Read Determinant Online

Authors: E. H. Reinhard

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers

Determinant (3 page)

BOOK: Determinant
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“It’s so good. It’s calamari with avocado and sliced mango. Then it comes with a kiwi wasabi sauce.”

“You lost me at calamari.”

She smiled. “I’m going to make you try it.”

“Not a chance in hell.” I smiled and looked back down at my menu. “Steak and chicken combo it is.”

“Oh come on, you get steak in some way or another everywhere you go. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I don’t do seafood. If it was meant to be eaten by man, it wouldn’t live underwater.”

She raised one eyebrow in about the most sarcastic way possible and tilted her head. “You eat fish though. Pretty sure fish live underwater, at least they did the last time I checked.”

“Nope. No fish.”

She smiled and swiped at me from across the table. “You’re such a little liar. You were telling me last week how every place in Wisconsin has Friday night fish frys and how you wish you could find that down here.”

I took a drink from my beer. Who would’ve thought that she actually listened to me when I talked. “No. I think that must have been someone else you were talking to—a customer at the bar or something.”

“Yeah, whatever.” She laughed. “Look at your face. You might be the world’s worst liar.”

I attempted to hide behind my beer, but she was right, I did have a pretty bad poker face when it came to her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She leaned over the table and kissed me. “At least I know that you can never lie to me with a straight face. I’m making you try the calamari rolls.”

“Negative.”

I settled on the steak and chicken combo while Callie got her mango squid deal. We ate, talked and laughed. As far as going out to dinner for a six month anniversary goes, I chalked it up as a success. I ended up trying her calamari. It was awful, but I smiled, told her it wasn’t bad, and forced it down. We finished dinner a little after nine o’clock and headed out of the restaurant. She grabbed my hand as we walked and leaned against me. “You still want to watch a movie?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s just watch something at your house though. I mean, if that’s OK?”

“That’s perfect.” I walked Callie to her car then found my shiny new Corvette sitting at the back of the lot away from the other cars. She called me on the ride back to my house and said she was making a stop at the gas station. It gave me enough of a window to give my place a quick once over. Callie hadn’t stayed over in a few days and it was turning back into a bachelor pad.

I wrestled with Butch at the door and made for the kitchen. The empty beer cans on the table found the trash and the dishes in the sink made their way into the dishwasher. Callie walked in as a few stray articles of clothing met the bottom of the hamper.

She held a plastic bag with a few items inside.

“What did you get?” I asked.

“Twizzlers and gas station wine. Nothing but the good stuff.”

I laughed. “I hear that gas station wine comes highly recommended.”

I uncorked the wine and filled two glasses from the cabinet. Callie hugged Butch and talked to him. We sat on the couch and went through the list of on-demand movies looking for something we’d both enjoy. We found the bedroom before finding a movie.

Chapter 4

The seedy little bar was fifteen minutes from downtown Tampa. Ray parked the Bentley and stepped out. The small parking lot had a few old pickup trucks and an older Pontiac that didn’t look fit for the road. A trailer park sat just on the other side of the railroad tracks behind a small tree line strewn with garbage. He walked to the front doors noticing the stragglers lurking along the back of the bar in the distance. They were homeless, intoxicated or both. He pulled the front door open and entered. It smelled of smoke and stale beer. The jukebox played a country tune. The place was dark. A handful of neon beer signs lined the walls. The walls themselves were a dingy yellow, stained from smoke. The bar was shaped in an L. It was mirrored on the bottom with a brass foot rail. The top was a thick lacquered wood filled with burns and dents. Ray took the first open seat at the bar. Two stools away on the right was a woman in her fifties. She looked to be a prostitute. To his left was a man passed out at the bar. The bartender walked up. “Get you something?”

“Yeah, let me get a Jack on the rocks.”

The bar tender splashed the whiskey over a few cubes of ice and sat it in front of Ray. “Three fifty, Buddy.”

Ray pulled his wallet from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and opened it. Inside sat over a thousand in hundreds and a few hundred in fifties. He slid out a fifty and laid it on the bar.

The bar tender gave him a sideways glance. “That the smallest you got?”

Ray took a drink from his glass. “Yeah, is that a problem?”

“Nah.” He took the bill to the register and brought Ray back his change. “You aren’t from around here, huh?”

“No.”

The bartender nodded and went to the phone at the end of the bar. The woman to Ray’s right scooted a seat closer. “You must be from the city. I like men from the city.” She rested her hand on his shoulder. “Ooh, you’re a big boy.”

He looked at her hand. It was wrinkled and dirty. She smiled at him exposing a black tooth near the back.

“Get your hand off of me.” Ray looked back down at his drink and pulled it to his mouth for a sip.

“Oh, you’re like that?”

Ray sat his drink back down in front of him and swatted her hand off of his shoulder. “I said get your hand off of me.”

The woman mumbled something that Ray couldn’t make out and went back to her original spot at the bar. He pulled the sleeve of his suit jacket back and got the time from his watch: 9:52 p.m. His contact should have already been there. Ray finished his drink and waved the bartender over. “Let me get one more.”

The bartender tilted the bottle of whiskey into Ray’s glass. “Three fifty. Are you here waiting on someone or something?”

Ray slid a five from his change sitting on the bar over to him. “Yeah. Or something.” He picked up the whiskey and took a sip. The front door opened and two men walked in. They took a seat at the other end of the bar. They sat and focused on Ray.

The bartender grabbed a couple bottles of beer and took them to the two men. He whispered something to them.

Headlights shined through the front window of the bar. A minute later the door opened and Ray’s contact walked in. He took the seat to his right. “You him?”

Ray nodded. “What do you know?”

“Cash first.”

Ray reached into his inside pocket. He pulled his jacket open far enough to allow the guy to see his shoulder holstered Desert Eagle. He took out an envelope and handed to him. “Now, what do you know?”

“We have a skiptracer that works downtown. He has something for you. The guy’s name is Scott. He’s expecting your call.” The contact handed him a number on a scrap of paper, stood and walked from the bar.

Ray slipped the piece of paper into his pocket. He lifted his glass of whiskey from the bar and took a drink. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the men at the end of the bar stare at him.

This is going to be fun
, Ray thought.

At almost three hundred fifty pounds of solid muscle, Ray was an imposing figure without weapons. Tonight he had a number of them. He finished his whiskey and took the two twenties from the bar. He stuffed them back into his wallet. Ray jammed his billfold back into his inside jacket pocket and undid the button securing his pistol. He stood and walked for the door. The two men stood. Ray walked about five feet outside of the front door and pulled the Desert Eagle from the holster. He turned, faced the door and waited.

The front door of the bar opened and the two men walked out. The door closed behind them. Ray watched the look of surprise cross the men’s faces. The man leading the way held a switchblade. The one in the back grabbed his friend by the shoulder.

Ray stood pointing the gun at them. The barrel of the pistol was just a few feet from their heads. “You guys planning on doing something?” Ray asked.

The guy with the switchblade tried hiding it behind his leg. “No. We were just trying to leave.”

“You always walk out of the bar after people with a switchblade?” Ray motioned with the barrel of the gun back toward the bar. “You sure the bartender didn’t call you guys up to come and try to roll me in the parking lot?”

The one in the back spoke up. “No one called us. I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t want any trouble. We were just leaving.” He grabbed his friend’s shirt and tried to pull him to the side. “Come on man.”

“Just wait a second there guys. Toss the blade on the ground.”

The man tossed the switchblade at Ray’s feet. Ray kicked it across the parking lot. “Now, pull out your wallets and pass them over.”

“Hey man, what is this? You’re going to rob us?”

Ray stepped toward them. “Wallets.”

They handed them over. He opened the first and found the I.D. “Which one of you is Jeff Kearn?”

The shorter of the two pointed to himself.

He opened the next wallet. The I.D. said: Thomas Reynolds—the guy with the switchblade.

Ray pulled the cash, driver’s licenses and credit cards from both wallets and stuck them in his pants pocket. He tossed the empty billfolds behind him in the parking lot.

“Now I’m going to teach you guys a little lesson. How about you first, Tom?”

