The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 10

After his visit with Brian Baker, Ray slipped out of the police station and hustled back to the Cadillac before the police started asking questions.

Ever faithful Pete was waiting up front in the passenger seat, where Ray had left him. When he saw Ray headed his way, he excitedly wagged his tail and barked.

“I think I got everything I need, Pete.” Ray put the Cadillac in reverse, and as he backed out, he said, “Of course I didn’t have time to wait and see. The cop on duty was starting to get suspicious.”

Pete cocked his head to one side and barked again.

“Yea, like you would’ve done any better,” Ray pointed out, pulling onto the street.

As he drove toward home, Ray ran over his conversation with Baker while Pete listened.

“According to Baker, his daughter Brooke was seeing a guy named Duncan Pickett. Pickett was nothing more than a punk on a motorcycle, with a bad vulture tattoo on his neck. Called himself Cleaver and sported a handlebar mustache, like some sort of trophy. Against Baker and the wife’s wishes, Brooke kept seeing Pickett, sneaking out at night and slipping back early the next morning. One night Baker’s wife Kelly had a nightmare about Brooke, so she got up to check on her. When she found her bed empty, Kelly woke Baker. He waited up all night for his daughter, who never showed. Next thing he knows, he’s being arrested, charged with attempted murder. Seems the cops found his daughter Brooke beaten near to death. When she died later in the hospital, they uped the charges to murder.

Suddenly Ray blurted out, “Pete, we need to get over to the Baker house and take a look at the daughter’s things.”

Ray slowed down as he passed the Baker house, a quaint two-story red brick Tudor with windows across the front. No cars were in the driveway. He passed the house a couple of times, just to be certain, then parked two houses down and walked back with Pete staying close. As he checked the door, Ray scanned the street then stooped and dug around in a potted plant by the door until he found the spare key Baker had said would be there. Baker kept it in a plastic sandwich bag for some reason. Ray opened the front door then stashed the bag back in the pot and covered it with dirt.

When Ray stepped inside the house, he heard the familiar beeping of a security alarm. Punching in the code Baker gave him, he stood still until the alarm was disarmed.

Ray looked down at Pete and said, “Wow! He really did trust me.”

When Pete snorted, Ray said, “Granted I showed him my driver’s license and let him keep my card, but he was desperate.”

Satisfied with this answer, Pete began sniffing the air.

Ray closed the door, locking it behind him, then looked around. “According to Baker, his daughter’s room is on the second floor.”

The house had no warmth. Rich, thick cream carpets ran wall-to-wall, and paintings with muted tones covered the walls. “Not much for color,” Ray commented as he moved towards the stairs and headed up to the second floor. Once he found Brooke’s bedroom, he opened the door and went in.

“Strange, snooping around the room of a dead girl,” Ray told himself. He started checking drawers and moved to the closet, the obvious places, for anything that might hold a clue. He shuffled through papers and opened boxes but was striking out when Pete started barking and sniffing the bed. He began to scratch the space between the mattresses, trying to find an opening. When Ray lifted the top mattress, Pete hopped up. There hidden between the mattresses was a large bag stuffed with photos.

Ray flipped through the photos and saw that most were of Brooke and her boyfriend Duncan. Young, blonde, and beautiful, Brooke was smiling in each one.

“What a waste,” Ray said aloud.

One shot had been taken in front of a garage, and standing in the background was an overweight man wearing a top hat. He seemed to be engaged in conversation with an older man in a suit.

“Now that’s odd,” Ray said squinting his eyes to get a closer look at the picture.

“Why is the guy wearing a top hat?”

As Ray was sliding the photos back into the bag, one slipped out of his grasp and fell to the floor. He glanced down and saw that on the back of the picture, Brooke had written “Body Shots. Duncan and me.”

He picked up the photo, added it to the others, and tucked the bag between the mattresses where he had found it.

“Let’s go, Pete,” Ray said as he turned to leave the room.

Before heading out, he activated the alarm and locked the door behind him.

Back out on the street, Ray made a stop at a gas station and hopped inside for a cup of coffee. Change in hand, he headed outside and grabbed a pay phone while Pete sat at his feet. After punching in the number, he sipped his coffee and waited.

“Tyler,” a man’s voice answered.

Tyler Clay was a sixty-three-year-old retired cop. His wife Beverly had been a friend of Margaret’s, and their son Richard was Ray’s son-in-law.

“Hey, old man. How’s the family?” Ray asked.

“What do you need?” Tyler questioned Ray.

“You think that’s the only reason I would call you?” Ray said feigning offence. “I was just curious about how you’re doing. How’s Beverly? You know how important her friendship was to Margaret.”

“Deborah already called,” Tyler said.

“Well shoot,” Ray protested.

“It’s all right, old man. We should stick together,” Tyler said.

“Have you heard anything about a Duncan Cleaver Pickett or a place called Body Shots?”

There was a long stretch of silence before Tyler said, “Here we are. Duncan the Cleaver Pickett. Part of a biker gang. Leader calls himself Top Hat. They’re being sought on suspicion of murder, theft, auto burglary and a number of other charges. All I have on Body Shots is that it’s an auto detailing shop. What’s going on?”

“Investigating a murder and trying to free a father who has been accused of killing his daughter,” Ray answered.

“That’s intense,” Tyler replied.

“Where is Body Shots?” Ray asked.

After Tyler gave the address, Ray thanked him and was just about to end the call when he stopped and asked,

“Hey, Tyler, how is it you’ve been retired for a while now but you still have up-to-date information?”

“What did you do for a living before you met Margaret?” Tyler asked.

“I was a dog food tester,” Ray replied.

“You have your secrets, I have mine,” Tyler said.

Ray smiled as he hung up the phone and walked back to the Cadillac with Pete close behind. Starting up the engine, Ray turned to Pete and asked, “What say we go to an auto detailing shop?

Pete wagged his tail and barked his approval as Ray pulled out of the parking lot.

As they rode through the streets, Pete put his front paws onto the passenger door and let the wind blow his ears.

A few minutes later, Ray pulled into a parking garage a block down the street from Body Shots. Looking the place over, Ray asked Pete,

“What do you think, boy?”

Pete looked from Ray to the shop and back before barking twice.

“Really?” Ray asked. “You think that will work?”

*          *          *

Tanner McDaniel sat in his office chatting online with a teenage girl who said she was sick of being stuck in class. He told her he was stuck in history class and couldn’t wait to get home to lie out by the pool. Part of that was true, anyway. He couldn’t wait to get home, but he wasn’t in class. At forty-five, he ran a small, struggling auto detailing business. He didn’t know the first thing about detailing, but he was a good salesman who had no problem charming people into paying jacked up prices.

Sitting back in his chair, McDaniel was just moving this online conversation to a more adult theme when a shadow cast across the shop door caught his eye. He turned to see an old man wearing glasses and hunched over a cane waddle in with a dog.

“Hello!” the old man called. “Anybody here?”

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Published in: on October 2, 2010 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

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