The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 23: A Lucky Find
Gears make the machine go around, but the machine may not do quite what’s expected.
With Maggs driving, we visited every conceivable retail outlet we thought might in some way be connected to the little plastic gear wheel from Dwight’s bombed vehicle. Appliance stores, pawnshops, even the overhead door company offered no suggestion as to what the part belonged to.
When we drove away from a pawn shop, I took the wheel. We circled through a church parking lot where kids were playing baseball on the grass. I slowed to watch. Several small children, playing with a remote, battery powered car on the driveway surface, grabbed up their treasure as we pulled through.
Maggs’s eyes narrowed, and she began punching at her iPhone. She looked over and smiled.
Joe’s Hobby Shop shelves were stocked to the ceiling with boxes bearing photos of model cars, airplanes, and boats. Assembled models were displayed inside a glass-topped counter. The clerk, a slender, acne-scarred man in his thirties studied the small gear, turned to a shelf, and tossed a box on the counter.
“These initials, L.B.C. are the logo for Lebocraft in Los Angeles.” He pulled off the cellophane wrapper and dumped the contents on the counter.
I pointed at the two cigarette-package sized black boxes with white buttons on the sides and plastic wires protruding from the inside.
“Servo,” he said. “Remote control system. Box with buttons in the hand, the other in the model car. Range maybe a hundred feet.”
“How’s it work?” I asked.
He bent up the plastic-wrapped wires attached to the ends of each box. “Antennas.” He dropped two AA batteries into each box. As he turned the small dial on the outside of the “hand” box, the second box responded, moving little gears identical to the one I’d picked up at Stick’s murder scene. The design was intended to guide a model car. Maggs and I exchanged glances.
I handed him a ten-dollar bill and he dropped the contents into a plastic bag. “You keep records of sales of these things?”
“No, and I doubt any shop does. These come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Gotta mail in a card. Maybe call the manufacturer in California.” He turned away to another customer.
I dialed the number on the box on my cellular and reached a cheerful operator who promised to dig through records for the serial number on the gear and overnight me the results.
“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” Maggs said when I filled her in on the California reply.
“I’ll go by the office and check.”
“Why this horse-and-buggy rig instead of an electronic detonator like in the James Bond movies?”
“Cheaper, plus a lot less technical and complicated. With this arrangement, they just wire the remote box to the bomb, turn the drive wheel on the steering box, and the battery connection glued to the gears in the remote box closes manually. The wires make contact and set off an electric blasting cap. Just like flipping a light switch. Can’t hardly go wrong. No timer to wait out, no chance of a passing cell phone or cop’s radio setting off an electronic trigger.”
“Maybe very smart. Or maybe very unskilled technically,” she said thoughtfully.
“Either way, very vicious,” I said. “Maybe, if you pray, Stick will get himself killed by a model car.”
We spent too much of Friday afternoon sorting and trying to organize the stack of records we’d printed out with no new info developed.
I read and reread the employee files we’d gotten from the owner of Resources. The small firm may have made outstanding orthopedic aids, but the employees led unexciting lives. Not one had a record beyond a traffic ticket. The orthopedic shoe lead was still going nowhere.
* * *
When I rolled into my apartment complex, Tim dashed across the hot grass. “Don’t forget my baseball camp tomorrow, Mr. McCoy.” He grinned.
Of course I’d forgotten. “No problem, I didn’t forget,” I lied, contemplating if that was really a lie in Hell-talk. “Your mom has arranged a carpool. Her friend is taking you guys to the field. She’s helping pick you up. If it rains, there’s a roof on the pavilion.”
Janet came down the stairs, looking good enough to eat. “Pasta for dinner, Davis McCoy?”
“Okay, but my stomach is upset. Not too hungry.”
She grabbed me in a rather sudden embrace. “You sure you’re okay,” her eyes were warily alarmed.
“I’m just glad I met you and Tim.”
She stepped back. “Boy, do we need to talk?”
I pecked her on the cheek and walked away to play catch with Tim.
She followed. “Hey, Tarzan, Tim told me about the guy with the binoculars... watching?”
“Probably the Rat Squad. IAD watching to see if I’m associating with unsavory characters like you.” I grinned.
‘I’ve been watching, doing counter-surveillance. Nothing.”
After Tim finally dozed off, Janet and I sat against her headboard. She was reading a novel. I read and reread copied cop records. Before we got around to anything serious, she’d dropped off to sleep.
I dozed, dreaming of servos and bombs.
* * *
Well after midnight, traffic in and around the apartment complex thinned. I’d learn later that a hooded figure quietly stepped out of a dark car in the parking lot, a shoe-box sized package in hand. The figure slid the box under Janet’s Honda van, tucked against the inside driver’s-side wheel, virtually invisible from outside.
A police car swung through the complex, illuminating the figure’s feet and the box beneath the Honda. The squad car passed, the officer not spotting the figure in hiding. The ghost walked back to a dark, shiny vehicle.
Shortly after, I received another sleep-denying cellphone call.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton