Episode IV: Part X - The Case of the Conniving Gun Moll
Delia glanced at her watch. He walked out of the bar with that woman more than fifteen minutes ago, she thought. If this wasn’t official business, I’d be pissed. She let out a deep sigh. I'd better go look around.
Noticing Delia was now solo, the waitress returned, an awkward silence hanging over the table. “Uh, excuse me, ma’am, will your gentleman friend be returning? Can I get you anything?”
Pressing her lips together, Delia tapped her fingers thoughtfully on the table. She pushed the chair back and stood. “Uhm, no, but thank you anyway,” she said nonchalantly, a smile now replacing her irritable thoughts. “Oh, and here’s a little something for your time,” she offered, stuffing a twenty dollar bill into Natalie’s hand.
“But … you didn’t order anything,” the young waitress quietly fussed, looking down at the folded bill she was holding.
Delia gave a slight smile. “You took good care of this table,” she replied, turning and walking toward the restaurant’s egress.
Strolling past the pub, she caught sight of someone behind the bar waving a hand. “Excuse me, ma’am,” a voice shouted out. “Can you hold up a minute? I have something for you.”
Hesitating, Delia waited for the bartender to walk out from around the bar. Handing her a book of matches, he explained: “I was told to give this to you when you left the restaurant.”
“You were told to give this to me?" she repeated. "By whom?" she asked, staring at the matchbook.
The bartender grinned. "By that gentleman you were sitting with earlier in the restaurant. He sure makes his way around … uh, no offense ma’am. He’s a good tipper ... gave me an extra sawbuck for the matches. Easiest twenty I ever made," he chuckled. He began to head back to the bar before stopping abruptly and turning around. “Oh, and have a nice evening, ma’am,” he added, turning again and walking back inside the bar.
Delia continued her puzzled stare at the matchbook, emblazoned with the image of the 'Seasons 52 Restaurant’ on the front and back cover. I can’t believe these are still being made, she thought, remembering a time in the past when restaurant matchbooks were an advertising play and a tool for a post-meal cigarette. Matt knows I don’t smoke … or collect matchbooks. What was he thinking when … "Oh my God, wait a minute,” she mumbled out loud. Opening the cover, she peeled it back and away from the matchsticks. Delia shook her head and smiled. Printed on the inside of the back cover was -- ‘Room 1116.’
"Let’s go," Ferrante gestured to his minions, directing them to cease their activity with the front desk clerks and come to him.
“You know where she is, boss?” the top henchman asked.
“Eleventh floor ... suite 1116. I have a master key. She may or may not be there.”
“What’s the plan?”
“You remain here and keep an eye on that door," he ordered, pointing toward the office door with the note attached. "If anyone enters or exits that room, grab your cell and call me.” Ferrante craned his head in the direction of the two other perps. “You two start walking around. If you see Joan, don’t let her out of your sight ... and call my cell. Either way, I’ll be back with the money.”
Ferrante strolled toward the closest elevator and walked inside. Pushing the the 11th floor button, he waited for the doors to close before removing his holstered pistol. Pulling the slide back and chambering a round, the gang leader carefully returned the semi-automatic handgun back to its holster. Exiting the elevator after reaching the selected floor, he followed the numbered rooms, finally stopping in front of Joan’s suite. Grabbing his semi-auto pistol again, he slipped his other hand inside his outer jacket pocket and retrieved the master key. Appears she has a visitor, he brooded, the vague sound of conversation coming from the inside. Passing the card key over the door reader, he heard a faint ‘click’ before turning the handle, slowly pushing the door open.
“I told you to shut up and sit down,” he heard Joan yelling. The gang leader continued to make his way quietly through the foyer, both arms fully extended and clutching his pistol with both hands. Coming into view, he observed his girlfriend holding an unknown male at gunpoint. He was sitting in a chair.
“Put the gun down, Joan,” Ferrante yelled, making himself visible as he exited the foyer and made his way into the suite’s sitting area. Aiming the semi-auto directly at his girlfriend, he quivered his head slightly, catching Matt out of the corner of his eye. “You ... stay in your seat ... do not move.”
She whipped her head around. “Davin,” she nervously cried out, a rueful grin appearing. “Oh my God am I happy to see you.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet you are,” he replied angrily. “I told you to put the gun down," Ferrante ordered a second time. "I’m not going to tell you again.”
“I think you should do what he says,” Matt chimed in.
Joan returned a furious look at Matt. “Shut-up ... nobody asked you.”
Hearing a gun hammer being cocked, she yelled out, “Okay … okay, Davin ... whatever you say.” Slowly stooping down, the gang leader’s girlfriend gently placed her Glock on the carpeted floor.
“Now go sit on the bed,” he motioned with his gun. Trudging in the direction of the Glock, he bent down and picked-up the weapon, stuffing it into his waistband.
“Davin, I …”
“Who’s your boyfriend?” he interrupted.
“Boyfriend? What are you talking about?” she asked in a disingenuous tone. "That’s his ID wallet on top of the bed. He’s a private investigator ... or so the ID says.”
Ferrante reached down and picked-up the wallet, flipping it open. “Well, I’ll be damned," he clamored, a maniacal grin making its way across his face. Shifting his gaze between Matt and the ID several times, he tossed the wallet back on the bed. “It’s the infamous ‘Matt Duggan ... Private Investigator’ in the flesh.”
“So he’s a private dick ... what ’s the big deal? They’re a dime a dozen,” Joan said in a cavalier tone.
“The big deal is he’s up here ... in your room ... with the money you stole,” he barked, gazing at the seabag.
Matt gave a sarcastic laugh. “That’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?”
Ferrante aimed his Beretta in Matt’s direction. “One more word out of you and I’ll decorate these walls with the insides of your head.”
“What are we going to do?” Joan pleaded.
Ferrante gave a hollow laugh. "There is no more we, you dim-witted floozy. You ran off with the gangs money, checked into this ritzy hotel, then picked-up ‘Phillip Marlowe’ here like a dumb, cheap whore. He played you like a fiddle. He knows all about us and the bank jobs. Do I have to spell it out for you? Are you that dense?"
“Davin, it’s not what you think … believe me, I …"
“And if Duggan knows where you are … well, I’m not waiting around to find out.” Ferrante walked hurriedly toward the suitcase rack and grabbed the seabag with his free hand. He turned and headed toward the foyer, dropping the bag on the floor.
“I’m going with you,” Joan loudly announced, standing.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Ferrante fired back, wheeling around.
“Please, Davin, listen to me,” she begged. “This is all a misunderstanding. I was going to call you ... it’s just that I …”
“Shut-up,” Ferrante shouted, gazing one last time at his eloquently dressed, now ex-girlfriend. “You’re just a glad rag doll … a luxury I can no longer afford ... or trust. Now turn around.”
He’s not leaving any witnesses, Matt thought. If I can just …
Letting out a blood curdling scream, Joan’s frightful cry distracted Ferrante just long enough for Matt to launch himself off the bed and directly into the Brooklyn-born street thug and gang leader. Knocking the Beretta out of his hand and underneath the bed, both men tumbled to the floor.
Now’s my chance, Russo schemingly decided. She scooped her purse off the dresser mirror and ran for the door, grabbing the seabag full of cash on the way out. Reaching the floor lobby, she repeatedly pressed the down button on the control panel between the two elevators, one door finally opening after what seemed like an eternity. Exchanging a nervous smile with another passenger already inside, she tossed the seabag onto the elevator floor, the bag responding with a muffled thunk. She leaned forward against the control panel, then pressed the main lobby button.
Yanking Ferrante off the floor by his jacket lapels, Matt connected with a glancing blow to the left side of the wanted criminal’s chin. He fell backward on top of an end table next to the suite’s recliner, smashing it to pieces. Matt quickly spun around and retrieved his gun from underneath the pillow. He craned his head in Ferrante’s direction; good ... he's not moving. Dropping to his knees, he attempted to fish the culprit's Beretta from underneath the bed -- that’s the last thing he remembered before Ferrante smashed him over the back of the head with a leg retrieved from the broken end table. Rolling Matt face-up with his foot, Ferrante took a step back and removed Joan's Glock from his waistband before aiming it at the center of his forehead. Hearing a quiet knock, he turned and walked in the direction of the door. “Who is it?”
“Maid service. We’ve returned to clean room.”
Opening the door a crack, Ferrante snarled. “It’s late. Why are you here?”
“There was a ‘do not disturb’ hanger on the door handle earlier,” the maid answered. “As you can see it’s no longer there,” she said, glancing at the door handle. “Our records show we haven’t cleaned the suite today, but we’re here now if you …”
Ferrante pressed his lips together, shaking his head.
The maid shrugged her shoulders. “Well, we’ll be cleaning the adjacent rooms if you change your …”
“Come back tomorrow,” Ferrante snapped, slamming the door shut. He turned around and looked at Matt, still unconscious on the floor. “You don’t know how lucky you are, gumshoe.” He shoved the Glock back inside his waistband and walked out of the suite and toward the end of the hallway, disappearing down the fire escape stairwell.
Jostled by her narrow escape, Russo closed her eyes. She steadied herself over the control panel as the elevator began its descent, still breathing heavily and attempting to collect her thoughts.
“Going somewhere?” the passenger behind her asked.
“W … what?" Russo mumbled, confused by the question. Opening her eyes, she suddenly realized the passenger in the elevator never exited the 11th floor when she entered, nor was a button pushed for any other floor. "Who the hell is asking?” she demanded in a shrill voice. Shoving herself away from the control panel, she attempted to turn around, only to feel the thunderous jolt of an electric current traverse the length of her body in less than a millisecond. Dropping unconscious and face down on the elevator floor, Delia bent over, cuffing the suspect bank robber.
"I’ll answer the question for you, Russo. The only place you’re going is to jail."
Something’s not right, Ferrante thought, speed dialing his top henchman’s cell phone repeatedly. Standing on the ground floor sidewalk just outside the stairwell fire escape exit, he stuffed the iPhone back into his jacket. Catching a glimpse of multiple flashing emergency vehicle lights spilling eerily around the corner of the building, he walked briskly toward his car. Pointing his key fob at the driver’s side door, he pressed the unlock button.
“Not so fast,” he heard a voice in the background yell out.
Wheeling around, Ferrante stood an arms distance away from a shadowy figure in the dimly lit resort parking lot. Sporting a buttoned trench coat and black leather gloves, a snugly fitted fedora style hat cast a dark shadow over the identity of the unexpected visitor. A .38 caliber revolver suddenly came into view. It was pointed directly at the gang boss.
“Who are you? What do you want?" Ferrante anxiously shouted.
“You like to hurt people, don’t you?”
"What are you talking about?" Ferrante fired back.
“That’s your entire modus operandi, isn’t it, Davin? You’re a cruel, vicious, criminal sociopath … with a little sadistic narcissism mixed in for good measure.”
“L … look, I don’t follow you,” the gang leader nervously replied. “Uh … tell you what. I have money ... it ... it's in the trunk,” he lied. “Go ahead and take it … and we’ll both be on our way. What do you say?” he deceitfully proposed. No response. He suddenly reached for Joan's Glock tucked in his waistband.
The stranger responded by firing two hollow-point slugs into the convicted felon's upper torso. Sliding down the side of his vehicle, multiple trails of blood streaked unevenly down the driver’s side door. He slumped over, lying awkwardly against the car between the front and rear wheels. The assailant turned and walked away, disappearing into a darkened field behind the parking lot.
“What the hell happened?” Matt asked, his vision slowly returning. Delia and agent Morelli stooped down next to him.
"A rhetorical question," Morelli replied. “Once again, Delia was two steps ahead of you,” he continued, both helping Matt to his feet. “Your assistant handed Joan Russo to us in a neat little package, cuffed and ready to go. We took her and the stolen cash into custody, then rode the elevator with her back to the suite number you wrote inside the book of matches handed to her by the bartender. Guess who we discovered with his kisser buried in the carpet?"
Matt sighed, then rubbed his forehead with his index and middle finger. “I’m traumatized for life just thinking about you rubbing it in my face whenever we run into each other down the road.”
“Looks like Ferrante got the drop on you. You’re damn lucky to be alive ... always sticking your neck out," he admonished.
“Yeah, he did,” Matt painfully admitted, squinting his eyes and rubbing the back of his head. “Well, what else is new? We'll just have to ..."
"We got him,” someone interrupted, a familiar voice echoing faintly in the background. Matt pivoted. "Who said that?"
“I did,” the same voice resonating again. Rubbing his eyes, Matt’s visual acuity returned. “Detective Sergeant Kate Blanchard," he yelled out. "What are you doing here?”
“The hotel called MPD after one of their managers was found bound and gagged in his office," she began. Delia called the FBI when she couldn't locate you after you left the restaurant with Russo. Rather than wait for agent Morelli, she rode the elevator to the 11th floor. Out of sheer coincidence, Russo happened to step into the elevator with seabag in hand with plans to get the hell out of Dodge. Delia recognized Russo, and moved to take her down. The hotel staff pointed out the other three thugs after their nonsensical questions at the counter raised a red flag."
“Okay … and which train to Clarksville was Ferrante attempting to board?"
“A security guard was making his rounds in a golf cart when he heard the sound of gunfire coming from one of several parking areas, so he went to check it out.”
“He's dead,” Morelli chimed in. "The security officer discovered Ferrante on the pavement next to his car."
“On behalf of my colleagues and our member banks, we cannot thank you enough,” the head of the American Bankers Association announced gratefully to Matt and Delia. Sitting in a row of chairs in front of Matt’s desk in his office and served coffee, John Richardson and his two colleagues beamed in delight knowing the gang’s crime spree had come to an end.
“It's what we do," Delia replied, a smile of satisfaction lighting up her face.
"Happy we were able to help," Matt added.
The Regional Vice President of New Corporate Bank raised his hand. "The cash stolen from the New Corporate Branch has been returned, but what about the money still missing from the other banks they robbed?” he asked.
“The FBI and MPD are talking with Russo, her surviving thug colleagues, and their attorneys,” Matt began. “It might involve a deal of some kind, but it’s my understanding most of the cash will be recovered.”
Paul Morgan stood, coffee in hand. “Well, what isn’t will be covered under what’s called a 'banker’s blanket bond,'” he explained, “which is a policy that protects the bank for losses involving robbery and other covered perils. Our customers have nothing to worry about.”
The head of the Western Branch of the Federal Reserve pivoted in his chair. "Did Ms. Russo divulge what she was planning to do ... or where she was planning to go?”
“Good question, Mr. Metzler," Matt began. "Added to the other monies stolen from previous bank jobs, it’s believed her plan was to launder most of the cash in unison with country hopping using multiple fake passports. She speaks several languages. It wouldn’t have been difficult; the entire planet is awash in these crooks ... no pun intended."
“Does anyone know who shot and killed Ferrante?” Metzler asked.
Matt and Delia shook their heads. “That’s for the locals and Feds to figure out,” he answered.
Escorting the bank officials though the reception area, Matt and Delia shook hands with each, exchanging the normal goodbyes and pleasantries. Closing the door, Matt turned and locked eyes with Delia. Exhaling a quiet breath, he blurted, “I’m glad it’s over."
Delia pursed her lips and sighed. "Well, I have news for you ... it's not over,” she muttered.
Matt turned in her direction, a puzzled expression appearing. "What are you talking about?"
“I’m talking about Ferrante,” Delia answered.
"Hold on a moment. He’s dead, the money has been recovered, and Russo's in jail along with her cohorts. Checkmate ... game over."
“Oh, c’mon, Matt. I know you. “Neither MPD nor the FBI have a clue as to the identity of his killer. But I know that mind cave of yours, and it either knows or has a pretty good idea who it is. Russo and the gang members have been ruled out, so … is it Denny Lovato? He had motive.”
“Why would it be him … what motive?”
"Because he was infatuated with Joan, not to mention Ferrante threatened his life and gave him a severe beating in that Sports Bar parking lot.”
Matt nodded. "Okay, he had motive, but not opportunity. He was in the hospital when Ferrante was killed. That rules him out.”
“What about …”
“Whoa,” Matt said, shaking his head. “Please ... stop. You’re cherry picking." Matt paused. "Tell you what … remember when you mentioned earlier you would fill me in regarding the favor you did for your lady friend that worked in the Jewelry store in the mall? The one that sold the Pandora bracelet and charms to Russo?”
“Uh, yeah …” Delia quietly replied, a confused expression appearing as she attempted to recollect their conversation. “I don’t get it ... what does that have to do with Ferrante's murder?”
“Nothing ... yet, other than you promised to share that information with me,” Matt smirked. "C'mon, I need something in return for emptying my file,” he said, pointing a finger at his temple.
“Uh huh, yeah, okay ... you mean …”
“Speculation,” Matt interrupted. "Pure speculation ... a hunch or theory without firm evidence.”
"It's still more than what MPD or the FBI knows,” she replied in a sarcastic tone.
“Well ... is it a deal?"
Hesitating, Delia asked, “Why do I have the feeling you’ve got something else up your sleeve?”
Matt cocked an eyebrow. “Why, Delia, to accuse me of ulterior motives just because I’m curious to ..."
“Okay, okay, it’s a deal,” she broke in, “but on one condition.”
“And what would that be?” Matt smirked in anticipation.
“That we discuss my favor and your speculation over dinner ... the dinner you promised me earlier.”
Matt chuckled. “We never finished our meal, did we?”
“Finished? We never even ordered.”
Matt shook his head and laughed. “Okay, Season’s 52 it is", he said, walking in her direction.
"Shall we?" he asked, offering his arm.