Last Witness, p.27Jilliane Hoffman
In her own office, she flicked on the desk light and sat down at her desk, shuffling through a hefty stack of mail and messages.
Black Jacket might be closed, but it had not been solved, even though Dominick and Manny and Andy Maus tried to assure her that it was. And although the rest of the team had packed it in and moved on, she could not. Someone had sent her those monkeys for a reason – as a message. Someone who wanted Bantling behind bars. Someone who knew the truth about that night on the Causeway. Someone who knew the truth about Cupid.
Someone who she feared was still out there.
Just then, as she skimmed through a thick motion – this one to suppress a confession – her beeper went off. Her body jumped and she undipped it from her waistband and tossed it on the mass of papers on her desk. The tiny bright screen glowed in the semi-darkness of her office, as it danced across her desk with every vibration, beeping.
Damn, that thing made her jumpy. She hated it. She ran her hands through her hair and after a moment, picked it back up. It wasn’t her homicide week, but she was on police shooting duty 24/7. She could feel the adrenaline pump into her heart and she took a deep breath. She dialed the number and it picked up on the first ring.
‘This is C. J. Townsend with the State Attorney’s Office. Someone beeped me—’
‘C.J.? It’s Chris Masterson,’ said the almost breathless voice on the other end. ‘Shit. I’m glad I got a hold of you. The girls at Intake won’t give out your home, and they only had this beeper. Look, I’ve already called Andy Maus, but he’s out of town at some seminar. Jesus, I’m sorry to call you, I really am, but…’ He hesitated, his voice shaking, trying to find the right words. ‘Damn, C.J., we’ve got another one. It’s bad, it’s so freaking bad.’ He paused.
‘C.J., it’s Dom…’
‘Goodnight, Ms Townsend,’ said the security guard as he unlocked the front glass door that led to the parking lot. ‘You sure you don’t want me to take you to your car?’
But C.J. waved him off, dashing across the empty parking lot, heels clicking on the gritty pavement, one hand buried in her purse, praying that she had taken her keys with her, the back of the other brushing away the tears that streamed down her face and blurred her vision. In her rush to get out, she’d left her files and laptop behind and forgotten her jacket. She heard the guard mumble something unflattering underneath his breath and then he closed the door, locking it behind him once again.
In the day, this part of downtown was bustling and parking was at a premium. But at night, it was a black paved desert that sat abandoned under the overpass of the Dolphin Expressway in a desolate part of town.
She felt her heart crawl up into her throat, and she tried to swallow it back down as she raced to the car. She needed to think, not panic. Maybe it wasn’t true, maybe the ID was wrong. The tears fell again. God, please let the ID be wrong…
Her assigned parking spot was in the main lot off of the State Attorney’s Office, but wrapped around the side of the building, and pressed up against the deserted one-way street of 13th. Away from the view of the brightly lit lobby, it was hidden partially by the fronds of a droopy palm tree. Across 13th was the black paved no-man’s-land of jury parking, which butted up against thick, tangled underbrush and the overpass of the Dolphin.
Her fingers finally found the heavy jumble of keys and key rings at the bottom of her purse. Next to them was the cold steel tip of the .22 caliber pistol her father had bought her years before. The one she now never went anywhere without, with the exception of a courtroom, where they were not allowed.
She pulled out her keys and clicked the door open, her fingers hovering over the red panic button on the key chain. Self-defense tactics and fourteen years of horrific stories had taught her that a woman is most distracted and therefore most vulnerable as she actually enters her home or her car. C.J. made sure that woman was never her, even in a crowded supermarket parking lot on a Saturday afternoon.
She quickly opened the door and climbed in, throwing her purse onto the passenger seat. She slid behind the wheel, her fingers immediately finding the automatic door locks to her left, locking the night out. She caught her breath and reached for the ignition. With trembling fingers she started the car.
The crisp hum of static and recorded ‘dead air’ filled the Jeep Cherokee for a moment. She looked to the stereo console. There was a tape playing in the deck.
A ripple of goosebumps raced across her flesh, and she felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck rise up. The too-calm voice of the 911 dispatcher finally broke the dull, electric hum of recorded silence.
‘911. What’s your emergency?’
‘There’s a car. A late-model black Jaguar XJ8. Right now he’s headed south on Washington from Lincoln Road. He’s got two kilos of cocaine in his trunk and he’s headed to the airport. He’s going to take the McArthur to MIA, just in case you miss him on Washington.’
‘What’s your name, sir? Where are you calling from?’
The line clicked dead with a flat hum.
Paralyzed, she sat perfectly still for a moment. The next sound she heard stopped her heart. There was a rustle of fabric from the back seat, and then the familiar face rose to life in her rearview mirror.
‘Hi, C.J.,’ he whispered from the darkness behind her. ‘Or can I call you Chloe tonight?’
Dominick shut down his laptop and closed the thick case file in front of him. Green-jacketed Investigational Reports and accordion folders marked Black Jacket FDLE 03-0566492 still littered the cherry conference table, but not for long. The task force had officially been dismantled, everyone sent back home to their own departments. Tomorrow was the scheduled move date for the Fraud Squad to come back from their extended exile down the hall. The copiers would go back, the extra computers and secretary reassigned. The pictures of four dead police officers had already been taken down and placed in their respective files, where they would remain in perpetuity, ensnarled and suspended forever in Florida’s Sunshine Laws as a public record. It would take the constant and vigilant care of the FDLE records custodian and Regional Legal Advisor and the records custodian at the State Attorney’s Office to make sure those gruesome pictures were never actually disclosed to the public, printed on the pages of some newspaper or posted on the web. The bounty for an autopsy picture of either Gianni Versace or Andrew Cunanan topped out at $250,000 at the height of the media feeding frenzy in ’97. The pictures of a mutilated dead cop in uniform would unfortunately fetch some big bucks as well.
He sat back in his squeaky old chair, the one he had brought down with him from the Bronx PD fifteen years ago, and rubbed his eyes. He lit a Marlboro to go with his microwaved coffee, sucking the harsh smoke deep into his lungs, feeling himself relax just a bit. He had lost count of how many times he had quit smoking in his life. He thought it almost funny how he had picked the habit back up now, after Black Jacket was over and his career salvaged. After the stress in his life was officially declared over.
For at least the tenth time that day, Dominick thought about C.J. and the way she looked that morning in the courthouse. Loaded down with files and legal books and thrusting herself into another high-stakes trial, she remained confident and composed to the rest of the world. But not to him.
Dominick’s thoughts went for a moment to his father, and the day he had told Dominick and his mother that he was not going back to the beat. The day he had lied and told them with a confident smile that everything would be fine, he was sure of it. The case’s nothing – a simple misunderstanding was all. I’ll be back on the job in a week or two, tops. The next afternoon, Dominick had found his body in the bathroom tub when he came home from school for lunch.
It was the sound of hopelessness that he had heard in C.J.’s voice today, that he had recognized. That had reminded him of his father. That he now feared. He had promised her once that everything would be okay and it wasn’t. And he hated himself for breaking that promi
The ring of his cellphone pulled him out of his thoughts. It was Manny.
‘Dommy Boy. You headed this way for a drink, or do I need to say yes to furniture shopping tonight?’
‘Rooms To Go is having a midnight madness sale. Lucky me. I get all five pieces for one low price if I buy before the clock strikes twelve.’
‘Don’t do it, Bear,’ Dominick said with a shake of his head. ‘There, you’ve been warned.’
‘We’re gonna live together first. I told her she ain’t seeing no rock till I see dinner on the table every night at five,’ he chuckled. ‘Like that’ll ever happen. I think the last thing Mari made was reservations. And she ain’t too good at that, neither.’
‘Careful. There’s always takeout. And microwave.’
‘How come I can’t get me some hot mami who likes cooking picadillo in the kitchen in an apron and G-string?’
