Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
Annie thought, and then said, “Those buildings are maybe a five or ten minute walk from Mortinos. So, she probably got home around 1:00. Maybe a bit before.”
“Sounds right to me,” Jake said. “Unless she stopped somewhere else on the way home.”
“Dunno. I’m just saying. Maybe.”
“Well, anyway, that’s a shame,” Annie said.
“Yeah, sure is,” he agreed. “Hank is wondering if maybe this is related to Bronson’s murder somehow, but he doesn’t see how. Different MO and everything.”
Annie leaned forward, silent a moment, looking at Jake. Finally she said, “Hmmm. I’ll have to put some thought into that idea, but in the meantime, we need to concentrate on finding Jenny. That’s our top priority.”
Tuesday, August 2nd, Ten Days Ago, 12:00 Noon
IT WAS such a beautiful day outside, and Jeremy was sick and tired of stocking shelves, packing, unpacking, doing this, doing that, doing everything around here, it seems.
It was lunchtime. He hurried to the back room, opened his locker and grabbed a small paper bag. He was going to leave this dump, and eat lunch in the park today.
There was a nice little spot just a couple of blocks away from Mortinos, right across from the high school. He hurried out the back door and down the street to his destination.
It was nice here. Just like at home. Lots of trees around, birds singing, and pretty quiet. For a city.
He sat down, leaned up against a tree, and closed his eyes. He was kind of tired. A nap would be nice, but he only had forty minutes. Best not dawdle too much.
He pulled a napkin from his bag and spread it neatly on the ground beside him. He dug out an apple and a tomato, and laid them carefully on the napkin. Lastly, he brought out a sandwich, wrapped up nicely in plastic wrap. He looked at it. Peanut butter and jam. Delicious. He unwrapped the sandwich and took a big bite, and tilting his head back against the tree, he closed his eyes as he chewed.
He frowned and opened his eyes again, peeking around the tree. A couple of noisy kids had just sat at a bench, a few feet away. Their back was to him, but he could hear them chattering away. He shook his head. So much for peace and quiet.
A girl was talking. He wasn’t the least bit interested, but he could hear her plainly as she spoke. “It’s so nice here,” she said.
Then, a guy spoke. “Yeah, it sure is.”
Jeremy thought, yeah, it was until now . . .
She spoke again. “It’s really nice to see you again.”
Jeremy peeked around at her. She was pretty.
Then, the guy. “It’s nice to be with you.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes.
“You were telling me before,” she said, “about the problem you had?” It was a question.
“Well, it didn’t amount to much. It was a couple of years ago, and I’m ashamed of it now.”
Jeremy thought the guy looked like a bit of a jerk.
“Yes?” She urged him on.
“Well, I don’t want you to think bad of me, but I did something stupid.”
Jeremy could see her looking at him, waiting for him to continue.
He did. “A friend and I, we broke into this guy’s house.”
She caught her breath, “Ohh!”
“It was real dumb, I admit it. I wouldn’t do anything like that again. We’d had a couple of beers, and just weren’t thinking straight.”
She was frowning at him now. “So what happened?”
Jeremy was frowning now too.
The jerk continued, “We took some stereo equipment. And his TV.”
Jeremy was really frowning now.
The jerk put his hand on her shoulder.
Then, she spoke. “Chad, how could you do that?”
“I know Jenny. You should be upset. It really was dumb.”
Silence a moment. Jeremy waited for somebody to speak.
“So then what happened?” Jenny asked.
“We got caught. Somebody saw us coming from the place, and called the cops.”
I hope the judge nailed him good, Jeremy thought.
“But because we were only sixteen at the time,” Chad continued, “they couldn’t release our name to the public, and we basically got off with a warning.”
Her eyes were wide. “Wow!”
“Yeah, we got lucky.”
Jeremy was so busy eavesdropping, he’d forgotten to eat his lunch. He took a big bite of his sandwich, leaned back against the tree, and chewed thoughtfully.
He took another peek as she said, “I really like you Chad, but what you did is scaring me.”
She looked worried.
“I know,” he said. “You’ve every right to feel that way. But it’s over. Done with. It won’t happen again.”
“Promise?” she asked.
“Promise.” He stroked her hair. “I promise.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes again.
Jenny looked at her watch. “I need to get back now.”
“Ok, I’ll drop by at three o’clock and give you a lift home before I head back to King City. I need to catch a little sleep before work.”
“I’m counting on it.” She smiled, and they stood and headed back toward the school.
Jeremy slowly packed up the rest of his lunch as they left. He was deep in thought as he walked back to his boring job.
Tuesday, August 2nd, Ten Days Ago, 2:50 PM
JEREMY had been keeping an eye on his watch ever since he got back from lunch.
He took another look at it now. Ten minutes to three.
He walked to the front of the store. His boss was busy with a customer. Jeremy hung back out of sight until the boss was free, and then he approached him.
Jeremy looked anxious. “Mr. MacKay,” he said. “My aunt is real sick. She needs me badly. Is it all right if I leave a little early today? Please, sir. She’s sick. She’s real sick.”
Jeremy didn’t have an aunt. At least, not one he knew of. Didn’t matter. MacKay didn’t know.
“I’ll make it up later,” Jeremy said.
“All right then,” MacKay said reluctantly. “Run along.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it. Thank you, sir.”
Jeremy hustled to the back of the store. He got his half-eaten lunch from his locker, stuffed it in his backpack, and headed out the back door to the employee parking lot.
He climbed into his Hyundai, adjusted the fat cushion under him, backed it from the space, and drove onto the side street. He took a left, and another left, and in a minute, he was approaching the school.
He pulled over into a space by the side of the street, some ways back, but close enough so he could see what he wanted to see.
There were a couple of cars parked where the sidewalk leading from the school doors touched the street. He kept an eye on the cars.
In five or ten minutes, he saw her, smiling as she came down the walk. She looked pretty.
One of the cars he’d been watching was a white Toyota Tercel. He wasn’t sure what year it was, maybe a few years old.
Then, he saw the jerk get out of the driver’s seat, go around the vehicle, and open the passenger’s door. He saw Jenny say something. Maybe “hi”. He didn’t care. Then, Jenny got in the car, and the jerk went around and got in his door.
He kept watching. They were talking about something. Then, the Toyota pulled away from the curb. Jeremy followed, keeping back.
Jeremy wasn’t nervous. He was too busy putting his simple, but genius, plan in place.
He knew, from the conversation he’d overheard, the jerk was going to drive her home, and then go home to King City himself. There was only one direct route to King City. That’s the one he’ll take, for sure.
He had a few minutes to get ready.
At the next street, the jerk turned left, and Jeremy turned right. He drove carefully across town, heading for County Road 12.
Jeremy lived on County Road 12, so he knew exactly where he was going. At one spot, there was a hill, and then a curve, before the road straightened out again. Any cars had to slow down a bit at that spot, just enough to make his plan perfect.
He drove over the hill, rounded the curve, drove about a quarter mile, and pulled over and stopped.
He shut off the car and waited patiently.
Tuesday, August 2nd, Ten Days Ago, 3:20 PM
JENNY’S cell phone was rattling out a hip-hop beat tone. It was her mother.
“Jenny, I’m just at the hairdressers. It may be about another hour or so before I get home.”
Chad took his eyes off the road and looked at her.
“Mom’s at the hairdressers. She’s going to be awhile,” she said.
“So do you want to go straight home, then?” he asked.
Jenny thought a minute.
“There’s no hurry,” she said.
Silence a moment.
“Do you want to go for a spin then?” he asked.
“How about King City? It’s only about ten minutes. There’s this great little coffee shop I want you to try.”
Jenny thought, and then said, “Ok, that sounds nice.”
Chad swung the car to the curb, glanced in his mirror, and then spun around, and headed back the way they came.
“Let’s go then,” he said. “I’ll have you back by four.”
