The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 18: Looking in Cracks
Of course the 4th Amendment prohibits unwarranted searches. But when the occupant of the place is dead and one’s ass is stuck in the Dead Bin, the line between an illegal search and a clever investigative technique tends to blur.
The Garden Meadows Apartments were just off Gaston Avenue amidst debris-littered streets and run-down homes and buildings. The manager, a skinny woman about thirty-five going on eighty with no front teeth, eyed my badge with skeptical indifference. Cops were frequent visitors to this address. Today, Homicide — the real ones — had been in her face for several hours, and her give-a-damn factor was near the floor.
“Buddy, after them other cops left, my man locked up the place.” She lit a menthol filter tip. “You got a warrant?”
“Drag your feet here too far, lady, and you can get yourself charged with interfering with a police officer. Now what apartment was Elgard in?”
“Like I tol’ them other cops, they was in 226.”
“Zophie and Elgard lived up there. Then Zophie got murdered. Murderin’ bastard burned the place. We rebuilt, and Elgard moved back in. Sweet Jesus. Now, Elgard...”
“She live there alone... Elgard?” I showed her photos of Stick and Kuznov.
“Zophie and Elgard was hookers, mister.” She tapped the photos. “Them two mighta been customers. Zophie had a skinny whore hang around some. Tall, unfriendly blonde.”
“Know her name?”
“Lulu... No, Lola... Lola Blue. Cold, hateful chick.”
It took a second to soak in. If Lola was, in fact the tall skinny number leaving Couples with Zophie, they were not strangers. She had just confirmed that Elgard and, by osmosis, Zophie were both acquainted with Lola Blue.
“Know any other names?”
“Hell no. Them kinda girls draw lowlife men like ticks on a dog’s ass.”
I thanked her and walked out. I started to step back in with a question about who paid Elgard’s rent and overheard her on the telephone.
“Hey, sorry to bother you again, but another cop was just here. Big, tough, rude sucker. Name was McCoy. Asked about Zophie and Elgard both. Yeah, you’ll mail me the twenty?”
As her voice trailed off, I would have bet my badge she said “Grifford” but bursting back in would have accomplished nothing.
I eased away, left by the main gate, then re-entered the complex via a rear entrance. I slipped the lock on 226 with a Visa Card. Drawers and all contents had already been tossed by Homicide.
In the toe of a shoe in the back of a closet, I found an envelope stuffed with hundred-dollar bills and a business card. The varsity had been careless. That dip from Homicide, Clark, had failed again.
The name on the business card was none other than H. Brooks Grifford, Attorney at Law. Penciled on the back was: “Wendi LaPenn 555-1234.”
“Hello, Wendi,” I said. “Who the hell are you?”
I pushed my way through the Police Department lobby, alive with the din of disorder and violence. Since two plainclothes officers were wrestling a biker type into an elevator, I walked the single flight of stairs to the basement.
Harper and Maggs were both banging away on computers. I briefed them on the connection between Zophie and Elgard. I did not bring up the search of Elgard’s apartment. “Got info Lola Blue might have visited Sophie and Elgard at their apartment.”
“Reliable?” Maggs looked up.
I shrugged. “You’d asked Ivan, dopey store clerk, about a blonde chick being with Stick when he shot Buttercup, rival pimp. Sophie’s mother said Stick was tight with both girls. I think that’s a good enough connection between Stick and this Lola Blue and the two girls, Zophie and Elgard, to keep digging.”
“One more time, if that dimwit Lieutenant Oliver catches us working on a current homicide, he’ll bust a gut,” Harper rolled his cigar. Maggs nodded agreement.
“Zophie is still a cold case just like it says there on the door,” I pointed my chin. “I’m thinkin’ I’d drive by Resource, Inc. and ask about that missing orthopedic ankle brace. Anybody wanna go?”
“Dry hole there, McCoy.” Harper rolled his ugly cigar stub.
Both Harper and Maggs begged off, pointing to their computers. Paperwork makes the cop world go by.
I locked the cash from Elgard’s apartment in my desk drawer before I left.
Resource, Inc. would close for the day soon. They’d still be there in the morning. I cranked my pickup and headed home.
I circled the block, then scoured my apartment parking lot before I parked the pickup. If anybody was watching with binoculars, I didn’t see him, although I had the strange sensation of being watched. Probably Illness Anxiety Disorder, I concluded. Or paranoia?
After spaghetti, Tim and I played scrabble. Guess who won?
“You didn’t eat much dinner,” Janet said after Tim had gone to bed.
I slumped on her sofa, patted my stomach. “Been having a little digestive upset.” The truth was far more painful.
“Maybe I can help clear it up.” She pointed toward her bedroom.
“I admire your optimism.” I followed her like a sheep. “You know,” I said impulsively. “I think I love you... and, Tim, too. But I have some issues... you know.”
“You’ll whip that, too.” She kissed me. She thought I was only making reference to staying out of the bottle. I’d save stomach news for later.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton