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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 21: Run, Fool

If you gotta run for your life, don’t stop to pack.

I’d soon learn that across town, Dwight Elsworth was standing at the foot of a bed in a shabby apartment, tossing clothes into a suitcase. A mousy redhead stood by, wringing her hands. “Good God, Dwight, you said the cops would help you. Let’s call ’em.”

“The cop offered me protection. Washington is dead. His partner, McCoy, far as I know, is still under some kind of suspension. I’m beatin’ it to hell out of Dodge, baby, at least until that Russian calls off the dogs. That hadda be them took a shot at me last night.”

“Where you gonna go, baby?”

“Mama’s, down in Houston. You gotta call her.”

“You don’t know who shot at you.”

“They changed my bond status yesterday from no bond to a hundred thousand cash. Only Kuznov, that Russian, coulda posted that, to get me out and murder my ass. ’Cept it ain’t gonna work.” He patted a .38 snub-nose tucked into his waistband.

Dwight slammed the bag closed and ran down the apartment stairs, holding the .38 in front of him. Light rain continued to fall steadily.

“It’s past midnight, baby. Can’t we both go in the morning?” she called after him.

Dwight didn’t answer. He tossed the bag into the back of an old SUV, sprang into the driver’s seat and cranked the engine. Neither he nor the redhead saw the man in the distance in a dark car holding a black box, red light blinking, out the window of his car.

Dwight also didn’t hear the massive explosion that blew the SUV all over the parking lot, distributing bits of the vehicle and Dwight along the way. The redhead screamed and retreated into the apartment. The dark car slid away quietly.

* * *

Cellular hell again invaded Janet’s bedroom as I was dreaming of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

“You asleep?” Maggs asked.

“No, just sitting here reading the Bible.”

“Somebody blew Dwight Elsworth all over Gaston Avenue half an hour ago. Isn’t he the doper you and Washington ran down in the gorilla suit a couple months ago?”

“Yup.” I heaved myself upright.

“It’s a current homicide, but since you were involved in his arrest, I figure we can go by the scene without the Lieutenant twisting off.”

“Gimme the address,” I switched on the table lamp. In the freefall, I’d let Dwight slide through the cracks. If IAD figured that out, there’d be hell to pay.

The apartment lot was crammed with the usual glut of emergency vehicles, police and fire personnel, several news types, and the usual gawkers. I parked half a block down and wound my way in under the yellow barricade tape.

Maggs stood talking to Harper, his nasty cigar and rim of red hair prominent, even in semi-darkness. Light, steady rain was still falling, highly unusual for Dallas in August.

“Stir-fried dope dealer,” Harper grinned as I approached. “His girlfriend ID’d him.” He gestured to the blackened hulk of a vehicle. The vehicles parked on either side had been damaged beyond recognition. Minus arms, legs, and head, a burned torso was wedged at ground level against the front wall of the apartment building.

I studied the scene by flashlight. “My guess, maybe three or four sticks of dynamite behind or beneath the driver’s seat. Blew him forward into the building. Hard telling where his other parts are.”

Harper shined his flashlight upward. “We got an arm hanging on that utility line there. Lab squints are conducting a treasure hunt for additional parts.”

A homicide detective named Mulroy walked over. He was husky and wore gold-rimmed glasses. He said, “Guys, if Lt. Oliver finds y’all working on a current homicide, he’ll go ballistic.”

“Dwight here” — I pointed to the blob — “just posted bond on a case Washington and I put on him. We think the guy behind this bombing might be connected to a cold homicide: the Blue Frog murders.” To admit that our best suspect was the Russian would have been politically incorrect and none of Mulroy’s business.

“Jes’ tryin’ to save y’all an ass-chewing. Any suspects?” Mulroy asked.

“Well goodness, no,” I said. “Who’d want to kill a witness who could put Kuznov and a half dozen others away for fifty years?”

I felt a tad guilty for not reaching out to Dwight sooner. But aside from any use he might have had as a witness — and that wasn’t guaranteed — he was about as expendable as they come in street-speak.

I sat in my GMC until all emergency personnel had cleared the scene, then gave the burned-out hulk of the SUV another go-over by flashlight. Wedged in a crack in a rip in the metal floor, I dug out a plastic, dime-sized, wheel gear engraved with “L.B.C. 4682.”

The first team had failed again. Protocol, I suppose, dictated I should have turned it over to them. They were all full-grown and paid to look for evidence. They’d failed, and I was simply going to help them out a bit... in due time.

I drove back to Janet’s, grabbed a couple hours’ sleep and was in the Central Expressway road race by 6:15. We needed to show the photos of Zophie and Elgard to a couple of key players.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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