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 40: Hindsight’s Perfection
Guns: If you pull that hogleg, be sure you have a backup plan.
The drive was five miles, and the Cutlass had no emergency lights. I drove through the usual obstacles, including yards and bus stops. If I ran any citizen down, I never heard more about it. Maggs, riding shotgun, and Harper, wedged in the back seat, alternately expressed a combination of “watch it” and “arrgh.”
At the Crawford mansion, the massive steel gate hung open. The house was dark. I gunned the Cutlass up the winding drive, circled the house, cut the headlights, and coasted to a stop at the maid’s house. A single light was visible at a side kitchen window.
A black Lexus was parked nearly out of sight behind the cottage. Maggs dialed 911 again on her cellular.
“Stick’s supposed to be dead in that blast, and Polly’s soon going to be.” I quietly bailed out of the Cutlass. “Maggs, walk around back. The kitchen door here on this side is open. Me and Harper will go in there.” Harper and I drew our Glocks.
Maggs pulled her pistol from an ankle holster and disappeared around the house. Harper slowly opened the side door and stepped into the kitchen. The sharp clap of a pistol broke the night air. Harper grabbed his chest and slumped to the floor just inside the doorway. His pistol clattered to the linoleum. My God, I’d already gotten one partner killed a month earlier. Now...?
And there she was. Lola Blue, tall, slender, blonde, a strangely attractive clone of the Bride of Frankenstein. She was standing at mid-kitchen, holding Polly in front of her as a shield.
She reflexively fired a second shot at Harper as he fell. The bullet hit me in the left foot.
The pain was excruciating. I stumbled against the doorjamb but stayed on my feet, straddling Harper. His breath was shallow, labored, hollow.
Her second shot had given me a split second. I raised my Glock, steadied it with my left hand and aimed it at the center of Lola’s face ten feet away. Polly, limp and unconscious, sagged in Lola’s arms. Lola was supporting her with her right hand, a .25 pistol jammed into the old woman’s ribs.
The left hand, which held the pistol, had an infected wound and was shaking almost uncontrollably. Lola flashed the pistol toward me, then back to Polly. She saw I had the drop on her.
A pool of crimson was forming around my left foot. I would quickly grow weak from shock and blood loss. I steadied the Glock with both hands and kept it centered on her face. “Lola,” I managed, “talk to me. I’d like to hear your story. You’re much prettier in person than in your photo.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” she sobbed. “They all knew Lola’s secret. I had to kill them.”
“I know your secret, too, Lola. Of course, you had to kill them all... The first two from the Blue Frog, Elgard from Couples, Ivan from the Reddi Mart, Kuznov, Martha in her red boudoir, and Stick, your pimp? You were in Parkland to finish Ivan after you botched the first attempt. And worst of all” — I steadied the Glock — “you tried to murder my lady friend, Janet.”
“Lola wiped the earth of all of them... and more, fool. Lola has no pimp. She has needs.” The voice was strained, scratchy.
“I figured that.” I was growing weaker.
She nodded. “That whore-pimp Norman I hated the most. Him and his damned rope trick. He taught me, and I used his trick.” She again waved the .25 wildly. “He whined and begged like a baby.”
I pointed my chin at Polly. “She didn’t know.”
“She saw Lola... I couldn’t take the chance. Now you lemme go,” she shrieked insanely.
“How did you get Kuznov tied up? He had to know.”
“Little lovin’, a little cocaine, a little rohypnol... the same with them all. They were all jealous of Lola, and Lola finished them.”
“Date-rape drug... pretty clever. You bombed that dime-bag doper, Dwight. Why?”
“Favor to Kuznov... Dwight was a snitch... You oughta know all about that, big boy.”
“Have you had the sex change, the surgery, Lola? Lola is such a lovely name. I checked. It was your mother’s name.”
“What do you know of sex change? How could you know? My mother was a monster. She was jealous of Lola too, the bitch.”
“She died in a fire.”
“I burned the witch. Because of her, I’m like this. And I almost got that whore you sleep with. I was aiming at you. Thought you’d use the Honda van to haul those brats to baseball.”
It had been Lola who been watching me and knew my schedule.
“And it was you with the binoculars?” Makeup was beginning to run down her heavily perspiring face. Her infected hand was shaking.
“Lemme go or I’ll shoot this old hag.” She flashed the gun at me, then back to Polly.
“Killing gets a little easier with practice. You notice?”
“You should know, copper.”
“The State Department file on your ordeal in the Middle East... You were held prisoner by some Iraqi warlord?” I was bluffing, insinuating I’d seen the file. I hadn’t. “That must have been awful for you, Lola.”
“Chained to a post... used like a common whore. I bit that emir freak’s pride and joy off. When I came back, I couldn’t... stop.” More tears followed.
“Maybe in your dreams... I heard the U.S. Government sent a S.E.A.L. team to pull you out. Then you murdered your mother.”
“Not murdered: eradicated. And I thought you’d read the State Department file, genius?”
“You didn’t manage to kill Ivan, but it doesn’t matter. He’s too dumb to testify against Lola, right? And I bet you don’t know Stick survived your little bombing trap tonight. You tripped your servo before he got the overhead door all the way open.”
Her look was horror, failure. “You’re lying.”
“Give it up, Lola. Stick’s back in Parkland.”
For all I knew, Stick was dead, but the lie was handy. I struggled to steady my Glock on her face. Polly’s head was only inches below and my hands were trembling, barely in control. The pain and blood loss in my foot were getting to me.
“They’ll put Lola in one of those hospitals the way my bitch mother did. Lola didn’t like it there. She won’t stay. Next time she won’t miss. Kill that kid, Tim, too.”
“Fatal comment, Lola.” I increased trigger pressure on my Glock. This monster had nearly murdered Janet and now threatened Tim. If she killed me in that kitchen, they’d be wide open to more savagery. She’d get no further chance.
“I’m afraid I don’t fully understand, Lola. Are you gay?”
“I hate your ass, McCarthy,” sweat and tear-borne makeup gushed down on Polly’s shoulder. “No, I’m not gay, you insensitive pig.”
“So the prostitution thing, the sadistic murders weren’t a sex thing?”
“Right on, copper.”
“Are we going to find a bunch of John Doe victims from Johns you had sex with?”
“Lola didn’t need sex, McCarthy. She killed as many as she could.”
“It’s still McCoy, Grifford. And you won’t get another chance, Lola, you naughty girl. Fighting weakness, I squeezed the trigger, holding the sight pattern between her eyes.
The explosion in the small room roared like a fourth of July cherry-bomb. Lola’s head splattered up the side of a refrigerator and across the wall. Her blonde wig skidded on the floor in a blood-soppy clump. Polly slumped to the floor.
I slid down the wall and sat beside Harper. My pistol, which should have been leaking smoke and cordite, was clean. I blinked and focused on the barrel. The gun had not been fired!
“Damn, McCoy, were you gonna talk that freak to death?” Maggs stepped over me, a wisp of smoke wafting from the barrel of her pistol.
“Think he shot the little toe off my left foot.” I dug at my boot.
She knelt beside Harper.
“He’s hit in the chest... Bad, I’m afraid, but he’s still breathing. Can you give him mouth to mouth, Maggs?”
Maggs, tough athlete that she was, rolled Harper over and gave him five exhausting minutes of her best combination mouth to mouth/chest compression. Finally she came up for air.
“He’s breathing strong and regular but, my God, McCoy, his breath tastes like he just licked a sewer drain. Suppose that’s fatal?”
“Cigar breath.” I crawled closer. I had managed to pull off my left boot and sock. Grifford had taken off the little toe on my left foot like a skilled surgeon. I reached up and pulled down a towel for a compress.
Maggs resumed resuscitation procedure, then came up for air. The sound of a siren drifted in on the night air.
“Don’t stop, Maggs,” Harper groaned, “at least till the ambulance gets here.”
I crawled closer. “How bad you hurt?” I ripped open his shirt to find a damaged metal cigar holder. “Good grief, Red, you ain’t even shot.”
“Yeah, but it hurts like hell, and that mouth-to-mouth is very comforting.”
“You’re only shot in the cigars?” Maggs spouted angrily.
“Told y’all I was gonna get a metal cigar holder.”
“Pervert!” Maggs said. “I oughta shoot your ass. In fact, I think I will.” She stood upright.
“Hey” — he looked up — “thought you was enjoyin’ it.”
“Loser,” Mags snarled.
“Hellfire, I get shot at, then shot, and Maggs has no sympathy.” Harper sat up, digging in the shattered cigar case for a functional smoke.
Maggs glared at him. “I repeat, dumbo: shot in the cigars.”
We all laughed. Harper would survive. The dead monster on the floor would not. Two young patrol officers stepped warily through the door, pistols drawn.
“Anybody gonna pull down Grifford’s britches and take inventory,” Harper looked over at Grifford’s nearly headless corpse. “Any bets on whether he’s male or female?” He dug a single, only slightly damaged monstrosity from the cigar case.
“No wonder we couldn’t flush Lola out” — I watched the pool of crimson spread around Grifford’s head — “she didn’t exist.”
More patrolmen and two EMT’s entered. “The old lady there just fainted. Can you guys help her?” I said.
“Sir, you can function fine, missing a little toe,” one of the EMT’s reassured me.
“Hey, you’re still nine up on Ivan.” Maggs grinned. She wasn’t going to kill Harper after all.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton