The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 41: And in the End...
The Ancient Rule of Police Management: We’ll send the fools out in harm’s way. They must be simple, expendable. If they fail, we’ll say they disobeyed orders. If they succeed, we’ll raise taxes and tell the people we did a good thing.
Harper and I were plopped on separate gurneys in Parkland emergency. They’d left the curtain between our two cubicles open. Harper, shirtless, with a thermometer and cigar stub in his mouth, had a large ice pack on his chest. A resident and two nurses were sewing up my severed toe. “Too badly mutilated to sew back on,” the doctor said over his silver spectacles.
“Considering what could have got shot off, Doc, it’s not such bad news,” I wise-cracked.
They’d pulled off my pants and were working through a surgical shroud. “This is not your first bullet hole, officer.” The resident tapped my thigh.
My hard-to-locate physician, Dr. Epstein, shuffled in, waving a sheath of papers. “All over the news. Said you’d suffered a leg wound and your partner was shot in the chest.”
“He’s got a toe wound, and I’m out eight... no, seven more cigars,” Harper said behind Epstein. “Also ruined my brand-damned-new stainless, guaranteed against tarnishing for life cigar case.”
“Maybe there’s a warranty,” Epstein said.
“There ain’t no damned warranty for gettin’ the thing shot.”
The resident surgeon chuckled. “Harper, you ingrate, it saved your life. I’ll buy you a new one.”
I studied Epstein’s perpetually somber face. He was wearing the funereal version. “How long, Doctor? How much time do I have?”
“About forty years, McCoy. Damnation, man, I’ve been trying to to reach you. You have an ulcer. We can knock it in a week with antibiotics, but no coffee or booze.”
I sat up on the gurney and hugged Epstein, who stood meekly flabbergasted.
Escorted by a patrol officer with Tim close behind, Janet burst in. She eyed the embrace and stepped back. “Is there anything I should know?”
I released Epstein. “Yes, baby, clear your calendar.”
“What the hell, McCoy,” she said, astonished. “Did your wound make you delirious?”
“I love you. Will you marry me?”
Dr. Epstein and the emergency room crew showed broad grins all around, then stepped discretely out.
“Well, that’s the best offer I’ve had... at least today.” she said in partial tears. “I’ll check my appointment book. I need to get over ringing ears and find a new car.”
She bent over the gurney and gave me a lingering kiss, then turned to Tim. “Baby, now you can call Mr. McCoy ‘Daddy’.”
Tim beamed. He clambered up onto the gurney. “Great, Mr. McCoy!”
Harper, cigar stub in place, sat upright, then stepped off his gurney, a tear forming in the corner of an eye. He blinked frantically. His ice pack clattered to the floor.
“The ears will clear up,” I said.
Like magic, the curtain opened and a graying man in a physician’s smock stuck in his head. Looking at Janet, he said, “Ma’am, I’ve been told you have some residual ringing in your ears from an explosion. I’m Dr. Barnes, head of Audiology here at Parkland. While you’re here, I would like very much to administer a couple of tests to see if you have any permanent damage. I have a classroom full of students today who’d love to witness the procedures. There would be no charge. It would take about an hour.”
After urging by Harper, Tim, and me, Janet reluctantly followed the doctor out through the curtain, waving goodbye. Tim stayed put on my gurney.
Maggs hurried in, a folder in hand, having passed Dr. Epstein, the emergency room staff, and Janet in the curtained hallway. “What on earth is everyone crying about? I just said ‘Hello’ to Janet in the hall, and all she said was ‘Huh’. Harper is standing up and looks alive... at least partly. Too bad.”
“We’re all happy because you’re gonna tell us Grifford wasn’t gay, just a whack job,” Harper said.
She looked hard at Harper. “Whack job? Gay, transgender, cross-dresser? None a factor with this screwball. He might have been nuts, but he sure as hell didn’t have any. I bullied his psychiatrist into releasing the record. Grifford was like an earthworm: asexual. He had sex-change surgery, all right: self-inflicted, and it damned near killed him. Mama took him to the nut house. He signed himself out and then burned her to death in her mansion.”
“Confirmed he self-emasculated himself?” Harper asked.
“Right before he offed mama, which they could never pin on him. Emergency doctors overhauled the mess he’d made.” She smiled. “Think they did a plumbing correctomy.”
“Surgeons and cigar cases: gotta love ’em,” Harper said while rolling his cigar.
Maggs waved the psychiatric file. “Grifford had been consumed with homicidal ideation since childhood. Mama covered for him for years. His shrinks say he was devoid of any sexual leanings or urges. Whether he had or didn’t have genitals had no bearing on any form of professional classification of sexuality.
“If he ever had any sexual direction, it was lost in insane hatred. He was a stone killer whose only pleasure was killing. Any men he engaged in acts of prostitution were either in grave danger or are in the grave. No sex, just violent resentment and murder.”
Harper cleared his throat and nodded to Tim. Concentrating on her folder, Maggs noticed him for the first time.
“Uh... hello, Tim.”
Harper said, “Whack job, all right... mentally and knife-wise.”
“And by the way, while you two were lounging up here loafing, we found the .25 pistol used to shoot Ivan. It was in Grifford’s car. And the DNA on the gold ring is Grifford’s, which means he also killed Martha.”
“So Grifford killed them all except Buttercup, the pimp,” I said. “Man, if he’d had another few months to run wild, he would have eliminated half the criminal element in the area.”
Harper added, “Plus any John Does or other victims we haven’t connected to him yet.”
Maggs smiled. “Stick will be released from the hospital in a day or two. He’ll go directly to jail for murder of Buttercup, plus several other charges. He’s got a a double police detail sitting on him. The DA figures he’ll get two hundred years.”
Harper snorted, “Sucker might live that long; he takes a lot of killing.” He hesitated and studied the floor. “McCoy, how the hell did we miss Grifford’s hand when he showed up at Kuznov’s place, while we were running the warrant?”
Funny about hindsight; it’s not always correct, but it is often astounding. “Red, I remember it clearly now. While Grifford was going ape, he had his left hand in his pocket. Crossed my mind he might yank out a pistol and shoot somebody. Damnation, if I’d ordered that nut to show both hands, this case would’ve been solved on the spot. But I thought a wimp like Grifford was harmless.”
Harper laughed, holding his ribs in pain. “You, too? Hey, I thought he was just an ass, not Jack the Ripper.”
Maggs interrupted our reminiscence by going back to her file folder. “And Polly’s gonna be fine, With Martha belly-up, old man Crawford’s daughter in Houston will inherit his entire estate. She says Polly can live in the maid’s house as long as she wants. Polly had seen Lola but hadn’t snapped onto the Grifford connection. She’s got it figured out now.”
I asked, “What was the glue that held the principals together — Stick and Kuznov — to Grifford? I thought he blew his fortune.”
She dug through her folder. “Yeah, he blew mama’s money, but Grifford and Kuznov were heavily into smuggling girls, heroin, stolen jewelry, and God knows what else in those metal containers where I found the four dead girls. Old Man Crawford actually sent panel vans to U.S. Customs with magnetic signs on the sides covering the “Crawford” logo. They were making millions. Stick was the man on the ground: pimp, fence, logistics. We’ve recovered enough records to charge Stick with that, too.”
“Damn, damn, holy jam,” Harper exclaimed. “Maggs, we’ve solved a stack of homicides.” Still shirtless and shoeless, he bear-hugged Maggs, lifting her off the ground.
“Harper,” she groaned, “I haven’t given up on shooting your ass for the mouth to mouth stunt.”
He laughed. “Loosen up, Maggs. This might get you outta the Dead Bin, especially if you show some of that mouth to mouth to the lieutenant.”
Lieutenant Oliver walked in. He looked in astonishment at Harper holding Maggs off her feet. He adjusted his gold-rimmed glasses. “Mouth to mouth? Guess y’all know, nobody in the Dead Bin gets overtime for working late unless I pre-approve it.”
All of us crammed in the stuffy little area, Harper, Maggs, and I looked at him, expecting another diatribe. Nobody had requested or even considered overtime.
“Look” — he forced a smile — “I already put in a chit for overtime for last night, guys. This is a damned fine investigation. How bad is it, McCoy?” He stepped up to my gurney.
“Little toe... didn’t need it anyway.”
Lieutenant Oliver said, “Look, you three are due some credit — a chance to get out of the Dead Bin — like work in IAD or personnel, doing background investigations.”
“IAD? The Rat Squad?” I spat.
“Personnel?” Maggs asked thoughtfully
Harper broke in, “Uh, Lieutenant, McCoy and Maggs need partners,” He stood shirtless. “I only got a year to pension, then fishing every day in east Texas. If they want out, okay, but I’d just as soon stay... sir.”
“Leave the Dead Bin and miss the greatest show on earth?” I echoed. “I’m okay.”
Maggs nodded agreement. “With all due respect, sir, we’d just as soon stay.”
“I agree with Maggs and Harper,” I said. “I’m thinkin’ we all three stay in the Dead Bin, if we have any say in the matter. Particularly if I can receive permission to kick the dog crap outta Clark next time I see him.”
The Lieutenant showed a trace of a smile.
The trauma room curtain was open. In the hallway, two patrolmen, quickly assisted by two more, were struggling with a wild-eyed, naked, pony-tailed man with a giant spider tattooed on his chest and many more tattoos on his body. “Yes, I killed that monster,” he shrieked. “He stuck a magic turnip up my ass! Only Satan can get it out!”
Harper laughed like a braying mule, Maggs chuckled. Oliver stepped out into the hallway to survey the situation.
Having witnessed the struggle in the hallway, Tim slid off my Gurney. “Does it hurt, Mr. McCoy?” he asked, wide eyed. “Can I see your sore toe?”
From down the hall, the naked man shrieked again, “Magic turnip in my ass.”
“Mr. McCoy,” Tim asked, “what’s a magic turnip?”
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton