The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 20: Combing Garbage
Rodents prowl at night and sleep all day. That includes the two-legged kind.
Dallas summer heat is aggravated by the long, late-daylight evenings. Stick Terrell lived in an apartment complex in Near North Dallas, a blighted area immediately north of downtown that had been gentrified as a yuppie enclave with trolley cars and new buildings made to look old. Maggs and I were sitting in a Dodge across the busy street. Harper, in a Plymouth, was parked several spaces away. Dark clouds and lightning were forming in the western sky.
“He’s supposed to come to life around five,” Maggs said. “It’s fifteen past.”
“I got a baseball game this evening,” I said. “If Stick don’t show, my roomie can fill in. She played college softball.”
Harper broke in on the radio: “He’s comin’ out,”
The electronic gate slid open, and Stick roared out into the afternoon traffic in his black Cadillac. Harper pulled in behind him. Stick immediately “made” the police car and sped away, talking frantically on his cellular. In a block, traffic slowed, then stopped the Cadillac. He tried to cut through a service station, but Harper cut him off.
Stick stepped out onto the station pavement, then casually and nearly unseen dropped a pistol into shrubs at curbside. As we approached, he stood, hands defiantly on his hips. “McCoy, Jesus. Ain’t did crap. Why you hassling me, man?”
I stuck a pen through the trigger guard, pulled the .25 pistol from the bushes, and held it aloft. “We were afraid you might shoot yourself, Stick.”
Harper shoved Stick against the Cadillac and handcuffed him behind. “You’re under arrest Isaac. Littering. Gun in bush. Oh, and also ex-con in possession of a firearm.” He stopped and lit a fresh cigar.
“I want a lawyer!” The clouds began distributing large drops of rain.
A marked squad car, summoned by passersby, rolled into the service station. “Officer,” I said to the uniform, “we’ll transport this mope to Sterrett if you wait for a wrecker to tow this Caddie to the pound.”
He nodded, wrote down our badge numbers. Maggs and I transported Stick to the Sterrett Center hoosegow. Harper followed. Stick whined the entire twenty-minute trip.
Inside the massive Sterrett Center jail, thunder was rattling wire cages. The lightning was probably extreme, but jailhouses have few windows, especially in the interrogation room where we were sitting. I reached Janet by cellular. Baseball was definitely a no-go.
Harper leaned over and whispered in my ear: “Auto Pound already went over the car. I think they might’ve found another pistol.”
The Police Pound, on West Fort Worth Avenue, was obligated to inventory every vehicle that came through the gate. Lawyers raised hell daily, claiming the inventory process was an illegal search under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Supreme Court had declared otherwise. Cops one, lawyers zero.
“Your girl Zophie murdered, then Elgard,” I said. “Stick, the grand jury might indict you for being a general no-good dickweed.”
“I ain’t got nuttin’ to do with that.”
“We got ten or twelve witnesses saw you shoot Buttercup.”
“Crap, McCoy. You did and I’d be tagged with a murder case.”
“Hold your breath. We find Lola Blue, her testimony to save herself will get you the needle, tough guy.” Harper rolled his dead cigar.
“Never heard of her. Lawyer.”
“We catch the Russian, Kuznov, dirty. He’ll dump you like a dead cat,” I prodded.
“Don’t know no Russian.”
Maggs filled out the card which explained we’d read Stick his rights. She laid it in front of him and tapped the signature line. “Ain’t signin’ nuttin’,” he spat.
Not to my surprise, H. Brooks Grifford bounded in, red-faced, perspiring, agitated. “What’s the reason for this harassment, McCarthy?”
Stick’s earlier frantic jabbing at his cellular had been a call to Grifford. “It’s still McCoy, Grifford. Your client made an illegal right turn, fled when we lit him up. Hellfire, that’s organized crime.”
“Gestapo crap again. Let’s go, Stick. I already posted your bond.”
“Grifford, you got any clients that aren’t riffraff?” I asked.
“I don’t like you McCarthy... at all.” He stormed out.
Stick followed, stabbing me with hate looks.
“Oh, shoot,” I said as he cleared the door, “I so want to be liked.” The door slammed.
“Like or be damned, that pistol will get a convicted felon like Stick five years in the joint.” Maggs smiled. “Unless it was used to murder Buttercup the pimp.”
Baseball impossible, I crept up Central Expressway, exited at Mockingbird and pulled into a strip shopping center. I dashed through the downpour and took a seat in the rear of a conference room. Several present smiled at me. Up front, a lady stood and said, “I’m Olivia, and I’m an alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in three months.”
Janet had saved me some spaghetti when I got to her place. The rain had subsided somewhat, and Tim was asleep. Soon, we were sitting on her bed against the headboard.
She ran her finger down my inner thigh and stopped at a dime-sized scar. She looked up, eyes inquisitive.
“Close as that was to some vital plumbing, it really waren’t no thang.” I grinned in the dim light.
She slid closer and ran a finger down the jagged scar across by stomach. “Fell off a church pew,” I said. “You forgot to re-examine the one on my face again.” I turned by chin.
“You’re all beat to hell up, McCoy. You sure you’re okay?”
I rubbed across the stomach scar, lingering on the aching spot inside. “Sure.”
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton