It was two in the morning.
The streets were empty. Reflecting pools of light from the street lamps after a short summer rain. We–my partner and I–were in the Rousch 427 Mustang, the windows down, the 435 horses rumbling in a barely restrained symphony under the hood. Coming out of the stereo speakers were the strange, hypnotic vibes of a song called Handel on your Face by a two-singer male group called Bodyrockers.
I got a handle on your face./It’s in a stone-cold place./Why don’t you move it over here-ah/and let me burn away your fear.
The perfect theme song for murder.
It starts out with the classic notes of Handel’s Sarabanda and then turns into a melodic guilt-trip of lust, desire, and psychotic nightmares.
Frank and I were in route to pick up our prime suspect. A crazy sonofabitch with a rap sheet about as long as I-70 from Denver to Kansas City.
Attempted murder–just about everything a career criminal needed to make himself know to homicide detectives like us.
Now it was murder. Nothing attempted. Murder finalized. The body lay on the concrete pavement of his driveway with two 9 mm holes in his back and blood inching its way down the pavement toward the gutters. Inside the million dollar home the man’s wife was in hysterics. When we left the paramedics were giving her an injection to calm her nerves and make her sleep. She was sixty-eight years old with a heart condition. As we were leaving one of the paramedics looked at us, frowned, and shook his head.
In her condition it would be a miracle if she lived through the night. So our prime suspect wasn’t going to be charged with one murder. Two counts would be slapped on him if the woman died during the night.
Our suspect was named Raymond Russell. He’d just been released from a Federal prison a month earlier and was making himself at home down in the wharf district in a bar called Slim’s. His brother owned the place and Raymond was working there as a bartender/ bouncer. But rumor was he was doing other things on the side. Like fencing stolen goods. Muscling into the local drug business. Stealing cars.
Turning on Vincent street, I worked the gearshift up through third to fourth and drove. Raymond was our suspect because the dead man’s daughter, a lovely little dark-eyed beauty about twenty-two or twenty-three by the name of Nancy told us her father and Raymond had had a series of bitter confrontations. Confrontations down in the wharf district not too far from where Raymond worked. Apparently Raymond wanted a piece of the old man’s business. Threatened the old man several times if he didn’t give in. Said his daughter might find herself in a terrible accident.
Like I said—Raymond was a nice guy.
I pulled the growling Mustang up to the curb about a half block away from the bar and cut the engine. In the darkness, Vine street is always black since no one in the street department feel’s safe enough to come down here and repair the busted street lights, the two of us sat back in the bucket seats and waited. Waited for the bar to close up and for Raymond to step out. In the darkness the black forms of warehouses and forgotten businesses lined both sides of the street like forgotten sentries. Only the soft colored neon lights of Slim’s broke the darkness.
An hour went by before the lights to the bar went out. As soon as they did Frank and I slid out of the Mustang and started walking silently down the street toward Raymond’s car. Frank–about as wide as a Mountain Gorilla on steroids and, with his stringy carrot top hair, about as ugly–reached inside his sport jacket and pulled out his 9 mm Glock. I pulled out the Kimber .45 caliber I preferred, cocked the hammer back with a thumb, and then reached for my leather case which held the gold detective badge inside.
He didn’t see us until we were about ten feet from him. But when he did, he dropped the money bag he had in one hand as he turned and stepped back.
“Who the hell are you guys?”
“Cops, Russell. Want to ask you some questions,” I said.
“Questions? About what? I haven’t done anything.”
“About a murder, Russell. A guy by the name Charles Connery,” Frank’s growl rumbled in the night.
“Charles Con . . . . why that crazy bitch! Listen, I’m not taking the fall for this. Whatever went down I wasn’t involved. There’s no way I’m going back to prison. No way!”
“Russell . . . Russell! Don’t do anything stupid,” I yelled.
Russell did something stupid. In the darkness we say the con reach with his left hand behind his back and pull out something dark and bulky looking. He lifted the left hand the bulky object up toward us in one swift motion. And that’s when we fired. My .45 and Frank’s 9 mm lit up the night at the same time. The blasts of the two pieces ripping the night apart with bright flames and a thundering roar.
Raymond Russell lay in the middle of the street in a pool of blood. Both of his shoulders were ripped to pieces from the slugs smacking into them. He was alive. He would live. Barely. But as we stood over him, and has Frank kicked the Colt .45 away from Raymond’s left hand, we stared down at the bleeding con and neither one of us were happy.
“Did you see that? See how he reached for his gun?”
“Yes,” I nodded, gripping the Kimber in my hand firmly. “His left hand. Drew with his left hand.”
“He’s right handed,” Frank said, nodding and using the Glock to point to Russell’s right hand. “Look at that.”
Raymond Russell’s right arm, from his elbow down to the tip of his fingers, was encased in a hard plaster cast. A fresh one. Pulling out a small flashlight I waved it around over the cast and noted how white it was.
“What did he mean about a crazy bitch?” I asked, frowning, eyeing the groaning man.
“Yeah,” Frank nodded, flipping open his cell phone and lifting it to his ear and speed dialing dispatch. “Sounds to me like he knows the Connerys. But maybe not the old man.”
“Knows Nancy Connery,” I said. “Sounds to me he knows her quite well.”
Frank spoke rapidly and calmly in the phone. Almost instantly we heard off in the distance sirens heading in our direction. Flipping the phone closed he dropped it back in his coat pocket and looked at me.
“Guess we should see just how crazy a bitch Nancy Connery is. If she is.”
Four hours later we knew exactly how crazy the daughter was. Driving over to the mansion just as the sun was beginning to light up the eastern sky we didn’t say a word. During the night Mrs. Connery died from a massive heart attack. The only Connery living now was the daughter. And she just inherited fifty million dollars. But last month–last month–Nancy Connery was thrown out of the family residence when word got back to her parents she had been seeing a slime ball by the name of Raymond Russell. Partying all night long. Getting drunk. Cavorting down at Slim’s like some cheap harlot. Words Charles Connery used to describe his daughter. He told her he was going to throw her, not only out of his house , but out of his will as well. If she wanted to run around with a lowlife like that, then run around with him without any money and see how long he stays with you.
Nancy Connery had a history of being in and out of mental institutions all her life. Self destructive the lass was. Hurt herself . . . and when she was in the mood, hurt others as well. Mostly her parents.
The night she was thrown out of her house she moved in with Raymond Russell. That lasted all of one week. Suddenly, the night before Charles Connery gets two slugs in the middle of his back, Nancy Connery moves back into the family mansion. The slugs came, interestingly enough, from the gun Raymond drew on us earlier in the night.
We climbed out of the Mustang and walked up to the front door of the house, the two of us noticing a light on in the living room as we stepped up to the double front doors. Reaching up I pressed the button for the doorbell and stepped back. Nancy Connors opened the door almost immediately.
“Detectives is . . . is he dead?”
“Who's dead, Miss Connors?” Frank asked.
“Why . . . .Raymond Russell. He is dead, isn’t he? He said he’d never go back to prison again. Said he’d kill himself first. So . . . so he must be dead. Right?”
“He’s alive, Miss Connors. Very much alive and telling his side of the story,” I said. “We need to take you downtown.”
She looked up us, her face a portrait of childish innocence, but her eyes . . . her large brown eyes . . . burning funeral pyres of insanity.
“I want a lawyer,” she whispered softly.
We nodded, each of us taking an arm and escorting her out of the house. As we walked to the patrol car that had followed us back to the house I could hear the lyrics from the song rattling along in my head.
I got a handle on your face./Its in a stone-cold place./ Why don’t you come over here-ah/and let me burn away your fear.