February 22, 2018

Vegas Snap Preview: Chapter 4

Cryptic Clue, Unfolded

(June 28, 2007. Mid-Morning)


Downing morning coffee from his Dallas Cowboys mug, Chief Detective Stetson tapped out a jazzy tune with the knuckles of his free left hand. Wisps of wavy red hair shadowed his furrowed brow. A hulking reminder of his college football days, Frank’s sturdy 6’ 4” frame readily filled the doorway when he entered a room.

The crew at Vegas Metropolitan PD kept a safe distance from Frank to avoid his notorious temper. Researcher Jensen often made incredibly wide circles around his desk. Some of Stetson’s team swore he shoved his desk half-an-inch a day closer to the rest of his staff as his anger grew when he kept asking them to report to him.

“Snow, get your butt over here,” said Frank. “What’s new on the Blackstone case?”

His partner Billy shuffled to Frank’s military-gray desk. “We’re still stuck at zero. Coroner says the corpse is not Roger Blackstone. Oh, and that wallet? It’s an obvious plant. So now we’ve got a John Doe. But we have no idea where Blackstone  is.  Maybe he’s hiding out or left town.”

“All right,” said Frank. “Sounds like we’ve got a lot of work to do. That Crawford guy’s here, the one who found the body, so I’m going to have a little chat with him. Want you and Joanna to keep probing Blackstone’s real estate realm. Where there’s money, there could be motive.”

As Billy left Frank’s desk, he almost tripped over the pile of Las Vegas Review Journal’s Sports sections his partner had stacked on the floor.

* * *

Buddy Crawford and his electric guitar sat in the interrogation room when Frank strode in. Buddy was wearing matching black denim shirt and pants, accented with silver sequins and red piping. He figured a guy’s work clothes said a lot about who he was. Night or day, didn’t matter.

“Bet you know why you’re here, Buddy,” said Frank. “What on earth were you doing at the crime scene? Why were you on that empty lot at that time of night?”

“Pretty simple, man,” explained Buddy who started to squirm in his chair while caressing his guitar. He softly plucked one string. “Have a gig at that nightclub, Black Hearts. Well, had a gig. Got me a new one now … at Full House Lounge. Funny name ‘cause it’s always half full. So, I was just going to that lot, like I always did, to have a cigarette, maybe two. Helps me relax after work before I go home.”

“Home … Where might that be?”

“Over on Paradise. Got me a furnished studio at Siegel Suites. They got weekly rates over there.”

“That’s right, Buddy. We know where you live. We also have records of your priors. You know, the drug busts.”

“I’m totally clean on this one. No law against walking on a lot that’s not fenced off and without any ‘No Trespassing’ signs, right?”

“Right, but there was a dead body hanging there – with no head! … You see the head lying around anywhere?”

Buddy didn’t answer. His pupils seemed to enlarge like when they put those drops in your eyes during an optometrist exam.

“Did you, Buddy? Did you see the head?”

“No sir. No way. No head! … When I done seen that raunchy corpse, I was shakin’. Just hung up there like a slab of beef at a meat market. Split real fast … First thing, though, I picked up this here guitar. Had dropped it like hot coals. The blood stains from the billboard down that steel post almost made me puke.”

“I bet it did. Tell me, Buddy, do you take that fancy guitar with you everywhere you go?”

“Yep, pretty much, even to the john. This here Ibanez Munky is pretty special … A real T-Rex bone crusher. Goes to dark, deep places, like you’re in a blue grotto that’s wired for sound and all the notes are red, black, and deep purple.”

“Enough. You’re depressing me. Here’s another thing. We found a wallet at the scene. ID said it belongs to Roger Blackstone. You know him?”

“Nope, only Roger I know is Roger Maris, the New York Yankees home run guy.”

“Smart ass …The wallet, did you see it or pick it up?”

“Maybe. I mean there was a wallet, but how would I know if it was the dead man’s or some other dude’s?”

“Cut the crap, Crawford. You tried to wipe off your prints, but you missed a few spots. How much cash did you lift before you dropped it?”

“Damn …  So I took a few bills, big friggin’ deal. Guess it was my lucky day, uh, night. Maybe I pulled out a few bucks, not that many.”

“A few bucks … Take any credit cards?”

“No plastic. But I might have something you could use.”

“Like what? You want to sell me some stuff? You got some coke for me?”

“I’ll ignore that. About the money, I did take a 20. But I never spent it.”

“You kept it? … Why?”

“Held on to it. Someone done wrote on it, weird words and some numbers, maybe a phone number. Makes no sense at all, but I figured it might be important.”

“Might be. If you’ve got it, let’s see it.”

Buddy was pleased he saved the strange message and was relieved to get rid of it. “Here it is, whatever it is,” he said. His outstretched hand pushed the Jackson, folded in half, like a croupier on a craps table, down the line toward the detective.

Frank looked at the cryptic bill, slipped on a latex glove, and slid it into a plastic evidence bag. He stared at the cursive letters Lost Legacy, scrawled across Andrew Jackson’s face. Below that were neatly printed large numerals: 219-6419.

“You know, that’s what cops do. We write on bills, usually C-notes. That way, we don’t cash them. You think twice before you break a hundred.”

“You think the dead guy was a cop?”

“Doubt it … So far, Buddy, you’re the only one who saw the corpse that night. But if you were the killer, doesn’t figure that you’d call in the crime, does it?” Buddy didn’t answer. “You can go now, but we may need to talk to you again. So don’t leave town. And I know you won’t forget your Munky.”

$ $ $

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    1. marnya says:

      Interesting…Frank Stetson came off in the interview as reasonable, calm and not too angry but I could feel Buddy’s tension. Like a dance…revealing and withholding. I’m still reading!

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