by Gary Clifton
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
As usual, bedlam ruled as they walked through the lobby of Dallas Police Headquarters on South Lamar. Two uniformed cops were struggling with a large, screaming man in a Superman costume and purple hair. Two hookers in skimpy shorts sat handcuffed on a bench, spewing profanity. The lobby always reminded McCoy of the Texas State Fair.
In the Homicide Office, Maggs sat at a battered computer desk, punching keys. McCoy leaned over her shoulder. Klaster and Dwyer, the two terminated thieves, were both still in their teens. Aside from prior traffic convictions, neither had been caught dirty enough to prevent a security clearance.
McCoy and Maggs, journeymen in a “never be surprised” trade, were not shocked to learn Klaster had been found shot to death in a city park two weeks after he had been fired from Skyview.
“Related to gettin’ fired?” McCoy raised an eyebrow.
Maggs shrugged. “More likely a dope deal gone wrong.”
Harper strolled in, cigar stub firmly in place. Soaked in perspiration, he announced with disgust he had developed no additional leads despite walking “about fifty-eight miles” in the McKnight neighborhood in the heat.
Harper glanced at the photo on Magg’s computer. “Hey, I responded to that Klaster kid’s murder scene.” He swabbed his brow with a brown, rest room, paper towel. “Victim was just a kid. Hands tied behind with yellow nylon rope. Two behind the ear. No suspect or real motive.”
To get to stay inside out of the heat for an hour or so, Harper agreed to pull and re-examine the file on the Ivan Klaster murder.
McCoy and Maggs’s visit to the last known east Dallas address of Dwyer was a dry hole. His aunt, a clone of The Loch Ness Monster, denied Dwyer had ever lived there. She added, behind a forty-word symphony of profanity, she hadn’t even seen him in months and had no idea as to his whereabouts.
McCoy and Maggs instinctively saw she was lying and split. Their cop mentality calculated he’d turn up sooner or later in the computer-heavy criminal justice system — hopefully without a bullet in his head.
An hour in the well-furnished DEA offices disclosed that McKnight had been a squad supervisor in his last five years on the job, which limited direct contact with street narcotics offenders. The train between the last mope he had put away and present was fairly long for retaliation. But the chance of a guy with a grudge could not be ruled out.
After half a day with the records of the Clerk of the U.S. Court, and McCoy asked Maggs if there was anyone in Dallas who had not been in Federal trouble. The Clerk’s records, however, coughed up two inmates McKnight had sent away and who had been released within the past year. One had OD’d within a month of discharge from the Federal joint. The other was easy enough to find: Jacob Moncrief was one of the stern-faced guards on the gate at Skyview Marine.
“What are you doing tonight, partner?” McCoy glanced across the seat at Maggs.
“If you’re asking me out, pervert, you know I already have a—”
“No, I got nothing special to do. Thinking about sitting on Stephanie’s condo a couple hours later on. I want you to go home to your man and let me do this... And don’t tell the lieutenant.”
Maggs stared hard at him. “Don’t — repeat, don’t — stop on the way home for a nightcap. Skid off your program and I’ll personally kick your ass, understand?” McCoy had played tight end at a small college. He knew she might kick his ass anyway.
“Yes, mother,” he chuckled, genuinely grateful for the support.
At just past 9:00 pm, McCoy eased to the curb a block down from the McKnight condo. The pavement retained a full load of the earlier blazing sun’s heat. Sticky humidity rode the night air like a fresh coat of paint. A well-worn Buick was parked in front.
McCoy called the dispatcher and learned the car was titled to a north Dallas citizen whose name meant nothing. In a common scenario, the current owner had probably not retitled the Buick and would not do so until the license plate expired. Or another suspect had just popped up. He requested dispatch to initiate a title search.
At 2:00 a.m., McCoy concluded the driver of the Buick wasn’t coming out before morning. He drove to his apartment for some sorely needed sleep. He’d intentionally waited until after bars closed, to avoid temptation.
* * *
Following a short night’s sleep, at 8:15 a.m., McCoy drove Maggs onto the Skyview Marine parking lot. He filled her in on the strange car parked at the McKnight condo.
Maggs grinned. “Hey, dude, maybe just her aunt from Lubbock or something.”
Entry to Clarence Gilderman’s office was less of a hassle than the day before. McCoy tossed Moncrief’s parole folder on Clarence’s desk. “How the hell did a guy just out of Federal prison get past a government security clearance investigation?”
“Uh... government program to help prior offenders. Restricted clearance doesn’t allow him into the building or to carry a firearm. Hey, Don brought him around.” Clarence punched up his glasses, his face showing concern. “I wasn’t in favor...”
McCoy studied Gilderman, thinking that this morning, he gave the appearance of a chicken trying to make change for a dollar.
“We’ll need to talk with him.” Maggs smiled.
Jacob Moncrief’s bulk over-filled a plastic chair in the Skyview Marine conference room.
McCoy propped his elbows on the table across from Moncrief. “Guy like you hears talk, Jake. Maybe talk about who’d wanna put a bomb on Don McKnight’s car. Maybe talk about a guy he sent to the joint who now has to work as a prissy security guard. You horse around and get sent back, your buddies in the cellblock are gonna learn you were working as some kind of cop, and they’re not gonna be pleased.”
Moncrief, as big as McCoy, with an ugly scar across the bridge of his nose, ramped up his tough-guy countenance. McCoy thought he looked as big as Houston.
His file said he was thirty-one and had no criminal record before being busted by McKnight for possession with intent to deliver seven years earlier. But the years inside, confirmed by penitentiary tattoos on his forearms, had earned him tough, cold, convict-hard eyes.
“You ain’t gonna put McKnight’s killin’ on me, dude. He was a sorry bastard, and he knew it. Stuffed me in the Federal slammer for ten to do. I was right out of college and shared a joint with him in a topless joint out on Harry Hines... uh, the Blue Blaze. There wasn’t no sale or delivery or resisting arrest or assault on a Federal officer.”
“Framed, huh?” Maggs grinned.
“Joke about it if you want, but when I got out, McKnight found me and helped me get on with Skyview. He knew he was wrong. Now y’all gonna get me fired. I ain’t killed McKnight or done no damn thing.”
“Who did kill him, Jake?” McCoy leaned closer.
“My name is Jacob, and I ain’t got no damned idea.”
The law offices of the two lawyers for whom McKnight had worked were less than a block apart on Commerce Street. Cat and mouse evasion, and several “he’s out of the office” devoured half a day before McCoy and Maggs managed a sit down with each of McKnight’s part-time employers.
Both had paid him for leg work in defense of several criminal defendants; both praised his work ethic and thoroughness. They denied any knowledge of any relationship McKnight might have had with defendants which would have caused anger, let alone violence.
“Hey, he was trying to keep them outta the joint,” observed attorney H. Brooks Cummins from behind his oak desk. Cummins was fiftyish, dark, with a thinning hairline above bushy eyebrows. He’d had cosmetic surgery around his eyes, leaving him with the strained facial characteristics of a monitor lizard. McCoy figured H. Brooks dripped a trail of slime like a garden slug.
* * *
Back in Homicide, Maggs banged on computer keys and looked up smiling. The actual owner of Skyview Marine was Metro Investments, Inc., with offices on Cedar Springs Boulevard. That the corporate president, Freeman Gilderman, had the same name as the general manager of Skyview Marine could not be coincidental.
“McCoy, the attorney of record for Skyview is H. Brooks Cummins. We just talked to that turkey. I suppose the attorney-client thing kept him from telling us he was involved with Skyview.”
“Could be he didn’t think it was important.” McCoy frowned. “Might not be. But never trust a lawyer. Cummins acted like a toad on a hot rock. Nerves, maybe.”
Freeman Gilderman seemed genuinely surprised when two cops showed up in his Cedar Springs office. When he heard “Homicide” he was mortified. Clarence Gilderman’s uncle, he was wealthy, with a financial empire including multiple real estate ventures and interests in several businesses. He owned one hundred percent of Skyview Marine.
He’d left the daily operation of Skyview to nephew Clarence and hadn’t checked the books in two years. He and Don McKnight had attended the same church, and Freeman had installed him as the contract security officer at Skyview “Just as a business decision.” Gilderman apparently didn’t trust his nephew.
“We need your written authorization to take a look at the company books,” McCoy said.
Freeman Gilderman picked up his desk phone, dialed, and said, “Clarence, couple of cops over here, from Homicide, for Pete’s sake. Give then all the look they want at company books. And Clarence, help them. Understand?” He hung up and smiled. “That as good as writing?” McCoy and Maggs walked out into the heat.
* * *
The next morning, Clarence was agitated but in control of his chicken persona when they sat around the small Skyview conference room table heaped with records. “There’s more in cabinets, right through that door.” He gestured and punched up his glasses before walking out.
After three hours, McCoy called Clarence back in. “Does every boat have a serial number? Sixty boats a week. With all the spray and stuff, isn’t it hard to keep track of your inventory? And are all the numbers painted on?
“Yeah, it would be chaos if they didn’t. Couldn’t tell one from another. Sometimes the number is covered by paint. In that case, we attach a metal tag with the number. Some workman called them “stiff katies,” and the name stuck. When sixty boats are produced, the serial numbers don’t lie.”
McCoy and Maggs were careful not to look at each other. “Where do you buy the trailers?” McCoy asked.
“Uh, several suppliers.”
“Does the military require a trailer with each boat?” Maggs asked.
“Yeah, they might as well buy them from us as another source.” He punched up his glasses. “Boats come in here with serial numbers already painted on. Gotta have a number to license the trailer.”
McCoy’s cellular rang. He stepped out into a hallway, talked for several minutes, came back holding his notebook. “Can you call Jacob Moncrief in here, Mr. Gilderman?”
“He didn’t show up today.”
“Moncrief is sleeping with McKnight’s wife.” McCoy whizzed out of the Skyview lot. “They just told me that Buick parked at her condo was his. I believe Moncrief was stealing boats from Skyview, probably with the help of those two guys they fired. McKnight caught them, and they killed him. Moncrief probably did the Klaster kid, also. Good chance Stephanie is involved someway. That other kid, Dwyer, could also be buried somewhere.”
“Lotta maybes here.” Maggs studied oncoming traffic thoughtfully. “Stephanie’s no saint. She could have milked McKnight for info, arranged for him not to be around when Moncrief and those boys were carrying off boats. He said her name when he died, I think. Maybe McKnight figured she had something to do with his murder.”
* * *
Copyright © 2016 by Gary Clifton