Marcus watched the man closely. He was moving with a powerful stride down the busy street towards the underground subway station. Marcus knew that there was only one chance and it was coming up soon. He nodded briefly; the signal was sent.
An older woman stepped out in front of the man, lugging a wheeled suitcase, three bags of groceries, and a purse on her right arm. Her hair was a magnificent site, tight curls, and blue-gray in color. Marcus watched as the man wrinkled his nose at the new obstacle. Clearly, this man had more important things to do.
With a cry, the woman buckled to her knees right in front of the man, and Marcus seized the opportunity.
“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the woman as cans of peas and a box of linguine scattered on the ground. “Oh, bother!”
The man stooped down, and picked up one of the cans, handing it to her outstretched hand.
“Are you all right, Miss?” he inquired politely, his eyes glancing toward stairs down to the subway.
“Oh! Oh yes, of course,” she said. “Just a bit unsteady on my feet, I’m afraid. These heels are such a bother, sometimes!”
The man stood up and felt something brush lightly against his side. He turned to see Marcus striding past him going the opposite direction. His cell phone was to his ear talking earnestly.
“That man’s going to get robbed, talking on the phone like that,” he said with a grin. “Not paying attention at all. Here, let me help you up.”
The lady smiled up at him and reached for his outstretched hand.
“Why, thank you, young man,” she said. “I really wish there were more people in the world like you.”
The man hauled her up to her feet.
“Are you going to the subway?”
“Oh no, my apartment is only a block or two past. I take the bus home and then walk the extra bit. Good for the health, you know.”
“Well, please forgive me, but I must get going. I’ve got a train to catch. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Yes, of course, dear.”
The woman smiled and waved goodbye as the man dashed down the stairs to the subway platform. He would make it of course. No sense in having him stay around here longer than needed. They had planned it that way.
The lady shuffled down the street another block and turned down a nearby alley. She pulled off her wig and tossed it into a nearby trash dumpster and itched her short-cropped hair. Those things were always so itchy.
“I’m surprised you threw that thing away,” said Marcus from the other end of the alleyway. “You make a pretty good old lady.”
“Gee, thanks,” said the woman dryly. “So when is it your turn to be the decoy, huh? That’s six marks in a row that I’ve had to wear this outrageous getup.”
“What, don’t like being a grandma in heels anymore, Shelia?”
“No, I don’t. So when do I get to do it?”
Marcus turned away, motioning her to follow.
“When you get better at being unnoticeable,” he said.
“So what’d we get?” she asked, widening her step to catch up to him. She grabbed at his arm, trying to peek over his shoulder. Marcus smiled slightly; Shelia’s head barely came up to it.
“Later,” he admonished. “We’ll take a look at what we gathered today when we get back home. Right now we need to get away from here.”
“You’ve already dumped the wallets, right?”
“Of course. Scoop out the billfolds and leave the rest. We don’t need anything that can be traced, right?”
“Right,” said Shelia, smiling. She took off her heels and placed them into her wheeled luggage case and brought out her favorite sneakers. She slipped them on her feet, and Marcus laughed slightly as she sighed in relief.
“Feel better now?”
“All right,” he said reaching for her hand. “Let’s go home.”
Detective Lynch sat down on the subway bench and exhaled. Hopefully, the repairs to his car would be finished soon. This daily commute to the subway was getting quite exhausting. Still, it was nice to have someone else doing the driving for once. He leaned back and closed his eyes for a brief moment, and felt his jacket shift against his shirt. He frowned.
The tell-tale lump of his wallet and his badge were gone.
* * *
Marcus pulled up the door to the warehouse and gently shoved her inside.
“Get the coffee started,” said Marcus as he followed her into the large room. Shelia nodded, walking over to the coffee maker on the left wall.
“And don’t forget to make it strong,” finished Marcus as he pulled the wads of cash and paper out of his various pockets. “Are you going to have any?”
“Are you nuts?” said Shelia. “I want to be asleep sometime tonight.”
“You staying here, then?”
“Yeah, probably. That okay?”
“Sure. But I get the bed this time,” he said.
Marcus looked at the mound of cash and paper on the table in front of him. There was probably about seventy dollars there, give or take. Not a bad haul.
“So how do you think Frank and Jeanie did?” asked Shelia as she handed him a mug. Marcus took a sip and smiled in thanks.
“Probably did a lot better than we did,” he said. “But they were working the ritzy part of town.”
“So how much do we got?”
“Don’t know yet, really,” he said. “Haven’t counted it. Want to do the honors?”
“I guess so,” she said stepping forward. Marcus chuckled quietly behind the edge of his mug. Her sparkling eyes gave her away big time.
Shelia sat down at the table and began sorting through the stash. The money went into one pile, everything else went into another. She went to work unfolding the bills, laying them out straight, and sorting them.
“You really are obsessed with getting them all in order, aren’t you?” said Marcus as he sat down next to her.
“It comes from being a waitress,” she said glancing over at him. “Makes it easier to count.”
“Don’t believe me? Ask any waiter or waitress in any diner around town. You’ll see. Comfortable, supportive shoes and the ability to quickly count your tips at the end of the day is the name of the game,” she said with a smile.
“So why aren’t you working as a waitress now?” he asked.
“What? And give up this glamorous life?” she joked. “But seriously. After I got evicted it was kind of hard to put a place a residence on the job applications. Most places want a physical address to send the paychecks to.”
“Good point,” replied Marcus. He reached for the pile of scrap paper and receipts laying on the table.
“Aren’t those just garbage?”
Marcus nodded as he started to unfold the wads of paper.
“Probably,” he agreed. “Still like looking through them, though.”
“Why?” asked Shelia, looking at him,bewildered.
Marcus shrugged, tossing a receipt for a burger meal into the trash can nearby.
“Sometimes I find interesting things,” he said. “You know, like a picture of someone’s life.”
“So you’re looking for blackmail, right? That would certainly bring in the money.”
“Are you nuts?” he asked, turning to face her fully. “There’s no way I would blackmail someone. That’s serious business, and very risky. No thanks. I’ll stay with lifting wallets.”
Shelia sighed, and turned back to counting the money.
“Seventy-two dollars,” she said triumphantly. “Not bad for a day’s work.”
“Not exactly that great, chica,” said a voice from behind them. Marcus and Shelia turned to see Frank leaning against the doorway.
“Frank!” welcomed Shelia as she walked up to give the towering man a hug. Her arms snaked easily around his waist, her head resting lightly on his chest. She pulled back and looked up at him.
“So? How you guys do?” she asked.
“Got about $215 today, Squirt,” he said looking down at her. “Let me add it to the pile.”
Without ceremony, he opened up his shoulder bag and dumped more crumpled bills onto the table.
“Wait! Don’t!” said Shelia. Her well-organized piles of bills were swallowed up by Frank’s contributions, scattering the bills everywhere. Frank looked at her, mildly confused.
“What?” he asked, looking back at her. “Isn’t this where the money goes?”
“I just–,” said Shelia. She shook her head. “Never mind. I’ll have to do it again anyway.”
“Do what again?” asked Frank, turning to face her fully.
“Shelia has this thing about making sure the cash is all straight,” said Marcus. “Something about waitressing and wearing sensible shoes. I don’t know.”
Frank looked at her like she had lost her mind. Shelia walked over to the table with a huff.
“You men just don’t get it,” she muttered into the table. “Jeanie would understand.”
Frank and Marcus smiled briefly at each other behind her back.
“So where is Jeanie?” asked Marcus, glancing at the door. “I thought she would have stopped by.”
“Ah yeah, she’ll be a while,” said Frank with a frown. “Afraid she got caught.”
“Caught?!” exclaimed Shelia. “Will she be all right?” She thought for a moment. “Will she rat us out?”
Marcus shook his head.
“She’ll be fine. Even if she got caught red-handed, this is a misdemeanor charge. She’ll spend a night or two in a holding cell and pay a fine.”
“Yeah, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before,” acknowledged Frank. “I told her not to wear those stupid heels.”
“So what happened?” asked Mark as he sat down at the table. Shelia was already frantically trying to sort through the small mound of cash.
Frank leaned against the wall near the coffee pot.
“You know the routine,” he said with a shrug. “Jeanie walks by, dressed to the nines, four-inch heels. Pretty nice distraction if I do say so myself. Normally I’m the one doing the lift, but this time, she wanted to take a turn.”
“And you let her?” asked Frank with a frown. “Jeanie has even less experience than Shelia over here.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Frank with a smile. “But we’ve been practicing, you know. I figured it was high time to shove her into the water.”
“So how did she get caught?” asked Shelia, looking over at him. “Did she do something stupid?”
“I’ll say,” said Frank with a laugh. “The mark she chose was a security guard. Plains clothes, of course.”
“Oh man,” said Marcus with a nervous laugh. “You knew, didn’t you?”
“Of course, I knew,” said Frank. “But I figured it would be at least a great story for later if nothing else.”
“So what did you do?” asked Marcus.
“It was her stupid mistake,” he said, pouring himself a cup of coffee. “Let her deal with the consequences. I got out of there. No sense in getting caught, you know.”
“Wow, that’s harsh,” he said.
Frank looked up.
“Why? Wouldn’t you do the same?”
Marcus tilted his head to the side slightly.
“Not sure I would have,” he said thoughtfully. “But I wasn’t in your situation. Not sure I would be proud of it, though, like you are.”
Shelia shifted her glance between the two men.
“Come on, Marcus,” she said, trying to break the tension. “Like you said, she’ll be out in a few days at most. What’s the big deal?”
“Yeah, Marcus, what’s the big deal?” parroted Frank.
Marcus just shook his head.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said finally. He went over to the table and scooped up the rest of the scraps and receipts that were on the table. “Just make sure she gets her fair share from the day’s haul. I’m going to my room for a bit.”
“All right, man,” said Frank with a smile. “Don’t worry about it. She’ll get her fair share. Oh, and there’s a new bottle of lotion on your bed. My bad for using the last one up.”
Marcus glared at Frank over his shoulder. Frank looked at him, innocence shining brightly in his eyes.
“What?” he asked.
Frank grinned, watching Marcus retreat back to his bedroom upstairs. He turned back to Shelia.
“All right,” he said. “Let’s see about dividing up this money, shall we?”
“Let’s,” she agreed eagerly.
About fifteen minutes later, Marcus leaned back against his bed, the cheap bottle of lotion thrown onto the floor when he first came in. Like he expected, the papers in the various wallets weren’t much to write home about. Mostly just credit card receipts and shopping lists. Back in the day, he would have used the credit card information to get more stuff of course, but those days were long since passed.
There was too much risk dealing with cards nowadays. Not really worth the hassle. After all, it wasn’t like he needed to do this stuff; he had more than enough to live on comfortably after those few jobs in the late 90s. Security systems back then weren’t that impressive, even for high-end investment firms or banks. It surprised him at the time.
Marcus looked down at the note in his hand. It had been folded into quarters quite a few times; someone clearly read it a number of times, and stashed it away again, hiding it like some sort of talisman. Marcus had read it through a couple times, now. He still wasn’t sure what he should do, if anything about it. He unfolded the paper again and read it through once more.
She wakes up at 6:30. Gets kids ready, breakfast, etc. Sends them off around 8AM. Works out until about 9:30. Goes to church after that until around 11AM. Sings in the choir. Lunch, usually with friends from about 11:15- 12:30. Back home by 1PM, working around the house. Kids home by 3:30pm.
– Best time, between 1 and 3pm. Neighbors all at work. Kids not home. Come home from work early. Find her and secure the scene.
– Accident. Stairs? Gas leak? Bathtub? Her sleeping pills?
– Need done by end of month. Collectors getting angry.
Marcus closed his eyes and breathed in. He knew exactly what this note meant. He always wondered why people wrote stuff like this down. It would just screw them in the end. He should just stay out of it. Too much of a hassle. Besides, he was pretty sure which wallet this had come from. The badge on the inside made it bulky, and memorable.
The last thing he needed was to get involved with a cop with a plan.
Marcus opened his eyes, seeing the faces of the children at their mother’s funeral, the cop grinning over them, triumphant. Marcus closed his eyes again.
“Shit…” he groaned.
* * *
Detective Lynch finally walked through the precinct doors. After having to convince the subway attendant for the thirteenth time that he was not trying to get a free ride, he was in absolutely no mood to be pleasant.
“You’re late,” said the desk sergeant. “Word is the lieutenant wants to see you.”
Lynch nodded, heading upstairs. Great. This was going to be fun. Thankfully, his gun hadn’t been lifted. He’ll have to explain to him what happened. He breathed in and knocked on the door to the lieutenant’s office.
Lynch opened the door and stepped inside.
“You wanted to see me, sir?”
“Yes, I did,” answered the man behind the desk. He leaned back into the chair and looked up at Lynch. “How are your cases coming along? Making any progress on the Henderson case?”
Lynch thought for a moment.
“I’m still waiting on the forensics on that one,” he said with a shrug. “But that interview with those two kids did give me another person of interest to check up on.”
“Yeah, about those interviews. You talked to those kids off site, didn’t you?”
“Yeah. Figured they would be more responsive in their own environment.”
“Rumor has it those kids got pretty roughed up,” said the lieutenant, watching him narrowly. Lynch shrugged.
“Wouldn’t know anything about that,” he said. “They do live in a pretty rough neighborhood, though.”
The lieutenant frowned. He tapped a pencil on his desk. His eyes shifted to some paperwork on his desk, and Lynch smiled briefly. The lieutenant looked up, and Lynch quickly recovered.
“Is there anything else?” asked the lieutenant.
“Not with the case sir, but I do have a bit of a confession,” said Lynch.
“I got robbed on the way into work,” said Lynch, his face flushing slightly. “Some kid lifted my wallet while I was helping a lady.”
The lieutenant leaned back in his chair and groaned.
“I take it you were carrying the real thing,” he said.
“Yep. Never liked the dupes,” said Lynch with a frown. They always looked fake.”
“Yeah well, now we’ve got a real one out on the street.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” he said plainly.
“True enough,” agreed the lieutenant. “All right. Go down to the administrative offices. Start filling out the paperwork to get you a new badge and number. I’ll get on the phone and issue a cancel order for the old one.”
“Do you think that’s really needed?” asked Lynch. “They’ve probably dumped it into a dumpster somewhere. I think I know where it happened. I can go take a second look.”
The lieutenant looked up at him.
“You just don’t want to pay the $150 dollar fine for the replacement,” he accused.
Lynch looked at him. The lieutenant shook his head.
“All right. Keep an eye out for it. But if you don’t find it by the end of the day tomorrow, we’ll follow normal procedure.”
“And interview your person of interest here at the station. I don’t want any more rumors like the ones I’ve been hearing associated with you.”
“Of course, sir.”
Lynch walked out of his office and sat down for a moment at his desk. He had to think. Truth was, losing the badge was the least of his worries. Like he said, having a real badge on the street had happened before. So some kid would find it, and use it to rob of few people, or even coerce them into doing something they didn’t want to. That was life in the big city, wasn’t it?
No, his concern was note he had written in the wallet, stuffed into the crevices of the billfold. If anyone took the time to look, months of waiting and planning would be down the drain. He had to figure out where it happened, and more importantly, who had taken it.
“Hey Karl,” greeted his partner as the man slid into the chair opposite him. “Rough start to the day?”
Lynch glanced up at him.
“Yeah, some idiot stole my badge,” he grumbled. “Boss gave me the day to recover it, but with all the stuff that needs to get done, I don’t see how…”
“Do you know where it happened?” asked the man, brushing a lock of brown hair out from his eyes. Lynch noted that his partner hadn’t started to lose his hair yet. Annoying little prick.
“Yeah… yeah, I think so,” said Lynch scratching his head for the effect. “I was hoping to take a look there right away, but with this Henderson case, I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to.”
“We just need to follow up with the forensics and interview that other guy right? I should be able to handle that.”
Lynch looked at him, making sure he raised his eyebrows to show relief and surprise.
“Wait, you don’t mind? I’d hate to have you do that stuff alone.”
His partner laughed.
“Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “I think I can handle picking up and interviewing a low-life druggie. After all, if I need help, I’ll just ask someone else here. We’re all on the same side, after all, right?”
“Absolutely,” said Lynch with a smile. “I tell you what. I’ll go back and see if I can find my badge, and I’ll meet up with you at Darcy’s to grab some food. My treat. How does that sound, Jenkins?”
“I can work with that,” he said easily. “Say meet around quarter to two?”
“Sounds good to me,” said Lynch. “Hopefully, we’ll both have good news by the time we meet.”
“All right, then,” he said. I’ll stop by forensics and see what the hold up is. Go see about finding that badge.”
“Right. Thanks again, Jenkins,” Lynch said as he stood up.
Jenkins nodded and watched him go. As soon as Lynch was out of sight, Jenkins picked up the phone and dialed.
* * *
Marcus heard a soft knock on the door. He quickly folded the piece of paper and stuffed it deep into his pocket. He sat up on the bed and swung his feet over the edge.
“Come in,” he invited.
Shelia opened the door a crack and came inside the room.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “I don’t think Frank meant any harm by what he said, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” said Marcus easily. Did you finish dividing up the spoils for today? How’s it looking?”
Shelia looked down.
“Yeah, I did,” she said. “You know, Frank does have a point. Jeanie did get caught. Why should she get part of it?”
Marcus sighed and stood up. He walked over to Shelia and put his hands on her shoulders.
“Tell me something, Shelia,” he asked. “If you were where Jeanie is right now, what would you think?”
Shelia thought for a moment.
“I’d be angry. I’d want to have that money.”
“And what would you do if you didn’t get it once you got out?”
“I’d be furious. I’d want to get back at you,” she answered with a grin.
“That’s right,” acknowledged Marcus. “It’s not noble to take care of your friends. It’s about self-preservation. No way I’d want to have someone like you or Jeanie plotting my demise.”
“Oh?” said Shelia with an evil grin. “And why would we want to do that?”
“Who knows,” said Marcus gently shoving her out of his room. “But I don’t want to find out.”
“So you’re not angry anymore?” she asked. “You’re not angry at Frank or me?”
Marcus looked down at her.
“As long as you don’t short Jeanie, then no, I’m not angry at you.”
“What about Frank?”
“Frank is just an asshole,” said Marcus with a smile. “But he is a useful one.”
“So what’s the game plan now, Boss?” she said, looking up at him.
“Well, if you’re still looking for more practice, why don’t you and Frank work together for the rest of the evening and tomorrow?” he suggested. “He’ll be down a partner, and it will give me a chance to run a few errands.”
“So you don’t want to work with me anymore?” Shelia pouted.
Marcus raised his eyebrows.
“OK, that’s a bit childish,” he said with a laugh. “I just thought you and Frank might make a good team. You’re always saying you want to broaden your horizons, right? This is a great opportunity.”
“Opportunity for what?” asked Frank walking through the door to the warehouse.
“Since Jeanie is temporarily out of service, I figured you could show Shelia how it’s done uptown style,” answered Marcus. Frank smiled.
“Ah, Shelia,” he said. “Looks like Marcus thinks your ready to move up into my world. What a pleasant surprise.”
“Don’t get all excited, Frank,” said Marcus. “I’m just giving her a temporary hall pass.”
Frank strolled over behind Shelia and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, resting his chin on them. He looked up at Marcus and grinned.
“Nope,” he said. “Once you give this lovely lady up, she’s all mine. You know that, right?”
Marcus looked at him squarely.
“I doubt you’ll be able to handle her,” he said with a shrug. “She’s quite a bit smarter than the floozies you usually drool over.”
Shelia smiled broadly and stomped on Frank’s toes.
“Ouch!” shouted Frank, quickly disengaged. “What the hell was that for?!”
“Number one,” said Shelia turning to face him, her finger pointing sharply at him, “I am not a possession, something to be traded back and forth like some football. Two- I decide who I work with, not you guys.”
She glared at Marcus
“And since when do I need a fucking hall pass from you to go uptown? Seriously? I’m going to work with Frank because I want to, not because you’re letting me. For crying out loud.”
Shelia swiveled her menacing stare between the two men. Both Frank and Marcus looked down, willing their shaking shoulders to stop. She watched them narrowly.
“Unbelievable,” she muttered and walked to the door. Frank and Marcus held their laughter for about three seconds after the door slammed shut.
Once they were done, Frank spoke.
“Seriously, though, think she’s ready for uptown? She hasn’t done any real work yet, has she?”
“You mean other than being a decoy?” he asked wiping his eyes. “Nah, not really. But she’s really good at it. And I can see her working pretty well in the uptown section. Her hands are pretty quick.”
“Has she tried?”
“Not on my watch, she hasn’t,” he replied. “But I’m not with her all the time. Plus, she’s got that hunger, you know? Figure she’s been practicing off the clock.”
“So I get to have my way with her,” said Frank, grinning.
“Like I said, I doubt you can handle her. But try her skills out for a day or two. If you guys work well together, I have no problem trading partners for a while.”
“Well, all right then,” said Frank with a small salute. “I guess I can try to handle her.”
“Just make sure she doesn’t get caught like Jeanie,” warned Marcus. “No way I’m going to partner up with you myself.”
Frank laughed and walked out of the warehouse, calling after Shelia and trying to make amends.
* * *
Marcus walked out of the door of the warehouse. His footsteps were unsure, but his resolution wasn’t. He knew that he couldn’t go to the police with the information he had. What could he say?
“Hey, yeah. Yesterday I lifted a wallet off of some cop and found this scrap of notepaper inside with plans to kill his wife. Nope, don’t know his name, or what precinct he’s in. Sorry,” he muttered. He shook his head.
“Yeah, like that would go over well.”
Marcus looked around; a number of people passing by were starting to give him strange looks. He lowered his gaze to the ground and blushed.
No, the only chance he had of changing anything was to find that wallet. He would get the address of the wife, and go tell her what he had found. He would show her the note. She would have to believe him.
She had to. No one else would.
The problem was, Marcus wasn’t sure which target the mark had been. Had he been the first, third, or sixth? He simply didn’t remember. So he had to hit all the dumpsters that he had hit yesterday.
He had to return to the scenes of his crimes. Never a good thing to do, but times were desperate.
At least Shelia was safely out of the way with Frank in uptown. That was a relief.
The first five stops were busts. It had to be the final one.
Marcus turned down the alley to go to the next dumpster. Tilting his head slightly as he walked, he used the windows of the nearby stores to read the reflections. No one turned to look. No one followed him down the alley.
Marcus reached into the dumpster, bending over at the waist and moving some day old food around. He recognized the half-eaten hot dog from before.
“And just what are you doing?” asked a voice from behind. Marcus froze.
“Sorry,” he said, turning around.
“Look, if you need something to eat, why don’t you come inside,” said a man in a greasy apron, pointing to a door behind him. “I got plenty of food inside.”
“No, I’m good,” said Marcus truthfully. The last thing he wanted to do was eat. “I’m actually looking for a wallet.”
“Someone threw it in the dumpster?”
“I’m hoping. You see, it got lifted yesterday… and well…”
“You got mugged, did you?”
Marcus shrugged and looked at the ground.
The cook sighed.
“Well get in there and look for it then, I’ve got a few minutes to watch the alley.”
Marcus looked up and smiled.
He turned back around and searched again with new vigor. He didn’t think the wallet would be here, but he at least had to look.
Marcus moved aside a bag of half-eaten fried chicken, a bag of old clothes, and a Styrofoam cup before his hand grabbed at something square, smooth and soft. By the feel, he knew that it was a leather wallet and an expensive one.
It was bulky, too.
Slowly, Marcus drew it up out of the dumpster. He flipped it open, and the gold of the shield glinted in the pale light of the alley.
Karl Lynch. That’s what it said on the driver’s license. It had his address as well. Marcus breathed a sigh of relief.
“So you found it, then?” asked the cook. Marcus glanced over his shoulder.
“Yeah, thanks,” he said, showing the black leather wallet in his hand, being careful not to flip it open. “Glad I didn’t lose this.”
“Good. Now get home and get cleaned up,” ordered the cook.
Marcus smiled and watched the cook go back into the nearby diner. He lifted his arm and smelled the sleeve.
The cook was right. Marcus was pretty ripe.
Marcus came out of the alley and glanced around. He opened up the wallet once more and committed the address to memory. He stuffed the wallet into the inside left pocket and began to walk back to the warehouse. He’d grab a shower and a fresh pair of clothes. Then he’d go talk to her.
Lynch watched the man come out of the alley across the street with something in his hand as he took the third sip of coffee. He had been right to stake out this alley, although the bus ride here had been a bit uncomfortable. It was the closest one to where he had lost the wallet.
So it had been that annoying man with the phone. He laughed softly. He should have known.
Detective Lynch got up, throwing a few bills on the table.
“Gotta go, Mabel,” he called over to the waitress standing by the pies. “Duty calls.”
“Don’t be a stranger, Karl,” said Mabel with a smile. Lynch nodded and walked out the door.
* * *
Lynch followed the man, always staying a few people behind. The man with his wallet walked with a purpose, occasionally tilting his head this way and that as he passed windows.
Lynch made sure to keep his body slack. He looked like any other working stiff traveling the sidewalk that morning.
His first instinct was to tackle the man, beat him senseless, and grabbed the wallet from him. But now, he saw that plan wasn’t the best option.
After all, annoying phone man had already broken the law, hadn’t he? If he was truly concerned about the welfare of the people in that note, he would have gone straight to the police.
He wouldn’t be walking away from the precinct.
Lynch watched as the young man rounded the corner. He raised his eyebrows and quickened his step by a few paces. He rounded the corner just in time to see the man unlock a door to a warehouse and step inside. Lynch walked by the door, pausing only a brief moment to note the address and the slight stench of chicken that now permeated the air.
* * *
Marcus watched the man continue down the street from the second story window of the warehouse, his breath coming short and heavy after running up the stairs.
His instincts had told him that someone was following. As always, his instincts were right.
So he hadn’t go back to the old warehouse. This one was about six blocks away, and it wasn’t even associated with him, or the others. He had made the key after grabbing a man’s wallet and attached keys. Turns out it didn’t have much money. But, there was the address on the keys. Once Marcus checked it out and found that the key worked, he made a copy, then left the set of keys near the door.
A few hours later, Marcus had watched from his perch on the park bench as a young security guard walked by, his eyes searching the ground. The security guard had sighed in relief and snatched the keys off the ground.
Ever since Marcus had used this place as a decoy. He had a few about town.
So that man was the cop who was trying to kill his wife. Marcus sighed.
He was undoubtedly waiting, somewhere in the streets below.
Marcus stripped out his shirt and pulled a shirt out of a nearby storage bin. To think that the owners had actually hired a security guard to protect a storage facility for tee-shirts. He went to a window facing the alley, wadded up his old shirt and tossed it out the window. He watched as it fluttered down in the breeze.
That should buy him a little time, at least. The cop had seen him entering wearing a pale blue button down shirt. Not a black tee-shirt with gold lettering.
Not exactly the best fashion statement to make, but at least it was a different one.
Marcus walked down the stairs and out through the door that exited onto the side alley. He looked around, and eased himself out into the light, pulling out his cell phone as he did.
He dialed, and placed the phone up to his ear.
“Hey,” he said once the line clicked over. “I know the idea of going back there isn’t very appealing, but I could use your help.”
“Great,” he said as he walked down the street towards the detective’s house. Marcus kept his voice low. “Here’s what I need you to do.”
* * *
Lynch watched from his perch on the bench across the street as the young man exited the warehouse, wearing what could only be described as the upper portion of the aerobic outfit from the 1980s.
Unbelievable. Did he actually think that kind of disguise would fool anyone, let alone him?
The man moved down the street, his phone glued to the side of his head. Once again, he was oblivious to the danger surrounding him.
He laughed softly as a new plan started to form in his head. Lynch rose from the bench, and once again followed the man.
He knew where he was going now; there was only one possibility left.
Detective Lynch smiled.
The man had already lifted his wallet once. Why wouldn’t he try and rob his house?
He followed at a distance, and when Lynch saw the man turn down Marcel Drive- his street- he went the extra half block and went to the alley where the garbage men collected things. He approached the back of his house and slowly took out his key, and his gun.
Lynch slipped his key into the lock, just as he heard the faint knock at the front door. He smiled as he heard his wife shuffle to answer the door. He slipped inside, being careful to avoid the squeaky floorboard off to the left of the door.
“Hello? May I help you?” said the woman from behind the edge of the door.
Marcus sighed inwardly. She was a waif of a girl, standing no more than 5’3”, with a loose bun of blond hair. She reminded Marcus of a more angelic form of Shelia.
“Umm… I know this is strange, but I think your husband,” started Marcus. He swallowed, and his next words came in a rush. “I think your husband is planning to kill you, and I have proof. Can I come in?”
The woman opened the door slightly, not in invitation, but rather in shock.
“What did you just say?” she hissed at him. Marcus took the opportunity and forced his way into the house.
“Wait! What the hell?”
It was strange to hear such a sound coming from a small mouth like that.
“Look,” said Marcus, shutting the door behind him. “We don’t have much time. He’ll be here any minute.”
“But what you’re saying is absurd!” she cried. “There is no way Karl would kill me. There’s no reason to!”
“Oh really?” asked Marcus, shoving the note into her face. “Take a look at this.”
The woman took the note from his hand. She read through it, her face a mixture of confusion, fear, and frustration.
“Where did you get this?” she asked looking at him.
Lynch crept through the kitchen. Once he reached the door, it would be a straight line of shot down the hallway to the front door.
By the sound of things, the man had used his foot to force the door open. Perhaps that old lady down the street would have seen the man entering the house. She was such a busybody.
“Please,” Marcus said. “I can explain everything. Is there somewhere we can go to talk? I’d rather not be here when he comes.”
“My husband is on duty,” said the woman, with a frown. “There’s no way he would come back here now. He’s on the other side of town!”
“Please, just hear me out!” said Marcus, taking the woman by the shoulders and shaking her.
“Take your hands off me!” she shouted at him, wrenching free from his grasp. Marcus released her, a puzzled expression flashing through his eyes.
“You’re–” he whispered.
Two shots blasted through the house, and Marcus watched as the woman’s eyes widened, her body collapsing on the floor.
* * *
“Oh no,” Lynch said, his voice deadpan. “My beautiful wife. What have you done?”
Marcus watched as the hammer clicked back. He dived for the open doorway in front of him. The reports of the next shots followed him, the scent of sweet brimstone assaulting his nostrils.
“Goddammit,” growled Marcus. “Move, you idiot!”
Once given the command, his feet scrambled and his legs pumped, carrying him forward to the other side of the dining room. He watched as Lynch rounded the corner, whistling softly,his step light. Marcus shoved the dining table at him, hoping to slow him down.
Lynch chuckled and stepped aside.
“You know, you really should run,” he advised as he brought Marcus into his sights again. “It makes the end result so much more satisfying.”
Marcus ducked back into the main hall and felt the splinters of the door jam shower his hair as the next shot rang out. Two more bullets sliced through the air in front of him as he tried to make his way towards the front door. The wife’s body was there, her blood emptying onto the plush gray carpet.
Marcus couldn’t go that way. He turned and ran back to the kitchen, feeling a searing pain in his right shoulder as he grabbed for the back door. So this is what it felt to get shot. He felt the blackness snake into his vision as he stumbled through the door, and into waiting arms of the SWAT team.
* * *
Marcus sat on the curb, his shoulder being cared for by a paramedic. His breathing was as heavy as his eyes, but still, he had the satisfaction of seeing Lynch put into handcuffs and pushed gently into a waiting patrol car.
“You know, you almost fucked up about five weeks of work,” said Jenkins looking down at him.
“Is she going to be okay?” he asked, nodding to the wife, being loaded into the ambulance. Detective Jenkins glanced over at her.
“Yeah, she’ll be fine,” he replied. “Her ribs and back are going to be sore for about a month, but that’s about it. The vest stops the bullet, but you still feel the impact.”
“What will happen to him?”
“Well,” said Jenkins, “If I had my way he’d be locked up for about thirty to forty years.”
Marcus chuckled for a moment and winced.
“You really should hold still,” admonished the paramedic. “I still haven’t stopped the bleeding completely yet.”
“You’re taking him to the hospital, right?”
The paramedic looked at Marcus.
“It’s your choice,” he said slowly. “But I highly suggest you let a professional look at that shoulder.”
“What, this flesh wound?” he asked. He shrugged his shoulders and instantly regretted it. “Yeah, maybe a trip to the hospital won’t be such a bad idea. Hey Detective, so Jeanie got in touch with you?”
“Not me directly,” he answered with a grin. “But in a way, you’re lucky that Lynch was out looking for you. She raised holy hell down at the station. If Lynch was there, she probably would have become another target in his plan.”
“So what was going on?” asked Marcus. “What happened.”
“You willing to testify?” asked Detective Jenkins. “Testify to all of it?”
Marcus thought for a moment.
“I suppose I have to, huh?”
“Well, we can make the case without you,” the detective said. “But that means we’ll have to rely more on the wife’s testimony. I think, she’s been through enough already, don’t you?”
“All right, said Jenkins with a nod. “Buy me a drink after the trial is over, and I’ll explain everything.”
* * *
Fourteen months later…
“So, he was your partner, huh?” asked Marcus as he placed the whiskey and soda down on the table in front of the detective.
“Yeah,” said Detective Jenkins, taking an appreciative sip. “Never liked him much, though.”
Marcus slid into the chair beside Jeanie, reaching for one of the smothered fries that sat between them.
“When did you start to suspect him?” asked Jeanie. “When I went back to the station and tried to talk about it, you acted like it was an old story.”
“That’s because, by that time, it was,” said Jenkins with a smile. “Lynch had always been a bad apple, I think. Everyone knew he was in heavy with the bookies, and that his wife came from old money. It didn’t take a genius to put things together.”
“But he was only in debt about $15,000,” said Marcus. “It’s not like the life insurance would pay out for someone getting shot. It’s way too suspicious.”
“If you remember, the original plan didn’t involve the wife getting shot,” said Detective Jenkins, pointing his finger at Marcus. “It was going to be an accident, like falling down the stairs. You mucked up the plan.”
“Right, sorry about that,” Marcus said softly.
Detective Jenkins shook his head.
“No, don’t misunderstand. In a way, I’m glad you did. The fact that he shot at you made it a lot easier to put him away for a lot longer. How’s the shoulder, anyway?”
“Almost healed up,” said Marcus. “Still don’t have the full range of motion, but the doctor said I should regain that with physical therapy.”
“Which, he keeps skipping,” muttered Jeanie. “But I still don’t understand how you suspected that he was specifically going to kill his wife. It’s not like he admitted it to you, right?”
Detective Jenkins laughed and took another swig of his drink.
“What’s so funny?” asked Jeanie. “What did I say?”
Jenkins shook his head.
“You have no idea,” he said after swallowing his mouthful. “How close to the truth you actually are.”
Marcus and Jeanie looked at each other, puzzlement galloping through their faces.
“Huh?” asked Jeanie, turning to face Jenkins.
“About six weeks before the incident, Lynch and I were on a stakeout. Nothing real exciting. Pretty standard stuff. Lots of coffee and not enough shut eye or good conversation,” he said with a smile.
“I still–, ” said Jeanie.
“The idiot fell asleep at the stakeout,” finished Detective Jenkins with a smile. “I didn’t know it, but Lynch is a bit of a talker when he sleeps. He actually said ‘I’ll just kill the bitch’. I couldn’t believe it.”
“So you thought he would kill his wife?” asked Jeanie.
“I don’t know about you,” said Jenkins. “But in my experience, most husbands do call their significant other a bitch from time to time. Especially if they are unhappily married or in debt up to their eyeballs.”
“You do have a point,” said Marcus nodding.
“So you just went up to the wife and said ‘Hey- I think you’re husband is trying to kill you. Here’s a bullet-proof vest. It’s the latest fashion accessory for all aspiring murder victims.’?” asked Jeanie. “And she actually believed you?”
Jenkins reached for a fry, catching the melted Monterey Jack cheese as it dripped off the side.
“Well, we didn’t exactly have that nice note that Marcus found,” said Jenkins with a smile. “So we had to do a bit more legwork. Find evidence and all that.”
“You mean there was evidence besides the note?” asked Marcus.
“Not very much good evidence, I’m afraid,” said Jenkins with a frown. “Lynch was careful. However, he had approached a few low-level druggies about doing the deed.”
“Why didn’t they testify, then?” asked Marcus.
“They weren’t reliable witnesses according to the DA.,” he said. “So we made the best circumstantial case we could and presented it to the wife. It took a while, but we finally convinced her.”
“She seemed shocked when I showed her the note, though,” said Marcus with a frown. “If she knew about it, then why the surprise?”
Jenkins thought for a moment.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “Maybe that note finally made it sink in? I don’t know. Come on, let’s eat up. Cold cheese fries are the worst.”
Jeanie and Marcus walked out of the pub about thirty minutes later, bellies full and minds whirring.
“How are Frank and Shelia doing?” asked Marcus. He hadn’t heard from them in a while.
“Still living the high life as far as I know,” said Jeanie with a smile. “It’s amazing, but those two really do make a great team. Think Frank will let her continue being the decoy?”
Marcus shook his head.
“In her condition?” he asked. “Maybe for another month or so, but that’s about it. As soon at they pass 15 weeks, Frank’s going to be insistent on her staying behind.”
“She’s not going to like that,” laughed Jeanie.
“Nope, she’s not.”
“Hey,” said Jeanie softly. “Have you ever thought about giving it up?”
“What, and become a normal person?” he chided with a laugh. “Perish the thought!”
“Well, the detective did say that he knew of a firm that needed security consulting. It sounded like the pay was pretty decent.”
Marcus shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said shaking his head. “If they ever found out…”
“That job was over ten years ago, well past the five-year statute of limitation,” argued Jeanie. “So even if they figured out the details, there is no way they can charge you now.”
She linked her arm in his own.
Marcus grunted in agreement.
“Besides,” she said, leaning her head against his bicep. “It would be nice to be legit for a change, wouldn’t it?”
“I’ll think about it,” he replied.
* * *
Lynch shuffled into his cell, and turned around, as was demanded by the prison system. He was in a special wing, of course. Too many of the main population were people that he had put here. The prison guards didn’t want a riot, after all.
He heard the buzzer and watched as the door slid into place, the electronic locks clicking into place. He put his hands through the small hole that they passed notes, letters, and books to him. The guard unlocked his handcuffs and pulled them off. Lynch withdrew his arms and rubbed his wrists.
“Thanks, man,” he said with a pleasant smile. The guard just nodded and walked away. Lynch shook his head. He looked around the cell briefly.
He couldn’t imagine spending the next thirty-five years in a place like this. It’s not like he had tried to do something wrong. The world would have been a much better place without that bitch.
And it was all thanks to that stupid mugger. Everything fell apart because he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Lynch nodded.
There was no way he’d be in here for the full sentence. Lynch went over to his bed and removed a notebook from under the mattress. The head shrink had given it to him as a journal. As a way to get in touch with his inner feelings.
That was a laugh.
He opened the book, and began to write and draw, making sure he kept the details sketchy as a new plan started to form in his mind.
© 2016 – 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.