The Senator’s Wake

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They came to pay their last respects to a man they loathed and feared out of political necessity.

Harry R. Watlow knew where all the political skeletons lie. His vast sources unearthed dirt on everyone within his sphere…just in case. His spy net made J. Edgar Hoover’s secret lists look like child’s play. You didn’t mess with Harry in his home state of Georgia. He was more than just a senator. He was THE BOSS.

Then he turned up dead one day. The authorities said it was foul play. The police had their work cut out for them making out a list of suspects. They numbered in the hundreds according to a conservative estimate by the detective in charge of the case, Alan Wu.

Watlow’s body was lying in the State Capital Building in Atlanta where the public could walk through and view the man who once literally ran the state for 29 years. The line wasn’t very long. State politicians showed up long enough for a photo-op and then quickly left.

The wake was held immediately afterward at his Mediterranean Mansion in a gated estate in the prestigious Sandy Springs area.

An invite there was a political coup for any ambitious politician in the great state of Georgia. His family was there to greet quests. Old school mates and friends stood right alongside people who hated Watlow’s guts. Their insincere smiles were plastered on their faces for the sake of their career.

A parlor was set aside for the body. People could pay their respects and then join the rest of the mourners in the massive ballroom that was decorated in black and had old photos of Watlow in his younger years. Caterers discreetly moved about offering hors d’oeuvres to the somber gathering.

Standing near an open bar, Detective Wu surveyed the room carefully, taking mental notes of who was there, and who wasn’t. Prior to that he was at the station working with a dedicated crew of cops gathering all of the information they could on the slain senator. Before he left he briefed his top computer guy, Max, to stay at his computer while he attended the wake. He wanted instant access to photos and information.

Wu had a reputation for quickly solving cases. His street instincts, vast criminal experience, and training in criminal psychology, made him a legend at the precinct. The senator was found in the house’s industrial sized kitchen. He was stabbed twice in the chest. By the time he was discovered in the morning, by the head cook, a dark pool of blood was congealing alongside the body.

It took Wu three hours before he released the body to the coroner. His forensic team tip-toed around the notorious grump. He didn’t like people talking when he went over a crime scene. It was his habit to take on each murder like it was a personal affront to him. When on a case Wu lost his usual sense of humor and replaced it with the determination of a honey-badger feeling threatened.

He spent the last week interviewing every family member and friend he could find. His team carried the search wider and looked up professional contacts, his personal Facebook account, and anyone who was part of his daily routine. The intensive search was at the urging of the Chief-of-Police who was feeling political pressure to solve the case quickly.

The F.B.I. had it’s own team in town. Wu put up with that reality, but he wasn’t happy about it. It was his case. The feds had a way of throwing their weight around that irked Wu. That’s why he didn’t let the them know that he was following up on a lead that he developed.

The lead took him to the wake.

According to his personal secretary (and mistress as it turned out), Amelia, the old reprobate was murdered by his wife when she found out he was cheating on her. No one found the murder weapon and no knives were missing from the kitchen. She wasn’t the most credible character. Wu also suspected there was more to her story.

She claimed she was there when his wife attacked him. The wife was supposed to be at a convention in Virginia, but came home early for some reason. She was in the downstairs bathroom when she heard the wife come in and an argument break out. She was also naked. Her skimpy nightie was on the kitchen table where he threw it after taking it off her minutes before.

She then explained that she opened the bathroom door and peaked out. She heard a scream of rage and it scared her, so she bolted for the front door like a deer. It was a humiliating and terrifying night she’d never forget, she told Wu.

Three things came to Wu after her story.

One. There was no nightie at the crime scene.

Two. There was no sign of any of the girlfriend’s personal belongings. She wore clothes there. Had a purse. A phone.

Three. There was no way he could see the senator’s tiny old wife attacking him with a knife.

There was also something else that bothered him. The senator’s relationship with his personal secretary was a secret. No one apparently knew that. If they did, they didn’t say anything when Wu asked them about her.

He saw Amelia talking with a group of people, and wondered what her motivation was for telling him that story about the senator’s wife. His bullshit meter was registering a ten-out-of-ten on the suspicion scale. What nagged him was the feeling that he was missing something. Motivation. Why would she kill her boss, and secret lover?

Two hours passed and guests were starting to leave. As the crowd thinned out he noticed the senator’s wife and Amelia huddled in a corner of the room. He discreetly watched as the went up the stairs together. He followed at a safe distance and saw them disappear into a room.

He looked around the hallway and determined no one else was there before going up to the door and pressing his ear against it. He was barely able to make out some words. What he did make out confirmed his suspicions. The two women plotted together to kill the senator.

He heard Amelia ask the wife for her money.

“I did my part,” Amelia said. “Do you have the money?” 

As Wu listened it occurred to him that Amelia was playing a dangerous game. She killed the senator for money, and was setting up his wife for the murder. He heard the wife say Amelia could have the murder weapon, which she was holding as insurance, as long as she left the country.

The conversation lasted nearly an hour. When the door opened Wu was standing there shaking his head. Before either woman could react he grabbed Amelia’s purse, opened it, and saw the knife.

“You two ladies have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”

As It Stands, the best laid plans of mice and women, often go astray.

Dead Eyes

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Detective Bryce Nance left the crime scene after working it for two hours.

On his way back to the office he thought about retiring…again. He’d been threatening to retire for months. He was tired of waging war with death dealers. His brain was scorched with images of dead eyes, and mangled bodies.

Thirty years on the force now. Was he ready to leave? He wasn’t sure he wanted to retire. What would he do? He’d been a cop all of his entire adult life. He’d drive his wife of thirty years nuts, if all he had to do was piddle around the house!

As he filled out his report later he thought about the victim, a short oriental man who had both hands and feet cut off. The coroner said he bled to death from his massive wounds. No other wounds were found on the body.

It was the second body this week with the same wounds. Talk of a serial killer made its rounds in local newspapers and news television. When the second murder was announced the hashtag #HandAndFootPsycho popped up on social media platforms.

The chief-of-police, Dwayne Fitsimmons, got a call from the mayor who hated all the coverage the case was getting. Fitsimmons, in turn, called a meeting with his detectives and rank and file cops.

When he was done berating his men he let them go to work. Detective Bryce walked up to him afterward and asked for a minute of his time. When they got to his office and he told him that he was considering retiring, the chief rolled his eyes skyward and pounded his fist on the desk!

“You’ve got to be kidding me Bryce! You’re the best detective we have! You’re good for at least five more years. Is it a raise? I’ll give you a raise!”

“No…it’s not about the money chief. I’m tired of seeing dead eyes in my dreams.”

“Awww…Bryce me lad…”

“Don’t give me that phony Irish accent, I’m serious.”

“Is that the way it is? Then you might want to check with your union steward, but you still have two years to go before voluntary retirement is possible. It’d be a terrible thing to lose after all these years of service because…”

“I’m outa here!

Chief Fitsimmons lit up a cigar as Detective Bryce stormed out the door. He took a couple of puffs and shook his head. He had enough things to worry about.

Two days later.

Detective Bryce came up with a working theory.

Both victims were found in city streets. Not inside somewhere. Whoever committed the crimes must have acted swiftly because there were no witnesses. Both murders happened at night on what were busy roads during the day.

He thought about the fastest way the killer could escape the murder scene. After studying his notes, he found that there was a sewer opening just feet away at both of the murder scenes.

He theorized that the killer must have used the sewer to get away. The next step was to check out the sewer system, but he wasn’t going to do that alone. People got lost in New York’s historic underground tunnels.

He needed his partner and a guide.

Back at the station house he spotted Detective Jimmy Jones, who was recently put on the case with him.

“Jimmy! I need to find someone who knows the tunnels and would be willing to serve as a guide for us.”

“Us?”

“Yeah, I have a theory how the murderer is getting around. I need your help partner.”

“Okay. I do happen to know someone who’ll fit the bill. He’ll do anything for money. He lives on the streets. I’ll get the word out right now.”

Detective Bryce watched him go. He was ten years younger than himself. Still vigorous and ambitious. He was a good man.

The next day.

Detective Jimmy pried open the steel cover and with the help of Louie (their guide) slid it aside. It was after 11:00 o’clock and the side street they picked was quiet. Louie went down first, followed by the two detectives.

They all had flashlights and were waving them around in different directions. The detectives switched their shoes out for boots. Louie wore his usual black high top sneakers.

Detective Bryce pulled a map from his inside jacket pocket. The three of them had already looked it over before going down. Without a word, he picked a direction and Louie led the way.

They went to the sewer opening nearest the last victim. The detectives bent over and studied the ground. Detective Jimmy found the first droplets of blood. Their were dried out, but recognizable on the narrow walkway alongside the sewer floor. More followed. Then abruptly stopped.

Whatever had been dripping must have been covered up, because they lost the trail. They decided to call it a night after taking photos and making notes of where the blood spots were. A forensic team would examine it in the morning.

Four days later.

Detective Bryce was sitting at his desk when the forensic report came back. The blood they saw was the same as the victim’s. There was no doubt about it now. There was a monster loose in the sewer system.

As he considered the report his phone rang. Another victim!

When Detective Bryce got to the scene police had it roped off. The victim was a woman. She was missing her hands and feet. The pools of blood were still sticky and flies were already buzzing around the body.

He looked over a few feet and saw a sewer grate. He was back.

The media had a holiday with the sensational murders. They’d attracted national attention since the second murder. The third poured fuel upon the fires of speculation on who would do such a thing?

The next day, Louie and the detectives went down the grate near the last murder. A very nervous Louie demanded twice his usual fees, and stuck to them like glue. As they came to an intersection of tunnels something flew out of the shadows and scooped a screaming Louie up like a baby and ran off with him!

Both detectives pulled their service revolvers and gave chase. Whatever grabbed Louie must have been incredibly strong! They could hear his cries of terror ahead of them. Then they stopped.

When they finally got to Louie he was missing his hands and feet! His eyes were still open in shock. Detective Bryce stopped and kneeled alongside of him. He was still faintly breathing!

His partner had kept the chase up. There was nothing he could do for Louie, but he could help his partner. Holding the flashlight in front of him he trotted as fast as he could through the foot deep muck. There were two openings ahead. He stopped in between them and listened.

He heard a noise at the same time he was hit from behind, sending him sprawling in the muck. He looked up at the giant pale figure eerily illuminated by his flashlight on the ground. He was bald and had dead white eyes!

The albino horror pulled a hatchet from his rope belt and slowly approached him. Detective Bryce fumbled for his shoulder holster and gun. The thing bent over and brought the hatchet down, lopping his left foot off!

He could hear himself screaming in agony when the shots went off! Detective Jimmy was in a firing stance squeezing off careful shots! Then he fainted.

The giant staggered backward, but managed to stay upright. Detective Jimmy reached down into his partner’s coat and grabbed his pistol.

The thing was howling in pain and anger. Detective Jimmy fired again. This time the giant went down and stayed there.

Later on.

Detective Bryce opened his eyes and looked down at his feet. One was missing, but he was alive. He was in a hospital and his wife was at his side. She leaned over and kissed him when she saw he was awake.

“Jimmy?” he asked.

“He’s outside. I’ll get him for you,” she said.

A minute later Detective Jimmy came in with Chief Fitsimmons.

How are you doing partner?” Jimmy asked.

“Great. I didn’t need that foot anyway. So what was that thing that attacked us?”

An awkward silence.

“It’s body wasn’t there when we sent a team back down to get it,” the chief said. “Try to look at the bright side. You can retire now!”

Detective Bryce looked over at his partner and asked, “So who do you think took the body?

As It Stands, add this tale to the many others about New York’s famous underground.

The Double Cross

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry 

Joe Dobleu took a bite out of his cold ham and cheddar cheese sandwich while managing to keep his eyes on the house across the street. It was all a game.

Nothing happened all night, and now the sun was slowly crawling into its place in the sky, while Joe was chomping down on his sandwich. As he chewed the front door opened and a man walked out.

He swallowed the remainder quickly and straightened up in his seat. Joe was in a new white Nissan Rogue with windows tinted black all the way around. The man across the street was checking his mail box. Joe picked up his camera, rolled down the window, and took a few quick snapshots. For the record.

He watched the man walk back into the house while sorting through a pile of mail. Taking out a notepad from the glove department, Joe jotted down some observations. It had been a week now.

Each day he waited in another type of car. Parked in a different spot. Starting down the end of the street, his daily progress forward eventually aligned him directly across from the house and it’s inhabitant on the seventh day.

Joe picked up his cell phone and called the person who hired him.

“Hello…Ms Bradley?”

“Yes,” the woman on the other end answered impatiently.

“It’s me. I’ll drop off my final report and notes to you today.”

The tone of the voice on the other end softened, “So…can you give me a brief summary?

“Your son leads a very quiet life. As far as I can tell he doesn’t have any friends. Male, or female. He goes to his office every day and is quite punctual. He stopped at the grocery store twice this week and bought food and drink. No alcohol.”

“That’s all? He didn’t go anywhere at night during the week, or this weekend? I know the little bastard is plotting to put me in a retirement home and take my money,” she groused.

“No. I’m a night owl. Between my partner during the day, and myself at night, we’ve had eyes on his place around the clock as requested.”

“Thank you. The money will be transferred to your account this afternoon – as per our usual arrangement.”

Joe smiled and rolled the window down. Derrick Bradley, the object of his wealthy widowed mothers constant scrutiny, came out the front door and walked up to the car.

“Hey Joe!” he said in a jocular voice, without a worry in the world.

“Always nice to see you Derrick.”

“Here’s a cashier’s check. I’ll continue to pay you twice as much as my mother in order to gain my privacy. I gotta hand it to you,  going through the motions for her…just in case.”

“You can never be too sure. Like I told your mother, ‘Your son leads a quiet life,'” Joe chuckled.

He watched Derrick get in his new Cadillac ATS-V Sedan and pull out of the driveway, wondering how long his lucrative business arrangement could last. The private eye business was slow lately. Real slow.

If it wasn’t for his connection to Ms. Bradley, and her son, he’d have to tell his partner it was time to close up shop. At least once a month she paid them to spy on her son. He was never really sure why, but didn’t question her about it.

The son, Derrick, was a pretty clever fellow himself. He figured out Joe was watching him the first time he staked out his house. Rather than get upset however, Derrick made a counter offer to protect his privacy.

The arrangement was a year-old when things started to go bad.

Derrick, who was in fact a drunk, was starting to become ugly and accused Joe of being a parasite, and a lot worse things. The writing was on the wall. The arrangement was shaky and likely falling apart.

Joe would have to tell his partner, John, their cash cow was gone, and it was time to retire. Once he made the decision he felt better. Ms. Bradley seemed miffed that he was no longer going to continue with the job, but thanked him for his services and promised a good recommendation should he need one.

Feeling relieved, he went to Derrick’s house a few days later to inform him of his decision to move on. He knocked on the front door. No answer. Without thinking he tried the door knob and it opened.

Derrick! It’s me, Joe!

Beyond the open entryway he could see the living room and Derrick’s body sprawled out on the carpeted floor. His head was twisted at a funny angle. His open eyes seemed to accuse Joe of the crime. He turned and ran out of the house!

The police came while Joe was waiting for his car to be serviced the next day. They were reading him his rights as they escorted him to the police cruiser. On the way to the jail Joe badgered the officers, “What did I do?”

“Like I said when I read you your rights, you’re being charged with the murder of Derrick Bradley who resides at…

Joe didn’t hear the rest. His mind was racing. What was going on?

When they got to the station house he was escorted into a little room with a table and two chairs. When the detectives came into the room, Joe was still trying to figure out what they knew that incriminated him.

He knew he was innocent. How could this have happened?

One of the detectives sat down across from him and laid out a folder with photos and notes in it. It was Derricks house.

“Have you ever been to this house?

“Yes…but…

“Did you kill Derrick Bradley?”

“No! wait! You don’t understand! I’m a private eye. I was on a case for a client.” 

“Did the client hire you to kill Mr. Bradley?”

“No! Of course not…”

“What then? Did you have a grudge against him?

“No! Damn it! His mother hired me to watch him. That’s all it was. She just wanted to know what he was doing with his life!”

The two detectives looked at one another.

“Mr. Dobleu, would you like a cup of coffee? We’re going to verify your story. It shouldn’t take too long.”

When they returned four hours later they both looked grim.

“I want to read something to you Mr. Dobleu. According to this statement Ms Bradley has been concerned for sometime that someone was stalking her son. When these photos were given to her it was proof that someone knew where he lived and could hurt him at anytime.

“In the statement she testified you threatened to kill him if she didn’t give you a monthly allowance!”

“No! You have it all wrong! I want a lawyer!”

A mansion in North Hollywood

Ms Bradley sat back and sipped her tea as she watched the television. Joe’s partner walked into the room and sat down next to her.

“Dear John…” she said, whatever would I do without you?”

As It Stands, sadly, money means more to some mothers than their own children.