Episode I: Part I The Case of the Mystery Phone Call
My name is Matt Duggan.
I'm a licensed private investigator, twice divorced, without children or any other pesky dependents. I retired after 23 years with the Metropolitan Police Department, working my way up the ranks as a road patrol officer before transferring to the Homicide Unit as a rookie gumshoe. I've been on my own for the last eleven years and, at age 55, busier than a one-eyed cat watching nine rat holes.
For the first several years I worked informally for several Insurance Companies, conducting arson, wrongful death, and other phony and fraudulent claim investigations, my harried schedule made more organized and tolerable due to the efforts of my very competent and thorough Office Manager and Administrative Assistant, Delia Perez, a former paralegal and widow. I keep her as up-to-date as I can about every case I'm working, to include my whereabouts at all times; and talk about intuitive, she's helped on more than one occasion solve an investigation simply by throwing a couple of suggestions, or, "what ifs" in my direction.
Delia was on the phone as I walked into my agency on what started as a pleasant, but late Monday morning.
"Matt, it's for you," Delia announced.
I stopped and stood next to her desk. "Who is it?" I asked.
"Don't know," she replied with her usual, beautiful smile, "whoever it is said it's urgent and they need to speak with you right away."
"Transfer it to my office," I replied as Delia nodded, pushing the transfer button on her dialer, my phone immediately ringing in the office as I walked in and closed the door behind me.
"This is Matt Duggan," I answered. "Who am I speaking to?"
"Never mind that right now," came the frantic reply from an unknown male, sounding approximately middle aged. "I don't have time to tell you anything over the phone other than I need to retain your services. Someone we both know told me to call you. Can you meet me at 8 pm at the Airport?"
I paused momentarily, fixated on the, someone told me to call you part of his reply to my question. "Where at the airport?" I hesitatingly asked, picking up on the unknown caller's urgency.
"There's an abandoned hanger next to Moody Aviation -- be there at 8 pm he repeated.”
"What's this about?" I asked in a futile attempt to glean more information before the caller ended the brief conversation with the distinctive click of a telephone receiver being dropped on its cradle.
I slowly placed the handset back on its ringer. Someone we both know? I thought to myself, staring out the window behind my desk. I had no clue, but the fact the caller indicated it was someone familiar to both of us interested me further. It could involve someone I knew who was in trouble; someone who might be mixed up in whatever it was the caller was involved in. I glanced at my watch -- eight hours until meeting time.
I grabbed my coat and walked out of my office, briefing Delia regarding my conversation with the unknown caller. She was concerned about me meeting this prospective client alone, particularly his refusal to identify himself or provide any information as to exactly why he wanted to meet.
"Not to worry, I'm on my way to pay a courtesy call to Lieutenant McPherson with Homicide at Metro PD," I informed Delia. It wasn't unusual to meet with detectives at Metro PD periodically, or for them to drop by my agency to exchange information about open cases each side was working. "I'll ask him to tag along with me this evening," I assured her.
"Isn't he the guy who replaced you when you retired?" Delia asked, relieved I wouldn't be meeting this guy solo.
"That's him," I replied smiling. "I've known Seth McPherson a long time; he's a good friend of mine, and a good cop. He saved my ass on more than one occasion," remembering for a brief moment before continuing with my usual, "if I'm not back later, I'll see you tomorrow goodbye" quote as I threw my sports jacket over my shoulder and walked out the door.
I relaxed, or tried to, for an hour while I had lunch at my usual, greasy spoon cafe, making small talk with the owner and his wife, just pleasantly long enough that it didn't interfere with the enjoyment of my meal. Still, I couldn't shake the thought about the, it's someone we both know, comment.
After lunch I spent the remainder of the day traveling to and talking with various clients and other sources regarding pending cases. The more serious the case, the greater priority it was given, homicide always being at the top of the list. Right before 5 pm I pulled into the parking lot at Metro PD, exited my vehicle and made my up to Homicide. Everyone at MPD knew me; access was never a problem.
"Where's McPherson?" I looked around asking as I reached his office and noticed he wasn't there.
"Good question," replied his long time partner, Sgt. Leah Mulholland. "He left about noon -- didn't say a thing about where he was going or when he'd be back, which is not unusual for McPherson. Did he know you were coming?"
"No, he didn't actually, it was just a drop-by.”
"If he returns or calls, I'll let him know you were here," Mulholland quipped indifferently, shuffling through a pile of jumbled-up paperwork as she stood hunched over his desk, never glancing in my direction.
I thought her activity was somewhat peculiar, the fact she was rifling through papers on her partner's desk. Something just didn't seem quite kosher, I thought to myself, storing that observation in the back of my mind.
"Appreciate it," I responded disengenuouly. I had no interest in engaging in small talk with McPherson's partner. I always believed her to be an insufferable putz, my flippant tone not fazing her in the slightest as she continued to shuffle through the disorganized pile of papers. I could never understand how or why McPherson put up with her.
I made it home by 6 pm, grabbed a quick meal, checked my mail and messages, straightened and organized a few things around the house. I would be attending this initial meeting alone.
I pulled my .38 caliber Charter Arms short barrel revolver out of its holster and opened the cylinder; it was fully loaded. I snapped the cylinder back into place and returned the revolver back to its holster, secured to my belt just above and to the right of my back pocket, my sports coat conveniently concealing the weapon.
I left my home around 7:15 and made it to the airport hangar just before 8 pm.
I parked and exited my vehicle, noticing the small hangar was built with hangar bay doors on the side facing the airport runways, and a regular entry/office type door on the opposite side facing the main highway. The building appeared abandoned by its overall dishevelled appearance, accentuated by weeds growing in its asphalt parking lot and overgrowth of landscaping next to the hangar facing the main highway.
I walked to the entry door, noticing it was closed, but not fully shut. I took another look around, then grabbed the doorknob and slowly pulled the door open. It was somewhat dark inside. It was the middle of summer; some light was still filtering though the many windows on the hangar. I left the front door open to allow in what little light of the day remained.
It was eerily silent; something didn't seem quite right.
I pulled my snub-nose .38 out of its holster and cautiously walked through the front door. There was a small office immediately to my right with its door open. I continued quietly until I reached the office door, took a quick look inside, and saw nothing. I turned and again walked slowly, remaining close to the outside office wall. As I reached the the front end of the office, I looked discretely around the darkened corner -- lying face down was the body of a male, fully clothed in a suit. I placed my revolver back into its holster, reached down and turned the corpse over, staring in total disbelief. "Holy shit -- it's McPherson!"
Click to read Part II "Matt Duggan - Detective Series"