Wyatt's Revenge: A Matt Royal Mystery (4 page)

BOOK: Wyatt's Revenge: A Matt Royal Mystery
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At that moment, Rupert jerked his left hand out from between the cushions. He was holding something, raising the hand to me, a threatening gesture. I pulled the trigger, sending a bullet into his simian brain, killing him instantly. The force of the slug pushed his head against the back of the sofa, his left hand unclenching and dropping the object of my fear into his lap.

I was stunned at the almost instantaneous events. I’d been distracted by his fear and hadn’t paid attention to his left hand. Then, in a flash, a hand coming up, my finger squeezing a trigger, the end of a life. I looked at the object in his lap. A Kel-Tec P-32, a small .32-caliber semiautomatic pistol often carried as a concealed weapon. Now I knew why he’d sat on the sofa, seemingly so unconcerned about my holding a gun on him.

I sat on the weight bench, staring at the body of a man who deserved to die, trying to make some sense of it. I had made myself judge, jury, and executioner. Sure, I’d killed him in self-defense, but I had come into his home with a murderous intent. There’s no jury in America that wouldn’t convict me of first-degree murder. I could turn myself in and face the consequences, but I couldn’t contemplate life in prison. I was a lawyer, a man who believed in the dignity of every person, who knew in his gut that he’d just committed a crime that he could never rationalize. I’d have to work on that. I had just moved outside the law for the first time in my life, and I felt cold in that bitter wilderness.

I moved into Rupert’s bedroom. There was a double bed, unmade, the sheets tangled. A bedside table held a reading lamp and a semiautomatic pistol. I left it where it was. Across the room was a dresser with six drawers and a table on which rested a desktop computer and monitor. I ransacked the drawers, finding nothing but underwear and tee shirts and a wad of cash, fifty-dollar bills still in the bank wrappers, stuffed in a plastic bag from Publix. I put the money in the bag, unplugged the computer from its peripherals and left, taking the bag and the machine with me. Maybe Debbie could retrieve something from the hard drive. Hopefully, the cops who investigated would think it was a robbery. I’d let them figure out why the thief hadn’t taken the gun.

I was a little concerned about the blonde having seen me, but I didn’t think she’d be of much help to law enforcement. She hadn’t gotten a good enough look at the badge to see that it was from Longboat Key, and the rental car was a nondescript Chevrolet. I’d smeared mud over most of the license plate number, so that it was unreadable. If a cop stopped me because of the obscured tag, I’d simply wipe it off and be on my way. Orlando was the largest car rental market in the world, and every day over one hundred thousand cars were rented out by the various agencies. I’d rented mine from the Sarasota airport. It would be just another anonymous vehicle, and nearly impossible to locate in the swirling mass of metal that rode the streets of the metropolitan area.

CHAPTER SEVEN

The death of a friend impales you with a barbed javelin of despair. The loss is so exquisite, the pain so acute, that you are numbed for a time. You walk into a place, a bar perhaps, or a restaurant where you’ve always found your friend sitting, drinking, eating, laughing, and he’s not there. His absence, and the permanence of it, strikes you in the heart. It’s a momentary feeling of inexplicable grief, an emotion not unlike that of a lost love. But while the lost love may reappear some day, the dead are gone forever. You feel helpless and a little lost.

I was driving back to Longboat Key, I-4 stretching out in front of me, an unkind sky looming in the distance. Lightning flashes streaked the dark clouds, a storm brewing. I’d be in it soon. The sky matched my mood, dark and somber.

Wyatt was on my mind, but so was Michael Rupert. The emotions that had abandoned me when I was standing over Rupert deciding whether to kill him were coming now, welling up in my mind like a tempest; regret, remorse, dismay. I was glad of that. It meant that I was still human. I’d slain a monster, an egregious accumulation of protoplasm who had killed randomly for money, without a thought of the consequences. He would have killed again and again, and by taking him out, maybe I’d saved the lives of future victims. Or maybe I had only ensured that a different killer would be hired to do the work of those who made the decisions to erase a person from this life. Maybe all I had done was taste the bitter bile of revenge.

Still, I was surprised that I had it in me to kill in cold blood. And that’s pretty much what I’d done. If I hadn’t been so intent on revenge, I wouldn’t have gone to that apartment and put Rupert in my gun sights.
But the bastards who took Wyatt’s life did not deserve to live. Maybe it wasn’t in my province to make that decision, but I had made it, and I would carry out the punishment. When it was over, if I survived, I’d deal with the part of me that I didn’t like, that didn’t fit with my perceptions of myself. I hoped the killing was over, that I could make a case that would interest a prosecutor. But if not, I would do what I had to do. Maybe.

My windows were down. The air was heavy, the smell of rain drifting into the rental car. Droplets began to hit the windshield. I rolled up the windows and turned on the wipers. Bigger and bigger blobs came down, and soon streaks of water were running off the windows. Lightning flashed all around me, the thunder following close behind. Cars slowed, some pulling off the highway to wait out the storm. I kept going, plowing through the water that was beginning to accumulate on the road.

A semi passed me, throwing up sheets of dirty water, obscuring my view. I slowed more, concentrating on my driving. The rain slackened, slowed, the drops tapering off into nothing. The storm was moving on, and the traffic was picking up speed.

It was dusk now, and the cars and trucks had turned on their lights. I found the ramp onto I-75 and headed south for home. Rupert’s ghost was riding with me, the storm a harbinger of the nightmares to come, the scene of his death playing over and over in my head.

I drove on into the night, knowing that others would die before I was finished, wondering who they were, and what reason they could have had for ordering the death of a gentle professor named Wyatt. My soul was as dark as the road, and I could see no light there, only the shadows of the dead.

CHAPTER EIGHT

The storm of the night before was part of a cold front pushing down from Canada. Saturday dawned bright with a cerulean sky devoid of even a wisp of cloud. This early in the year, the fronts don’t drop the temperature so much as they cleanse the air of humidity. I rode my bicycle to the Blue Dolphin café for breakfast with Logan. Walkers, joggers, and cyclists crowded the sidewalk, waving and nodding at passersby, everyone enjoying the mood brought about by our first autumn day.

Except me. I hadn’t slept much. My dreams were dark with dread and images of dead men; Wyatt and Rupert and soldiers I’d lost in fetid jungles. I twisted and turned in the bed and soaked the sheets with the sweat of the damned. I’d awake to the horror of what I’d done, the murder of a man who needed killing, but a man nevertheless. I’d drop off to sleep again, only to be met by Stygian images of men who no longer were in this world. Finally, I got up, made coffee, and watched the sun rise over the bay.

Logan was sitting in a booth sipping tomato juice and reading the morning paper. “You look like shit,” he said.

“Good morning to you, too.”

“I’m serious. You look like shit.”

“That’s the way I feel.”

I ordered coffee and a Belgian waffle. Logan asked for eggs fried over hard and hash browns.

“How did it go yesterday?” he asked.

I told him. I told him every gory detail. I told him that I’d planned to murder a man in cold blood, and I told him of my decision not to kill the monster. I told him that I’d shot in self-defense and that I’d thought I’d feel
good about it. I told him that I felt lousy, but at the same time, was glad that the man who’d killed my friend was dead. I told him that I was afraid I’d crossed a line, some sort of a border that kept the depraved and the sane separated. I told him that I was filled with remorse and elation, with apprehension and confidence, and with a burning desire to kill those who were responsible for Wyatt’s death. And I told him I wasn’t sure I had it in me to exact the justice that Wyatt deserved. “I’m going to Miami to see Banchori.”

“I’ll go with you,” Logan said simply.

“Not this time, my friend. I need to do this alone. Stay here, and if I need you, I’ll call.”

CHAPTER NINE

I went home and counted the money from Rupert’s stash. There were eight stacks of currency, each containing twenty-five one-hundred dollar bills. Exactly twenty thousand dollars. Rupert said he’d been paid ten grand to kill Wyatt. Where had the extra ten thousand come from? Too late to ask Rupert. I shredded the bank bands and put the cash into a manila envelope. I addressed it to the Longboat Key Library. I put the shredded bands, my .38-caliber pistol and silencer in the plastic bag I’d brought from Rupert’s apartment. The computer was still in the trunk of the rental car parked in my condo lot.

I called Debbie. “I’ve got a computer I’d like you to look at. See if you can find anything in the hard drive.”

“Whose is it?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Does this have anything to do with the information I gave you on Thursday?”

“Yes.”

“What did you do about Mr. Rupert?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Geez, Royal. You’re pretty damned secretive.”

“It’s my nature.”

“Right. Everybody knows you can’t keep a secret.”

“This one needs to be kept, Deb. My life depends on it.”

“No sweat, Matt. You know you can count on me.”

“I know.”

“Come on over.”

“See you in a few minutes,” I said, and hung up.

I left the computer with Debbie, and on the way back, I dropped the money at the post office. The library wouldn’t know who their benefactor was, but they’d be pleased. You can buy a lot of books for twenty grand.

My boat, a 28-foot Grady-White walkaround, was moored at the dock in front of my condo. I took the bag with the gun and shredded bank bands, boarded the boat, and loosed the lines. I chugged out of the marina, motoring north on the Intracoastal and out Longboat Pass. I headed straight out to sea, and when I could no longer see land, I heaved the bag with the pistol overboard. No ballistics expert would ever tie my gun to Rupert’s murder.

I came back to my condo, washed down the boat, and drove my Explorer to a gun shop in East Bradenton. I bought another .38, filled out the forms and left. I’d have to wait three days to actually get the gun. It’s called a cooling off period, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If somebody is pissed enough to want to shoot someone, I don’t think three days is going to make a lot of difference. I told the clerk I’d be back Tuesday to pick up my pistol.

I drove back to Longboat Key, and spent the evening at the outside bar at the Hilton. The place was crowded with locals enjoying the cooler weather. More of the snowbirds were drifting back, and a few were sipping their drinks and catching up on the island gossip. A quiet night on a small island of serenity in an ever more dangerous world.

On Sunday, Logan and I and our buddies K-Dawg and Goldie went fishing. We took my boat out to an artificial reef three miles off Anna Maria Island and drank beer and let lines dangle in the water. We didn’t catch any fish, but we joked and laughed, told a few lies and enjoyed the day. The dark cloud hanging over me was gradually dissipating.

On Monday morning I called Debbie to ask if she’d found anything on Rupert’s computer.

“He’s a pedophile. The bastard has all kinds of pictures of children in sexual poses. There’re also some pictures of a grown man having sex with very small children. Both boys and girls.”

“Anything else?”

“Isn’t that enough? The sonovabitch ought to be shot.”

“You’re probably right. What else?”

“Nothing much. I think he used his computer as a picture album. He visited a lot of child porn sites and downloaded a lot of images. There’re a few e-mails, but they mostly have to do with his getting more pictures.”

“An address book, bank information, personal information, anything like that?”

“Nada. Just a lot of disgusting pictures.”

“Describe the man in the pictures to me.”

She gave me a description that could fit Rupert.

“Who did he communicate with by e-mail?”

“Mostly some guy in New York named Chardone. They were sending pictures back and forth.”

“Thanks, Deb. You can toss the computer or keep it. Mr. Rupert won’t be needing it anymore.”

“If that means what I think, I’d say good.”

“Doesn’t mean a thing. Talk to you soon.”

I checked the online version of Central Florida’s daily newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel. There was nothing on the murder of Michael Rupert. I spent the rest of the day on my own computer, searching out anything I could find on Max Banchori. It wasn’t much.

On Tuesday morning, I finished my coffee and donut breakfast and checked the online Orlando Sentinel once more. There it was. The cleaning lady, whose name was Tammy something or other, had found the body on Monday when she came in to clean. There was no identification on the body or in the apartment, but Tammy told the police that the man’s name was Rupert. The mystery deepened when the detectives found that the apartment was leased to a New York City policeman named Rudy Chardone. Fingerprints confirmed the dead man’s identity as the New York City police officer. The lead detective was quoted as being puzzled. There were no suspects, but with a dead cop the heat would be intense.

I called Debbie. “Is there anyway to identify the person who owned the hard drive I gave you last week?”

“Oh, yeah. His name was all over it. Those e-mails will tie Rupert to it without question.”

“What about the other guy?”

“Chardone? Sure. Do you know who he is?”

“I think so. Get the hard drive out of the computer. I’ll pick it up in an hour or so.”

BOOK: Wyatt's Revenge: A Matt Royal Mystery
11.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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