The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 69

Upstairs at the shipping yard, Suzanne Taylor’s office stood empty behind the locked door as red and blue emergency lights danced across the ceiling. Suddenly the rattle of a doorknob broke the eerie quietness, and after a minute or two, the lock gave way and the door slowly opened.

“See this is why I tell people to get an alarm and a dog. Doesn’t take much to open a lock if you have the right tools and know what you’re doing,” Tommy said stepping into the room.

“We weren’t finished at The Golden Calf, Tommy. Why are we here? What exactly did Ray tell you when he called?” Tyler Clay asked as he looked around.

“Ray said that he and Crandall chased after Bonkers but lost him near one of the warehouses. They heard some music and when they went inside, they found the body of Suzanne Taylor, the woman who runs this place. Crandall called the cops and Ray called me. Told me to get over here. He thinks there might be something in this office.”

“Why’s that?” Clay asked.

“Ray said the guy who’s next in command now that Taylor’s dead is refusing to let the cops search her office without a warrant,” Tommy explained, pulling open a drawer.

Glancing out the window, Clay saw three police cars, an ambulance and the coroner’s van outside the warehouse.

“Captain Bonkers knows how to make a scene,” he said.

“Oh that’s nothing,” Tommy laughed, closing the drawer.

“When I was younger, much younger, I heard about these two brothers James and John Royal who ran a private investigation office. Called themselves the Royals. Now those boys knew how to make a scene. This one time John set a condemned warehouse on fire trying to smoke out a suspect who was hiding inside. It was vacate or burn.”

“I remember them,” Clay said. “They had real potential until they just up and quit.”

Tommy shook his head remembering.

“Those boys saw the inside of a courthouse about as much as the criminals.”

When Clay heard a quick police siren, he looked out the window and saw another patrol car pull up outside the warehouse.

“Look, let’s focus on the task at hand. We don’t have much time,” he warned.

“I don’t know what Ray expects us to find here,” Tommy said fanning a stack of papers. “You said that Taylor already gave Richard information about King.”

“That’s right. Richard’s holding on to that evidence until he has enough to arrest King. But if being a good scout taught me anything, it was to always have a backup plan,” Clay pointed out.

“You were never a scout,” Tommy snorted.

“Okay, I dated a Girl Scout. Same difference,” Clay replied.

“It is not,” Tommy disputed.

“Will you stop busting my chops and get busy?” Clay growled. “We don’t know when the cops will check this office.”

In silence, they worked through the office, checking filing cabinets and looking behind wall art.

“If Taylor gave Richard all the evidence she had, what makes you think there’s more here?” Tommy asked, closing a file drawer.

“Because if you’re a suspicious person who doesn’t trust anyone and you’re working for a bad man who’s being hunted by a worse man, you may turn in evidence, but just in case that evidence isn’t enough, you’ll make a backup plan to ensure your safety.”

Just then Clay noticed that one of the air vents in the floor had a paper clip attached to the metal strips. When he peered into the vent, he saw that a long piece of wire attached to the clip dropped down then disappeared. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a pocketknife and carefully turned the screws until the metal grate came free. Then he began slowly to pull on the wire.

As the wire moved up the air duct, Clay heard the crinkle of plastic and discovered that the other end of the wire was attached to a large plastic bag. Pulling it free, he opened the bag and found that it was full of papers. When he began to read, his eyes lit up.

“Got it! These are shipping manifests and signed documents, plus, from the looks of it, audio recordings of her conversations with King,” Clay said excitedly.

“Is that enough to convict him?” Tommy asked.

“More than enough, but only on illegal shipping of guns, drugs, and immigrants. It’s good, but for what Ray’s planning, we’ll need more than one nail to seal this coffin,” Clay explained.

As Clay quickly returned everything to the bag and slipped it inside his coat pocket, he said,

“We need to get out of here, Tommy, and put this office back the way we found. . .”

Clay stopped when he saw that Tommy was chewing on something, his cheeks bulging.

“What are you eating?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Tommy lied.

“What is it?” Clay insisted.

“Okay. She has those chocolate covered almonds. Do you have any idea how tough it is to find those? I only took a few,” Tommy defended.

“Let’s go,” Clay sighed, shaking his head.

* * *

Ray’s stomach muscles felt like they were tied in a knot. He and Crandall had chased after Captain Bonkers, but just as they reached one of the warehouses, he suddenly disappeared, leaving them to focus on the search for Suzanne Taylor.

They had found her body hanging upside down, suspended in midair by a hook over the warehouse floor. Her feet were bound and she had been shot twice in the chest and once in the head. While an old Victrola played a hit song from the 60’s, her blood pooled on the floor below. And in the center of the pool, drops of blood splashing against its polished wood, sat a white bishop.

A wave of sadness washed over Ray as he watched her body being lowered.

“You know, Crandall, it hasn’t been that long since Burroughs was murdered. Is this maniac speeding up?” he asked.

“He knows we’re getting closer, so he’s starting to panic,” Crandall said to reassure himself.

“So who’s next on the list?” Ray asked.

“No one,” Crandall said, “but I think I know where he’s headed next.”

“We don’t have time for games, Crandall!” Ray snapped. “If we don’t get in front of this fast, more people will die.”

“I don’t care who dies as long as I can stop him in time,” Crandall returned. “Let’s go.”

Once outside the warehouse, they climbed into Crandall’s car and headed for the front gates of the shipping yard. As they neared the entrance, Ray suddenly spotted Rory just outside the gate.

“Hold on a minute,” he said.

Hopping out of the car, Ray walked over to Rory but stopped when he saw that a few feet behind Rory was the Cadillac, its jet black paint shining like polished ebony. Pete barked his excitement, running back and forth from Ray to the Cadillac.

“You fixed it?” Ray exclaimed.

“Nope. I was at Mavis’ bar about to leave when this guy drives up to the front door, walks in, and hands me the keys. Oh and this note,” Rory said, holding out an opened envelope.

Ray took the envelope and pulled the letter free.

“Thank you for all you’ve done,” he read aloud. “Sorry your Cadillac was destroyed. Hope this one will ease your pain.”

Ray folded the note and slipped it back into the envelope.

“Who did this?” he asked.

“No idea, Ray,” Rory replied, “but it all checks out. The car’s completely paid for, and all the paperwork is in your name. No fingerprints on the car, the keys, or the note. I checked. Even the guy who dropped it off was wearing gloves.”

“Amazing,” Ray said, his happiness somewhat dampened by suspicion.

“And, the mystery doesn’t end there. Just before that guy came in the bar, Mavis was talking to Billy. You know, that Christmas fruitcake she met when you were in the hospital?”

Ray nodded acknowledging the memory.

“Well he said something kind of odd, not that odd is unusual for him, but this was different somehow.”

“What’s that,” Ray asked.

“He said that sometimes a dead body isn’t always a dead body. At first that confused me, but then I got to thinking and. . .” Rory stopped.

“What?” Ray pressed.

His lips spread in a sly smile, Rory said, “I know who Captain Bonkers is.”

“Who?” Ray asked expectantly.

With a grin of mischief, Rory whispered, “A zombie.”

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