The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Davis McCoy, a veteran detective on the Dallas police force, is relegated to the “Dead Bin,” a kind of “doghouse” reserved for cops who have annoyed their superior officers. When McCoy investigates a series of bizarre homicides, he has to work his way past hostile management as well as the criminal underworld. Even the most hardened veterans of law enforcement will be amazed by what he finds.
Chapter 1: Off on the Wrong Foot
The sharpest knife, ill-used, will dull and fail.
July in Dallas is hot, humid, steamy. Fate, I suppose, is the easiest to blame for grinding out a series of blunders, bad judgment, pure evil, and bizarre relationships that would quickly chunk the three of us, Detectives Harper, Williams, and McCoy together in the trash heap. The climb out would be a nominee for the damnedest show on earth.
Evidence would eventually show us that tough old Alfred J. Crawford, naked as a newborn, a pink rabbit puppet on each hand, was chasing his bride, Martha, wearing only the $22,000 ring Alfred had bought her, around her boudoir. At 83, Alfred had the libido of a man thirty years younger. Just ask Martha.
“Gotcha this time, you little she-devil,” old Alfred rasped, sucking desperately for breath.
On all fours, she scrambled around a bedroom floor which was painted, carpeted, furnished, and trimmed in brilliant red.
On the fifth pass, Alfred hesitated, stood erect, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he dropped deader than the Mayan Empire, gurgling his last on Martha’s brand-new red carpet. The path to this juncture had not been simple.
Martha crawled over to the corpse and uttered, “Well, I’ll be damned. Thought you’d never croak.”
Alfred, a once penniless redneck from Palestine, Texas, had, sixty years earlier, landed a job driving a delivery truck for a large Dallas wholesale liquor distributor. He’d married his high-school sweetheart, Esmeralda, and raised two children.
By the time he turned seventy, the old man owned the whole shebang, now naturally called Crawford Liquors, plus a hundred million dollars in real estate for good measure. Old Al was also heavily engaged in other activities which would become large, then larger.
Then, one Sunday, Esmeralda dropped dead during services at the Savannah Avenue Church of the Limb of the Lord.
To borrow from the vernacular, old Al was screwed. Well actually, more appropriately, he wasn’t. So he sought an outlet. One night his driver stopped at a cluster of streetwalkers working along Skillman in East Dallas.
With a mound of bright red hair that stood atop her head like a top hat, Martha Jo Ragsdale, 32, young in earth years, but pushing eternity in lady-of-the-night-land, slinked over to the limousine. Martha was largely used up, but Arthur never saw beyond thirty pounds of hearty American chest.
A hooker since 14, with a six-page record of arrest for prostitution, she had once been a shiny, sexy, keeper. Even now, under proper circumstances, she could look passing fair if she stood far enough clear of the street lights. But Martha was painfully aware she was rapidly approaching the “shot in the ass” stage of working the trade.
She slinked into that long black car, showed old Al twenty-seven wonders of lust he’d never imagined and, in four months, was married to him, living in his huge north Dallas mansion and sporting that diamond the size of a radish. Martha decorated the master bedroom in brilliant red — cathouse red — with a fully mirrored ceiling. Then Arthur, totally committed to an evening of frivolity often practiced by newlyweds, conveniently fell dead, clad only in Chinese hand puppets.
Wearing nothing but enough makeup to grow a crop, she inspected Alfred’s prostrate carcass. “You old skunk, tell me you’re really dead this time.” She poked him in the ribs tentatively several times before breaking into a triumphant smile. “There is a god after all,” she sighed.
She stood, lit a filter-tip cigarette, tossed Alfred’s hand puppets into a closet, then pulled on a thin, see-through robe — bright red. She dialed 911 on a scarlet red telephone at her bedside, then hung up and dialed a second number.
A half-hour later, the bedroom was crammed with cops, E.M.T.’s, and a morose, slender man who wore a jacket labeled “Medical Examiner.”
“We were having sex, officer,” she told Detective J.E. “Red” Harper from Homicide. Harper, big, rough-cut, was easily recognizable by a flaming rim of red hair surrounding a bald head, sort of like an emerging tulip bulb on Mars. A quarter century earlier he’d been an offensive lineman at a major university. Aging, under six feet, with the build of a bulldog, Harper was still well known among the Dallas thug-world as an aggressive and outspoken, tough customer.
“Kinky sex game went south, Martha?” Harper held his notebook.
“That, Mr. Cop, is none of your business.”
Harper, street-wise and insightful, recalled rumors that Crawford Liquors had been investigated for importing items other than liquor, but recalled no specifics. He also knew Martha as a long-time streetwalker.
“I guess you’re now the sole owner of the old man’s business?” He gestured to Ol’ Al’s body, now being stuffed, like a Thanksgiving turkey, into a large plastic body bag by the M.E. and a pair of uniformed cops.
“Perhaps you’d best speak to my attorney.” She nodded toward a slender, thirtyish man with strangely penetrating, angry blue eyes who stood in the bedroom doorway, his entrance blocked by a uniformed officer.
Harper motioned the uniform to allow the man inside. “Red Harper... Homicide,” Harper flashed his badge and extended a hand to shake.
“I know who you are, Harper,” the man replied icily, declining the cop’s hand. “I’m H. Brooks Grifford, Mrs. Crawford’s attorney.” His voice carried the caustic air of cyanide. “I am advising her to terminate this interview and to answer no more Gestapo questions. There’s no indication of homicide here.”
Harper, never the paragon of diplomacy, took the greasy lawyer’s bait and countered with a very dumb comment. “Well, Mr. Grifford, I could always run my foot up your ass and walk down to the corner.”
“You’ll be sorry you said that, Harper.” Grifford’s voice dripped venom.
Harper studied the nasty man at length, contemplating following through on his threat.
A uniformed sergeant interceded, pulling Harper aside. “Harper, Internal Affairs is gonna be all up in your ass. This mope Grifford has plenty of juice. Stay away from him, or you’re gonna end up in the crap bucket.”
The sergeant’s admonishment would prove prophetic.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton