The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 86

It was dark by the time they reached the Woodland Hotel where David Crandall waited.

“This isn’t a good idea, Ray,” Richard warned.

“I know,” Ray said, “but I have to try.”

Richard signaled one of the officers to bring a bulletproof vest for Ray.

“Thanks, but I can’t breathe in those things. Besides, I’m trained to work without one,” Ray said as he headed for the hotel’s front entrance.

“Wait. What?” Richard asked, but Ray was already inside.

He kept close behind the police officers, following them up to the fourth floor. At the end of the hall, the lead officer cautioned,

“We’ve been ordered to stand down and let you try an approach alone. Remember that Crandall is armed and he’s already fired at officers. There’s no safe way to do this.”

Ray nodded his understanding then walked down the hall toward Crandall’s room. The last five years were weighing on him, and he was worn out.

When he reached Crandall’s door, he knocked twice and called out,

“David, it’s Raymond Slats.”

When no answer came, Ray knocked again.

“David?”

Finally, he announced, “I’m coming in.”

He turned the knob slowly and pushed the door open, pausing for a few moments. Then he walked in and closed the door behind him.

Crandall stood at the window, looking out. Ray saw that he gripped a pistol in his hand. When he looked around the room, Ray spotted a 2008 calendar on the wall.

“That was the last thing my daughter gave me. She circled my birthday with a heart,” David said, slowly turning to face Ray.

Downstairs in the parking lot, police officers were still arriving. The red and blue lights danced across the walls in time to the sirens as Ray moved slowly into the room.

“Isn’t this what you wanted, Detective? You wanted me. Well here I am.”
Shadowed from the police lights outside, Crandall stepped away from the window. All Ray could make out was the pistol and part of Crandall’s shirt.

“Why me?” Ray asked.

“Don’t play games. You know exactly why. First, there was the church and then your actions in the play,” Crandall said.

Ray moved closer, trying to close the distance between them.

“By that time, you were just an annoyance that should have been paid off, even though you thought you were too good for that. But what you did at the carnival, I’ll never forgive. She was mine. How could you have done such a thing?”

“I didn’t mean to,” Ray pleaded. “I tried to—”

“I don’t care! It’s too late now!” Crandall yelled.

“But—” Ray began.

“No more excuses!” Crandall said. “That heart attack should have killed you. You’ve escaped death too many times. But no more.”

Crandall raised his pistol and fired.

The bullet sliced through the air and slammed into Ray’s chest, throwing him backwards.

* * *

As Ray went down, Crandall felt a pang of relief. He knew the cops would be breaking down the door any moment, but he didn’t care. When movement from the bathroom caught his eye, he whirled around to see Captain Bonkers step out.

“You!” Crandall snapped.

But before he could fire, Bonkers raised his pistol and shot Crandall squarely in the heart. He was dead before he hit the floor.

* * *

When Ray came to, he was in a hospital bed, an IV in his arm and bandages covering his chest. Asleep in a chair near him was Deborah.

Ray loudly coughed then moaned at the pain, snapping Deborah awake. Joy filled her tired eyes as she looked at him.

“Daddy!” she cried, moving to his bedside.

Ray weakly smiled, “Hey, pumpkin.”

Deborah leaned over and gently hugged him.

“What’d I miss?” Ray asked.

“You’ve been out for a couple of days. The doctor said the bullet didn’t hit any vital organs. He said you’re lucky to be alive, especially given your advanced age,” Deborah replied.

“That’s a nice way of saying I’m old,” Ray joked.

“Daddy, he’s right. You shouldn’t have gone in there, let alone without protection,” Deborah scolded.

“I know, I know,” Ray confessed, patting her hand. “It’s just that—”

“I know you were bored, Daddy,” Deborah interrupted, “but you can’t keep risking your life like this. I’m all worn out from worrying.”

Before Ray could respond, the door opened and in walked Richard and Tommy.

“Great! I wake up after being shot, and the first thing I have to look at is you!” Ray teased.

“I’d say that gunshot improved your looks, old woman,” Tommy returned.

Ray laughed, wincing at the pain.

“What about King?”

“He’s going to be tried on so many counts, I’d need a note pad to remember them all,” Richard smiled.

“How’s my boy Pete?” Ray asked.

“Going nuts!” Deborah replied. “A friend of mine who’s watching him while I’m at work says he keeps trying to escape.”

Richard laughed and added, “He’s gotten pretty good at it too.”

Just then the door opened and Mavis stepped into the room. Her auburn hair fell forward, covering her red eyes and splotched face. When she looked at Ray, fresh tears washed down her cheeks.

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” Ray comforted. “I’m okay.”

Mavis weakly laughed then said, “I’m glad. I was worried about you. . .a lot. But there’s something else.”

“What’s wrong?” Ray asked.

Mavis worked to stop crying and get control of herself. Finally, she said,

“I’m leaving.”

“What?” Ray asked.

“Why?” Tommy asked.

Struggling to appear lighthearted, Mavis smiled and explained.

“I got a call from my father in Coldwater. He wants to retire, and he’s asked me to move home so he can teach me the business.”

“Business?” Deborah asked confused.

“The bar is his, of course, but he also has three other bars as well as two nightclubs and a restaurant. His plan is for me to manage all of them so he can retire in the next year or two,” Mavis answered.

“I’m sorry. Doesn’t seem like you’re too happy about that,” Ray pointed out.

Mavis started crying again and said,

“He’s my daddy, and he’s getting old. It’s just that I’m really going to miss you guys.”

Mavis moved in closer and bent over to hug Ray, crying into his gown.

* * *

3 Months Later

Bradford King sat in the dingy cell scowling at his reflection in the polished metal mirror.

“Considering my net worth, these buffoons should have at least given me suitable clothes.”

Frank Granger, one of the guards, walked up to the cell and banged on the door.

“King, you have a visitor,” he announced.

“My attorney?” King asked.

“I’m not your secretary,” Granger complained.

Then as the cell door opened, he added,

“Your daughter. Let’s go.”

Magdalene was King’s only daughter. Shortly after his wife died in a plane crash, he had enrolled Magdalene in a private school in Switzerland. With King’s promise of a sizeable donation to the school, the headmaster had promised to keep a close eye on her. King made a note to punish the man for not telling him she had left. He followed Granger to a private visitor’s cell. When Granger opened the door, King saw that another guard had been posted inside the waiting room. The black stubble on his face made him look dark and angry. As though frozen in place, his arms were crossed as his cold black eyes stared straight ahead. Although he stood at an angle behind one of the chairs, King could see part of his name tag. His first name looked like it was Joseph.

“That’s not my daughter,” King said sarcastically.

“Sit down! He’ll be watching you while you visit,” Granger explained.

As he took a seat behind the new guard, King protested,

“I don’t even get a private visit with my daughter?”

“You’re lucky you’re getting this much,” Granger retorted.

When Granger turned and left the room, Magdalene walked in, closing the door behind her.

“Maggie,” King greeted, pleased to see his daughter.

“Hello, Father,” Magdalene said, sitting down across from him.

Magdalene brushed her red hair out of her face and removed her sunglasses, revealing her different colored eyes, one blue and one green just like her mother.

King smiled and asked,

“Sweetheart, what are you doing out of school?”

“I heard you were in trouble,” she answered.

“It’s nothing my lawyers can’t handle. Just trumped up charges to get me out of the way so they can stop some deranged clown-faced killer,” King explained.

Magdalene smiled.

“Oh good. I was worried, afraid I was going to lose you like I lost mom.”

“That was a tragic accident that killed your mother. But don’t worry, Maggie. I’m not going anywhere,” King assured her.

Magdalene gazed into her father’s eyes then corrected,

“Murdered.”

“What?” King asked.

“Mom was murdered,” Magdalene said.

“Why would you think something like that?” King asked.

“Because she called me before she got on that plane,” Magdalene said, keeping her eyes fixed on King.

“She told me what she found out about you. About your business. Then the next thing you know, the plane she’s on goes down suddenly. Engine trouble they said.”

With a look of astonishment, King said, “You can’t think I did that!”

“You started this, Father,” Magdalene said, “and now we’re going to finish it.”

“We?” King asked nervously.

Magdalene’s eyes shifted from her father’s face to past him. King hesitantly turned around and saw that the guard who had been standing behind him was now Captain Bonkers.

Suddenly everything fell into place as he nervously swiped at his sweat-beaded forehead.

“You didn’t think we’d let you escape, did you?” Magdalene asked.

“Huh?” King responded, his thoughts muddled.

He watched as Magdalene slowly stood and walked over to the door. When she tapped on the glass, Granger opened the door and stepped forward.

“In a few moments, my father is going to kill himself. Please wait until I’ve left the property to call it in,” she instructed.

“Yes ma’am,” Granger answered.

As though in a daze, King stared speechlessly at his daughter while she walked back to him and kissed his forehead, placing a chess piece, the king, in front of him.

“Goodbye, Father,” she said without looking back.

When the door closed behind her, Magdalene walked away in peace, her eyes straight ahead. This was finally over. The guards nodded as she passed by moving down the hallway toward the exit. Suddenly from the room where she had left her father, she heard him yell,

“NO!”

When a gunshot rang out, the guards didn’t flinch and Magdalene kept on walking, a smile slowly spreading across her face.

* * *

Late in the middle of the night in a condemned, burned out house, the front door slowly opened. Roaches scurried across the floor, disappearing under the baseboard. The floor creaked beneath his feet as Captain Bonkers stepped into the room. He walked through the house and out to the back porch where he started up a small generator. Reaching down to grab the attached extension cord, he pulled it inside the house and lay it on the floor next to an old chair, its stuffing spilling out through the scorched fabric. Years earlier, the house had caught fire and suffered extensive damage before firefighters arrived on the scene.

Bonkers headed toward a nearby closet then pulled an old TV VCR off the top shelf. Centering it on a stool next to the chair, he plugged it in and sat down.

As he watched the screen, the white light danced across his cold dead eyes beneath the clown mask. He pressed the play button and a video started, a video of his boy surrounded by friends celebrating his birthday at a pool party. The boy looked up at the camera with a big smile and said,

“Watch this, Daddy!”

The boy turned away and ran towards the pool leaping off the side and splashing into the water. Just as the child’s head bobbed to the surface and he began swimming toward the pool’s edge, a young woman came on camera and said,

“Joseph, will you put that camera away for once? You’re missing your son’s birthday party.”

Bonkers watched without movement, without expression, as the tape played on.

* * *

It had the makings of a perfect day as Ray eased back onto the cushioned rocking chair. Across the room, Deborah rested on the couch, a pillow at the small of her back, with Pete her protector curled up beside her. Tommy whistled in the kitchen as he made tea and sandwiches for everyone. Just then the key turned in the lock and Richard walked in.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he greeted, bending over to kiss Deborah.

“Hey, babe,” she returned.

When Deborah started to get up, Richard stopped her with,

“You shouldn’t walk in your condition.”

“What condition?” Ray asked,

With a look of surprise, Richard asked,

“You didn’t tell him, hon?”

“I was waiting for you to get home,” Deborah responded.

“What condition?” Ray repeated. “What’s going on?”

“Deborah’s pregnant,” Tommy said matter-of-factly as he brought in the tea and sandwiches.

“Tommy!” Deborah said. “How did you know?”

“What? I thought everyone knew?” Tommy answered.

“You’re pregnant?” Ray asked, obviously elated.

“Almost a month now,” Tommy said.

“Tommy!” Deborah scolded, leaning over to pop Tommy.

“What?” Tommy asked confused.

“How did you know?” Richard asked.

“It’s what I do,” Tommy replied.

“That explains why Pete has been keeping so close to you lately. I thought he had abandoned me,” Ray laughed.

“Well, congratulations you two. I am de—”

Just then a frantic knock sounded at the door.

Richard quickly got up and answered it. Leaning against the doorpost, trying to catch her breath, was Mavis. She was disheveled, as though she had dressed in a great hurry and neglected to brush her hair.

“Mavis? What’s wrong?” Richard inquired.

“I need to talk to Ray,” she said, a frantic look on her face.

“Sure. Come on in.”

Mavis hurried into the room and crossed to Ray.

“Ray! I need your help!”

THE END?

To be continued in Unsettled

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 85

Captain Bonkers strode past Ray, taking out one guard after another before they could react, while Ray along with Tyler, Tommy, and Rory kept out of sight. Ray knew they would be safe as long as they stayed out of the way. After a few minutes, the gunfire stopped and a sickening hush fell over the hallway. Gathering courage, Ray and Rory risked a peek from behind the boxes.

Surrounded by King’s dead men, Bonkers brought down his weapons as his chest heaved.

Blood splattered across his mask, he turned to Ray and pointed to a nearby stairwell. Then he dropped his guns, grabbed two pistols and a couple of clips off the floor, and left through the door opposite the stairwell.

“He’s telling us to leave,” Rory said.

“Splendid idea,” Tommy replied.

“What should we do, Ray?” Tyler asked.

Ray thought for a moment then said,

“Tyler, you and Tommy head back outside and keep me informed as to where the cops are. Rory and I are going after King,” Ray said.

“You sure about that, Ray?” Tyler asked.

“Yes. Go,” Ray answered.

After Tyler hesitated a moment, he said,

“Okay, Ray. Whatever you say. Just keep your phone on.”

Tommy was the first out the door with Tyler close behind. Ray took a deep breath and stared intently at Rory.

“Rory, I need your help with this. I think Bonkers was letting us in on his plan. He’s going to distract the guards while you and I go after King.”

“Why would he send us after King?” Rory asked.

“I’m not exactly sure, but once I figure it out, I’ll let you know,” Ray assured him.

Just then Ray’s phone went off.

“Yeah,” he answered. “Got it.”

“Come on. Tyler told me where King’s office is,” Ray said.

The two men hurried to the stairwell then safely navigated the building until they reached the floor of King’s office.

“So now what?” Rory asked.

“You keep an eye out for security, okay? Warn me if they show and don’t get shot,” Ray instructed.

“I’ll be careful, but if they start something. . .” Rory joked, raising his fists.

“I know. I know,” Ray replied. “Come on, buddy.”

Pete’s ears shot forward and his body stiffened as he ran alongside Ray.

 

*          *          *

 

Up in his office, Bradford King grabbed a couple of bags and started filling them with cash. The cops were crawling all over the place, and Bonkers was probably in the building. Everything was falling apart and he had only a few minutes to get out before he was dragged under.

With ninety per cent of his funds deposited in offshore accounts, he had packed enough cash for two weeks. Hurrying over to his laptop, he inserted the flash drive that would wipe it clean, leaving the computer worthless against him.

He finished up, cut off the lights, and shut the door behind him. As he turned the key in the lock, he stopped when he felt someone nearby.

Slowly reaching for his concealed pistol, King heard,

“Bradford King, my name is Raymond Slats, and I’m here to help you.”

King left the pistol in its holster then pulled his hand back and slipped the key from the lock. He knew the name Raymond Slats. Slats was a retiree whose personal hobby was pestering King’s associates.

“Mr. Slats, this is not a good time. I’m on my way out,” King said, shifting his weight. “I’d ask how you got up here, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.”

“Mr. King, I’m here to save your life,” Ray said.

“I don’t need saving, old man,” King growled, picking up his bags.

“Yes. You do,” Ray pressed.  “I believe if you tell your men to stand down and you walk out with me to the police. . .”

By this time, King was close enough to Ray to see past him. A few feet back, weapons drawn, stood Captain Bonkers. Next to him lay an unconscious man, one of King’s bodyguards.

“. . .he might let you live,” Ray continued.

King held Bonker’s stare for a moment then said,

“You have more tricks up your sleeve than I have given you credit for. And to think this was all your doing. I didn’t know you were involved in mass murder.”

King paused for a moment staring at Ray in amazement.

“I knew someone was guiding him,” he said, nodding toward Bonkers, “but I never suspected it was you.”

Ignoring King’s accusations, Ray turned to face Captain Bonkers.

“If King agrees to be arrested and stand trial, will you spare him?” Ray asked.

Bonkers held his position for a long moment then slowly lowered one of his weapons to indicate his agreement to the terms.

“It’s up to you now, King,” Ray pointed out. “If you refuse, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop him.”

Bradford King stood very still as he considered his options then slowly put down his bags.

“I’m just getting my cell phone,” he explained before he slipped his hand into his pocket.

Dialing the number, he waited for an answer. When it came, King said,

“Tell everyone to stand down. Let the police through.”

He ended the call and announced that he was returning the phone to his pocket.

After what seemed like the longest wait of Ray’s life, the elevator doors opened and Bonkers fled just as the cops poured in.

Before the police reached him, King sneered,

“Any charges leveled against me won’t keep. You know that. I’ll have to make some hefty donations, but they’ll send me to some comfy resort with bars while I think about the error of my ways.”

As the police arrested King and his men, Ray and Rory had to explain what they were doing in the building. Rory pretended that the bump on his head where Bonkers struck him was causing a great deal of pain and anguish, so the EMTs escorted him out to one of the ambulances.

With an exasperated look on his face, Richard walked up to Ray and said,

“I should have you arrested, you know. What if you had been shot?”

“Sorry, son. I had to risk it,” Ray said.

“What about Deborah!” Richard barked. “You know how she worries about you!”

Suddenly one of the police officers shouted,

“Detective, they have Bonkers cornered on the roof! He’s on the ledge!”

“Stay here, Ray!” Richard ordered then ran toward the stairs.

As soon as Richard was out of sight, Ray followed him.

Up on the roof, Bonkers balanced himself on the ledge as officers tried to talk him down. Ray noticed that Bonkers seemed a little woozy. Suddenly, Bonkers raised his pistol.

“Wait!” Ray yelled.

But he was too late. Police officers opened fire and Captain Bonkers took twenty rounds to the chest before falling backwards, tumbling end over end sixteen floors to the pavement.

 

*          *          *

 

On the street below, police officers put Bradford King and his security staff in patrol cars and drove away while EMT’s and fire fighters counted the victims. Richard and Ray stood over the dead body of Captain Bonkers as Rory, Tyler, and Tommy walked over.

After slipping his hands in latex gloves, Richard reached down and pulled off Bonkers’ clown mask. Although he didn’t recognize the face, Tommy quickly solved the mystery.

“That’s Alexander Kinsky. He was King’s right hand man and personal guard.”

“I guess that explains a lot,” Rory replied.

“He’s been missing for quite a while,” Tyler pointed out. “Now we know why.”

Ray wasn’t convinced but decided to keep quiet for now.

Placing a hand on Ray’s shoulder, Richard said,

“Come on, Ray. Let’s go home.”

Staring down into the face of Kinsky, Ray stood for a moment then said,

“I really didn’t want things to end this way.”

“I know. But they rarely end the way you want them to,” Richard comforted.

“Sir,” an officer called out as he approached. “We found David Crandall. He’s hold up in a motel room. Swears he’ll shoot anybody who tries to enter except. . .”

The officer trailed off.

“Who?” Richard asked.

The officer looked at Ray then back and said,

“He’ll only speak to Mr. Slats.”

“Let’s go,” Ray responded.

“No!” Richard protested.

“There’s no other way, Richard. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Ray sighed. “It’s time to end it.”

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 80

At the east end of Sandpark Carnival, Higgins and Ford slowly made their way through the concession stands toward the center of the park.

“You know what this reminds me of?” Ford asked.

Before Higgins could respond, Ford answered his own question.

“This late movie I saw last week,” he shuddered.

“If you start jabbering about horror movies, I swear I will shoot you in the face,” Higgins growled.

“Sorry,” Ford replied, shrugging his shoulders.

“Everybody else got teamed with a professional. What did I get? A nut job who loves horror movies,” Higgins complained.

“Hey, wait a minute!” Ford returned.

“I’ll have you know I have survived lots of psychos and killers just by following what I learned from horror flicks,” Ford defended as his eyes traveled over the park.

When there was no answer, Ford glanced over at Higgins and saw that he was standing frozen to the spot, his rifle raised.

“What’s wrong?” Ford asked nervously.

“Shh!” Higgins whispered.

Nodding toward the House of Mirrors, he aimed the barrel of his rifle at the dimly lit entrance. Just inside the doorway stood Captain Bonkers, his soulless eyes watching the two men.

After a moment, he turned and disappeared inside.

“Come on!” Higgins said.

All at once, they heard a loud metallic sound like two metal lids repeatedly clapped together. Then suddenly it stopped.

“Wait!” Ford warned as Higgins cautiously moved towards the House of Mirrors. “It’s a trap! He wants us to follow him.”

“Stay here if you’re scared,” taunted Higgins.

Ford wanted to stick with his partner, but he knew Bonkers was baiting them.

“Higgins, he’s trying to draw you in! Don’t go in there, man!” Ford warned.

Convinced he could handle anything, Higgins kept coming after Bonkers until he passed the ticket booth and disappeared into the canvas tent.

“Forget it! I’m out of here!” Ford said, heading in the direction of the park entrance.

After only a few steps, the repetitive metallic sound started again. His gut told him to keep going, but something about the sound drew him in. He had to know what it was.

Weaving his way through the empty concession stands, Ford moved toward the sound. Up ahead he saw that the noise was coming from a small food trailer. The faded red paint said that french fries, funnel cakes, and sausage dogs had been on the menu. The door stood open, and after he looked around, he stepped inside. Two nickel-plated fryer baskets were stacked on the counter beside a couple of deep fryers and rusted salt and pepper shakers resting on their sides. Just behind the fryers, Ford saw a cymbal-banging monkey toy bobbing its head and chattering as it clapped its cymbals together.

“Why are you still running?” he asked.

When he reached over the fryers for the toy, he stopped mid-air. Both fryers were full of boiling oil. Someone had turned them on.

Suddenly overpowered with fright, Ford fought to think rationally. In the small trailer, he could not raise his rifle in time, so he pulled out his pistol with his left hand and spun around, extending his arm in the process.
Standing behind him was Captain Bonkers. Stunned, Ford watched as Bonkers caught his left arm then seized the back of his head. For a moment, the world seemed to move in slow motion. A second later, he felt his face being driven into the boiling oil.

Ford dropped his pistol, desperately clawing at the hands that held him down. When Bonkers finally released him, Ford brought his hands up to his disfigured face and tried to scream.

Bonkers watched for a moment as his victim agonized then he pulled out a pistol and shot Ford once in the head, turning to leave as the body hit the floor.

* * *

When Higgins came to, the back of his head was throbbing. He remembered entering the House of Mirrors. Someone had struck him from behind then tased him as he was going down.

After his blurred vision cleared, he saw that he was sitting on one of the merry-go-round horses.

His head, feet and waist were bound, each to a different rope, and his hands were cuffed to the horse’s neck. While he struggled to get free, he discovered the ropes had been wound around different horses then brought back to the center of the merry-go-round.

All of a sudden, a bell sounded and the ride began slowly to turn as the loud shrill of calliope music played and the lights flashed. Higgins panicked when he realized that with each revolution, the ropes grew tighter. Fighting to free himself, he knew that in a matter of moments, he would be torn apart.

Just as the ride began to increase speed, the power went out slowing the merry-go-round to a stop. Breathing a sigh of relief, Higgins rested his head on the horse’s neck.

“Must have blown a fuse,” he thought.

But when he lifted his head, the music started again and the lights came back on as the ride turned.

Standing in front of the horse that held Higgins was Captain Bonkers.

When he looked into Bonkers’ eyes, he saw they were two different colors. Funny what you notice when you’re about to die.

“Let me go, you freak! I am a police officer! You can’t keep me tied up!” Higgins yelled.

Bonkers turned, stepped down to the ground and slowly walked away, leaving Higgins to his fate.

* * *

When Ray finally reached the Shadow Serpent roller coaster, he let his eyes wander up to the top of the massive beast. At the top of the first hill, he spotted Rebecca Conrad. She looked so small and frail. Ray found a maintenance ladder and began climbing up to her, leaving behind an anxious Pete whimpering and pawing at the rungs.

After an exhausting climb, Ray reached the top. The wind pushed him to the side as it swept across the metal rails. Holding tightly to the ladder, he waited until it passed then stepped off and walked over to Rebecca.

“Well, I’m here,” he said.

“This was the one ride that scared my daughter,” Rebecca said, a sorrowful faraway look in her eyes. “Before she died, the only thing I was afraid of was heights.”

“Don’t do this,” Ray pleaded. “I know you miss your child, but without your testimony, any case against King will fall apart. Everything we have is circumstantial, and your suicide won’t help.”

“Have you ever lost anyone?” Rebecca asked as though she had not heard him.

Ray hesitated then said, “My wife.”

“That’s not the same though,” Rebecca said. “Losing a child is like losing a part of yourself. It’s as though someone reached inside you and ripped out your soul. There’s no life left in me. All I want is to be with her. “

Just then he heard the wind coming toward them again. He tightened his grip on the maintenance platform and lowered his head against the force.

“David doesn’t understand,” Rebecca continued. “He’s become consumed by his need for vengeance. He’s got a hole in his heart like I do, but he thinks he can fill his by getting revenge.”

When she slowly turned her face toward Ray, he saw that her eyes were swollen and streaked with makeup as tears ran down her cheeks.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. I wanted to look my best for my baby, but I couldn’t even do that right,” she laughed bitterly.

She turned away from Ray and again looked off in the distance.

“There’s a trash can near the ladder you used to get up here. Inside it you’ll find a satchel containing everything I have on Bradford King.”

“I’m not leaving you,” Ray insisted.

“It’s time for you to go,” she said. “He’s here.”

At first, Ray didn’t see anyone, but when he turned, there was Captain Bonkers, his pistol raised as he silently waited.

Before Ray could respond, Captain Bonkers struck him with the pistol sending Ray unconscious to the track.

Turning her back to Bonkers, Rebecca said,

“Before you do this, I have one request. David doesn’t understand. He won’t let go. You must free him or he’ll become more and more consumed by his anger.”

Rebecca looked down at the ground and saw David staring up at her in horror. He was yelling her name over and over.

She smiled and whispered,

“I love you, David.”

“NO!” David yelled.

It was the last sound she heard.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 78

Ray walked slowly through the midway of Sandpark Carnival searching for the Shadow Serpent as Pete trotted beside him keeping his nose to the ground. Now and then the pup would stop, lift his head, and smell the air.

“Look, buddy,” Ray advised Pete. “If you insist on being here, you have to keep quiet. No barking! Anything louder than a growl will give away our position, and right now, you’re the only one I know doesn’t want to kill me.”

Pete snorted and again sniffed the air. A few yards up, Ray spotted a directory. Hurrying over to it, he quickly scanned the map.

“Okay. We’re here,” he thought, tapping the glass enclosure, “and the Shadow Serpent is on the opposite side. Makes sense.”

Pete looked up at Ray and hitched his head to one side.

“See it works like this. They put the most popular rides on the other side of the park forcing folks to walk past all the other stuff to get there. That increases the odds of somebody’s child begging for something along the way,” Ray explained.

The explanation seemed to satisfy Pete and he dropped his head back to the ground. Suddenly, he stopped and let out a low growl.

“This is a waste of time,” a voice said.

“Least we’re getting paid,” someone answered.

The voices grew louder as two men turned the corner and headed toward Ray. When Ray spotted them, he quickly ducked behind the directory case with Pete at his heels.

Just as the two men passed the directory, the park lights kicked on and the rides came to life as calliope music floated through the air.

Feeling a chill run down his spine, Ray looked around and whispered to Pete,

“The clown is here.”

* * *

Newton and Price stopped, raised their weapons and moving in a circle, nervously scanned the area.

“It’s going to be tough to hide with these lights on,” Newton pointed out.

“Nah,” Price said. “This is psychological. The bright lights, the loud music, the quick movement of the rides. It’s all meant to put us off our game. Keep us off guard.”

“Won’t it make the clown easier to spot?” Newton responded.

“You’d think so, but look around you. Clown posters, banners, paintings. Somebody dressed in a clown suit could easily blend in,” Price said.

“Hold up. I gotta’ tie my shoe,” Newton said dropping to one knee.

Wrapped up in what he was saying, Price kept walking.

“I started watching this show the other day about these feds that chase serial killers like the clown. They mention a point where the perp, they use a different name. . .”

Price trailed off for a moment as he searched his memory then shook his head and continued.

“Anyway, they talk about this point where the killer starts to spiral, you know devolve as he loses more and more of his humanity. That’s why I think this clown is getting worse and killing faster.”

Price stopped talking when he realized Newton wasn’t with him.

“Newton?” he called out.

He looked around him but saw no sign of his partner.

Suddenly a sound behind one of the rides caught his attention. Price raised his rifle and slowly moved towards the sound.

“Newton?” he called out again.

He followed the sound until he came to one of the carnival games the High Strike. There he saw Newton strung up with an electrical cable.

The cable was wrapped around his throat, and as he dangled, he kicked his feet trying to free himself.

Price ran up and put down his rifle then reached into his pocket for a knife.

When he freed the blade and looked up, he saw Newton frantically pointing to his right. Price whirled in time to see Captain Bonkers step forward, holding the High Strike mallet over his head. Before Price could react, he was struck across the jaw and knocked to the ground.

His jaw fractured, Price spit out a few teeth as he rolled over fighting nausea. When he looked up, Bonkers came down with the mallet, breaking Price’s left kneecap. As Price screamed out in pain, Bonkers raised the mallet again and crushed Price’s right kneecap.

Shrieking in agony, Price grabbed at his knees.

“Please,” he begged, raising his hands in defense.

Bonkers lifted the mallet one more time. The last thing Price saw was the mallet coming down on his head.

Newton clawed at the cable as he struggled to breathe. He felt himself losing consciousness.

Bonkers tossed the mallet aside then walked over to Newton and stared at him as he breathed his last.

* * *

David Crandall heard a man’s screams cut through the whistles of the calliope. He knew the playful music and bright lights were designed to divert his attention, confuse him. It wasn’t working. Slowly he raised his pistol and swept the area.

“That’s right, Captain Bonkers,” Crandall said. “Focus on them.”

He wasn’t concerned about Raymond Slats. The biggest threat there was that dog. He had to admit, though, that he was worried about the clown. He had known from the start that the only way to get the time he needed to find Rebecca was to bring along distractions.

The wind started to pick up and Crandall closed his eyes, reaching back to a sweet yet painful memory.

“Come on daddy,” she squealed.

“What now?” he asked, laughing at her excitement.

“I want a corndog,” she yelled back.

“You’ve already had two,” he said, hurrying to catch up to her.

“Please?” she pleaded.

“Where do you put all of them?” he asked, reaching for his wallet.

Crandall cleared his throat and swiped at a tear. Even though the man who killed his daughter had been dealt with, the pain was still fresh. Crandall shook his head clear and focused on finding his wife.

“I’m coming, baby. Please don’t give up.”

* * *

Ray jumped when he heard the nearby screams cut through the air. Before he could decide what to do, Pete began barking and bolted towards the sound.

“Pete!” Ray snapped, but the pup kept going.

Ray chased after Pete and finally found him standing by two dead bodies. One man had been hung with an electrical cable. The other had his skull crushed. A bloodied mallet from one of the carnival games was lying nearby.

He knew both men were dead, but against his better judgment, he reached down and picked up one of the discarded rifles.

“I’m not a huge fan of guns,” Ray told Pete, “but I may need this.”

When he took a second look at the blood pooling on the ground, he said,

“Stick close, boy.”

Ray checked the rifle then looked once again at the two dead men. There was nothing he could do now.

“We need to get to the Shadow Serpent before Bonkers loses it completely and turns on us.”

Pete growled and barked.

“Fine. You talk to him then,” Ray said. “Me, I’m staying clear.”

As Ray and Pete turned and walked away, a pair of hollow dead eyes watched from the shadows.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 77

Sandpark Carnival stood shadowy and still. Two years ago, the smooth cry of its persuasive barkers and the screams of its electrified patrons had been silenced. The ancient death-defying rides with their squeak and pop had slowed and ground to a halt. Now they rested in the scattered moonlight like giants, frozen in battle.

When Raymond Slats reached the front entrance gates, he saw that the locks were broken, rusted long ago.

As he stood at the gates trying to spot the roller coaster track, he remembered Rebecca Conrad’s chilling words.

“I know Bonkers is coming for me next. I know there’s no stopping him.”

Pity stirred in his heart at the tremor in her voice.

Suddenly his phone rang. When Ray slipped it out of his pocket, he noticed that the caller ID read “Unknown.” He decided to answer it anyway.

“Hello?”

“Slats, David Crandall. Look. All bets are off. I’m not going to bother hiding anymore. Yea, I work for King. So what. And yea he’s not a nice guy, but I don’t much care anymore. I’m only interested in my wife. I lost my daughter, and I’m not losing my wife too. I know Rebecca’s at Sandpark Carnival. It’s where we used to take our daughter on her birthday. I’m heading that way now and bringing every cop willing to work if the money’s right. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me if they’re on King’s payroll. They don’t know you, and I don’t care. This is a courtesy call, Slats. You stay out of this! I won’t warn you again.”

Before Ray could respond, Crandall ended the call. He pocketed his phone and looked down at Pete.

The eager pup was intently watching Ray, waiting for a command.

“What do you think, boy?” Ray asked.

Pete looked toward the gates then gave a low-pitched growl and a couple of slow barks.

“You sure?” Ray asked.

Pete kept his eyes on the gates as his ears moved forward to catch a sound.

Just then Ray’s phone rang again. He saw that it was Richard.

“Hey, Richard,” he answered. “How are you?”

“Tired, Ray. I feel like I’m chasing my tail,” Richard sighed.

“Kane?” Ray asked.

“Something doesn’t make sense, Ray. Kane was locked inside a panic room with the door sealed shut. We just now managed to get the door open, and. . . ,” Richard paused, “. . .he’s dead, Ray. Explain that to me. How can someone all alone locked behind a six-inch steel door and bullet-resistant glass be murdered?”

“Bonkers must have been waiting inside the room,” Ray suggested.

“What are we dealing with here, Ray?” Richard asked.

Ray thought for a moment then said, “Someone who’s had a long time to plan his revenge.”

Richard let out a long, loud breath.

“Well at least you’re safe. That’s one less thing Deborah can hound me about.”

“Well. . . ,” Ray trailed off.

“What?” Richard groaned.

Pete looked up at Ray and barked,

“Harr-ruff!”

“Pete says hi,” Ray laughed.

“Ray, where are you?”

“I don’t want to say. You’ll just yell at me,” Ray teased.

“Ray, either tell me or I’ll let you explain yourself to Deborah,” Richard threatened.

“I’m at Sandpark Carnival,” Ray confessed.

“Ray, you know that place is a haven for drug addicts and homeless psychos,” Richard scolded.

“Right now it’s where I’m supposed to meet Rebecca Conrad,” Ray said.

“Crandall’s ex-wife?” Richard asked. “Why is she there?”

“She’s next on Bonkers’ list and she knows it. Before Bonkers kills her, she wants to hand over everything she has on King. She was his bookkeeper,” Ray explained.

“Ray, get out of there!” Richard demanded. “I don’t want you involved in this anymore.”

“I don’t have a choice, Richard. David Crandall already called me. Said he’s headed this way with an army. He’s going to shoot anyone who isn’t his wife,” Ray said.

“Everything is spinning out of control,” Richard growled.

“Why do people always say that just before the end?” Ray wondered aloud.

“Ray, this is an order! Stay out of there! I’m on my way!”

Suddenly the line went dead.

Ray knew he should listen, but Richard was over in Coldwater, a good thirty-minute drive to Whitelake. Even if he floored it, he’d never make it in time. Ray knew what he had to do. He bent down to Pete and scratched him behind the ears.

“Buddy, promise me if things go south, you’ll run for help.”

Pete sat still with no response.

“Please?” Ray asked. “I need to know you’ll be okay.”

When Ray stood up, Pete snorted then ran through the open gate into Sandpark Carnival.

“Okay then,” Ray said opening the gate and following him in.

* * *

David Crandall pulled to a stop just outside the gate to Sandpark Carnival. When he climbed out of his car, he spotted Slats’ black Cadillac.

“I’m getting sick of that car and the old man!” he told himself.

He stood in the pale mix of moonlight and dull street lamps as he looked out over the park. For a moment, he could hear the rush and clack of the roller coaster.

“Daddy, Daddy! I want to ride!” his daughter squealed.

Suddenly the night’s breeze blew through his hair, taking with it the sweet memory.

Now the park looked like a nightmare’s paradise, but he knew all about nightmares and monsters and demons. Not even they would stop him from saving Rebecca.

Just then three cars pulled up at the gate and a handful of men got out. Crandall knew some from the police force. Others were ex-military. Each man wore a bulletproof vest and carried an automatic rifle.

“Okay. You know the rules. There’s a woman somewhere in there,” Crandall said, pointing toward the grounds. “I don’t care what you do to anyone else, but she is not to be harmed. Is that clear?”

Some of the men shook their heads while others gave no response.

“Burn the place down if it suits you. We’re not cops tonight. We’re hunters,” he said.

One of the men raised his hand and asked,

“What about the clown?”

“Shoot on sight. Don’t let the clown mask fool you. This guy’s dangerous. Another thing. There’s an old man, a P.I., in there. Name’s Raymond Slats. You find him, let me know. I want to shoot him myself,” Crandall said.

As he looked over the men, Crandall decided that letting them go solo was a bad idea.

“Higgins, you and Ford start at the east end of the park at the concessions and move in towards the center. More, you and Seal start on the west side with the offices and move inward. Newton, you and Price start on the north side that’s directly opposite the gate, and I’ll start here. Check everything. Oh and forget what I said earlier about Slats. Shoot anything that isn’t my wife,” Crandall instructed.

“Go!” he ordered.

After the men moved out into the park, Crandall checked his pistol and shotgun then slipped inside the gate. He would fight the devil himself if it meant saving his wife.

* * *

Standing on a maintenenance platform atop the highest part of the Shadow Serpent, Rebecca Conrad waited. Ever since the death of her daughter, she had felt dead inside. That day, all the color and music went out of the world. Only one thing kept her from killing herself. She wanted to be certain Bradford King paid for his crimes, paid for the families he had destroyed. She knew everything, every dirty secret. After her daughter died, she had divorced David and gone to work for King, a man far worse than the monster who had murdered her daughter. King took advantage of her grief and used it to entrap her so deeply in his business that every day she felt like she was drowning. When word of a Captain Bonkers spread through the city, she had felt relief. Here was a comic book clown, making his way through King’s army, killing anyone connected to King by even the frailest of threads.

Finally her pain would end and she would be with her daughter. Once she was sure Bonkers was successful, she had contacted Raymond Slats. She knew he could be trusted.

Now as she waited for her meeting with him, she looked out over the park from its highest point and saw David and his men spread out like a small army, moving through the park searching for her. He had come to save her even though he knew she didn’t want to be saved.

“He was never good at listening,” she laughed under her breath.

Somewhere out there in the dark was Raymond Slats. She had seen him pull up to the gates in his black car shortly before David arrived. She would give the evidence to Slats then wait almost eagerly for the clown.

Captain Bonkers wasn’t a murderer. He was her angel of mercy, come to send her home to her baby girl. She smiled as a light breeze blew through her hair. She was tired but in just a little while, she could rest.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 73

When the limo arrived at the theater, the chauffeur pulled up to the front door and waited as Ruben Ross climbed out. Pasting a smile on his face, he worked his way through the crowd of people standing in line for a seat. After a wave to reporters and a few enthusiastic handshakes, he slipped inside.

“Leeches,” Ross sneered as he straightened his tie and brushed invisible lint off his suit.

Ushers too young to tie their own shoelaces guarded the backstage door just to his left.

“Move, kid!” Ross barked.

The young man, barely twenty years old, stood his ground, his badly cut hair falling in his face.

“And you are?” the usher asked.

“Not wasting my precious time on you,” Ross said shoving the boy out of the way.

As he opened the door and pulled it closed behind him, he grumbled,

“What kind of amateur would hire that as an usher?”

Quickly putting on his best smile, Ross made his way down the long hall leading to the dressing rooms and backstage.

Flirting with only the most attractive women, he made note of a few phone numbers then continued down the hall until he came to the door of Christopher Callahan, the star of the play. Callahan was the only person there he would waste his time on. He rapped on the door twice then opened it.

“I know Callahan will invite me in. Everybody wants me on their side, so why waste my valuable time waiting out here in the hall?” Ross told himself as he turned the knob and entered.

“Christopher, my boy,” he said with a wide smile and open arms.

“Howdy, Mr. Ross,” Callahan said seated in front of a mirror while a pretty girl applied makeup to help his features show up better under the stage lights. Callahan was a soft-spoken southern boy who had traveled all the way from Nacogdoches, Texas, to White Lake in hopes of being a star.

“Are you settling in nicely?” Ross asked.

“Trying to, Mr. Ross. But this town is so different from back home,” Callahan explained.

“I know you’re new to White Lake, Christopher, but I promise it’s a great place to live. When you’re famous, you can move you and your family to Coldwater just north of here. Coldwater is our version of the Hamptons. Or if you’d prefer French style and old world culture, there’s St. Adalene to the south.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ross, sir,” Callahan said, trying to keep his head still as the last of the makeup was applied. “I’ll just be happy to make it through tonight without throwing up.”

“You’ll do fine, kid,” Ross said, trying not to mimic Callahan’s Texas drawl.

“Thank you, sir,” Callahan replied.

“Okay, Chris. You’re ready to go,” the makeup girl said as she stepped back to admire her work.

“Thanks, Jenny,” Callahan said, slowly standing up.  “Guess I better be getting out there.”

“Knock ’em dead, Christopher,” Ross said patting Callahan on the back.

“Thank you, sir.”

Then turning to Jenny, Callahan shyly smiled and said,

“See you at the party?”

“Of course,” Jenny winked.

As soon as the door closed behind Callahan, Ross spun around and glared at Jenny.

“Listen to me, you trollop, that boy has far better things to do than slum it with some harlot whose only skill in life is dressing poorly and making other people look good.”

With a full measure of contempt, Ross’ words struck her like blows of his fist.

“If you so much as glance more than twice at Callahan again, I will see to it that you lose everything. And should he ever hear mention of this conversation, I’ll personally see to it that your mother, father, sister, brother and anyone else who even glanced at you twice is dragged so far down into the gutter that homeless will be considered a step up. And you? You I will destroy. By the time I’m done, you’ll be so obscure you’ll have to aspire to amateur porn.”

Shocked by his tirade, Jenny’s lip quivered as she fought back tears.

“Now get out of my sight!” Ross barked.

As she stumbled out of the dressing room, Ross took a deep breath to compose himself and let it out slowly.

Just then the door opened and an elderly man looked in.

“Ruben Ross?” the man asked.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Ross asked feigning respect.

“I’m Raymond Slats,” the old man said. “I’m a private investigator of sorts, and I would like to have a moment of your time.”

Ross’ demeanor quickly changed. He recognized the name. Slats was the catalyst behind the police suddenly turning their sites on King.

“I’ve heard of you, Slats. I know you’ve been poking Bradford King with a stick. Personally, I don’t care what you do to him, but leave me out of it or you’ll wish you’d never waked from that coma,” Ross threatened.

“My intentions are noble, I assure you, Mr. Ross. It’s just that I need a moment of your time. Someone is hunting down everyone who works or worked for Bradford King, and I’m hoping you will be able to help me stop the person responsible. I have reason to believe that you’re his next target.”

Ross moved in closer, hoping to intimidate Ray with his physique.

“I’m not interested in you and your little crusade. I don’t care who wins, and I don’t care who loses. I’m too far above anyone to waste my time looking back. King’s clown won’t touch me. He’s too smart for that. Now leave,” Ross sneered. “I have to get ready for my public.”

Ross turned to face the lights of the mirror.

“Please just listen,” Ray pleaded.

Ross had grown tired of this old man. He slid his hand into his jacket pocket where he kept a pistol just in case King was dumb enough to try anything. The pistol was gone.

“Here you go,” Ray said.

Ross slowly turned around and saw that his weapon rested in the palm of Ray’s extended hand.

“How did you get that?” he snapped, snatching the gun away.

“You really shouldn’t stand so close to people and not watch their hands,” Ray answered with a pleasant smile.

“Get out,” Ross growled, “or I’ll call the toddlers they have running security here and have you thrown out.”

Ray paused then turned and left.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

David Crandall flashed his badge then made his way down the hallway towards backstage. His sources had told him Ruben Ross would be Bonkers’ next target. Crandall knew Ross liked paying a visit to his star just before the curtain lifted, so he figured Ross would be in Christopher Callahan’s dressing room. Crandall checked his watch.

“Almost showtime. Ross will either be back here with Callahan or up in his balcony seat with the two armed guards he hires for every public performance,” Crandall told himself.

As he moved down the hall, he spotted Callahan’s dressing room. When he reached out to knock on the door, it opened and Raymond Slats stepped out.

“What are you doing here?” Crandall asked Ray, pausing before entering the dressing room.

Ross sat in front of a large lighted mirror, smoothing his hair and straightening his tie.

“David Crandall,” Ross said without turning. “Why has King’s lapdog come to pay me a visit?”

“It’s not like that. You’re in trouble, and I need your help to stop this Captain Bonkers,” Crandall explained.

“Not you too,” Ross grumbled. “I’m getting real tired of everybody warning me about the pretend clown. First King, then Slats, and now you. Grow up. There’s no clown, Crandall. It’s just your master killing off people. Now go back and tell King he’d better leave me alone.”

“But,” Crandall began to protest.

Ross jumped up out of the chair, whirled around, and slapped Crandall across the face.

“Leave NOW!” he ordered.

Stunned, Crandall stood still for a moment then turned around and left.

Out in the hallway he looked over at Ray and saw a look of concern.

But before Ray could say anything, Crandall crossed to him.

“I don’t know what you told him just now, but if you’ve ruined my chances to stop that maniac and save her, you’ll pay. I won’t forget this.”

With that, Crandall stormed away, leaving Ray surprised and confused.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 72

On the drive over to Orchid Meadow shelter, Ray made a quick call to Tommy.

When he pulled up into the yard, he saw Tyler talking to one of the firemen as Tommy stood nearby watching the rising flames and the firefighters struggling to control the blaze that filled the night sky.

After telling Pete and Roddy to stay in the Cadillac, Ray and Rory got out of the car and walked over.

“I can’t remember the last time I had a full night’s rest,” Tyler said rubbing his weary eyes.

“I have to admit things have been pretty hectic lately,” Ray replied.

“I got to tell you, Ray, I think my sleepless nights started about the same time you decided to come out of retirement,” Tyler said.

“It’s been tough for all of us,” Rory agreed. “Even Tommy hasn’t been able to drink himself to sleep like he used to.”

“Tosser!” Tommy growled.

“Fellas, please,” Ray protested. “You know I love watching you two argue like old women over the last bowl of jello, but this is serious.”

Ray watched as the paramedics worked to free Oscar Blake’s dead body from impalement on the rebar cross.

“You’re right,” Rory said.

“Sorry,” Tommy added.

“So let’s move forward. My original plan of playing an idiot to gain Crandall’s trust was a bust. Please tell me you two have found some solid evidence against King.”

“Turns out most of his people didn’t trust him. We have enough evidence to bring him in, that much I promise. But with a good attorney, at best he’ll get a slap on the wrist. I’ve dealt with lowlifes like this before. We’ll need a big sword to slay this dragon,” Tyler pointed out.

“Well thankfully, we have a list of his other lieutenants,” Ray said. “Maybe one of them will be willing to roll over on King in exchange for police protection. This evidence you have, where is it?”

“It’s in safekeeping with Richard. He knows everybody on the force can’t be trusted. My boy’s a smart one,” Tyler smiled.

“Takes after his mother,” Rory teased.

“You know it, brother,”Tyler laughed.

Just past the rebar cross, Ray spotted Crandall in the crowd.

“There’s Crandall. Let me see if he’s willing to open up now. One of the targets on the list is his exwife.”

“Rebecca Conrad. Yea,” Tyler said. “Richard already talked to her. She has no interest in police protection, but she gave Richard full access to King’s books. Anything that will help to bring him down, she said.”

“That coupled with Crandall’s testimony would really help drive this case home. Be right back. I’m going over to talk to him,” Ray said stepping away.

“Hold on. You’ve spent enough time on him. Let me try. One old warhorse to another,” Tyler suggested.

As Tyler walked away, Tommy looked at Ray and Rory.

“So how did you two get a full list of the King’s men?”

“You don’t know?” Ray asked.

With a wide grin, Tommy said, “Oh I know. I just want to hear Rory say it.”

“You know who,” Rory growled.

“Nope,” Tommy said, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Tell me.”

“That daft scatty that Mavis insists isn’t sizing her up for a skin tuxedo,” Rory grumbled.

“A what?” Tommy asked playfully.

“A suit made from her skin, you twit,” Rory barked.

Ignoring the two, Ray said, “The next name on the list is Ruben Ross. Tommy, what can you tell me about him?”

“Ruben Ross is a local celebrity. He’s an agent for several up and coming big stars. On the Hollywood circuit, he’s a nobody, but locally he’s a hero. He’s also got a fierce case of paranoia. Tonight we can find him at the theater. There’s a play, and he’ll be there,” Tommy said.

“A play tonight? It’ll be dawn soon,” Rory said confused.

“The director is one of these artistic types. He wants the performance literally in the early morning hours because that’s when the author set the play,” Tommy said.

Suddenly Ray remembered something.

“First, there was the church and then your actions in the play.”

“Come on! We need to get to that play!” Ray said.

Without another word, Ray whirled around and ran for the Cadillac. Surprised by his abrupt behavior, Rory hesitated for a moment then yelled,

“Wait up!”

* * *

All dressed up in his favorite suit, Ruben Ross straightened his tie and stared at the mirror, admiring his reflection. Just as he reached for a lint brush, his phone rang and he tapped the earpiece to answer.

“Ruben Ross. How can I make you a star?”

“Mr. Ross, it’s Felicia. I’ve finalized the arrangements for tonight,” said Ross’ personal assistant.

“My limo will be waiting at the back door when the play is over?”

“Yes, sir,” Felicia assured him.

“I’m taking my client and the entire cast to a party afterwards, and I don’t want any screwups. No successful performance is ever remembered by those who go home and rest.”

“Yes sir,” Felicia said.

“And I want the reviews in my hand the moment they’re released. Anybody complaining about the hour will be fired. They can sleep when I sleep.”

“Yes sir,” Felicia responded

Without another word, Ross ended the call then checked himself once more in the mirror. With a smile he said,

“Nice.”

When his phone rang again, Ross tapped the earpiece.

“Ruben Ross. How can I make you a star?”

“You can start by not being an idiot!” Bradford King growled on the other end of the line.

“I’m not an idiot. That’s why I’m always prepared,” Ross said.

“You’re going to a play and then some bash as though no one were trying to kill you,” King barked.

“No one is trying to kill me,” Ross said.

“What do you mean?” King asked.

“Like I say, I’m not an idiot. For years the cops have been sniffing around your closet for skeletons. Now that they’re getting too close, turning up the heat, you want to cut and run. I know this whole killer clown thing is just a story, a cover up for you wiping out your people. Well that’s not going to happen to me. I’ve made a little insurance policy. Your clown tries anything, and the press gets the whole story on the actresses I send you for your “do porn until you pay your debts” scam. That plus the load of information I’ve got on you will go straight to the cops, the straight cops, not those puppets you pay.”

“You idiot! What have you done? When I—,” King began, but was cut off when Ross broke the connection.

Ross grabbed a brush, took a swipe at his shoes then slipped his phone into his pocket and left the room. Downstairs he made his way to the waiting limo and climbed inside.

As the driver pulled away, Ross glanced up at his bedroom window and saw a clown standing there. Before the sight registered, he turned away. Quickly looking back, he saw that no one was there. Amused at his ridiculous imagination, Ross chuckled then laid his head back against the seat and rested his eyes.

As the limo took a sharp turn, something tumbled across the rear dash then hit Ross in the head. Slowly opening his eyes, he glanced to his left and saw what seemed to be a small toy. When he reached for it, bringing it closer to get a better look, he saw that it was a chess piece, the white rook.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 71

Over at the Horseshoe, Ray and Rory sipped their drinks at the bar while Pete curled up at Ray’s feet and Roddy slept in the corner.

“So let me get this straight,” Ray said. “Captain Bonkers is really a dead husband who’s come back to avenge his murdered family.”

“Yep,” Rory said smiling.

Ray rolled his eyes at Mavis, as she filled his empty glass, then turned the stool toward Rory and paused with a look of impatience.

“There’d better be a punch line to that or I’m having you committed.”

Lifting his head high, Rory answered, “Fine. Remember that coroner you worked with a couple of times? What was his name? Greg? No, Gordon somebody.”

“Gordon Garland,” Ray said.

David Gordon Garland was a coroner, among other things, who didn’t like working with Ray. The first time they met, Ray tricked him into handing over a patient’s file, and ever since then he’d been scared Ray’s antics would cause him to lose his job.

“Well the man still despises you, but in exchange for my promising he’d never have to work with you again, I got him to look at the original autopsy report for that man and his family who were found murdered in their home. Turns out the wife and child were both shot dead before their bodies were burned. Same thing with the husband,” Rory explained.

Ray mocked excitement, then said, “Sorry but can we jump to the punch line? There’s a madman out there killing people.”

“Not just people, Ray. He’s killing anybody connected with King. See I think he used to work for King. Um hm. Specifically, for someone called The Black Queen. But here’s the kicker. The body registered as the dead husband,” Rory paused for effect, “isn’t actually the husband. The original report was filed by some crackhead, one Calvin Nash. He’s under investigation for several improprieties involving corpses. Nothing vulgar, just weird. Turns out he is an unwilling informant of your buddy David Crandall who was the officer on the scene of the murders. I think Crandall had Nash falsify the reports so he could close the case quickly. I think Crandall is in Kings’ back pocket, and King didn’t want anybody looking into the case.”

“So—” Ray began but was interrupted by Mavis’ cell phone ringing.

“Sorry,” she said, crossing to the other side of the bar to answer the call.

“So King has this guy and his family murdered, but the husband survives, and now he’s hunting down the guy who did it?” Ray asked.

Rory nodded his agreement.

“Sounds like something Hollywood would come up with,” Ray said.

“No, Ray. Listen to this. What cements my theory is the boy who was murdered was a giant fan of a certain comic book. Can you guess which one?” Rory asked.

“I don’t have time for guessing games!” Ray growled.

“C’mon, Ray. Guess,” Rory coaxed.

Ray thought for a moment then asked,

“Captain Bonkers?”

“Bingo!” Rory responded.

“So you’re saying the husband, all dressed up as his son’s favorite hero, is out there hunting down the people who killed his family?” Ray asked.

“Precisely,” Rory said with a laugh.

As Rory finished his beer, he glanced toward Mavis for a refill and saw that she was arguing with someone on the phone.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Mavis yelled back then returning to the phone said,

“No, Jack. I’m not going to do that.”

Seeing that she was upset, Ray asked, “Mavis, who’s on the phone?”

Without answering, Mavis waved him off then quickly ended the call.

After walking over and dropping her phone on the bar, she grabbed Rory’s glass and filled it with fresh beer.

“Wrong number,” she smiled. “So what’d I miss?”

Just then her cell phone rang again, but before she could answer it, Ray snatched it off the bar.

“Ray, don’t answer that,” Mavis pleaded.

“Alright,” he said then tossed the phone to Rory who quickly answered and hit speaker before laying the cell on the bar.

“Who is this?”

Mavis covered her face and turned away.

“James W. Brannon, my good man, but you may call me Jack,” the caller said with a thick British accent. “I do wish I had more time to chat with you gents, but I’m afraid there is much to tell and very little time in which to tell it.”

“Brannon. . .Brannon. I know that name,” Rory said, his brow furrowed.

“I’m certain you do, Mr. Tavish, but for the present we must focus on pressing matters. It seems you have a mad clown loose in your city. Even though you are most likely aware of his identity, you still have the problem of determining where this killer may strike next. I am truly sorry Detective Crandall failed to assist you, but his sites are set solely on the salvation of his wife. If burning down the city means she will live, he will feel perfectly justified in doing so,” Jack pointed out.

Still wrapped up in struggling to recall where he had heard the name, Rory continued to turn it over and over as he searched his memory in exasperation.

“I know that name. Brannon. . .Brannon. Why do I know that name?” he wondered aloud.

“It seems your memory is like a leaky bucket, Mr. Tavish, though I’m certain you’ll recall in time,” Jack encouraged.

“Yea,” Rory said half listening.

Suddenly he looked down at the phone.

“Wait! What’d you say?”

“You have a memory like an elephant. I am certain you will eventually remember,” Jack said.

“To move on, the problem is that the remaining targets on the Captain’s list will not turn themselves in willing. However, if faced with the threat of violence, they may be willing to accept a lifeline tossed by a friendly face. You must go to each person on the list and quickly, I might add. It appears that the mad clown is increasing his tempo,” Jack explained.

“Yeah we already know this. What help can you offer?” Ray asked.

“I would love to sit and chat over a lively game of chess. Oh the things we could discuss,” Jack laughed.

“Jack, focus,” Mavis corrected.

“Correct,” Jack said. “You will want to make a note of this.”

“Ready,” Mavis said, grabbing a pad and pen.

“Let me see. Oscar Blake is dead, so those who remain are Ruben Ross, a drug dealer by the name of Jackson, then Rebecca Conrad, and finally Evelyn, the madam at a brothel known throughout the city. Saving them is entirely up to you. Just remember that they will be killed in that order.”

“Wait! Who did you say is already dead?” Ray asked.

“Oscar Blake. Just recently deceased. No need to bring in the authorities. These individuals will not accept police protection. Your best bet is to wait for the Clown to make his move,” Jack said.

Suddenly the line went dead.

“He said Oscar Blake is dead,” Ray said. “Who’s Oscar Blake?”

When the ringtone from Mavis’s cell phone indicated that a text message had arrived, she picked up the phone and read the message aloud.

“Oscar Blake is a slave trader and the Black Bishop.”

“A slave trader?” Ray asked. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Just as Ray began sending a message to Richard asking about Blake, Rory barked suddenly.

“Wait a minute. I knew I knew that name. Brannon, as in William Brannon. Right?”

Mavis looked down at her phone without answering.

“Was that the same guy on the phone?”

Continuing to stare at the screen of her phone to avoid eye contact, Mavis managed a small nod.

“I’m not taking advice from that nutter. He’s locked away in the bughouse up in Coldwater because no one can contend with him. He’s not stable, Mavis, and you should steer clear of him. He’s just the kind of guy who compliments you when all he really wants to do is wear your skin!” Rory barked.

“Guys!” Ray said. “Richard says that Oscar Blake was the proprietor of the Orchid Meadow shelter. He was found dead outside his facility, impaled on a cross, and the shelter was burned to the ground.”

Rory felt a twinge in his stomach.

“Maybe it’s a different guy,” he suggested.

“Little chance of that. A black bishop was found in his mouth,” Ray added.

Rory let out a sigh and said, “Let’s go.”

As Rory tossed back the last of his beer and stood to leave, Ray said,

“Mavis, let me have that list.”

“Thanks,” Ray said as she tore the sheet from its pad and held it out to him.

“Looks like the fruitcake may be right,” he smirked.

“Oh stuff it,” Rory grumbled as they left the bar.

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.”

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 67

Sipping his iced tea, Rory sat on the porch in an old rocking chair listening to the rain pelting the tin roof of Lenore’s house.

“What brings you way out here, Uncle Rory?” Lenore asked, returning from the kitchen with another glass of tea.

“Nothing,” Bertram Ford answered. “Nothing at all.”

Lenore looked over at Ford with a scowl and said,

“I’m still not convinced you’re the real thing.”

“Ella,” Rory said, “this is important. You need to focus, sweetie. I’m hunting a killer, and I could sure use your help.”

Her face lit up and she said,

“That’s great! I’ve always wanted to go on a hunting trip with you like Daddy used to. Who’s the target?”

“You’re not going with me. Not this time. It’s too dangerous,” Rory said.

“But Uncle Rory,” she protested.

“Now don’t start arguing with me. I can tell you that you’ll love the target, Ella. I’m hunting—” he began.

“Don’t say his full name!” Ford interrupted. “Not out loud! If you call a wraith by his full name, you summon him.”

Rory gave Ford a look of exasperation.

“You’re hunting a wraith?” Lenore whispered, her eyes wide.

“No. I’m hunting a man, a flesh and blood man,” Rory said, glaring at Ford.

“It’s a wraith, man,” Ford insisted.

“Stop it! There’s no such thing,” Rory growled.

“I’m hunting— ”

“A demon from hell,” Ford murmured.

Rory calmly set his empty glass on the porch, rose to his full height, and faced Ford.

“If you don’t shut up, I’ll bury you head first so deep only the soles of your feet will get sunburned,” he barked.

Ford squeezed into the corner of the porch and made a faint whimpering noise.

“Who is it?” Lenore asked, unfazed by Rory’s outburst.

“It’s,” Rory began then stopped and looked at Ford, daring him to interrupt.

His face pale, Ford shook his head and mouthed, “Please don’t say it!”

Rory turned back to Lenore and finished,

“Captain Bonkers.”

Ford covered his face with his hands, and Roddy’s ears dropped as he let out a low growl.

But Lenore’s face lit up and she asked excitedly,

“The killer clown, the homicidal harlequin, the bloody jester, purple face himself?”

“Yea. Him,” Rory said. “What’s his story?”

“The comic Captain Bonkers was written by Robert Burns, the same man who authored the Starfall Trilogy. Only thing is, Bonkers came through Burns’ own printing press. Didn’t have a lot of fans though. Critics said there was something disturbing about the clown, something evil and sadistic beneath the smiling purple mask. Even though fans were dying out, Burns kept the comic going for his biggest fan, a little boy named Jonathan Shiffer. Jonathan bought everything Burns printed about his favorite hero Captain Bonkers. Rumor was Jonathan’s father was involved with some pretty dangerous men. Burns finally decided to put his beloved Bonkers to rest and wrote one last story “Captain Bonkers and the Zombie Princess.” In this issue, a somber Bonkers, the mouth on his mask sewn shut, suddenly appears to save the life of a rich girl as she struggles to escape a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. At the end, the girl and her brother escape, but Bonkers, chased through the city by an army of zombies, is never seen again. The issue was such a success that fans pleaded for one more, and word is movie studios were even pushing for the rights. That’s when the horrible thing happened. Little Jonathan Shiffer and his parents were found murdered in their home, their bodies burned beyond recognition. Some say Jonathan’s father made the wrong men angry. Others say he couldn’t pay a debt. But I think he wanted to sever his mafia ties, and they decided to use him and his family as an example to teach the lesson that nobody leaves. Theory is, Jonathan and his mother were tied up then beaten and murdered while the father was forced to watch. Afterward, they set the mother’s body on fire then carried the dead child to his bed and burned him. Only then did the men turn and kill the father. They took his body to the woods and burned him so his spirit would never be able to find its way back to the house to join his wife and child. The tragedy ruined Burns. He disappeared and the comic book died. Nobody’s seen him since. Not too long after that, the rumors started about a clown, a killer clown moving through the streets slaughtering criminals and taking their bodies to the woods. The rumors spread out from the dark corners of the city and people began to whisper that the violence set upon that family that night cursed the house and called forth a vengeful spirit, a spirit that won’t rest until the men who killed that family pay for their sins.”

By the time she finished, Lenore was out of breath.

Without a word, Rory just looked at her in disbelief.

After a moment she asked, “What?”

“Where’s your medicine?” he asked, opening the screen door.

“I’m not crazy, Uncle Rory!” Lenore snapped.

“Then prove it,” he returned.

“Just wait a minute,” she said indignantly, brushing past him.

Rory released the handle of the screen door and sat back down in the rocking chair.

When Lenore came out of the house, she reached toward Rory with a thick folder.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“The police report. They recovered three bodies that night. The report was filed by a D. Crandall. So see. It’s for real. No one survived, so this killer clown has got to be a ghost,” Lenore argued.

When Rory looked through the file, his shoulders dropped. He had figured Bonkers was the father of that family, that somehow he had survived. Now he had nothing.

“I need a drink,” he said, rising from the chair.

Ford, still cowering in the corner, found himself too frightened to speak.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Mavis was behind the bar drying glasses as she cradled the phone between her head and shoulder.

Suddenly the door opened and Rory lumbered up to a stool, his head low. Happy to see Mavis, Roddy leapt up onto a stool beside Rory and braced his front paws on the bar.

“Hey, Roddy,” Mavis greeted, putting down the glass to pat the dog’s head.

When he held out his paw, Mavis gave him a treat.

Looking over at Rory, his head resting on the bar, Mavis told the person on the end of the line to hold on.

Then giving her full attention to Rory, she asked,

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

“I hit a dead end. You know I’ve been hunting after Bonkers, the killer clown,” he said.

“Yes. I remember,” Mavis responded.

“Well I was certain the clown was the father or the mother or even the boy grown up. But nope. I have it all right here in black and white,” he said, holding up the folder.

“All three were killed, and all three bodies were recovered,” Rory said, dropping the file to the bar.

“Well maybe. . .” Mavis began then stopped and turned back to her caller

“What?”

After a moment of silence, she said,

“I’m not asking him that.”

Another moment of silence and she groaned, “Fine.”

Looking at Rory, she asked,

“How do you know they are dead?”

Rory looked confused for a moment then a light came on in his eyes.

“Is that him?” he asked.

Mavis paused then said, “Maybe.”

“Did you call him? I told you to leave him alone. He’s in that hospital for a reason.”

“He just wants to help,” Mavis pleaded.

“Fine. Then tell him I have the reports right here. All three were shot and their remains burned,” Rory snapped.

Mavis turned back to the phone. After a moment, she asked,

“Wait. What?”

She paused then said, “Okay, hon. Behave and I’ll come to see you soon.”

As she hung up the phone, she looked at Rory.

He could see she was trying to work something out in her head.

“So what’d he say?” Rory asked.

“Sometimes a dead body isn’t a dead body.”

 

Published in: on November 19, 2015 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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