ROBERT W. WALKER
Author of the Edge and Instinct Series, Cuba Blue, the Decoy Series & more…
Copyright © 2010 by Robert W. Walker, www.robertwalkerbooks.com
Cover copyright © 2010 by Stephen Walker, www.srwalkerdesigns.com
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Robert W. Walker.
Marcus Rydell instinctively rushed from his bedroom and out of the apartment, his 9mm in hand, taking the stairs two at a time. Even here in the stairwell, he could hear the distressed, keening cry of what sounded like a wounded animal, but it was all too human. Definitely a child’s scream, which meant probable cause for him to break down a door, something he’d always relished doing when he’d worked as an Atlanta cop.
The thought pumped blood to his every artery and to the brain. It felt wonderful, like a balm, like a spring shower and train whistle all conspiring to wake him the hell up and out of his previously paralyzing depression.
As he approached 58-B, Marcus made out words coming from an adult male inside. The man’s words were halting, pleading in turn, saying, “Hon-hon-honey, please n’more. Don’t h-hurt me! Please! I’ll be good to you, sweetie. I swear!”
The child endangerment laws left no doubt in Marcus’s mind. He shouted through the door, “I’m coming in! Open up in there, or I kick it in!”
Others in the building peeked from their doors, shy and tentative and curious, but of no help. “Call 9-1-1, lady!” Marcus shouted over his shoulder to a silver-haired woman. Terrified, eyes bulging, this neighbor slammed her door so hard that Marcus thought himself shot. The sound, like a gunshot, repeated itself up and down the hallway. No one wanted to get involved. Another elderly lady muttered, “Animals…you’re all animals!” before slamming her door.
More shouting and crying came wafting through the door at number 58-B. “Open it, now!”.
“Very helpful lady!” Marcus backed up, lifted his leg, about to kick when he heard the door latch come off. “I have a gun!” he now added, cautioning whoever had unlatched the door. Then it swung open wide.
In the doorway, stood a four-foot high Oriental girl, looking the same age as Rydell’s own daughter. The black-haired, wide-eyed child stood four-feet high and shaking. “I-I-I kilt him.”
“Him, da-da. Good ’n’ dead now.”
Marcus swallowed hard and put his gun away, tucking it into the small of his back beneath the white shirt he’d earlier donned for his farewell to the world as he’d been chewing on the same gun moments before. He saw that the girl had suffered multiple bruises. He assumed authorities would discover, and must assume many more welts beneath her clothing. A closer look into her eyes and features revealed a creamy colored skin and blue eyes. She looked partially Caucasian. “Where’s your mother, honey?”
“No! I nobody honey. No more never.”
“Your mother? Mama-san?”
“Don’t have one.”
“All right, let me have a look at your da-da over there.” The man lay still as death at the center of the room.
“He no my father neither. No papa-san!”
Marcus cautiously stepped inside and around the little girl, noticing now for the first time the bloody claw hammer in her hand; it dripped a trail from door to da-da’s bashed in face and skull. The girl may be little, but she knew how to wield a hammer with deadly effect. She had definitely taken daddy by surprise.
In fact, from the injuries the hairy, swarthy adult, had sustained, Marcus doubted he’d find a pulse, and he almost didn’t. Somehow through the excruciating blinding pain, the man muttered, “B-Bitch she…jeeze… caw’t me s-s-sleep.”
The effort spent to accuse the girl of murdering him in his sleep did him in entirely. Silent now for eternity, the disfigured child molester went in search of rigor.
Meanwhile, Marcus realized that the monster who’d just died had had some knowledge of the law, just enough to possibly punish this child once more—this time using the law. If the courts and attorneys learned that she’d attacked him while he slept, they could and would make out a case against her, despite her bravery. She could be portrayed as a cold-blooded killer in need of penitentiary time. Their case would rest on exactly what Daddy Dead had uttered, for at the time of the attack the little, frightened prisoner girl was in no immediate or imminent danger from the dead man. If established as true, this negated the self-defense argument regardless of the ugly circumstances and common sense.
Once she’d gotten the upper hand, the little girl, not yet in her teens, had repeatedly driven the hammer into him, concentrating on cranium and face. Not an unusual target for sexually abused victims when they fought back; there seemed a sense of urgency to deconstruct the face of her attacker. Given more time, she might well have deconstructed other of the man’s parts.
Marcus turned to the girl, who stood now with the hammer poised over his head. “I am a policeman, police, you know. Here to help you. What’s your name?”
“Kim, you understand English?”
“I know little. Know some Dutch and Pigeon.”
“Dutch, really? You’re a very intelligent girl, aren’t you?” Was one of her parents of Dutch heritage, he wondered.
“I am too smart for him,” she said, using the hammer to point to the dead man.
You can let go of that hammer anytime, OK? You don’t need it.” Hand gestures came into play.
She held firm to the hammer, her only salvation until now. “I know this man did terrible things to you, sweetie—”
“I no sweetie!”
“Sorry, sorry…dear, and I know you fought back—bravely. You were brave to fight back.” He reached an open hand for the hammer. “Please.”
“It was self-defense, yes?” he said.
“I kill him, yes. He bad. Beat me.” She held up a terribly bruised arm and the black around her left eye was apparent.
“ You had to protect yourself, Kim. Let me help you.”
“Police no good.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Police man, he sold me to this pig!” she spat on the dead man.
“Not all policemen are bad men, Kim.” Marcus wondered what kind of a cop could be involved in a child sex ring, but he also knew it happened more often than people wanted to know. It happened in big cities and small towns, and wherever abuse of power had been allowed to flourish from Seattle to Daytona Beach, from Boston to Hollywood, crisscrossing the country like a virus or a genetically coded element of evil in the human gene pool.
He silently and firmly cursed his own species.
The small girl finally relinquished the hammer, and sounding far older than her years, Kim said. “Take shower…clean blood off.”
Marcus nodded, understanding her need to both leave the room and the body, and to shower. “You don’t want to do that, Kim. Don’t shower before someone can get here to help you. We’ve got to show that this man raped you. We’ll need—”
“DNA, I know. Just wipe off stinking pig blood.”
“Got it. Understood. Wash your face, hands, but nothing more, understood?”
“D-Don’t want it on me!” She held up her bloody arms as if the red stuff burned, like acidic cesspool waste.
Marcus wasn’t sure of the wisdom of allowing the girl to wash even hands and face, or to be alone just now, but she spoke and acted like a forty-year-old. He feared she’d been though hell and back, but at least, on the trip back, she’d taken out the creep who’d held her hostage.
Marcus located the phone, having left his cell downstairs. By now the superintendent had stepped into the apartment and he’d gone ashen white and was shouting in Puerto Rican, “Oh, aye dios mio!” Behind him a small crowd of the curious pressed the doorway. Several took him for the killer, and Marcus realized he still had the bloody claw hammer in his hand.
Furthermore, he was no longer a police detective—hadn’t been for almost a year now. He was a failed cop and now a failed private eye standing with a murder weapon in hand over the body of a dead man. “Shit,” he muttered. Then he shouted, “Did you call the authorities?”
“Jess, jess, they coming.”
An eyewitness in the making, Rydell thought as his eyes bored into the superintendent, whose eyes registered terror.
“Hey, amigo, I didn’t do this!”
The super and others now who gathered behind him like a lynch mob only saw the bloody hammer.
# # #
Marcus called 9-1-1 only to learn that someone in the building had already alerted authorities. The dispatcher calmly assured him. “Help is on its way, Mr. Rydell.”
Rydell then turned to stare at the crush of neighbors now staring in at the bloody heap of flesh at the center of the room.
Some stood crossing themselves, while others fought for a better look, only to look away. The crush of faces reminded him of the people standing about the parade route taken by Christ as he carried the cross through the streets. How often had Marcus heard the rumor that mankind was on a march toward evolving into the caring, gentle most compassionate creature in the known world, left in charge of overseeing all the so-called lesser beasts? Some things never changed.
Then he saw one face in the crowd that caused a blip in his chest, a beautiful young woman, a dead ringer for Lauren Bacall in Key Largo. This one pushed past the gapers, shouting “I’m a doctor! Let me through.”
“Finally! ’Bout time you guys got here,” Marcus said to her.
“I live in the building,” she replied.
“You’re not here with a paramedic team?”
The young woman quickly assessed the situation as Marcus stepped around the blood spatters. “Thought I might be of help,” she began, “but apparently not.” She’d gone to her knees over the dead man.
“Doesn’t look too good, does he?” Marcus dryly replied, realizing only now that he’d rushed from his apartment directly below without any shoes or socks. He thought of the man’s dying words, cursing the child when the despicable child molester ought to’ve been asking forgiveness.
“He’s suffered multiple fractures to the skull,” she said.
“So I noticed.”
“No longer breathing.”
“Tell me something I don’t already know, doc.”
“I’m pronouncing him dead, Mr. Ahhh . . . Rydell, 48-B, right?”
Marcus nodded. “Hail, hail, the wicked one is dead.” Marcus stood a head taller than she.
“I’m an intern at Atlanta Memorial,” she said, “and you, you’re 48-B, right?” she repeated.
“Right below, yep. Heard the screams.” He shrugged. “Came running.”
“And I called 9-1-1.”
“Oh, that was you, was it? Thank you.”
The sound of an ambulance rose up from the street. “I’m Katrina Holley, Kat,” she said, extending a hand to Marcus.
“Marcus . . . Marcus Rydell.”
She nodded, eyes downcast. “I’ve heard about you.” She said it in a sultry voice. “As for this guy,” she indicated the dead man at her heels, “I knew he was bad news. So where’s his supposed sister’s adopted daughter he’s been baby-sitting for?”
“That the story he told you?”
“Me and the cops, yeah.”
“Did they check it out?”
“They’re getting around to it. So where’s the kid, Kim?”
“Kim, yeah. Where is she. ’Round here someplace. So you called the cops on this guy earlier?”
She answered while walking away from him. “’Course I did.” She turned on him, eyes daring him to suggest otherwise. “You think anyone else in this place’d bother?” She began searching the apartment for Kim, going into the bedroom, seeing a bloody pillow that made her gasp.
“Creep must’ve slipped the cops tickets to the Brave’s game tonight,” he cynically said in her ear.
“I reported them—got their names and badge numbers.”
“Reported them, eh?”
“For doing a half-assed job, yes.”
“And got no answer, I imagine.”
“Heard nothing back. You oughta maybe look into it. Wrongdoing on a police force. Might be a headline in there somewhere.”
“Not my call.”
“Then who’s call is it? Hell, I even called Child Protective Services again.”
“Let me guess. Overworked and underpaid, eh?”
They both heard the bathtub shower kick on. Dr. Holley’s eyes became blue beach balls. “Tell me she’s not in the shower.”
“She’s washing off, and I can’t blame her.”
“You’re a cop! You oughta know better.” She went for the bathroom door, the layout of the apartment a match for her own. “That’s evidence in a crime washing down the drain. If she’s been raped, and I suspect she has—”
“Look, lady . . . Doctor, I told her to stay out of the shower, only that she could wash her hands and face.”
“I’m not a cop anymore, but I’m curious how you knew?”
“I believe everyone in the building knows you’re a cop—or were at one time. Now outta my way.”
He held an index finger to her eyes, slowing her down. “Look, she needed some time alone, and besides, her attacker here is dead, get it? Proving her rape won’t be an issue. She was his hostage, and she fought back.”
“I get that much but—”
“The dead guy’s not going away for anything he’s done, not in this world. Frankly, I’d like to see her spared the inside of a courtroom or a jail.”
“The man’s name’s Quinn, Don Quinn, and all things equal, if Kim’s charged with his murder . . . ahhh manslaughter, exculpatory . . . or is it extenuating circumstances?” Katrina hesitated, eyeing the bloody claw hammer beside the victim. “We need to show—”
“Christ, thanks to Law & Order everyone’s an expert nowadays.”
“I’m-this-minute-right-now-damn-it going in to see her.” The doctor might just as well have said: And no one is standing in my way. “Kim’ll recognize me from before. She needs a friend, a woman, and a professional.”
“I suppose you’re right, Doc.”
“That’s the most sensible thing you’ve said since I arrived.” Dr. Holley slammed the bathroom door in his face, cutting him off.
In another half minute, medics came pouring in with a stretcher and life-support. “Too late, my friends,” said Marcus, “but if you wanna shoot me some extra oxygen, I’ll take it.”