Ben stood on his porch and looked across the street. This was not how he has wanted last night to go. He liked Rachel and wanted to know her better. He wanted to know what triggered her reaction to him last night. He turned and pulled the mail out of the box from the day before. As he sorted through his mail he heard footsteps, He silently prayed it was Rachel and was disappointed when he looked up to see it, Laura. It was the wrong woman.
“Good morning Ben, how are you? You look like you had a rough night. Want to come over for some coffee and maybe breakfast?”
“Hi, thanks, that sounds nice but I have to get going this morning”
“Well, the offer stands anytime.”
“Thank you, Laura.”
Laura did her best to give a flirtatious smile as she bent forward slightly, making sure to show her ample cleavage. Ben’s phone rang, and he was grateful for the out. He didn’t care if it was even a telemarketer, he’d buy whatever the fucker was selling just to get out of the conversation.
“I’m sorry, I have to take this, work.”
Laura waved a wave of defeat and turned back towards her house. Ben had no idea who was calling but answered anyway.
“Ben we got a break. You were right, the insulation was recently replaced in the attic. There have been about a dozen tradesmen through that attic. Remember that big storm back in May, the one where we got stuck on the expressway?”
“It took part of Ashley’s roof off. Eat your Wheaties brother, we have a long day ahead of us.”
“I am on my way in.”
Ben hung up the call and stepped back inside to put the mail down in the hallway. He grabbed his keys and started off to his car in the driveway. He stopped before he got in and looked again at Rachel’s. He wanted to go over and talk to her, but he still wasn’t even sure what he’d even say. He got into his car and pulled away.
He walked into the station in a flurry of activity, everyone so hopeful that they had finally had a real clue to the catch the South Side Strangler. Ben spotted Marty sitting at his desk and walked up.
“Where are we?”
“You look like shit, rough night?”
“Yeah, I don’t want to talk about.”
“Okay. We have the name of the roofing company and the contractors. We have reached out and are looking for staff rosters. Danwood Roofing had the job. Want to take a ride over there?’
“Yeah, let’s go.”
A half- hour later they pulled up to Danwood Roofing. The only thing that singled they were in the right spot was the poorly signed door. The last office in a large industrial complex, Ben parked the car in front of the overhead garage door where all of the vans were parked inside. He wanted to slow down getting that morning’s crews out, hoping to keep the crews at the office as long as he could. Both men were almost to the front door of the office when a heavyset redhead came out of the office.
“You can’t park your car there. The cops will tow ya.”
“Good morning Ma’am we are the cops.” Ben flashed his badge. “Is your boss in?”
“Yeah, he’s in.”
She turned back in towards the office, Ben and Marty two steps behind her.
“Jim the cops are here. They want to talk to you?”
“About what?” Jim Danwood shouted from his office, not bothering to get up out of his office.
“I don’t know.”
Ben pointed towards the office door and the woman nodded. Jim met the detectives in the doorway of his office.
“What can I do for you?”
“Hello I am detective Ben Carter and this is Martin Frank from Chicago PD. We have a couple of questions for you.”
“For me or one of my guys?”
“Can you tell me about the job on Skokie Place, a row of townhomes, that had their roof blown off earlier this spring.”
“That was us. What do you want to know?”
“Do you have a list of guys that worked the job? Do any of those guys have a record?”
“You got a warrant?”
“This is just a friendly visit right now, we can come back with one if you’d like?”
“Detectives, I run a roofing business a lot of these guys don’t stick around and a lot of them have a record. I don’t put up with any of that shit while they’re on the payroll. I got a business reputation to think of here. They stay on the right side of the law, they have a job. If they cross that line they’re out of here.”
“Look, we can try to keep this as quiet as possible, just give us a list of guys and we can go. If you make us come back with a warrant, it won’t be quiet.”
“Fine. Rae Lynn, will you print a staff list from the Skokie Place job?” He shouted out to the front desk.
“Thank you. Do you know if any of these guys have a prior for assault?”
Jim Danwood looked at the detectives with a sarcastic look.
“How about sexual assault?”
“No, no sexual assault, that I know of. I don’t hire pedos.”
“Anything out of the ordinary with any of the guys who worked that job?”
Rae Lynn popped her head in the door of the shabby back office.
“Here’s your list. Jim, you have a call from Wanda on line one.”
Jim nodded to hand the detective the list as he reached for his phone.
Everyone walked out of Jim’s office as Rae Lynn closed the door behind them.
Ben looked down at the list. Twelve names.
“Ma’am is there any way you can email me this list?”
“Yeah sure. Is anyone in trouble?”
“We don’t know that yet. Are any of these guys still here?”
“Let me look.”
She walked through the door to the large garage bays that housed the trucks and roofing equipment and returned quickly.
“Everyone is out already. Do you want to tell me what you are looking for or who you are looking for? I am the one who really runs this office.”
“We are looking into the guys that replaced the roof on a block of townhomes on Skokie place earlier this summer. Do you know if any of those guys have a record?”
“Stephen Duke does. He’s a real sleazeball but he shows up so Jim keeps signing his check.”
“Yeah, what makes you say that?”
“He’s got a record, hates women and just generally, well, he’s an asshole. He spits in the office constantly, it drives me nuts. A lot of these guys are rough around the edges but, Stephen is practically feral. I wouldn’t shed a tear if he didn’t work here anymore.”
“Has he ever threatened you in any way?”
“You mean more than his attitude? Yeah only once. He was pissed that checks were late. He laid into me but he didn’t touch me or break anything. Jim talked to him and told him if it ever happened again, that he was done.”
“Jim a good guy to work for?”
“Yeah, he pays me well and treats me well. He also makes sure the guys treat me well. I treat him well in return. His wife is a money hungry bitch, but you didn’t hear it from me. Jim is usually out of the office so he usually leaves the running of the business to me. Anyway, I’d start with Stephen Duke.”
“Thanks, Rae Lynn, that is helpful. Do you know where we could find this prince charming?”
“Let me look in the computer.”
“He’s in the city today on a job, let me look Ravenswood Avenue. 1239. They’ll be there all day.”
“Thank you very much.”
Ben and Martin walked out as Ben folded the list in half and handed it to Martin.
“Let’s get this list to the station and have them start running checks on these guys, then head up to your neck of the woods, Ben.”
Forty-five minutes later they walked into 1239 Ravenswood Avenue, a large home that was in the process of being completely gutted and redone. The front door had been left open for construction crews to come in and out as they needed to. They made their way up to the top floor where the guys were having a smoke break, they stopped on the top landing of the stairs, as the crew of six were hanging around.
“We’ve got their permits man, they’re on the window in front.” A tall blonde man said as the group noticed Ben and Marty’s intrusion.
“We aren’t inspectors. We are detectives from Chicago PD. We wanted to ask a couple questions about the Skokie Place job.”
“What do you want to know?” another tall man, tanned by the sun in a sleeveless shirt asked.
“Anything out of the ordinary about the job?”
They all remained silent.
“Anybody talk to any of the residents?”
“Yeah, we talked to them plenty. Rich assholes, they complained constantly that we were too loud. Roofing is not quiet.” A Hispanic man said.
“Any residents more troublesome than any other?”
“Why do you want to know?” The a different man in the corner asked. “Someone end up dead or something?”
“Because we want to know. What is your name sir?”
“Do you have some I.D? All of you?”
The tension in the small hallway shot up. As Ben studied the faces he realized that a lot of these guys were probably in the country illegally.
“We aren’t INS. We just need to see I.D’s. We get that you guys are working hard to feed your families.”
Everyone looked over at Thomas, who seemed to be the foreman for the job. He nodded as those who had documentation handed it over. Martin jotted down the names, noticing Stephen wasn’t there.
“Where is Stephen Duke?”
“He ran to the corner store to pick up some beer. He’ll be back any minute.”
“Jim let you guys drink on the job?”
“Hey man, we’re just trying to get through the day.”
“Just tell me some of you stay sober to drive the trucks.”
“We’ve gotta get back to work detectives. Come on, guys. You guys need anything else or can we get back to work?”
“When will Stephen be back?”
“Any minute, why do you want to talk to him?”
“Why not? He worked the job too. Did he talk to any of the residents at the Skokie Place job?”
