Undercover secrets untol.., p.13
Undercover Secrets, Untold Lies, page 13
“Perfect. I’ll request to have him transferred. He’ll be assigned to you so you can keep tabs on him. Okay, Scott?” Gwen asked.
“Sure. I don’t mind giving the kid a few pointers,” Scott said, lifting his arms with his elbows pointing out, pretending to groom his own feathers.
“You come up with anything?” Gwen asked CC, laughing and dismissing Scott’s antics.
“Yeah. Meg and Kathy met frequently at some bar. Meg’s friend didn’t know which one, but she was sure it wasn’t The Dive. Toward the end, Linda met the two a couple times at Meg’s apartment. They wanted her to join them in a business venture. Linda was reluctant because it would wipe out her savings, but they had a good idea about recycling used clothing, and offering office women on a low budget nice outfits for dirt cheap prices. Meg was a whiz at putting clothing and accessories together in an attractive way, and Kathy had no shame when it came to searching bargain stores or riffling through neighborhood donation boxes. Linda did freelance marketing and artwork, so they wanted her to make flyers and pay for some advertising in exchange for a percentage of the profits.”
“Okay, the story sounds logical. Sure wish we knew where Meg and Kathy met for their little powwows though,” Gwen said thoughtfully.
“Linda doesn’t drink, so she always met with them at Meg’s place. I’ll tell you one thing though, Linda is freaked out that Kathy is dead and Meg is missing. She’s very much afraid.”
“Has she seen anyone following her?” Brad asked, concerned.
“No. She has nothing to substantiate her fears. No strange cars or men hanging around. She has my card. I made sure she understood she could call me twenty-four/seven if she thought of anything else, or noticed something suspicious going on.”
“Okay. It’s been a long morning. I’m going home to try to get some rest before we meet at The Dive tonight. I suggest you all do the same,” Gwen told them.
They all looked beat. Gwen was sure no one would refuse her offer for a few free hours to get refreshed before another long night.
Gwen awoke in a tangle of covers, bathed in sweat. Captain Wright, a wicked snarl on his lips, had held his hand around her neck. The other hand held a knife that was inches from her heart, ready to slice into her flesh.
She had an eerie feeling about the captain running around as a free man. Nothing would surprise her about the evil man.
She glanced at the clock. Six ten p.m. She had slept four hours, and she still had plenty of time before she needed to be at The Dive. It would be nice to pamper herself with a nice hot bubble bath before getting ready for work. She got the water running full blast into the tub before padding to the kitchen to make herself a steaming cup of instant coffee. Placing the cup on the edge of the tub, she eased into the tub and laid her head back on her bath pillow. “Now this is living,” she said to herself. “The only thing better would be if CC was here to enjoy it with me.”
Amid thoughts of CC, she couldn’t help but process the facts of the investigation and analyze them. Gwen wondered what Wright was scheming right now and if Kathy’s friend, Linda, was justified in being apprehensive about her own safety. She hoped the Planton brothers would put their energies now into laying their sister to rest, instead of continuing the pursuit of her attacker. And where were the other two women? Was there a chance one or both of them were still alive?
Gwen’s coffee had gotten cold and her skin shriveled like a prune when she pulled the plug on the drain and toweled herself off. She decided on black jeans, a beige sweater and brown suede blazer. Her short curly hair was a tangled mess, and she did the best she could to get it to lie flat with a dab of hair gel.
Gwen arrived at The Dive at eight fifteen. CC was sitting at the bar tonight, as none of the regulars were playing pool. Reyna wasn’t here either and her usual place near the pool tables looked unusually bare without her massive presence.
Gwen nodded and sat three stools to the right of CC. Ben was on the phone, but nodded in acknowledgment and opened a bottle of light beer and set it in front of her while continuing his conversation. He wasn’t saying much, but he had a concerned look on his face and grunted from time to time, listening carefully to whatever the caller was telling him.
When he got off the phone five minutes later he said solemnly, “That was TJ. He was supposed to bring Reyna here tonight. Found her at home…she’s dead.”
“My God!” CC exclaimed. “A heart attack?” she asked, considering the woman’s bulk.
“Dunno yet. He called nine-one-one and they’d just arrived. Said she was lying near the doorway, her cart tipped on its side. She had a deep cut somewhere on her head spilling a lot of blood, but she may have hit her head against the wall or door frame.”
“I’m so sorry,” Gwen said, consoling Ben. “She’d been coming in frequently for quite some time, hadn’t she?”
“Gotta be six, seven years at least,” Ben said sadly. “She started coming in soon as her youngest moved out of the house. She was kinda our resident shrink…knew all the happenings of everyone, and let us all know if we needed to lend our support. Kinda like a second family here, you know?”
“I understand,” Gwen said solemnly.
“She always let me know if someone was getting out of line, too. I’ve eighty-sixed plenty of rowdy folk on her recommendation.”
“I’ll miss her, and I’ve known her only a few days,” CC said sadly. “We could take up a collection for her family…you know, help out with the funeral expenses.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Ben replied. “I know her kids are struggling with their babies and all. Didn’t seem like Reyna had much herself.”
