for you?" I threatened.
She was deadly silent for a full minute, just staring at the bar top, and then spoke softly, "I had nothing to do with any murders."
"I didn't say you did. I just want to know if you were with Weston that night?"
"What did you mean it would be in my best health to talk?" she asked.
"I think there is something going on, the police are possibly not interested in clearing Weston, and you could be someone they don't want talking, get what I mean? So far you don't exist, but that could change. I can get you protection with Weston's lawyer if you want to stay alive." I knew I was spreading it on thick, but I had to convince this woman to come in and testify, so I lied a bit.
"I have a family, I don't want to get involved," she said.
"I understand, just talk to the lawyer and we can work things out for you. That's all it takes." I had hoped I wouldn't have to resort to unpleasant actions.
She looked at me and said, "I read what happened to that woman, I'm sorry it did happen. Yes, I was with Dave when it she was killed. I was afraid to say anything. I didn't want my husband or children to know I was having a fling. But I felt guilty about Dave being blamed. I came here to see if I was remembered, I guess I was."
"I'll be sure you're protected, my pledge, even though you don't know me, I'll deal with it. I'm also a licensed private investigator, I carry a big gun."
I asked the woman her name, she said Marylou, I told her my name and said that Dave called her by another name; she said she lied and told him Cindy. I knew I had the right woman.
She smiled, and asked what she should do. I said to follow me out of the bar quietly and then I would take her some place safe to talk to the lawyer. She agreed. I got out my cell phone and called Benson, he came on.
"I've got the woman; she needs protection, where can we meet?"
"Bring her to my office and we'll decide what to do." I said I'd be there in about twenty minutes and hung up.
I took her hand and got her on her feet. I waved to the barmaid and put another twenty on the bar; she came over and said I'd be welcome anytime. We left the building and headed to my car. We were just about ready to turn the corner of the building, to the parking lot on the side, I felt something zing past my ear, imediately followed by the sound of a shot, as a bullet struck the building. I pushed Marylou to the ground and covered her the best I could, while I drew my Glock out, and pointed it in the direction I thought the shot came from. One more shot came and hit the pavement as I fired a couple rounds towards a car on the street. It sped off, but not before I blew out its rear window. I looked at Marylou and said, "Well, I warned you."
I quickly got Marylou to my car and pulled out my cell phone, I speed dialed Trapper. He came on and I explained what was going on and what just happened. I said I was about five minutes from Clinton Township precinct and twenty minutes from Benson, I wanted police protection right now. He said to get my ass in quickly and be careful. I drove out of the lot and headed down Groesbeck to the police headquarters, where trapper and Officer Becker were waiting out front. I hadn't seen Becker since the classmate murders and he greeted me.
"Guys, this is Marylou Martin, she admits to being with Dave Weston during the time his wife was murdered."
They said their hellos and Trapper said to me, "I called Benson and told him we were bringing her in but I didn't think it's a good idea for her to be anywhere near Roseville right now. He agreed. Mark really has no place for her to be safe, now that someone knows she exists.
"What am I supposed to do, I don't want to die!" Marylou wailed. I put my hand on her shoulder, and told her to calm down; we weren't going to let anything happen to her. I looked to Trapper, he shrugged his shoulders.
"She's a material witness to a crime and her life is definitely in danger. She needs protection." I demanded.
"Yes, we can hold her here over night till the DA and Prosecutor's offices talk to her. We'll take her in and get her statement on record, but it's not our jurisdiction, Roseville may want to take her in there." Trapper offered.
"Oh yea, let them get careless with their handling of the witness, maybe she'll fall down a flight of stairs." I argued.
"Jim, I understand, but there is a process we have to abide by. It’s the law. We have nothing to hold her for."
I knew Trapper didn't like the system, I had an idea. I took Marylou's arm and swung her hand to Trapper's face and nearly knocked him over, I misjudged my aim. He came back and said what the hell was I doing. I yelled, arrest this woman, she just assaulted an officer of the law! Trapper looked at me and smiled, he turned to Becker and said to escort Mrs. Martin into lock up. He told her she can't be assaulting police and she would have to suffer the consequences. She was wide eyed and not sure what the hell we were up to, but she knew she was going to be away from anyone wanting to kill her. Trapper looked to me and said I could have warned him. I said what fun would that be. He grinned.
We sat in Trapper's office; I asked how did they know to follow me to the Midnight Bar. I only talked on my cell phone, they couldn't have bugged that.
"You went to Noreen's office, they may have been watching that," Trapper offered. "Cops are good at tailing people; they could have been watching you for days, once they knew you were on the case. Bringing a woman out of that bar sent up flags."
"Geez, I let myself be watched, says a lot for my P.I. skills," I lamented.
Trapper laughed, "You've been a P.I. for all of four months, you can't expect to have the experience in that short of time. You learn as you go."
"Well, from now on I'm going to be suspicious of everyone and everything," I said.
Mark Benson popped his head in the door, "Any good cops still around this place?" he joked. He came in and sat. "I brought a steno to take Martin's statements, I am so glad she was found." He looked to me, "Thanks." Then to Trapper, "She's locked up for assaulting a cop? Good ploy, it will keep her away from the beast of Roseville till we get everything in writing. We can suppress her identity; make her a key witness under protection until we get Weston released. Then the cops will have to investigate to find the real murderer. I talked to Weston and convinced him to give his statements about his wife's activities that may have involved officials." He looked to me, "You'll have to make a statement as to how you found her and what transpired after you did, glad neither of you were killed."
"Thanks, I'm glad I wasn't killed too," I said. "I'll write up a statement and sign it here tomorrow with Trapper as witness. I have another case I'm not looking forward to, but it has to be done." I looked to Benson, "I may have a woman who will need a divorce lawyer or criminal lawyer if she murders her husband."
Benson laughed and said, "Those cases are the hardest, telling a woman her husband is a louse. I don't envy you. I'll give her my best at taking him for everything," he said.
I said good-bye to everyone and headed out. I called Buck and asked what he was up to, he said not much. I said to meet me at the office; we had some surveillance to do. He said he'd be there. I was in a strange mood, I had been shot at today and I saved a man from prison, but I had mixed feelings. I needed to put up a tiny shell around my feelings to get through playing detective, not take cases so hard.
I drove back to my office and gathered my camera equipment as Buck strolled in. He asked what we were up to and I said I wanted more proof of Ralph's indiscretions, just to be iron clad in our accusations as to his screwing around. I sat at my desk and called the pool place and asked for Ralph, he came on, I reminded him who I was, and said the committee was considering his request to join, but needed some proof he was a member of the B&D club in Pontiac. I apologized but said they have to be careful to qualify our members. He said no problem, he could go get a receipt from the club tonight since he was going there anyways, and have it for me in the morning. I said that would work.
I looked to Buck and said we needed to take a trip out to Pontiac. I packed the camera gear and we went out to the car. I stopped and said I had to call Penny to explain why I wasn't going to be home right away. He laughed and said something about being pussy whipped. I said it was too bad he didn't have a pussy whipper; he looked at me funny like, and then laughed out loud.
I went off to the side of the parking lot and called Penny. She answered saying "Perverts are Us. How may I screw you?"
"I certainly hope you looked at caller I.D. or I'll be a little pissed," I said.
"Oh, sweety, you are my only pervert. What do you want; I'm in the middle of having great sex with Eric."
"Are you going to start that again?” I demanded. "I just called to say Buck and I are going to a B&D club tonight, and I'll be a little late."
I could hear her breathing, then she said, "And I don't get to go? You can take me to a strip club in Vegas but not a bondage club here. That is so wrong."
"I'll make it up to you, we'll go to a strip club this weekend and we'll even take our big son with us."
"I'm sure Buck will love that," She laughed. "So, what's up for tonight?"
"I'm on Elma Flagg's case and Buck and I are going to get some pictures of hubby in action. I'm going to fry him good, so Elma can take him for everything."
"Wow, you're mean. I like that. I just may give up Eric for you." I could tell she was smiling wide and she said to be careful and hung up.
Sometimes she drove me crazy, but I don't know what I would do without her. I went back to Buck, he was making little whipping noises, I looked at him and said to stop it or Penny and I won't take him to a strip club this weekend. His mouth opened, but nothing came out. I said to get in the car and we drove out.
We got to Pontiac just before 6 p.m. and I said Ralph would probably head over here after he closed up the pool store at 5:30, so we could wait here for him. I had checked my Palm TX map program for the address of the B&D club and we were across the street from it. We sat waiting. After about ten minutes a Pontiac police cruiser pulled up next to us and rolled down his window asking what our business was.
I got out of the car and came around and showed him my I.D. and explained we were waiting for a stray husband to show up to get him on camera. I also told him about our finding out the club does front for sex. He said they were also watching the club too, which is why they keep an eye out for strangers in the area. I told him about Trapper and his connection with someone in the Pontiac police, and what I knew from my case, he thanked me and said to be extra careful, the club has some powerful connections. I said I was just after a little fish and wouldn't rattle any cages. I gave him my business card and they drove off.
I got back in the car, looked to Buck and said this could be an interesting night.
About fifteen minutes later Ralph drove up and parked in a no parking zone, dumb shit. I took out my HP M22 pocket camera and put it in my shirt pocket. I said to Buck, let's roll. We got out of the car and went across the street as Ralph was walking up to the entrance.
"Ralph! Hold up," I yelled, he turned with a stunned look not expecting someone to call his name in this neighborhood. He saw Buck and me, and got a smile on his face.
"What are you two doing here?" he asked.
"Well, this sounded like a great place on your recommendation, so we decided to check it out, for our club's future activities." He bought it. This guy is really stupid.
He said to come on in and we did. The lobby was ornate, with gaudy wallpaper and antique furniture, we went up to a desk with a woman seated at it, dressed in leather so tight, that made her breasts pop up like grapefruit. Ralph showed his card and she checked it against her book. She smiled and asked if Buck and I had cards, Ralph said he invited us in to look the place over. She smiled again and gave us cards that said we were guests and that we were limited to basic functions of the club as printed on the back of the cards. I looked and there wasn't much there, I didn't care.
Ralph asked if Wendy was available and was told she was free, he motioned to us and we followed. We went into a small room and after a few minutes an attractive woman came in and was a bit surprised by all of us in the room. I said to just ignore us as we were just observing. She said no problem and went to Ralph; she must have known him as she started to undress herself. She looked at us and I said we liked to watch, she said whatever, and proceeded to undress Ralph. I had my pocket camera in hand and was quietly snapping pictures as they did their business. I looked at Buck and he was just drooling. I had enough watching and had plenty of pictures to provide to any lawyer. We excused ourselves and went out quickly. We went out the front door and were heading to my car just as the same patrol car came around; he stopped and asked if I caught my little fish.
I said, "Hook, line and leather whips." I showed him the preview pictures on my camera and he said to have Trapper send them to Detective Lawson, his buddy here in Pontiac. They must have checked after I mentioned Trapper. I said I would, he thanked me and drove off.
Buck and I got back in the car and we headed towards Fraser. Buck was still a bit charged up from watching the Dominatrix work over Ralph.
"Let's go to a strip club tonight," he asked.
"Buck, Penny would be crushed if we went on our own. She wants to go to and I said we'd set aside the time this weekend. Go home and work the steam out exercising," I said. "You know you can go by yourself if you really wanted to, I don't have to hold your hand."
"It wouldn't be as much fun without my posse with me," he lamented.
"Two more days and we'll all ride out for action," I smiled. "OK?"
He said that would have to work and we pulled into my office parking lot and went up to my office. I sat at the desk and fired up my computer, as I pulled the SD card from my camera. I inserted it into the card reader and opened up the folder containing the pictures I took of Ralph. I copied them over to the computer and brought up the print program so I could make prints of them to show Elma. I ran off a copy of each picture, handing them to Buck as they came out, he sat snickering at them.
"You get them wet with drool and you're going to pay for the paper," I joked.
"Elma's not going to like these," he said quietly.
"I know, Buck, but it has to be done, and there are still the deaths of his last two wives. I don't want Elma to end up on a slab in the morgue," I cautioned. "We get her away from him now and it cuts his funds off, he'd have no reason to harm her."
"Or all the more reason to," Buck warned.
"Yeah, I had that in mind too. We may have to lean on Ralphy boy a little, just to warn him what may happen to him should anything happen to Elma."
Buck grinned, "Can I beat on him a little."
"We'll see," I said with a smile. "Now go home so I can go see Penny and take out my frustrations on her."
Buck got up and said he'd see me bright and early. After we all got back from Vegas, Buck went back to his job as security, watching cars. One day he had a run in with one of the owners of the security company, and told him to politely shove his head up his ass and Buck quit. He didn't really need the job, it was just a bit of extra cash to spend on his classic cars that he restored. Buck was retired and on a nice pension from General Motors, before they had money problems, so Buck had an income allowing him to bug me now. I had no problem with that, he was a big help to me and he was scary looking. Great for intimidating suspects.
Buck said his good-byes and left, I just sat for a bit staring at the pictures that would either bring Elma's world crashing down or give her relief. I'd find out in the morning. I closed up the office, putting the pictures in my folder and went out to my car. I drove home and found Penny in the kitchen trying to bake, I think. There was smoke everywhere, I thought the house was burning down at first.
"What in the world are you doing?" I asked, choking from the smoke.
"I was trying to bake cookies, but now we have charcoal briquettes for the grill," she looked so sad it broke my heart.
"I don't expect you to be a great cookie maker, I usually don't eat them anyways," I comforted her. She dropped her head on my chest as we stood in the smoky room. "Let's open up some windows and go out to the backyard for a while."
"I'm supposed to have a baker on the show tomorrow, and I wanted to be able to say I could bake. I guess I won't say anything about my abilities to make hockey pucks."
We sat on the picnic table watching the smoke slowly stream out the windows and I said to her, "What to see some dirty pictures?"
She looked at me strangely as I took the folder and showed her the photos I took of Ralph. I had blurred out anything obscene on the pictures with the computer so not to offend Elma. Penny turned the pictures this way and that and was studying them.
"Are you learning anything?" I asked.
"This girl looks familiar. I think she came with the dominatrix we had on the show the other day. I'm not certain, but the face is familiar." Penny handed me back the pictures. "And just what did you get into while at that club."
"Not a thing, I just observed," I defended myself.
She sat there just looking at me. "I guess I'll have to believe you, I may still check with Buck to see what he says."
"Buck wanted to go to a strip bar tonight, I told him he'd have to wait for the weekend."
"Is Elma coming in to see her husband being unfaithful?"
"Yep, tomorrow morning, I'm just a bit reluctant but it has to be done."
"Maybe after about fifty or sixty cheating husband reports you'll get over the reluctance," Penny offered.
"I think that may help." I was silent for a bit then it hit me. "Hey, the smoke made me forget about my big events of the day." I told her everything from this morning, down playing being shot at, to how I smacked Trapper with Marylou's hand, and now Weston is cleared of murder charges, then up to our trip out to Pontiac.
She grumbled a bit then said, "I really hope you don't get your fool head shot off now." She wasn't smiling. I kissed her cheek. "That isn't going to make it better." she grumbled again. I said I'd be careful.
The smoke had finally cleared and we ventured back into the kitchen. I picked up one of Penny's attempts at cookies and found I couldn't even break it in half. She started laughing while looking at her mess.
I said she could clean it up tomorrow, I had a few frustrations that needed tending to, since I didn't get any action at the club. She asked if I still had the handcuffs handy, I said I did, but this time she gets to wear them.
I set my alarm extra early this morning; I wanted to get into the office early to get set up for Elma. Penny was still asleep and still handcuffed to the bed, I smiled. I got myself ready and then kissed Penny as she stretched awake, asking me to get the damn cuffs off her. I said I may just leave her like that; she just glared at me so I let her loose. She got herself ready to go conquer the baking guests on her show today; I asked if she was going to take one of her cookie creations with her, she gave me the one finger salute.
With clothes properly in place and our props in hand, we kissed on our way out the door. She drove off as I was getting my car started; I sat for a minute thinking about what was going to happen today. I would be crushing a woman who had a decent marriage and sex till now, but I may be saving her the heartache of his unfaithfulness and maybe even death. If Ralph was actually a murderer, I was beginning to doubt it since he was so stupid.
I arrived at my office around 8:30 and found Buck plopped out on the lobby chairs, I kicked his feet again and he came to life.
"Did you sleep here all night," I asked.
He grinned and said, "Nope, got here about half hour ago. Like to start my day bright and early."
I opened the door and he went for the client chair and plopped there. I sat at my desk and checked my machine. I still used an answering machine, instead of voice mail; I liked the control better with the machine. I warmed up my computer, and brought up the video editing software and proceeded to make a DVD copy of the video that Buck recorded for me yesterday. I was going to give Elma a copy and put one away for safe keeping along with the original.
My phone rang and I checked the caller ID and it was Benson. "Hello," I answered.
"Jim, Dave Weston was let out this morning, cleared of charges of murder. Lincoln wasn't happy, but there was nothing he could do about it. Prosecutors talked extensively with Marylou Martin early this morning and got her statement on record. So she should be safe for now. The media has already been hounding Weston, but we managed to keep Martin in the background. Her husband is still out of town, but she'll have some explaining to do when he returns. There's still the death of Noreen Weston, police are looking into the dominatrix angle, they weren't happy with the mess at her office, I told them that's the way you found it. I still need your statement on record as to finding Martin, get it to me as soon as you can." he took a breath.
"I'll write up my entire procedures for my investigations and have them to you this afternoon. I'm getting ready for my cheating husband report, she's coming in this morning, I'm bracing for it," I said.
"Good luck on that, let my office know if she wants to proceed with divorce. We'll schedule an appointment for her. About the Weston case, submit your bill and I'll have a check cut for you today. You did good work, I'll definitely be using you again," he said and then said good-bye and hung up.
I looked at Buck who was watching me on the phone, "Weston was cut loose, charges cleared and so far all is well with Martin. They still have to find the murderer of Weston's wife; he or she is still out there."
Buck smiled and said, "They should put us on the case, we'd find them fast."
"I like your enthusiasm, but let's get through Elma first." It was just now 9 a.m. and there was a knock at the door. Buck went to open it and found Elma standing there looking apprehensive. Buck was respectful towards Elma and quietly told her to come in. I got up and came around my desk and pulled the client chair out for her. Buck went and sat at one on the chairs by the door, set there for waiting. I sat back at my desk, and I could see Elma wanted to say something.
"Elma, let me say this is never easy to give reports on spouses who wander." I hoped that broke the ice with her, she looked at me with eyes that said she knew. "We did some investigating of your husband and I'm going to show you a video and some pictures that I hope you can brace yourself for." She nodded. "As you can already imagine we did find that your husband has been cheating on his vows, he freely admitted to me and Buck about his activities with a bondage club in Pontiac that fronts for a sex club. There was no other one woman involved, just his dalliances at the sex club. I think that would be enough and our video and photos prove it. This is also evidence that you can also use to proceed with divorce if you decide to go that far. Are you ready to see what we have?"
She nodded her head and quietly said, "Go ahead."
I turned the TV towards her and put the DVD in, it started up and she sat quietly as the screen came to life showing Ralph and I at the pool store talking at the window. It ran, then ended, she was silent. I told her that we followed Ralph to the bondage club in Pontiac and he had invited us in to watch. During which I secretly photographed Ralph with one of the dominatrix's. I took out the photo file and I said I was going to show her only two, the rest were basically more of the same, so no sense in dwelling on them. She said she wanted to see them all and I handed the folder to her. She sat going through each and everyone at least twice.
"Son of a bitch! The Bastard! I knew he was dicking somewhere else; I wasn't good enough for him! Couldn't get enough fucking at home, had to go get some stray pussy and bring home their diseases to me. I'll fry his tight little ass for this!" she spewed. I could see even Buck was a bit shocked by her outburst. Elma went on swearing for another minute then calmed down. She looked at me and then blushed, saying she was sorry for the outburst. I told her it was perfectly understandable.
"Elma, I have something else to cover with you, something important you may need to know. I had a friend of mine in the local police do a background check and it seems your husband was married twice before. Did you know about this?" I asked.
She looked at me blankly and said, "He never mentioned any other wives, I was a bit surprised when he said that in the video, I assumed he was just making it up."
"No, he wasn't. You told me you had money, I assume you are well off?" She said she was. "Ralph's two prior wives were also wealthy, but after Ralph ran the money down, the wives mysteriously died. One by car accident and the other by suicide. My police friend says they suspected he was involved with the murders, but he came up with alibis to cover his ass. I'm not sure how Ralph is going to take to finding out you know about his running around. I would suggest finding a place to stay and tell him by phone that you know. I don't want anything to happen to you like what happened to his other wives. If he thinks you are going to divorce him he may act on it to prevent you from taking the money away. You may need protection." I looked at Buck and could sense he knew what I was thinking.
Elma looked at me for a minute and asked if I did protection work, I looked at Buck and he got up and pulled his chair over to us.
"Ma'am, if you'd like, I can provide you with protection till this whole thing goes away, my pleasure to help such a nice lady," he emoted such sweetness; I could feel new cavities in my teeth growing.
She giggled; I knew she liked Buck from the first time they met at my door. She nodded and said, "Mr. Buck, I would love to have you provide protection for me, I will pay you well. Just keep that lying son of a bitch away from me."
Buck grinned and said, "Let's go confront the lying son of a bitch, so you can tell him what you think of him."
She giggled again, "I'd like that very much." She looked to me and said, "Please have your bill ready for me and I'll see you get paid right away. Thank you so much for your efforts." Buck helped her up and asked her to wait out in the hall for him; he'd be right out after he conferred with me. She went out and he closed the door.
"Buck, don't go getting her pregnant now," I joked.
"Shit, I have no intentions of getting anywhere near a bed with her, but she is a nice lady and I'll help her for a few days." Buck said.
"Just don't go getting yourself or Ralph killed. Call me if you have any trouble you can't handle, which is a dumb thing to say, you can handle yourself," I grinned.
I sat back at my desk as the door opened again and a foxy brunette with a rack to die for stepped in and asked where the travel agency was, damn; I told her and she went out. I'm going to have to go up there and see what the attraction was. It sure wasn't in my office.
I opened up my diary on the computer, the one I have written in for over six years now. I may have missed a number of days but it was pretty complete. If I needed to remember something, I could do a search and find the day it happened fairly fast. Most men would call it a journal, not a diary, too female sounding, I didn't care as long as I documented my day's activities. Since I was now over 60 and closer to senility, I needed to have something to help remember my past, I laughed. I wrote in what happened with Elma in detail and then shut it down.
I heard some noise behind me and turned to the window to see the weather had fouled and it was storming out. Living in Michigan you have to get used to changes in weather at any minute. It was pouring rain out now and I was glad I had no where to go at the moment. The traffic in the street hadn't slowed with the puddles now forming, rain or snow they ignored the mess. Michigan drivers like to push the edge when it came to driving, they don't care who or what is in their way, just get there. I sometimes wanted to bitch-slap drivers who rode my ass trying to get somewhere, and then they would find an opening and whiz around me and down the road. I would have to laugh when I would get to the next light and there they sat, no further ahead, jerks.
I turned to my door as it opened, in came Dave Weston. I was a bit surprised, and told him to have a seat, pointing to my client chair.
"Dave, what can I do for you?" I said.
"Well, first, I want to thank you for getting me off by finding Marylou or Cindy, whatever her name was." Sounded like he hadn't talked to her after they let him out. "I also want to ask a favor."
I nodded to him and he continued, "I did love my wife, even if I was an insensitive bastard when it came to whoring around. Noreen was a good woman, despite her unusual occupation. She provided a need and someone wasn't happy that she did. I think it was a city official, being protected by the police or at least one of them. I want to hire you to find out who murdered her."
He went quiet and looked distressed.
"I'm sure the police will do that for free," I said.
"Not if they're covering their asses, they won't. I want an independent investigation to get to the real culprit," he said. "My wife and I had a good deal of cash put away, it's all legal, and I can pay you whatever your fee to do this job - please." He looked like a man on the edge.
"If I agree to help you, you're going to have to be absolutely straight with me. I don't like being kept in the dark. That agreeable to you?"
He said it was, and then he took an envelope out of his jacket pocket and handed it to me. I opened it and found a thousand dollars in large bills; he said it was an advance. I told him he hired a P.I. and shook his hand.
"OK, may as well begin at the beginning. What got your wife into such a business?"
"Noreen was always into strange activities, Wicca, bondage, new age stuff. She felt she could save the world one person at a time if she could. She got referrals through the local new age stores and then started to build up a clientele through personal referrals and word of mouth. She opened the office about a year ago and it started slow but built up so fast that she had to limit her customers. She never got into sex; it was just a way for men mostly - a few women - to get rid of their frustrations from having to be the bad guy at work. In her office through the bondage, they were the underling, the bug that she could step on. They wanted the release of pressure from the weight of responsibility and Noreen provided that." He went silent for a bit, I wasn't going to rush him. "Lately Noreen was acting strange, well... stranger than usual, and she was wanting more money for her work. I said she'd get too greedy and put herself out of business. She wanted more, and she wanted the power she was starting to feel over her clients."
I said, "Someone didn't like her pushing, you think?"
"Yeah, someone. I know Noreen kept a book with all her client's names in it. I don't know where she kept it, she wouldn't tell me, said it was privileged information. She wasn't a registered therapist, that info wasn't privileged, but she kept it hidden. She said to protect herself. She also kept videos of her sessions; she had a camera hidden on her back room that recorded them."
"I didn't see any camera when I was checking the place," I said.
"It's very well hidden and the recorder is above it, over the ceiling tile."
"Can we go there and take a look at the set-up; with you there it may make things easier."
He agreed and we went out. The weather had changed again, and it was just now getting sunny out. I drove over to Noreen's office and Dave was fairly silent the whole way over. We pulled up in front of the novelty store and went in to see Willy. He greeted Dave like an old long lost friend. Willy said he heard about Dave beating the rap and Dave said that I was the one who got him off. Willy thanked me for helping. Dave asked Willy for the extra key since the police had his, Willy said that they went through the place, put he didn't think they found anything. He gave Dave the extra key and we went down to the office and in.
"The camera is a tiny thing; she had it well hidden in the ceiling by a smoke detector." We went into the back room and he pointed to the smoke detector and I got up on a chair and looked closer at it. There was a small lens peeking out from the side of the thing. I asked where the recorder was and he said to move the ceiling panel next to the lens. I did and found the small VHS recorder tucked in a hole in the wall. I went to pop out any tape in the thing but nothing came out. I flipped open the cartridge door and it was empty.
"Noreen or someone took the tape out. Do you know where she may have kept her collection of tapes?"
"I have no idea," was all he said.
"I don't suppose she told anyone about the recordings," I asked.
"Hell, I didn't know she was doing it till I came in one day and found her up there changing tapes. She was pissed that I found out."
"Sounds like she was into more than just attitude adjustments. Maybe starting to blackmail some of her wealthier clients."
"Well that would have gotten her killed easy enough," he grimaced.
I got down and continued, "We have to look more around your home to see if she may have a secret stash there, you mind?"
"No, let's go now, the cops have finished there too, I hope."
We took the key back to Willy and he said there were two more months left in the rent, Dave said after that he was finished with the place. We left and went to Dave and Noreen's modest little home in Roseville. We drove down Wallace Street, a quiet little road, just off Little Mack. The house was about one third down on the left and we went in. The place looked like it had been searched; police are not known to clean up after themselves.
"Is there a particular room that Noreen spent time in more than others?"