“I don’t know man, that was back in May. Yeah probably, we all did. They weren’t the friendliest people.”
“Anything or any incident come to mind?”
“No, I really gotta get back to this.” He gestured to the roof.
“Sure, thanks for your time.”
Both detectives made their way out to the front porch. The houses in Ravenswood were large and old, many of them with large front porches. Ben lived two streets over, in the moderately priced section of the neighborhood, Ravenswood Avenue is where the pricier homes started. He walked over to the large swing on the porch. The porch reminded him of Rachel’s, her porch needed a big white wicker swing on it. He thought back to Rachel, how nice last night was until it wasn’t. He wasn’t put off by her reaction last night. He decided he was still going to try, he’d just take it very slow if she would be okay with it.
Martin had walked down the front porch and out onto the sidewalk as he watched Stephen Duke walk up.
Ben’s cell rang, as an officer at the station read off Duke’s record, including violent sexual assault. Ben hung up the phone and walked up to Martin as Stephen was approaching.
“Our guy has a record, violent sexual assault.”
Ben and Marty watched him come closer and saw the moment of realization that there were two cops waiting for him. He dropped the case of beer, one of the cans exploding beer on impact with the ground. Duke took off on foot in the opposite direction, away from Ben and Marty. The two detectives gave chase down the street. Stephen crossed the street as Ben ran out after him, between two parked cars on the street. As Ben ran out into the road, a car struck Ben knocking him on the ground. Marty stopped, looking back from the opposite side of the street and stepped back towards Ben.
“Follow him, I am fine.” Ben shouted.
The driver got out of their car. The older man was not driving fast, the impact had knocked Ben on his ass and knocked the wind out of him. He checked himself over, as he moved his shoulder pain radiated from the joint.
“Oh my God! Are you okay! Why were running in the street? You are lucky I didn’t kill you!”
Ben reached down and pulled his badge off his belt as he sat in the street. He lifted it to show it to the man who had been driving the car.
“You’re a cop! Hey, I am really sorry.”
Ben grabbed the front of the car and stood. His shoulder was out of socket for sure.
“Do I need to call an ambulance or something? I am really sorry officer.”
“Do you have some I.D. Sir?”
“Yes, of course, I have insurance too.”
The man fumbled for his wallet and handed it to Ben. Then fished around in the car and pulled out his proof of insurance.
Ben pulled his phone out, which luckily had not shattered in the incident and took snapshots of the documentation. He put his phone back and pulled out one of his cards and handed it to the driver.
“Are you sure you don’t need an ambulance or something? I could drive you to the hospital if you want?”
“No, I am okay. I will be in touch, paperwork stuff, nothing serious. You’re not in trouble, I just got knocked on my ass.”
“Are you sure, aren’t we supposed to call the cops, I mean.”
“I am the cops.”
“Okay, if you say it’s okay.” The man shrugged.
“Your shoulder looks fucked up.”
“It’s just out of the socket. Please go on your way, sir.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Marty walking with Stephen Duke handcuffed.
“You okay?” Martin shouted.
Martin put Stephen in the back of the car and shut the door as he walked over to Ben. The driver pulled away slowly.
“That shoulder looks gnarly. Looks like some road rash too..”
“Hurts like hell, I think I dislocated it.”
Marty slid into the driver’s seat as they drove to the station. Marty took him in while Ben went in search of aspirin for his shoulder. He knew he would have to have it looked at sooner rather than later, but he wanted to talk to Stephen Duke first.
Ben sat at his desk and checked his phone in hopes that maybe Rachel had called. He knew she didn’t but still held out hope. He opened his right-hand drawer and pulled out the white bottle of Motrin. He attempted to twist open the cap, wincing at the pain in his shoulder.
“He’s in the tank, you need to get that shoulder looked at?”
Normally, Ben would have powered through but this pain was on a whole other level. Angry, he put the bottle back on the desk without retrieving any medication from it. He couldn’t get the damn bottle open. He wanted to question Stephen Duke while he was still fresh. Marty looked at him, knowing what his partner was thinking.
“He’ll be here when you get back. You can count on that. I’ll get started and call if anything big pops up.”