The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 11: Stage Right Star
Connections do indeed show up in the damnedest places.
Maggs was threading the Ford through heavy traffic. “Microchip...?” She laughed.
“That story has worked before.”
“That clown told me he had that white spot in his hair because his daddy knocked up his sister. Ivan’s mother is also his sister.”
Not easily surprised, I shrugged. “I’m impressed you’re into a pimp killing... an old one.”
“We’re stuck in the Dead Bin, remember. Old cases only. Any ragged-out, doggy case would be good if it gets me” — she turned to me — “us... outta here.”
“I only been in the Dead Bin four hours, and I already don’t like it. But put Ivan on the witness stand, and they’d tear him up. If he worked for DPD, he’d make sergeant in a year.”
“I’ve gotten murder convictions on less.” She smiled.
“I recall the pimp, Buttercup Thurston, but don’t think I ever had any close contact.”
“He’s moldering in the grave, courtesy of Stick Terrell.”
“You asked Ivan about Stick. Sometimes he has girls working right up here near Fair Park. Me ’n Milt busted him a couple years ago. Like Ivan, back there, said, name’s Isaac Terrell. Jr. They call him ‘Stick’ as well as I recall because he’s about 6-4 and skinny as a broomstick. Sale and delivery... Think he did a year.” I thumbed through her folder. “Yeah: associate, Martha Jo Ragsdale. I remember her as a street hooker with knockers like volley balls.”
“Yeah, except she got married since that file was updated. Martha Jo married old man Crawford, the liquor millionaire. She also buried him last month. Homicide looked at the old man’s case as a possible homicide. Case had no legs, and the file is probably down with us in the Dead Bin.”
“Motive, I understand.” I tossed the file on the seat. “Cause of death?”
“He was chasing her around the Crawford mansion bedroom, both naked with some kinda kinky toys we never fully figured out. He just dropped dead. Full of enough methamphetamine to kill a rhinoceros. Red Harper responded and got into some kinda trouble with a lawyer.”
“Speed, huh?” I said. “Maybe outta Viagra, trying a substitute.”
“Or she was trying to put him down like an old dog, which he sure as hell was.”
“You know, Maggs, me ’n Milt heard talk that Crawford Liquor was mixed up with that Russian Mafia guy, Kuznov. Might be using Crawford’s import license to smuggle something besides booze.” For the first time in over a month, I thought of Dwight, the gorilla suit, and that Russian.
“I’ve heard the same thing.”
“Why don’t we pay the widow a visit?”
Maggs dialed her cellular and made an appointment. In twenty minutes, we were winding our way up the very long, immaculately manicured Crawford mansion drive in the midday heat. A button at the massive front door brought thirty seconds of Beethoven.
A wizened old lady, late seventies or so in a black maid’s outfit, lace collar and the works, answered. We stepped into a foyer furnished in flame red to hear a door click upstairs.
“Who is it, Polly?” The coarse voice wafted down.
“PO-lice, Miss Martha.”
Martha, figure voluptuous in a red, semi-transparent robe, glided down the wide stairs, a single button holding back mounds of boobs. Her street face displayed more makeup than the corner drugstore.
Calling Martha a prostitute was like calling Josef Mengele a medical pioneer. She was more a walking tyranawhorus-X of prostitution. That red robe button was a potential lethal weapon if the boobs decided to escape.
“Thought I was done being harassed by cops,” she spat.
“Remember me? Washington and I talked to you when we busted Stick.” I held up my badge.
“When you framed him, you mean? I got no contact with the man these days.” Her eyes said liar.
“Grand Jury might ask harder questions about Stick killing Buttercup,” Maggs said. Her dislike for Martha flashed like a neon sign.
“Honey, you don’t scare me for crap. I had the guts kicked outta me by the best. An’ your black ass don’t make no difference.”
“We’re not to that stage, Martha,” Maggs said disgustedly, ignoring the racial slur.
“You need to speak with my lawyer: H. Brooks Grifford. We’re through here.” She started back up the stairs. We heard a high powered engine crank, then speed around the side of the house.
“Customer?” Maggs pulled back the hallway drape.
As we pulled through the huge gate, a black Lexus cut us off. The driver, a slender, pasty-skinned man with piercing blues eye stormed up to Magg’s door. We both got out to confront this angry citizen.
“Leave my client alone. Talk to her again without my permission, and I’ll sue the hell outta you both.”
“And you’d be...?” I asked. I already knew the answer.
“H. Brooks Grifford, Attorney at Law, you oversized palooka. Your bully tactics probably got you that scar on your cheek. Remember, tough guy, the bigger they are...”
Actually, a doper with a dull pocket knife had presented me with the scar, but I saw no need to discuss it with this low-rent shyster or respond to his taunt.
“I remember you, Grifford. You repped Stick when we sent him to the joint. Guess even you’re smart enough to know we talk to who we want, when we take a notion, so good-bye.”
Grifford slammed back into the Lexus and spun off. “Wonder how he got here so quick?” Maggs looked genuinely puzzled.
“Probably him we heard whiz around the house. Noontime quickie, maybe?” I said.
“I know Grifford, too.” Maggs pulled out of the driveway. “Mama made him go to law school. Inherited millions when Mama died in a fire. Squandered it all away in a year or two and is now one of six thousand lawyers in Dallas County... and a low-rent one.”
“Yup,” I said. Grifford was not much of a lawyer, but had a rep for being hooked up to half the thugs in town.
“I was in the middle of Crawford Liquor’s business when I got sidetracked,” Maggs said as she drove down Preston Road in the simmering heat. “Manager is a real jerk. I figured he was right in the mix, smuggling contraband in using Crawford Liquor’s license.”
“The case I was working was four foreign girls, Russians as far as we could tell. No ID’s, drowned in one of those metal containers that come through Customs all the time. The addressee was bogus: non-existent, a total phantom, but only one digit away from Crawford Liquors. I’d imagine that single digit would be ignored, and those canisters were meant to be delivered to Crawford Liquors. We prove that, we might get somewhere on the four girls’ deaths. It’s now cold and in the Dead Bin files.”
“I heard about the four girls in the import container. Think Martha is involved?”
“Martha usually only gets involved when she can take off her clothes, but she’s probably boob-deep in the Russian’s business. And we know she’s somehow hooked in with Stick Terrell.”
“I gotta snitch in Sterrett who thinks Crawford — old man Crawford — was involved with a Russian mobster named Kuznov.”
“What say we drop by Crawford Liquors?”
“Maggs, do you supposed that lawyer Grifford actually represents every sorry toad in town?”
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton