Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
He made his way down the passageway covered in faded carpeting, and eased open the door of 204. The medical examiner was already there. The crime scene investigators were evaluating and collecting physical evidence.
Hank made a visual survey of the apartment. It was a basic one-bedroom unit with a small living-room area adjoining an open kitchen. It was clean and neat, and felt quite comfortable, despite its aging appearance.
Mrs. Bellows’ body was slumped down a couple of feet inside the doorway. She was half on her back, one leg bent and folded under the other. Her handbag had fallen to the floor and lay near her left hand, a wooden cane by her right. A large puddle of blood had formed, trickled across the uneven floorway, and under the door.
Looking around, he couldn’t see any visible signs of a struggle, or footprints in the blood.
He bent down and addressed the M.E., who was hunched over the body. The dress had been cut back revealing the wound.
“Cause of death?” he asked.
“Appears to be a single stab wound penetrating the left atrium,” she answered.
Hank examined the wound.
The M.E. continued, “A deadly wound, and almost always fatal.”
“So the killer seemed to know exactly where to cause the most damage?”
“It appears so.”
“I won’t know exactly until we do the autopsy, but it looks like a fairly broad instrument, probably a knife.” She pointed. “See these serration marks, those ragged edges around the wound? The killer seems to have used a serrated knife, causing lots of damage to the surrounding tissue.”
“Killer was right-handed?” Hank asked.
“Almost certainly. And by the angle of penetration, taking into account the height of the vic, our killer was probably about the same height. Hard to tell exactly, but certainly not a tall person.”
“And the time of death?”
“Can’t be sure yet, but it appears to be within the last two or three hours. I’ll know more later.”
Sliding a pen from his inner pocket, Hank used the tip to lift up the top edge of the handbag. He peered in. A neatly packaged pork chop lay inside on top of a plastic grocery bag appearing to contain only a couple of items. He squinted his eyes at the label on the chop.
“Mortinos,” he read aloud.
He eased open the plastic bag, and was able to work the receipt free. He studied it a moment. Wieners, marmalade, a loaf of bread, but no pork chop on here. He frowned thoughtfully, took a shot of it with his cell camera, and tucked it back in the bag.
“Who called this in?” he asked.
“Apparently the guy down the hall. In 212. A Mr. Basil Johnson.”
Hank stood and looked around the apartment. “Anybody talk to Johnson yet?”
Hank squeezed past the exit door and stepped into the hallway. Yellow crime scene tape draped across the area leading further down the hall toward other apartments. An officer leaned against the peeling wall, chatting with a few old-timers who were standing on the other side of the barrier, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on.
Hank addressed them, “Mr. Johnson?”
An old woman pointed. “Down there. 212.”
Hank ducked under the tape. He walked past a couple of doors, reading the numbers, and stopped in front of 212. He knocked. A dog’s yelp came from inside.
In a few seconds an elderly man appeared, a small dog squatting behind him. He squinted at the badge.
“Mr. Johnson?” Hank asked.
“I’m Detective Corning. May I talk to you for a moment?”
Johnson swung the door back. “Come in,” he said.
Hank followed him into a tiny living area, almost a carbon copy of Mrs. Bellows apartment, but not as clean and tidy. He noticed the air in here was much fresher than in the hallway. A window was open on the outside wall, and the afternoon breeze was fluttering the plain blue curtains.
He sat on a hard chair and watched Mr. Johnson take a seat in a comfortable lounge chair facing the television. Johnson silenced the TV with a remote on the stand beside him.
Pup laid his head on his front paws beside Johnson’s chair, and studied Hank.
“You called in the report about Mrs. Bellows, is that right?”
Johnson sighed and nodded. “Yeah, I called it in from here. Then, I went back and hung around the hall until the police came. Couldn’t take it any more. Had to leave.”
“Did you know Mrs. Bellows?”
“Sure. Everybody here knows everybody else. Most of us are lifers.”
“We’re here for life. Till we’re dead.”
“How long have you lived here?”
“Well, put it this way. I remember when this building was in great shape. And the elevator worked. So, probably about twenty years, maybe more.”
“You’re not a suspect, Mr. Johnson, but for the record, I have to ask. Where were you before you found the body?”
“I was gone for a long walk, most of the day. I was at the park there, just down the street, enjoying the day. Took my lunch with me.”
Hank dug a well-worn faux leather notepad from his pocket. He flipped it open and scribbled something in it.
“Did anyone see you there?”
“Sure did. Lots of people.”
“And when you returned,” Hank asked, “did you see anyone else outside, or inside the building?”
“Nary a soul.”
“And when you opened the door to Mrs. Bellows apartment, did you move the body in any way?”
“Nope. I opened the door slow, because I wasn’t sure what was up, and when the door hit her, I just poked my head in.”
“And that’s when you saw her?”
“And what made you suspect something was wrong? In other words, why’d you open the door?”
He looked at Pup, and then back at Hank. “My little dog, Pup, was sniffing at her door, and when I looked, I saw some blood coming out underneath. So I opened the door.”
“Now, you said you knew Mrs. Bellows. Did you ever have occasion to talk to her?”
“Sure. Lots of times. She was always such a nice happy person, much like me I think, and so we had a cup of tea together sometimes. And just chatted about the old days. Stuff like that. I’ll miss her, that’s for sure. I don’t really have a lot of close friends left any more, and she was the closest I had.”
“So, would you say you knew her rather well?”
“Pretty well, I think.” Johnson laughed. “Weren’t nothing sexual or anything. I don’t think either of us could even remember how to do that.”
Hank’s lips formed a half smile, and he continued, “Do you have any idea who might have wanted to kill her? Anybody that didn’t like her?”
Johnson looked at the ceiling a moment, and shook his head. “Can’t think of anybody. Weren’t nobody around here didn’t like her, least I can say that much.”
Hank consulted his notebook, and scribbled something again.
“Ok, Mr. Johnson. That’s it for now. You’ve been a big help. I’ll let you know if I need anything else.”
“Sure, any time. Glad to help. I sure hope you find the guy who did this.” He shook his head sadly. “Mrs. Bellows had such a good soul. She didn’t deserve this.”
Hank stood and let himself out. Pup followed him to the door, tail wagging.
Friday, August 12th, 4:00 PM
ANNIE pulled into her driveway and parked her car in front of the garage. Jake wasn’t home yet. He’d rung her on her cell a few minutes ago, saying he was on his way; he just had to stop at the car wash first.
Annie crossed the front lawn and headed next door to the Pascual residence. The door swung open to her knock.
“Hi Annie.” It was Chrissy. “Come on in. Matty’s playing in the back yard with Kyle.”
Annie stepped inside. “Sorry I’m late. I had a bit of an emergency.”
“That’s ok. Time for a coffee?”
They walked down a short hallway to the kitchen. Chrissy started a pot of coffee brewing, and in a moment, Annie could smell the aroma of fresh coffee in the air.
They sat at the table. Chrissy crossed her legs and looked at Annie. “So, what was the big emergency?” she asked.
“Oh, just a case we’re working on.”
“So, tell me about it,” Chrissy demanded.
Annie sat back. “Well, it involves kidnapping, murder, and international intrigue.”
Annie laughed. “Well, not exactly international intrigue. But kidnapping and murder.”
Annie told her about Jenny, and about finding the body buried in the woods. Chrissy listened attentively. “Weren’t you scared?”
“Sure was. It’s rather unnerving.”
“Do you have any idea where Jenny is?” Chrissy asked.
“Not yet. But if we can find out who killed Bronson, then, I’m confident we’ll find Jenny.”
Just then, the back door slammed, and Matty came trudging in. He was followed by Kyle, a year or two younger.
“Hi Mom,” Matty said.
“Hi, Mrs. Lincoln,” Kyle said.
Chrissy went to the counter and prepared two cups of coffee. She set one on the table in front of Annie, and then leaned against the counter, holding the other one.
Annie took a sip of her coffee. “That’s nice,” she said, and then looked at Matty. “What have you two guys been up to?”
“Just teaching Kyle how to climb a tree,” Matty said. “He’s kinda short, and can’t reach too high though.”
Annie laughed. “Well, your dad would be proud. As for me, I just hope you’re careful, and don’t break anything.”
“Come on, Mom, we’re careful.”
“Yeah, we’re careful,” Kyle repeated.
“Maybe Matty takes after his Mom,” Chrissy said. “It’s not every mom who goes around digging up . . . stuff.” She laughed.
“I sure hope it’s the last time.” Annie took a big gulp of coffee, and set the cup back on the table. “We should get home. Jake will be back any minute, and I have a few things to take care of.”
Friday, August 12th, 4:22 PM
JAKE peered through the windshield. He could see red and blue lights blinking some distance ahead, and traffic had come to a standstill.
“Must be an accident,” he said aloud.
He felt his cell phone buzzing in his pocket. He reached over and turned down the smooth voice of Kenny Chesney.
“This is Jake.”
“Jake, it’s Hank.”
“You’re not gonna believe this.”
“Try me.” Jake eased his car ahead a few more feet.
“There’s been another murder,” Hank said. “I just came from the crime scene now. An old woman. Stabbed to death in her apartment.” He filled Jake in on some of the details.
“Any witnesses?” Jake asked.
“Nobody saw anything. They’re still working the scene, but there are no suspects at this point. Strangest thing though.”
“It appears she’d just come from the grocery store. She bought three items, but also had a pork chop in her handbag, and not listed on the receipt.”
“So, the victim is a thief,” Jake chuckled.
“Can’t see it though. She’s eighty-nine years old, and we don’t see a lot of eighty-nine-year-old shoplifters.”
“Maybe she bought it somewhere else,” Jake suggested, as he touched the gas pedal and steered into the adjoining lane.
“Nope. The receipt, as well as the label on the chop, both said they came from Mortinos.”
“But you don’t think that had anything to do with her murder, do you?”
“Sounds unlikely,” Hank said. “But it’s rather strange nonetheless.”
Both lanes were just as slow. Now the other one was speeding up a bit. Jake steered back into the first lane again. He moved ahead a few spots.
“And here’s another odd fact,” Hank continued.
“As you’re probably aware, there hasn’t been a murder in this city in a long, long time. And now there are two, within a week of each other.”
“I know cops don’t believe in coincidence, but this has gotta be one.”
Jake slapped on his blinker and weaved through the oncoming traffic, making a quick left turn. He knew a shortcut.
“Maybe,” Hank replied. “Maybe not. Sure doesn’t seem related, though. Different MO. Different everything.”
“Well, there’s one good thing about this,” Jake said.
“At least you’ll earn your paycheck now.”
Friday, August 12th, 5:05 PM
ANNIE was at her desk in the office when she heard the rumble of Jake’s Pontiac as he pulled into the driveway. In a few moments, she heard Matty squealing as he ran to meet him at the door. Then, she heard grunts, roars, and other guy noises coming closer.
Jake ducked as he came through the office doorway. Matty was on his shoulders, and was holding on with his hands weaved together, wrapped around Jake’s forehead. Jake took a seat in the guest chair in front of the desk, Matty still clinging.
Annie dropped her pen, sat back, and smiled at her two boys, one big, and one small.
Jake reached up with two hands, grabbed Matty by the waist, and lifted him up. He whirled him over, and deposited him feet first onto the floor.
“Why don’t you go ahead and lift a few weights, Matty,” Jake said. “I’ll be down in a minute. I just need to talk to your Mom a bit.”
“Sure Dad,” Matty said, as he headed for the basement.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Annie called.
“Oh, Mom!” he called back. “Don’t worry so much.”
Jake laughed. Annie frowned.
Jake leaned forward and put his elbows on the desk. “Hank called me a few minutes ago,” he said. “An interesting development.”
“You know those old apartment buildings down there on Carville Street? An old woman was just murdered there. Hank said she’d just gotten home from Mortinos, and somebody did her in right there. Just inside her apartment.”
“Somebody followed her.” Annie said.
“Probably. Her purse was right beside her, with her shopping inside of it, and the door was unlocked.”
“And when did this happen?”
“Just a couple of hours or so ago.” Jake scratched his head, and looked up a moment. “Actually, I think Hank said the timestamp on the receipt was twelve something. Yeah, 12:42. That’s it.”