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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 24: A Friendly Little Murder

No law says you have to open the door late at night, especially if it’s to someone with murder in mind.

Martha, as well as we could tell, had been lying on her red bed watching a late movie while sipping red wine. When someone apparently rang the long-symphony doorbell, she stumbled down the stairs, peeped through the hole, and opened up.

Invited or not, the visitor entered. Chomping her wad of gum, Martha started up the palatial stairway.

The first blow glanced off the back of her head, but the metal pipe gashed her shoulder. She screamed and fled up into her red bedroom. The assailant followed. A second blow crushed her skull as she reached for the red telephone.

She slumped to the floor where the assailant delivered many more blows, brains and blood splattering the already crimson walls.

The killer, apparently wearing gloves, exited by the front door, leaving no fingerprints or DNA. The mansion and grounds were quiet, deadly quiet.

When stormy daylight showed through the east windows, Polly arrived in the kitchen and began rattling utensils to brew coffee. She stepped into the foyer. “No need to get up, Miss Martha; it’s jes’ me.”

Then Polly saw gore and stains on the stairway. She took a few tentative steps upward, saw Martha’s bloody feet, screamed and retreated.

* * *

I was snoozing in Janet’s bed when Homicide Lieutenant Oliver called. “Somebody clubbed Martha Crawford’s head into mush. Your business card was on her night stand. You need to get your ass out here pronto. The address is—”

“I know the address.”

Janet rolled over in bed. “What happened?”

“Somebody murdered a witness. You got any anti-acid tablets?”

“Yeah, in the medicine cabinet. Gotta work Saturday. Bummer.”

“Don’t forget to pick Tim up from baseball camp,” I pecked her cheek and was out the door. It had begun to drizzle again, good news for Dallas in August, hell on traffic. The indoor facility hosting Tim’s baseball camp was designed to protect from heat and, with a roof, it would function just fine on a wet Saturday.

I badged my way through the layers of cops. The red blood trail started halfway up the stairs. Lab squints were examining the bedroom and stairway while the rain-darkened early morning light strained to penetrate through windows.

Martha’s body lay face up, what little face remained. Her smashed head was less than half intact. Gore was semi-circled around her head. The robe button had finally failed, revealing Martha’s pride and joy.

The intrepid man-dork, Lieutenant Oliver, had dragged his royal body out of bed. He was standing in the red bedroom. Oliver had an odd habit of humming religious songs when standing like King Tut in the middle of a crime scene. This morning, his tune was “Rock of Ages.”

“Why’d she have your card?” he demanded.

“Cold case re-interviewed her regarding the murder of Buttercup, a pimp; a year or so old. Any sign of burglary?”

He shook his head.

“She was mixed up with Stick — Issac Terrell — a pimp. You gotta know already, Crawford Liquors was rumored to be mixed up in smuggling with the Russian mafia, and Stick was hooked up with old man Crawford.”

“Has anyone sweated Crawford?”

He died last month, Lieutenant.”

His look said he didn’t know what day it was, let alone anything about real crime.

“My God, Polly. The maid lives out back. Is she—?”

“In the kitchen being interviewed by my detectives. She didn’t hear or see anything, or so she says.”

An evidence squint looked up from the door jamb. “My God, there must be three hundred fingerprints between here, down the stairs and on the front door. Zero chance of ID’ing a perp. I see a bite mark on her shoulder. Maybe with a little luck, DNA.”

“McCoy,” the Lieutenant said dryly, “if you got no other business here, Homicide will take it from here.” He resumed humming “Rock of Ages.”

I must have let my poker face slide off center, because he said, “Bother you when somebody celebrates the glory of the Lord?”

“Yeah, hurts my ears.”

“Then beat it, McCoy.”

I’d have been disappointed only if he’d made a Christian comment.

This case had a dozen handles to grab, and I was under no obligation to tell that pompous prima donna anything. Well, maybe I was obligated, but I sure wasn’t going to.

Proceed to Chapter 25...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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