Alan sat back, a little stunned, a little overwhelmed. The money totaled up to $450,000. No wonder the kid had attacked him. It was not the sort of cash one was casual with. Nor the sort its owners wouldn’t be looking for, he reminded himself. The real question was whether or not he’d been seen by someone who might identify him. The latter was unlikely. He was pretty much of a recluse, with no friends and few acquaintances. He could, of course, turn the money over to the police, but he figured that wouldn’t offer any protection if the dealers found him. In fact, it might make it more dangerous. If he turned it over, his identity might well become public knowledge. First he’d be a hero, then he’d be a dead hero. And there might be problems proving he had killed in self-defense. No, best keep a low profile – and the money. He wondered if the decision were based on considerations of safety or on greed. Never know, he thought, never know even yourself completely. He put the money in a laundry bag, shoved it under his bed and made a pot of coffee.
“The guy you two didn’t kill swears the kid was dead when they found him. And nobody around. They didn’t even notice the second body.”
Officer Werner just looked at her, mentally licking his chops. “Did he say how they happened to find him?” he asked. “It’s not like he was lying out in the middle of the street. It’s dark there. They had to be looking for something or someone.”
“Oh, yes,” Lisa answered. “He admits the guy was buying. Not much point in denying it, what with that satchel of crack in the back seat. But there are some things that bother me about this case.”
“Bother you?” Sergeant Lott asked. “Two known drug dealers dead and a substantial amount confiscated? That bothers you?”
She laughed. “Not a bad night’s work, even if you two do have to spend your own time filling out paperwork. But consider something. Who killed him? There’s no reason to think it was the Hispanic. He’s doesn’t look like he has the balls for that, even if you don’t believe the guy was dead when they found him.
“Maybe the two guys killed each other,” Werner said. “You identified them yet?
“Not yet. But the knife didn’t have any prints on it except the victim’s. Besides, the second body looks like a wino. According to some letters, his name was Evans. Probably sleeping off a drunk and woke up just in time to get his throat cut. I doubt if he killed the kid.”
“Well,” Werner said. “Somebody stabbed him, maybe wiped the handle and closed the victim’s hand over it.”
“Maybe,” she said, “but the knife was the victim’s. He was wearing a scabbard for it. You’re saying someone took the knife away from him, killed him, cleared his own prints and provided the victim’s prints? Pretty cool killer, wouldn’t you say? Drug dealers aren’t usually so careful. They just don’t give a damn.”
Werner shrugged. “It’ll have to do unless you can come up with another scenario. The DA’ll probably pin it on the Puerto Rican. And you’re right. I don’t believe he did it, but he’s the only game in town.”
“Not quite,” Lisa Bogar said. “Another thing that bothers me is not the evidence. It’s the lack of evidence.”
“What do you mean?” Lott asked.
“This guy was waiting to make a drug buy, buying a lot. The preliminary estimate is half a million worth. He wasn’t going to buy that much crack with the change in his pockets and dealers don’t take American Express. What happened to the money? It wasn’t in the car or the alley.”
Lott whistled. “Hey, that’s right! So there had to have been someone else there who took the money!”
“Right! And maybe that someone knows how this kid wound up with a knife in his heart.”
“So?” Werner said. “So the buyer had a partner who decided half a million was too good to pass up. He kills the kid and hightails it before the sellers got there, right? Anybody know how long the kid had been dead before everybody descended on the scene?”
“Coroner said only a few minutes. Hell, the body was still warm when we got there. The killer must have been within spitting distance when you arrived.”
“We didn’t see anybody else. Of course, once we arrived, we weren’t really canvassing the neighborhood. We had our hands full with the three from the car.”
“Oh, I’m sure he was gone by then. It was probably his phone call – conveniently anonymous – that sent you there. But he must have been only a skip and a jump ahead of the dealers. According to the Puerto Rican, they had been cruising down the street real slow, on the lookout for anything that might mean it was a police trap. They wouldn’t even have stopped if they’d seen anyone around. Whoever took the money and presumably killed him wasn’t on the street.”
“Fun and games, Bogar. There was a fire escape at the back of that alley, wasn’t there?”
“That there was, Sergeant. I think we’ll dust it for prints and take a look up on the roof.”
“If you get decent prints, you might find a match, maybe among the kid’s acquaintances.”
“Maybe, but I doubt it. Any friends of the victim would probably be criminals too and I don’t think it happened that way.”
“Why not?” asked Werner.
“Because somebody called 911. Somebody tipped us about the body and the limo. A criminal would just have taken off with the money and hoped to be out of town before the body was discovered. Given the short time between the knifing and the call, the caller must have been at least a witness, probably the killer, possibly has the money and is probably not a professional criminal.”
“An innocent bystander, Detective? A civilian who just happened to be hanging out in the alley? Shit! Anybody out for a midnight stroll who just happened to bump into that kid would have been killed without a second thought. Look what happened to the wino!”
“Maybe the kid tried. Maybe someone surprised the buyer, so he attacked them. But the passerby killed the kid instead.”
“Super Civilian!” Werner laughed.
“Think, Werner! The kid had a belt holster, so he must have had a gun, but nobody has any bullet holes in them except the two you shot. The holster was empty, so whoever killed him and took the money, also took the gun. The kid tried with the knife because he wanted it quiet, but he just wasn’t good enough with the blade. The sticker became the stickee.”
“Like I said,” Werner replied. “Super Civilian.”
She shrugged. “Not necessarily. Plenty of people know how to defend themselves against a knife attack. Military men, cops, Kung-Fu nuts. Could be the passerby just got lucky.”
“Well, detective, looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you. But I doubt if you’ll break the case unless you get lucky with the fingerprints. What if the killer wore gloves?”
She snorted. “How many innocent bystanders would you find walking down the street wearing gloves in August? Well, I’ll get on it in the morning. By then the coroner’s report should be done, and yours too, if I don’t keep bothering you.”
“No bother at all,” Werner said. “It’s always a pleasure to give you a hand.” He smirked slightly. He’d always had the hots for Detective Bogar.
She grinned wryly, understanding him completely. “I appreciate that, Officer, so long as the helping hand stays inbounds.” With a nod, she walked down the hall to her desk.
“Damn!” Werner said. “Detective or not, that’s one fine-looking woman! Maybe I should try to make detective – one way or another.”
The Sergeant laughed. “She’s beautiful, but don’t kid yourself. She’s as smart as they come and a whole lot tougher than she looks. If anyone’s going to solve this case, it’ll be her. And even if the killing was justified, she’ll bust him, just because it’s The Law. She takes her job seriously.”
“Well, if she’s right and it was just an innocent civilian who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I hope the guy gets away. Shit, what did he do? Killed a guy who needed killing and queered a drug deal! She’d bust a guy for that?”
“She would, just to tidy up the case. She doesn’t like any loose ends.”
Werner snorted, “Hell, this case is all loose ends.”
“Well, it’s her case now and out of our hands, once we get this paperwork finished.” He turned back to the typewriter and began pecking at the keys.
Werner did the same, idly wondering to himself what he would do if he unexpectedly found himself in possession of half a million dollars. Not likely, he thought, although he did have a few sources of income the Department knew nothing about.