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Undercover secrets untol.., p.10

Undercover Secrets, Untold Lies, page 10


Undercover Secrets, Untold Lies

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  “Want some help?” Gwen asked hopefully.

  “If you don’t mind, I’d love it. I can put on a pot of coffee if you’d like. This may take awhile,” CC said.

  “I sure hope so,” Gwen said to herself, then to CC, “Be there in about twenty minutes. Yeah, coffee sounds great.”

  Gwen turned up the volume of her car stereo and started singing along to the oldie “Do You Believe in Magic” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

  CC was pacing anxiously at the door when Gwen arrived. “I just don’t know how to write this report,” she whined.

  “Let’s take a look,” Gwen offered. CC poured her a cup of coffee and the two shared the information they’d been able to obtain at The Dive.

  Their stories meshed fairly well, and Gwen started typing in the missing pieces from her recollection. It didn’t take her long to fill in the remaining information and complete CC’s report. It was just past three a.m. when she finished, and turned to find CC sound asleep on her sofa, snoring softly. She got up and covered her with an afghan, rinsed her coffee cup and turned off the pot, and quietly left, locking the door behind her.

  Gwen jumped in the shower soon after arriving home, trying to wash the smell of The Dive out of her hair and off her body. Then she put on her flannel pajamas, made some strong herbal tea and went to bed. She made several notes to include in her own report, and finally turned the light out at nearly five a.m.

  It had been a long, tiring day, but she lay awake for a long time thinking about CC. In hindsight, she wished she had cuddled up next to CC on the couch and had not left. She already missed her, and her emotions were taking over way too quickly. Maybe this is the one, she thought as she finally drifted off into a restless sleep.

  Chapter Nineteen

  Gwen got out of bed at eleven a.m. There was a task force meeting at noon, and she had to hurry. She hadn’t set the alarm, thinking she would sleep only a couple of hours.

  With no time to make coffee, she grabbed a bagel from the refrigerator to eat on the way. God, she hated to rush. She hoped the day improved as it progressed.

  Gwen made it to her office at exactly 12:07 p.m. Everyone else had already arrived and was sitting around chatting amicably. “Sorry I’m late,” she gasped, still out of breath. “What do we have so far?”

  CC, who looked refreshed and alert, told them all that she had learned from Reyna the previous night. Then Gwen read the additional notes she’d jotted down, filling them in on the details The Dive’s patrons had recalled about the women, including their theories about what could have happened to them.

  “No one thinks they took off on their own accord,” CC added. “I get the impression they don’t expect to see these women alive again.”

  “Exactly the impression I got,” Gwen agreed.

  “There was no one hanging around outside last night,” Scott told them. “Everyone who drove into the lot went right into the bar, and drove away when they left. I spent a few minutes checking the back lot and bushes, but didn’t see any evidence of someone lurking around or having set up a vantage point to watch the comings and goings of those going into the bar; no footprints or scuffle marks anywhere close to the parking lot. I even checked to see if someone had climbed a tree, but those are old pines in the back, and they’d have needed a ladder to get up into them.”

  “I was circling the neighborhood,” Brad informed them. “It was a quiet night. Didn’t appear anyone was out that didn’t have business being there.”

  “Did you get the warrants to search the missing women’s apartments?” Gwen asked.

  “Yep. Got them right here,” Brad said, holding up a manila envelope.

  “Okay, we’ll split up in groups. CC, you go with Brad to Meg’s place. Scott, you’re with me at Amy’s, and we’ll all meet at Carole’s to compare notes. First team that gets there can start the search.”

  Nods all around confirmed everyone was comfortable with the arrangement, and they filed out to begin their assignments.

  CC caught up to Gwen before they reached the elevators and whispered, “I’m sorry I fell asleep on you last night.”

  “Don’t worry about it. Anything as wonderful as being with you is worth waiting for,” Gwen whispered back.

  “Catch you later then, and thanks for finishing my report!”

  When Gwen and Scott got to Amy’s apartment, the place was nearly empty and looked as though a transient had made her home in the place. They found a single mattress on the bedroom floor and a couple of overturned boxes that were being used for tables. Clearly, Amy’s apartment was her last priority and lowest on her list of expenditures. There was no phone or computer, and only a few clothes in the closet that were large women’s sizes. There was very little food in the tiny kitchen.

  “Looks like we’re spinning our wheels here,” Gwen said. “Let’s give it to the crime scene techs to check for blood and head over to Carole’s.”

  “I’m with you on that,” Scott said. “That’s the worst, or I should say least, lived-in apartment I’ve seen. Did she just move in?”

  “Lease says she moved in six months ago. She obviously only cared about somewhere to sleep and didn’t bother decorating,” Gwen replied, firing up her car.

  Carole’s place was only ten blocks away, so they were there in less than five minutes.

  They walked up two steps to the porch of an old but well- kept little house. It was painted a garish yellow, but the bushes were trimmed and the yard looked well kept. At the door, Gwen turned around and signaled Scott to keep quiet. The screen door was ajar and the inside door was wide open. Drawing her weapon and moving slowly and quietly, she inched into the house. There was a teenager in baggy clothes with his back to her leaning over a drawer of some kind.

  “Police. Stop and put your hands over your head,” Gwen ordered.

  The boy jumped and cried out, throwing his hands up over his head, “I’m her brother for God’s sake! Don’t shoot!”

  “Take your wallet out of your pocket with two fingers of your left hand and kick it over to me,” Gwen told him.

  He carefully complied, pulling out a black wallet with his thumb and index finger, dropping it on the floor and giving it a hearty kick in her direction. The wallet skidded on the threadbare carpeting and Gwen stuck out her shoe to stop it. She opened it and looked at the picture ID. It read, Thomas J. Planton. The same last name as Carole’s.

  “What the hell are you doing here?” Gwen demanded.

  “She’s got thousands of dollars in tools here. I wanted to make sure no one stole them,” he said weakly.

  Gwen scowled. “More like you wanted to steal them before someone else did.”

  When he moved slightly to the left, she noticed he’d been riffling through a Craftsman 8-drawer tool chest on wheels. It was similar to the one she had in her own garage, so she knew it was worth plenty.

  “I’ve got two other brothers. Just wanted my share. Trying to avoid the family fight, you know?”

  “Empty your pockets on the floor, and do it now,” she ordered. “You’re going to have to wait until this stuff has been examined by the crime unit and released to the—” she emphasized the word—“family.”

  “Aw, shit!” he muttered, emptying his pockets and laying screwdrivers, clamps and wrenches on the floor in front of him.

  The boy couldn’t have been eighteen, and was wearing a gray flannel shirt and baggy bib overalls with deep pockets, giving him plenty of room to hide his stolen tools.

  “See, you’ve already destroyed evidence by putting your fingerprints on those,” she barked.

  “I did?” Thomas looked shocked and turned beet red. “Uh, I’m sorry. I didn’t think…”

  “No, you didn’t think. Now get the hell out of here and don’t come back until we’re finished.”

  “Yes, ma’am,” he blurted, and bolted out the door.

  When he was gone, Gwen and Scott burst out laughing.

  “You nearly had that kid peeing in his pan
ts,” Scott said.

  “Yeah, did you see him start shaking when I told him he got his fingerprints on those tools?” Gwen chuckled.

  “I think he figured you were going to haul his ass off to jail.”

  “Yeah, the way he jackrabbited out of here, I think you’re right. Now let’s get to work.”

  Oil and grease stains covered the carpeting. Obviously, the living room was the area where Carole worked on her motorcycle. In the far corner, stacks of flattened cardboard boxes were also stained with grease, but they obviously hadn’t been enough to absorb whatever procedure Carole had performed in her living room. The tool chest was packed with an assortment of tools that would have made any mechanic drool.

  The stains carried over into the kitchen, where the counters and porcelain sink were smudged and stained from someone’s greasy hands.

  The back of the house looked more clean and livable. The double bed was made and the bathroom was spotless. Carole’s bedspread depicted a couple riding a motorcycle along the ocean, their hair flying wildly behind them. The only picture hanging in the apartment was a poster over the bed. That too was a motorcycle rider, but this one was of a woman riding nude on a Harley.

  “Tastefully done,” Scott commented.

  “Oh, I didn’t know you were a Harley buff,” Gwen teased.

  “I mean, the way the woman in the picture is photographed. It’s a sexy…uh, not a vulgar photograph,” Scott said tactfully, obviously uncomfortable discussing it with Gwen.

  “Yeah. I kinda like it too. Hey, here’s a laptop,” she said, pulling open the nightstand drawer. She slid it into an evidence bag to take back with her.

  The two were silent as they riffled through the rest of the drawers, finding nothing else of significance.

  “I’ll let the crime scene crew know we’re through here so they can come over when they’re finished at Amy’s,” Scott said.

  As he finished the call there was a knock on the door and Brad and CC tiptoed in.

  “You guys finished both places already?” Brad asked.

  “If you’d have seen Amy’s place, you’d know why we’re done here already. There was nothing…I mean nada…except a mattress and a couple of empty boxes,” Scott informed them.

  CC slipped into paper slippers and walked toward the living room. “How gross! This place is a mess.”

  Gwen told them about catching Thomas Planton stealing the tools, and they joked about scaring the kid half to death.

  “Looks like Carole brought her Harley into the living room with her at night. The back is more presentable,” Gwen told them. “Find anything at Meg’s?”

  “Yeah. We found a computer and nosed around her Facebook page. She complained about someone following her and being a bully. No names, but she referred to him as someone in authority,” Brad advised.

  Gwen groaned. “You mean like one of us? A cop?”

  “Not again!” Scott frowned.

  “She doesn’t say specifically,” CC added. “Could be anybody with authority at this point…teacher, executive, boss…who knows. We bagged it and tagged it.”

  “Got an address book too,” Brad remembered. “The woman was popular. It’s got to have a hundred names in it. Thought I’d take it back to the precinct and have a couple uniforms get started on it.”

  “Good idea,” Gwen said thoughtfully. “It’s getting late. Anyone want a burger before we head out to The Dive? It’s on me.”

  They all murmured their agreement, and headed out.

  Chapter Twenty

  A Burger King was right around the corner. Sitting at a table next to the window, the four cops enjoyed themselves, joking and ribbing each other throughout dinner.

  “You’ve got ketchup smeared all over your cheek,” she told CC, wondering what the men would do if she leapt over the table to lick it off.

  “I do enjoy my food, even if it doesn’t all end up in the right place,” CC said good-naturedly, wiping her face with her napkin. “My mom always made me wear an old shirt when we went out to eat, ’cause inevitably I’d end up with something spilled on the front of me.”

  Scott said, “I had a first date with this gal I really liked. Well, halfway through dinner she excuses herself and runs to the restroom. She just bolted from the table and ran down the hall to the john. So, I’m sitting there waiting, and waiting, and waiting. About forty-five minutes later, after I’d finished my meal, I asked the waitress to go into the restroom to see if she was all right. Turns out she had the flu and got sick all over herself. She was too embarrassed to come back to the table, so she hailed a cab and went home.”

  “You waited forty-five minutes to have someone check on her?” Gwen joked.

  “Man, I’ll never forget that porterhouse,” Scott smirked. “When she didn’t return, I started in on her shrimp. Hey, I was gonna have to pay for it whether she returned or not!”

  “What about you, Gwen. Do you have a most embarrassing date?” CC asked.

  “Hmm…I had a date get sick on the Ferris wheel at the state fair, but she was very neat about it…barfed into her purse. And I took her home afterward, not like some people,” she kidded Scott.

  They all groaned. “It’s almost seven thirty. I suppose we should get going. Gwen stood and stretched. “Brad, can you take the laptop we found at Carole’s back to the precinct?”

  “Sure. No problem.”

  “They should have Meg’s tower there by now. I’d like to see if you can find any similarities…chat rooms, friends, or acquaintances. And try to get more info on who Meg thought was following her.”

  “I’m on it,” Brad said, getting up from the table. “I’ll see if Charlie’s available. I’d like to walk the area around The Dive again later too.”

  “I’m heading out,” Scott told them. “I want to be in place before you two women arrive.”

  When Gwen and CC were alone, Gwen said, “I miss you!”

  “I miss you too,” CC admitted. “How long do you think we’ll have to hang around The Dive tonight?”

  “Seems like the majority of the action is between nine and eleven. Midnight tops.”

  “That’s reasonable. Your place or mine? And I promise not to fall asleep on you tonight,” CC said.

  “I’ll stick around again until after you’re out safely, so if you don’t mind, let’s make it your place. God, I can’t wait to be with you again,” Gwen said huskily. “I’ll be out the door fifteen minutes after you leave.”

  * * *

  The Dive filled up as quickly as it had the previous evening. Many of the same regulars greeted Gwen as she sat down at the bar. She noticed CC starting a pool game with one of the men in the back. From time to time, she glanced over to see CC winning by a good margin. She was good at the game, and Gwen had all she could do to keep from watching CC’s sexy ass as she leaned over the table to make a shot. A couple she hadn’t seen before entered and sat on the two stools to her right. They introduced themselves as Jeff and Jackie.

  Jeff was short, barely five foot, with tattoos of snakes winding up his arms and into his neck. His swarthy face was pockmarked. He looked to be at least a hundred pounds overweight. At his side, Jackie was thin, and towered over him by a foot. She had long, stringy, bleached blond hair. They wore matching leather jackets and jeans.

  “Sure is a bummer about those girls,” Jeff said after they’d been chatting a while.

  “Yeah, aren’t you afraid of being here alone?” Jackie asked Gwen.

  “Nah, I’ve taken karate,” Gwen said lightly. “Besides, the men have taken their responsibility seriously to walk all the single women to their cars.”

  “Still, I’m glad I have Jeff with me.” Jackie smiled and leaned over to kiss her boyfriend.

  “Did you know any of the women?” Gwen asked.

  “Everyone knew Meg,” Jackie answered. “She was the first to disappear. I thought she was being paranoid, but she told me one night that a cop was bugging her. I didn’t know the other two that well
.” She nervously chewed off some of the polish on her short nails.

  “No kidding, a cop?” Gwen did not have to feign her surprise.

  “Yeah. She said she thought he just wanted to get in her pants. He was always following her and when she’d get home, she’d see him sitting in his car watching her apartment.” Jackie shook her head, her face reddening with disgust at the thought of it.

  “Did you tell this to any of the police investigating the disappearances?” Gwen asked.

  “No, we were out of town visiting my parents during the week Ben said they’d been interviewing everyone. Guess I should report it, huh?”

  Gwen took a deep breath, trying not to strangle this woman. “Might be important,” she finally said. “I would definitely give them a call.”

  “I’ll do it tomorrow, promise,” Jackie said thoughtfully.

  “Did Meg say what the guy looked like? I mean, if we know who to look out for, the rest of us may be able to avoid getting in trouble,” Gwen prodded.

  “Just that he was an old guy. You know, tough-looking with a grayish brush haircut,” Jackie told her. “She didn’t say much. For as tiny as she was, Meg was all bravado, wasn’t she Jeff?”

  “Yeah, she was a little black spitfire, for sure,” Jeff agreed. “Played a hell of a game of darts, and I could never figure out how she was able to make all those terrific pool shots, being that her reach was so short. Beat me every game and whipped most of the other guys too.”

  Jeff started talking to Jackie about not wanting to make another trip to her parents’ place in northern Wisconsin, so Gwen turned her attention back to the rest of the group at the bar. Everyone was still speculating about the missing women, and Gwen caught snippets of conversation about different theories they’d come up with. She noticed CC had finished playing pool and was sitting at a table talking with the woman she’d met the previous evening. Thinking back to her report, Gwen remembered that the woman’s name was Reyna. They were deep in conversation.

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