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 37: Connections
Forensic Evidence: You think you got it figured out, dead-bang certain? The lab squints will bust your bubble without a blink.
Maggs met us on the morgue parking lot. We found parking places in the overloaded area and hurried through light rain into the building.
“LaPeer at Crawford Liquors had a hissy,” Maggs said, “but he’ll take the polygraph first thing in the morning. I called and made him an appointment. I still don’t see him involved in multiple murders.”
Dr. Emily Rosetti was bent over a gray desk in a small, glass-enclosed office in the center of a large room amidst the usual sea of naked, dead bodies spread about on the usual gurneys. Her green lab coat looked as if she’d butchered a chicken. The reality was more severe.
“Yeah, I did the Russian this morning, first thing. Homicide was down here. Clark got sick and heaved in the trash can.” She laughed. “They left pronto.”
“We busted Kuznov yesterday, Doc... er, Emily,” I said. “We think he may be connected to the same cold homicides we already told you about.”
“Kuznov and the Green Frog Murders are connected?”
“The train is a little longer than that,” Maggs said, “but, yes, he may be in the caboose. We got a serial killer at work, and we have no damned idea where to turn. Our best suspect is a pimp named Stick.”
Rosetti flipped open a folder. “Kuznov was tied with the same knots as the others... And I know knots.” She tossed out a close-up photo of the knot residue on Kuznov’s remains. “Doused with a low-volume flammable liquid and torched.”
“Like Scotch whiskey?” I asked.
“Could be. I sent a sample upstairs to Trace, for analysis. Check before you leave; they work pretty fast. And stop by Ballistics. Alan Jung, the gun guy, was down here this morning. Said he had info.”
“Anything else on Kuznov?” I asked.
“I suspect the killer sexually mutilated him with a very dull knife. We’re talking genital amputation.” She stepped to a counter and held up a small glass jar containing a nasty, ominous specimen.
“Damned if I know why. The first male vic, the Green Frog guy, was too badly burned to tell if this atrocity happened. And speaking of that guy, his DNA specimen was a familial match to the sample Maggs dropped off the other day from a guy named Wendi. Is that the right name: Wendi?” She looked at her notes.
I explained Wendi LaPenn or Wendel Penski was a prostitute and brother of the Green Frog victim from a year before.
“The brother’s name was Norman Penski.” I tossed his RAP sheet on the table. Rosetti copied the name and date of birth into her folder.
“Something else, Emily.” I laid the ring from Main Street Pawn on her desk. “Note the speck of tissue you might want to pull for DNA testing.”
She stepped to a microscope, compared the ring to the small ring stand recovered from Martha’s cheek, then smiled. “This ring was on the hand that beat Martha to death. We’ll get on this tissue sample ASAP.”
Upstairs, the pretty girl in Trace Evidence was seated on a stool, peering into a microscope. She looked up and smiled. “Got the Trace evidence from the fire vic overnight.
Kuznov?” I asked.
She spun to a table behind her and handed me a report. “Flammable liquid consistent with ethyl alcohol, as in whiskey. Probably as much as a quart poured over the victim. Caused a slow, unbelievably painful burn.”
Gasoline burns at a much higher and hotter rate than alcohol, particularly when the alcohol is distilled into liquor. Gasoline would have consumed much more of the Russian, probably including the rope remnants the morgue had recovered.
“Bless you, my dear.” Harper grinned as we walked out.
Down the hall, Alan Jung was sitting at a lab table, surrounded by firearms. Guns lay on table tops, hung on the wall, and were probably clogging all the closed drawers around the room.
“You have a .25 pistol we brought by for comparison with some tissue the morgue sent up?” I asked.
He stepped to a microscope, slid a sample beneath and motioned for us to look. When my turn came, I saw that the lans and groves of the ballistics sample matched. He inserted another slide and we all looked. The lans did not match the grooves. We had supplied only one gun. “Somebody wasn’t killed with Stick’s gun?” I asked.
“The .25 you brought in from an Isaac Terrell was used to kill the other pimp... whatsie.”
“Buttercup?” I filled in the rest.
He looked at his notes. “Correct. Stick — or at least his gun — murdered Buttercup. It was not used to shoot this other guy, Ivan Klaster.” He looked up.
“Oh my,” Maggs said. “We’ve just solved Buttercup’s murder. Stick’s ass is now officially grass.”
“One solid murder case against Stick,” I said. “That oughta be a hit he can’t handle.”
Harper rolled his cigar stub. “And another shooter using a .25 to cap Ivan Klaster.”
As we walked out, a Morning News headline in a vending machine caught my eye. “Burning Bed Monster Strikes Again. Cops Stymied” was splashed across the front page along with a photo of Kuznov’s office building.
Maggs leaned forward to read the headline. “The nutballs are out tonight.”
“Yeah,” I said, “and one of them is a homicidal maniac.”
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton