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The chronological order of my stories is now listed in WifeWatchman’s biography.
Feedback and constructive criticism is very much appreciated, and I encourage feedback for ideas.
This story contains graphic scenes, language and actions that might be extremely offensive to some people. These scenes, words and actions are used only for the literary purposes of this story. The author does not condone murder, racial language, violence, rape or violence against women, and any depictions of any of these in this story should not be construed as acceptance of the above.
Part 16 – The Soltis Badge
“Well, look who’s here! My favorite University students.” said the gravelly voice of Captain Sean “Cav” Moynahan. His military-style short hair seemed whiter than the last time I’d seen him.
It was 12:40pm, Tuesday, November 3d, and Cindy and I had exceeded speeds of 100 miles per hour to get down to this crime scene.
“What do we have, Captain Moynahan?” I asked, grinning. “A new classroom for our ‘edumacation’?”
“Something like that.” he said. I noticed Crime Lab people working on the scene, and some uniformed officers. A dead woman was lying on her side on the ground, propped against a chain link fence. She was dressed in faded denim pants, a denim jacket, an dark blue shirt with multicolored curled lines, dark blue tennis shoes like Mary Mahoney would sometimes wear.
“Hit over the back of the head.” I said as I examined the body. “No signs of a struggle, no torn clothes. Any needle marks?” I asked a nearby crime lab technician.
“A very recent one,” said the tech, “in the vein at the left elbow.” She pointed out the red mark. The tissue around it was slightly swollen.
“Looks like she was ambushed, then shot up with drugs to look like an O.D.” I said. “I’ll bet the coroner finds it to be that way.”
“We didn’t even think it was a crime at first.” said Moynahan. “It’d be absolutely nothing if it weren’t for Soltis’s badge being found. Hey, Smith! Show the Commander here that badge.” A technician came over as I put on latex gloves. I took the proffered badge out of its evidence sleeve and closely examined it. Cindy did the RFID reading.
“Soltis’s badge.” she said. “But it’s coming up ‘Reported As Missing’.”
“Good.” I said. “I’m hoping Frank will tell us that when we talk to him, too. So, Captain, any idea who the deceased is?”
“Her fingerprints came up as a ‘Bonita McClure’, a.k.a. ‘Bonita St. Claire’.” said Moynahan. “Busted for running an escort ring in the City about a year ago. No one knew she was down here, or anything about her. She’s pretty much off the grid.”
I said “I understand Detective Soltis is moving to a Vice unit. Think she might’ve been a C.I. for him, anything like that?”
“I can tell you unequivocally ‘no’ on that.” said Cav. “Internal Affairs has already checked on that, just in case we were about to step on any toes. This girl is not a C.I. for us. Maybe for the State or Feds, but her name hasn’t come up as such.”
I took two photos of the body; one full length, the other concentrating on her face and head. “You might try running another name through… ‘Bonita Bishop’, whose ex-husband was murdered a week ago. We’ve been looking for her.” I’d heard Cindy gasp when I mentioned the name.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hi, Frank.” I said as we entered the room at Moynahan’s Midtown Police Precinct. It was a glass walled conference room, but was for interrogations.
“Hi guys.” said Detective Soltis, his black hair combed and perfectly in place. “What’s going on?”
“We’ve been deputized by the SBI to ask you a few questions.” I said. “You can have a lawyer or Union rep here if you want one.”
“Do I need one?” asked Frank.
“I don’t know.” I said. “Can we examine your badge, please?” Soltis produced the badge, which was new and genuine.
“Have you lost your badge in the recent past?” I asked.
“Yeah, about two months ago.” said Soltis. “Right when I was transferring to my new assignment. I had a second one, but I filed the report and got a new one, per requirements.”
“Where did you lose it?”
“It disappeared from my locker in my gym while I was working out.” said Soltis. “I had a lock on the locker, but those aren’t that hard to break open, especially with one good blow from something like a… crowbar.”
“Hee ees geev-ing away our secret yoo-ses for our crowbars, Crowbar 2.” I said to Cindy in my ‘German’ accent. She smiled briefly. Reassuming my normal voice, I said “Frank, you may or may not know that your badge was found on the body of a woman today. A ‘Bonita McClure’. Does that name ring a bell?”
“No.” Soltis answered, shaking his head.
“All right.” I said. “Internal Affairs is going to be all over you for where you were at certain times, yadda yadda yadda—-“
“They already are.” said Soltis. “They’ve already asked me a lot of questions. I answered them, and I don’t think there should kartal escort be any problems over this, just irritation.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Looks like you were right, Commander.” said Cpt. Moynahan as we talked in his office. “The FBI confirmed the fingerprints of the girl also matched a ‘Bonita Bishop’. Seems she has a number of aliases. They’re kind of curious as to why, and so am I.”
“Well,” I said, “it’s suggestive that she’s running criminal operations and doesn’t want to be easily found.” I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Cindy had cut her eyes at me as I said it, and that she was studying me. She really is getting better, I thought happily.
“Heh heh heh heh.” barked Captain Moynahan in laughter. “Might be hard for the FBI to figure that out by themselves. So seriously, you think this has anything to do with those other badge-related murders you’ve been looking at the past week?”
“Maybe.” I said. “But I think it has more to do with that stuff that was going on when I was down here last summer (Pink Lemonade, Ch. 2). By the way, you have any more trouble?”
Cav Moynahan gave what was a brief sigh, then said “No, not really. The Assistant Chief got a visit from Internal Affairs, and decided that keeping his mouth shut and his butt clean was his wisest course of action. But he’s just biding his time. Lieutenant Evans is now up there running Nextdoor County’s Vice Squad… great opportunity for her, and she’s closer to you guys… and Soltis has transferred. I’m just getting new guys in place, putting in good leaders for them, and wrapping things up.”
“I hear you.” I said. “Cindy, we need to be getting back. Thanks for calling us down, Captain. We’ll be seeing you again soon.”
“Looking forward to it.” said Cav, who escorted us out to our car and shook hands with us.
We’d barely made it to University Highway, the limited access four-lane highway that would take us home, when Cindy whirled to ‘confront’ me.”
“Yeah, someone uses aliases to keep the FBI from finding them.” Cindy said. “Hell, Ikea and Sharples could figure that out. What’s the real story, Crowbar 1?”
I grinned, then said in the form of a quotation: “Not much gets by you, Crowbar 2.” Cindy tried hard to keep a stern face, and failed. She broke down laughing.
“Okay,” she said, “seriously, you were thinking of something else. What was it?”
“I think she was trying to hide, and not very successfully.” I said. “But not from Law Enforcement. She was hiding from someone else… someone who represented an existential threat to her. The same person that bankrolled her ex-husband’s pawn shop, then paid Ben Knight to kill Quintus and steal the money.”
“Our friendly neighborhood Consultant of Crime?” Cindy guessed, and correctly.
“Would not shock me if it was.” I said. “My only question is… why Soltis? He’s not a bad cop, he’s not dirty… unless he’s done the best snow job on me since I was in high school…”
“Can I talk to Molly about it?” Cindy asked. “If she had any suspicions at all, I’ll find out about them for you.”
“Sounds like an Iron Crowbar plan, there.” I said. “Sounds like an Iron Crowbar plan.”
“One other thing.” Cindy said. “Captain Moynahan said he was going to ‘wrap things up’. What did he mean by that? Is he retiring?”
“Could be.” I said. “He’s got a target on his back.”
“He doesn’t seem to the type of man who would succumb to that.” Cindy said. “I’d think he’d be fighting back.”
“One never knows.” I said cryptically as I scanned my mirrors for anyone following us “Maybe he will be…”
Part 17 – The Final Badge
Wednesday morning, November 4th. Today was Todd and Melina’s son Doug’s 2nd birthday, and I was looking forward to a little party for him at the Mountain Nest this evening. Melina had declined Laura’s invitation, an invitation to attend her own child’s birthday party… but Teresa said she was coming with Todd and little Doug.
There was no new news. Nothing on the allegations of me giving the Wildcats locker room fodder, just seemingly innocuous stories about Coach Groves preparing his team for their next game. Nothing new on the murder of Quintus Bishop nor Gabe Wheeler. Bettina had a spot about the Community Center doing some project for Veterans Day on November 11th.
I got a phone call as Priya was finishing up her 8:00am report on KSTD, and just as my Angels were gathering for the morning meeting. It was Molly. Naturally, my concern was about the baby.
“Molly?” I asked, picking up the phone, “Is anything wrong?”
“Personally, no.” Molly said, understanding why I was asking. “The baby and I are fine. I just wanted to tell you that I just talked to Frank Soltis. Midtown I.A. just formally suspended him, without pay, pursuant to the investigation of his badge on that dead woman’s body.”
“Are you kidding?” I gasped. Recovering, I said “Did he say why?”
“No, not on the phone.” Molly said. “But kartal eskort bayanlar this is the worst thing they could do to him short of arresting him. No ‘desk duty’, ‘restricted duty’, or suspension with pay… they’re bringing the hammer down, and he has no idea why.”
“Okay, thanks for calling.” I said. “I’ll see you at Ross’s birthday party tomorrow.” I hung up.
“Oh my God.” I said. Three pairs of Angel Eyes were upon me. I continued “Frank Soltis was suspended in Midtown. I’ve got to call Cav Moynahan.”
“Not Frank?” Cindy asked.
“No, Cav.” I said. I got out my cell phone and suited the deed to the word.
“Cav!” I said. “What’s going on down there?…. uh huh…. oh really… uh huh… Cav, you need to get out of there. Right now. Get in your POV and drive your ass up here as fast as you can…. yes, I have a place you can stay… okay, see you soon.”
As I put my phone away, I explained. “Suspending Soltis that hard suggests to me that Cav’s last line of personal defense is being taken away from him. Cav said he’d already put in for vacation for the rest of this month, which was granted. So he’s going to come up here.”
“He’s in danger?” Teresa asked.
“Very grave danger.” I said.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A half hour later, I realized I had one thing I still needed to do. So with Cindy in tow I went up to County Jail, north of Town. Ben Knight was due to be transferred to State Prison, and I wanted to talk to him before that happened. I also called his Court-appointed attorney to be there.
“Hi Ben.” I said. “I just have a couple of questions, give you one last shot for parole in 20-25 years.”
“What do you want to know?”
“When I asked you who put you up to this crime, you wouldn’t answer.” I said. “I don’t think you were afraid of your own life, you were trying to protect someone else… weren’t you?”
Knight tried to hold a straight face, but the fear was fighting hard to present itself.
“In fact,” I said, “I think you were trying to protect Bonita, Quintus’s wife. You were having an affair with her. She left Quintus, and you and she continued the affair, as well as some not-too-noble operations in the City.”
“I got nothing to say.” said Knight. I took out my iPhone. Cindy knew where I was going with this, and I caught just an edge of sadness on her ruggedly pretty features.
“Ben,” I said, showing the picture of the late Bonita Bishop that I’d taken at the crime scene, “is this Bonita?”
Ben looked. His eyes widened in shock, then pain as he realized what he was seeing. “Oh my God, NO!!!” he cried out. “NO! It’s a trick! Tell me she’s not dead! TELL ME!”
“I’m sorry, Ben.” I said. “I wish I could tell you that. But she was found dead yesterday in Midtown.” Ben’s face was buried in his hands. He was sobbing. I gave him a minute.
“The bastard killed her anyway, Ben.” I said. “There is no reason for you not to tell me who he is. If you do know anything, help me avenge Bonita… before he gets to you, too.”
“I wish I could.” said Knight. “I wish I knew enough to tell you. I only worked through that fat guy in the trenchcoat and the guy with the obvious wig.”
“Tell us from the beginning, Ben.” I said. “Everything about you and Bonita.”
“I met her when I first met Quintus.” said Ben. “I think I was in love with her from that minute. We were friendly for a few weeks, then she finally let me take her to bed. It just got hotter from there. She said she wanted to leave Quintus, but she couldn’t just yet. After a few more weeks, I finally convinced her to walk away from him.”
“I asked her to come live with me.” Ben continued, “But she said she couldn’t, that I’d lose my job as his security guy, and that she needed to get out of Town anyway. I didn’t really ask her about it; at the time I thought she was just scared of him… Quintus.
“But later on, I realized it wasn’t Quintus she was scared of.” Ben said. “She would never let me go meet her. She always came into Town on a weekend and we’d shack up at my place. She wouldn’t let me take her out to dinner or anything. So I knew something was wrong. I asked her about it, and she said she was trying to avoid some bad people, and that the less I knew about it, the better off I’d be. She said that after she worked things out, we could run away together and be free together.”
“Then I got asked about doing this job on Quintus and stealing the money.” Ben went on. “I told Bonita about it, and said I was going to run with the whole stack of cash, and not give it up like I was supposed to. Bonita agreed, and said this was our chance. We were going to meet up in Midtown, then get out of here and go somewhere far away, like Florida, and start a new life together.”
“Did you hear from her after your arrest?” I asked.
“No.” said Ben. “We thought I might be held as a witness or something, but didn’t think you… meaning the cops… would figure out that kartal esmer escort I’d done it myself. So she was going to lay low, then I’d call a number and leave a message, and she’d meet me 24 hours later at a place south of Midtown and we’d go.”
“Did you make that call?” I asked.
“No.” Ben said. “You busted me for the murder, found the money before I could get it out of there and leave Town. It was all over for me, so I thought Bonita would be better off going her own way without me.”
“What about Norris?” I asked. “Was he involved in any of this?”?
“I think he knew I was banging Bonita.” said Ben. “He was such a fucking straight-laced numb-nuts that he didn’t approve, but I didn’t give a shit. He had no idea of our plans.”
“How did Richard Norris feel about race relations? About blacks?” I asked. “Was he a racist?”
Knight seemed surprised by the question. “No, I don’t think he was a racist. Some people say all Republicans are racist, and he was a rabid Republican Party guy. But he never used the ‘N-word’ or anything like that…” After a pause, he said “The only thing I ever heard him say about something like that was that he was tired of him and me having to struggle like dogs to make any money, while blacks got welfare, especially free housing.”
“Did you know a Louise Belfort?” I asked.
“I think you or your people asked about her before.” said Knight. “I don’t know her or who she is.”
“Norris never mentioned her?” I asked. “And did he ever mention his time in the City Housing Authority?”
“He said he’d worked there, and it was really corrupt in there, so he left.” Ben replied. “He didn’t mention this Belfort lady by name, not that I can remember.”
To Ben’s lawyer, I said “We have to get this man into some serious protective custody, and quickly. I’m going to call the FBI. There is a larger case they can claim this is part of, they can take custody of Ben and get him into a Federal prison out of this State where he might be safe.” The lawyer agreed.
After making that call, and arranging for solitary confinement for Knight under constant guard until the FBI came and got him, Cindy and I left the County Jail and Third Precinct Headquarters. As we got into my SUV, my cellphone rang. It was SBI Deputy Director Conlan.
“Yet another body and another badge.” said Conlan. “Coltrane County, south of Buford.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I was totally stunned as I looked at the body on the ground.
“Do you realize who this is?” I asked Sheriff Sorrells and Deputy Strait. Cindy didn’t know, either.
“No sir.” said Deputy Strait. “His drivers’ license was in his wallet in his pants pocket. Says he’s a ‘Mark McCluskey’ from Midtown. Car tags registered to the same name and address”
“No badge on him?” I asked. “Or in his car?”
“Yeah, there was.” drawled Sheriff Sorrells, holding up a City Police badge in an evidence bag.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, “I meant his own badge. Guys, this is the Assistant Police Chief of the Midtown Force.” Everyone gasped.
“Oh, wow.” said Sheriff Sorrells. To answer your question, Commander… no, we did not find a Midtown badge. Deputy, I think we’ll need to look again.” Strait agreed and was about to walk away.
“Our Crime Lab is on the way down.” I said, stopping Strait. “Let them look for it.”
Just then, my Police cellphone rang. It was Lt. Perlman. “Captain Moynahan just got here. What do you want me to do with him?”
“Whatever your little heart desires. Just don’t give him a heart attack.” I said jokingly. “Seriously, introduce him to the MCD and Vice Detectives, and to Chief Bennett if Bennett is there. But what I also need is…” I told Tanya some instructions, after which I said “Put Cav on the line.”
“Yes, Commander.” I heard Cav’s gravelly voice.
“Cav, did you stop on the way up here? At all?” I asked.
“No, I came straight up.”
“Were you followed?” I asked.
“Now that you mention it,” said Cav, “I saw the same group of about four cars right around me while I was driving through Hamilton County into Coltrane County. They dropped off when I was getting near Buford.”
“Does your car have GPS?” I asked. Cav affirmed that it did.
“Cav, I need you to do something, and it’s extremely important.” I said. “I need you to get Lt. Perlman to get Myron Milton, and you need to let Myron download the GPS information into our evidence servers. It may be the only thing that keeps your good name in the clear.”
“Well, funny you should say that, because your young Lieutenant has already rounded up Mr. Milton, and they are on their way to my car already, having purrr-loined my keyyyyys.” Cav said in his particular and fun way of talking.
“Good.” I said, grinning. “I’ll be back up there soon. Stay at Headquarters.”
By now, the TCPD Crime Lab, contracted by Coltrane County, was at the scene, gathering evidence. “Sir!” called out Christina Cho from the roadside. “We’ve got broken car glass in several places just down the road, rubber tire marks, and some dug-up dirt right down there; you can see it from here. It looks like it will be a match for the tires of this car. You can see that the taillights are busted out, and there’s a huge dent on the driver-side door.”
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