The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Davis McCoy, a veteran detective on the Dallas police force, is relegated to the “Dead Bin,” a kind of “doghouse” reserved for cops who have annoyed their superior officers. When McCoy investigates a series of bizarre homicides, he has to work his way past hostile management as well as the criminal underworld. Even the most hardened veterans of law enforcement will be amazed by what he finds.
Chapter 22: Unusual Connections
Questioning versus Interrogation: Witnesses are always more forthcoming when they know you already know the answers to the questions.
The Police Department lobby was alive with activity the next Friday morning, and I had an unusual clarity born of less than four hours’ sleep. A four-hundred pound guy was screaming at the desk sergeant. Somebody had stolen his Cowboys ball cap. Two hookers shot me the finger from a bench. Repeat offenders, I figured.
Maggs was banging away on her computer in the Dead Bin basement.
“You know, McCoy, our files show all sorts of extra personal stuff on a lot of people... except any real record of Lola Blue, state or nationwide. And Wendi LaPenn is also only a ghost. No true ID on either, any damned place. Maybe her real name is Wendi LaPenn.”
“Maybe they sleep in a vampire’s crypt during the day.”
“Also, nothing I see as irregular in those Crawford records. And I got these from Vice.” She tossed a group photo of several prostitutes standing on a city street corner. The street sign read “Skillman Avenue,” a popular hooker gathering place.
The surveillance team had red-inked numbers above the heads of most of the crowd. Number four was labeled on the back of the photo: “Lola Blue, no additional info.”
“Maggs, that’s none other than Martha Crawford, née Ragsdale, standing next to her.” The photo was in fact labeled “Martha Ragsdale.”
“Time to revisit ol’ Martha?” Maggs looked up expectantly.
“Suppose she’s out of bed this early?” I asked. “Not that she’s gonna say squat.”
“She don’t hafta get out of bed to go to work.”
With Maggs driving, we started for the Crawford mansion. She said, “Prostitutes tend to be gender-neutral. Suppose Stick brought Elgard and Zophie out for Martha’s play toys, or old man Crawford’s, or—”
“That would be a jump ball, Maggs. Hard to assign positions on a deal like that.”
When the mansion doorbell played Beethoven, Martha herself answered. She was wearing her standard costume of see-through red robe fastened across the bulk of her chest with that single button. I prepared to jump clear of that button if she sneezed.
We both held up badges and stepped inside, uninvited: standard cop procedure. “Save wavin’ them badges, I know you clowns are the law. Whadda you want?”
I flashed the grainy group photo of the ladies of the night.
“Dunno none of them people.”
“How about Lola Blue?” I touched the photo.
“Never heard of her.”
“Martha, that’s you standing beside her,” I said.
“Look genius, I was on the street. So were plenty of others. Don’t mean I knew who the hell they were.” Her eyes said “lie,” which was as good as a confession, but useless in court.
“Stick got a new chick to bring out for your dessert. Now Zophie and Elgard are both dead? He bring ’em out, then kill ’em?”
She seemed uncharacteristically surprised, alarmed, her eyes darting about. As we left, she picked up an entryway telephone and dialed rapidly.
“Probably calling her lawyer, ol’ H. Brooks,” Maggs said. “Sort of surprising he wasn’t parked out front.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But Martha is into lovin’, not sadism. I have trouble thinking of her killing anybody.”
“McCoy, did it ever occur to you that this Lola Blue might be some sweet suburban housewife who gets off on turning tricks, then goes home to the family? That’s happened before.”
“I’d be more inclined to say she rides off on a broom when off-duty. But, Susy Homemaker? Anything’s possible in this business.”
* * *
Ivan buzzed us in the front door of the Reddi Mart. He might have slept in his clothes. The store smelled like a dog had peed on the carpet, except there was no carpet.
As we walked in, he was backed up to a small mirror, trying to inspect his backside.
Maggs laid photos of Zophie, Martha, and Elgard on the counter along with the group hooker picture. “Ain’t seen none of ’em,” Ivan began.
Maggs laid her finger on the suspected photo of Lola Blue in the group shot. “Don’t lie to me, Ivan.”
“Miss Maggs, I mighta seen that one. But none of them others. That skinny blonde mighta come in here once with Buttercup, ’fore she took up with Stick. Name mighta been Lulu or Lula. But, it was too dark when Butter got shot to tell nothin’ ’bout who was there in the street.”
“You’re an important cog in this deal, Ivan,” I said. “Help us and we help you. There’s always that old arson case.”
“I ain’t never found no chip in my ass,” he whined, “but it sure would be nice to be somebody important once in a man’s life.”
“Definitely supervisory material,” I muttered in an aside to Maggs.
* * *
Maggs swung into traffic. “Does it make you wonder, McCoy, what Buttercup and Lola Blue were doing in a dirty little out-of-the-way convenience store?”
“More like, why was Lola Blue with Buttercup, then suddenly, she’s Stick’s girl? Pimp-jumping is usually grounds for at least one or two killings.”
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton