MMM transfer time

CHAPTER 30

Sean and Randy after settling their daily disagreement of about who washes and who dries, burst out of the kitchen and back into action.

“Is he gone, Mom?”

Edna countered with, “Are you guys through in the kitchen?”

Always hungry Randy said “Done till lunch.”

Practical Sean’s question was, “Did he say when we can ride shotgun in the patrol cars again?”

“We didn’t talk about you two, this time, Sean. He’s still trying to find out who killed the dead guy in the orchard.”

“Did he tell you the dead guys’s name?”

“No. Just mostly talked in circles.  He still thinks we know more than we’ve already told him.”

“We’re all told out.”

“Right. But he looked happier when he left than when he got here.”

“What did you tell him, Mom?”

“I told him about a goof with a gun I met in the pub while you two were at the Banshee’s Bash. I’ll bet he went straight to the pub when he left here.”

“It’d be great if we got to go and help look for the gun.”

“Yahoo! Maybe those Ocifers will take us along like before, right Sean?”

Edna had long since tired of the murder investigation and the boys riding around in police cruisers. Perrini’s offer of teen age sitting services had worked well for as long as it lasted, but the boys had eventually gotten on the cop’s nerves. They had needed a couple of weeks off to get over it and back to their normal routine.

For the time being, the Running Eagle, O’Brien and Roadkill trio had exhausted the subject of dead bodies, guns and murder investigations. Edna was still in control and continued.

“I’ve been looking into transferring both of you to Deer Park High for second semester.”

“Whoa! Waita minute.”

“What the fuck?”

“Watch your mouth!  Pay attention! I’ve been talking to folks at work about the idea and they think it’s a good one.”

“Sorry, Mom But why is that a good idea?”

“First off, it’s where I work and that school has a good reputation. Most of the staff at the Hospital who have kids and live in town say it’s as good as you can find in a small town.

Pausing for breath and added dramatic tension, Edna’s pitch is interrupted by Randy.

“What about our buddies in Wellpinit?”

“Keep ‘em, Randy. Just add some new ones. Bigger pond, more fish, OK?”

Sean adding his seasoning to the pot, butted in.

“I get it. You want us to be small fish in a big pond, not big fish in a small pond.”

Edna rambled on. “More variety of classes to choose from. Small class size, great student-teacher ratio and more choices; 11man football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis and I think they even have a golf and bowling team.”

Neither of the boys had an immediate rebuttal.

“I didn’t bring this up for a family discussion. You guys argue about everything.”

“It all starts when he hits me back Mom.” pouts Randy.

“Did not!”

“Did too!!”

“Look. It’s time for me to make an executive decision, since I’m the only one around here paying the bills. So . . . .

“What?”

“I’m starting a week on swing shift Monday. So I’m taking you two to the High School to transfer and register for classes. On my way to work. Over done with! Got it?”

MMM Focusing the scope

CHAPTER 29

After spending most of Saturday with Edna and the rest of it with Restorini, Ben Perinni was convinced that even without the weapon he would have cause to bring Restorini in for further questioning. If they could find the weapon, everything else would fall in place.

He speculated the Italian had the temperament and behavior characteristics to kill. Short fuse, loud mouth, abusive, argumentative, uncouth and disrespectful all in one personality were definitely the makings of a bully, coward and altogether unpleasant sociopath.

Even without a motive and the identity of the killer in question it would be easy to see how the murder could have happened. Recovering the gun that killed the victim would be a big step forward.

Monday morning, Ben called the crew in for their weekly review and to announce the plan going forward on the murder investigation. Chief Sam Fitch stood in the back of the room. He wondered what Ben had found out on Saturday.

Ben gave them a quick update and review of his trip to Wellpinit and the stop at the bar in Clayton. The gist of it was he thought he had found the missing information. He already knew when and where. For Ben finding out about the gun from Edna coupled with Restorini’s lying confirmed his suspicions about who they were looking for. And now he needed to find out where to look for the SR22 that killed O’Brien. Maybe then the why of it all would materialize out of the fog surrounding this case.

“Mullenix, I want you and Fancher to go to Clayton, find out where the Italian lives and bring him in.”

“That’s a big order, Boss.  How much time have we got to do all that?”

“What it takes. Get it done.”

“OK. “

The two uniforms left in a hurry. Ben turned to the rest of the room looking for volunteers to do some research on line.

“Next big thing is to check on Restorini’s big lie.”

“He claimed he had traded the pistol off for an AK 47 at an NRA gun show in Sandpoint, Idaho in February. That doesn’t match with the nurse’s story and I’m more inclined to believe her.”

“Somebody needs to look online for the gun show sponsors, get the details on who was in charge.  Phone numbers, location and anything else you can find.”

As the meeting unofficially ground to a halt everyone returned to their desks to face the task at hand.

It was 3:00 that afternoon when Mullenix and Fancher got back with Restorini in tow. He was loudly protesting and promising that the wrath of God would ultimately rain down on the whole damn place if he didn’t get to go home soon.

“Calm down, Mr. Restorini. We need to clear up a couple of things about your SR22. You said you traded up to an AK47.”

“Si. So, what.”

“We’d like to see the rifle. Where is it?”

“It’s in the gun rack in the back window of my pickup.”

“We can check on that later. Right now, have you got a bill of sale or transfer of ownership on the pistol?”

“Niente. Nada. Nix. No thing.”

This line of questioning wasn’t going anywhere. Ben decided confrontation might work. It was time to call out Restorini’s lies. Perrini plowed ahead.

“Saturday at Birdy’s Sports Bar in Clayton, you told me you no longer owned an SR22. You said you traded it for an AK47 at an NRA gun Show in Sandpoint, Idaho.”

“What made you think I had a hand gun?”

“We’re investigating a murder.  A woman from Wellpinit remembered you buying her a beer at Birdy’s not too long ago. She said you flashed an ankle holster with a pistol. It sounded like you were trying to be macho.”

“I’m a lover by nature. Did she say she had fun?”

“No. She said you were a fanny patter by nature. Try to stay on the subject.”

“Buco di culo, Whatsa matta you?”

“We know an SR22 was used to murder a Native American veteran from Montana and we think you still have the SR22.”

“Cazzate! Stronzo figlio di puttana!”

“That’s enough of your Dago verbal abuse, Restorini. Your tone of voice tells me what you’re saying and all I need to know for now. Just don’t leave town. Somebody get him out of here.”

MMM reflections on a killing

CHAPTER 28

By the time he got to the orchard, the tension had built to such a level that when he squeezed the trigger, all the pressure disappeared. He was whistling to himself on his way back after the killing, but only for a short time. What the hell was he going to do with the gun?

Bury it in the orchard or hide it up a tree, throw it away, put it in a waste recycling container at the Sports Complex, the alternatives flashed across his brain at 65 frames per second.  In a panic move solution, Fusner decided to plant it on the Humvee. Between and under the alternator and the intake manifold in the engine compartment seemed like the best choice. He opened the hood, jammed it in and jumped in the Jeep.

Murder is not about violence. It’s about ownership. When Fusner heard the guy’s last breath escape he looked into his eyes. For him it was like killing anything else. He didn’t feel cool. His associates on the dark side had told him that there was nothing less cool than someone trying to be cool.

It was well past 2:00 AM when Fusner sprinted back to the parking lot and the Humvee. Easing the Jeep out of the lot he headed back on to SR395 and Spokane. The Jeep’s radio was tuned to KXLY and some late-night talk show host was reading the Pit and the Pendulum. Unable to focus on the story, Fusner began humming, Three Blind Mice, the only tune he knew.

On the way up, Fusner had noticed a roadside sign with an arrow pointing in the direction of Dartford Drive. He had heard that that was the old SR395 but usually avoided it to save time. The sign read Commelini’s Junction Restaurant. With fatigue and hunger eating on him he decided to take that route back.

Some of the more interesting stories painted the place as the headquarters of the local Cosa Nostro. He figured that if it was, he could fit right in, at least long enough to get something to eat. Early breakfast or cup of coffee would help to get him home.

Swerving into the front of the place, it became obvious that it was closed. Deader than a doornail, He jerked the Jeep back to the main highway, trying to make up for lost time.

After crossing the Spokane city limits, fatigue, hunger and thirst overcame Fusner. He remembered a black-owned and operated barbecue place located a mile or so north of Norplex Mall. Parking the Jeep in the street in front of the frame structure, he could smell the signature fried chicken.

The no-sign name of the place was Vincent’s Club. Sometimes it was called the Chicken Shack, but mostly it was just Vincent’s.

Vincent’s didn’t practice racial discrimination like a lot of the other places in Spokane. “No Colored” was a common sign, but lots of folk of all colors enjoyed the famous chicken and the ambiance at Vincent’s. Although the law required bars and taverns to close at midnight, this place often had after hours impromptu jamming and dancing until the wee hours or daylight whichever came first.

Vincent’s didn’t have a liquor license, so a BYOB policy was in effect. It takes a lot of hunger and personal strength to quit drinking the hard stuff at midnight and go eat fried chicken. Fortunately for Fusner after his evening activities, he had both the hunger and a little swagger. He was more than happy to settle for water.

Vincent Thomas and his wife Pearlie Mae, opened the Chicken Shack in 1949 after migrating from Columbia, Mississippi. Vincent died soon thereafter. Pearlie Mae ran the restaurant by herself for a while and then married George Matasuki. They lived next door. The restaurant’s décor consisted of the ever-popular Northwest knotty-pine interior and there were tables outside when the weather was predictable.

Blacks in Spokane felt unwelcome in many restaurants, so Vincent’s became the gathering place for most black community events. The Billy Autumn Trio, a mixed-race group and other varicolored musicians kept the place jumping six nights a week.

Stomach full and a little bit rested, Fusner’s brain began to adjust to having jumped from your friendly neighborhood felon to being a murderer. He couldn’t decide whether it was a step up or a slide down. For sure it was a change in social status; a reputation he wasn’t sure he’d be able to sustain or survive.

Talking to no one in particular, Fusner’s full stomach started to mutter.

“An apple tree told me to kill any redskin sporting a swastika or GI with a pigtail.

“I don’t like killin’ people in the orchard, but sometimes things happen. Hate to have to dump that body in a lake somewhere.”

“All the police are going to get me for is hunting without a license. Big deal. Death always goes with the job. Maybe I’ll get a booth at Six Flags.”

MMM Birdy’s bar quiz

CHAPTER 27

By 5:00, Ben Perrini was at Birdy’s.  As he walked in the bartender gave him a hurried glance and continued drawing a beer.

“Good to see ya, Detective. It’s been awhile.”

Ben’s abrupt head nod took care of a need to reply.

“Is this an official or casual visit?”

Not wanting to disclose the purpose of his visit, Perrini grunted.

“Thought the rent on my bar stool was about due.”

“Aw.  We always hold for the law, Ben. We know anybody on the City payroll is good for it. What can I get for you?”

“How about a Beef Tartar, medium and fries?”

“Cookie doesn’t get in until 5:30. How about a beer while you wait?”

“I’m on the wagon, Joe. You can draw me a soda. Put it on my tab. But I’ve got a couple of questions while I’m waiting.”

“OK, shoot. I’ve probably got a couple of answers I haven’t used lately.”

“How many of your regulars are Italian, Joe?”

“Don’t know for sure. Maybe ten or twelve.”

“With the brickyard’s payroll, I woulda guessed more like half of ‘em.”

“Won’t quibble over numbers, Perrini. What do ya really want to find out?”

“I’ve got a tip I need to follow up on.”

“OK. Out with it. Don’t make me beg for a clue.”

“Do you know anybody by the name of Restorini?”

“Yep. Riago Restorini usually eats and drinks here on a daily basis. What’s he done now?”

“Don’t know. That’s why I’m asking questions.”

“Well if you stick around you can ask him yourself. He comes in about this time every night.”

“Lets make it a surprise, Joe. When I finish my hamburger, if I ever get one, you can introduce us, OK?”

“Right.”

Almost on cue, Riago Restorini stomped in yelling “Buonasera” and sauntered over to his booth of choice.

“Beer and a menu, se tu per favore, subito!”

The bartender barked back, “You don’t need a menu, Woporino.  You always order the same damn thing.”

“What’s an Italiano Artista need to do get some respect around this dump. I’ve been kicked outtada back door of better places dan dis.”

“Whatsa matta, Restorini? Can’t ya take a joke?”

“Bad day at the kiln. Just bring the damn beer and the usual, smartass.”

“Ya might need an extra napkin. Ya got company tonight.”

“Whatya talking about? I don’t need no company.”

“No choices on this one, Riago. This is DI Perinni, Deer Park PD. You two Dagos have a go at it.”

Ben Perinni’s sarcastic, “Thanks for the intro, Joe.” was followed by Restorini’s,

“What the fuck? Who invited him?” and in a perfect segue, flashing the badge, Perinni slouched into the booth.

“Sorry to interrupt your nightly recreation, Mr. Restorini.  I’ve just got a couple of questions.”

Back behind the bar, Joe was relieved of his job as host for the impending inquisition.

“Let’s get it over with.”

“For starters, can you account for your time during the first week of February?”

“Worked all week, here for meals.”

“What about after that?”

“Bar closes a one. Drove home slowly fell in bed.”

“You got anybody to vouch for that?”

“Nope. Sleep alone, dammit.”

“Right. Well, We’ve been told you carry a concealed weapon. I need to see it and the license to carry.

“I don’t have it anymore. Here’s the paper.”

“This says it’s a SR22. Where is it now?”

“Don’t know. Traded it in on an AK-47.”

“When and where?”

“Last week. NRA Gun show in Sandpoint, Idaho, don’t need no license.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MMM fait accompli

CHAPTER 26

The glow of the sun was dawning in the East.  He knew he didn’t have much time left to do something or get to hell out of there.  He found the driver, sprawled on the back seat of the Humvee, already awake. Cargo pants, t-shirt and a baseball cap over his eyes. The skin looked tanned. The knees of the pants were wrinkled, but looked like they had been pressed lately. If he had a jacket it was missing.

The driver greeted him.

“Morning, Jack. I wasn’t expecting a visitor this early.”

Virgil Fusner moved closer to what would soon be his second mistake of the day.  A short-handled shovel was lying on the floorboards between the seats. Pulling the stolen pistol out of his belt and picking up the shovel, he gestured for the driver to move up and out of the Humvee.

“Shut up and keep your hands where I can see ‘em”

Slowly sitting up, the guy who had been asleep seconds before with a lightning head butt knocked Virgil backwards out of the Humvee. Staggering but still grasping the pistol, Virgil quickly took charge again.

“That was probably your next to last mistake, Dipshit.”

Last Saturday Virgil had watched the latest horror DVD. And for the rest of the week he had fantasized about how to commit the perfect murder. He loved to come up with ways to kill, but his most troubling question was where to hide the body. He could feed it to a mountain lion or a grizzly, but where could he find one in Spokane? The only place would be the zoo with all the security cameras. That left burying or burning, but burying would leave the body available for examination.

That’s was the problem with murder, when they find one little thing they go after it until they discover something else. He knew that the cops would be on his back. There would be always a fingerprint or DNA, a footprint or witness. Up until now he had kept it all inside his head. This morning something made him snap.

With the driver of the Humvee in front, Virgil directed the two man parade out into the old apple orchard. It might have looked like choreography but was actually a by the seat of the pants move. Arriving at what he guessed might be a large enough tree, with one sloppy move he threw the shovel. The blade of the shovel hit the back of the guy’s head. The impact produced a dull thud. Drawing on what was probably his last ounce of balance and strength the man pivoted and lunged for the gun and missed. Virgil lurched backward. He was feeling scared as his target staggered and fell, propping himself up against the base of the tree.

The murder happened that morning.

Driven by only God knows what, Virgil completed the killing with three carefully placed shots at close range. As the results of what he had just done sank in, he began considering what might be next. From past experiences he knew when the Police got involved they would be looking for a motive or reason. Maybe he could convince them it was self-defense or manslaughter. or a PTSD suicide.

Virgil Fusner hadn’t had any planned purpose to kill the guy in the Humvee.

His mind was rather blank actually, but it was a killing anyhow. If he had just zipped past Deer Park and been satisfied with what he had. If he hadn’t been so focused on making another score. If his greed and sense of adventure hadn’t overpowered his judgement and sense of self preservation. If the dog hadn’t stop to shit, he might have got away with the bone. And if the damned guy had just followed orders and hadn’t tried to grab the gun.

 

MMM multiple choice

CHAPTER 25

Ben Perrini had worn the same un-pressed suntans, shirt and pants daily for seven weeks and never thought to change until today. This morning wanting to make a better impression he changed his shirt. He hoped that might bring him a closer level of confidence and trust with Edna Running Eagle.

Saturday morning in anticipation of the Detective’s arrival, Edna had reminded herself that it might be in the boys and her best interests to keep the lines of communication open.

Now in the middle of the Q & A, she hazarded a brittle remark.

“You need to at least try to convince me you’re not still trying to pin this murder on a Native American, Ben.”

“Come on, Edna. I’m definitely past that. What have you got?”

“It’s probably nothing but . . . “

“What?”

“A few days ago, I took the boys up to Loon Lake for a rock concert and decided to kill time waiting for them in Clayton.”

“And?”

“I stopped in at Birdy’s for a hamburger and a beer.”

“Where’s this going?”

“This guy bought me a beer and poured out his life story.”

“Killing time can be boring.”

“It was, . . .  until he hoisted up his pants leg. . . . ankle holster with a pistol.”

“Wait a minute. What the hell did you say to provoke that?”

“He was rambling on about being small and needing an “equalizer.”

“I called him out on that to break the boredom.”

“What happened next?”

“When the guy flashed the gun, the bartender called him a dago and threatened to call the police.”

“Wait a minute. Did you know this guy?”

“Never saw him before or since. Not anyone I’d want to know.”

Ben’s response was predictable.

“Did you get his name?”

“His name was Restorini.”

“Sounds Italian.”

“There was something funny about him.”

“Funny how?”

“Acted goofy, sounded goofy, but didn’t look goofy. Short, wiry, bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Looked like a chimpanzee.”

“Looks? Lingo? Clothes?”“Nothing remarkable. But the bartender knew him. Sounded like he was a regular problem.”

“Could you pick him out of a lineup?”

“Maybe. Rattled on about working the kilns and being an artist.”

“Did he invite you up to see his etchings?”

“He said he painted for sanity and peace of mind.”

“Clayton has a bunch of Italians. Two or three generations. Brick yards are full of ‘em.”

“Do you want to know what I think?”

“That’s why I drove out here, Edna.”

“I think you’re tired of looking for a killer. Any port in a storm”

But Edna had started looking for connections, too.

“Do you know what the weapon was?”

“Ballistics said it was a Ruger SR22.”

“Is that a little one?”

“Right. Perfect for concealed carry.”

“That’s why you’re making up these stories.”

“I’m not making up stories, Edna.”

Edna said, mostly to herself.

The guy didn’t look strong.

Out loud, “He looked spidery, but I saw him pick up a chair with one hand.

“You didn’t.”

“Check it out with the bartender. He was there.”

Ben’s answer was quiet, unhurried, and it surprised her.

“I may be able to put one and two together. “

“Yeah. Sometimes it’s three, but sometimes it’s twelve.”

Ben felt like she had taken the lid off and solved his puzzle.

“Thanks a bunch, Edna. I haven’t had this much fun since the VC captured Saigon.”

The face she made was probably meant for a smile. Whatever it was, it stopped him. Ben decided he’d better quit while he was ahead.

“Enough is enough for now, Edna.”

“I can’t believe it. You’ve just ruined a perfectly pleasant Saturday morning. The boys are finished in the kitchen. I hope we are, too.”

“I’m in the detective business, Edna. When someone gets killed its bad business to let a killer get away with it. It’s bad business all around, for everybody everywhere.”

“In the ER, we don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble, as long as things get fixed in the end.”

“Your triage decision this morning is looking helpful. I need to put it to work right away. I’ll stop at the sports pub on the way back.”

 

 

 

 

MMM back to business

CHAPTER 24

After most of the unruly crowd had left Sam Fitch and Ben Perinni decided to leave. They headed back to Deer Park in the Chief’s car. The silence was a relief. Bored with each other’s company they were both trying to figure out what triggered the situation at Birdy’s.

“Bartender said it started with two guys arguing and got out of hand.”

“Right. Started with religion and spread to politics.”

“That’s when the rest of the place got involved, I imagine.”

Sam Fitch had been too young to be in the First World War and too old to be in the Second one. With the Korean conflict and Vietnam he had become less interested in any of the outcomes that the country continued to debate. Now after 9/11, Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the war on terrorists, Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Taliban and North Korea again, he was in full coasting mode. The best he could hope for was that all the shit would end before he did.

“If this riot thing hadn’t been such a big pain in the ass, maybe having a discussion about all that crap would have been a good exercise in civics.”

Ben’s remark sank in for five miles of road noise. At 50 mph they were pulling into Deer Park when Sam came up for air with,

“It’ll be a cold day in hell when that happens.”

In a town the size of Clayton, any group of more than five in one place would be a crowd.  The conglomerated collection of more than fifty pouring out of the bar on Friday night, mixed with the presence of all the law enforcement clogged the street, sidewalk and spilled over onto the highway. Under the protection and at the direction of the police the unruly crowd left in all directions.

No one took notice of a large hooded silhouette moving around the perimeter and through the disorganized crowd. Most of the motley bunch were in various degrees of inebriation. The sound of the original explosive human eruption out of the bar had diminished but the smell and muttering remained.

Mixed in the mosaic collage of drunk humanity the figure was slowly shifting around to see what or who was in each vehicle. A pinto painted Humvee was the first to leave. All the rest maneuvered around and left without incident. The only one left was an old dilapidated red Chevy pickup.

The driver having fallen asleep was slumped over the steering wheel. The police assuming their job was done for the night, turned off the red and blue and drove away to wherever they go when they’re not needed.

That was his cue to prowl the pickup.

Opening the passenger’s side door so as to not wake the sleeper, he checked the drunk’s pockets. Pants, jacket, jockey box, window pockets, floorboards, behind and under the seats. Not one damn thing of value. When he pulled up one pants leg he found an ankle holster and a pistol. Removing the pistol without waking its owner, he stuck it in his belt and left the drunk as he found him, stoned and unconscious. It wasn’t the two-story burgle he was good at but this evening’s job wasn’t a complete failure.

Around the corner and down a couple of blocks he jumped in a surplus army jeep.  Heading back to Spokane he decided maybe the night didn’t have to be a total loss. Passing the town of Deer Park on his way home would offer another chance to score. With any kind of luck, he could find something and still be back in Spokane in a couple of hours.

Looking for unarmed parked cars was tedious but sometimes rewarding in his line of work. Get in, get out and don’t get caught. Never having to deal with people was a fringe benefit. Over the last year the thrill of successful petty burglary and having to fence whatever you were lucky enough to find had grown thin. He sometimes wondered if the rewards that might come with Armed Robbery or Assault with a Deadly Weapon might be worth the gamble. Now that he had a weapon there might some alternatives.

In a large empty parking lot on the Southeast corner of Deer Park he found what he was looking for.  Turning off the ignition the jeep coasted to a stop alongside the parked vehicle.