MMM evidence beyond a shadow

CHAPTER 35

It didn’t make any sense. A gun stuck in an engine. What the hell could that mean? Forensics went over that vehicle with a fine-tooth comb. They even ran a video lead up the exhaust pipe. It’s unimaginable they would have overlooked the engine compartment. These kids are having another laugh at my expense by dreaming up another Scottish wild haggis hunt.

DI Perrini’s brain was running a complete disk search looking for a reason to ignore Sean’s remark.  The search ended with zero results. Ben terminated it by locking the office and strolling out to his car.  With the boys hard on his heels the trio set out on another mission. If successful it would add a whole different slant on who they were looking for. Sean and Randy were nervous, charged and resolute. Perrini was nervous and charged but still skeptical and definitely not resolute

“Get in, you two. We’ll go take a look at what you found.”

With one foot on the accelerator and one hand on the emergency brake, he sped away from the courthouse and headed for the Sports Complex parking lot.

The drive took all of about ten minutes. Plenty of time for Perrini to remember, Fool me once, it’s on you. Fool we twice and I’ve got no one to blame. Once burned, forever shy, Ben wasn’t about to get snookered again. However, by the time they got to the Humvee his imagination had taken charge and was driving the action. Slipping under the tape, the boys were anxious to prove their find and Ben had his hopes up for a positive outcome. All three were operating at a feverish pitch to find what they came for.

“Remember, this is still a crime scene.”

“As if we could forget it.”, muttered Randy.

Sean added, “Yeah. This is personal. Your opinion of Indians is hanging out again, Detective.”

Out loud this time Randy pitched in.

“And when we found this thing, we ran all the way to the courthouse to find you.”

“You guys stand clear. I’ll pop the hood.”

With Sean and Randy in front of the Humvee, Perrini found the hood release under the dash.

“Can you still see it?”

“Yep. It looks just like what I saw in computer class this morning.”

Perrini set the brake, jumped out and joined Sean’s head under the hood.

“Did the computer name the parts?”

“No, but I know what a radiator looks like. You can see all the belts. Do you know what any of this is?”

“That belt runs the fan and the alternator.”

Randy, pointing at it,

“There’s the thing.”

“Where?”

“There between the alternator and the intake manifold?”

Still needing to be in control, Perrini reminded them.

“Don’t touch it. It does look like a gun.”

Sean, no longer hesitating, “Suspicions confirmed.”

Adding this discovery to his disappointment and frustration over the Italian snow job, Ben Perrini was both startled and breathless. When he saw the SR22 lodged between the alternator and the intake manifold, he couldn’t help sucking air. Quickly pulling on the blue gloves before reaching for it he removed and bagged the piece.

“If this hasn’t been wiped clean. We’ll get the prints into the system and find who shot Michael O’Brien.”

“Hey, that’s your name, Sean.”

“So, what, Randy? There’s more than one dog named spot and probably quite few O’Briens.”

On the way back to the office, Ben dropped the boys off at the Hospital ER right on time to catch their ride home. Not wanting any more surprises, he launched a gag order.

“Remember, you two. Don’t tell anybody about this. Not even your Mom.”

MMM discovery and confirm

CHAPTER 34

With Riago Restorini in custody, Ben Perrini wanted to ignore the facts. They had no gun, no forensics and just a bunch of circumstantial rumors, attitudes, societal norms. No real evidence that he was the one.

All he could do at this point was arrest and cite him for reckless endangerment. Not even a speeding ticket, since Ben’s need to take him alive had caused Restorini to obey the signs on his flagrant romping rampage.

It was looking like that after summary judgement by the local magistrate, Restorini would relinquish ownership of all weapons and get off with four weeks in jail. With time off for time already served, he would be back on the street. After sentencing he would have to do one-year public service and be on probation for two years.  His Parole Officer and the Civic Service committee in Clayton were to determine what, where and how.

For Ben this whole shitty investigation had turned out to be one of the most frustrating time-wasters  in his twenty years of public service in law enforcement.

Late Monday afternoon when Sean and Randy came in looking for him, Ben Perrrini was dead ended more or less right where he had started out before convincing himself that the Italian was the guy.

Dismal as the prospects were now, Ben Perrini was at his wit’s end. He was unprepared for the boy’s abrupt interruption in a miserable day.

“What are you two doing here?”

In unison and loud, “We’ve got something new for your murder investigation.”

“Look, guys. I’ve almost given up on this one. It’s getting colder by the day. After your mother’s help, I came out looking like a fool or a tool, depending on who you’ve been talking to.”

“That wasn’t her fault.”’ said Randy.

“Of course not. But It sure sounded like the painter was the right guy.”

Hearing that this line wasn’t moving in the right direction, Sean interrupted.

“Take us back out to the Humvee. It’s still there and there’s a thing under the hood.”

“What the hell were you doing there? It’s still a crime scene. Didn’t you see the yellow tape?”

Early on, Sean had learned that a good offense was the best defense. His flanking move was to sidestep and thrust.

“This morning, Mom transferred us in to Deer Park High School. It’s not the friendliest place but she thinks we’ll get a better shot at making a living when we get out. Anyhow, we had time to kill waiting for her to get off work.”

Randy supported the attack with,

“Yeah, and so we just went over and slipped under the tape. We didn’t move or break anything.”

“Well, I took a Forensics Team out there last week. Took the side panels off, pulled up the floor boards, looked under the seats and dash, crawled inside and underneath, checked the wheel wells and spent two hours with a spectroscope looking for blood or any other evidence. They didn’t find diddly squat.”

Randy felt the need to parry.

“That’s too bad. But the reason we ran over here is because, when we got to school this morning, we saw the Humvee still sitting there. Sean googled the Humvee in computer class and wanted to look at the engine.”

“OK. Got that. And?. . . . .”

Sean’s “coup de tete.”

“And if you take us out there, we can show you what we found.  It looks like a gun stuck in the engine.”

MMM finding the evidence

CHAPTER 33

All day long in each class Sean had been thinking about the Humvee across the road. As soon classes were done for the day and Randy got out to the track, Sean’s curiosity took charge.

“There’s nobody over there at this time of day. Let’s go take a closer look.”

“Good idea. I’ve always wanted to see one up close.”

Trying to look nonchalant and casual they crossed the road and moved closer to the Humvee. Looking around in all directions, Randy decided it was safe to approach. Sean did his own 360-degree visual survey before giving his OK. Then both sidled up to the vehicle.

“If it’s not locked, we can get inside and check it out.”

“Try the driver’s side door, Randy.”

“Hey, it’s unlocked.”

Once inside, Sean took the back seat and began rummaging around, behind, in front of and under everything.

“What are we looking for, Sean?”

“Anything the police might have missed.”

“Like what?”

“When you and I were doing the breakfast dishes Saturday, I overheard that detective tell Mom he was still hadn’t found the gun.”

“What kinda gun was it?”

“I couldn’t hear what he said. Anyhow, after the cop and I found this Humvee, he told me the detective and his boys checked it out and came back empty handed.”

“Those guys don’t miss much.”

Jumping in the driver’s seat, Randy grabbed the steering wheel started making engine sounds and pumping the pedals.

“Randy, pop the hood. I want to look at the engine.”

With Sean outside again, Randy found the hood release under the dash.

“What dja see?”

“It looks pretty complicated, but it’s just like the picture I googled in computer class this morning.”

Randy exited the front seat and joined Sean’s head under the hood.

“Did the picture show you a parts list?”

“Nope.”

“Do you know what any of this is?”

“I know where the radiator is and I can see all the belts,”

“Can ya see what the belts do.”

“One of ‘em runs the fan to cool the engine and it looks like the same pulley drives the alternator.”

“OK. I give up.”

“Wait a damn minute, Randy. What ‘s that thing there between the alternator and the intake manifold?”

“Where?”

Pointing at an object that hadn’t been in the googled picture,

“Don’t touch it, Randy. It looks like a gun. Slam the hood down. We better high-tail it over to the Police station and bring that detective back with us.”

Sixteen blocks on a dead run. Randy got there first. Sprinting across the Court House lobby, they both skidded to a stop outside of Police HQ. Bursting into the front office, the Desk Sergeant met them.

“Hey, slow down, you two. What are you doing here? Your shift doesn’t start until Wednesday.”

“We found something. We need to report it. Is DI Perrini here?”

 

 

MMM thinking ahead

CHAPTER 32

“Up and at ‘em, sunshine. You too, sad sack. Time to get up.”

Monday morning arrived without being asked. Edna was performing the morning ritual for Mondays and ruminating about her role in the warped world of single parenting.

Out loud for the boys to digest while they were grousing about having to get up.

“Your Grandma used to say, Man works from sun to sun but woman’s work is never done. Now get up or we’ll be later than usual.”

Sean dressed quickly and headed for the kitchen. Randy scrambled along behind. Two glasses of orange juice and a couple pieces of toast were waiting. Jumping in the Camaro, the mixed trio left Wellpinit half an hour earlier than usual. Edna had built in extra time for a stop at the high school.

As she pulled in to the parking lot school bussess were unloading. She took a visitor spot close to the entrance. Sean and Randy were all eyes and ears and a bit intimidated by the size and sound of things. Somewhat in avoidance mode, Sean nudged Randy and pointed across the road at the Sports Complex parking lot.

“It’s still there, Randy.” Sean muttered sotto voce.

“What’s still there?” Randy replied in kind, avoiding what they were there for.

“The dead guy’s Humvee.”

“Is that the one you and the cop found last week?”

“Right.”

“What are you two muttering about?”

“Nothing, Mom.”

Randy’s parallel response, “Just wondering if we’re goin to fit in here.”

Provoked Sean to venture, “Yeah. Like round pegs in square holes.”

Enrolling, registering and transferring records for the boys took all of about fifteen minutes. The Principal’s secretary called in the Freshman Counselor. The hustling hurried informal welcome took even less time. Edna needed to get to work.

“Look guys, my shift is over at 11:00 this evening.  When schools out I want you to chill and hang at school or in the neighborhood. Meet me at the Hospital for the ride home. Understand?”

Sean and Randy weren’t exactly overwhelmed. But nudge, nudge, wink, wink, and they were rushed off to their first period class. Since their records had already been faxed, the first required class was 9th grade Math. It was being taught by a grim looking Ms. Wastradowski. And so, the different school thing began and went.

The boys made it through the rest of the day with very little help. In transit getting to class they came in contact with and were confronted by all the archetypical cliques and unorganized groups that can be found in most small-town high schools. They weren’t exactly an oddity but were definitely not part of the main stream. Subjected to improvised war hoops and sideways sneers, they were able to maintain and survive their first day more or less unscathed.

While going to their 6th period class Sean reminded Randy to meet him out on the track after class.

 

MMM chase parade

CHAPTER 31

Approaching Restorini’s dinky house on the outskirts of Clayton, DI Ben Perrini, with the DP SWAT Team standing by, walked up to the dilapidated front door.

Insistent knocking to the accompaniment of, “Police” and a pause for response, followed by “Deer Park Police”, again. Louder this time.

When the door remained unopened he moved out to the gravel street. Armed with his trusty bullhorn Perinni, shouted. “This is the Police, Restorini.” Come out with your hands in the air and you will not be harmed.”

This too got no response. It was late afternoon and the sun was setting in the west edge of town. With dusk approaching they needed to speed this arrest up.

Bluffing and hoping to avoid a confrontation, Ben continued with,

“The place is surrounded. Give it up and come on out, now!”

Meanwhile inside the dumpy little house, things were moving quicker. Restorini grabbed the AK47 from under his sleeping bag on the cot he used for a bed. Gambling on calling the bluff, he darted out the back door and jumped into his old red Chevy pickup. Gunning the whining engine, he emptied the first clip for cover and broke through to the street and on to the highway.

The SWAT Team had been on smoke break. Perrini hadn’t anticipated this ballsy move. Taken by surprise all they were able to do was crouch for cover and wait to see what would happen next.

“Follow him. Don’t fire. I want him alive not dead.”

The Police vehicles quickly responded and with lights blazing and sirens blaring took off in pursuit. Except for the speed it could have been mistaken for after dark funeral procession.

With DI Perrini in front of the after-hours law enforcement part of the parade, Restorini sped south on SR395. He fired the AK47 at oncoming vehicles and anyone else that came into view. Doing a steady 65 accompanied by an occasional burst of fire the red pickup raced by Deer Park, Half Moon Prairie, Commelini’s Cutoff, Wandermere Golf Club and the Y without hitting anything.  The Junction with SR195 put it on track with North Division. At the Y the Spokane County Sheriff and 3 deputies cars joined in and at the city limits the Spokane Police joined the parade. Adjusting his speed to accommodate the cities speed signs, Restorini continued south on Division and turned left on East Sharp Avenue. One clip away from empty he stopped abruptly at the statue in front of Gonzaga University. At the end of his shooting rampage as the police closed in, Riago Restorini climbed the pedestal of the statue of St. Ignatius, the Jesuit founder of Gonzaga Preparatory School. Wrapping himself in the flag of Vatican he straightened his arm in a Fascist salute.

Restorini’s motive seemed to be to avenge the “blaspheming of the Papacy” In the Italian’s mind, he was a patriot. But to Roman Catholic leaders, progressive liberals and anti-fascist groups, he was a terrifying omen.

Getting him down off the statue didn’t take much effort.  He had lost his need to set an example of militant Roman Catholicism. Now in cuffs and disarmed he was at the mercy of the justice system.

Riago Restorini’s only crimes, other than firing his AK47 in public without hitting anything or anybody were talking too loud, bragging and painting unpopular subject matter. He hadn’t killed anyone. He had made his meta-religious point in spades and decided to let the rest of the world figure it out for themselves.

Finally relaxing in the Police cruiser, Restorini continued mumbling in Italian. He had never made a Novena before, but was thinking this might be a good time.

 

 

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.”