Locating a payphone in this cyborg-city was next to impossible.|
Fighting insomnia, I had taken the bus down to Paulie's for their 3 AM special. At 8:30, I sought out a public phone to call my temp agency. I hated calling them every morning, whether they had a placement or not. I would've preferred to be the one contacted when they had something, but that was their policy; call in or don't work.
"This is Trace Walker. Got anything?"
"Yeah, Hello. This is Trace Walker calling in."
"Hello?" the Rep repeated.
Damn! I bolted home and redialed the agency.
"Hi, this is Trace. Sorry about before. Bad connection."
Whether my representative accepted my apology or not, I'd never know. She spoke with zero inflection in her voice.
"Most assignments have already been issued. We did get one late request. It's not your normal work, nor your regular rate of pay, but it's all we have."
Great. Shit job. Shit pay. A stack of unpaid bills taunted me near the phone.
"What's the job?"
Blue Tide Auto Wash wasn't the worst gig I'd taken. It was, however, the wettest. Moisture-infused air coated everything from the sidewalks to my jumpsuit. Luckily, I moved from detailing to vacuuming after lunch.
The 1994 Lexus Landau looked tasty on the outside, but was gooey inside, like a candy bar. The teenaged-owner splurged for the premium service, so I gave it extra attention. I popped the trunk and reached in. My nozzle caught the edge of the liner along the side and sucked it loose. An item fell out and there was no way I could unlook at it. I called my manager over and he phoned the police.
Detective Lopez looked at me disapprovingly. We’d been friends once, even partners in a fashion. Now I sickened him.
"Kid says the blade isn't his."
"I never said it was. I just said I found it in his car."
Lopez watched my eyes as he spoke, scanning them for deceit. "Maybe you planted it. Considering your past, I wouldn't be surprised."
I held up my hands in defense. "My past doesn't include framing pimply-faced Eminem-wannabes."
Lopez flicked a snap on my jumper. "Look at you. You're broke. Someone could've paid you to lose a blood-covered knife."
A tech bagged the eight-inch rusty blade and called Lopez over. They conferred for a moment before the homicide detective returned.
"You're both off the hook. Looks like the knife's been there awhile. The kid has owned the car less than a year."
I had no right to ask, but I was curious as hell. "So, who'd he buy the car from? Maybe it's the previous owners."
Lopez stared me down. "You're no longer a P.I. and I don't have time for slimeballs. I'll ask your advice next time I'm throwing a bachelor party and need a porno."
I said nothing as he about-faced and headed to his car. A Blue Tide co-worker sidled up to my left. He flipped his dreads and whistled. "Dat was harsh, mon. Whadda you do to him?"
"More what I did to myself. Sold some extra surveillance footage of a cheating spouse to one of those peeping-tom websites. Turns out that's illegal. The law suit that followed took everything."
"Apparently your pride, too, mon." He nodded towards Lopez's fleeting tailpipe.
The look I shot him made him back away slowly.
I gave it a few days, then risked calling in an overdue favor at the ME's office to get the DNA results.
"Twenty-year old case so cold, the blood had freezer burns," my debtor joked, "We're keeping it under wraps for now."
Gina Renault, of the West Side Renaults, turned up aerated in a landfill. With an airtight alibi, no one could touch her boy-toy husband, Lincoln, for it. Speculation was, he had help. I wondered if that help once drove a Lexus.
Second night with no sleep. Why hide the knife instead of ditching it? To mislead the cops? Drop it back in Renault's lap should the dicks get too close? Where was the point of contact between Renault, the killer and the Lexus?
At the library, I ran the VIN through a car facts website. Three people previously called the concept car theirs, including the teen's dad who held the title. Nineteen years, three lives.
The police had manpower and time. I didn't, but I could go places they couldn't. LinkedIn listed current and previous jobs of my three suspects. I noticed owner one, Hal Norris, had been a chauffeur. His being deceased might also explain the long-missing knife.
I had temped for that limo company before. On the happenstance, I called and asked if they had any openings. They did.
I won't bore you with how I got to be Lincoln Renault's driver one night. That'd involve explaining a week-long, carefully formulated plan, plus an accounting of funds spent. Bribes don't get listed on taxes. However, I'll tell you I possessed a similar knife to the one I'd discovered, now covered with fake dried blood. I picked him up at the estate he'd inherited from his murdered wife.
On our way back from a night of clubs, I rolled down the separator and tossed the faux knife to him.
"What's this?" Renault's rush of adrenalin tried to push past the alcohol.
"My sister works evidence downtown."
"It's the knife used to kill your wife. The police are trying to tie you to it. I'd like to be your full-time driver and trusted associate. I figured a tribute to my new employer would show my loyalty."
Renault scanned my face, like Lopez, looking for deceit. He smirked. "Obviously, I do need more loyalty. Hal was supposed to ditch this permanently."
I drove to a bridge where we watched a weighted-down evidence bag sink to the bottom of the river.
"If you want something done right..." Renault boasted.
My Blue-Tide co-worker poked out from his position behind a pillar on the bridge quickly to give me a thumbs up. His other hand held a camera with night-vision lens. Dreads assured me my face and voice would be masked when the video, combined with the audio recorded in the limo, went viral in an hour. An hour and fifteen minutes after that, Detective Lopez would go through the roof. He'd have no choice but to bring Renault in. I'd lose a good paying, permanent job, but my soul and rep was clean.
"I whole-heartedly agree," I echoed, as I got back in the car.