Episode II: Part V - The Case of the Menacing Notes
The DMV printout confirmed the suspect vehicle was a Mercury Cougar owned by Adam Booth, a career criminal with a record the length of a landfill, and just as dirty. His separate arrest record validated a history of petty theft beginning at age fourteen, the nature of those offenses gradually escalating all the way to attempted murder. By age thirty four, he had firmly established himself as a career criminal, with an additional history of juvenile detention, city and county jail bookings that would make attorney Johnnie Cochran envious. Recently paroled from Ironport Regional Prison for bank robbery, he wasted no time offering his services to the highest bidder.
Matt drove in the direction the GPS voice directed, his iPhone positioned on the lower dash, just in front of the shift knob. A few more minutes and I should be there, he thought to himself.
The neighborhood appeared to be an older community of working class single family houses, apparent from the worn out roofs, paint hungry homes, and disheveled yards crying out for needed maintenance. Cars were parked unevenly in driveways and in a staggered array on the swale between the sidewalk and street.
Idling slowly down the asphalt paved road, he squinted his eyes in order to compensate for the darkened neighborhood. It was then the GPS announced, “you have reached your destination.”
Matt stopped his car, searching for a house number on a mailbox or visible part of the home. Before any numbers came into view, a vehicle matching the DMV description began to back out of a one car driveway two houses ahead. Matt moved his foot off the brake pedal. His car idled slowly forward again until the headlights illuminated the vehicle’s rear tag. It was a match. The suspect vehicle continued to exit out of the driveway, turning sharply until the rear of the car was less than a foot away from a neighboring fire hydrant. I’ve got him, Matt said to himself. He gunned the engine, quickly maneuvering his car in front of the perp’s vehicle. Matt jumped out of his car and raced to the driver’s side window with his gun drawn. “Both hands on the wheel,” he shouted at the startled driver, the surprised suspect immediately complying. Matt reached for the door handle. He tugged the latch and slowly pulled the door open. “Step out of the car, Booth.”
It was just enough commotion to mask the quiet footfall that followed. A dark clothed figure suddenly approached Matt from behind. “Don’t move,” the accomplice whisper-shouted — a voice that sounded oddly familiar. “Drop the gun — hands behind your head; now back away from the door — nice and slow.”
Booth exited the cougar, a satisfying smirk playing across his face. He slowly stooped to retrieve Matt’s dropped revolver, gradually returning to an upright position. “Turn around,” he said.
Matt reluctantly complied with the perp’s order, taking his time as he slowly turned in the opposite direction. Completing the about face, his gaze now strolled over the small frame of his captor. Resignation over the current situation vanished, replaced by an expression of total shock.
A wicked smirk made its way across the face of the driver’s accomplice. “Cat got your tongue?” a sarcastic snarl accompanying the question.
Matt stood …. starring …. baffled, until the only word to come to mind crossed his lips. “Becca?” He turned in response to movement of her partner, just in time to see a gun come crashing down on his skull.
“OKAY, WAKE UP. Let’s go. C’mon, get out of there.”
Matt heard himself moan as he opened his eyes, peering up at Booth and Becca, the darkness of night surrounding them.
“Don’t make me tell you again,” Booth shouted.
Matt quickly looked around. The smell of the musty weathered compartment and spare tire confirmed his initial thoughts — he was inside the trunk of the same car he had blocked earlier. Shit, how the hell did this happen? He tried to sit-up, pushing with his hands tied at the wrists behind him. His head felt like a wrecking ball, lightning bolts of pain bouncing back and forth inside his skull.
“Help him out of there,” Booth gestured to Becca, stepping away from the vehicle.
“Your arm broken?” Becca sneered.
“I don’t want any problems. And I’m the one holding the gun, remember?”
“His hands are tied behind his back; what ……
“Shut-up and help him out of the trunk like I told ya,” Booth fired back.
Becca reached down and placed her hands around Matt’s upper arm, pulling as Matt hooked his legs over the top of the trunk. With her help he finally scooted over the top, landing unsteadily on a hard surface of what appeared to be multi-shaped decorative pavers.
A driveway, Matt thought, his head still throbbing.
“Start walking,” Booth ordered, waving the gun toward the front of the car.
Her hands still wrapped around Matt’s arm, Becca prompted him to walk along the pavers in the direction indicated by Booth. A near full moon provided the only illumination, the dim lunar light straining to filter its way through the surrounding trees and shrubbery.
“Keep going,” Booth ordered, walking behind Matt and Becca.
Moving along until they reached an opening in the surrounding vegetation, Matt caught a glimpse of a huge two story dwelling. It looked new, like it was recently completed, a small mansion purposely built in the middle of at least ten or more surrounding acres. The enveloping darkness and dim exterior lighting made it appear drab, as if the painters had forgotten to apply the mandatory layer of color to it. There was a detached garage approximately twenty-five yards to the right of the main building.
“Park it in front of the garage,” Booth yelled out.
Matt trudged obliquely in the direction of the three car garage. He leaned with his back against a garage door. His hands and wrists ached from being tightly bound. Grimacing, he looked over at Booth. “Okay, so what’s the story?”
Ignoring Matt’s question, Booth handed the revolver to Becca. He reached inside his sports jacket, removing a cell phone. “Make sure our Dick Tracy wannabe doesn’t go anywhere,” he ordered. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Booth turned and walked hurriedly toward the front of the house, tapping the keypad of the cell phone as he walked.
Certain he was out of earshot, Matt turned and rendered a hard stare at Becca. “I can’t wait to hear your side of this.”
“You’ll hear my side soon enough,” Becca shot back. “Be quiet, I hear someone coming.”
Booth returned, walking around the corner of the garage with another male. He appeared middle aged, with graying hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. He was sporting a dark suit, a red and black striped necktie, and matching wingtips. “So, is this the infamous, ‘Matt Duggan - Private Investigator?’” he asked while grinning, looking directly at Matt.
One of the ringleaders, Matt thought, returning the suited man’s stare. “Sounds like a rhetorical question,” Matt snickered. “You figure it out, genius.”
The impeccably dressed man exchanged his grin for a frown. “Take him down to the basement. We’ll decide what to do with him later.”
Booth took the gun from Becca. Looking at Matt, he waved the pistol, then pointed with his other hand. “Move,” he barked.
Matt began walking in the direction of the mansion, Becca and Booth behind him. He craned his neck at the sound of a garage door opening, catching a glimpse of several cars parked inside.
“I’ll be back in a few hours,” the mustached male said to Booth, walking toward one of the vehicles. He pointed and pressed his key FOB button, the car of his choice blinking in response.
It’s a miracle I didn’t lose that creep, Delia thought, having followed Booth’s vehicle earlier. She remained parked on the darkened shoulder off the road. She let out a short sigh as she watched a Mercedes emerge out of the thick covering of trees, turning in the opposite direction and onto the main highway where it connected with the paved driveway.
She exited her car and followed the pavers, spotting the small mansion and Booth’s car after walking approximately seventy five yards. No sooner had she arrived at the garage, the faint vision of vehicle lights began to reflect off the front of both buildings. She quickly made her way to a vantage point around the back, a parade of stylish and expensive vehicles turning left at the fork and stopping on the circular driveway in front of the main house.
Male and female occupants began exiting the parked cars. Men and women in business suits or formal attire followed one another to the front door of the mansion, greeted by a male and female butler.
Walking inside, they were led to a large conference room, then seated around a twenty-five foot long boat shaped table. Bottled water, ice, soda, tea, coffee, snacks and condiments were available on large portable carts at each end of the room. A state of the art video conferencing system was in place, along with two polycom speaker phones evenly spaced along the length of the table. A linen covered journal was placed in front of every seat, documents placed inside to coincide with the meeting.
Allowing sufficient time for the attendees to indulge or bring to the table the light refreshments provided, they moved in the direction of their seats when a formally attired middle aged male and female not part of the original party entered the room. The male glanced at a large, digital clock centered near the top of the wall on the opposite end of the room. It was exactly 10:00 pm.
“Good evening,” the man announced, raising the volume of his voice so he could be heard over the chatter in the room. “Please be seated,” he continued.
Directing Matt down a winding staircase with a curt reminder to Becca to open the door when they reached the bottom, Booth placed his free hand between Matt’s shoulder blades and abruptly shoved him through the opened door. “Make sure he doesn’t cause any trouble,” he instructed Becca, handing her Matt’s revolver again. He stopped and turned around, preparing to return upstairs.
“Where are you going?” she asked Booth.
“Conference room security. I’ll be back after the meeting.”
Closing and locking the door behind him, Becca turned and faced Matt, pointing the revolver at him. “Sit down,” she ordered, wiggling the gun at a worn wedge arm sofa in the middle of the room. It was an unfinished basement with bare walls, a small table and chairs, a half bath and wet bar. There was a closed door on the far side wall. The interior of the basement was barely discernible, a small low wattage lamp on top of the sofa’s end table provided the only illumination.
Matt’s wrists and hands were numb. His shoulders ached from the tension. “Before I sit,” Matt replied angrily, “just tell me one thing — why?”
Becca turned and locked eyes with Matt, her face full of fury. “Why?” she mimicked sarcastically. “You really want to know …… why?” she repeated again louder. Smirking, she sauntered slowly toward Matt, walking behind and around him in an intimidating manner. She pressed and ran the end of the gun barrel down the side of his face. Noticing no reaction, she took a step back, then lowered the gun, allowing it to rest against her hip.
Matt grinned. “Well, ....... I’m waiting,” he taunted her, adding a wink of his eye.
Becca’s facial expression resumed its previous fury; she raised the gun until it was pointed at Matt, then immediately stiffened, the crackling sound of a hand held taser echoing throughout the room. Three seconds of firm contact on the left side of Becca’s exposed neck was all that was needed; loss of balance, muscle control, mental confusion and disorientation followed - she dropped like a rag doll. The gun slipped out of her hand and onto the basement floor.
“I barely noticed your wink,” Delia said as she stooped down and cuffed Becca, still squirming and moaning on the exposed cement floor.
“Talk about timing --- you must be psychic.” Matt replied, exhaling a sigh of relief.
Delia acknowledged with a smile, then noticed a cleaning rag next to a can of paint on the floor near the wet bar; she grabbed it and tore off a long strip before securing a gag tightly about Becca’s mouth. She dragged her toward the wet bar, using the remaining rag to tie Becca to an exposed plumbing pipe behind the counter. Delia quietly pulled the wet bar’s two drawers open, finding a small, serrated utensil knife. She walked back to Matt and cut the nylon rope binding his wrists; she rubbed his hands until sensation began to return.
“How did you get in?” Matt asked, grimacing as he gained enough feeling to continue the massage on his own.
Delia went on to explain the procession of cars and SUV’s that rolled in, parking in front of the mansion along with the twelve people exiting the vehicles and entering the dwelling. Matt listened as he bent down and retrieved his revolver.
“I remained out of sight behind the detached garage until everyone in that motorcade walked though the double wide front door. I ran from the garage to the back of the main dwelling. I started looking for a way in when I noticed a rectangular awning window at ground level. I have similar basement windows at my home; they’re hinged at the top and swing open toward the inside. I had to jimmy the window a bit, but I managed to open it and lowered myself in.”
“How did you even know I was in the basement?”
Delia rendered a half smile. “Remind me to tell you later. Blanchard and a swat team are on their way,” she continued. “I called her while I was behind the garage - gave her as much info on this location as I could.”
Matt nodded. “That must be the main basement entry,” he said, pointing to a set of french doors that were accessible via a concrete step-up inside the room. “Looks like they lead to the back of the …….
Matt was interrupted by the sound of the interior basement door leading upstairs being unlocked; he glanced at Delia. “Try and keep her quiet,” Matt whispered, placing his hand on Delia’s shoulder and directing her toward Becca. Matt stood erect, his back against a dividing wall around the corner at the bottom of the stairway. He raised his sub nose revolver until it was level with his temple.
“Becca,” Booth called out as he began to walk down the stairs. He slowed the pace of his descent when she didn’t respond, then stopped. Continuing again, he removed a pistol tucked into his waist band. Both feet on the smooth concrete, Booth turned in response to what he thought was mumbling. Matt wheeled around the corner of the stairway and brought the butt end of his revolver down on the back of Booth’s head, dropping him like a bad transmission.
"Nappy time for you, Bucko.”