The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 12: Pushy Cop Types
Toupees: a breadth of fresh hair.
Surrounded by an eight-foot, concertina-topped chainlink fence, Crawford Liquors sprawled over six or eight acres on Industrial Boulevard just west of the imposing downtown Dallas skyline. The glitter of the massive marvels of glass were within eyesight of several homeless people sitting along curbs. But downtown affluence was as unattainable to those souls as singing soprano in the New York Metropolitan Opera.
The uniformed gate guard, armed with a night stick only, examined our badges, then telephoned someone, apparently the manager inside.
A tall, slender man wearing a cheap, brown wig stood on the loading dock, hands on hips. I trailed Maggs up the concrete steps. We both showed identification.
“Ralph LaPeer,” he said, not bothering to reach for a handshake. We followed the wig into the cooled warehouse office and took seats across an oak desk from him
“Told you, officer” — he looked at Maggs — “when you were here after Mr. Crawford died, I didn’t approve of his marriage to that slut. That damned attorney, Grifford, has suddenly decided he represents Martha and not me or Crawford Liquors. They’ve since approached me, demanding fuller access to company records and, in particular, to company cash. I’ve told them Texas law provides at least half of Mr. Crawford’s estate belongs to his daughter in Houston. Lawyer Grifford has gotta know that.”
“Grifford strikes again,” I remarked.
“Yep.” He leaned back and plopped both feet on the desk, shod in expensive ostrich-hide boots. For a man who’d bought a five-dollar wig off the Halloween display at Wal-Mart, his taste in footwear ran considerably higher. “He’s as big a piece of crap as she is.” He sighed, rolling his eyes skyward. “I’ve slaved in this place seventeen years and now she... she wants me out.”
“Tell us about street girls in this office,” I asked.
“You mean Martha?” he was taken aback. “She certainly is one.”
“No, the ones Stick and the Russian, Kuznov, brought out for Mr. Crawford. You get in on that?”
“Mr. Crawford did in fact allow that nasty pimp Stick to bring him in some tail on the hoof. I had no part in it, had no way to prevent it, and resent the hell out of your implication.” He dropped his feet back to the floor. I wondered if the toupee was glued on.
“Kuznov using Crawford’s Liquor import license to bring contraband into the country, that part of your duties?” I asked.
“Eastern European girls. Sealed in metal containers. Maybe other stuff smuggled in too?”
“How the hell would they breathe?” His comment seemed sincere. Perhaps he was outside the loop, the smuggling loop, at least. Info on visiting hookers might require a different source.
“Like I said when I was out here before” — Maggs shifted in her seat — “sometimes they didn’t breathe.”
“That really is absolutely horrible.” He sighed again. Talking to him without concentrating on the hairpiece was tricky.
“We’re gonna need all import records for the last year, like we discussed when I was here before,” Maggs said rather sharply.
“You gotta warrant?”
“We get a warrant, I gotta friend over at ATF who will make you a hobby,” I said. “We can get a court order or even a search warrant. Save yourself some grief, Mr. LaPeer. This deal has some sharp edges. Don’t wanna see you cut your fingers.”
“I’ll have the girls copy everything we got and have them couriered to the Police Department by tomorrow or so.” His tone was resignation. I knew the feeling as I handed him a business card.
I leaned forward. “Have them there this afternoon and forget the ‘or so’ clause.”
His expression was a combination of fear and hatred, but the records should be on time.
As we drove out, I leaned back into the passenger seat. “Think ol’ Straw-Head LaPeer is dirty or just too naive to see the problem?”
“Goofy, arrogant, stupid.” She studied the street in front of us. “Dirty? Hard to tell. I vote for ‘probably not’.”
* * *
I made it home to my apartment fairly early. Across the lawn, Janet appeared on her balcony, then raised both hands, palms up. “You look beat. I need a full report on your first day as a homicide guy.”
“Try second-team homicide guy. I can be made to talk for only a small amount of spaghetti.”
Tim bounded down the stairs with two gloves and a baseball. I realized how glad I was to see that pair. My aching gut limited my pasta intake but, later, in the bedroom, I was spectacular. At least it seemed so at the time.
Afterwards, Janet lay nude beside me. She dragged a finger along the scar that ran from the corner of my mouth to beneath the ear. “You never told me what happened here?”
I grinned in the semi-dark. “He was buried at public expense. Brought a pocket knife to a gunfight.”
As I dozed off, I made a mental note to stop by the Sterrett Center to see what Dwight had to say about his Russian boss, Kuznov, after a month in jail.
I was going to get sidetracked again.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton