The conclusion to the thrilling political mystery.
|At Any Cost (Conclusion)
No one can earn
a million dollars honestly.
--William Jennings Bryan
THE manager sat in the passenger seat of the sedan. The driver had given him enough to think about to last him a few years. The driver had given him a chance to save his little girl.
“I hope you never need this,” the driver said as they neared Enterprise Street, “but we can’t take risks.” He reached into his coat, and produced a tiny thing with a shine about it. It was a snub-nosed revolver.
“Thank you, Anthony,” the grip of the firearm was calming somehow. “I hope I never see you again.”
“You probably never will. However, if I never see you again, it will be because I’m dead.”
As he exited the senator’s office, Mark’s cell phone emitted a bell noise. It was a number he didn’t recognize, but he flipped the phone open anyways.
“Detective Harris,” his trademark detective cliché answer.
“Detective,” it was the voice of a woman. A frail woman. “I have some information regarding the Hemming murder.”
Mark nearly dropped the phone. “Might I ask who is calling?”
He heard a moan on the other end. “I can tell you when we meet face to face.”
“When and where can we meet? Please understand that we need all the information we can get ASAP.”
“I’m at Room 769 of Luxury Motels. You can find me there any time of the day.”
“Thank you. I’m on my way now.”
And the line went dead.
He closed his phone and told Edward what the woman had just told him. “That’s great,” Edward said, clearly relieved to have a potential lead. “Damn, I need to go drop off a file from the Valencia case or Burrell will have my ass. I’ll catch up.”
Mark nodded. “Need a ride over there?”
“Nah. I’ll take a cab. You just get to that motel and learn what the woman has to teach you.”
The Luxury Motel was anything but. Mark could see the grime on the walls from a mile away.
And smell it.
He knocked on the door of Number 769 and immediately felt the need for a lavatory, though not wanting to explore one in the Luxury Motel. After a few moments, he heard the shifting of locks, and the door slowly swung open. And then he saw her: a woman, probably about sixty-five, though appearing much older at a glance. She gave a sullen nod and beckoned him inward.
She was not capable of doing the right thing. Doing the right thing in this instance would kill her. But, holding it inside would cause the truth to eat at her until there was nothing left. She turned to the policeman on her old yellow couch and sat on the ancient chair directly across from him.
“Detective, I’m glad you could make it over here on such short notice,” she lied. Over the last few months, she had become an expert at lying. “I’m Janice Dunn.”
“Well, Miss Dunn, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. You say you have information regarding the Hemming case?”
She had to draw this out. “I do. Information I don’t suppose you’ll be able to obtain anywhere else. But all that can wait a few minutes. I don’t want to be a bad hostess. Coffee?”
She saw his left eye give a sort of twitch before he said, “No thank you. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to get straight to it. I’m sure you understand the magnitude of this case.” She heard the low rumble of a truck outside.
Janice Dunn had thirty seconds to live. She could think of nothing happier.
“Well, you see,” Janice began, then hesitated at the sound of a truck. After a brief moment, “I’m sorry. I do want to choose my words carefully.”
Mark nodded patiently. He glanced around the room. On the far wall, he could see the faintest blood stain. He remembered coming across that police report, two bank robbers staying here, one wanting to come clean, the other getting mad, and them settling it with nines.
For a split second, the thought distracted him. But in that split second, his world changed dramatically.
First was the noise. Loud, but vaguely familiar. On an audio tape, though, he probably wouldn’t have been able to identify the sounds.
If he had seen a muted video, however, he would be able to tell you everything. He saw a hole form in the front wall, and then another, and another, and another. Countless holes formed, each less than half a second before the next.
What he saw next horrified the hell out of him. After about two seconds of that loud noise and hole formations, Mark saw a dark red cloud form next to Janice Dunn’s head.
And then instinct kicked in. He placed his palms firmly on the headrest of the dilapidated couch and vaulted behind it, landing hard on his stomach. He counted the seconds as the gunshots continued. They stopped after five. Then Mark heard three, very separate shots outside. These sounded like they were coming from a .45. And then, silence.
After a few frightening seconds of waiting for more bursts of gunfire that never came, Mark rose to his feet. With a shaky hand, he pulled his M1911 free of its shoulder holster, and took a slow step in the direction of the door. He felt like he may as well have been walking toward a line in the sand that a very powerful man had told him not to cross.
Then he thought of his wife, his daughter. The penthouse. If he caught that bastard who tore Janice Dunn apart, who probably killed Nelson Hemming, he would probably be promoted to Detective First Grade. And with that would come a substantial pay raise.
He began to move faster, but stopped when he heard a fumbling with the doorknob on the other side. He raised the pistol slightly, ready to destroy the fucker’s legs.
Edward stumbled through the doorway.
“Shit,” Mark breathed. “What the hell is going on out there?”
“I pull into a parking spot,” Edward began between gasps for breath. “And I see this guy pouring rounds into the wall. And he sees me see him pouring rounds into the wall. He stops, and takes off, toting an M Six-fucking-teen. I fire a few rounds at him, miss, so take off after him. But the guy is some kind of fast. Even with the extra weight on him, I can’t keep up. I mean, as I slow down, he just gets faster. Turns a few corners real quick, and I lose him. So I come back here to see if you’re alright. Are you?”
“Yeah. But Janice Dunn isn’t,” he turned to the old woman. It was a gruesome sight. Her body was littered with bullet holes. Shoulder, chest, stomach, legs, and one in her jaw. He hoped that she had died before that round hit. It would have had to be excruciating pain. She probably had most of her teeth obliterated. He sighed. “Go call it in. But tell them we won’t be here when the units arrive. Tell them we’re going to be after that prick.”
Money never made a man happy yet,
nor will it.
The more a man has,
the more he wants.
Instead of filling a vacuum,
it makes one.
THE manager sat across from the senator, the two of them separated by a mahogany desk, as he had so many times before. But everything seemed so different for the manager now. All those other meetings seemed like decades ago.
“Daniel,” he said, “you know the situation with my daughter.”
The senator nodded concernedly. “Has she gotten worse?”
“No, no. But, not better. These treatments are very expensive, though,” he took a deep breath. “Daniel, I need to borrow fifty thousand dollars.”
“Nelson,” the senator responded as gently as possible, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I really am. But I can’t afford to--”
“Daniel.” His voice hardened. “Six years ago, I warned you that your actions could catch up with you. I need that money. Please. Just give it to me, or I’ll go straight to the press. For God’s sake, don’t make me go to the press.”
The senator slowly, discreetly, inserted his hand in a desk drawer that had already been open. Found his palm land on a silver plated letter opener. Grasped it. “Nelson,” he breathed. “I’ll find a way to get you that money.”
He stood, keeping the letter opener out of sight. Stepped around the desk, to where the manager was now standing. Embraced him. And drove the letter opener into the manager’s back. He saw the man’s eyes widen.
The senator took a step back, wanted to close his eyes as his friend died, couldn’t. And then he saw the gun. The tiny gun, in the manager’s hands. The senator’s hand came up fast. And the letter opener flew into his friend’s neck.
And then, the senator did the hardest thing he had ever done. He watched his best friend die.
Joe Darby was fighting back tears. The stranger at his home had some sort of hold on him. He believed everything the stranger said. He had no reason not to.
“You’re their only real suspect,” the stranger told him. “You have plenty of motive. You wanted to win the election so badly. And Hemming was Senator Aston’s key to success. With him out of the way, it would be easy for your boy to win. At least that’s how every detective, psychologist, and criminal profiler will testify in court.”
“There’s… there can’t be any evidence against me. There can’t be because I swear to God I didn’t kill him.”
“No, there isn’t any incriminating physical evidence. Not yet. But in time, the detectives will be tired of the case, and plant the evidence themselves. And then you spend the rest of your life in an eight by ten cell.”
Joe vomited into the dirty sink.
“Look at yourself, Darby. You’re disgusting. When you were twenty, you were a star running back for the University of Illinois. Then, you realized how much you loved food. You’ve put on two hundred pounds since then, Darby. You know that pro running back that plays for Minnesota? That could have been you. It could have been you raking in more endorsements than Ed McMahon your rookie year. But you ate instead. And now you’re living in this dump, earning twenty grand a year. Not exactly living a life worth living, Darby. Let’s assume you get out of prison early with good behavior. Who’s going to be waiting for you? Who will hug you, kiss you, say that they love you? Nobody.”
The stranger left, leaving the door open.
Joe walked to his ancient desk and opened the only drawer. He retrieved the Bull .180 from inside. He bought it after some thugs across the street tried to break in. He scrawled a note for the police on a Post-it, and then placed the barrel of the gun against the bottom of his jaw. He pulled the safety back with his thumb. His index finger found the trigger, and his world vanished.
Money often costs too much.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
THE next half hour was spent searching for the shooter. Edward showed Mark and four beat cops the path he went as he chased the man. When they reached the corner where Edward lost him, the task became difficult. There were a hundred possible places he could have gone.
Hell, Mark thought sullenly, he could even be that guy that just walked by. We can’t get a positive ID on him, Eddie didn’t get a good look at him. To hell with this.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said, quite abruptly.
“You heard me.”
“Mark, we can’t just walk away from a scene like this,” there was clear frustration in Edward’s voice. “This is where the action is.”
“Ed, there’s no action going on here. Our man either bailed or blended. Either way, we can’t make an arrest. And it’s not like we can just use a hair in the alley to get an ID. You know how many stray dogs and cats go through there in a day? I’ve got a lead to follow. I can’t waste time here.”
“Yeah. I was about to see where it took me when Miss Dunn called me.”
“Well? What is it?”
“One of our staple motives,” he saw Edward’s face droop at that. A staple motive was what Mark called the leads they used when they were running out of things to go on. “Insurance. I figure Hemming’s wife probably had a pretty penny insured on him.”
Edward nodded his head slowly. “So, to Mrs. Hemming’s house?”
Little was different about the Hemming house as the Silverado parked in its driveway. The grass was a little taller, but not much else was remarkable. Mark brought his thumb to the button next to the front door. It only took about ten seconds for Melissa to answer the door this time.
“Detectives,” she said as greeting. “Come to ask me if my husband was involved in drug money?” Not a forgiving woman. The jab didn’t bother Mark. He stopped caring about tact, wanting badly to be rid of this case.
“Not quite. Was Nelson insured?”
“You’re treating me as a suspect?” Their silence spoke volumes. After a long pause, she said, “Yes. He was insured for about a quarter million dollars. He wanted it. Not me. Am I going to jail for that?”
“No, ma’am, but-”
“Then I’ll let you go work on the case. I have tea on the stove.”
The door slammed in their faces.
Dammit. That didn’t give them much to go on.
Mark drove the Silverado aimlessly. This was one of those few moments where he had absolutely nothing to go on. After fifteen minutes of driving in silence with his partner, Mark’s cell phone rang. He answered on the third ring, not thinking much of the fuss over talking while driving. It wasn’t illegal in Illinois unless he were in a school zone, and he wasn’t sure if even that would be enough to stop him.
He didn’t recognize the number, but thought it wise to answer after the incident with Janice Dunn. “Harris.”
“Detective,” the voice sounded like it belonged to a snake. “I doubt you realize it, but you have hurt Melissa Cox.”
“You know her better as Melissa Hemming. The woman has lost her husband, and is dealing with a dying daughter, and you come to her door accusing her of murder. It’s unjust, Detective. And it’s my job to make things even,” the voice sent chills up his spine.
“And how do you plan to do that?”
“You have a beautiful daughter. What’s her name?”
And Mark felt his world crumble around him. He didn’t know what to say. “You sick fuck,” was all he could manage after ten long seconds of silence.
“Never mind. She says her name is Elizabeth. Isn’t that right?”
Mark pulled to the side of the road, stepped out, and vomited.
“Listen to me,” the man on the other end ordered. “You have twelve hours to find the man who really killed Mr. Hemming, or I make you feel the way Melissa feels. Dead spouse, dying daughter, and you will be the accused.” Click.
Mark dropped his phone on the ground and rested his chin on the roof of the truck. He felt a tear form in his eye. The sky was falling. The world as he knew it was long gone.
Edward stepped out of the truck. “What’s going on?”
Mark drew air for the first time in what seemed like hours. “The—the caller, he has Elizabeth. Maybe Kelly, too. Wants me to find Hemming’s killer.”
Edward’s jaw dropped. “My God.” There was a long pause. Then, a look of conclusion fell upon Edward’s face. “We’ve got to go kill that bastard.”
“We don’t even know who the hell he is. He could be anywhere.”
