Guess all I had to do was whine a little, Mammon fans. That got me back on track. The Winchester Mansion Writing School is back in session. So here’s your next chapter. If you’re just joining in and want to catch up with the story so far, click here. As always, your feedback is welcome. And, as always, thanks for reading.
“You’re one lucky fucker, Lynch,” said Detective Dick Karsten. He was an Area 2 cop Lynch went back to the Academy with. “Powers that be got a hard on for you, every weird ass case we get, they dumping it on you?”
Starshak had called Lynch and told him to get down and eyeball a crime scene on the old US Steel property on the lake on the far south side. Something about more .22s.
“Looks that way,” Lynch said. “How it’s been going? I hear you dumped that place up in Eagle River.” Karsten had flipped a handful of properties in the North Woods over the years, guy knew his way around a tool box. He’d helped Lynch out at his place on a couple times, Lynch taking some time here and there over the years to pitch in up north.
“Sweet deal,” said Karsten. “Some trader started in on his log dream home on Big Arbor Vitae, over toward Minocqua. Know it?”
“Between there and St. Germain, yeah.”
“Place is like 3800 square feet. Guy had just got it enclosed when the market tanked. Foreclosure sharks were circling. Swapped my place for his. He still has his Northwoods love pad, I finish this out nice, I make a damn killing. Property’s got another little two-bedroom three-season job on it, too, so I get things fixed up, I can parcel that off.”
“Sounds nice. You need some help up there, let me know.”
“Gets to where I need the unskilled labor, you’re my first call.”
Lynch looked past Karsten to where Bernstein had joined some crime scene guys who were working around a body – big, fat guy on his back. “So what have we got?”
“What you got here is Beans Garbanzo.”
“Corsco muscle,” said Lynch.
“Yep. And down yonder where McCord is fucking around, you got Snakes DeGatano.”
“And they both got done with .22s?”
“I’ll let McCord fill you in on that. Don’t want to ruin his fun.” Karsten looked at his watch. “I’d stick around and help with the canvas, but canvas what, you know?” The empty US Steel site stretched almost to the horizon. “Damn, almost five. And with the cavalry here, I can make first pitch at Comisky. Ya’ll have fun now.”
Lynch walked over and joined Bernstein.
“Twenty twos?” Lynch asked.
“Three of them, nice grouping right in the forehead.”
“So what’s with all the blood?” Garbanzo had blood all down the front of his shirt, some more on his right leg from the knee down. Three to the head, guy should have been DOA right off, so he wouldn’t have bled much, especially laying on his back.
“Some kind of trauma to the side of the head – doesn’t look fatal, but he got it a good bit before he got shot.”
“You catch the hip holster?”
“The empty one? Yeah.”
Lynch turned to one of the techs. “You guys turn up any weapons?”
Guy shook his head.
Lynch looked down toward the second cluster of uniforms. “Guess we better go see what McCord has for us.”
It was almost half a mile down to the next body. DeGatano was also on his back, some blood on the front of his track suit from a wound in his neck. Lynch squatted down. Round hole, but it looked more like a stab wound than a bullet. Shadow fell on Lynch, and he could hear whoever it was chewing on something. McCord.
“OK, McCord, Karsten didn’t want to rain on your parade. So I give, what’s up?”
“The fat guy back up toward South Shore, he got it with a .22 for sure,” said McCord. “And what made me think maybe your guy again is there’s no powder, no stippling, nothing like that, so he got it from at least a little ways off, and the nice grouping looked a lot like your shelter guy. Now the skinny guy, this is real interesting. That wasn’t a gun at all.”
“I was thinking a stab wound of some kind.”
“Bingo,” said McCord.
“Except I haven’t seen a lot of round knives.”
McCord help up an evidence bag. “Killer was kind enough to leave the murder weapon in the guy’s neck.”
Lynch stood up, looked at the bag. “A pen?”
“Yep. Thought you’d like that.”
“Can I see that?” Bernstein said. McCord handed him the bag. “Air France,” Bernstein said. “Interesting.”
“Why?” Lynch asked.
“This Hardin guy? From Oprah? Before a couple nights ago, all we hear is he’s from Africa, right?”
“And you want to fly from Africa, or West Africa anyway, to the US, I bet Air France may be your best bet.”
“Oh you want interesting, we got interesting,” said McCord. “You get a look at the fat guy? The head trauma?”
“Yeah,” said Lynch. “Wondered about that.”
“OK, we got this one set of tire tracks that stop right here, skinny dead guy right next to them, some scuffing on the ground, so I’m guessing he got dumped out of the car here. Way the blood ran down the front of his suit, he was either sitting or standing when somebody stuck the pen in his throat. So sitting in the car, probably. “ McCord walked a few yards toward the lake, toward a pile of rubble. He pointed a few yards south. “Over there, we got some marks on the ground, footprints, more scuffling, and some blood on the ground. Also a couple of rocks with blood on them. Between there and the fat guy, we got a bit of a blood trail – some droplets here and there all the way to the body. So I think somebody drove out here with these guys, stuck a pen in skinny, dumped him, then bounced a few rocks off the fat man. We’ll check the head wound, get some trace evidence, probably match it up to one of the rocks.”
“This guy plays Nolan Ryan with fatso here, then lets him walk most of the way back to South Shore, before he shoots him?”
“Nope. Our tire tracks here? They loop around and head back out to South Shore. The fat guy walked back up there after the car left – we’ve got his footprints on top of the tire tracks in a couple of spots. About maybe 15 feet from the fat guy, you got another set of tracks that pulled up and then pulled away. Different tread, different wheelbase.”
“Noticed fatso’s got an empty holster. Skinny strapped?”
“Nope. Track suit here’s got an empty shoulder rig. Haven’t done the formal test yet, but he’s got some gunshot residue on his right hand. I could smell that.”
“Could explain the blood over by your rock pile. Maybe he shot somebody.”
“We’ll type the blood, match it up, but I’m thinking that’s from the fat man. His blood trail is pretty much dot-to-dot from there to the body. Probably get more blood from a gunshot anyway.”
Lynch exhaled, looked out at the lake.
“So some guy drives down here with these two, they’re armed. He stabs skinny in the neck with a pen, skinny gets a shot off but misses. Our guy disarms fatso, throws rocks at him, gets back in the car and drives off. Then fatso walks back up toward South Shore, some other car pulls in. That guy shoots fatso dead and he drives off.”
McCord shrugs. “How it adds up.”
Bernstein held up the evidence bag. “The French. You get the French involved in anything you can figure on it being fucked up.”
Bernstein worked the phone all the way back to the station getting background on Hardin while Lynch turned shit over in his head. Body count was four, three with .22s, one with a ballpoint. Got a rich trader, an African refugee, two mob soldiers. On top of that, got a witness that puts this Hardin guy in Stein’s box right before the first killing, and now you got a video that ties Hardin to a movie star who happens to be in town working on a film. Only other time the two of them had been in the same place was in Africa, now they’re both here. What’s that song they sing on that kid show? One of these things is not like the other? Christ, Lynch would be happy if any of these things had anything to do with anything. Like a goddamn random clue generator or something.
Lynch, Bernstein and Starshak in Starshak’s office, Starshak up futzing with the giant fern that hung in his window.
“What you got on this Hardin, Bernstein?”
“French national,” Bernstein said. “Last ten years anyway, he’s been working as a sort of onsite logistics and security guy for news crews doing stories in Africa. That’s how he got involved with Jerry Mooney. Met him at some point, ended up as his right hand guy for a stretch, pretty much set up that whole Dollars for Darfur thing for him. Little over a year ago, he gets into that thing with Shamus Fenn, not much on him since. Couple of people I talked to said he came out of the Foreign Legion – nobody remembers him saying it, it was just what people heard. Anyway, checked the airlines. This Hardin flew Air France out of Casablanca three days ago – Casablanca to Kennedy, connection on United to Chicago. Landed just after 10:00 am the day Stein got shot. Checked the car rental places, working on the hotels, but it doesn’t look like he’s used the Hardin ID since he got to town.”
“And we got an Air France pen in mob guy one’s neck?” said Starshak.
“Yeah,” said Lynch. “Listen, we got his arrival time at O’Hare and we got his picture. Get that to the techies, he’s got to be on video at the airport, right? Track him out, see does he rent a car, does somebody pick him up, does he take the EL, or what.”
“Give us a place to start,” said Starshak. “Pretty clear he came here to see Stein. Any thoughts there?”
“Must have had something to sell, all I can think of,” said Bernstein. “Stein’s got his fingers in a lot of pies. Lots of commodities in Africa, lots of shady deals. Hardin had the right dope on something, Stein could pony up pretty good for it.”
Lynch’s cell rang. He checked the screen. McCord. “Yeah?” said Lynch.
“You remember the dirt on Stein’s pants, told you we’d check it out?”
“Yeah,” said Lynch.
“OK, dirt here is usually car exhaust or some other kind of urban scum somebody picked up. This was a little different. Had to send it over to a geology guy at UIC. I’ll send you all the fun science, shit about alluvial deposits and riverine something or another, but bottom line is this. Dirt’s from West Africa. And this dirt specialist guy, he had an interesting question. Wanted to know had anybody brought up diamonds. Said this type of dirt is consistent with the geology around West African diamond deposits.”
“Diamonds?” Lynch asked.
“Yep,” said McCord.
“Jesus, that feels like an actual lead.”