I hope you’ll forgive my foray into East Texas cooking the other day, but I simply couldn’t resist revisiting a few old childhood haunts in the last chapter, and May’s Café was one of those I had to include. I was flipping through an old photo-album yesterday and ran across several images of my father and I – getting on/off our motorcycles, no less – in front of May’s back in 1984 – which took me back to riding home after lunch. Funny thing, memory. I hadn’t thought of that day in years, maybe decades is more accurate, yet looking at that picture opened the floodgates. I could smell the café – her cooking, hear the air conditioner rattling away in the corner as I watched May working her magic at the stove. I’ve been in there when Willie Nelson was working on a song, on other occasions with my grandfather and his friends – but with my dad perhaps hundreds of times. Playing reruns from memory is a fascinating thing, too. If a flash hits and you sit still, close your eyes, it feels to me like you can really go deep into even the oldest memories. How accurate they are after 50-60+ years is anyone’s guess, but it seems to me that everything is there – just waiting to be explored again. Some of that stuff works it’s way into these stories, too. For what it’s worth.
Recalling those first times I went out on stage, in college, was a blast, too. I, of course, took another road, didn’t pursue music after school, and my own stage fright played a huge role in that choice, yet writing Outbound took me back to the Bay Area, to all the people I knew. Yes, even a few at MCA, which led to thinking about all kinds of “what ifs” as I lay there in bed. Thank goodness for MacBooks. Writing has been a good way to take inventory of my life, the good, the bad, the choices made. The roads taken, and the roads I turned away from. When I play a few of the songs I put together back then it all comes back. Comes together, perhaps.
Anyway, on to the story.
For those who’ve paid attention, one more character – Paul Edward McCarley – popped up in Chapter 2. Yup, the same Ed McCarley you discovered in The Dividing Line, one of my earliest stories posted at LIT – about the patrolman and the waif-street girl. McCarley figures prominently in Out of the Blue, second only to the protagonist, Pat Patterson, who’ll you’ll also meet, briefly, in this story. The “McCarley” figure is real enough; he was my FTO for a while and played the biggest role in my development as an officer. He was the conscience of the department, one of the most looked-up-to cops I ever ran across. Think balding, kind eyes and a mustache the size of a wooly mammoth and you’ve got him down. What made McCarley a cop’s cop is simple enough, too. He wasn’t a bully. He appreciated just what was at stake when you arrested someone, in effect depriving a person of their liberty.
You have to know what liberty means to understand what taking it away from someone really costs – all of us.
I keep thinking…if an Ed McCarley had boarded that United flight last month where the doc was assaulted and dragged off the plane, you’d have seen a video of a middle aged guy listening patiently, talking quietly, resolving the situation one way or another – without resorting to violence. My guess is most cops are taken from the Ed McCarley mold; it’s the loudmouthed bullies who make the news and they are a distinct minority in law enforcement. Good and bad, they’re both out there, but I think the good outnumber the bad a hundred to one. At least that used to be the case…
Cottage Cheese & Green Onions
When Dickinson walked into CID just before shift change that next Tuesday, he found Ed McCarley waiting for him in the hallway.
“Have a good day off, rook?” McCarley said – in his usual passive-gruff voice. And why did he feel like he was still being graded?
Still, Dickinson smiled when he saw his old FTO, if only because Ed was his favorite cop in the whole wide world. “What’s up? You look kinda – worried?”
“Maybe because I am. There was another one, late Saturday, early Sunday.”
“What? Where? We were supposed to get a call if…”
“Your witness, in her apartment. She and her boyfriend…cruciform knife wounds and a container of…”
“Let me guess,” Sawyer said, stepping out of the locker room, “cottage cheese and green onions.” She was holding up a copy of the report as she walked up to them. “We were watching the place after we dropped her off. Took her by Fair Park, got some tickets and an arm band, kind of an alibi, I guess.”
“It didn’t work,” McCarley said.
“I don’t get it,” Dickinson added. “We dropped her off then set right up; her door wasn’t out of sight for more than a minute. That means our perp waited for us to leave…”
“Or she was already there before we dropped her off.”
“That would mean she went straight there, from the peep show,” Ed said. “So, the perp saw her, that’s for sure.”
“Yup,” Sawyer sighed, reading through the report. “And I’d say she was well known to them, both to Sam and her boyfriend. To let her in like that…”
“That’s why I’m here,” McCarley said. “I’ve had a few encounters with Darius Jenkins. That’s her boyfriend, in case you haven’t read that far,” McCarley sighed. “Jock over at SMU, blew his knee and went into dealing full time after that. Runs a few girls, too, mainly underage dark meat to hotels out on Hines.”
“On Harry Hines?” Dickinson asked. “That’s where our…”
“Probably coincidence,” Sawyer growled, turning a page, still reading. “Another syringe cap, same brand and size. I’m thinking a disgruntled nurse, maybe recently fired?”
“So,” Dickinson added, “female white, mid-twenties, short brown hair? And a nurse? And we’ve got her Identikit drawing, too. Assuming…”
“Assuming she was straight with us. I think maybe she was protecting her dealer, who happened to be a friend,” Sawyer added.
“Then why’d Sam narc her out to begin with?”
“To cover her own ass, when the victim was found.”
McCarley nodded. “That fits. Also, my rook and I found a wig in a dumpster Sunday evening, about two blocks away.”
“Yeah. Whoever this is, she’s planning them real good, right down to her escape and evasion routes. She’s thinking things through, sticking to her plan.”
“So, a medical worker with possible military training? Like a medic?”
“Good place to start,” McCarley said. “My rook and I are floating tonight. I think we’ll work Harry Hines – in an unmarked.”
“What unit are you?” Sawyer asked.
“Okay,” she said, writing the number on her pad, “we’re 320, and we’ll check in with you on 2.”
“Got it,” McCarley said as he walked off to his shift’s patrol briefing.
“Well, let’s face the music,” she said, walking into CID’s evening shift briefing.
McCarley and his rookie, Pat Patterson, checked out a ‘76 Chevy Monte Carlo from the garage and turned out onto Harry Hines – into the early afternoon rush. Downtown would be last to flush out of the skyscrapers, but all the ancillary service types around downtown were pouring onto the streets now, and traffic was already heavy as they made their way past the Old Red Courthouse, and Dealey Plaza.
“Hard to believe it happened right here,” Patterson said, looking up at the window in the old school book depository – where Oswald leaned out and fired three shots that changed the world. “Were you here then?”
“I’m old, Meathead, but not that old.”
“So. Someone in the medical field. Short, brown hair, not real tall, not fat, not skinny. No vehicle. Possibly military, maybe a medic at one point. First murder was near Oak Lawn, near the old SO building…”
“The old Sheriff’s Office, over on Maple. Wasn’t a mile from where it happened, so maybe she knows the area. Works or lives around there.”
“Well, that means Parkland,” Patterson said, turning onto the convoluted ramp that led under the railroad tracks and up to Stemmons Expressway.
“So…” McCarley said – thinking out loud, “what’s at Parkland? The hospital, the MEs office…”
“There’s a medical school, too,” Patterson added. “What would an Army medic try to do after getting out of the military?”
“Go into nursing?”
“Or try for med school.”
McCarley looked at Patterson, nodded his head. “You know where it is?”
“The med school? No, not really.”
“Get off on Inwood,” McCarley added, then he guided Patterson to the med school. “Okay, let’s just cruise, see what we can see.”
After ten minutes they stopped, parked under a live oak tree and watched the two parking areas they had found reserved for students…
“320, 2171 on two.”
McCarley picked up the mic: “71, go.”
“UT Southwestern, scoping out the student parking lots.”
He put the mic back in it’s holder and looked at a bunch of kids coming out of one of the classroom buildings, zeroed in on two girls with short brown hair. One walked over to a vaguely yellow Honda Civic, the other to a white Mustang convertible, and he hefted a pair of binoculars to his face and called out the license plate numbers to Patterson, who then ran the numbers through dispatch.
“320, 71, whatcha got?”
“Short brown hair, one getting in a Civic, the other in a Mustang convertible.”
“What color is the Mustang,” Sawyer asked, thinking of the girl in May’s Café on Sunday.
“Get on her, now.”
“4,” McCarley replied. “What’s up?”
“Girl in a white Mustang convertible showed up where we were eating Sunday, scoped us out pretty good…”
“2171, have your 28 on 330-Paul Adam Ida.”
“71, go ahead.”
“Comes back to Rebecca Lykes, address on Belclaire, Highland Park.”
“Can you pull a 27?”
“320, 71, you on her?”
“4. Code 5.” Sawyer looked at Dickinson. “Couldn’t be this easy, could it?”
“Nope.” Dickinson cut through traffic, made it over to Harry Hines in a hurry.
“2171, have your 27 info on Lykes, Rebecca C, DOB 8-8- 59, no history, no CCH, no wants or warrants.”
“320, we need a marked unit to intercept.”
“141, 320, I’m coming up on 71 now. What do you need?”
“Field interrogation, and I want to do it. Make it a solid stop, not something feather-legged.”
“God,” Sawyer said to Dickinson, “how’d we get lucky enough to have a motor-jock in the area?”
“141, go ahead.”
“141, 330-Paul Adam Ida, 2700 Harry Hines.”
“141 at 1710.”
“Okay,” Sawyer told McCarley, “we’re close to Cedar Springs.”
“2171, show us out with 141.”
“Pull up ahead of ‘em,” McCarley said, and after they got out of the Monte Car they watched the Traffic officer talking to the girl behind the wheel – and she was getting hysterical, putting on quite a show. Crying loudly, then louder still when Dickinson and Sawyer pulled over and stopped across the street, McCarley watched her eyes darting around, surveying her surroundings.
He knew the type. She was an actor.
Sawyer and Dickinson walked up to the window.
“There a problem, Ma’am?” Sawyer said, leaning over to look closely at the girl.
“What-is-going-on?” the girl wailed. “What did I do?”
Sawyer just looked at the girl, trying to get a feel for her. An act, or really freaked out? Hard to tell. “What did the officer tell you,” she asked.
“That I was speeding, like 42 in a 30. Jesus, does it take five cops to write a speeding ticket?”
“No, Ma’am, just checking. You have a safe day now,” she said as the motor-jock walked up with his ticket book.
“Press hard, Ma’am,” he said. “You’re making three copies.”
After they let her go Sawyer asked everyone to meet up over by the Scottish Rite Hospital, and they drove over to compare notes and impressions.
“She’s hinckey,” the motor-jock said, meaning she was too nervous for the situation, probably hiding something.
“Agree,” McCarley added. “Nice act, but not sincere.”
“Well,” Sawyer added, “she’s the girl that made us at lunch Sunday. That might have been coincidence, or maybe not.”
“It wasn’t,” Dickinson said. “Something in her eyes. Cold. Broken.”
“A medical student?” Patterson said. “From Highland Park? What are you thinking? She’s doing it for kicks?”
“Yeah,” Sawyer said – looking at Patterson. “Who came up with the med school idea? You?”
“Yup,” McCarley said, jumping in. “Not bad for a rook, huh?”
“How long you been outta academy?”
“Two weeks,” Patterson said.
Sawyer looked at McCarley, shook her head. “Go over to her neighborhood, see if she goes home. If you see her, make sure she sees you.” She turned to Patterson. “What’s your background?”
“Psych major. UT Austin.”
“Okay. Ed, you two will probably need to let me talk to the WC first, but you two are on it now, with us. Start a tail on her, and we’ll keep it going for a few weeks. Stay on her til relieved, okay?”
“Got it.” They turned and left, and Sawyer made sure she had all the info from the motor-jocks ticket in her notes, then thanked him. When they were back in the Crown Vic she turned to Dickinson. “Downtown. We call the captain and the WC, let ‘em know what we have.”
“That car’s like a beacon, Becky. She won’t…”
“She probably won’t, true, unless she wants to up the thrill factor. She’ll more than likely try to shake any tail we put on her, try for one more kill to establish an alibi, throw us off for a while.”
“So, you think this is a game?”
“Yup. It’s in her eyes. Now, we wait for the next shoe to drop.”
“Daddy calls the mayor.”
“That address? Daddy’s either in banking, or more likely, oil. Daddy has influence. Baby girl is going to call Daddy, tell him what went down and tell him cops have the house staked out. Daddy’s going to get pissed and call the mayor, the mayor will call the chief…”
“Yeah, shit rolls downhill. I got that. So, what does it mean?”
“If it’s a traffic stop she’s worried about, she won’t do that. If it’s something bigger, she will.”
“And if she doesn’t, she’s not our girl?”
Sawyer shook her head. “No, she’s our girl. Sunday nails it. No way she showed up there out of coincidence. That was her one fuck up.”
“What it is wasn’t? If that was deliberate…?”
“She’s letting us know she knows who we are.”
“So…that was a warning?”
Sawyer nodded. “That’s the way I read it.”
“Do you think she’s leaving bread crumbs? That she wants to be…”
“I don’t know, John. But it wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened, would it? There’ve been a couple of serial killers – that we know of – who like the idea of outsmarting the cops. It all plays into the superiority vs inferiority thing you mentioned.”
“We’ve got to get more on her background…”
“Yeah, and we’ve also got to admit she might not be the one, too. It could all be coincidence, despite what my gut says right now.”
She was upstairs, highlighting passages in her biochemistry textbook, when she heard her father coming up the stairs outside her room. As usual, she heard him go to his room, take off his clothes and put on his running gear, then he stopped by her room.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
She got up from her desk and smiled, went over to her bed and slipped on her new running shoes, then they walked out the house together and stretched on the sidewalk – as they had almost every afternoon for the past five years. Since her mother’s death, anyway.
“How’d your day go?” she asked, trying not to look at the old Chevy across the parkway – with the two cops inside just staring at her.
“Oh, the Nigerian contracts hit a little snag, probably no big deal.”
“Oh? What happened?”
“The guy working on it on our end got himself killed last Friday. We’re trying to put the pieces together now,” he said as they took off down Armstrong Parkway.
“Nah…more like a pain in the ass. It’ll be over in a few days. What’s up at school?”
“Nothing much. Same ole same ole. Oh, I got a speeding ticket today.”
“Yup. Just got careless.”
“Want me to take care of it?”
“I already sent in the check, Dad. I’m not above the law, ya know, even if you think I am.”
“That’s my girl. You make me prouder ‘n prouder, Becka.”
“So, Thanksgiving is coming up. How many days off can you afford to take from your studies?”
“Two or three. Why?”
“I thought maybe we might go diving. Run down to Cayman Brac, bit a few of those reefs we did a few years ago.”
“That doesn’t appeal to you?”
“I think I’d rather dive the north wall off the main island. Maybe see another Eagle Ray.”
“That place on the point?”
“Yeah. I know it’s not the most posh place there, but the diving was great.”
“Okay. Mind if we bring Sue along?”
“Wow, Dad. Is this getting serious?”
He laughed a little, and when she looked at him she could see his grin, what he called a ‘shit-eatin’ grin.’ “Yeah, maybe so. How many you wanna do today?”
“The long loop, around the country club. You feelin’ up for it?”
“I need to more than I want to, Beck.”
“You’re breathing hard. What’s your pulse doing?”
He put two fingers on his carotid – like she’d shown him, and he counted off ten seconds then did the math. “About 110.”
“You’re good. Did you hear anything more about Bill?”
“No. The police have no suspects, which isn’t surprising.”
“What is surprising is that he’d hang out at a place like that.”
“Yeah, goes to show, I guess. You just never know.”
“Still, a peep show – in an adult bookstore? How long had he worked for you? Ten years?”
“Something like that.”
“It’s weird, ya know? Two people you know being taken out in the space of a few days, tied up in some sort of sex thing.”
“Yeah.” They ran on, in silence now, both of them lost in thought.
“What does her old man do?”
“Lykes Petroleum. Her grandfather was a wildcatter,” the captain of CID said, “and her old man got a degree in petroleum geology. He’s spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia.”
“Oh, a little. Maybe four billion.”
“Billion? With a ‘B’?” Dickinson gaped.
“Yup. Old money, by our standards. He and the mayor are real tight, so if this angle plays out we’ll have to proceed carefully. This’ll be a real minefield…”
Sawyer was listening, but half-expecting a call from the mayor at any moment, too. She was uneasy now, because what motives could this girl have? Kicks? That sounded far-fetched – at least the more she thought about it it did. Money was out, too. That meant the Rolex on the second victim’s wrist wasn’t random, or a mistake. So, was she leaving another bread crumb, or simply being careless?
“This girl’s not careless,” she whispered, and the captain and Dickinson turned to her.
“We should have all her scores and grades,” the captain added. “From high school on, anyway. Part of the standard background check for medical school entry.”
Sawyer picked up the phone and dialed Records, asked the clerk to dig up the file then sat back with her feet up on the nearest desk.
“She’s gonna go dark now. Cut it out – for now,” Sawyer added.
“What makes you say that?” her captain said.
“She’s smart, not mental. There’s a purpose behind all this, too. We’ve got to figure out what that is, starting with all our basic assumptions.”
Dickinson sighed. “What about the victims? Any links there?”
Sawyer looked at him, nodded. “I think you just figured out what we’ll be working on tomorrow. Anyway, McCarley and his rook are off the next two days, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. Captain, what do think about keeping her under surveillance?”
“No real probable cause for an arrest at this point, so hardly any for surveillance. We know who she is, where she lives, our only witness just died of an overdose – very circumstantial link there at best – and that contact out in Athens could have been deliberate, or just coincidence. I agree with you…she’s a likely suspect, but we’ve nothing to tie her to the crimes. Nothing that would stand up in court, anyway.”
“So, we’ve got to develop this,” Dickinson said, “get something on her.”
“Yeah, rook, you could say that.”
“The only evidence we’ve got are the syringe caps,” Sawyer said.
“Any injections sites on the victims?” the captain asked.
“Not on initial exam. Still waiting for the final report.”
“What about the syringe caps?”
“B-D, insulin syringe caps, common, dime a dozen. And no prints or residue, either. All we’ve got is that – and the photos of the shoe print.”
“In semen, no less,” the captain said, wrinkling his nose. “Who found that?”
“Figures. You know, he’s turned down sergeant and CID so many times it’s funny,” the captain grumbled. “I’d love to get him up here.”
“Never happen,” Dickinson replied.
“I know. Born cop; nothing else for it, I reckon.”
“He loves the street.”
“I suppose – wish he was more ambitious, though. Well, why don’t you two come in early, work days the next few, try to get caught up on this. I’ll move the schedule around for a week or so.”
“Okay,” Sawyer said. “That’ll work.”
“Dickinson? You wanted to work homicide, didn’t you?”
“Okay. Get this done, close it out. Then we’ll see.”
“Hope y’all don’t mind workin’ together…” the captain said as he walked out of the office, then they looked at one another. And smiled.
“Guess we better head to the barn, get some sleep,” Sawyer said, looking at John.
“Sleep? You kiddin’?”
“Another night like last night and I’ll walk in bow-legged in the mornin’.” She feigned pelvic discomfort as she picked up her stuff, and Dickinson stared at her ass as they walked out the station.
She sat on the edge of her bed, trembling.
Her first three were linked, through her father’s deals, linked to his company in one way or another. Then there was Sam and D: if Sam had talked they could link that to her, too. She had to fix these mistakes, then she had to back off, stay off the cops radar for a while.
As she sat in her room, in the dark of a moonless night, she looked out her window at pecan trees swaying in a sultry autumn breeze. Shades of gray, ambivalent. Like claws of the dead reaching up into life to pull her down into the earth. To claim her sins as their own.
She thought of him, in bed just down the hall. How she worshipped him, wanted to protect him. He was the best father in the world. Kind and patient, so unlike his wife, her mother. She had been gorgeous but tempestuous, a red-headed beauty who’d made two movies in Hollywood before she met her father. Then she went back west, making television shows for a while, having affairs all the time, but he hadn’t cared, had he?
“She was just that kind of woman, Becka,” he had told her once – a few years after her death. “She liked to torment me, like it was a game to her. Once I figured that out it didn’t hurt so much, ya know?”
She remembered that night, too. Her mother had been diabetic since a teen, an insulin dependent diabetic, and she used to claim her fluctuating blood sugar caused her swings in mood. When she ‘got low,’ she said, she tended towards anger, violent anger. She started fights, her mother told her, yet she didn’t know why. Finally, after one argument too many, he’d simply left – holding a bloody towel to the side of his face. Just disappeared, without a trace. After three nights both were lost, truly lost, then he called, talked to her, said he’d be coming home soon to pick up some things, that he’d be filing for divorce within the week – and that he wanted her to stay with him after the dust settled.
But she knew her mother would never allow that to happen. She watched her that night, downstairs in the library reading one of her books and halfway through a bottle of bourbon two hours after dinner. After her mother passed out she went downstairs and emptied a vial of insulin into her mother’s belly, and she left everything out on the table by her chair. When she came down the next morning she found her mother’s cool body in the chair and called for an ambulance.
Simple as that. Problem solved. Coroner’s report stated accidental overdose, not a suicide, and life went on – for those worthy of it, anyway.
She stood and walked to the window that looked out over the swimming pool below, and she looked into the black water, looked at the silvery reflections of the pecan trees hovering on the surface. “Life’s a little like that,” she whispered as she stared at the image. “What is, and what should never be.”
Oh, how she longed to be by his side. To sleep together, in eternity.
This fragment © 2017 | adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com
Following a path found by studying the past we understand where we are going.
The ball of string in the palm your hand is pretty messed up.