Edward sighed. “I need to tell you something. About a month ago, I was at my bank, and I ran into this guy. He said he wanted to thank me for my services to the city. He keeps on talking, and I find out that he owns the bank. He talks some more, and I piece together that he’s a little paranoid. Said he didn’t trust his neighbors, suspected his clerks were gonna rob the place one day and shoot him.
“Next thing I know, he’s asking me for a favor, saying he’s gonna pay me back big. He wanted some equipment he could use to turn his house into a goddamned fortress. Small arms, telescopes, electronic locks, listening devices, Kevlar. He knew I could get them at low-cost, and he’d pay me back double what they cost. And he bought a lot,” Mark thought about the brand new Navigator, the Armani coat Edward was wearing now. Those were things not easily gotten on a cop’s salary. It made sense now. “Then we just stopped talking for a couple weeks. Until yesterday.
“He said he knew that I was working the Hemming case. He told me to give him constant updates on it. He said that ten thousand dollars were to be transferred to my account. So, this morning, I lied to you about paperwork. I just needed to get away so I could call in. He gave me a twenty-thousand dollar assignment, and promised me that I would not be contacted again if I didn’t want to. And I didn’t. He wanted me to make sure that Janice never spoke. And he told me how to do it. He said to take a rifle up there, and unload it on her wall. Then fire a few rounds from my own weapon, hide the rifle, and walk in like I had just arrived. His name was—it was Anthony Dunn. Janice Dunn’s son.”
Mark’s head was spinning. To help clear it a bit, he punched Edward squarely in the jaw. His partner fell to the ground. “What were you thinking? I thought I was your friend!”
“You are! I was going to split the money with you. I never would have made it as far in the department as I have without you.”
He kicked his friend of fifteen years in the stomach. “You slimy piece of shit! I’m not talking about the goddamned money! You could have killed me!”
Edward coughed up blood. “I know. I thought about it every second after I talked to Dunn. But the man wasn’t a negotiator. Before, it was always, ‘If I felt comfortable.’ Today, though, he meant business. If I didn’t do exactly what he wanted, he would have deleted all my accounts. I would have nothing.” He crawled back to his feet.
“What about before then? When it was just if you felt comfortable? He could have been a goddamned terrorist. I thought you became a cop to make this world a better place!”
“Oh, cut the crap, Harris,” Edward’s face was red. “I got sick of working harder than those punks on Wall Street could ever imagine, and get nothing to show for it. You can’t honestly tell me you’ve never taken dirty money before. It’s the way of the world.”
“I have never taken as much as a penny from someone who even might have been a criminal.”
Edward opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a white Audi Q7 roaring down the nearly deserted road. It came to a stop about a quarter mile from the detectives. A figure appeared above the sunroof, carrying something long.
And then Edward Derrick collapsed, having just turned to face the SUV. Mark heard the report of a gun shot. The figure disappeared into the Audi, and it came racing closer. As it came within a hundred yards, Mark drew his Remington M1911A1 pistol and fired wildly at the vehicle. As it revved past him, a thin black binder was tossed out of the passenger window. When the Audi was out of sight, Mark picked it up.
Inside was a single sheet of notebook paper. Scrawled on it was a message:
Consider this a sign of good faith.
Solve the case, or enter a living hell.
Do not fuck with me.
I am opposed to millionaires,
but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
THE detective was tired. Tired of so many things. Tired of living in a shitty apartment. Tired of driving a ’93 Honda Accord painted a dull gray. Tired of this case. But mostly though, the detective was tired of being tired.
The case was one that made many cops look for a new career. There were seven murders total. The only thing connecting the victims were the way they died: one shot from a nail gun to the back of the skull. That, and the fact that their deaths were just hours apart.
The day he realized what must be done, the detective was sitting at his desk, reviewing each of the victim profiles. Victim Number One: Edward Tucker, son of a chiropractor said to be a miracle worker in his hometown of Philadelphia, Edward worked at the Rainforest Café, a very contemporary coffee house that every college kid flocked to like a moth to a flame; Victim Number Two: Sheila Argueta, moved from Morris, Illinois, to work as an employment assistant at Got Chow, a coffee house whose specialty was not coffee, but unusual sweet treats for not only humans, but cats and dogs as well; Victim Number Three: Joshua Germann, a funeral home director known for working up to thirty hours nonstop; Victim Number Four: Donna Stage, a longtime employee of Reverse Cuts, a hair salon specializing in odd styles, and the Goth crowd was the main demographic of customers; Victim Number Five: Jamie Richey, loyal employee of nationally-known software de-bugging company File Wipe, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio; Victim Number Six: Norma Muller, deliverywoman for United Postal Service, spent sixteen years working in Louisville, Kentucky, before being transferred to Springfield three years earlier for a substantial; Victim Number Seven: Edna Brown, yarn shop owner with strange business hours to make room for her daily, three hour exercise regimen.
After spending an hour looking over those profiles, something clicked. The detective found the missing piece of the puzzle. Edward Tucker worked for Rainforest Café. Sheila Argueta worked at Got Chow, something of a rival to Rainforest. Joshua Germann was known for working long hours—he was probably running on caffeine, and Got Chow sold energy drinks bearing their logo. Donna Stage worked at Reverse Cuts, which was located just a block away from Rainforest Café. Edna Brown exercised for three hours every day and still had energy to go to work—she had to have been stopping by a coffee house, it just wasn’t humanly possible to do what she did otherwise. Jamie Richey and Norma Muller, however, did not have clear ties to the coffee houses. But, both File Wipe and UPS had given him access to clientele lists for the investigation, and, with a quick scan of the lists, the detective found that Jamie Richey had scrubbed down the Rainforest Café’s computers a few weeks prior to her death, and Norma Muller often delivered Rainforest’s supplies.
The detective had interviewed the Rainforest Café’s owner, Jason Souza, on four separate occasions, and the man clearly had no motive to kill any of these people. Granted, the loss of Germann and Brown would cut down on Got Chow’s sales a bit, but most of the victims were helpful to Souza.
And then the detective realized what he had to do.
The next morning, the detective set off to interview Lonnie Staten, a clerk at Springfield National Bank who often dealt with Jason Souza. When he arrived, the detective found the house just as he had left it. Staten was lying facedown in his yard, with a nail in the back of his skull, and a nail gun a few feet away. The nail gun was covered with fingerprints belonging to Jason Souza. Souza was known for building things on Sundays and holidays, and a quick search of his house showed that he was missing a nail gun.
He adamantly denied having killed anyone, that he had no idea how his nail gun made its way to Staten’s house, but the jury decided that the physical evidence was irrefutable. Jason Souza was sentenced to two hundred years in prison, and the detective was given quite a bonus.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Even with the Kevlar vest on, Mark was sure that Edward was in excruciating pain from the impact on his chest of the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge.
After a few minutes of lying on the grass, Edward struggled to his feet. “Unbelievable,” he coughed. “I got that rifle for the bastard. Wasn’t easy to get a hold of.”
“What was it?”
“Goddamned M14, SWAT uses it sometimes.”
“Did he ever say why he cared about this case?”
“No. He was a secretive guy.”
“He wasn’t the only one.” He climbed into the Silverado and drove off, leaving his best friend on the side of the road with a bullet in his chest.
They who are of the opinion
that money will do everything,
may very well be suspected
to do everything for money.
THE hour spent waiting felt like days. In spite of his better judgment, Mark returned to the precinct and told Captain Burrell, quite bluntly, that Detective Lieutenant Derrick was distributing police grade equipment to a civilian illegally, taking care to leave out the fact that the recipient was now holding his family hostage. He knew that the man had the resources to find out if Mark was trying to get help.
Mark now sat in the precinct’s conference room, his Ralph Lauren jacket draped around his chair, his red silk tie loosened, and several buttons of his expensive pale blue shirt undone, waiting for Burrell to enter with Edward.
When they finally did arrive, Edward looked even worse than Mark, with a bullet hole in his pinstripe dress shirt, tears in his navy jacket, and his hair a mess. The captain looked out of place in his own suit, grey jacket buttoned up, red and white tie straightened perfectly.
He took a seat at the end of the table, and Edward sat opposite Mark.
“Gentlemen,” the captain began sternly, “I want an explanation right the fuck now. If I don’t like what I hear, I will strip you both of your shields.”
“With all due respect, Captain Burrell, I’ve already explained it to you,” Mark responded. “Edward Derrick got greedy. Got a hold of some equipment, sold them to a highly unstable killer. Derrick provided the man with a giant arsenal, and that man murdered Nelson Hemming.”
“Bullshit,” Edward said quite suddenly. “I sold him guns. A high-powered rifle, a few different handguns. Hemming was stabbed. If that man had killed Hemming, he would have shot him.” Mark was taking care not to mention the man’s name, so as to protect his family, and Edward obviously took the hint.
“He’s right, Mark,” Burrell said.
“Yeah,” Mark sighed. “The guy called me. He wants me to find the killer.”
“So what does that tell us about him?”
“Maybe he had a motive to kill Hemming, and thinks that the real perp is going to try to frame him.”
“Or he’s a vigilante. A friend of Hemming wants justice to be served.”
“Or he knows the perp, and he wants him, or her, to burn. Has something personal against him.”
“Look, there are a thousand possibilities here. Just watch your backs, lieutenants. This man obviously has the resources to track you down; and, from what I understand, he has a wide array of weapons,” the captain paused for a moment that seemed to last forever before sliding open his LG cell phone and keying in commands rapidly. After about a minute, he said, “Chief Wright is coming.”
They sat there for nearly half an hour in silence, awaiting the Chief of the Springfield Police Department Homicide Investigations to arrive, knowing why he was coming: to discipline Edward.
Mark had met Chief Wright on two previous occasions, and both times the man was in full uniform, proudly wearing his rank insignia to show that he was a chief of police. Today, however, he wore a tan Calvin Klein suit that set off his tousled white hair.
“Right,” he said gruffly. “Let’s get right to it. Captain Burrell has brought me up to speed. Detective Lieutenant Derrick, given the circumstances, I have no choice but to place you on an indefinite suspension. I’ll have Internal Affairs begin a thorough investigation of the matter, and, if I don’t like what I find, detective, your suspension will be permanent.”
Edward was unbelievably pale. “Yes, sir,” he managed.
“Now, all things considered, I find it wise to allow you to keep your gun and vest, but I must ask you to turn in your badge.”
Edward nodded, yanked the shield from his belt, and tossed it to Chief Wright, who handed it to Burrell.
“Thank you. Detective Lieutenant Harris, I want you off this case until further notice. Now, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I have a meeting with the mayor.”
And, with that cliché, Wright showed himself out of the conference room, and Edward did the same shortly after.
That was when Mark realized that he had lost his partner, and would have to deal with the monster named Anthony Dunn by himself.
The god of the world’s leading religion
AS he walked to his desk, Mark’s phone chirped. He looked at the Caller ID, and it was a number that he had programmed into his phone earlier that day: Daniel Aston’s office phone.
“Detective, I have something I need to tell you.”
“Before you go on, sir, I have a question, if I may.”
He heard a deep sigh on the other end. “Alright.”
“Does the name Anthony Dunn mean anything to you?”
“That name sounds familiar,” there was a long pause. “Wait, wait, wait, Nelson mentioned him once. He and Nelson’s wife used to be an item.”
Mark couldn’t believe it. Could it be? The vengeful ex scenario had been taken to the next level. Dunn had managed to screw the police department into keeping him updated on the murder investigation in which he was the killer. “Thank you, sir,” he said as calmly as possible. “Now, what did you need to tell me?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really. Good luck on the investigation.” Click.
Just before he left the precinct, Edward logged into his IBM computer and did a quick search of the Springfield mailing address database to learn that Anthony B. Dunn lived on 608 Bassell Avenue.
The houses on Bassell Avenue were fairly nice. 608 was a two story house with an adjoining two-and-a-half-car garage. Edward kicked open the door and stepped inside.
Mark booted up his computer and found Anthony B. Dunn’s address in the department’s mailing address database. 608 Bassell Avenue. Just fifteen minutes from the precinct.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Inside the house, the air felt thick and smelled of gas. Edward advanced across the threshold and into the kitchen, where Anthony Dunn, the prick, was sitting on a stool with a smile on his face.
“Lieutenant,” he said, “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show up.”
Mark stood as he watched SWAT gear up with SIG P226 pistols, Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns, Benelli M1 shotguns, and Colt CAR-15 carbine rifles while Captain Burrell barked orders louder than the three K9 units that were ready to go to work.
“You son of a bitch,” Edward barked at Dunn. “Where’s Mark’s family?”
“At home, I imagine. I have no intention of killing them. Detective, I am not a killer.”
“You tried to kill me.”
“Detective, I knew that both you and Lieutenant Harris were wearing body armor.”
“Did you kill Nelson Hemming?”
“Who the hell did, then?”
“Until just moments ago, I believed the killer to be Joe Darby. However, the real killer called me a few minutes before you walked in, apologizing for what he had done. I suppose Nelson’s death was partly my fault, but I did not kill him.”
Edward’s head was spinning, but he wasn’t sure if it was from what he was hearing or the fumes that seemed to plague the house. “How? What did you do? Who killed him?”
“I told Nelson to blackmail our good junior senator for the money necessary to get his daughter treatment. The senator decided that the best way to keep Nelson quiet was to silence him permanently.”
“Blackmail him with what?”
“Are you such a fool that you don’t realize it, Detective? Hemming helped Senator Aston in rigging his last election.”
“Bullshit. How would you know that?”
“Nelson Hemming was married to the love of my life. I was not going to stand by while she lived with this man unless I knew absolutely everything about him.”
“So, all the equipment…?”
“Strictly for surveillance purposes, yes.”
Edward raised his M1911. “You’re under arrest.” He wasn’t a cop anymore, but Dunn didn’t know that, and when they got to the station, he’d call it a citizen’s arrest.
Anthony smiled. “Don’t you smell that, Detective Derrick? I cut the gas line. You pull the trigger, we both die.”
SWAT loaded into a Lenco BearCat Armored Rescue Vehicle, while Daniel rode with Burrell in the captain’s powder blue Ford Fusion Hybrid.
“Detective, I’ve spoken with the senator, made him realize he should never have done what he did, and believe me, justice has been served.”
Edward wanted to shoot this bastard in the face. He didn’t care if he died too, because he lived for the Department, and the Department had abandoned him.
But, he reasoned with himself, if he could bring Dunn in alive, they would have to give him his badge back, no matter what he had done earlier.
Fuck it, he thought. I’m never getting my shield back.
He raised the gun to Dunn’s face and squeezed the trigger.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When the Ford neared 608, Mark saw that SWAT was already there, awaiting them, with two men at the front door, probably two at the back, and the others waiting by the truck, all ready to go in hard.
Then, everything changed. The front of the house turned into a ball of flames, and the men at the door were tossed into the air like ragdolls. Then the boom came. Mark could hear it clearly through the window, and he felt a ringing in his ears, his right feeling like there was glass in it.
“Shit,” he heard Captain Burrell shout as the Fusion lurched to a halt.
They got out of the car, knowing there was nothing they could do. Mark listened to the captain call the fire department and felt the blood trickle from his right ear.
Dental records showed that the two bodies found in the house belonged to Anthony Dunn and Edward Derrick. Despite his suspension, Detective Lieutenant Edward Derrick was given a full police funeral.
Senator Daniel Aston was found dead in his office with a bullet hole in his cheek and a snub-nosed revolver in his hand. A fingerprint analysis would later show that the gun had also been held by Anthony Dunn and Nelson Hemming. A note on his desk read:
Helen Gurley Brown once said,
‘Money, if it does not bring you happiness,
Will at least let you be miserable in comfort.’
But I am not comfortable enough.
I cannot live with the death of my dearest friend on my conscience.
I ask that I be buried without any honors.
Joseph Darby was found dead in his apartment with a .180 revolver on the floor next to him. On a table was a violet Post-It note that read:
I’m so sorry for the many things that I have done.
But I did not kill Nelson Hemming.
Left unopposed in the wake of Daniel Aston’s death, District Attorney Arthur Holcomb was elected to the position of Junior United States Senator, representing the Prairie State of Illinois; and, after a thorough investigation by the Springfield Police Department, the Illinois State Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Secret Service, Holcomb was inaugurated on time.
Mark met his new partner two weeks later. After learning how his predecessor died, and the events leading up to it, the replacement was granted a transfer to Narc.
Mark didn’t mind the replacement of the replacement. She was tough. But she wasn’t the friend that Edward had been. When he thought about that, he realized that he had forgiven Edward.
Every Halloween, the anniversary of Edward’s death, Mark goes to Bishop Cemetery, where Edward was buried, and tells his old friend how things are in the Department.
All is well in the Land of Lincoln.