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Retribution, p.13
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       Retribution, p.13

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  She sipped the last of the coffee and opened the thick manila file marked POLICE REPORTS. The corners of the thin white triplicate paper were yellowing, the typewriter ink slightly faded. The date on the first report read Thursday, June 30, 1988, the time 9:02 A.M. Time rushed back, as if yesterday, and the hot tears spilled from her eyes. C.J. wiped them away with the back of her hand as they fell, as she began to read all about the night she was raped, twelve years ago.

  23

  ‘Falconetti, you there? Dom?’

  Dominick’s two-way radio sounded at his side. The screen on the Nextel read ‘Special Agent James Fulton’.

  ‘Yeah, I’m here, Jimbo. Go ahead.’ His eyes searched the bathroom for an evidence bag, and he walked out into the master bedroom. ‘Hey, Chris, where are the evidence bags?’

  Chris handed him a stack of clear plastic bags, red evidence tape, and white inventory receipts, and he headed back into the bathroom.

  ‘We’ve got something’ real interesting happenin’ here in the shed out back side of the house. Where you at?’ Jimmy Fulton’s southern accent made understanding words normally found in the English dictionary interesting. He was an older guy, a seasoned investigator who had been with FDLE for twenty-six years and was currently the Special Agent Supervisor of the Narcotics Squad. His prior experience in violent crime and search warrants made him a valuable asset.

  ‘I’m upstairs in the master bath. I just found something real interesting myself. Bantling has a whole bottle of haloperidol in his drawer, otherwise known as Haldol’

  ‘Haldol? Ain’’t that for nutty folk?’ Dominick could just picture him right now pulling down on his full gray beard, dark sunglasses covering his eyes from sight even inside a dark shed.

  ‘Yee-haw, Jimbo. That it is. And our friend has a prescription for it from a doc in New York.’ Dominick dropped the prescription bottle into the clear bag and sealed it with the red evidence tape.

  ‘Goddamn! But I think I’m about to top you.’

  ‘Oh, yeah? How’s that?’ He marked his initials, DF, on the outside across the seal of tape in black pen.

  ‘Well, first things first. It looks like our friends from the Bureau have stopped by to pay us a friendly sort of visit. They’re out front right now shaking hands and kissing babies and of course giving free interviews to the press about the status of their investigation.’

  Dominick felt his jaw clench tight. ‘You’re kidding me. Please, Jimbo, tell me you are.’

  ‘’Fraid not, my friend. ‘Fraid not.’

  ‘Who is it?’

  ‘Well let me see. The Beach Boy standing guard at the door damn asked them Fibbies for a business card, if you can believe it. He wouldn’t let them in at first, so they’re out making a ruckus now on the lawn. Remind me to call Chief Jordan over at the Beach and get that boy a raise.’

  Dominick moved back to the master bedroom and looked out the side of the window. Sure enough, the same two dark suits from the causeway were standing around in their dark sunglasses looking important next to the bougainvillea on the manicured front lawn. Talking on cell phones and writing notes. Why, it looked like Mulder – and Scully in drag. Another feeder band of instant news across MSNBC and CNN viewers’ television screens: FBI Investigators Take Over Investigation from State Authorities. Or even better: State Agents Get Fucked Again by the Feds. It looked like they had even commandeered the best parking spots in front of the house, blocking in the Crime Scene vans in the driveway.

  ‘Well, Dom, I’m looking at the cards here, and I’ve got an Agent Carl Stevens and an Agent Floyd Carmedy. You know these boys?’

  ‘Yeah, I know ‘em, Jimbo. They were all over my scene last night on the causeway. I’ll go down and talk to them. Last I checked, the feds weren’t named in our search warrant invitation. If they’re not on the guest list, then they’re not coming in. Tell Chief Jordan I second that raise and to have him make sure his boys keep the riffraff out.’

  ‘Okay, Dom. You’re the boss. And I’m mighty glad you are. ‘Cause there’s one more person from the Bureau that wants to come over and play, and I don’t want to be the one to tell him he’s not welcome. I got a business card here from Special Agent in Charge Mark Gracker. If you’re looking out your window yet, he’s the one making the speech on the lawn.’

  Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Gracker. He pulled his hand through his hair and closed his eyes tight.

  ‘Alright, Jimbo, I’ll take care of the feds. I’m coming down now. I just gotta give RD Black a heads up that a tornado might be headed his way this afternoon.’ RD Black was the Regional Director of the FDLE Miami Regional Operations Center. His boss. Just wait till he had to tell Black that he was about to get in a pissing contest with the FBI SAC. The good thing about Black was he disliked the feds just as much as Dominick did; he just couldn’t say it from his position. He would condemn interagency squabbling publicly, but when the cameras went home, he’d shut the door to his office and tell Dominick to make sure he fucked ‘em back, just as the feds had done to FDLE in the past. In fact, Black had been the RD on the organized-crime case stolen out from under him by Gracker.

  ‘Well, before you do that, Dom, I have some more news for you, or did you forget what I said about outdoing you before?’

  ‘You mean there’s more? I hope you’re prefacing the good news with the bad news, because the feds are definitely bad news. This better be good. Go ahead, Jimbo, make my day.’

  ‘Oh, you’ll like it, alright. Looks like we found ourselves some blood down here in the shed. And maybe a murder weapon, too. Yee-haw.’

  24

  Dominick told Chris and Bowman to finish up with the tapes and the bathroom, and left Manny to deal with the Armanis in the closet. Then he dashed down the stairs and out the front door. The young Beach cop was still standing guard at the door. He looked pissed off.

  Outside on the front lawn in their black suits, black ties, and black sunglasses stood Stevens and Carmedy, notepads in hand. Stevens also had a cell phone to his ear, but Dominick suspected that he was just doing that to look important to the media crowd across the street. He had worked with Stevens once before when he was on the Joint Organized Crime Task Force, and he was, as Manny liked to call him in Spanish, un maricón. A faggot. It was probably his mother on the other end asking what he wanted for dinner that night.

  Across the street, next to the fleet of black FBI Tauruses blocking the brick driveway, stood FBI SAC Mark Gracker. And right next to him was Channel IO’S own Lyle McGregor. Gracker looked serious, somber. Lyle looked excited.

  Dominick figured it would be impolite to interrupt Gracker on a live broadcast and tell him to go get a federal search warrant if he wanted to play in the sandbox with the other kids. So he let Stevens finish up with his mommy and approached Mulder first on the lawn. Like a lion, pick off the weak ones first.

  ‘Hey, Floyd. Floyd Carmedy, right? With the Bureau? I’m FDLE Special Agent Dominick Falconetti.’ Let’ just get this straight right off the bat whose crime scene this really is. Around these here parts you’e not FBI Agent Carmedy. You’e just Floyd. Dominick extended his hand.

  Floyd Carmedy took his and shook it. ‘Agent Falconetti. Good to meet you. Your’e running this warrant?’

  ‘That I am, Floyd, that I am. What can I do for you?’

  Gracker, no longer blinded by the television lights that had quickly turned their attention to the Crime Scene tech carting a large black plastic bag out of the front door of the house, must have noticed Dominick on the lawn. He slid his dark sunglasses back on and walked quickly across the lawn, his short legs working extra hard as the heels of his black dress shoes sank into the grass.

  Floyd began to speak, but then saw Gracker out of the corner of his eye and quickly shut up, deferentially stepping back a foot to let Gracker take his rightful place in the conversation.

  Mark Gracker strutted up, his chest puffed out in his black suit, his black tie dangling off the edge of his potbelly, and stepped i
n front of Floyd Carmedy.

  ‘Agent Falconetti. I’e been trying to reach out to you all day. We need access to this crime scene.’His voice was low and serious. Just the facts, ma’am. He was a full four inches shorter than Dominick, and Dominick could see the top of his head, where the hair was beginning to thin and his pasty white scalp peeked through.

  Dominick glanced in the direction of Lyle McGregor and his camera crew. Was Gracker trying to reach him all day by a plea to the media, hoping Dominick might catch him on the news at noon?

  ‘Hello, Mark. Long time, no see.’

  Mark Gracker’halky white face turned red and he pursed his thin lips together. Dominick knew Gracker hated being addressed by his first name. Ever. He suspected that he made even his wife call him Special Agent in Charge Gracker while they were screwing.

  ‘Yeah, it has been a while, Dominick. You know I’m the FBI SAC in Miami now, right?’

  ‘Yeah, I heard that somewhere. Congratulations. Things must be real busy over there.’

  ‘They are. They’e real busy here, too. The Bureau needs to get into that crime scene, and that baby-faced prick with Miami Beach won’t let us in the door.’racker shifted on his feet, looking for higher ground, obviously uncomfortable at the height difference between the two of them.

  ‘Hmmm. That is a problem. Well, you see we have a state warrant that allows only certain state and local agencies access to that crime scene. I’m afraid the Federal Bureau of Investigation wasn’ named. We won’t be needing your assistance on this one.’

  A thin line of sweat droplets had appeared on Gracker’pudgy upper lip. ‘You know we have jurisdiction in the Siban murder. It happened on federal land. The Bureau will be taking over that investigation.’

  ‘That’great. Bully for you. Except Bantling has been arrested on the Prado murder.’ made sure he enunciated the name Prado, as he would for a preschooler learning his alphabet sounds. ‘And we are here on a warrant to search his house based on facts gathered in that homicide. If we should find something that links him to the Siban murder, I’ll be sure to call you.’

  Gracker’ face was beet red now. Where was Lyle and hiscamera when you really needed him? ’ You’re gonna make me get a fderal warrant, then?’

  ‘I’m afraid that will be necessary, yes. And the Bureau can look at the house all they want – when we’re done’

  ‘I think I’m going to need to contact Director Black on this’

  ‘Director Black is already aware of the situation down here, and he sends his apologies in advance for any inconvenience this may cause the Bureau. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back inside.’

  Dominick turned and started across the lawn, leaving an exasperated and furious Mark Gracker on the front lawn. Scully and Mulder looked around sheepishly, trying desperately again to look important for the cameras that were back to focusing on them. Dominick walked up the stoop to the young Beach cop and said quietly, ‘Good job.’

  ‘What an asshole,’ the Beach Boy mumbled back.

  Then he turned and called across the lawn, ‘Good to see you again, Mark. Congratulations on that promotion.’

  And he walked back into the house.

  25

  He walked through the house to the French doors leading on to the pool patio. Past the tropical pool, in the corner of the backyard under the fanning palms of a Traveler’s, sat the quaint white aluminum-sided shed with the small picture window. It didn’t look like a shed, but rather a cute little house, complete with a black shingled roof. The picture window even had a black curtain, which was closed and drawn. He found Jimmy Fulton out by the door.

  ‘How did SAC Gracker take the news that he wasn’t needed?’

  ‘Not well. Not well at all. I left him sulking on the lawn.’ An image of a red-faced Mark Gracker spewing expletives at Stevens and Carmedy as they drove away from LaGorce in their air-conditioned fed mobiles crossed his mind, and he smiled to himself. In the three minutes that it had taken for Dominick to walk through the house to the pool, Gracker had probably already been on the cell phone with RD Black, demanding Dominick’s badge on a silver platter. Right next to an invitation to the search warrant, which of course he needed to get into the house. Neither of which he was going to get, but he was still gonna scream like hell.

  ‘This is going to be bad, Jimbo.’ He sighed. ‘But then again, as Clemenza once said to A1 Pacino in the movie Godfather,“These things have to happen once every five years or so. Gets rid of all the bad blood.” Black is behind us, though. He said, “Just don’t call Gracker a prick to his face.”’

  ‘I’m sure Black would like that honor himself.’

  ‘This has been some day.’ Dominick ran his hand through the top of his hair. ‘What’s in the shed?’

  ‘They’re photographing again inside, so let’s give ‘em a minute. Let me tell you what we got. This Bantling fellow must have liked to cut and stuff animals, ya know? He’s got these stuffed owls and birds inside this shed, hanging from the ceiling. Claws still on and all. When I first walked in, well, shit, I thought they was real for a moment. Then I got my senses back and picked up my glasses and realized they was stuffed. But he’s also got this long steel gurney, like one y’all might see in a hospital, inside. It’s clean, no prints, totally wiped down. So we’re thinking there ain’t gonna be nuthin’ left here to find, right?’

  The Crime Scene photographers came out. ‘It’s all yours, Agent Fulton,’ one yelled. ‘We took a roll.’

  ‘Great. Thanks.’ Jimbo nodded in their direction. He turned to the forensic tech from the MDPD who was waiting by the door with his black bag. ‘Hold up for a sec, on taking up that blood, Bobby. I want to show it to Agent Falconetti here first.’

  They walked inside the shed. Overhead, two stuffed owls, their glass eyes open wide, hung suspended in flight from the ceiling beams on invisible fishing line. A single light with a black round metal shade hung from the middle of the vaulted ceiling between the two owls. The space was deceptively large for a shed, approximately fifteen by ten feet, with a cement floor and drywalled walls. It was impeccably clean, especially for an outdoor shed. Not a speck of dirt on the gray cement floor. A metal gurney sat flush up against the fifteen-foot wall. Directly above it, a row of white Formica cabinets ran across the length of the wall. Next to the gurney in the corner was a beautiful stuffed white egret, its wings slightly spread, as if about to take flight, its long willowy neck and yellow beak turned upward, its black glass eyes staring in the direction of the gurney.

  ‘Take a look at this.’ Jimbo knelt down next to the gurney. White chalk blocked off a small square-foot area behind the gurney, next to the wall and underneath the cabinets. Three very small pools of reddish brown stained the floor. Jimbo shone his flashlight on them and they glistened slightly.

  ‘Still wet?’

  ‘No. But definitely fresh. Given the spatter pattern and the height of the gurney, Bobby says it looks like the body was on the gurney and the blood maybe dripped from there.’ He shone the light on the wall, about one foot up from the floor.

  Tiny pinpricks of reddish brown dotted the white wall. ‘Now this – this here looks like where the blood spattered back up from the floor against the wall. Again, it’s consistent with the theory that the blood dripped from the height of the gurney. We’re pretty sure it’s blood.’

  ‘Yeah, Jimbo, but is it human?’ Dominick said, remembering the glass eyes of the majestic egret.

  ‘We’ll know soon enough. Lab can tell that as soon as they get it. But look at this here now,’ he said, still kneeling on the concrete. He pointed to another chalked-in area, this one a lot larger, and directly off the end of the gurney. It was maybe two feet wide.

  Dominick looked with the flashlight and saw the faintswirls of brown, the dark streaks.’Looks like someone tried to clean up a mess.’

  ‘Yep. Sure does. The Luminol Boys will take a peek when Forensics leaves. May tell us just how big the mess was before someone tr
ied to clean it up.’

  ‘Make sure to take the wheels on that gurney off carefully.’ Dominick leaned to look under it and shined his light on the black rubber wheels and the underside. ‘Looks like he may have rolled through something.’

  ‘Yeah, we’re gonna take the wheels off in a sec.’

  ‘What about the weapon?’

  ‘Oh, yeah, I forgot the best part. Take a look at this.’ Jimmy Fulton opened the middle Formica cabinet. On the bottom shelf was a large rectangular metal tray. Laid out neatly on it were several different scalpels and scissors of varying size. ‘This idiot should have saved us the time and just given us a confession. Trying him is gonna be fun. Real fun.’

  Dominick’s radio crackled to life again.

  ‘Dommy Boy, oh Dommy Boy, the pipe’s are softly calling…’ It was Manny trying his best to sing in an Irish brogue through his Cuban accent. For amusement, Dominick let him sing for a little while before answering. Jimbo and Bobby grimaced. Manny must have realized that others might be listening in as well and after a few more bars, he stopped singing and barked, ‘Hey Dom, you there?’

  ‘Yeah, Bear. I’m with Jimmy Fulton out back. What’s going on up there? You wrapping up the closet?’

  ‘That I am. And let me just say for the record that in my next fuckin’ life I want to be a furniture designer.’

  ‘A salesman, Bear,’ Eddie Bowman’s voice interruptedin the background. ‘You want to be a furniture salesman when you grow up.’

  ‘Fuck you, Bowman. Keep watching for your momma on that TV screen.’ He turned his attention back to the radio. ‘This pervert has got the nicest fuckin’ clothes. Hey, if he gets the death penalty, do you think I can have them?’

 
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