The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 56

Ray waited as Detective David Crandall eyed Pete then began to relax a little, seeing no threat from the dog.

“Mr. King believes he is being targeted. Early in his career, he made some deals that at the time, let’s just say, were considered illegal.”

Ray nodded his understanding.

“Not unheard of. If you want to succeed in business today, you sometimes have to break a few rules.  But Mr. King has assured me that no one was hurt by his transgressions. . . ,” Crandall trailed off.

“But?” Ray prompted.

“Well it looks like somebody has targeted Mr. King, blaming him for something that he had nothing to do with. This person seems to believe that Mr. King has allied himself with criminals and needs to be terminated,” Crandall explained.

“And that’s where you come in,” Crandall continued. “Mr. King wants your help finding this Captain Bonkers, but he also wants you to identify those in his organization who are breaking the law. He hopes to have this cleared up soon, before any more lives are lost.”

Ray considered the proposition for a moment then asked,

“What’s in it for me?”

Crandall was taken aback.

“But you never ask for compensation,” he pointed out.

“That’s usually true. But the way I see it, if your client is coming to me, a retired cab driver, instead of hiring a professional investigator or even going to the police, he must be desperate,” Ray explained.

“And since desperate times call for desperate measures, I figure a small monetary reward is in order. Your client wants whatever I find to remain private, right? Or maybe I should just go ahead and call the police now. I’m certain they could help you out.”

Surprised by Ray’s revelation, Crandall was at a loss for words. Finally, he found his voice.

“I’m not sure what Mr. King will say, but I’ll ask about a payment arrangement of some sort. In the meantime, will you help?”

“I’ll need some time to think about it,” Ray said, “but if you’ll wait downstairs, I’ll join you in a few minutes with my answer.”

Crandall hesitated but when Ray assured him that he wouldn’t be long, Crandall turned and left the apartment, closing the door behind him. Pete, still pressed against Ray’s leg, watched the detective leave. Barking once, he growled then snorted as he looked up at Ray for a word.

“Oh I know, boy. He’s a big ole’ liar.”

Ray walked over to the nearest chair and sat down.

“Pete, isn’t it interesting that a man claiming to be clean and aboveboard is hiring someone as lowly as me—”

Pete barked.

“Sorry, boy,” Ray said, rolling his eyes. “Hiring someone as lowly as us to solve his problems and find a sociopathic serial killer. And he’s so desperate for help that he’ll even pay us. This guy’s in deep.”

Pete studied Ray’s face then cocked his head.

“Don’t worry, Pete. I know he’s up to far more than he’s letting on, but this may be my best chance to find out what.”

With a grin, Ray slapped his legs and stood up, pausing halfway when his knees popped and he felt a twinge in his back.

“I’m not 100% yet,” Ray said with a grimace.

After a few slow stretches to work out the kinks, Ray said,

“Let’s go, boy.”

Pete barked his compliance and followed Ray to the door.

With his hand on the knob, Ray stopped and looked down at Pete.

“Now not a word of this to anyone, Pete. Except maybe Tommy.”

Pete barked, and Ray rolled his eyes,

“Fine. You can tell Mavis. But you’re not fooling me. I know you only like her because she gives you treats.”

He opened the door and headed down the hall. When he stepped out of the elevator, Ray saw Crandall pacing outside the building.  Pushing the front door open, he said,

“Okay, Crandall. I’ll help you no charge but only to a point. After that, I’ll need some form of compensation.”

Crandall nodded.

“Oh and should you tell anyone I’m helping out, you’re on your own. Deal?”

“Deal,” Crandall said.

“Good. Where are we headed first?”

“I’d like to take you to one of Mr. King’s business partners. We suspect he may be involved in criminal activities or at the very least knows who in the company is.”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Dr. Chadwick Barnes turned and ran toward the open door while the other four people in the room stared in shock as David Hodges bled out. Blood poured from the wound in his neck onto the floor, draining away into a nearby metal grate.

Barnes stopped in the hallway on the other side of the door and shouted,

“I’m not leaving any of you alone, so either kill each other or come on.”

The escort Mercedes was the first to leave the room. Close behind her was a woman who had kept quiet, standing apart from the others. Chief Myron Hooper reached out and caught the arm of the last person leaving.

“Look, I know things are scary right now, but like I said earlier, we’ve got to work together. What’s your name?”

The woman paused, glancing over at Barnes, then shyly said,

“Crystal. I sing in a small nightclub downtown.”

“Well nice to meet y—”

“You two can exchange phone numbers later,” Barnes interrupted. “Come on!”

Dropping the woman’s arm, Hooper turned toward the open door.

“Look, Barnes. Back off! I’m willing to overlook that murder of yours if we help each other. Let’s not play right into his hands! He wants us to turn on each other!”

Barnes looked Hooper squarely in the eye and said,

“Then he’s getting what he wants. Now go!”

The hallway turned left then right before ending at a door marked,

“The Pick Five”

Hooper stepped forward and cautiously opened the door.

The room on the other side of the door was cluttered with empty boxes and bubble wrap. Positioned in the center of the room was a clown doll propped up on a table. Once everyone entered the room, the door slammed shut and they heard the click of the lock.

Suddenly the lights went out and a single spot focused on the doll.

With a childlike voice, the clown said,

“In this room filled with mirth and dread are five objects that will make you dead. Pick one up and pass it around. The door will not open till someone’s in the ground. Should you decide that killing is bad, not playing along will make me mad. Somewhere I watch you holding a gun. I’ll kill one myself. Won’t that be fun?”

The doll started to laugh then the spot went out. For a second, everyone seemed frozen to the floor. Then they all began frantically stumbling around, scrambling through the boxes as they searched for a weapon. Just then the lights came back on and Hooper was standing in the middle of the room with Crystal cowering behind him. Everyone except Hooper and Crystal was holding a weapon, one a screwdriver, another a steak knife. His eyes darting right and left, Barnes gripped a wrench in his hands.

“Easy everyone. He’s trying to scare us,” Hooper declared.

“Grow a pair and do what needs to be done,” Barnes said, freeing one of his hands from the wrench to grab a hammer from a nearby box and throw it at Hooper’s feet.

“Kill that kid behind you and we’ll consider your idea. I’m not following anybody not willing to get his hands dirty.”

Hooper looked down at the hammer. He heard the room go quiet then shivered as he felt a chill pass over him.

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