Monday, January 26, 2009


Chapter 3

and the Story Continues.....

Chapter Three

I saw the body almost as soon as I entered the smoke filled room. A small group of people had formed a circle around the dead man, just far enough away not to be involved, but close enough to see what was happening.

I took a second to make a mental picture of the people in the room. I recognized a few faces, but knew that none of the people in here killed this man. The men were all wimps, whose wives made their lives a living Hell, but were afraid to do anything about it but subconsciously hate themselves. The few women were mostly booze hounds with issues of their own. If they had shot him they would be draped over the body sobbing and saying how much they loved him and how sorry they were. Odds were, none of these people killed that man, but I still didn’t rule anyone out.

I reached down to tip the man’s hat back so I could see his face, but drew back just before touching him. My fingers had been within an inch of the cause of death, a small bullet hole just behind the right temple, administered at very close range, in front of all these people.

I looked up into the blank faces, each one staring back at me, probing my every movement, critiquing my every move. I knew they were wondering if I could handle this case, if I had what it takes. I could stand it no more and shouted, “didn’t anyone see who killed this man?”

Everyone in the bar looked away truly disinterested, some smiling, some laughing openly and with good reason. A true blue working detective doesn’t lose his cool so quickly or beg for clues so pitifully. Their disinterest was genuine and understandable. In this end of town violence is as common as a cold – and there isn’t a cure for either. I saw Mike working busily behind the bar serving drinks, as I again turned my attention to the body, trying not to notice the squishing sound coming from my pants, as I bent over the stiff on the floor.

The guy was huge. He looked to be Samoan, mid 30s, 6’7” and an easy 325 pounds, more muscle than not. There appeared to be three other wounds in his middle and upper chest. He was so big it probably required all four shots to bring him down.

He was wearing nice slacks and a long sleeve dress shirt. The collar was open and a real silk tie lay loosened around his neck. His shoes were very expensive, and his aftershave wasn’t Brut.

I checked his wallet. He had a California Driver’s license. It said his name was Mathisu Tonongo, and he was from Sacramento. There were a few uninteresting business cards, one credit card, several hundred dollars in cash and a laundry ticket. I kept the laundry ticket. I plucked out a twenty, rubbed it between my thumb and fingers and tucked them both in my pocket. I looked up and saw a guy staring at me. “It’s counterfeit, they all are.” I said and started to check his other pockets. Nothing, no change, no keys, no phone – nothing. He still had his watch, a Rolex, a ring on each hand, and his nails were manicured.

I stood up and glanced around. The man was still staring at me. “Did you see this?” He shook his head. “Right,” I snorted. The rest of the bar was paying no attention as the cops arrived. I headed to the bar and took a seat where I could see the door and the body.

“What’ll you have Vance?” asked Mike. “Tomato juice with a lime wedge,” I said. When Mike returned with my drink, I said, “what happened here Mike?” “You know me Vance, I was in the back checking stock.”

Mike was a good guy who had seen his share of trouble, and didn’t care for more. Mike did a stretch. When he got out some old pal set him up here as the “owner.” I didn’t know who his partner was, but there were no tax stamps on the liquor bottles, tags on the seat cushions and Mike didn’t carry insurance, or live like a business man whose overhead was too low.

The body was still warm, and things weren’t adding up. First, with his criminal past and ten plus years in the bar, Mike could spot trouble a mile away, and usually threw out troublemakers before things got exciting. So maybe he was checking stock. Second, big Samoans usually travel in pairs. Third, the guy was so well dressed he would have stood out almost anywhere; even on the good part of town, but nobody seemed to notice him. Fourth, in my haste to get dressed, did I put on my underwear or the dames?

The cops scurried around like cops do. They talked to almost everyone in the bar, nobody saw anything. I was hoping to talk with Detective Watts, a sometimes friend of mine. We were currently speaking, but I had to go. With some luck the blonde was still at the hotel, and we could get my jeans off without my losing any skin. I gave Watts a wave as I paid for my drink and left.

I awoke to a knock at the door. It was the maid. I got some clean towels from her and closed the door. I was alone, not even a sign of the dame.

As I showered, I thought about the shooting. A man was gunned down in a bar in the middle of happy hour and nobody saw anything. This sort of thing happened a lot when I was growing up in Jersey. This was typical for the mob. One of the families from Vegas has an interest in town, but I hadn’t gotten wind of any activity by them lately. I didn’t sound like the Asian gangs either. They usually slit throats and do not hang out at the Come and Get It. This could be a tough case. Wait. Nobody asked me to take it. Nobody is paying me and I’m not personally involved. Forget it, leave this one to Watts, he could use a career boost.

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