BY JEREMY RIDDLE
About the author
He had been wining and dining a foxy dish fresh in from the City of Angels, and he couldn’t have been more than an hour from convincing her that all cops weren’t egomaniacal little pricks—not that he had told her he was a cop or anything. He never got the chance, because his beeper went off, he called it in, and here he was, looking at spending the rest of the night in the cold gaze of stone-dead gangsters instead of the warm arms of a beautiful woman.
It would probably make a good cop bitter, but Parks wasn’t even a good cop. “Good” cops came to hate their job because they actually cared about it. They genuinely thought they could do some good in the world, and reality inevitably disillusioned them. Parks, on the other hand, never really liked his job in the first place. It payed the bills and that was all. When it got in the way of his life, he was mortified. The only consolation he had was that the desk sergeant he talked to had called the case “a bad one,” which usually meant lots of blood and guts. Parks had to confess he got a kick out of the blood and guts. It was probably the reason he had stuck with the job for all these years.
Tonight, though, this would be cold comfort indeed. Or so he thought.
He stepped out of his car and walked up to the scene, a large suburban home already crawling with uniforms and guys from forensics. As he came up the front walk, he saw one of the uniforms in the bushes beside the porch; he was puking his guts out. Well, thought Parks, this is promising…
He stepped up on the porch and corraled an M.E. he knew who was just coming out the front door. “What’s the story, Jerry?”
“First rate damn mess, Steve. Haven’t seen one like this in a while. Real massacre.”
“What’s the count?”
“Sixteen, so far. Maybe more; some of the pieces don’t seem to fit any of the bodies.” Chuckles.
“Jesus.” This was looking better all the time. “What the hell happened?”
“Looks like someone just came in and killed everybody. I was thinking mob hit, but if it is, it isn’t like any mob hit I’ve ever seen. Come on in. I’ll show you.”
They walked in the door into a sort of foyer, and Parks smelled it right away. It was blood; he knew the scent well. Rarely had he been to a fresh murder scene and not encountered it. But this was different. Blood at a scene smelled strong, but it was faint; you caught it in the air in snatches. Here it was like a solid wall, foul, almost overpowering. The way people say a slaughterhouse smells. To get this, you’d have to spill a LOT of blood.
“Damn,” he grunted.
“Believe that shit?” Jerry said. “Wait’ll you SEE this place.”
Jerry turned and led Parks down a hallway and into the slaughterhouse.
Everything in the den was upset, overturned, strewn hither and yon, or pounded to splinters by gunfire. There were bodies laying here and there, broken, burned, shot up, or chopped to pieces. Everywhere there were bullet holes. Immediately, something about it didn’t seem right to Parks, but he didn’t know exactly what.
Then Jerry told him.
“See, with a classic mob hit, the idea is to go in strong, strike fast, kill the objective, and fade away quickly. It’s a rub-out, not a shoot-out. If we’re looking at a hit, it’s a hit gone terribly wrong. These guys fought back. Not a little, but a lot.”
Parks didn’t say anything. He was glancing over the scene, taking it all in. Among the corpses and the rubbish, there were several empty clips and there were shell casings everywhere. He snapped on a pair of rubber gloves and picked up a .44 that was lying in the floor. It was empty; he could tell by the weight. He looked around some more. There was a dead guy with a snub-nose .38 still in his hand. The cylinder was open like he had been reloading when he was killed. There was a corpse lying face-up with a nasty bullet wound right between the eyes and a .45 automatic on his chest. Locked back. Empty.
Yep, they fought like hell, Parks was thinking, and then he noticed something else. “Shit!”
“What?” Jerry had been watching him.
“They threw all this lead around and didn’t kill anybody?”
Jerry looked at him, his question obvious.
“Look at these guys. All suits and ties, some rolled-up sleeves thrown in. Would you go to an assassination dressed like this?”
Jerry said he wouldn’t.
“When we put together a list of everybody we know was here. I’m bettin’ all these guys will be on it.”
“Maybe they carted off their casualties?”
“If they had any casualties, there will be some trace of it here somewhere, right?”
“Yep.” A guy gets shot, he bleeds. “`Course it’s possible whoever did this didn’t get anyone hurt.”
Parks grinned at this, Jerry being screwy. “Isn’t likely, though, is it?” He paused. “Show me the rest.”
“Oh, the best is yet to come.”
Parks had been frosted about even having to be here, but the scene had really put the hook in him. Here was a mystery. Technically he was a detective, but he had never come across an actual mystery in his work. Unlike on TV or in bad novels, there was never any mystery about who killed someone. There were always witnesses, plenty of evidence all over the crime scene, and an obvious suspect with a history that suggested his guilt. And he was always guilty. As a cop, Parks was really a garbage man. He collected evidence of these crimes so it could be used in court later. Here, though, was a chance to be a detective for real.
What he saw in the annex off the main slaughterhouse had sent the first cop on the scene that night home early, and it would have probably set Parks to drooling—metaphorically, of course—only an hour ago, but Parks was suddenly a detective, now, and he took it in stride, picked it apart with a detective’s detached eye.
The room seemed to be a kind of office/study, with a large
oak desk in the center, a metal filing cabinet to the side, and shelves
of books lining the walls all around. On the desk was proof positive
that Parks truly hadn’t seen anything yet. It was what looked to
be the remains of a fat guy, though it was hard to tell it was anything
that used to be human. It had the legs of a man, at least; they hung
off the side of the desk twisted in shapes legs were never supposed to
be in. There were also arms
and hands; they were neatly wrapped in plastic on the floor beneath the legs. The body itself was laying across the desktop in a big lump. It had been sliced open, peeled, and pinned that way with forceps. This was to get at the internal organs, which were layed out neatly on the desktop beside the body. There was no head.
Jerry threw him the kicker: “I think this guy lived through most of this.”
Death Deals is copyright Jeremy Riddle. It may not be copied or used
for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews.
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