‘Stop. I’m picturing.’ Marisol Alfonso decked out in her finest pink spandex thong, sweating over a stove, was not an image he needed tonight. Or ever, for that matter. ‘Look I’m heading home to the Beach now. Thought I’d go to the Big Pink. Get a little late dinner. Where you at?’
‘I’m still at the station. And that’s what we need to talk about.’
‘Let me guess, you want a job with FDLE now. I don’t know how much pull I have at the moment, my friend. Call back in a few years when Tallahassee has forgotten that I was once an indicted man.’
‘While I think it would be fun to hang with you, Dommy, my pension’s better and I get real OT, unlike you cheap state dogs on your month-long work week. I’ll stay right here with the City, thanks. But speaking of your fucked-up agency, I was gonna save this for dinner, but I gotta share. I’m back behind the desk now, and of course my LT is riding me like shit. He’s still pissed over what I said about his daughter. Anyway he’s all on me about what happened last week, how it went down. His brother’s IA upstairs. Says it’s great we finally did our jobs, but he don’t understand what took us so long, why we didn’t just put Lindeman under surveillance when Elijah Jackson cracked and started spewing names months back. Might’a saved the guy’s life, he’s got kids, blah, blah, blah. You know, everyone’s got an opinion and everyone’s gotta be Monday morning quarterback. Especially this prick.’
Dominick felt his anger grow. City IA had sat on that Lindeman issue for weeks. Black Jacket had already killed two dirty cops by the time Elijah Jackson was busted. If no one in City IA thought to tell anyone on the task force that one of their own had just been named by a flip, it just might be what had cost him his life. ‘Tell your LT and his brother that maybe the next time IA should be a little more forthcoming with information. And a little faster.’
‘That’s what I said. And that’s when he said they had. Said the communication problem is with FDLE and the task force, not IA.’
‘Bullshit. No one handed us Lindeman’s name till after he was six feet in the ground.’
‘He said that ain’t true, Dommy. Said they didn’t need to give you his fucking name, because we already had it. Hope you’re sitting, bro. On the day Jackson was popped for trafficking by the City, guess who it was came in and finally helped the dope squad talk him into giving up a few names? Including that of his boss, Valle, and the esteemed family man, Sonny Lindeman?’
‘Chris Masterson, that’s who. Jackson was supposedly an IMPACT target. It was Masterson that told Jackson he was facing a 25-year min-man. Masterson who got him to flip after a closed-door session. Masterson who got him to name Valle as his boss and Lindeman as the muscle. He told the City to take credit in the reports because he didn’t want to compromise an IMPACT investigation and a source.’
Manny paused, before adding his final thought quietly. ‘At least, that’s the reason he gave.’
Dominick ran his hands through his hair, trying to piece together events in his head. Questions flew at his brain like pesky mosquitoes, demanding to be swatted down, to be answered.
Why would Masterson not have told the task force about flipping Jackson? Why would he not have told them about Lindeman being dirty when he first came to the scene, the night Lindeman was killed?
In the file cabinet behind him he pulled out the mass of classified documents stamped IMPACT – OPERATION SNOWSHOE. His fingers raced back through pages he had practically memorized and he found nothing. Nothing that said Elijah Jackson was ever an IMPACT target.
His mouth went dry and he sat back in his seat, pulling down at his goatee. You just had to know where to look. He reached behind him for another file box. This one had over a hundred reports on officers who had made the MDPD Criminal Conspiracy Section’s Dirty List for the past five years. His fingers flew through the files, finally catching on the thick internal for Officer Bruce Angelillo. The complainant was a doper with a history, pissed off and running for his life, who claimed that after Angelillo pulled him over on 36th Street for a traffic violation, he ripped off the six kilos in the back of his trunk. That started an internal that lasted six months before it was closed as unfounded in April of last year when the doper disappeared. Unfounded in this case was another way of saying ‘we just can’t prove it.’ He scanned the pages and picked up the phone and dialed.
‘Lynn,’ said the voice over the phone. It hadn’t even rung.
‘Marty, Dom Falconetti here with FDLE. Sorry to bother you at night.’ Marty Lynn was a lieutenant with CCS. Dominick knew him well.
‘Nah, no bother, Dom. What’s up?’
‘I need to talk to one of your detectives.’
‘Yeah, if I can. Haskill, Bobby Haskill. I’m cleaning up a report.’
‘I’ll get him for you, Dom. What number you at? I’ll have him call you in a minute.’
‘I’m still at my office. 305-470-5 512.’
‘You got it,’ Marty said, then added, ‘Oh, and Dom, congrats on closing Black Jacket. That was a tough one.’
Yeah. Thanks, Marty,’ said Dominick as he hung up the phone.
Five minutes later his phone rang.
‘Agent Falconetti? This is Bob Haskill, Miami-Dade PD.’
‘Hey, Bob. I know that a couple of months back you talked to some guys on the Black Jacket Task Force about Bruce Angelillo. I’m just closing it out now and—’
‘Yeah, thanks,’ he continued. ‘I’m closing it out and I’ve got a question or two. That report on Angelillo. It says here that after the complaint came in, CCS tried to set up a sting.’
‘Yeah. IMPACT helped us out. They supplied us the dope we used as bait. Like it says in there, Angelillo knew something was up, though. He didn’t go for the cheese and then the complainant disappeared. We couldn’t make a case.’
Dominick held his breath for just a second before he asked his next question, fearing, perhaps, he already knew the answer. ‘Do you remember, Bobby, who worked it over at IMPACT?’
‘Yeah. One of yours. Masterson. Chris Masterson.’
His stomach dropped. ‘Thanks, Bobby,’ he said absently and then hung up the phone. He stared out across the conference table where Chris Masterson had sat a dozen times before, during meeting after meeting. Never once had he mentioned working a sting on one of the Black Jacket victims.
Masterson knew before Lindeman was killed that he was on Miami’s Dirty List, because it was his interrogation of Elijah Jackson that had put him on it.
Masterson had crossed Angelillo’s name one year earlier on an IMPACT case and never told anyone.
Masterson had the narcotics experience. He wrote the wire applications on Valle and Brueto, based on IMPACT investigations he had run, based on information he already knew.
Masterson was DEA. He’d done stints in Bogotá, Cali. He immediately recognized the Colombian necktie and its symbolism.
Masterson had pulled the trigger that killed Brueto.
Dominick ran his hands through his hair. It was all coming together, the missing pieces of the puzzle that were starting to fit. You just had to know where to look. In this case, someone had been trying to get him to look in all the wrong places, at all the wrong people. Now he thought of what Manny had told him after Bantling’s evidentiary hearing.
Cop Killer. Bantling says Chambers’ phantom partner-in-crime took that name not because he kills cops, but because he is a cop. A cop who kills.
Cupid. Masterson had worked the Cupid task force since its inception. He had access to all the original Cupid reports. He worked the investigation, the interviews. He had worked the crime scenes of the dead cops and the Cupid victims. He had searched Bantling’s house three years ago. He had found his sadistic porn tapes. He had bagged the evidence. And after C.J. had stumbled out in the middle of the night from the offices of a madman, Masterson had worked that scene, too. He had been one of the first to arrive at Chambers’ office. One of the first to find nothing to corroborate C.J.’s initial statements that there must be at least one more victim.
Jesus Christ. His chest tightened. Was he stretching this whole story in crazy directions? Was he seeing things, making leaps just because they were there? If what he was thinking was right, then his next question had to be why. Why would Chris Masterson want four cops dead? What would he gain from it?
Dominick knew better than anyone that sometimes there was no why that made sense. The Tamiami Strangler killed prostitutes because he thought they were dirty. Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims so they would be part of him. Ted Bundy never bothered to offer any rationale and none was ever found that would satisfactorily answer the question. William Bantling had never admitted his guilt. But those were all serial killers.
Last Witness by Jilliane Hoffman / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes