The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 49

Detective Richard Clay stood in the doorway acclimating his senses to the smell that pervaded the room. This morning the building’s super had received a complaint that there was a problem with one of the apartments. When he checked the unit, he discovered a dead man with a gunshot wound at the back of his neck. Thirty minutes after the call came into the station, Richard found himself walking up the stairs of the seedy apartment building. When he reached the apartment’s front door, he found Crime Scene busy at work.

“You never get used to it, do you?” Detective David Crandall said as he approached.

“David, what are you doing here?” Richard asked.

“Usually these brutal homicides aren’t my thing. Chief keeps me focused on other projects. But not this time. For some reason, he wanted me in on this one,” David explained.

“Well, this has been my scene more and more lately,” Richard complained.

“Especially since I started working with Ray,” he thought.

Ray’s success had given Richard a reputation around the department as the man for the job.

“So what have we got?” Richard asked.

“According to the super,” David began, consulting his notebook, “the apartment belongs to one Lucille Barker, a sweet old lady who only goes out to pick up lottery tickets.”

The hint of mirth in David’s voice struck Richard as a bit odd, that is until he saw the body.

Slumped onto the coffee table was the emaciated body of a man with a large hole through the neck.

“I have to say Lucille has really let herself go,” David said with a chuckle.

“I take it Lucille doesn’t exist?” Richard asked.

“Only on paper. Lucille Barker died twenty-eight years ago, but her name’s on everything connected to this place.”

“No id on the body yet,” David said, as the coroner moved the victim.

But when Richard saw the dead man’s face he knew.

“He’s Porter Daniels,” Richard said. “I’ve been looking for him in connection with at least two homicides and the attempted murder of my father-in-law.”

“How’s Ray doing?” David asked.

“Vitals are good, but he’s still not awake,” Richard explained.

“Sorry to hear that,” David said.

After a moment’s pause, David continued.

“Whoever killed this guy left a signature behind.”

David motioned to a photograph on the wall. Daniels’ killer was wearing a clown mask with a top hat. He had draped an arm around Daniels’ dead body, snapped a picture, and taped it to the wall. Beneath the picture was the signature “Captain Bonkers.”

“Captain Bonkers?” Richard asked.

“Yea. Captain Bonkers is the name of a comic book character. The series only ran about twelve issues. It was canceled six years ago when some reporter did a story about the death of one of the comic’s biggest fans, an eight-year-old boy. He and his family were brutally murdered.”

Richard cringed at this news.

“The comic’s writer and artist disappeared shortly after that, and the boy’s family left no surviving relatives,” David added.

“So what’s the connection to Daniels?” Richard asked.

“Still working on that one. Daniels was shot once in the back of the neck, and the bullet punched through his throat. He choked to death on his own blood.”

“Anybody hear the gunshot?” Richard asked.

“Nah. But we got a nosy neighbor down the hall says Daniels was hitting on some pizza delivery girl the day he was shot. Traffic cams have her entering and leaving the building around the time of the shooting,” David answered.

“Any luck on tracking her down?” Richard asked.

“None. But we did find a match on the uniform she’s wearing and called the pizza place. They have no record of any deliveries to this address,” David answered.

“Any facial matches on the girl?” Richard asked.

“Nope. ‘Fraid not. She manages to keep her face hidden from view of every camera between here and the subway where we lose track of her,” David said.

“Good bet she’s working with the killer or she is our killer,” Richard responded.

“Not likely the killer,” David said.

“How’s that?” Richard asked.

“Well these walls are thin, and the neighbor said if somebody had fired a gun, she would have heard it.”

David laughed then added,

“She even told me that she watches crime shows and knows what a silenced pistol sounds like.”

“Did she get a look at the girl?” Richard asked.

“Not much. Just red hair and blue eyes,” David said.

“Put out an APB on the girl. Not much of a description, but we need to start somewhere. Let’s get everything we can on this guy before he strikes again,” Richard said.

“You think he’ll strike again?” David asked.

Richard looked at the macabre photo and said,

“I’m betting this guy is just getting started.”

“Sir?” one of the crime scene technicians called out. David and Richard turned toward the voice.

“I won’t be certain until I get it back to the lab, but it looks like the killer left something in the victim’s bottle of beer.”

Richard squinted and looked into the bottle. Something small and black floated in the golden liquid.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Looks like a pawn from a chess game,” the tech answered.

Deep in his gut, Richard knew that things were going to get much worse before they got better.

“Is it just me or do you get the feeling we’ve only started down the rabbit hole?” David asked.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Water dripped from the ceiling cracks, splashing to the floor of the musty room as a lone figure stood gazing at an old poster of a comic book character, signed by his creator. Six years ago a small eight-year-old boy had turned to the picture with joy in his eyes and courage in his heart, knowing that should anything dark find its way into his room, his hero Captain Bonkers would always protect him. As the figure was drawn into the poster, he felt something long dead stir for a moment then fall back into the grave. When evil had come to the boy’s room, his hero had failed him. The figure’s eyes shifted from the poster on the wall to the bed still covered with the burned sheets where the boy’s remains had been set on fire to destroy any evidence. The boy and his mother died together that night. The father died somewhere else. He could still hear the boy’s cries for help as they echoed off the walls of the condemned apartment. The lone figure pulled down his clown mask, securing it in place, then reached over to the boy’s bed where his top hat rested. As he lifted it up and carefully brushed it off, Captain Bonkers remembered how the boy used to clean his room with a smile.

“Heroes take care of their personal property and keep things clean.”

The mantra of the child’s hero now haunted him from beyond the grave.

From his coat, Captain Bonkers pulled out a long sheet of paper. Across the top the words were written ‘The King’s Men’ with a list of names underneath.

At the top of the list, Captain Bonkers scratched off the name Porter Daniels then looked down at the next name.

‘Judge Conrad Matthews.’

He slipped the list back into his coat and turned to leave, the boy and his mother’s cries following him.

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