Murders in Progress

Veteran’s Day!

The Feds Continued…

(Episode 13)

 

“What the hell kind of cell is this?”  Agent Hailey said, looking around.

Leland wondered when they would remark on it.

Leland explained Ralph Bunch.  Ralph Bunch was their local poet/painter /alcoholic,  who had been doing fine with a wife and kids until he got kicked in the head while milking his cow one day, which gave him blinding headaches he assuaged with drink.  In time the headaches went away, along with his wife and kids – but the drink stayed.  The man was too proud to accept charity so when the cold came, Leland often had to arrest him – which actually was illegal.  And in return Ralph painted murals to pay for his room and board, ‘which probably was illegal too’, Leland mused.   ‘But what the hell, wasn’t illegal?’

In fact, just to see who had the better working knowledge of illegality in the area,  Leland and Ruth, now and then, would play the game, “So Arrest Me!” over lunch.  They’d flip a coin to pick someone in the area.  The first one to ‘seize or detain something by legal authority’,  won.   Sometimes it went on for days.  But they usually ‘got their man’.   Whoever scored a felony – the other person bought lunch for a week.  Leland had the upper hand in his understanding of the law, but Ruth was overwhelming with her knowledge of local affairs.  ‘Shit’, sometimes Leland wondered why he went driving around talking to people at all.

But to get back to what we were talking about, Leland had Ruth run out for Ralph’s paints and linseed oil.  And while Ralph worked, the two of them would often chat – sometimes elaborating on a mental design for the perfect woman – to the strains of Chopin or Rossini with the odor of art in the air.  It was a refreshing change from the boring smell of ‘office’ and staring at metal filing cabinets.  No one in Ralph’s art work ever needed arresting, except perhaps for lewd conduct.

“That’s his second wife.”  Leland smiled at the curvaceous nude with the ravishing lips who levitated above the bunk where they sat, pink nipples fully aroused with the left having an enlarging pearly droplet of mother’s milk hanging just above Agent Hailey’s squinting right eyeball.  ‘Whom actually’, Leland felt with absurd pride, ‘he had had a hand in designing.’  Fronds and lovely moonlit flowers abounded.  Strange animals filled the forest glade and strangely shaped clouds filled the ceiling sky.  Leland smiled.

“How’d this guy find someone like that to marry him, after being kicked in the head and having his face rearranged by a cow?”  Hailey frowned.

“He hasn’t.” Leland sighed.  “This is just the schematic …for the model  …for the prototype.”  Leland shook his head.

Hailey started to read some poetry scratched across the mons pubis.

“He’s our local John LeClair.”  Leland shrugged.

Hailey raised her brows and gave Leland a second look.   “He’s not a suspect?”

“Hailey, you want to run across the way and get us some coffee?”  Agent Curtis said.

“No,” Agent Hailey said.  But she rose, and walked out swiftly, probably to best plan where she could hide to kick Agent Curtis in the nuts when he emerged.

 

Agent Curtis coughed.  “You’ve been here ten years?”

Leland and Agent Curtis strolled back into his office.  Ruth had found them a respectable chair, produced it, commanded them politely out of the jail cell, and shut the door, where she listened, catching what she could.

Where Agent Curtis had sent Agent Hailey, Ruth didn’t know.  But she would find that out soon enough, too.  She found out everything soon enough.  That phone on her desk was like the center of a vast spider web.  It rang with any little ‘tingle’ in the firmament.

“Actually, I grew up here,” Leland said, staring out the window at Main Street, watching Agent Hailey stride across it.  Right now, the Press was right across the street drinking coffee in Mayor Pete’s Campaign café.  Leland could see them looking through the window back at him looking through the window at them.

“I know.”  Agent Curtis nodded.  “You played linebacker in high school.  Attended Stanford on scholarship where you majored in Criminal Law.  And then worked another eight years for the LA Police Department, where you rose through the ranks, finally breaking your pick in the Latin Gangs division.  Where, I imagine you may have picked up some Spanish.

“Si.  Beuno.  Sí, lo hice.”

“I’ll take that as a “yes”.”  Agent Curtis smiled.  “…with qualifications.”

“You’d be right.”  Leland was beginning to like him.  “You’re still not convinced Benny Green is not behind this, are you?”  He said.

“No, I’m not.”

“Why?”

“Benny isn’t a complete fool.  He reads the papers, and being a no-good, lo-life, dickhead, slime ball of a worthless dog pile of shit, he particularly likes the lurid crime stuff.  He reads that there has just been a recent horrific murder, in Nancy Loomis’ very area, committed by some kind of lunatic.  People are worried it could the beginnings of a serial killer’s rampage… and, Benny’s sure of it!   He got wind of what Nancy was doing with us, and this looks like a great way to tie up some loose ends.”

“Yeah, I can see that.”  Leland nodded.   This relaxed mano-mano charade had to end.  People were getting killed out there and he had work to do.   He rose.  “Well, as long as you feel that way, I would guess that the resources of the Federal Government are with us?”

“That’s pretty much the case,” Agent Curtis agreed.  “Until we have it confirmed, one way or the other.”

“Good.  Because I’ve got two bodies plus heads stacked up like cordwood over in the freezers at Vern Smithers’ butcher shop, and enough evidence bagged in the back room by some local teenagers here to keep a small army of agents busy for at least a week or so,” Leland said.

“Okay.”  Agent Curtis stopped on his way to the door.  “But tell me.  I’m curious.  How do you intend to proceed?  I’m guessing you are still hanging onto your crazy lunatic, theory of events.  But I would think in this isolated area, an oddball like this who suddenly appears would stick out like a sore thumb,” Agent Curtis observed.

“Not really.  The rural areas attract oddballs of every sort, plus drifters.  There’re a lot of itinerant farm laborers passing through.  And then we’ve got a large Latino community.”

“Your Spanish doesn’t help you there?”

“I know the Latinos well enough around here that they’ll tell me what they can’t tell me, and that’s pretty much everything.  Something goes haywire in their community and they kick the guy across the boundary so’s I can grab him.  But otherwise it’s a closed society.  We probably have a thousand undocumented aliens working all around here whose bosses aren’t particularly keen for them to be known, seen, or heard from.  If this screwball has any kind of sense, all he has to do is put on about 2 extra shirts and a baseball cap and we’ll be none the wiser.  He could be walking past outside right now, or buying a gallon of milk and a six pack of beer down at the store.”

As a matter of  fact, Leland had just turned away from the front window and was shaking Agent Curtis’ hand again,  as Stan walked past… wearing two flannel shirts and a dirty Seattle Seahawks football cap.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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