"When she first started out, she used a small office in the basement, but the neighbors started to complain about the traffic coming and going to the house, so she got the office on Gratiot. The room is still down there, but the police pretty much wiped it out."
I was thinking that Lincoln probably enjoyed himself rummaging through that room. We went down to the room and as Dave said, I couldn't find much to go on. I walked around the basement examining the floor joists over head looking for hidden panels. I checked the other small side rooms and the laundry room but really didn't see anything suspicious. I knew the water table in this area was fairly high and I asked if Dave had a sump pump. He led me back to the laundry room and pointed to the corner. There was a round hole in the floor about two feet across and it had water in it. The sump pump was just at water level and was ready in case of flooding. I got out my pocket flashlight and looked into the murky water, just behind the pump I saw a string attached to the side, going down into the water. I reached over and pulled it up and out of the water came a small plastic container. I brought it out into the other room and set it on a workbench. Dave was amazed that it was there, I said my grandfather used to hide his chewing tobacco from my grandmother in the sump hole water in an old mason jar, that's why I looked. I examined the plastic container and said it looks like it was recently opened, the way it was still clean and not slimy from the water. I carefully opened the top and we looked in and found a key.
"Ah, ha." I exclaimed. "The mystery continues."
We were looking at the key when we heard a floor creak above us. I quietly asked Dave if anyone was supposed to be in the house, he said no. I reached under my jacket for my Glock and realized I had left it in my desk drawer in my office. Some big shot P.I. I was, totally unarmed. I put the key in my pocket and we went to the stairs and just as we got there I saw a couple of baseball bats against a wall. I took one and gave one to Dave. I quietly went up the stairs, followed by Dave, and came out into the kitchen listening for any sound. Dave and I went into the living room and were heading down the hallway to the bedrooms just as someone came flying out of the first bedroom and ran into us. He had a ski mask on and was about my height. I brought up the bat and he rolled low pushing into my legs knocking me back into Dave. He sprang up just past us and ran to the kitchen. Dave was trying to get up and bumped into me trying to get up. It reminded me of a comedy routine as we followed after the intruder. He had gone out the back door and was climbing over the backyard fence as we came out. I just stood there pissed at myself for being unarmed.
"I wonder what he thought he was looking for." I said. "The police would have just come in to look, but this guy snuck in, middle of the day, with his face covered, so no one could I.D. him. This is getting odd." I looked to Dave, "There's something that Noreen left behind that someone wants. We need to find it."
We went back in the house and I took out the key and examined it closer. It was a Master lock key, so I said to Dave, "This is from a lock somewhere securing a door to keep people out. Do you know if Noreen had a storage unit somewhere?"
"None that I know of. We had one years ago when we first moved here from Lansing. We had it for about a year then took our stuff out of it when we moved to this house. Noreen said she was going to tell them we were done with it."
I asked where it was and he said it was just off Masonic Road in Fraser. I knew the place, and asked if he remembered the unit number. He said it was number 78 and as far as he knew it belonged to someone else now. I said I'd check it later. We spent the next two hours going through his house, closets, attic, anywhere there may be things hidden by Noreen. We came up with nothing. It was nearly 5 p.m. now and I said I had some business to attend to, just an excuse to get away for a while. I said I would start to do some serious investigating in the morning and I would keep him apprised of my findings. He seemed happy with that and said he was tired and would rest. I told him to keep the baseball bats handy just in case, or better yet if he had somewhere else to stay. He said he could go stay with his sister in Warren for a couple of nights, if her kids didn't drive him nuts. I gave him my card with my cell phone number and told him to call anytime if he finds or thinks of anything else important. He gave me his cell number and I put it in my Treo, as he gathered some clothes to take with him.
I drove him back to my office to get his car and he drove off. I went into the office and sat at my desk, playing with the key. I called a friend of mine I've known for years, although I hadn't talked to him in years, he was a locksmith. He was surprised to hear from me and we talked a bit about what we had been up to over the years. I told him about my present occupation and he was impressed. I told him I needed some professional advice, he said shoot. I told him about the key, and described it, giving him the serial number off it, he looked in his book of locks and keys and said that was from a typical Master lock you'd buy in a hardware store, nothing special, just a bit more muscle than most locks but not impossible to open. I thanked him and said we have to get together to talk old times, I knew it wouldn't happen, but nice to say it.
I pulled out my local yellow pages and looked under storage, found the one I wanted, Extra Space Storage, and called. A young sounding man answered and asked if he could help me, I said I needed to know if Dave or Noreen Weston still rented unit 78. He paused and asked if this had something to do with her murder, he read it in the paper. I told him I was a private investigator and was looking into the case. He did some typing at his computer and said they didn't have that unit anymore. I asked if Noreen had rented another unit, he checked and said she hadn't. I thought of something and asked if he had a Noreen Black renting a unit, he checked and said there was one on his list, it was paid through the year and it was a small one, 5X8, unit 201. I got the tingle, I thanked him and said I would be in with her husband to see what she may have left, and hung up.
I wasn't going to call Dave tonight to tell him the news, it may just somehow get out and I didn't want anyone beating me to it. I was a bit run down now and wanted to see Penny, so I closed up and went home. Driving there I wondered how Buck was making out with Elma and Ralph, I'd call him later to see. At least he hadn't called me to say he was in jail for killing Ralph. I finally got to the house and parked in my spot. Penny was at the door as I came up, holding a tray of cookies, and looking proud.
"My god, you did it. You actually baked," I announced happily. She beamed and shoved a cookie in my mouth. I bit and it was good. I'm not a sweets fan, cookies, cakes, all that kind of baked goods, I rarely ate, but this was good. I tried to talk with my mouth full of cookie, she laughed and we went into the kitchen. She was telling me her baker guest on the show today explained the proper way to bake. I swallowed and said I had better not find an empty store cookie wrapper in the trash. She pointed to the mess on the counter and said she did it all by herself. We took the cookies to the couch after I got a glass of milk and sat. I only drank milk with cookies, donuts or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Otherwise, I didn't touch milk.
"How was your day, sweety?" she asked. She smelled like pastry, so I started nibbling at her neck which usually drives her nuts, she pushed me back and said to talk now and munch later.
I told her about Elma and how she surprised Buck and me with her outburst after seeing the evidence. Penny laughed and said it's always the quiet ones that have the rage in them. I agreed. I told her about Dave Weston and our trying to find Noreen's hidden stash and my luck on finding the storage unit. She said it was too bad I couldn't shoot the intruder, next time I'd remember to bring my gun.
"Rule number one! Always have your weapon, so you don't get killed," she insisted. "If he had a gun you'd be dead now with a baseball bat in your hand. I'd have buried you with it, shoved right up your fool butt."
I was trying not to laugh with cookies and milk in my mouth but dribbled a little. She wiped my mouth with a napkin and kissed my lips. "Tasty," she said.
I took out my cell phone and told Penny I was calling Buck to see how his day went. After about four rings, Buck came on and said howdy.
"I'm demanding a raise in pay," he smiled through the phone.
"Take that up with Elma, she's got the bucks. Did you confront Ralphy boy?" I put the cell on speaker phone so Penny could hear.
"Oh yeah, we had a real nice little talk. I drove her to the pool store and we called Ralph out to the parking lot where Elma ripped him a new ass. I was afraid I'd have to protect Ralph from her. He just stood there taking it all in and fearing for his life. He would look over to me every now and then; I'm not sure if he wanted help or wondered why I was there. She told him I was her bodyguard and she wanted him out of her house immediately if not sooner, or she'd have me break both his legs. I was trying to keep from laughing. Elma and I left and she got real quiet again. She asked if I was going to protect her till after Ralph was gone, I said I'd be around till she felt safe. That seemed to please her."
"Glad your day was good. I picked up a case from Dave Weston to track down his wife's killer. I'll tell you about it later, right now I have some serious cookie eating to do. I'll talk to you tomorrow." We said our so longs and hung up.
Penny said that all the cookies were gone, I said that wasn't the cookie I had in mind to devour, she got wide eyed and ran to the bedroom. I was yelling like cookie monster, "Cookie good, want cookies!" and ran after her.
I was dreaming of the Kebbler elves baking me into a giant chocolate chip cookie and then I was about to be eaten by a giant, just as the phone rang. I stirred and reached over to the bedstand and grabbed my phone. I looked at the clock, it was 6:45 a.m., I answered grumpily.
"This better be important," I growled.
"Jimmy, it's Buck, I lost Elma."
I sat upright in bed, "You what? She dead or missing?"
"Missing, I was sleeping on the couch and had to use the john. I got up and went down the hall and did my business, I came out and saw her bedroom door was open. I peeked in to make sure she was all right and her bed was empty. I searched the house and checked the garage, her car is gone. Man, I didn't expect her to fly the coup."
"She's a big girl; I just hope she went out for cigarettes and not to murder her husband. Just stick around and wait for her, that's all you can do. If she returns with a good excuse, tell her you quit unless she respects your job. Maybe that will work. If she isn't back by noon call me." Buck said he would and hung up. Damn, what is she up to?
I plopped my head back down on the pillow but knew I wouldn't sleep.
Penny mumbled something about good cookies and rolled over away from me. She could sleep through a bomb blast. I was remembering when she was in the hospital recovering from her kidnapping by Waters and Morgan, and Trapper fired his gun twice to stop Alice Stone from killing me. Penny barely woke and just asked for some quiet. I would wake up when her stupid cat would jump up on the bed. I like cats, but her cat, Shadow, just seemed to be indifferent to me. I know cats are supposed to be indifferent to people but this one just plain ignored me.
My mind went back to Elma, were was she? I should have asked Buck where Ralph was staying, and if Elma knew. She hadn't paid me yet for my service rendered, so I hope she doesn't get her fool head blown off. I still couldn't slow my mind down enough to sleep, so I got up and went out to the family room and flipped on the TV. It was just after 7 a.m. and the viewing was limited to morning shows with those teeth bright hosts, and infomercials. I don't like watching the news, it's too depressing, so I put on the cartoon network and watched Bugs Bunny for the zillionth time. Him I can relate to.
Around 7:30 Penny came staggering out and asked what I was doing watching cartoons. I told her about Buck's call as she sat next to me.
"You think Elma is up to no good?" she asked.
"I haven't any idea," I replied. "I'm going to the storage place today and hopefully there will be some evidence to solve Noreen's murder in there," I said.
"Maybe you'll find Ralph's body in there too," she grinned.
"Don't even joke about it," I replied. "Who do you have on your show today?" I asked changing the subject.
"I think there's a judo kung-fu kind of person on today. He's into meditation and all that stuff," she mumbled, still half asleep.
"I dread you coming home now, I'll either be kung-fu'd to death or forced into a lotus position on the floor."
"Lotus position is yoga, sweety, not kung-fooey." She smiled and put her head on my shoulder.
We sat watching Elmer Fudd trying to avoid getting married to Bugs Bunny in drag. I love these cartoons. Penny drifted off again and I had to shake her to go get ready for her hosting duties. She stumbled off to the bathroom and came back out a half hour later looking fresh and awake and dressed. I wondered how she could do such a quick change. She went into the kitchen after giving me a kiss and got a couple pieces of toast and juice. I went to get myself ready for the day and we met at the door, both heading out.
I got to my office around 8:50 and found Trapper sitting in the lobby. He grinned as I came up the hall and said he had to tell some babe in a mini-skirt where the travel agency was. I hissed and said I really had to go up and check them out.
In the office, I set up the new coffee maker I bought for my client's pleasure and offered Trapper a cup. He agreed and I got the thing started. I refused to drink coffee, but it was an extra feature of my office now.
"Don't they have enough for you to do at the precinct?" I wondered.
"I'm a lieutenant now, I assign work to everyone else and go hide," he laughed. "So you are on Weston's case now to find Noreen's killer?" he asked as he took the cup.
"I'm glad there is a pipeline for my business to the world, and I don't even twitter. Damn foolish thing anyways," I grimaced. "I could see me trying to twitter right in the middle of a shoot out. One hand on my gun, the other typing furiously with my thumb."
"Any progress on the Weston case?" Trapper was curious.
I filled him in on everything that happened yesterday starting with Elma, and on to our search of Weston's home and finding the key. Trapper laughed when I related leaving my gun in the office when we ran into the home invader. He said I should start sleeping with it. I said Penny may object to that. I asked if he had an hour to kill and he said he might, and asked what nefarious plan I had in mind. I told him about the storage unit and asked if he wanted to go with me to check it out.
"You mean I have to work?" he laughed.
"No, just observe, I'll do the hard stuff," I replied. "I don't want Weston tagging along. I don't know if I can trust him for now."
"I'll follow you over in my car just in case I have to go do some real work," he said.
We went out and got in our respective vehicles and drove over to Extra Space Storage. The main gate was open so we drove in, and I cruised around the lot checking the numbers on the units and found 201. Trapper pulled up behind me and we got out.
"Well, this is it, now to see if there's anything in here incriminating." I reach for the lock and stopped. Trapper came up beside me and saw what I did. The lock was cut but hung to look like it was still together.
"Great, this just keeps getting annoying, I'm always a step behind someone." I tried the key in the lock to be sure it was the correct lock and it opened. "Well, I have the right key anyways."
We pulled the rolling door up and went in, there were about four packing boxes and a small file cabinet, all opened and gone through. I picked up a couple of VHS tapes off the floor and read the label.
"She put the client number on the tapes but still no names. I hope the book or file she had those names in wasn't stored here." I said. We looked through the mess and then put everything back in boxes and the file cabinet drawers. There wasn't much paperwork, looked like just old files she put away. Trapper said we probably should call Lincoln and let him know this stuff is here, it was his case. I said I wanted to look a few tapes over just to see what I was up against, he thought that would be acceptable, we could take this stuff to Lincoln later. I think he just wanted to watch the tapes and get his kicks. We put the boxes in my car and I was standing by the car looking around at the units. I noticed a camera housing down the end of the row and pointed it out to Trapper. He smiled and said we should go have a look at the videos.
We went into the small office at the front gate and there was a younger man at a desk, he smiled and said hello and identified himself as the manager.
"We need to see your surveillance tapes for the last couple days," Trapper said, flashing his badge.
"We only keep a week's worth, but you're more than welcome to have a look," the manager said. He got up and pulled out a box under a cabinet with a huge TV on it showing the various areas of the yard watched by the cameras. He brought up six tapes and they were marked by date on an erasable label. I asked if we could take these and return them later today. He said that would be all right and I gave him my card. He asked if I was the one who called yesterday about the Weston case and I said I was. He said it was funny because someone called just after me and asked the same questions. I cursed myself for not coming over right away. I asked if he had caller I.D., he said he did and went to his phone and looked up the backlog of calls and found the one from the time he remembered it came in, after mine. He wrote it down and I thanked him and we went out.
"Can you see if you can find out the source of the number," I asked. He took the paper and went to his car and called someone, then waited as I put the tapes in my car.
He came to me with a big smile on his face, "Number is listed as Roseville Police."
"Crap!" I exclaimed. "This is getting deep. I can only think of one person on the Roseville police who would have anything to do with this case, Lincoln. Now, did he just think that Noreen would have a storage unit or did he find out from someone?"
"Well, you're the P.I., you'll find out." he laughed. "Let's go back and watch some tapes."
We got back to my office and I set up the VCR and we popped in the surveillance tapes and ran through them until we saw a car pull up to the unit in question. I slowed the tape down and we watched a man get out of the car and then pulled out bolt cutters and snipped the lock. The guy may have known that the cameras were watching as he kept his back to it. He went in and about twenty minutes later he came out with a number of tapes and a file folder all of which he put in his car and closed the unit door, replacing the lock. He swung into his car and drove off. I re-ran the tape back to the beginning of his arrival and hooked up my computer and copied the segment on to a couple of DVDs. I put the surveillance tapes in a bag I had, and put them by the door.
"I have no idea who that was, but I got the plate number off his car. I'll run it and see who it's registered to, but I'll bet you a week's pay it belongs to Roseville police." Trapper offered.
We ran through the client tapes and after about three full tapes, we decided we had enough watching the weirdness. I was getting the picture of what Noreen's job entailed. The people in the videos weren't anyone we could identify, we saw no important people. I wondered if Lincoln got to the good tapes before us. The tapes were dated so if he couldn't find client names, he'd at least known the tapes he wanted by the dates. I packed the tapes away back in the box.
Trapper spoke, "Want to go drop these off on Lincoln's desk?"
"Are you serious?" I asked.
"I got nothing better to do than to protect your ass," he grinned.
"OK, let's go stir the viper pit up."
We took the boxes out to Trapper's car and then we headed to the Roseville police headquarters. I took two boxes and Trapper took two and we went in to the front desk. Trapper plopped his boxes on the counter and flashed his badge and asked for Lincoln, saying we found some evidence in the Weston murder. I could see that Trapper hadn't really changed since he worked Las Vegas police, he was still such a bad boy, he ate this stuff up. We were herded to a back squad room and into a small office where sat a man with a face so craggy he looked like a bulldog. He sported a close crew haircut and a had neck so thick it made his head look like it continued from his shoulders.
"Sergeant Lincoln, I'm Lieutenant Will Trapper, Clinton Township Police and this is Jim Richards, private investigator, hired by Dave Weston to find his wife's killer," he intoned. "Jim came across some evidence while investigating that he thought you may need. I'm a good friend and just along to help deliver these videos to you."
Lincoln just sat and stared, "I know who the fuck you both are. I do my job."
"Were you doing your job when the storage unit these tapes were stored in was broken into yesterday?" I asked bravely, only because Trapper was there.
"You got no proof I had anything to do with that." he replied cooly.
I took a chance, I pulled my cell phone out and dialed the number on the paper given to me by the storage manager. I heard the number ringing in my cell, then Lincoln's desk phone rang. He just sat looking at it, then picked it up. I said hello, then hung up.
"That was the phone number on the caller I.D. given to me by the storage manager. A number that called yesterday inquiring about Noreen's storage unit. How did you know she had one?"
"I do my job as I said. I don't have to answer to either of you, this is an open investigation that I'm conducting. Trapper, you're out of your jurisdiction and Richards you pull no weight here," he snarled.
I dropped a DVD copy of the surveillance tape on his desk. "That's a copy of the video of the suspect and his car used in the storage break-in, plates are easy to see, you may want to check them out." I was sure we all knew who they belonged to, I continued, "I'm not here to step on toes, I'm here to give you evidence for your murder case, just doing my civic duty. We brought you the tapes so they didn't get stolen from Noreen's unlocked storage unit. There's too many crooks around now days."
"You'll do better to just stay out of my way, Richards, hate to see anything happen to you, understand?" he sneered.
Trapper leaned over the desk and quietly said to Lincoln, "Jim here is my good friend, anything happens to him, so much as a finger cut, I'll know who to look for, you understand, fat boy."
Lincoln didn't want to start a scene, knowing what we had on him from the storage center, he just made his bulldog face as Trapper and I walked out. A couple of the homicide squad cops yelled to Trapper saying hello to him, he recognized most of them and stood doing some small talk, occasionally glancing back to Lincoln, still glaring at his desk. One of the cops leaned over and said under his breath, "Take that asshole with you please." Trapper laughed and then introduced me, asking them to keep an eye out for me if I get in any trouble here. They all shook my hand and said they would. I gave them all my cards and said if they had any good cases they couldn't handle, I was available. They all laughed.
We went out to Trapper's car and I just stared at him. "You're a real terror, aren't you? Captain Weber was right on with your crazy escapades from Vegas."
"You really don't know the half of it, and thankfully, neither did Weber," he grinned.
We swung by the storage center and dropped off the surveillance tapes, thanking the manager and I gave him my card, in case anyone else inquired about Noreen's unit. I bought a new lock from his rack of storage equipment and we went to put it on the unit. I would have to tell Dave about his later so he could decide what he wanted to do with it. Trapper dropped me off at my office, I thanked him for all the help, he said it was his pleasure and needed to go prove that he still worked in Clinton Township. He drove off and I went into my office, looking at the clock, it was just now after 2 p.m. and I hadn't heard anything from Buck. I wasn't worried yet, but getting there.
I sat and took a breath, then made up a bill for Elma, hoping I could collect on it. After a half hour I was now getting a bit antsy about Buck so I called his cell. I got his voice mail, damn I hate that. I straightened out my desk and thought about calling Dave Weston to tell him about the storage. I picked up my desk phone and called his cell, it rang three times and he answered.
"Dave, I found out Noreen had a storage unit rented under the name Noreen Black. I went there this morning with a cop friend of mine and found the unit was broke into. You haven't mentioned to anyone else about having a storage unit in the past?"
He was quiet, hopefully thinking, then said, "I think that ugly cop assigned to the case asked me all kinds of questions about Noreen's activities and I think he did ask if we had one. Maybe I told him what I told you, I guess."
"That's OK, it's done now. I didn't find anything in the storage worth while, but maybe the good stuff was already removed, I don't know yet. I'll keep you informed as things change," I said and hung up.
I sat running through a few ideas I had on what to do next in regards to Noreen. I couldn't get anything from Lincoln, that was a door now shut. I should ask Dave what places Noreen got her referrals from and go from that angle. They may point me in a direction to the right people. I also thought about staking out Noreen's office, to see if anyone else shows up looking for incriminating videos.
I was about ready to call Buck when my phone rang, it was him. I had a bad feeling about answering, but did.
"Speak to me Buck. Give me some good news," I asked.
"Sorry Jimmy, but the news is, Elma's been arrested for murder."
I was stunned. "Was it Ralph?" was all I could say.
"Hell, no, it should have been, but it was his dominatrix that was killed," he said.
Now I was confused, but asked Buck where he was, he said, "I'm at the Pontiac police station, where they are holding her. I called that lawyer guy you worked for and he sent one of his associates out and they're working to get her out on bail. Good thing she has money, and luckily Ralph can't get to it, she has it all in an account he has no access to."
"Smart woman," I said.
"Not smart enough to stay home," Buck said.
"True, what happened?" I asked.
"I'm not really sure, the cops won't let me talk to her. I see the lawyer coming now, I'll call you back." He hung up.
Damn, two dominatrix murders in less than a week, is this a trend I wondered. I sat back now thinking about Elma and hoping this is going to be a simple case. Buck called back about ten minutes later and said they did a quick arraignment and got her off on a half million dollar bond. She took care of it and Buck was taking her home. I said to sit on her and I would be there after he gave me the directions to her house. He did and I closed up the office and headed out.
I drove out to Troy and found the house off Sixteen Mile Road, and drove in the drive. Buck's mini-van was parked next to what I presumed was Elma's car, a Cadillac CTS. I went to the front porch just as Buck opened the door. He wasn't doing his usual smile, I patted him on the shoulder and asked where she was. He took me to her in the kitchen where she was sitting drinking coffee.
"Elma, what the hell did you do?" I asked.
I could see her eyes were red and she looked so sad, I went to her and gave her a hug, "I'm sorry, can you talk about it?"
She nodded her head, "I made a mistake, I was just so pissed at Ralph, I wanted to really confront him and tell him what I thought."
"OK, tell me what happened with the dominatrix?"
"Around 1 a.m. I went to the motel where Ralph was staying and when I got there I saw he was leaving. I followed him and he went to Pontiac, to that club you said he belonged to. I thought that was great, as I could catch him with his whore. He went in the front door, I went around the back and found a service entrance. I went in and found I was in a laundry, where two women in grey uniforms were washing sheets. I snuck past them and peeked out a door to a hallway and went out. I walked around, I guess everyone figured I was part of the place, no one stopped me. I looked in different doors and finally I found a room where I saw Ralph. He was yelling at the woman in leather, he was really mad and screaming at her. I figured that was what they do, till he grabbed her hair and pulled her to the ground and then he pulled out a knife and stabbed her with it a couple of times. I screamed and he saw me, then he grabbed me and pulled me in. He pushed me on the woman and I got blood all over me. Ralph took the knife and pushed it into my hand and then ran to the door screaming that I came in and killed the woman he was with. The club security came rushing in and grabbed me and called the cops."
She went silent for a bit, I didn't push it. I looked at Buck and he had the saddest face I've seen on him since I've known him. He felt bad for Elma something hard.
"Elma, how did you know where Ralph was staying, at that motel?" I asked.
"He called earlier in the day wanting some clothes, I asked him where he was, he told me, so I threw his clothes out on the lawn with Buck's help. Sometime later he got his stuff, but quietly, we didn't hear him," she replied.
"Where's Ralph now?" I asked.
Buck said "I haven't seen him since they took him into interrogation. His ass is mine if I find him."
"OK, Elma, don't do anything stupid now. You are to stay in the house and don't leave it till you talk to the lawyers. I'll talk to them too and see what we can do for you. Just sit tight here, OK?" She said she would. I walked with Buck to the front door and said I'd be back tomorrow to see what we could do, for now just keep both eyes on her. He agreed and I went to my car.
It was now just after 5 p.m. and I head back to the house. I was wondering what greeting Penny would have for me, would I be forced into some oriental meditations or kicking out the walls. I got there and the front door didn't open, I was wondering what she was up to. I went in and the house was quiet, I listened but heard nothing. I went out to the back porch and saw Penny in the back yard, on a blanket just sitting facing the lake. I quietly went out and came up to her, putting my hand on her shoulder. She made a high pitch scream and grabbed my hand twisting it around till I was on my knees and she was standing over me. I yelled uncle and she realized it was me and let up on her grip.
"What the hell was that?" I nearly cried from pain as I rolled on the ground. She tried to comfort me and apologized profusely.
"Sweety, I didn't hear you coming up, I was meditating and when you touched my shoulder, I reacted the way I was taught today. To protect myself."
"I'm happy you can do that without a gun," I said, "that hurt."
"It's supposed to, or it wouldn't be effective."
"You're a crazy woman," I grimaced, "I'm in pain here." I said holding my wrist.
"You're such a baby. I hardly twisted your arm."
She started laughing and rolled back on the blanket, I took advantage of the situation, jumping on her, and she asked what happened to my falling apart. I said I would hold together long enough to take advantage of her. And I did.
It was good her back yard was bordered by a good number of trees and foliage or we might have been arrested. All we did is frighten the wildlife. We gathered ourselves up and went into the house and plopped down on the couch, our favorite respite and Penny asked me about my day. I told her everything and she just sucked air about Elma and Ralph.
"What are you going to do about that?" Penny asked.
"I have an idea but I'm going to need Trapper's help, and his friend on the Pontiac Police. I'm going to call him tomorrow morning to get it started, hopefully by afternoon we should be able to clear Elma."
I was still rubbing my wrist and she pulled it over and kissed it. I asked how her show went, she filled me in and wanted to demonstrate some holds she learned, but I refuse to be thrust around. She said we could watch the TiVo copy of her show, so we did. I was impressed by the way Penny handled herself learning the protective moves the instructor was showing. She was pleased with herself, too.
"I'll have to hire you out as bodyguard now," I joked.
She popped up and went into the kitchen saying she was making Chop Suey for dinner, I groaned and asked if this was going to be an Oriental night at home, she said she rented two Jackie Chan movies to watch. I just gritted my teeth and said great.
Around 7:20 my phone rang and it was Trapper. "I just got a call from Mike Lawson, homicide lieutenant out in Pontiac, he said Elma was arrested for murder this morning?"
"How did he know to call you?" I asked.
"He talked to Buck when he came in to claim Elma and Buck told him about you and your investigation into Ralph, and Lawson remembered he had talked to a beat cop about the night they ran onto you at the B&D club, and you throwing my name around. He is a good detective, and can add two and two. He called me to see what I knew. I told him about Ralph's shady past and he filled me in on the events of the morning. You think Elma could have done it?"
"I have my doubts, and I have an idea that may get a confession out of Ralph, if I can get Lawson's cooperation, and yours." I asked.
He said anything to help. I said I would fill him in on it if we could get Lawson out here or on a conference call in the morning. Trapper said he would get Lawson to come here, since Lawson owed Trapper a lunch. I said it works for me. I hung up and sat gathering my thoughts on how to do my plan.
Ralph was so stupid, it may work.
I was up the next morning early, plotting my day and hoping Ralph was in good spirits. I called Trapper and he said Lawson was agreeable to coming out and we could meet around 9 at Trapper's precinct. I asked if he could have a wire and a recorder setup for me and gave him a quick explanation of what I had in mind, he said it was good and would have a rig ready for me. I said that works for me and would be there.
Penny was up and getting ready to go out to her show, I asked who was on today, she said Marilyn Monroe. I paused and looked at her, not really wanting to ask but did. She laughed and said Marilyn was part of a show that features female impersonators who star as celebrities, like Reba, Dolly, Cher, Joan Rivers, and more. I said there was a show in Vegas called La Cage, and it had that kind of entertainment. She said some of the performers coming were part of that show before it closed. I said that was interesting and too bad I couldn't come to see the show, but I had to go hook Ralph into a confession. She wished me luck and headed out the door.
I got to Clinton Township precinct about 8:45 and was led to Trapper's office, Lawson was already there. We were introduced by Trapper and shook hands. Lawson was a huge, good looking black cop, reminding me of Ving Rhames. About as bald, too.
"Trapper tells me you think you can get Flagg to confess to murdering the Dominatrix, you really confident that he'll fall for it?" Lawson asked.
"Well, the number of times I had contact with him, he's boastful and stupid. I think I can pull it off," I replied.
"He knows now that you were working for his wife to catch him fucking around, think he'll trust you?" he asked.
"I'm sure I can work him, like I said he has a way of building himself up to be what he thinks he is, and again, he is dumb as a board." I smiled.
"Well, it can't hurt to try, if we get him all the better," Lawson agreed.
"Since the pool store he works at is within Clinton Township borders, I'll have an officer or two on hand to take him in custody till we can send him to you." Trapper said to his friend.
Lawson looked to me, "Do you really think he did it?"
"After I talked to her, I believe that Elma didn't do it, and Ralph has been under investigation for murdering his last two wives, I think it's a good bet."
"OK, let's take the fucker down." Lawson smiled.
Trapper had his people set me up with the wire and we tested it, just to be sure. Trapper said they'd sit on the side of the building where Ralph couldn't see them, and told me to say "Buck's a goof off" if I had any problems and needed help. I asked him why that signal, he laughed and said why not, Buck wasn't here.
"He wouldn't like that, but I'll use it." I laughed.
"If you remember, when I first brought you Ralph's background check, I said I wanted to be in on the bust of Ralph, well, make me proud." Trapper said.
I went to my car and headed over with the rest following. The store was only about four miles from the station so it didn't take long to get there. I arrived at the store and the cops came in from the K-Mart parking lot next door and drove up to the side of the place. Trapper waved to me and I asked if they could hear me, he waved again. I was ready to go.
I took a big breath and organized my plan in my head, and then I went in.
As I got through the door I didn't see anyone, then Ralph came out from the back room. He gave me a big salesman smile, then he came up to me and stopped, realizing who I was.
"What the hell you want?" he said.
"Ralph, hey, don't be mad at me, I was just doing a job. I just came by to say I'm sorry. After I got to know you, I have a new respect for you."
He looked at me suspiciously, but had a curious expression too.
I continued, "I heard what happened at the club in Pontiac, must have been frightening for you?"
"Hell, no I wasn't frightened, nothing frightens me." he huffed.
"Well, watching that girl die in front of you, knowing it could be you, wasn't that scary?"
"I was in control of the situation, I wasn't going to die." he replied.
I got in close to him and said quietly, like I was confiding in him, "You know Ralph, I know what death looks like, I've shot a couple people in my life," I said as I pulled back my jacket to show him my gun. His eyes went wide, just fixed on the weapon.
"Can I see it?" he asked excitedly.
"Oh, no, Ralph, I never let anyone touch my gun, it's my baby. Haven't you ever had a good weapon that was your friend?"
He circled around me looking like he had something to say but was reluctant to say it.
I went on quietly to him, like I was sharing a secret, "I've looked into a man's eyes as I pulled the trigger once, twice and watched the bullets impact in his chest. I watched the stun of death take over in those eyes and it was such a rush. I imagine Elma must have had a taste of it as she plunged that knife into that girl's heart. Such a rush to be in that control over another human, eh, Ralph?"
"Yeah," he was breathing hard. "It is."
"You must have been real mad that night when Elma took control and stabbed that girl? Must have been real hard to watch it happen, Elma sticking it to her. But you wouldn't know that thrill of killing, the taste of blood, you're not that kind of guy Ralph."
"I could be," he defended. "I could take a life, if I wanted to."
"Hey, Ralph, you're such a nice person, I'm sorry, but I just can't see you being a guy who could do that."
"I could!" he defended again. Then he caught himself.
"It takes balls to take a life, Ralph. Elma took that woman's life, you didn't."
He was getting wild eyed now. He was rubbing his face with his hands as if he was trying to remove the thoughts going through his head.
I pushed, "Elma had all the fun that morning, taking out her rage on that girl, plunging the knife again and again. As you just stood and just watched it happen, helpless to do anything."
"I wasn't helpless! I was in control! Elma wasn't in control, she just stood there and screamed, in that puny pitiful way she is. I was in control! I know what it's like to take a life, I do. I've done it!"
"Nah, Ralph, you couldn't do something like that," I pushed more.
"Oh, yeah, I could and did. Elma didn't kill that girl, I did. I was so pissed at Elma and I had to take my rage out on someone! I went to the club and when that girl started her bondage shit, I just got so mad at people telling me what to do and that I was such a nobody. She pushed and pushed, I couldn't take it, I got so mad and I brought my little friend out, my wonderful knife and I stuck her good with it. I felt the thrill of the life coming out of her, I was in control, I was! Then Elma had to stick her nose in, but I had an inspiration, blame it on her. I could get everything if she was put away. I had the control!"
"Wow, Ralph, you got the balls, you actually killed that girl at the bondage club, did you do in your first two wives too?"
"You bet I did, they were just as bad as Elma, their pitiful little ways of making me feel like a loser, but I showed them all. I killed them too. It took me a while to get them set up, but I killed them. I'm in control!" he was shaking with rage now.
I could see Lawson, Trapper and the two uniforms coming around the front of the building. I walked around Ralph, drawing his attention away from them.
"I'm the one with the balls!" he growled.
"Well, you'd better protect them where you're going to be shortly." I grinned.
He heard the front door open and glanced over seeing the police, he got a panic in his eyes, then turned to run. I stuck my foot out in front of him and he went down. The two uniformed cops pounced on him, bringing him up and slapping cuffs on him as Trapper read him his rights. His eyes were just about popping out of their sockets as they dragged him out.
Lawson came to me, giving me a high five, and said, "Well done, my man. You were right, he is dumb as a board. I'm going to love beating him with the rubber hose," he laughed and went out.
Trapper smiled and said to me, "He's not kidding."
On my way to Elma's house, I got on my phone and called Dave Weston. He came on, "Dave, Jim Richards here, I need to know what places did Noreen get her referrals from for her clients? Can you make out a list for me, so I have a place to start tracking down suspects." He said he would have a list for me and I said I'd stop by around noon. We hung up and I pulled into Elma's drive. Buck opened the door after I knocked and looked at me hopefully. We went into the living room where Elma was lying on the couch looking miserable.
I handed her my bill and said, "You owe me big time, Elma. I got you off the murder charge, I tricked Ralph into confessing. Your lawyer should be contacting you about it and getting your bail back. Ralph still has to go to trial and you'll need to testify but he did confess, so it should be cut and dried."
Elma jumped up and gave me a big hug, thanking me, she took my bill and went to a desk and wrote out a check for me. Buck was asking how it happened, so I filled him in.
"Ralph is in jail in Clinton Township, but they'll be transferring him to Pontiac, in a day or so. I would suggest you contact Mark Benson's office about starting divorce proceedings while he's incarcerated. Might be easier that way," I told her.
Buck looked at Elma and said, "Well, you won't be needing me now, I only worked a day and I didn't do much good at keeping an eye on you," he lamented.
Elma smiled and got her purse and gave Buck five one hundred dollar bills, and said he did fine, she was just a pain in the ass. He bent down to her five-foot-two height and kissed her on the forehead, saying she was a fine person to protect. I told her that it would be good if she kept us informed about any developments with Ralph, in case of changes. She said she would and followed us to the door. Buck went to his vehicle and I got into my car after agreeing to meet back at my office.
We drove off and I hoped Elma would be all right now. I got to my office and found a gorgeous brunette sitting on a chair in my lobby. I asked if I could help her and she smiled and said she was waiting for her friend who was up in the travel agency. I swore to myself and went into my office, shortly followed by Buck who just had to stop and talk to the beauty. He came in with a big grin and plopped his huge frame in the client chair, saying he thought that fox in the hall liked him. I just laughed and we sat talking about the events of the day.
It was now about noon and I told Buck that I had to go get a list from Weston, and asked if he wanted to go, he declined, saying he hadn't been home in a day and a half and wanted to go freshen up. I said to stop back whenever, but to call first. He got up and went out, passing the fox, he smiled and went to his car. I called Weston and he said that he had the list ready and would be at his house on Wallace.
I went out, locking my office and the fox was sadly gone. I headed over to Weston's house and drove up finding Weston sitting on the steps to his porch. He got up and came over to me holding out a folded paper. I took it and opened it to find a list of about six new age stores with contact names. A couple sounded like hard core bondage supply stores, I would want those first.
"Are these the places Noreen frequented?" I asked.
"Yep, those are the one's that gave her referrals for her adjustments. I never spent much time in these places, maybe once or twice with her, but I knew she was getting help from them." he said quietly.
"Did you give this list to anyone else, or tell anyone about these places?" I asked.
"Nope, only to you." he replied. I thought I would at least have a jump over Lincoln with these. Although, since I believed Lincoln had something to do with the murder, he wouldn't care. I needed to get some names to narrow it down to Lincoln or someone higher up.
"I have a question, you mentioned you had children, where are they?" I asked.
"My parents came and took them to their home for now, they live in Port Huron. It's hard on the kids, I'm going up to see them this week. I think it would be better for them to stay up there till this is all over." he said without expression.
I thought, being fifty miles away would isolate them from the crime and attention here, but Weston still had to deal with telling his children that Mom is not coming home anymore. That has to be something no father should have to bear.
I gave him the keys to the new lock on the storage unit and told him the number. The unit was cleaned out of any evidence so he could use it if he wanted, it was paid to the end of the year. He said he may go sleep in it, and laughed sadly. I said I would be in touch and left him standing on his front lawn, looking miserable. The guy's world was crumbling, at least he still had his kids.
I drove over to Twelve Mile Road, then to Gratiot Ave. and down towards Eight Mile Road where the first store was located. A place called the Purple Pit, it was a head shop and new age store, it was the closest to me at the moment. I had to drive around the block a number of times before I spotted the store, duh, I should have seen it painted all purple and sporting the huge peace sign, made popular in the sixties by the head culture. I navigated the drive on the side, a narrow twisty path that led to a small parking lot in the back. I guess they didn't expect a lot of business. I got out of my car and walked around to the front, passing some guy spread out on the empty lot next to the store. At first I thought he may have been dead, but he opened his eyes and asked if I had a buck for food. I could see his eyes, drug addled, food was not on his mind, I said I was sorry but I was broke, blame the economy. He laid back and passed out again.
I came around the front of the store and went in. It took me back to my days in the sixties, as a newbie hippy, smelling the incense and adjusting my eyes to the black lights making the posters glow in that odd blue light. I remember hanging out at the teen dance club, the Crows Nest East in St. Clair Shores watching great bands like the MC5 and Amboy Dukes featuring Ted Nugent. I sat with Bob Seger one night after his band the "Bob Seger System" rocked out the house, and we just talked about nothing in particular, but I was thrilled. The Strawberry Alarmclock and... well, I could go on but I was jumped on by an oddly attractive young woman as I stood in a trance by the sights.
"Hey man, can I help you?" she asked, in a squeaky voice that I loved to hear. A child-like but giggly adult tremor that just made my ears perk up. She was attractive in an odd sense, not beautiful, but innocent, with a young, soft-skin face that just needed to be kissed. I resisted. I looked closer and realized she wasn't that young, maybe in her forties. I was intrigued. She had metal piercings adorning her lips, nose and eye brows, I wasn't fond of piercings, but she seemed to make them work. She wore black leather but it covered her body, and she wore the spiked bracelets and collar that completed the outfit.
"Hi, I'm looking for Lorelei, is she in?" I asked going by the list names of contacts.
"Wow, I'm Lorelei, are you looking for an adjustment?" she asked bubbly.
"Beg your pardon? What kind of adjustment do you offer?" I asked.
"Massage, or bondage." she offered. "What are you into?"
"Neither." I answered, she looked disappointed. "I'm interested in any information about Noreen Black."
She recoiled at the statement, "Why you asking about her?" she squinted her eyes and asked.
"I'm sorry, I'm an investigator and I'm trying to track down her killer." I took out my I.D. and showed it to her. She took my I.D. case and badge and walked away, I followed. She stopped and looked at me and then at my picture and back to me. She gave me my case back and asked what did I want to know.
"Did you supply her with names of clients she may have helped in her business." I inquired.
She squinted again and said, "Names of people that would curl your hair, follow me." I did.
