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.

 

 

 

MMM story problem answer

CHAPTER 23

Ben was on schedule.  Mabel said that Edna Running Eagle had agreed to a short visit on Saturday morning if he could be there by 10:30. The drive to Wellpinit at that time of day was boring but necessary.  He hadn’t met one car between Springdale and Ford, but the terrain and winding road on in was entertainment enough.

During the drive he had plenty of opportunity to practice his small talk skills. His career choice in law enforcement had made good use of the government issue stuff he had acquired in the Marines.  Taking orders, giving orders, listening for details, search and rescue, silence for safety, but none of the give and take of a normal conversation. Talking is something you can’t do well unless you keep in practice. Now on his way to try and wheedle more detailed information out of someone who already mistrusted his motives was intimidating to say the least. The closer he got to his destination the more unprepared he felt.

Pulling to a stop in front of the address Mabel had given him, Ben gritted his teeth and got ready to go for broke.

One short knock and the door opened.

“Good morning, Detective. What’s on your mind.”

With no small talk options available, Ben shrugged it off with,

“Morning Edna. Thanks for giving us another chance to piece things together.”

“Come on in.  The boys are just finishing the breakfast dishes. Have a seat. Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks. I stopped at McDonalds in Springdale and I don’t want to impose on your hospitality. I just have a couple of more questions, but they are more personal than before.”

“This must be turning out to be your case of the year.”

“We just keep getting a very hazy picture of the course of events leading up to the murder. There’s too many pieces missing in the puzzle.”

“Sounds like you need a good strong wind to blow away the haze. Maybe a cup of coffee would help. Sure you don’t want another?”

“Yes, I’m sure, Edna. I just want to get down to brass tacks and let you get on with your days off.”

“I appreciate your good intentions. So, let’s get on with it. What’s first?”

“We know the victim’s name and where he came from but can’t seem to connect him to the old orchard or anyone in the area.”

“Those old trees still bear fruit every other year. Maybe he was just hungry.”

“Be serious, Edna. We’ve also got the cause of death. Gun shots not blunt force trauma as we originally thought. Three bullet holes and he bled out.”

“I understand. But what on earth can I provide that you don’t already have?”

“It’s all just guessing at this point, but I thought that since you work in the ER you might have come in contact with persons who might have a history of gun usage.”

“Most of the stuff we see is traffic or home related accidents. Shootings, accidental or on purpose don’t often end up in the ER.”

“That makes sense, I guess.”

“What are you holding back, Ben.  Oh, is it alright to call you Ben, Ben?”

“Yes, of course. As a matter of fact, I wish you would. Maybe a personal conversation will give us both something we haven’t been able to find.”

Banking on their new-found familiarity, Ben jumped right in.

“Have you been in contact with anyone or know anybody that owns or uses a handgun?”

“We live on the reservation, Ben. Do you think I could legally tell you if I knew anyone.?”

“Hey, Edna. This is a murder investigation. I can go through channels if I have to, but since we’re friends now I thought you might. . . .

 

 

 

 

MMM next days news and beyond

CHAPTER 22

Complete with a half page photo of the event, the front page of Saturday’s issue of the Tri-County Herald read:

Chief Sam Fitch, DI Ben Perrini and four Deer Park Police officers responded when an unruly crowd rushed out of a well-known bar in Clayton, Washington. At the center of the public disturbance was a vocally Anti-Catholic Montana-born half Irish Native American by the name of Michael O’Brien and Riago Restorini, an Italian-born naturalized American Roman Catholic brick yard worker and local artist want-to-be. The former was a veteran of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and the latter avoided service in the military during the Korean conflict or the Cold War due to flat feet and acute bronchitis. The rant and ruckus revolved around, developed and eventually was directed at anyone and everyone who supported the current administration.

Restorini had demanded an apology and recant from O’Brien for what he had said about the black robed Roman Catholic priests of the mission in St. Ignatius, Montana. According to a number of first person witnesses at the bar, O’Brien had loudly proclaimed that the priests had not only had ongoing sexual relations with the Nuns of the order of Our Lady of Perpetual Redemption, but also buggered and beaten small Native American children regularly. According to Restorini’s argument and testimony, O’Brien had “blasphemed” Roman Catholicism.

Taking control of a bad situation, the authorities demanded that the crowd go home or anywhere away from the bar. As the disgruntled crowd disbursed the two subdued combatants went to their own vehicles, still muttering their disagreement and making threatening gestures at each other.

 

Getting into a Humvee, O’Brien drove away from the mob looking for a place to crash for what was left of the night. The old guy sitting next to him at the bar had mentioned a motel in Loon Lake. He had said it was just up the road a piece. When O’Brien got there the no vacancy sign was blinking red.

Out of the motel entrance and an obligatory u-turn put him south bound retracing his way back to Clayton.  At the city limits, he slowed down so as to not attract the law.  The crowd had left except for a battered old red Chevy pickup. Stopping out of curiosity he recognized the guy asleep at the wheel. Alcohol had apparently taken the measure of the strong opinioned Italian immigrant. O’Brien’s argumentative adversary had fallen asleep in his pickup.

On the five mile straight stretch towards Deer Park, O’Brien’s beer drinking hadn’t completely left his system. He was quickly fading and in need of sleep. By the time he had left the highway on East Crawford he had resigned himself to sleeping in the Humvee until daylight. His slow careful search for a place to park ended at the Sports Complex parking lot across from the High School.

Head lights off, ignition key under the floor mat, street lights were still on and dawn was a couple of hours away.

MMM follow the bouncing ball

CHAPTER 21

Ben drove out to the Sports Complex with Forensics people to check out the vehicle Mullenix and Sean had called in. A thorough forensic examination netted a baseball cap, no blood or weapon. The registration in the jockey box confirmed it belonged to the Tribal Casino.

Back at Police HQ, Ben convened the Monday morning staff quiz session. The photos on the bulletin board painted a disjointed narrative. It might as well have been a travel log of a trip to hell and back.

“Here’s another loose strand of information with no clear connection to the victim.”

“If our vic drove the Casino’s Humvee to the lot, how did he get to the orchard?”

“Walked, run, flew?”

“Maybe he was chased by the perp.”

“Or escorted.”

“Guessing don’t get us anywhere. We need connections.”

“Anda helluva lot more information.”

“OK, Fancher and Mullenix, head on over to the Casino in Airway Heights and find out what you can about the vehicle and who might have been driving it last weekend.”

“The rest of you canvass the neighborhoods on all sides of the orchard. Take notes and bring back what you find out. Remember, we need names, dates, times and details people remember before the body was discovered that might lead us out of this maze.”

Try as he might, Ben Perrini hadn’t been able to get Edna Running Eagle out of his head. The ER room nurse and her two kid’s answers and activities echoed back and forth between truth and consequences, fun and games, believable and suspect. He was attracted to her in an uncomfortable way.

From the beginning of this investigation, Edna’s calm collected mannerisms and gracious way of dealing with the stress he had placed her under was rather remarkable.  As far as he could determine, she hadn’t hit or threatened the kids like many parents in her position might have. Her quiet questioning of the boys and her noncommittal responses to his questioning didn’t match what he would have expected. Guilt, conspiracy, collusion or outright lying would have evoked more suspicion and looked a lot different on the paper reports filed.

Another round of questioning might open the door for closer communication. Just getting to know her on a personal basis might bring him more critical information.

“Mabel, please get a hold of the nurse.  Tell her I want to drive out to Wellpinit at her convenience for a social call.  Let me know when you get an affirmative on that.”

So many unanswered questions. For now, it was a homicide, an isolated case, but Ben would be looking for connections to Edna, the boys and anyone Edna had had contact with in the recent past.

MMM disagreement

CHAPTER 20

It was Friday night at the pub and Riago Restorini made his customary entrance. His whiny tenori demand interrupted the status quo.

“Who’s sitting in my booth? Better move or else.”

Bodies shuffled and Riago plopped down in his bully booth and yelled for a beer.

Anticipating his next demand and hoping to postpone what might happen, Joe, the barkeeper on duty set a schooner down.

“Here ya go, Dago.”

A couple quick gulps and louder than usual Restorini’s nightly rant began.

“Didanyofya see FOX News today?”

No one responded, but he didn’t need a prompt.

“We’re gonna have a Space Force. Maybe we’ll be having Star Wars after all.”

A voice from the bar responded,

“Yeah. I guess our military can’t kill enough regular humans to suit our glorious leader.”

Joe the barkeep muttered, “Nighthawks at the pub. It looks like it’s gonna be a long one.”

Over three hours of Restorini and O’Brien exchanging opposite points of view on everything. Regardless of whatever either of them brought up, the arguments took up permanent residence in the booth and got louder, more aggressive and antagonistic. Other customers just simply ordered and drank more in hopes the booze would drown them out. It didn’t but the till kept promising the best Friday night take in many a moon.

Like most political disagreements they eventually centered on religious differences. As a devout but non-practicing Roman Catholic, Restorini was spouting dogma, doctrine and documentation. O’Brien continued to parry and thrust with a sharpened-end rebuttal of an Orange Irish Native American. Having been raised on the Flathead reservation in Montana, O’Brien had many stories for evidence about the Priests who had tried to save several generations of Native American families from their perceived pagan roots.

Not deterred by what he considered polemical nonsense, Restorini countered.

“All you non-believers are going straight to hell.”

“I’m not an atheist. I just haven’t decided yet.”

“The darkest corner of Hell is reserved for all you agnostic bastards who can’t make up your mind.”

“That’s one thing I can tell you for sure. Combat is hell. I’ve already been there.”

“You ain’t seen nothing yet, Injun.”

When the rest of the patrons could no longer hold a civil conversation, they gave up and joined the fight. With the dividing line so darkly drawn in the clay colored sawdust of the bar’s wooden floor there was nothing left to do but break bottles, windows and furniture. Five minutes of what was becoming a mind-bending melee and Joe called the cops.

 

 

MMM finders keepers

CHAPTER 19

The Sports complex parking lot across from the High School looked mostly deserted. There was only one vehicle on the southeast corner of the lot.

“That looks like a Humvee.”

“Yep. Let’s check out the plates.”

“KTI Lucky 7 XMT”

“Call it in and let’s see what the hell it’s doing here?”

“Charlie Nine to Dispatch, Come in over.”

“What ya got, Charlie Niner?”“A license for verification. It’s KTI Lucky 7 XMT.”

Long pause and Dispatch breaks in with,

“DMV says that’s Kalispell Tribal Casino Security. They’re located in Airway Heights.”

“Tell Ben to call ‘em. See if he can out what it’s doing here.”

“Will do.”

“We’re on our way in. Need to drop Sean off at the Hospital to meet his mom. We’re 10-7. Over and out.”

When Mullenix and Sean pulled into the Hospital parking lot, they found Fancher and Randy waiting. Edna had the Camaro idling alongside and was talking to Randy.

“How did it go?”

“Piece of cake, Mom.”

“What’s that mean, Randy?”

“Well nothing much happened. Officer Fancher said his job was usually 95 percent boredom and 5 percent stark terror. All we got this time was the boring part.”

“That’s good, Randy. Were you able to talk to Sean during the shift?”

“A couple of times. You can quiz him now. They just pulled in on the other side.”

Beating his Mom to the punch, Sean scrambled out of the squad car and into the front seat of the Camaro.

“Hey Mom. Didya miss us?”

“Terribly, Sean. It was slow at the ER for a change. How was your ride-a-long shift?”

‘I learned how streets are named, how the town is mapped out and what a quadrant is.”

“But no crimes or shootouts, right?”

“Nope. But we did find a Humvee that had to be identified by the DMV.”

“Where was that?”

“In that big lot at the Deer Park Sports Complex. It belonged to some casino.

Officer Mullenix said that DI Perrini will be checking it out.”

“I’m sure he will.”