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

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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 83

Clive Morgan, head of the mayor’s task force, stood in the charred remains of the gentlemen’s club Apollo Fire pushing aside bits of debris with the toe of his shoe. Fire Rescue, still searching through the ruins, had already uncovered thirty bodies.

Morgan heard a car pull into the parking lot and turned to see Detective Richard Clay and Raymond Slats.

As they approached, Morgan greeted,

“Boys.”

“How many victims so far?” Richard asked.

“I stopped counting at thirty,” Morgan said with disgust. “Never seen anything like this.”

“He’s getting more violent, more aggressive,” Richard observed.

“Any idea what he’s after?” Morgan asked.

“Not really. I—,” Richard began.

“Bradford King,” Ray broke in.

“Bradford King,” Richard repeated.

Morgan studied the faces of both men for a moment then said,

“Richard, you’re a good cop. And a great detective. Course you’re not as good as your daddy, but you’re getting there. Everybody on the force respects you. That being said, some of us suspect that your recent success comes from this mysterious father-in-law of yours whose life apparently began when he started driving a cab for the city of Whitelake.”

Morgan looked straight at Ray and asked,

“So what were you doing before your cabbie days, Mr. Slats?”

“Dog groomer,” Ray replied.

“What’d I tell you?” Morgan said holding out a hand, “Mysterious.”

“No disrespect intended, but let’s just cut the charades. Instead of talking to the puppet, let’s hear what Geppetto has to say,” Morgan requested as he looked at Ray. “Spill it, old timer. What makes you think this clown is headed for King?”

“For the same reason you won’t find the body of Evelyn Caine. Captain Bonkers is acting out a plot of revenge to destroy the people who ruined him. Every person he’s killed has either worked directly for King or been associated with him in some way. Not only did Bonkers kill whoever answered to King but also he left behind a marker with each victim. A game piece from a chessboard. In his twisted mind, each of these people represents a piece of a figurative chessboard that protects King in some way. Bonkers has been slowly working his way up the line until he reaches the final piece on the board, the king.”

For a moment, Morgan considered what Ray had said then asked,

“If that’s true, then why isn’t Evelyn Caine’s body here? On display like all the other victims.”

“I think Caine ordered the hit on Bonkers’ family and King approved it. If my theory is correct and Bonkers is acting out his revenge, Evelyn Caine’s his next victim. She may still be alive but not for long,” Ray explained.

 

*          *          *

 

When Evelyn Caine regained consciousness, she was lying on a cold wooden floor. Her head throbbed, and as she reached up to touch the spot, she discovered that her hands were bound. A thick musty smell filled her nostrils, and she gagged at the stench. Except for a few pinpricks of light, the room was dark.

Struggling to her feet, she felt nauseous and her head began to spin. She reached out with her foot and hit what seemed to be a wall. Bracing herself against it, she let her eyes adjust to the dark while she waited for the nausea and dizziness to pass. When she strained against the dark to see where she was, she saw that she was in the back of a large truck.

Suddenly she heard the cab door slam shut and the handles of the rear cargo doors click as someone opened them.

There he stood, barely visible in the low light.

“I don’t know how you did it, but you will regret getting her involved,” Caine said angrily. “She will betray you the moment she no longer needs you.”

When Captain Bonkers pulled out his pistol and quickly fired a shot into the air, Caine jumped. Her ears still ringing, she looked up to see that Bonkers was motioning for her to come closer.

At first she hesitated, but then she realized that if she got closer, she might have a chance to get the gun away from him. Walking to the edge of the truck, she looked out. They were in the country in the middle of a field with no houses nearby.

Bonkers lowered the ramp and motioned for her to walk down onto the grass. She decided she would collapse, falling into him and grabbing the gun. But the second she came close, he backhanded her and pushed her down the ramp.

As she struggled to recover her balance, she saw that just behind Bonkers was a large box covered with a tarp.

Looking from the box into Bonkers’ cold eyes, she saw that he was holding up a tape recorder and a piece of paper. When she read what was on the paper, she protested,

“I’m not reading that!”

In response, Bonkers shot her in the foot.

Crying out in pain, Caine fell to the ground and Bonkers squatted down next to her, again holding out the piece of paper.

Reluctantly, she took the paper and began to read as Bonkers held the recorder to her mouth.

“My name is Evelyn Caine. Working with Bradford King, I have cost the lives of hundreds. Most of them I had killed because they were a threat to me. Others because they insulted me. I deserve no more than the same mercy I offered to others. Don’t bother burying me for like Jezebel, only the dogs will remember me.”

Bonkers turned off the recorder, tucking it into his pocket, and retrieved the paper.

As she slowly stood, Caine winced at the pain in her wounded foot.

“What now?” she asked. “Don’t you want revenge, you weak simpleton?”

Bonkers motioned with the gun toward the open field.

“I’m not going to run away so you can just shoot me in the back. If you want to kill me, you’ll have to shoot me in the face,” Caine yelled.

Bonkers turned to the box and removed the tarp. Caine saw that it was a large metal crate with holes along the top. When Bonkers pounded the crate three times, from inside came the sound of barking dogs.

Caine felt her chest tighten.

“What did you mean by only the dogs will remember me?” she asked in alarm.

Bonkers climbed up to the top of the crate and waited.

Now filled with terror, Caine began running as fast as she could with a wounded foot. As she hobbled away, she risked a glance backwards.

She saw Bonkers reach down and raise a bow and arrow. Placing the nock of the arrow into the bowstring, he pulled back, aiming at the fleeing Caine, and released. Looking ahead, she fought against the pain, trying to run faster.

Suddenly she heard the pop of the bow and felt a shooting pain in her side as the arrow pierced her right lung. Struggling to breath, she fell to the ground then watched in horror as Bonkers bent over and opened the crate.

Eight wild dogs tore from the open cage and headed straight for Caine. Too weak to rise, she covered her eyes as the dogs leapt on her.

Bonkers watched, his head tilted slightly to the side, and listened to Caine scream as the dogs tore at her. When her cries finally died down, Bonkers climbed down from the crate, removed the recorder from his pocket, and placed it on top the crate. Then from his other pocket, he pulled out a chess piece, the black queen, and centered it on top the recorder. Turning back to the truck, he slid the ramp back in place, climbed in the cab and drove away.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 81

When Ray came to, he was lying on a stretcher with an EMT standing over him.

“Just lie still,” the young woman advised. “You’ve suffered a minor concussion and some bruising. Can you tell me your name?”

“Raymond Slats,” Ray answered, closing his eyes against the pain in his head.

After a few moments, Ray heard Richard’s voice and opened his eyes to see him standing by the EMT.

“He’ll be fine. Mr. Slats is far too stubborn to die.”

“I know that sounds cool on television, but in real life, he’s lucky to be alive,” the EMT pointed out as she stepped up into the ambulance’s rear entrance.

Ray tried to sit up, but his throbbing head cut short that idea and he lay back on the stretcher.

“I remember the roller coaster and Rebecca Conrad, but then something hit me, and everything went black,” he said.

“You don’t remember who struck you?” Richard asked.

“Uh. . .No I can’t. . .,” Ray trailed off. “Wait a minute. . .It was Bonkers. I remember now. I turned around and came face to face with him. He looked at me for just a second then struck me over the head.”

When he tried a second time to sit up, Ray’s head began to spin and he fell back against the stretcher.

“Ohhh,” he groaned as he touched the wound.

“What about Rebecca Conrad?” Ray asked.

“We found her beneath the roller coaster,” Richard said remorsefully. “Dead before she hit the ground. Shot once through the back of the head.”

“Detective,” an officer called out as he approached. “We found another body.”

With a heavy sigh, Richard answered,

“Be right there.”

Richard looked around for the nearest uniformed officer.

“Get over here,” he ordered.

When the officer walked over, Richard said,

“Stay with him. Watch him, and do not let him leave.”

When Richard was out of sight, Ray tried once again to sit up. This time, with the officer’s help, he was successful.

“Thank you. . .,” Ray paused to look at the officer’s badge. “Officer Finn.”

“You’re welcome, sir,” Finn responded.

“What’s your first name, son?” Ray asked.

“Edgar,” Finn replied.

“Edgar Finn?” Ray asked.

“Yes sir. My mom was an avid Edgar Allan Poe fan. I got teased a bit at school, though,” Finn smiled.

“Actually, I was going to say with a name like Edgar Finn, you should be walking the streets fighting crime on your own terms. You know. A gumshoe with a drinking problem. Some woman loves you, but you keep her at a distance because she’s too good for the likes of you,” Ray joked.

For a moment, Finn looked confused. Then slowly he understood what Ray was getting at.

“Oh wait. You’re talking about those old detective stories. Right?”

Ray slowly nodded.

“Yea,” Finn smiled. “My dad used to read those. I’m more of a fantasy guy, though. Knights fighting dragons, rescuing the princess. Or maybe a group of outsiders venturing through a rough and dangerous wilderness to stop some terrible evil that’s rising to take over the kingdom and enslave humanity.”

“I see,” Ray smiled.

“I’ve actually got this one fantasy quadrilogy Dragon Fire written by Robert Burns. It’s about this prince who’s kidnapped the day his father dies. But while they’re trying to kidnap him, he breaks away, escapes over this waterfall and loses his memory,” Finn explained enthusiastically. “Then these two guys come along in a cart—”

“Wait,” Ray interrupted. “Robert Burns. I know that name.”

“Yea. He wrote the Starfall Trilogy which was this three-part graphic novel about the rise and fall of a hero named Jericho,” Finn explained. “He also wrote a bunch of episodes of the television series Stackhouse where—”

“No, that’s not what I’m thinking of,” Ray interrupted.

“Well, let me see,” Finn said. “Oh yea. He also kind of co-wrote the comic series Captain Bonkers.”

“That’s the one,” Ray said.

“After that boy was murdered, Burns just disappeared. No one’s seen or heard from him since,” Finn said.

“Well, my point was that you have the name of a detective,” Ray replied.

“You think so?” Finn asked excitedly. “I have been thinking about putting in for a transfer to Coldwater. I know there’s less crime there, but I have a friend on the police force who says if I pass my detective exam, I’m a shoo-in.”

“Well good luck to you, son, but be careful. My father used to say the more expensive the door, the darker the secrets behind it,” Ray advised.

With a look of confusion, Finn asked,

“What—”

“Officer Finn,” Richard called as he approached. “Go help over there.”

As Finn walked away, Richard turned to Ray.

“Okay. Here’s what we’ve got. Officers impaled, hung, and torn limb from limb. One looks like his head’s been ripped off. Another’s head is crushed. The mayor’s steamed. He’s called for a strike force to bring in Captain Bonkers,” Richard said.

“And you’re off the case?” Ray asked.

“Nope,” Richard corrected. “I’m out of the hunt for Captain Bonkers, but he still wants me to investigate King’s connection to all this.”

“Well. . .,” Ray said trailing off.

“What do you know?” Richard said.

“Who Bonkers is probably going after next,” Ray replied.

Richard raised his eyebrows waiting for an answer. Then he said,

“Tell you what. Just tell me on the way there.”

“Let me grab something first,” Ray said, standing up from the stretcher.

 

*          *          *

 

While Richard drove, Ray filled him in.

“Shouldn’t you tell the strike force leader about this?” Ray asked.

“I did. He told me to get back to him if it became a credible threat and not just a theory,” Richard explained.

“Okay,” Ray said. “Evelyn Caine is the real name of the woman people have started calling the Black Queen. Rumor has it, she’s the one responsible for the death of the boy and his mother.”

“Wait a minute. You mean the one Bonkers is avenging?” Richard asked.

“That’s the rumor,” Ray replied. “She runs a high-priced gentlemen’s club called Apollo Fire. Usually a gentlemen’s club is a ruse, a front for something else, but in this case, it’s less so. This place not only has dancers and rooms for private dancing, but it also has an area for fine dining, gambling and even a VIP suite with a private waitress. Ninety per cent of what goes on there is illegal, but no one has been able to touch the place. Anybody who tries winds up burned to a crisp in a ditch somewhere or just disappears,” Ray explained.

“Why am I just now hearing about this place?” Richard asked.

“Because up until now, anyone with any power kept it quiet. King’s been laundering money through it or buying the people who could shut it down,” Ray explained.

“But now those people are dead because of Bonkers,” Richard said.

“Correct,” Ray replied.

“Where did you hear all this?” Richard asked.

“From Tommy. . .mostly,” Ray mumbled.

“Mostly?” Richard pressed. “Who else?”

“A friend of a friend who lives in Coldwater. He’s not important, but I know Mavis trusts him,” Ray explained.

 

*          *          *

 

Evelyn Caine took a seat near the club’s entrance. Her informant had told her that the cops were on their way, so she waited patiently for the inevitable knock.

A few seconds later, it came.

“Ahh. There it is. The knock,” she said.

Removing her personal key, she unlocked the door and opened it. Two men stood outside.

“Now you’re a police officer,” she said, pointing a long red fingernail at the youngest man. “And may I say, delightful.”

Looking at the older man who stood back a bit, she purred, “You, I don’t recognize, but I bet you’re experienced.”

“Evelyn Caine? I’m Detective Richard Clay of the Whitelake Police Department. Mind if we come in and ask you a few questions? The police department is concerned for your safety, given the wave of murders.”

“I appreciate your concern, Detective, but I’m not afraid for my safety. We’re entertaining guests this evening, so I can’t let you in without a warrant. . .” she paused, giving Richard the once over. “That is unless you want to come up to my private office and protect me body and soul.”

When Richard didn’t flinch, she shrugged and said,

“Your loss.”

Closing and locking the door, she turned back to the club.

As she headed down the hall toward the office, unbeknownst to her, someone slowly walked up to the club’s entrance and installed a small metal plate over the front doors, locking them together, then poured Superglue into the lock.

The figure then turned and vanished, leaving the club’s doors permanently sealed shut.

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 75

In the wake of the very public murder of Ruben Ross, Ray had slipped up to the front row, trying to get as close as he could to the stage while the crime lab worked the scene. Almost a week had passed since Captain Bonkers started his killing spree, and the newspapers were going nuts. The police, already frustrated by the slow progress on the case, had been forced to waste departmental resources to arrest two copycats dressed as Bonkers, committing everything from robbery to assault and battery.

Ray leaned back against the seat and watched as Crime Scene slowly removed Ross’s body. Once the theater was cleared out and witnesses had been questioned and released, Richard walked over to Ray and sat down.

“Ray,” he began.

“I know. I know,” Ray said. “I’ve been hoping, trying, to get ahead of Bonkers on this, but he’s always way ahead of me. It’s like playing off the cuff against someone who’s been making plans for years.”

“I understand that, Ray,” Richard explained, “but things are escalating. Deborah is frantic with worry about both of us. Can’t blame her. This Bonkers is clearly a maniac.”

Richard pinched the bridge of his nose then rubbed his forehead.

“You heard the chief’s body was just found, right?”

Ray nodded.

“The mayor has almost set up camp in my office. I can’t sit on this much longer. If I don’t start making some sort of headway, I’m going to get pulled from the case.”

Ray let out a long sigh as his shoulders slumped.

“The next victim will be Jackson Kane. I believe he runs drugs for King. He’s not going to work willingly with the police, but I’ll stay out of this one.”

Ray turned to face Richard.

“I know Bonkers won’t harm me. At least I don’t think he will. He seems to be focused on the people who work with or are associated with Bradford King, but I can’t be certain he’ll spare you. Just be careful, Richard.”

“Don’t worry about me, Ray. I’ll be careful,” Richard promised. “Last thing I want to do  is leave Deborah behind with my dad. He’d probably have her running drills, training her to go after Bonkers herself.”

They both smiled at the thought.

“Sir,” a crime scene technician called as he approached.

Richard looked in his direction.

“I can’t be certain, but I think I smell perfume on the body. Like a woman was at the murder scene,” the tech suggested.

“You think Bonkers may be a woman?” Richard asked in surprise then looked at Ray.

When Ray shook his head no, dismissing the idea, Richard told the tech,

“Find out everything you can.”

“Okay, Ray,” Richard said, rising to his feet, “I’ve got to get over to Kane’s place.”

As he headed for the exit and Jackson Kane’s estate in Coldwater, Ray heard him calling for backup.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

 

Jackson Kane stood before an army of thirty well trained thugs and twenty heavily armed teenage hoodlums. The cops in Coldwater were useless, but they still had a job to do. Kane’s contact in the Coldwater Police Department had alerted him that Detective Richard Clay of the Whitelake PD, coordinating with local law enforcement, was headed his way with an appeal to take Kane into protective custody and keep the mad clown from killing him.

Kane was way ahead of Clay. He had a panic room waiting, stocked with enough food and supplies to last him a month. With its independent air and water system, he could hide out till this was all over. No one was getting through. But to keep the clown busy, he had hired the best private security money could buy and the craziest coked up gang members willing to work for him.

“There’s a mad clown coming here tonight, I’d wager to kill me,” Kane told his army. “I’ll make this simple. Your job is to kill him.  Survive the night and you get five hundred grand in addition to what I’m already paying you. Bring me the clown’s head and you’ve got yourself a cool million on top of that. But get this straight. I don’t want anybody bothering me tonight. Clear?”

As if on cue, the buzzer at the estate’s front gate sounded. Kane retrieved a remote and switched the television to the front gate. He saw Detective Richard Clay with more than a dozen cops behind him. Jackson reached down and lifted the phone from its cradle.

“Yes?” he answered.

“Jackson Kane, this is Detective Richard Clay of the Whitelake Police Department. We have reason to believe your life is in danger, and we want to move you to a secure location for your protection.”

“I don’t think so, Detective. Is there a mad clown out for my blood? Yes there is. Will he  get to me? No he won’t. And If you think I’m going to let the police onto my property so they can plant evidence and accuse me of crimes the good people of Coldwater know I’m innocent of, well then you’re very mistaken! Just sit back and enjoy the show, Detective,” Kane laughed, hanging up the phone.

“Remember,” Kane said, turning back to his army, “everybody uses silencers. I don’t want to give the cops any excuse to enter this property. Now get out there and get me a clown.”

As everyone filed out heading for the estate grounds, Kane sat back and watched. Once the room was cleared, he calmly entered the panic room, closing himself in, walked over to a shatterproof window then looked out over his estate and smugly smiled.

“Try and get me, clown. I know what they did to deserve your wrath, and personally I would not have made the mistake that brought you back. That’s what you get when you deal with amateurs.”

He took another deep breath and turned away from the window. Planning for every conceivable scenario, he had seen to it that the glass was even resistant to bullets. The clown would not get in here tonight or any other night.

“And when you kill the King,” Kane laughed, pouring a glass of 50 year old Scotch, “I’ll take his place. Rook to King.”

Tossing back a gulp, he added,

“Checkmate.”

When Kane set the empty glass down on the desk, he saw a black rook.

“How did you get here?”

 

*          *          *

 

Across the field just inside the wall, Captain Bonkers watched as armed men roamed the grounds looking for him. Cops were gathered just outside the gate waiting for an excuse to enter. He had easily tapped into everyone’s radio and listened as each side made plans.

Reaching into one of his pockets, he pulled out a small remote with two buttons. When he pressed the first button, lights all down the block went out, leaving only the moon’s illumination.

He raised his pistol and fired into the air, filling the still night air with a loud bang. As he pressed the second button on the remote, Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” began to play with its pulsating tom-tom.

 

*          *          *

 

Angry at Jackson Kane’s refusal to let him through the gate, Richard was about to call for a warrant when the lights all along the block went out and a gunshot sounded.

“Gunfire. Repeat. Gunfire,” he said into his police radio. “We’re going in.”

Just then loud music blared out over loudspeakers set up somewhere on the grounds.

“What the heck?” Richard asked.

“Move out,” he ordered, shaking off the confusion.

As they charged through the gate, Richard felt his blood run cold. He thought of Deborah at home waiting for him. Surrounded by fellow police officers, he forged ahead with no idea of what he was going to find in the chaos.

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 66

The rumble of the distant thunder told Ray the storm was moving on, having spent its fury, leaving behind a chill in the air. As the last of the rain ran down the window panes of The Golden Calf, Ray felt Pete press against him. Since that lightning strike a couple of yards behind him years ago, the pup always got nervous when it rained. Detective David Crandall looked over the dead body of casino owner Douglas Burroughs. Ray had spent his share of time dealing with killers and sadists, but something about this murder felt cold and twisted. Like an old rotting theater, the sense of mirth in the place would be ruined by the violence of one man taking another man’s life.

“This is getting out of hand,” Ray said.

“Well, Slats, if you’d help like you’re supposed to, maybe we’d get ahead of this mad clown,” Crandall replied.

“I can’t help if you insist on keeping me in the dark. I know you know more than you’re saying. Something about this man scares you,” Ray replied.

In the darkness, calliope music continued to play over the intercom.

“Can’t we shut off that racket?” Crandall barked in frustration.

“Look, Crandall,” Ray said, ignoring the question, “I can get this guy but you have to help me. Stop hiding things from me to protect yourself and help me stop this guy before someone else dies. This time maybe someone you love.”

Crandall snapped his head up. He had a look of fear and anger in his eyes.

“I know about her,” Ray said. “I know who she started working for when your child died.”

“Shut up!” Crandall growled.

“I know she regrets it,” Ray continued. “But I also know that her mistake has made her a target.”

“I said shut up!” Crandall repeated.

“You know as well as I do that if we don’t get ahead of Bonkers, sooner or later he’ll end up at her doorstep. You have to choose who to protect. What’s it going to be, Crandall? You or her?” Ray asked.

Crandall stood still, his jaw muscles working as he ground his teeth.

“I want to help her, but I don’t want to compromise my life. I can handle this. I just need to move faster,” Crandall said.

“You can,” Ray said. “Just give me the list.”

“What list?” Crandall asked.

“The list of his lieutenants,” Ray said. “King’s men.”

“I can’t,” Crandall said. “If I do, it’s the end of me.”

“If you don’t, her life may be. . .”

Ray trailed off when he spotted someone in the offices upstairs. A female Ray thought, judging by her shape, but the poor lighting made it impossible to clearly see her face.

“Who is that?” Ray asked, moving away from Crandall toward the stairs going up to the office.

By the time Ray reached the office, it was empty. Only a few clown dolls scattered across the room.

He turned toward Crandall with a warning.

“We’re running out of time. If you want to save her, you’d better decide if you’re willing to sacrifice yourself.”

Just then Crandall’s phone rang. He reached into his pocket and answered the call.

Ray couldn’t make much sense out of Crandall’s side of the conversation.

When he finally hung up, Crandall said,

“We have to go now! We may be able to rescue one before it’s too late.”

As they hurried out of the casino, Ray knew Crandall would never sacrifice himself for his wife, as least not until it was too late.

* * *

A thirty-minute drive through the wet streets put Ray and Crandall in the parking lot of Taylor Shipping. The yard was empty and quiet except for the last bits of rain dripping from the flickering lights. The gate to the shipping yard hung open, and the only movement was a paper cup being blown across the parking lot.

“Who are we here to save?” Ray asked.

“He said that Suzanne Taylor may be next and we have to get to her,” Crandall said.

Ray let that sit for a moment as they drove through the yard.

“We are supposed to save her. Right?” Ray asked.

“Usually he tells me to try and save them. This time he didn’t seem as concerned,” Crandall said.

“You willingly work for this guy?” Ray asked.

“No. Not willingly. But if I do anything he doesn’t approve of, he could kill my wife and me. You haven’t heard the story of what happened to one guy who tried to get out,” Crandall said.

“Her office is just up here on the left,” he pointed out.

“You don’t know the stories of what they did to that man and his family, so don’t preach to me about what’s best.”

Ray kept quiet, hoping Crandall would say more.

But when Crandall turned left toward the office, they spotted Captain Bonkers, standing in the distance.

He wore a top hat and clown mask and was dressed all in black and white. As soon as they saw him, Captain Bonkers slowly turned and walked out of sight.

“That’s him!” Crandall said, stomping down on the accelerator.

* * *

Ray and Crandall had just left The Golden Calf when the door leading to maintenance slowly opened. After a pause, Tommy poked his head out and looked around.

He took several careful steps onto the casino floor but stopped when he spotted the body.

“Here it is,” Tommy said, crossing the floor.

“Wait!” Tyler Clay barked, coming up behind Tommy.

He pulled out two pair of latex gloves and handed one to Tommy.

“Why these?” Tommy asked. “I didn’t kill him.”

“Can’t disturb the crime scene. We don’t want to make things tougher on Richard,” Clay explained.

Tyler Clay was a retired detective and Richard’s father.

Tommy took the gloves and pulled them on.

“Why are we here again?” Clay asked.

“Ray’s got his hands tied trying to get information out of Crandall, so he asked me to drop by each scene behind him and find out what I can before the police show up,” Tommy said.

“Why is that?” Clay asked.

“Because King’s been seeing that evidence and witnesses go missing. I need to find out everything I can before anything disappears,” Tommy explained.

“Now take a look at the body while I find out what I can from the computers.”

Clay examined the body of Douglas Burroughs, being careful not to touch anything.

He spotted a revolver and a six-sided die along with some unused bullets on the floor near Burroughs’ body.

“Tommy,” Clay called out, “this Bonkers guy is not just a vigilante. He’s playing with these people, tormenting them before he kills them.”

Busy upstairs at Burroughs’ computer, Tommy didn’t hear.

As Clay looked over the scene, it all started to fall into place.

“Russian Roulette. Hmm. Only instead of loading just one bullet, looks like this guy tossed the die then loaded the number on the roll,” Clay explained.

Tommy came down the stairs, hurrying over to Clay.

“You find anything?” Tommy asked.

“This clown isn’t just some vigilante hell bent on stopping a crime lord. This is personal. He made Burroughs sit here wondering when he was going to die. Bonkers wants these people to suffer. If he was just into racking up bodies, he would have killed everybody in the casino. But he went after Burroughs. He used a die and made the guy play Russian Roulette. Look at all these bullets by the body,” Clay said.

Tommy waited before asking, “And?”

Clay looked up and said, “And Ray may be in way over his head. There’s a lot more going on than just a string of murders. It looks like two forces are about to clash.”

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 63

Ray surveyed the murder scene. At the construction site, marked off with police tape, blue uniforms surrounded Scott Baker’s body.

“Well that’s just great,” Detective David Crandall griped. “We had him at the church and he escaped right into that lunatic’s hands.”

Just then Ray saw his son-in-law Detective Richard Clay pull up.

“Richard’s here,” Ray said and opened the car door.

“Wait,” Crandall complained.

Crandall watched as Ray walked over to Richard and they began talking.

After a few moments, Crandall grumbled,

“How did that idiot get so far?”

Climbing out of the car, he hurried over to the body. Calvin Nash, one of the crime scene techs, was busy with his camera.

Nash was a creepy little pervert whom Crandall caught once taking pictures of the corpses. Crandall struck a bargain right then. He’d keep quiet about what he saw in exchange for Nash helping him out whenever he needed it.

“Nash,” Crandall called.

Nash looked up, flinched then answered,

“Detective.”

“What can you tell me about the scene?” Crandall asked.

“You know I can’t share that information until—”

“Nash,” Crandall scolded, cutting him off, “I don’t have time for this song and dance. Just tell me what you know before I turn you in.”

Nash looked around then nervously brushed the hair out of his face.

“All right. All right. Looks like Baker was tortured then shot once in the head. The killer buried him head first in a 5-foot hole, leaving his feet sticking out. Then he tied what appears to be kite string to his feet and threaded the string to other bodies buried throughout the property, each in a different state of decomposition.”

“So the killer buried his other victims here,” Crandall said.

“Possibly. But they were buried long before Baker was,” Nash replied.

“How long has this lunatic been dumping bodies here?” Crandall asked.

“Actually the pattern of digging doesn’t match the way Baker was buried,” Nash pointed out. “Looks more like somebody else buried the other bodies.”

Just then Crandall felt a drop of rain. Looking up at the dark clouds, he cursed his luck.

“Look, Nash, if anybody asks, the killer left the other bodies,” Crandall instructed as he headed back to his car.

“Killers,” Nash corrected.

Crandall stopped and turned back to Nash.

“Killers?”

“Yes,” Nash responded. “Looks like they stood on a board near the body to conceal their footprints. The impression the board left in the mud plus the tire tracks beside it suggest that the killer drove the car up here, got out, dropped the board, and then stood on it with somebody.”

“And you’re certain there were two people here?” Crandall asked.

“Two people or one gigantic man,” Nash suggested.

Crandall had heard the report of a red-haired girl who might be involved with this clown, but nothing had been confirmed until now.

“One man did this,” Crandall finally said.

“But—” Nash began.

“One man,” Crandall repeated, holding up his index finger.

Nash nodded submission.

Heading back to his car, Crandall looked up just in time to see Detective Clay handcuff Ray and place him in the back seat of a patrol car.

Crandall sighed,

“What now?”

“Hey, Clay,” Crandall called as he approached. “What’s wrong?”

“He’s interfering in an open investigation, and I’m tired of trying to convince him to stay out of it. Just taking him to my house where Deborah can keep an eye on him,” Richard explained.

“I’ll take him. You need all the men you can get to stop this mad clown. Besides, I’m headed home anyway,” Crandall suggested.

Richard considered the offer for a moment then said,

“Thanks. Actually, that will help out. But be certain he gets there.”

“I will,” Crandall replied.

Richard helped Ray out of the squad car then slipped off the cuffs.

“It’s straight to my house, Ray. Deborah’s waiting for you,” he said.

“Will do. You can trust me,” Ray replied.

Crandall took Ray by the arm and headed for Crandall’s car.

“Well that was certainly awkward,” Ray said.

“Awkward? More like stupid. Now we don’t have much time before Richard starts wondering why I never dropped you off at home,” Crandall said.

“You mean we’re not going home?” Ray asked.

Angry at being tangled up with this foolish old man, Crandall barked, “Of course not, you idiot!”

He was just about to snap again when his cell phone rang. After fishing it out of his pocket, he answered,

“Crandall. . .Yes, sir…I will, sir…Right away, sir.”

He ended the call and said,

“We may already be too late.”

“Who was that?” Ray asked.

“Douglas Burroughs is the manager of The Golden Calf. You know the place?” Crandall asked.

“Yes. I’ve heard of it,” Ray answered.

“Well shots were heard in the area, and nobody over there is answering the phone. I’ve been told to check it out.”

“That was Burroughs?” Ray asked.

“No!” Crandall snapped. “Burroughs is probably dead by now. We’ve got to get over there and confirm if he is or isn’t.”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

When Crandall and Ray arrived, they found The Golden Calf empty, except for one person sitting at the middle table, his body leaning far back in the chair.

With weapon drawn, Crandall slowly made his way over to the body. Ray stayed behind watching as a growling Pete pressed against his pants leg.

When Crandall came close enough to the body, he saw that it was David Burroughs. He had a single bullet hole to the head, blood dripping from the wound onto the casino floor. A revolver and a six-sided die were on the blackjack table, and resting between them was a black knight from a chess set.

In the darkness came the sound of calliope music playing over the intercom.

Crandall looked back at Ray.

“Burroughs is dead. The clown again.”

The Train: Episode 44

Tommy slowly sat up. He held his head in his hands trying to stop the spinning. Reaching out for a nearby chair, he braced himself and pushed up to his feet. His ears were ringing and his face stung from the glass cuts. Bringing a hand up to his cheek, he touched the wounds then pulled his hand away and saw the blood on his fingertips. Outside the debris of the truck was consumed in flames, choking the air with thick black clouds of smoke.

“I’ve got to sit down,” he said. Holding on to the door, he took a few slow steps to the chair then lowered himself onto the seat just moments before he passed out.

The sound of the phone snapped Tommy awake. He saw that he was still slumped in the chair where he had fallen. The ringing in his ears had eased and the spinning had stopped. He tried to stand up but his legs failed him and he fell back into the chair.

“If I can just make it to the office and answer that blasted phone,” he told himself.

Trying once again, he leaned on the chair for support then inched his way along the wall until he reached the office.

The incessant ringing of the phone was like nails being driven slowly into his head.

“Shut up!” he ordered the irritating device.

When he made it to the desk, he reached out for the phone, pulling it free from the cradle.

“What!” he barked. “Ow!” he said, grabbing his throbbing head.

“Tommy, you’re alive!” Ronald Brewer exclaimed. “I heard about the explosion. I figured you and Richard were having some sort of war. I did everything I could to keep the uniforms away. Are you all right?”

“Yea,” Tommy said, his throat hoarse.

“How’s Richard? Did you two get the killer?” Brewer asked.

“Richard’s dead. My crew is dead. It’s just me left,” Tommy said.

“Oh man! What are you going to do?” Brewer asked.

“My dad has a cabin out in the woods, pretty isolated. It’s a good place to hold up, figure out what to do. I’m going to make some calls. Dad had family up north. They’ll come down here and help, put an end to this,” Tommy said.

“I’ll spin by and pick you up. It’s not safe for you to go alone,” Brewer said.

“I don’t know,” Tommy hesitated.

“Besides if someone tries anything, I can call for backup,” Brewer added.

Tommy wasn’t comfortable bringing Brewer along. The man was nothing but a leech. But having police backup could work for him.

“All right,” Tommy agreed. “I’m at the garage, and hurry! Who knows when this nut job will come back?”

Tommy ended the call and staggered to the bathroom to clean up and clear his head.

 

 

*          *            *

 

 

By the time Tommy had put on fresh clothes and dressed his wounds, he heard Brewer at the door.

“Tommy, it’s me. Open up,” Brewer called.

Tommy answered the door then turned back to the office.

“Where’s Richard?” Brewer asked.

But when he stepped into the office, he saw the answer.

“Oh,” he responded.

Brewer watched as Tommy filled a small bag with guns and ammo he pulled out of a desk drawer.

“Smells like gasoline in here. What’s going on, Tommy?” Brewer asked.

Gripping the bag’s handle, Tommy said,

“Let’s get out of here.”

“What about Richard?” Brewer asked.

As they headed for the front door, Tommy pulled out a small lighter and tossed it inside the office. The flame caught the gasoline and crawled over Richard’s body, working its way through the room. By the time Brewer pulled away from the house, the flames were coming out the windows.

Following Tommy’s directions, they drove through the night in silence. The only sounds were a passing train and the car’s engine.

Tommy kept looking back to see if they were being followed, but the thick fog made it hard to see.

“Pull onto that dirt road and follow it through the trees. It’ll take us to the cabin, a two story job at the top of the hill,” Tommy instructed, breaking their silence.

Brewer parked the car and followed Tommy into the cabin.

“Is this it?” he asked.

“Don’t ask stupid questions or I’ll have to kill you,” Tommy growled.

Brewer started to smile until he saw the expression on Tommy’s face. He wasn’t joking.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Yes, you are,” Tommy said bitterly. “Now go get my bag out of the car.”

Brewer nodded and left the cabin door open as he walked down the steps toward the car. As soon as his foot hit the bottom step, the car exploded, throwing Brewer backward to the ground. Tommy tore out the door and saw Brewer’s car in flames.

Suddenly a woman appeared from behind the fire and casually walked around in front.

“You?” Tommy growled.

“Who is it?” Brewer asked, getting to his feet.

“You’re the one who murdered my father and my brothers?” Tommy snarled, ignoring Brewer. “Well it won’t be so easy with me! I’ll kill us both if I have to!”

Tommy spat as he yelled,

“Come and get me!”

Published in: on January 18, 2015 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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