She took me to a small room off to the side, through some beaded curtains that were so popular in the sixties. She turned and said in a low voice, "What's your interest?" I told her I was hired by Dave Weston to find out who killed Noreen. She smiled and said "Noreen came to us here and we supplied her clients that were looking for, as Noreen put it, attitude adjustments. I loved that term. They didn't want to say they wanted to be tied down and whipped, made to be submissive, made to beg for their mommies, but that's what they wanted," she rattled out, "They were strange folks, who didn't want to be recognized, but I recognized a few of them. Important people in the community, political people who I'm sure don't want their constituents to know they are into kinky stuff." she giggled.
"Like who?" I asked. She started to open her mouth to speak when the front door bell tinkled and she closed her mouth and walked out of the room. I stood back and looked out through the beads and saw someone I didn't want to see, Detective Ben Lincoln. Now what the fuck was he doing here? I watched him as he briefly chatted up Lorelei, then I saw him move his hand back to where his gun was, I didn't want to shot him, although the idea was something I liked, but not today. Lorelei was busy chatting as he put his hand on his weapon, I burst out from the back room.
"Well, well, Detective Lincoln, how nice to see you again." I had my hand in back of my jacket by my gun, just in case. He looked stunned and pulled his hand away from his weapon. I did likewise. I came up to the two of them, Lorelei squinted at Lincoln.
"You are a police officer or a private investigator?" she asked of Lincoln.
"I'm a police detecive, ma'am. I'm investigating the murder of Noreen Weston, do you know of this woman?" he asked politely.
Lorelei stood for a moment and said in a calm voice, "Sorry, officer I don't know the woman, can't help you."
He looked at me, "You checking this out here too?"
"Yep, and I got the same answer, looks like a dead end here. Are there any other places that we may meet at today?" I asked.
His lip snarled and said, "I hope not," then, he said thanks to Lorelei and went out.
Lorelei watched him go and looked to me, "He's a bad one, I know who he is, I just pretended not to know him, to throw him off. He knows a few people who used Noreen's services."
"I'm wondering if you aren't in danger, you think maybe you should lay low for a while?"
She was standing behind the counter all this time and brought her arm up and in her hand was a sawed off shot gun, she smiled at me and said she wasn't stupid. I had to agree.
She replaced the shot gun in it's holder, under the counter, and she looked at me for a bit, then said, "You have a nice aura about you. Do you practice any kind of metaphysical arts?"
"I occasionally worship the gods of barley and hops, but that's about it," I replied.
She smiled and said, "Ah, a beer worshiper, I like that. I indulge in the brew myself on occasion. I don't like my senses being messed with, but every so often I like to climb a higher level of consciousness." she giggled.
"I usually end up in an unconscious state. Back to Noreen, can you name a few people for me that I might want to talk to about Noreen's demise," I asked.
"We don't keep records of people's names, we just refer them to Noreen, or did refer, and give them a card." She picked up a card from a holder on the wall and gave it to me.
"You said you recognized some people, who?"
"Well, a certain councilman from here in town was one person I remember. His initials were F.R. and that's all I can tell you. It's a matter of confidentiality with our clients. He's someone you can start with." She winked as the front door opened again and a not quite elderly woman walked in. "Hello, Mrs. Webb, how are you today?"
"Fine." The woman said and didn't want to look at me, she turned towards the front of the store and went to a rack of leather goods.
Lorelei smiled and said quietly, "You can never judge a book by it's cover. That woman is into kink with her husband. She's in here every other week looking for new toys."
I just shook my head and thanked Lorelei. I gave her my card and said if she remembered anything else that might help, to call me. She looked at the card and said she would do that. I went out to my car, now finding the guy lying out in the back parking lot. He raised his head and asked again if I had a dollar for food. I went to my car and took out two candy bars I had on the front seat and tossed them to him, I said enjoy and got in the car and drove off as he gave me the finger.
I drove out Eight Mile Road, the northern border of Detroit, and over to Woodward Avenue, up to a small store front called "Leather and Lace." I parked and went in to find three women all in black leather from full cover to skimpy bustiers. They had the whole Dominatrix package going for them and one came over to me and purred. "Hi, handsome, you come to play?"
"I'm looking for Mistress Terry. Is she in?" I asked.
The woman smiled and said, "I'll go get her." She slinked off to the back room and after a bit, a woman appeared. I was a bit surprised, it was the same woman who was on Penny's show this last week. She came up and asked if she could help me.
I took out my I.D. and showed it to her, "I'm wondering if you know a Noreen Weston or she also goes by Noreen Black?"
"Is this about her murder?" she said quietly.
"I'm investigating for her husband, yes."
She motioned to me to follow her and we went into the back room and she asked me to sit on a chair by her desk. I did.
"I saw you on Penny Wicken's show the other day, Penny and I live together." I offered to ease the conversation.
"Oh, so you're the P.I. she talked about, I was impressed by your exploits in Vegas." she smiled demurely.
"I'm sure Penny exaggerated a few details," I grinned.
"Oh, she had very nice things to say about you." She leaned forward and put her hand on my knee and almost exposed her breasts.
I fidgeted a bit then asked, "About Noreen, did you know her?" She moved her hand back and looked off into the darkness of the back room.
"Noreen used to work for me years ago, before she married Weston. She was a prize pupil of mine, I trained her well. Then she decided to go off on her own. I had no problem with that, there's plenty of people out there to keep all of us Doms busy." she said.
"Did you supply her with referrals for her business?"
"Well, we weren't sending people to her, we have our own business to worry about, but occasionally we would turn a customer on to her, if they lived near her. As to who we sent to her, I couldn't tell you, just plain folks who liked to walk on the wild side. Do you think it was a client of hers that did it?"
"I'm exploring that avenue, since her husband has an airtight alibi for the night she died. Do you find in your business that clients can get a little carried away or violent?" I asked.
"The people who come here to get their butts smacked all have a little bit wrong with them. Do you think being strapped down or chained up and subjected to humiliation is something normal, Mr. Richards?"
"Call me Jim, please. No, I don't personally think it's normal at all, but I believe this entire world is filled with people who have little secrets and odd behaviors that would shock their friends and families if they knew."
"Tell me Jim, do you have any little secrets or odd behaviors that would shock me?" she asked coyly.
"Well, every third Sunday I dress up as Madonna, complete with pointy breasts, and do a dance to the moon," I grinned.
"Don't tease, I was serious." she said.
"Well, all seriousness aside, I'm not at liberty to discuss my peculiar habits. Penny is the only person I confide to, in that regard." I grinned.
She smiled and said, "Lucky woman."*
Mistress Terry didn't have much more to offer, so I thanked her and went back to my car. I sat looking at the other addresses and then my watch. It was now almost 4:30 and I was wearing down. Since I started my P.I. business, I had been missing taking the naps that old people like me take in the afternoon. I was getting too much exercise running around playing detective to worry about naps. I slept well at night, better now that I was wearing myself down during the day. I drove up Woodward to Fourteen Mile Road and all the way out to Harper Avenue. I cut around to Jefferson and up to Penny's.
I pulled into the drive and as I got to the door, Marilyn Monroe answered. I was a bit stunned as she breathed out, "Come on in, big boy." and did a little Marilyn squeal.
I was mystified, I knew it was Penny, but she did her make-up so well, it looked like Marilyn. See took my hand and pulled me in to the living room.
"Did you kidnap my Penny and replace her?" I laughed.
She stayed in character as Marilyn and said, "Well, big boy, I am replacing your gal for the night, are you pleased?"
I had to be careful answering that loaded question. "Well, I really am faithful to my Penny. But if she approves, you can stay for a while." I waited to see what reaction I would get, she squealed again and rubbed her hip against my private area and giggled. She shimmied over to the TiVo in the tight dress she had on, came back and pushed me to the couch and cuddled up next to me. This was so weird, but enjoyable. She flipped the remote on the TiVo and we watched her show with all the female impersonators. In one segment they made up Penny in the Marilyn make-up and dressed her. She was really good at the impersonation, as I could see sitting next to me. The show ended and she blew in my ear, I looked at her and asked what was on her mind.
"Well, before I take all this make-up off I thought you might like to go down memory lane with me." She stood and took my hand and we went off to the bedroom.
About two hours later, I staggered out to the kitchen and got two beers out of the fridge and back to the bed room. Penny was still in character, but her make-up was suffering a bit. I handed her a beer and we cuddled.
"You know what?" I asked, she said what, I said, "I love you."
She smiled and pulled me tighter to her with her arms around me. "I love you too. As me, not Marilyn. Although if Marilyn knew you, she would love you too."
I was getting real comfortable when the phone rang. I grumbled over to it and answered.
"Jim, it's Trapper. I just wanted to fill you in on the progress of our buddy Ralph. He was transferred to Pontiac this afternoon and is up on first degree murder charges for the Dominatrix and a couple more for each of his two wives. Lawson threatened him with the rubber hose and he sang like a bird. He was denied bail and the trail starts a week from Monday. Elma is going to have to be there as a material witness, can you or Buck get her out there safely?"
"I'm sure one or the other of us will, I call her later to let her know. Just tell me what time and place, and we'll see Ralphy boy go down in flames."
Trapper gave me the details and said that Elma may have to sit around most the day till they can get to her. I figured Buck would be good for it, I needed to work on my own case now and wanted to be free. I said I'd call Buck and get him set up on it.
Trapper asked how my case was coming. I told him about my day and running into Lincoln at the head shop. He said it was good I was there, the woman may have been a victim of a fake robbery gone wrong. I said I believed Lincoln would have shot her to be sure she never talked about Noreen's clients. I said I thought we convinced him she knew nothing about Noreen's activities so she would be safe. Then I asked Trapper if he knew a councilman in Warren with the initials, F.R. and he said it sounded like Frank Ropiello. I told him that was a person referred to Noreen by the Purple Pit. He whistled and said that would be a blow to his career if that got out, but how does it fit in with Lincoln. I said that's what I was going to find out tomorrow. He said good luck, then said that he had to get back to real police work and hung up. I wasn't bothered that he didn't say good-bye, now that I knew why.
I came back to Marilyn and she had on a DVD in the bedroom TV, it was "Some Like It Hot" with her alter ego. I laughed and we sat back and watched.
"Are you going to do this again?" I asked.
"Only if you can look like Brad Pitt," she giggled.
"Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted."
Later, after we had a late dinner, I told Penny about my day and the exciting visits to the Dom stores and how I ran into Mistress Terry. I told Penny that Terry tried to get frisky with me, but I held her off. Penny just snorted air and chuckled.
I called Buck and told him about Elma needing to be to be in court, and I said I'd pay for his time if he could play bodyguard again. He said that would be fine with him, but he didn't want me paying for his time, Elma gave him more than enough money for watching her. I said that worked for me and I gave him the details. After that I called Elma and told her what was happening and asked her if she got hold of Benson's lawyers about the divorce. She told me what they had planned and I said it sounded good and wished her well.
Penny and I both were a bit wiped out so, since Penny had washed away Marilyn, we decided to forgo our usual nightly exercises, we cuddled and went to sleep.
Morning came fast and I staggered out of bed and to the bathroom. Penny had already gotten herself up and ready to go for the day, I wish I had her energy in the mornings. She kissed me and went off to work, saying she had a child psychologist on today. I thought that was something I had no fear to come home for, children were not in our plans, both of us too old and Penny was unable to have children. I got my body ready and dressed and checked the phone book for Warren City Hall. I added it to my Palm and headed out.
I drove over listening to the radio, being annoyed by all the commercials. I got to hear half of Bob Seger singing "Hollywood Nights" and cursing program directors, as I pulled into city hall parking. I went into the building and asked the girl at the counter where Frank Ropiello's office was, she asked if I had an appointment and I said no. She got on the phone and called, then asked what it was in regards to, I said it was about Noreen Black. The girl wouldn't know about Noreen Black as the papers all had her listed as Noreen Weston, but Frank Ropiello would know the name. She asked me to wait and after a minute a man appeared at a door off the side and he waved to me to follow him. We went down a long corridor and into a plush office. He closed the door and motioned me to sit.
He sat looking at me, "So how much is this going to cost me now?"
"I'm not sure what you mean," I asked.
He just stared, "Aren't you here to collect your blackmail money?"
I took out my I.D. and showed him, "I was hired by Dave Weston to find out who killed his wife, not to collect anything from you." He was quiet, then I continued, "You know her as Noreen Black as I understand, is that correct?"
He was quiet again, then, "I had nothing to do with her death and I don't know who is continuing to blackmail me. I have been paying some thug for the last two weeks and I thought you were here to collect. I thought when Noreen was killed, God rest her soul, it would be over. I'm still being harassed by someone demanding money. First, it was Noreen doing the blackmail, now someone else has taken over."
I was really curious now. "Do you know a Ben Lincoln?"
He looked a bit shocked and said "Yes, I know the son of a bitch, he was harassing me about Noreen's murder. Asking questions about who else was involved with her business. I'd like to know how everyone finds out I'm a client." he growled.
Lincoln beat me again, I got to move faster. "I can't tell you how he knows, I'm not in his confidence. Do you think he may have been involved in her death?"
"I wouldn't put it past him. He was real anxious to know if I knew where Noreen kept her list of names of her clients. I said I had no idea, and he threatened to expose me if I didn't find out. How the hell can I know where she kept her information, I only went there a couple of times."
"Well, someone knows who her clients are, he or she is blackmailing them." I didn't see any reason to bother this man further, I apologized and said he should talk to the police or he'd be drained dry. "But during my investigation, I'll see if I can find anyone blackmailing you." I thanked him, gave him my card and left.
As I was walking out of city hall, I was shocked to see Lincoln coming up the sidewalk, not seeing me. I stopped and he saw me and stopped, we just stared a bit, then I said, "Sorry, Frank Ropiello doesn't really know who any of Noreen's clients were. I beat him within an inch of his life but he couldn't tell. Just wanted to save you the time and trouble. Later, somewhere else." I walked away, smiling. I could hear him swearing under his breath and I didn't look back.
I was really beginning to have the feeling Lincoln didn't murder Noreen, I couldn't put my finger on it, but it just didn't jell. He really was just stupid, but then again, Ralph was stupid and a murderer. I drove out of the parking lot, seeing Lincoln getting into his car, at least I saved Frank the agony of putting up with Lincoln. I drove out to the next address on my list, it was in Royal Oak, and finally found the "Dom Shoppe".
The interior of this place was a little more film noire and dark. It had an evil feeling to it and the women were all made up with pale skin make-up, looking more like vampires than doms. With all the big deal over the "Twilight" vampire movies and books, I could see they were cashing in on the fatted calf. One of the undead women came up to me and hissed, "May I help you?"
I flashed my I.D. and badge rather quickly, hoping she would think I was a cop, and said I wanted to see Elvira. I didn't like the use of the name of my favorite "Mistress of the Dark", but I'm sure this one wasn't even close to the original. I was wrong. After the first vamp went to get her, she came out in an oh so tight black dress that revealed ample bosom down to her navel and her hair was jet black, straight and down to her voluptuous ass. She slithered up to me and asked if she could do me.
"Could you do me or what can you do for me?" I asked.
She said, "Either way, what would you like?"
"Well, I'd like world peace and a million dollars in my bank account, but I'm here to discuss Noreen Black or Noreen Weston, whichever you knew her as." I said.
She took on a quick flash of sadness and asked me to follow her. She was all proper and refined as a Queen of the dead, until we got to the back room.
"OK, what do you want from me, cop?" she spit out.
"I'm not a cop, I'm a private investigator, hired by Noreen's husband to find her killer. You know anything that could help?"
"I'm tired of talking to cops, I told them everything I knew about Noreen. She came in occasionally to get some paraphernalia for her place and we would talk about business." She turned away from me and looked really distressed. Way too distressed for a casual acquaintance.
My tingle was buzzing and I played a card. "You two were more than just business associates. How close were you to Noreen?"
She was silent, then, "I loved her, I'm not ashamed to say, she was a soul partner to me, we clicked. She tolerated her husband but she was definitely not as straight as he would have liked it. We spent many evenings together."
I was a bit taken back by her candor. Surprised that Dave never said anything, or maybe didn't know.
"Noreen first came in here back when she went out on her own from Mistress Terry. I saw a young, innocent, yet determined, woman beginning her life as a real Dom. I got close to her, coached her, and loved her when she was willing." She went silent again.
"When was the last time you saw her?"
"A week before she... was killed." she choked. "If you find the bastard who did this, bring me his balls."
"Do you know any of her clients? I'm trying to narrow it down."
"She had a number of influential clients, most of which wouldn't want their kinks played out in public. If one of them found out about the others, it would be a disaster. I taught Noreen to be real careful of her client list, it was precious, sacred. She wouldn't let that information slip out no matter what, I think that is why she was killed."
"Wouldn't you be in the same danger she faced with your client list?" I asked.
"I'm constantly surrounded by my women and I'm hardly alone, so it would be a bit harder to get to me." she smiled. "Noreen was alone out there, I didn't like it and tried to convince her to join me, but she enjoyed the freedom."
"Did you know she was starting to blackmail her clients?" I had to ask.
She gave me a dirty look like I swore at her, and said, "Noreen would never, ever do something like that."
"I have a city official who claims she was doing just that to him and now that she's gone, someone else is continuing to blackmail him. I'm not trying to put a bad light on Noreen, but the evidence is out there."
Elvira was quiet for a good long time, I said nothing.
"Did Noreen say anything about taking on an assistant or helper?" I asked.
"Yes, she did mention about a month ago that there was a young girl hanging around her business, and she was thinking of taking her in since her business was getting so hectic. I think she said her name was Melody, yes, it was Melody Williams, she said. Noreen wanted to train her to be able to handle the overflow, and I told her to be careful who she trusted. This is a cut-throat business." Elvira choked on that and began to tear up. I grabbed a tissue from her desk and gave it to her, she thanked me.
"I'm sure if Noreen was blackmailing any of her clients, she wouldn't tell you. Do you think Noreen was capable of doing such a thing?"
"Noreen was competitive and determined to succeed, she was a kind person though, I don't believe she would do such a thing."
"Maybe someone who knew her clients may have used her business to do the blackmail. Would that be possible?"
"Of course, people don't want their fetishes exposed to the world. We run a risky business of exposure, which is why we have to guard our client's anonymity and they have to trust us. Anyone knowing Noreen's business list could easily blackmail people." She wiped her eyes and sat up tall, looking defiant. "I hope you find out who is doing this, so I'll know that my Noreen would never have stooped so low to blackmail her clients."
I said that I was finished and thanked her. She stood and walked me towards the front door, she came out of the back room and assumed her Queen of the Dead posture. At the door she whispered to me to let her know what I find, I said I would. Then I asked one last question, if she knew a Ben Lincoln, she said she didn't. I went out.
I sat in my car across the street from the store, I was thinking and watching to see if Lincoln would pop up. I wrote down all the information Elvira gave me. A new name in the case now, Melody Williams, I would need to find her, she could be the link to the blackmail and the murder. I thought about the videos that Noreen made of her sessions, why, if she wasn't blackmailing her clients, would she tape them? And where was the damn client list? I took out my phone and called Weston.
"Dave, a couple of questions, do you know a Melody Williams?" I asked when he came on. He said Noreen mentioned hiring an office girl, but didn't say if she had or not. She said her name was Melody. I continued, "Do you know how to find this Melody?" He said no. "OK, one more question, I asked you to be totally honest with me when I agreed to take your case, the question is, did you know your wife was having an affair with a woman?"
He went silent for a bit, then I heard him sigh, "I sort of knew she was, she never came out and admitted it, but she spent a lot of time with a Dom named Elvira, and she always came home looking like a woman does when she's fucking around. I didn't push it, maybe I should have, but what would that do, she'd get all pissed at me and maybe even leave me. I didn't want that."
"OK, thanks for the honesty, now, do not, I repeat do not, tell anyone about Melody, you hear?" I ordered.
"I won't." he said. I said I'd let him know what I found and hung up.
Now to go on a hunt for the missing link.
I went back to my office, no beauties in the lobby, oh, well. I checked my answering machine, nothing. I just hate days where you have no mail, email, messages or visitors. Just makes you feel so lonely. I sat at my desk and took out the area phone book and looked under Williams, of course there would be a dozen or so. I checked the areas they lived in and wrote down the numbers for the ones in Roseville, I'd start with those. I was beginning to feel that some cases could be a lot of nothing, just checking facts and spending time on the phone. It wasn't this way in the mystery novels I read, well, maybe the "in Death" books, Eve Dallas was always running around interviewing suspects and digging through tons of possibles. Of course she had super computers to gather the facts for her, I was born too early.
After about an hour of calling names and getting no where, I dialed a number in Sterling Heights and a woman answered.
"May I speak to Melody, please?" I asked.
"She's not here right now, may I take a message?" the person asked.
"Do you know when she'll be back?"
"She went to work, she didn't say when she would be back." The woman seemed pleasant, so I pushed on.
"Has she started her job with Noreen Black then?"
"I think she mentioned that name, but I couldn't be sure. It's in some office on Gratiot, in Roseville, a small consulting firm she said."
"Are you related to Melody?" I asked.
"I'm her sister, just who are you, may I ask."
"I'm sorry, how impolite of me, I with an agency that does background checks of prospective hires for employers. We make sure the people they think of hiring are who they say they are, I hope you understand?"
"Oh, yes, I do. I've worked with a few people who should have been checked. They turned out to be not so nice people and messed over my employer. Do you have any questions I may answer about Melody, if I can do that?"
"Sure, your name is?"
"Barbra, but everyone calls me Babs." she replied.
"Well, Babs, what is your sister like as a person?"
"Very dependable, she never misses work, and always on time."
"Does she have any boyfriends or a fiancé."
"Uh, she has a boyfriend who I don't think is good for her, she deserves better, but that's my opinion."
"What is this boyfriend's name, in case we have to check him."
"I wish someone would check him, his name is Bruce Blair, he lives in Roseville. His step-father is a cop from what I hear."
I felt a chill, "You don't know the cop's name by chance?"
"I don't remember, it was some president's name, I think."
"Yes, I think that was it. Abe Lincoln."
"Well, thank you for your time Babs, I'll check back and talk to Melody later." I hung up and was amazed at how deep this was getting.
I would need to set up a timeline board to keep track of all the goings on. I went to my ample closet and pulled out the self-standing dry erase board I had been saving for just this occasion. I started writing all the characters names and drawing lines to connect them and events. I taped a picture of Noreen in the center to keep my focus and stood back to examine the thing. The whole thing looked cock-eyed to me but made a bit more sense than trying to keep it all in my head.
The door opened and Trapper popped his head in. "Ah, the crime board, helps you stay organized, doesn't it?" he grinned.
He sat in the client's chair and put his feet up on my desk, I gave him a dirty look and took one foot down.
"So what's going on and how is Bruce Blair hooked into it?" he said looking at my board.
I asked, "Do you know Bruce Blair?"
"Yep, a little con man who has crossed my path a few times, is he really related to Lincoln?" Looking at my lines.
"Yeah, Lincoln's step-son."
"Wow, that's interesting. When we nabbed him he used his real father's info, never mentioned Lincoln. Hmm, Lincoln and Bruce both turn up in this case, interesting. So what have you found out so far?"
I filled him in on all the details from the last time I saw him and he just sat bobbling his head.
I finished and then asked him if he ever ran the plate from the car in the surveillance videos at the storage, he said he hadn't because he assumed they were from Lincoln. I asked if he could, and took out the paper I had the plate number written on. He took my desk phone, called his precinct, and talked to someone in the system. He waited while they ran them and then he hung up.
He looked at me and smiled, and said, "The plates are registered to Bruce Blair, now isn't that sweet."
"OK, we now know Brucie is definitely involved with this, he's boyfriend to Melody and she was working for Noreen," I said as I drew more lines on my board. "I think it's getting narrowed down. Melody and Bruce, or just Bruce, conspire to blackmail Noreen's clients using her name and then probably Noreen finds out, so they, or he, kills her. They, or he, keep blackmailing the clients and then step-daddy Lincoln finds out step-boy is involved in the murder, takes over the case and tries to cover up. I wonder if he's getting a cut of the money too?"
"Lots of lines crossing over each other, but it's coming together," Trapper said as I stepped back to look at the mess.
"But if Lincoln is going around trying to find the list, how did they know who to blackmail? If Melody worked there long enough to recognize a few clients, they could start with that. But why would they need the list? Is Lincoln trying to protect someone he knows on that list, before it gets out. Way too many questions and not enough answers."
"Welcome to the wonderful world of detecting. You never get answers right off or they wouldn't need us." Trapper smiled.
"OK, this case isn't in your jurisdiction, so you can't pull Bruce in, and I don't dare go to Lincoln to ask him to pull him in. So I got to skate around the whole thing on thin ice, especially if Bruce is living with Lincoln. I wonder where Melody goes during the day when she says she is going to work. Maybe I need to go check out Noreen's office again. Care to join me?"
"What the hell, I'm not chasing crime in my town," he laughed, "may as well go invade someone else's town."
We headed out in our own cars, in case Trapper got a call to duty, and drove over to Noreen's office. I parked across the street and Trapper pulled up behind me. We walked up to the office and we were surprised to find it open. We walked in and found a smallish blond girl behind the desk and she smiled and welcomed us. I looked around and it was a lot cleaner than the last time I was in here. I reached in my pocket and turned on the record button on my Palm just in case. I walked up to the desk and asked to see Mistress Black. The girl smiled and said she was out of town for a week, but she could schedule an appointment if we liked. I asked her name and she said Melody, and held out two three-by-five cards for us, she said to put our names and information and a little detail of the domination we desired.
I put the cards back on the table and asked, "Where might Mistress Black be at?"
"Oh, I'm not at liberty to say, it's confidential." she smiled.
I looked at Trapper and asked if he knew anyone in fraud or vice in Roseville, he said he did. I looked at Melody and said, "Melody, Noreen is dead, but I'm sure you know that. I'm a private investigator and this gentleman is a police lieutenant and we find it a bit odd that you didn't know your employer is deceased. You are either naive, stupid or you killed Noreen, which is it?"
She had a panicked look on her face, "I didn't want to do this, but he said I'd die if I didn't keep up with the con."
"Who, Melody, who warned you?" Trapper asked.
"My boyfriend, Bruce Blair, he said we should continue taking new clients, to blackmail them, since we didn't have Noreen's list." she started to tear up. "I said it was too risky, too soon after her death."
"Melody, who killed Noreen?" I asked.
She gave me a pained look and said, "I don't know. I came here to work the other day and Bruce's step father was here, he told me what happened to Noreen and I went to Bruce and told him. Bruce was already blackmailing a couple of clients and he didn't want to lose the con. I had a key to the office so we got in and cleaned it up, figuring the cops were done with it, so we could keep taking clients."
I took Trapper aside and said, "We can keep this away from Lincoln if you can get your vice friends to take this. It's fraud and blackmail, but nothing towards Lincoln's case of murder."
Trapper agreed, stepped out the front door and got on his cell phone and made a few calls.
"Melody, how long did you think you could get away with this?" I asked her.
"I didn't think we could, but Bruce insisted we do it, and I'm honestly afraid of him, he's nuts. I wish I never met him."
"Melody, we are having vice come in and arrest you, it will hopefully keep you safe for now and away from Lincoln who may be involved in ways I don't want to say right now. You will have to cooperate with the officers and let them know everything you know, understand?" She nodded her head and started crying harder now. I felt so sorry for her.
Trapper came back in and said he had a friend on his way. He told his friend to keep it on the quiet, and not let Lincoln in on it. His friend was not a fan of Lincoln and agreed. About ten minutes later an unmarked car and a patrol car pulled up. Trapper's friend entered and I was introduced to Detective Sergeant Mike Gregory, we shook hands and I filled him in on what was going on, all the way back to Noreen's death, which he knew about. Trapper explained that we needed to keep Melody out of Lincoln's hands, this had nothing to do directly with the murder, just an after effect of it. Gregory agreed and liked the premise of our plot.
Gregory went to Melody and read her the miranda rights, explaining it to her. She was looking so wretched, I hated doing this to her, but it was for the best. Gregory sat and asked her a number of questions and then called for a warrant on Blair. That ought to piss off Lincoln. They took Melody into custody and I said to Trapper, I felt sorry for the girl, being dragged into this.
"Jim, you're going to have to toughen up a bit. First, she may be innocent, but after you get involved in a number of cases like this, you'll find that she was probably just as cooperative as Blair was in the crime. She's a big girl and knew what she was getting into."
Gregory came over, "Trapper, are things so slow in Clinton Township, you got to come to my turf and stir up trouble?"
"Don't look at me, I'm just an observer, blame Richards here, it's his case. So far I'm getting sick of Roseville," he grinned.
"Well, this is going to piss off Lincoln one way or another. I look forward to booking that asshole kid of his. I hope Lincoln tries to start something with me, I've wanted to clean his clock for years. You guys going to lock up here?" he asked and then left after we said we'd take care of it.
"Jim, you are starting to get the swing of this business, welcome to my world." Trapper offered.
Trapper headed back to his boundries and I went back to my office. I wondered what Buck was up to, haven't heard from him today. I went in and called Benson's office and after he came on I explained about the incident at Noreen's office. His case with Weston was closed since I found the mystery woman, so there was no trial to go to. I asked if he ever did probono work and he said on rare occasions. I told him about Melody and her involvement in the con job Bruce was pulling, I said she is most likely guilty, but I said I'd like to see the court go easy on her, if possible. Benson said he liked my compassion and would look into the case for me.
We finished and hung up, then I got Frank Ropiello's number and called him. I reminded him who I was and told him about catching Bruce Blair as his possible blackmailer. I asked if he could identify the person who took the money, I assumed it was Bruce, he said he could, so I gave him the number off the business card Gregory gave me. I told him to call and explain what I told him and see if they can get him in a line-up. He thanked me and hung up.
I had done my good deeds for the day and was wondering how Penny was doing. I decided to close up and go home, so I headed out and drove over to Jefferson and into the drive. Penny said they had a child psychologist on her show today so I couldn't see any surprises that Penny may throw at me. I was wrong. I got into the house and saw a child, about two years old staring at me from a crib in the middle of the family room. I just stood there hoping it would go away, but it was still watching me. Penny came into the room and said in a happy voice, welcome home daddy.
"OK, did I miss something. Was I gone for a few years and now I'm a father?"
Penny giggled and picked up the baby and brought it to me, I recoiled in fear. Penny said to stop that and act like a father.
I took the kid and said, "What do I do now, and where did this thing come from?"
"I kidnapped it from a playground," she said.
I looked at her like she was crazy, "What did you say?"
"Oh, grow up, I am babysitting for one of the girls on my staff, Liz Davis. She needed a babysitter and I thought it would be a great idea. Liz lives out this way in Harrison Township and dropped the baby off."
I handed the kid back to her and said, "I hope the two of you are very happy together."
"If you ever want to have sex with me again, you will play daddy for a couple of hours, at least till Liz comes to get the baby."
I hemmed a bit and then said I would. She handed the baby back to me and said she had to go make us food for dinner. I went to the couch and yelled to Penny, "What is it? Boy or girl?"
Penny yelled back, "Her name is Diana. She's my god-child."
"Ah, I see. I guess. Where is the mother?"
"She's at a lamaze class for her second child. Her partner and her are going natural childbirth."
"Her partner? As in husband or life partner?"
"Life partner, yes, Liz is gay."
I looked at the child and said "Boy, I hope you're going to be strong, you're going to need it."
The baby goo'd and flashed her long eye lashes at me. I thought she was kind of cute. I bounced her on my knee and she started laughing and giggling out loud. Penny peeked in and saw what I was doing, came over and kissed me on my bald head, then went back into the kitchen.
We ate dinner of tacos, and baby had something out of a jar, not looking very appetizing. After dinner I took the baby and went to the family room and put her on the couch next to me. She was waving her arms around and hitting my arm.
"Yep, she's a female, already beating on a man," I kidded.
Penny came out and sat on the other side of her. The baby crawled over and tried to latch on to one of Penny's breasts. I said, "Hey that's mine, you get the bottle while you're here." I picked up her bottle and pulled her to me, laying her on her back and inserted the nipple into her mouth. Penny sat and watched me with the child. She wished she was able to have children and wondered if we were too old to adopt. She knew at 60, we would be too old to take care of a child, and with her show and my out playing detective, it wouldn't be fair to the baby. So she enjoyed the moment.
"I went through all this with my son, I've been there. Not that I want to do it again, I can't change diapers, I have a low threshhold for odors, I gag big time," I warned. Penny laughed and said she'd take care of that end.
We played with the child for a few more hours when the doorbell rang, it was Liz. She came into the family room and I was on the ground with the baby on my belly, bouncing her.
Penny said, "Now you see what I go through every night." She laughed and came to rescue the child. Liz thanked Penny and I for watching Diana. I said no problem, just don't let it happen again. Penny whacked me on the arm and liz laughed.
"I've heard all about you Jim, Penny tells us all kinds of gory tales. Especially the ones with handcuffs." she smiled.
"Someone is in trouble tonight." I mumbled.
Liz thanked us again and went off after I put the crib in her car. I wondered where her partner was, Penny said she worked late nights and had to be back to her job. We went back into the house and I said that we needed to discuss what tales she's been telling at work, but later. We plopped down on the couch and I told her about the councilman, the Dom pretending to be Elvira and then I told her about Melody and her part in the thing along with bad boy Bruce, and that I got Benson to try and help her. Penny kissed me on the cheek and said I was an old softy.
We watched TV for a while, drinking our beer, eating potato chips and smooching at every commercial. Life was good.
Next morning, just as I was getting ready to go out the door to my office, the phone rang, it was Detective Gregory.
"Richards, we brought in Blair this morning, I just thought you might wanted to be in on the interrogation and line-up?" he asked. I said I would like that, may hear something to help my case. He said they would have him in around 9:15, so be there. I hung up and drove over to Roseville precinct, feeling a little apprehensive about Lincoln being there, maybe I should have called Trapper. No, I can't depend on Trapper to always watch my back, I'd have to face him myself.
I got there and was directed to where they had the line-up. Gregory saw me and said to follow him, we went into the observation room and I saw Frank Ropiello, he acknowledged me and then Gregory explained what we were going to do. There was another man in the room in a fancy suit, I figured he was a lawyer. Gregory called through a microphone to bring the men in. Just as they were coming in, the observation room door opened and in walked Lincoln, he had no expression when he saw me, and went to the other side of the room. Gregory gave him a dirty look, like don't screw around with my witness, as he moved over between Lincoln and Ropiello to where Ropiello couldn't see Lincoln. The men were all lined up and the lights were brought up on them, Ropiello just stood staring as he went from face to face.
"Take your time Councilman Ropiello, do you see the man who was threatening you with blackmail, and taking money from you?" Gregory asked.
Ropiello was looking hard and said it was number three, which happened to be Blair. "That man came to my office twice to take money from me and warn me not to talk, or my unusual predilections would be all over the papers. I've already confessed to my wife about it, I was only there a couple of times, so I'm ready to be a witness."
Gregory thanked Ropiello and told him they'd talk to him about what needed to be done, maybe they could just take his statement and he might not have to testify as a protected witness. Ropiello thanked him and left, followed by Lincoln. I looked at Gregory and went out to see where Lincoln was going. He went the opposite way from Ropiello and down a hall. Gregory followed me out and said, "Now to roast the little dickhead."
We went to a different side of the building and Gregory pointed to a door saying that was where I go. I went in and found Lincoln sitting quietly in a chair. Leaning up against the back wall was the same guy in the suit, he smiled at me and introduced himself at an assistant DA.
Lincoln didn't look to me, but said, "I hear you're responsible for Bruce being brought in."
"I caught Melody in her little scam, Blair was a casualty of that. He's a big boy and knew what he was doing was illegal. From what I hear she feared for her life from Blair if she didn't go along with the scam. Not a good boy in there."
"I didn't raise him, that son of a bitch convict father of his screwed him over good. I can't change him now." He went silent and I had nothing more to say.
If Lincoln did care so much for step-boy, why was he here? Maybe to see if Blair would rat him out. I watched as Blair squirmed in his chair until Gregory came in. He gave Gregory a dirty look as the big man sat across from him. Gregory just stared, Blair was looking uncomfortable, then Gregory spoke.
"Bruce, this is the third time I've had a talk with you. Just can't stay out of trouble can you? Just get yourself in deeper don't you?" he started.
Blair just gave him a stupid expression and kept watching the door as if he were expecting Lincoln to come to his rescue.
"Bruce, we definitely got you for blackmailing a city official, you were picked out of the line-up as the blackmailer. We are going to be adding a murder charge to that too, how's that?"
Bruce went up to being alert now, "I had nothing to do with any murder! I didn't kill the bitch, I don't know who did!" he whined.
"Well Bruce, let's see, you were blackmailing Noreen Black's clients and I'll bet she found out, so you had to silence her, isn't that the way it went down?"
"No! Melody was supplying me with names of people she recognized coming into the office and she told me what to do for getting the money out of them. Maybe Melody killed Black, I didn't!"
"Did Melody have access to Black's client list?"
"Hell, no. Black didn't share that list with anyone, we don't even know where she hid it. We looked after work hours, she didn't have it in her office. I even broke into her house one afternoon to see if I could find it. Melody also heard Black mention she had a storage unit, I went there and found some videos and stuff that I thought would help us. They didn't do us any good, though."
Now I knew who the mystery intruder was at Weston's house and at the storage unit.
He continued, "So Melody said we would just work on the clients she knew. Before long we'd have a good base built up."
I was starting to wonder if Trapper was right about feeling sorry for people. If Bruce was too stupid to lie, maybe Melody wasn't all that innocent. I better have a talk with Benson to get his take.
"When did you start blackmailing clients?"
"Just after Melody started working there. We thought it would be a quick buck. About two weeks later, Black was dead, I didn't have anything to do with it. I swear!"
"Did you tell those people who you were blackmailing that Black was involved in the scam?"
"We didn't say she was, I guess people just assumed she was behind it."
"Didn't you even think someone may have wanted her dead rather than being blackmailed and exposed?"
"No, we didn't think that."
"You know all the people who you were scaming, I want a list of their names. Just maybe we can find someone in that list who may have killed Black. That would get you off the hook for the actual deed, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah, I can do that! I'll give you what you want."
"Tell me Bruce, it was your idea to blackmail the clients, wasn't it?"
"Hell no! Melody met me one night after she got off work and told me how we could make a lot of money if we played our cards right. I went along, I thought it would work, we hadn't counted on Black getting iced," he lamented.
"Where were you the night she was iced?"
"I was at a bachelor party for a buddy, I got plenty of witnesses. I'll give you plenty of names." he smirked.
"OK, Bruce, we got you for blackmail and fraud, you better hope we don't take you down for murder." Gregory said as he stood, then went out.
Lincoln was quiet then stood, he looked at me but said nothing, and went out. I could swear I saw a little sadness in his eyes, I didn't want to start feeling sorry for him now. Gregory popped his head in the door and asked if I wanted to go watch him question Melody, I did. We went to a different room, I was followed by the suit, and I stood looking at Melody sitting quietly at the table. Lincoln walked in and stood at the back of the room, didn't say a word.
Gregory walked in and sat, opening up a folder. "Melody, I've talked to Bruce and he had some interesting things to say."
I could see her eyes perk up, Gregory was going to play her against Bruce.
"Bruce forced me to do the blackmail, he threatened me if I didn't help, he would hurt me." she whined.
"Well, Melody, Bruce said it was your idea to do the blackmailing. Is he lying?"
"Of course he's lying. Look at his record. He's a con man from way back."
"Where did you two meet, when you first got together."
"I met him at a party one of my girlfriends was throwing. I didn't know anything about him at the time, but he was a good talker. We started seeing each other after that."
"How long before you started working for Noreen Weston?"
"About two months."
"Enough time to realize he was a trouble maker. Did you take into account his criminal past when you decided to start blackmailing people?"
"I knew he had a checkered past, but he came up with the idea to do the scam after I told him about my job. I didn't like it, but he kept at me about how much money we could make. Then he started threatening me if I didn't help."
"Why didn't you just leave him."
"He wouldn't let me go, he'd just find me, I feared him."
"Did Bruce do the killing of Noreen, or was that your doing."
She looked shocked and cried, "I didn't have anything to do with her murder! Bruce didn't either, he was too stupid to do something on his own." That statement made me think.
"Then who did it, Melody?"
"I have no idea, I was with girlfriends that night, while Bruce was at a bachelor party. I can prove it."
"If you want to cover your ass Melody, I'd recommend you give us a list of the people you blackmailed. We may be able to sort out a killer in the bunch. How many people did you scam?"
"We had about six people involved, I'll give you a list if it will help."
"Didn't you think maybe one of the people who feared they would be exposed, may want to kill the person they thought was blackmailing them?"
She was quiet for a bit and quietly said "No."
"Well, even if you didn't do the kill, you are just as responsible for her death, so I'd think about that. Maybe you can get some retribution by helping us catch the real killer." He tossed her a pad and pencil and told her to start writing names and anything she knew about the people they blackmailed. She started writing on the pad and I started thinking about calling Benson and talking to him about this.
ATTENTION: The above chapters are all to be presented in this free preview. The purpose of this preview was so I could receive feedback, which I did, and still would like more. Please feel free to write and let me know what you think. To find out how the story ends, buy the book, it will be available here for sale shortly. Watch the main page at MurderNovels.com for availability. Thank you, Bob Moats.