Ray holstered his gun and jammed his hands into the front pockets of his suit jacket. The two men looked at each other confused. His hands came from his pockets. The dim street light that lit the parking lot shined off of the brass knuckles he wore on each fist. Ray swung on the man named Thomas first. Connecting with his cheek, Ray felt his fist shatter bone. He swung three more times—two lefts and another right that sent Thomas to the ground. Ray reached down with his left hand and grabbed Thomas by his hair. Ray delivered three more rights. Jeff ran for his truck. Ray walked after him. Jeff got inside and locked the door.

Ray walked up along the driver’s side of the truck and punched through the window. Jeff, covered in shattered glass, fumbled with the keys in the ignition. Through the void of the window, Ray struck him twice in the side of the face. Jeff rolled to his side on the seat. He scrambled to get to the passenger door to escape. Ray got the driver’s door open and yanked him out of the truck by his feet. As soon as he hit the ground, Ray swarmed him and rained down punches. When the blood started to splatter his suit, he stopped. Ray stood over Jeff on the ground. The man’s mouth hung open. Most of his front teeth had been broken out. His nose was crushed. Ray lifted his foot and stomped Jeff’s head until he stopped moving. He stuck a finger into the collar of his shirt and cracked his neck from side to side. “I think maybe you guys picked the wrong person to start something with.”

Ray let out a large breath through his nose. He put his hands in the front pockets of his suit jacket and let the blood covered brass knuckles fall inside. “Amateurs.” He lit a cigarette and headed for his car.

Chapter 5

It was a beautiful morning. The temperature was right around sixty five. The humidity was low. I opted to take the one mile walk from my condo to the station. I entered the building a few minutes before nine o’clock. A tall fresh cup of coffee accompanied me. Callie had just picked me up a new thermal mug. The last few times she stayed over she’d get up before me and make sure I had a cup for the road. I unlocked my office door and walked inside. As soon as I sat, Hank walked in.

“Are you just getting here now?”

I took the lid of my coffee mug and had a sip. “Yeah, I walked.”

He sat on the couch at the back of the room. “Didn’t want to drive your fancy new car?”

“It’s not that. It’s just nice out. I thought I’d enjoy the morning.”

He pushed himself back into the cushions and made like he was steering a car. “If I had that thing I’d be driving the wheels off it.”

I smirked. “Instead you’re driving the wheels off a pink hybrid.”

“Raspberry. It’s raspberry.”

I nodded. “Keep telling yourself that.”

“So how did your date last night go?”

“It was fine.”

“I was looking for a six month anniversary card at the store last night, but I couldn’t find one.”

I glared at him. He smiled and kicked a leg over his knee. I noticed he had reverted back to a normal suit and shoes instead of his high fashion attire from weeks past. Hank’s wife had recently signed with some high priced mail order suit subscription. The service came complete with a fashion consultant. I was guessing he finally saw the bill. “Did that outfit come from Box O’ Style? Looks pretty tame.”

He shook his head. “I decided to cancel.”

“Really?” I smiled. “Why is that?”

“I just wasn’t into their selections.”

I nodded. “You mean the bill came?”

He was quiet.

“How much per?” I asked.

Hank looked down. “Twenty-three hundred.”

I laughed.

“How many boxes before you saw the bill?”

“Five. In the last box was a four hundred dollar pair of socks. That was it.”

I smiled. “So did you just come in here to shoot the shit or what? Don’t you have some police work to do?”

“Not really. I was thinking about stepping out to grab a coffee? The coffee machine in the lunch room is on the fritz again.”

“Hey, maybe you can find a coffee upstairs in Missing Persons while you’re seeing if they have anything on our floater.”

He sat quiet for a second. A perplexed look covered his face. “Do you want me to go upstairs and talk to the guys about the Jane Doe?”

“Bingo. I need to fire off an email quick. I’ll meet you up there in a minute.”

“Am I supposed to talk to Schmidt or Steinberg?”

“Steinberg is on vacation.”

Hank nodded and left my office.

My sister had sent me somewhere along the lines of twenty emails containing photos and instructions over the last few days. She took my nephew Tommy to see Santa Claus at the mall. I needed to pick which photo I wanted sent to me. On top of that, they had just got family Christmas photos done, and I needed to go to the photographer’s website and choose some of those as well. I played the role of a good brother and uncle and chose my photos. Where I’d put them when they arrived would be another story. My condo was starting to become a shrine to my nephew.

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