The bar started filling up and people began reminiscing about Reyna. Even though everybody regarded her as a busybody probing into their personal business, there was a fondness in their voices that revealed she was well-regarded for her big heart and generous spirit. Ben described it best when he said, “She made you laugh regardless of how shitty your day was going.”
TJ stumbled into the bar a short time later, looking as though he’d lost his best friend. “Never found no dead person before, and I never wanna go through that again.”
“I’m so sorry,” CC told him when he pulled a barstool up next to her.
“Them cops that came after I called nine-one-one? They treated me like I done it. Gave me the third degree, they did.”
Ben put a bottle of beer in front of TJ and said, “It’s on the house, buddy.”
“I’ll take a shot of that Jack Daniels too, s’long as you’re buying.”
“That’s pretty much routine, isn’t it?” CC asked innocently. “You wouldn’t want them to let someone get away if they had actually committed a crime. Anyway, on TV the cops always talk to the people hanging around the victim.”
“I suppose so,” TJ agreed. “Just wishing they didn’t have to be so mean about it. I thought for sure I was gonna be arrested. Try explainin’ that to the missus…geez, I don’t even tell the wife I play taxi driver for some of the womenfolk.” He downed his shot of whiskey in one gulp and took a long swig of his beer.
“Any idea how she died?” Ben asked.
“I don’t know, man. There was that blood all over the carpet from a gash just above her eyebrows. Cops whisked me out of there quick like when they came in. Had to talk to them in the garage.”
“I mean, did it look like someone attacked her, or she just fell over like her heart stopped or something?” Ben probed.
“I just can’t say, Ben. I got kinda shook up seeing her lying there in the first place. Couldn’t even find my phone in my pocket, my hands were shaking so bad. Had to use her house phone to call nine-one-one.”
“No wonder the cops thought you’d killed her. You left fingerprints all over the damn place!” one of the other men at the bar chimed in.
TJ turned beet-red and said shakily, “You think?”
“No doubt about it,” the man kept razzing
TJ turned white as a sheet.
“Don’t listen to him,” Gwen said, getting off her barstool and reading a text message on her cell phone. “He’s just kidding you. I’m sure they wouldn’t have let you leave if they thought you were guilty of anything.”
“She’s right, TJ,” CC said soothingly. “Don’t worry.”
“Thanks. Sure hope you girls are right. Hey, Ben. You’d better pour me another shot.”
Gwen went into the ladies’ room, locking the door behind her. She dialed Brad’s number and asked, “What’s up?”
“Another one of The Dive’s patrons was found dead not long ago.”
“Yeah, we heard all about it—in fact, everyone’s talking about it at the bar. One of the men from here was supposed to pick her up. He’s the one who found her dead and he’s telling his story now.”
“Did he tell you she was stabbed?” Brad asked.
“No!” Gwen said with alarm. “He said she had a cut on her forehead. He figured she got it from hitting her head when she fell.”
“The first responders didn’t see it either until they were finally able to turn her over. She was heavyset, so it took some doing to get her on her stomach. Four stab wounds to her abdomen, then some shallow cuts to connect the dots to form a cross.”
“Similar to Carole,” Gwen replied miserably.
“Just about,” Brad agreed.
“Can we keep the crosses out of the press?” Gwen asked. “I don’t want to panic the public into thinking we’ve got a serial killer just yet.”
“Too late. One of the woman’s sons showed up before they moved the body. He was talking to that loudmouth from the Scarletsville News when I left. You know how quickly the press corps jumps when something like this hits the police scanners… like a cobra on its prey.”
“Did Doc Maynard say when he’d be doing the autopsy?” Gwen asked.
“Yep. Said I should tell you same time, same place,” Brad told her.
“All right. I won’t be staying too late if I’ve got to be at the morgue at six a.m. Hey, I won’t be able to clue CC in while I’m here. Give her a call later to bring her up to date, will you?”
“Sure. Catch you tomorrow at the office.”
“Too many furrows of fatty tissue would have made it difficult to slice her throat,” Doc Maynard was saying to Gwen. “The taut skin across her back would have been the second easiest route for his attack; the first being the stomach area—although there are a lot of folds, the skin is soft and pliable. From the back he would have had the added element of surprise though, I suppose. He’s either fairly strong or had help turning her onto her back after she was dead. She weighed in at three hundred and twenty-one and one quarter. Not an easy task to move that kind of dead weight.”
Gwen had been running late, having had trouble getting a playful Max to pay attention and do his business on their morning walk. And it was just her luck that Doc was anxious to get started, having had three additional corpses come in during the night. He had begun Reyna’s autopsy early, just before Gwen had arrived.
“What about the stomach contents?” Gwen asked.
“Just had eaten…not an hour before her death. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes had barely started digesting. She was taking medications…I found small pieces of some tablets and sent them to the lab for analysis. Considering her size and the color of the tablets, I’m guessing blood pressure and hypoglycemia.”
“Three inches wide, two deep. Looks like the same instrument, but it’s hard to tell. If he had used a serrated knife, it would be easier to match.”
“So all we really have is the sign of the cross?” Gwen asked, hoping there was more.
“We can hope they find trace evidence on her clothes,” Doc offered.
“Nothing came back on Carole’s?” Gwen inquired.
“No, not yet anyway,” Doc answered.
“Okay. Thanks, Doc,” Gwen said grimly.
* * *
“I think we’ve found the bar Kathy and Meg frequented,” Scott said proudly when the task force met at four p.m. “Actually, the captain led us right to it. It’s only three blocks from Meg’s apartment.”
“He’s frequenting bars in that neighborhood?” Brad asked incredulously.
“Yep. In fact, our new recruit was the one who followed him there. After Wright left, Sammy took the photos in and confirmed with the bartender that the women looked familiar. The place is called Tina’s Pub.”
“Shit.” Brad let out a sigh. “I saw several references to Tina’s on Facebook, but kept thinking it was a friend of Meg’s. Never connected that it was a place and not a person. In fact, I looked for ‘Tina’ in the address book and didn’t find her. Now I know why.”
“What time was Wright there?” Gwen asked.
“Entered at three-oh-four and left at five-thirty-three,” Scott read from his notes.
“Sammy know what he did for two and a half hours?”
“Yeah. From where he was parked, Sammy could see through one of the not so grimy spots on the window…Drank four Budweisers and was watching a baseball game on the TV over the bar.”
“Interesting. And he’s sure Wright didn’t meet with anyone?” Gwen asked, puzzled.
“Yes,” Scott answered with certainty.
“How did the notify go?” Gwen asked CC.
“It was so sad,” CC said softly. “They didn’t always show it, but those boys really did love their sister. Her mom was inconsolable, but it looked like the brothers will keep close tabs on her for a while. I promised them we’d find Carole’s killer. I don’t think they’ll get in our way.”
“It’s not an easy thing to do. Thanks for handling it,” Gwen said kindly.
“Doesn’t get any easier either, no matter how many times you have to break it to the family,” Brad added.
“On a positive note.” CC brightened. “I found another contact in Meg’s address book. I’m just about finished going through it. Most are business contacts and former classmates and co-workers long forgotten. The kind that say, ‘Meg who?’ and have to think a long while to remember they knew somebody by that name. But one of my last calls was returned by a man named Kyle. Brad, if you remember, you’d know him as Kinky on Facebook and dating and social networking sites.”
“Sure, I remember seeing his name.”
“Well, turns out he and Meg were an item for about six months. They broke it off, but stayed friends. The best part is that he was actually there, in Meg’s apartment, one night when she was freaking out about the man parked in the car across the street,” CC said excitedly. “He agreed to meet me at Starbucks at seven tonight.”
“Sounds promising,” Brad said, sharing her excitement.
“Yeah, we could really use a break in this case,” Gwen agreed.
“Did he actually see the man in the car?” Scott asked.
“I don’t know yet. When he called, he was running late for work. He said he’d tell me everything tonight. By the way, he’s a masseuse and hairstylist by profession. I’m pretty sure he’s gay, but just in case I don’t make it to The Dive in time, I might be getting a massage. Hmm, maybe a facial too.”
Everyone looked at her in shock and surprise.
“Geez, guys. Just kidding,” CC laughed.
When Gwen arrived at The Dive at eight thirty, CC had not arrived yet. She was dying to find out what she had found out from the hairstylist, but would have to wait until after they left The Dive.
Gwen ordered a beer and wondered if she should be worrying about CC meeting this guy. After all, who knew what kind of unsavory characters Meg had latched onto. Gwen had been surprised many times by the men whom seemingly straightforward and intelligent women fell in love with. No, she reasoned to herself, CC could take care of
“Spaceship back to earth,” Ben said and laughed, breaking her reverie. “Girl, you’re way out there tonight.”
“Sorry. Just daydreaming, I guess,” Gwen said, embarrassed.
“It’s night now, honey. No daydreaming allowed. The dart team will be here in a half hour or so. I want to see some good play tonight.”
“I think we could all use that.”
“You know, I was afraid folk would quit coming in with all the freaky stuff going on, but it’s just been the opposite. Seems like the family is sticking closer together. I’ve been busier than hell the past week. Sure, some of ’ems just nosy and coming around to see what’s the latest, but mostly, people are real concerned.”
“Ben, you realize that’s a compliment to you, don’t you? You make everyone feel safe, comfortable and taken care of,” Gwen told him.
“Well, thank you, Miss Gwen. I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. Now go have yourself some fun,” he said, nodding to the group coming in the door.
It was after ten and they were on their second game of darts when CC walked in and sat at the bar. Her face was flushed, almost glowing, and Gwen could tell her meeting had gone well. CC was nearly bursting at the seams to talk, but Gwen could only nod, acknowledging her presence.
Gwen finished the third game and lost miserably. He mind was not on the game. She took the ribbing from her teammates with good humor, laughing with them about her off center shots, and went to the bar to finish her beer.
It was almost midnight and Gwen stifled a few yawns and said her goodbyes. While Ben walked her to her car, she caught CC leaving with TJ at her side. “See you tomorrow,” she said, and waved to Ben as he turned to walk inside.
by Jasmine Austin Moore have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes