Chapter Nine, Part Three

    By eleven, we had watched Mike Salazar come and go as well, yelling about his rights and threatening to call his lawyer. As he was leaving, he made his right hand into a pistol and pantomimed shooting each of us.
    The Renards were the last and longest to be questioned. Reggie and I were kept waiting even after they were free to go at noon. We watched as Angelini stuck his head out, and yelled for Street and Banks. The two Detectives dutifully entered his office, closing the door. Despite the barrier, we could hear Angelini barking at them. His voice shook the motivational posters off the walls outside his office. When Street came back out, her fists were tight balls, and her expression was unreadable. She walked over to her desk, opened the drawer, and started arranging the pens by color.
    Banks left Angelini’s office a few moments after Street, and as she did, Angelini poked his head out the door.
    “Hey,” he said to Banks, “tell your dad thanks for the birthday card.”
    “Sure,” Banks said, smiling. As soon as he closed his door, she grimaced, shook her head, and joined Street. The two of them brought us into an interrogation room, and left us to stew for another half hour.
    “Spill it,” Street said, when they finally returned.
    “Yeah, start talking,” Banks echoed.
    “I was born at a very early age,” Reggie began, but was cut off.
    “You’ve got information relevant to the case that you’re holding back,” Street insisted.
    “Actually,” Reggie said, “I think you’ll find I’ve been more than cooperative.”
    “Yes,” Street responded. “That little trick of letting me confiscate the negatives? You had no reason to bring them with you. I noticed that. But what’s the deal?”
    “Just trying to share evidence, Detective.”
    “That’s what’s got us suspicious, LaKino,” Street said.
    “Can you two please call me Reggie?”
    “No,” they both said.
    “Fine,” Reggie responded. “Did you develop them?”
    “They’re here.” She laid several photos out on the table. They were, apparently, the vacation photos that Sophia Renard had taken in Mexico.
    “And the crime scene photos of the newest victim?” Reggie asked, rubbing his hands together.
    “Here.” Banks spread them out alongside the others.
    “So you’ll notice that the limbs are hacked off at irregular points,” Reggie said, pulling his thick-rimmed glasses out and once again adopting his professorial persona. “And in the vacation pics, you can see Melvin White had tattoos. It was out of character for him, rebellious. He was acting out against his parents, and maybe trying to prove that he wasn’t as much of a nerd as his classmates thought. At any rate, you can see he has a tattoo of a globe on his left ankle, and the body’s left leg is missing just above the ankle. He’s got a scar on his right knee, and the corpse’s right leg’s off mid-thigh. He’s got another tattoo, a ‘tribal’ pattern, high on his right bicep, and that arm’s off at the shoulder. The other, tattooless, arm is off at the wrist. The head, of course, is missing. So it appears whoever was mutilating the corpse was trying to remove anything that would identify the body as Melvin White.”
    “What about this one,” Banks asked, “the heart with ‘MW’ and ‘SR’ on the back of his shoulder?”
    “Good eye.” Reggie said. “The corpse doesn’t have a corresponding tattoo there. And you can see in the pictures, Melvin doesn’t have that tattoo here, on the photo, taken in his bedroom, and date-stamped March 3rd. He does have it here, on a Mexican beach, in a photo date-stamped March 31st. The day after Noah Renard disappeared. It’s brand new.”
    “So this isn’t Melvin White, but whoever mutilated the body actually wanted us to think it is?” Banks asked.
    “Yep,” Reggie said. “And whoever did it didn’t know about the new tattoo, but knew about the old ones.”
    “Well that would pretty much rule out your client and her husband, who would have no reason to know about Melvin’s tattoos.” Street said.
    “And their daughter.” Reggie pointed out.
    “Well she may have seen—” Banks began.
    “She’s SR,” Reggie said, cutting her off. “She took these pictures. She knew about all the tattoos.”
    “Yes,” Street concluded, “your theory seems to conveniently rule out all the people whose names you’re being paid to clear.”
    “But then where is Melvin?” Banks asked.
    “And who is the new body?” I added.
    “Your solution raises more questions than it answers, LaKino,” Street observed. “Angelini isn’t going to like that, and if you haven’t noticed, we’re the ones he takes things out on.”
    “I’m not sure what you want me to do about that,” Reggie shrugged.
    “Whatever you do, you may want to do it quickly,” Street said. “The State Private Investigators Board is going to find out about your trespassing case sooner or later, and then that temporary license of yours will disappear.” She blew on her fingertips.
    “Trespassing case?” I asked.
    “You remember picking me up from the police station, don’t you?” Reggie said, matter-of-factly.
    “You said you’d been released,” I said.
    “I said ‘on my own reconnaissance,” Reggie replied.
    “Recognizance,” Street and I said, simultaneously.
    “Anyway,” Reggie continued, “charges were never pressed. I’m sure the Prosecutor just hasn’t gotten around to dropping them yet.”
    “I’m relatively certain you’re keeping secrets from everyone in this room, LaKino,” Street said. Was she smiling?
    “I imagine you are, too, Detective,” Reggie rejoined. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I am helping here.”
    “He’s not hurting us, Anne,” Banks pointed out.
    “Not that we know of,” Street countered.
    “Why’s Angelini so set on blaming the Renards?” Reggie asked.
    “Is this the man you saw with the activists a couple days ago?” she asked, holding up a sketch.
    “That looks right,” he said.
    “This sketch was made based on Patty White’s description of the ‘vagrant’ she said was stalking her,” Street explained. “We sent some uniforms out to where the activists are camped, and there was a general consensus that this is ‘Dave.’”
    “Of course, no one knows where Dave is,” Banks said.
    “And for some reason they all laugh when we ask,” Street commented. Banks and I spent a good ten minutes trying to explain “Cheech & Chong” to Reggie and Street. They didn’t get it.
    “Anyway, between Pat White blaming Jack Renard, Renard blaming Mike Salazar, and Dave wandering around—”
    “Past White’s security,” Reggie added.
    “—Unaccounted for, there’re too many players here, and too few alibis.” Street said. At least everyone could agree on that.
    As Reggie and I drove home, I turned over the land issues that seemed to underlie the case. What was the motivation for the land dispute? Why did the Whites and Mike Salazar feel so strongly about the land, and why so recently, after the Renards had been on the property long enough to gain title by adverse possession?  Real estate markets were tanking nation-wide. There had once been rumors of a mall being built in the area, but that was ridiculous now. I had found nothing that would indicate that there were any mineral deposits or oil reserves that would explain the desire to gain title. I voiced all this to Reggie, but he was just as much in the dark as I was.
    “There was nothing in Street’s notes about this?” I asked.
    “I only had thirty seconds with Street’s notes,” Reggie reminded me. “Could it be the water? The stream runs right through the Renard property.”
    “No,” I said. “New Mexico water rights don’t work that way. That’s more of a back-east thing.”
    We returned to my gallery space, just after five. The streets were packed with tourists who presumably had not spent the last several days investigating murders, disappearances, land disputes, secret societies, and storybook monsters. We parked the Jag in the nearby parking garage that I had been using, and walked around the corner back to my place.
    “Hey, where’s Packey?” Reggie asked.
    “That pan handler who usually sits here, looking for change. Doesn’t he usually stay ‘til sundown?”
    “Yes. Strange. I don’t know.”
    “Was he here yesterday?”
    “He must have been,” I said, though I wasn’t sure. “He always is.”
    “Royally weird,” Reggie said. “Hey, what would you say his disability is?”
    “I don’t know. Maybe autism?”
    Reggie looked thoughtful.
    I turned the key, and slowly unlocked the door. There were no surprises this time. I went upstairs to change, and Reggie went into the kitchen to make dinner. I was startled when the bell rang, and even more so when I opened the door. I was confronted with a face that I recognized.
    “Reggie!” I shouted.
    “It’s Dave!”
    “Yeah, Dave. Dave’s right here, man!”

2 Responses to Chapter Nine, Part Three

  1. Anika A. says:

    I can’t remember the last time I read the words, “in cahoots.” Classic!

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