The Cadillac Diaries Episode 42

Careful not to wake the sleeping Tommy and Sabella, the next morning Ray quietly stepped outside the hotel room and took in a deep breath of morning air. The mist was cool and invigorating. As he stood in the doorway, dressed in slacks and an undershirt, he slowly looked over the parking lot then suddenly realized the Cadillac was gone.

Confused as to its whereabouts, he swept the area and spotted it parked at the back of a dead end alley across the street. Feeling a bit uneasy, he slipped back inside the room and finished dressing. Grabbing his jacket and hat, he walked out the front door of the hotel, closing the door behind him.

As Ray slowly headed towards the Cadillac, he heard the tapping of Pete’s claws on the pavement behind him. When he looked back, Pete stopped in his tracks, his mouth open and his tongue lolling out.

Ray smiled and said,

“Someone is most likely up to no good, boy. I need you to stay here and warn Tommy if something goes wrong.”

Pete closed his mouth and tilted his head to the side.

“Please?” Ray asked.

Pete stared for a moment then sat down to wait.

“Good boy!” Ray praised.

But when he turned back and resumed walking, he once again heard the tap of Pete’s claws, now beside him. Ray stopped and looked down.

“You are stubborn! You know that?”

His face turned up, Pete’s tail wagged from side to side.

Giving up on Pete’s obedience, Ray went on and crossed the street. As he slowly entered the alley, he watched the shadows for any movement.

When he reached the Cadillac, he saw that it had not been damaged.  The windows were down, and resting on the driver’s seat was a gun belt with a six shot revolver in the holster. Tucked underneath the holster was a piece of white paper. Ray gingerly pulled the paper free, opened it and read the words aloud:

“Dear Mr. Slats, I know there is more to you than meets the eye, and I am determined to find out what you’re made of. As you read this note, six heavily armed men are entering the alley.”

Ray glanced up and saw that six men, three with sub machine guns and three with rifles, stood at the alley’s mouth, blocking his exit. He looked back down at the note and continued reading:

“They have been well paid and instructed to open fire the minute you do anything other than put on the gun belt and walk to the front of the car. Are you a fan of westerns, Mr. Slats? Consider this your showdown and the alley your O.K. Corral. You either kill them or they kill you.”

Ray looked up again, but when he opened his mouth to speak, one man raised his rifle and took aim. He promptly closed his mouth, and the man lowered the rifle.

Ray dropped the paper into the Cadillac and removed the gun belt, wrapping it around his waist and buckling it. He walked to the front of the Cadillac and paused. Pete’s lips were drawn back, showing his teeth, and his growl was threatening. Ray knew he hadn’t much time. Soon these men would open fire or Pete would attack. Either way, everything would be over. Ray didn’t want to kill them, but he didn’t see that he had much choice.

Raising both hands, Ray opened his mouth as though to speak, and the men aimed their weapons to fire. With as much speed as he could muster, Ray reached down with his right hand, pulled the revolver free, and quickly fired once at each man.

As the deafening echo of gunfire died down, Ray ran forward and snatched up the weapons just as each man dropped from the wound in his leg.

“Sorry about that,” Ray said.

“I need my car, so you might want to get out of the way,” Ray warned as he hurried back to the Cadillac.

The engine rumbled to life, and Ray waited while the wounded men struggled to crawl aside. Once they had cleared the mouth of the alley, he slowly pulled forward and braked, letting the engine idle.

“I’ll call for an ambulance. Don’t worry, boys. You’ll be fine. My aim’s still pretty good huh?” Ray laughed.

Driving across the street, Ray spotted Tommy and Sabella. He was already dressed and had the child in tow.

“What happened, Ray?” Tommy asked.

“Nothing serious. Just went to stretch my legs,” Ray responded.

Tommy opened the door and helped Sabella into the back. As he climbed into the passenger seat, he pressed,

“No really. What happened?”

“Later,” Ray insisted.

 

 

*          *            *

Ray and Tommy left Sabella with Mavis at the Horseshoe and drove to the address of the first suspect.

When they reached the house, they stood leaning against the Cadillac.

“So what happened back there in the alley?” Tommy asked.

“Not much,” Ray began then quickly went over the highlights of what had happened.

“All right. Now tell me about the guy who lives here,” Ray said.

“John David Blackwell. His daughter’s name is Madelyn. She gave birth to a little girl about four months ago and has been working days and night ever since trying to take care of the bairn plus save up for college.”

Ray and Tommy headed for the front door and when they reached the walkway, the door suddenly swung open and a large scowling man stormed out. As he tenderly cradled a sleeping infant in his beefy arms, he walked up to them.

“Before you open your mouth,” he threatened in a low voice, “I warn you that if you wake my granddaughter, I swear I will kill you and drag your bodies inside to make it look like an accident.”

Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Ray decided to comply, having had plenty of sleepless nights of his own when Deborah was a baby.

“Mr. Blackwell, my name is Raymond Slats and this is Tommy Howell. As I’m sure you’ve already heard, Damien Pena has been murdered,” Ray whispered.

“Good!” Blackwell announced.

“The man who claims to have murdered him is innocent, sir, and if he goes to jail. . .,” Ray paused.

“Do you see the child in the back of that car?” Ray asked, pointing to the Cadillac.

Blackwell looked over at the empty convertible then back at Ray in confusion.

“That child is his daughter. If he goes to jail, she goes into foster care.”

“Uh Ray, we left Sabella with Mavis. Remember?” Tommy pointed out.

Ray paused for a moment, his eyes widening.

“Well the child that was in that car will go into foster care,” Ray explained.

The lines on Blackwell’s face softened somewhat and he asked,

“What do you want?”

“Just a few minutes of your time,” Ray explained.

Blackwell paused then said, “Come on inside. But be quiet!”

Ray and Tommy waited in the living room while Blackwell put his granddaughter down for her nap. After a few minutes, his footsteps were heard on the stairs.

“All right. You can relax a bit. She’s sleeping with the fan going. Should block out our voices. Been up half the night with her. Would you two like a cup of coffee?”

Both Ray and Tommy politely declined the offer.

“Have a seat. Now what can I do to help?” Blackwell asked.

“Mr. Blackwell, you strike me as the kind of person who is an honorable man, so let me start by saying that I want to find the real murderer.”

“So do I,” Blackwell smiled.

Ray paused, “You do?”

“Of course. Oh yeah I hated the guy. He got my daughter Madelyn pregnant then pretended he knew nothing about her. Now she’s working around the clock trying to take care of my granddaughter and pay for college. I was hoping to prove Pena was the father and then use the child support to help my daughter. The last thing I wanted was to see that coward dead, at least not before I got what I wanted out of him.”

Ray approached his next comment carefully.

“Not to insult you, sir, but how can you be certain he was the father, unless he submitted a DNA sample for testing. I mean your daughter no disrespect. I’m just speaking legally here, looking for clarification.”

Without a word, Blackwell frowned, rested his cup of coffee on the table, then stood up and walked over to the mantle. He retrieved a photo, brought it back, and handed it to Ray. The photo was a young woman holding a baby. The woman was smiling as she looked down at the chubby child whose curious face was turned toward the camera. Ray couldn’t help noticing that the child’s eyes were a pale green and the woman’s a deep blue.

“If you look at my granddaughter’s eyes then at her mother’s, you’ll see they are very different colors.”

“I see that,” Ray responded.

“Now look at this.”

Blackwell handed Ray a magazine clipping of Damien Pena.

Ray reached out for the clipping and almost at once saw that Pena’s eyes were light green, the very color of the infant’s.

“You see it, don’t you?” Blackwell asked.

Ray nodded and returned the photo and magazine to Blackwell.

“It’s no secret I hated that man. I never tried to hide it. But he owed his daughter something. You don’t just father a child and leave.”

 

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