Read Determinant Online

Authors: E. H. Reinhard

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

Determinant (8 page)

BOOK: Determinant
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“Knees,” Ray said.

“Please. We didn’t see anything,” the smaller one said. He lay on the ground staring up at Ray towering over him.

“We’re just employees. Take whatever you want from here,” the other said.

“I said knees.” Ray motioned down with the gun.

The two knelt against the back wall facing Ray.

“Please Mister. I’m begging you. I have a family,” the smaller one said.

“Then you’ll be first.”

Ray aimed the gun at his forehead. The man knelt five feet away. Ray pulled the trigger, panned left, and pulled again. The sound of the two shots was ear shattering. The noise echoed from wall to wall of the small room. As deafening as the sound was, the cooler would insulate the noise. The sound wouldn’t escape far from the building.

Red mist hung in the air. A spray of red soaked the white buckets sitting on the shelves. Chunks of flesh and brains rolled down the back wall. The two men’s lifeless bodies had collapsed to the floor.

Ray took two more steps into the freezer and put another shot, center mass, into each man. His ears rang. Ray picked the four shell casings from the freezer floor and pulled the handle to exit.

Ray searched the corners of the room for cameras. He spotted nothing.

He held the pistol at his hip and cracked open the back door. There were no sounds of sirens. The alley was empty. Ray walked out. He holstered the pistol, pulled off the pantyhose mask and took a roundabout way back to the car.

Chapter 11

My phone chirped and vibrated across the nightstand next to my bed. I reached over with my right hand, picked it up and brought it in front of my face. My left hand dug into my eyes for a hard rub. My vision began to clear. The noise wasn’t my alarm. I looked at the time: 7:06 a.m. I had a missed call and voicemail from my ex-wife.

We’d only spoken once or twice since she was released from the hospital. Those conversations consisted of me trying to apologize, and her saying she never wanted to speak to me again. My sister Melissa provided me with the occasional update on her health. From what Melissa said, Samantha had made a full recovery from the lobotomy attempt and had gone back to work.

I tapped the button to listen to the message.

Carl, I figured I’d try you before work. We should talk about some things. I’m having these weird feelings. I just want to talk. Please call me back.

I hit delete. I didn’t know what to make of it.

Callie rolled over in bed behind me. She threw her arm over my side. “Who was that? Work?”

I weighed my options to answer her question. It was simple, either lie or tell the truth. I knew what the outcome of each response would be. There would be a talk about feelings and my ex-wife if I remained honest. If I lied about the call, I’d feel guilty and end up telling her the truth anyway. That would lead to an argument about lying, followed by the same talk about feelings and my ex-wife. I was screwed. “Samantha for some reason.”

Callie sat up in bed.

Damn, I should have lied.

“Your ex-wife?”

I nodded my head. “Yeah.”

Callie scooted her back up against the headboard and looked over at me. The expression on her face wasn’t one I had seen before. It was anger or worry. “What did she want?”

I shook my head and made my best
I don’t care face
.

“Well, what did she say?” Her tone said she didn’t plan on dropping the topic.

“She said she wanted to talk about something.”

As the words came from my mouth the look on Callie’s face changed—it was worry. I tried to find some magic words to diffuse the situation. I came up blank.

“Are you going to call her back?”

“Yeah, I guess I should find out what she wanted.”

Callie got up and walked from the bedroom without saying anything. She closed the door behind her. After ten minutes, she still hadn’t come back. I got up, put on my clothes and walked out to find her. She sat on the living room couch with Butch in her arms. I walked over and sat next to her. Asking her what was wrong seemed like a stupid idea, but I did anyway.

“What’s wrong?”

“What do you think is wrong?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t control who calls my phone. I mean, it’s not like I called her asking to talk.”

Callie’s eyes darted over at me and she let out an angry breath through her nose. My logic had no place in this time of women’s emotions.

“I’m sorry she called. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it was someone else. Remember we talked about the whole honesty thing?”

She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “You should have just lied.”

“No I shouldn’t have. I’ll call her back and find out what she wanted. That’s it. I don’t see why her calling should cause us to argue. Sam and my relationship has been over for years. I mean, hell, she’s remarried and…” The look on Callie’s face just told me to shut up. I did.

She got up in a huff and walked to the kitchen. I followed her. She started to make coffee. Each movement was fast and violent. She grabbed two coffee cups from the cabinet and knocked them down on the kitchen counter, followed by her jamming a single serve cup into the machine and splashing water in and over the side. She pushed a coffee cup into the machine hard enough for it to slide back and rock. Her hand slammed into the button to start the coffee. The coffee mayhem was somewhat amusing to me but in hopes of staying alive I didn’t dare crack a smile. “Callie, I’m sorry. It’s not that big of a deal.”

The coffee maker bubbled and beeped telling her it was done. She yanked the cup out and sat it down hard in front of me spilling a little over the top. She lunged into the fridge to grab the creamer and set it down next to my cup equally hard. “Yes, it is a big deal.”

I unscrewed the top on the creamer and poured some into my cup. I didn’t want to ask for a spoon to stir it in. “Why is it such a big deal?”

“Because I love you and I don’t want to lose you.” Her words came out quick as if by instinct. Her face said she wanted to jam them back into her mouth, but it was too late. It was the first time she said it, and it hadn’t crossed my mind to think about saying it to her. Not that I didn’t, I just never thought about it. By my figuring, I had about fifteen seconds or less to assess my feelings toward her. The situation would get a lot worse if I didn’t say it back. I was on the clock. We had a great time together—nine seconds. I saw this going somewhere—five seconds. She was gorgeous—three seconds. I didn’t want to lose her. It was all I had time for. I sat on the barstool at the breakfast bar. “I love you too and I’m not going anywhere.”

She tried to hide a smile. They were the magic words I looked for earlier.

She took her cup of coffee from the machine and stood at the breakfast bar across from me. “Good, because I’m pregnant.”

I thought I heard her wrong, but wasn’t sure what the sentence could have been mistaken for. “You’re what?”

She pointed to her stomach. “Baby.”

I didn’t know what to say. It was like someone exploded a bomb in my head. Flashes of my life with dirty diapers, swing sets and toys underfoot rushed through my head. Visions of moving in together and nights of less sleep than I already got. The last few weeks of her not drinking now made sense. I remembered the captain talking about family yesterday. My brain had never moved faster. It was taking too much time for me to respond.

“But we…”

I know we were careful.

“And it’s definitely…”

She interrupted. “If you’re about to ask me if it’s yours, I swear to God I’m going to grab a knife from the kitchen and stab you in the face.”

It took care of that question. “Are…”

She interrupted me again. “If you’re going to ask me if I’m going to keep it, again, knife.”

I sat quiet for a second trying to get my bearings. I needed to buy time. “Come here.”

She walked over, sat on my knee and put her arm around my neck. “It’s kind of a lot to take in, huh?” She smiled.

I let out a deep breath, smiled back, and sat quiet.

“Well, come on, talk,” she said.

I tried but couldn’t come up with anything.

She faced me and pulled her head in close trying to read my emotions. “Are you happy? Are you leaving me? You have to say something.”

I just stared back at her.

She pulled me closer and kissed the side of my face. “Do I need to go get a knife?”

I shook my head and kissed her. “No knife.” I smiled. “I’m not leaving you.”

“You’re going to need to say something about the baby part.”

“It’s life changing.” They weren’t the right words, but I couldn’t think. I didn’t know if I was happy, but didn’t feel upset. I was in shock. It had to be shock.

It was more news than I could process in such a short period.

She kissed me again and hugged me. She spoke into my ear. “I know it’s a ton to take in. Take your time. We’ll figure it out.”

We spent the next forty five minutes drinking coffee and talking. Well, she talked, and I nodded in agreement while I drank cup after cup trying to wrap my head around the situation. It would have to wait, I needed to get to work. I almost forgot my holster and weapon. I did forget my coffee on the breakfast bar. It was a five minute drive to work. As I sat in the station’s parking structure, I couldn’t remember how I got there.

Chapter 12

I spent the morning at the station in a complete fog. The afternoon was the same. Hank came and went from my office a number of times. I asked him to deal with getting the statement from Eric Blake, our bartender from Frank’s, and set him up with a sketch artist. I spoke with Jenny Cartwright’s father. From our fifteen minute talk, it became clear that he had his blinders on when it came to his daughter. I was certain I knew more about her life from the file on her than her own father did. He had nothing to offer that would help us on the case. I assured him that I’d keep him informed as we progressed.

I spoke with Callie twice. She asked me if I was alright at least ten times. I told her I was. It might have been a lie. She said she was going to go home after work. She worked until close. A night alone would give me some time to think, she said. I didn’t fight her on it.

I was a half hour into sitting at my desk staring at the wall when Hank knocked on the door sill and broke my concentration.

He walked in, sat and tossed the sketch of our suspect on my desk. I gave it a quick once over. I didn’t recognize the guy.

Hank spoke up. “Talk to Ed yet?”

I put my feet up on the file box next to my desk that had been serving as a foot rest. “About?”

“The weather.” Hank raised his eyebrows. “About the GSW victim from yesterday. You know, police work? Ed said he’d have the autopsy report done sometime this morning? It’s pushing two thirty. Geez, what’s with you today?”

“Sorry. No I didn’t talk to him. I’ll give him a call.”

Hank tapped a pen on my desk and rearranged himself in the chair. “Well something damn sure has you off. I don’t even think you noticed the last time I walked in here. You just stared off into space like a zombie.”

“What? When were you in here last?”

“When I brought you a coffee, asked you about lunch and told you to snap out of it? You just kind of grunted for a response.”

I looked down. An untouched coffee sat at the corner of my desk. I felt the side of it. It was cold. “Sorry, Buddy. It’s been a weird morning to say the least.”

“Well, come on, spill it.”

I shook my head. “Nah, I’ll be fine. I’ll get on the horn with Ed about that report.”

“Not that easy, start talking.”

“Hank, I’m fine.”

“I’ll go get the captain and we’ll head over to the box with you. Get you under the spotlight until you talk. We’ll have ourselves a nice little lock in. I don’t have anything to do tonight. Karen will be playing poker with her friends until at least midnight.”

I let out a deep breath. Maybe getting the situation out in the open could help. “Alright. Fine. So I woke up this morning to a voicemail from Samantha. She said she wanted to talk.”

“You didn’t tell Callie your ex-wife called you, did you?”

I nodded my head.

“You’re stupid. Hold on, this is going to be good.” He got up from the chair and went to sit on the back couch. “Ok, much better. So how did that conversation go? I bet not so hot.”

I rocked back in my chair. “That’s just the beginning.”

Hank smiled. “Go on.”

“So Callie storms off into the other room—I gave her a few minutes, and went after her. I told her that I couldn’t control who called me and it was nothing to worry about.”

Hank pointed at me. “That’s screw up number two right there. Never try to use logic with an emotion woman. I should write these down for you. It’s been a while since you dated. So then what happened?”

“She told me she loves me and doesn’t want to lose me.”

Hank nodded. “So you had to tell her you loved her back. Is that what’s got you all scatterbrained?”

“Nah, I can deal with that. As soon as I told her, she…”

Hank interrupted. “Told you she was a man?” He smirked, pleased with himself that he could slip a zinger into the situation.

I shook my head. “Pregnant.”

Hank’s head snapped back. “Pregnant?”

I nodded.

“Yours and going to have it?”

I nodded again. “She threatened to stab me in the face with a knife when I started to ask those two questions. So I’m pretty much positive on that.”

“Damn.” He shrugged his shoulders unsure of what he should say next. “I guess congratulations?”

“I guess.”

“You know, my parents were only together a few months when they got married. I’m guessing my mother being pregnant with my older brother had something to do with the shotgun wedding. They’ve been together forty some years now. They’re still married and get along.”

“Can we leave the marriage thing off the table for today? I’ve had my fill of things to think about.”

“Nothing gets your mind off of problems like greasy food and dead bodies. Want to grab a late lunch and take a ride over by Ed?”

I thought about the mounting work on my desk. I hadn’t done anything all morning or afternoon. “Nah, I’ll raid the vending machines in the lunch room. I have too much stuff to do.”

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