The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 27: Cemetery Games
Fishing is similar to catching fugitives in that the only ones that count as statistics are in the cooler. The ones that get away don’t count.
Maggs, Harper and I clustered up again at Denny’s.
“Okay,” I said, shuffling papers on the counter. “We have two burned to death from the Green Frog. One ending up equally dead and tied to a motel bed, who was picked up at Couples. Our snitch, Dwight Elsworth, blown partially into the ionosphere. And, Martha, who loved everyone, literally, bludgeoned to death in her bedroom, probably by someone she knew.”
Maggs suggested, “I vote for the Russian.”
“Or Stick,” I added.
“Or both,” Harper chimed in.
I nodded. “Somebody’s been watching me and must have figured out more of my schedule than I’d like.”
Maggs reiterated her suggestion. “Kuznov?”
Harper rolled his unlit cigar stub. “I think that damned Russian is somehow behind the whole load. He was behind importing the girls and forcing them out on the street. Coulda got rid of them just so they couldn’t spill what they knew. Kuznov offed Dwight so he couldn’t talk either.”
I looked over at the husky redhead. “Did Martha know — and trust — Kuznov well enough to let him into her house late at night?”
Maggs was doubtful. “Martha would have let in a donkey if it had amorous intentions. Maybe we’re looking wrong. Stick could have done the girls and Martha both without the Russian.”
I tried sorting probabilities. “Kuznov could have been good for murdering the two girls, but do you guys really think he would’ve also murdered the male vic from the Green Frog? The first two are basically sex crimes, but I can’t see that Russian cozying up to a male vic.”
They both nodded in agreement.
“We know Wendel Penski, also known as Wendi LaPenn, received three servos, one of which I dug out of the floor of Dwight’s vehicle. What say we go bust his ass and see what we can learn about servos. Hell, he’s almost gotta be our bomber.”
“And maybe the kook who tied three humans to a bed and burned them alive,” Maggs added.
* * *
Maggs and I would ride together in the Cutlass. Harper had checked out a little yellow Plymouth. We tried circling Fair Park and the surrounding hooker-haunts for several hours Saturday afternoon. Lots of ladies were out in the heat, but no dumpy he-she with watermelon cloned, add-on boobs and a blonde wig.
As the sun began to slant to the west, generating even more heat, I told Harper by cellular we were going to sit for a spell in the parking lot of a closed service station near Grand Avenue and Cullium Boulevard across from the Grand Avenue entrance to the park. We shared the parking area with about ten scantily clad hookers standing in what little shade the place offered against the blazing sun.
Two different ambitious girls tentatively approached the battered Cutlass, possibly thinking of making a sale. Both jiggered we were the law from ten feet away.
“Damn, McCoy” — Maggs studied the hookers — “these chicks are wearing colors visible for a mile. Maybe keeps them from being hit by a bus.”
“Good news is, they didn’t waste a lot of material. Several are wearin’ only a handkerchief. And little ones at that.”
A pimp whom Washington and I had busted, called “Buckets,” whizzed up in a black Altima, apparently intent on running two civilians out of his cash-cow location. He stepped clear of the car before he recognized me. He backed up slightly, hesitant.
I got out. “Hey, Buckets, how’s it hangin’?” I grinned. “Thought you were in the joint. You break out?”
“Parole, man, first o’ June. Damn, McCoy, you gonna play hell bustin’ anybody ’round here with your white-assed face showing?”
“Pimps are supposed to drive Cadillacs, dude.” I looked at his Altima.
“Times is hard, McCoy, da’um, man. What y’all want?”
“He-she calls herself Wendi LaPenn. Got a little warrant for her. Give her up, and it’s less competition for your girls around here.” I leaned on the Cutlass fender.
“Damned freak,” he spat. “Gives them cheap headjobs behind a dumpster. Cuts an honest whore outta work.” Buckets was a true entrepreneur. An honest whore was certainly a unique perspective.
Harper took that inopportune time to roll up in his yellow Plymouth, more or less wearing the little car rather than driving it. He stepped out, and Buckets backed toward his Altima. “Ain’t did squat, Harper.”
“Hey, Buckets, heard you got out.” Harper lit his cigar. At Harper’s appearance, the few remaining girls casually drifted away.
Buckets leaned close to my face. “Saw the bitch you lookin’ for further on down Second Avenue not ten minutes ago. Go bust her fake ass, so we can conduct business around here. A blond, wearing some freaky yellow outfit, as usual.”
