Been a few days, on-line novel fans. Miss me? Chapter Five of our story follows. For those of you joining us in progress, you can catch up from the beginning here. Again, if you’re enjoying the read, why don’t you refer a friend? And, as always, thanks for reading.
Lynch was on his way into the office when McCord called him on his cell.
“Wasn’t expecting to hear from you yet,” Lynch said.
“No shit,” said McCord, mumbling through whatever he was eating. “Got done with you at what, ten? I was over at the other scene until after two. But I got something your gonna love. That second stiff, looks like another .22. Ain’t chopped anybody up yet, so you’re gonna have to wait on ballistics, and you get .22s bouncing around, they may be too fucked up to match up, but two guys getting popped with .22s inside a mile of each other on the same night? Thought you might wanna know.”
“Has to be the same gun,” Lynch said. “Can’t picture any of the gang bangers around there using a .22.”
“Nah,” said McCord. “Anything smaller than a nine, they’d probably be afraid their pricks would shrivel up.”
“What can you tell me about the second victim?”
“You’ll love this shit. Guy’s name is Saturday Membe. Refugee at some sort of shelter some nuns are running. Guy’s pretty much off the boat from Africa someplace. Missing a hand, if that helps. Looks like somebody took it off with ax maybe a couple years back. Guess he was standing out front, taking the air, somebody put four in his chest. After he was down, put four more in his left temple.”
“We’re sure on the .22 then, at least there. Eight shots, gotta be some brass.”
“Nope. Shooter took it with him.”
“Had to be an automatic – I’ve never heard of an eight-shot revolver. Makes him a calm mother fucker. Picking up the two in the United Center bathroom, fine. Those had to be right there. But eight shells off a public sidewalk?”
“I know. Also, this Saturday guy, he’s right outside this shelter, you got eight shots, and nobody heard anything. So I’m thinker suppressor again. Oh, and the eight shots? You got two groupings, one in the chest, one in the head. Both of them inside three inches. Gate on the fence around the yard locks and it wasn’t open, so they guy was shooting from twenty feet or so, and shooting quick to get all four into the guy’s chest before he went down. So it’s not some spray-and-pray job. Guy can shoot some.”
“Eight shots seems like a lot.”
“You can put a lot of .22s in somebody and leave ‘em breathing, you don’t put them in the right places. This boy put them all in the right places.”
“Any cameras?” Between red-light cameras and police surveillance cameras in high-crime areas, Chicago is the most photographed city in the world.
“Got a red light box at the end of the block. Might be close enough to get you something, provided anybody ran the light at the right time.”
“You tell Starshak?” Starshak ran Lynch’s squad. If they were looking at the same guy that did Stein, then the second shooting was going to get reassigned to Lynch.
“Gonna, so as we hang up.”
“So,” Lynch said. “We got a shooter, gets himself in Stein’s box somehow, gives him the double tap, then walks up the street and goes all OK corral on some refugee.”
“Mostly that it seems fucked up.”
“Helpful,” Lynch said.
“Sure,” said McCord. “Trustworthy, brave, all that other shit, too.”
Lynch called Starshak, caught him up. Bernstein would be buried in paper going through Stein’s business, so Lynch jumped on Ogden and cut down to Madison. Just like his school days. Off to see the nuns about some trouble.
The shooting took place in front of an old three-story brownstone a few blocks west of the United Center on Madison. Place was well maintained – small, neat lawn out front behind a waist-level wrought-iron fence. West Madison used to be skid row from the Loop west, but it had been gentrified now, most of the way out to the stadium. West of the stadium, though, it was still a rough neighborhood.
Lynch looked up the street at the red light camera covering the intersection. Two houses up. Probably not the right angle to get anything on the sidewalk, but it might have a shot of the cars parked on the street this far back. Shots on that would be time stamped so at least they could see if a car left around the right time.
Lynch walked up to the door of the brownstone and rang the bell. A tall, slim women dressed in khaki slacks and a pricey looking beige crew neck let him in the gate. She was wearing a simply wooden cross on a leather string. Dark hair, fine features, decent figure.
“I’m Detective John Lynch. I’d like to ask you a few questions about last night.”
“Sister Mary Margaret ,” she said, putting out her hand. Lynch shook it, and the nun walked him into the house. He caught just a glimpse of a black man in a room of to his right, the man quickly ducking out of view. The nun ushered Lynch into a small room to the left.
“Our residents come from a place where any man with a gun is a man to be feared, detective. We will talk in here. If you want to speak with any of our guests, I will ask that you make sure that your weapon is out of sight.”
“Fair enough,” said Lynch. “So what can you tell me about your guests?”
“What do you know about Africa, detective?”
“Big place, lots of countries, pretty screwed up. Not sure I should generalize about the whole continent.”
“Our guests are all refugees from west Africa, primarily Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our order has a very active mission presence there. While the civil wars in these countries have calmed somewhat, there is still tremendous tribal violence. All of our guests would be killed if they remained. We help them secure political asylum and try to help them start new lives. The man who was killed last night, Saturday Membe, was from Liberia. He had only been with us three weeks.”
“I remember Liberia, that Taylor guy, right?”
“Charles Taylor, yes. An amoral thug. He overthrew the government working with a group called the RUF. When you meet out guests, detective, you’ll notice that many are missing at least one arm. Lopping of limbs is an RUF trademark. Many of our guests also were forced to work in the diamond mines. These are the famous conflict diamonds – blood diamonds. It’s how the Taylor’s of the region pay for their wars. The men are forced to work in the mines essentially as slaves. If they are caught trying to keep a diamond, they lose an arm, if they aren’t killed.”
Lynch nodded. “You mentioned tribal violence. These guys here all get along?”
“Nothing like that here. And none of our guests have guns.”
“Did you see or hear anything unusual last night?”
“Anything strange about Saturday’s behavior? He seem agitated, frightened?”
“All our guests are frightened. They’ve been abused by armed men in power their entire lives. Many have seen family members killed, their wives and daughter’s raped, they have suffered these horrible mutilations. And most have never been more than a few miles from their homes before. They come here and are in a completely foreign environment. We work to help them acclimate, but a newcomer like Membe is always frightened, always agitated. Anyway, I went through all of this with another detective last night. Do I really need to cover all this ground again?”
“Sister, did you hear about the shooting at the United Center last night?”
“Of course. A rich businessman is murdered and it leads the news. I couldn’t find any coverage of Membe’s murder at all.”
“There is some evidence that indicated that Saturday and the victim at the United Center were killed with the same weapon. I think the killer may have parked on the street near here, and that Saturday saw him and was murdered, maybe because Saturday could identify the killer’s car. Was there anyone parked out front last night?”
“In this neighborhood? Someone’s always parked out front.”
“Any cars that seemed out of place?”
“Not to me.”
“Anything special about Saturday? Anything that might have followed him over from Africa?”
“I’m not familiar with the details of his life there, Detective, beyond what he has shared with me in the past few weeks. He saw his family murdered, which would be unusual here, but it’s commonplace where Saturday was from. He was accused of stealing a diamond, so his hand was cut off. Also commonplace, I’m afraid.”
“You must have some records, though. I mean for the political asylum, there has to be an application, paperwork?”
“We don’t have those here. There is an attorney downtown that helps us with that. Doug Telling. He’d be able to get you any paperwork from that process.”
Lynch buttoned his coat to hide his gun, and then talked with the rest of the residents. Most of them spoke no English. Sister Mary translated. Nothing. One resident with jaundiced eyes and a skeletal face kept following Lynch around with a strange smile, making a gun with his fingers and shooting it at Lynch over and over again.