L is for Lair…

Excerpt from “Legally, With Good Intent” a chapter from AV Singer’s, Blood on His Hands

Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson placed a photocopy of the enlarged fingerprint on the table for her team to see. She said, “We are trying to get a warrant based on a seven-point match.”

“Not enough to arrest,” said Senior Inspector Jackson Tyler, grabbing it for a closer look.

“Not enough to arrest without further evidence, but enough to raise suspicion,” said Thompson, conspiratorially.

“A chance to get inside a killer’s lair,” said Jack.

She nodded her head, eagerly.

“He lives in the neighborhood like we suspected?” said the Chief’s rookie in tow, Aurelia Gomez.

“Records are sketchy, but it seems as a child he did. Dubanowski, get some prints of his mug shot, take Gomez with you, and start distributing there. Talk to people; find out if anybody remembers seeing him at any time, in any way. Stay together.

“Jack, you and I are going to grab that warrant as soon as it comes in. I want him, Jack.”

Jack did not have words for how much he wanted to see this killer locked down.

The suspect’s last known address was a house located in the East McNichols area. It was one of three that his mother had owned, that passed to her only child when she died. There were back taxes owed on it, but nobody cared about that anymore, not in this part of that district. Most of the buildings in this impoverished area were abandoned and derelict. Detroit could not afford to squander law enforcement to accompany tax collectors. Like most abandoned neighborhoods, looters had littered it with the aftermath of pillaging. Stray animals hunted through scattered garbage, dead foliage, and forgotten household furnishings.

Maureen drove through the neighborhood with the thoughtful attention of someone who ferried small kids, which Jack appreciated. She parked in front of a house that was no less dilapidated than were any of the other tumbled-down buildings around it. At least this one appeared to have an intact roof. The small cottage stood in the middle of the property, farther back than the other houses. At one time, it must have had quite a grand walkway, but now the cement was cracked and in some places broken completely away. Wisps of weeds sprouted through it.

The wood siding, stripped of paint, and probably once white, was weathered gray. The lawn was gone. There were some bushes next to the house, but they were scraggly and mostly dead. This one house exemplified the character of the entire neighborhood and its people: jobless, desperate, and out of luck.

Maureen said, “Got your wooden stake?” It was a weak joke that confirmed her nervousness.

They crossed the yard, carefully skirting broken, rusty machine parts and rotten, disintegrating, cardboard boxes. The simple, attached entry porch sagged to the left, as if by falling off it could escape the fate of the rest of the house. As they stepped on it, it swayed under their weight. They froze, and Jack caught Maureen’s eye. Then it settled.

Maureen released the safety strap on her holstered weapon before she knocked loudly on the door. “Inspectors Thompson and Tyler, Detroit PD. We’d like to speak with you.”

There was no answer.

She knocked again. “This is Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson, Detroit PD. Please come to the door.”

A dog barked in the distance, the only answer to the summons.

Gently, she tested the door knob. It was locked.

Jack hopped off the porch to peek through the hazy glass of the front window. A torn, dirty couch sagged in the left corner under a side window framed with torn drapes. On the far wall was a small fireplace. There was no safety screen, the brick hearth was cracked and falling apart like the sidewalk in front of the house, and inside, there were stacked boxes, perhaps collected for kindling. The rest of the room had no furniture, only more boxes filled to their brims with undeterminable flotsam. They would have to get into the house to see clearly.

He walked toward the driveway on the far side of the house. His footfalls crunched as he stepped onto the gravel to peer through another streaked window into a small, cluttered kitchen. This room looked lived in: dirty dishes filled the sink, a partially eaten meal was on the table, and a small coffee pot on the counter had a small clock face, which at that moment clicked to 1:42. It wasn’t the correct time, but it was obvious the house was still running electricity. Somebody lived here.

His eyes roamed back to the meal on the table. Someone had abandoned it in a hurry, perhaps when he and Maureen arrived. The coffee mug was partially full. There was torn bread on the surface of the table, smeared with a jam of some sort. But, it was the small, delicately flowered plate that held his attention. Someone had cut a large slab of meat into generous bite-sized portions. A fork, dropped upon the tabletop, skewered a chunk that left a puddle of fluid and grease under it. If Jack was right, it was organ meat, maybe a piece of lightly cooked liver.

Every psychic sense he had was screaming, “Get in there.”

He snuck toward the back of the house to look through windows. The first one framed a small, completely empty bedroom. The next window was too high to look through without compromising his stealth. It was probably a bathroom window.

Metal softly clinked against tile.

He froze.

Slowly, he crouched against the wall and pressed an ear against it to listen. He knew it was impossible to hear this way but he had to be sure he had actually heard something. “Come on, come on, come on,” he thought, “Make another noise.”

Maureen was at the kitchen looking through that window when he caught her eye. He stood, pointed to his ear, and then pointed to the window above him. Slowly, he pulled his gun.

She quickly joined him, drawing her own. They decided, like a long-paired team that needed no words, to try an entry at the back door. Together they crept around the house. On the back wall, ripped screening hung from the windows. In the middle of that wall, at the top of cracked and chipped cement steps, the half-opened screen door swung on one hinge.

Jack mouthed, “Cover me.”

Maureen Thompson nodded.

He stepped over another tumble of rotted boxes and crept to the door. Cautiously, he lifted it. As he did, the hinge creaked loudly.

In response, a bang from the front, probably the front door, echoed through the house.

“Damn,” yelled Thompson as she ran up the driveway toward the front of the property.

Jack followed, hot on her heels.

Blood On His Hands will go live in October. Watch for updates on this site or https://avsinger.weebly.com or my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Amorningsong

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