Friday, August 12th, 5:17 PM
HANK leafed through the autopsy report. There was a lot of technical stuff he skimmed over, as well as details of a complete external examination of the body of Chad Bronson. The toxicology report revealed nothing unusual, and the cause of death was as he’d suspected.
Gunshot wound to the head, perforating the left temple four inches from the top of the head.
Wound path, right to left, upward, and slightly backward.
In my opinion, Chad Allen Bronson died of a gunshot wound to the head. Manner of death is homicide.
It was signed by Nancy Pietek, Deputy Medical Examiner.
There was no exit wound. The bullet, ascertained to be of 22-caliber by the ballistics report, had been retrieved from inside the skull. The low-velocity, penetrating, bullet had ricocheted inside the skull, continuing to cause damage until it stopped moving.
The approximate time of death was listed as being ten to twelve days prior. That fitted in with witness statements, that Bronson was last seen on the afternoon of August 2nd.
Hank leaned back in his chair and stared at the report. There weren’t too many surprises here.
The forensics report was completed as well. Hank was interested in the blanket found along with the body, but it didn’t appear to have anything unusual about it.
There were fibers, however, on the clothes of Bronson, and on the blanket, determined to be from floor mats used in car trunks. The make of car could not be determined, as most manufacturers use the same supplier.
The most interesting fact to Hank was, according to the crime scene investigation, the homicide was determined to have happened elsewhere, and the body carried to the grave and buried.
That Bronson had been dead at the time of burial was also noted.
Hank snapped open his briefcase and slipped the papers inside.
Friday, August 12th, 5:40 PM
JAKE flipped over onto his back. He lay on the exercise mat, pulled up his knees, and reached for his cell phone.
“You sound like you’re out of breath.” It was Chris.
“Just doing a few push ups.”
“Yeah, maybe a few hundred.”
Jake chuckled. “What’s up Chris?”
“A couple of things. First off, I’m faxing you over two names I need a background check on. Prospective employees.”
“No problem. That’s Annie’s department. She’s a whiz at that.”
“Yup, sure is.”
“And what’s the other thing?”
“Just wanted to update you on our jewelry thief,” Chris said. “It seems he’d accumulated quite a stash of goodies.”
“I’m not surprised. He was pretty brazen.”
Chris howled with laughter. “Yeah, he was that. Anyway, after the cops got through with him, he wasn’t so brazen any more.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense here.”
“With the video proof, they easily got a warrant and searched his apartment.”
“And . . .”
“Thousands of dollars worth of stuff. Maybe tens of thousands. It appears he’d been hitting stores all over.”
Jake whistled. “Was he just holding everything?”
“Nope. It goes deeper than that. Apparently, the stuff they found was just recent acquisitions. They think he has a connection somewhere in Toronto, where he gets rid of a lot of stuff.”
“Yeah, a fence. But they couldn’t get a name from him. He clammed up and asked to see his lawyer. Anyway, they say they have him nailed, dead to rights.”
“Well, that’s great news. I’m glad we could help.”
“The bosses here are pretty pleased with you guys, too,” Chris said, and then laughed. “And they’re pleased with me too.”
“As if you had anything to do with it,” Jake chuckled.
“Yeah, well I was smart enough to hire the right people, wasn’t I?”
They both laughed.
Friday, August 12th, 5:55 PM
THE police are never wrong. They always identify the body correctly, but under normal circumstances, someone who knows the deceased makes a personal identification.
At least, that’s how it is in the Richmond Hill City morgue.
Mrs. Bronson shivered as she stepped in front of the glass window. It was cold inside the morgue, but out here on the other side of the glass where she stood, it was comfort-controlled. The shiver was not due to cold. It was the atmosphere.
She lifted her head and peered through the glass. The large, white, autopsy room was full of peculiar equipment. Tables for autopsies and dissecting. Racks of instruments, autopsy saws, and a large bank of refrigerator units.
She shivered again.
Someone in a white gown was pushing a bulging cart over her way. As it drew closer, she could see a toe tag was attached with string to a big toe of a foot, protruding out from under the white sheet covering the body.