Victims, page 1
By L. A. Wilson, Jr.
Cover Art: Designs By Rachelle
Published by Mind Wings Audio at Smashwords
This story is also available in audiobook CD and MP3 downloadable formats
Copyright 2011 L. A. Wilson, Jr.
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Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for you use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This story is a work of fiction, created entirely from the imagination of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Northern Atlanta Suburbs
Everything I had come to believe was true and complete in a manner I could have never imagined. Holly Fisher read the words for the third time and smiled approvingly at the rhythm of her prose. A shadow cast at the top of her computer screen caused her to snap her head around. She never saw the cause. Death came on softly padded feet. It gripped her throat and held her in its grisly embrace until the words faded from her brain. The words stored in the lap-top weren't as problematic, but their demise was equally complete.
Six Weeks Later
The heavy aroma of honeysuckle saturated the air surrounding the sidewalk café and lingered in Ellis Carver's nostrils like residual sin--guilty remnants of illicit pleasures. It reminded him of Savannah Hodges, not just because he was looking at her, but because her presence naturally incited his desire to sin. She did that to a lot of men, but some of them didn't have the good sense to resist their nature and avoid succumbing to inevitable disaster. Maybe an excess of youth led some men down that road to destruction. Paying for pleasure was a turn-off for Ellis Carver and left him immune to her poison.
She put her hand on his knee as she sat beside him.
"I got two children and a wife ten years younger than me," he said. "Take your hand off my goddamned leg."
"You don't have to be so disagreeable, Ellis," she pouted. "Buy me a drink."
"What do I get for it?" He asked.
"What do you want?" She teased with an enticing flutter of her eyelids that would have melted most men.
"Who's Jake Boney screwing these days?"
"What do you think I am, The National Enquirer?"
"You could be. Think of me as a subscriber."
He slid a fifty-dollar bill toward her.
"Now you talking," she grinned. "The word is, he's joined the youth movement. He's got some little young thing, looks like she's nineteen or twenty--all tits and ass."
"Kinda like you used to be," Ellis laughed.
"Kiss my ass, Ellis," she retorted in a flash of genuine anger.
Savannah was only about thirty, but women like her were victimized by the march of time more than everyone else. Her physical attributes had always determined the level of her success, but the pain in her life caused them to wane. Ellis understood: life on the streets inflicted its share of pain on policemen as well. Like Savannah, he was one of the walking wounded, but unlike her, he took pride in his scars.
"Where did he get her?" Ellis asked directing her focus towards his interests.
"I don't know. Central America, South America. I hear she can't speak English."
"She doesn't have to if she can do the nasty good enough, right?"
"I guess," she laughed. "That's usually the way it works."
"Where's he hanging out these days?"
"Why you looking for him?"
"Who's paying who?" Ellis asked pointedly.
She thought about it transiently then smiled to show her lack of offense at his intentional brusqueness.
"He moved into one of those new places in Atlantic Station--no niggers and very few white folks," she quipped.
"Yeah? Where's the money coming from?"
"Foreign money—oil money."
"You keep your ear to the ground, don't you?"
"Gots to," she laughed. "That's how I make my living. Got to stay ahead of the trends. That's why they come to America. They leave their God over there so they can partake of a little high-priced sin."
"How did Boney get in there?" Ellis asked.
"Are we still dealing or are we just talking?" Savannah asked abruptly.
"Does it matter?"
"Hell, yes. You're on the clock, and your business money just ran out."
"So I guess we're just talking," He added.
"So I guess it's time for me to go," Savannah announced.
"So it's like that?"
"Every day and twice on Sunday." She stood to go. "See you around, Ellis."
She was pissed. It had probably been one too many snide remarks and not enough money, but it wasn't in his nature to be apologetic. Ellis watched the sway of her hips as she walked away and tried to convince himself that he had no regrets about her sudden departure. Anyway, he was already thinking about his next move. Like the unbroken circle of his life, she would eventually return whether he wanted her to or not.
"Hey, Ellis. What are you doing at work? I heard you were on sick-leave."
Ellis looked up at Detective Tom Marin's concerned face.
"Yeah, I am. Just trying to tie up a few loose ends."
He returned to rummaging through a desk drawer that didn't belong to him.
"I hope it's nothing serious," Marin continued.
"Whatever's got you on sick-leave."
"Oh," Ellis replied absently as he continued to scrutinize the contents of the desk. "Naw. Nothing serious. I just need a little time."
He knew Marin was fishing, but he also knew that he was too much of a wimp to ask him anything directly.
"I was sorry to hear about John," Marin interjected. "I know you two were close."
"Yeah," Ellis replied without attempting to extend the conversation.
"I think his personal things were taken to his wife," Marin informed him.
"I'm not looking for personal things," Ellis answered succinctly.
He continued to search through various papers as the subtle rebuff seemed to go right over Marin's head.
"They made any progress on his case?" Marin persisted.
"I don't think so," Ellis sighed.
He wanted Tom Marin to leave him the hell alone so he could finish what he needed to do. Tom was extending himself, appearing to be friendly while ineffectively masking his curiosity. Ellis considered blowing him off but thought better of it and decided to deal with it the best he could.
"Damn shame,” Marin continued. “In the old days we woulda rounded up those punks and sweated 'em until somebody told who did it."
Something about the way the words came out needled Ellis the wrong way. Listening to crap was one thing, but listening to this kind of crap was more than he wanted to tolerate.
"The old days weren't all they were cracked up to be," Ellis retorted. "I was there, remember? They would have picked up some black kid, beat the hell out of him, maybe killed him, planted a gun in his hand and announced that they got their man. So you tell that crap to somebody who doesn't know any better."
"Why are you getting pissed with me?" Marin countered. "I never did anything like that."
"Yeah, but I'll bet you stood your ass around enough times while somebody else did it and kept your
"You got no right..."
"I'm a big boy, Tom. I got a right to do whatever I'm man enough to back up."
He trapped Marin's eyes in a riveting gaze without smiling and without backing off. Marin turned red in what appeared to be an effort to choke back his anger.
"I don't know what's wrong with you, man."
"I'll tell you what's wrong with me, Tom. I'm pissed. I'm pissed because my friend got shot down in the street when he wasn't even on duty. I'm pissed because his wife doesn't have a husband and his kids don't have a dad. I'm pissed because the best the department has been able to do is to give him a big funeral."
"I'm just trying to be friendly, man," Marin explained sympathetically. "If you haven't noticed, you don't have many friends around here."
"My mother likes me, Tom. I think that'll do for now."
Apparently that was enough for Tom Marin as well, and he retreated to another area of the room where he huddled with a few other detectives. Ellis knew they were discussing him, but he didn't care.
He retrieved a small stack of folders from a bottom drawer.
"Hey, you're not supposed to take anything out of here," Marin yelled as he prepared to leave.
"You gonna stop me?"
All eyes in the room darted from one man to the other as if watching a tennis match. Ellis walked out of the precinct building with the papers and didn't look back.
Tom Marin had been right about his paucity of friends, but Ellis did have one friend. She had been there at the beginning, and she would be there in the end. Joanna Thomas had known him since he had started out as a rookie policeman with her husband, John. He and John had moved up the ranks together. They had raised their kids in the same neighborhood and attended the same church. Now John was gone, ostensibly the victim of random and senseless violence although Ellis had come to find that argument increasingly less compelling.
John Thomas had been a cerebral type of cop, plodding through forensics and logic to solve crimes. Ellis, on the other hand, kept his ear to the street, and on this issue, the street was silent. Ellis couldn't bring himself to believe that some mentally deficient street punk could gun down a policeman without somebody knowing about it.
Joanna Thomas embraced him warmly as she welcomed him into her home.
"I've got some things I need to go through. I need a place to work for a bit," he explained.
"Is it about John?" She asked looking at the folders he carried.
He nodded his affirmation.
"You can use the den," she said. "That's where John liked to work."
Ellis settled into a comfortable chair and started to peruse the papers he had retrieved. He no longer believed that he knew who his enemies were, and he decided that if he found anything significant, suspicious eyes would be less likely to look at Joanna’s residence than his own.
After some time had passed, she brought him coffee and cookies.
"No help?" She said apparently reading the disappointment in his expression.
"No help," he repeated. "I didn't really expect much. I got this stuff out of his desk. I'm sure it's already been scoped."
"So there's nothing?"
"Not much. I'm trying to track down this guy named Jake Boney. I identified him through John's cell phone. He's a bad guy--had three numbers. John had called all three of them multiple times."
"What does it mean?"
"Don't know. I don't even know if Boney had the phones or if they were just in his name."
She grew silent and sipped coffee while Ellis thumbed through the final papers.
"Have you ever heard the name Holly Fisher, Ellis?" She asked when he had finished.
"That was the last case he worked on. She was strangled in her home. Did John tell you about it?"
"No...No. John never talked about his work. I found her name and number on a scrap of paper in one of his jackets when I took it to the cleaner. When was she killed?”
"About a month ago," he replied. "Look, Joanna, I'll get out of your hair. I've got a few other things to track down. Can I leave these papers here?"
"Ellis," she continued while ignoring his question. "I found that name the first of the year."
Ellis abruptly stopped what he was doing. He looked at her blankly with a face practiced in obscuring his inner thoughts.
"Ellis." Her voice was suddenly pleading with him. "Was John having an affair?"
"Not possible," he answered quickly. "I was with John almost every day. I don't think he could have kept that sort of thing from me."
Now he urgently wanted to get away from Joanna. A man's innermost thoughts were his own. As close as they were, Ellis had no illusions. Why John Thomas had Holly Fisher's name in his pocket several months before her death was something Ellis didn't want to speculate about with John’s wife. He cared too much about Joanna to watch her disintegrate emotionally in the face of unwarranted suppositions. Ellis forced himself to look away from the anguish that haunted her face. He knew he was leaving her with the appearance of avoiding an issue, but it seemed the better of a host of bad choices.
Ellis Carver groaned with a mixture of fatigue and pleasure as he stretched out in his bed. It had been a hell of a long day for a man who was supposed to be on sick-leave.
"You all right?" His wife asked as she slipped into the bed beside him.
He grunted and fast-forwarded the videotape past an area that was irrelevant to him.
"What are you watching?"
"News report on the Holly Fisher case."
"That was John's case. You've got it now?"
"Naw," he sighed. He never liked explaining what he did to Maxine. He preferred to separate his profession from his family. Years of watching police families disintegrate had convinced him it was the best course. In spite of that, he always seemed to succumb to Max's questioning as he was doing now. "I'm trying to see if I can identify any players that we didn't already know about."
"John may have known this woman before she was killed."
"Oh." Her subdued exclamation didn’t cloak her surprise. "So you are considering that..."
"Don't go there," he warned.
"But what if he..."
"He didn't," Ellis interrupted.
"How do you know?" She persisted. "You know you guys think more with your little heads than with your big heads."
"John was our friend," he countered.
"I know," she replied thoughtfully. "But how well can you know your friend's heart?"
"About as well as I know yours."
"Really? You think you know mine? You think I would have an affair?"
"No," he answered without hesitation. He wondered why she always liked to twist their conversations in a way that would make them personal. It had become a tactic that she liked to use in order to win arguments because she knew he hated making every conversation about them.
"You sure about that?" She persisted.
"Why? Shouldn't I be sure? What are you trying to tell me?"
"That if you pissed me off enough, I might. But I don't have to worry about that, because you're a sweetie," she added in a syrupy patronizing voice.
He just stared at her without responding. He couldn't always tell when she was b.s.-ing him. Max had turned over and ended the conversation. He shook her and made her turn toward him again.
"You think John was having an affair, don't you?" He asked, hating that he had allowed her to manipulate him into a discussion he didn’t want to have once again.
"I think that investigating a case you're involved in is the best way to make sure that it's not solved."
She turned over again, and he didn't interfere. She had given voice to thoughts he hadn't dared to explore. He turned off the television and snuggled against her. She took his hand and put it in a place that made him smile. She had been b.s.-ing him, but not about everything.
He bounded out of the stairwell with his eyes darting vainly down both ends of the empty hallway.
"Damn!" He muttered and sat on the floor because his rubbery legs felt as if they wouldn’t support him anymore. It was early morning, a time when most people agreed that energy levels were highest. He decided that such theories didn’t apply to men in their forties.
Five minutes passed, and his breathing finally slowed. Two little girls walked past and gave him a curious stare. He waved at them, but only one waved back. Good for you, he thought as the one who didn't wave pulled the other one away.
Midway down the hall, a door opened slightly. When he stood up the door slammed shut. Too late. He ran past the small girls and planted his foot against the door crashing it inward.
"What'd I do? What'd I do, man?" The young man pleaded.
Ellis grabbed him harshly and pushed him face down on the floor until he ascertained that he was unarmed.
"This your place?" He asked.