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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 30: Casualty of War

Feeling important brings on a certain rush. Problem is, a guy in a spotlight makes a pretty good target.

I was in the Dead Bin early the following Monday morning. Wendel and the attempted murder of Janet required a stack of paperwork. Meanwhile...

* * *

Ivan and several other men were rolling dice in a spot of shade on the rear stoop of the Reddi Mart, passing around a quart of muscatel wine. Talk was loose and dangerously specific.

Ivan took a pull on the bottle, then slurred drunkenly, “Tellin’ you fools, them cops got Stick and that chick Lola by their asses for shootin’ Buttercup. That McCoy, he a secret guvment agent, part o’ the CIA. He can put a secret chip in your ass any time he wanta.”

“That’s wine talkin’ there, white boy,” said a grizzled man wearing a battered Texas Rangers baseball cap. “Secret agent, crap. He jes’ another cracker cop.”

Ivan pointed to his backside and held up a hand in the “shh” position. “He tol’ me ’bout a ’lectric device stuck up my ass. By the guvment. I’m gonna get a RE-ward for helpin’ out.”

“Better shut your talkin’ hole, boy,” a second man said. “Ain’t smart around here to run your mouff.” He looked around suspiciously. “You know somethin’ ’bout who kilt that pimp, Buttercup, you need to dummy the hell up.”

“Y’all gonna see,” Ivan struggled to his feet with his canes. “Time to open the store. Y’all don’t know nothin’ noway.”

Ivan fumbled with a key and let himself in the back door. He switched off the alarm and unlocked the front door, leaving the buzzer lock intact. He apparently never saw the shiny car parked a block away, the driver studying the scene with binoculars.

Shortly, the bell on the front door rang. Ivan looked out at the visitor, smiled recognition, and buzzed open the door.

The visitor raised a small pistol in a bandaged left hand, supported it with the right, and shot Ivan three times in the chest at six feet. Ivan’s face registered shock. He fell on his back, canes scattering, legs twitching spasmodically, toeless feet upward. The visitor leaned down, aimed the pistol in Ivan’s face, and then without firing, turned and walked casually back out the front door.

* * *

I was busy trying to break and ride my bronco of a computer when my cellular buzzed. It was, of all suspects, Mulroy, the detective from upstairs.

“Robbery? Where? Who?”

“Somebody let the wind out of that goofy Ivan Klaster. He had your card in his pocket. Lieutenant wants you at the scene.”

“Who called it in?”

“Wino sittin’ on the back steps heard the shots. Saw Ivan on the floor through the window.”

By the time Maggs, Harper, and I arrived on the scene, an ambulance had hauled Ivan away, but the Reddi Mart was crowded with emergency vehicles parked in front and cops inside. The first units arriving had kicked in the front door after being stifled by the lock and electronic buzzer. Two guys from Homicide were interviewing a pair of winos in the back doorway.

“We don’t need you guys here, McCoy.” Clark, the sharp-tongued inept detective, waved us away.

“Witness in an old case, Clark.” I leaned close. “Your lieutenant ordered us down here. When you start giving the orders, I’ll give a crap what you think. Until then, back up.”

“Where’s the body, Clark?” Maggs asked looking around. “Already in the morgue?”

“Didn’t kill him.” Clark thumbed his notebook. “Ivan said ‘Didn’t think that sucker would shoot me’ before we transported him. Seemed to know the shooter.” He turned back to the witnesses.

We talked on the sidewalk in the heat out of Clark’s earshot. “Stick looks the best candidate for this.” Maggs gestured to the Reddi Mart. “And I want to favor him for doing Martha, too?

I said, “Ivan is a possible witness in Stick’s murder of Buttercup, but why kill Martha?”

“She knew too much,” Maggs suggested.

Harper rolled the cigar stub across his lips. “Good God, we need to go back to Denny’s and re-count the players. Hadda be Stick who killed this dumb store clerk so he couldn’t testify about Stick murdering Buttercup. Hell, maybe Stick just included Martha for old time’s sake, which don’t make a lick of sense. So we got the Russian, uh, Kuznov, killing the two girls, Zophie and Elgard, but Stick doing Martha and this store clerk, Ivan? Then who the hell killed the Penski guy from the Blue Frog?”

“Same person who murdered the girl from the Blue Frog?” Maggs asked.

I nodded. “We need to find Lola Blue... bad. I have an APB for her. All we got is that group photo, but every copper in Dallas is looking for her. Shouldn’t be that hard to turn up.”

Harper lit a fresh stogie extracted from a metal case in his inside coat pocket. “We bag her, then sweat her, she probably knows plenty. Maybe sumthin’ about sumthin’, which is a hell of a lot more than we know.”

“Unless Kuznov and Stick already dumped her in the weeds someplace,” Maggs said.

We spent time that afternoon, running traps on locations where Lola might be doing business. Needless to say, we caught nothing.

Proceed to Chapter 31...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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