I was on my way home, when my jacket pocket began to play that song again. “Hello,” I said after I pulled over.
“What did you need,” Jen asked. She sounded busy.
“Can you swing by the jail. I need for you to take a statement from one of the Smiley vics.” I replied.
“Actually, I’m across the street at the courthouse. I can drop by, before I get in my car, which I was about to do.”
I knew that it was an imposition, but I didn’t really care. She got me into most of this shit, so it was only fair that she share in the grief. “While you are there, see if there is anything I can do for her in exchange for her statement and testimony. I already have her on tape, but I want to put the fear of God into her, just in case she tries to recant. If she is totally beat down, I will try to get Ed to bail her ass out.”
“Take it a step at a time. Let me talk to her and I’ll call you later,” Jen explained.
“Good enough,” I said.
I put the cruiser back on the road and headed it for home. I made it to my apartment without any more phone calls, but as soon as I got inside there was a knock on the door. I didn’t even bother to look, I expected it to be Cheryl.
“Hello Cheryl, I see you skipped your afternoon nap. You are going to be cranky,” Yes I had to laugh at her.
“So tell me what is the gig. I couldn’t get it out of Lucas,” she informed me. It was good to know that he didn’t spill everything to her.
“We are checking out a child molesting case for Jen.” I didn’t think she needed to know that it was Sarah, her neighbor.
“So why didn’t you include me? Are you afraid that I will kill the target?” she asked.
“Well I can’t be sure that I won’t, so how could I be sure you wouldn’t.” I asked.
“Because, I’m not going back inside for someone else. I might come to you for some sleazy trick to put them away, but I’m not going back inside.” She said it with a very serious expression.
“Well good, the real reason I didn’t bring you in yet is that I am probably going to need you as a decoy. The guy might recognize me from the TV promos. You are a fresh face for now.” I said.
“Well I have to admit that it does make sense. So when do we start the sting?” she asked.
“We don’t know enough yet. Just let me keep running down his history, then we will work out his punishment.” I suggested.
“You are so sexy, when you are devious,” Cheryl said then she kissed me. It was full of passion, but I didn’t respond. I had way too much on my mind. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Just not in the mood. I have this job on my mind. It will be over soon, besides where is your new chick?” I asked.
“She is busy this afternoon. If you don’t want me, I’m going to take that nap.” she informed me not too happily.
“Good, you will be in a better mood,” I suggested.
“Fuck you,” Cheryl said.
After she had gone I watched TV online, while I waited for Jen’s call. Before Jen called, Lucas rang my phone. “Boss, I got half the names for you. The list you gave me goes back almost ten years. This prick has been at it a long time, I can’t see how he has gotten away with it.”
“I wondered that myself. He might be conning the kids, and he might be selecting only mothers he thinks he can control, but surely some little girl told someone.” I said.
“There is no hint of it in his background checks. No investigations, of any kind, by anyone that I can see.” Lucas said.
“Okay send the list of names and any contract info you can dig up to my email. You keep working on it, but this might be enough. I have to ask Jen how many she needs, then go out and find them.”
I fixed myself a frozen dinner while I waited for Jen. My frozen dinners came from Helen’s catering service. She used a disposable microwave safe tray to load up food for me. I paid for her left overs, before she donated them to the shelter. I had five or six in the freezer at any given time. That night it was some kind of fish thing that should have been disgusting when reheated, but it was delicious.
It was so good that I didn’t want to stop eating to answer the phone. I finally gave in and pushed the talk button. “Hello,” I said.
“Maxine this kid is a real piece of work. I wouldn’t let her near me with anything sharp.” Jen said.
“So did she sign the statement?” I asked.
“I told her we could not offer her anything till she signed. After she signed, we would do what we could for her. She finally gave in. We have her statement with lots of details that might help us understand the bastard.” Jen informed me.
“So how about the drug charges,” I asked.
“She is going to do time. I explained to her that it was just a matter of how much time.”
“Did she buy it?” I asked.
“Yeah, but Maxine, do not go her bail. She is already making plans to go south, way south.” Jen said.
“If we don’t bailer her out, she is going to recant for sure,” I said. “But the upside is that we know he is doing it to all his girlfriend’s kids now. We also have his MO. I can use that to convince other’s to roll his ass up. Lucas has given me leads for ten others. So what I think you should do is offer to get her the best deal you can, then walk away.” I said.
“You realize that you promised to help her,” Jen said.
“I will, I will let her stew a day or two, then tell her that if she gives up everything she knows, we can negotiate a deal with the DEA. She had a kilo of pot, she got it from somebody dealing in volume. Besides they owe me.” I said. “Then if she refuses and recants, so what.”
“You are getting to be a hard hearted bitch,” Jen said. “Welcome to the real world.”
“I liked my own world better, but I can do this one to.” I paused a moment then asked. “By the way, if we have to take this guy to civil court, how many victims do we need to make sure he doesn’t walk out with a dime?”
“The more we have, the harder it is for him to squirm out. I can do a class action suit for them, if we can’t get him criminally.” she said.
After Jen hung up I checked my email, on and off for two hours. The list finally showed up about 11PM. It was too late to do anything with it, so I took a bath then went quietly off to bed.
I awoke with lots of plans for the day. Most of them got pushed back because it was raining cats and dogs. I knew that I should check the next day’s weather the night before, but I never did. I looked out my window at the puddle of water where my courtyard should have been. It would take a hell of a lot more rain to flood the building but the courtyard was under at least four inches of water. It would be miserable for anyone to walk through it. The walkway was under only a quarter of an inch, so it was likely that the residents could come and go without a boat. The water was also moving into a drain that led to the street. I wasn’t sure how the town felt about my runoff in their storm drains, but I was grandfathered in, so it was a moot point. Before I bought the place, at Jen’s insistence, I had checked the flood plane maps. I found that I wasn’t in one, but a couple of blocks away they were. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to imagine water up to the doors of the former motel.
I needed to get that courtyard graded and landscaped to be sure there was no flood hazard which needed addressing. It was a distraction, but I wasn’t likely to be headed anywhere in that downpour. I made the call which I really wanted to delay a little longer.
“His Laboring Few Construction Company,” the female voice said as a greeting.
“Yes, this is Maxine Stone,” Then I remembered what my dad used to say. “It’s easier to drain the swamp, after you get rid of the alligators.” So I said, “Never mind.”
“It has rained here harder than this and it didn’t flood. I have more important things to do. After the bastard is taken care of, I’ll worry about the courtyard,” I said aloud to no one at all.
I spent the morning drinking coffee and napping. It was afternoon when I began making calls about the people on Lucas’s list. The first person I managed to corner was a woman named Bonnie Lee. Bonnie Lee worked as a cocktail waitress at one of those yuppie restaurants with a lounge attached. I caught her just before she left for work.
It was raining in Tryon as well, I guess she felt sorry for me. That probably was the only reason she allowed me into the apartment. It was the same apartment which she shared with her boyfriend.. Once I explained who I was, and then asked what she knew about Smiley, her reaction was strong.
“That prick, I always wondered what happened to him. So nothing ever happened? I should send my boyfriend over to kill him.” she said.
“Oh give me a month, before you do that.” I suggested. “If we don’t have his ass in jail or at least fucked to the wall, send the boyfriend. I’ll give you all the information I have.”
“So there were others, how many?” she asked.
“Over a dozen for sure.” I replied.
“Understand this, I would love to see that bastard in prison. Even better would be with some guy named bubba as his prom date,” she said. “I would be happy to testify.” Her problem would be credibility. The only way to get Smiley was in the numbers or a couple of really credible victims.
It wasn’t necessary at all, but I pulled out a digital recorder and let her give me her statement again. It differed only slightly from the version I had on the hidden mic. It if had been the same exactly, I would have worried.
It was, however, almost word for word the statement of Catherine. The making her feel all grown up, then the touching and finally the serious sexual abuse. It was his M.O. He was like the serial killer. He found a system that worked and he would never stop till someone stopped him. I began to realize more and more that a Civil Suit was not the best way to go. Put him away or kill him seemed to be the way to go. I had to be careful that no one ever heard me say kill him.
One thing the Civil Suit would do was cloud the issue. If anything happened to him, there would be hundreds, if not thousands of people who would be happy to see it. One less pervert in the world. That idea certainly had a nice ring to it.
I was in the car headed back to Aster, when my pocket rang again. “Hello,” I said.
“It’s Gwen. Are you headed home?” she asked.
“I am why?”
“Mike called me. He wants us on a conference call sometime tonight,” she said.
“Then set it up for an hour from now. I should be home by then.” I said seriously.
I wasn’t all that far away, but I had one more victim to check out. I wasn’t necessarily going to interview her, I was going to see if her car was in the parking lot of the country and western bar. It’s where her ex husband told me she hung out those days. Yes one of the victims was old enough to have been married for a couple of years, then divorced.