Buckets crawled into his Altima and spun off. Two close encounters with the cops at the same time was enough to induce heart failure. He’d have to stop around the corner and snort a line.
Harper walked over to the Cutlass just as a leggy, very attractive hooker slinked by. One look at us and she hurried slightly. “Damn, I might marry that one.” Harper exhaled toxic smoke.
“Me and Washington busted that one once: delivery. Name’s Melvin somethin’. You ’n him would make a nice couple.”
“Hell, he still looks better than my ol’ lady.” Harper’s boisterous laugh drove the fringe of hookers farther away.
Maggs leaned across to my open window. “Damnation, Harper, that stogie smells like a dead rat.”
Suddenly, Maggs, still sitting in the Cutlass screamed, “There, there, comin’ up Cullium. Yellow shorts. Gotta be Wendi.” She bailed out.
Two hookers still on the opposite corner of the service station and two across the street shed their high heels and scattered.
Mopes like Wendel could smell cops from a thousand feet. He pulled off his heels and broke across eight lanes of busy Cullium Boulevard traffic, dodging and weaving NFL style.
Maggs, in running shoes, was after him like a cheetah on prey. She dashed across screeching traffic and followed Wendel into the Grand Avenue entrance to the park.
Harper ran for his Plymouth, and I plunged the Cutlass into traffic. I spun the Cutlass to opposite side of the park, just in time to see the yellow shorts clamber over the eight-foot fence into an alley. Maggs went over the fence like it was just another Saturday afternoon in the park. Wendel’s yellow shorts were prominent as he scrambled across the rapid-transit tracks adjacent to the fence. He ducked between houses, angling for Haskell Avenue.
Across Haskell was a gated cemetery. Wendel ducked in the gate. I could see Maggs had turned in the wrong direction. Banging the Cutlass across yards, I turned down Haskell and circled the cemetery. Harper saw the yellow shorts duck in the gate and followed on foot.
At the rear of the cemetery, I climbed over the fence and caught sight of Wendel dodging through grave markers heading straight for me. Harper was chugging along about a hundred feet behind him. Wendel didn’t see me. I waited behind an oak tree.
Then suddenly, he stopped, turned, pulled a small revolver from his shoulder bag and fired a shot at Harper. Harper went down but bounced up like a Christmas pop-up doll. Wendel ran another fifty feet, turned again and fired at Harper twice. This time Harper went down and didn’t get back up. My aching gut lurched at the sight.
As Wendell was looking back, I hit him with a full shoulder block square in the add-on boobs. The sensation was like colliding with a pair of basketballs.
Maggs appeared on the run from behind me. She’d gone around the block and came to the sound of gunfire. “Harper’s down.” I pointed. “Go see.”
Wendel was lying face down, knocked goofy on the grass, his blonde wig beside him like a used towel. His revolver, a .38, had skidded out of his reach. I dropped a knee in his back.
“You’re smashing me, man,” he shouted in a definite male baritone. His artificial anatomy was against the ground.
Assisted by Maggs, Harper staggered up. “How bad you hit, Red?”
“Hit? I ain’t hit at all.”
“Well, hell no.”
“Then why in Aunt Sara’s name you layin’ over there on the ground?” He appeared outwardly undamaged.
“Dirtbag was shootin’ at me and I was outta gas. Wasn’t layin’; kneelin’. Maggs, you ain’t got a cigar have you?” He slumped, using a tombstone for a chair. “This sucker made me ruin my cigars when I fell.”
Harper stood back up, drew his Glock and pointed it at Wendel on the ground.
“My God, Harper, no!” Maggs said.
Wendel, terrified, bit into this standard little ruse like a large-mouthed bass.
I said, “Gonna go ahead and let the air outta this skank. There’s an open grave over there. Maggs, bring the shovel.”
Maggs stood in wide-eyed horror at the prospect of witnessing a murder. I gave her a wink and nod.
She caught right on and joined the act. “Don’t blow no brains on me, Harper. They damn near made us on that one you did last week.”
Wendel, snot-blowing hysterical, rolled over on his back, chest pointed skyward. “I’ll tell y’all anything you wanna know. Mother of God, don’t shoot.”
A uniformed sergeant and two patrolmen hurried up, responding to calls of shots fired. The sergeant grinned. “Damn, Harper, you look like you just ran the Olympics.”
“You got a cigar, Slattery?” Harper asked.
The sergeant pulled a monstrosity from his shirt pocket. Harper lit it and contaminated a large area of south Dallas.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton