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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 35: He Won’t Be Missed

They can teach readin’ and writin’, but they can’t teach smart.

My cellular invaded at 4:05 a.m.

“Kuznov needed killing,” Harper growled.

“Harper, you call me in the middle of the night to tell me that?”

“What were you doing?”

“Just sitting here reading the bible. What the hell’s wrong with you? Kuznov?”

“Fire in that apartment he keeps in back of his office. Firefighters found him tied to the bed, burned alive. I’m on the way over there. I already called Maggs.”

I semi-showered, half shaved and was heading out the door in fifteen minutes.

“What now?” Janet said from beneath the bed sheet.

“Suspect we jailed on a search warrant bailed out and got himself murdered.” I didn’t mention the method of death.

I drove my pickup directly to the crime scene and stepped out into the pre-dawn, sticky hot humidity. The street in front of Kuznov’s office was blocked solid with the usual emergency vehicles and uniformed personnel. Inside, Maggs and Harper had beaten me to the scene. Mulroy and Clark from the homicide varsity were also there.

“Not the Dead Bin’s case, McCoy,” Clark smirked as I ducked under the barricade tape.

Behind him, Kuznov had been tied, naked to his own bed, doused with something flammable, and roasted. The lab squints would probably learn the open bottle of Scotch on a bedside table was the fuel source. I recognized the piggin’ loop knots from ten feet but sure as hell wasn’t going to share the info with Mulroy and Clark.

I said, “Slow-burning whiskey. Man, what a hell of a way to die. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving candidate.”

“We busted him yesterday,” Maggs said. “And we’re still in the game today, Clark.” On balance, I figured she could whip Clark’s ass fair and square. “Murder’s yours, but we’re sure gonna look at it.” Maggs, who seldom angered, had done just that.

I figured if those two homicide geniuses needed to know full details regarding the probable connection between the Blue Frog Murders, the Couples murder of Elgard, the bludgeoning of Martha, the shooting of Ivan, or any details in between, they were full-grown and drew a full salary. Let them develop information through their own investigation.

“Got any suspects, here, McCoy?” Mulroy gestured.

“I’d like to say yes and hold out on you, Mulroy but I, for one, have not a damned clue.” That was true... sort of. The natural suspect was Stick, the pimp associated with this Russian creep, but for a skinny rat like Stick to overpower this guy seemed unlikely. Stick could stand under a clothesline and stay out of the rain.

“Where were his goons?” Maggs asked. “Figured he was too smart to get himself into this position.”

“Off last night,” Harper said. “Big mistake, it appears.”

Maggs nodded. “Kuznov is pretty tough, but not smart. Probably figured he could go it alone for one night. Looks like it didn’t work out.”

The M.E. showed up and pried the remains free of the bed, with considerable unpleasant sound effects as the bedspring struggled to hold on to its last guest.

I whispered to the Medical Examiner — a pleasant man with thick, dark glasses who smoked a pipe — to be certain to leave the ropes used to tie Kuznov in place for future close examination at the morgue. He smiled cordially and noted that he would. A man who spent his life working in the wee hours digging out human parts while smoking a pipe needed either to remain positive or find a rubber room.

The “B” team clustered up at Denny’s. I had dry toast and water. Maggs ate an omelet, and Harper, as he normally did, enjoyed the “all you can eat special,” much to the management’s consternation.

“Ivan’s still in Parkland with a police guard,” Harper remarked. “We can’t cover him forever. I believe we are temporarily screwed here, folks,” he said through a mouthful. “Some sucker has murdered or tried to murder every damned suspect we can think of. Stick had zero chance of tying Kuznov to a bed. Same for that skinny heifer, Lola. I got no other candidates.”

“Kuznov was a mob guy,” Maggs offered. “Russian buddies someway, maybe?”

“But why?” I asked. “Burning people tied in beds is a stretch from shooting Ivan or killing Martha, not even counting tying two girls and probably a man to beds and burning them alive. Or putting bullets in Ivan and bombing Janet’s car. I can’t see any mob connection.”

I finished my toast. “And Kuznov was tied with the piggin’ loop. Stick? No way. Piggin’ loop means the same suspect as the other three tied to beds.”

Maggs sipped iced tea. “Maybe we’re lookin’ for an unknown suspect. Some lunatic who ties people to beds and burns them. But who the hell could overpower Kuznov? A ghost?”

I said for the umpteenth time. “Without Lola Blue, we’re blind. She seems to know everybody involved. And she also seems crazy as hell. I hate to let the words come out, but she’s critical to solving this mess.”

Maggs and Harper nodded.

Harper chuckled. “We keep getting suspects murdered, pretty soon there won’t be nobody left to kill.”

Proceed to Chapter 36...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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