Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Genre: Crime Fiction/Murder Mystery

Part Six
By Daniel Skye

          Tuesday, January 7th, 2014.
          Wes Archer had passed his piss test, all thanks to his partner.
          Dale Craven had supplied him with clean urine so Captain Frost wouldn’t have an excuse to take away his badge.
          Frost was fuming after the loss of his only daughter and he wanted revenge any way he could get it.
          But if Dale was going to link these cases together and solve them, he’d need all the help he could get. And Archer was as good as they come, when he was sober.
          In the parking lot, Archer chain smoked cigarettes and drank coffee to try and wake himself up. His eyes were still bloodshot from the night before and even though he’d slept like a baby, he still felt drained of his energy. The unfortunate side effects of heroin.
          Dale Craven exited the department and joined him in the lot, bringing him a fresh cup of coffee. “How much heroin did you shoot up this time?”
          “Too much,” Archer muttered, sipping his coffee. “My tolerance was way lower than I assumed.”
          “Well you know what they say about the word assume, and you’re living proof of that.”
          “I’ll have to crash at your place for the next two days.”
          “My place?” Dale said, sounding unnerved by the proposed arrangement. “Why my place?”
          “Because I’m going to experience minor withdrawals,” Archer explained. “And I can’t be on my own, and definitely not at my place. I’ll feel compelled to do more to make myself feel better.”
          “God help me,” Dale sighed.
* * *
          The death toll was up to twenty.
          There was Betty and Louis Darsky.
          Augusto Hernandez and Hector Cardona of the Elm Street Boys, a gang that resides in downtown Carter City.
          Jason Briggs and Herb Blackwell.
          Molly Henderson and Shannon Reynolds.
          Toad, Archer’s snitch and main drug supplier.
          Those that had perished in the fire in the East Side apartment complex and the explosion in downtown Carter.
          And last but certainly not least, Ellen Frost.
          Dale Craven was under the impression that all these murders were connected, intertwined. He just needed to connect the dots and prove his theory.
          First, the Darsky’s were shot pointblank range in their bed before their house was torched. Jason Briggs had been strangled before the apartment complex on the East Side was torched.
Herb Blackwell, the landlord, was also found strangled in home, killed hours after the blaze had been extinguished. Maybe it was unrelated. Or maybe somebody didn’t want Herb Blackwell squealing like a pig. Maybe Blackwell knew something that someone else didn’t want to be made public record.
And then there was Vernon Keene of the ESB. Not too long after Keene came forward to say that his sister lived in that apartment complex and offered the services of the ESB, the ESB suddenly became targets of the mysterious hit-man known as the Mechanic.
          Archer wasn’t buying it, but then again, he was as stubborn as they come. He didn’t believe in coincidence. He believed in evidence, hard facts, solid proof. And Dale was offering him none. Just theories and conjecture.
          “There’s something I failed to mention last night,” Dale told him when they were back at his apartment.
          But Archer had made himself at home on the couch and Dale had supplied with a pillow and blanket, and a bucket, in case he needed to spew.
          “Don’t keep me in suspense,” Archer said. “Spit it out.”
          “When we found Ellen Frost’s body in that dumbwaiter shaft, she didn’t have a pentagram carved into her chest. There was no 666 written in blood. Her eyes had been extracted, carved from the sockets with what Pete Drayton believes to be a scalpel. Sound familiar?”
          “The Vulture,” Archer mumbled.
          “Bingo. Looks like our Green Ghost really is a true copycat killer.”
“I wonder who he’s going to emulate next.”
          “Well you stay here and think about it. Work that shit out of your system fast. I need your help on this one.”
          “Where are you going?” Archer asked.
          “To find Seth Cambridge.”
* * *
          Dale Craven took a stroll down to Elm Street to meet with an unlikely source. Damien Delgado, the leader of the ESB.
          He was holed up in the backroom of some pool hall along with Santino Martinez and Vernon Keene.
          Dale walked right in, ignoring the unsavory bar patrons and dismissing the two bikers who grilled him as he walked to the back. He noticed there was a payphone towards the back, which was an odd sight to him considering how archaic and obsolete payphones had become after the rise of cellular devices.
More unsettling sight was the mountain of a man in a black trench coat who was speaking on that phone. Even though he was talking right into the receiver, he seemed to have his eyes locked on Dale.
Dale approached the door and knocked four times as Delgado had instructed him to do over the phone. Keene unlocked the door and waved him inside. “I need you to put the word on the street for me. I’m looking for someone named Seth Cambridge.”
          “Consider it done,” Delgado nodded from behind the desk where he was seated.
          “While I’m here, tell me if you’ve ever heard of the Green Ghost before?”
          “The junkies around here and the Satanists on Skid Row all mutter about him, or her. I say her because it could be anyone. They say the Green Ghost is a legend, a savior, that they’re immortal. It’s probably bullshit if you ask me.”
          “You’re probably right,” Craven said. “But while you’re spreading the word about Seth Cambridge, would you mind asking around about it? These people, they’ll talk to you, not me. I need your help on this one. Before more innocent people have to die.”
          “After what happened to Vernon’s sister, after what happened to those poor, innocent girls, we’d be happy to help in any way.”
          “Good, by the way, the guy outside in the trench coat, is he a friend of yours? He was eyeballing me pretty hard.”
          “Trench coat?” Damien muttered, his mouth hanging open. “Was it black?”
          “I think so. Why?”
          “Because Augusto Hernandez’s mom said a man in a black trench coat came to their door the night Augusto was shot and killed on his porch.”
          Right on cue, three silenced rounds were fired through the door. Two bullets missed Delgado by mere inches. Santino Martinez, who was facing the door, caught a stray bullet to the temple and his body crumpled to the floor.
          Dale had drawn his pistol and had his back pressed against the wall to avoid the next barrage of bullets that he anticipated. Delgado had taken cover and Keene was pressed up against the wall beside Dale.
          “You got a gun?” Dale whispered to Keene.
          Keene nodded.
          “If you have to use it, I’ll look the other way if you know what I mean.”
          Keene removed his Colt .45 from his waistband and cocked the hammer with his thumb.
          They heard a ruckus emanating beyond the door as the bar patrons scattered and cleared out.
          “My employer doesn’t want you dead, Dale,” the Mechanic said from the other side of the door. “He has other plans for you and your partner. I’m just here for the rest of those lowlifes. Step aside and let me down my job.”
          “Eat shit and die,” Dale retorted.
          “Have it your way,” the Mechanic said with delight, squeezing off several more shots, reducing the doorframe to splinters. Delgado could see through to the other side from where he was hiding behind the desk. He drew his gun, quietly, made sure it was loaded.
          Then he fired one shot through the door from his hiding spot, striking the Mechanic in the chest, taking him off his feet.
          “He’s down,” Delgado said, sliding out from behind the desk. Dale kicked the splintered door from its hinges and the three of them stepped out. The Mechanic’s eyes were fixed, staring up at the ceiling fixtures, his body motionless.
          “Nice shot,” Dale said, giving Delgado a pat on the back. “I’m going to have to call this one. You should probably get out of here.”
But the three of them were momentarily distracted by Dale’s radio that was hooked to his belt. “Fire in progress on 873 Whitman Boulevard. Repeat, fire in progress on 873 Whitman Boulevard. Possible 451 in process. Repeat, possible 451 in progress.”
          “Fuck,” Dale said. “That’s the Bellmore Café.”
          “He’s alive!” Keene exclaimed.
          Dale saw the Mechanic sit up and he raised his pistol. The bullet entered the Mechanic’s skull and a splash of blood followed. There was no exit wound. The bullet remained embedded in the Mechanic’s skull, a parting gift from Dale Craven.
          “Son of a bitch was wearing a vest,” Keene pointed out, lifting the Mechanic’s shirt.
          “Hit-men usually come prepared,” Dale said. “I’m just wondering why he was targeting you guys.”
          “Don’t forget Toad,” Delgado said. “He’s not affiliated with us. Maybe he was targeting all the gangs and dealers in the downtown area.”
          “I’m starting to hate that word, maybe. You guys get out of here. I’ll sort this mess out with the boys.”
* * *
          And sort it out he did. The boys were impressed. It’s not every day you bag a living ghost.
          The Mechanic was a legend in the organized crime community. He was the best of the best. The finest hit-man money could buy. And now he was no more. But Dale had yet to figure out his role in all of this. But he certainly remembered what the Mechanic had told him. How his employer had other plans for him and Wes Archer.
          By the time Dale arrived at the Bellmore Café, the fire department had extinguished the blaze and little remained of the structure. Arson was already on the scene and witnesses said the fire was started by an explosion in the kitchen caused by a sudden gas leak. The chef didn’t even smell it until he went to start the pilot light with a match. And then…KABOOM.
          “I wonder if Archer will still think this is all coincidence,” Dale muttered. This sealed it for him. The Mechanic, Firebug AKA Seth Cambridge, the Green Ghost, they were all interconnected. The pieces were starting to fall into place.
          As Dale dug his cell out to give Wes a ring, he heard his radio again. “Officers in pursuit of 451 suspect. Suspect was last seen heading south on Tremont Avenue, heading towards Skid Row, wearing a black baseball cap, a gray hooded sweatshirt, and blue jeans.”
          “You’re not getting away on my watch,” Dale said. He ran to his car, got in, and made a quick U-turn, then started speeding towards Skid Row.
          He found the suspect in question on Beech Street. Dale hit the switch for the lights on his dashboard, but as soon as Cambridge saw them out of the corner of his eyes, he started running faster.
          A few blocks up, Cambridge darted down a nearby alley and headed straight towards the meat packing plant, the same factory Wes had visited the night before. Only this time, Cultus Satanas was nowhere to be found. The factory was empty, cleared out. All that remained was a can of gasoline that seemed to be waiting just for Cambridge. It might as well have been gift wrapped.
          Dale, his pistol drawn, walked the alley and approached the door. He peered in and made sure the sides were clear. Then he entered slowly as the smell of gasoline assaulted his nostrils.
          He arrived just as Seth Cambridge was lighting the match. “The Green Ghost has promised me immortality in this life or the next,” Cambridge said. “And it shall be mine. To prove my loyalty, I will sacrifice this life and await the next.” His body was relaxed, his mind seemingly in a calm, serene state as the match burned down to his fingertips, igniting his body.
          He had doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. There was nothing Dale could use to extinguish the fire, no time to summon the fire department. All he could do was stare in horror at this human fireball.
          A single shot echoed through the factory. Seth’s flaming body collapsed and Dale turned back to the door where he saw Archer standing, .44 Magnum in hand.
          “I did him a favor,” Archer said. “Besides, the guy had it coming. Vernon Keene can rest easy now.”
          “Well that was a rapid recovery,” Dale said, astonished.
          “Suboxone,” Archer said. “It’s a big help with withdrawals. I called Ray and he still had some left over. I’m back in business.”
          “And just in time,” Dale said. “After I did all of the work.”
          “You’re forgetting about the Green Ghost.”
          “Let’s just get back to the office.”
          “I’ve got a better idea,” Dale said. “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? I think you owe someone a call.”
          “Ding, ding, ding.”
          “You’re right,” Archer said. “Call me if you need any help.”
          “Don’t ruin this for me,” Dale said. “Working cases without you is like being on extended vacation. It’s not Hawaii, but it’ll do.”
* * *
          Archer was going to call Valerie Reed. But he did her one better. He showed up at the offices of the Daily Buzz with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of twelve roses. He dropped to his knees in front of all her coworkers and her editor and begged for forgiveness.
          She accepted the flowers and chocolate, whispered for him to get off his knees and not to embarrass her or himself any further. They went into an empty room so they could have some privacy.
          And it was there that Wes confessed about his latest relapse. He had promised Val, swore he wouldn’t do heroin so long as they were together. He continued to grovel and plead for forgiveness when she smiled and said, “Well, since we were technically broken up when you did it, I guess it doesn’t count. Now let’s talk about dinner. Or are you in the mood for dessert?” she asked, unbuttoning the top of her blouse.
* * *
          “Hey,” Officer Foley called over to Dale, who was sitting at his desk looking at old files, trying to figure out their copycat killers’ next move. “We found this in the basement of the restaurant before it got blown to pieces. A strand of hair. Not Ellen’s, and not belonging to any of the employees. But the DNA matches Ellen’s. It’s not her hair, but it’s Frost DNA.”
          “What are you saying?” Dale asked, raising one eyebrow in quizzical fashion.
          “I’m saying either Captain Frost offed his own daughter, or it was one of his family members.”
* * *
          The signs were up all around town. Vanzetti Real Estate. The ads were on bus benches and billboards and people were handing fliers out all around the city. Every one of them with Nino Vanzetti’s smug, jowly face. A face that Archer loved to hate.
          But Nino Vanzetti was the last thing on Archer’s mind. It was eight o’clock and he had a nine-thirty dinner reservation to make. Everything was all set and Val was to meet him there at the restaurant after she went home and got ready.
          When Archer got back to his place to freshen up and change his clothes, he noticed the bedroom window was open. And he was certain he’d locked it. Out came the .44 Magnum and he did a full sweep of his apartment.
          He didn’t find anyone. But he did find a photo tagged to the refrigerator door. A photo of Terri Hart with a message that accompanied it, sprawled underneath the photo along the door in what Archer could only assume was Val Reed’s blood.
          The message was simple: You want her, come and get her.
          He frantically tried to reach Valerie Reed several times, but her phone went straight to voicemail each time. This wasn’t déjà vu. It was a nightmare.
          With no luck, he tried Dale, who answered after the first ring.
          “Do I have news for you,” Dale said.
          “So do I,” Archer said.
          “You go first,” Dale insisted.
“I found out who our killer’s going to emulate next…The Gravedigger. And Dale, I think that sicko has Val with him.”

To Be Concluded With Part Seven!

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