Unlucky 13, p.5

Unlucky 13, page 5

 part  #13 of  Women's Murder Club Series

 

Unlucky 13


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  “Right,” said Joe. “I’m not feeling lucky.”

  “Will you make sure Maria Teresa is on to babysit for Julie?”

  “You bet.”

  “Are you mad?” I asked.

  “Hell, no,” Joe said. “What makes you happy, makes me, uh, happy enough.”

  I told Joe that I loved him “this much” and spread my arms.

  He laughed, and I kissed him, then looked in on the baby and blew her a kiss so that I didn’t wake her. Martha followed me out to the door and yipped. She also gave me the big, pleading eyes.

  I nipped back into the kitchen and filled her bowl.

  “Okay, Boo?”

  Christ.

  I was still at home and the crime scene was waiting.

  CHAPTER 15

  CONKLIN GOT INTO my car, combed back his brown forelock with his fingers, and said, “Brady said it’s a belly bomb?”

  “That’s what it sounds like.”

  We drove to Scott Street near O’Farrell and parked in front of a brown-shingled, two-story house, one of a dozen just like it that squatted under a tangle of overhead lines on a tree-lined street in the Western Addition.

  Officer Shelly Adler, one of the cops at the door, ran the scene for us, saying that the victim was a white female, dead on the kitchen floor in a world of blood. There were no signs of a break-in or any kind of altercation between the single mom and the son who lived with her.

  “As for belly bombs, Sergeant,” Adler said, “I’ve got no idea. She’s still warm, so she hasn’t been dead long. Her name is Belinda Beadle. Her son, Wesley, is upstairs in his room with my partner. The kid is sixteen.”

  Conklin and I signed the log and had just walked through the door, when a brown-haired teenage boy burst down the stairs and came toward us. Adler’s partner called from the top floor, too late.

  “Wes. You can’t go down there.”

  The boy looked bad: pale, wide-eyed, maybe in shock. There was blood on his hands and smeared on his cheeks, and his T-shirt was soaked with it.

  He grabbed my arm. Hard.

  “It’s my mom,” he said. “She exploded. Like those people on the bridge.”

  “Tell me what happened, Wes,” I said.

  His chest heaved, and he put his hands to his eyes and cried. After a minute, he used the hem of his T-shirt to wipe his eyes and said, “I came home late last night or this morning, and was sleeping in my room. I heard a sound, like boom. And so I got up and ran down and found my mom on the floor with blood pouring out of her, from here.”

  Wes Beadle grabbed his stomach with hands.

  “I tried to get her to speak to me. I tried to wake her up, but she was dead. She was dead.”

  He looked horrified. Devastated. And it hurt me to think that he would never be able to forget what he’d seen this morning. That he’d relive the sight of his dead mother for the rest of his life.

  Conklin and I left Wes with Officer Adler and, after clearing the barrier tape between the front room and the rest of the house, found Belinda Beadle on the kitchen floor near the sink, lying in an odd position. She was sitting on her left side but leaning about thirty degrees toward the floor. Her light brown hair had been brushed. She was barefoot and wearing makeup and a navy-blue bathrobe.

  As Adler had said, there was a lot of blood. It had soaked through the front of her robe and made a wide pool on the floor. The blood appeared to have come from her midsection, but the way her body was leaning, I couldn’t see where she’d been wounded. But I did see that her robe was intact. Unlike like the clothing of the belly bomb victims in the Jeep, the garment hadn’t been shredded.

  I conferred with Conklin and then called Clapper and the weekend ME, Dr. Massimo. I reported in to Brady, and my partner and I returned to the front room.

  I had more questions for Wesley, who was sitting in a chair flanked by two uniformed police officers.

  I asked him, “Do you know of anyone who wanted to hurt your mom? Did she have a boyfriend? Did you or your mom bring home hamburgers? Or any takeout food?”

  He answered: No, no, no, and no.

  When the Crime Lab van pulled up, I asked Officer Adler to take Wes out to his cruiser and keep him company for a while.

  Crime scene analysts streamed into the small house. Conklin and I stood off to the side as they took photos of the body and everything that surrounded it. I asked them to open the kitchen trash bin. I saw no hamburger wrappers. No fast-food packaging of any kind.

  The ME arrived and the body was turned and lifted onto a sheet.

  That’s when one of Clapper’s techs found the Glock under Ms. Beadle’s body.

  I said to the tech, “Do an instant GSR, will you?”

  As the tech swabbed the back of Ms. Beadle’s hand, Dr. Massimo opened the woman’s robe.

  He said, “Don’t hold me to it, but at first look, death was caused by a bullet to the heart at close range.”

  If the wound was self-inflicted, as it appeared to be, Belinda Beadle wanted to have an open-casket funeral. And maybe she thought her teenage son wasn’t home when she took her life.

  “Her right hand is positive for GSR,” said the tech, showing me the test vial.

  Conklin and I took Wes Beadle down to the Hall and gave him a clean SFPD sweatshirt. Then we interviewed him with tape rolling. He told us, yes, his mom had a gun. Yes, that was her gun. Yes, she’d been sad lately. But he didn’t know she was so sad. And, no, he didn’t always come home on Friday nights.

  Wes was crying, blaming himself for being a bad kid, and I just had to do it. I got up and opened my arms to him, and he fell into me, hugged me hard.

  Child Protective Services came about then. Wes had an Uncle Robert who lived up the coast, and I promised I would keep calling him until I reached him.

  I was speaking with Robert Beadle and had just told him about the morning’s events, when my phone alarm beeped an alert I had programmed into my phone. What was it?

  I could hardly believe it. The wedding was starting in forty-five minutes—and Conklin and I were both in work clothes.

  Speaking for myself, I could not miss Yuki’s wedding.

  I just couldn’t let that happen.

  CHAPTER 16

  I GAVE CONKLIN the keys to my car and called my husband. “This is an emergency, Joe. SOS.”

  It took Joe almost a half hour to get to the Hall. He was wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit that he hardly got to wear anymore, and my hot designer dress was hanging from the hook in the backseat of his Mercedes.

  He’d even remembered to bring my shoes.

  And my makeup kit.

  I love my husband. Love him.

  I got into the backseat, and Joe took the famous roller-coaster streets of San Francisco at pretty close to the speed of sound.

  I struggled in back with undergarments, snaps, and fasteners as the car climbed and swooped. It was almost a riot. The makeup, well, that was an actual riot. I viewed my face in a two-inch-square mirror and did my best to color within the lines. I sprayed myself with fragrance and got a little on Joe.

  “Hey,” he said. “Watch out, Blondie.”

  We arrived at City Hall and parked in the underground lot with two or three seconds to spare. It was so perfect that Yuki was getting married in City Hall, a stunning building, so familiar to all of us in law enforcement, who passed through constantly.

  And she was getting married in the Ceremonial Rotunda.

  Joe grabbed my hand and we ran upstairs to the beautiful round hall laid entirely in Tennessee pink marble. About fifty people were clustered at the foot of the staircase waiting for the wedding ceremony to begin.

  I saw Brady, taller than almost everyone there, his pale blond hair hanging loose to his shoulders. He was wearing a slate-blue suit that made him look like a movie star.

  Brady turned toward me, and I saw Yuki, outrageously beautiful in a white satin sheath, her hair swept up and held with pearl combs. Her bouquet was a great bunch of creamy peo
nies with trailing pink ribbons. Oh, my.

  Together, Brady and Yuki looked like they should be in the Style section of the Chronicle as the most beautiful couple of the year.

  Yuki called out, “Okay, we can start now. Lindsay is here.” And then her laughter echoed in the round, and Yuki did a little dance of her own devising. Brady doesn’t laugh out loud too much. In fact, this might have been the first time I’d ever heard his hearty “Ahahaha.”

  Judge James Devine wore a black suit and a yellow bow tie. He cleared his throat, and as the wedding guests grouped at the foot of the stairs, Yuki and Brady climbed them in tandem. They stood opposite the judge under the grand 24-karat gold dome like figures on the top tier of an extraordinary pink wedding cake.

  The vows were simple, time-honored.

  “Dearly beloved, friends and family, we are gathered today to witness the joining of this man and this woman in matrimony.”

  I thought of my own wedding, not so long ago, and my heart was there with Yuki and Brady when they exchanged vows and rings.

  Judge Devine said, “On the east wall, there is a wonderful engraving of Father Time. The inscription reads: ‘San Francisco, O glorious City of our hearts that has been tried and found not wanting. Go through with like spirit to make the future thine.’

  “That is what I wish for the two of you.

  “And now I pronounce you, Jackson, and you, Yuki, husband and wife. Jackson, you may kiss your bride.”

  Brady took Yuki’s face in both his hands and kissed her and then he lifted her into his arms. To a wonderful echoing cheer, Brady carried our dear friend down the stairs.

  My husband kissed me and said, “I love you, Blondie. That much.”

  I told him that I loved him that much, too.

  We all ran out onto the street in our wedding finery, like a flock of tropical birds.

  I was ready to dance.

  CHAPTER 17

  I DON’T KNOW how Yuki’s wedding planner managed to get a private room at Epic Roasthouse with so little notice, but she did it. This great restaurant was wall-to-wall glass panels with a full-on billion-dollar view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. It doesn’t matter how many times you see this wonder of wonders, it never gets old.

  We had cocktails and I found myself standing with Brady. He said, “I can’t believe what a miracle it is that I found Yuki. And you introduced us, Lindsay. You did that.”

  “Yeah. Well, she was visiting me, and you came over to my desk. So, okay, I guess I introduced you.”

  “You deserve all the credit. My brother will tell you. She saved my ass from a life of grouchiness and solitude.”

  “Your brother Doug? He already told me.”

  Another great laugh from Brady. “Yep, I’m so lucky to have found Yuki.”

  He went on in that vein a few more times. It was funny to hear him sounding like a young kid.

  And then someone clinked a fork against a glass, and dinner was served. Our private room had its own dedicated chef, and the tables were arranged in a horseshoe so that we could all see the lights of the bridge and the glittering moonlit waters.

  Joe and I sat at a table with Brady and Yuki, Brady’s two enormous blond brothers, Greg and Doug, and Yuki’s uncle Jack, her only relative in San Francisco.

  Cindy, Claire, and her husband, Edmund, who plays bass with the San Francisco Symphony, completed the guest list at the head table.

  The first course, spicy citrus ceviche, arrived, and during the next five courses, there were toasts to the bride and groom. Brady was roasted by his brothers, making everyone laugh helplessly. And Yuki’s coworkers and Murder Club friends offered warm anecdotes and best wishes that made our eyes water with sentiment.

  Once the dishes were taken away, the lights were dimmed, and Judge Devine, who was a weekend disc jockey, cranked up the CD player and started with Bobby Darin’s up-tempo classic “More.”

  Yuki and Brady took to the floor and soon the space between the tables was packed with couples, backlit by the Bay Bridge.

  Rich and his athletic-looking, hot new girlfriend were stunningly good dancers. They had their moves down, as if they’d been dancing together for years. I wanted to be mad at him for bringing Tina to Yuki’s wedding, where Cindy could see how good they looked together, but realistically, a lot of time had passed since he and Cindy had broken off their engagement.

  It was okay for Richie to be moving on.

  I took a few turns around the floor with Joe, then switched off with Claire and danced with Edmund Washburn, who was very smooth.

  When I needed a break, I left the floor and found Cindy, pretty in baby blue, sitting alone at the table. She hadn’t said anything more than hi to me all evening.

  I could see it all in her face: the love and the pain.

  Judge Devine put on something slow, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” which was just divine.

  I put my hand on Cindy’s shoulder and said, “May I have this dance?”

  “You don’t have to do that, Linds. I mean really. No.”

  “Come on. Just one dance. No strings attached.”

  “And why do you want to dance with me?”

  “Uh. Because you look so fetching sitting here, clutching your wineglass?”

  “Okay, that’s not it.”

  “Because I love you?”

  Cindy flashed me a smile and got to her feet, and I walked her a couple of yards to the dance floor.

  I took her in my arms, turned her so she was facing away from Conklin and Tina. I said, “Relax. Let me lead.”

  She laughed.

  Then she said, “I’m fine, Lindsay…”

  “And what?”

  “And I love you, too.”

  CHAPTER 18

  CINDY PAID THE cabdriver and stepped unsteadily up the walk to her front door. She fiddled with the key, went inside her dark apartment, and locked the door behind her. She bounced off the hallway walls a couple of times on her way to the bedroom, where she undressed, dropping her clothes on the floor.

  Images of Rich and Tina flooded her, and she had no defense. They looked good together. They were having fun. It was pretty clear from the way they danced, and from the fact that Tina was Richie’s plus-one at Yuki’s wedding, that this date wasn’t their first or their last.

  Lindsay was right when she assumed that watching Rich and Tina dancing together was agony for her. And Lindsay didn’t know the rest of it. She didn’t know about her trip to Wisconsin.

  Cindy turned on the shower, sat down in the corner of the tub under the hot spray, and sobbed over what a total loser she was. She’d blown the best relationship she’d ever had, and she’d gone to Henry Tyler and basically told him she was teeing up her Pulitzer Prize. Now what was she going to tell him?

  Henry, Morales wasn’t there.

  When she was all cried out, Cindy dressed in striped-pink flannel, top and bottom, no T-shirt with SFPD slogans or attached memories of her Richie.

  She wanted another drink, but she made coffee, turned on the gooseneck lamp in her home office, and booted up her Mac. After her mailbox loaded, she opened an e-mail from her new friend Captain Patrick Lawrence of the Cleveland, Wisconsin, PD.

  Hey, Cindy,

  Just to let you know, the FBI bomb squad defused the explosives in case some knucklehead campers come up from the lake and break in. There were three trigger points. Good thing Morrison saw a wire. The milk in the fridge had a sell-by date of two weeks ago. That’s all I know. The Feds are keeping sharp eyes on the place and we can always hope Morales drops by. Thanks again and take care.

  Pat.

  Cindy leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. She was going to have to tell Henry Tyler what happened to her glorious mission and she would have to come up with another plan. Somehow, she didn’t know how, she was going to have to “git ’er done” or die trying.

  Cindy wrote back to Captain Lawrence and then got to work researching every place Morales had been
in her entire twenty-six years on earth. Morales was no Randolph Fish. She was no genius, just a merciless killer bitch.

  Where could that bitch have gone?

  CHAPTER 19

  MACKIE MORALES WALKED quickly along West Washington Street in the Loop, Chicago’s central business district. It was a Monday morning, and pathetic office workers were marching into ugly gray office buildings. Cars and taxis sped past like they were actually going somewhere. The streets were gray, the people were gray, and the very atmosphere was gray.

  It was a day when coats and hoods were everywhere and, therefore, unremarkable.

  Mackie had been born in a hospital only a short jog from here. She knew every street in this city—every alley and every building and where it fit into the cityscape. She didn’t even have to look up as she crossed LaSalle and continued on toward the bank in the middle of the next block.

  Randy began speaking to her from inside her head, where he was forever safe. He was saying she should put up her hood to foil the security cameras and to slow her pace.

  Hug the shadows, sweetheart. Be a shadow. You know?

  “Gotcha, lover.”

  Sometimes she could see his face. That was the best, but even when she couldn’t see him, he was with her. Talking to her. Keeping her company. Watching her back.

  Bury yourself in pedestrians.

  “I wasn’t born yesterday, baby.”

  He laughed and she smiled, pulled up her hood, and jammed her hands deep in the pockets of her gray three-quarter-length waterproof coat. Her right hand fitted the grip of her Ruger quite naturally.

  Mackie saw her reflection in the windows of the shops she passed: the boutique with silly girly clothes on display, and the AT&T store, murky inside with a crowd of customers; then the dark glass of the bus shelter, where four people clustered together, staring out at the street.

  Now she was at the entrance to the Citibank branch, her destination. She walked through the open doors as two women were coming out, passing between her and the armed security guard. The guard was in his twenties, out of shape, and carrying a lot of excess gear in the heavy leather belt around his waist.

 
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